§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD GARDINER)
My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
§ Moved to resolve, That it is desirable that, in the present Session, all Consolidation Bills (whether public or private), Statute Law Revision Bills and Bills prepared pursuant to the Consolidation of Enactments (Procedure) Act 1949, be referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Ordered, That a Message be sent to the Commons to communicate this Resolution and to desire their concurrence.
§ ADDRESS IN REPLY TO HER
MAJESTY'S MOST GRACIOUS
§ 3.8 p.m.
Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved on Tuesday last by Lord Francis-Williams—namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:—
Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I should like to preface my remarks with two apologies. First, very much to my regret, I fear I shall not be able to stay for the whole debate this evening. This is something of which I personally very much disapprove when it is done by others, and I can only offer the House my sincere apologies. It so happens that I undertook to preside and speak at a dinner to-night. The engagement was fixed many months ago, and as this debate was only recently fixed to take place to-day I can hardly give up the other engagement. Secondly, I, like all your Lordships, am very conscious of the tragic events which are taking place elsewhere in the world to-day, and I know all your Lordships' minds are concerned with those events. All of us are most anxious to hear the Statement at half-past three. However, the time between now and half-past three has to be occupied, so I will do my best to fill in the time as well as I can.
115 As your Lordships know, the debate on the gracious Speech to-day is on external affairs, and the relevant passage from the gracious Speech reads as follows:My Government will seek to promote peace and security throughout the world, to increase international confidence and co-operation and to strengthen the United Nations. They will promote disarmament, and in particular will seek the conclusion of a treaty to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons.Those are the aims, and none of us would quarrel with them, for they are universal. While these great problems which face the world—the maintenance of peace and the need for disarmament, the problems posed by the disparity of wealth between the developed countries of the West and the developing countries of Africa and Asia—are the same the world over, no two countries approach them in quite the same way. Each nation's own particular situation, both geographical and political, inevitably moulds that country's approach into its own particular form. While countries which have the same broad common interests will attend to problems in broadly the same way, there will be differences between countries, and a difference of emphasis and approach even between countries which are the closest of friends and allies. Thus, we in Britain have our own particular ideas as to how we should set about tackling these difficult problems.
Because in the years since the last war our own situation has changed so radically, it is perhaps as well for us first to see clearly what our present situation in the world is, before we go on to press our views on others as to how to set the world to rights. For this country the years since the war have been years of readjustment, a process which is still going on but a process the sooner completed the better. For while we continue to flounder about trying to decide where we stand in the world and what our image is, our national voice will lack authority and our advice will tend to go unheeded. As I see it, the difficulty lies in adjusting ourselves from having been a great Power—indeed, the greatest Power in the world—to being merely one of the more important Powers; and it is, of course, a big change to accustom ourselves to, from being captain of the first eleven to one of the more important members of the second eleven. In our reappraisal there 116 are two main dangers. The first is of not properly recognising our altered circumstances and of taking comfort in our past glories, thereby deluding ourselves that our power and influence is much the same as it was several decades ago. The second danger is exactly the opposite: that of thinking that, because we are no longer in a pre-eminent position, we have little or nothing to offer to the councils of the world, and that even if we had, few would bother to listen to us.
There are, it seems to me, certain factors to-day operating in favour of our falling into one or other of these two dangers. The main one, that may cause us to indulge in what I might call national folic de grandeur, is the Commonwealth. In saying this I imply no criticism whatsoever of the Commonwealth itself, but only of the dangers of our relationship to it and in it. Because the Commonwealth was evolved from the British Empire, I fear that even yet it is believed by some that there is some similarity between these two organisations. This is of course, nonsense. They are as different as the proverbial chalk and cheese.
To emphasise the point, may I use the analogy of a wheel? The Empire can be likened to a wheel, with Britain as the hub and the dependent countries of our Empire as the spokes going out from the hub. The Commonwealth, equally, can be likened to a wheel, only this time all of its members, including Britain go to make up the rim of that wheel. To put it in a single sentence, it was "The British Empire" but it is "The Commonwealth". Also, let us not delude ourselves that because the modern Commonwealth was to a large extent our creation, brought into being by us, that gives us some special powers and privileges.
On the other side, the particular factor that may influence us towards the second danger which I mentioned—that of underestimating ourselves—comes, in my belief, to a large extent from our feeling of being compelled to follow blindly our American allies. Again, I say this in no criticism of the United States; indeed, in the years since the war she has been the very bastion of all we hold most close. She is our tried and true friend, to whom we shall be for ever grateful. But we do no service to her or to ourselves if we 117 never speak our minds. We are an ally and not a lackey.
I do not wish to weary the House with too many analogies, but may I liken the United States and our allies in the Atlantic Alliance to a school class, with the United States the master and the rest of the allies the boys. Each boy presents his own special problem. You can liken France to the generally awkward boy, and Canada, perhaps, to the boy who is closely related to the master and therefore poses special problems. Germany is the boy with the special problems brought about by coming from a broken home.
And we in Britain, what are we? It seems to me that we are the steady, reliable boy, upon whom the master can always depend to help him out. An admirable rôle for us, you may say. Well, yes; but the trouble is that the boy who can always be relied upon tends to be taken for granted after a bit; and while the boys posing special problems are paid special attention, the boy who is taken for granted is not. So let us not be frightened of exerting our independence of view, when we think it right to do so. Let us, in fact, look ourselves squarely in the face without any complexes, be they superiority or inferiority. History and geography have seen to it that we have a rôle to play in the affairs of the world.
