§ 3.5 p.m.
§ LORD CARRINGTON rose to call attention to the International Situation; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I think that I should first apologise if the last-minute change in the timing of this debate has inconvenienced any of your Lordships. But as there were nearly 30 noble Lords down to speak in this debate it was decided, after discussion through the usual channels, that we should have a better debate if we had two days. I hope that your Lordships will agree. At any rate, we shall not need to have an all-night Sitting two days before Christmas.
§ The Motion which stands in my name is very wide and will enable speakers to range all over the world, but no doubt the problems which are uppermost in your Lordships' minds are those concerned with the Multilateral Force and the Atlantic Nuclear Force, both of which were discussed at great length last week in another place. I shall have something to say later about these matters, but before I come to them, there are two other topics on which I would say a few words.
§ May I, first of all, say how pleased we are to see the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, here this afternoon. As I said on a previous occasion, we on this side of the House do not think that the new arrangement of having permanently at the United Nations a Minister who takes very little, if any, part in the proceedings of Parliament, is in any way an improvement on the system which my Party 721 followed when we were in Government, but that does not at all diminish the welcome that we give to the noble Lord as a new and distinguished Member of this House; and we wish him every success in the important work he is doing in New York.
§ One of his task:; will be the handling in the United Nations of the Indonesian confrontation of Malaysia. Although it is only just over two months ago since I left the Foreign Office, I feel very much out of touch—there is no substitute for reading telegrams—but what little news appears in the newspapers on Indonesia leads me to think that there may possibly be some sign of a shift of opinion on the part of President SoekarNo. 1t may be that he has decided that confrontation looks a great deal less likely to succeed than it did six months ago, for it appears that the raids along the Malaysian mainland have not been at all successful. It seems that numbers of Indonesians have surrendered as soon as they landed in Malaysia and that their morale has been very low. As I say, this is supposition, and I should be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Walston, or some other Government speaker can give us any indication of how things are going, whether or not the raids are on the increase and whether infiltration along the borders of Sabah and Sarawak is increasing or diminishing.
§ There are further signs that President Soekarno himself is not at all well and that there are moves behind the scenes on the problems of succession. If I am right, this may mean a breaking of the log jam. All this, of course, is primarily a matter for the Tungku and the Malaysian Government to assess. It is they who are being assaulted; it is their country which is being attacked. And let there be no mistake about our unqualified support of the Malaysians. We are committed to them by treaty, by Commonwealth connections and by our sense of justice—and all Parties are agreed on that. But, if we look to the future, it is the emergence of China as a nuclear Power that is certain to be the main problem in South-East Asia. If it were possible to dispose of this Indonesian problem, which costs us, as well as the Malaysians, a great deal in men, money and resources, we and the Malaysians should at least have one problem less in that part of the world. If the 722 noble Lord, Lord Walston, can tell us whether he thinks the situation more or less hopeful than it was six months ago, I am sure that your Lordships would be very interested.
§ The second problem concerns Europe. I notice that Foreign Affairs were discussed in another place on two successive days last week, but very little was said by the Government about Europe. It is true that Mr. Thomson, the Minister of State, mentioned it almost in passing, but I hope that he will forgive me if I say—and I mean it in no offensive fashion—that what he said was pretty platitudinous. My Lords, whether justified or not, and whether very well carried out or not—and we all have our own views on this—the policies of the Government have caused great offence in Europe. Anyone who has travelled at all in Europe since the Labour Government came into power will confirm what I say.
§ Somewhat naturally, the question is being asked: what is the attitude of the Labour Government going to be; and, in particular, what is their policy towards the Common Market countries? In the view of many of our friends and Allies in Europe, the Labour Party in the last few years has not been very Europeanminded. They remember, as all of us remember, the attitude of the Party opposite during the Common Market negotiations. And I should not have thought that anything that has happened since October 15 has been very reassuring to our friends in Europe who wish to see some sort of closer association between them and us.
§ Ten days or so ago a great step forward was taken by the Six when, after a difficult negotiation, they agreed on cereal prices. That, as your Lordships know, has been for some time a major stumbling block. Now that it is out of the way, it may well be that progress and forward planning will be a great deal easier than hitherto; and there have been signs that things are moving rather more swiftly in that direction than for some time.
§ It is perfectly true that the Government have announced that they wish to participate from the outset, without commitment, in any discussions on a closer political co-operation. But in the light of the Government's action in these last few weeks, and their record beforehand, I, for 723 one, am not at all sure what they mean by this. It is all very well to say that you want to be in on any discussions, but the people you are discussing things with like to have some idea of what you are aiming at, even if only in the most general terms. But I do not believe that our European friends think the Government are entirely genuine about this: they have a suspicion in the back of their minds that the object of being in on the talks would be to ensure that the talks did not succeed. There should, I think, be some explanation, and soon, about the Government's attitude to Europe on political co-operation, as well as economic co-operation. For I would rather doubt, if you asked anybody, either in Europe or in this country, if he knew what the policy of this Government was in relation to Europe, whether he would be able to tell you what it was; or, indeed, whether the Government had a policy at all.
§ My Lords, I come now to the debate in another place and to the speeches made by the Prime Minister. In the Prime Minister's first speech, it was very encouraging to hear the forthright way in which he stressed our world-wide rôle, and the fact that we should be abdicating from what he regards as our duty to the Commonwealth and world peace, and from any hope of influence, if we abandoned it. This is very reassuring, since there are some members of the Labour Party who do not—or perhaps did not—share that view in the last Parliament; and on several occasions, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, will remember, I had cause to ask whether or not the Labour Party regarded our world-wide rô le as of importance.
§ I also agree with a great deal of what the Prime Minister said about our Defence policy. There is no doubt that as weapons get more and more complicated, and more and more sophisticated, the cost of equipping our forces rises steeply; and the fact that the Defence Budget will be about £2, 100 million in 1969 must cause any Government grave concern. But I must say that I found the remedies proposed by the Prime Minister rather less convincing. He seemed to me to be saying this: that although we could not, and should not, abandon our three military rô les—the strategic rô le, the world-wide rô le and the conventional rô le in Nato—we must 724 cut our Defence expenditure; and he suggested, broadly speaking, that there were two ways in which we might save money.
§ The first would be by equipping those forces which are not likely to contribute to a major war in Europe with less advanced weapons, on the ground that in peripheral wars a potential enemy would not be so well equipped as the Soviet Union. Well, my Lords, I have doubts about that. In the first place, the Russians are giving, and have given, a number of countries—Indonesia and Egypt, for example—weapons of great sophistication. To take one example, Indonesia has small Russian motor torpedo boats equipped with guided missiles having a range of some fifteen or sixteen miles. This is not a weapon that can be neutralised except with weapons of the most modern kind. And what is true of the Navy is perhaps even more true of the Royal Air Force.
§ Secondly, as the cost of weapons over the years has mounted, so has the cost of quick and overall re-equipment. This means that some parts of the Services are always relatively obsolescent. To take the Royal Navy as an example, although we have built a very large number of ships in the past ten years, there are still serving in the Royal Navy ships 20 years old whose capabilities are obviously much less than their modern sister ships. This means that, without any conscious decision to do so, our forces are already partly equipped with less sophisticated weapons. I doubt whether there is much more that can be done in this direction.
§ The second suggestion which the Prime Minister made to reduce Defence expenditure was to tell us that a review was in progress. Well, every new Government, and not only new Governments but every new Minister of Defence quite naturally has a review to see what is happening in Defence, in order to make his own decisions. Sometimes such reviews are effective; sometimes not. But I am bound to say that although marginal savings may be possible, I do not believe major economies can be made without a reduction of our commitments, with all the difficulties involved.
§ After talking about Defence, and the problems of the Defence Budget, the Prime Minister then turned to the proposed Atlantic Nuclear Force. He said 725 in his speech that he was aiming at three things: first, at finding a solution which would foster the unity of the Alliance; secondly, that the nuclear force in NATO should be united in a unified system; and thirdly, to promote increasing consultations in regard to nuclear weapons. How are these proposals going to achieve these objections? Your Lordships will remember that the Multilateral Force was proposed by the United States to satisfy Germany and any other European country which might be concerned, whether or not they had a real share in the nuclear policy of NATO and, consequently, in the safety of Europe.
§ There are those who wonder whether the Multilateral Force, with surface ships and mixed-manning, is a very good idea. There were some who thought that the contribution of skilled men from the Royal Navy for the purpose of manning those surface ships would be crippling to the conventional tasks of the Navy, and since it was arguable whether or not the Multilateral Force was militarily necessary, there was not much to be said for it. Others, on the other hand, felt that inevitably at some future date some European countries, and Germany in particular, would not wish to remain for ever subordinate to the United States, Britain and France, in the possession of nuclear weapons and in having some control over them, and that something on the lines of the M.L.F. might satisfy them and settle the problem for some years to come. It probably would not be much of a revelation to your Lordships to learn that when I was in the Admiralty I found the former view prevailed, but when I transferred to the Foreign Office I found the latter view rather more popular.
§ Now the Prime Minister has proposed another nuclear force, and I must say I do not think it has many advantages. If the M.L.F. cannot be justified militarily, then neither can the A.N.F. It is certainly not more credible as a deterrent. The M.L.F. was an American concept, agreed to by the Germans. I do not see that the A.N.F. will be so attractive to the Germans, and it is very unlikely to secure their support. Nor do the advantages to the Americans seem clear. The French will certainly not prefer it, since; to them it is open to exactly the same objections as the M.L.F. France is an essential member 726 of NATO. Any plan which may cause her to leave the Alliance can hardly be said to preserve its unity—the Prime Minister's first aim. The method of control of this force, about which I confess to be—and I think understandably—a little confused, is, if I understand it at all, hardly likely to promote the Prime Minister's other objectives, since a new body outside the NATO Council would control it, but only it appears, control those weapons, and not the tactical nuclear weapons under NATO, which would still be under the command of SECEUR.
§ What advantage would there be for Britain in an Atlantic Nuclear Force, with our own nuclear forces committed irrevocably so long as the Alliance lasts—whatever that may mean? The Prime Minister said some weeks ago that in exchange for assigning our nuclear weapons he would seek to gain some greater say in the control of the nuclear policy of America and France. How does this proposal do that? Surely the Prime Minister does not suppose that the United States will abdicate one iota of their control over their own national deterrent; and he must know that, whatever force is set up in Europe, every target will still be covered by the United States' own nuclear weapons. How are these weapons to be committed irrevocably to this Alliance, so long as it lasts, if there are no locks or devices of any kind? These, and many other questions, must be answered before the proposals become very convincing.
§ My Lords, I think the Prime Minister proposed the Atlantic Nuclear Force for very different reasons from the ones he gave. He is committed to abandoning the British independent deterrent, and he feels obliged to honour that pledge. At the same time, he is absolutely committed to having nothing to do with the mixed-manned Multilateral Force. The Atlantic Nuclear Force seemed a heaven-sent opportunity to get "off the hook ". I do not doubt that he will find that his plan is not acceptable to any other country in Europe. I believe that the British people will see through it. Perhaps he, too, thought so, and that was why he ended the debate in another place by calling into question the independence of the British deterrent.727
§ At the time of the signing of the Nassau Agreement I was First Lord of the Admiralty, whose responsibility it was to see that the Polaris submarines were built. For the last year of the Conservative Government my noble friend Lord Jellicoe, who will speak at the end of this debate, was in that position. Neither he nor I, nor any of my colleagues—and I have consulted them—can accept what the Prime Minister has said on this issue. From the very beginning—from the time of Tube Alloys—Britain's nuclear programme has, without exception, been carried out in close co-operation with the United States. And, indeed, the decision to acquire first the weapon systems of Skybolt, and then Polaris, with their spare parts, presupposed a high degree of inter-dependence and a continuing harmony in our general policies. But it was always fundamental to the Defence policy of the Conservative Government that once these weapons systems had been delivered they would be under our own unfettered control and in a supreme national emergency could be used independently.
§ The Prime Minister has thrown doubt on how far the Polaris system can constitute an independent deterrent when delivered to us. He has alleged that there are certain fundamental components which we are buying. Yes, my Lords, we are buying them, because it suits us. As a matter of fact, we are securing American components under agreements other than the Nassau Agreement, and we can, in any case, make these ourselves if we had to do so. The Prime Minister has further questioned whether, after 1968, we should be in a position to supply all the fissile materials required to make the deterrent and our warheads, having regard to the half-life of these materials. I know of no fissile material of which we shall be short after 1968 for our current warhead programme. There are certain non-fissile materials which we secure from the United States under current agreements. These agreements can be extended when they run out. If they were not extended, we could, without any doubt, make the materials ourselves; nor would there be any gap between the expiry of materials obtained from the United States and the manufacture of our own, if we ever had to undertake it.
§ The Prime Minister has also questioned whether the British warhead for the 728 Polaris missile can be regarded as fully effective if it has not been tested. He must know very well that there is no need to make atmospheric tests to satisfy the validity of the warhead. What has to be tested is the trigger mechanism, and this can be done underground. The Prime Minister will know as well as I do what underground tests of the trigger mechanism have taken place, and how they have been monitored by British scientists. The truth is this. We based our policy on close and continuing co-operation with the United States, as, indeed, do noble Lords opposite. We are buying the Polaris system from the United States. We believe that they will honour the Agreement made at Nassau and other agreements made with us. When we have built the submarines and the missiles have been delivered, we shall have complete and unfettered control over them; but, as noble Lords opposite know, we agreed to assign these weapons to NATO and to withdraw them only in a supreme national emergency. That is the position now, and it is only the Prime Minister who seeks to change it.
§ These are difficult matters; no one pretends that they are not. I beg the Government not to make the mistake of taking decisions too early just for the sake of appearing dynamic. In foreign affairs inaction is quite often the best action. There is no violent hurry about all this. There is a very wide range and difference of opinion, not only in this country but in Europe and America as well. Let them, I beg, not press on too fast. Let them not nail all their colours too firmly to any particular mast, because the ultimate decision may affect the future of the NATO Alliance and the whole free world. It is a decision far too important to be taken in a hurry. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.30 p.m.
My Lords, I apologise for my temporary absence from the Chamber. I think we should all like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for bringing this Motion before us. We must also, I think, congratulate ourselves that the change of fortunes in his Party has not removed him from a prominent position in this House, where we always enjoy both his charm and ability, and I hope 729 that he will long continue to hold this position.
