Orders of the Day — Russia and U.S.a. (Relations)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th November 1948.

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5.26 p.m.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

I do not want to enter into detailed controversy about the question of the Ministry of Works and the railings in the constituency of the noble Lord, except to ask the Minister if he will look into this question again, just in case it falls within the long category of grievances affecting Scotland of which complaint is made.

My purpose is to raise a larger question, which involves the foreign policy of this country. I have done my best to get into communication with the Foreign Office in order that a representative might be present during the Debate, but I have no complaint that no representative is here because, owing to the course of the Business of the House, this matter has to be raised somewhat hurriedly. I hope, however, that when my remarks are published in the OFFICIAL REPORT, they will receive some attention and thought on the part of the Foreign Secretary.

Photo of Mr Albert Davies Mr Albert Davies , Stoke-on-Trent Burslem

On a point of Order. Shall we be able to return to the subject of railings, or are we to assume that it is now disposed of? I ask that because some of us have an interest in this matter and would like a more satisfactory ending to the Debate.

Photo of Mr Francis Bowles Mr Francis Bowles , Nuneaton

No. The position is that hon. Members may raise any subject on the Adjournment so long as legislation is not required. The hon. Member can return later to the subject he mentions, if he catches my eye.

Photo of Lord John Hope Lord John Hope , Midlothian and Peeblesshire Northern

Further to that point of Order. In view of the fact that we—have turned to another subject, is it in Order for me to give notice that I shall probably have to raise this matter again on the Adjournment?

Photo of Mr Francis Bowles Mr Francis Bowles , Nuneaton

I think that the noble Lord has just done that.

Photo of Mr William Brown Mr William Brown , Rugby

Further to that point of Order. May I ask why I was not allowed to have a reply to my last question from the Minister? I had got him where I wanted him, when the subject of the Debate was changed.

Photo of Mr Francis Bowles Mr Francis Bowles , Nuneaton

I had a feeling that the hon. Member might wish to speak later. If he had already exhausted his right to speak, he might have been rather sorry for himself.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

I repeat that I wish to raise a rather larger subject concerning our foreign policy in view of the change that has come over the world situation as the result of the Presidential election in the United States of America. I wish to ask the Government and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in particular, if, in view of what has happened in the United States, and in the light of the repercussions it may have on our foreign policy, in co-operation with the United States, it is not time for the Government to give further consideration to the whole question of how we can co-operate with the United States of America in order to make another approach to the Government of the U.S.S.R.

I happened to be fortunate enough to be in the United States during the last three weeks of the Presidential election campaign. Suddenly, out of the blue, came the issue of the decision of President Truman to send Judge Vincent to open out new negotiations, to conduct a peace mission to Mr. Stalin. This issue suddenly became of very great interest, and a dominant issue in the whole of the Press in New York, which, with, I believe, the exception of one article in the "New York Star," was very critical of President Truman. The opposition to President Truman, the Republican Press, went into ecstasies, because this was regarded as the final blow to the hope that President Truman would be returned to the White House. There were all kinds of headlines—"Truman's Blunder," "Truman's Folly"—and Governor Dewey immediately made a public pronouncement that he was entirely against the move that President Truman had made, and that it did not represent his idea of what should be the foreign policy of America.

I even read in a despatch from one diplomatic correspondent, I believe it was in either the "New York Times" or the "New York Herald Tribune," that the British Government were seriously disturbed, because there was a possibility of some kind of understanding above the heads of the British Government between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the U.S.S.R. I make no comment upon that. I do not know whether it is true or not. But it seemed that our attitude in that controversy should have been that we in this country would welcome every move between America and the U.S.S.R. likely to bring about what we all want, a permanent peace, and to drive away the rumour of war from the minds of men.

I believe that I was the only one in the British Press that backed President Truman and welcomed his decision to send this illustrious American personality to negotiate with Mr. Stalin. I believe that at the present time the whole international situation is so serious that diplomatic technicalities, niceties, precedents and procedure should take a second place if we can possibly get some kind of understanding which will result in an agreement between America and Russia. Because this is the question that dominates the whole issue of international politics, and it is going to dominate the whole economic picture of this country. I am not arguing for one moment that the mission will be a success. But even if there was a slight possibility of its success, if it could convey to Mr. Stalin the idea that there was in America a genuine desire to solve this problem, then, even if there was only a remote possibility of it being successful, I assert that it should have the full support of His Majesty's Government in this country.

