Question again proposed,
That the Visiting Forces (Application of Law) Order, 1961, a draft of which was laid before this House on 12th July, be approved.
§ Mr. Morris
When I was interrupted, I thought that I was getting my call-up papers. I was telling the House of the few practical points I intended to make, based on my short experience as an officer on this range when I acted for some time as assistant adjutant at Castlemartin.
I accept the need for conventional weapons in Europe. My great fear is that the lack of conventional weapons might cause somebody to use nuclear weapons. It follows from this that, if there are to be conventional troops, they have to be properly trained, and that includes training on tank ranges.
The onus is on the Government to prove that a range of this kind is necessary for the training of these troops, and that similar ranges are not available anywhere else. The onus is on the Government to prove that no facilities for this training are available in Germany, and that it is absolutely necessary to bring these troops to this country.
Most of us would be unhappy about the suggestion to bring German troops here, but however repugnant that suggestion may be, I do not think that we can discriminate between one N.A.T.O. Power and another. If one looks at previous Orders, one finds that 18 countries have the facilities which this Order proposes should be made available to German troops. Among the countries to whom previous Orders apply are Italy, against whom we fought in the last war, and Portugal. As the Germans are part of N.A.T.O., surely we cannot discriminate against them on grounds of race.
It would be preferable if German troops were integrated rather than remain a national army on their own. I ask whether there is much in this question of integration. Is it little more than a facade? To what extent has integration gone on? I hope that the Minister will tell us how much this Order will further integration.
I am sure that if the Germans are to come here we must pass this Order. I 1308 cannot visualise them coming here without it. If the decision has been taken to bring German troops here, this Order must be brought into being, but I seriously question whether it is necessary, on military grounds, to bring Germans here.
Castlemartin is a first-class tank range within its own limitations. It is described by the War Office—I had this checked this morning—as a fully fledged tank range. It shares this distinction with Bovington. Both those ranges are used for manoeuvres and gunnery practice. I understand that the only range available for use by British troops in Germany is the one at Hohne and that it is more sophisticated than the one at Castlemartin.
How many ranges in Germany have been used by our troops since the end of the war? I do not mean how many they are using now, but how many they have used since the end of the war, and how many of these contain the necessary elementary facilities which are now needed by the German troops who are to come here.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I gave Hohne as an example. We have the use of other ranges also, and I will give details later if the House wants them.
§ Mr. Morris
I would be grateful for information about what is happening today, because my information is that we use only the one at Hohne.
My queston goes deeper. How many ranges in Germany have we used since the end of the war? It would be of advantage to have information on that score. I accept that at Castlemartin there are certain elementary facilities which could be used by German troops, that many of the facilities on the German ranges are, as the Minister said, more sophisticated, and that the ranges there are hardworked indeed. I accept that, but are there British troops in Germany today who use these so-called more sophisticated ranges for the elementary work for which the Germans are to use Castlemartin? If that be so, the Government have not proved the case for shunting British troops to Germany for elementary tank practice and for shunting German troops to this country to do the same thing.
If Castlemartin is required only for elementary tank practice, and as I was 1309 told this morning by the War Office that it could be used for gunnery and manœuvres, I should like to know whether a search has been made for other facilities and whether the Minister can satisfy the House that there are no other facilities available in Germany. I think that we should be given an answer to that question because, as I have said the onus is on the Government to prove that there is no other way available than bringing German troops to this country.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I was trained in the Tank Corps, and like my hon. Friend, I cannot understand why it is necessary to bring to this country the crews for only 30 tanks. I think that is what the Minister indicated.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
What I cannot understand, speaking from my own experience, is why this decision has been arrived at on military grounds. It makes me suspicious that there are other grounds.
§ Mr. Morris
There is a great deal in what my hon. Friend has said. Obviously, this is only an experiment. It seems to me also that a great deal of trouble has been taken for the purpose of bringing to this country very few German troops. Possibly we may be told what the Government have in mind if this experiment succeeds. The test which the Minister laid down earlier was the feasibility of this as a practical experiment. I should like to know what would he the result should the experiment succeed, and how many troops the Minister has in mind to bring to this country in the future.
In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith)—I have not given him a proper answer—I was there as an assistant adjutant and an infantryman.
Are there any financial reasons for bringing German troops here? Is this tied up in any way with the payment for troops in Germany? How much shall we be paid on account of these Ger- 1310 man troops being brought to this country? I hope the Minister can clarify that point and tell us what the Germans will have to pay for coming here. Will they also pay a proportion of the capital cost which has been expended over the years on Castlemartin? A large amount of public money has been invested in Castlemartin, so I should like to know how much the Germans will pay.
There is a limited acreage at Castle-martin, but within that limit it is suitable for the training of at least a brigade and, indeed, of a skeleton division. Is it the fact that while the Germans are there no other troops will be trained at Castlemartin? Does it mean that this range will be sterilised while the Germans are here and will not be available for use by units of the Territorial Army, or of the Regular Army, which would normally use it? If it is absolutely necessary to bring German troops to Pembrokeshire, why are only 30 or 40 tank crews to be trained on this range when, as I say, there is room for a greater number, and where I have seen at least a brigade trained?
Castlemartin is not an easy place in which to station Service men. There are few facilities for the crews. In my short experience there I recall that the number of courts-martial there was one of the highest among the troops stationed in that part of the country. A fine regiment which I served in had no courts-martial for the year it was stationed in Hong Kong, but when it came to Pembrokeshire there was, on every Monday morning, a long list of offenders available for trial and many of these by court-martial.
What liaison has taken place with the local police and with the civilian population? Has any thought been given by the Home Office to incidents which might occur involving not local people with members of these units, but people coming in from outside the area? I should like some information about the extent of the liaison between the local police force, the War Office and the Home Office.
The Minister told us earlier who was in command of this range. It is my experience that a visiting unit is usually under the command of its own officers in respect of internal discipline, but that 1311 on the range it comes under the command of the range officer. I hope that the Minister can confirm this. Will the German units be entirely under the command of the range commandant or only when they are on the range? Under whose command will they be in respect of discipline and their other activities? If they are to come under the command of the range commandant for the purposes of firing on the range, it follows that he should be a fairly senior officer.
When British units come to fire at Castlemartin they are under the direct command of a no more senior officer than a subaltern. True, he may be a senior subaltern, but he is still only a subaltern. In view of obvious difficulties about rank I ask the Minister to consider whether there should not be an officer designated by N.A.T.O. to be in command for firing or, if the commandant is a British officer, that he should be of fairly senior rank. I know that the commandant of a camp is usually a colonel, but when firing on the range a British unit is often under the command of a subaltern.
Another point which I have raised on previous occasions, because I consider it an important issue, is that a large number of National Service men—I was one—were wasted; and I use the word advisedly—during their service. They were employed in putting up tents, sweeping roads and generally in keeping the camp functioning. I should like to know how many National Service men will be employed in that way.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
The decision we are asked to take today is, of course, a direct consequence of the decision we took a few years ago to rearm Western Germany instead of neutralising her on the Austrian pattern, as was suggested by many of us at that time. It is a matter on which, as other hon. Members have said, emotions run very deeply.
I feel that the Government have been a little unfair to the House in the way in which they have put this proposal to hon. Members. It would have been much fairer had the Government put two distinct questions to us. First, whether we want German forces here in any capacity, and, secondly, if we do, 1312 whether they should be covered by the Visiting Forces Act.
Taking the second question first, the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, allows forces of our N.A.T.O. allies to be present here for "any arrangements for common defence." I wish to ask the Minister whether he will expand upon that later in the debate. In today's issue of the Guardian the legal correspondent writes:It is highly debatable whether arrangements for common defence' can be interpreted to include tank exercises along the Pembrokeshire coast, solely for purposes of military training and unrelated to any deployment of troops for the defence of the German Federal Republic, United Kingdom, or other N.A.T.O. Powers.I should like the Minister to comment on that at a later stage. Subject to that, I think it difficult to see how we can put German forces visiting this country in a different position from other forces and deny them the cover of the Order.
The first question I asked is, I think, infinitely more important than the second. It is whether we want to have German forces here in any defence capacity. I believe that we have now reached a point at which we have to start asking ourselves about the extent to which we want armed forces of any other country here in Great Britain. One of the anxieties many of us felt at the time of the Cuban imbroglio was the possibility, if Russia and America became involved in hostilities, that the presence of American forces here in great numbers, together with vast bases and depots, might mean that we ourselves would be involved in such hostilities whatever our views of the merits of the question in dispute.
I was interested, as many hon. Members must have been interested, by the proposal made by Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery, in the Sunday Times of 18th June. He said:Of course, any withdrawal of forces back to their own countries could not be carried out quickly. But why should it not be put forward by the West that the armed forces of all the nations should withdraw to their own national territories within the next five years, the withdrawals to be completed by the end of 1965? … In the intervening five years care would be needed to ensure that some accidental or minor episode did not lead to all-out nuclear war.In case there should be any doubt, the field marshal summarised it a little 1313 later in his article by saying that the new N.A.T.O. strategy involvedthe withdrawal of all armed forces in Europe back to their own national territories—such a withdrawal to be agreed now and to be completed by the end of 1965.Just as we had anxieties at the time of the Cuban incident about the presence of American forces here, so many of us share the same anxiety about the possibility of having German forces in Great Britain. I confess that my anxiety has not been altogether allayed by the reply the Minister very courteously gave to the intervention I made during his speech. He replied tonight in, I think, more placatory terms than he did on 8th February, when, in common with other hon. Members, I questioned him on this matter.
After the Minister had replied then, my hon. Friend the Member for Salford. East (Mr. Frank Allaun) asked, in a supplementary question:Will the Minister give the House two very reasonable undertakings? The first is that no high-ranking former Nazi officers will be allowed here. The second is that no training will be given in the use of missiles or nuclear weapons.We are still not satisfied on either of the points on which the Minister refused to give an undertaking on that occasion.
The right hon. Gentleman then said:I am not prepared to give any undertaking. What I said some time ago, and perhaps I may remind the House of it, was, first, that certain limited training of German personnel has already taken place, and I said then that if this was to be largely increased I would certainly undertake to notify the House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th February. 1961; Vol. 634, c. 371.]The Minister has never given either of the undertakings for which my hon. Friend called on that occasion.
There are still three main objections remaining in the minds of many of us to this proposal. The first is the very deep feeling which is present in the minds of literally millions of people throughout this country upon this issue. The Minister may think that that feeling is unreasonable, but I do not believe that any wise Government would seek to ignore the depth of national feeling on a matter of this kind.
1314 Our second objection is on the grounds of the foreign policy of the West German Government. Week after week we hear of speeches by men like Seebohm and Strauss, which are not repudiated by the German Chancellor, calling for the return of Germany's lost provinces in the East. I noticed with some stirring of indignation last week, when I was in Berlin, that our interpreter, in the course of his remarks, referred to the "Polish administered" areas of Germany. So long as that point of view is prevalent among the German people, and is not repudiated by the West German Government, so long shall we have anxieties about the possibility of Germany once again seeking to regain her lost territories and involving her N.A.T.O. allies in hostilities.
Our third objection is about the timing of the proposal which is before us. I believe that at this moment, when there is increasing tension about the question of Berlin, we should be doing everything we can to relax the tension rather than increasing it by taking a step of this kind, which I think will be widely regarded in other parts of the world as an act of provocation.
Under normal circumstances, I should wish to vote against the Motion. We are giving the Government a blank cheque. There is no limitation on the duration of this Order. There is no limitation on the number of troops who will be brought here and no guarantee as to the kind of activities in which they will be engaged while they are here.
I find that a dangerous situation, but I also believe that the Labour Party is the chosen instrument for improving the lot of millions of people here and overseas. I would not wish to do anything to hinder it in that work. I also believe that majority decisions, however much one may dislike them, ought to be observed. I look forward to the annual conference of the Labour Party repudiating the approval for the provision of facilities here for German forces. I hope that it will do so by a large majority, but, until that is the policy of the party, approved by annual conference, I feel that I have no other course open to me today but to register my opposition to this proposal through the speech I have made and by refusing to support the Minister's Motion in the Division Lobby.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)
It is, I think, significant that in this debate the anxieties of the people of this country and the very strong feelings about the step which is being taken by the Government are being voiced solely from this side of the House, without a single word from the back benches opposite.
