§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Humphrey Atkins.]
§ Mr. Bernard Conlan (Gateshead, East)
On a point of order. In view of the prevailing conditions in the Chamber—the situation is not so bad as long as we have daylight, but in the evening it will get far worse—I beg to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am not prepared to accept that Motion. I appreciate the difficulties under which the House is working. There may come a time when the difficulties become insuperable, but I think that the whole House would wish to carry on with the business. The House has carried on in worse conditions in the past, and I think that it would wish to carry on now as long as it is practically possible.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)
Mr. Speaker, I will try, at any rate, to begin.
A foreign affairs debate on the Adjournment without a particular theme is almost an invitation to the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary to do a kind of Cook's tour round the world. Nevertheless, I think that it is our experience in this House that debates of this kind are rather difficult to conduct, are diffuse, and are not very satisfactory. I will try, therefore, to concentrate what I have to say, first, on the events in Vietnam, because that, I think, was originally the Opposition's request—had we had either an Order Paper or light I think that there would have been a Motion on the Order Paper by some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite on certain political aspects concerned with Vietnam—and, secondly, on some of those areas in which the pattern of international relations for better or for worse shows signs of change.
The British interest in the Vietnam conflict is clear. It is that, as soon as possible, there should be a peace which 436 is just and will contribute to the political stability and security of South-East Asia.
We are not, of course, engaged in the war itself; but in the context of the British interest, which is peace—a peace which will confer the right to self-determination, independence and security—it is well to remember and for the House to recall the proposals which President Nixon has lately advanced in search of these objectives.
On 7th October President Nixon put forward the following proposals: an "unconditional" cease-fire, which could be discussed separately from the rest of the proposals; an Indo-China peace conference; a negotiated timetable for the complete withdrawal of United States forces from South Vietnam; a political settlement in South Vietnam which would reflect the will of the South Vietnamese people and the existing relationship of political forces; and the immediate and unconditional surrender of all prisoners of war.
I think that it is now North Vietnam's choice; and it is hard to see any justification for the abrupt rejection of such terms which was given in Paris by the Government of North Vietnam.
In particular, I should like to call the attention of the House to the third of President Nixon's proposals: a negotiated timetable for the complete withdrawal of United States forces from Vietnam. Withdrawal as we understand it is the aim also of the North Vietnamese Government. President Nixon has offered to meet that desire on an agreed timetable. It is there that Britain could help if the Communists would allow us to do so.
When Mr. Gromyko was in London a few weeks ago I asked him if he, as co-Chairman, would join me in reconvening the Geneva Conference which, the House will remember, has never been stood down since 1962 and exists for the purpose of trying to co-ordinate peaceful relations in South-East Asia. I pointed out to him that the reconvening of this conference would be the most certain way of achieving an orderly programme of withdrawal, which all of us want to to see and which President Nixon has offered, of all foreign forces from South Vietnam. In that way, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia can then assume that rôle of non-alignment, which I remember very 437 well at the Conferences in 1954 and 1962 was agreed by all to be the political solution which served the characters of those nations best and, indeed, was in the interests of all in that part of the world.
So far the Soviet Government have declined to act with us in recalling this conference. The Russian answer is that the time is not appropriate. I should have thought that when President Nixon's offer was on the table, that there should be a negotiated settlement and that the object should be the orderly withdrawal of foreign troops from South Vietnam, that time was more appropriate than any I remember for a good long time. I can see no valid reason for allowing this war to continue when it could be ended by negotiation which we and the Russians together, if there is the necessary will, have the power to set in motion because we can recall this conference.
The plain fact is that the South Vietnamese and the Americans are ready to negotiate, and in the terms which I have described have put forward what, on the face of it, seems a reasonable basis—without pre-conditions. It is, therefore, within the power of the North Vietnamese Government today to start the process which could end this war.
Meanwhile, the United States Government continues the withdrawal of American troops and intensifies the policy of Vietnamisation of which, on all the evidence, the South Vietnamese are taking full advantage. Substantial areas of the country have, during the last few months, been brought under the Government's control. Villages are now defended by the villagers themselves with Home Guards; and measures for economic and social welfare are at last having a chance to make their impact.
But there is no doubt that this war continues, although on a lower scale, and war is cruel. There is, however, one aspect of it in which one would have hoped that humanity could now prevail. While South Vietnam grants access to the six prisoner-of-war camps which they run both to the International Red Cross and to other interested parties, the North Vietnamese persist in saying that their prisoners are not entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention on prisoners-of-war. If the Government of Hanoi, there- 438 fore, will not join in releasing all prisoners unconditionally, as President Nixon has asked and offered, and will not treat those they hold in accordance with the international rules of behaviour prescribed, it is scarcely for others to object when the Americans seek, by military means, to release those who are held.
I repeat that Britain's sole concern in this war is with peace and the organisation of a cease-fire and then with a peace negotiation. We are ready at any time—I renew my offer to the Soviet Foreign Minister—to use our influence and the status conferred on us by the Geneva Conference to act in favour of negotiation, because that is the only way in which real peace will come to this area.
I will not this afternoon speak of the agreement of the five Commonwealth countries that there should be a joint military presence in Malaysia and Singapore. That decision has been welcomed in both those countries. The House knows that we believe that it will be a contribution to general confidence and to stability and will give an opportunity to both Malaysia and Singapore to build up their own security forces unmolested from outside. I will leave that matter, because we have debated it before and we shall doubtless do so again.
In contrast to the position of South-East Asia and with some relief, without being complacent, I should like to turn to Europe—in this century, of course, the cockpit of the worst wars that the world has seen—where at long last, at least in the west of the continent, and, I should hope, further afield, the lesson seems to be slowly but surely being learned that peace is in fact indivisible.
To achieve the position that we have reached today in regard to negotiations within the continent of Europe, some very dramatic changes have already had to be accomplished in political thought and action. Before any advance could be made in the direction of harmonising the foreign policies of the countries of Western Europe, France and Germany had to resolve their historic quarrel. I have thought, and said so before, that this is so far the one decisive event in Europe since the war. This was done by two great leaders of authority, Dr. Adenauer and General de Gaulle, and all the peoples of Western Europe are deeply 439 in their debts for achieving this new relationship between these two countries.
It is from that basis that these two countries have now become the twin pillars of the Economic Community which with their partners they have brought to such active life. Not only do they not regret their decision but the partnership is considered by both the French and the Germans and all Members of the Six to be the most exciting political venture on which any of their countries have been engaged in their history.
Political co-operation in Europe is in its infancy. It is quite clear that none of the Six, or the Four if we join up as Ten, will rush into new political institutions; the evolution will be slow. But last week I attended the first meeting for political consultation of the Six with the four applicants. We discussed together the problems of the Middle East, East-West relations in general between Western Europe and the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, and the Federal Republic of Germany's policies towards Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. We sat together to exchange views and to try to co-ordinate our approach to these important questions—questions which are as topical to our friends and allies in Europe as they are to ourselves. It seemed—and I can testify to this—not only natural but inevitable that the ten countries should sit down and discuss these questions.
The advantages of co-ordinating foreign policies in Western Europe are, I believe, more and more widely recognised; and certainly the meeting last week was regarded by all as an historic step. I need not remind the House that the arrangements for meetings of the Ten to follow separate meetings of the Six and Four are temporary. Only as full members of an enlarged Community shall we be able to make our full contribution to the political as well as to the economic work of the Community. I know that this is a matter on which a number of people in this House have different opinions. In both these fields in relation to the Community's activities we now have a chance to influence each other's thinking and an opportunity to play our part in deciding with them the rôle which 440 Europe and her separate constituent nations is to play in the world of today.
A number of hon. Members on both sides of the House perhaps are sceptical about the value of these political consultations. I can only say that my experience is that they are immensely valuable. Looking to the future, I am bound to say that I would not like to see a situation developing in which the United States takes some of the great decisions which are to be taken in the world, the Soviet Union takes its decisions in the world, and the continent of Europe takes its decisions, but in regard to none of those three areas would Britain have the possibility of influencing opinion to the same extent as we would if we were inside the Community and talking with them on these great political issues.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
If we were inside the Community, what difference would there be in regard to the question of consultation about foreign affairs? The sort of consultation which my right hon. Friend has just had, and of which I fully approve, is fine and we should go on with it, but the alternative in a democratic Europe is to have a Parliament of Europe with elected members to debate foreign affairs and then to take a majority vote at the end of that debate. That is what a lot of people do not like.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
We should all try to look as far ahead as we can, but if we are not a member of the Community the consultations would take place among the Six, and the Six alone, and we should not be a party to them probably until it is too late. We could take part in various discussions in N.A.T.O., but the ability to take part in that Community of Ten would not be there.
§ Mr. Peter Shore (Stepney)
Could the Foreign Secretary say how the present d'Avignon type of proposal for consultation in the Six on foreign policy and other matters differs from the consultations that we are used to in Western European Union?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The consultations that we are used to in W.E.U. are of considerable value; but the right hon. Gentleman must remember that unless we are a member of the Community, the Six will constantly be sitting together week in and week out working out their joint policies on the large political questions of the day. We should not therefore be in on those discussions at all. This is the weakness in which we should find ourselves.
The first step towards this full involvement is membership of the Economic Community. My right hon. Friend was yesterday engaged in talks in Brussels and will be reporting to the House tomorrow. Therefore, I would not wish now to enter into the details in advance of his statement; but the House will wish to know that he proposed on behalf of Her Majesty's Government that there should be a transitional period of five years for adaptation in both industry and agriculture, and for adaptation to the Communities' rules regarding capital movements and fiscal harmonisation. In doing so he stressed that we thought it essential that within the common period of five years effective provision should be made for arriving at, to quote the Community's own phrase, "a mutual balance of advantage." The proposal was well received in Brussels. My right hon. Friend also suggested some general considerations which we thought should govern the application to us of the Communities' system of financing and said that we should be making detailed proposals as soon as possible. We were confident that the Communities would await these proposals before taking any position themselves on this most important question.
Last week at the meeting of the three allies and Germany over Berlin and at the meeting of the Ten—
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
May I put one more question to the right hon. Gentleman before he leaves this issue? Could he make clear what his right hon. Friend has not yet made clear, whether or not the Government accept the far-reaching proposals of currency units and fixed exchange rates which have now been accepted by the Six as an objective?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
These proposals have not been officially conveyed 442 to us. We are anxious to hand in our own note on the implications of the financial policy before we officially receive anything from the Commission, and I hope that will be so.
I was saying that at the meeting of the three allies and Germany over Berlin, at the meeting of the Ten and of the N.A.T.O. Council of Ministers, there was a close identity of view on the "Ostpolitik" pursued by the Federal Republic of Germany. There was unanimous recognition that the Federal Republic had made a positive move towards a more constuctive coexistence by the treaties promoted with the Soviet Union and with Poland and those in prospect with other Eastern European countries.
Just as the reconciliation between Germany and France has formed the basis for co-operation in Western Europe, it may not be too fanciful to believe that the process of reconciliation between West Germany and the countries of the Warsaw Pact could form the foundation of a new and more secure relationship between East and West Europe. This must be our hope.
So far, however, we were bound to record at all these meetings that the effort for conciliation has been made by Federal Germany and by the West; and, although fair words have been spoken, there has not as yet been any movement on substance by the Soviet Union in relation to Berlin or any hard evidence that East Germany is willing for a relationship with West Germany of "give and take".
The ability of the Soviet Union to create conditions which provide for freedom of access to and from Berlin is undoubted. It could do it at any time, and the opportunity is wide open for the Soviet Union to do it now. The onus must now be firmly on the Soviet and East German Governments to respond to the approaches and suggestions that have been made.
I think it as well for the House to recognise the essential conditions for an agreement. They are these. The four-Power status of the City of Berlin should not be called in question. The Soviet Union and the allies should shoulder the responsibility of sponsoring and underwriting the concessions which the East 443 Germans and the West Germans are asked to make to ease the existing tensions.
Closely related to Berlin and the situation as between the two halves of the City of Berlin has been the question whether or not a "security conference" would be of benefit to Europe, an idea put forward by some of the Eastern European countries and by Finland supported by others, and the Soviet Union. There are some attractions to such a concept; not the least is that the voices of the neutrals might help to dilute the rigid confrontation which there has been between N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw Pact for many years.
The representatives of the Allies directly concerned with Berlin, as well as those who attended the meeting of the Ten and the N.A.T.O. Council, felt that at the present time—and I emphasise this—it was useless to proceed to create another piece of machinery for conciliation in Europe when that which exists for reconciliation is not being used by the Soviet Union and East Germany.
Once the will is demonstrated to improve the existing arrangements for Berlin so that movement between the Federal Republic and Berlin is free and circulation between the two halves of the city is improved so that life in Berlin is once again tolerable for its citizens, then the preparation for a security conference could begin, and the nature of it and its function could be established.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
For a long time a number of people and a number of countries have been pressing for this conference. Until now the question of Berlin has never been mentioned. Suddenly the issue of Berlin is being mentioned as yet another reason for not having this conference. It seems like an excuse that is being brought in at the last moment.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
I do not think that that is so, because the opportunity is there now, and it is wide open for the Soviet Union to show some signs that it is willing to ease the tension in Eastern Europe and in particular in Berlin. It is not much use setting up another body for reconciliation when the opportunity is right there before the Soviet Union, if it wants to take it, to demonstrate that it 444 is willing to ease tension between the Warsaw Pact area and N.A.T.O., and particularly in the City of Berlin. The opportunity is there and if the Soviet Union were ready to take it we should be ready to get on with the preparation of a conference, to establish its function, and what it would do, which is not quite clear at the present time. Our own approach will be one of readiness to discuss the things that really matter to Europe, and a determination to achieve improvements in East-West relationships wherever we can find scope to do it.
When one measures the Russians' military deployment, in terms of numbers, in terms of modern equipment and in the state of her readiness for war, it becomes clear that the need for Allied strength in Europe is undiminished. That is why there has been anxiety in Europe about the growing pressures upon the United States Defence Budget, and the conclusion has been drawn that in years to come Europe must expect to bear a greater share of the burden of our common defence. Britain already carries a substantial proportion—on N.A.T.O.'s calculation 5.8 per cent. of our gross national product. Nevertheless, we decided this autumn, as the House is aware, to increase the forces we contribute which are particularly relevant to N.A.T.O.'s current needs. In particular, we are prolonging the life of the "Ark Royal" in service, and we shall be committing to N.A.T.O. further squadrons of strike/attack aircraft. Our allies are making contributions, some of them financial; and altogether these efforts add up to a substantial step towards a healthier balance in the Alliance. This kind of progress will help the United States Government to sustain its own defence effort in Europe.
