I beg to move,
That this House approves the contractual arrangements between Her Majesty's Government, the Governments of France and the United States of America and the Government of the German Federal Republic concluded at Bonn on 26th May, 1952, and the Treaty between Her Majesty's Government and the European Defence Community together with the Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty which were signed at Paris on 27th May, 1952; and affirms that these instruments give effect to the policy set out in the Declaration signed by the Foreign Ministers of France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America at Washington on 14th September, 1951, and pursued by successive Governments of the United Kingdom for the inclusion of a democratic Germany, on a basis of equality, in a Continental European community, which itself will form a part of a constantly developing Atlantic community.
The policies for which we ask approval today are embodied in the documents which were laid before the House in the week preceding the Whitsun Recess. These documents, as the House knows, are the result of two sets of negotiations. In Bonn, a new relationship was drawn up between the Western Powers and the German Federal Republic, and in Paris the European Defence Community was established.
I have already given the House, in my statement of 10th June, the main outlines of these agreements, and I will not go into them again in detail. I will only mention certain features of them which are essential to the decision which the House now has to take, and if, in doing that, I detain the House rather longer than I would wish, I hope my apologies will be accepted, because I think it is important to put the whole of this case before the House at the outset, so that it should be understood or controverted, as the need may be.
The guiding principles, as I see them, of these contractual agreements with Germany are set out in the documents called the Convention on Relations between the Three Powers and the Federal Republic of Germany. In that Convention, we, in effect, revoke the Occupation Statute. In this Convention we retain only those rights in the German Federal Republic which relate to the stationing and protection of our Armed Forces in Germany, and to our obligations concerning Berlin and the future Peace Treaty with a united Germany.
The central purpose of these Conventions is to create a peaceful and prosperous European community of nations in which a democratic German Federal Republic can play a full and equal part. That is the purpose, and the same purpose underlines the Treaty which sets up the European Defence Community.
There are two other documents to which I must briefly refer. First, the Treaty of Mutual Security between this country and the members of the European Defence Community, and secondly, the Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty, which establishes reciprocal undertakings between its members and the members of the European Defence Community. The ideas which lie behind these two agreements were set out in the joint declaration made by the three Governments—Her Majesty's Government, the United States Government and the French Government—on the occasion of the signature of these agreements in May. In this declaration, we also reaffirmed our determination to maintain our present position in Berlin, and to treat any attack against Berlin from any quarter as an attack upon our own forces and ourselves.
All these documents, and they are numerous and complicated, give a complex picture, but their meaning is simple and clear. First, it has been agreed that there shall be a European Community of Defence within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and in that European community Western Germany is to play its full part. That is the heart of the matter. The Federal Republic accepts political, economic and certain military obligations towards Europe, and towards the Western world, and in return there is in these agreements a new conception of its rights and sovereignty.
In negotiating all this, it was not our purpose to try to keep as many of our special rights in Germany as possible. That was not what we tried to do. On the contrary, we sought to relinquish as many of them as we could. Those we do retain are not any reflection on the sovereignty or democratic nature of the German Federal Republic. They are there because they are the essential minimum, having regard to the presence of our forces in Germany and the nature of our obligations to Berlin and in other respects.
The policies which these documents finally bring to fruition are not new. They are not the invention of any one Power or any one party. They have been slowly, and I think I might add reluctantly, accepted as inevitable since four-Power co-operation became impossible. So far as this country is concerned, the policy was begun by the late Mr. Ernest Bevin and the then Labour Government. They saw it as the only possible answer to the Soviet policy of obstruction which divided Germany into two.
If we are to understand the development of all this, we must go back for a moment—and I undertake that it will not be for more than a moment—to the Potsdam Agreement. Our aim at Potsdam, which the Soviet Union is always recalling, was to provide for the occupation of Germany during the initial period of Allied control and reconstruction. We tried to do that in such a way that Germany should be freed from Nazism and be given the foundations of a liberal and democratic order. That was the intention, and we tried also to restore her economy to what was then thought an appropriate level, so that, as soon as possible, a united, democratic and prosperous Germany might play her part in the reconstruction of Europe.
That was the purpose, and in framing the Agreement the Western Powers assumed continuing harmony and cooperation between the four occupying Powers. They were soon disappointed. The House knows the melancholy, even exasperating, story of Soviet obstruction and bad faith through which these hopes were dashed. It began as many as six long years ago, when Mr. Bevin used some words in a debate in this House which I will repeat this afternoon. Referring to the Potsdam Agreement, on 22nd October, 1946, Mr. Bevin said:
There are many imperfections in this Agreement, but we have said many times that we are ready to carry it out in its entirety. What we are not prepared to do is to carry out parts of it which are unfavourable to us, while other parts are not fulfilled.… The basic provision of the Agreement is that Germany shall be treated as an economic unit.… We and the Americans have had to buy food and other goods to send into Western Germany, while the Russians are taking similar goods from Eastern Germany into Russia. This
is a situation which cannot go on. We must either have Potsdam observed as a whole, and in the order of its decision, or we must have a new agreement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd October, 1946; Vol. 427, c. 1513.]
That was Mr. Bevin in 1946, and I think that the course of events from then follows from those words. In the event, the Potsdam Agreement as a whole was never carried out. The Soviet Government never carried it out. They made the economic unity of Germany impossible by their actions in the Eastern zone. As a result, the Labour Government of the day agreed, first of all, to the economic fusion of the American and British zones. If the whole of Germany could not come together economically, then these two zones at least should do so.
As a result of economic fusion, there came later political fusion. The economic fusion was in January, 1947. But that was not a decision to divide Germany. On the contrary, it provided a basis on which Germany could be brought into greater unity by stages, starting with the Western zones. That was a measure which was forced upon the then Government—I admit it at once—by economic difficulties, mainly created by Soviet policy. These were causing great distress in Germany. They were also, incidentally, placing a heavy burden on the British taxpayer, because we had to replace the goods which the Russians were constantly removing from the Eastern zone of Germany.
There it is The development of German economic institutions for the Western zones led to the emergence of their political counterpart. Between February and June, 1948, the six Western Powers had a series of meetings here in London—the United States, ourselves, France and the Benelux countries—and this was the beginning of the German Federal Republic. It was agreed that such a Republic should be established in the area of the three Western zones, which was all that we could control, and that its constitution should be framed by a West German Constituent Assembly freely elected.
That agreement was reported to this House by Mr. Bevin in June, 1948. On that occasion he told us that he stood for the principle of German unity, but that we had to face facts as we found them. In view of the irreconcilable differences between the Western Powers and
the Soviet Union, that aim could not be realised. And then he continued—I must quote these two sentences, because they are appropriate to this matter:
In our approach to the German problem we have made possible the development of democratic political institutions which we invited the Germans to work out. We also provide the means for Germany to associate herself more fully with the rest of Europe and its recovery.
That was the right hon. Gentleman's own purpose. I was able to say at that time:
We on this side of the House welcome the Agreement which the Foreign Secretary has just announced."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th June, 1948; Vol. 451, c. 2168.]
The Soviet Government tried to hold up these arrangements. They tried to hold them up by a series of measures which led up to the Berlin blockade. The defeat of that blockade by the air-lift was a turning point in post-war history. It represents the moment at which it became obvious that the free world had need to look to its military strength in the face of a developing Soviet menace.
Consequently, when the German Federal Government came into being, late in 1949, there were many people who began to feel that Western Germany should be able to play its part in the defence of Western Europe as well as in its economic and political recovery. This was a hard decision to take. Many of us hesitated to take it. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister hesitated less than most of us. It was a decision which, as far as this country was concerned, was taken by the then Labour Government with the declared support of the Opposition.
In September, 1950—that was the date, as right hon. Gentlemen opposite will remember—the Foreign Ministers of the three Western Powers met in New York and on 19th September they issued a communiqué in which they stated:
The Ministers have taken note … of sentiments recently expressed in Germany and elsewhere in favour of German participation in an integrated force in the defence of European freedom. The question raised by the problems of participation of the German Federal Republic in the common defence of Europe is at present the subject of study and exchange of views.
That was the first step, only two years ago, which led on to those which have followed. The fact is, as the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) put
it, I think perfectly fairly, in the House a few weeks later, that it was doubtful whether British, French or American public opinion would tolerate a situation where British, French and American soldiers were engaged in the defence of German territory and the German people, without some form of contribution from the German people.
That is how the right hon. Gentleman put it at that time, and Mr. Bevin said a few days afterwards:
If Western Germany is to be defended, it seems to us only fair and reasonable that the people of Western Germany should help in their own defence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th November, 1950; Vol. 481. c. 1172.1
Those were the statements made at that time.
At the meeting of the three Foreign Ministers in Brussels a month after—that is, in December, 1950—it was agreed that the High Commissioners in Germany should discuss the question of the German defence contribution with the German Federal Government. And so the discussions began. They were also to discuss any changes in the Occupation Statute which must result if an agreement were reached about the German miiltary contribution.
When I asked the Under-Secretary of State in the House on 7th February, 1951, whether a decision on German re-armament had been taken, he replied, and perfectly correctly:
Yes, Sir, a decision in principle was taken at Brussels."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th February, 1951; Vol. 483, c. 1722.]
That decision is, of course, not disputed in the Amendment that has been put down in the name of the Opposition in this debate, however much it may be disputed by individual Members of the Opposition. And that position of principle was re-stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in February last year, when he laid down conditions which have been referred to in the Opposition Amendment and which we have discussed before.
I shall show in a few moments, as I have done before, how these conditions have been and are being fulfilled. But I must first mention that the last meeting of the three Western Foreign Ministers to deal with these German arrangements during the late Government's term of office took place in Washington, and was attended on behalf of the United Kingdom by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison).
At this meeting policies were adopted towards Germany which were clearly stated in the declaration, which has frequently been quoted, that which the three Ministers issued, of 14th September. I will only give two sentences of it:
The three Foreign Ministers declare that their Governments aim at the inclusion of a democratic Germany on a basis of equality in a Continental European Community which itself will form a part of a constantly developing Atlantic Community.
That is communiqué language, but it is clear what it means. It went on:
They also welcome the Paris Plan"—
which was, of course, the plan for a German contribution to European defence forces—
as a very important contribution to the effective defence of Europe, including Germany. The participation of Germany in the common defence should naturally be attended by the replacement of the present Occupation Statute by a new relationship between the three Governments and the German Federal Republic.
That was the declaration of September last year, and on this basis the three Ministers concerned issued their instructions to the High Commissioners in Germany, still in the life-time of the late Government. They were to negotiate the new relationship with the German Federal Government in accordance with these instructions. This Agreement is the outcome of that work.
It was at that point that this Government took office. Nothing, I submit to the House, which we have since done in respect of Germany departs from the lines of policy which, as I have shown, were steadily developed since 1946, first by Mr. Bevin and then by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South. The present agreements, in fact, represent the fulfilment of those policies. We have carried them to a conclusion. Admittedly, a great deal of hard work has gone into the framing of these agreements and their negotiation since last November, but in principle they were determined long before then.
The Conventions with Germany—a document of 175 pages—are, in effect, the nearest we can get in the conditions of today to a Peace Treaty with Germany. The success of that immensely complicated and intricate negotiation leading up to their signature was only made possible by the services of the three High Commissioners. Among them it is right that I should pay special tribute to Sir Ivone Kirkpatrick and his devoted staff. In the concluding stages I know they worked literally day and night, so much so that the interpreter was almost asleep, poor man, when he tried to translate my speech on the following day. The House, the nation, and I think Europe, owe them a debt of gratitude.
Now I come to a slightly more controversial note. So far it has been historical. I hope it has been historical; my attempt was to make it such. What are the alternatives to this policy which has been followed by the late Government and by us? Broadly speaking, I think there are two. We could try to hold the present position in Germany under the Occupation Statute. That is one alternative.
That would mean to maintain the allied forces and the allied occupation of Germany in full force. Inevitably this would call for increasingly strict controls and more stringent measures. An occupation cannot be expected to endure indefinitely unless there is a will to enforce it indefinitely. Surely we have learned that from the lessons between the two wars. Does the House really believe that there is such a will now, either in this country or in the United States or in France, to continue indefinitely the occupation forces as they are now? If there is not such a will, would not the attempt to enforce such an occupation merely mean the repetition of the mistakes that were made after the First World War?
The truth is that, ever since we joined in establishing a German Federal Government, as long ago as 1949, we have been committed to a gradual transfer of authority into German hands, quite inevitably. We cannot go back now on that broad decision. If we do not want our relations with Germany to relapse into dangerous antagonism, we have to go forward. Admittedly our forces and the forces of our allies will have to remain in Germany for some considerable time yet, so long as the international situation demands. But surely it is better that they should be there as allies, by agreement with the German Government, than as an occupation force solely dependent upon the right of victory.
If we attempted to prolong the occupation we should encourage all those forces in Germany which it has been our aim since the war to eradicate. We would have to keep the Germans indefinitely in isolation and subjection and we would immediately encourage the more extremist elements. All chance of securing Germany as a partner in European unity and reconstruction would be lost. What is more, we might well be forfeiting the only opportunity of a peaceful re-union of Germany herself in the future.
I believe that, despite Communist propaganda, most thoughtful Germans would now agree that the future of their country does not lie solely in their own hands. They know that their problems can only be solved in close association with the other countries of Western Europe. I am sure that hon. Members opposite who had long and close association with and responsibility for German affairs between 1945 and last year will agree with that summing up.
If that be so, if we cannot have that alternative—continuing occupation as it is now—what other alternative is there? There is certainly one other. We could call a halt to this process in which we have been engaged of building up the unity and strength of the Western countries. We could seek instead to enter into discussions with the Soviet Government with a view to reaching a different settlement. That is possible. But I should like to see where that would lead us. I think that it would lead us to one of two situations.
Either we should have to accept a German settlement on Soviet terms—and I will point out in a moment what those terms would be—or we should be embarking upon a general discussion with the Soviet Union without any clear idea where we hoped to get, and ending up with long and sterile discussions of the type with which we are already only too familiar. If any hon. Members opposite have had no experience of that, they have only to recall what happened at the Palais Rose.
The important consideration which I have to put before the House is that either action would inevitably result in this—that the impetus which we have acquired in Europe to get these agreements through would be lost. The one country which would salute the decision with unbridled enthusiasm would be Soviet Russia; and everyone who feared her in every land would be dismayed.
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that we should not seek one last effort to see whether we can come to a rational agreement with Russia? The right hon. Gentleman declared himself perhaps further than he intended. I want to be fair, and if he did not say that, he should make it quite clear whether or not he is prepared to go into four-Power talks, and secondly, if he is, why he should assume that we should go into them not knowing what we want to achieve.
I certainly was not suggesting that we should not in any circumstances go into four-Power talks. Our Notes say clearly that we should do so, but, while we are ready to go into those talks, we should not, because of that, relax the efforts in which we are at present engaged. I cannot accept that the best way to get results in the four-Power talks is to relax the efforts we have already undertaken.
What would we probably have to face if we got into these four-Power talks? I do not think that it is very difficult to assess what we should be asked to do. One has only to read through the recent Soviet Notes, and one has only to look—and I hope the House will look in the next few days or tomorrow before they vote—at what is going on at present in Eastern Germany.
The first point on which the Soviets place emphasis in their Notes is that we should return to the Potsdam system for Germany, pending a peace settlement. That occurs time and time again in their Notes. This would mean that the system of four-Power controls originally devised for the opening stage of the occupation would have to be re-imposed and maintained by force until a peace treaty was reached. As I have already explained, that would be utterly impracticable at the present time, and certainly it would not be accepted by any political party in Germany.
Secondly, the Soviet Notes suggest that the Soviet Government intend that the peace treaty itself should be worked out by the four Powers and then presented to the German Government. They want a dictated peace treaty and not a negotiated peace treaty. They have persistently and consistently evaded any attempt we have made to ensure that before a treaty can be negotiated a freely elected all-German Government must have been set up.
We have said that we cannot have an all-German Government without free elections. They have always been afraid to contemplate the free election of an all-German Government. It may be that they would be willing to have an all-German Government as contemplated by them. But they have never accepted that we should have a freely elected all-German Government or that we should meet to discuss ways and means by which such a Government should be elected. We put that in our last Note and we have never had an answer. I think I know why. It is because they know perfectly well that an all-German Government, freely elected, could not possibly be a Communist Government, and that is the last thing in the world that they want.
How can we reach a settlement if that continues to be Soviet policy? We think that we can see from their Notes only too clearly what kind of Germany they think the four Powers should create. It would be precluded in advance from entering into regional associations with other Powers. It would be a Germany left in dangerous and irresponsible isolation at the heart of Europe. And it would be a Germany allowed to raise national armed forces, and apparently expected to give free reign to former Nazis and Nationalists in doing so. It almost seems as though the Soviets, conscious of the declining power of Communism in Germany, were seeking to obtain new allies in other circles in that country. If so, it would not be the first time in history that that has happened.
I believe that, fortunately, the Germans are as anxious as we are to avoid these dangers. That is why, as the House will have noted, our position in these diplomatic exchanges has had wide and general acceptance in Germany. All parties of the Federal Government Coalition warmly endorsed our reply to the latest Soviet Note, and the Social Democratic Party—I was coming to that, I am always glad to find that they are in support, too—welcomed the recognition that free elections are the crucial issue. They endorsed the clear order of procedure we set out in the Note.
May I repeat that order so that there may be no doubt where we stand? Free elections first; then the setting up of a free all-German Government; and finally, the negotiation of a peace treaty. That is the order as we see it, and we are prepared to discuss the first of these topics at any time, at any table, if the Soviets are prepared to come.
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I do so for the purposes of clarification. The Soviet Note of 9th April—that is, the reply to the response from the three Governments—contains this; perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will explain it:
In accordance with this, the Soviet Government deem it necessary that the Governments of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Great Britain, the United States and France discuss without delay the question of holding free all-German elections.…
I should have thought that that indicated a readiness to have discussions on this very vital subject, and I am at a loss to understand why the right hon. Gentleman complains.
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman should take one sentence out of the context of these Notes in that way. I did not know that there was in any part of the House—there certainly has never been so far—any dispute about our replies. In fact, the Leader of the Opposition gave the warmest approval to our reply. I thought there was a full understanding that the offer we had made to the Russians for this meeting was a perfectly fair and proper one.
To the best of my recollection the reply to that offer was our suggestion that there should be a four-Power meeting for the preparation of elections, provided it was agreed that the free elections should come before the negotiation of a peace treaty.
To the best of my recollection that it how it happened. I shall be glad to look the matter up and, if I am not right, to put it right.
The right hon. Gentleman is very indulgent, and I am grateful. Before he leaves the question of the Russian proposal, I should like to put a question to him. He has made a number of assertions of opinion that the Russians think this and that. Is not the point of a conference to discover whether one is right or wrong about these pre-suppositions about the other side? [Interruption.] This is a question. Is it not a fair point to say that the Russians made proposals last March and that our methods of replying have not really given the impression of a great anxiety to hold four-Power talks?
I think that is a most unfair charge, I really do. I should like to know where we are. If the party opposite consider that in this diplomatic exchange, the Soviets have been forthcoming about a meeting and that Western allies had been hanging back, I hope we shall be told so. It is the first time that there has been the slightest hint or indication of anything of the kind. I have gathered from the Front Bench opposite that the general tenor of our Notes was approved.
It is said that we took a long time to draft them. Certainly we cannot dictate our orders to other people. We are four free, democratic countries and it takes longer for us to agree than for the Kremlin to issue its orders. Long may that be so. I would rather be with three allies with whom I have to argue before replying than take my orders like the unhappy satellites of Moscow. That is the test.
If the hon. Member will look at the last Note he will see that we have offered two meetings. We said that we are perfectly ready, for a start, to have a meeting to get ready and prepare for free elections. If that were agreed, we are prepared to go to a meeting to discuss a peace treaty. I do not believe that anyone who reads this correspondence impartially can doubt that the genuine offers for conciliation have come from us. If the House doubts that, I hope Members will tell us so and tell us where we fell down. But do not impute delay to the democracies because they like to argue and do not dictate. That is not an argument that any free Member of this House ought to make. [Interruption.] Is that not reasonable?
I thought the right hon. Gentleman was inviting interruptions. The comment I made was that the right hon. Gentleman himself is the only person so far who has said anything about delay.
I did not suggest that we should not discuss with our allies. I did suggest that the impression had got abroad, certainly it is in my mind, that there are people in America who are very determined to railroad through German re-armament and not to have four-Power talks.
My conviction is exactly the opposite to that of the hon. Member. There was certainly one time in these discussions when the Americans were perhaps the most eager of all Governments to have talks. The angle of approach and the views of free countries have a habit of not agreeing entirely.
I do not know what criticism of these replies there is. No doubt we shall be told as the debate develops. I maintain that we have made every offer in our power to get the Russians to a meeting, and we are continuing to make any offer except that we will not stop the work on which we are now engaged to develop, unite and strengthen Western Europe.
That is why I criticise the Amendment, because it asks us to halt the work we are doing in the hope that we shall get these talks—in the hope that we shall get the Russians into these discussions. The Russians are much more likely to talk while we are building up our strength. Certainly, that is the advice which the Leader of the Opposition has frequently given us on earlier occasions.
May I turn to another aspect that may again divide me from hon. Members opposite? I am not quite sure; sometimes one seems to get the current of opinion wrong. This Amendment agrees, apparently, on the face of it with so much of what we are doing and disagrees with so little that I suppose I ought not to complain about the difference, such as it is. I suppose it is rather more an attempt to unite the Opposition in the Lobby than it is to unite the nation on foreign policy. That is not for me to complain about.
It is our conviction that the resolute continuation of our present policies in Western Europe is essential if we are to obtain success in our meetings with the Soviets. It is only if we proceed firmly with our own plans that we shall see some modification of the Soviet attitude. The Leader of the Opposition told us that in May. He said:
While we welcome every approach to Russia I believe, as I have stated, that if there is a more favourable attitude it is due to the fact that we have been getting together in the West and building up our strength."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th May, 1952; Vol. 500, c. 1475.]
I agree. That is precisely what these agreements do. Why, then, have we to delay ratifying them now?
Is the calculation that the Russians are going to be more amenable if they think we are going to hesitate about ratifying this document? If so, I think that is a profound error. All the experience of the post-war years shows that that has never been the right way.
Dr. Adenaeur made some remarks on this the other day in the Bundestag, which I should like to quote. They show what these Agreements mean, in his view, at any rate, to the future of Germany. He said:
The question whether these treaties should be approved or not is a question, in brief, whether the Federal Republic should or should not join in with the West, whether it should or should not secure for itself the protection of the Atlantic defence system, whether or not it desires the integration of Europe, including Germany. It is the question whether it desires the re-unification of Germany in freedom within a free Europe, or is prepared to accept the partition of Germany or her unification in bondage.
That is the plain truth of the matter.
Hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite who were wholly committed to these policies when in power are now arguing, in their Amendment, that we should delay the ratification of the Agreements themselves. Apparently the argument is that the Agreements are good, but not just now. That is a kind of compromise between eating one's own words and being wagged by one's own tail.
The policy used to be theirs. They carried it through in all its early stages and they know perfectly well that it is the right policy. I would only say to the Leader of the Opposition that I am quite sure that if he were in my place at this moment he would have thought it right to go ahead with the ratification. If we falter, hesitation in Europe will grow. The United States Senate have already ratified by an overwhelming majority. The Canadian Parliament have approved the Protocol unanimously and the German Federal Parliament have given the Convention a First Reading. It has gone to Committees and the Second Reading should be at the end of September and the Third Reading in early October.
They have gone on a record holiday, which is quite unique in French Parliamentary experience, and it would be quite unjustifiable for me to comment upon that.
I am asking hon. Gentlemen opposite whether this is the moment for us to set an example of hesitation and delay. At one point the Opposition were arguing—I do not know whether they are still arguing; but it was in a resolution of the Labour Party Executive—that before the agreements were ratified there should be new elections in Germany. I do not know whether this demand has now been dropped. The idea that we should demand fresh elections in Germany because some people in this country do not like the political complexion of the present Government of Germany is an unacceptable one. It has certainly caused a good deal of embarrassment to right hon. Gentlemen opposite and also to their friends in Germany.