Members of the Tory Party follow like a flock of sheep a Government who have no concern for the feelings of millions of people in this country and who, apparently, are not in the least worried about the possible effect of this step upon the future security of the people. We on this side of the House are deeply worried and deeply anxious.
The purpose of this Order has now been made perfectly clear. This is not just Castlemartin; this is not just a few hundred men and some tanks. This is a blank cheque. It will and can lead to a position—as the Minister of Defence has already admitted—in which German troops can be brought to this country for the purpose of being trained with weapons of nuclear capability. That is precisely what he meant by saying that they have already been offered the use of the rocket range on the Hebrides.
Of course, the rockets will not have nuclear warheads. None of the men of the N.A.T.O. forces are at present being trained in the use of nuclear weapons and using weapons fitted with nuclear warheads. The absence of nuclear warheads does not mean that they are not being trained in the use of nuclear weapons, and if the Germans go to the Hebrides rocket range for training in the use of these rockets of nuclear capability they will be training for the use of nuclear weapons. Let us be quite clear about that.
The Minister has admitted in the House that if this experiment succeeds it will be extended. Outside the House he gave an indication that it was not merely a matter of the practicability of the experiment but also a question whether it succeeded in the sense of softening the resistance of the British people to the presence of organised German forces in this country. If it were found that it did not prove obnoxious to them, there would be more to follow. I hope that he will confirm 1316 that it is the Government's intention to make this an experiment not merely from the military point of view but from the psychological point of view.
The Minister is deliberately choosing this moment of rising international tension, when feelings of hostility against the people of Eastern Europe are being worked up in this country and in the United States, to make a test of how much the British people will take. He hopes to slip this in and to follow later with others.
When I objected to this the other day at Question Time, the Minister took me to task for wanting to treat the Germans, as he said, as second-class N.A.T.O. allies. But this discrimination against the military forces of West Germany has not just begun. It is not shared by only a few people. It is certainly not something which is done on a racial ground. Let that be made clear. This discrimination was started by the Labour Government, was continued by the Conservative Government and has been written into all the treaties and undertakings given in respect of the rearmament of Germany.
Even this Order reveals an act of discrimination of which the Government have been guilty up to this moment, because in 1956 they introduced an amending Order of this type to allow all the rights and privileges conferred under the Act to be given to the visiting forces of every other N.A.T.O. ally which contributes forces to N.A.T.O.—with the single exception of the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1956 they extended it to include Portugal, Greece, Turkey and others. Why did they not extend it to include the Federal Republic of Germany? Will the Minister tell us why the Federal Republic was not included when Portugal was included? The reason is that at that time the Government still considered it right to maintain discrimination against the forces of the German Federal Republic.
The whole of the Brussels Treaty and the Paris Agreement are shot through with special discriminations against the armed forces of Western Germany. Everybody knows their purpose; it was to persuade the people of this country to accept the rearmament of Germany on the ground that there were sufficient 1317 safeguards to prevent Western Germany from ever again becoming a first-class military Power. The Minister knows very well that it was the unanimous opinion of the House at the time that Germany must never again be allowed to become the dominant military Power in Central and Western Europe.
The original discrimination under Potsdam was that there should be no militarisation at all. Then concessions were made. Nevertheless, when the concessions were made it was agreed that because of the history of the past 100 years, because the present leaders of Germany unfortunately are men who cannot be trusted not to seek again the remilitarisation of Germany, because they are men of the type who are willing to make use of Nazi agents in leading positions in the N.A.T.O. forces, because they are men of the type to allow ex-Nazis to occupy leading positions in the German Government, because they are men of the type who believe that Germany must again become a great Power and that to become a great Power she must be a great military Power—precisely because they are men of this type, precisely because they have claims against the East which they are unwilling to abandon, precisely because they can become a danger to the peace of Europe and the world, precisely for those reasons, we all agreed that restrictions should be placed on German rearmament and that there should be discrimination against the forces of the German Federal Republic.
Let us, therefore, have no nonsense about pretending that there is something wrong in treating Germany as a second-class ally in N.A.T.O. This was what the Government did in 1954, and they were right in doing it. They are wrong only in departing from that principle—and they have been departing from it step by step. What we are witnessing tonight is only part of a process which has been going on steadily, eroding the safeguards which were written into the Brussels Treaty in 1954.
There have been no fewer than four amendments to that Treaty since it was drawn up, every one of them relaxing the provisions which restricted what Germany was allowed to manufacture under that Treaty. The Germans were not allowed to manufacture atomic, biological or chemical weapons. Now they are 1318 allowed to purchase them or to borrow them. They were not allowed to manufacture a force of bombers, but they are now allowed to make fighter-bombers. They were not allowed to build a big navy or, in effect, any navy at all. That restriction has been removed. They were not supposed to have armed forces beyond a certain limit, although that limit was never officially published. How soon will it be before that limit, too, is relaxed and they are allowed to have armed forces without any limitation?
Tonight we are being asked to agree to a further relaxation. Let us not pretend that this will help to integrate the German forces more fully into N.A.T.O. and to bring them more under control and restraint. Of course it will not. If this process goes on there may well be an integration of the N.A.T.O. forces, but who will be the leader in that integrated force, who will dominate it, who will take the vital decisions which may lead that military force into action? More and more that decision is passing into the hands of Western Germany. That is the danger which confronts us.
What this Order does is to increase the prestige of the West German forces. That is the main purpose of it. It is to remove one of the discriminations against them and allow their forces to go outside their own country into other countries so that they can be seen and so that people can be aware of this revival of German military power. That is the real purpose of it. That is why it is a step which has to be opposed.
The Order must be opposed also in relation to the present international situation. There is a definite political motive in the timing of this announcement.
§ Mr. Watkinson
No. If the hon. Gentleman had listened to my speech he would recognise that the timing was purely incidental and arose from a very long series of N.A.T.O. discussions which lasted for about one and a half years.
§ Mr. Warbey
In that case, would the Minister care to explain why, when he announced his decision to the House last week, he referred to the darkening international scene? Why did he do that? He deliberately linked this decision with 1319 the present international tension. Why did he do that?
§ Mr. Watkinson
Because it would only be sensible for the House to examine this very difficult and grave decision, which I have never tried to underestimate, against the present international scene, which is indeed darkening.
§ Mr. Warbey
In that case we now have it clear that it is related to the present international tension. I suggest that it is related in two ways. First, by bringing German forces over here at this time we are encouraged to give a gesture of support to them in the intransigent attitude which Dr. Adenauer and his friends are at present taking on the whole question of negotiations with the Soviet Union over the future of Berlin. That is the main political motive which lies behind this gesture. The second is to take advantage of the international tension to create a spirit of national unity under cover of which we are all expected to accept this N.A.T.O. decision and loyalty rally behind them and help them in their difficulties.
When we are thinking in terms of patriotism, we must look a little further ahead at present. We must think not only of present but also of future dangers facing the people of this country. One of the future dangers facing the people of this country is certainly how all of them may be affected by the possible outcome of a clash arising from this very intransigence of the West German Government at present. That means that the decision we are being asked to take tonight is of crucial international importance. This is a fundamental issue and one on which we cannot avoid taking a decision.
Those like my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) who feel that they must follow the official party line on this question tonight will do so. To abstain when we are confronted by the Government with an issue such as this, when we are asked to affirm a resolution in support of this 1320 Order so that Germans can come here, is in effect to give consent to the Order. I understand that when my right hon. Friend speaks from the Front Bench later—
§ Mr. Warbey
Whichever one happens to speak. I have no doubt that one of my right hon. Friends intends to speak at some time in the debate. I understand that whoever intervenes in the debate from the Opposition Front Bench will indicate that the Front Bench has no objection to this Order in principle. Therefore, by not voting at all we shall be accepting it and allowing it to pass through Parliament and come into effect. The only way in which it is possible to resist the Order, to try to prevent it coming into effect and to try to prevent the dangers to the people of this country which are contained in the Order, is to vote against it.
§ Mr. Warbey
Since it is not possible to abstain from an abstention, if one wants to indicate one's opposition one can do so on an occasion like this only by voting against the Order. I intend to do that tonight.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
I approach my consideration of this Order as one who in past controversies was opposed to the conception of German rearmament. I took the view that if Germany was rearmed and if the West German Government were permitted to arm at a rate equivalent to that at which the East German Government were arming, in all probability the future dangers of the developing situation in Europe would be added to. That was what I believed. I thought that the development of armaments in these two parts of Germany would reduce room for manoeuvre, reduce the possibility of an eventual peaceful settlement of the problem, and create an impasse which might prove to be of very great consequence indeed to the future peace of the world. I am not persuaded that we were wrong in that anxiety and apprehension.
However, I say to my hon. Friends that that issue is as dead as the dodo. 1321 The thing is completely academic. The decision has been made. German armed forces are incorporated in the Western Alliance. I suggest to my hon. Friends —I am sure that they will accept that I do this with good will towards them—that it is unthinkable that, having regard to what I have said and in the context of a Western Alliance which, in fact, incorporates German armed forces, those forces can reasonably be deprived of training facilities in any part of the territory of the Western Alliance if we are satisfied that it is reasonable on military grounds that these training facilities should be available.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
My hon. and learned Friend says that it is unthinkable. In 1954, when with the tacit acquiescence of the majority of his hon. Friends and mine the thing went through, it went through on the direct representation by the Government that what my hon. and learned Friend today says is unthinkable was in fact the position. In all probability in 1954 this side of the House would have voted unanimously against German rearmament if they had thought that six years later the representations on which they accepted it would be regarded as unthinkable.
§ Mr. Irvine
I am obliged for that intervention, and I appreciate the point made. I take a contrary view. I think that it was implicit in the decision that German forces should play a part and participate in Western rearmament that this kind of matter would ensue. It would really be quite grotesque, I suggest, for a determination to be made upon the policy issue that there should be a German element in Western defence and for that to be followed by a denial of such an advantage as facilities for training. That was to be regarded as an inevitable consequence of such a decision—
§ Mr. W. Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)
I am trying to follow my hon. and learned Friend's argument. Does he intend to go further and say that in this integrated force the Germans, as a component part of it, should have access to nuclear weapons?
§ Mr. Irvine
At the time of that controversy which we all remember—perhaps, particularly, those of us on this 1322 side of the House—I was always insistent on what would be the grave consequences of the basic policy decision. All I say now, and I am entitled to deploy my argument, is that this Order is laid because we are offering a minimum when we propose training facilities. In this context, for us now to reject the Order is wholly illogical. It is to yield to a controversial hang-over; it is an attempt to escape the minimal consequence of a decision that has been made once and for all and implemented in our recent history.
That is my view on the broader problem which is, of course, preoccupying all our minds, but I now want to carry the matter a little further on the technicalities that arise from this Order. If we accept the view I have put forward, that in the present context of our affairs we cannot reasonably deny training facilities in this country to German forces if these are regarded as militarily desirable or expedient, I suggest that we should look carefully at the content of the Order. It is desirable that we should be vigilant in a matter like this.
The first thing to be recognised is that there must be an Order if the German forces are to come here at all. If they come here without an Order there are several very complex and undesirable consequences. First of all, it would not be possible for any German soldier to carry a firearm. I understand that the German forces would be prevented from doing so by the Firearms Act, 1937 [An HON. MEMBER: "Very good, too."] That is all very well, but I am arguing this proposition on the assumption that it is reasonable that they should come here—
§ Mr. Irvine
I am entitled to argue that, and I shall.
If the German forces are to come here at all for training purposes, and if they are to carry rifles, there must be an Order. In addition to that, I think it will be agreed that it is desirable that if offences are committed by German personnel against other German personnel, or by German soldiers against German property, those matters should be tried by German Service courts.
1323 If an offence—manslaughter, grievous bodily harm or anything else—is committed by one German soldier against another inside the German visiting force, it is desirable that the matter should be tried by the Service court. If it were to be tried in a United Kingdom court, then, quite apart from other things, it would involve many real practical difficulties, translation of the language and much else, in the reasonable and correct determination of guilt of a crime alleged.