In terms of the security of Western Europe, I cannot over-emphasise the importance of the message which the President of the United States sent to the N.A.T.O. Council last week, which no doubt the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) has seen and noted. The President said that given this increased effort in Europe there will be no reduction in American forces in Europe until there are reciprocal reductions by the other side. That was a most important and significant message sent by the President.
445 Whether "mutual balanced force reductions" are ripe for discussion at a security conference or some other organ now it is difficult to say, but the House should recognise the difficulties inherent in this matter. N.A.T.O. forces are already so heavily out-numbered that, to preserve a balance with the Warsaw Pact, the Warsaw Pact countries would have to make a reduction on a much larger scale than we would. The Soviet Government have proposed the withdrawal of foreign troops; but there is a world of difference between withdrawing American troops across the Atlantic to the United States and merely putting the Russian troops now in Eastern Europe back behind the Soviet frontier.
It is the extent of such real difficulties as those which I think make it very necessary not to allow a snowball to start rolling towards intensified negotiations with the East until we see more tangible evidence that they are ready for genuine measures of détante. There is—and one must say this to the House—an extraordinary difficulty always in negotiating with the Soviet Union, and this has been emphasised in recent months. It is graphically illustrated by what happened immediately after the standstill arrangement on the Suez Canal, and by what happened in the Berlin air corridor late one night when, by reason of the fact that the Soviet Union said it was to be closed, the United States and ourselves had to take military action to send a plane through at about two hours' notice in the middle of the night—not much fun for the Governments who have to take that kind of decision.
It is illustrated, too, by the delays during the last week on the Berlin autobahn, and by the situation in the Cuban waters where a nuclear submarine depot ship is parading while the S.A.L.T. talks are in progress. In addition, there is the close shadowing which lately has been much intensified by Soviet naval vessels of our ships on manoeuvres, or wherever they may be, which is calculated, almost to a certainty, to produce the accident that it did.
We have to take account of all that. They have the means available for reconciliation if they wish to use them, and we must continue that but one has to remember all the time when negotiating 446 with the Soviet Union that there is this duality. They are prepared to take these risks while they are negotiating. This makes the task extremely difficult and one must be sure that one has the result one wants before concluding arrangements. Nevertheless, the allies have renewed their invitation to the Soviet Union to talk and we have made an offer again to discuss with them mutual balanced force reductions.
There is one particular aspect of Soviet policy which is causing the Western allies increasing anxiety. It has been particularly apparent in N.A.T.O. It is the rapid expansion and range of operation of the Soviet Navy in the Atlantic and Mediterranean areas, for which the N.A.T.O. Alliance is directly responsible.
Only last year the right hon. Member for Leeds, East measured the Soviet threat in the Mediterranean by saying that in the event of war, all the Soviet ships would be sunk within minutes, before even having a chance to fire their guns. That was true then, when Soviet air cover was less extensive, but it is not true any longer, and that is how the Soviet Union has changed the balance of power in the Mediterranean.
Today the Soviet Union not only has the full use of ports on the littoral of the Mediterranean, but also airfields on Egyptian soil from which it can cover the operations of its fleet in this area. Therefore, not only is it true to say that a new flank has been created for N.A.T.O., it is equally true to say that a new front has been created for N.A.T.O. in recent months.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
While appreciating the undoubted threat to N.A.T.O.'s southern flank by the Soviet presence there, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to elucidate the motives of the Soviet Union? For example, how far is this a positive push by them into that area and how far does it result from the entreaties of the Egyptians for air protection, including of their capitals, following Israeli Phantom raids?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
One must recognise that whichever explanation one gives, the Soviet Union is using Egyptian soil to cover its naval operations in the Mediterranean. This must be recognised. N.A.T.O. has already had to react and will have to continue to react further.
447 The programme of rapid expansion is continuing. The evidence is clear—I will not develop this theme today, because there will be other opportunities to do that—that the Soviet means to reproduce the pattern in the Indian Ocean where it has the opportunity to establish superiority.
I have told the House of the Soviet shadowing of British naval vessels, which has for some time been a hazard to safe navigation. I have had to lodge—I believe that hon. Members will be aware of this—a protest with the Russian Government about this because we could not delay it any longer, since it was becoming so dangerous. The free range of the seas is essential to Britain's survival and we and our allies are bound to react in prudence to this expansion of the Soviet Navy.
It is not that the Soviet Union will sink British or allied ships—that is, unless it means to make war. But the policy options of the West can be closed one by one unless the West is prepared to have an active presence in the oceans. The position would then be that the West would be able to pursue its policies only by leave of the Soviet Union, and we would be in a situation where the sole alternatives could be capitulation or war. We must continue a policy of seeking conciliation, but the Government have no intention of allowing themselves to be put in the position of facing, in circumstances one cannot foresee, the stark alternatives of capitulation or war.
The situation in the Mediterranean naturally leads me to close with some reflections on the Middle East. After the obstinate deadlock and periodic outbreaks of fighting in the Arab-Israel dispute, nobody can be an optimist. However, it may not be too fanciful to hope that, after recent events and after the spectre raised by the Syrian invasion of Jordan opening up a much wider war, both Arabs and Jews now see more clearly than they did the imperative need to work towards a negotiated settlement, because the only alternative is an endless war.
The machinery for the beginning of contact is there. Resolution 242 survives, unaffected by recent debates at the United 448 Nations, as an acceptable basis for both sides. It has been accepted by both sides, so that we start with an advantage as far as that resolution is concerned. Dr. Jarring is ready—he must be the most patient man on earth—to resume the peace talks, when the opportunity offers.
The stubbornness of the problems is real; how to achieve agreement in giving effect to the twin principles of Resolution 242, the withdrawal on the one hand by Israel, and recognition and commitments to live at peace, on the other, by the Arabs; how to secure justice for the refugees and give Israel security comparable to that which it now enjoys by reason of its own strength. Unless that can be achieved there will be no peace.
It is true that confidence, already minimal, has been reduced to a minus quantity by the breaches of the standstill agreement. Nevertheless, I think the reasons for negotiating are now compelling because the only future that either side has to look forward to if there is no negotiated settlement is war, an end to which nobody can see.
In view of the obvious breaches of the cease-fire on the western bank of the Canal, and in view of the preconditions being attached by Israel in relation to the Golan Heights and so on, has not a case now been made out for the introduction of a United Nations force to keep the two sides apart?
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
That is a nice idea, but I am afraid that it will not get very far in that a United Nations force could be introduced only by the agreement of the two sides. I do not despair of this. As I say, circumstances are arising in which both sides are seriously thinking in terms of separation, of demilitarised zones and how these things should be organised. These are immensely complex questions and of one thing I am certain; that nobody from outside can dictate the terms of a settlement in this dispute. Britain is ready at all times to help, whether within the four-Power discussions in New York or outside, in the pursuit of peace.
There are, of course, many other subjects which a foreign affairs debate could embrace. My right hon. Friend will be 449 prepared to answer any points that are raised by hon. Members on other subjects. We will have further opportunities to debate them, including, of course, the progress of our negotiations with the E.E.C., our policies in relation to South Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Middle East.
The matters which I have raised today are those which concern not only ourselves but our Allies and in which there is a widespread desire to see reconciliation replace enmity and the threat of war—and therefore matters in which it is, I think, possible to find a basis for peace.
If détente could replace tension between the Soviet Union and the European allies—between N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw Pact countries—and if there could be the beginnings of a settlement in the Middle East, the effects of this reconciliation would be felt instantly and far and wide in the world at large.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
As the Foreign Secretary said, a debate of this nature invariably tempts one to range far and wide. I will try in the main, to follow the pattern of subjects with which the right hon. Gentleman opened.
I will not comment on what he said about recent developments in our negotiations with Europe because I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to make a detailed statement tomorrow, and I hope that we will have an extended debate in the new year. This being so, one is at some disadvantage in raising some of the points which the Foreign Secretary picked out in connection with the Chancellor's recent activities without having the full statement.
I am slightly tempted to say a word about Anguilla in the light of the disastrous meeting between the Minister of State and Mr. Bradshaw the other day. I hope that meeting left him a little less vainglorious than he was about the ability of the Government in Britain to improve the situation 4,000 miles away. He will agree now that this problem is, as it always was, a very difficult one on which to make progress.
The two overriding problems, as always, are relations between East and West and relations between North and South. I hope we can have a full debate 450 on North-South relations after the meeting of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers in Singapore, which I imagine will, in the main, be devoted to this problem. There have been reports recently that the views of Her Majesty's Government on the main topic for discussion at that conference have been affected by the views which Commonwealth Governments have given them in recent consultations. I hope that this is true. If at last Ministers are coming to terms with realities in Africa, I would not want to risk disturbing the evolution of their thought by anything I say.
On North-South relations I would make only two points. When we discussed the invasion of Guinea the other day, the Foreign Secretary accused me of letting my imagination run wild when I asked whether it was possible that this was an episode rather like the Bay of Pigs some years ago. But as the Foreign Secretary and the House will know, the mission set up by the United Nations has found that Portugal was indeed behind the recent invasion of Guinea and that she used frigates and other maritime weapons for this purpose.
As I understand it, the British delegate to the Security Council yesterday did not dissent from a resolution passed by the Security Council to this effect. I ask the Foreign Secretary to consider seriously whether he could blame any African Government for fearing that South Africa might make similar use of maritime equipment provided to her. Even if he cannot agree with this feeling on the side of African Governments, will be accept it as a fact, as it undoubtedly is? Will he recognise not only the danger to British political, military and economic interests in that continent in the longer run, if the Government were to persist in their present intention, but the risk even to British lives and property in certain African countries in the short run, in the immediate aftermath of an announcement of a decision to proceed as previously planned.
My other point on North-South relations is that there is growing evidence that the Africans and the Asians and, to a large extent, the peoples of South America regard the cold war between East and West as a monumental irrelevance and do not want to be caught up in it. The elections in Pakistan in the last day or 451 two have been a most important illustration of that. It is difficult to see Pakistan remaining a member of the Central or South-East Asia Treaty Organisations if the members of the new Government continue to hold the views which they have undoubtedly held till now.
The Foreign Secretary must have noticed that Malaysia and Singapore also have committed themselves to nonalignment in world affairs. Both attended the recent conference of non-aligned countries, not as observers but as members, and the new Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Razak, has made it very clear that a significant shift in Malaysia's policy is likely to follow his assumption of office. I ask the Foreign Secretary to consider whether he is sure that the Five-Power defence presence really makes sense in the Far East if two of the countries concerned are committed to nonalignment and the other three are fully committed to the Western camp in the East-West struggle.
§ Mr. Peter Tapsell (Horncastle)
Is it not a fact that the two countries committed to non-alignment are certainly not committed to non-alignment in regard to self-defence, and that this is essentially a five-Power defensive pact?
§ Mr. Healey
That is a matter on which we shall be seeking further elucidation, as will the Foreign Secretary while he is in Singapore. For example, the Malaysian Government asked for a month's delay of a meeting of technical experts which was to have been held in Singapore this week. I cannot escape the feeling that this had something to do with an evolution in the policy in Malaysia which may well have its effect on five-Power relations in the Far East.
Whatever others may think, East-West relations still are of major importance to us in Britain, and I shall concentrate on East-West relations in what else I have to say, as did the Foreign Secretary.
When President Nixon assumed office he said that he believed that the 'seventies would be an era of negotiation. There are many signs that he was right. There have been big changes in many aspects of relations between East and West. Most of the changes—though not all, as the Foreign Secretary pointed out—have been for the better in the last two years.
452 In the early post-war years, many of us saw the East-West confrontation as primarily a problem of competing ideologies, of monolithic blocs locked in a sort of war of religion. But it has been clear for many years that the political doctrine of a Government is no longer a necessary key to their position in world affairs. There is no longer one Communist bloc in the world. The Communist countries are not united either on internal or on external doctrines. Even Russia's neighbours and allies in Eastern Europe, while accepting the Warsaw Pact as an instrument of security, have a wide diversity of views on foreign policy which they have publicly expressed in recent years. Yugoslavia is neutral. Albania is openly hostile to the Soviet Union. In the Far East, China seems to be divided by at least as wide a gulf from the Soviet Union as she is from the United States. There is much evidence that the Communist Government in North Vietnam feels as uneasy about the Chinese presence on their northern frontier as some East European Communist Governments have felt about the Soviet presence on their eastern frontiers.
I hope that the Minister of State will say a word about the implications for the Government's policy of the impressive and, to us, very welcome vote in the United Nations Assembly on Chinese representation. All of us have long felt that we cannot make a reality either of the United Nations or of any major global international negotiation so long as a quarter of the human race is not there represented. Do the Government believe that the recent simple majority vote has any implications for the position which British Governments have taken till now, that we must regard the question of Chinese representation as requiring a two-thirds rather than a simple majority? I know how difficult it is, and I have no solution to propose in this regard, but can the Minister of State say, assuming that the Communist Government in Peking takes the Chinese seat in the Security Council and in the General Assembly, what solution he envisages to the problem of Taiwan?
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
May I return for a moment to my right hon. Friend's earlier point about the differences within the Communist countries? Does not my right hon. Friend agree that 453 there were definite signs that the Communist countries were beginning to adopt independent positions, but that there was a setback in that trend following the invasion of Czechoslovakia? Does not this affect our approach to any proposal for a security conference, which must be different from the approach that we would have adopted prior to that situation?
§ Mr. Healey
I shall deal precisely with that point later in my speech. I do not dissent from anything that my hon. Friend has said.
Before I leave the Far East, I want to ask a few questions about Vietnam, and I am grateful to the Foreign Secretary for spending some time on this problem.
In recent years, all America's friends—and I hope that the overwhelming majority of hon. Members on both sides are and will remain America's friends—have been deeply worried by the impact of the Vietnam war on the health of American society and on the course of American politics. I trust that we are all united in hoping that the United States will succeed in disengaging from this tragic predicament as soon as possible. I believe that a disengagement of the United States from Vietnam is profoundly in the interests of the American people and those of the whole Western world.