It cannot be denied—and, incidentally, I would emphasise, as the noble Lord has pointed out, that the field we are discussing is very wide—that in the eyes of the world this country is not in a happy or very solid position; and I personally am not really convinced that this is a suitable moment at which to disclose to all and sundry our internal dissentions by the political recrimination which, of course, is bound to arise and be engendered in a debate of this nature. But we have embarked on this introspective examination and analysis of what is wrong and why it is wrong. So far as the Liberal Party is concerned, we propose in this Parliament to concentrate upon the constructive future rather than upon the destructive past.
I had occasion a few years ago to console with Mr. Lester Pearson on the defeat of his Liberal Government in Canada after upwards of twenty years of power in office, and I hope I am not betraying any confidence when I say that Mr. Pearson rejected my sympathy. He told me that no Party should be in office as long as his Party had been, and the best thing that could possibly have happened to it after so long a period was to be rejected, for a time, by the electorate. The reasons are obvious and I need not explain them, because any man of Parliament can appreciate the demoralisation which can occur after too long a period in office. I do not expect my Conservative friends (if I may so call them) to agree that this theory is really applicable to their own term of thirteen years in power; but, of course, it does seem that the British electorate at the last General Election had a certain sympathy with this philosophy, and, after all, even in the best-regulated families there is always a period of "rest cure" which can be very beneficial. We on these Benches agree on the whole with that verdict, although we cannot concede that our Socialist friends (if I may also call them my friends) represent the alternative Government which the country either needs or deserves.
But here we are, my Lords, with a new Government, and an untried Government, and I am sure that I speak for many—I am quite convinced that I do—when I deprecate tossing the blame, the whole 730 blame and nothing but the blame, from Conservative to Socialist and Socialist to Conservative. This is nonsense. We are in a mess, as we know; responsibility is quite obviously divided, largely between the two main Parties but also elsewhere throughout the country; and our duty, I think, at present is to go ahead with the elected Government, to give them a fair and reasonable chance either to make good or, after a fair trial, if they do not make good, to concede failure and appeal once more to the country, which I hope will not happen in the near future.
My Lords, I do not propose to go into the details of the controversy on Defence which is bound to arise in this debate over two days. The leading article in The Times of last Saturday struck me as a remarkable one, and I think set out clearly and for the first time what I and other Liberals have been saying and preaching for years: first, that the Government should decide upon what is security and what is not security; second, that Britain is not going to live by bombs but by trade; third, that Britain cannot be strong abroad until she is strong at home; fourth, that all the warheads in the world will not achieve this strength; fifth, that saying we are a great world Power does not make us a great world Power; and, finally, that our present desperate struggle for economic life shows that we cannot possibly afford to compete individually with the giant nations in the fantastic national expenditure which nuclear armaments involve.
If we once admit that world influence, as the Leader of the Conservative Party implies, depends upon possessing independent nuclear weapons, then, of course, we are indeed obviously encouraging their proliferation all through the world and setting the world back towards possible total extinction. It seems to me that the Conservative Party, if I may say so without offence, are under some disadvantage in having quite a large element in their Party which represents Right-wing Tory, nineteenth-century opinion, and it is difficult for a Party with that element to take on an international point of view. They will always have with them the people who think that if Britain was once a dominant nation she always must be; that if some nation wishes to spend £2, 000 million or £20, 000 million a year on something like nuclear 731 arms, Britain must compete by doing the same—and that is quite impossible.
On the other hand, the Labour Party are at a certain disadvantage because, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has pointed out, they have taken a surprisingly disappointing attitude over several years past with regard to the international situation and Labour policy on internationalism. I cannot help feeling, as I think others do, too, that they are concentrating far too much on home problems of wages, pensions increases and incomes policy, all of which are frightfully important but none of which will even exist if this country does not exist; and this country will fail to exist unless it throws in its lot with other countries of the world and does not stand aloof as it did in the last century. There is a sort of xenophobia, I fear, in the Labour Party, and I do beg the present Government to get rid of it and to instil a new feeling of co-operation and to work with other countries. World Government may indeed be far distant, but European co-operation, Atlantic co-operation, Western co-operation and the non-nationalistic channels are the channels through which alone prosperity and even survival can come about. Let us not fight and squabble about which of these is going to be the first target, but let us examine carefully, nationally and internationally, which of these is to have first priority; and let us back, so far as we possibly can, our own Government in the lead which it gives us in this pacific field.
As The Times article said, Britain is overstretched; financial cuts must come. I would add that it is not only in finance that we are overstretched. Cuts in world responsibilities, which we have been so proud to shoulder in the past, and rightly so, we must now also cut. There is absolutely no need to accept disaster, as The Times pointed out. There is nothing in the present position beyond Britain's capacity to put it right. The strength is there; all that is needed is the will and a greater spirit of co-operation.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (LORD WALSTON)
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said, this is going to be a long and a very wide-ranging debate, and it 732 is right that it should be so. I shall myself attempt to cover a fairly broad canvas, but, of necessity, if I am not to keep your Lordships here unduly long, I shall not be able to go in any great depth into many of these problems. But that is of no disadvantage to the House because I have my noble friends who will be speaking later in this debate and who will be able to deal specifically with very many of these items. My noble friend Lord Shackleton will be able to reply later on this afternoon, I hope to the entire satisfaction of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, to many of the points he has raised. My noble friend Lord Caradon, who I am very happy to welcome here, will be speaking to-morrow on matters mainly concerning the United Nations, and my noble friend Lord Longford will show his stamina by surviving to the end, however bitter it may be, and will deal with all the problems that have not been dealt with up to that time.
First of all, let me try to put right our position so far as any doubts will arise (as several seem to with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington) on our position with regard to Europe and the Atlantic community. I do not think that we serve any useful purpose in trying to see which Party is more European than the other, but I do think that some of the remarks the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has made are rather like the pot calling the kettle a pale grey, when he remembers, as he must, that it was only when his Party was in power that we refused to go into Europe or join the Community, and it was only after the abortive attempts his Party made when they were the Government that we were rejected from Europe. I cannot allow him to suggest that he is sitting over there representing the great European party while we are a Party which has always been anxious to keep out of Europe.
We are a part of Europe. We know that; we accept that, and we are proud of it. Europe has a great heritage. But we must remember we are at the same time part of the Commonwealth, and of that also we are proud, and that also has a great heritage. And both in the Commonwealth and in Europe we take our stand on collective security. We know that the time is past, if it indeed ever existed, when we could stand entirely alone and pursue 733 our own policies regardless of any other country. We realise that we must trust our friends and our allies because to-day there is no country, no matter how great it thinks it is, that can stand alone. But this cannot mean merely that we draw on the help of other countries when we need it but remain independent whenever it suits our short-term ends. We must, and do, accept the full implications of interdependence, and this requires a new bold, forward look at the future and its problems and not a constant hankering for days now long past.
Just a very short word on nuclear weapons, because, as I say, my noble friend Lord Shackleton will in fact be dealing in much greater detail with these very important matters. We have three guiding principles in this matter. First of all we believe that there must be no more fingers on the trigger; hence our insistence that the American veto should be maintained. Secondly, there must be no proliferation of nuclear weapons, and this entails that our non-nuclear allies must not be put in a position of disadvantage as compared with the nuclear Powers of the Alliance; because it is only common sense to realise that if this were to happen, sooner or later—and in my opinion it would be sooner rather than later—some, at least, of them would acquire Governments which were elected to power on the grounds that that country must be on a par with the other great Powers of Europe; and that would be the beginning once more of nuclear nationalism in Europe. That is the second danger that we must avoid.
The third thing that we must insist on is that the nuclear deterrent must be believed by any potential enemies as being a real weapon which can be used. These are our three guiding principles, and we believe that the proposals which have been put forward will achieve that. I would only add this. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, urged us not to nail our colours to one particular mast. In this respect I agree with him, and I would say to him that we at this stage are putting forward proposals for discussion. We have not said, "Take it or leave it; this is the only way in which we will co-operate", because we believe that integration, inter- 734 dependence, must entail give and take and must entail confidence and conferences.
Now let us leave for the moment the military aspect and turn to the economic aspects. We believe, and we have said this on many occasions, that Efta and the Six must come closer together. We do not want to see Western Europe permanently divided into the Community and the EFTA countries, and we are working with our EFTA partners to bring them closer together. I would remind your Lordships, when we are talking of EFTA, that there will be in January a 10 per cent. reduction in the EFTA tariffs, and that on the economic side we are playing our part in GATT by putting forward one of the smallest lists of exceptions to the Kennedy Round. Those actions, I hope, speak louder than words, because they are actions directed to our desire to work with our European friends and our Atlantic friends also.
On the political side, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, mentioned, we have stated that we wish to be associated from the outset with any talks that there are going to be on the future political integration of Europe. I think he wanted us to say more than that, but I would remind him of his own words about nailing our colours to the mast. We cannot say precisely what we demand, what we insist on; all we are saying is that we are members of a European community, we live in Europe, our past is in Europe and a large part of our future is in Europe, and whatever discussions go on in Europe for political integration we wish to be in from the beginning. But of course that does not in any way detract—and I repeat this once more—from our position in the Commonwealth, and I would go so far as to say that it is our position in the Commonwealth which gives us such a very large claim to be listened to with respect and attention in the councils of Europe.
I should now like to turn to Russia and the countries of Eastern Europe. On the military side, there has been No 1ndication yet in the Soviet Union of any major Soviet initiative on the central problem of East-West relations or major changes in the Soviet attitude to that question. This is hardly surprising, since the new Government of the Soviet Union 735 has hardly had time yet to reorientate itself as regards these very important matters of foreign policy. But Mr. Kosygin has said that the Russians are willing to talk, and, in his words, to work stubbornly and patiently for a settlement of international problems. This is a realistic approach, and we, for our part, welcome this statement.
On the main international problems involving the Soviet Union and the West there still remain serious differences between us, the Russians maintaining, as your Lordships know, a strong campaign against the NATO Nuclear Force. We ourselves do not agree with their fears that this will lead to dissemination of nuclear weapons. On the contrary, we are anxious to work very hard in order to ensure that they realise that these new proposals could be an important contribution to our common aim of avoiding the pressure for the establishment of further national nuclear commitments. We must hope as progress is made in our discussions with our NATO allies that it will become clear to the Russians and other countries that their fears are misconceived.
As to disarmament in general, there have been no new Russian proposals which would help us to make progress, but it is moderately encouraging that they have announced a further, if very modest, decrease in Defence expenditure, and by linking this to the reduction that has taken place in American Defence spending they have demonstrated their continued interest in what they have called "disarmament by mutual example".
But military preparedness and military problems in Europe and with regard to Russia are far from being the whole problem. It is true that military preparedness on our side must be a prerequisite for peaceful co-existence, but what is needed is further active steps to promote and extend that co-existence. While not divesting ourselves of protective armaments, we must hold out the hand of co-operation. This we are happy to do, and this we are trying to do.
The countries which formerly were called satellites, but which are now in many respects increasingly showing their independence of the Soviet Union, are themselves showing increased signs of wishing to come closer to us. We believe that we can work with them, and that we can play with them as well.
736 We want to see more trade between them and us, as between the Soviet Union and us. We want to see more cultural exchanges, especially among students. We want to see more tourism. It is heartening to note that already there are the beginnings of a tourist trade between what used to be countries behind the Iron Curtain and ourselves. We hope to see, and intend to see, that there is more Government co-operation in non-political matters, such as in the control of toxic chemicals; in the reduction of air pollution, where already there are signs of working together; in meteorology where we can be of mutual help to each other. And on the Government side, in addition to the trade negotiations and matters of that sort, we look forward to welcoming here in the New Year Mr. Kosygin and Mr. Gromyko; and as your Lordships know, the Secretary of State is planning to visit several of the Eastern European countries during the coming year.
Now let us turn further East and look at China. Whether or not it possesses a nuclear weapon, China is still the largest country in the world, and, for that reason if for no other, cannot be disregarded. We have supported in the past, and we still support, the entry of the Chinese People's Republic into the United Nations, and we intend to vote for them when the matter comes before the United Nations. We should also like to exchange Ambassadors with the Chinese People's Republic. We suggested this, not for the first time, when my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade was visiting Peking in November. Unfortunately, the Chinese were not prepared to do this in the present circumstances.
So we have to admit that our relations with China remain abnormal and incomplete. This reflects the quite different positions of the two Governments on the different views that they have on many questions of vital importance. All the same, we hope that the fact that our relations with China remain friendly will have its effect, and we look forward to the coming of the time when, eventually, a rising standard of living in the Chinese People's Republic will make them follow to some extent the attitude of their Soviet neighbours, in realising that peaceful co-existence is a possibility, and that there is no reason 737 at all why their country, and the people in their country, should not prosper by being at least on not unfriendly terms with the West, and in an increasing change of business, trade, and also in cultural exchanges.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, mentioned the problem of Indonesia. I should like to turn now not only to Indonesia but also to the other countries in South-East Asia, because it is here that I feel there is scope for a more positive policy, perhaps, than we are able to pursue at the present time with China. What we intend to do in those parts, as the previous Government intended to do and attempted to do, is to help the countries there to resist Chinese Communist aggression, whether it is military, which is relatively rare, or whether it is political, which is far more common.
We do not wish to see these countries become the tools of the West. We do not wish to see them subservient to us or to our Allies. We wish them to be genuinely independent, genuinely non-aligned. We recognise that this is a quite natural desire for them, in particular after the centuries during which they have been subjected to colonialism in one form or another. Let me remind your Lordships that colonialism in that part of the world is not only the colonialism of the French or the British Imperialist Powers, but also the colonialism of China. That is what we wish to do; that is what we shall strive to do—to help them, at their request, to maintain their own independence. We must respect, too, their desire for their own nationhood. We must not fall into the error of thinking that nationalism and Communism are identical and, because some of them wish to throw off the bonds of the West, that they automatically wish to take on the bonds of the East.
So far as Vietnam is concerned, as your Lordships will know the position there is fluid at the present time. The present Government is undoubtedly having grave difficulty, and it is not for us to take sides in any conflicts which go on there. All we want to do is to help the Government of South Vietnam to restore order, to maintain order when it has been restored and to advance its people towards a better life, a higher standard of living and a more peaceful existence. We will give them help in doing that, so far as 738 we can. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made clear in another place, we intend to maintain, and if necessary increase, our assistance to the Vietnamese Government and people in their efforts to preserve their independence and security in the face of a Communist campaign of terrorism and subversion. We shall therefore continue the British Advisory Mission in Vietnam, with a slight change in administrative form and some variation in personnel, who are and, I would remind your Lord-ships, always have been, civilians.