Perhaps we can be told later whether it is still the view of right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite that there must first be a general election in Germany. Alternatively, it has been suggested that we must await the decision of the German Constitutional Court on various questions before them. But the Court has decided that Parliament must decide before the Court pronounces, so whatever value there was in that argument seems to have gone by the board.
We can see what the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man) would like the Court to decide. I expect that the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) is right in his suggestion. The Court has said that the Bundestag must pronounce on this matter before the Court will declare, and that means that the excuse that we must wait for the Court's decision is removed.
Let us get this point clear. It may be germane to our discussions. According to reports has not the Constitutional Court said that before they can give a decision the ratification by the German Bundestag must take place and then only will they advise whether the President can sign?
The German Parliament decides before the Court pronounces. The point I was making was that, in any event, the particular argument that we have to wait for the Court's decision no longer exists, as the Court's pronouncement is after and not before the German Parliament's pronouncement. That removes one of the objections which were previously made.
I have no doubt how one country and one capital would view our delay in ratification. The Soviet would warmly welcome such a delay. They would regard it as a triumph for their policy and redouble their efforts to get the same results in all the capitals of Europe. So far as I am concerned, I signed these documents last May believing that I was expressing the will of the House and of this country and believing that I was fulfilling the policy which the late Government had been pursuing. I do not think that it is unreasonable to ask the House to endorse these signatures more than two months afterwards.
I do not see why there should be any argument about the so-called Attlee conditions which are referred to in the Amendment. We have discussed them before. There is no conflict between them and the steps that we are asking the House to approve. First, the rearmament of the Atlantic Treaty countries must precede that of Germany. Of course it must—and so must the building up of the forces of the democratic States precede that of Germany. Both those conditions are entirely in agreement with the spirit of the N.A.T.O. decisions taken in Brussels in 1950 when the Leader of the Opposition was there.
But 18 months have elapsed and several months more must pass before the E.D.C. Treaty or the Bonn Convention can come into effect. No German units can be formed until that moment. The House will have noted what Herr Blank said on the 13th June. He gave a provisional time-table. He thought that the first call up might take place in the beginning of 1954 and after that a further six months to a year would be needed before units could reach full fighting strength. Could anybody seriously say that that is rushing matters, two years after the decision was taken.
During all this time N.A.T.O. armaments have been turned out. The expenditure on defence of the N.A.T.O. powers is£4,000 million a year at the present time and American equipment is pouring in. Over 1 million tons alone had been supplied to France by spring of this year, and I think that something like 3 million tons collectively have gone to the N.A.T.O. Powers.
There is this further consideration. These German units will not be created and maintained—when they do exist—on a national basis. Under the E.D.C. system their maintenance and supply, like that of all the other participating forces, have to be organised internationally, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. That is clearly set down in the Treaty. Common programmes for armament and supply will be laid down by the International Board of Commissioners. The actual orders for military equipment will be placed by the Board and the forces will be dependent for effective operation on jointly administered common services and support. These services, known as Infrastructure, include communications, aerodromes, and port facilities, and they will be jointly operated by the E.D.C. Without them no Army can act independently. These are all considerations which the House should have in mind.
Throughout the process of creating these German units decisions will have to be taken at every stage by the E.D.C. Powers; by France, Italy and the Benelux countries as well as by Germany herself, and all this in the wider framework of the N.A.T.O. organisation in which we and the Americans are fully engaged.
Surely these are important safeguards for us all. I think it is clear that the first two conditions have been fulfilled. As to the third, the right hon. Gentleman himself admitted that this had been fulfilled. He said:
The E.D.C. is, in my view, a way of integrating the German contribution of force without raising the danger of a German army."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th May, 1952; Vol. 92, c. 1482.]
The fourth and remaining condition was that we must have the agreement of the Germans themselves. Every stage in these discussions and endless negotiations has been carried forward in consultation with the German Government.
I say that every one of those conditions has been fulfilled. If it is said that they have not been fulfilled, we shall be glad to know what is the basis of that argument, and if they have been, what is the point of this Amendment and why are we being asked for this further delay?
I should like to say one further word on the financial aspect, which, I think, is important. What is the position about that? The Germans have undertaken to make a financial contribution to defence which is comparable with that of the principal Western countries. It has been agreed between us all that the German contribution shall be assessed by the same procedures and the same standards as the other N.A.T.O. Powers. Although they are not a member of N.A.T.O., that has been agreed. This was, in fact, done for the first year to June, 1953.
As a result the coming into force of the Convention will, in fact, mean a substantial increase in the expenditure of the German Federal Republic on defence. At the moment they are spending at the rate of 600 million deutschemark a month. That is our occupation costs. Thereafter, German defence expenditure on the allied forces in Germany and their own contribution to E.D.C. together rises to 850 million deutschemark a month.
Certainly, it is not the German view that they are getting their re-armament at the expense of others. The spokesman of the S.P.D. in the recent debate in the Bundestag criticised the financial agreement very severely. He said Germany would have to raise new taxes or would have to cut her social expenditure as a result of it, and the Federal Finance Minister, Dr. Schaeffer, replied that if it came to new taxes, it was worth it in order to save the peace. I mention it to show that in Germany there is no feeling that they are not being called upon to pay.
What of our position? The former Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell), was very critical about this. These arrangements will, I am confident, cover all our deutschemark costs in Germany until the end of June, 1953, which is the end of the period provided for in the Convention.
I am told by hon. Gentlemen opposite, "That is all right, but why did you not get binding undertakings for the period, after June, 1953"; and I must answer. Apart from special circumstances which; apply to Germany, there is a general reason why binding arrangements for a longer time ahead would not have been possible, This system was set up—and it was a good system; I make no criticism of it—during the lifetime of the previous Government, who were part-authors of it. As a result of it, an examination of the defence programmes and the economic capacity of the various countries to bear their defence burdens became a function of N.A.T.O.
For this purpose N.A.T.O. conducts an annual review of the whole position, and that annual review makes financial arrangements for one year ahead and one year only. That system applies equally to us and to all other countries who have troops in Germany. As I have said, although the Germans, the Federal Republic, are not a member of N.A.T.O., they are now under this examination. Clearly, as the House will agree, it is right, and the only possible decision, to put Germany through this, examination like all the others, and it was as a result of this system that the Three Wise Men, as they are called, looked at Germany's position for one year ahead, and that is why we settled an allocation for the German financial contribution to defence for 1952–53 only.
There are also one or two special considerations which apply to Germany. Defence expenditure in many countries is pretty difficult to forecast—I think we have all learned that—but in Germany at this time it is especially so. We cannot know when the Convention and the E.D.C. Treaty will enter into force, when the last country will have ratified. We cannot know exactly when the first German soldier will be called up.
It is on these dates that depends how much Germany will require to spend on her contingents during the year 1953–54. Moreover, the level of expenditure on these German contingents has to be decided by the E.D.C. collectively. They have not yet taken this decision. The figures will also depend on how much military equipment is available from the United States so far ahead. None of us can foretell those figures.
Furthermore, there is an overriding consideration that the total German expenditure for 1953–54, like the expenditure of all N.A.T.O. countries, can be determined only when N.A.T.O. as a whole makes its annual defence review. During that review it will be known what defence burdens the whole area has to carry and what burden is to be carried by the forces in Germany. Only then can it be decided how the burdens are to be divided between the allies.
In those circumstances, all the Governments thought they could not make firm financial agreements for the forces in Germany beyond the end of June next year. There is, however, an important provision in the Financial Convention which gives an assurance about the position after that date. If right hon. Gentlemen opposite will look at it, it is in Article 3, where the Federal Republic undertakes to make a continuing annual contribution to the cost of defence.
Part of that will be used to assist in meeting the costs of the forces of other Powers who are not members of E.D.C., and the amount is to be determined by negotiation between us. That is the position. Our ability to bear the defence burdens will be examined by N.A.T.O. alongside that of other countries.
This is very important, and I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman is dealing with it. I do not want to spend time quoting now but, in reply to supplementary questions in the House, he has several times said that he thinks it is inevitable that we should have to pay more under this arrangement in respect of our own troops in Germany. He has several times said that. Does he still adhere to it? Does he still believe that an increase in our payments is inevitable? On the other hand, does he accept the view which was put in "The Times" by their diplomatic correspondent on Monday last who said, in conclusion:
It is emphasised in London, and has been made clear throughout the negotiations, that the British Government is not in the position to assume additional burdens"?
May I go on with the argument? I have it worked out and if I get sidetracked it becomes very difficult. It is extremely complicated, but I will show why I think I am not wrong. I said that the total figure which would have to be found by the Western Powers if there is a German Army would obviously be larger than if there is no German Army.
There is no dispute about that; but, secondly, there is the question of what our share of that total should be. I hope to show that we maintained the position that our share cannot be more and that if, as a result of the new German Army, more money has to be found, then other reductions will have to be made in other spheres to balance it. In other words, we stand by the declaration made by the former Government. I have repeated many times that the total level of our defence expenditure measured in terms of external payments could not be increased as a result of this decision.
I have given way several times, and this is a very complicated argument. I should like to follow it through. It has been discussed at great length between myself and the Treasury. I am sorry to detain the House and I hope that hon. Members will be patient.
Pending this N.A.T.O. discussion we have taken steps for an overhaul of our existing deutschemark expenditure in order to see that all unnecessary expenditure is cut out where possible. That has already produced valuable results. For instance, we have reduced the amount of German labour we are employing so as to save deutschemarks.
Although we cannot tell what will be the outcome of the complicated reviews and negotiations which lie ahead—and here I answer the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton)—the House is entitled to know the general position of Her Majesty's Government on this question of our general defence expenditure in relation to Germany. The late Government, in their negotiations, made it plain that this country could not shoulder any additional financial burdens on defence. This has also been the position of Her Majesty's present Government throughout all the discussions we have held. The need to avoid additional burdens on our balance of payments will continue to be our first consideration in these negotiations which have to take place. They will not be completed before the end of the year; I think probably at the beginning of next year.
We have no reason to fear comparison of our present effort with that of any of our allies or to suppose that impartial investigation will result in the suggestion that it is we who ought to do more. But we must—and this is where the conflict begins with the right hon. Gentleman—play our part in the common plan and be ready to submit our effort to the same examination and the same assessment as will be applied to all the other N.A.T.O. Powers and Germany. The House, I think, can rest assured that the Government will defend this country's interests in that review as forcibly as we can. I think that that is a fair and full statement of where we are on this issue.
May I interrupt again, just to get this quite clear? The right hon. Gentleman said in reply to a supplementary on 7th May, with reference to June, 1953:
After that date—there will certainly be an extra contribution of ours on account of the contribution the Germans themselves are making."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th May, 1952; Vol. 500, c. 360.]
I gather that is not so now. He says it is not the case.
What I am saying is that that certainly will be so.
As the German contingents come into force there will be less available from the Germans for the other occupying armies. That is obvious. I think it must be agreed that we cannot expect them both to pay for their army and the occupation costs of all the others. Nobody thinks that. But what we are entitled to say is that the costs of the present burdens we are carrying must be taken into account, and if we have to pay more there we can expect to pay less somewhere else; therefore, our overall defence charges cannot be increased.
Put it this way—to give one example, although I do not want to give examples because all this has to be worked out across the international conference table. But let us take one example—infrastructure and the further burdens of infrastructure. Suppose there have to be more costs in respect of Germany—more to pay in Germany—then we are entitled to ask that the further development of infrastructure or of offshore purchases by the United States may be used—or other methods—to redress the balance. We maintain the position of the late Government that our overall burdens must not be increased. I think that that is a fair and reasonable answer to the right hon. Gentleman. If the right hon. Gentleman cares to carry it further, I shall try to answer him tomorrow.
I am sorry to have kept the House so long, but I must just put to the House and to the right hon. Gentleman the broad political and economic consequences which would result for this country and Western Europe if we were to abandon the attempt at German participation. Let the House think what we should lose. We should lose increased German financial payments, because they are going to pay for their own army costs. We should also lose the part which German industry can play in equipping—not a German national army—but the European defence forces as a whole.
And let the House remember this, that if the Germans took no part in re-armament this would mean that they, alone of the free nations, would be able to continue to devote their full industrial capacity to civil needs and the export trade. This would accentuate the already formidable and increasing competition in all the world markets in those very lines of production—for example, the metal-using industries—where we have an established reputation and, up to the present, full order books. Such competition, the House well knows, is a serious prospect already.
In the circumstances it would not be surprising if some Germans were to say now, "Well, let us sit back. Let us take no part in this re-armament with the West. Let others come along to defend us. Let us go on doing business at the expense of those who are so quixotic as to come to defend us free of charge." Because re-armament is a chore—a burden. Fortunately for Europe that is not the line which the Federal Government or, I believe, the German people are taking at this time. Many of them, I am sure, look forward sincerely to playing a part in the new era of cooperation in Europe. And is not that what we all want to see?
The decisions which the House take today can encourage or obstruct the new opportunities which are opening before Europe. The Western nations are engaged in an effort to build up a free and unified Europe in which Germany can play a part. We are not doing that to threaten or challenge the East but to consolidate peace on this Continent. Every measure we approve today is a part of that design. The European Defence Community, the Schuman Plan—they take their place in this broad movement for unity which finds expression in the Council of Europe. That is why we have given approval to those projects. That is why we want to be associated with them as closely as we can.
It is in this spirit that we have recently informed the six Powers participating in these plans that we support their proposals to press forward the work of integration—to advance, as they can and will, to closer political union on the Continent. There is only one condition we have set. It is that that process should be kept within the framework of the Council of Europe, in which this country plays a part. I am hopeful that nothing they do will be incompatible with that plan which we have put forward to link the Council of Europe with these more limited Continental organisations.
The plans of the West are based on the principle of free alliance and close cooperation between peoples. The administration of Eastern Germany today is being more and more centralised and brought more under Communist control. The dark night of Communism is settling on that land. That is not what we want to see in our Western lands, and these agreements, we believe, provide an alternative way of life, an answer to the Communist challenge—an answer which, we believe, is clear, courageous, and encouraging to all free men. They offer a new future for Germany. They offer a new chance for Europe to turn aside from the divisions and disputes which have torn Europe asunder for centuries, and they offer this country the chance of placing our relations with Germany and other Western nations on a basis of friendship and unity.
Those two neighbours, France and Germany, whose destinies have been so often and so tragically in conflict in the past, are now beginning to find means of setting rivalries aside and of working together for a new Europe. We are able to be friends with both. We and the United States support their association with our full strength, and it is for them the chief guarantee of their security, and of the peaceful development of their enterprise. The possibilities of these agreements are in truth revolutionary.
It is not surprising that there should be doubts and hesitations in many countries—in France and Germany. We know that there are Parliamentary obstacles to overcome. Of course, some of the opposition is Communist-inspired—naturally enough, because these agreements place another defensive dyke between the Communists and the West; but some of it, no doubt, is genuine doubt of or lack of faith in this new Europe which is being built.
What is the duty of this country? Surely, it is to lead, to encourage the waverers, to show faith and confidence in the work in which we have been engaged now—all parties— for many years. I do not believe that to delay now is in this country's interests or in Europe's interests. I believe it would damage the cause of peace. I am sure it would encourage our enemies and depress our friends, and, therefore, I invite the House to support this Motion and to empower us to carry forward the constructive work to which we and our Allies have set our hands.
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
while accepting the aim of the inclusion of a democratic Germany on a basis of equality, in a Continental European community, which itself will form a part of a constantly developing Atlantic community; and while accepting the principle, subject to proper safeguards and conditions, of a German armed contribution to an international system of collective security, rejects Her Majesty's Government's present proposal as inopportune, particularly at a time when attempts are still being made by the Western Powers to discuss the German problem with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and reaffirms the conditions first laid down in the House by the present Leader of the Opposition on 12th February, 1951.
The right hon. Gentleman has presented a massive argument, and the House in particular will be grateful to him for the factual narrative of the events which have led up to the present situation. Nevertheless, as it appeared to me, there were gaps in his defence against the Amendment on the Order Paper, and into those gaps I shall venture to penetrate. We are also grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having avoided, to a very large extent, unnecessary controversy. This is a vital matter affecting the future, not only of the United Kingdom but of Europe and, it may be, the world at large.
I must, however, join issue with the right hon. Gentleman on his interpretation of the reasons why we have put this Amendment on the Order Paper. This is an official Amendment submitted by the Opposition, and as such it must be understood. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to me to seek to direct attention to some differences that may exist on this side of the House. But, after all, there are differences in every political party. Nobody knows that better than the right hon. Gentleman. There was a memorable occasion when, to his credit, he resigned from a Conservative Government because of differences of opinion.
There was another memorable occasion within the recollection of many hon. Members now in the House when the Chamberlain Government was brought down because of differences of opinion. There are some who allege—I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the allegation—that there are differences occasionally manifest on the other side of the House. It is not a bad thing at all that there should be differences within the ranks of political parties; far better than to be regimented. On this particular occasion I speak on behalf of the Labour Party in this House, and I hope that will be duly appreciated.
The right hon. Gentleman disclosed the various steps leading up to the present situation and the proposed contractual agreement. Perhaps the House will bear with me if I dare to refer to matters that occurred in the process of those events, because I was closely associated with all the discussions, with the late Ernest Bevin and with the former Foreign Secretary, primarily as regards the defence aspects. I would remind the House that we are dealing here, not with the general aspects of the proposed contractual agreement, but with that part of the contractual agreement which relates to the proposed creation of a European Defence Community which should precede a German contribution to the defence of the West. In fact it is, although a vital and undoubtedly controversial issue, a narrow one.
The Amendment submitted by the official Opposition accepts the principle of German equality in a European and Atlantic community, provided it is democratic in its nature. The Amendment is ready to accept the further principle that a free and unified and democratic Germany should promote its aims by peaceful means, and, moreover—and I ask the House to note this—subject to essential safeguards against a revival of German militarism, also agrees to the principle of a German contribution to the defence of the West in the context of collective security.
So far there is general agreement, and the narrow point that divides us is that in our judgment the present moment is regarded as premature for the purposes of ratification, and that is what we are discussing. Nobody on this side of the House—indeed, there can be nobody in the House—believes that we can impose restrictions on the German people for ever. That country and its people must be brought within the comity of free and peaceful nations so that it can make its proper contribution, both to economic prosperity and to world peace. These are platitudes but, nevertheless, they contain essential truths which cannot be ignored, and I believe that the statement I have just made will receive general acceptance.
So far, so good. But now I direct attention to the Government White Paper which was issued in March of the present year. No doubt hon. Members have read it and know its contents. It contains two declarations, one by Herr Adenauer on behalf of the German Federal Government and the other by the French Govvernment. Both those declarations bear evidence of the difficulties associated with this matter of German defence, and also disclose many reservations, and we must take note of them. Moreover, as I ventured to interject in the course of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, following something he said on this score, neither of those countries has yet ratified the agreement, and yet we are asked to act in advance of the two countries primarily concerned. That seems to me, as it seems to my hon. and right hon. Friends, to be acting with undue haste.
While I shall not enter into details, some of which will be dealt with by my right hon. Friend at the close of the debate, and may be discussed during the debate, it is admitted that important issues of finance, in particular, but also of arms production and, moreover, relations with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, have yet to be settled. Now, these are vital matters, and Herr Adenauer in the declaration he made, to which I have referred, which is contained
in the White Paper, was cognisant of the difficulties, because he said:
Finally, I would also like to say to you that there remains a great deal of work to be done here. We must dispose as quickly as possible of the question of a defence contribution. In fact, during this week we must dispose of the question which I have just mentioned, of armaments production.
Neither of those questions has been finally settled. Nor are they likely to be settled for some considerable time to come. I merely mention these matters in order to show that the signing of the contractual agreement does not by any means finally dispose of all the difficulties and reservations which are suggested in the declarations to which I have just referred.
Perhaps the House will permit me, following on what the right hon. Gentleman said about the events leading up to the present situation, to disclose how all this came about. I am speaking only of the proposal for a German contribution to the defence of the West. It is perfectly true that the present Prime Minister did speak about the need for some measure of German defence many months ago, but the first official pronouncement on the subject emerged as a result of discussions which took place during the meeting of United Nations Organisation at New York in September, 1950. The three foreign Ministers, Mr. Ernest Bevin, M. Schumann and Mr. Dean Acheson met, and it was Mr. Dean Acheson on behalf of the American Government who first proposed the idea officially.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to note this, because his argument seemed to me to indicate that he thought the idea was accepted without any reluctance whatever. When the idea was first presented officially by Mr. Dean Acheson, it was only accepted after protracted discussion, and then only in principle and, above all, with the greatest reluctance. It was referred back to the Government of the day who also accepted it in principle, but because certain details had to be worked out, the three Defence Ministers representing the three countries were asked to go to New York for the purposes of discussion.
I recall in the speech that I made there during the discussions saying what I now say; I do not resile from what I then said. I stand by it. I said that the proposal was premature because there had been no preparatory discussions whatever, and it was wrong to throw this across the table and bring pressure to bear upon other Governments to accept it without having preparatory conversations. What resulted? It was accepted by the Labour Government in principle, but it was made abundantly clear over and over again that, while accepting the principle, it would only be accepted with definite safeguards, in particular against any possible revival of German militarism.
After all, that is the danger to which we are still exposed. I hope it will not be regarded as too hackneyed or as too much of a platitude if I say that in two world wars Germany has been the aggressor, and we must exercise the greatest caution in order to ensure that she is not permitted to undertake an act of aggression in the future.
The matter was referred to a meeting of the Defence Ministers at Washington in October, 1950. It was at the Washington Conference of Defence Ministers that M. Moch, the then Defence Minister representing France, presented the idea of an integrated defence force—what is now described as a European Army. That was the first proposal. It was strenuously opposed by every Defence Minister present at that conference, with the exception of M. Moch and the Belgian representative. The United States opposed it. I would not care to use the language that was used by their representative there when the idea was first promulgated, but it was very strong, and I must say that I agreed with it.
At any rate, the proposal was referred back. Then there was subsequent discussion at further conferences, and thereafter the High Commissioners were asked to explore the proposal with the Germans, and this exploration occupied a considerable time.
Now we come to a matter which I regard as of vital importance. There was a gap in the discussions between the reference to the High Commissioners who were to undertake this task of exploration with the German Government, and the official presentation of the idea of a European Army. During that gap we were concerned, as Defence Ministers, and indeed so were the Foreign Secretaries and the others—the North Atlantic Council, in fact, were concerned—with the appointment of a Supreme Commander, because it was thought that if we could secure the services in particular of an American Supreme Commander we should be able to get all the materials we required, build up the N.A.T.O. forces and that nothing more would be required.
For a time this matter of a European Army was in suspense. The Supreme Commander was appointed with acclamation, and he came to Europe. He toured all the countries concerned—France, Belgium, Italy and all the rest—and then General Eisenhower returned to Washington. What did he say when he returned? He made his report—and this, by the way, was his sole observation on what he had discovered in the course of his report. It is very interesting indeed, and indicates that even after the exploration, the discussions, conversations, negotiations and the tour of General Eisenhower, there were grave doubts as to the desirability of proceeding with this proposal. While it was being accepted in principle, there were grave doubts about its practicability.
General Eisenhower said:
I personally think that there has to be a political platform achieved, and understanding that will contemplate an eventual and an earned equality on the part of that nation"—
that is the Germans—
before we should talk about including units of Germans in any kind of an Army.
That was a vital remark, having regard to the fact that he was Supreme Commander and was expected to build up forces in the West, including presumably German units. He was by no means satisfied with the position.
It was after he was appointed and after his six weeks tour of Europe, when he returned to Washington to make his report. I think it was early in 1951.
Furthermore, this matter was referred to the Council of Deputies to explore and they conducted a very exhaustive exploration, but finally it seemed that they broke down on the question of finance. In February, 1951, the Labour Government reaffirmed their acceptance of the principle of a German contribution to the defence of the West but, as I have already said, stipulated that certain conditions must be fulfilled before any step was taken.
Now I come to the so-called Attlee conditions which the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary regards as outmoded. At least, that is what I thought he intended—no longer necessary. I must join issue with the right hon. Gentleman in this respect. First, I want to say that we stand by the Attlee conditions. We do not withdraw a single word of what was said. What were the Attlee conditions? First, that the other countries in Europe associated with N.A.T.O. should be adequately armed. Surely that is a very wise precaution.