We cannot have them carrying weapons in the course of their exercises, nor can we have them determining in their own Service courts questions of guilt in allegations of crimes committed against other German soldiers or against German property, without there being an Order under the 1952 Act. Up to that point, I should have thought the argument in favour of this Order was overwhelming.
It is only right, however, that hon. Members on this side—and particularly, if I may say so, with great respect, hon. Members from the Principality—should realise that the Order goes a good deal further than that. It is important for us to recognise that the effect of the proposed Order is that if a crime is committed or alleged to be committed by a member of the visiting German force affecting a United Kingdom citizen or a British citizen, and if that crime is committed in the course of duty—which is a much wider term, as any lawyer will agree, than, for example, "in formation"—the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom court is ousted. It is important to recognise that—
§ Mr. Warbey
With great respect, I am afraid that is not what we are now discussing. This Order does not extend Sections 2 to 7 of the Visiting Forces Act to the forces of the German Federal Republic, but only extends Orders made under Section 8. The extension of the rest of the Order, including that part to which my hon. and learned Friend is referring, has to be done by designation, but that designation Order does not have to be discussed by this House. It is not even laid before the House. It is made by Her Majesty by Order in Council without Parliament being consulted at all.
§ Mr. Irvine
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for that intervention, but 1324 my understanding—and I should be obliged if this could be made perfectly clear by the Government, because it is obviously important that we should know where we stand—was that this Order was part of a process, the intention of which was to put Western German forces on all fours with the forces of other N.A.T.O. Powers in this country as a visiting force under the 1952 Act. That is my understanding of the matter—
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke)
Both hon. Members are right. This is part of the process, but Section 3 of the Visiting Forces Act is, in fact, not extended by this Order. It is extended by another Order, about which the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) knows.
§ Mr. Irvine
I am obliged for that intervention. I trust that I shall be corrected if I am wrong, but, as the Under-Secretary indicated, this is part of a process which will have the consequences which I have adumbrated.
I think it is important to recognise what in any event will be the consequences of the procedure of which this Order is a part, namely, that United Kingdom citizens ill-affected by such matters as dangerous driving, manslaughter and things of that kind by German visiting forces while "on duty", which is a wider term than "in formation", will not have their cases tried in the United Kingdom courts but by Service courts.
It is reasonable that hon. Members on both sides should want to probe the correctness and the consequences of this. I would remind my hon. Friends in this connection that Orders equivalent to this Order have been already made by Parliament in respect of other N.A.T.O. Powers. The provision to which I have just referred ousting the United Kingdom courts' jurisdiction in the case of crimes committed by visiting forces in the course of duty has been already applied to Italy, among other countries.
Therefore, I say to my hon. Friends that one is in a hopeless position of sheer, stark discrimination if one is going to argue that the provisions of the 1952 Act, which have been made applicable to our Italian ex-enemies, should not be applicable to German visiting forces.
§ Mr. Warbey
My hon. and learned Friend will recall that there are no discriminations against Italy in the Brussels Treaty but only against Western Germany.
§ Mr. Irvine
I am speaking about Orders under the 1952 Act, and what is quite clear—at least, I regard it as so—is that this provision ousting the United Kingdom court's jurisdiction in the kind of case to which I have referred has been applied to Italy. There was no reason why this should be so. The first Section, I believe, of the 1952 Act made explicit provision that the effect of the Act could be extended by Order to different countries with such limitations as Parliament might regard as desirable.
It would have been perfectly possible, with reference to others of our N.A.T.O. associates, to say that the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom courts should be ousted only in the case of offences committed by visiting forces personnel against other visiting forces personnel or by visiting forces personnel against visiting forces property. But no such limitation was included in any of the Orders under the Act.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I was in some confusion when my hon. and learned Friend spoke about Italian forces coming within the ambit of these Orders. I cannot recall a time when Italian forces were brought to this country under the direction of N.A.T.O., or in some other fashion, to train.
§ Mr. Irvine
The point I wish to make clear is that, whatever may have been the actual movement of Italian personnel, in fact an Order was made under the Act relating to Italian forces, and if my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) will look at paragraph 2 of the Order now before us he will see that what is proposed is that in paragraph 1 of Article 3 of the principal Order for the words "and Italy" shall be substituted the words "Italy and the Federal Republic of Germany."
Surely my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington would be the first to agree that, whether it has been operative or not, the Order relating in law to the Italian forces who might come was made without any limitation on this ousting of the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom 1326 courts. Some of my hon. Friends will be in great difficulty indeed if they try to argue that there should be a different treatment by Parliament of German visiting forces from the kind of treatment which Parliament has declared is appropriate for another ex-enemy. On these grounds I would argue the case that it would be unwise to propose any limitation in this Order which had not been made in respect of Orders relating to other N.A.T.O. forces.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
Will my hon. and Learned Friend say whether he intends to vote for the Order?
§ Mr. Irvine
I have heard the proposition put by an hon. Member that while he disagrees with the Order he is not going to vote against it until he gets the sanction of the party conference. That is not a proposition to which I can give my agreement. I am considering this on the merits, should we oppose this Motion or should we not? Both I and my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey)—and I respect his admirable candour—have recognised this point. Each of us will act according to his opinion and belief.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool) rose—
§ Mr. Irvine
No. I cannot give way again. I am putting to the House the case that if we are to have German forces here for training facilities at all—and this I have argued, in the immediate context of our affairs, may be necessary —there must be an Order to make any sense of it whatsoever, and I am arguing the case, especially in view of the earlier Orders, against any discrimination against German N.A.T.O. troops.
When a Visiting Forces Bill was debated before the war—and that was a Bill relating to Commonwealth troops —the opposition of the Labour Party was founded on the view that it should be provided that Commonwealth forces visiting this country should have the right to go by writ of habeas corpus to the High Court. The exclusion of that right was objected to by Labour members during a debate on that occasion. 1327 As I understand it, that disadvantage—if it was a disadvantage—is applicable also to visiting forces coming to this country under the provisions of the 1952 Visiting Forces Act.
Just as I do not think that we should discriminate against German visiting forces, so I do not think that we should discriminate in their favour. I am not disposed to argue the case that it should be open to these visiting forces to go by way of writ of habeas corpus to the United Kingdom courts. That would be going too far, and it is not to be desired. It was strongly arguable and probably correct relative to visiting forces from the Empire as it used to be, and the Commonwealth as it is now, but it should not be applicable to German forces coming here.
I do not think we should discriminate in favour of German visiting forces, but equally I think we would be very wrong to discriminate against them. We would be wrong in terms of basic Socialist philosophy and in terms of basic conceptions affecting the brotherhood of man and all the rest. Is that language which has been used to some effect on past occasions to be regarded now as just humbug, so that we give an Italian ex-enemy an advantage which we deny to his Germany ally? Surely my hon. Friends on reflection will not fall for such an unworthy and abysmal confusion of thought and purpose.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Mr. James Scott-Hopkins (Cornwall, North)
I have no wish to make matters worse within the Opposition. Indeed, the last half hour has been one of the most interesting that I have experienced for a long time, bringing out the various points of view that exist and the split within the Opposition.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
The hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) made a very thoughtful speech and I find myself in agreement with the basic premise of what he has just said. I am in agreement with him when he says that this would be a logical conclusion from the original decision taken in 1954.
1328 The hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) said that we on this side of the House were not concerned and were not worried about the matter at all. That is a monstrous statement.
§ Mr. Warbey rose—
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
I will give way to the hon. Gentleman in a minute. I have only just risen to my feet.
We on these benches have done just as much heart-searching as he has. This is just as great a decision for us to take as it is for him. It was a most unfortunate way of stating the position just because nobody on this side of the House spoke before he did. This is a grave decision for anybody to take. We on this side of the House—and here I am speaking for myself—have devoted a great deal of thought to the matter. I support this Order, but I had to do a great deal of thinking before deciding to do so.
§ Mr. Warbey
First may I withdraw the remark that I made in relation to the hon. Gentleman? I am very glad that he has risen to speak in this debate. At the time when I made the remark, about twenty of my hon. Friends had risen to speak, but not a single hon. Member on the benches opposite had done so.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his courtesy in withdrawing the remark. He will remember that precisely two hon. Members spoke before he did.
I have risen to speak largely as a result of remarks which were made by the hon. Member for Ashfield and his hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood). It is extraordinary that one should argue that we should isolate the German forces, that we should send them back, as the hon. Member for Rossendale suggested, and then, in the same breath, say that the danger is that the Germans may rearm and dominate Europe again. I do not understand how one can argue those two premises and not see the force of the other argument that if we train with them and integrate our services and our arms, that is doing a much greater service and is more likely to ensure peace than by trying to isolate them and letting all the old resentments boil up again.
1329 I take issue with the hon. Gentleman on another point, namely, when he stated that the most dangerous threat was the threat of a resurgent Germany led by the Federal Chancellor who wanted to start a war again. That is not so. To my mind, the greatest threat is the threat of Communism, the Russian and Chinese Communist threat to our freedom and that of the Western world. I am glad to see that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) apparently agrees with me.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
It is strange that the hon. Gentleman should think that the tension which is mounting over Berlin, and which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Ashfield, has not been engendered by the Communist leaders. If I remember rightly, the hon. Gentleman said that it is the Western German Government who have caused this tension to mount in Europe over Berlin. In my view, it is exactly the opposite. It is the Russians who are causing the tension to mount. As I am sure the majority of hon. Members will agree, by far the greater part of this threat has come from the arrogance of Khrushchev in wanting to dominate not only Europe but the entire world. I am sure that many hon. Members will agree that that is a far greater danger than any which the Federal German Government may cause in the future.
At the same time, the hon. Member for Ashfield said that this decision that had been taken related to current events. He said that the reason why the Germans were coming over here to train and the reason why my right hon. Friend had laid this Order now, so as to enable it to be slipped through, was the mounting tension in Europe. That is not true. The hon. Member is confusing two issues. What has happened is that these discussions and negotiations began over a year ago, and it just happens that the Russian Communist leader has chosen this time at which to increase the tension. It would be wrong of my right hon. Friend to disguise from the House that at the moment there is tension and danger of war. But that does not mean that he is trying to slide in this Order and is trying to trick the British people. That suggestion I reject entirely. This is related to present-day 1330 events, of course, but it is not the cause of them. We have got to accept the fact that these German troops, in minimal numbers, should come and train at Castlemartin.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
It was explained yesterday and today, and the hon. Member should know why they are coming over here. N.A.T.O. has asked that they should be given facilities to train on this tank range. The training grounds in Western Germany are not suitable for this kind of training—
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I once served in the Tank Corps in Germany and know that there are ample facilities between the Rhine and the frontier for training the German tank units?
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I, too, did two tours of duty in Germany after the war, and, although I am not entirely conversant with what is there now, I have an idea from what I knew at that time. I served with an infantry regiment, and on the staff as well. The hon. Gentleman should not forget that there are other troops stationed in Germany, apart from the Federal German forces themselves.
My right hon. Friend has told us that the tank training grounds there are being used for more advanced training, training on the move, and so forth. This is more advanced training than the type of training to be undergone by the German troops on the range at Castlemartin. Facilities for this basic, initial training are needed here. Such facilities, or not such good facilities, are not available in Germany today to the same extent.
We must not look always over our shoulders and try to whip up the animosities of the past, of fifteen years and more ago. That is the way that disaster will come. There can be no doubt about that. We face danger today, but it is danger from Communism, from the Communists of Russia and China who want to dominate us both physically and mentally.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
Yes, twice. So did the French under Napoleon, but they are some of our most valuable allies today. How long can one live in the past? How long is this incredible business of looking over one's shoulder to go on? Hon. Members opposite spend most of their time looking over their shoulders. That is why they are on those benches, not these.