We all welcome the fact that the fighting seems to be dying down and that casualty figures are very much lower and have been for many months than they were during the peak of the fighting. But equally, like the Foreign Secretary, we on this side deeply deplore the total lack of progress in the Paris talks which aim at a political settlement.
The Foreign Secretary referred to President Nixon's five-point plan, and I was glad to see that he recognised that this directly involved the United Kingdom Government in certain responsibilities which Governments of both parties have always accepted as a matter of national policy. President Nixon seeks a conference on Indo-China as a whole, and there is no doubt that any solution of the Vietnam problem must have implications for Laos and Cambodia which require simultaneous consideration. He seeks it on the basis of the 1954 Geneva Accords of which Britain is one of the trustees and which no American Government previously have accepted as a basis of policy 454 on the Indo-China affair. If I recall correctly, America was not represented and specifically reserved her right not to be bound by the agreements after they were made by the countries which were actually present in Geneva.
I welcome very much what the Foreign Secretary said about his talks with Mr. Gromyko on this matter and, like the right hon. Gentleman, I regret that Mr. Gromyko was no more ready to respond to his questions than he was to similar questions put by representatives of the Government of which I was a member.
Since Her Majesty's Government now accept a direct responsibility for trying to get the Nixon proposals accepted as a basis for negotiation, can we be told whether we were consulted on the recent resumption of bombing by the United States? I hope that the Minister of State will deal with this point. It would be odd if the American President, having just asked us to assume a major new rôle on behalf of the United States in seeking a political settlement, should not have consulted us on a change of policy of this importance. Many of us in Britain, like many members of the American Senate and House, were profoundly disturbed by some aspects of the bombing resumption, the ambiguity of motive which emerged only slowly after repeated questioning, and the obscurity of its military purpose. It was suggested originally that it was aimed at antiaircraft systems. It is now stated that it was a general attack on the logistics systems and supply dumps.
While we all share the Foreign Secretary's views about the appalling treatment meted out to prisoners of war in the North Vietnamese camps, the raid on the camp seems to be odd, especially since it is widely reported that the Americans suspected, before it took place, that the camp had already been vacated.
None of us on this side of the House and no one in Britain under-estimates the justified sense of frustration which must be oppressing the American Administration at the failure to make progress in the Paris talks. None of us fails to share their concern about the fate of their soldiers and airmen in the camps. But surely the lesson of the Vietnamese war is that air attack strengthens the resistance of America's opponents far more than it weakens their military capability.
455 I hope that the Minister of State can assure us that recent reports are not correct in saying that America has given up the search for peace in Paris. We all recognise that one of the keys to political progress over Vietnam is the political situation in South Vietnam, and very few would accept the pre-conditions set by Hanoi that three named individuals should be expelled by the American Government from the Government of Saigon before even talks were able to start. There are some signs of movement in the political situation in Saigon, especially the re-emergence of General Minh—"Big" Minh—as a major figure.
President Nixon was right to stress the need for a political solution in South Vietnam which reflects both the will of the South Vietnamese people and the existing relationship of forces, namely, the fact that there are Communists in South Vietnam as well as supporters of the Saigon Government and, of course, a very large number of people who support neither side and want only to end the war. I hope that the Minister of State can tell us whether there are any signs of movement towards this type of political settlement.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor)
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the signature of the agreement. I think that it is right to say that America never signed the agreement.
§ Dr. Glyn
The right hon. Gentleman did not say that the Americans did not sign it. Then he said, rightly, that fighting has died down in South Vietnam. However, does not he agree that there is an N.V.A. build-up, especially in Cambodia and Laos, and that it is there where the main danger lies? Although the fighting in Vietnam has died down, the danger is much greater in the other two countries now.
§ Mr. Healey
I did not say that the Americans had not signed in so many words. I said that the Americans were not involved in the Geneva Conference and specifically refused to be bound by its results. The fact that they are now prepared to accept the Geneva Accords as a framework for negotiation is, I 456 believe, a substantial step forward in their position.
Dealing with the hon. Gentleman's second question, I concede that there has been a great extension of the fighting, especially in Cambodia, which is again not wholly parallel but which has followed the dying down of the fighting elsewhere.
§ Mr. Healey
In the past, my hon. Friend has often shown his determination to give me all the support that he can. I only hope that he is more successful today that he has been hitherto.
Perhaps I might now say a word or two about the Middle East. I do not think that I disagree with any of the Foreign Secretary's remarks on this subject. We are all deeply concerned about the tragic deadlock between Israel and the Arab countries, and I am certain that the right hon. Gentleman is right when he says that neither side can hope to gain anything from the continuation of the deadlock. It is clear that continuation of the deadlock may produce social and political tensions in the Arab States leading to the collapse of organised Government there, as they very nearly did in Jordan a few weeks ago. While Israel may feel secure against internal eruptions of that nature, the continuation of the deadlock offers no acceptable future, particularly for the younger generation in Israel.
All of us can agree on the need for a settlement. None of us can make any convincing suggestion about how a settlement can be reached in the near future. I doubt very much—with great respect to the Foreign Secretary's ability in these areas—whether the United Kingdom can expect to play a major rôle in the search for a settlement. The Middle East problem is essentially a problem for Israel and the Arabs on the spot, and outside the Middle East for the great Powers which are identified with them—for America and for Russia. It has been well said that two of those concerned dare not make peace and the other two dare not make 457 war. It is on this very precarious balance that peace—or the absence of another war—rests.
I am very glad that, after some uncertainty, the Foreign Secretary now confirms that there is no important difference between his policy for a settlement and that of the Labour Government which preceded him. I think we all agree that we must devote all our efforts in the immediate future to getting Ambassador Jarring to resume his mission and, as the first objective, to get a renewal of the cease-fire.
§ Mr. Dennis Walters (Westbury)
But would the right hon. Gentleman not agree, bearing in mind the great British and French and Western European interests in the Middle East, that Britain, France and Western Europe should participate, and participate actively, in a settlement?
§ Mr. Healey
Of course we are all deeply concerned with peace in the Middle East, both as human beings and in the light of our national interest. My point is that the real clash of attitudes concerns the two groups of countries on the spot, Russia and the United States. Contributions which can be made to a settlement by other countries, even like Britain and France, with major interests in the area, are unlikely to be of major importance. I readily concede—this has always been the hope of Foreign Secretaries and their advisers in Britain—that some day a conjunction of events may arise in which a British initiative could play a decisive role, but, on the evidence, I do not believe that that situation exists at this moment.
The key to progress in relations between East and West lies in Europe and Europe is the area where Britain can and must play a major role. I was glad for this reason that the Foreign Secretary concentrated so much of his attention on the East-West problem in Europe. I believe that we may be on the verge of a major break-through in East-West relations in Europe. I think that the cautious feelers from one side to the other about the possibility of a multilateral European security conference offer us some prospect of a decisive change in the whole post-war situation as it has affected Europe. For this reason, it is vital that we do not miss any oppor- 458 tunities which may present themselves in the coming months.
I believe—I think that my hon. and right hon. Friends would all agree with me here—that the whole situation in Europe has been transformed in the last 12 months by the courage and vision of the German Government under Chancellor Willy Brandt. All of us who have ever had anything to do with Eastern Europe or the Soviet Union since the war will know that the biggest single obstacle to any progress in East-West relations in Europe has been the deep-rooted suspicion of Germany east of the Iron Curtain, particularly in Russia and Poland.
Although there may have been occasions when this suspicion was deliberately fostered for short-term political ends, no-one who visited Warsaw in the years immediately following the war or who went to Leningrad in the late 'forties can doubt that there is a genuine core of concern about Germany in those countries and that, until and unless that concern can be overcome, the prospects for genuine progress are very slight.
This is where I think Chancellor Brandt's Oestpolitik has had such a stupendous influence on the whole shape of European politics. So far as his Government is concerned, that suspicion is dead in Europe. It does not mean that it is dead so far as Germany itself is concerned, because Governments, as we know to our cost, can change, but there is no doubt that Chancellor Brandt has made a real impact on the Governments in Eastern Europe and has produced a situation which gives us the chance of making real progress, if only we follow it.
I believe that he has done this just as much by the impressive dignity that he has shown as a German as by the diplomatic negotiations which led to the signing of treaties with Moscow and Warsaw. No one who saw photographs in the last day or two of that massive and majestic figure kneeling at the foot of the monument to the victims of the Warsaw Ghetto can fail to have been deeply moved or to have felt that this was a gesture of historic importance for relations between Eastern Europe and Germany, no less than in relations between the Communist world and the West.
459 It is not surprising that some of Chancellor Brandt's political opponents in Germany are jealous of his success and are trying to revive a nationalist hysteria against the Ostpolitik—although we should pay tribute to certain notable exceptions, like Gerhardt Schroeder, who was Foreign Minister in Germany so long ago and who has put his not inconsiderable weight behind the Ostpolitik.
Some of us felt ashamed that some British Conservatives felt it right to pander to this nationalist hysteria on a recent visit to Bonn, and we are glad that the Foreign Secretary rebuked them. We welcomed his positive words on the Ostpolitik today, as I know they will be welcomed in Germany and throughout Europe. This attempt to fan nationalist passions against the Ostpolitik is a matter of real political importance on the European scene. No one can deny that, with the tiny parliamentary majority which his Government now enjoys, Chancellor Brandt has been running real political risks at home for the sake of improving the prospects for peace in Europe.
None of us can deny that he is absolutely right to insist that, before the treaties with Moscow and Warsaw are ratified, there must be progress on Berlin which is recorded in a firm written agreement. I do not think that there will be any disagreement with what the Foreign Secretary said about the areas in which we want to see progress achieved.
Progress on Berlin is important not just for relation between Germany and Europe and for the further progress of the Ostpolitik: it is also very important if we want to move towards multilateral negotiations in a wider forum for solving the problems of Europe as a whole. It is only the readiness of the East Europeans to respond to the concrete evidence of goodwill offered by Bonn which will justify the West in taking the risks of multilateral negotiations on European security.
I would not deny that there are risks in a multilateral conference. Negotiations have often been used by Russia, as Russian leaders have frankly confessed in their writings and speeches, not to reach agreements with those on the other side of the table, but to confuse, divide and weaken them.
460 Therefore, progress on the Berlin question, although not a pre-condition of holding a European security conference in the formal sense, is psychologically necessary if the West is to move into such a conference with confidence. Unless we can see a real response to the real concessions already offered by Germany in bilateral negotiations, even if we were propelled by opinion into a conference we would not feel confident about making concessions or bargaining in it. In that sense progress on Berlin is an acid test.
Mr. Brezhnev made a speech in Erevan the other day, and the Communist leaders meeting in East Berlin confirmed it in their communiqué indicating that there may be a response to the Western desire for progress on Berlin. We may see some signs of that in the four-Power meeting which is to be held, I think, tomorrow, but perhaps it will not come until the New Year. We must also have been impressed by the fact that this is the first year for very many years in which the Soviet military budget has not shown an increase in real terms. The budget I am referring to is the one which was published yesterday.
If, as I hope and believe, and as I trust we all hope, there is progress on Berlin, N.A.T.O. must start multilateral contacts with the Warsaw Pact and the neutral countries with a view to holding a European security conference before the end of next year.
I shall spend the next few minutes discussing the prospects for such a conference and using a degree of freedom which I know is forbidden the Foreign Secretary at the moment in the office which he holds.
If we get a European security conference, it will create a new permanent machinery for East-West contacts in Europe which will be a lasting feature of the world scene as familiar to us in future debates as the Common Market Commission in Brussels or, indeed, the United Nations.
I believe that the existence of such a permanent machinery could not only enable progress to be made in solving problems but could also help to prevent some problems from arising at all. Inevitably, standing as we do at the edge of this possible new turn in European politics, there is much speculation about 461 Communist motives in promoting such a conference. It has been a hardy old warhorse in Soviet diplomacy almost since the end of the Second World War.
Much of this speculation is a waste of time. It is clear that the Russian attitude to a security conference has changed in many respects over the last 10 years, and it has changed a very great deal in particular since Russia renewed the invitation to a security conference after the Czech crisis in the summer of 1968.
It is clear, not only that the Russian position has changed, but that the attitude of Russia's allies in Eastern Europe is different in some respects from hers. Indeed, there is a great variety of attitudes towards a conference in Eastern Europe. Romania has one position. Hungary has a slightly different position. Poland's position is different again. East Germany has a different attitude, as has Bulgaria. It is also clear that their attitudes have affected Russia's attitude. There is—perceptible and identifiable now—a certain dialogue between Russia and her allies in Eastern Europe which would have been inconceivable 20 years ago and certainly would not have been so free and effective even five years ago.
Perhaps it is worth asking ourselves whether we may not, for the first time since the Comintern was founded nearly half a century ago, have reached a stage in world politics in which a negotiation between the Communist States and the Western States will find the Communist States subject to just as much uncertainty and argument with one another in the course of negotiations as we in the Western world have been familiar with on previous occasions.
It is certainly worth speculating that there may be different views inside the Soviet Government about the purposes and the objectives to be achieved in such a conference. Here, as so often in the past, positive thinking on the Western side can strengthen positive thinkers in Moscow, just as negative thinking on the Western side can strengthen negative thinkers there.
What is important is, not so much the motives of the Communist Powers and individuals in their Governments, of which we can have no certain knowledge, as the real advance in their formal position towards the Western view. In 1968 462 they were asking for a conference which excluded the United States and whose purpose was clearly to ratify the status quo and to get some international acceptance for the so-called doctrine of limited sovereignty—the Brezhnev doctrine by which the Russians sought to justify their military intervention in Czechoslovakia.
The situation in June 1970, at the end of a meeting of the Warsaw Powers, was very different. They accepted the presence of the United States and Canada at a conference. They accepted discussion of the reduction of foreign forces in Europe—something which they conspicuously omitted in earlier approaches. They accepted the search for cultural co-operation as well as co-operation on economic and social matters. Also—in my view, this is the most important of all—they accepted the idea of setting up a permanent body after the conference to continue discussing all these areas and to seek to make progress on them.
This was one of the great contributions which the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor as Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart), made to European politics—the suggestion of a permanent commission to make progress in these areas. We can now be glad that the Russians, too, have accepted it.