Let us not forget what the proposal about the German contribution to the Defence of the West actually is. It is a proposal to integrate a force of 12 German Divisions. Surely, it would be unwise to seek to build up 12 German divisions before the French have actually got 10 divisions.
So I repeat what I have said before in the House about the actual state of the French defences. They are clearly inadequate. At the present time they have no more than five properly equipped divisions. It is presumably because of their commitments in Indo-China and other difficulties. Nevertheless, we have to face the fact, and hon. Members must take note of it, that so long as the French are in a hopelessly inadequate defence position for one reason or another, it would be clearly unwise to place adequate armaments in the hands of the Germans. That is the first point.
It may be said that in due course American arms production will be able to provide arms not only for France, Belgium, ourselves, Italy, Yugoslavia, Turkey and Greece and to all of whom they are committed, but also to Germany. The fact is—and no doubt the right hon. Gentleman has discovered it—that American arms production is many months behind schedule. France cannot make the necessary contribution in respect of the necessary divisions because she cannot get all the arms which she requires, and clearly she will not be able to get them unless she gets them from the United States. Before we talk about creating 12 German divisions, surely we must ensure that France and the others are in a strong position. Therefore, the Attlee condition in that respect has not been fulfilled.
May I ask my right hon. Friend one question. Does he understand the first of the so-called Attlee conditions as meaning this: that the N.A.T.O. Powers other than Germany shall start well ahead of the Germans and, as the Germans proceed, keep well ahead of the Germans? Does it mean anything other than that?
I suppose that is what it means, but it is not a question of what it means but of what actually results.
There are a lot of well-intentioned people about the place, but when it comes down to brass-tacks it is quite a different proposition. I am concerned about placing arms in the hands of those people who are definitely associated with N.A.T.O. before we begin to place arms in the hands of people who, in the opinion of the French, should not yet be associated with N.A.T.O.
There are some people who say, "Let's make a beginning in the recruitment and training of Germany. You do not expect to get 12 divisions overnight; let us make a beginning." Without arms that makes nonsense of the proposal. If we recruit Germans whether voluntarily or compulsorily—and that is not yet settled; that is another difficulty—we have to place arms in their hands for the purpose of training, or is it suggested that we should train them with broomsticks? The Germans will not accept that. We have to provide them with arms. Clearly the arms are not available until the French and other countries associated with N.A.T.O. are adequately provided for.
I am not suggesting that the French and the others should be supplied to the last button on their soldiers tunics, but they have to be adequately armed, and they are not at the present time. I would certainly like to see the 15 or at least 12 of the French divisions that were promised before creating a German contribution. That was the promise that the French Defence Minister, M. Pleven, and others made of how soon the French were to build up their divisions. What a terrible experience that was. We do not seem to have made a great deal of progress since, and I deplore the fact. Let it not be forgotten—and I hope that the House will pay attention to this—that when the idea was first formulated it was not because Dean Acheson or the late Mr. Ernest Bevin or anybody else wanted the Germans to be armed and provide a German defence contribution; it was because of the slow build-up of the N.A.T.O. Forces.
If there had been a steady progress in the building up of N.A.T.O. Forces, and if every one of the countries had done as well as we had done, as General Eisenhower has admitted to our credit, that would have been different, but the facts were otherwise. All through, we were concerned about this German contribution to the defence of the West, not because we wanted to put arms in the hands of the Germans, but because it was clear that we could not build up the N.A.T.O. Forces in time.
I am not sure that I fully understand what the right hon. Gentleman means. Do I understand that the late Government said that there must be 15 French divisions before there was any German call-up at all? Because I am sure he will bear in mind that all these arrangements concerning Germany and France are matters for the E.D.C.
I was not suggesting that the Labour Government stipulated that there must be 15 or even 12 French divisions before we started on the German contribution for the defence of the West. The French promised this. They have not been able to fulfil their promise because of their other commitments in Indo-China and elsewhere.
I now come to the second Attlee condition. Should we delay the ratification of the contractual agreement until the German people have consented? Surely no one on either side of the House ever contemplated that we should force the proposal on the Germans without their consent. That would be intolerable. After all, if we are to have a German force we must have a willing force. I ventured to say this during a debate in the House many months ago, and it was never seriously challenged, because the present Prime Minister, in the course of his speech which preceded mine, seemed to indicate that the Germans must build up a force at our request. We cannot do that. We must obtain the consent of the Germans.
I present a further argument. The present German Federal Government has no specific mandate to raise forces either within N.A.T.O. or through the E.D.C. This is not a minor issue. If this was a minor piece of legislation on housing or social insurance, then obviously it would not require either another election or a plebiscite or a referendum or seeking to gather the collective opinion of the Germans. This is a vital issue.
Over and above that, the right hon. Gentleman will agree that whatever the Adenauer Government may say about N.A.T.O., ratifying this agreement and proceeding expeditiously in the building up of a German contribution to the defence of the West, that is not the opinion of the Social Democratic Party in Germany. If we have a divided opposition or a unified opposition or any German opposition to the ratification at this stage of the contractual agreement, are we going to impose this scheme on unwilling German people? That seems to be wrong.
I understand that these constitutional issues which have been referred to and which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned have still to be cleared away. So I ask the question, and perhaps the right on. Gentleman who is winding up this debate will reply: Is it wise to force this scheme upon the Germans when there is so much controversy and also fly in the face of social democratic opinion? The Social Democrats are not only a strong opposition, but a potential Government.
Then I come to the third condition. I am sorry to prolong the discussion. A new factor has emerged. That is the two Soviet notes. I think this is a very difficult matter to handle. It is not a question of whether or not we like Soviet Russia and her philosophy. I could express a very strong opinion about it, and it might be regarded as hostile, but all along I have felt—I do not know what other hon. Members may think—that when we have two divergent ideologies in the world which cannot be reconciled, they have at least to live together. It may be unfortunate that such different ideologies exist, but, after all, we have to live alongside other ideologies in this country, and on the whole we manage very well in our democratic fashion. Therefore, whether we agree with Soviet policy or not is beside the point.
It may be that no further talks will take place, or that, even if the talks take place, no success would be achieved, but what does matter in my judgment and in the opinion of my hon. Friends is that we should put this vital matter to the test. If this is just a Russian trick we shall soon find out. For myself, I express this opinion. While I dislike Russian political manoeuvres very cordially, I would rather have a succession of Russian political manoeuvres than a succession of Russian military manoeuvres.
It may be that this is just delaying tactics on the part of Soviet Russia. But here I enter a caveat. I say on behalf of the Opposition that we should not agree to prolonging such talks if they go beyond a reasonable time. There must be a limit they must not be unduly prolonged. But to embark on this perilous adventure—I am speaking of the E.D.C. part of the Treaty, not the contractual agreement in its general form, with most of which we agree—without some attempt to reach agreement with Soviet Russia would be to ignore the strength of public opinion in this country, in France and in other N.A.T.O. countries. I must therefore ask the Government to press on with the matter with a sense of urgency.
I do not want at this stage, because it would prolong the debate, to join issue with the right hon. Gentleman in what he said about the Soviet Note, except to repeat that it seems to me that composing our differences may take a long time. The difficulty about bringing together the divergent views through further discussions is a matter not of principle but of machinery. The right hon. Gentleman has suggested that it should be a United Nations Commission, but Soviet Russia objects to the United Nations Commission because it regards such a Commission as prejudiced to begin with. That would seem to me to be a very narrow point.
On the other hand, the Russians have accepted the proposal about free elections. There is a coming together. Again, that may be a Russian manoeuvre; I do not know, but for heaven's sake let us try it out. I agree cordially with the right hon. Gentleman in saying that looking back over the past we are bound to be suspicious about Soviet Russia, but I sometimes wonder how the Russians feel. I wonder if they are sometimes—unjustifiably, but we can understand it—a little suspicious of us and the United States. We must remove those suspicions as quickly as we can.
Therefore I say, with the utmost goodwill toward our American friends, who appear very hostile to the proposal to have further discussions, that if there is any reluctance on their part—I say this as a friend of the United States, recognising that cordial Anglo-Americans can yet save peace and the world—to enter into discussions, we must do everything we possibly can to overcome it.
This is a very important matter, and I do not want there to be any misunderstanding about it. It is not a question of reluctance—really it is not—on the part of any Government. I think our last Note showed absolutely clearly our complete readiness to discuss these matters with Soviet Russia. If there is a move which, on consideration, the Opposition think we should have made to bring about these discussions we should be glad to hear it, but we think that we have made every effort that is possible.
The Opposition will be very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the temper of his observations. Any willingness to respond to any kind of approach, however modest or difficult, the Russians make, may yet save the world—I do not know—but I beg right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House not to turn down these proposals. Perhaps there is too much talk, but talking is better than fighting in the long run, and if such talks succeeded it might mean that we should be on the road to world peace.
I put this to the right hon. Gentleman, because I believe it deserves a response. If the talks should fail, we then have no alternative but to organise the defence of the West, including the Germans. I do not know what this will mean. Speaking personally, I hate to enter into a fight—perhaps this will surprise hon. Members—until I feel, first, that I am strong enough, and, secondly, that I can carry it through. It is no use talking about organising defence unless we have the substance of it, and nothing disturbs me more, because of the knowledge I happen to possess—I wish I did not possess it, but I do—than the inadequacy of the defences available. I wish it were otherwise. It is a very difficult proposition for us.
I want to give an emphatic denial to the charge that we have changed our ground. Sometimes if we represent a point of view which may seem to be unusual or cannot be reconciled with something that we have said earlier without regard to the context in which we said it, we may be regarded as insincere. The Prime Minister yesterday seemed to accuse me of insincerity because I had expressed a view about National Service. But it is sometimes a good thing to look back at what one has done and to consider possible mistakes. That does not do any harm at all. Nothing is to be lost even by exploring one's own personal record. Are we to understand that our views should never be changed at any time or in any circumstances? Why, the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite have changed a lot in recent years, and I hope they will change still more—and the views on this side of the House—for the good of the country and the world.
Our position remains the same as it was when we enunciated the qualifying conditions. I repeat that we accept the principle of a German contribution to the defence of the West in terms of collective security. But let us be assured before we ratify the agreement that German opinion has been sought in a democratic fashion—I repeat, in a democratic fashion—and that a large measure of agreement exists, and let us make sure that other Western countries are in a condition of strength. Let us give the French and the Germans the opportunity of ratifying the agreement first. That is a primary consideration for them, but so far it has not been done. Finally, let us try out the possibility of talking with Soviet Russia and seeking to remove differences which, unless they sooner or later disappear, will evoke the most terrible consequences to us all.
Before my right hon. Friend sits down, will he make clear something which I am sure he has in his mind, and that is that his attitude to the Amendment and to the Motion is an objection to the timing of the ratification of the agreements and not to the substance of the agreements?
I was hoping that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) was going to define the word "inopportune" in the Opposition Amendment in terms of time. How long does he suggest that there should be a postponement of ratification? My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary told us earlier this afternoon that the first call-up of the German forces would not be until 1954. That would seem to give the N.A.T.O. forces as flying a start as could reasonably be desired.
The next thing the right hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest was that the German people had not really given any clear decision one way or the other whether or not they wish to come into the E.D.C. agreement. That calls into question the qualifications of Dr. Adenauer to speak for the German people, but I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that Dr. Adenauer enjoys a larger majority in Western Germany than the party opposite had between 1950 and 1951 when they formed the Government in this country. Nor do I think we should have to have a lead from France and Federal Germany before we ratify this agreement.
It is not by accident that so much of the discussion that has taken place in this House since the war about Europe has centred around Germany, because Germany reflects in miniature the whole problem of Europe. Like Europe, Germany is divided. Just as Soviet obstruction has prevented the unification of Europe with the immense benefits that it would bring, Soviet obstruction has also prevented the unification of Germany. So we have the position of Western Germany free and Eastern Germany to all intents and purposes behind the Iron Curtain. This raises great problems, and many of them are very difficult to solve. But we have got to take the situation as we find it and deal with it instead of dealing with the situation as we should like it to be.
The foremost and outstanding problem is the problem of defence. For reasons of which we are all too painfully aware, in any future war Europe must be defended as far east as possible. Whether we like it or not, that involves Western German territory because if Western Germany is excluded the frontier comes back west of the Rhine. In that event in any future war free Europe cannot be defended but only subsequently liberated.
The question thus arises whether or not the Germans themselves should contribute to their own defence. This is quite a simple question, but unfortunately there is not a simple answer to it. Let us suppose they do not contribute to their own defence. What are the results? In the first place, an immense additional burden would be placed upon the N.A.T.O. forces in general and upon the United Kingdom in particular. Secondly, an immense economic advantage would be given to German industry because it would be relieved of any burden of armament at all. Thirdly, I believe great psychological damage would be done to the people of Western Germany, for it would breed in them a mentality of resignation and not of resistance.
On the other hand, no one can conceivably contemplate the re-armament of Western Germany without considerable heart searchings. Last Whitsun some of us in this House went to Strasbourg. Those of us who took our cars drove across the battlefields of Flanders and across to Verdun. There are a few old men in France who still remember 1870. There are a great many more in France, in this country and, indeed, in this House who remember 1914, while all of us remember 1939. Those three dates have carved great wounds across the face of Europe, and it would be foolish to pretend that all the wounds have been healed leaving no scars behind.
But is the choice between a measure of German re-armament and continued de-militarisation? I do not think it is. If it is the choice then those who would choose the latter must realise the implications. These are a continued occupation of Germany for an indefinite period, and we can easily imagine the position of a Federal Government under these circumstances. Every single election in Germany would be fought on the issue of how soon the Germans could get rid of the occupation. That road is, I believe, the road to Moscow. The choice is between some form of German contribution to Western European defence, or the vacuum of a neutral Germany to whom the Soviet have offered a national army as a bait in return for compliance with Soviet demands.
I do not think anybody supposes that a neutral disarmed Germany could remain neutral or disarmed for any length of time with all her immense industrial potential, spreadeagled as a kind of buffer state between the Iron Curtain and the west—and independent of both. That picture of Germany exists only in the realms of imagination.
I am saying that the choice is between a measure of Western German re-armament or a neutral Germany to which the Russians offer a national army as a bait to comply with their demands. I was going on to explain that I did not think a neutral Germany could remain neutral or disarmed for any length of time, and when my noble Friend interrupted me I was about to add that one of the reasons why Germany could not remain disarmed is because there is already re-armament in Eastern Germany.
The problem, therefore, is this—what kind of German contribution is best for Western European defence, best for the Germans themselves and best for the French? I believe that the answer lies in E.D.C. Here we have a German contribution tied down with five other nations inside E.D.C., in its turn inside N.A.T.O., which in its turn is under the operational control of S.H.A.P.E. The pace, type and progress of German rearmament will be controlled by N.A.T.O. Some people will say that Germany can still break out. I quite agree that she can. There is no human device of which I can think that can guarantee that Germany will not break out supposing there were at a future date a Federal German Government deliberately prepared to make trouble. All I can say is that the nature of E.D.C.—its political and military structure makes a break-out much more difficult.
We are embarking on a new experiment of co-operation with Western Germany. But to allay the French fears, which we fully understand, we have also given a separate guarantee of automatic military assistance to the E.D.C. countries which is an extension of the guarantee given under the Brussels Treaty. We ourselves are founder members of N.A.T.O. Together with American troops, British troops in N.A.T.O. will still remain in Germany. Together with the United States we have given a separate guarantee to Berlin. No one can say that we are not implicated to the hilt. If these safeguards will not allay fears, if this prescription will not heal old wounds, I do not know what prescription will. If no one is prepared to try out a new prescription, then the wounds remain, and in that case there is not much hope in the long run for the future of Western civilisation.
There is another dilemma we have to face much closer at home, and that is the dilemma of the party opposite. I hope that whoever winds up this debate will define in months or years what they mean by the word "inopportune" in the Amendment. How long do they think there should be postponement of ratification? Whom do they think postponement will benefit? Does the right hon. Gentleman really think he will square the circle within his own party by postponing ratification, with all its international complications, for a few months? I do not understand the position of the Opposition Front Bench. It was the former Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) who signed the Washington declaration of September, 1951. What was apparently all right then is all wrong in July, 1952.
The real trouble is that at one end of the Socialist Party there is a complete opposition to all forms of German rearmament and at the other end they feel that German re-armament would only be safe so long as it is in Socialist hands. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) and others have performed the remarkable feat of allying themselves with that section of German political opinion which is primarily nationalistic and whose whole campaign against Dr. Adenauer consists of accusations that his foreign policy is an infringement of German sovereign rights. So, not for the first time, the Socialists and the Communists—I agree for different reasons—are united in a determination to get rid of Dr. Adenauer.
Nor do I believe it is true that, if this agreement is ratified, as I hope it will be, it puts paid to any chance of unifying Germany. That is what the Russians would like the Germans to believe, but Senator Connolly, the Democratic Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, put it very well the other day when he said, "Freedom is contagious." If I might put it a little differently, I would say that when a club is successful, as I think E.D.C. will be, its membership is apt to increase.
Would the hon. Gentleman answer one question on that interesting point about freedom being contagious? Is he implying that if we have a Western Germany with its West German army and an Eastern Germany with its Eastern army, then somehow the East Germans will contagiously be affected and voluntarily liberated by their Communist tyrants? How does he envisage this strange contagion bringing East Germany somehow by magic within the Western World?
I am saying that just as the Western Powers can never hope to conclude any satisfactory negotiations with the Soviet Union until they are in a position to negotiate from strength, so I believe the position of a disarmed Western Germany in relation to a re-armed Eastern Germany puts the former in a very difficult position. In many ways it is openly inviting aggression.
May I put another small question, because this is an important point? I think we would agree that there is something to be said for the partition of Germany, but the hon. Member was saying just before that if we had a Western Germany armed it would make for German unity also. Now he tells us that German partition is desirable. Which does he like—partition or unity? He has to make up his mind.
I do not believe that it is possible to have German unity so long as one part of Germany is infinitely weaker and, in military terms, at the mercy of the other. No one pretends that these contractual agreements are a peace treaty. We still hope to work towards a peace treaty. In spite of what the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said, we have not refused to have four-Power talks. What we have rightly done is to insist on one minimum condition, namely, that circumstances should be guaranteed in which free elections can take place.
I doubt whether the Soviet Union wants a peace treaty because, if a peace treaty were to be signed, if agreement were to be reached, it would mean that the Soviet Union would have to withdraw their troops. They would much prefer to confuse and spin out the issue in the hope that in the end the allied forces might withdraw. They would then stall in subsequent negotiations and attach fresh conditions to the achievement by Germany of its sovereign and independent State.
In the meantime nothing could be more foolish, nothing more dangerous, nothing more calculated to play straight into Soviet hands, than to lay down the tools which hon. Gentlemen opposite have put into our hands and to delay and wreck the entire E.D.C. structure and the contractual agreements that go with it.
We might as well face the fact that in discussing what might be a turning point in our history we have not so far been discussing the actual issues. I do not mean particularly in this debate, but in all the other debates that have taken place here, in the Press and in the country. The issues have been confused and beclouded, as the whole question of our relations with Germany has been beclouded since long before the war. Let us remember that before the war the tactics of Hitler were to try to becloud vital issues by turning attention towards the Jews and their sins.
During the war, in accordance with war-time practice, the feelings of the allied peoples were whipped up by turning their bitterness against the German people. If hon. Members want a refresher about this, let me quote a short paragraph from a paper which is, I am sure, today enthusiastically supporting these contractual agreements and the German contribution to defence. The "Sheffield Telegraph" of 7th October, 1941, said:
This time punishment if it is to be effective must fall on the German nation…What should we like to see done?…Obviously we cannot stick Germans against walls and shoot them in scores…But we could pledge ourselves to remove from Germany everything movable—pictures, statuary, musical instruments, household furniture, clothing, jewellery, machinery, motor cars, raw material…In short, we could 'loot' Germany.
That was the feeling widely expressed during the war by people who today are expressing precisely the opposite feeling. That is a warning to us to try to keep clear heads when we are discussing these important issues. Let us not forget that we still have amongst us in both parties the survivors of the Vansittarts and the Morgenthaus.
Fortunately, there were before and during the war people who had a very clear conception of what was involved in this struggle that was going on and who realised that it was not a struggle between the German people and the British or any other, but that an international struggle was taking place between the powers of totalitarianism and the powers of democracy. I invoke a message that was sent from the Labour Party in July, 1932, to the German trade union and Socialist organisations. I quote only two short sentences:
To our comrades of the German Social Democratic Party. It is with passionate interest and growing admiration that British Labour is following your magnificent fight for Socialism, freedom and peace. We have watched with deep concern the menacing advance of your enemies, who are the enemies of us all.
Later, it goes on:
You are fighting not only the battle of the German workers but our battle…for progress, peace, and social justice against reaction, militarism and oppression.
That was the recognition at that time that it was not a question of the German people against the British people, but that deeper forces were operating. I am afraid that they are still operating today.
What we are seeing today is still the same struggle between the powers of totalitarianism, under a new guise, and the powers of democracy, trying to defend their rights and freedom. That struggle is taking place in all countries, including Germany, because there are still, as the Prime Minister reminded us during the war, many millions in Germany who stood aloof from the crimes of Hitler and his Nazis and whom we promised, through the mouth of the Prime Minister, would in these years be liberated to assist us in the struggle for establishing peace and democracy throughout the world. It is as well to remind ourselves, in such situations as we are in today, of these facts.
From the beginning, during and since the end of the war, I have welcomed, as also did many of my colleagues during the war, every step that could be taken after the war to destroy these forces in Germany and to assist our own friends in Germany—the democratic forces in Germany—to establish themselves firmly in control of that country.
I do not want to go into the history of why Germany is divided. The Foreign Secretary did that very well today, and I agree with every word that he said on that point. I could add much more, but time does not permit. I think, however, that the real danger to democracy in Germany at present does not lie in any immediate threat of a revival of Nazism. All the elections that have taken place in Western Germany of recent years have shown that it certainly does not arise from a resurgence of Communist, because that is fading away even more markedly than in our own country.
The real danger to democracy in Western Germany, I am convinced, lies in the fact that the West German Parliament is not accepted by the German people as a very good example of democracy; nor can it be so long as that Parliament is not a free, democratic Parliament, but can be regarded as a tool of occupying military Powers, to whom it must turn in every case for its instructions, from whom it must obtain, the necessary protection for its own laws. Such a Government and Parliament cannot do anything to contribute towards building up democracy, particularly in a country where they have to have very long memories to remember democracy in its best aspects. Therefore, I welcomed very much indeed the Washington Declaration of September, 1951.
Before turning to what has developed from that declaration—the treaties which we are discussing—it is necessary, first, to deal with some of the arguments of those who for many different reasons are opposing this step, as they have in many cases opposed every previous step towards assisting the German people to their freedom and into the Western democratic community. It is difficult to summarise their arguments and to deal with them comprehensively in a short time, because they are such a mixed bag.
In the opposition to these developments, we are dealing with the Communists, whose purpose is clear. We are dealing with the "fellow travellers," whose purpose is equally clear but whose identification is sometimes a little more difficult. We are dealing with the pacifists, whose purpose in some cases is, obviously, quite honest, but some of whom are getting a little mixed and are considering their pacifism as being confined, apparently, to only one side of the barricades. And we are dealing with others in the categories I have already mentioned—people who do not like the Germans anyway.
Like most of my hon. Friends, I have had my instructions, and these instructions are mostly from those whose purpose would be served by putting the process of the integration of Western German civilisation with the West into reverse. I have a number of messages from my constituents. The first telegram that I received this morning was in these words:
Urge oppose ratification Bonn contractual agreement.
It is signed:
Sheffield Communist Party.
I have a number of others, but there is one with about 15 names attached to it, with apologies for not having had time to get more. Not one of the 15, I am glad to see, is from my constituency. They demand that I oppose this, and they say:
By doing this you will gain the support and admiration of all honest and sincere men and women who are against any attempt to re-arm Germany.
That, of course, is a completely different purpose from that of the Communist telegram. As will be well known by those who have taken the trouble to read the Russian Notes—the Foreign Secretary touched on this today—the Communist purpose and the purpose of the "fellow traveller" is not to prevent the re-armament of Germany, but to prevent the re-armament of Western Germany. I am not so sure that everyone is familiar enough with the terms of the first Soviet Note, which submitted the terms of their draft treaty for the new united Germany. I recommend everybody to get a copy of it and to look at it frequently. It says:
In this connection the Soviet Government continues to regard it as an indefeasible right of the German people to possess its national armed forces necessary for the defence of the country, without which the question of the powers of the all-German Government cannot be resolved in a just and worthy manner.