In regard to Indonesia I am afraid I cannot hold out to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, any great hopes of an easing of the present confrontation. It would not be right to say that the confrontation is steadily hotting up, but there is certainly no sign at all of its easing at the present time or any likelihood of its easing in the near future. We have all read the various rumours of the state of health of President SoekarNo. 1t is not for me to prognosticate as to what is likely to happen to him, but I think it is unlikely that, even if he were to disappear from the scene, we could look forward then to a more peaceful form of existence with Malaysia. The "log jam", in the noble Lord's own words, is not any more likely to be broken by that happening But of course, this is primarily a Malaysian responsibility. The confrontation is with Malaysia and not with us. Our part in this dispute is that of a loyal Ally, a member of the Commonwealth, with Malaysia. As such, we are pledged to do what we can to help Malaysia, in company with our other Commonwealth Allies, particularly Austrialia and New Zealand, who are also giving valuable help to Malaysia in this problem.
Now I must move on to Africa. Here, I will deal with some of the questions relating to the Congo to which yesterday I said I would give your Lordships an answer. There is no need for me to repeat that the Government are gravely concerned at the fate of the British subjects who remain in rebel hands, but we are convinced that everything has been done, and is being done, that could help them. Before the Stanleyville operation numerous appeals from various sources, such as President 739 Kenyatta and the Red Cross, were made to the rebels to release the hostages but they refused to release even the women and children. Since the Stanleyville operation, rebels are even more hostile to Europeans and less likely to respond to appeals. Possibly more important, since the fall of Stanleyville the rebels are completely disorganised. We do not know where the rebel leaders are, and they themselves have great difficulty in communicating with the rebel bands, which are now widely scattered.
All I can do is to repeat what I have already said: that the British military attaché is in close touch with the Congolese Army, which has European advisers and regards the rescue of the remaining hostages as one of its major objectives. The army itself is continuing its advance, and the prospects are relatively bright. With regard to the supply of arms to the rebels, it is perfectly true that considerable quantities of arms and supplies have been flown in, mainly from Algeria and Egypt, whose Governments have made no secret of their aid to the rebels. We believe that the arms are mainly of Soviet origin, and there are indications that China also has supplied arms to the rebels. This blatant admission of active support for the rebels against the constitutional Government is a matter of serious concern; and in his speech to the Security Council my noble friend Lord Caradon underlined the danger of outside support to rebel movements against legally established African Governments.
So far as British subjects who are still in the Congo are concerned, although we have no actual figures we believe that there are something in the neighbourhood of 1,000 of them. They have from time to time been warned, through various channels, of the danger which exists, and in certain cases they have been advised to leave. Some have left and some have remained, and we can only salute them for their devotion to their duty there. The general situation is well known and those British subjects who remain can be under no misapprehension about it. The British Embassy is, of course, in close, continuous touch with leaders of the British community, but the Government cannot 740 guarantee that it would be possible, in the event of any sudden deterioration, to get warning to them in time. We can only point out, as we have done, that it is the responsibility of each individual and of the organisation to which he belongs to make his own decision in this matter.
Turning briefly to the rest of Africa and the threats there of Communist infiltration, whether from China or from the Soviet Union, it would be very wrong either to underrate the danger or to overestimate it. Undoubtedly there is a danger; undoubtedly there is activity, particularly on the part of the Chinese, to infiltrate into various of the newly independent countries. Her Majesty's Government are glad to give support to any legally constituted Government in order to help them in their fight against this infiltration. We have no wish to impose our own form of government, but desire only to help them along the paths of their own choosing, provided that they respect the fundamental human rights to which we all subscribe.
I think that most African countries are now coming to see slowly, but I hope not too late, the dangers which may arise if their continent, their country, becomes a battleground between two rival ideologies. They have a saying in certain parts of Africa that when two elephants fight it is not the elephants who suffer most but the shrubs and bushes which are trampled underfoot. I think that they realise their own country is in danger of this happening; they are on their guard. As I say, we shall give our help to prevent this happening whenever we are asked to do so, and wherever we can. This will be mainly in the form of technical aid and economic aid, but we stand there ready, and we are already doing much to improve and help these countries in their new independence.
Finally, my Lords, a word about the long-term prospects. Many of the international troubles which we are now facing have arisen as a result of mistakes made ten, twenty, or even more, years ago. We must not allow ourselves to be so busy in putting those mistakes right, to the best of our ability, that we fail to take the action necessary to prevent similar mistakes from arising in ten or twenty years' time. In order to achieve that Her Majesty's Government 741 are now engaged on a deep study of the whole strategy of aid, including such points as where it is most needed, where it will give the greatest results, and what form such aid should take.
As an indication of the size of the problem, let me remind your Lordships that the income per head in Africa, in 1958, averaged 115 U.S. dollars; in Asia, it was 107 dollars; and in the United Kingdom, 1,070 dollars—that is, ten times the Asian figure of wealth per head. That gives your Lordships some indication of the existing differentiation in standard of living as reflected by the wealth per head of the population in Asia, Africa and our own country. To make the matter so much worse, the estimated rise of population in Europe during the next ten or fifteen years is an 8 per cent. increase; in Eastern Asia 20 per cent.; in Southern Asia, 28 per cent.; and in Africa, 29 per cent. So not only do they start off with an income per head of about one-tenth of that which we enjoy, but their populations are increasing at three and four times the rate of our own. Unless we take steps now to prevent a widening of that gap between these rich and poor countries, the problems which Governments to-day have to face will be small in comparison with those to be faced by Governments in the years to come.
If we are to avoid these long-term effects, it is essential that the infrastructure, and especially the education, should be right in these countries. Education is also one of the best means of gaining the affection and respect of people—far more than the possession of atomic weapons; far more than the provision of atomic power stations. If people have been educated in a country, they tend to love it. I was talking the other day to a Foreign Minister from one of the Asian countries who told me that he had been educated at Oxford and that this was his first visit back to this country. On the first night in London he woke up at 5 o'clock in the morning, simply because he was so excited to be here. He went to his hotel window and sat looking at the streets of London feeling how happy he was once more to be home.
It is that form of influence, which we can exert by right planning and right actions now, that will go such a long way 742 to ease the problems which are going to face those who come after us. Our ultimate object, and to this our foreign policy must always be directed, is not only to avoid future wars but also—more positive than that—to improve the chances of everybody throughout the world being able to lead a useful and happy life. We believe that by doing that the value of our own way of life will become apparent.
EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, may I ask him whether, with this country's great need at the present time to widen our drive for trade, we are making efforts comparable, for example, with the prolonged personal visit of General de Gaulle to South America? What are we doing in relation to South America? I have heard nothing, in the excellent review that my noble friend has given, concerning that very important place. We do a lot of trade with them. We do not always get the treatment we deserve out of it; nevertheless, what we get is appreciated. I should have liked to hear something about South America.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, far be it from me to equate either my noble friend Lord Shackleton or myself with General de Gaulle. But we have both in the last two months been to South American countries, though I am not sure that we were able greatly to promote trade.
§ LORD WALSTON
We tried and there were some results. I am sorry to have missed out Latin America, because I am fully aware—as I know noble Lords are—of its importance, but I felt that if I were to cross the southern Atlantic Ocean it would detain your Lordships even longer than I have done already. But that does not mean in any way that we are not fully aware of its very great importance, both politically and economically. I can say quite categorically that our own missions in those countries are making ever increasing efforts to promote our trade there, and are giving a great deal of help to 743 our own manufacturers and business men.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ LORD OAKSHOTT
My Lords, one might think, both for him who speaks and much more for those who have to listen to him, that one maiden speech in a lifetime is quite enough. Now, my Lords, it is all to do again, and so I stand here to-day asking that perhaps I may be afforded a measure of your Lordships' traditional generosity and some tolerance of my shortcomings.
As one surveys the scene which is the subject of the debate initiated by my noble friend to-day, one is overawed by the immensity of the problems in so many corners of the world and by the terrible consequences to humanity of bad judgment or a false step. One cannot in a short speech range over all these problems. If, therefore, I do not refer to the United Nations or to things like arms and arms control, which, after all, are very relevant to what we are talking about to-day, I hope it will not be thought that I am lacking in faith in the one or in awareness of the tremendous significance of the other. Indeed, if I may respectfully say so, no one could be unaware of the significance of arms control after the very remarkable speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, last week.
The full effectiveness of the United Nations as a peace-keeping agency will come one day, though it has not come yet. Arms control, too, we pray, will come one day, but, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, implied last week, it is a long haul. So while we are persisting in our efforts in these two vitally important directions, may I suggest one or two other things which should be of immediate preoccupation to Britain?
My Lords, on the one hand, I think we have seen in certain areas an undeniable improvement and an easing of tension. I touch wood when I say it, but it looks as if, following the patience and persistence and the maintained nuclear strength of the West, the Soviet Union has been persuaded of the catastrophic consequences to the world of a war in modern conditions. While I accept absolutely the reservations which the noble Lord, Lord Walston, appeared to have about this, it looks—and the Test 744 Ban Treaty, I think, was some evidence of this—a little more hopeful in that particular direction than it did before. But, on the other hand—and my noble friend Lord Carrington referred to this, as did the noble Lord, Lord Walston—hanging over everything is the huge question mark of China, now on the threshold of full nuclear capacity, exerting powerful influences in the new countries of Africa and trying to push further and further into South-East Asia.
As I look at all these, in what I am afraid is a rather amateurish way, one thing is especially borne in on me; and that is the supreme importance of our Defensive Alliances, the holding of them together, and the strengthening of them. So far as Europe and the Atlantic are concerned, and so far as the Middle East and South-East Asia are concerned, too, it seems to me that for the immediate future they probably offer us the best safeguard of world peace.
Britain must be strong, and, in view of our commitments in parts of the world outside the areas of our Alliances, we must be flexible, too, in our foreign and defence policies. Because, my Lords, I think, as certainly the noble Lord, Lord Walston, implied in his speech, there is something which we should be considering to-day over and above the pure question of East-West relations. There is North-South, too. It is here, with the great differences in the standards of life between the developed industrial countries of the North and the poorer countries of the South, struggling into nationhood, that perhaps the greatest danger to the peace and order of the world lies.
Poverty and riches are dangerous and explosive contrasts. As the noble Lord, Lord Walston, said, we must strive to help these countries against the destructive advance of Communism; help them to build better standards and the decency and order which we in this country believe, in a very imperfect world, can best satisfy man's basic need and desire—for plenty and for peace. I would go a little further than the noble Lord went, because it is not only aid that these countries need and want; they need and want investment and trade, too—not perhaps a very encouraging prospect, when one considers some of the hazards which traders have experienced and some of the expropriations which investors have had 745 to suffer. But I know of no other way, especially in Africa, by which the steady and peaceful development of these countries can be attained and their standards raised. It is along that path that peace must lie.
My Lords, if we cannot make our contribution we shall see more things like Zanzibar; and your Lordships will have heard some pretty terrible stories about what happened there, as I have. We shall hear more stories like the Congo—and to-day, and I think on two other occasions, we have heard some of that perfectly hideous story from the noble Lord, Lord Walston. The noble Lord referred to what the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, said at the United Nations. If I may be permitted to say so, I must be one among countless thousands who will have applauded the stand he took, in the context of the Congo rescue operations, at the United Nations recently.
Surely, no one is so blind as not to be able to see that this infiltration, to which the noble Lord, Lord Walston, referred, and this trouble—Guinea was the bridgehead, then East Africa, the Congo and the Congo again—are all fermented and paid for by those who wished to destroy. Indeed, not so long ago a Chinese leader said,The prospects for revolution in Africa are excellent.That is the way they are thinking. For a long time, my Lords, Europe was the cockpit. Now, in a different sort of struggle, Africa has taken Europe's place.
So, my Lords, what should we do? The policy of firmness and patience and understanding has proved itself in other parts of the world, and we must continue that. We must keep our heads and not be hustled. We must be strong economically, so that, by aid and investment and trade, we may help these countries to develop their industries as well as their primary products, and so better the lot of their people. It is not an easy thing to set out deliberately to help your potential industrial competitors, but I am sure we must do it—and it will not be for the first time. In return, we and the Northern industrial countries are entitled to ask for proper security for our investments, and a trade as liberal as the developing industries of these countries will allow. We must be strong physically, too, to discourage those—again I think the noble Lord, Lord Walston, referred to this— 746 who wish to disturb the peaceful independent progress of these countries, to deter them from destroying these countries' chances of advancement for which we have done so much ourselves.
My Lords, in a short maiden speech one can do little more than travel very quickly around the edges of these vast problems. What I have been trying to say—not very adequately, I am afraid—is just this. Although, in the matter of East-West relations, there are involved the huge populations and great perils, and there is so much that we must watch and guard against, there are, in relations between North and South, between comparative riches and poverty, forces at work which could endanger peace and destroy the freedoms for which we have worked so hard. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Walston: it is not too late. We can halt those forces if we are wise and strong. Thanks to patience and persistence over the years, we have seen signs in some places of a detente and of an easing of tension; but, my Lords, the world is still a dangerous place, and the peace-keeping rôle of Britain is a decisive one—and it is one of which, with our history, we dare not rid ourselves. I pray we may remain strong and true to our Alliances. If we do that, our voice will be heard and our influence for good exerted with effect.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, it is pleasant to follow such a maiden speech as that just made by the noble Lord, Lord Oakshott. He combined firmness with responsibility; and I think I shall be speaking for all my noble friends on these Benches in saying that we are indeed glad to have him with us in this House.
I want to speak to your Lordships this afternoon mainly about a new form of politics, a new world of international affairs, which has grown up since the Second World War—what might be called Parliamentary sub-diplomacy, or, alternatively, diplomatic sub-parliamentarianism. I refer to the, by now, very numerous assemblies abroad to which Members of our Parliament can go, and to three or four of which I have had the privilege and interest to go over the last two or three years. It is hard to know where to begin, there are so many of them.
747 At the top, of course, there is the General Assembly of the United Nations itself—governmental, although, by tradition, Parliamentarians are attached to Government delegations when the General Assembly meets. On a regional basis, in Europe there are no fewer than four assemblies. There is, first of all, the oldest: the Council of Europe, grouping seventeen nations—the Western and the neutral nations. The next oldest body, I think, is the Nato Parliamentarians. That is more informal, and groups all the nations of Nato. There, the Parliamentarians come out and meet once a year. Thirdly, there is the Western European Union Assembly, which came into existence with the Paris Treaty of 1954 and is especially charged with supervising the rearmament of Germany, mainly in the nuclear field. That groups seven countries—the Six and Britain. Then, most recently of all, there is a shadowy body consisting of EFTA Parliamentarians which has no seat and no secretariat but which meets from time to time and is already doing business. In addition to these bodies, there is, of course, the so-called European Parliament, of which Britain is not a member. That groups the Six countries in the European Economic Community.