I know that within these limits there are a large number of areas where there is still a difference between the Powers, but I do not believe that any of the remaining differences between the attitude of N.A.T.O. and that of the Warsaw Powers are incapable of being reconciled in the normal process of diplomatic discussion. We are all now in the same ball park.
What should the conference discuss and what should its real purpose be? I think that the conference can usefully enlarge the scope for co-operation in economic, social and cultural contacts simply by making a declaration which defines this area of possibility. I think that real progress here will have to be made by bilateral discussions between Communist and Western Governments. Indeed, I think that the attempt to multilateralise economic or social co-operation could reduce the scope for co-operation. I greatly doubt if Germany would have been able to make her recent deal with Russia on natural gas if she had first had 463 to get the agreement of N.A.T.O. and of the Common Market.
But security, which is by far the most important problem, is a problem of alliances, and this can be dealt with only on a multilateral basis. It is progress with the security problem which is the greatest prize to be gained through a conference and continuing discussions such as I have suggested. No more than the Foreign Secretary do I under-estimate the difficulties for both sides in reaching agreement on mutual and balanced force reductions. As the Foreign Secretary said, N.A.T.O. is vastly inferior to the Warsaw Powers in conventional forces, so we could not accept equal reductions. Indeed, there are areas where we could not even accept proportional reductions without jeopardising our security. As the Foreign Secretary also said, if it is a question of external forces, the American forces would have to withdraw 6,000 kilometres across the ocean; the Russian forces would have to withdraw only 600 kilometres across land.
There are difficulties on the Russian side, too. It became very clear during 1968 that the Soviet forces have a rôle in Eastern Europe which is not affected in any way by the level of N.A.T.O. forces in Western Europe. Whether we like it or not, one of the rôles of Soviet forces in Eastern Europe is to maintain a degree of control over the freedom of the Eastern European countries. None of us will seek to justify that rôle, but none of us can afford to ignore that it is there. It inevitably puts some limit to the type of reductions which the Russians could accept.
Similar problems also affect the negotiations for strategic arms limitation, to which I was surprised the Foreign Secretary made no references in his speech. The S.A.L.T. negotiations are probably the most important and serious East-West negotiations which have yet taken place. They were not affected even by the American invasion of Cambodia or the recent Soviet behaviour in the Middle East. It is quite clear that America and Russia are deeply serious in seeking to reach agreement on the limitation of strategic arms. Both sides have prepared their positions for the negotiations with unprecedented thoroughness. It is 464 probably the first East-West negotiation in which there has been no propaganda from either side, and very few leaks. From the few leaks that there have been, I think that we are justified in saying that within the next 12 months or so there may be agreement between America and Russia on limiting the total number of nuclear delivery vehicles on each side, and on limiting, if not abolishing, the deployment of anti-ballistic missile systems.
But it is already clear that the S.A.L.T. negotiations are bound to be a continuing process, broadening in scope and deepening in penetration of the problem with each success. It is vital that the allies of America and Russia begin to get involved in this type of interchange. I do not mean on the strategic arms limitation as such, but it could be dangerous for the allies of either super-Power if the Russians and Americans drew steadily closer together on the straegic nuclear plane and no progress whatever was made between the Warsaw Pact as a whole and N.A.T.O. on the problems of security in Europe. A Soviet-American rapprochement must be accompanied by a rapprochement between Eastern Europe and Western Europe. I very much agree with the Foreign Secretary that Western Europe must concert its policy on these matters if it is to negotiate effectively. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the success of his recent consultations with his colleagues in the Common Market.
We can learn a lot from the S.A.L.T. talks about how to approach mutual and balanced force reductions in Europe. If we are to have successful negotiations for mutual reductions, we must go into the talks with a solid position, maintaining our side of the military balance, otherwise we remove from the other side all incentive to make reciprocal reductions, and if we do not have confidence in our own security we shall not be prepared even to contemplate concessions on our side.
For that reason, I very much welcome the success of the North Atlantic Alliance at the Council meeting last week in strengthening its existing military position. I welcome particularly, as did the Foreign Secretary, President Nixon's promise not to make reductions in America's capability, at any rate during this term 465 of office. I also very much welcomed the force improvement, or rather the budgetary contribution which has been made by the European Powers to relieve the strains on the United States. I regret that the United Kingdom Government were not more helpful here. It is much more worth while spending money, if we have it, to strengthen our position in Europe than on making token contributions to a dying policy east of Suez. I do not believe that any of our allies are taken in when nearly all the force additions we have offered in Europe are offset by force reductions—the withdrawal of frigates, Nimrod aircraft and a battalion to the Far East. One cannot have it both ways—not for long, anyway.
One major difficulty which has already arisen in the S.A.L.T. talks might well be a subject for early discussion between the alliances in Europe. The United States, largely on insistence from its European allies, has insisted that in adding up the strategic forces of the two sides we should include the medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles sited in the Soviet Union but aimed at targets among America's allies in Western Europe. The Russians have refused to accept the inclusion of M.R.B.M.s and I.R.B.M.s, but have themselves insisted that the Americans should include any nuclear weapons based in Western Europe which could reach the Soviet Union. There is an obvious and genuine problem here. Neither side need be accused of making difficulties for propaganda purposes in raising these points. Both these questions are vital to us in Western Europe.
There is the real problem here that, so long as the Russians maintain a big conventional superiority, nuclear weapons are a vital part of the defence of Western Europe. I sometimes wonder whether one subject for discussion in a security conference between the two sides might be how to deal with the problem of nuclear weapons with strategic capability in Western Europe and Russian M.R.B.M.s and I.R.B.M.s, and whether we should not move on to consider whether the Russians would agree to reduce their 19,000 tanks against a reduction in the 7,000 N.A.T.O. nuclear weapons in Western Europe. I throw those possibilities out for discussion. I have no idea whether the Russians would be attracted by them, but, if they were, 466 an agreement along those lines could strengthen rather than weaken the security of both sides and meet some of the very difficult problems of the assymetry between the strategic composition of the forces on the two sides.
We have only to raise those points to recognise that serious discussion on mutual force reductions raises very difficult issues. But I believe that they, like the equally difficult problems of strategic arms limitations between America and Russia, are soluble given effort and good will on both sides. One thing that is clear is that none of the problems can be solved in a three-day conference. They would need prolonged consideration by experts from the two alliances, and it might well be necessary to have a machinery in which the neutrals did not wholly participate until agreement between the alliances had moved to a certain point.
My own feeling is that it would be desirable for representatives of the two alliances to run over the problems before a conference met so that they could at least agree on how the conference should say that the problems should be handled. They could perhaps agree on terms of reference and a programme. Certainly the hard work of negotiating on these very difficult issues would take many months, if not years, and would require to be done in continuous negotiation between highly competent experts. However difficult agreement would be, I think that here, as ill the S.A.L.T. talks, we might obtain some benefit through greater understanding of one another's attitudes and motives, even before we were able to draft formal and written agreements.
Anyone who has thought a little about some of the complexities I have been discussing is bound to be a little nervous about embarking on discussions about them with the other side. I suppose that we all have a certain natural conservatism. We all prefer toalways keep a hold on Nurse,For fear of getting something worse.But I believe that, thanks very largely to Chancellor Brandt's Government and the Ostpolitik, we now have an opportunity for changing the whole context in which until now we have had to consider East-West relations in Europe. I think that there is a chance—and I am not starry-eyed about it—that if we 467 handle the present conjunction of events properly the two halves of Europe may begin to grow together. It is only if we make progress in solving the East-West problems, and rapid progress, that we have any chance whatever of solving the problems between North and South in time.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. John Loveridge (Hornchurch)
It is an honour to speak in this House for the first time. I suppose that I, like many Maiden speakers before me, am somewhat apprehensively overwhelmed by the history of our House, not perhaps the least because of the interesting and historic illuminations we had earlier this afternoon! This House has been a fountain head of freedom, affecting nations far beyond our own boundaries. I can see that it would be an easy place to gain affection for, and indeed, to love. It is larger than we ourselves within it, and larger even than the great historical parties themselves. My predecessor here was, I know, well respected on both sides of the House, and perhaps the House may enjoy the pleasure of his company again, although not, I hope, in my seat.
In this constituency of Hornchurch, in Essex, there is a plot of ground called "Tyler's Common". It was there that Wat Tyler marched in the Peasants' Rebellion of 1381. He was leading a revolt against a poll tax, not unlike our modern selective employment tax. Then; the struggle for liberty was mainly at home. Now; the threat comes from outside our nation.
My speech should not be controversial because it is about the safety of our people, and that I believe can never be a matter of controversy within the House, however much we may differ on how to safeguard our people's interests. Since the war, we have been kept safe under the protection of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and under the nuclear umbrella. The Alliance, however, is changing. Europe is richer than she was and America is heavily committed within her own economy and her own cities as well as in Vietnam. Thus, N.A.T.O. today must adapt to new conditions. Europe must pay for more of its own defence and take a greater interest in the defence of the world as a whole, and in 468 this context I was glad to hear the statement of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on how discussions were progressing with the ten nations, and in the European community.
Each year, Russia has added more and more to her armed strength. The Russians have shown their willingness to use force, as in Czechoslovakia. It is, of course, a small comfort, though comfort it be, to hear today from the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) that, in the past year, there has been no real increase in the amount of money the Russians devote to defence purposes.
§ Mr. Loveridge
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman—next year. Even so, this great build up of armed forces has taken place; yet many Russians love peace and we should not tempt the hawks within that nation. It is within this context of temptation that I wish to refer to one specific aspect of British foreign policy—namely, within the Indian Ocean area.
In that area, the future cannot be known for certain. All we know is that the unexpected is almost certain to occur. It is an area that N.A.T.O. has neglected. When the Suez Canal is open again and the Russian fleets sail through, together with their long-range submarines, to find a base at Aden, then the balance of power will be altered. A new flank will be created in the Indian Ocean as surely as it has been created recently in the Mediterranean.
If we leave the north of that area, the Gulf, and desert it, we can be almost sure that hostilities will come about between the communities there. Those hostilities within the States will surely beckon, and almost oblige, the Russians to support communist or anarchical endeavours within that area. But if we stay, the Russians will not want direct confrontation with us. They seldom do. Why, then, tempt the hawks of Russia by leaving the area vacant? The Lord's Prayer says simply,Lead us not into temptation".Let us encourage the doves of Russia by staying. We do not need to stay in exactly the same format as we have in the past. New measures could be found that are acceptable to the States there and still provide the necessary protection
469 I now turn to the question of the sea area. We in this country are very dependent upon the safety of supplies round the Cape route. No nation is more dependent than we are upon the safety of that route. It is possible to envisage a very realistic threat taking place there. I do not mean a threat from the Russians or their fleet but from the new pirates. We have seen them seize aircraft; we have seen diplomats kidnapped. It is just as easy to envisage pirates dropping free floating mines in front of or along the routes where the great oil tankers so cumbersomely sail.
The importance of this area needs new recognition. It is a key to world dominance. It was this thought that led Napoleon to Egypt. It was this thought that led Hitler to send Rommel into Africa. Today, it is the weakest link in the Western Alliance and it is very natural for the Russians to probe into it. They have built a great navy to do so. We should keep small forces, not large, there until N.A.T.O. wakes up to the need and a more permanent peace is made possible. On the seas, we cannot afford ourselves to provide the fleets and aircraft necessary to patrol the area and, indeed, we have inherited far less in armed forces strength then we should like to have done in recent years. We must, therefore, look for allies if we cannot do it alone.
First, of course we look naturally to our great friend, the United States. But she is heavily committed elsewhere, and in Vietnam, and we do not wish the Americans in any way to reduce their commitments within Europe itself. Then, where can we look? We must look to South Africa. Both of us have interests in the Cape sea route. This is a defence question. No approval of the vile system of apartheid is involved. We did not give approval to Stalinism or to the elimination of the kulaks when Russia became our ally in the Second World War. Self-defence must have priority over our objections to the internal systems of other nations.
But even on this vital and important moral question, the more South Africa associates with free peoples, the more opinion can influence her towards a belief in the brotherhood of man with man, and in this way ameliorate the conditions 470 which we all hate so much within South Africa. It may be that some of the northern countries of Africa will resent naval supplies being sold, if they are, but there are African leaders, men of good will and high intelligence, who in their hearts will be glad if the Indian Ocean remains free.
If the West is strong, all Africa can hope for the long-term future, but if Western ideals fall, all hope of freedom is for ever gone. Even among oppressed people there are many who realise this, and it is my great hope that the Commonwealth Conference will accept this view.
To sum up; first, we should protect the Gulf, either directly or indirectly; second, we should obtain allies to help us protect the sea routes, just as we are to join the five-Power arrangement to help South-East Asia. These two further steps are the best available to us for our safety in this area, and they give the best hope for a basis of negotiation for the long-term future.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker (Leyton)
We have just listened to a very well delivered speech by the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Loveridge). He spoke with great confidence and self-reliance. It made me envious when I looked back to my maiden speech of many years ago. He made a well-arranged and well-argued speech. He has clear and strong views which he is not frightened to express, although he must know that there are many hon. Members who strongly disagree with some of the things he said. On another occasion when he speaks he must expect to be interrupted, but I do not doubt that he will enjoy that and be able to deal with it. He has the capacity to hold the attention of the House, which listened to him with great care. We all look forward to hearing from him again and to interrupting him as well as enjoying listening to his speech.
I agree with the Foreign Secretary that the key to the next critical stage in East-West relations lies in knowing what the Russians' real intentions are towards a détente in Europe, in the West, and the European Security Conference. Although I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said about that, I come to conclusions which are different in emphasis from his.
471 It is true that in the past the Soviet Union has proposed similar conferences, mainly for the purpose of trying to prevent some development in Europe which it did not like, for example, the membership of West Germany of N.A.T.O. In the past, such conferences, called for political and diversionary reasons, always degenerated into propaganda battles. It is right to remember this when one is considering new proposals for a European Security Conference, and it may be that one of the motives of the Russians is to try to delay or hinder Britain's membership of the Common Market.
But it is possible to be too suspicious about this sort of thing. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) said, there are different views in the Kremlin and I am sure that if that is one, it is not the decisive view. The Foreign Secretary said that we were getting fair words from the Soviet Union about a conference and a détente, but nothing more and no deeds. But the Soviet Union has given one clear indication of a real change in its European policy, namely, its complete somersault and turnabout in its attitude to West Germany.