In the actual draft of the treaty which they submitted with the Note, they said:
All former service men of the German Army, including officers and generals, all former Nazis, save for those who are serving terms on convictions for crimes … must be granted civil and political rights on a par with all other German citizens for taking part in the building of a peace-loving democratic Germany.
It goes on:
Germany will be permitted to have its national armed forces…
So the Russian and Communist case is not against the re-armament of Germany, not against bringing the Nazi generals into control of the German Army. On the contrary, it is precisely to achieve these things.
Oh, no. I challenge anyone to produce any American statement in these terms. But there is no doubt at all that that is the Russian case. When we are challenged by Communists for seeking to raise forces in Western Germany and to re-arm the Nazi generals, they ought to be reminded that that is the Russian proposal, not ours.
There may not be any concrete statement in those terms, but the actions taken by the Americans suggest, surely, that they are equally as anxious as the Russians to reinstate the Nazi generals.
That, of course, is an assumption. In any case, I was not referring to the Americans, but to what the Russians were proposing. I was referring to it in relation to the pressure that is being put upon the House by the Communist Party in this country with quite the opposite arguments. There is no doubt at all that a reversal of this process of bringing Germany into the Western community would certainly, above all, serve the purposes of the Russians and the Communist Party.
The second argument is that the ratification of the new agreements bringing Germany into E.D.C. would make the unification of Germany more difficult. Would it? All the evidence has been the other way. Until the Lisbon Conference it was quite hopeless to get any kind of reaction from the Russians at all in regard to German unity, but immediately the Lisbon Conference was finished, the E.D.C. Plan was produced and the contractual agreements brought forward, Russia sent its Note asking for discussions about the unification of Germany and about the signing of a peace treaty. So, again, the evidence is all the other way.
I do not see, even if it were not so, that the signing of these treaties would prevent the unification of Germany at a later stage. There are some people who seem to have the impression, according to the arguments they produce, that we have to be particularly careful about this at the moment because we are in a transition period. We have heard of a transition period so often that one begins to wonder whether we have not always been in a transition period.
The other day in Germany I heard a story to the effect that when Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden, Eve became very unhappy about the very bad conditions under which she was living. She complained to Adam, who said, "It is all right, my dear, we are living in a transition period." That argument has been brought forward from time to time in the history of the world and it seems that we are always in a transition period, but we can only deal with the facts as they are at any particular time.
Curiously enough, the argument very often brought forward that we dare not put arms in the hands of the Germans because we cannot trust them generally comes from those who are loudest in their demands that first there should be a free German election. They say that the Germans are essentially aggressive, we cannot trust them with arms and, therefore, we must put it in the hands of those same monsters to decide whether they are to arm. [Interruption.] I do not want to mention any names—which would be out of order—but that argument has been put very often in the confines of this House. I am sure that we shall hear it in this debate; the same argument put forward by the same voices.
Another argument is that to do this might incite the Russians to take military action and that the Russians are afraid of arming Germany. That surely is a little out of date. What has been going on in the Eastern Zone has been pretty clear to many of us for a long time. It has been doubted by many others, but I do not think there are many doubters now because the Russians are in fact boasting about it. And I refer again to their own draft treaty, because they demand that not only should there be re-armament but the national army and in that army the Nazis generals should have the same freedom as everyone else.
Then I come to the argument that in any case we shall have no advantage in bringing 12 divisions into Western defence because Russia will simply reply by bringing 12 more divisions into the East. But she is doing that now, and did it before we talked about a European Defence Community. But whether she did it, and whether or not she is doing it now, is not quite so important as the point, if the argument is relevant, that if it is no use bringing 12 divisions into the West because Russia would just do the same, then that applies equally to every step we, the Americans and the French have taken in this period. It applies to any increase in our strength to which the Russians, on that argument, would reply in the same fashion. I do not see the difference between 12 German divisions and 12 British divisions so far as the response of the Russians may be affected.
The argument now is to be that if we have 12 divisions in the Western zone and 12 divisions in the Eastern zone, it cannot be helped because it started in the Eastern zone in any event. Would my hon. Friend deal with the point of view of some informed opinion in the United States, for example, Walter Lippman's view, when he says:
We are in the gravest danger of finding ourselves in a wholly untenable position "— and goes on to say that our strategic and political interests will come into collision with the best interests, the national interests, of the German people themselves?
I do not propose to start analysing that rather long statement. I was not dealing with that at all. I was merely saying that if it is a valid argument that 12 additional German divisions in the West added to N.A.T.O. would mean that the Russians would put in another 12 on their side, that would equally apply to 12 additional British or French divisions. Whether there is any value in the 12 British or French divisions I leave to my hon. Friend.
The next argument is about Germany in any case eventually becoming aggressive if given arms. Aggressive against whom? Against Russian and all her satellites in the East, or against America and all the West? Or is it proposed that she would turn against all the United Nations forces together because, apparently, we are all equally afraid of a re-armed Germany? If, in fact, Russia is so afraid of German aggression and we are so afraid of German aggression, it might even be that the build-up of a powerful German national force which began to threaten aggression against East and West might be a very good thing if it achieved what so far we have failed to achieve, the unity of the United Nations, in which case I do not thing anyone need have very great fear of German aggression.
We have moved a long way from 1941 and the distance that we can yet achieve from 1941 depends largely upon the measure of agreement that can be achieved between the West and the East, between Russia, America and ourselves. If that could be achieved, even at the expense of having a German national army in the middle, it might be worth looking at from that point of view.
I do not propose to say a great deal about the treaty itself because I am generally in agreement with its purposes and principles. I would, however, refer to the fact that when the Foreign Secretary made his announcement about the Treaty in June last, I asked him a Question, in the course of which I said:
…it would be unfortunate, to put it mildly, if the question of ratification were brought before this House before we could be satisfied that every opportunity had been examined by Her Majesty's Government and every opportunity given to the Soviet Government to test the offer that has been made for consultations regarding the possibility of an all-German election and an all-German Government?
To which the Foreign Secretary replied:
I cannot admit that the power of the free countries of the West to take action is dependent entirely upon the quality of the replies we receive from the Soviet Government"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th June, 1952; Vol. 502, c. 38–9.]
That is not what I asked. What I asked was that we should ensure that the House should be satisfied, before we were asked to ratify these treaties, that a genuine attempt had been made to come to some conclusion about this with the Soviet Government.
The Foreign Secretary and the Government have not taken that warning and I am sure they have thereby surrendered quite a lot of support they might otherwise have had in this House. The Foreign Secretary, in the course of his arguments this afternoon, did suggest that the Government had done all in their power to try to persuade the Russians to come to a meeting to discuss this.
I have very carefully read the Notes which were exchanged. The first, on 10th March, from the Soviet Government was in very moderate and friendly terms, I think the Foreign Secretary will agree. There was nothing offensive about it. It asked to discuss the whole question of a peace treaty with Germany, which would have to be with an all-German Government, and so on. But I must say that our reply of 25th March was not in very warm terms and did not give a very warm invitation to come to any talks at all. It would, I think, be very difficult for anyone to find in that reply any sentence to suggest that we were anxious to have talks.
It is true that in our last note we finish up by inviting discussions, but discussions of a very peculiar type. I do not want to go into that at the moment, but I do not think it is the case that we have responded as we might have done. In any case I do not think there has been a great deal of time to get a reply from the Soviet Union on the question of actual discussions.
The Foreign Secretary did not seem very clear whether or not the Russians were prepared to consider elections. He suggested that they have ruled out elections altogether. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) pointed out, in the Note of 9th April the Soviet Government specifically refer to the necessity for discussions on the whole question of holding free German elections. They go on to argue whether it would be more desirable to have them done by the four Powers or the United Nations Committee. In view of that, I agree with the last comments of my right hon. Friend, that the Government have made a great mistake, not in not suspending or postponing this treaty, but in rushing it.
We are on the verge of separating for the Summer Recess. Neither of the two chief parties to this agreement have yet ratified. There is no urgency about our ratifying and we are in the course of correspondence with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the question of the discussion of German elections. So why should it be necessary to rush the thing in before the Recess?
Would not it have been much better to have said to the Soviet Government, "We are very anxious to have these talks, but you realise that we have the contractual agreement and E.D.C. before us and we must ratify them in due course; we are not going to postpone that. But Parliament will be resuming in October and you have from now to September, or the middle of October, to see whether or not we can get on with German elections." There would be no postponement, we could consider the facts of the situation, and we should have a real opportunity of testing whether or not the Russians meant business.
The reason I think it important that we should not miss any opportunity of testing this is because I feel that in this cold war—which has been going on so long and at such cost to ourselves and the Russians and other countries as well—one day one of us will realise that we shall have to climb down; and I think it is more likely to be the Russians than ourselves. Whoever it is, I am satisfied that they will not wait until they are obviously on their knees before they do it. They will make a big gesture from apparent strength, as the great peacemakers of the world, and we never know when that gesture will he made, because it will not be obvious when it is to be made. This may be it. I do not think it likely because we have had so many disappointments, but I agree with my right hon. Friend that we must try, and we must he sure that the test is a real one before we take any step which may make it more difficult.
Before the hon. Member leaves that point, may I ask him whether he is suggesting that each and every time a gesture is made from Russia we should interrupt the policies forced upon us by Russia herself?
My whole point is that in this case we do not have to interrupt anything. Clearly this need not have been brought up for ratification by us, any more than by France or the other countries, until October. What we do not like is this being pushed in at the last minute before the Recess.
I am afraid I cannot give way, because time does not permit.
I should like to point out that there are one or two weaknesses in the Government Motion. It affirms,
that these instruments give effect to the policy set out in the Declaration signed by the Foreign Ministers of France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America at Washington … and pursued by successive Governments of the United Kingdom for the inclusion of a democratic Germany on a basis of equality…
It does not do anything of the kind. It is not a basis of equality when one party to the contract will have an army whose command is in the hands of an authority
of which they are not allowed to become a member. The French Parliament, by resolution, decided that the Germans will not be allowed to become a member of N.A.T.O. It is not a basis of equality when there is a special provision for an emergency situation in which all German authority may be suspended.
In this connection, I should very much have liked to ask in detail what that clause actually means. I will tell the House what some Germans think it means. There was a strike of the trade unions against some newspapers in Germany a little while ago, and in the course of that strike, or immediately following it, the newspaper "Die Welt," which is an important paper in Western Germany, stated—I will translate roughly from the German:
From this we can congratulate ourselves"—
from the experience of this strike—
that in the new general treaty there is provision for an emergency clause in which the Western Powers can intervene in a situation which threatens order in Western Germany.
Therefore, it is clear that some people at least in Germany are reading into this clause the possibility of Dr. Adenauer's Government, or whoever may be the Government of Germany, calling in British, American and French troops in order to break strikes launched by the trade unions. That is a very serious thing, and I hope that we shall have some clear assurance from the Government which will go to Germany, because I can assure the House that there is a great deal of disturbance about it in the trade union movement there.
I do not like the Opposition Amendment at all. It refers to the
inclusion of a democratic Germany on a basis of equality…
I agree, but it goes on
…subject to proper safeguards and conditions…
I do not know what a basis of equality subject to proper safeguards and conditions unilaterally applied to one party actually means. It goes on further to refer to the Government proposal as being "inopportune." I agree, but I do not agree with what follows
particularly at a time when attempts are still being made…
etc. I should like to know what "particularly" means. Does it mean that, apart from the question of Russian
discussions, there are other factors which make it "inopportune"? If there are, I should like to know what they are.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington advanced some rather curious arguments. He said, first of all, that the whole idea of the European Defence Community arose not because the Americans or ourselves or France wanted German divisions, because we none of us wanted them, but because N.A.T.O. members themselves have failed to provide sufficient defence forces of their own and therefore the German divisions were necessary. If that were not so, he added, there would be no need for any question of German divisions. So that we only want German divisions so long as, or because, France, for example, has not yet contributed her quota. Yet he went on to argue that we should not permit the German contribution until France and the others are up to strength. In short, there can be no German contribution in any circumstances. We may as well have said that in the Amendment. We support something which we ourselves introduced, and then introduce completely contradictory arguments of that kind.
The whole difficulty over the last four or five years has been to get sufficient contributions in the way of defence from the Western democracies. We have either to do it ourselves or with America and France, and if that fails we have to do it for ourselves with America and France and what we can get from Germany, or, if France fails and we decline German help on that account, we are left, perhaps with America, to carry the whole burden ourselves. I cannot see the logic of the argument which has been made that because the N.A.T.O. members cannot provide sufficient forces, and only then can we appeal to the Germans, who will not be allowed to contribute because we have not sufficient ourselves. It is a remarkable argument.
I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary has not taken the advice which I suggested to him when this was first mentioned. I would remind him that a great deal of psychology is involved in the timing of this matter. Not only in Eastern Germany but in Western Germany there is a desperate anxiety that we should not miss any opportunity of coming to terms with the Rusians on German unity. There is certainly a suspicion that by rushing this ratification through before we go away for the Recess we are parties to trying to get this arrangement enforced in order to prevent that German unity which, many Germans think, right or wrongly, Dr. Adenaeur does not seem very anxious about.
I hope that it is not too late to ask the Government to reconsider. They achieve nothing by having this Motion passed tomorrow. If they bring the question before us again after the Recess and can say, "We have waited for the Russian reply and we have not got it," or "We have met the Russians and they are not prepared to agree to a quadripartite or United Nations control of all-German elections and therefore there is no alternative but to ratify," that will be a different matter.
If they can do that, then no doubt there would be a considerable measure of unanimity in the House for ratification, because we recognise that we cannot go on for ever with this impossible situation. And—this is probably even more important—it would resound all through Germany, West and East, that the attempt had been made and that there was no prospect of German unity and that, therefore, Germany ought to be prepared to make her contribution to the common defence of Western civilisation.
In rising to address this House for the first time, I hope hon. Members will forgive a comparative newcomer for joining in a debate of such immense importance. I know that it is the custom of this House to show indulgence to maiden speakers, and I trust that I shall not abuse the kindness of hon. Members by pressing arguments beyond the point that is necessary to make my meaning clear. Of course, it one has any views at all, suppose one is bound to disagree with someone.
As the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe) said, defence really lies at the crux of this matter. It seems to me that the re-arming of Western Germany is a military necessity forced upon us by an immediate danger. In these matters one has to bow to the best military opinion. Therefore, the problem resolves itself into this: how can we remove one threat without at the same time creating another, equally grave, in the future? In 1945 we defeated the Germans, but in doing so we left ourselves at a disadvantage with Russia. Many people today feel a fear that the same thing may happen again with the roles of the two countries reversed.
The question before the House is whether one can better prevent that from happening by ratifying these treaties now, or whether it is better to defer their ratification. The essence of this problem surely is to keep Germany facing West and to prevent her from turning eastward. In speaking of Germany, one of course refers to the Western Federal Republic, because East Germany has no independent voice of her own.
At the outset, it seems to me necessary to recognise two facts. The first is that Germany, by her potential strength and by her geographical position, occupies the most influential place on the European stage. Secondly, she, and no one else, will decide her own future. From this it follows that the balance of forces in Europe practically depends upon the balance of the parties in Western Germany. That is an unfortunate situation when one considers that, in so far as Germany has any parties at all, they have always tended to be singularly unstable.
In these circumstances, it appears to me that the best approach is to look at this matter through German eyes. What they want is freedom and political union —freedom in the Western sense of a free society, and political union in the joining together of the two halves, which are separated by the present occupation, and some frontier adjustments. As matters stand today they cannot get both. We can offer them the conditions for a free society, but only in Western Germany. The Russians, on the other hand, can restore Eastern Germany to them but they are prepared to do so only on the assumption that the resultant whole will become a Russian satellite. That, therefore, is their choice. To believe in the possibility of a neutral and disarmed Germany is quite unrealistic.
Obviously, the first alternative, that of a free Western Germany, is to our advantage. It is our duty to establish in the minds of all Germans that it is equally to their advantage. When one remembers the two main points of their policy, their two chief objectives, is it not more likely that a United Western Europe, to which the Western Federal Republic belongs, stands a better chance of adjusting the Eastern frontiers than that a united Germany under Russian domination will ever be allowed liberal institutions?
I cannot feel very sanguine about Russia agreeing to territorial adjustments of any kind in the east. After all, she approaches these problems mainly from a military point of view, and it is most necessary for her to control the Baltic to protect her right flank. If she concedes the Eastern zone of Germany she is weakening her position. But suppose that we discount the hope of recovering anything in the East. Then still, from the German point of view, the first alternative is far better, because it will at least give them 50 million free Germans. The other way they will have none.
That is the German choice, but Germany never finds it easy to make decisions, because so often she speaks with two voices. That brings one up against the curious duality of character which has affected her history so profoundly during the past 250 years. The good European against the Chauvinist. Now, above all, it is our task to encourage the right voice and discourage the wrong one, not only because the wrong voice speaks aggressively, but also because all past history shows that the Chauvinist in Germany has a natural tendency to turn Eastward and to come to terms with Russia—whether it might be a Bismarck who does it from a fixed policy or the mere opportunist who will try each direction by turns.
One would have thought that the German today would have learned from his own history that had he followed the principles of the Frankfurt Parliament or the Emperor Frederick it would not only have been very much better for us, but very much better for him, too. The fact remains that in spite of two total defeats in 50 years there are some who appear to be ready to take the old course, the wrong course, for the third time.
This brings us to the question of when to ratify. We now have a German Government which is willing to accept treaties which will bind her much more closely to the West than has ever been possible before. We cannot exclude the possibility of secession, but the very difficulty of withdrawing makes it that much less likely, and, in any case, we will have longer warning of such a withdrawal than we would have had with an ordinary alliance, or with no alliance at all.
Since the balance in Germany is so precarious, I cannot see the advantage of delaying when the luck seems to be running our way. It seems to me that, by hesitating now, we may lose a chance which might not recur for many years to come. It strikes me as being like a man at an auction who has made the highest bid, and then asks the auctioneer to keep the hammer raised a little longer just to reassure himself that a higher bidder will not turn up. If the Germans were asking for the delay, I could understand it better, but this seems to be the wrong way round.
Once the treaties are ratified, it seems to be clear that the situation will work to our advantage, because the prosperity of Western Germany and the poverty of Eastern Germany will move into sharper contrast. I have no doubt that that is why Russia is so very anxious to delay, and, if possible, to prevent, that ratification.
In conclusion, I believe the question we are all asking ourselves is how much fight there is left in Germany at the present time. I think it is fair to recall that, whenever in the course of history the dominant land Power in Europe has challenged the sea power of these islands, sooner or later, it has lost its supremacy. That has applied at different times both to France and Spain. I do not think that argument is destroyed by the advent of air power, or by the fact that the command of the seas is now shared between the United States and Great Britain. What we all want to know, of course, is how far this chastening process has gone in the case of Germany. It is impossible to say whether Remer in 1952 is more or less dangerous than was Hitler in Landsberg gaol in 1924, but one is entitled to remember what a leading American journalist said quite recently —that Germany had not succeeded in winning a war for more than 80 years.
Be that as it may, Germany, whether we like it or not, occupies the key diplomatic situation in Europe, and she, above all others, is in a position to precipitate another war or to ensure peace. Today, it seems to me that we have one of those rare and fleeting opportunities of the kind that Briand and Stresemann looked for but never got—the opportunity of setting Germany on the right road, and, indeed, of saving her from herself. I think that opportunity should be seized with both hands.
It is always a privilege to follow a maiden speaker. Indeed, I think that, on the last occasion when I caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, I had the privilege of congratulating a maiden speaker on a brilliant speech. I think the speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Fleetwood-Hesketh) has been quite as impressive as, if not more impressive than, the one which I had then to praise.
I should like to say one thing to the hon. Member for Southport. I nearly always disagreed with his predecessor, but I could not help liking his jovial pugnacity. Now, the hon. Member has shown a clarity and cogency of argument which makes one realise that there is still hope for the Tory Party. We all hope that in time, may be in 10 or 20 years, that clarity in argument will seep forward to where it does not now exist—on the Front Bench.
If I followed the hon. Gentleman's argument rightly, I thought he was saying in substance, but with much greater precision, what my right hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) was trying to argue, but reaching the opposite conclusion. That shows the confusion in which we are in this debate.
I find myself in a very unusual position, because in this debate the loyalists—those who are linked to the Front Bench in amity—are below the Gangway, while the nest of potential abstainers—and do I not know the problems of abstention?—find themselves struggling with their souls a few feet up there, believing that their souls are going to be saved by voting in the right way, despite all the arguments they presented. It is a wise solution, if one wants to get on, as I have found by bitter experience.
Let us now turn to the Foreign Secretary and the subject of this debate. The Foreign Secretary was trying to tell us that the gravamen of the argument is on us—that we have to show why we should not ratify these contractual agreements this month. I suggest that the gravamen of the argument is on his side. He has to show special reasons why Britain, before any other European Power, before France and Germany, who are far more vitally concerned than we are in the European Defence Community—why Britain should go ahead, why we should go right ahead this July, when he has already told us that the Germans' Second Reading is not until September, and the Committee stage and Third Reading some weeks beyond. The French are on a gorgeous recess, and I congratulate them upon the financial success which has enabled them to have that tax recess, but it is also a recess in dealing with this German problem.
If the French and the Germans are thinking things over very carefully, why do we have to ratify tomorrow? The Foreign Secretary had to give us the answer to that. Instead, he gave us a most convincing discussion of the substance of the agreements; and I say to him straight away that if, after all, one has to do this, I say that, broadly, the way it is being done is the way it ought to be done.
But should it be done now? The issue raised by my right hon. Friend is mainly one of time, as the whole issue of German re-armament over the last two years has been one of time. Everybody has always known that, if the cold war goes on for 20 years, sooner or later, if it goes on that length of time, there will be a German army. The issue has been where, when and how Germans should re-arm, and not the principle of re-armament. And the "when" issue is probably the most important at the moment. So suggest that those who wind up the debate from the other side might begin to argue their case, and begin to tell us why we have to do it this July. If they will not, I will.
I will suggest to the Foreign Secretary why we have got to do it now. We know that the Foreign Secretary cares about a bi-partisan foreign policy, and that he would rather have the House voting unanimously on Germany. He knows quite well that there are a large number of people on this side of the House, not including myself, who have been waiting to see whether he got four-Power talks, and, if they failed, he knew that he could have got much greater unanimity for ratification. He is naturally inclined to want it. Why is he breaking the bipartisan foreign policy and making it impossible for this House to vote unanimously today? The answer is that Mr. Acheson wants him to do it. Does he really deny that he has been pressed by the Americans to ratify early, so as exercise a "healthy influence" in Paris and Bonn? Does he deny that? I will sit down if he wishes to do so.
As far as I recollect, the suggestion that we should ratify in July was my own. I do not think anybody suggested it to me. If the hon. Gentleman likes to look up the proceedings on recent treaties, he will see that it is absolutely normal. We have been rather longer, in fact, than the late Government was in ratifying any one of their major treaties.
I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman—he is not being quite as fair as he usually is—that the contractual agreements cannot come into force until the E.D.C. Treaty has been ratified. There is, therefore, no requirement for us to ratify contingent agreements until the primary agreement has been ratified.
I do not think it is really going to be denied that it was known that the Americans wanted us to give "a healthy lead" in Europe. Indeed, what was the argument used? It was that if we did not ratify, it would strengthen the forces in France and Germany opposed to ratification.
I am glad to have the position clear. That at least would have been an excuse I could understand why the right hon. Gentleman should want to split the country on this issue. He knows perfectly well that had the party on this side been in power they would not have ratified the agreement this July. They would have held it up for Four-Power talks. Any responsible Government would hold up ratification until they had tried at least once again to get a peaceful agreement.
Further, any responsible British Government have got to deal with the problem of the financial part of the contractual agreement. The Foreign Secretary, in answer to questions on that subject first of all told us that, of course, it was going to cost us more when the Germans did not pay occupation costs. Now he is giving us an assurance that it is not going to cost us a penny more. Frankly, I do not think he knew much about it when he came back from Bonn. My suggestion is that our negotiators have been trying for months to taper off the occupation costs over a period of years. What surprised our negotiators was that this fight to retain occupation costs was given away at the highest level in order to bring in the Germans. [Interruption.] I am talking about the contractual agreement on the subject of the German occupation costs. We know there had been long and arduous negotiations about the costs of B.A.O.R. after ratification.