There are by now Parliamentarians on the Continent of Europe who do nothing else but attend meetings of these organisations. There are some who belong to the Parliament of Europe, the Council of Europe, the Western European Union Assembly and the EFTA Parliamentarians; and between the plenary meetings of these bodies and the meetings of their committees, which are even more frequent, I think, they visit their native countries only at election times—if then, though I assume that they must. But certainly they never, or very seldom, go to their national Parliaments. I think this is going too far. Fortunately, that situation has not yet arisen in this country. I do not think it is yet possible for any British Parliamentarian to go to so many meetings as to mean that he is never in London.
The point I am seeking to make, my Lords, is that this kind of activity is increasing. The work that is done in these organisations is mostly—I do not say entirely—useful. There is a very 748 small element of what General de Gaulle has described as political tourism—just going round the world for the sake of meeting people and shaking hands with the mayor, and for the sake of seeing a new city—but I think that about 90 per cent. of the work which is done in these organisations is worth doing. Some of it is extremely practical, down to earth, grinding, technical work of international contact on everything from drains upwards. Since it is worth doing, and is being done, I think that it would be in the interests of this country as a whole if as much attention as is constitutionally possible were paid by the Government to the effective doing of it.
Let me turn now to the sort of questions we discuss in these organisations. Perhaps more frequently than anything else we discuss the creation of a system of political unity among the Six in Western Europe, and what Britain's relations to it could be. That is always on the agenda at every meeting. We discuss how nuclear weapons should be arranged within NATO. For instance, I think I am right in saying that the very first appearance in international affairs of the term "Atlantic Nuclear Force", with the letters "A.N.F.", was when, four or six weeks ago, the Western European Union Assembly rejected a draft recommendation calling for a Multilateral Force in the original terms, and adopted, instead, one calling for an Atlantic Nuclear Force described in a way which very closely reflected the present British Government's proposals.
One talks about human rights, international legal contacts and the possibility of erecting international courts of limited scope. One talks about economics—for instance, I think the first forum in which the reaction of our trading partners to the 15 per cent. surcharge became apparent was this highly unofficial but intensely useful body, the EFTA Parliamentarians, who met one gloomy Monday afternoon at Strasbourg. But, even more useful than that, one simply meets one's opposite numbers; and that is of inestimable value. One can get a picture of the political lie of the land; the Party structure; what the Party policies are. how they are interacting and changing in the other European countries, which puts a great deal of flesh on to the bones of 749 the concept one may have of one's neighbours. Conversely, we are able to tell them how things are moving in Party political terms here; to try out policies in advance, to fly kites and to float balloons and to urge this and to get together on that. When I referred to this as "Parliamentary sub-diplomacy", it was not merely a play on words; it is shaping up to be something like that.
My Lords, I think that the most interesting of these numerous organisations may in the end turn, out to be the Council of Europe, which was set up, as we remember, largely under the impulsion of Sir Winston Churchill immediately after the end of the Second World War. The idea was that all the European countries, without exception, should join it; including those which later turned out to be Communist countries. They would not join and, as we know, the Council was set up as a group only of Western and neutral countries. If the present impulse towards detente which exists so strongly on both sides of the Iron Curtain is to continue, it will be worth considering whether the Council of Europe might not be the appropriate body in which to pursue it. It is well equipped to start gradually on this.
I think one can say that the easiest types of matters on which to do business with an alien system, are technical and technological or even engineering matters. If there is something which has to be arranged internationally about clean air or not polluting a river higher up beyond the frontier, or something like that, this is very easily arranged. The second class of problems which it is easiest to discuss with one's political adversaries are legal problems. Lawyers, and especially international lawyers, when they meet are often able to agree with a facility which astonishes the rest of us; and when they are not able to agree they are almost always able promptly to agree exactly what it is they cannot agree about and to leave it there without raising the temperature. The third best class of subjects to talk about are probably cultural matters. These are more difficult because of the higher political content even in relation to a ballet troupe or a theatre company; since the question arises of what play is to be put on. Last, and most interesting, of the subjects to be discussed are the political matters, the great issues which actually divide us.
750 The point is that the Council of Europe is so equipped as to be able to handle all these four levels. It has technical, engineering and technological committees; a legal committee and a legal Section 1n the Secretariat; it has a cultural committee and a cultural Section 1n the Secretariat and has, of course, a Council of Ministers and an Assembly for political purposes. I think it possible that the French Government, which is way out of line with the rest of us on almost everything and is dancing about ahead of the troops in attempts to make contact with the other side, in a sort of display dance or blandishment towards the Russians, may be going to turn its attention towards the Council of Europe in this context as an organ of East-West detente. At a recent meeting between the Council of Ministers and the Political Committee of the Assembly last Saturday, the French Foreign Minister spoke in this sense. If this does become a plank in French policy, it seems to me that we might at last have something quite well in accord with our own foreign policy and with which we might go along.
If it were possible in time to bring all the countries of Europe, not simply the seventeen that are there now but all 24 or 25 in number, into that Council at Strasbourg, what a very good thing this would be! Because, in our present difficulties and dangers, we should not forget that Europe has a common heritage of at least one thousand years, and a heritage of division which has lasted for only twenty years. The cultural community runs right across the Iron Curtain. The people on the other side are ex-Christian peoples; the foundation of their culture is the Christian religion, as it is of ours. Although they have turned far away from it, yet they were formed by it, none the less. Some of them even share with us a foundation in the Latin language, as do our French and Italian Allies—and I am speaking of the Rumanians. There is a great mass of shared history and sentiment which can be brought together provided that it is handled slowly in some such organisation as this might turn out to be.
If Parliamentarians from East to West were able to meet freely in such an organisation, what a useful increase in communication there would be between the two sides! We have here, of course, a very 751 grave problem. And is the word "Parliamentarians" one which can properly be used about members of the Polish, Soviet, Rumanian or Czech Parliaments? At present the Council of Europe rules that it is a word which cannot properly be used about them. Adjustments may be sought on the political level or in legal terminology which might make it possible—and I hope they will. When Parliamentarians are mixed up in this case one may imagine it would become common knowledge that the Polish people and Government are no more frightened of West Germany than they are of the Soviet Union; and it would become a common assumption in the West that when Poland speaks of its fear about Germany one must always read "bracket, and Russia, unbracket" after what they say. This sort of knowledge, not now widespread in our country, or in other Western countries, will become so much easier of assimilation; and Western foreign policies could thereby be so much more realistically constructed if there were this frequent and almost monthly contact which we already have amongst Western Parliamentarians.
My Lords, what am I urging? I think that I am asking the Government to make a place in their minds and in their policy-forming procedures for this new, crowded, disorderly and useful world of Parliamentarian sub-diplomacy. I have been struck by the apparent absence so far of Parliamentarians other than Ministers in our delegation to the United Nations this year. Of course, it has not gone yet; but I hope it may be possible to bring in some others even at this late moment. Naturally, all international assemblies are pointing towards the day when we may get a real world assembly, something which would run together the International Parliamentary Union and the General Assembly of the United Nations. This may be envisaged as a necessary stage of the construction of a World Government. Could there not be some sort of arrangement ad hoc, whether permanent or not, here in London, whereby very close permanent links could be maintained between the Foreign Office, which is responsible for the foreign policy of this country, and I think probably the Party Whips in both Houses of Parliament, who are responsible for manning these delegations 752 abroad, so that there could be a continuous coming and going of advice, facts and discussions for these delegations? So, in particular, we should have British delegations in these Assemblies as well-informed and as clear of purpose as some of the Continental delegations to them now are.
I think it may be necessary to reconsider the custom whereby the present Government Party in Britain—and noble Lords opposite are much more sensible about this—limits the service of individuals on these delegations to only two years. One result of this, for instance, we may see in the committee structure of the Assembly of the Western European Union. On that there are seven chairmanships, if we include the Chairman of the Assembly itself. Of the seven chairmen, five are German. This is not because the Germans are consciously capturing everything and refusing to let anybody else have any; far from it. They are ideal chairmen in all respects. This is because they allow members of their delegations to continue so long that we get to know them and to trust them and they get to know us and get to know the business, and they are the obvious choice for chairmen of these committees of the Assembly. I think I am right in saying that in the twelve committees in the Assembly, five of NATO Parliamentarians and the five committees of the Western European Union, 22 committees in all, there are only two British chairmen. Probably a relaxation of the two-year rule of service would make it possible for us to be slightly better spread about in these structures.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, before I come to the main topics which I mean to mention in my speech, I should like, if I may, to say one word of warm congratulation to the noble Lord, Lord Oakshott, on his really admirable maiden speech. It is evident, I think, that we have got a first-rate recruit. He was clear, robust and full of common sense: and common sense, after all, is only another word for wisdom. We want wisdom here just as much as any other body, and therefore I hope we shall often hear him again. May I add that the more we do, the better we shall like it.
In the short time I propose to speak to your Lordships this afternoon, I should 753 like to approach the world situation with which this debate is concerned from rather a different angle from that taken by most of those who have preceded me. As is perhaps natural in a debate that follows directly on the talks which have just taken place between the new Prime Minister of this country and the President of the United States, most of the speeches to which we have listened, with the exception of the last extremely interesting one which we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, have been concerned above all with those talks in Washington and with the report which the Prime Minister gave of those talks in another place a day or two ago.
That means, in effect, that they have been mainly concerned with the nuclear weapon—who shall have the bomb, who shall control the use of the bomb, and so on. For it was around this, apparently, that the conversations between the Prime Minister and the President mainly revolved, and it is with this—at least judging by the two speeches which the Prime Minister made in the debate—that the right honourable gentleman himself is entirely obsessed. In the Washington talks, apparently, he put forward a number of proposals designed (to use his own words) "to stop the spread of nuclear weapons" and, at the same time, to maintain and even strengthen the influence of this country in the world.
I do not propose this afternoon to go into these proposals in any detail, because they have already been dealt with most effectively by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who has much more recent experience of these difficult and highly technical subjects than I have. But I would, if I may, just say this. I must confess that I share the doubts which he expressed about the Atlantic Force. Apart from everything else, there seem to be so many vetoes attached to it that the only thing that seems certain about it is that the button for its use is never likely to be pressed at all. Indeed, sometimes I have been inclined to wonder whether that perhaps was not really the subconscious impulse behind it.
Nor do I believe that the restrictions on our liberty of action which are envisaged by the Prime Minister will either enhance our influence or strengthen our security. It cannot, for 754 us, I think, take the place of the independent nuclear deterrent. The Prime Minister said in his second speech at the end of the debate—rather dogmatically, I thought—Our right in the matter of Berlin, Germany and central problems of Europe derives clearly from one plain fact. Not the bomb, but the fact that we won the war.That may possibly be the reason, or part of the reason, for our original establishment of what he calls the "Top Table", but as a dominant factor governing our influence in Europe and in the world to-day, I should very much doubt its validity.
I should have thought that the continued influence of this country in the affairs of Europe and the world must be based, not on the fact that we won the last war—of course, it was not only ourselves who took part in winning the last war—but on the question of whether, in the eyes of the other countries on the Continent, we are going to be what may be called "a good bet" in helping to ensure continued peace. It is our present record and our likely record in the future, and not our past, that is likely to decide the question of whether we are to be regarded as a great nation or not.
§ LORD KENNET
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Marquess to say that I think the Prime Minister was thinking of our precise legal status as a former occupying Power of Germany rather than of the mere fact that we won the war.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I quite realise that, but it does not alter my argument about the reason for our present status in the world and whether that will endure or not. The only relevance of the last war, I suggest, so far as the present time is concerned—I say this, if I may, in particular to the noble Lord, Lord Walston, who dealt with this point—is a possible reflection in the minds of statesmen of other lands that if this country had adopted the kind of policy towards which Mr. Wilson and his Party seem now to be tending, we might very well have lost the last war. For we might very well have been denied just that ultimate freedom of action which alone saved us and the free world in the supreme crisis of 1940. I remain, 755 therefore, unconvinced by the arguments advanced by the Prime Minister, however sincerely he put them forward, and I am told that he did so most sincerely.
EARL ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, having been in the Government right through the war, may I say that I do not think there is the slightest doubt that the loyalty and patriotism of the present Prime Minister is as good as those of any of the Labour Members who helped the Government at that time, and his efforts in defence of this country will never be less.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I would entirely agree with the noble Earl. I never made any other suggestion and I do not think any noble Lord thought I did. If the noble Earl's comment has helped to nail down that fact, I am grateful to him.
I believe that a strong right arm, under our own control, is still necessary for us, if we are to continue to play a full part in maintaining peace and civilisation, which is what the Prime Minister himself, like the rest of us, obviously desires. I believe that at the present juncture, at any rate, that means retaining in our own hands the independent nuclear deterrent. In saying this, however, I should admit that, however shocking it may appear to some noble Lords, at any rate, on the other side of the House, I am not so afraid in practice of the nuclear bomb as they are. I am very conscious of its terrifying power. I learned a good deal about it when I was Lord President and was responsible for the Atomic Energy Authority, and I must say it made my hair stand on end. But, even so, I do not believe it is right that we should be obsessed by it to the exclusion of everything else. On the contrary, I believe that it is, on the whole, a factor at the present time for peace rather than for war, and that the experience of the last twenty years amply confirms this.
What seems to me a peril that is at the present time both more urgent and more terrifying even than the bomb is the steady erosion of Western power and Western influence in the outlying parts of the world, which never relaxes and is steadily circumscribing and restricting, year by year, and month by month, the area of the Free World. That applies equally to Asia and Africa.
756 But the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has already spoken about Asia, and I propose to devote myself to Africa.
In this connection, your Lordships may remember some lines from a very famous poem by Arthur Hugh Clough:While the tired waves, vainly breaking,Seem here no painful inch to gain,Far back, through creeks and inlets making,Comes silent, flooding in, the main.That, as I see it, is very much the conception which may well present itself to the long-range strategists of the Eastern bloc to-day. Europe, Berlin and the rest of it—even the nuclear deterrent itself—may well, I believe, in the vast framework of world domination, be in essence merely a holding operation. They do not at present want to move forward in Europe; they do not need to move forward in Europe. What they want to do is to outflank Western Europe; to isolate it. A frontal attack on Western Europe, if it takes place at all, will be only at the final phase, when the flank has already been turned.