We must now look to the future. We must try to build up the Western world and try to work together. This is a great decision, but we must face the fact that, if we do not integrate and come together as free nations, we may in the future no longer be free but be dominated by the terror of Communism.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
The hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) sought, at the beginning of his speech, to extract some satisfaction from the controversy in this party. I invite him to probe into the rumblings in his own precious party, where there is considerable discontent and controversy even to the point of wondering whether the time has arrived for the Prime Minister to retire.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why he should make those remarks now, and what possible relevance they can have?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I was reminding the hon. Gentleman of what he said at the beginning of his speech. He enjoyed himself prematurely by suggesting that, once again, there was controversy within the Labour Party. He derived some satisfaction from that fact. It is a fact, of course. Over a long period of years there has been controversy, sometimes heightened and sometimes not so tense, on the subject of defence and ancillary issues. I grant him that. But it is no bad thing to have controversy occasionally.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) had better not interject otherwise, he will get more than he bargained for.
§ Mr. Shinwell
There were no serious interruptions when other hon. Members were speaking. I am merely replying to what the hon. Member for Cornwall, North said. That is the purpose of this Assembly, to debate topics of this character. That is what I am doing.
I have not come to the House with a set speech, prepared over a period of weeks after much indulgence in the midnight oil. I listen to what hon. Members have to say, and I seek to reply. I should reply to the hon. Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris) if he had anything intelligent to say to the House. On the rare occasions when he has addressed the House, I have never considered that he was worth replying to. I hope that that settles him.
I am not seriously concerned about the legal subtleties which have been injected into the debate, or about the technicalities. Hon. Members may regard it as they please, but I am concerned with this issue from an emotional standpoint. I dislike intensely, with all the power at my command, the idea of having Germans training in this country. All the logic-chopping does not matter in the least.
§ Mr. Shinwell
There is, of course, a practical issue involved, but, before I come to that, I will deal with the subject raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine), namely, how German rearmament emerged. I probably know as much about that as anyone in this assembly, because I was associated with German rearmament at the outset. I confess freely and frankly that I had as much to do with the proposal about German rearmament that was put before the House several years ago as any hon. or right hon. Member.
I do not apologise for it, because, at the time, due to the weakness of the French and the undoubted inability of the then N.A.T.O. countries to provide conventional forces—we were then not concerned about nuclear weapons—it was considered desirable by the Labour Government, the United States Government 1333 and other Governments to permit the Germans in the Federal part of Germany to create at that time what were regarded as para-military forces. There never was any intention to permit the revival of German militarism. But that is what we are having.
Let us consider what has happened over the years when, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) pointed out, the Brussels Treaty has been revised on at least four occasions. To begin with, it was para-military farces, with, so it was thought at the time, effective safeguards against a resurgence of German militarism, a vast German Army and the possibility of the re-emergence of a German Navy. On four occasions. great changes have taken place, until now, as the Minister of Defence will not seek to deny, in respect of compact forces in the conventional sphere—I say nothing about nuclear weapons—apart from the contribution made by the United States Government, in Western Europe the Federal German Government are the strongest military Power. There can be no question about that. If any hon. Member challenges me on the facts, I will furnish the evidence.
I admit that it was the inevitable result, not of the emergence of German rearmament at the beginning, because it was hoped to provide effective safeguards, but of the revision of the Brussels Treaty on several occasions. We have to accept the inevitable. The question is: ought we not on some issue and on some occasion to cry a halt? This is such an occasion.
I wish to put a question which occurs to me, and I should like the Minister his deputy, or any hon. Member, to reply to it. Suppose that it were decided tonight, as a result of the Government's reconsideration, to withdraw this proposal that German forces, numbering 600, should come to this country. Would it make any substantial difference to the strength of N.A.T.O.? Is not that a fair question?
§ Mr. Shinwell
Would it make any real difference? Would not N.A.T.O. be just as strong tomorrow as it was yesterday? Of course it would. Then what is the purpose of this proposal? Obviously, 1334 it is not intended to strengthen the military force of N.A.T.O.
The hon. Member for Cornwall, North produced the usual bogey—Khrushchey, Communism, and all the rest of it—as if the presence of 600 German soldiers training at Castlemartin, with all the paraphernalia laid on, will make the slightest difference to Mr. Khrushchev's intentions. It is just utter nonsense. The hon. Member has his view, and, as his hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich said, he is a quite young man. We will leave him to it.
Surely I have put a question which deserves a reply. What beneficial result will flow from the presence of 600 German soldiers in this country?
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins rose—
§ Mr. Shinwell
Just a moment. The hon. Gentleman has had his ration.
On the other hand, is it not likely—I do not wish to rate it too highly—that the presence of 600 German soldiers in the Principality—although the whole of Britain is obviously concerned about it one way or the other, some in favour of it and some against it—would create a considerable amount of discontent, wonderment and bewilderment as to why this is necessary even from a practical point of view? There is no advantage in it at all.
I beg the Minister's pardon, since I was unable to be present when he began his speech. I was engaged in some writing. It was not until I looked at the annunciator that I realised that he had begun to address the House. I gather that the case presented by the right hon. Gentleman was this. This is a decision of N.A.T.O. But is it? Was it not rather the result of the conversations which the right hon. Gentleman had with his opposite number, Herr Strauss? I know that the conversations are confidential—
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am not sure how much of my speech the right hon. Gentlemen heard, but I hope that I made it quite plain that this was purely a N.A.T.O. piece of co-operation. I explained, at some length, how it grew up from the original request from the Germans to N.A.T.O. as a whole. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman was not present when I dealt with that matter.
§ Mr. Shinwell
All I have to say is that it surprises me. I was once a member of the N.A.T.O. Council. The idea that it met in solemn conclave, and, as a result of much cogitation, deliberation and discussion, came to the conclusion that to strengthen N.A.T.O. and to present a stern defensive front—I shall not say an offensive front—to Mr. Khrushchev and company it was necessary to have 600 German soldiers training in Wales, is incomprehensible to me.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edge Hill said, "We require this Order. After all, is it not the inevitable sequel of what has gone before, since the Italians were provided with facilities?" When I questioned him, he admitted that the Italians have not come here and that the Order concerning the Italians had not been operative. If the Order had been operative, two things might have been said about it. First, that the Italians did not start two wars in this century. That is worth some consideration. Secondly, that if they had come, and we had been discussing the Italians tonight, there still might be very strong objections. The fact is, however, that those questions are irrelevant, because the Order was never operative, and that is that.
We are dealing with something quite different. We are dealing partly with the background to this proposal. It is nothing to do with what some hon. Members have suggested, namely, that this is the consequence of strong, embittered racial feeling. I know the Germans as well as anyone. I attended international conferences in Germany before the First World War—before many hon. Members now present saw the light of day. I remember the Social Democrats who went wrong before the First World War—more is the pity. I remember the Independent Socialists in Germany. I remember Babel, Leibnecht and Rosa Luxemburg.
These were very fine people. There are still fine people in Germany. There are some people in this country who are not so fine—I will not mention any names. There is no question of racial feeling about this matter. It is the background which impels some of us to say to our friends, and even to those who are not our good friends, "Do not you think that you ought to call a halt to 1336 this business, because one of these days we shall suffer from it?"
I wish I knew what Herr Strauss was up to. He is the real villain of the piece. I say to the Minister of Defence, for whom I have a great regard and who is doing his job very well, although I do not agree with him on this issue, "Watch your step when you are dealing with that gentleman". I do not care very much about him. Probably he does not care very much about me, but that is beside the point.
Let me come back to the real issue. Will it be of any advantage from a military point of view to have these Germans training in this country? Suppose we decided tonight that we should not have them and that hon. Members opposite used a little common sense and were backed by the Minister and several others who thought that this was an undesirable approach to the strengthening of N.A.T.O. Would it do any harm? Of course it would not.
My final point concerns a personal matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood), who made an admirable speech, said that, although he has come to a personal decision, he would prefer to wait until the Labour Party conference before he came to a decision about voting. Then it seemed to me that my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield indicated that he would like to vote because he felt very strongly about the matter. He suggested that he was an honest man and that my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale was not quite so honest.
Where do I come in? I shall be quite frank with the House, whatever hon. Members may think about my morals. I say this quite deliberately. I do not know whether this will appear in the newspapers. I hope that it will. I do not wish to see unnecessary controversy in my own party. I wish to see it united and harmonious. I do not say that we should not have a bit of a row occasionally. That is very good for us, and, anyway, I like it. I want to see the members of my party harmonious and non-controversial, at least on topics of this kind. I want to see them strong, lively, animated and dynamic, so that they can clear this Government out as quickly as possible. That is what I want.
1337 If it comes to a question of voting tonight, then, strong as my feelings are, and they are very strong on this issue—I do not regard it exclusively from an emotional standpoint, but from a practical standpoint, also—I do not intend to vote. My party says, "Better not to vote." All right. I am told, "Make your speech." I make my speech, I express my opinions and I hold by them very strongly.
I wish that the Government would not do this deed. Now that they have decided to do it, however, let them go ahead and see what the results are. I hope that there will be no trouble in South Wales. I do not want to see these young Germans molested—they are probably quite innocent young men—although some little difficulty might emerge in consequence of this action. All the same, I shall not vote tonight. I have said my say and I leave it at that.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. J. A. Leavey (Heywood and Royton)
It is nearly always a mistake to be provoked into making a speech in this House, but I admit that I have found myself provoked to do so by the speech of the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey). It was that part of his speech in which he implied that there was no understanding on this side of the House of the feelings of the British people about this difficult issue.
I recognise that my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) responded to that challenge and that his response was rightly recognised by the hon. Member for Ashfield. Perhaps, however, there can be a second person who speaks from this side of the House to make the hon. Member quite sure that my hon. Friend is not alone in what he says. I say that, furthermore, because it would be unfortunate—I choose a temperate word—if in some extraordinary way it were thought that the hon. Member for Ashfield was the custodian of the views of a great number of people on this issue.
In his entertaining and effective speech. the right hon. Member for Essington (Mr. Shinwell) has told us that this is an emotional issue. I go that distance with him wholeheartedly. Of course, it is an emotional issue, and I confess that I am not very proud of my 1338 emotions on it. I feel no satisfaction at all at the thought that German troops will be coming to train in this country.
I am not very proud of that emotion, because it is simply a matter of harking back and having a deep resentment of what has happened in two world wars. I have experience of only one of them. These troops are troops to whom we used to refer as a Panzer battalion, and that is a word which has a disagreeable connotation for most of us. I am surprised that the right lion. Member for Easing-ton based his case upon the fact that he was deciding to abstain from voting on an emotional matter. I should have thought that, having recognised that it was an emotional matter, the right hon. Gentleman might have felt able to make a more positive decision and to record it in a more positive way.
Having said that, I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence is right in asking us to support him in this proposal. I do not feel that if we are asking half of the German people to fight beside us, if need be, and to be our allies wholeheartedly in N.A.T.O., we can withhold this facility any more than we would be justified, if the occasion arose, in withholding it from the Italians.
It was a trifle unfortunate that the right hon. Member for Easington, who claims many years' experience in this place, went on to suggest that my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North was, perhaps, rather naïve in this matter and that to bring a tank battalion here would not affect the position. It could be argued that an initial step cannot be effective and that it is only what follows that will build up substantial strength. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman even convinced himself on that point.
If we have integrated arms and standardised weapons to the extent to which my right hon. Friend the Minister suggests, I wonder whether integration has gone as far as it ought to have gone in the past. If this integration means that in the future there will be a real dependence upon these bases and these supplies spread geographically in this way, I wonder whether the attempts that have been made hitherto to integrate the forces and to standardise weapons, and so on. have not lagged very much behind what some of us had assumed.
1339 I do not share the view of the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) that we should regard this matter on a tit-for-tat basis and that, until we are satisfied that we have used similar existing facilities in Germany, we should be doubtful about providing them here. That is not a point of view to which I subscribe.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central, Ayrshire)
One of the definite features of the Minister's contention for having these 600 German troops here is that it will be a preliminary training course. The Minister admits that there are bigger tank training grounds in Germany, but states that because our troops there are doing advanced training he does not consider them suitable for preliminary training. I am not clear about this. I am not an expert on it, but it appears to me that if the capabilities are so vast there could be preliminary training there as well as advanced training, unless there is some other reason.
§ Mr. Leavey
There is every reason to harken to the words of the hon. Member for Aberavon when he said that it seemed illogical to shunt German forces here with the ensuing administrative difficulty and with the embarrassment that might be caused and with the disturbance to our emotions, and to shunt our troops to Germany. If the switch is unnecessary, it is open to all the condemnation which the hon. Member suggested. I do not, however, assume that to be the case.