It was obviously to our advantage that the costs should taper off over a period of years and not suddenly stop, because if they did then the cost of B.A.O.R. to the tune of about£100 million in gold would fall on this country unless the Foreign Secretary could persuade somebody else to pay it. That is really what he admitted. He said, "We are going to try to get another member of N.A.T.O. to pay for B.A.O.R. when the Germans stop paying." Would the Belgians pay? Who is actually going to pay? I dare prophesy that when the actual figures come out, two-thirds of the cost will fall on this country, and that we shall once again carry the burden because we were anxious to be helpful in rushing through the agreement.
We are discussing today whether these agreements should be ratified now or whether they should be postponed. I should have thought that in this matter of the issuing of a blank cheque which has to be honoured in gold—because in the E.P.U. the Germans are creditors and we are debtors—we might at least postpone the date on which we have to pay it, because every month that we do not ratify it delays still further the coming into being of this new arrangement.
As the Chancellor reminded us yesterday, we have already got£200 million of overseas military commitments—a most grievous burden—and an extra£100 million will be added in this way unless somebody else in N.A.T.O. is willing to pay for B.O.A.R. Frankly, I do not believe we shall pull out a single armoured division or that somebody else will pay. I have a horrible feeling that when it come to the bill, it will fall on our shoulders. Therefore, I do not see why we should rush to ratify the agreement. This is not an argument against the agreement, but an argument against rushing in to ratify it.
At Bonn, there was no need for rushing into signing. We could have got better terms if we had waited. In the same way, there is no reason to ratify this agreement in a hurry. We feel that the thing is being hurried and railroaded through. I say to the Foreign Secretary—and I think he will agree with what I say —that from September, 1950, the problem of Germany has been bedevilled by American urgency to impose their strategic requirements on Europe. There is a tendency for generals in the Pentagon to see Europe in terms of divisions, and when they looked at Europe in 1950 they could see nothing but a gap with no divisions. They asked themselves, "How are we going to fill it?" They said, "We must get German units." That is how it really happened.
I thought at the time that we should have put greater pressure on the Americans not to rush into this thing. Somebody has said that Ernest Bevin was the creator of this policy. Let us realise what he thought about it. I think it worth quoting what he said on the last occasion that he was a free man and could say what he thought. On 28th March, 1950, in reply to the present Prime Minister, he said:
I have been asked to submit that the whole purpose of our policy should be the winning of Germany for the West"—
that is what the present Minister asked him to do—
This raises the question of the arming of Germany. All of us are against it. I repeat, all of us are against it. It is a frightful decision to take…We are to use this force, when we have armed it, to defend ourselves against Russia. Well, there are such things as preventive wars…We then go to Russia and we propose to discuss matters with them with Germany, armed by us, on our hands. I suggest that handling Europe in that way is not wise and not good, and will not produce the desired result. Therefore, I must say to the right hon. Gentleman that we have set our face…against the re-arming of Germany… "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th March, 1950; Vol. 473, c. 324.]
I think that was a pretty good speech. There is not a word I would modify in Ernest Bevin's prophecy in March, 1950, of what would happen if we put our hand
to that job. I am saying that it is unfair to say that this was Ernest Bevin's policy.
What happened to Ernest Bevin? In 1950, the Korean war came. At the first meeting in New York, Mr. Acheson made it clear that any American contribution to the defence of Western Europe was conditional on the acceptance by Britain and France of the principle of German rearmament. That was the frightful dilemma presented to Ernest Bevin, an old and very sick man, in New York on 7th September.
He knew the Americans were threatening to pull out of Europe unless he signed on the dotted line, not for German rearmament, but for the principle of German re-armament. Heaven knows what it means. But Ernest Bevin signed for the principle, and, having signed for the principle which he thought to be wholly wrong and one rejected by every European nation, he not unreasonably sought to hedge it round with conditions which would immunise it as far as possible.
The so-called Attlee conditions are basically Bevin's policy, and the Attlee-Bevin policy was the same as that followed below the Gangway. We understand that America is a great ally whose views must be considered. But if we have to accept a principle in haste, for Heaven's sake let us try to restrain American impetuosity by delaying it as far as possible and surrounding it by conditions. That was the bargain which was struck, and when one strikes a bargain with an ally one has a right to demand that one's part of it is fulfilled.
This country did not agree to German re-armament. It agreed to German rearmament plus the conditions, and those conditions are enshrined in the Amendment which the Opposition are moving today. We on this side are quite convinced that no one in July, 1952, can say that if we start ratifying and re-arming the Germans now, the spirit or the letter of these conditions will be fulfilled.
My hon. Friend has mentioned Ernest Bevin a great deal and he said, I am sure perfectly correctly, that when Ernest Bevin accepted the principle of German re-armament he had great fears in mind of the possibility of preventive aggression from Russia and of lack of public support in Europe. Since then, would my hen. Friend not agree that, having seen that the Russian reaction to E.D.C. has been on the whole a healthy reaction, and having seen that the principle of German re-armament is now far more widely accepted than it was, Bevin would be confirmed in the acceptance of the principle of German rearmament if he had to make up his mind now?
That is not a question and my hon. Friend should not make a speech when I am speaking. Obviously I shall deal with that subject. I have thought about it, and he should wait for the answer to come in the logical order of what I have to say. Ernest Bevin was passionately opposed to German rearmament. He accepted it only because it was made a condition of any American assistance in Europe, and Heaven knows which one of us would not have accepted it in those circumstances. It is a deuce of a threat to make to anyone. After he had accepted it, he hedged it round with conditions which we are fighting to maintain today.
All right, I will repeat it, and it can be denied from Washington if it is not true. I said that the Americans made any further American contribution to the defence of Western Europe, including the nominating of Eisenhower as Supreme Commander, conditional on our accepting the principle of a German contribution. The Foreign Secretary does occasionally read the "New York Times" and the "New York Herald-Tribune" and this story appeared in the greatest detail in every paper, except in the British Press. One only has to read an authoritative American newspaper to find that it is an established fact that this happened.
I do not blame the Americans for using their negotiating power. I only want to get it clear where we are. This was American policy imposed on this country and we have to honour it. Bevin was not going to rat on the principle, but he was going to immunise it as far as possible; and we have every right and duty to continue that fight today.
The Foreign Secretary talks gaily about how we are going to help Europe by ratifying. Does he deny that there is not one country or one National Asembly in Western Europe which would dream of accepting E.D.C. if it were not for American pressure? Does he believe that the French Assembly or the German Bundestag would pass it? Of course he does not. He knows it is American policy. It is our duty to restrain our American friends from imposing this policy without considered conditions to prevent—
That was not my question. Is the Foreign Secretary going to tell me that the French National Assembly or the German Bundestag would pass E.D.C. or the contractual agreements were it not for immense American pressure? There has been the biggest pressure ever used to get these things through. It may be very wrong, but the overwhelming majority of the population of Germany are neutralist in temperament and they do not like this thing being done. If one took a plebiscite in France one would not get approval for it. I do not say that we should take a plebiscite. But we have to face facts. The French do not like it and the Germans like it least of all, but they are taking it because they are dependent upon dollars.
We are not being a good friend of America if we help them to railroad things through against the will of the people. We are a much better friend if we warn them to be patient and not to force matters. We have a duty to do that as partners and as friends. And I resent being called anti-American for saying it. Whenever one says, "Let us advise the Americans to be sensible" one is called anti-American until disaster comes and then one's opponents agree that one was right—too late.
So let us assume that this is American policy and let us ask ourselves about its merits. I have indicated that the main reason for it was a military reason in the summer of 1950. Three-quarters of America's available army was in Korea and there were two inadequate divisions in Germany. That was the American strength during that summer, and I do not blame the Pentagon planners for being scared and saying that they must raise troops as soon as possible and finding this solution. But it was not a political decision. It was a mlitary decision to get a German army going as soon as possible.
I ask the Foreign Secretary this question: is the military justification of June, 1950, as strong in July, 1952? How, after the speech of the Prime Minister yesterday, with the announcement of a reduction of arms and of selling our arms to Belgium, are we to believe that there is military urgency at all? It would be only in a desperate emergency that I would re-arm Germany. But since military urgency has declined in the Prime Minister's view to a point where exports must take priority over defence, had he not better have a review of the pattern of his European policy as well as of the pattern of his defence policy, and ask what we are doing in re-arming Germany when, after all, this desperate emergency has not come?
Moreover, we have learned a good deal in the last two years. My hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) was very daring about an East German army. I have not forgotten that for three years cadres of the German army have been trained in Eastern Germany. Those cadres are formed of former officers and N.C.O.s, and that means that they can have x divisions within a matter of weeks.
That means that the very moment we start re-arming Western Germany, East Germany will re-arm far faster. If we re-arm the West Germans we shall have to form the cadres first, and there will be all sorts of difficulties about that. I do not know how we shall do it. We shall be very slow at the start. This means that the military addition of the Germans to us in the first two years will be far less than the military addition of the Germans to the Eastern bloc.
Of course, people will say, "The Germans will not be reliable in the Eastern bloc." I spent a lot of time in the last war trying to persuade Germans to desert. I did not have much luck. They tend to fight very bravely in battle, on whatever side they are. I should not recommend the Germans in the Eastern bloc as being wholly reliable, neither would I assume it of those in the Western bloc.
But I would say to those people who argue for German re-armament as the sole way of defending Western Europe that immediately we have our lot of Germans the Eastern bloc will have their lot and cancel it out. Then we shall be told, "We did not calculate this and we shall have to have more forces to defend the Germans." I suggest that we shall have to have more armed strength to defend an armed Germany than to defend an unarmed Germany, because the tension of the cold war will be so great. If tension grows to that point we shall be very much worse off.
Now I come to the second lesson we should have learned since 1950. General Eisenhower and Governor Stevenson, who are now the respective Republican and Democratic candidates, have both said that in their view it will be possible to withdraw all American soldiers from Europe when Europe has organised herself sufficiently to defend herself. Governor Stevenson said:
I see no reason why, if the nations of Western Europe can attain a sufficient degree of economic strength and stability, they should not ultimately provide all the ground forces necessary for their security.
I suggest that a platoon of American soldiers is a far greater deterrent to the Russians than a division of German soldiers. If we re-arm Germany and lose American ground forces as a result, the security of the Western world will not have been strengthened by that process. I cannot blame an American Congressman who says, "We want to re-arm the Germans to get our boys back home."
[To leave out from "House," to end, and add "rejects Her Majesty's Government's proposals for the re-armament and remilitarisation of Germany and urges Her Majesty's Government to submit to a Four-Power Conference proposals for a neutral and disarmed Germany which will not be a danger to other countries hut whose manpower and resources will be used for the raising of the standard of life of Europe."]
I do not want to waste time. I am expressing my view as to the reason why it is inopportune to ratify the treaties now, and why ratification violates the Attlee conditions. I am explaining that one of the dangers of having German divisions is that there will be the temptation to withdraw American ground forces from Europe. As long as we have no German division there is no temptation for American Congressmen to say, "Let the Germans do the job." I assure the Foreign Secretary that the Congressional pressure for saying, "We have 12 German divisions get our boys back home," will be overwhelming.
If we are measuring things in terms of security, I would rather have a small American force as a deterrent to the Russians than a large Germany army, because the American force in Western Germany will mean that there is a threat of a world war if the Russians move in.
Now I come to the most disingenuous argument used in favour of ratification—that ratification is the first step towards the unification of Germany and that if the Germans will only ratify and have a German army or German divisions in a European army, that will help them along in liberating East Germany. I challenge anybody—including the Foreign Secretary—to tell me how, when Western Germany has been armed and integrated into the Western bloc and when East Germany has been armed and integrated into the Eastern bloc, Germany is going to be peacefully united. I have asked this question of German politician after German politician in Bonn—including the Chancellor. It is simply an act of faith. They say, "Because we are in favour of ratification and we do not like to say we are not in favour of unity, we must believe that ratification could lead to unity." But they could not give the vaguest reason why it should.
I suggest to the Foreign Secretary that the threat to re-arm Germany is a major negotiating weapon, which he has used with skill. I said this last November. As long as there is the threat to re-arm Germany we may persuade the Russians to come to the conference table—but only as long as it remains a threat, that is, something which they can prevent by making a concession in return. That is what diplomacy means—preventing something which one does not want to happen by making a concession which one is prepared but does not like to make.
It has to be realised that once we move from threatening to re-arm Germany to having a re-armed Western Germany, the pressure on the Russians will no longer be for negotiation but for hurrying up their own re-armament and accepting the inevitability of war. There comes a point where this policy of strength leads us not to negotiation from strength but to the policy of ultimatum, to the end that there is no other way of liberating East Germany than to march in and liberate it, just as the Russians would feel that there was no way of liberating Western Germany except by marching in and using force.
Once the partition has been accomplished, by ratification and the building up of armies on the two sides, that is an irrevocable step. The Foreign Secretary did not say a word about it. He did not tell us the truth, which is that within two years of ratification Europe will become another Korea, on a vast and more tragic scale, with a South Korea and a North Korea, two rival governments, two rival armies and an inevitable armed clash in the end. That is what we are facing. That is why I am opposed to ratification if I can conceivably avoid it.
I do not deny that if the present situation continues for two, three or four years and we get no hope of settlement, these things will become inevitable and we shall drift towards World War III. But I do not see why we should deliberately hasten the process. The Foreign Secretary says that there is really no point in negotiating with the Russians. He said that at first and withdrew it when I put a question to him. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] All right—he said there is a point in our negotiations as long as they fail.
I agree with the Foreign Secretary that the Russian demands at present are totally intolerable. The Russians are making total demands. They are demanding a German national army. They want the whole of Germany on their side, including the Ruhr. But let us be frank. Our counter-proposals are equally total. We demand nothing less than the whole of Germany on our side, armed against the Russians. There will not be any serious negotiations until both sides are prepared to budge from these totally unacceptable positions; but let us not be self-righteous about it. It is absolutely fair to say that we cannot accept the Russian demands but it is equally fair to point out that our demand is that East Germany should integrate into the West Atlantic bloc.
Let us be candid. We have also said that the German Government shall be free to decide and free to associate with the Atlantic bloc and the Russians have said the Government should not be free to associate. I asked this last time, and I was told, "Of course they must be allowed to join the Atlantic Powers." We all know what the aim is. What we are asking is for the German Government to joint the Atlantic Alliance, and that is just as impossible for the Russians to accept as it is for us to accept a German national army linked with Russia by what would be a Stalin-Hitler pact all over again. We are, in fact, nowhere near serious negotiation, not only because the Russians have put nothing serious forward but because we have put nothing serious forward, either.
We have asked that Germany should have, the right to free choice and we have asked that she should have free elections. Not unnaturally we hope that the choice will be in our direction, but it is a most monstrous abuse of words to say that in demanding a free choice, that includes a demand that she should join the Western bloc.
We are not prepared to give a free choice to the Germans. We all know what most Germans want. They want neutrality—and that is what we are not prepared to give them; and I do not blame us for not being prepared to give them that, because I do not believe in giving the Germans complete neutrality. They can be a very dangerous people.
We have to think this out. Neither side is prepared to give to Germany complete freedom to start World War III on their own. Both the Russians and our- selves have the right to impose security arrangements which will prevent a country which started two world wars from launching on a third, and it is hypocrisy for us to say that we want to give the Germans complete freedom to join the Russian bloc. We do not and we should not; and, indeed, we should be insane if we did. We want to impose conditions which will prevent World War III But in my view, the conditions imposed by the Government are likely to produce World War III.
The world can be divided today into "co-existers" and "liberators." "Liberators" believe in wars of liberation. They exist in the Kremlin and in Washington and in London, and especially among hon. Members opposite. They say it is Utopian to believe in any agreement with the Russians. They claim that the only thing to hope for is the liberation of all the oppressed people, and that we must assist in that liberation as far as we can, just as the Russian "liberator" says he must assist in the liberation of all people oppressed by capitalism. The "liberators" are the extremists who do not believe in the possibility of co-existence.
One of the healthiest things in America is that the "liberators" in the Republican Party have been given a licking. Mr. Eisenhower's election as candidate was a great defeat for that part of the Republican Party which is busy liberating Communist China and Indo-China, and liberating all sorts of other people. They are liberating Indo-China by supporting Bao Dai, liberating China by supporting Chiang Kai-shek and liberating Korea by supporting Syngman Rhee. They are liberating Germany by ratifying a treaty which keeps Germany permanently divided. That is what "liberators" do, and they make war inevitable. Victory in the Kremlin and in Washington and in London for those who believe in wars of liberation is what we in this country have to avoid.
The vast majority of people in this country are not "liberators." The "liberators" are the lunatic fringe of the Conservative Party, because most of the party are sound on this. They know that we have to co-exist with the Soviet and with the new Chinese Communist Republic. They know that we cannot reverse all these things, and they should know that we have to teach the Americans to co-exist and not to try to reverse the tide and to "liberate" peoples from the nationalist revolutions. That is our job and that is why I beg the Government, even at this late hour, to reverse their decision, because to line ourselves up on this issue at the moment as they ask, and to bring British pressure to bear on the Germans and the French to force through this ratification, will, in fact, be a sign that we are throwing overboard genuine negotiations for coexistence.
The Foreign Secretary said, "Look at our wonderful Notes." He said the delays were because we were so democratic. Let me assure him that when they are eager, democracies can act as quickly as anyone else, and if American democracy had been eager for a four-Power Conference, there would not have been an average of five weeks' delay between each step. To try to pretend that the Western Powers' response to the Russian initiative showed genuine eagerness to have a four-Power Conference before the ratification of this agreement is misreading the facts.
This agreement is being railroaded through before a four-Power conference. One of the motives is because some people do not want an agreement on Germany, because an agreement on Germany will involve concessions by us as well as by the Russians and because it will mean that we shall have to give up the idea of having German legions on our side. That would be no great sacrifice to some of us, but it would be a sacrifice to hon. Members opposite.
I beg hon. Members to realise that the Russians are a patient people. They will wait 20 years to achieve a policy. Surely our policy of co-existence demands equal patience in achieving a peaceful settlement of the German problem. We cannot have co-existence unless we can achieve an agreed solution on Germany with the Russians. If we cannot, there will be a war.
Is it not worth being a bit patient, is it not worth holding things up and trying again? Was not that Ernest Bevin's one great quality—patience to go on trying? I accuse the Government of sharing the impatience of the Americans, of condoning their impatience, instead of restraining it. If we restrained it, we should be speaking for Europe. If the House refused to ratify the agreement today, there would be cheering among the masses of the people in every country in Western Europe.
The hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) has, as usual, given us an ingenious speech. What is the burden of his story? He told us, first of all, that this Parliament was compelling the reluctant Parliaments of France and Germany to ratify this agreement. He warned us against rushing into expenditure which we should later regret. He even implied that German troops would fight most unwillingly on our side.
The hon. Gentleman cannot get away with that. I was very careful. I said that, just as the Russians will not place complete reliance on any Germans on their side, so we should be wise not to place complete reliance on any Germans on our side.
I cannot see the difference between the two remarks. It implies that Germans would be most unwelcome and unreliable allies. He said all this was done because the United States of America were compelling us, by dollar diplomacy, by power diplomacy, to follow this course of action. If that were true, if Europeans were willing to be squalid mercenaries of American wealth, I for one would believe that the great days of Europe were over.
I support this policy not because the United States of America are interested in Europe. I should support it even if the United States were under the sea. I support it because I believe that Europe has a unique and valuable contribution to make to the civilisation of the world and that it can survive only if it unites its forces. I remember so well—perhaps, hon. Gentlemen opposite remember it also—that striking passage in Lord Keynes's book, "The Economic Consequences of the Peace"—the picture of old Clemenceau—tired, old, and scarred from parliamentary battles, reserving his strength for France as he believed she had unique virtue, as Pericles believed of Athens. As one who has had the privilege of meeting the leading European statesmen, I am passionately convinced that Europe has a unique virtue in it, and I think it will be preserved only by Europe unifying itself.
Was the hon. Member for Coventry, East opposed in the past to all the various steps taken to bring Britain and Germany closer? Was he opposed to the Russian scheme for crushing reparations on Western Germany? Was he opposed likewise to the Schuman Plan? Was he opposed to the various moves to integrate Europe more and more closely together? Was he opposed to the Strasbourg conference? Was he opposed to the Council of Ministers?
With the hon. Gentleman's permission I will endeavour to answer just a few of those questions. I was opposed to the Schuman Plan. I was in favour of rapidly giving Western Germany the greatest degree of political freedom possible, and the fullest economic integration. I was opposed to German rearmament.
I am glad to find that there is something in which the hon. Gentleman believes, because my impression of his speech was that it was six ingenious arguments for doing nothing—and for doing nothing in a period of change and of doing nothing while the Russians are doing everything.
It seems to me that in our policy towards Europe we have reached the phase —or, if I may use an aeronautical term—the point of no return. Having embarked on this policy of trying to bring Germany as an honourable and willing partner into the European community, I believe we have reached the stage at which, unless we go forward, we inevitably move back to certain destruction. We have reached a period in the history of Europe when the Germans will tend either towards the East or the West and might, with a shift of power, incline towards Russia.
I take the question that the entrance of Germany into the European Army will bring nearer the threat of war. To answer that one must consider the motives of those in the Kremlin. Everyone knows that they believe that the West in time must collapse. They are like the huntsman who has chased a wounded tiger to its lair and who says, "I need not go in after it because it is about to die, and the only reason for going in after it would be if it were old and weak and easy to kill, or that it was about to launch a final attack."
I believe, therefore, that our present policy at the moment should be to limit our arms effort to a defensive role—not to delude the Russians that we are about to collapse but to get arms to protect ourselves and at the same time to have sufficient war potential to be able to resist aggression. I believe that our present policy, with the entrance of German forces and aid into the community of Europe, should be a defensive one—a shock absorber—which will deter Russia and at the same time not frighten her into aggressive action.
I believe with all the sincerity I can summon that we have reached the point of no return in our European policy. It would be fatal to go back now. The best insurance of peace is to develop the policy we have already initiated. I believe that all of us, perhaps, here feel that we should devote our main strength in this country to binding together people of all classes and interests in a common endeavour to make life better for us; and second, to maintain above all things the Anglo-American alliance; and third, to see that Europe can make its precious contribution to the world by regaining its strength through unity. And I say the moment to do that is now.
Let me say at once that I agree with everything that has just been said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Hamilton Kerr), and I should like to thank him, if I may, for the tone in which he spoke, and for the tolerance and understanding which he has tried to bring about amongst us all. How very different it was from the speech we had just before by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man).
I thought when I looked at the Amendment that has been put down by the Labour Party that the point of difference between them and the Government was a very small one. I thought there was agreement that it was right that a democratic Germany could be set up—that it should be a democratic Germany and that it should also take its part with other European nations in defending Europe, becoming a part of Europe and an integral part of Europe—and that the only question was whether it was opportune at this present moment to ratify the agreements that had been made.
But when I listened to the hon. Member for Coventry, East—I am sorry he has departed so quickly from the Chamber—I found that all kinds of accusations were now being made for which, so far as I could see, there was no justification whatsoever. If he had not said in one sentence that he resented being called anti-American I should have thought, from the rest of his speech, that all our troubles in the world today were caused by America. I wish the hon. Gentleman had not left. I only wish he had stayed here. But I must say that anyone listening to him would have thought we should have had peace in Europe at this present moment but for America; anyone would have thought, listening to that speech, that but for America there would have been no question whatsoever of Germany being re-armed.
Can anybody doubt that, if Russia had carried out the undertakings that we thought she was prepared to carry out at Potsdam in 1945, by this time we should have had a German peace treaty with one united Germany—with one Germany completely disarmed; and that today there would not have been a single American soldier on the Continent of Europe, nor a single British soldier on the Continent of Europe? Nor should we at this time have been compelled to have conscription in time of peace, to which I have so strong an objection. Is that due to America or is it due to Russia? I should have thought that all these accusations should have been directed at Moscow and not at Washington.