I see in the Press today a statement that there is a possibility of President Truman once more making a similar offer, perhaps not exactly in the same way, perhaps not even with the same personalities, perhaps in a different way. But there is the possibility of President Truman, fortified by that magnificent vote of confidence from the American people, once again striking a new and welcome note in international policy. I think, therefore, that from this House there should go out to the world some kind of statement that we wish every possible attempt made to conduct new negotiations. Because if negotiations are not conducted, we are going down the slippery slope towards rearmament and another war. I indicated in the Debate last week that this country cannot possibly go in for a big rearmament programme and also carry out the big programme of social reconstruction looked for by the people of this country.

I have heard of what I think was a very effective piece of what might be called propaganda—using the word in its best sense—which President Truman issued in his election campaign. It was a leaflet showing a picture of President Truman in military uniform in World War No. 1. It said: "Nobody wants war, Harry S. Truman knows why." I believe that in initiating this leaflet, which I understand went into the homes of every voter in this election, President Truman struck a note to which there was a very emphatic response from the ordinary people of America. More than once in this campaign the President stressed the need for doing everything possible to avoid another war. I believe that the ordinary American saw that there was some common sense, some line, some guidance in the lead that the President gave, and that even though the pundits of the Press thought it was an unpopular move, not a good electioneering move, it did strike a note in the hearts of the American people to which there should be a response in this country.

I was alarmed when I was in America to see so many people taking it for granted that this country was to be considered as just a base for operations by American Forces in a possible war against Russia. Over and over again, in the Press and on the public platforms, I heard the same idea expressed, and it is now taken for granted. It is the thesis of innumerable writings by military experts, that Great Britain must be considered, in the event of another war, as an arsenal or a base for operations by the United States Air Force.

I want this country to take an entirely different line. I do not want it to be considered merely as a sort of aircraft carrier for American bombers in the next war. I need hardly stress, for it has been stressed in innumerable Debates, that this country has more to lose by being a potential arsenal in another war than any other country in the world. The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head), in the Debate on defence, stressed the point that Russia had certain strategical weaknesses, because Russia had so much of her industrial population concentrated round railway centres. Surely that applies equally to this country. Are we not concentrated round the railway centres? Look at the great populations concentrated round London and the large industrial populations concentrated round Leeds, Manchester, Carlisle and Glasgow.

If we are to safeguard the future of the men, women and children in this country in the event of a possible atomic war, then we should do everything in our power to encourage every move from wherever it comes and whichever responsible statesman makes it. If President Truman, encouraged by his victory at the polls, were to say that we must be prepared to go to Moscow to discuss the whole international situation once again with Mr. Stalin, that suggestion should have the whole-hearted support of His Majesty's Government.

I do not say for one moment that this is an easy way out. I do not argue that there are not innumerable complexities and difficulties. I know that the argument will be that it is impossible to negotiate with the Russians. We must remember that the Russians are a very tough people and that, even if by means of atomic war we defeated the Russian armies in the field, we should have to face the whole question of how to occupy Russia for years after we had won the war. Can we say that the nations who won the last war have so much reason to be satisfied with the occupation of Germany that they can now contemplate the possibility of an army of occupation taking over the vast country of Russia? The answer is "no." It is time that His Majesty's Government realised that the ordinary man in the street is tired of the perpetual wranglings and bickerings at Paris and would welcome a new move in international politics.

I travelled on the train between New York and Hartford, Connecticut, with an airman who had taken part in the lift to Berlin. He said, "It is so strange to be going over there taking the risks that we are taking in order to take food supplies to the people on whom we were dropping bombs only a few years ago. It is so strange now to walk about the streets of Berlin and to give away candy to the children whose homes we were trying to destroy only a few years ago. It does not make sense."

I believe that the people of the world realise that our foreign policy does not make sense—and that applies to both sides. I do not say that Mr. Vishinsky and the Russians are any less blameless than our diplomats and statesmen. The responsibility lies on both sides. We in this country must be prepared to retrace our steps and to step away from the old foreign policy of unconditional surrender which has resulted in one great yawning chasm of a destroyed Germany and Europe. We must be prepared to adopt a new positive international policy.

Photo of Mr James Harrison Mr James Harrison , Nottingham East

Is the hon. Gentleman assuming throughout his speech that Mr. Vishinsky's policy as propounded at Paris is something completely different, or different in any degree, from what Mr. Stalin's policy would be if he was approached directly?

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

No, I do not say that. I do not take up the attitude that Mr. Vishinsky has not been entirely wrong in his line of approach towards this Government. The Russian Government, the United States Government and our own Government have all been wrong. We must have an entirely new international approach in the interests of the hundreds of millions of people who will suffer in the event of war. If President Truman comes along with a new line of international policy, believing that he has a mandate from the people of America who hate the word "war," at least His Majesty's Government should give a sympathetic response and be prepared to cooperate in such a policy. The Government should try this as an alternative to a policy which, if pursued, will end in war.