When this matter was first raised by my right hon. Friend the Minister, he made it clear to me, at least, that there were facilities at Castlemartin for stationary firing from concrete bases, that those facilities were not available to these troops in Germany, but that they were available at Castlemartin and that it seemed logical enough that we should provide them for one of our N.A.T.O. allies. That is a sensible thing to do and I should not have thought that the West German military authorities would have accepted that opportunity unless it was necessary for them to do so, because it will be a fairly costly operation to move their tanks and armoured fighting vehicles from Germany to this country and to go through all the process of administration.
1340 I am very glad, therefore, to support my right hon. Friend's proposal, although, as he has already recognised, we feel uncomfortable about it. There are some characteristics and qualities in the German people which alarm me. I feel certain apprehensions and I am bound to express them. But I cannot see that we would be justified in saying that because of those apprehensions and fears, because the Germans were our enemies in the last war, they must be different from all our other N.A.T.O. allies.
My final point concerns administration. In view of the fact, which is recognised by all of us, whatever our views on this proposal may be, that it will make certain demands upon the emotions of the British people, I ask my right hon. Friend to give instructions that the administrative services provided by British personnel at Castlemartin are so arranged that, as far as possible, British soldiers are not unduly put in the position of fetching and carrying for this visiting German tank battalion. It is important to avoid that as far as we can, because a man who is placed in such a situation might feel disgruntled.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
It seems to me that it might be convenient if at this point in the debate I were to say some words to the House about the approach which my right hon. and hon. Friends and I make to this subject, and, perhaps, to offer a word or two of advice, if I may.
One or two conservative hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins), who is now leaving us, enlivened the debate a little earlier with some remarks about the Labour Party and the fact that we were having an argument among ourselves on this subject. I am bound to say to the hon. Member for Cornwall, North before he goes that I think that the criticism which he thought fit to make this evening comes ill from a Government party which, on an issue so difficult and troublesome not only to the emotions but to the minds of many people, as the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Leavey) recognised, has not been able to maintain a reasonable representation on its own benches throughout the debate.
1341 At no time on the benches opposite have there been enough Members to make a debate of it. Apart from the two hon. Gentlemen opposite who have made speeches, none of their hon. Friends has evinced the slightest desire to take part in the debate. I simply tell the hon. Member for Cornwall, North, without making too much of it, that on an issue on which a lot of our constituents, rightly or wrongly, will have considerable difficulty in making up their minds what is the right thing to do it is extraordinary that there is so little interest on the part of the Conservative Party in this House about it; and for decency's sake, if for no other reason, they ought not to complain that we debate the issue.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
The right hon. Gentleman is being less than fair to me. When I said in my speech that there was interest and sympathy in what had been going on on the benches on his side of the House, I said at the same time, or a little later, as I am sure he will recall to mind, that there had been a great deal of heart-searching on my part and also on the part of my hon. Friend in coming to our conclusions upon this matter. I am sure that that does not apply to ourselves only but to many hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House.
§ Mr. Brown
Will the hon. Gentleman please get it clear that it is not his interest and sympathy that we want when as Members of this House we debate a public issue of tremendous importance: we are doing our duty. If there are different views about where the balance of argument lies between us on this side of the House, then it is still our duty to deploy the various views and the various arguments. It is astonishing to me that there is no difference of view on the benches opposite, and even more astonishing to me that so few people over there have attended this debate. I repeat, I am even more surprised that the hon. Gentleman should have tried to inject that little bit of political prejudice into the debate.
§ Mr. W. Griffiths
Is it not possible that the poor attendance on the other side of the House is because it has leaked out that the Opposition does not intend to divide against the Motion?
§ Mr. Brown
My hon. Friend has been as long in the House as I have, and if it is argued, as of course it is argued when it suits some hon. Gentlemen to argue it, that we need to turn up for a debate because it is known that a Division will follow at the end of it, I am bound to remind my hon. Friend that were that so, many of the greatest historical occasions in this House would never have taken place. A debate is still required in this House whether or not at the end of the day we are asked to record our views in the Division Lobbies.
However, I have said what I wanted to say on that matter, and it was purely incidental, and I come now to what I really wanted to say. I want to begin by making it plain that none of us, I think, can come easily to the decision to which the Government are asking us to come tonight. I, like many of hon. and right hon. Friends and, I suspect, many other people, have great difficulty at this point in time in making up my mind that I am ready to see, much less want to see, German uniformed formations, and a tank formation at that, with all that it conjures up in one's mind, with all that it connotes, training or manœuvring in this country or driving about our roads. I find it very difficult indeed happily or willingly to face that position, and there is nobody sitting anywhere in this House who finds it harder than I do, or has stronger personal reasons for finding it hard, to face this decision. It is a difficult issue, and I agree with those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who have said that we ought to be asked to face it only if, in fact, there is a great need for it to be done.
It is not enough to say that it logically flows from a decision which we took some years ago. The fact that one step leads to another may be a logical defence, but it is not a case for saying that because we take the first step we have to take the second step. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) that there are points, in what is otherwise a logical progression, where one is perfectly entitled to say, "For a moment I want to stop there, because I do not see the case for going on beyond." The simple statement that, because we once agreed to the rearmament of Western Germany, we once agreed to the entry 1343 of Germany into N.A.T.O., therefore we have to agree to other things following, irrespective of the situation, seems to me to be an untenable argument.
Holding strong emotional views about Germans in uniform operating in our country does not necessarily mean—I agree that it does sometimes mean it, and that when it does it should not mean it—that one is regarding the Germans as an inferior people or thinking that for all time the Germans should be subject to special disadvantages or disabilities. There is in all this a matter of time.
Defence is not only a matter of laying down on paper what ought to be done. It is not only a matter of bringing troops and arms together in a certain size and manner. Defence is also a matter of carrying with one the hearts and minds of one's people. One has to allow in this for psychological feeling; one has to allow in this for outlook; and if one wants to do at a particular moment something which involves a great psychological and disadvantageous impact upon the people whose whole- hearted participation in one's defence programme one needs, then one has to stop to reconsider, whatever the otherwise apparently convincing military arguments may be.
I cannot from this bench say that there is a case for a German tank battalion training in this country at the moment. By the same standards, I cannot say that there is not. Clearly I have not that information. One collects what one can. Sometimes I am rather proud of what I manage to pick up on the way round, but I cannot possibly take the responsibility of saying that there is or there is not a case. This is the case that the Government have to make, and what I am saying to them and to hon. Members opposite is that they really have to make it. They really are taking responsibility for it. They have to show people that there is a case.
I do not seek to quote or misquote him but I paraphrase and give my impression that the hon. Member for Heywood and Royton accepted the assumption that there was a very strong case for these fellows coming here and doing their training here. One thing that makes me still pause a little about the strength of the case is that this cannot have been 1344 the first German tank battalion that had to do its elementary tank training. I know that the German forces are not yet that strong and not yet that heavily armoured and I am prepared to believe that so far there may not have been a great deal of tank training, but I am pretty sure that somebody must have done some tank training.
Where did they do theirs? Is it the Government's case that they did theirs on a range which has since become much more crowded by Allied troops using it or since much more required for what the Minister calls more sophisticated training and therefore it is not as easy to fit in the elementary training of this battalion as it was with the others?
If that is the Minister's case there is then the question whether the case is being made with sufficient urgency or force. Like so many others, I frankly would have liked to have said that I do not want this to happen yet. I honestly cannot say on the evidence that I have been able to collect that I can disprove sufficiently the case that has been made for it. I should like to hear rather more about the strength of it and about the urgency at this point. I cannot go as far as my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington, although to some extent I agree with him, in asking whether if we take these men away tonight, it will really affect the strength of N.A.T.O. If we take 600 men away from training here, it does not alter all that much the strength of N.A.T.O. Presumably they would find something somewhere else. But the point which, with respect, my right hon. Friend did not allow for was that N.A.T.O. and its strength is made up of a whole collection of different divisions many of which will be necessarily small ones.
There is a whole collection of different deployments and different acts. We can say of one of them that if we do not do that it does not matter a great deal, but if we do not do one of these acts there is then some case for not doing another, and we end with a situation where the alliance does not work, because one can be sure that a decision that is not convenient for someone will not be taken.
I cannot go as far as to say that unless it is proved that these forces must be here now, the case is not proved, but 1345 think that the Minister, and to this extent I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington, must really show that it is more than just a convenience for somebody. He must show that this is a reasonable military requirement of the alliance and a reasonably sensible deployment of the facilities we have.
I should like to answer an interjection earlier when my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) was speaking. It was to the effect that there is something wrong about not deciding whether or not to vote tonight. I do not have to take responsibility for it. I repeat that I cannot take the responsibility. I have to decide whether the case against having these men here seems so strong that have positively to take steps to oppose it. That is all I am asked to decide. That is the only proper consideration to which I have to address my mind. If I can say, as I do say, that the case for it has not yet seemed to me all that overwhelmingly strong—
§ Mr. Brown
Will my hon. Friend give me credit and listen to my argument?
Even though I am able to say that the case for it has not been made up to all that strength, nevertheless if I say that the case against it has not equally demolished the case for it to my satisfaction, I am in a perfectly strong position to say in that event that I will not oppose it. I will not take the responsibility—
§ Mr. Brown
If that was not being said, there was not much point in the interjection made. It is a perfectly tenable position to say, "It has to be your responsibility; only you have the information and the authority. It has to 1346 be our responsibility to decide whether to try to stop you in what you are seeking to do. In fact, if we decide not to try to stop you because, in our view, the case for stopping you is not shown to be all that strong, that is a perfectly tenable, honourable and traditional role for the Opposition in this House to take."
§ Mr. Silverman
The decision for or against this Order has to be made by an affirmative Resolution; whether we accept it or not, a decision will be made tonight, with or without a Division. Is my right hon. Friend saying that this is not so important a matter that we need take a decision either way? If he is not saying that, but is saying that it is an important matter, that the onus of proof is on the Government, and the Government have not discharged that onus, how can we justify not voting against it?
§ Mr. Brown
With great respect to my hon. Friend, if he did not talk while one was speaking, the sense of one's argument would get over a little better. I well understand that we are debating an affirmative Order. I well understand that the decision will be taken tonight It does not necessarily follow that I have to share the responsibility for the Order If I do not share the responsibility for it, it does not automatically follow that I, therefore, have to take the responsibility of saying that the decision will be wrong. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That has never been the position; it is much too simple a view to take of the rôle that this House plays.
§ Mr. M. Foot
What would the night hon. Gentleman recommend someone to do who is passionately opposed to this Order and who thinks that not only have the Government not made their case, but that the whole Order is wrong?
§ Mr. Brown
I will come in a moment to the advice which I want to give to my hon. Friends and if that advice is also agreeable to other parties or groups in the House, I shall be delighted to see my hon. Friend taking it.
The Government have offered a case. In that case there is some strength. I do not dispute that. One of the points which the Minister made, and which impressed me more than it appears to have impressed some other hon. Members, I should like to repeat. The more one 1347 can provide a situation in which there is an integration of logistics, supply, training facilities and weapons, the further one is away from the possibility of a national force coming under irresponsible command.
That is a very powerful point indeed. I do not want to make special reference to the Germans. Think what this is, after all, to the younger generation of Germans, who are having to work a democratic system for the first time. The Weimar Republic had too short a term of history for it to be called a system. For the present generation the more one argues this in relation to Germans the more insulting it must appear to them and the more difficult it must be for them to regard we democrats as their friend. It is better to argue in relation to us all.
Even so, let me take the risk of saying to those who feel that there is still a special problem with regard to Germany in the light of past history and in the light of some continuation in the present day, some hang-over, from that history, that this argument about integration is a very much more important one to them than it is to other people. Clearly it must be so. If there is no national general staff, if there is no national provision of facilities of this kind, if they are dependent upon other people for their logistical and supply chain, if they are operating with weapons that they are not themselves making, then we have gone a great deal further towards making impossible a repetition of the history between the two wars and even before the first war.