We talk rightly of Bonn's Ostpolitik This is a great change in German policy. I wholly agree with my right hon. Friend about the great courage and the great dignity of Willy Brandt and the important initiative which he has taken, but we tend to think too much of the Ospolitik as involving a change of German policy, which it does, while overlooking that there is an even greater change in Soviet policy involved in the Ostpolitik.
Ever since the war, the Soviet Union has held together and disciplined the East European nations by dramatising the fear of Germany. I well remember in several conversations I had with Mr. Khrushchev how adamant and unbending he always was on this matter. Over and over again he came back to the view that Germany was revanchiste, was the one disturbing feature in Europe, and that good Socialists like the Labour Party should agree with him about it. Nothing could budge him.
But now Russia has budged. Suddenly it has become respectable to have friendly relations with West Germany. The degree of this change and its speed and 472 extent are shown, for instance, by the need the Soviet Union has found to defend itself, rather angrily, against China, which is using the old arguments that the Soviet Union used to use, and are also shown by the considerable difficulty which the Soviet Union is finding in handling Ulbricht, who is also relying on the old traditional Soviet policy. This switch in Russian policy is so sharp that one is justified in describing it as a diplomatic revolution. It is a watershed in European politics since the war.
This diplomatic revolution goes further. It extends to the East European nations, and they have different views. When the Soviet Union concluded the treaty with Bonn, most of these European nations on previous form should have been expected to be filled with alarm and anxiety. They all said that they were very frightened of Germany and so on and that Russia was protecting them and that Germany was the great danger. When Russia changed policy, these nations should have been filled with alarm and anxiety, but nothing of the sort happened.
On the contrary, when the Soviet Union started to bring pressure on Ulbricht in order to shift him on this matter, Russia received the backing of all the other East European nations, and these nations themselves are showing a strong desire to have separate relations with West Germany itself and with other West European nations, and they are showing a strong desire for a European Security Conference. Their almost unconcealed motive is to win greater independence from the Soviet Union and to try to reduce the number of Soviet forces on their territory.
This attitude of theirs is a form of protest, a desire for self-protection against the Brezhnev doctrine which threatens them all. This attitude and policy of the East European nations has already had a perceptible effect on Soviet policy, and it has been the main motive in inducing the Soviet Union to make considerable concessions to Western views about the nature of the European Security Conference.
In the light of these considerations, what should be our attitude to the European Security Conference? Of course it is right and prudent to test Russia's words by deeds, especially over East Berlin, but it would be very foolish—and I did not 473 think that the Foreign Secretary sufficiently recognised this—to ignore the signs of significant changes in the basic attitude in Europe of the Soviet Union and the East European nations.
There may be no guarantee of success. There is always a risk involved when starting a conference of this kind with a danger or possibility that fixed and rigid views and lines will begin to be taken up. But we must remember that there is a very great prize at stake if we are successful, namely the achievement of a mutual and balanced reduction of forces. As the Foreign Secretary said, great difficulties are involved, but it is a great objective, it is our major objective. It would make a vast difference if we could get such a balanced, mutual reduction of forces and at last approach the possibility of reducing the enormous peace-time expenditure on defence.
We must also remember that the world would look ill today on the Soviet Union if it used this conference, should it come about, merely for a propaganda battle of words. The world would also look ill upon us if we pitched the preconditions for the conference so high as to make its calling virtually impossible. We have to be very careful.
Of course we have to keep up the defences of N.A.T.O., we must not let down our guard. We should approach the possibility of a European Security Conference with prudence but with rather greater enthusiasm than the Foreign Secretary has shown.
This shift of attitude, in the East European nations in particular, allows us to begin to think and talk again of Europe as a whole. If, as I hope and believe, Britain can and will become a member of the Common Market, we must do all we can as a member to help open doors and windows to East Europe, to help bring about in due course and in some form or another a reconstitution of Europe as a whole in the full, historical and ultimately only true sense of the concept of Europe.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Winston Churchill (Stretford)
As I rise to address this House for the first time my feelings are both of humility and pride. They are of humility at being the youngest Member on this side of the House and very conscious of the 474 great traditions of the House. They are of pride at being the fifth member in succession in my family to serve in this House and the third this century to enter this House representing a Lancashire seat.
Thirty years ago, in another dark winter, the winter of 1940, when the bombs were dropping around this House, my father made his maiden speech representing Preston, Lancashire. Seventy years ago the newly-elected Member for Oldham, concluding his maiden speech which concerned the situation in South Africa and Ireland—and to judge by what has been going on in this Session we have not made great progress on these subjects in those 70 years—made mention of "a certain splendid memory" which hon. Members of this House preserved referring to his father, Lord Randolph.
I, too, must say that I am very conscious of a splendid memory that many hon. Members on both sides of the House preserve. I have been very much aware of this in the few brief months that I have spent here, through the friendship that has been accorded me from every quarter of the House.
Stretford, known to many hon. Members as the home of Manchester United football ground and the Lancashire County Cricket ground, is also the greatest distributive centre of Britain and one of the greatest industrial centres of Western Europe. Foreign affairs and the security of our island are of the first importance to all the people of this country but they are of especial importance to my constituents in Stretford and Urmston who contribute so much to the export trade of the country and depend so heavily upon it.
There are many critical questions to be solved at home, the most grievous of which is undoubtedly the fact that 10 per cent. of the British people live in houses officially "unfit for human habitation". But these are matters on which I am no longer allowed to transgress in public. The problems facing Britain overseas are of even greater gravity for they threaten the prosperity and security of everyone of us. Twenty-five years after the end of the Second World War, we have, I believe, reached a cross-roads in international relations. In the course of those 475 25 years we have come a long way—unfortunately it has been a very long way down hill.
We have moved from a position where we stood on a level footing with the United States and the Soviet Union to a point today when the S.A.L.T. talks in Helsinki are proceeding and Britain is neither represented nor consulted on matters that deeply affect the lives of every one of us in these islands and of our children. This is the measure of our decline in the past 25 years and there can be few Members of this House who do not deprecate it. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), and many other hon. Members on both sides of the House, regard our national sovereignty of prime importance—and quite rightly so. But what use is it to be sovereign in form of words only, while true sovereignty—the ability to provide for the security of our own people and to have Britain's voice heard in the councils of the world—is rapidly escaping us in the meantime?
There can be few hon. Members unaware that we have once again allowed ourselves to fall into a dangerous situation. I say "once again" advisedly because we have been here before. We have been faced by countries, who, of their own choosing, are hostile to us, and against whom we no longer have adequate means of defence.
Britain, indeed all the Western world, has sheltered for too long under the giant American umbrella, which has preserved the freedom and peace of Europe without a shot fired for 25 years.
It would be difficult not to recognise the strong undercurrent of isolationism which is running in the United States today and which is to be found anywhere outside official Washington. Faced with a public opinion in the United States which today largely equates Europe with South-East Asia as containing a tiresome lot of people who should be standing on their own feet, and realising the domestic preoccupations she has, it would be imprudent to suppose that the United States will always be at hand in the last resort. We have had to stand alone before, and there will certainly be less time in any future crisis to make good the years of neglect.
476 There are those who put their faith in "détente". We have heard a great deal about that this afternoon—and I am not unaware of who it was who first embarked on Ostpolitik in 1953. I share the view that it must be the prime aim of our policy to grasp the hand of friendship of the Soviet Union whenever she may proffer it—not only that of the Soviet Union but that of the most populous republic in the world, the Peoples' Republic of China who must, as of right, and above all out of common sense, take her place among the community of nations. I firmly believe that the path lies open to Britain to take a major initiative in this direction.
But there are grave dangers in pursuing an Ostpolitik from a position of weakness and when no tangible reciprocity is available in return. There is no doubt that as a people who have no ambition other than to live in peace within our own borders and see the world free, we all too easily persuade ourselves to believe what we would like to believe—indeed very often what others would like us to believe. I know that I speak for hon. Members on both sides of the House when I say that no country would more willingly dispose of the burden of arms expenditure or the threat of nuclear warfare than this country if freedom and peace could be secured by other means. But we have nothing to go on but the facts. What are they?
The external policies of a country very often reflects its internal policies. What sort of a country is the Soviet Union today? We see the way that they treat their authors and persecute the Jews. We see the power of their secret police. We see the worth of their treaties made at Cierna and Bratislava. If this is how they honour treaties with their friends, what can be the value of treaties with those they regard as their enemies?
The House will not forget that it is less than 2½ years since the Soviet and Quisling divisions of Eastern Europe rolled into Czechoslovakia overnight to suppress the flame of freedom that after more than 30 years of Nazi and Soviet tyranny was beginning to flicker bravely once again.
In the Middle East we have listened for the last three years to the Soviet Union talking peace, while she has openly been building up a base of imperial power 477 which would have put even Lord Cromer to shame. The Soviet Union has used these three years, not to make peace, but to introduce into the Middle East more than 10,000 of her own military personnel. She has established naval bases at Port Said, Alexandria, Latakia and Aden. She has taken over air bases such as Cairo West which are today under the exclusive control of the Soviet Union and from which squadrons of Russian-piloted Tupoler bombers and MiG fighters can give land-based air support to Soviet amphibious forces in the Mediterranean. This poses a direct threat to the southern flank of N.A.T.O.
The principal obstacle to concluding a peace settlement in the Middle East today comes not from Israel or from the Arab countries. It comes directly from the Soviet Union, which is in the game not as an honest broker but in pursuit of its own aims.
On the high seas the Soviet Union has built up a massive naval presence in the Mediterranean and elsewhere and, like the iceberg, what is seen on the surface is small compared with what lurks in the dark waters below. The Soviet Union has built up a force of more than 300 attack submarines which could directly threaten the lifelines of this country and Western Europe. At the very least, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) said the other day, whatever reason they have been built for, it was clearly not for our benefit.
Her Majesty's Government have expressed themselves to be well aware of the need to guard against this Soviet naval threat. I share their view. But even if we were substantially to increase our own and allied naval forces, all would be in vain if meanwhile our sources of supply were to fall into unfriendly hands. I have in mind, above all, the Persian Gulf on which Britain and Europe depend for two-thirds of their oil supplies. The experience of recent years has shown that the Soviet Union never moves in to attack our forces, no matter how thin on the ground they may be. Invariably she waits until they have left and, if the area is of strategic importance, she moves in. We have witnessed this in Egypt. We are today seeing it in Aden where there is a Russian harbourmaster and Soviet MiGs fly out of Khor- 478 moksar so recently abandoned by the Royal Air Force and, through no fault of his own, by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Lt.-Col. Colin Mitchell).
There may be hon. Members, and even right hon. Members, who believe that the Soviet Union will not move into Bahrein or send a naval deputation to wait upon Sheikh Zaid in Abu Dhabi. But what if they are wrong? What if we find in two or three years our oil supplies in Russian hands? It is alleged that they cannot drink the substance and that of necessity the oil must be sold to the West. The same argument I recall was used not many years ago about the Suez Canal which, it was supposed, Egypt could not possibly survive without—of course she could not, had there not been someone at hand to make good the deficit.
I trust that there are no hon. or right hon. Members on this side of the House who would contemplate jeopardising the industry, indeed the security, of Britain and Western Europe by pulling out the limited but none the less adequate forces which we have stationed in the Gulf. We have not given these countries independence so that the Soviet Union can make them her colonies, nor have we abandoned our bases so that Soviet imperialist power can be spread more widely across the globe.
But it is not enough to canvass the opinion of others, to expect others to get up on soap boxes to cheer a British policy, as has been the case of South African arms. In the Persian Gulf, as elsewhere, it is for us to make up our own minds and to pursue the course that is best for the national interest of the country. Faced as we are, with the realities of Soviet militarism and expansionism in Czechoslovakia, the Middle East and on the high seas, is it reasonable to suppose that the Soviet Union's policy in Europe is the reverse of what it is elsewhere?
The Soviet Union has three prime aims in Western Europe: first, to secure the departure of American forces from Europe; secondly, to bring about the break-up of N.A.T.O.; and, thirdly, to prevent Europe uniting. In the short term, it is vital to do all in our power to maintain the United States' commitment in Europe. Clearly this is best done, as the Government are doing, by 479 stepping up our contribution to N.A.T.O., thereby affirming our continued belief in the importance of collective security.
But, for the long term, it is difficult to see any alternatives. All roads lead inexorably in the same direction. There are those who would rely on an increasingly isolationist United States. There are others who would rely on the good will of the Soviet Union. There are yet others who would see us stand alone and take a ringside seat. I cannot count myself among their number.
For my part, the only direction that I can see which offers real prospects for extricating ourselves from the highly unsatisfactory, indeed very dangerous, situation to which we have brought ourselves, is to go forward to build a United Europe.
For more than 350 years, the prime aim of British foreign policy has been to prevent Europe from uniting against us. For this reason, we fought Philip of Spain, Louis of France, Napoleon, the Kaiser and Hitler. Are we to choose the very moment when Europe is once again uniting, to stand aloof and risk the possibility of one country or one man again dominating this great continent of which we form part? Are we to forgo this opportunity of prosperity, of strengthening our defences and of making the voice of Britain heard loud and clear once more in the counsels of the world? I believe emphatically not, and there are millions of my generation who would agree.
Those who favour opting out and going to pot a few in number. We have a duty to ourselves and to those who will follow us to play our part in Europe and, through Europe, to play our part in the world. Above all, we have a duty to place our destiny once again in our own hands, and it must be our task so to convince the nation.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
This is the first occasion in all my experience in this House that I have had the opportunity of congratulating a maiden speaker. It is a duty which I perform very happily indeed on this occasion, and I am sure that I shall have the whole House with me. I do so in spite of the fact—and I am sure that the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) will not misunderstand what I am now going to 480 say—that of all the Conservative victories at the last election, the one that grieved me most was that at Stretford which deprived this House of my former Parliamentary Private Secretary, Dr. Ernest Davies, who was a distinguished, valuable member of this House, and many of us will hope to see him again in our counsels.
The hon. Gentleman said he felt some humility at being the youngest Member on his side of the House. I hope that that will not inhibit him too much. His grandfather was never afflicted by an undue respect for his elders, nor indeed for the leaders of the Conservative Party. We trust that the hon. Gentleman will follow the great example that he always will have before him.