To return to the aims of our foreign policy, there is, first and foremost, the preservation of peace. Here we are playing our full part in all the danger areas of the world, whether it be in Europe, in the Middle East or in South-East Asia. Indeed, the question I hear is not whether we are doing enough, but whether we are doing too much. I am a keen but incompetent angler, and over the years I have learned one thing about fishing: if one wishes to be successful one must accept one's own limitations, and it is better to fish a short line properly than a long line incompetently. And so it is, I think, with our international commitments. If we undertake to do too much, we shall be in danger of carrying out none of our rôles efficiently or competently.
At the same time, I realise that those rôles must be filled or vacuums of power will come into being. As the years since the war have shown only too clearly, the Communist Powers will strain every nerve to fill those vacuums, thereby increasing 118 world tension and the threat to peace. It would, I think, be legitimate to ask some of our friends and allies in different parts of the world to play a larger part in sharing the burden of keeping the peace. But the difficulty, of course, is that, so long as we go on doing it, there is no compulsion on others to help out. I have found that, so long as one's bank manager allows one to overdraw, one does not feel compelled to curtail one's expenditure; and I think the same is true of international obligations.
Disarmament and peace are closely linked, and in current thinking on disarmament much attention is rightly being given to trying to bring about a treaty of non-dissemination of nuclear weapons—and reference is made to this subject in the gracious Speech. This is clearly right: it must be a paramount aim to limit the number of countries which possess these ghastly weapons of total destruction. If such a treaty is feasible, no effort should be spared to achieve it. But, my Lords, I wonder whether it is feasible. In Europe, France is already a long way on the road to developing her own deterrent; in Asia, Communist China is clearly determined to become a nuclear Power. Will this inevitable extension of nuclear nations he the end of the story? I doubt it, I fear.
It occurs to me that there may be another way of curtailing this spread of nuclear weapons—and at this point I must make it quite clear that what I am about to say is entirely my own thinking and has not the authority of the leaders of my Party, who, like the rest of your Lordships, will be hearing it for the first and probably the last time. It is accepted, I think, that any effective limitation of nuclear weapons must depend upon cooperation between the United States and Russia. Taking as a starting point the basic fact that the whole essence of the deterrent is that it deters, and, however much we may be outraged by the horror that can be wreaked by the explosion of a nuclear weapon, the threat of it has prevented the outbreak of major hostilities for the past twenty years, if we wish to maintain the peace the deterrent value of nuclear devices must be kept before the world.
If the United States and Russia—and, indeed, ourselves—could agree to use, in combination, our nuclear strength against 119 any nation which had used a nuclear device in an act of aggression against another nation, then the combined nuclear armoury of the West and of Russia would for the foreseeable future be of such overwhelming superiority that, once a treaty of this kind had been negotiated, no nation would dare to use its own nuclear weapons in an act of aggression, since it would certainly mean its own total destruction. And surely no nation would go to all the vast expense in men's skill, in money and in materials to make a weapon it would never dare to use; and, if there ceased to be the fear of nuclear devices' being used aggressively, then there would cease to be the need for nations to have them as a defence against nuclear attack. I put this forward merely as my own idea. I know that it sounds bellicose, but its aim is the preservation of peace. It seems to me that since the sole justification of these hideous manifestations of twentieth-century technology is their power to deter nations from major acts of agression, and as this is the case, then in the interests of peace full use should be made of that power.
I turn now to the third of the three aims I gave at the objects of our foreign policy—that of bridging the gap between the "have" countries of the West and the "have not" countries of Africa and Asia. I am inclined to think that this is the most important of all the aims, because poverty lies at the root of so many evils and sources of tension in the world to-day. Certainly poverty is the breeding ground of Communism; and if the faith of Communism is to be defeated in Africa and in Asia, or indeed wherever it rears its ugly head, it will be done only by alleviating the appalling poverty which is the sole inheritance of countless millions of people in the world now. In the end, the threat of Communism will be removed not by bullets but by bread. This is not to say that there will not be times, as to-day in Vietnam, when, in the cause of freedom, force is necessary.
The task of bridging this gap is enormous, and one of the greatest problems is that singularly intractable one of how to prevent disastrous collapses in the prices of primary commodities upon one or other of which the economies of so many of the developing countries depend. Here, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development gave grounds for 120 hoping that something may at last be done; and I think noble Lords on all sides of the House would agree with me that the efforts of Mr. Edward Heath in this particular field were particularly praiseworthy, and have given a lead to nations throughout the world. I hope that the present Government will give the permanent United Nations organisation which is to be set up in Geneva as a result of last year's conference, every possible help and assistance, not only with words but also with finance.
My Lords, for us as a great exporting country, a prosperous world means a properous Britain, and therefore not only is it morally right for us to do all we can—and more—to bridge this hideous economic gulf, but it is also in our own domestic, economic, financial interests. Furthermore, once we can create an ever-increasingly prosperous world, then and only then will the tide of Communism begin to recede. Thirteen years ago, at the time of the Coronation, there was much talk of Britain entering into a second Elizabethan Age, with the implication that the era of the reign of the first Queen Elizabeth was a time of greatness and glory for this country. That is a view from which I certainly would not dissent; but, my Lords, let us remember what Britain was in those days. She was not one of the acknowledged great Powers. Spain was the great Power in the world. We were a small nation. We were as we are to-day—a small, close-knit island. We had a tough and resolute people who believed and had confidence in themselves.
My Lords, if our influence is to spread throughout the world, that is what we must again become. It was said on repeated occasions in the debate on the gracious Speech yesterday, when we were discussing economic affairs, that our own strength in the world and our own influence in the world depend on the strength of our own economy. We need to shrug off this malaise of apathy which seems to hang round so much of our national life, so that with renewed vigour we can tackle our own domestic problems. Then, and only then, will our voice be listened to with ever-increasing respect in the counsels of the world; and then, and only then, can we play our part in bringing about a lasting peace and a world of increasing prosperity for all mankind.