I know that to many of your Lord-ships this must appear just as a bee which has long been busily buzzing in my bonnet. But surely there can be no one, even the most ardent European, who is not beginning to turn apprehensive and startled glances at what is happening further South. In a speech which I made to your Lordships over five years ago, I used these words:I believe that we of the West would do well at any rate to be cautious of anything that savours of a power vacuum…. There are far too many power vacuums in the world already, and nearly all of them, in my experience, seem to lead to a further shrinking of the area of free civilisation.We used to regard the Middle East as just such a cordon sanitaire between Russia and Africa; but it is rapidly becoming something very different, something dangerously like a springboard for the spread of Communist propaganda throughout the African continent.And I added:… if they controlled Africa, too (and, believe me, my Lords, that is not such a fantastic dream, in view of what has already happened since the war), they would have outflanked Western Europe from the South and might well feel that the cold war had almost been won.Those words were spoken, my Lords, away back in the days after Suez; and one main justification of them, at any 757 rate in my mind, was to prevent the East-West conflict from spreading over into Africa. If I quote them now, it is not because I claim any special merit for them, but merely because they seem to me to be of relevance to the situation with which we are at present faced.
That was only live years ago. What has happened since? The dams have been broken. The full surge of the Eastern flood waters are flowing over and submerging vast tracts of Central Africa. Zanzibar has gone; great areas of the Congo have gone. How confident can we be that the forces in that country who are friendly to the West will prevail? And how confident can we be, either, in the light of what has already happened, about future developments in Tanganyika, Kenya, Ghana and in others of the new States of Africa? If I am told that it is tactless to voice these fears here publicly in Parliament—that these things are better not said—my answer must be: can we really be expected to hide our heads in the sand for ever? My Lords, I am sure that I am not the only one who is getting (if I may use a colloquialism) "fed up" with this conspiracy of silence—what I can only call this sinister conspiracy of silence—which pervades our country to-day.
According to Press reports—and they were not refuted by what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, to-day—thousands and thousands of men, women and children—white and black; and principally black—are being tortured to death, burnt alive, murdered or raped. These are not bad people, but good people: missionaries, Christian converts and people of that kind. Hundreds of Christian hostages, so far as they are still alive, are wearily, hopelessly, being dragged along in the wake of these Eastern forces. Great provisions of arms and ammunition, according to the Press, are being regularly flown into Zanzibar and the Sudan—and we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Walston, this afternoon, also to Algeria and Egypt—and from there are being transported by air to supply and finance the soldiers of what may now, I think, fairly be called the guerrilla armies of the East.
My Lords, I am going only by what I read in the Press—that is the only source which I have for my information—but I see no reason to doubt it; and, at 758 any rate, it has not been denied. Yet hardly a squeak has been uttered—at least until yesterday; and then, if I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Walston, it was hardly more than a squeak—by the leaders of the political Parties, the public Press, or even the Leaders of the Christian Churches. The noble Lord, Lord Walston, told us to-day, in his general comment on the subject, that everything possible was being done. But he added very little to what he told us yesterday, and he will, therefore, I am sure, forgive me if I press the Government a little further.
I know that the question of the Congo has already been raised once in the United Nations, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Caradon (and we are glad to see him here to-day), took part in the discussion. But are we, in view of the danger to our own nationals, proposing to raise it again, and to continue to raise it, whenever possible, until something is done by that body? I may be told that such action would be futile in the present composition and mood of the United Nations—and I hope that we may hear a little more about that from the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, when he speaks to us to-morrow. But if that be the case, if it is not any use our raising these matters in the United Nations, surely there are still some other things that we can do, and other steps that we can take, which the noble Lord, Lord Walston, did not mention.
What about Mr. Tshombe? He has within the last few days been in Europe; and he may be here still. Have Her Majesty's Government asked him to come to this country to concert plans, both for saving the hostages, those who still remain alive, and for halting this Eastern drive? I should very much like an answer to that question from the Government spokesman who is to reply, perhaps this evening. What about those British nationals in those parts of the Congo which are not yet involved in the present troubles? Have they been advised by Her Majesty's Government that, if not themselves, any rate their children should be cleared out until things become calmer? I gather from the noble Lord, Lord Walston, that such advice has been given in individual cases. But could not that advice be more general and more public than it has been? That seems, I suggest, an elementary precaution. It 759 really is no good waiting until the worst has occurred; and though I was very glad to hear from what the noble Lord said that something, at any rate, is being done, there should be no delay that is avoidable.
What about the supply of arms from Eastern sources, to which I have already referred? Are we doing anything about them? Obviously, we cannot prevent their coming in from Egypt and from Algeria: we are not in a position to do that. But if it is true that they are coming in from Zanzibar and Tanganyika, as has been suggested in the Press, are there no representations that we could make there? These countries are still members of the British Commonwealth. Could we not bring a little pressure on them in some way or another? I may be just over-suspicious, but I have a strong and most uncomfortable impression that things of this kind are not being done because the Government do not dare to speak out, as I am afraid the late Government did not, for fear of annoying, and even alienating, African members of the Commonwealth who, in their heart of hearts, are against Tshombe and in favour of those forces of the Congo which we still euphemistically call the "rebels", but whom it would now be truer to describe as the levies of the Eastern bloc. If that is the case, my Lords, if we are to fight with our hands tied while they fight with free hands and no Queensberry Rules, we shall lose Africa and with it, very likely, the East-West war.
I hope that the Government will consider seriously what I say. Believe me, it is not such nonsense as some of your Lordships may think. I hope, too, that here and now, to-day, and without more ado, the Government will give a clear declaration of their horror, shock and repulsion which these events have caused. And, not only that, but that it is their firm determination, too, to stand behind the friends of the West in what has now become—and make no mistake about it—the new cockpit of the East-West war. I would ask the Opposition, too, my own Party, to make up their minds as to their policy for the Congo (I am afraid that they have not done that up to now) and to declare their support for any firm steps which the Government may find it possible to take. For the longer we wait, the more will difficulties rise up before us. Time is not on our side, and if we 760 do not take our stand now it may be too late, I gravely fear, to save the Congo; and far more than the Congo, too.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, I should have loved to follow the noble Lord, Lord Kennet (whom I am sorry not to see in his place), on the subject of Parliamentary sub-diplomacy, or sub-Parliamentary diplomacy—I cannot quite remember which. It is a fascinating subject and one, I am sure, which we might well one day, perhaps on a Motion of his, debate in this House as a subject in itself.
To-day I want to refer to rather wider issues, if I may. It is easy for all of us to be pretty gloomy about the present international situation. I must confess that sometimes in the small hours of the night I have a nightmare. Perhaps it is a nightmare which some of your Lordships occasionally share. It is the idea of the emergence, soon perhaps, of a rather down-at-heel, but quite complacent Britannia living "on tick" under the nuclear umbrella of the United States; indulging in quite unrealistic day-dreams; keeping up all her ancient traditions, such as tea-breaks, restrictive practices, football pools, meiosis and the Changing of the Guard; massaging her battered pride by maintaining a few bombers East of Suez; playing the Lady Bountiful with inadequate means in Indonesia, and indeed in Africa; and, in a word, trying to fill the rôle of a world Power without either the will or the capacity to do any such thing.
That is the nightmare. Some nightmares do occasionally come true, and it is certainly, in my view, a danger. I believe, however, that, provided we can strengthen our base—I mean strengthen our base not only economically but also politically—by a great national effort, we can still play a notable part in world affairs. There is one condition for the success of this effort. We must, all of us, have some clear notion of our rôle in the world and of the objectives which it is sought to secure as a result of any sacrifices that we may have to make.
What, therefore, my Lords, is now the big idea, the great ideal, put before the British people, those staunch characters, chiefly responsible for the defeat of 761 Hitler, who are now urged to recapture the spirit of Dunkirk, however unclear it may be exactly whom or what they are expected to fight in the hills or on the beaches? Well, at the moment, the big idea is, it seems, the creation of what is called the Atlantic Nuclear Force, which will, it is no doubt hoped, to some extent cement what is vaguely known as the Atlantic Community, coupled with "peace-keeping", as it is called, in the Indian Ocean.
As President of the Atlantic Treaty Association I should like to congratulate the Government sincerely on the energy which they are displaying on this front, and on their determined search for new ideas with which to fortify the whole Atlantic Alliance. Incidentally, I must confess, with all respect to the noble Marquess who spoke before me, that I have always maintained that our own so-called independent deterrent could never in practice be used or threatened independently in Europe, in Asia, or anywhere else. But an Atlantic force is, after all, in itself, an instrument rather than a policy, and I should like for a moment to examine the political background of the various new defensive proposals that we have in front of us now, in order to see where they may be leading politically. I shall also suggest that something more than what is now being proposed is necessary if our great national effort, to which I have referred, is to have any real hope of succeeding.
So far as the A.N.F. is concerned, we know what is suggested now. Our own nuclear submarines, when they are built, together with four or five matching American nuclear submarines, and our rather obsolescent but still effective V-bombers, would indeed represent a very considerable striking power. We all know that. It might even—I do not know the facts exactly—represent 6 or 7 per cent. of the total striking power of the Western world, and that is something. Nor would it result in any so-called proliferation, since only existing or already planned nuclear weapons, as I understand it, would be put into the common pool. It is evident, too, that the Germans, if they came in, would not be able to put in anything equivalent to the British participation. But the hope, I suppose, is that they might find some satisfaction in their veto, and in their large participation in 762 organisation and planning. So far, obviously, so good.
What is not clear about the A.N.F. is the nature of the control, and on this depends, of course, the entire political significance of the whole apparatus. It seems that this control will in some way be outside the NATO Council, and that it might provide even for some collective European veto. This last is frankly impossible in the circumstances, since without France, and incidentally without Great Britain, no valid political Europe can possibly emerge. Germany, if she came in, would therefore have a veto just as absolute as that of Great Britain, and so would any other European Power which made a contribution, however small.
If this is really so, then the credibility of the A.N.F., however powerful, with all respect to what the noble Lord, Lord Walston, said, would be zero; and in this respect I entirely agree with the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury. This is, of course, always supposing that the vetoes are really enforceable by electronic or other means, because if they are not, then presumably the adversary might conclude that they could in the last resort be overridden. Here some compromise solution—and I am sure the Government will agree—will clearly have to be found before an eventual agreement can be reached.
What is clear in any case is that the A.N.F., however constructed—and I myself feel that it might be very desirable-would not alter the existing world situation very much. As I have said, even now I think the British nuclear arm cannot possibly be used or threatened independently of the United States. If we went into the A.N.F., neither we nor the Americans could use it, or threaten its use, without the full consent not only of Germany but of other possible European participants such as Italy, Belgium, Holland or even, theoretically, Luxembourg. But it does not really matter very much since, as things are, the only credible nuclear weapon is that of the United States; and, incidentally, it seems that we could always withdraw if we wanted to, and would actually have the right to withdraw when the NATO Alliance terminates in 1968—not that it actually terminates then, but we could come out in 1968 or later if we wanted 763 to. No doubt we should have the satisfaction of taking part in the force on an equal basis with the United States, although I suppose it is not certain that Congress would allow the American contribution to be subjected to the same servitudes as ourselves; I do not know. But we should retain, at any rate in theory, our present ability to make independent use of some of our V-bombers, at any rate East of Suez.
I repeat that it does not seem to me that the present balance of power would change very much whether we formed an A.N.F. on these lines or whether we did not. The Russians should not be at all alarmed. We should move perhaps a little nearer to America and a little further away from Europe, though so long as our contribution is under our national direction, not much. The main disadvantage would obviously be the apparent isolation of France, which I will touch on later. But under the A.N.F. as at present outlined, more especially if mixed-manning is avoided and there are no electronic vetoes—and here I would differ slightly from the noble Lord, Lord Carrington—some place could be kept open for France, and thus the whole scheme might conceivably be consonant with an eventual European Union, again including this country.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, if the noble Lord would excuse my interrupting for a moment, I did not mean that a place could not be kept open for France. What I was suggesting was that the French would not want a place.
§ LORD GLADWYN
Not at the moment but—who knows?—they might very well want it in the future. It is a possibility.
My Lords, as for peace-keeping East of Suez, of course I am all in favour of it in principle in so far as it is both practicable and within our means, but I am afraid I am sceptical about the extent to which this particular effort is likely to raise our prestige or our national morale. Certainly it will hardly in itself have any very encouraging effect on our economy. Indeed, I completely share the view excellently expressed the other day in another place by the Leader of the Liberal Party. The Prime Minister says that our world mission—accepted, it would appear, with enthusiasm by the Americans—is to maintain our existing 764 bases and to help them (that is to say, the Americans) to keep the local inhabitants in order simply, as I understand it, because we are there. This reminds me of a song which I sang when I was in the Army during the First World War to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne". It ran:We're here because we're here because we're here because we're here".It gave us soldiers at that time perhaps rather more emotional than intellectual satisfaction.
However, the real question, obviously, is: How long are we going to be in Cyprus, or in Aden, or in Singapore?—more particularly, perhaps, in Cyprus and in Aden. The Prime Minister rightly says, only for so long as the local inhabitants really want us to be there. He is quite right. Though I may be quite wrong and am certainly open to correction, I frankly doubt whether they will want us to be in Aden, or indeed in the whole Persian Gulf area, for very much longer; and I am not at all convinced that it would not be in our long-term interests to clear out of Aden as soon as the South Arabian Confederation is suitably organised. We can always get our oil from that area because the owners would, after all, have nobody else to sell it to. Even if we had to pay considerable extra sums for it, it would probably be less than the £125 million a year which, if I am not wrong, we now expend on the Aden base. In any event, if we are to have any nuclear bombers or bases East of Suez or in Cyprus, I take it that we shall now be prepared to put them into some SEATO or Cento pool involving a veto for some of the countries concerned. All this, I suppose, can be negotiated later.
I think there is a much better prospect of helping to defend Malaysia with the continued good will, which will probably be forthcoming, of the Malays. But, if so, why not contemplate switching our lines of communication west-about so as to go through Canada, the Pacific Islands, New Zealand and Australia, and by such means building up with the Americans some real buttress, not only military but also perhaps political and economic, for the support of the whole of South-East Asia, and thus of India itself? All this, if the Government are seriously thinking of 765 reforming our entire defence structure, might perhaps be considered alongside the constructive but, I must confess, rather limited conception of an Atlantic Nuclear Force.
