Foreign Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th November 1951.

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Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East 12:00 am, 20th November 1951

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has asked that. Obviously, people here are not used to what we call the "Austrian Plan." Austria is not a sovereign State today, but for seven years elections have taken place in Austria and now there is real freedom even in the Russian Zone. It is a remarkable fact that in Austria there has been a unified central Government under a control commission with occupation forces on both sides.

I agree with the Foreign Secretary about going in stages. But the only possible first stage we can aim at in Germany is to offer free elections for a central Government while keeping occupation armies on both sides and resurrect the Control Commission to keep all the Germans disarmed. We shall soon be unable even to discuss this compromise with the Russians if we make Western Germany a sovereign State. Once we have made her a sovereign State, we cannot take her sovereignty. Therefore, I say that there are only six or seven months now in which we are still free to try to reach a compromise with Russia.

Washington takes the view that the unification of Germany is a terrible Communist plot to prevent them getting German troops. It holds that to unify Germany on the Austrian solution is to take away the German divisions, which would replace the Americans when they go back home. I suggest to the Foreign Secretary that if he is concerned to bridge the chasm, his job in Washington is to pursuade the Americans at least to consider objectively the case for and against our going all out for a limited Austrian solution. It does not give anything away; our troops are still there. But it does postpone German rearmament. That has already been postponed by the Germans since we were rushing into it a year ago. Is it not worth postponing it again to see if the Russians are really interested in a German compromise? I think that they are terrified of Germany re-arming. I think that they are more frightened of this than any other thing. So they might agree.

I was not against our starting to talk about re-arming Germany if this was a diplomatic method of bringing the Russians to the point of saying, "We must come to terms." If I thought the Foreign Secretary was using the threat of re-armament to push the Russians into negotiations I should be happier. But I do not feel that in his eyes the rearming of Germany is a secondary policy, and the big policy is to go ahead and try to get unification and elections. I only wish it was.

That brings me to the last point which is Anglo-American relations and Atlantic defence. I have been asking myself, since the King's Speech, one question about "strength." I have been asking how much stronger we have got since we started to get strong. It was last January that we started to get really strong, when we swept up to £4,700 million. Let us see how much stronger we are after 12 months of getting stronger. Of course, the Americans are far stronger. The Germans are far stronger. They are taking our export markets one by one as we switch our factories over from making motor cars to tanks. The Japanese are stronger. The only people who are much weaker are Britain and France.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer gave us some bleak news. We are about back to 1946. Production has stopped rising for the first time since the fuel crisis. Our exports are being crushed by the burden of re-armament. We are back to 1946. Six years of recovery have been destroyed by one year of seeking military strength. Look at France. She is ruined by Indo-China. All American assistance is going to that one campaign. On top of Indo-China there is the Brussels decision.

All this has made the Americans militarily stronger, and it has made us British militarily stronger. When I saw our Forces in Germany I was impressed. We had two armoured divisions, and we did not have that before the war, but the sudden increase of military strength has meant a terrible decrease of economic strength. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite laugh, but I would say that the amount of military strength we have gained in the last 12 months is very small compared with our appalling loss in economic strength.

The Foreign Secretary will be faced with this problem in Washington. We have two alternatives. We either take large-scale American assistance in order to sustain our re-armament programme, which has brought us back in six years to where we were before, or we cut back re-armament.