Passing to another point, he asked why we should be ratifying this agreement that has been made? Should we be ratifying it before it has come before the French Parliament or before the new Federal Parliament at Bonn? I rejoice that we do, on this occasion at any rate, take the lead, and I only wish that on other occasions we had been more firm in expressing our views. I am not at all sure that things might not have gone differently had we expressed our views much more clearly before 4th August, 1914, and certainly much more clearly and definitely before 3rd September, 1939.
And here now, when the French, the Germans and ourselves have come together, and solemnly put our signatures to an agreement that has taken a long time, with much coming and going and a good deal of give and take before at last the parties arrived at it, should our Parliament not be saying, "We will show you in France and also you in the new democratic Germany what our view is and that we stand by it?"
What is more, I really fail to understand why this Amendment was put down in view of the words which were used in the statements issued by the Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom —then represented by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison)—the United States and France in Washington on 14th September, 1951. I will call attention very shortly to two sentences, and to two only:
The Foreign Ministers have now instructed the High Commissioners to proceed to negotiations with the Federal Government which will, it is hoped, culminate in the early agreement "—
that was in September, 1951—
between the four governments, to enter into effect, together with an agreement for German participation in Western defence, through the proposed Western European Defence Community, whose forces would form part of the defence forces under the North Atlantic Supreme Command.
Why, in the light of that solemnly signed communiqué issued to the whole world by the right hon. Gentleman who was then the Foreign Secretary, is it now being said nearly a year later that we are rushing the matter a bit too quickly?
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is discussing changes in points of view, would he be kind enough to tell the House how he can account for the fact that he supports re-armament in Germany when he opposed conscription in this country?
I shall come to that in a moment. I am dealing at present with whether or not it is an urgent matter. In September, 1951, these words also were used:
In relation to the stationing of armed forces in Germany and the protection of the security of those forces, as well as questions affecting Berlin and Germany as a whole, including the effectual peace settlement and peaceful ratification of Germany"—
and I am quoting that sentence, which leads up to this:
the High Commission will proceed to negotiations with the Federal Government as rapidly as possible.
What do those words mean? Do they mean that we will negotiate as long as we possibly can, as rapidly as possible, but, having arrived at an agreement, we will then not venture to bring it before the British Parliament to ask them for their opinion with regard to it?—because that is really the attitude that has been taken today.
The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has asked me my views with regard to the re-arming of Germany and my objection to conscription here. I objected to conscription because of the sort of danger to which the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition called attention yesterday in his speech, when he said:
It is quite true that the plan has lagged behind"—
that is the plan for the defence of Europe, including Germany:
We have been very, very disappointed in the building up of continental Forces. It is very dangerous."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1952; Vol. 504, c. 1516.]
Dangerous to whom? Dangerous to democracy; dangerous to the freedom of the world. If this is postponed, as it is suggested it should be postponed, where will the rejoicing be? Who has been agitating most against this agreement as a whole, and certainly against it being ratified today? The agitation has obviously come from the Communist side. One has only to read the "Daily Worker" to see what has been said day by day with regard to this agreement.
I dare say there is other opposition. I am quite prepared to admit that, but I am perfectly sure of this, that the greatest rejoicing if this is postponed will be in Moscow. But it will be as nothing compared to the rejoicing there would be in Moscow if this agreement were scrapped altogether by everybody.
I must finish.
One other point is the question of the danger of a re-armed Germany. As I have already pointed out, there would never have been a re-armed Germany if Russia had behaved differently from the way in which she has. The whole situation would have been different. It has been changed because of her attitude.
If there is anybody in this world, and certainly in Europe, who is entitled to be afraid of an armed Germany it is France: France, who has not only suffered in 1870, suffered in 1914 and suffered again in 1939; suffered not only in the loss of millions of her men but the degradation of every time being under the heel of the invader. Yet it is France that is prepared to enter into an agreement of this kind.
The French representative has done exactly what our representative has done. He has done again exactly what the right hon. Gentleman who was then Foreign Secretary was prepared to do when he signed that document at Washington. She has, for instance, in exactly the same way agreed to the principle, and now, through her Foreign Secretary, signed this agreement and is waiting for ratification. If there is anybody entitled to be afraid it would be France. But France has taken the first step to bring about unity in Europe far and away better than has ever been taken by anybody else.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite inaccurate. The French position is not unlike that of the Opposition here. They have stated their reservations over and over again. As I pointed out in my speech, in the declaration made by the French Government, contained in the White Paper of March of this year, they again repeat their reservations, and that is precisely what we have done. Let me make it abundantly clear that we are not against the general aspects embodied in the contractual agreement. This is merely a reservation against putting into operation the European defence organisation.
I said that at the outset. I said I understood that the only difference between the two sides was the short point the right hon. Gentleman mode. But other arguments have been used, and I was replying to them. I was not replying to the right hon. Gentleman. I was pointing out how much indebted we are to France for the effort she is making to bring about a united, contented, free Europe. In those circumstances, I can see no reason whatsoever why we should not carry out in this House the pledge that has been rightly given by the Foreign Secretary.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said plainly this afternoon that the Opposition's objection to the Government Motion was on the matter of timing. It is plain that the Opposition support the substance of the European Defence Community and a contractual agreement. Nevertheless, in spite of this, I myself—and I think a number of my hon. Friends—feel strong reservations both about the Amendment and about the apparent intention to vote against the Government's Motion.
The Amendment standing in the name of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. A case can be made out, I think, for a delay in ratification; not a clear case, not an easy one, but it can be made out. The valid reason seems to me the lingering hope that it might be possible to get a four-Power agreement. The prospects certainly are not good. The actions in East Germany, to which reference has already been made in the debate, do not suggest that at the moment the Russians are in a mood to reach an agreement with us. Whatever we may feel about the exchange of Notes being slow or hesitant, they have had plenty of chance already, if they wanted to have an agreement, to take us up on it.
In any case, few of us can believe that it is the actual dates or the actual tone of the Notes which will substantially alter Soviet policy on these enormously important matters. All the same, the benefits to world peace, the benefits to the whole prospects of peace in the world, would be so enormously enhanced if we could get a measure of agreement about German unity that we must do everything to make sure that we miss no chance at all.
We are building up the West; we are building up E.D.C. and N.A.T.O. in order to have strength to negotiate with. There is thus all the more responsibility on us, when we have got something to bargain with, as we plainly have here, to use that strength to negotiate with, and not simply to build up more and more power so that finally we go for power as an end in itself.
Also, as other speakers have said, it is not enough merely to give every chance for the success of four-Power talks. It is necessary to be seen to be giving every possible chance, for obvious political reasons—in order to create the atmosphere in which the E.D.C. can work and can be widely supported. I think it is possible, perhaps, justly, to criticise the Government on this but, whether that be so or not, I am sure it is the duty of any Government to make absolutely certain that there can be no further progress with the four-Power talks before it proceeds to ratification.
That seems to me a valid reason for delay, and a far more valid one than putting into this Amendment what are now known as the Attlee conditions. It may be that the conditions are not fulfilled to the letter, but the Foreign Secretary made a case that the Attlee conditions are substantially fulfilled. As far as priority is concerned, the Western Powers will have a full two years in which absolute priority will be given to their re-armament over German re-armament, and that partly fulfils the first of the Attlee conditions.
Then, again, the Attlee conditions refer to safeguards. E.D.C. does not provide perfect safeguards, but it provides safeguards which are substantial. E.D.C. is not a German national army. It is, in fact, the alternative to a German national army, and without E.D.C. prospects the getting of a German national army, I should have thought, would have been extremely strong.
Then here is another point on these so-called Attlee conditions. It is not only what is said about these reservations, but it is also when it is said that is important. The situation has changed very considerably in the last 18 months since my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition laid down those conditions. Since then the need for German re-armament has become much more openly and widely accepted. In fact, actual diplomatic and political action has been taken towards making German re-armament a reality, and the status of the West German Government has completely changed. In those circumstances, merely to repeat the Attlee conditions is not to restate the policy to German rearmament, but to stiffen up the opposition to it. I should have been happier if this Amendment had omitted the references to the Attlee conditions and stuck to the valid point of making certain that we can reach a four-Power agreement.
I am extremely sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) is not here, because there are one or two things I wish to say about his speech. My hon. Friend always talks so fast and argues so well that it takes normal people a little time to see the flaw in his argument, and by that time he has seen the flaw himself and as a general rule is saying something quite different.
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that although the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) speaks very fast, he leaves the House even faster, and does he not agree that it is a discourtesy for a Member to speak at such length as he did and not wait for a single reply of any sort?
It is not with the style of my hon. Friend that I find myself disagreeing, but with the substance of what he says. My hon. Friend pulled the legs of certain of his hon. Friends by suggesting that they were highly embarrassed by the necessity of having to decide whether or not to support the Opposition Amendment. As I heard him speak I thought that the man who should be embarrassed by supporting this Amendment, if he had a conscience, was the hon. Member for Coventry, East himself. He cannot have read the Amendment which says:
while accepting the aim of the inclusion of a democratic Germany on a basis of equality, in a Continental European community, which itself will form a part of a constantly developing Atlantic community; and while accepting the principle, subject to proper safeguards and conditions, of a German armed contribution to an international system of collective security.
Hiving heard the speech of my hon. Friend, I was wondering how he was going to vote for this Amendment tomorrow.
I would respectfully suggest to him that hard and humiliating as it may be for some of his hon. Friends to support this Amendment, and that for excellent reasons, I should have thought in all conscience that he would have found himself in very great difficulty tomorrow. But there is an Amendment on the Order Paper which I think he could support wholeheartedly, and that is the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). Everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East would be supporting is contained in that Amendment.
My hon. Friend is confused. I would have to be in a considerable state of confusion before supporting any Amendment on Foreign affairs put down by my hon. Friend.
There was another major point in the speech of my hon. Friend to which I should like to make some reference. Over and over again he said that the threat to ratify this agreement was one of the major bargaining weapons that we had with the Soviet Union. We agree. We stated that a long time ago, long before the hon. Member for Coventry, East. But could we imagine a Soviet Government official, after listening to the hon. Member for Coventry, East, being frightened about the hon. Member ever ratifying the Convention?
If I were a Russian I would know for certain that the hon. Member for Coventry, East would never in any circumstances ratify German re-armament. I would know that when he said he was, in principle, in favour of it, that he would string out such a lot of conditions and safeguards as to make it perfectly clear that he would never do anything about it at all. E.D.C. is a great bargaining weapon, but it has to be used by people who believe in it sincerely, and there is no use thinking that it is a bargaining weapon unless it is seriously intended to carry it out.
Then I am particularly sorry that my hon. Friend is not here for another reason. He made a number of references to the late Mr. Ernest Bevin, on which I should like to make some comment. First of all, he referred to Mr. Ernest Bevin on every occasion as a man whose policies he supported and whose policies were right. We are all aware that one of the failings of my hon. Friend is a certain inconsistency of view. When I think back to the years when I worked with Mr. Ernest Bevin, I remember that my hon. Friend was constantly striving to undermine the influence and power of Mr. Bevin, and that he was opposing his policies by every method he knew how—
—and attacking him. And I say this quite frankly—because I think he deserves it after what he said tonight about Mr. Bevin—that my hon. Friend was not trusted by Mr. Bevin. This afternoon we certainly heard a most remarkable change of attitude and a remarkable conversion. It may be that some years from now, who knows? I shall hear the hon. Member for Coventry, East pursuing the line that I am taking this afternoon. As I say, quite seriously this is a remarkable change.
He made the point of substance—it is quite true—that Mr. Ernest Bevin was under pressure when he accepted the principle of German re-armament. There is no doubt that he accepted it most reluctantly, but when I think back to those times and all the worries that were in the mind of Mr. Bevin at that time, I think it is absurd to suggest that if Mr. Bevin were here now to decide this issue he would not decide wholeheartedly to go ahead with the contractual agreements. As I said before, there were doubts as to what would be the reactions of the Soviet Union. We have all that doubt in our minds in accepting the principle of German re-armament. The major danger was that they would feel that this move was the final and conclusive proof that war was about to be forced upon them. They might therefore regard this move as provocation, might even start thinking in terms of preventive aggression.
Well, it has not worked out like that. The reaction of the Soviet Union has been first, to accept the principle of a German national army themselves and, secondly, to invite us to discuss the subject of German re-armament and German unity This was a much healthier, a much more reassuring reaction than any of us hoped could be possible when we accepted the principle of German re-armament. That is one later development which should confirm all hon. Members here in the attitude we then adopted and should encourage us to maintain that attitude at the present time.
There has been not only that development, but also the development of public opinion. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East was perfectly right. If public opinion opposes the whole idea of German re-armament and E.D.C. it makes it, as a practicable proposition, a doubtful starter. That, too, was very much in the minds of those who took that first plunge in accepting the principle of German re-armament. In fact, if we look back two or three or four years we see that whereas there were then great doubts, and rightly so, about German rearmament in public opinion in this country, in France and in Germany, reconciliation to the need for it has grown more and more widespread in these last two years. This second development since the first plunge was made into the acceptance of the need for German re-armament should also firmly encourage us to maintain our attitude at the present time.
Finally, I want to refer to the remarks made by my hon. Friend on the subject of a bi-partisan foreign policy. If that means undertaking not to attack Government foreign policy, I know of no hon. Member of this House who supports it or believes in it. There are bound to be occasions when Opposition Members of Parliament—and, I have no doubt, hon. Members opposite, too, from time to time—feel in conscience bound to oppose the conduct of foreign affairs by the Government, both on small things and on large.
It would, for instance, have been a terrible thing if at the time of Munich we on this side of the House, and the present Foreign Secretary and the present Prime Minister, had not considered it their duty wholeheartedly to attack the disgraceful policies of hon. Members opposite. An alert and potentially hostile Opposition plainly can be of great service to peace.
But if bi-partisanship would not be practicable or desirable, equally wrong would be a purely partisan approach to foreign affairs. I am thinking, for instance, of the approach of periodicals like "Truth" on the right and periodicals like the "New Statesman and Nation" on the left. To both the criterion is not what is objectively best for peace but what is the opposite policy to that being pursued by their political opponents. That is a deadly political disease.
A number of hon. Members opposite are sometimes guilty of it and one or two hon. Friends of mine, I am afraid, are not guiltless either. There is the Assistant Editor of the "New Statesman and Nation," for instance. There is the editor of "Tribune." They would qualify under this heading. If the Conservative Central Office say something is right, automatically they condemn it. If the Conservative Central Office say something is wrong, automatically they praise it. In fact they are allowing their foreign policy to be dictated by their political opponents. It is dangerous.
Indiscriminate partisan opposition in Foreign Affairs would be disaster for this country and a disaster for the Labour Movement. I do not think that the people would forgive a party which adopted this line, nor would they be right to do so. It would mean that if a Labour Government achieved a success in foreign policy, it might he committed to oppose its own handiwork if the Conservatives carried it on when they came to power—assuming that they did it so well that the Conservatives, even with their record in steel and transport, felt themselves unable to reverse it.
Such an attitude in opposition might degenerate still further. It might degenerate into adopting the easiest and the most popular policies, irrespective of how realistic they were and irrespective of whether they really contributed to peace. I am thinking of policy on German re-armament, policy on defence, policy towards the United States of America. That approach, it seems to me, is what the "New Statesman and Nation" is currently offering us—the new statesmanship, the equivalent in foreign policy of Lord Woolton's red meat.
That is not, and never will be, the policy of Her Majesty's Opposition. It is right to have neither bi-partisanship nor new statesmanship in foreign policy. An Opposition should discriminate, should be constructive. We need an Opposition which does not automatically assume that the foreign policy of the Government is wrong but which judges each issue on its own merits and hits hard when mistakes are made. Such an Opposition would remember that wherever a Government and an Opposition can reach agreement without anyone sacrificing either conscience or political principle, the influence of this country is increased in the councils of the world. Conversely, where policies are adopted and thrown over, where alliances are made and unmade year after year after year, no British Government can carry out any kind of foreign policy, no matter what it may be.
I hope that my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench and my hon. Friends will always faithfully stick to this principle and will never gain for the Opposition a reputation for weakness or inconsistency which might damage our work for peace when, as we soon shall do, we come back into power. If we do this, we shall come back into power soon, and we shall come back unencumbered and with a clear conscience to make a real contribution to peace.
May I follow what the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) has said in a speech which I am sure has been enjoyed in all quarters of the House? I remember a phrase used by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister a long time ago when he referred to the historic continuity of our island race. I like to think that this historic continuity finds its reflection in the British House of Commons and that there are occasions, of which this important debate on foreign policy is one, when the policy of Her Majesty's Government finds a broad measure of support in all quarters of the House.
It is of immense importance that this should be so, and it is important that the hon. Member for Woolwich, East, in view of the prestige of the office which he held in the late Government in relation to foreign affairs, should give his support in the way he has done to the policy of Her Majesty's Government, which is a continuation and development of the policy which his own Government initiated and developed.
Long before the Russian blockade of Berlin in 1948, many of us felt that the best chance that the Western Powers had of arriving at a fair settlement of all the problems which arose from the war was that we should build up our armed strength. Every month and every year that has since passed has made it more apparent that the stronger we become, the more likely will Russia be to come to terms with us. That, basically, must be the justification for the policy of rearming Western Germany.
Even so, I do not think that there are many of us who can regard such a policy with equanimity. Many of us have serious doubts whether the character of a dominant race like the Germans can have changed so radically in so short a time. We cannot help noticing, in Western Germany, the trend towards the rehabilitation of the Nazis. We cannot help noticing that the Free Democrats, who are supporting Dr. Adenauer's Coalition Government, are championing the release of war criminals like Field Marshals Kesselring and von Manstein, and that they are demanding that the discriminations imposed by the de-Nazification tribunals against former Nazis should be rescinded.
And we cannot help noticing that former Nazi Party officials, who a few years ago were almost unemployable in Germany, are now finding it very easy indeed to find employment. Some of us cannot but wonder whether Dr. Adenauer, the Democrat, may not be superseded in due course by Schumacher, the Nationalist, or by Remer, the Revanchist.
We feel that to re-arm Germany in these circumstances is to take a very grave risk, a risk that can be justified only if the sanctions against breaches of the contractual agreements are likely to be effective or if the danger against which we are permitting the re-armament of Germany is real and urgent.
I have never doubted the grim reality of Russian power politics. Of all the votes that I have cast in my 13 or 14 years' membership of the House of Commons, the one that I regret least was the vote that I cast against the Yalta Agreement. At that time, when the nation was at war, when immense pressure was put upon us, there were 25 of us—27 counting the tellers—10 of whom are in the present House of Commons, who voted against the Yalta Agreement, because it seemed to us to betray every principle for which we had been fighting. I believe that if the Yalta vote were taken again tonight, the whole House would declare itself overwhelmingly against it.
The effect now of the Yalta policy is that Poland. who, to our everlasting shame, has been surrendered into the Soviet clutches, without any kind of consultation and without any means of defence, is now completely subservient to Russia. Rokossovsky's Army in Poland comprises between 22 and 24 divisions. It is strongly armed with the latest Soviet equipment. There are about five motorised and armoured divisions, many of them equipped with the latest heavy tank—the Russian 34 tank. That Army is officered with Russian officers from the rank of lieutenant-colonel upwards. It is being subjected to intense pressure. The Russians are saying, "We are the people who guarantee your western frontiers. The others want to take them away from you."
This is the question I want to ask the House. What is likely to be the reaction of an army of that kind if, in the event of war—and we must face that fact on an occasion such as this—it saw a German force advancing towards it from the West? Fortunately, not all the Poles are in Poland. West of the Iron Curtain, there are between 150,000 and 170,000 Polish soldiers of the last war who are still of military age. In giving these figures, I except the large number of Polish miners who would not be available in the event of war breaking out.
I agree that not all of these 150,000 or 170,000 Poles are available now for military service or could easily be made available, nor might they want to serve. But given the right conditions, there is that available trained manpower—gallant fighters, as we all remember, especially those who observed with admiration their actions during the late war—who would be equivalent to a corps of two or three divisions which could be mobilised quickly.
Supposing that we were able to raise the Polish banner west of the Iron Curtain in support of the European Defence Community. What an immense psychological effect that would have east of the Iron Curtain in occupied Poland. I remember hearing that great soldier and Polish patriot, General Anders, telling one or two of us about a question that was put to him before the Battle of Monte Cassino, when it was asked, "But, General, where are your reserves?" And General Anders said, "My reserves are on the other side."
That was perfectly true. When the Polish Second Corps started its campaign in Italy, it comprised 50,000 men. In spite of the very heavy casualties—3,700 or 4,000 at Monte Casino alone, and thousands more casualties during the Italian campaign—and in spite of the fact that there was no recruitment, no automatic call-up from anywhere, and that the only recruits arriving to the Polish Corps came from the other side of the German lines, by the end of a campaign which had started with 50,000 Polish soldiers, there were 120,000 Poles under arms in Italy. Of course, that kind of thing is a double loss to the other side; it is a loss because the enemy loses a soldier and gains an enemy.
The idea that we should use Polish soldiers in support of Western forces is not a new one. I was reading the other day some Questions asked in this House on 22nd May, 1946, and I quote from column 302 onwards of the OFFICIAL REPORT. Mr. Bevin had been announcing the formation of the Polish Resettlement Corps and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, at that time Leader of the Opposition, said to Mr. Bevin:
Has the right hon. Gentleman entirely closed his mind to the idea of using these extremely fine, well-disciplined troops as part of the garrison for holding Germany…?
Later he asked:
Would not very many of these difficulties be solved if the right hon. Gentleman were to use this force to take some of the weight off us in the duties we have to discharge on the Continent? Will he not consider that?…Hon. Members may say 'No,' but I should like the right hon. Gentleman to consider it, because it seems to me that nothing but advantage and simplicity will come from it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1946; Vol. 423, c. 302, 305, 306.]
So, as I say, there is nothing new in the suggestion of raising the Polish banner to the west of the Iron Curtain. I believe that if we were to do so it would not only give us an immediate reinforcement of trained manpower, but it would have an immense psychological effect. In this cold war we have to think about that and see where we can get help and add to our own strength and weaken the strength of the potential enemy.
I have always had great respect and regard for the hon. Member. I do not want to speak at great length; in fact I was coming to my conclusion, but I must put this point to him. Can we, any of us, accept the position that the countries which are under the yoke of Soviet Russia—where there is no freedom at all—can continue indefinitely under that yoke? Are we not all working and praying for the time when those countries can be liberated? I am not afraid of using the word which was used so disparagingly by the hon. Member for Coventry. East (Mr. Crossman).
Is the hon. Member not aware that what looks like liberation to us and is in fact liberation will look like Munich to the Russians and might not be conceded by them without war?
I know there is great danger of war with Russia. We cannot remove that by debates in this House of Commons; if we could there would be no danger at all. We have to face the fact that we are up against powerful, sinister, forces and our best chance of coming to terms with them is by increasing our own strength so that we can talk with them in terms of military equality.
I am going to support the Government —of course I am going to support them, although I do so with the greatest possible misgivings for the reasons I have stated—but I am bound to support them because I believe the Russian danger is very real indeed. For that reason, I do beg Her Majesty's Government, while there is yet time, to examine objectively, with our good friends the Americans, the substantial and immediate advantages which would flow from the raising of a Polish force in support of the European Defence Community.
I think my right hon. and hon. Friends have made it quite clear that in putting down the Opposition Amendment we are seeking to reject approval of the three agreements the Government ask us to approve—that is, at this time. We are not in this Amendment contesting the value of the agreements in themselves. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) said very rightly that in foreign affairs the timing of a decision is very often as important, if not more important, than the decision itself. He also said, quite rightly in my view, that the Western Powers' handling of this extremely dangerous and complex problem of German re-armament has been botched throughout by bad timing.
On previous occasions the bad timing by the West on this decision has very largely been the responsibility of our allies, and it was made very clear by the Foreign Secretary that in these questions we are bound the whole time to com promise with our allies. That is the democratic way, and I make no complaint of that. Personally, in spite of my misgivings and dislike of many decisions taken on this question in the last few years, I believe we were right to take this decision as a necessary price for continued co-operation with the United States of America, France and our other allies.
But this decision, the decision which Her Majesty's Government are now asking us to approve, is a decision which lies wholly within the powers of this House. and it is not possible in this case to throw the responsibility for bad timing on external forces. My hon. and right hon. Friends have already deployed the reasons why the Opposition consider that the timing of approval of these agreements is bad.