But if the proposed multilateral force of twenty surface ships, each with eight missiles, is proceeded with, either individually or as a part of the A.N.F., this is something very different. Surely, we must assume that, if it is formed, it will comprise missiles of new manufacture and not simply those taken from existing stockpiles. If so, then this tremendous new striking element would clearly be an addition to the present gigantic total striking force of the West. It might even represent some 10 per cent. of that vast panoply. Talk about "proliferation", that would be it! Also, if we only have a small participation ourselves, or none, let us face it, it would represent essentially a German-American force and no doubt at least some vessels in the mixed-manned fleet would have German captains. I am all for the West Germans being treated as absolute equals in the Alliance. The Minister of Defence says that in the Atlantic Nuclear Force they would be. But the point is that the M.L.F. could potentially give them something much more than a mere finger on the nuclear safety catch. The Americans may swear now that they would always have a veto; but in five or ten years' time, who can be absolutely sure?
What it comes down to is that the A.N.F. is excellent if the Germans will accept it, even though it would not change the present political situation very much. But the M.L.F. is a very different kettle of fish. It may be forced on us, perhaps to a limited extent, owing to the misguided nature of French policy towards this country, which, by excluding us from Europe, is obliging the Germans to lean increasingly heavily on the United States. But few people in this country can genuinely welcome it, even though they may think it is necessary for political reasons. Even if they are disposed to accept the whole thing in toto, is it not something rather in the nature of an act of faith? Was it not the great Tertullian who declared that he believed just because the object of his belief was impossible, if not absurd? I might quote it in Latin, but I am not sure I should get it right.
§ LORD GLADWYN
The trouble is that if the M.L.F. is abandoned owing to British opposition, it may give rise to much bad blood and encourage those forces in Germany which want, above all, to make a deal with General de Gaulle, whereas if we do take part in it we shall, as I believe, increase international tension and quite possibly, I am afraid, prepare some eventual renversement des alliances. This is a dilemma from which the Government will have to escape, and I have no doubt that they will, though it is evident that the negotiations will be pretty long and difficult.
I have referred to the present French policy, misguided as I think, based as it is to a large extent on an inferiority complex resulting from the last World War, which is perfectly comprehensible. We might as well admit that our own folly—until 1961, at any rate—was based, on the contrary, on a sort of superiority complex. What is certain is that both attitudes have been pretty disastrous and it is high time that they were radically changed.
Two events may possibly conspire together to change them. France, which, after all, has recovered her self-respect and, indeed, her greatness under General de Gualle, may now feel that the great agricultural victory she has just scored in Brussels—and, mark you, it is a great victory which will, in all probability, ensure the lasting success of the European Economic Community and even the foundations for the European Union of the future—has definitely established her position, and there is, therefore, no longer any possibility of her being thought to be less important, shall we say, than l'Angleterre. And we in Britain, for our part, who have for so long considered ourselves—let us face it—as something much more important than France, might now equally profit from our present misfortunes to consider that the position of our two countries is, as it happens, very similar. Both of us have discarded 767 Empires and by the very force of things have been thrown back to a large extent on ourselves. Both of us are faced by the same dangers. Both of us have great traditions and both have a future which cannot be ensured by any purely national approach.
Your Lordships may think me a man of one idea, but I repeat to you what I have said many times before in this House and elsewhere: unless we can get a satisfactory solution of Britain's relationship with Europe, which means, when you get down to it, a solution of the problem of Anglo-French relationship, there will not be any real progress in Europe, in NATO, or, indeed, towards the establishment of the much desired Atlantic Community; and we may well get, on the other hand, a really dangerous situation from which the only State to benefit will obviously be the Soviet Union.
What, therefore, can we do, apart from pushing ahead with some A.N.F., which I quite agree would be a considerable and welcome step in the right direction—and no doubt also making progress in O.E.C.D., the NATO Parliamentarians, and so on, in so far as this is possible so long as Europe remains economically divided? We can do something. We can, if we will, describe the general nature of the European Political Union which we should be prepared to join as soon as circumstances permit. I am not sure if that was exactly what was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington; if it was, I agree 100 per cent.
As it seems to me, it is no good our simply demanding that we should join and discussions on this subject which the Six may now wish to have among themselves. Our excellent Ambassador to the Community, Sir Con O'Neill, I see, has just made a powerful speech to this effect, and with the general desire to participate in the talks I am of course in full agreement. But how can we expect to be welcomed into such discussions unless we make it clear that we do genuinely seek a political union-something more than a mere alliance and certainly something less than a tight Federation—and give evidence also by our deeds and by our general attitude that this is our national intention? Otherwise, whatever the Government 768 may say, we shall certainly be suspected of merely wanting to join the talks in order to prevent the formation of any genuine political union. That is what we shall be suspected of. It may be quite unjustified, but unless we do "come clean", as it were, all the chances are that the Six will simply go ahead on their own and once more we shall have missed the bus. Bus missing seems to have become the besetting sin of Britain since the war, and if we do not look out there may be no more buses.
This is not the moment, nor is there time, to elaborate on the scheme which we might conceivably put forward if we so desired. I have myself had various shots at describing one in lectures and speeches and articles in the Press. We cannot, of course, accept anything in the nature of a Third Force outside the Alliance and completely divorced from the United States. Nor could we accept a political Federation. But even General de Gaulle says that he wants to maintain the Western Alliance, and he is not in favour of a Federation either. Subject to these two provisos, therefore, as I see it, all solutions are possible. Once the European political body, whatever it is and however rudimentary, is formed, once the political will, in other words, has manifested itself, one thing will lead to another and our common destiny will somehow be achieved.
Once we are in Europe everything is achievable, and with our great neighbours, and notably the French and the Germans, we shall work out that relationship with America which will one day undoubtedly result in the Atlantic Community of our dreams. Only when we have got as far as this will it be possible to proceed, no doubt through the United Nations, to construct that wider union of the year 2,000 or 2,050 that must surely be based, if it is to come into effect by agreement and not by force alone, on some equality between the great racial agglomerations of humanity, producing eventually, though not in our lifetime, the famous Parliament of Man, the Federation of the World.
§ 5.28 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down mentioned nightmares. I cannot say that I 769 suffer from them, except after a good dinner; so I will get down to realities. I would say that it has never been more difficult than at the present time for anyone who is not a member of Her Majesty's Government to form a clear judgment on certain defence matters which obviously must involve secret knowledge of our nuclear capabilities. How can anyone on the Back Benches, on this side of the House, or on the opposite side of the House, be capable of judging whether this country can produce nuclear warheads for our Polaris missiles and other components unless he is in possession of secret knowledge which, for obvious reasons, cannot be disclosed? The question of whether we can, in fact, maintain an independent nuclear force or only an interdependent nuclear force cannot, I suggest, be intelligently debated to-day in the light of our present limited knowledge. I very much regretted that I was unable to be present to hear the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. No doubt he dealt with these matters; but I hope your Lordships will bear with me if I deal with them again.
Perhaps the noble Lord who is to reply for Her Majesty's Government can state categorically that we are unable to produce the necessary fission material for our Polaris warheads and other vital component parts, and also say why this is not possible. I think the Prime Minister in another place: maintained that we could have No 1ndependent deterrent because we could not make Polaris warheads. I suggest that the truth is that we may well be able; to produce the warhead nuclear material and other components for the short-range Polaris missile, but not for the improved A.3 type with the longer range. Perhaps the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government can clarify the position. Not to be outdone by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in his Latin I would say, Quad erat demonstrandum. We have been told by Her Majesty's Government that they plan to assign our Polaris submarines and a large proportion of our V-bomber force irrevocably to NATO control, or its superimposed body, the Atlantic Nuclear Force. But I maintain that the independent control of our own nuclear deterrent provides the only ultimate defence against nuclear attack on this island and, what is sometimes forgotten, against nuclear black- 770 mail. I would ask Her Majesty's Government whether it is their intention to accept the American electronic locks for British Polaris submarines which we are preparing to contribute to a NATO Nuclear Force. The Opposition in another place said that they stood by paragraph 9 of the Nassau Agreement, in which we reserved the right to withdraw our forces from NATO in the event of a supreme national crisis. I entirely support this view, but I would remind your Lordships that this would be of little avail in the case of Polaris missiles if American electronic locks are fitted.
I have been a Parliamentary delegate to NATO for some ten years, and I think it would be a grave mistake to hand over our nuclear capability irrevocably to NATO. Both France and China are building up nuclear forces under their own control, and for these reasons alone I feel that we should maintain control of our deterrent. There is no doubt that we are trying to do too much in the field of defence with too little. We are attempting to keep up a strategic Nuclear Force, a NATO force, and to be a policeman outside Europe; and our economy cannot stand the strain unless we are prepared to have guns and no butter—and in these days this is not practical politics.
Unless we have a change in policy, defence costs are going automatically to increase from year to year without any parallel strengthening of our forces, and I feel that the time has come when we must seriously consider a reduction of our forces in Germany. I suggest that, so long as the danger of war in Europe is not rated high—and I think this is true to-day—it is far better to be certain of being able to meet our commitments East of Suez than to try to maintain this enormous standing Army in Europe.
There are many questions which still remain unanswered. Will the V-bombers to be stationed outside Europe have a nuclear capability; and, if so, what provision is going to be made when these bombers become obsolete? I have no doubt that America attaches great importance to the maintenance of our forces in the Middle East, the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia. But is she prepared to assist in any way in reducing the cost of this maintenance? I rather think that the Prime Minister touched on 771 this matter with President Johnson during his recent visit to the U.S.A., and perhaps Her Majesty's Government can tell us something about that to-day. There is no doubt, my Lords, that we must have a complete review of our defence policy and of the costs involved. The size of our total Defence effort must depend on the policies which Her Majesty's Government are seeking to achieve, and I am sure that the paramount one to-day should be that of keeping the peace East of Suez.
The Prime Minister has said in his recent speeches that it is out of the question for Britain to abandon her world rôle. I am sure that we are all delighted at this statement. We cannot do everything we should like to do, and I hope that the next Defence White Paper will indicate a considerable reduction of our troops in Germany and a build-up in our strategic forces at home, as well as a saving in our defence expenditure. I would say that in this question of defence the fundamental difference between Her Majesty's Government and the Opposition is that your Lordships on the Benches opposite believe in collective security and interdependence with the Western Alliances and the United States. We on this side of the House believe that we must be able to stand on our own feet, and that NATO's interest and our own may not always be the same, so that an independent nuclear deterrent is vital for the protection of the country.
I should like to take this opportunity of reminding your Lordships of the increasing importance of Her Majesty's Navy, in view of the gradual reduction of our bases abroad. This point was brought out in Lord Gladwyn's speech. Aircraft carriers are now of the utmost importance for operations in the Far East. Obviously, air support cannot be carried out from this country, and as our bases abroad are slowly decreasing, local air cover cannot be provided. Another difficulty, and one which is sometimes forgotten, is that many countries now claim sovereignty of the air space above them, with the result that fly-over is restricted. I hope that we shall hear from Her Majesty's Government that work on the new aircraft carrier is continuing, and that the promised increase in conventional naval forces will be provided in the near future.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, there are only three aspects of the Government's national defence programme to which I wish to refer this evening. One is the possibility of making our deterrent less credible; secondly, the illogicality or the paradoxical situation of proposing to have an independent nuclear force—that is, our V-bomber force—in order to fulfil our world-wide commitments outside the European area, while abandoning or proposing to abandon our independent nuclear force in the NATO area. The third is the appearance of making this country still more dependent on the United States.
I think it is true to say that to-day, with present stocks of American and Russian nuclear bombs, every inhabitant in this world of ours is, to quote an American expression, "over-killed" several times over. So any country which possesses even a small supply of these bombs can be sure of being able to command respect, politically or militarily, on account of the unacceptable degree of damage that could be inflicted should it ever come to the point of armed conflict. At the moment, I still believe that our nuclear bomber force, and particularly our Polaris force of the future, could, under existing arrangements, be used independently should supreme national interest be at stake.
In another place last week, the Prime Minister said:My view is that the Americans will honour all their obligations, both to NATO and to us, in respect of Polaris."—[Official Report, Commons, Vol. 704 (No. 36), col. 700, December 17, 1964.]Later on he went on to say:The fact is that there is No 1ndependent deterrent because we are dependent on the Americans for the fissile material for the British warhead." [col. 702].As I understand it, as yet there has been no question of re-negotiation of the Nassau Agreement. It does not appear to have been discussed in Washington, and therefore paragraph 9 was not abrogated. So far as I can see, the two quotations of the Prime Minister would, to some extent, seem to be in conflict.
Regarding the Atlantic Nuclear Force proposals, it would appear that in Europe it was recognised that Her Majesty's Government had taken a lead.
773 Where that lead will get them we shall see; but with the possibility of so many vetoes or fingers on the safety catch the credibility of such a Force being really effective as a deterrent becomes even more remote. The inclusion of a mixed-manned element would also tend, in my humble opinion, to minimise the effectiveness of such a Force.
I should now like to refer to a conference which took place last April within the walls of the Houses of Parliament and which brought together British and French Parliamentarians of various Parties. The subject of discussion was our national defence policies. It was agreed then that as our policies were running along parallel lines we should endeavour to merge them so far as possible. Therefore, may I express the hope that when the Prime Minister visits General de Gaulle next month in Paris he will bear that feeling in mind? Yesterday the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, stated that Her Majesty's Government welcomed co-operation in the technical field of Anglo-French defence projects, and increasing cost certainly strengthens the case for sharing the expense. But I consider that this could usefully be extended, for there is also a need for joint studies to be undertaken on ways and means in which a joint defence effort could be undertaken for the defence of Western Europe.
Both countries are, or will be, nuclear Powers of importance, though not comparable to the United States or Russia. I read not very long ago in the Army Quarterly that in six years' time France proposes to have the equivalent of 2,000 Hiroshima-type bombs, a not negligible quantity. Britain, and France to a lesser degree, are European powers with extra-European military commitments. Both countries spend just over 7 per cent. of their gross national produce on defence; both countries are allied in NATO, Western European Union, and Seato. Therefore there would seem to me to be reasonable grounds for harmonising our two defence policies.