There are some parts of the hon. Gentleman's argument to which I should like to refer a little later in my speech. I wish to apologise for the fact that I was not able to hear most of the Foreign Secretary's speech, but owing to a duty imposed on me by this House which led to my being elsewhere, and also the fact that the debate began very much later than was expected, unfortunately I was not able to be present.
I will try not to detain the House long and to confine myself to a point which has been the theme of many speakers. It is the whole question of relations between East and West and the possibility of what is generally called détente between ourselves and the Soviet Union. I believe that we may be—and I cannot use a stronger phrase than "may be"—in the presence of a major historical development in relations between Eastern and Western parts of Europe. If we try to seek the reasons for East and West Europe being divided in this fashion and now being locked in a sort of ugly embrace from which neither side is prepared to move, we should have to go back to the beginning of this century to give the full reasons for the present situation. We are now in this cleavage between the ideologies in Europe and the powers involved, both of which are formidably and terribly armed.
In times within our memory there has been the danger of real armed collision between the two blocs and collision with nuclear weapons. That danger still hangs over us and over mankind. What we are considering now is 481 whether there is the possibility at first of getting that danger to recede and in time—and this will take time—in the end to cease to be one of the major factors in the world scene. Can this be done?
It has been said in this debate that some pin their faith on détente. I trust that if we cannot go as far as faith we are prepared to go as far as hope. There is a famous remark attributed to Ernest Bevin when he was considering whether he should try to seek a major re-appraisal of the West's relations with the Soviet Union. His comment was, "I don't want to open Pandora's box and find it full of Trojan horses." It was an extremely apt remark, a very pregnant phrase, for if we do open this question people have a natural anxiety that the box will contain Trojan horses, namely that smooth words spoken from the other end of Europe may contain merely a trap for the West, for democracy and for human freedom. It is an error to think that danger does not exist. I believe that it is an equal error to suppose that it is the end of the matter and that danger must always be there. Pandora's box in the legend contained all the troubles, but perhaps we should read the legend to its end. After all the troubles that came out of Pandora's box, the last creature that came out was Hope. That is what we must fix our minds upon at present.
The present situation in the world involving the two enormous blocs that face each other, and armed as they are, cannot go on indefinitely. The peace of the world can be kept by fear for a certain time, but mankind is not the kind of creature who can be permanently frightened into virtue. He can be frightened into virtue for a time, but we must use the time we now have to see whether we can establish what is popularly called détente—that is to say, a safer relationship between the great groupings in the world.
Where do we now stand in this search, a search which has been going on for some time with suggestions of various kinds from both East and West. There was the suggestion for mutual force reductions which the West made at Reykjavik. There was the recent suggestion for a European Security Conference made by the Warsaw Pact and there have been two Ministerial meetings 482 of N.A.T.O., the one in May in which my right hon. Friend and I took part when the Labour Government was in power and the recent meeting in which the present Government were represented.
The common reply from the West to any proposal for a conference on European security has been, "Yes, but it will need careful preparation". This is true, but we cannot go on for ever using that phrase as an excuse for not having such a conference at all. If we believe that the matter needs careful preparation, we have to get on with the preparation. That is what we were endeavouring to do at the N.A.T.O. Ministers' meeting in May and that is what I trust the present Government will resolutely proceed with. The task, as many speakers have pointed out, has been made the easier for us by the courageous and brilliantly handled policy of the present German Government. There was a real difficulty in the West so long as Germany herself was reluctant to make any move. It was difficult, if not impossible for the West to put itself in a position where it might appear to be doing a deal with the Soviet Union at the expense of the liberties of Western Germany.
The one reason we ought now to be thinking about détente is that this drawback has been removed. We have now a German Government not only full of good intentions but, so far as we can judge by present results, armed with a great deal of diplomatic skill as well. When we say that one necessary step in the advance to détente is that the Russians shall talk seriously about Berlin, we are not now asking for the impossible. In the light of what has already happened, it is something we have reasonable hope may actually occur.
If it does, then surely we can proceed, as was envisaged at the N.A.T.O. Conference in May, and I trust at the more recent meeting, on a path something like this: to a multilateral meeting of national representatives, perhaps at ambassador level, to prepare the ground speedily for the holding of the conference and for one of the results of the conference to be the setting up of a permanent body on East-West relations. In the days of the last Government it was called a Standing Commission on East-West relations.
483 My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) was kind enough to refer to my special concern for this policy. I do not think that I am over-praising my own child in saying that one of the promising facts in the present situation is that the Russians have accepted this idea, though not exactly in the form which we proposed.
The advantages are as follows. We in the West had some anxiety that if there were a European security conference it would be used quickly to rubber-stamp such arrangements as Russia managed to secure in East Europe and after that it would dissolve and do nothing more. If there is to be a permanent body, we can keep hammering away on matters of concern to us, as well as the Russians, on matters of concern to them.
We should also take note of that terribly long-winded Geneva Conference on Disarmament. But because it was longwinded and went on and on, it got us a partial test ban treaty and a nonproliferation treaty. These treaties do not solve the world's problems by a long chalk, not even all disarmament problems, but they were valuable achievements which would not have been achieved at a once-for-all conference.
I envisage such a standing body sometimes dealing with matters directly, sometimes referring them to the most appropriate organisation, whether it were for trade or for cultural contacts, and in particular for mutual, balanced, force reductions which would have to be done, in effect, between the blocs because of the nature of the subject.
We ought not to forget that one of the great values of a conference on European security, and, still more, of a permanent body thereafter, would be that the European neutrals and non-aligned would be given an opportunity to speak. I think that we might even find that some of the voices raised from the Warsaw Pact countries indicated that there was not that complete monolithic unity that there used to be in that alliance. That is putting hope rather high, but if we are looking into what may be a distant future we ought not to rule this out. These are the things which could be done.
We know the arguments which can be advanced on the other side. The hon. Member for Stretford voiced some of 484 them. Many of the points which he mentioned about the nature of the Soviet Government are true. But those who are inclined to lay emphasis on that side of the argument must then ask themselves the question: what follows in the sphere of British policy? When one has made every criticism of the Soviet form of government—I have made as many as anyone in this House, and there are many to be made—one is still left with the question: what do we propose to do? Part of the answer has been supplied by hon. Gentlemen opposite. They say that they will stand firmly to their defences. That I will accept provided that it is done with some regard to our resources.
Pre-eminently at present keeping up our defences to that we and the rest of Western Europe can speak effectively to the Russians is a question of keeping up our defences in Europe. If, in addition, as has been suggested by some hon. Gentlemen, we have to stay in the Persian Gulf, police most of the Indian Ocean, and look after South-East Asia as well, then those who advocate this policy must realise that, even if this were politically possible, this country could achieve it economically only by turning itself into a kind of Sparta—a State deliberately organised for military purposes. It would not be the slightest use talking about 6d. off the income tax then or restoring people's liberties.
If we are to do our duty in the defence of Europe and follow, as was suggested, Napoleon and Rommel—not very happy examples of what happens to people who have illusions of grandeur in those parts of the world—we can do it only by turning this country into a kind of Sparta. Hon. Members know that the country will not do that, even if it were politically sensible to try, which I do not believe.
The other remedy suggested by some hon. Gentlemen opposite is that, in the interests of our defences, we should get ourselves closer to South Africa. Laying aside the whole argument about apartheid, where I believe that this suggestion is totally wrong is that we could hardly take a step today which would be more likely to tilt the whole balance of power in the world against us than to get nearer to South Africa, particularly in a military sense.
Whatever may be said about these matters, it surely must be right, to return 485 to my main theme, to seek as best we can for a détente. We may fail. The most gloomy predictions about the Russians and their intentions and the way that they will conduct the conference may prove to be right. But the issue is too great and the stakes, for good or ill, too high for us to take for granted from the start that we shall fail. If the present Governments in the West put themselves in the position where they seem to be saying, "We think that the chances are so low that we will not even try", this will become less credible as every year brings another class of young people into the age of majority and adult citizenship.
Scientists tell us that if the polestar were suddenly to disintegrate it would be more than 40 years before we were aware of the fact so long does the light take to travel. When we look at the heavens we cannot help looking at something which is no longer there. We sometimes make the same error in politics of imagining, looking at the European scene, that we are still looking at the hard, intractable problems that East-West relations seemed to present many years ago. It is looking at something which is no longer there and which, in the end, estranges governments from the growing mass of young people in their own countries. This will happen if the West does not, in addition to maintaining its defence, show something of the imagination and skill that has been shown by Herr Brandt in the conduct of his policies.
We can take the most pessimistic or the most optimistic view. I recommend the Government not to go to either foolish extreme. On the one hand, they must not be blank and negative throughout; on the other hand, they must not make the error of thinking that all we want is the exchange of a few nice words and we shall all be safe. It is not as easy as that. I trust that the Government's policy will lie steadily on the optimistic side of the centre line beween those two extremes, because that is what the present world situation requires—a situation in which Russia may be more willing to talk reasonably than she has been for a long time and in which the requirements of the West demand that, in addition to looking to our defences, we should show skill and imagination. This is the responsibility which lies on the Government in this sphere.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Cheltenham)
First, I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) on his excellent maiden speech. I do so not only because I am a Member of this side of the House, but one who had the honour of being a junior Minister in the late Sir Winston Churchill's Administration which, as far as I am concerned, was the greatest honour of my political life. I think that when talking about détente and so on, some of my hon. Friend's points might have been missed.
We have today listened to a former Foreign Secretary and a former Secretary of State for Defence. One of Sir Winston's faults was to be too far ahead of events. One example of this was his Fulton speech, when a number of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway saw fit to put down a Motion of censure on him, and another was in 1953 when, in full reverse, they objected to him making the first advances to the Russians.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
That helped. If he had been Prime Minister before things would have been easier.
The right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart) talked about defence depending on our resources. Will is something that is necessary in addition to resources. The right hon. Gentleman became slightly political, and I say that to my generation the Fulham by-election, which is one of the things that is burned into my memory, produced by its implications so many of the problems of the late 'thirties. If the country had backed the Conservatives at that by-election in 1933, we might have avoided what Sir Winston Churchill used to call the unnecessary war.
Certainly there is no intention on the part of the Conservative Party to turn this country into another Sparta. That was much more likely to have resulted from the Socialist Administration, which could have produced a Sparta without any defences. If we continue to spend 5½ per cent. of our G.N.P., growing again under a Conservative Administration, we ought to be able to play our fair part in carrying out the defence of this country.
487 I was particularly interested in the ruminations of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) who spoke about what he said a Foreign Secretary could not say. Having been Secretary of State for Defence for six years, the right hon. Gentleman has great experience of all the international undertakings, obligations and discussions that went with them.
From the interesting speeches that we have heard this afternoon, from both sides of the House, and from the speech of the Foreign Secretary himself, certain points are beginning to emerge. I grant hon. Gentlemen opposite their optimism about Ostpolitik, from a party political point of view. I do not regard it as being successful yet, though I hope it will be, nor as being so party political as hon. Gentlemen opposite, for obvious reasons, would like it to be.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East said that the European conference was called soon after the Czechoslovakia incident, but it was partly, as we thought at the time, a smokescreen. Although I welcome it, and hope that it will go on under some of the conditions noted by the right hon. Member for Fulham, there is no sign yet that the Soviets are giving way in any practical terms. There is the acid test of Berlin. There were the manoeuvres in October, the greatest in Eastern Europe since the 1945 war. There is the growth in conventional forces, which are now greater than ever, in addition to the nuclear forces. There is the situation in the Middle East, outside the N.A.T.O. area, and of course there is the naval expansion all over the world.
Those are facts, and to an ordinary back bencher like myself who attends certain assemblies, these facts have been brought to our attention during the last few years. Until the Soviets make some advance by withdrawing or holding back on at least one of those—and Berlin is the acid test—it is understandable that we are still looking for some action before we become convinced that Ostpolitik is really working.
From a personal point of view, and I know that many hon. Members agree with me, I welcome the fact that Poland has come into this discussion because, after all, it was on behalf of the Poles, 488 after they were attacked by Germany, that we went into the war. The Poles have suffered more than any other country in Europe during the last century and a half, and particularly during the last 30 years.
Many of us knew and respected Mr. Rapacki. He was feeling his way ahead using, as the right hon. Member for Fulham said, the neutrals and the nonaligned possibly to arrive at some method of neutralisation in central Europe as a step towards the ultimate unity of Europe, on both sides of the Iron Curtain; but one must feel, as my right hon. Friend said, that the events of 1968 in Czechoslovakia put this process back, and one has yet to see a definite move forward.
§ Mr. Reginald Freeson (Willesden, East)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the events of the spring of 1967, when there was an American-sponsored coup d'état in Greece, also helped to put things back?
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
No, I do not. We have no reason to believe that the United States sponsored that coup. There was a similar occurrence in Turkey in about 1960, which eventually came right. These things happen, but they bear no comparison with the military occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968, and I have never heard any suggestion before from the benches opposite that there is any comparison between the two events.
I hope that, as has been said today by hon. Members on both sides of the House, events will lead to a settlement in the Middle East. Having been involved in this issue for many years, I believe that one difficulty about a settlement there is that neither side feels that any settlement will be guaranteed and underwritten in a way that will be effective. I believe, and I know that some hon. Gentlemen opposite agree with me, that we should look at the suggestion of a European guarantee for any settlement, always, of course, within the framework of the United Nations.
That suggestion has been put forward and sponsored by W.E.U. from time to time, and those seven countries, with Greece, Turkey and possibly Cyprus, might work out a system of guarantees which would give both the Arab world and the Israeli world the feeling that any settlement to which they might agree 489 would be adequately policed and carried out. Such an arrangement might let the two super-Powers, the two nuclear powers, off the hook. It might let them get out of the area and leave the countries in and around the Near East and the Mediterranean to police the area themselves.
I now propose to say something about negotiations with the Community. I understand that my right hon. and learned Friend will make a statement tomorrow, but I think that it would be a pity to let this opportunity pass without congratulating him on the progress made so far.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
From reading the newspapers, which I imagine the hon. Gentleman does from time to time although, listening to him now, one feels that he has not read them very recently. What is in the newspapers leads one to believe that progress has been made toward a five-year transitional period for agriculture and industry which is good; and also for a period of eight years for financial integration, which is an essential need in the negotiations. We shall look forward to getting further details tomorrow.