Of course, the key reason is that the three agreements which the Government are asking us to approve are all contingent, are all consequential, on the ratification of a European Defence Community by the six Continental Parliaments. But the six Continental Parliaments have not ratified the European Defence Community Treaty. It is inconceivable that they will do so in less than six months, and very conceivable that they may never ratify it at all.
So far as the Protocol to N.A.T.O. and the Treaty between this country and E.D.C. are concerned, these are of course completely meaningless unless E.D.C. is ratified abroad. I feel that the Government should explain to the House why it is asking the House to approve finally a Treaty with an organisation which does not yet exist, which may not exist for six months, and which may not exist at all. The explanation that we are being asked to approve these two agreements in order to encourage the Continent is senseless, because in these two agreements this country accepts no commitments additional to the commitments it has already accepted a year, or two years, ago.
As to the contractual agreement with Germany, as the Foreign Secretary said, the essence of this agreement is that it relieves Germany of the worst consequences of defeat by replacing the occupation Statute by what is, in effect, a provisional peace treaty with Western Germany. So far as the substance of the contractual agreement is concerned, I think that very few hon. Members on either side of the House would wish to contest it. I would not wish it to be thought, either here or in Germany, that I was opposed to the granting of the fullest possible measure of political and economic freedom to the German people at this time.
But, unfortunately, we cannot consider the contractual agreement apart from the European Defence Community, because these two agreements were tied together by an act of policy almost a year ago. The reason they were tied together was because it was known at that time that the Germans were not in favour, of making a defence contribution; and therefore the contractual agreements which give Germany greater political freedom were deliberately used as a bribe to persuade the Germans to ratify the European Defence Community Treaty, which, without such a bribe, they might well have rejected. That was the only valid reason, and it was, in fact, the reason why these two agreements were tied together.
I think—and I have said this before—that it was a great mistake in Western policy, and an inevitable consequence of the bad timing of the original decision to re-arm Germany, to tie the contractual agreements to E.D.C., for two reasons. First, because by doing this, by treating the contractual agreements simply as a bribe to persuade the Germans to do something they did not want to do, we lost any possible goodwill we might have got in Germany by relaxing the occupation controls. The second reason why, is that in order to make the price high enough to persuade the Germans to do something they did not want to do, we have probably been compelled to relinquish a little bit more control to Germany than is wise at the present time.
Above all, I think that the financial provision of the contractual agreements are extremely dangerous to this country, as has already been pointed out by some of my right hon. and hon. Friends, because, after June, 1953, Western Germany will be under no legal obligation to contribute to the upkeep of British troops in Germany. The cost of the upkeep of British troops in Germany is running this year at the rate of£200 million per year, all of which may fall on this country in the form of dollars or gold expenditure.
It is no use the Foreign Secretary saying that if, in fact, this proves to be the case we will offset the additional cost of maintaining troops in Germany by reducing our arms programme in some other part of the world or in some other way. That will not meet the basic burden imposed on us by the contractual agreements—the fact that this£200 million will have to be met in gold, in dollars. It is almost the only part of our arms programme which must be so met.
This is indeed a very serious matter, and I think the House should certainly not accept this unkown commitment a year hence without at least the certainty that the Germans will compensate us for the loss of occupation costs by making a defence contribution through E.D.C. That was the whole idea of tying the contractual agreements to E.D.C. in the first place. Yet the Government are now asking us to ratify the contractual agreements before we have the slightest idea whether the Germans will fulfill their part of the bargain by ratifying E.D.C. They are throwing away a bird in the hand for—if I may mix my metaphors—a pig in a poke in a bush.
The ratification of this agreement is the last diplomatic card which this country can play in the whole question of German re-armament. This ratification is very important, not only as a bargaining counter in relation to Germany, in order to persuade them to produce the defence contribution which we require, but it is also extremely important, as has been pointed out, as a bargaining counter in relation to the Soviet Union. The threat that we will ratify these agreements and that German re-armament will go through is generally recognised to be the main reason why the Russians are making gestures as of willingness to negotiate at present.
If we ratify these agreements now we destroy the value of the threat of ratification as a bargaining counter. It may well be, as my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) said, that certain people who use this argument do not wish the agreements to be ratified ever, but I certainly do not fall into that category, nor do the vast majority of my hon. Friends. I ask the Government to take seriously the point that the ratification of these agreements is a most valuable diplomatic bargaining weapon in relation both to Germany and the Soviet Union, and we are throwing it away without using it.
We are throwing it away entirely in relation to the Germans, and we are throwing it away in relation to the Russians at a time when we have not even decided that negotiation will be impossible—in fact, before the bargaining has even begun with the Soviet Union. The party opposite prides itself on its commercial acumen—
The Foreign Secretary made it clear that he proposes to proceed immediately to ratification in order, as he said, to encourage the Continental countries to get on with the business of ratifying themselves. I will deal with that argument in a few moments.
I wish to say a few words about the famous Attlee conditions. It is generally agreed on both sides of the House that we do not want to force German rearmament on an unwilling German people. I do not think that the Foreign Secretary, when he spoke in the last debate on this subject, differed from that as a general principle. He said that we could not insist that the views of the German people could be expressed only through a new election. He said, and I agree, that we must accept the democratic processes which we ourselves have agreed to in Germany as an adequate expression of German public opinion on this question.
I agree that if the Bundestag ratifies E.D.C., whether by a simple majority or a one-third majority as the constitutional court may decide, then we must take it that we have a clear expression of German public opinion on this question. But the Bundestag has not yet ratified E.D.C. It will not consider ratification till September or October, and even after that we have to have the new decision of the constitutional court to decide whether a simple majority is adequate before the document is signed and becomes final.
Therefore, on this question the Foreign Secretary is going against the position which he himself accepted in the last debate. He is carrying the matter to completion on our side before he has found out what is the opinion of the German people by the process which he himself recognised as just. The arguments which I have just been adducing are not partisan arguments. I ask the Minister of State and the Government to accept this. They are arguments which have been ventilated before in the Press of all parties. There are many hon Members opposite who share them.
If the Government take this action contrary to all these considerations it is their duty to adduce some argument for it. The only argument which the Government have so far produced is that by ratifying these agreements now we shall be encouraging the Continental countries to ratify on their side. In principle that is a sensible argument, but when the Foreign Secretary forced the House to consider this question now he already knew that the overwhelming majority of the Opposition considered the arguments which I have brought forward as so important and so relevant to the question at issue as to prevent them from supporting ratification at this moment. Yet, in spite of the fact that the Foreign Secretary knew that we would be compelled to withhold approval at this time, he has gone ahead with it.
Is the vote to which he is forcing us tomorrow going to encourage the Continental countries to ratify? It is not, but it is no good the Foreign Secretary throwing the blame on us. He knew our views when he forced us to have this debate at this time, and he also knew that, if the matter had been left over until E.D.C. had been ratified, there would have been overwhelming support on this side of the House for ratifying this agreement.
The fact is that, if we want a bi-partisan policy—and I agree that the word is an unpleasant one, and that we want neither a partisan nor a bi-partisan policy, but the right policy—if it is desirable that both sides of the House should be agreed on major questions of foreign affairs—and I think that, if we can agree, it is desirable—the Government have a duty not to force the Opposition into a position of voting against a major issue of policy on genuinely-held, sincere and rational grounds.
Why, in fact, have the Government forced us into this position? My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East suggested that it was because of American pressure. I do not believe that for a moment. I believe the Foreign Secretary said it was entirely the decision of the Government to force the House to consider this question at this time. Why, then, have the Government forced us to this, knowing that we could not agree to ratify this agreement at this moment?
Exactly, party politics. The only reason why the House is discussing this now is because the Government saw in this debate the prospect of a sordid party gain by concluding the squalid record of their performance over the last nine months with a debate on Germany which might demonstrate, in the words of what we must recognise as an impartial and unbiased journal, the "Manchester Guardian":
All Tories, however, are united in hoping that the debate on Germany will restore the unity of their own party by demonstrating the disunity of Labour.
That is the only reason why the Government have put this agreement before the House at the present time. They are sacrificing a tactical position of great national advantage in world affairs in the vain hope of a petty party advantage at the present time, and I warn the Government that they will find these benches united when the vote comes tomorrow.
I only hope that the vote which we take tomorrow will not be misinterpreted abroad. If it is misinterpreted abroad, it will be the responsibility of the Government. They have, in fact, issued us with a partisan challenge, and I feel myself that it would be discourteous of us not to accept it in the spirit in which it is offered.
I certainly shall not tell the hon. Member when decisions were taken in my party, but I would ask him, if he is interested in this question, to ask the Foreign Secretary when he is here whether the Foreign Secretary did not know the views of this party when he decided to force the debate upon us at the present time.
I want now to pass on to discuss the Government's Motion, which asks us to approve these agreements. Because we cannot approve them now, for sincere and rational reasons, we shall be compelled to vote against this Motion, but, and this is the interesting point, and, in my view, proof of the Government's party attitude to the problem, they have added to that request for approval an affirmation that these measures represent the fulfilment of the policy laid down in the Washington Declaration.
This is the first time in this House—we have discussed Germany many times since the Conservative Party came to power—that the party opposite have raised the question of the Washington Declaration at all. Why have they done so now? It is a feeble and transparent manoeuvre to embarrass the Opposition.
I accept this challenge, and I intend to demonstrate that we would be justified in voting against the Government Motion, quite apart from the question of timing, because the Government have demonstrably failed to carry out the policy laid down by my right hon. Friend in Washington almost a year ago. The meaning of the Washington Declaration has already been explained by the Foreign Secretary. Essentially it meant that Britain agreed to encourage E.D.C as the proper framework for a German defence contribution and as a step towards a federalist Continental community.
Personally, I regretted this decision very much indeed, although I think it was inevitable. It was another of those baneful consequences of the original mistake in trying to get German re-armament at a time when nobody in Europe wanted it. The reason why we had to accept E.D.C. and the Continental community as the right framework for containing Germany was that the French would accept no other at that time. Therefore, the whole process would have broken down completely had we not agreed with them.
I believe that even in France support for E.D.C. and the whole idea of the federalist Continental community is waning. It is a pity that the French Foreign Secretary is trying to force his Parliament to approve German rearmament by a sort of shock treatment, by jerking them in spasms of self-deception a little further each month along the path of accepting the idea of German re-armament—in fact, doubling and redoubling on an empty hand.
In my view, the French Government would never have put forward this idea of the Continental community and the European Army as the right framework for German re-armament had they not been gravely misled by the Prime Minister when he was Leader of the Opposition, because the whole concept of the European Army was first presented and put into the minds of the French by the Prime Minister at Strasbourg in August, 1949.
At that time, the Prime Minister actually himself put forward a resolution at the Council of Europe in which he asked for the creation of a Federal type of European Army under the authority of a European Minister of Defence. There could have been nothing more federal, and he made it quite clear that he intended this Army to include Germany.
In my view, the reason why the French Government and many other Continental statesmen decided to accept this idea as the right framework for German rearmament was because the Prime Minister, the then Leader of the Opposition, having put the idea forward, they were quite certain they would have Britain as a partner within the European Army, and that therefore the major dangers of German re-armament could be avoided.
I shall never forget the appalling despair on the faces of the Continental delegates to the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe last December when the Home Secretary told them that this country had no intention whatsoever of contributing troops to a European Army. They were flabbergasted. In fact, by this behaviour, the Prime Minister completely destroyed whatever credit his Government might ever have commanded on the Continent of Europe.
The policy of the Labour Government towards Europe was very unpopular in many European countries, but the Labour Party did slowly and painfully win respect for their position because they were always honest about that position. The Conservative Party, on the other, when they came into office, in one stroke restored to Albion her ancient reputation.
If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I cannot agree that the present Prime Minister is unrepresentative of his party. In fact, the whole burden of my complaint is that because he was the right hon. Gentleman he was considered to be wholly representative of a possible future British Government. And he was supported by many of his hon. and right hon. Friends now sitting on the Government Front Bench, not least the Minister of Supply and the Minister of Housing and Local Government.
This discrediting of Britain on the Council of Europe was only one of the bad effects of the Prime Minister's behaviour in opposition. A much more serious effect, because it is much more lasting, is the fact that it left continental countries committed to a policy which they would never have accepted had they known the attitude which the Prime Minister was going to take.
Why is this concept of a federal Continental community and a federal European army so dangerous? In the first place, because federal institutions can express or exploit an agreement which already exists but they cannot create an agreement where it does not exist. And where conflict exists, they are likely to exacerbate conflict rather than reduce it. The American example brought forward by enthusiasts for federation teaches exactly the opposite lesson in Europe, because in the 19th century America fought a bloody Civil War in which she lost more of her population than in either of the world wars that followed. Yet the opposing sides started as components of a federal army. That is a terrible warning for those who support the idea of a federal European army.
If we are considering a Continental European army we are considering an army whose members are already divided by most serious and far-reaching conflicts. They are France and Germany. There might be some opportunity of bridging a Franco-German conflict if there were other Powers there ready to mediate and to take the shocks, but there are only France and Germany present. It may be said that a wonderful example of Franco-German friendship has been built up, but the European Defence Community is compounded of mutual suspicion. The best proof of that is that within the Continental European Army German forces are always to be maintained at a certain ratio with the forces of other member States.
In other words, we have the extraordinary position in which there are two arms races going on simultaneously—the race between the Western world as a whole and the Soviet bloc, and the arms race within the Western world as a whole between Germany and other members of the European Army. That is a quite fantastic position in which the power of the Western world as a whole in relation to the Soviet Union will be limited always by the ability of France to keep pace with Germany in military strength. For those reasons, it is very likely that the whole idea of E.D.C. will break down; but if it does not break down I suggest that it will be even more dangerous. If it succeeds it will certainly be dominated by Germany, and a Continental community dominated by Germany would in fact be a new German empire.
I do not need to stress the dangers of this. Whether it will lead to a new independent German expansionism or a new alliance between Germany and the Soviet Union against the West, in either case the dangers to us and the Atlantic Community as a whole are horrible to contemplate. That is why, when this concept was forced upon us a year ago in Washington, the then Labour Government demanded that certain conditions should be written into its acceptance of the idea of a Continental army and a Continental community.
Those conditions were, first, the closest possible association of Britain with the Continental community as it slowly developed and, second, that the Continental community should itself form part of the constantly developing Atlantic community Those were the two conditions on which the British Government a year ago insisted as the essential price of accepting the concept of a European army and a Continental community.
My charge against the present Government is that they have failed utterly to fulfil those two conditions. Let us take them in turn. The condition that Britain should be associated with the Continental community at all stages of its development has been met by only one spasm of policy from Her Majesty's Government—the so-called Eden proposals for remodelling the Council of Europe. They are called the Eden proposals, but they are the natural consequence of policies developed by the Labour Government and by Labour delegates to the Consultative Assembly, and they were put forward originally solely as a means of giving the Council of Europe something useful to do which would not over-embarrass this country.
When the European countries leapt at the Eden proposals for remodelling the Council of Europe as a means of associating Britain with the Continental community, the Government first permitted and later encouraged this interpretation. Then, at Strasbourg a few months ago, when the Eden proposals were deployed by the Foreign Under-Secretary, immediately a strong movement developed against them among the Continental delegates led by M. Spaak. He showed great mistrust of the British Government's intentions and insisted that the Schuman Plan authorities should immediately begin developing a fully fledged Continental federation.
This proposal was fought bitterly by the Foreign Under-Secretary on behalf of
the British Government. In the final debate on this question the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) used these words:
Speaking for myself and my Conservative colleagues, we think that to entrust this"—
that is, the formation of a political authority for Europe—
to the European Coal and Steel Community would not be in conformity with the purpose and spirit of the Eden Plan, for reasons which I do not need to elaborate but which surely will be obvious.
There was no question about the view of the British Government.
When the European Assembly terminated, in the following week, M. Schuman flew to London and told the Foreign Secretary that he proposed that the Coal and Steel Community should immediately begin constructing a federal constitution for Europe. No greater slap in the face for any British Foreign Secretary could be imagined, when we reflect how the party opposite promised that it would restore Britain to her ancient influence and then look at what happened —the total destruction of any influence in Europe, the Eden proposals ruined before they were even born, and when they had been scarcely conceived.
This afternoon the Foreign Secretary had a few words to say about M. Schuman's proposals. They were extremely equivocal, and I hope that whoever sums up will tell us more clearly whether the British Government has completely reversed the position it took at Strasbourg with regard to the Schuman proposals, because it is important that the British Government should make known its position. We still have many friends in Europe who will listen to what we say if we make our views plain.
I think a mistake of many recent British Governments has been to ignore the fact that the vocal support of informed public opinion can be a most valuable arm of diplomacy in the modern democratic world. But British policy under the new Administration has often been completely unknown even to their own followers. They are misrepresented abroad by the Prime Minister himself, for example in Washington six months ago. In fact, we on this side of the House have often only one way in which to get to know what the policy is, and that is to put down a Motion of Censure. Then the facts are slowly forced out. Indeed, on occasions recently we have had the extraordinary spectacle in a debate on Britain's relations with the United States of seeing one Conservative back bencher after another rise to support American policies which his own Government are privately trying to change. We had that spectacle many times in the last debate on the Yalu bombing.
The Government are far too restrained in all this. Perhaps I may quote the words of the great Commonwealth poet:
They praise the fine restraint with which you write,
I'm with you there of course,
You use the snaffle and the curb all right,
But where's the bloody horse?
I have taken too long already—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and I want to conclude.
The second condition on which the Labour Government accepted the Washington policy was that there should be a continual development of the Atlantic community and that the Continental community should be closely integrated with it. In my view, the greatest failure of the present Government has been their total failure to make any progress whatever in this respect. There has been some excuse until recently because an American presidential election is pending, and we did not know until recently whether a candidate would be elected who would be totally antipathetic to the whole idea of the Atlantic community. We now know that whoever is elected, he will be a man of great vision and a man firmly committed personally, as well as through his party, to the idea of an Atlantic community.
This is a great opportunity for British initiative, if, when that new American administration takes office, it can be met by concrete proposals from the British Government for a dramatic and rapid development of the Atlantic community in two directions. First of all, there must be a much closer integration of the N.A.T.O. forces serving in Europe as S.H.A.P.E., so that E.D.C. can be tied effectively into the Atlantic community in a military sense; and if E.D.C. breaks down, there is then an alternative framework ready for German re-armament. Secondly, there must be a grand economic strategy which covers the three linked problems of a common sharing of the arms burden, a determined attack on the long-term problems of the international dollar gap, and, finally, the development of the under-developed areas.
If Her Majesty's Government went to the new American administration with really bold proposals along these lines, I am sure they would be well received, but, unfortunately, nothing which the Government have done during the last nine months gives us any cause to hope that this will be the case; and that, above all, is the reason why I shall vote against the Government Motion.
On a point of order. May I draw your attention to the fact, Mr. Speaker, that the last four speeches from this side of the House have totalled 51 minutes in length, whereas the last four speeches from the opposite side of the House have totalled 140 minutes in length. In those circumstances, would it not be reasonable for you to call two speakers in succession from this side of the House? As I have no desire to speak in the debate myself, I feel justified in making this point.
The House has just listened to an extremely lengthy and for the most part serious treatise on foreign affairs. It was peculiar in that there were spots here and there of deliberately injected partisan warfare. There was the charge—utterly unfounded, I suggest—that this debate had been forced on the House by the Government as a political trick. No evidence was produced in support of that charge. I give hon. Gentlemen this assurance, that there are a number of my hon. Friends on this side of the House who, if they thought there were one grain of truth in that shabby allegation, would not be supporting the Government as they are.
I should like to welcome very wholeheartedly indeed the speech of the Foreign Secretary today. I believe it was a much needed, clear statement of the policy of this country towards Germany. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) did not really face up to the fact that foreign policy particularly is not static, but moving and dynamic. We cannot just leave the policy of the late Government in mid air. It has to be developed; it has to be implemented. It is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend to do those things, and I suggest that in his speech today he made a most notable contribution.
—but that is exactly what I was trying to show. I am going farther than that. I still say that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington disappointed me, at any rate, in not making it clear to the House exactly how and when and in what conditions he would be prepared to implement the foreign policy of the late Government.
I do not want to take up too much of the time of the House, but I should like to refer very briefly to the speech made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). I say frankly that it was a dangerous and thoroughly undesirable speech without one shred of responsibility in it. It was a tissue of unreason drawn across a background of unreality, and I would say to the hon. Gentleman that had I been an American listening to that speech, or a Russian listening, I should have preferred the hostility which he professed towards Russia to the friendship which he professed towards America.
In my opinion, there are three overriding reasons why the Government's policy in this matter commands and deserves support. The first is that it is the logical continuation of the policy which had been in process of development under the late Government. I think it can clearly be said that a great many opportunities have been lost in the German field over the last six years. I am not blaming the late Government for that. The chief responsibility for the loss of the opportunities of developing the prospects of Germany as a peace-loving nation lies in the criminal stupidity of Soviet Russia.
The second reason why I think we should support this policy is that no practicable alternative has so far been evolved. Third, we have all decided in all parts of the House to strengthen the West in the face of a threat of aggression from the East. That being the case there surely must be some urgency about getting on with our plans and intentions. It surely must be desirable to get on with them.
Though I understand and see what hon. Members on the other side of the House are getting at, I feel some doubt and suspicion at this constant suggestion that, on the whole, this country should be more patient with Soviet Russia, and that each time Soviet Russia makes some sort of gesture in a diplomatic note there should be a hold-up of this country's plans and policies and of those of our allies.
Having said that, I think it should also be said—and it is as well that the German people should know it—that there is throughout this country very genuine and widespread anxiety about the future of Europe with a strong Germany in it. I believe that is widespread right through this country, regardless of all party barriers. It should be unnecessary to look at recent history, and I think it is irrelevant—though perhaps it is not inhuman to ask what would have been the position of this country had the decision of the recent war gone the other way.
The really serious thing that we must look at is what happened in the inter-war period. Look at the example of the Weimar Republic. I know it is said that things are very different in Germany today, but there is equally the point that Stresemann was overthrown; his Government fell after he had won his greatest diplomatic triumph and secured from the French the agreement, five years in advance of the time required by the Treaty, to evacuate all foreign troops from the Rhineland. It was after that triumph, that, about a year later, the German people, in an election after the evacuation, saw fit to push his party out, and the result was that the National Socialist Party, the Nazi Party, which had previously held some 12 seats, increased its number to 130.
I say to the House very seriously that on the evidence before us we can say, and fairly say, that the intentions of Dr. Adenauer and Herr Schumacher and their party may well be sincere and genuine towards the West, but what guarantee have we that they will not suffer the same fate as that suffered by Stresemann?
I think we should also ask this question—and this is not a party question, but I regard it as a very serious one: Do the German people consider themselves bound by the very serious commitments which are now about to be entered into by Dr. Adenauer, and which I think would be entered into by Schumacher were he in his place? I think there is a genuine danger that the German people are very inclined to talk of their successive Governments as "they." We in this country have a strange way, when dealing with foreign affairs, of saying "we," even if we do not agree with the Government. The Germans prefer to use the word "they," and when difficult conditions come along they, or certain elements in Germany, find it only too easy to throw overboard obligations previously entered into.
I say this with considerable hesitation because I think my motives might be mistaken. I am not speaking from bitterness, but I have had five years of studying the Germans at fairly close quarters, from the wrong side of barbed wire. I am glad to say I was liberated by the Americans.
Yes, but they were not in my direction.
The Germans are a young and strong nation, but they are also clumsy and very inexperienced; they lack tolerance and they lack patience. They are inclined to be hasty and to show too many dramatic gestures. Sometimes these dramatic gestures are to be found in the spirit of Deutschland Uber Alles, which is so disastrous to the rest of the civilised world.
The West has failed to understand the need for dealing with these people whose race consciousness is so near to the surface and which can rise so easily to something which is bordering on a mania. In dealing with these people who are so easily led and so easily misled, we have misunderstood and under-estimated the imperative need to give them a clear statement of our position, intention and policy towards Germany. I say very sincerely that the speech this afternoon of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was a signal contribution towards the policy of letting the German people understand this country's position.