I should like now to refer to the extra-European area of our commitments. Now that China has exploded her own nuclear device (as the noble 774 Lord, Lord Chalfont, reminded us last week, it was no Heath Robinson affair), it seems a little strange that Her Majesty's Government have chosen this moment to retain, on the one hand, an independent nuclear deterrent, a V-bomber force, for one area, and yet wish to renounce independence for the European area. I hope it will be possible for the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, when he comes to reply, to throw some light on how an independent nuclear force of ours would be able to deter in areas such as Malaysia, India and Vietnam. Could the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton explain this dual standard, or explain the attitude which was expressed by Frank Giles in last week's Sunday Times when he referred to abandoning our independent nuclear power to deter whites and retaining it to deter browns and yellows?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I should like to know what the noble Lord is asking me. I am afraid I simply do not understand what he is saying.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
I am trying to ask the noble Lord how Her Majesty's Government view the way in which our independent nuclear bomber force could be used as a deterrent in extra-European areas.
As the Prime Minister has not yet visited Paris, Bonn or Rome, I can understand that Her Majesty's Government's plans may at the moment be a little hazy, or possibly, to use Lord Walston's expression, still in a fluid state. But will Her Majesty's Government bear in mind that the Labour Party stated in their Election Manifesto that they believed in the interdependence of the Western Alliance? To me that implies a recognition of the importance of such an Alliance, and also not taking any action which is liable to disrupt it. In this context an important step forward has been taken by France in agreeing to co-ordinate the targeting of their nuclear strike aircraft with the American Strategic Air Command. This would seem to show an understanding of interdependence whilst still retaining independence.
To end, I should like to express the hope that the examination which the British and American Governments are 775 proposing to make with a view to investigating the possibility of manufacturing under licence in this country certain aircraft, will not mean the abandonment of our TSR 2 in favour of the F.111, for, as I understand it, our TSR 2 can fly in at a lower height although it is a little slower than the American F.111. I should have thought that this was an important point when one thinks of radar detection.
In order, as I feel, not to increase abnormally our dependence on America it should be possible to have discussions with the French for further joint production and joint research and development projects. It might be useful—in fact I am quite certain that it would be useful—to bring the Italians and the Germans into such discussions. I would most sincerely agree with the Prime Minister when he said last Wednesday that we still lead the world in the design of aero engines; but if this country is to show that we are European in outlook, as was hoped by some noble Lords on this side of the House, I should have thought that a start could be made to heed the words of Mr. John W. R. Taylor, the editor of Jane's All the World's Aircraft, when he wrote that our aircraft industry should participate more in European programmes. I am sorry if I have gone into certain details, but I was hoping that in view of the noble Lord's interest in the future and effectiveness of the Royal Air Force, he would be able to say something on these matters of detail this evening.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I am afraid that I am not going to say anything to the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale on the TSR 2. I am sorry, and I am sure he is very frustrated, because he thought there was going to be some sort of debate to-day; but at least he was able to make a speech on the other subject. But there will be a further opportunity later, and I hope he will accept that this is a matter which can perhaps be better discussed when we come to debate the aviation industry.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? I understood that the debate to-day was to be on the Concord—a civil aviation project. I am talking about our national 776 defence which has nothing to do with civil aviation, apart from the fact that the aircraft is manufactured by the aircraft industry.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I thought the debate to-day was to be on Foreign Affairs. I do not know whether the noble Lord would have talked better about the TSR 2 in a debate on the Concord than he has been able to do in a debate on this particular subject. But I fully accept that Defence comes into this.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but the point is that the Prime Minister did refer, in his speech on foreign affairs last week, to this agreement with the Americans with regard to the aircraft industries of our two countries. I thought that the subject was relevant to to-day's discussion.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord is being as helpful as he can, and I hope we shall have an opportunity to pursue this further.
My Lords, I should first like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Oakshott. He is, of course, a very experienced Parliamentarian. Like many of us, he has found it rather trying to be confronted with a second maiden speech which was certainly never anticipated. But I thought his was a perfect example, and I think we all genuinely liked very much what he had to say. It was in every way appropriate. I think he will find that there are some considerable compensations for being among your Lordships, and we are certainly very glad to have him here.
This has now become a two-day debate. I certainly would not quarrel with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in his wish to make it a two-day debate. The difficulty, of course, is that we never know (and when he was Leader of the House the noble Lord will have experienced this) quite what the net is going to bring in in the way of speakers. But there is an advantage, that at least to-day's debate will end at what is, for us, a reasonable hour. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, made a number of points, and, if he does not mind, I intend to reserve my comments on these 777 until the latter part of my speech, because there are certain other aspects in the field of Foreign Affairs—and we are debating Foreign Affairs—that I should like to mention first.
In particular, I should have liked to tell my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough that, so far from ignoring the question of South America, I had, in fact, intended to open my speech with references to the importance of South America. My noble friend Lord Walston said that neither he nor I was equivalent to General de Gaulle, but I think that by the time the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has also visited South America we might have provided some sort of equivalent. I certainly could not leave a debate on Foreign Affairs, after a visit to a delightful country such as Chile, without stressing my own belief, and indeed the belief of Her Majesty's Government, in the importance of developments in those areas; and, particularly, our great wish for stable and good government.
As the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will find, there is a very promising situation in Chile, under President Frei. I shall say no more than that the Government are concerned, as I am sure were the last Government, with this area, which is of great importance. Of course, it is inevitable that the United Kingdom, with important direct responsibilities in other parts of the world, and as a European country as well, should in its foreign affairs be devoting a greater part of its considerations and activities to fields where there are pressing problems with which it has to deal.
I think that some of the detail of this debate has been particularly interesting, and I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, if he has not gone (I am afraid that he has; but I will still say it, although it is rather against my rules to reply to Members of this House who do not wait for the wind-up) that I have a certain sympathy with him on this question of Parliamentary delegations and the composition of them. Any noble Lords who have been on them will have views on this matter. There are reasons for what happens and for the arrangements which we make; none the less, I think there is something to be said for Her Majesty's Government's giving this matter some further consideration. At any rate, 778 I shall mention it to my right honourable friends, including of course those really powerful figures, the Whips, who play a large part in this. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, is not here, so we will leave his points.
I should like, however, to come on to that faithful attender, the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury. Let me say straight away to him that I hope he will not think—and I am sure no one will think—that, because there were not greater expressions of horror at what happened in the Congo, we did not all share that feeling. I believe there was a general feeling (hat we were almost stunned by what had been said. The stories were reported pretty factually in the Press, but I think even the Press recoiled from stressing them. I agree with the noble Marquess that, of course, if we stop thinking purely in terms of Europeans, the horror is quantitatively even vaster. It is an appalling story. But when the noble Marquess appeals either to the Government or to his own Party to face up to the situation and to do something about it, he must realise that it is extremely difficult to do so.
My noble friend Lord Caradon has of course been dealing with this matter very fully in the United Nations, and anyone who has read his extraordinarily fine speech to the United Nations will agree that we have shown a great awareness, and are looking very hard for any course that is open to us. But I do not believe that anyone in this country can quickly point to an easy solution, other than some form of international solution. It may well be that the African nations themselves will be able to come together to avoid this situation turning into what I believe it still has not yet become, a wholly East—West struggle. But there are all the signs and the dangers.
The real tragedy, of course—and some responsibility for this must be borne by those who have criticised the United Nations in the past; I am not referring to any particular noble Lord opposite—is that there is no United Nations presence or force to-day in the Congo. The fact that weapons are coming in, either through the United Arab Republic or through countries in Northern Africa, arises from some sad events in the past. I would not even now minimise the signi- 779 ficance of the Suez operation in contributing to this situation. But I agree that we do not want to dig back into that. None the less, a solution will not be found easily, or purely by national action, however justified the particular relief operation that was conducted may have been.
My Lords, the noble Marquess also said that he was not so afraid of the nuclear bomb, and I will take that remark in the sense in which I am sure he meant it. He was not wishing to suggest that he was not horrified at the possibility of total annihilation, but was expressing the feeling that, properly used, nuclear forces may indeed, by their share of horror, have contributed to peacekeeping. On this, I do not think there is very much difference in the views held by the majority of people. Where there is a difference, of course, is in the particular policies with which we operate them—and I shall come on to this aspect when I attempt a further explanation of the Atlantic Nuclear Force. Before I do that, however, I should like just to mention one or two points which were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington.
I think that my noble friend Lord Walston dealt with the question of Indonesia, and I would wholly agree with his view of the Indonesian and Malaysian confrontation. We are, of course, committed, as were the previous Government, to giving full protection. None the less, we all hope, as did the previous Government, that a solution will be found. It may well be that situations will change, and fairly quickly, as they have done in the past; but one cannot at the moment point to any particular encouraging sign.
It was in that context that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, asked me to say something about sophisticated weapons. I must confess that I had not prepared for this particular question. However, I would say this to him. The Prime Minister said that he thought it was right to consider whether or not—and the noble Lord will remember the actual phrase—there were less sophisticated weapons which, arriving earlier and in greater quantity, might be of more value to us in operations outside Europe.
My Lords, the danger of a discussion at this moment (and it may well be that we shall have an opportunity in the Defence debate to go more fully into this 780 aspect) is that it depends precisely on the particular situation. In a major confrontation, a major exchange—and I shall not refer to any particular country—it may well be that, outside or inside Europe, one will need some of the most sophisticated, indeed the most sophisticated, weapons. But in particular operations, such as those which are going on along the Borneo frontier at the moment, the fact is that there are practically no targets for aircraft. I say this only to make clear that I have taken note of the point of the noble Lord. I do not think he need be too anxious in this regard.
None the less, it is clearly right that we should consider this question if, in fact, we are to keep military expenditure within reasonable bounds. But since, as I have said, we shall have further opportunities to discuss these matters, I do not propose to accept the invitation (I would hardly call it the challenge, because it was too pleasantly put) of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, to discuss how, in fact, we shall succeed in cutting our Defence costs. I would reiterate, however, what I have certainly said before: that, however the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, may have wished at times to interpret the remarks of the Opposition in another place, we have always made it clear that the Government accept—and I have always said that the Labour Party accept—certain commitments. Indeed, I think the speeches of the present Government show that, if anything, we have strengthened the emphasis of our commitment in certain areas, especially East of Suez.
I should like now to turn to one of the most difficult subjects—namely, the Atlantic Nuclear Force and the independent deterrent. I must confess that my heart sinks every time I think I may have to argue once again whether or not we have an independent deterrent. I propose to approach this matter by setting out the Government's actual proposals for the Atlantic Nuclear Force, and to argue that they will be more effective in securing the peace of the world than the preservation of so-called independence. I would ask the members of the Opposition to consider the arguments which we are putting forward. I would assure the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that this is not an attempt on the part of the Prime Minister to 781 "get off the hook". I have discussed this with him, and a matter of constant consideration in the Government has been how to deal with these problems of proliferation, of security, of the Alliance and of non-dissemination.
I would say that there is one important difference in regard to these particular proposals: that whereas under the previous Government the noble Lord suggested that the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office were not wholly agreed on the M.L.F., I can assure him that the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office are wholly united on the proposals of this Government—and this, in itself, I am sure the noble Lord will accept, is a considerable achievement.
My Lords, the proposals outlined by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place do represent—and I want to stress this—a major initiative in the search for a means of strengthening and unifying the Nato Alliance and, at the same time, of preventing the proliferation of strategic nuclear weapons. I am sure that these are objectives to which all noble Lords would subscribe. Let me explain the main objectives—and I would ask noble Lords, even though they may wish to challenge the detail of the way we are setting about it, to accept that these are our sincere intentions. First of all, we wish to foster the strength and unity of the Alliance as a whole by having regard to the position of those non-nuclear members of the Alliance who want to exercise a larger influence on nuclear planning, policy and strategy. Secondly, we wish to ensure that, so far as possible, the nuclear forces committed to NATO should be united under a single unified control system forming an integral part of the Defence structure of the Alliance as a whole.
My Lords, in setting out these detailed proposals, as I am doing, I realise that it is very easy to say, "Why play around with it in this way?" But I would ask noble Lords to consider again these proposals because, although the Government are going forward firmly on them, I would not for one moment suggest that we are not open to further consideration of the actual arrangements. Indeed, it is obviously impossible to produce a tightly-prepared package on which we must stand pat while the 782 negotiations are still going on. None the less, these are our objectives; and we have suggested that: this system should be called the Atlantic Nuclear Force. This would not be separate in any sense from NATO, or an alliance within the Alliance. The proposed Force would be "open-ended", if I may use such a word; that is, capable of accommodating any new participants who did not join at the start.
As our third objective, we want to create more opportunities for consultation within the Alliance on the policy of the Western Powers concerning nuclear weapons in any part of the world. The present nuclear Powers, the Western Powers, are committed to consult the North Atlantic Council, if time permits, before they use nuclear weapons anywhere. But there is no continuing consultation about deployment of nuclear weapons or situations which might call for their use; and the European countries, including the United Kingdom, have at least as great an interest in the use of the United States strategic nuclear forces as in the nuclear forces committed to NATO. As my right honourable friend said, nuclear war is no less indivisible than peace.
It is to meet these objectives that the Government have proposed the creation of the Atlantic Nuclear Force, with five main components: first, the British V-bomber force, except for those aircraft needed for commitments outside the Nato area—and it may well be that, when they are not needed, they will, like Bomber Command to-day, in fact, be hypothecated to the Atlantic Nuclear Force; secondly, a British fleet of Polaris submarines when available; thirdly, at least an equal number of United States Polaris submarines; fourthly, some kind of mixed-manned and jointly owned element or elements in which the existing non-nuclear Powers could take part; and, fifthly, any force which France may decide to subscribe. And I would once again stress how much I hope it would be possible for France to play her part in this.
There would be for the whole of this force a single authority on which all participating countries would be represented. The United States of America, the United Kingdom and, if she took part, France, would have a veto over the 783 use of all elements in the force and over any changes which might at any time be proposed in the control system. Any country participating in the mixed-manned element would also have a veto, if it wished. In other words, the contributors would have a veto. The authority for the force would act entirely on instructions from Governments and its duties would be five-fold. First, it would provide the force commander with political guidance; second, it would approve the force commander's plans for the use of all weapons of the force; third, it would take the decision to release nuclear weapons to the force commander; fourth, it would develop doctrine on the rôle of all types of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons; finally, it would consult and discuss possible contingencies anywhere in the world which might give rise to the possible use of nuclear weapons.