I remind hon. Gentlemen that in 1967, by an overwhelming majority of the House, the Government, who were then the Opposition, were supported in their view about going to the table to negotiate. I believe that this is necessary, not only for economic reasons, but also for political and defence reasons because, as many hon. Members have said, unless we get together on political, defence and economic matters, the future for ourselves and of Europe will not be as bright as it might otherwise be.
§ Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)
The hon. Gentleman said that the Labour Government had had a massive majority in favour of applying to join the Common Market. I feel sure that hon. Members who supported the Government in that vote were not thinking in terms of supporting a surrender. Hon. Members who voted against at that time believed that there was considerable support in the country for their view. I suggest that 490 although we were a small group at that time, we have a great deal of support in the country now.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
That is for the hon. Gentleman to decide for himself. The overwhelming majority of hon. Members supported the then Government in going to the table to negotiate—not a surrender but an agreement for the benefit of everybody in Europe, to which I believe Britain belongs.
I do not know what estimates hon. Members on both sides of the House have made about the future intentions of what used to be called the Soviet or Communist bloc, a term which is now out of date. As one tries to foresee events in the coming decade, one inevitably begins to wonder whether there is any plan on this side of the free world or, equally, on the other side of it, about which the ordinary hon. Members can do anything.
It is true that the Russians are negotiating S.A.L.T. and have entered into negotiations with Germany and East Europe about a European security conference. However, there is no hard evidence yet to show that this is anything but a delaying tactic to lull the West and to encourage the United States to withdraw. Those of us who have the opportunity of meeting members of Congress know that in some respects the U.S. is tending to turn isolationist. Are the Russians hoping to encourage the Americans to withdraw, so leaving Europe without an adequate defence or political effort to take their place?
Is this a period for the Soviets to encourage these tendencies to isolationism in America and, at the same time, to relieve themselves of the great burden of military development, so enabling them to give more time and resources to the needs of their domestic consumption? After all, while the Soviets are holding their present position in the West, they are pushing on in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Indian Ocean. There will be nothing to stop them in, say, 10 years' time from reverting to a period of expansion, when European power to resist may be the weaker.
At the other end is China, now recovering from the weakening effects of the cultural revolution. Is China doing the same thing? Does China intend to spend the 'seventies looking after its civilian 491 consumption, building up its nuclear forces and finding ways other than by military occupation of having some control over, South-East Asia, so that from the 'eighties onwards it can again turn to the Indian Ocean, Africa and South America to keep out the Russians, with whom the Chinese at present seem to be in conflict? We should be concentrating more on these aspects.
I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend comment on South-East Asia because I understand from my sources of information that those there welcome the United Kingdom's participation in the five-Power pact. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East said that two of them would be unaligned, but that is up to them to decide. It is not for him to tell them what steps to take against possible outside aggression.
I maintain that they welcome not only this military assistance but the will that we have shown to join in mutual aid projects. I hope that I do not sound arrogant in saying that many there feel that the United Kingdom and Commonwealth experience and judgment on military, political and economic matters over the last 10 to 15 years have been more objective and realistic than the judgments of many others.
The war in Vietnam is de-escalating. However, I believe that the North Vietnamese may have taken a harder beating than many of us realise and that their acceptance, following that, of a written peace treaty would be an admission of a non-victory and would undermine their position in North Vienam. Although we do not know what is really going on there, I do not take quite such a pessimistic view about the situation as many others do.
From my information, I gather that both the South Vietnamese and the Cambodians are doing very much better on their own now and have been for the last year or so; and I am sure that all hon. Members will wish them well in ordering their affairs and being able to return their countries to peace and prosperity.
It has been suggested that possibly some of us might help to support what is going on in these countries. It has been suggested that especially the ex-colonial nations could do more. Some of these 492 countries have been extremely critical of the United States' efforts and methods to preserve freedom in that part of the world. Some of us, it has been suggested, might help in cultural and humanitarian work. For example, the West Germans have provided a hospital ship, and this has been welcomed locally.
We must not forget that South-East Asia is an enormous area. It has a population of about 350 million people, which is larger than that of Europe, Africa, or North America. It is to be hoped that this area can return to some sort of peace and stability for the hapiness of the people who live there. I hope and believe that we in Britain can play a not negligible part in those development.
Can my right hon. Friend give an indication of what view Her Majesty's Government take of these developments in the coming 10 years? Do the Government believe that Russia and China are so mutually antagonistic that there is no hope in future of them one day solving some of their problems? Are they simply now playing it cool so that in, say, 10 years' time they will turn on the free world again? As the right hon. Member for Fulham pointed out, we are entitled to hope, as I shall continue to hope, for the best.
However, until we can be more certain of what is likely to occur in the next decade, we must keep up our guard in N.A.T.O., O.E.C.D. in the West; and in the East maintain a British presence east of Suez, continue, by the Colombo Plan and other methods, to support those on the other side of the world who are endeavouring to make economic and social reforms. In these endeavours we must work with our Commonwealth and other allies throughout the world.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Sir Geoffrey de Freitas (Kettering)
Like other hon. Members, I shall deal particularly with points relating to détente, not only between East and West but between what may broadly be described as North and South. I will suggest a greater use for détente of the Council of Europe, about which the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) knows so much.
First, however, I shall comment on the position of China and Russia referred to 493 by the hon. Member for Cheltenham. In July of this year, with three other hon. Members, I visited the Mongolian Peoples Republic as the guest of the Mongolian Parliament. Mongolia is an enormous country which lies between Russia and China and has a population, which is mostly nomadic, of about one million people. That is well known. What is not so well known is the fact that it is an independent State and a member of the United Nations.
We were puzzled to discover that we from the British Parliament were the only people from the non-Communist world ever to have been invited. I do not know the reason for this and I do not pretend to speak for my colleagues. However, I believe that they wanted us to see, first of all, that although Russia had complete physical and economic power over Outer Mongolia, the country remained essentially Mongolian—whereas, as may be generally known, Inner Mongolia is nothing more than a province of China and has lost its Mongolian characteristics because of ruthless persecution. Secondly, they wanted us to see that a diet of meat and fermented mare's milk made a pretty tough people, and, small in numbers as they were, they would put up a pretty good delaying action against a Chinese ground act unless China were ready to have a world war.
Reverting to my main theme, which is the use of the Council of Europe in détente, the Council will still exist after we have entered the Community. The Community deals chiefly with economic matters such as trade, industry, agriculture and finance. But the Council of Europe concentrates on political, cultural, legal and social matters, and it will continue even when the Community gets bigger. We can see that the two organisations are complementary if we compare the agenda of the European Parliament with the agenda of the Assembly of the Council of Europe. The task of the European Parliament is to implement the Treaty of Rome, and the Council of Europe has a much wider range of problems to discuss.
When Britain is a member of the Community, like France, Italy and Germany, the big countries, we shall have a delegation there of 36 members, but we shall still have the smaller delegation of 18 members in the Assembly of the 494 Council of Europe, with our Foreign Secretary on the Committee of Ministers. If we seek a wider Europe and refuse to become land-locked in Brussels or wherever it may be, the Council of Europe is the key.
The statute of the Council of Europe allows the Assembly to discuss a wide range of topical matters. For example, the Torrey Canyon accident was discussed right away. We are not allowed to discuss defence so we have neutrals among the members and are acceptable to the East. Furthermore, members can choose to take part in its activities in a certain range or the whole range. It is also possible for non-member States to take part in many of its activities. For instance, the Soviet Union has engaged in patent discussions in Strasbourg.
When we are in the Community, the British Government and delegates to the Assembly can see that the Council plays its part in establishing better relations with Eastern Europe. The place to begin is obviously in technical co-operation on matters like public health.
There was much confusion at Question Time a couple of days ago about the difference between the Assembly and the European Parliament. There are many democratic countries who will be in the Assembly but not in the Community. I refer to Cyprus, Iceland, Malta, and Turkey, as well as the neutrals, Austria, Sweden and Switzerland. These countries will see that they have to have a place for discussion, and this is where we can have Eastern European Ministers—not Members of Parliament, because they do not exist as we do—coming to talk to us, as do our own Ministers.
On North-South relations, which has been mentioned, as opposed to East-West, the Council of Europe in recent years has looked out not only across Europe but across the seas to the developing countries and has welcomed speakers from all over the world. In the first session at which I took the chair, we were addressed by U Thant and by Ministers from Asia, Africa and South America. One of the reasons why the members of the Assembly of the Council of Europe have regularly each year passed resolutions requesting that we should be members of the European Parliament, that is to say, of the Six, is that they want the 495 British in it, as they frankly admit, because of our tradition of understanding and concern for the developing countries. Our friends in the Assembly have frequently argued that as a former colonial power, we are of great value because we are in a position, as Members of Parliament or as Ministers, to press the rich industrial countries of Europe to do more for the developing countries in which we have a long-standing interest.
Two years ago in the House we debated aid. I do not apologise for returning again to an argument used in that debate. In The Guardian of 2nd December 1968, Mr. William Davis wrote:… aid must not be confused with charity. As a trading nation, Britain cannot afford to brush aside the worries of the developing countries. They are our customers.The chief manufacturing industries in my constituency are steel and footwear. I frequently summarise my argument to my constituents in this way: we cannot sell steel products and footwear to people who have a low standard of living, who live in mud huts and who go around barefoot. That is an argument of the enlightened self-interest of a trading nation. Another argument which we must never forget is that as a rich country we have a duty to the less fortunate people in the world.
When the last East African countries became independent, while the present Foreign Secretary was Prime Minister, it fell to me to encourage those countries to take advice from some non-British economists as to where their best interests lay in their relations with the Community. They took the advice of a Swedish or Swiss economist—I forgot which—and they have linked themselves with the Community. Incidentally, this kind of attitude towards our former colonies is of great significance. It was giving them the opportunity of doing what they considered best and giving them good advice on it—not on the subject but on how to find out. It shows a difference between the relationship between Britain and the Anglophone countries, on the one hand, and France and the Francophone countries on the other.
To summarise, the leaders of the new Commonwealth African countries see Britain as they saw the old British 496 colonial servant, the former British governor and, I like to think, the former British High Commissioners, as decent men interested in the wellbeing of their countries. The result is that these African leaders have high expectations of what British Governments will do They believe that there is a sort of moral sense in British Governments. Hon. Members may disagree, but I hope they will bear with me, because this is part of the historical development and the change over from colony to self-governing country, when I say that these African leaders are profoundly shocked when, as in the case of the sale of arms to South Africa, we appear not to be living up to our own high standards.
I am very much a Francophile. The French impact is different. The Francophone leaders of the new African countries have an enormous respect for French culture and for the French language. But I do not think that it has ever occurred to them that French Government policy was guided principally by moral considerations. I have talked with most of the Anglophone leaders in Africa, and many Francophone ministers. The chief reason why there is this apparently baffling difference between the attitude of the French language countries to France and of the English language countries to Britain on the subject of the sale of arms to South Africa is that our colleagues in the Commonwealth expect a higher standard from Britain. We seem to them to be guided by moral considerations.
A few years ago the Council of Europe was addressed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant. One of the things he said was that he welcomed our increasing contacts not only with Eastern Europe but with the outside world. He called on us not to sink back in our own "prosperous provincialism" in Europe because we were rich and we had a duty to the outside world.
Collectively, Members of Parliament sitting in the Assembly of the Council of Europe have a world rôle. They are important because of our countries' energy, skill, wealth and size—together they have a population of more than 300 million people. Our history makes us look out across the seas. Today it is not to conquer but to foster the institutions, the 497 culture and the languages which Europeans took to so many places in the world.
Today, the Assembly recognises the duty of the developed countries to the developing countries, and we frequently remind ourselves that our duties did not end when we pulled down our national flags.
We also look outward to our less happy fellow Europeans. One day, the Communist countries and Spain and Portugal may qualify for full membership by having democratic Parliaments. Until that day, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will join with the other member Governments of the Council of Europe in pressing forward to solve together technical problems of health, education, air and water pollution, and so on. Such problems can be solved more easily, given European co-operation. Poland and Spain for example have no democracy as we know it, but they are European countries, and the Council is the Council of Europe.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Mr. John Cordle (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
I intervene in this debate with great diffidence, because no one wants to draw attention to the problem of arms for South Africa since it could have an effect upon the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference which, I understand, is due to take place in Singapore.
I am impressed by the harmonious way in which this debate has been conducted. It has been a robust debate, and it has drawn attention to the threat of communism in the world. In that connection, one must stress the importance of North-South relations.
I am not completely sure that hon. Members appreciate what is happening in Africa at the moment as the communists spread their influence. Amongst Africans, it is accepted that, in the east, there is the erosion by Chinese communists, and that in the north there is erosion in the Mediterranean in the shape of the communist fleet there, together with the air stages in Cairo and Libya and along the north coast. Possibly it is not fully understood that on the west coast there has been an infiltration of communist opinion and influence, especially since the civil war in Nigeria.
498 I left Nigeria on Sunday morning. I have visited the country three times in the course of the year, and I have to report to the House that in Nigeria there is a difference in attitude towards the United Kingdom. It has been brought about by the suggestion that we intend to supply arms to South Africa.
I am not against seeing that Africa is fully manned and that the Indian Ocean is properly defended. I go along with that 100 per cent. However, as the right hon. Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) said, the Africans are adopting an extraordinary attitude towards us because of the moral implications of supplying arms to South Africa. They have made it clear to me that, if there is a threat to the Indian Ocean area and to South Africa, they feel that there is a threat to them. Their view is that perhaps we should consider the possibility of a joint Commonwealth defence force. There is something in that suggestion. It has been put forward not simply by those who are in the Nigerian Cabinet but even by the Head of State, who made it together with some suggestions which make one sit up and take notice.
There is no doubt in my mind that, because of our pronounced intention, even though we have not yet made a firm decision, they feel that we shall decide to supply arms to South Africa. The result is that we are being left out in the cold whenever concessions are granted in Nigeria.
I am sorry to report to the House that we have lost out to the Russians over the supply of a steel mill in Lagos. The Russians first got their foot in the door during the civil war when we were unable to supply the full quota of arms required by the Nigerians. That was the beginning of Russian erosion into the area. It is also regrettable that because, of our reported intention to supply arms to South Africa, we have not been considered by the Nigerians as possible suppliers of car assembly plants. I was sorry to hear that Japanese and German firms have been awarded the concessions. That is largely due to the policy that it is feared that we may adopt, though I pray that we shall not do so in the end.