I think that to that extent there is a case here, and that is one of my difficulties. It may be that I feel that the urgency of the absolute need at this moment does not go all that strongly through the Minister's case, but I see this other point. I am often asked to make the case that it would be better to train the Germans in Germany and the Englishmen in England. [An HON. MEMBER: "And Scotsmen in Scotland."] This argument can be put with a variety of refinements. Speaking more as an Irishman than anything else, I would settle for England.
Sometimes people ask one to put this case, and I am reluctant to put it even though it may be shown to me that there 1348 is a certain amount of unnecessary movement. I should still be reluctant to put it for this reason, because I do not want to get to the position where the West German Army is wholly self-sufficient in this or any other direction. I think it is a mistake and a shortsighted view to believe that even if that were possible it would be a desirable thing to do.
There is one other problem that worries me about opposing this Order, although really what we are doing tonight is discussing the issue of the troops rather than the issue of the Order. Something worries me whatever I feel about the strength of the Minister's case. I hope that hon. Gentlemen who may disagree with me will nevertheless hear me through again. It is this problem of getting into what seems to me to be indistinguishable from a racial opposition. This is one of the terrifying things of the world—this visiting of sins upon a whole people and declaring a whole people to be guilty as a people and ending up with the terrible situation where somebody says, "Ah, but that is not true of me. Some of my best friends are"—it used to be "Jews", and now it is the same thing about "Germans". This is a very easy descent.
We were prepared to give these facilities to the Italians. It does not matter whether the Italians actually came to this country or not; the point was that we were prepared to, and we did without opposition in this House provide facilities which would have been available to them had N.A.T.O. asked. There was no other step which we should have had to take. We made facilities available so that had N.A.T.O. asked us to take the Italians no other request would have been before this House. If we were prepared to do that for the Italians, for the French, for the Turks, for the Greeks—
§ Mr. Brown
—for the Portuguese and all the rest. If we stop at the Germans, it is very difficult to be really convinced that one is not, whatever one says, making a racial attack on one group of people.
This worries me very much. I am trying to be quite earnest about it because it worries me a lot. It is so easy 1349 to persuade oneself that one is doing for heartfelt but decent emotional reasons. It is so easy to persuade oneself because of a particular point in time, and it is so easy to delude oneself and to end in a position where others have been before; where, without carrying out or permitting to be carried out anti-racial policies, and by cloaking the matter with a lot of well-meaning words—which we probably believe—we assume the form that people give to their conscience to allow them to participate in what is at bottom a very improper and indecent emotion.
§ Mr. Greenwood
Can my right hon. Friend tell us why he regards it as racialism to say that the Germans may not have bases in this country, but that it is not racialism to say that they must not have nuclear weapons—which is the policy of the Labour Party?
§ Mr. Brown
I think that there is a great difference here. I do not want any other members of the N.A.T.O. alliance to make or provide nuclear weapons. I shall be one of those commending that policy to our party conference in October. This is one of the points which is even applicable to ourselves. Therefore, I should not want the Germans to have them and I do not want nuclear weapons in the hands of the German forces. Indeed, I do not want the kind of nuclear weapons which now exist to be in the hands of the forces in West Germany at all, for what I think are very strong military reasons, and I have argued that before in debates in this House.
What I have to say in relation to the Germans on that score is quite a different argument from the general argument that they ought not to be permitted to enter this country because they are in fact Germans.
§ Mr. Brown
No, I am sorry.
I have tried to put before the House the different considerations that must be in the mind of somebody trying to argue this thing through. There is still some room somewhere for the Minister to show that this matter is as urgent as it ought to be, that it is as necessary as it ought to be, if our people are to be asked to accept it at this moment and to settle down with this idea. 1350 Incidentally, I have no doubt that if we ask our people to do so, they will do exactly that. I doubt whether the feeling outside this House among ordinary people is as strong, or will remain as strong, as it is among some of us who are much more active in this matter.
That is not to say that one should not make the case with a great deal of strength, and the Minister has not argued to make the case rather stronger. But even though he has not done so, I have to tell hon. Members that I still would not advise the House to oppose the Motion—even though the case has been made no more strongly than it has been made—because of the other reasons which I have deployed; because of the damage which I think it would do to N.A.T.O.; because of the damage that it would do to the possibility of integration, to logistics, to supplies of forces and weapons to N.A.T.O., to which I attach so much importance, and because of the almost inescapable overtones of racial policy colouring our approach.
For all those reasons I say to the House—and obviously I say it especially to my hon. and right hon. Friends—that T feel convinced, we feel convinced, that the right course for us to pursue tonight is not to oppose the Order but to leave the responsibility for it where only it can lie, which is on the Government benches, and to watch very carefully how it works out.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) has made a powerful and persuasive speech. He has pointed out the advantages of co-operation and the disadvantages of racial feeling and the other disadvantages to the democratic feeling in Germany today which may result from a rejection of this Order. I rather regret that he has shown something less than his usual political courage in advising his right hon. and hon. Friends not to vote for the Order.
The right hon. Member made the point at the beginning of the speech that very few hon. Members on this side of the House have attended consistently throughout the debate. I have my own apologies to make for, owing to another engagement, I was not able to be here all the 1351 time. I think it fair to say, however, that the debate this evening lies not so much between the two sides of the House as between the two sections of the party opposite. Therefore, it was to be expected that the party opposite should attend in rather larger numbers than we on these benches.
The right hon. Member also made the point that he was very understanding of the disagreeable feelings which would be aroused by the sight of German uniform again in this country. I think that one must distinguish between these uniforms. The uniforms of the Nazis and the German Army in the last war were entirely different from those of the German Army today and aroused very different feelings among those who had to contend with them. Nowadays, those visiting Germany from time to time will have very clearly in their minds the great difference there is in the atmosphere compared with the atmosphere in the days before the war.
I have no doubt at all that those of us who were there before the war will recall with very great displeasure the feelings of anticipation and the fatal feeling that something desperate would happen, but I do not think that anyone going to Western Germany now can have those feelings, or believe anything but that those who are trying to build the German Army are trying to do so on democratic principles.
Several hon. Members have recalled in the debate that Western Germany today is the only one of the N.A.T.O. Powers which has devoted all its forces entirely to N.A.T.O. and made no reservations as other Powers, ourselves included. It is the only one which Chas submitted to every sort of inspection of its factories and forces in order to ensure that it abides by the terms of the treaties it has engaged in, particularly about A.B.C. weapons. I am personally of the opinion that many who visit Western Germany can also agree that the military feeling of the younger people in Germany today is almost nil. It is with the very greatest difficulty that they can be persuaded to join the forces.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
That is quite true. Only because we insist on having conscription in Germany are there any forces to come here for this training.
§ Mr. Kershaw
The hon. Member agrees with me and I am glad of that. The military feeling in Germany today is not by any means the feeling against which the hon. Member and his hon. Friends are still trying to direct themselves. That was the feeling of irredentism and Chauvinism which existed before the war. That argument is inescapable in the attitude of hon. Members who oppose the proper training of these troops. They have no reason to doubt the true democratic aspirations of the Western German people.
If we oppose this Order tonight we shall inflict a great personal wound upon the feelings of those who are trying to do their best to run the country in the democratic way in which it ought to be run and in which they wish it to be run. No one can doubt that the allies should be as well trained and as well equipped as possible. If this range ought to be provided to enable the German forces to be properly equipped and trained, then I do not see how we can argue against their using it.
I am reminded of a quotation by Polonius, who gave this advice to his son, Laertes, about his friends:Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;".If they are our friends, we must treat them as such and attempt to see that their army, which I believe, is a more democratic army than any I have seen there in the past, is well equipped and well trained. It is clearly our duty to provide these facilities for the German forces, and I hope that we shall do so.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)
I rise as the Member for the constituency concerned, and I wish to associate myself with what I consider to be the admirable speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown). I agree with every word he said, and I share many of his doubts, inhibitions and hesitations on the subject of our discussion. Indeed, I remember an occasion some years ago when my right hon. Friend and I tramped across a field of human ashes at Auschwitz and looked at piles of human hair and piles of children's shoes. I remember the way in which he was deeply moved, as I was. It was an 1353 experience which will remain with me for the rest of my life, as I am sure it will remain with him.
Naturally, all who had that kind of experience or spent the best years of their lives dealing with the problems associated with German militarism have inhibitions ambout this subject. As the hon. Member for the constituency in which these Germans are likely to train, I will simply tell the House the general feeling of the people in the district. This is only my personal impression, I concede; I put it no higher than that.
First, there is no question at all of any hostility among the people in the Pembroke Dock-Pembroke Borough area to this proposal. It has been represented at various times that this stems from the fact that there is unemployment in the area. I think that I know my constituents better than that. They would in no way debase the coinage of their intellectual assessment of this situation. They have a long history of sturdy independence over the years, and they have even returned people like myself to the House of Commons. They are not likely to be bought or sold by any measures such as this. There is a genuine feeling in the district that bygones should be bygones.
We are in no position, any more than is my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper, to judge the military merits of this proposal. It is for the Government to make their case for it, as the Minister of Defence conceded. All I can do on behalf of my constituents is to ask one or two questions which involve them and on which, because they have no experience of such a development as this, they naturally want some explanation.
First, what is the implication of the Visiting Forces Act on local civil liberties? What does this mean as regards police jurisdiction, the responsibilities of the local bench and the local inhabitants. Secondly, there are the technical problems mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris). He spoke about firing in the area. What does this involve as regards safety limits and the area around the Castlemartin range? Thirdly, I am concerned about the position as regards claims for compensation. Perhaps the Minister when replying will give us a 1354 brief summary of precedents in other areas so that we know how we will stand in our area.
Finally, there are one or two purely mechanical problems such as roads, transportation of the tanks from the landing stages, and so on. I see that the Minister for Welsh Affairs is present. Some of the roads leading to this tank range are very narrow. There have already been difficulties in the town of Pembroke in an area called Holy Land. Will this road be widened so that the tanks can get through without knocking down people's front gardens, and so on?
I now want to say something about the general feeling in the district and any opposition which exists there. I can only speak for the County of Pembroke. I read in the Press that on Saturday there was a demonstration 60 or 70 miles away at Swansea. The chief speaker at the demonstration said that he was not dismayed by the poor attendance. My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) was present at the demonstration. Speaking as an outsider, who may be able to see the matter more objectively than some Welshmen, I say that it would be unfair to the people of Wales to say, on the basis of Saturday's demonstration, that there is national uproar about this situation.
§ Mr. Abse
Does my hon. Friend think that the Welsh Council of Labour, representing as it does all the constituency parties and trade unions in Wales, is not in a position to make an assessment? Is he aware that this week the Council has in clear and unequivocal terms expressed its bitter opposition to any suggestion of these German forces coming to Wales?
§ Mr. Donnelly
I have not my hon. Friend's long experience of these matters. I well recall the day when he was put in gaol during the war when he was elected the Prime Minister of the Cairo Forces Parliament.
§ Mr. Donnelly
I am trying to put it in proper perspective. I do not believe that the working men and women of Wales take the same attitude as my hon. Friend. The Welsh Regional Council may well be well advised to think again about this issue. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) seems heated.
§ Mr. Donnelly
I am delighted to hear it on this occasion.
I really do not believe—whether they are councils, whether it is the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) or anyone else—that the people of Wales as a whole are roused to a sense of outrage at this moment. That is the short point of my assessment. I may be wrong, and I shall be happy to be converted, but that is the assessment I give tonight.
Another point relevant to the whole discussion is the basic principle, not of whether or not we think this is an outrage, but of this particular association with German forces by Wales. My right hon. Friend the Member for Essington (Mr. Shinwell) referred to the background history of German rearmament. He knows it better than anyone else, but perhaps I may briefly remind the House of some of the incidents.
The issue originally arose out of the situation in 1950—the time of the Korean War. At that time, it was thought in Western Europe that there would be a Russian advance similar to that which had taken place in Korea. There was a feeling, generally, or panic in Western Europe, and especially in Western Germany. West German industrialists even went so far as to take advertising space in East German newspapers. West German policemen had to have the numbers removed from their uniforms. They were 1356 reluctant to take action against Communists because they felt it was only a matter of days or even of hours before the Russians advanced. This is the reportable fact; I do not speak of whether or not it was valid. That was the situation at that time.
