Foreign Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th November 1951.

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Photo of Mr Stanley Evans Mr Stanley Evans , Wednesbury 12:00 am, 19th November 1951

I am sure that we all wish the Foreign Secretary well in his onerous task, and wish both he and the Prime Minister well on their coming visit to Washington. I wish very much that I was going with them, because there are a few things I would like to talk about to our American friends. There seem to be two American influences at work, both pulling in opposite directions. One seems anxious to put us back on to our feet, or to help us to get back on to our feet, and the other seems anxious to do just the opposite.

As a quick example, let us consider the present attitude towards the traditional sterling area exports of tin and rubber. There is a buyers' strike on at the moment. We have men out in Malaya who, in order to get this stuff, are facing death and mutilation every day. Further, we are in the middle of a very serious financial crisis; and it is at this very moment that Mr. Symington decides to put us in the soup. I would like very much to discuss that with him. It is a very bad thing, in my opinion, that we should have to pay 44 cents per lb. for cotton that costs less than 10 cents to produce.

We are told, "Well, that is the mechanism of the market. The price of an article is what it will fetch." We get that when it comes to us buying these primary products. But when it comes to primary products like the tin and rubber that we sell, we are told by the American Administration, "This is not a fair price." Although it is a price arrived at by the mechanism of the market, and not as a result of any tampering, we are told "This is too much; we are not going to buy at this figure." Then, of course, the dollar gap is widened and our difficulties increased. Yes, I wish very much that I was going with the Foreign Secretary. I feel I could have a very heart-to-heart talk with both Mr. Symington and Mr. Snyder.

Generally, I am not very much in favour of these high level conferences when it comes to the Russians. It is time we woke up to the fact that the Russians are the great traditionalists of the 20th century. They do not like this television diplomacy; and as I am not particularly photogenic myself I have some sympathy with them. It would be a good thing if we tried once more the traditional methods of diplomacy with a nation as traditionally minded.

But I do not despair of arriving at an accommodation with the Ruskies. I think they are very tough babies, and I think we have got to be tough with them; it is the only language they understand. I get a bit worried when some of my hon. Friends talk as though all Russians were animated by the principles of the Sermon on the Mount. I see no signs of it.

1 think it is very important for us to keep two things separate—Russian imperialism, which is traditional and as old as the hills, and goes back to Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great and all the rest of it, and, on the other hand, Communism. I am not unaware of the fact that the Russians are using the slogans of Socialism, just as Philip of Spain used the slogans of Roman Catholicism to make respectable—at least he hoped it would—his imperialist ambitions. It is a very old game; all through history it has happened. This is the hereditary political policy designed in order to try to make their course look respectable, because, otherwise they would not get anybody to support it.

We understand that very well, but I hope very much that the Foreign Secretary will not tie himself too closely to U.N.O. We shall certainly support U.N.O., but I thought this afternoon, when I heard the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) saying that this is a mad world, that it always has been mad, except when one Power has been on top, as we were in 1914. That is a chastening thing to remember today, but it is true all the same. Except when one Power does dominate the world, the world is mad. It is in these periods when one Power dominates the world that one finds wisdom and sanity and stability. I say again that I am not going to withdraw any iota of the support which I have always given to U.N.O. but I would ask the Foreign Secretary not to rule out a return to the traditional methods of diplomacy.

We must also think more than we have been doing about the basis of our foreign policy. In those long years in which we were top dogs, when the British Navy was the top dog in sea power and the City of London was top dog financially, we were able to pursue a foreign policy of benevolence. I do not think that is an unfair description. We could either send a gunboat or not, or we could withold a credit or not. In any case, we were in a position to dispense foreign policy. Latterly, this has passed away, perhaps as unhappily for the world as a whole as for us.