Other matters come to my mind. However, I wanted to warn the House that Nigerian attitudes towards us are hardening, and there are little signs of the good 499 will that we enjoyed at the end of the civil war.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Shore (Stepney)
I intend to speak on Europe, which is by far the most urgent, most important and most menacing issue in foreign policy today.
I make no apology for focusing attention on this subject. It is a deplorable state of affairs that, in this very far-reaching debate covering the whole of our international affairs and interests, hon. Members are obliged to secure what time they can to discuss an issue which is so important that it deserves a separate day to itself. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have asked for such a debate. However, I understand that we are not to get it before Christmas and, as a result, we are driven to these tactics. So, at 7.30 in the evening, I find myself on my feet as the first speaker in the debate to direct his whole attention to the future of our country, because that is what is at stake in the negotiations now being conducted in Brussels.
Tomorrow, we are to have a further progress report from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will tell us about the latest developments in his talks in Brussels and we shall hear why he has decided to drop his original request for transitional periods of three years for industrial goods and six years for agriculture, and to accept instead the counterproposals of the Six.
Whatever the right hon. Gentleman says and whatever explanation he offers, I do not think that many hon. Members expect much comfort. I can best explain why I take a very pessimistic view about the negotiations and why I think that they are on a disaster course by harking back to the very beginning of the current application and to the speech delivered in Luxembourg on 30th June by the then Chancellor of the Duchy, now the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on behalf of the Government. He set out the terms that he was prepared to accept, and the matters on which he would engage the Six in negotiations.
On that occasion, two grave errors were made. The first and most important was to accept on that date without demur, without qualification, the common agri- 500 cultural policy of the Common Market. I lay stress on this for one reason, and a very important one. In the previous negotiations, the C.A.P. has of course featured in, indeed, been a central feature of, debate. But it was a fact that, right up until 1st January of this year, it was still in what was called its transitional phase. This meant that, if Britain had joined at any time before the beginning of this year, she would have had the opportunity to participate in the final policy decisions which have given permanence to the C.A.P. in this post-transitional period.
No doubt Governments have previously thought that they would be able so to reshape and remould the C.A.P. before it took permanent shape as to make it acceptable to, and bearable by, this country. That opportunity passed on 1st January this year, so the right hon. Gentleman and the Government made a cardinal error on 30th June, in including in their opening statement the acceptance of the now permanent C.A.P.
The importance of this is obvious. I will not weary the House with figures and costs and so on, but I would mention that, in our own White Paper published in February this year, we made certain estimates of the cost. Two different points are being considered in the negotiations today. The first is what is the percentage key which has to be applied to Britain's contribution under the C.A.P. if we are to join in a transitional period, and what we shall be asked to pay when our own transitional period comes to an end.
The Commission itself, which has this rather pleasing habit of leaking its papers and statements—I sometimes wish that the Government were equally forthcoming—has made it clear that the key which they are proposing is an alternative roughly equivalent to 21 per cent. for this country. I will not weary the House with calculations, but, roughly, this will be well over £300 million a year in the transitional period. This, together with the indirect balance of payments cost which would follow the introduction of European prices for Britain's food would undoubtedly push the cost of entry at once, or as the transitional period advanced, to the £500 million a year level. I am putting a very modest figure on it indeed.
501 But lying ahead, at the end of the British transitional period, there is the full rigour of the now permanent c.a.p. whose financial regulation has the force of a treaty in itself and which cannot be changed unless by the unanimous consent of all the existing members. The House should know that, under this permanent financial regulation, by which every country of the Six has the right to veto any change, the contribution consists of the total yield of the levies on agriculture, the total yield of the customs duties of goods coming into the country and, in addition, 1 per cent. of the yield of a value-added tax which we would be obliged to introduce.
The yield of this, although we may argue about estimates, is somewhere beyond the £450 million, up to the £650 million, level. This is a very heavy burden, so heavy that anyone who today offers the British people entry of the Common Market as a short-cut to growth, expansion and accelerated prosperity in this country is in my view guilty of an act of gross deception on the British people.
Every £100 million which is minus on our balance of payments—we are talking of figures now and, I say very responsibly, of figures of the order of £300 million to £500 million a year—must mean a restriction on our rate of growth, and our present rate of growth is dreadfully unsatisfactory. Unless the Government can convince us that they know how to solve this problem, how they can have this growth with a deteriorating balance of payments, until they know how to square that circle, the claimants of this growth can simply be ignored.
I say this during these negotiations with greater conviction than say in the negotiations which the Prime Minister himself undertook in 1961–63, because then we were still in a world of very high tariffs around the industrial countries, and for Britain to be excluded was something of a threat. Therefore, the possibilities of benefits to the British economy by entering a large tariff-free area were great, or thought to be great.
I do not quarrel with that proposition, but what people should realise, which the Government have consistently understated, is the extent to which, in the last few years, tariffs in the industrial countries have come down—to the point at which 502 most people and most manufacturers would agree they no longer constitute a major threat or obstacle to trade between the industrialised nations.
I asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry a Question, which he answered on 4th December, which illustrates my point. I asked him what was the tariff on British cars entering France, which I took simply par example, in 1960, 1965 and 1970, and what the tariffs would be from 1st January, 1972. This is without Britain joining the Common Market. The answer was that, in 1960, when the Prime Minister was first contemplating entry, the tariff on British cars was 30 per cent., in 1965 it was 25 per cent., in 1970 it is 15 per cent., and on 1st January, 1972, under the Kennedy Round it will be 11 per cent. That is the extent to which tariffs have fallen and are still falling.
Anyone who imagines today that there are many compensating advantages, post-Kennedy, to be gained from entering a so-called enlarged free trade area which can in any way offset the onerous burden which would be placed upon us by the C.A.P. is simply deluding himself. He will also be deluding his listeners.
I said that two great mistakes had been committed in this negotiation. I have said that the first was to accept the common agricultural policy of the Common Market in the opening statement of 30th June.
§ Mr. Shore
Yes. We need not worry too much about the details of the figures. Any time the Foreign Secretary wants to engage with me he can.
The second error which was committed on 30th June was when the then Chancellor of the Duchy agreed to go along with the Six as far as they were prepared to go in the matter of economic and monetary union but at the same time failed to include this new dimension of the Rome Treaty among the matters which are to be talked about and negotiated in the course of entry.
The House has not been greatly helped with information. I am told that when Parliament first decided to apply for entry to the Common Market in 1961 there 503 was not even a translation of the Rome Treaty in the Library. I am certain that no translation of the proposals for Economic and Monetary Union were available to the House when Ministers agreed to go as far as the Six were themselves prepared to go along this road and did not include it as a major subject for negotiation. We have at last got, through the Library, some copies; and we are grateful for them. For the benefit of hon. Members who have not been through it I will point out briefly why this is so important and why it is an outrage that it has not been included for discussion in negotiation with the Six.
The Report of the Werner Committee, which was set up by the Heads of Government of the Six to report precisely on the matter of Economic and Monetary Union, deals with five main points of economic policy. The first is exchange rate policy. Here the proposals are that during the transitional period which is proposed for economic and monetary union a common exchange rate policy should be agreed; that the individual member States should fix together their exchange rates for ever; that this unity of exchange rates should be expressed by the adoption of a common currency for the whole of Europe, or at least for the countries in membership of the Common Market; that, together with this, there should be an agreed policy for intervention in the foreign exchange market and there should be a common policy for the management of reserves. This is far-reaching.
The second point was that there should be a general agreed policy on interest rates, on bank rate and on liquidity throughout the area. The third point was that there should be agreed objectives on the short term and medium term policies of the members of the Community and that this should include agreement on the levels of growth, on targets of employment, and on prices.
Lastly, in the area of public expenditure and taxation—this is the most intimate area—the Committee recommended that the budgets of the countries concerned—their aggregates—should be agreed and mutually inspected; that there should be, not only agreement on annual budgets, but agreement on the 504 public expenditure projections over some years ahead, with which we are now familiar in the House; and, finally, that there should be a progressive harmonisation of tax policy extending beyond the value-added tax which is already agreed and taking in excise duties and taxes which are likely to affect companies as well.
This is a formidable programme for economic and monetary unification. The Committee ended its Report with these conclusions. First, it gave this definition:Economic and monetary union means that the principal decisions of economic policy will be taken at Community level and therefore that the necessary powers will be transferred from the national plane to the Community plane.The Report goes on to make this point which I invite the House to consider carefully:These transfers of responsibility and the creation of the coresponding Community institutions represent a process of fundamental political significance which entails the progressive development of political co-operation. Economic and monetary union is thus seen as a leaven for the development of the political union which in the long run it will be unable to do without.That is as clear and unambiguous a statement of the objectives of economic, monetary and poliitcal union as we are likely to find anywhere.
The response of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, whom I am very glad to see here—I am always glad to see him in London rather than that he should be anywhere else—when pressed about the Report of the Werner Committee is to do what I regret to say that some of my hon. Friends do—deny its significance and status and pretend that it is not there.
I will do my best to say what the status of the Report is. The Chancellor of the Duchy at least will know that there occurred a very significant sentence in the communique signed at The Hague in December, 1969, by the Heads of Government of the Six in which they solemnly agreed to work out amongst themselves during 1970 proposals for an economic and monetary union. They then set up the Werner Committee to advise them on how to achieve this union. The Werner Committee is presided over by the Prime Minister of Luxembourg and its membership includes a number of very senior people.
§ Mr. Shore
If my hon. Friend would stop muttering and listen he might learn something. This June the Committee made its interim report. It was considered by the Council of Ministers of the Six, which noted the Committee's conclusions with satisfaction and asked the Committee then to complete its final Report in October of this year. The Committee has done this. I have read to the House the conclusions in that Report.
It is said that the Report has not yet been wholly adopted and swallowed by the Six. Of course it has not. This is not the way in which the Rome Treaty and its mechanisms work. But to pretend that there is not a heavy and serious commitment to economic and monetary union is nothing more nor less than self-deception. The Committee had behind it from the very beginning the full weight of the Heads of Government of the Six.
I hope that the Chancellor of the Duchy can answer, and will be prepared to answer at some stage, certain questions. If he cannot, perhaps one of his hon. Friends can. What is the right hon. and learned Gentleman's own view of the desirability of economic, monetary and political union? Does he believe in, and will he work for, the implementation of the Report, with the objectives and conclusions of the kind I have stated?
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)
I take entirely the view of the right hon. Member for Liverpool, Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson) that we should go as far and as fast as the best of them.
§ Mr. Shore
The right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot get away with that. I remember very well that the phrase used by my right hon. Friend was in relation to a very general concept, before it had even begun to be worked out. We are now dealing with a Report that was not even finished before my right hon. Friend and his colleagues, of whom I was one, had the misfortune to be replaced by the Conservative Party.
§ Mr. Rippon
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it was said after that 506 declaration at The Hague in 1969 to which he has just referred and which the last Administration, of which he was a member, supported?
§ Mr. Shore
I do not want to bother with the small change of that, and it is the small change. The objective was stated in a single sentence in the communiqué. Any serious person knows that it now amounts to virtually a second Rome Treaty, that it proposes a transitional period and an entirely new extension of supra-national power and the institutions to go with it.
It is not good enough for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to refer back to a single sentence. I want to know what he thinks about the objectives and timetable outlined in that document. Does he take it seriously? Is he taking the view—and is this why he looks so complacent—that if Britain gets in we have no intention of letting this development happen but shall use our power to veto it? We should all know. The House should know, the right hon. and learned Gentleman's negotiating partners should know, and the British people should know. It is a great error that that is not included in the negotiations.
There are other major matters that concern the future prosperity of this country which the right hon. and learned Gentleman might well have included in the discussions. I think particularly of arrangements for sterling. I know that the Commission has worries about this. No one will say that it is a small problem. But it looks as though all the important issues that are raised are not to be discussed as part of the negotiations but are to be dealt with somewhere else. In what sort of forum I do not know; with what kind of reporting to the House and discussion, I do not know. But certainly it is not to be brought into the main forum of the debate and the discussion with the Common Market negotiators.
I find it extraordinary that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and others should, in the light of all the facts, still try to argue and pretend that there are no serious matters, no serious questions of sovereignty for this country, involved in the negotiations. The right hon. and learned Gentleman addressed the Monday 507 Club not long ago and talked about the possible loss of sovereignty. He said:These fears arise out of a misunderstanding of the nature of the European Community we are seeking to join.Does he really think that? Does he really think that it has no supra-national quality, that the agencies, the policies, the purpose, are not to achieve economic, monetary and political union with an ever-growing increase in the power and influence of the supra-national institutions as opposed to the national ones? Does not he accept that that is so?
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman does accept it, why does he go out of his way to dismiss what he calls fears of them? I think that the fear is the other way round, and that he is afraid to admit to the meaning of these things and to put before the British people the real implications of the negotiations.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
Is the right hon. Gentleman telling the House that we are negotiating a different Rome Treaty from that to which the last Administration, of which he was a member, sought to become a party? If that is his case, he is misleading the House. Is he saying that there was never any thought of political union, of an economic union, in the Rome Treaty that he was a party to negotiating to adhere to?
§ Mr. Shore
If I were to answer the hon. Gentleman in detail, I should have to go back over my speech, to which he was not listening. I started by making the point that there have been certain very important changes, the most important being the end of the transitional period at the end of last year. There has also been the most important development of the desire by the Six to go forward to economic and monetary union.
I close by saying only this about sovereignty. I do not think for a moment that people in this country are afraid of giving up particular aspects of sovereignty for specific purposes of which they approve. We have done this in many areas, for example, when we have signed certain treaties. The right hon. and learned Gentleman would be the first to point out that we signed the United Nations Charter, and much more recently we signed the Non-Proliferation Pact. But that is not the issue.
508 It is also obvious that the people of this country have recognised the importance of sovereignty and have given national sovereignty to more people and more nations in the past 20 years than probably any other country in history. What the people of this country are not prepared to do is to hand over to Europe or anyone else the general right of self-government, which, if the proposals for economic and monetary union are carried through, will be largely denied this Parliament and the people of this country.