The West German Government approached the British Government and our associates in the Western Alliance and said that we should at least go as far as the East Germans had already gone in creating an armed police force. And do not let us ever forget that German rearmament began on the Eastern side of the border, not on the Western side.
That was the proposal that Ernest Bevin took to New York in September, 1950. He discussed it with the Americans, and Mr. Dean Acheson, then the American Secretary of State, insisted on a package deal. He recognised the panic in Western Europe and said that the Americans were ready to send troops to Western Europe but, as part of the package deal, he said that we must have a proper German Army; there must be German rearmament.
This was resisted by the British Government, the British Labour Government, and the French Government, but, in the face of the situation then, and in the face of the terms of a package deal on which the Americans insisted and which they said was not negotiable, the Governments could only reluctantly agree. Then the question arose whether, if there was German rearmament, it should take place with or without control. The situation developed that if we persistently turned down all systems of control, such as E.D.C., we would eventually have a German army without control, which is the last thing we would desire. That is the situation as it was then.
Having agreed to the principle of West German rearmament with controls—after the prolonged dreary debates that went on in E.D.C. and finally worked down to the Paris Agreement and the London Agreement of October, 1954—this present proposal is the logical corollary of what happened then, as several hon. Members have said.
The issue is whether we wish to see the existing German Army outside the Western Alliance, ostracised and in isolation, or wish it to be integrated with 1357 the Western Alliance, as part of the whole fabric of the Western political sot-up. That is really the choice. This present proposal is a very small proposal in the big scheme of the Western arrangements.
A great deal of heat has been engendered here tonight, but this is, in fact, a very small parochial proposal, indeed, when we consider all the proposals of the Western Alliance. Many hon. Members have swallowed the camel and are now straining at the gnat. What we really have to face up to are the implications in this proposal.
One or two hon. Members have raised objections in the course of the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) talked about German foreign policy and the recovery of certain lands East of the Oder and Neisse. I entirely agree with him. I would not support the movement of one German soldier to recover any of those lands. I am in favour of the recognition of the Oder-Neisse line and opposed to the recovery of those territories.
But does anyone really think that the arrival of 600 half-trained troops in Wales is really relevant to the wider issue? Then there is the question of provocation, which was referred to by the hon. Member for Rossendale, who suggested that it might represent an issue of provocation to the Russians. One must get this issue in balance. I would have thought, considering Mr. Khrushchev's psychology and recognising something of the magnitude of the demonstration of aircraft and arms in Russia a few days ago, that the arrival of 600 troops in Wales will not be a provocation.
Mr. Khrushchev is a realist and not a fathead. But some of the people who put forward these ideas are fatheads, and there is no other way of describing them. In fact, this proposal is for bringing the German troops closer to the British Armed Services and our arrangements in the Western Alliance. It is an interesting historical parallel that at the time of the Versailles Conference President Wilson, Mr. Lloyd George and M. Clemenceau insisted on a clause in that Treaty that the Germans should never be allowed to have foreign troops training in Germany. The reason for that insistence was that they considered 1358 that it would give the Germans an advantage. It would enable German militarism to spread, German ideas to spread, and it would give Germany political and military influence if foreign troops were allowed to train in Germany.
This is exactly what we are being asked to consider now in Britain. It is a reversal of the whole proposal, and some hon. Gentlemen are suggesting that we should turn it down. It would be profoundly regrettable if these young Germans—many of whom were children at the time of the Nazi régime—should not have an opportunity of coming here, of looking at our way of life, even though they come in uniform. Of course, I would rather see them in civilian clothing, but let them come in uniform and then let them come again in civilian clothes, having a respect for our institutions and our way of life.
Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper, I cannot comment on the military technicalities of what the Minister of Defence has brought forward. I can say, however, that as far as my constituents are concerned they have no hymn of hate in their hearts. I believe that they will welcome these young people on their merits.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) on his speech, which was couched in moderate language. I think that most hon. Members will agree with what he said. I did not agree with quite everything that was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), but one remark he made with which I heartily agree was that we should not condemn a whole race for the sins of their fathers.
The hon. Member for Pembroke observed that these young men whom it is suggested should come here to be trained in Wales can hardly be the same men who crashed through Poland with the Panzer divisions in 1939. They are the sons, at least, of the former generation, and if we are to condemn the sons why should we stop at them? Why should we not object to our men training alongside Frenchmen who are the great, great-grandsons of the Old Guard who fought our troops at Waterloo, or even the remote descendants of the Yankee troops who shot our troops at Bunker's Hill?
1359 Put in that way, the whole argument becomes nonsense.
We cannot condemn in that fashion one generation for what another generation has done. To do so, and to make such a song and dance about this proposal, is to show a complete misunderstanding of the history and traditions of the British Army throughout the world. It has always been our tradition to recruit and train with those whom we have previously fought.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) was himself a Gurkha officer in the Indian Army, as was one of my brothers. The Gurkha regiments were recruited from people who were never British subjects and those regiments were first formed from troops whom we had recently defeated. That was the rule in the Indian Army. It was exactly the same with the Mahratta and Sikh regiments. They were formed out of troops whom we had recently been fighting. We accepted them and trained them.
If we go back far enough we find that the Scottish regiments had the same sort of origin, because many of those who fought in the '45 Rebellion afterwards served in the British Army, and Scottish regiments played a notable part in subsequent wars. It was the sons of the men who, in the '45 Rebellion fought against the English Army, who played such a notable part in the Napoleonic wars.
I do not want to elaborate the point, but I think that people are making a very serious mistake if they wish to visit on the children the sins of the fathers, or think that there is anything peculiar in training with troops whose ancestors at some time or other fought against us. In fact one can go further than that. My uncle spent his youth during the Boer War chasing Jan Smuts, as he then was, who led a Boer Commando, and afterwards he served under Smuts in the First World War. There was nothing unusual at all in changes of that sort.
When one remembers that Western Germany is at present flooded with refugees from the East, that they are very short of land and that we are occupying a considerable amount of land in their country for training our own troops, it is not asking very much 1360 of us that we should spare a little territory and some facilities to train a few of their troops who, with ours, are considered to be part of the same force in N.A.T.O. Too much has been made of the opposition to this proposal.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I do not regard the question which the House is to decide tonight as being unimportant. I agree that its importance does not rest exclusively on the 600 experimental trainee Germans who are the subject immediately of the Order. If that were all, I suppose that many of us in the context of present-day international politics would grin and bear it.
The importance of the question, as, I think, has emerged clearly from many of the speeches, lies in two wider questions. One is the background of the whole question of German rearmament, which, of course, is bound up with even wider questions of international relationships and common policy. The other is the Minister's declared intention, if this immediate experiment should succeed, to follow it with others.
Certain of my hon. Friends who take the same general point of view as I do are, I think, mistaken in attaching too much importance to the immediate admission of a handful of young Germans to be trained in South Wales. It is not that. It is the fact that if it goes through we shall have more and more and that if we are ever to resist it we must resist it tonight.
The other general question, the more important one, I think, is the whole background of German rearmament. This is not a trivial matter which we can afford to disregard and on which, without irresponsibility, we can abstain. It is a broad question of deep principle on which it is incumbent that each of us should make up his mind and vote, in the end, according to his conscientious judgment. Are we right in proceeding with German rearmament, in doing it in this way, in this context, in this country, or are we wrong?
I daresay that the House will be unanimous in agreeing with me in my next sentence. My own answer to the question is predictable. I think it is wrong morally, wrong politically and wrong practically to bring Germans in 1361 uniform to this country for military training in order to take part with us in some contemplated war in Europe or in the world. To me—I say frankly that others may not see it in this way; I am giving only my own view—this is sheer blasphemy. It is an insult to the 40 million people who died in or as a result of the Second World War.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown)—I am sorry he is not here—made the kind of speech that one cannot answer in debate. One could do justice to my right hon. Friend's speech only by having him in the witness box, on oath, subject to cross-examination. It would be very interesting to hear his answers to the innumerable contradictions and non sequiturs which he surrounded with so much superficial lucidity and reasonableness.
§ Mr. Wilson
Would the hon. Gentleman object to training with Turks because the Turks wiped out the whole Armenian race in the First World War?
§ Mr. Silverman
I can only beg the hon. Gentleman to have a little patience with me. Like other hon. Members, I can make only one point at a time and utter one sentence at a time. It is quite impossible at the beginning of a speech, in the first minute, to deal with the whole case.
§ Mr. Silverman
If the hon. Gentleman will possess himself in patience for a little while, he may find it unnecessary to ask the question. If he still feels it necessary to repeat it later, I shall be delighted to answer. The hon. Gentleman has succeeded in making me forget the point I wished to make.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
My hon. Friend had his right hon. Friend the Member for Belper in the witness box, which would be a very expensive business.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Member for Truro has done what the learned judge 1362 so often does in cases where his sympathies are on one side or the other—he has intervened to protect the witness. Perhaps I had better leave my right hon. Friend's argument alone. However, I will deal with one point, because I think that it demands an answer.
I do not deny that my feelings are involved here. I daresay that the feelings of many hon. Members are involved. Every hon. Member has said that his feelings are involved, and I believe that. However, I think that it will be understood if I say that there is no hon. Member who has greater reason to find his emotions involved than I have, although there are many who have as much reason. Yet the emotion which I feel is not a racial emotion. The hon. Gentleman served with me in the House during the war. So did my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who has blown in, blown off and blown out. He will know the attitude that I took to anti-German racialism during the war, when it was much harder to plead for tolerance than it is today.
A great many right hon. and hon. Members who are preaching sermons to me today about how wrong it is to carry hatred beyond the grave were calling me a pro-German during the war because I was begging them to draw the distinction which T have always drawn and which they are only just beginning to draw between Germans as such and Nazis and Fascists. I had a very hard time of it. With a handful of others, I pleaded throughout the war. "State your terms now. Do not wait until the end of the war until you have complete anarchy in Europe and the Allies who are fighting together for their lives against German militarism and Fascism have time to fall out about it." When it came nearer to the end of the war when we had this absurd doctrine, of which everyone is now ashamed, of unconditional surrender—"Do not recognise any German Government. Do not make peace with the Germans. Occupy them for forty years"—when the Americans were saying, "Split them up. Never let them unite again. Pastoralise them. Destroy all their industries"—
§ Mr. Silverman
Hon. and right hon. Members opposite did not afford me much assistance in those days, and it does not really lie in their mouths to preach sermons to me about not being anti-German.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper was not a Member of the House at that time, but he was a Member of the Labour Party. He used to go to the annual conferences of the Labour Party. He used to sit next to me at those conferences. I cannot remember if he had a single word to say in those days which would have helped those of us who were trying so hard to prevent the situation as it developed.
It is not only a question of six million of my own people. I only know about that, although I saw some of it. Early in April, 1945, when Eisenhower, leading the American Forces in Europe, had relieved Buchenwald, sent an invitation to Mr. Speaker, your predecessor, Sir—no, last but one—inviting a Parliamentary delegation to go out and to look at Buchenwald before it disappeared into history and before the opportunity arose for people to say, "This is only atrocity-mongering. This is only the result of anti-German racialism". We went. Some of those who saw it are still in the House with me—my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) and my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg). On the other side of the House, I do not think there is anyone left. I shall not forget it. I remember going to the gates and seeing a lorry on one side of the gates and another lorry on the other side piled so high with human corpses that they would not stay on, dropping off, littered about, and the pitiful dregs of humanity inside.
When I came back, I was asked, "Does not this cure you? Do you not hate the Germans now? Will you not alter your views about drawing distinctions between Germans and Nazis?" It seemed to me that there was only one possible answer to that, because Eisenhower had done one thing of great wisdom. Goethe's Weimar is only four miles from Buchenwald and he made the inhabitants of Weimar walk the four miles so that they could walk through the Buchenwald camp and see what had been done by their rulers in their name.
1364 I looked at the German faces. They did not like it any more than I liked it. When I was asked, "What do you think about it? Won't you be anti-German now?" When I came back, I said, "Less than ever, because it seems to me that before you can judge a man you must be able to answer very honestly what you would have done if you were in his place."