It has been suggested that these arrangements might be taken to imply that the control of the force would be something separate from NATO and that in some way the authority set up for the purposes of the force would supersede the Nato Council. I can assure noble Lords that this is not so. As the Prime Minister said, one of our aims is that the nuclear forces committed to Nato should be united under a single unified system forming an integral part of the defence structure of the Alliance as a whole. The Atlantic Nuclear Force would be collectively owned by the participating countries, and countries contributing forces to it would transfer title over them to the force collectively. The collective owners would then assign the force to Nato for use in co-ordination with the other forces available to the Alliance in accordance with the approved strategy and operating procedures of NATO. The precise relationship between the authority and the NATO Council is something for negotiation with our Allies, but the principle is that the authority for the Atlantic Nuclear Force should stand in the same relationship to NATO as a country which assigns nuclear forces to NATO. If noble Lords will consider it for a moment, they will see that this question of ownership and authority is fundamental to the reasons for making this particular form of proposal. The force will form part of a single unified 784 system and of the defence structure of the Alliance as a whole.
I should now like to mention two distinguishing features of these proposals, which, I would suggest, mark them out as a most significant advance upon any that have been discussed hitherto in your Lordships' House. First, it is the Government's proposal that the charter of the Atlantic Nuclear Force should contain clauses under which the nuclear members would undertake not to disseminate nuclear weapons, and the non-nuclear members would undertake not to acquire nuclear weapons or to acquire control over them. The purpose of these clauses would, of course, be to ensure that the new arrangements could not result in, or be represented as leading to, further dissemination of nuclear weapons. The Government further propose that, in accordance with these same principles of non-proliferation, there should be a prohibition of nuclear weapons passing into the ownership or control, not only of individual non-nuclear countries but also of a group of such countries.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I am grateful for the very full explanation of the control of nuclear weapons under the proposed force. It is, of course, very difficult to follow these very detailed proposals, and of course we shall study them carefully in the Official Report before the debate to-morrow, but may I ask the noble Lord this question? I am not quite clear about where the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, comes into all this. As I understand it, there will be an authority which has control over these weapons. How will that tie up with the overall authority of the Supreme Allied Commander? Will the Supreme Allied Commander have any nuclear weapons of his own, as he has now under his control, subject of course to the Nato Council?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, the noble Lord is referring to the present position in regard to Saceur. I am afraid I cannot answer this question because this is one of the matters which are now to be further considered. I am sorry. I have recently asked this question myself, but this is one of the matters which are subject to negotiation. Clearly it is important. There are arguments in favour of a separate commander, but this is still 785 a matter to be settled. I realise that this is very difficult, but I particularly wanted to give a very full explanation of the force.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord and I will not interrupt again. The point I wanted to make was this, As I understand it, when this matter was debated in another place the Prime Minister said that the object of this force was to unify in a united command all the nuclear weapons in NATO. But the proposal that the noble Lord has outlined does not do this. I should have thought there was a great danger of having two different authorities in control of nuclear weapons. This was the point I was seeking to clear up.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, the object is to unify the Alliance. I accept that. It must operate in a way not likely to set up tensions within the Alliance. When the noble Lord has an opportunity to consider it, he will see how the technical and legal relationships would work out. I ask him to consider this. I am not able to answer his particular questions, but they are relevant and are matters for further consideration. Of course, the point is that the Atlantic Nuclear Force has not yet reached the stage of coming into existence at all. The principles are still being negotiated. Once those are agreed, as we hope they will be, then some details will obviously have to be settled. None the less, the Government have considered the mechanics of this arrangement, and this is their present thinking.
I mentioned that the Government propose that there should be a prohibition of nuclear weapons passing into the ownership or control, not only of individual non-nuclear countries but also of a group of such countries. This part of the scheme is intended as a firm safeguard against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the dangers of which were recognised in your Lordships' debate last week on the subject of dissemination, and the importance of which I would emphasise. It received special emphasis in the communique of the NATO Ministerial Meeting which was, issued on December 17.
The second feature to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention is the Government's proposal that the 786 national elements in the Atlantic Nuclear Force should be committed to the force for as long as Nato continues to exist. The authority collectively, and the United Kingdom and the other national contributors, would of course retain the ability to take effective control of the weapons of the force if the Alliance, as such, should ever come to an end. But this is an eventuality which we do not contemplate. So far as this Government are concerned, the commitment to the Atlantic Nuclear Force would be regarded as an indefinite commitment, and its main effect is to supersede the qualification written into paragraph 9 of the Nassau Agreement that Britain's nuclear forces can be withdrawn from the Alliance when supreme national interests are at stake. The reason for this change is quite simply that this Government cannot conceive of any circumstances in which we should wish to use the main forces committed to the Atlantic Nuclear Force independently of our Allies in NATO. The Alliance, and our commitment to it, is the bed-rock on which our proposals are based.
Here perhaps I might answer the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Teynham. He asked, as did the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, about permissive links. I would draw his attention to column 607 [Vol. 704 (No. 36)], of the Official Report of another place, which I am sure he has seen, in which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence deals with the question of juridical and physical control. At the beginning of his remarks, the noble Lord pointed out that it would be impossible for any one not a member of the Government, or recently a member of the Government, to deal with these things, but he went on, with the utmost determination, to ask a number of questions, to some of which I am afraid I am unable to give him an answer. I can do nothing more than say that the juridical and physical control should be such as to permit the recovery of the British and other national contributions from the Force if, by any extraordinary chance, the NATO Alliance were dissolved. I do not want to go into any further details of the permissive links at the moment, but I shall be dealing with the noble Lord's remarks later.
787 I should like to say something about the mixed manned component. In this component, the present non-nuclear countries will be enabled to take part in manning and managing nuclear systems. This must be done in such a way as to prevent infringement of the principle of non-dissemination of nuclear weapons and also, of course, of design information. The Government made it clear that we should not wish to contribute to a surface ship component over and above our national contribution to the Force, but we are prepared to continue discussions about a land-based component or one made up of land-based aircraft, possibly coupled with missiles.
It seems to us—and in this I think there will certainly be agreement from the Secretary of State for Defence in the previous Government and even from the Foreign Secretary—that a mixed-manned surface force would be superfluous to the needs of the Alliance and would increase unnecessarily the number of nuclear weapons, the risks of incidents at sea and the overall financial and manpower burdens of the Alliance. A land-based component, in our view, would provide a means of using weapons which already exist or are planned, and need not add to the overall missile potential of the Alliance or to its manpower and financial burdens.
My Lords, purely for the sake of information, I should like to ask if the noble Lord can tell me whether the present mixed manned land-based component consists of approximately the same mix as put forward to NATO by the last Secretary of State?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I am afraid I cannot answer that question. As the noble Earl is aware, we have all come fairly fresh to this, and some of the details we have inherited from our predecessors and some are new. I would stress that all this is for discussion with our allies in NATO and it may be undesirable to set forward these details too much at this stage for fear that they appear to be firm commitments. While we seek to put forward definite proposals, we should like the details to remain flexible, so that the package deal is not of such a kind that people 788 will feel that it is a "take it or leave it" one.
Your Lordships will appreciate that these proposals are at present at a very formative stage and are being examined intensively with our friends in the Alliance; therefore there is a limit to the amount of detail that I can supply. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that I do not think he should take quite so gloomy a view of the reactions of our Allies to these proposals. He said he did not have the advantage of seeing telegrams, but obviously he has had the advantage of reading some of the Conservative papers. I can assure him that while, no doubt, there will be doubts and anxieties, there is very great interest, as I found in my own discussions. Indeed, I would say that this set of proposals has got off to a good start. And it is very important, unless noble Lords opposite are utterly opposed to what we are proposing, that they should give it a fair wind.
If I were asked to sum up the purpose of these proposals, I think that I should put it in this way. In practical terms, the main difference between the Government's policy and the policy of the previous Government is that we have freed ourselves from the tyranny of the phrase "independent deterrent". The proposals which we have put forward will enable us to use nuclear power in a more sophisticated and more constructive way. I say "sophisticated" because this is not a simple matter. I am not saying that sophistication in itself is a good thing, but a degree of care and detailed working out is necessary if we are to achieve our purpose, not to sustain some alleged national position, but to contribute in the long-term to the maintenance of peace and, as we hope, to the limitation of the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
While we all accept the sincerity of the position of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, I assure him that this proposal is of the greatest importance and that it is the greatest hope for the peace of the world. The previous Secretary of State for Defence gave it as his expressed opinion that we should never forgo our nuclear independence. We have now been able to get away from this and to bring a new emphasis to bear.
789 This is what is so important about the initiative taken by the Prime Minister and by my right honourable friend.
The last Government left us with a situation in which the only way of meeting the natural wish of such countries as Germany for so-called nuclear independence was the multilateral force proposals. I pay tribute to the restraint that the Germans have themselves shown in this matter, but, none the less, there is a natural desire for equality, and every argument the previous Government used in favour of the independent deterrent applied just as strongly to the non-nuclear countries. The only proposal that came forward was this (very unsatisfactory, we thought) proposal of a multilateral force. On this the last Government had very little to contribute, while the infighting was going on between the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office, but to sit and watch. They knew that for this country the choice was either to stay out, in which case the force would have become very largely a United States and German affair, or to make a major contribution, which, I would remind the two noble Lords opposite who were connected with the Admiralty, would not only have made no sense in military terms, but would have stretched our already overstrained resources and possibly lowered the efficiency of the Royal Navy.
The Government's new proposals have brought a radical change in the situation. Hitherto, this country has regarded its nuclear arm, first and foremost, as a means of demonstrating its own strength, and only secondarily as a means of strengthening the Alliance to which we belong. If they are accepted by our Allies, our new proposals will swing the emphasis through 180 degrees. Our nuclear arm will no longer be reserved for independent use by this country; it will be devoted indefinitely to the North Atlantic Alliance.
Under these proposals, all countries participating with us in the Atlantic Nuclear Force will be on a basis of equality with regard to ownership, control and management of nuclear weapons. For the first time, non-nuclear countries can contribute and will have a say in relation to the strategic deterrent. And why we believe that this is so powerful 790 and so desirable, and will not be damaging to a possible detente between Russia and ourselves, is that it will not increase the number of fingers on the trigger. Admittedly, there will be more fingers on the safety catch. I could obviously go on at length, and I apologise for having taken so much of your Lordships' time in explaining this rather complicated matter at somewhat high speed.
There are one or two other points to which I should like to refer. The noble Lords, Lord Teynham and Lord Merrivale, have had something to say about the independent nuclear deterrent in the Far East. Let me say that the retention of certain V-bombers for use outside Europe is necessary, as we all agree; they play an important part at the moment in a conventional capacity in regard to certain threats that exist to-day. But the decision does not mean that we shall be preserving our independent nuclear deterrent. On this I can only reiterate the words used by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister during the debate in the other place last week. We have an obligation to see what we can do with V-bombers outside the NATO area, and to discharge commitments and honour international guarantees, for example, to non-nuclear countries in Asia.
I admit that outside Europe a solution to the nuclear problem has still to be found, and the need for the solution has been underlined in the last few weeks by the explosion of a nuclear device by the Chinese. Although the explosion of this nuclear device may not at the moment represent a threat, nevertheless, it illustrates the long-term danger. It is too early yet to suggest what form a solution might take, but I can assure your Lordships that the Government are considering this problem very much. There have been suggestions that some form of guarantee, possibly involving all other nuclear Powers, is a possibility, rather on the lines of a concept that we have put forward for the Atlantic Nuclear Force. I would stress that this force is rather intended, as the Atlantic Nuclear Force, to serve two purposes: first, to provide security; and secondly, to prevent future danger, of which we must be acutely aware, of dissemination. I am afraid I cannot go further on this particular matter, and I do not think I should say any more about the rôle in which 791 the bombers might operate outside the NATO area. It was the practice of previous Governments, as noble Lords will agree, not to give information on this particular matter.
We have had some remarks of a teasing and penetrating kind from a number of noble Lords, and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in relation to certain remarks on the question of Polaris weapons, made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister when winding up the debate in another place. There has been some quite serious confusion on this subject, and there has naturally been a good deal of speculation in the Press. If I could find it, I should like to refer to a particular item which appeared in The Times, which sums it all up and which would enable me, without breaking the rules, to refer to what Mr. Thorneycroft said in another place. Noble Lords will, I am sure, permit me to say that Mr. Thorneycroft suggested that what the Prime Minister had said was false. I believe this was due to a genuine misunderstanding, which is always likely to happen in a debate, particularly one of a heated kind.
The position is this. What the Prime Minister said was entirely true, and I should like to reiterate this to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. Furthermore, he gave away no secrets. It is extremely difficult to deal with questions of fissile material. I would say on this point that it is perfectly true that certain of the technical materials—and I say no more than this—to which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, referred, which are of a nuclear kind and which we buy under special contract we could make in this country. The previous Government chose not to make Polaris weapons in this country, but to rely in this matter on the United States; and this they were perfectly entitled to do. I can only say that there are materials which are not specifically covered by the Agreement; and I would refer back to the 1958 Agreement on co-operation on the uses of atomic energy for mutual defence purposes, and draw the attention of noble Lords who were in the last Government to the fact that there can be no absolute guarantee in regard to certain matters.
792 I am sorry to have to speak less clearly than I might. Noble Lords in the Opposition will recall that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister offered an opportunity for discussions between the Opposition and the Government. I appreciate the difficulties that there are for an Opposition in accepting such a proposal; but I would reiterate that, to the best of my understanding—and I have gone deeply into this matter—what my right honourable friend said was correct. I do not disagree with what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said: that, if necessary, we could make all these things in this country; but they would be more costly and they would upset the timetable.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord, who has been patient and full in his explanation, but I do not think the Prime Minister and I can both be right. I have, after consultation with my colleagues, made a statement in my speech to-day which refutes what the Prime Minister said. What the noble Lord now seems to be saying is that if you buy a motor car you do not necessarily drive it. I own a Jaguar, and I drive it, not Sir William Lyons.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I do not think the noble Lord can have studied this as closely as possible. Perhaps we could go through it together. I can only say that the remarks I am making have also been carefully considered, and I must stand by what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said. There was a certain amount of heat engendered, with references to "rotten submarines" and so on: these things do happen. I would only say that I am satisfied that what my right honourable friend said is correct, and I do not think I can go further than that.
The time has gone by, and I must not delay the House any more. I would only say this, in the kindest way, to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who I do not think would wish to be misinterpreted, that inaction, as he suggested might be the best policy, is not what the present Government regard as the best policy—although it would be unfair to extend what he said, which was merely a piece of general wisdom. We regard initiative and determination in foreign 793 policy as of the highest importance at the moment. We cannot afford to let things drift. We see the dangers every time a new explosion takes place in the world. I would suggest to your Lordships that the Government's policy in regard to these matters, and the initiative they are taking, makes an important contribution towards keeping the peace of the world, and, incidentally, increasing the prestige of this country.
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Selkirk, I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Earl. Jellicoe.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.