If I had been a German citizen in Weimar, four miles from Buchenwald, perhaps I would not have known what was going on, in which case I had no responsibility, although more likely I would know. I do not see how I could have failed to know. But suppose I knew that, and I knew also that if I raised my little finger in protest not merely would I be there myself the next morning but my wife would be there, my baby would be there, my friends and all my relations would be there. Unless I am sure that in those circumstances I would nevertheless have protested, I have no right to complain that the Germans did not protest.
I hope that while this controversy about German rearmament goes on, nobody will ever again degrade and bedevil it by this utterly unjustified and cheap sneer about anti-racialism. My conscience is clear about anti-racialism. I wish that everybody else's was as clear.
If anti-racialism is not the reason, what is the reason? People do not realise that the right kind of Germans were always the first and worst victims of the wrong type of Germans. The tragedy of Europe arises out of the tragedy of Germany that ever since Bismarck's day the control of German destinies has been in the hands of the wrong Germans.
What has been the result? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for—it used to be Epping—[An HON. MEMBER: "Woodford."] Yes, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill)—[Laughter.] Yes, memory is so short. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford once described the century in which we are living as "this terrible twentieth century". He did not know the half of it. There are forty years of this terrible twentieth century to happen yet. It may be that the terrors between 1914 and 1365 1945 are only a small, insignificant part of what Europe and the world may yet have to suffer, unless we learn wisdom from the terrors of this terrible twentieth century.
And what is at the heart of it? Germany is at the heart of it, by geography, by history, by economic necessity. And what is the problem of European peace and, therefore, I am not afraid to add, of world peace? It is the problem of being able to do justice to a united Germany without involving all the passions and miseries and fears of all Germany's neighbours and the rest of the world.
Potsdam is a dirty word—except, of course, when we are defending our rights in Berlin; but it is a dirty word everywhere else. But was the Potsdam Agreement so wrong? What, in the end, did we agree upon at Potsdam, we and the Americans and the French and the Russians, all of us in this House—nobody ever said a word against it at the time? What was the basis of the Potsdam Agreement on which the successful Allies succeeded in agreeing about in regard to Germany? In spite of unconditional surrender, in spite of the conflict of interests, in spite of the conflict of ideas, in spite of the fears and suspicions of what might happen in the future, they were not so unstatesmanlike. They said, "Germany must be united, but must be united in such a way that never again will the Germans be capable of being the cause of terror to their neighbours." Therefore it was said, "Unite Germany; have free elections; but no arms, and no military or political entanglements with other nations. Demilitarisation and neutralisation. And then be as united as you like."
§ Mr. Silverman
I am obliged to the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw). It really takes my argument a little out of turn. I was coming to deal with that, but I will deal with it now. There was no difficulty about keeping it so. None at all. If the Germans are armed today to any extent it is because we forced 1366 arms into their reluctant hands. We forced rearmament upon the Germans. They did not want it.
There were my hon. and right hon. Friends with their easy shibboleths about our democratic friends in Germany and should we not stand by the Social Democrats. Why did they not stand by them in the days when we were arguing about E.D.C. and the Brussels Treaty? Did the German trade unionists want German rearmament? Did the German Social Democrats want German rearmament? Did the German Liberals want German rearmament? Did the German man in the street want German rearmament? Of course they did not.
I remember those days. I went as an invited guest to a convention in Paris when the French National Assembly was to debate these treaties. I was asked to say a word, and I said a word against German rearmament? The National Executive Committee of my party wrote me an indignant protest about going to France to persuade French Socialists to vote against German rearmament. And in the very week when I went to Paris to do that Mr. Herbert Morrison, as he then was, the Treasurer of the party, went to Germany to try to persuade German Social Democrats to change their minds and accept rearmament.
§ Mr. Kershaw
East Germany rearmed quickly after the war. What answer would the hon. Member make to that?
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not know why the hon. Member asks me that question. I am sure that he is not one of those people who think that I am drawing a distinction between West Germany and East Germany. I am not. I am talking about Germany. It is clear that if the West had arms the East would have them, and if the East had them the West would have them. All I say is that Potsdam agreed that none should have them, and I say that that was a perfectly practicable policy. We ran away from it and deserted it.
§ Mr. Silverman
Mr. Speaker would soon pull me up if I tried now to go back into that old history. I am far from saying that all the faults were on one side. Of course they were not. The whole tragedy arose out of the breakup 1367 of the understanding that had been reached at Potsdam, and it is perfectly true that as soon as suspicion was sown and the evil seed flowered it was obvious that the thing would not last.
If now we create a Western Germany which is armed, which is an integrated ally in N.A.T.O., one of the two principal armed blocs, and if we insist, as I am afraid the Government are still insisting, that we are still in favour of uniting Germany but are now against the agreed conditions on which alone a united Germany is possible, we are following a course which can only lead to catastrophe. It seems to me that this Order is wrong because it carries this wrong policy one stride further to disaster. Of course it may be said, "You agreed in 1954", and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) said that this is the only logical decision from that. That was the camel and this is merely the gnat. I am not one of those who swallowed the camel. Of course that may be said, but that is a very silly analogy. It is like saying to a man who has fallen out of the window on the twelfth floor that if he does nothing about it the logical result is that he will break his neck on the pavement and that therefore it would be wholly unreasonable for him to attempt to stop himself half-way. Because we have done a damned silly thing in 1954, it does not mean that in 1961 we have to take every logical consequence. It is better to be illogical and alive.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
There are ways. [Laughter.] There are windows, there are ropes and there are ladders. [Laughter.] My hon. Friend does not mean to be quite so semantic in his argument. He knows perfectly well that we are not obliged tonight to take this further step, and I am saying that we should not do so.
A number of my hon. and right hon. Friends have said that they will not vote. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper said, "I am not going to take any responsibility." To my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington I would say, if he were here, that I agree 1368 with him in wanting to get rid of the Government, but disagree with him in thinking that the best way of getting rid of the Government is not to oppose them. It seems to me, in my innocence, that is a complete non sequitur. I have the utmost respect for my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood), with whom I agree on most things, but may I say to him, with the greatest respect and affection, that this issue will not be decided at the annual conference of the Labour Party in Blackpool next October. It will be resolved and settled here tonight, when this debate is finished. If he wants to influence the result he had better not wait for the conference at Blackpool.
Then there is my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper. He wants to wash his hands of it; he said so. He wants to take no responsibility. The deputy Leader of the alternative Government wants to take no responsibility. He wants to abstain, and he advised Members on this side to abstain. Why does he limit his advice to Members on this side? Why should not we all abstain? There is no Member of the House on either side who knows more about it than my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper. If that is his reason for washing his hands of responsibility and not voting, then let none of us vote.
But, of course, he did not mean that. What he meant was: "This is an unpopular thing. Let the Government take the onus and the blame of passing it through and let me have the best of both worlds so that nobody will be able to say that I agreed with it and no one will be able to say that I opposed it". That is not practical politics.
In so far as they mean it, I am ready to do my right hon. and hon. Friends the same incalculable service as I rendered them in 1954. I got no medals for it in those days. I expect no medals for it tonight either. But in 1954 they also decided that they would abstain from voting on the Motion approving of the Paris Treaty. If nobody had done anything about it, their decision would have been frustrated. Mr. Speaker would have put the Question from the Chair. When he said "As many as are of that opinion say 'Aye'", all those on the other side would have said "Aye"; 1369 when he said "To the contrary, 'No'", nobody would have said "No". The Motion would have been carried nemine contradicente—with no opposing voice.
That was not what my hon. and right hon. Friends wanted. I do not know why they blame me for having come to their rescue, but I came to their rescue by calling a Division. I said "No", and so did some of my hon. Friends, and so there was a Division from which the bulk of my hon. Friends were able to abstain as they had previously decided to do. But if no Division had been called, there would have been nothing to abstain from; the resolution would have been carried unanimously, and my right hon. and hon. Friends would not have been able to stump the country as they have done ever since saying, "We never voted for German rearmament."
I propose to do my right hon. and hon. Friends the same service tonight. Since they have decided that for this side of the House, or the majority of hon. Members on this side of the House, the proper thing to do is to abstain, I shall see to it so far as I am able, with your approval, Mr. Speaker, that there is a Division, so that those who are in favour of this can stand up and be counted and those who are against it can stand up and be counted and those who do not know and who think that the responsibility is not theirs and that they need not decide can sit on whatever they do sit on and abstain.
§ 9.53 p.m.
§ Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)
I do not propose to delay the House for more than a very few moments, I speak tonight with a very heavy heart. I speak not only on behalf of myself, but on behalf. I am sure, of thousands of my constituents.
I do not want to repeat the arguments which were so ably put by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). I merely want to say to the House, quite candidly, as a Jew, that I think that this Order, which makes possible the training of German troops in this country, is a disgraceful and disgusting one. It is an insult not only to the 6 million victims to whom tiny hon. Friend referred, but to the 1370 countless others who were killed as a result of the war.
I know that it may be said that this is an anti-racial argument, but I plead, in support of it, the argument rightly used by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne. I think that I can sum it up in a very few words.
§ Mr. Weitzman
Shall we never learn by our mistakes? Shall we never know where the truth lies? Shall we always go on fostering and rearing what is a real danger to this country, to ourselves? I want to take the opportunity of protesting as strongly as I can against the Order. It has been said that hon. Members who desire to do so can abstain from voting. Frankly, I do not take that view.
My view is that I should not be able to face my constituents, I should not keep faith with my conscience, unless I protested in the strongest possible fashion against the making of this Order and I therefore propose to vote against the Motion—much as I believe in the unity of my party and much as I hope that my party will, as quickly as it can, turn out those Members who sit opposite and become an efficient Government for the sake of this country. But I say that I could not keep faith with my conscience if I did anything but protest in the strongest possible fashion against the making of this Order.
§ 9.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
None of us wishes to delay the House, but some things have been said to which I think that a reply should be made. My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) did not recollect what did happen to Karl Liebnecht who was at the International Socialist Conference in Brussels in 1914. Karl Liebnecht went back to the Reichstag to vote against armaments. He went back to rally the German Socialists against the war policy, as did Jean Jaurés, who went back to France.
The one hope of peace at that moment, when the passions of pseudo-patriotism which were being stirred up in every country, the last hope of peace, was that the people in the Socialist International brotherhood could call upon 1371 the working man to be prepared for the use of the strike weapon against war. Karl Liebnecht—no one has accused him of lack of courage—was shot down—
§ Mr. Hale
Well, Jaurés was actually murdered by the bullet of a half-witted youth in the Rue Croissant, in Paris.
That was our chance. That was our hope. It is when I recall that and then listen to one of the arguments advanced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) that I know that my position is now impossible. My right hon. Friend says, "You swallowed it before." I did not vote with my hon. Friend the Member far Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) in 1954. I wish that I had. I might have thought better of myself if I had. Every time we make sacrifices to this appeal for party monolithic loyalty it is used as an argument for doing it again. Every time that the right hon. Member for Easington makes this argument that we should all stand together and abide by the party majority, every time I go home feeling that I have failed myself and my party, it is used against me. Somebody says, "Well, if you did not vote that time, how can you vote this?"
There must be a limit to it. My right hon. Friend used some words which I think I have enough respect for him to feel that he may regret when he reads them tomorrow. I refer to his remarks about racial antagonism in this matter. I do not think that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) will mind my quoting a casual remark which he made to me a month or so ago. He said, "I was looking through the debates, Leslie, and you were the first man after the war to get up and make a speech saying that the Germans must be received back as soon as possible into the comity of nations".
In 1947, my friend the late "Kim" Mackay, then a Member of Parliament for Hull, and I organised a meeting of Parliamentarians at The Hague to which we invited former Members of the Reichstag although, at the time, there were no official German Members of Parliament. I had at that time a German M.P. as my 1372 guest and he said, "Why did you let us down? Why did you not vote against German rearmament? Why did you force us into the position in which we have to rearm?" People have said later that now it is more difficult than it was then, that they cannot get up and make speeches in the Reichstag because the volume of opinion has grown so much.
§ It being Ten o'clock the debate stood adjourned.