In our policy towards Germany there should be three characteristics—clarity in order to get understanding; fairness in order to encourage—and I do not wish to be unfair—the liberal elements which undoubtedly exist in Germany; and thirdly, strength in order to show that we mean what we say. If those three characteristics had been present in our foreign policy before 1914 and 1939, disaster might have been averted. I, for one, was glad to see those very qualities eminently present in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary this afternoon.
We have listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton). One of the things he called for was clarity. It was rather difficult for us who were listening to him to gather any clarity from his speech. After describing what he called the characteristics of the German nation—and to some extent, at any rate, we will agree about those characteristics—and having said that their condition bordered on a mania, he then proceeded to tell us that he agreed with the statement made by the Foreign Secretary today and presumably he proposes to vote for ratification tomorrow and give them arms. I cannot see any sense in that at all.
The hon. Member referred to the background of the German situation. May I remind him and hon. Members of recent history, and if I repeat what has been often said, it is well to remember these things. It was under the aegis of this German army, which it is proposed now to recreate, that six million people in Europe were murdered in cold blood. Talking of the murder of one individual strikes a note of sympathy with most people, but the trouble about a gigantic catastrophe like the murder of six million people is that it is so vast and so astronomical that it does not strike the note that it should in this country.
No army in the history of this world, not even the army of Genghis Khan, has perpetrated such atrocities throughout the whole of Europe, and we must think seriously before we propose to re-create it. A large part of the German nation itself realises the danger with which it is faced, and the possibilities of the direction in which it may be led. We ought to think seriously before we create that juggernaut again.
There is another point. It is said that we shall use this German army against Russian expansionism and against Russian aggression. It is well to remember that until 1939, when the German armies marched, the Russians stayed at home and the Red Army stayed at home. As far as one can tell, if it had not been for Hitler, the Red Army would be staying at home at the present time.
Quite, but they marched simply in defence because they were attacked. There is no doubt that, prior to 1939, whatever may be said about afterwards, the whole strategy of Russia was a defensive one and the Red Army was brought out by the threat and the reality of the German Army and German aggression.
I might mention 1919 and the attack on Russia, but I do not think that is relevant. As the hon. Gentleman mentioned Finland, although the attack of Russia on Finland may have been completely unjustified, I think it has been admitted to have been a strategically defensive policy. [Interruption.] Yes, I think it has been admitted even by the critics that it was a strategically defensive policy and came into operation only as such. However little justification, it must be borne in mind that it occurred only after the hounds of war had been unleashed by this army which it is proposed to create. [Interruption.] It is not a question of the justification of Russia. What I am pointing out is that the major source of disturbance in Europe was this German army which it is now proposed to re-create.
Do not let us hide behind words. The right hon. Gentleman can call it what he likes. He can call it a contribution to European defence. He can call it an army integrated into European defence. This is simply the facade. In fact, it is a German national army which it is proposed to re-create and if that German army results by counteraction in the creation of two German armies, the danger is even worse.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to Russian proposals for a national army. I do not like the idea of the creation of a German national army, whether it is a Western German national army or an Eastern German national army or a united German national army by agreement with Russia. The re-creation of the German army under any auspices and under whatever circumstances, is a highly dangerous thing for this country and for Western Europe.
We have at present reached a certain sort of balance—it may be precarious, but a certain balance nevertheless—between East and West. What is desirable is that the area of danger and uncertainty, and any unbalance in forces which may tend to create new dangers and crises, should be avoided. I do not know of anything which can create positions of greater uncertainty, of various sorts, which one cannot evaluate, more than this re-armament of Germany.
There is the threat and possibility of Russian retaliation. There is the possibility and the danger of the way that this army is going to march. There are some people in America and in this country who think that this army is going to march East. They thought that in 1938 and 1939, but before it marched on the Russians it marched on the West. I am not a prophet, but all I say is that this will cause a position of very great uncertainty. Nobody knows the result of the action which is to be taken. Far from being something which is likely to contribute to the security of Europe and the continuation of some sort of certainty, it produces an element of vast uncertainty.
I ask Members of the House to think what they are doing. There is an offer by the Russians, which ought to be investigated. I do not like the whole of that offer. I do not like the creation of a German national army, and I quite understand the position of the French, for instance, on this issue. They do not like a united Germany at all, and still less do they like a united Germany with a national army. I am bound to say that I do not like it either. But the position certainly ought to be investigated before we embark upon this dangerous course.
On the face of the Russian offer, if the Russians mean what they say about free elections, it means that they are proposing what amounts to a retreat of power from Eastern Germany. That is a vast and immense retreat. It means that the present structure of Eastern Germany will be dismantled. The Russians are asking for certain conditions, for a quid pro quo. They are asking for the neutralisation of Germany and, in addition, for the recognition of the Oder-Neisse line, and certain other things.
Whether it is thought that this offer is unreasonable, at any rate it ought to be investigated and no prospect of a settlement ought to be rejected. It might be said that the Russians are not sincere about their offer of free elections, but if that is what is thought, why not engage in these talks in order to find out? The alternative to that is a course which is pregnant in all sorts of dangers, and all sorts of possibilities and uncertainties, and which in all probability within the course of the next two or three years may well result in a final deterioration of the situation in Europe which would precipitate the catastrophe which, I am quite sure, we all want to avoid.
The hon. Member for Erdington (Mr. J. Silverman) has made a short speech, and on that I congratulate him. He is the first hon. Member to have done so on the other side of the House today, and I hope in future he will be more fortunate than some hon. Members opposite in catching Mr. Speaker's eye, for that reason. I shall deal with his remarks in the course of my speech. It seems to me that this Amendment is one on which it is not really worth wasting a lot of time—
We are, over a matter of three months, having a three-line Whip on both sides of the House—ratification is either to be July or October. To waste a lot of time on that seems to be a waste of time of the House. If an answer is wanted, I would say that what is wanted in Europe today is dynamic leadership, and we are getting it for the first occasion for a long time from the Foreign Secretary.
I want to devote my remarks mainly to the Motion on the Paper—not to the Amendment—the Government Motion, which I welcome most warmly. It has not been easy to make up one's mind on this subject of the re-armament of Germany. My hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) was a prisoner of the Germans. I was fortunate enough to escape them, but I have been in khaki in two wars in my short life and I do not like the idea of re-arming the Germans for that reason. I certainly do not want my children and their children to be involved in a third world war because of the Germans if I can help it. Therefore, I think that on this occasion one should not vote on party grounds but try to make up one's mind for oneself.
I wish to try to put a sort of balance sheet of pro and con in this great argument because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Hamilton Kerr) said, we have reached a point from which there is no return; if we decide today there will be no turning back. The Germans—let us face it—are a great race. We may dislike them, but they are a great race and they are in a strategic position in the middle of Europe. They are a nation which cannot be kept down. Although there is a curious mixture in the German character, the worst sides of that German character tend to come to the top. We had them beaten in 1918, and in a few years we had Hitler. Hitler was beaten—it was unconditional surrender, their towns were bombed to blazes—and now they have recovered. Two friends of mine have just come back from Germany. They found the Germans working hard, happy, the shops full of food—
—prosperous, and the whole country humming with industry and enterprise. Their recovery is taking place very fast. Can it happen again? I say it can; it could happen again. There is a potential danger, a danger which may not be immediate, but which is definitely a potential danger.
What is the other side of the picture? I do not want to quote the whole of the speech of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) in July, 1950, but everyone will remember that speech—25,000 tanks, 175 divisions of the Russians—
I am trying to give extracts from a speech of the right hon. Member. There were 19,000 aeroplanes and considerable naval forces, among them modern submarines and, to quote one sentence:
The existence of these vast forces in the hands of a totalitarian State, where the pressure of public opinion does not operate and whose
intentions are uncertain, represents a potential danger of which other nations must take full account."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July. 1950; Vol. 478, c. 469–70.]
Is not the hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that those figures were just exercises in mathematical gymnastics, because those figures change from week to week, and there is an astronomical increase whenever anybody refers to them in this House?
I prefer the opinion expressed on that date in 1950 by the then Minister of Defence in his official capacity rather than the opinion of the hon. Gentleman.
In addition, it must not be forgotten that there are roughly another million men under arms in the satellite States. The figures were given in the House last year; 100,000 men in Hungary, which is well above the Treaty limit; 240,000 in Rumania; 150,000 in Bulgaria—
—150,000 in paramilitary formations and, in addition, 50,000 cadre forces in Eastern Germany. And there are troops in Poland and Czechoslovakia. There we have it. Not only are there these millions, all well-armed Russians in Russia, but in addition a million men under arms in the satellite States.
I do not know whether all hon. Members read the "Daily Telegraph," but on Friday last this information was given in an article, which I have no reason to disbelieve:
The 1952 Soviet military credits amount to 114,000 million roubles; they were 96,000 million in 1951, and 79,000 million in 1949…they cover only the maintenance of the Armed Forces. They do not reveal the sums spent on armament factories, the building of fortifications, military research, or naval and air construction.
No. It is from an article by a man called Padev which appeared in the "Daily Telegraph" of Friday last:
The 1952 Bulgarian military credits amount to 40,000 million leva; they were 21.000 million in 1951, and 13,000 million in 1950. The current Polish military credits are 60,000 million zlotys, against 30,700 million in 1951, and 25,000 million in 1950… On the average satellite military expenditure has
doubled in the past year. Compared with 1948 the increase is between 600 and 700 per cent.
Here we have millions of men and thousands of millions of currency to set against this potential future threat from Germany. It seems to me, on the immediate balance, that one has to take the view that Germany is a lesser menace now than the Soviet and the satellites. Can we so arrange things that Germany, re-armed in some form, does not become a menace? It seems to me that the proposals in these Agreements are the only ones possible.
My right hon. Friend referred to certain alternatives. There is one other; that is doing nothing, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). That was what it boiled down to—doing nothing, and leaving a vacuum.
That also is beyond our economic strength. The other alternative is that we should wait until we can get a four-Power agreement. I believe that this suggested tie-up between the European Defence Community and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is the only one by which we can be at all sure of bringing the best out of the German people in future and not letting the worst get on top.
But this vast expenditure which we are incurring, and which we shall have to continue to incur, gives me reason to doubt whether we are not playing Stalin's game unwittingly, and whether we are straining our own economic forces and reserves to such an extent that we may break up before they do. Looking forward to the future, there seem to be two possibilities—either that these two great forces will some day clash and that we shall have a third world war, or that the build-up will go on until one side decides to call it a day.
Those are the two possibilities.—We have to take the risk of a third world war. We have to take the risk in such a way that we shall win it if it comes, though I hope to goodness that it will never come. I would much rather deal with it on the other basis that we shall be able to build up our forces until the Russians call it a day. I believe that that is the only way to talk to the Russians.
It has been suggested that we should put off ratification until we can allow a chance to talk again to the Russians. I do not believe that soft talk will do any good with the Communist regime. They did not get into power by soft words: they got in by force. They do not hold the satellite States today by soft words, but by force. Their whole attitude to life is one of being entirely dictatorial not only to their own fellow men but to everybody else.
The hon. and gallant Member for Angus, South (Captain Duncan) painted a picture of Russian might which would make the policy now proposed quite futile. We have for centuries had this picture of Russian millions being built up—
Certainly. When one is dealing with these vast Russian figures, one should also bear in mind communications, transport and logistics. The number of troops which Russia could raise within her own borders and those of the satellites is very different from the number of troops which she could bring to battle. That is why I think that, while we can never hope to compete with Russian numbers, we can build up a force adequate to hold and defeat a Russian army should it attack us. It need not be an army anything like as large in numbers as the Russian forces which exist but which could not in practice be brought to bear against us.
I want to turn now to another speech. I do not myself like the Amendment which has been moved by the Opposition, but, after hearing my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man), I am bound to admit that this Opposition Amendment at least achieves a certain equipoise, because, as I heard my hon. Friend's speech, I discovered that he disagreed passionately with almost exactly as much as I disagree with passionately, but they happen to be the other parts and for opposite reasons.
It certainly requires a certain equipoise on this subject to be able to provide an Amendment with which both my hon. Friend and I could disagree equally. On the other hand, I believe that my hon. Friend has a certain advantage over me, because, owing to the action of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), he has an Amendment on the Order Paper which exactly expresses his views and for which he can vote.
We know very well that my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East never votes for anything with which he disagrees. I am in a less happy position than my hon. Friend. If the Government had simply put down a Motion authorising the Foreign Secretary to ratify this agreement, I could not have done other than give my approval to it, but, for reasons which I shall come to later, I feel that the second half of the Government Motion is directed more to the internal politics of this House than to any question of foreign policy.
On the question which lies behind all this, whether Germany shall re-arm or not, that has, in fact, been decided without reference to us, and long ago. It has been decided by events, and the events which decided that Germany must be re-armed were the annexation by Russia of Poland and Czechoslovakia. The condition of the possibility of a disarmed Germany was that there should be independent small States upon her borders. The moment that the principal military Power of Europe was brought to the borders of Germany, it became abundantly clear that those frontiers could never remain undefended.
A disarmed Germany thereupon became impossible. I said so at the time; I think I was actually the first hon. Member to say that the re-armament of Germany was inevitable, and I think it still holds good that the re-armament of Germany was then and is now inevitable, and that every day's delay meant and means that that re-armament must be carried out on terms more embarrassing and more dfficult to ourselves. Each delay put us in a worse position to attain the terms and security which we needed in face of this very unfortunate alternative which none of us wanted or do want. I hope that we shall not ask for yet further delay.
The framework in which we have sought to absorb German re-armament is the Atlantic Community. We have designed a community big enough and strong enough, if it is brought to fruition, to be able to absorb within its framework that armed Germany which is necessary without being over-powered by that German strength. That, I believe, is the best and safest term upon which we can accept that which events have made inevitable.
But if we are to get the Atlantic Community, we can get it only upon certain terms and by certain restraints which we must exercise upon ourselves. We must, whatever party is in power, pursue a patient, consistent and reliable policy. The Atlantic Community is unworkable and cannot be brought to reality if we pursue a policy that jumps from one side to the other. Again, the Atlantic Community depends—and this is its real foundation—upon the existence and maintenance of what is, broadly speaking, a bi-partisan foreign policy on both sides of the Atlantic.
I did not rise because it is understood on this side of the House that my hon. and learned Friend is one of the last hon. Members to give way to anybody, and that is why I said what I did from a sitting position. But if I have made a mistake, I hope my hon. and learned Friend will accept my apology.
I am sorry I have that unfortunate reputation: I thought I always gave way. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] My hon. Friend is perfectly consistent in asking for a different foreign policy because he does not want the Atlantic Community. He is opposed to it, and always has been. On those grounds one can demand a partisan policy, but if one wants the Atlantic Community one can only have it at the price of recognising the necessity of what is, broadly speaking—it does not prevent one from criticising in detail—a common policy which is England's policy. In the same way, the Americans must do very much the same.
Very well, England and Wales. It must be a national foreign policy.
The third necessity of an Atlantic Community is that what we set out to achieve must be real. It is no use putting up a facade of defence which gives no security. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East accused the Americans of having—I do not know whether he used the word "blackmail," but the effect of what he said—
I made no accusation whatsoever. I made a statement of fact which was that the Americans stated that they would not provide any further American contribution to the defence of Europe unless we agreed to the principle of German re-armament. It was not an accusation. That is what a great Power can do to a people weaker than itself.
That amounts to exactly what I was going to say. I was going to say that the Americans made very reasonable terms. They said, "If you ask us to come into a European defence system it must be a real one, and if the Germans are not in it, it is not a real one." Every single soldier whether in Paris, Washington or in the War Office here knows perfectly well that unless the German divisions materialise there is a facade but no prospect of reality.
I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for extending to me the courtesy of giving way. The logic of this argument surely is that the German contingents that are hoped to be incorporated in European defence are in fact the only bulwark of democracy in Europe.
Do not let us go in for controversial and passion-making words. What I am interested in is troops. I do not believe that our soldiers who are in Germany, at the end of a limb if something happens, will be vastly interested in the politics of the people who are on their flanks. They will be only interested in those people staying there. Unless we have German divisions there, there will be nobody on our flank, and that is why it is vitally necessary that there shall be this contribution.
After all, we owe some responsibility to our own men. They were an army of of occupation in Germany though they are that no longer. They are today a force on a frontier defending their country, because our country must be defended from the Elbe, at a distance with modern arms. Let us recognise that our men are out there in an untenable position. They are out there at the end of a limb, and we have no right to ask them to stay there.
One can take a perfectly consistent policy, which is the policy of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire. He would bring them home. Throughout the Estimates debate, time and time again he said to us, "You are spending all this money and taking up all these man-hours but you are not producing any defence."
There is a great deal of force in what he said. It is a perfectly consistent policy and his is a perfectly consistent Amendment to say, "You should bring these men back to this country, throwing your hand in in Europe." But if we are going to keep them out there we owe it to them to do what we are advised is necessary to provide them with support. We can do that only if we take what is the unanimous military advice which we receive, which is that a balanced and effective army, capable of holding that position, can be produced only with the addition of 12 German divisions.
That being the policy, what has happened? We have had the Washington agreement, which was negotiated by my right hon. Friend, and we have had the Paris and Bonn agreements, which are simply implementations of what was agreed in Washington. If we believe that the Atlantic Community should be a reality we must implement that with which we agree. If we are to carry any weight in the Council of Europe and the Atlantic Community, it can only be on terms that we are as good as our word. Here our word was given. We implemented this Washington agreement and to my mind it would be unthinkable to go back on our word and to repudiate our Foreign Secretary. I say "our Foreign Secretary" because in this connection we must think in terms of a nation and not of a party.
The hon. and learned Member has raised a very interesting point about the relationship between Parliament and the Government. I remember times when I have joined with him in repudiating Foreign Secretaries whom we thought were doing something wrong. Does he feel that it is our duty, if we think that a Foreign Secretary is doing something wrong, to vote for him—because that is not what the hon. Member has been doing for the last seven years. It is a strange thing for him to say.
My hon. Friend is quite intelligent enough to know the distinction. It is one thing where a Foreign Secretary, signing on behalf of Britain, has entered into a treaty and it is another thing to ask a Foreign Secretary to change decisions which do not involve the honour of one's country in relation to an agreement entered into. They are wholly different things.
I am asked about Egyptian tanks. At that time there was no question of our honour being involved over the implementation of an agreement. What was involved there was a change of policy and one which I thought was right; but here we have our signature—and it is our signature that has been put to this agreement—and it is a question whether or not we repudiate it.
The hon. Member says it is against his protest. I dare say it is; but it was certainly not against the Opposition's protest. There has been no indication of that, and in the Opposition's Amendment there is no repudiation of these agreements. It seems to me that they are agreements which must be implemented without any question.
The question which remains at issue is simply that of timing. It has been said, "We must not implement these agreements because we are negotiating with the Russians." For many years we have tried to negotiate with the Russians and the first thing that brought from the Russians any indication that they wanted to negotiate with us was the fact that we were proceeding to put ourselves in a defensible state. I find it hard to think of anything less likely to make the Russians negotiate than an indication that they could stop us carrying out our re-armament without having to give us an agreement.
Nothing which we settle today can come into operation until March at the earliest. Does not that provide ample time to negotiate, if the Russians wish to do so? But do the Russians wish to do so? What they have offered is an independent and armed Germany. Do my hon. Friends prefer that to the proposal which is brought forward now?
The only conceivable alternative, I suppose—and I think it was indicated by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East—is that Germany should be united but disarmed. After the experience of Poland and Czechoslovakia, does he honestly think that any responsible Foreign Secretary, whether it be my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) or my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), or any other Foreign Secretary from any party, who carried responsibility, would leave a disarmed Germany open to that Russian frontier, knowing the Russian method and knowing that the consequence would be inevitable annexation in exactly the same way as any completely disarmed neighbour of Russia has been and always is annexed? What do we want to get out of this agreement for which we are asked to wait? What is it?
We want to find what is the divergence between the Foreign Secretary and my hon. and learned Friend. I gather that he is saying that there is no possible agreement with the Russians on Germany. Does he believe that? I want to get it clear.
In that case, as other hon. Members want to speak, my hon. Friend will have to leave that as a rhetorical question. But if it is quite clear that my hon. Friends do not want an independent and armed Germany, and it is equally clear that no responsible Foreign Secretary could contemplate an independent and unarmed Germany, it becomes very difficult to see what they want.
What I want is the ratification of the agreement that we have entered into so as to weld a Defence Community within the Atlantic Community, It is not what I would have wanted if Poland and Czechoslovakia had not been annexed, but it is what I believe to be the best available today in foreign policy—and in foreign policy it is not a question of choosing what we want but a question of choosing what we dislike least.
The other suggestion is that this ratification should be postponed because of what are referred to as the Attlee terms, and I am bound to say that my right hon. Friend the former Minister of Defence rather surprised me by saying that we had to wait because the French have not got 15 divisions. If he had said we had to wait because the Russians had not 15 divisions I could see the point.
I do not believe that when my right hon. Friend the leader of my party enunciated these conditions, about which we have heard so much, he conceived himself as standing on Sinaii. I do not think those conditions were conceived as existing for all time with validity for all time. They were reasonable conditions at that time. Nearly two years have passed since, two years in which the N.A.T.O. Powers have been building up, and I think that the time conceived by these conditions has arrived.
I believe the Opposition have a great responsibility when we are dealing with foreign affairs.
One ought not to support proposals which one knows and feels one would not offer if one had responsibility. I myself feel that, like my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East, I cannot vote for this Amendment—even if it is for different reasons; and as far as the Government's Motion is concerned, I certainly do not feel that I can oppose it.
I am sure that in the very short time during which I wish to address the House the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) will forgive me if I do not follow him. I should rather like to say a few words on the general lines of a speech which, I am sure, all Members in this House listened to with great interest. I refer to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton).
For perhaps different reasons, like many hon. Members in this House I have extremely painful personal memories of the Germans in two world wars; but I think all of us would wish to forget any bias that we have for those reasons—though not, I suggest, the lessons that we have learnt from them. I think that the Foreign Secretary probably crystallized the feeling of many of us who are uneasy about this matter when he said today, "We cannot go back." I personally have feelings of uneasiness for three reasons. Firstly, in any federation of Europe in the future, shall we see some new form of the old German teaching of lebensraum? Shall we see a greater control than some of us would wish over such federation by Germany?
Secondly, with regard to the character of the German people, has that really changed so very much? After all, some of us believe that it was not only the Nazis who portrayed the very worst of the German character. There had been evidences of that long before the Nazis were thought of. I do not feel that, in such a very short time, the character of the German people can be guaranteed to have undergone such a radical change. I think some of us feel—I hope, with a sense of responsibility in this matter—that it should not be implied to the people of Germany that all of us in this House take for granted that the majority of the German nation has changed.
Thirdly, the Germans may at this moment have in Dr. Adenauer a leader who really and sincerely believes in a new way of life for the Germans, but what if Dr. Adenauer should fall? What if such a man as Remer came to power?
I must admit I have been long uneasy about this, and though I feel convinced now that our present policy is the right one, it is disturbing to know that a young man with whom I spoke last weekend, who happens to be at school in Switzerland, is at the same school as the son of the head of a Nazi torture camp, and that that boy still proudly places a Nazi flag over his bed every night. It is a danger which we ought to make quite clear to the German people, that we have not so easily forgotten.
What will be the outcome if we are to follow on this path? With great humility I make one proposal. I suggest that we cannot limit the re-armament of Germany within the framework laid down. In recent defence debates it has been suggested that there should be standardisation and therefore interchangeability of guns and ammunition. I suggest therefore that the major supply of shells, bombs and small arms ammunition generally should be manufactured in this country and in America, because then if by some mischance—which is, after all, envisaged under Article V of the contractual agreement—there be a change of Government in Germany, such a man as Remer comes into power in Western Germany with the consequent changes of a spurious unification of Germany, under whatever kind of shirt the Nazis might like to call it, that armament supply could be cut off.
Much as one may have feelings of mistrust and doubt engendered by the past, we must give the Germans a chance to see that, as laid down under Article V of the last agreement, provided they are prepared to change their way of life and their outlook, provided they are prepared to come in with the West into our democratic way of life, then we are prepared to help them. If, on the other hand, there are those who, with thoughts of the past, are going to deal in duplicity and think that they can get away with it, they will realise that for the third time they will bring disaster upon themselves and, alas, upon the whole civilised world.
I do not think that anybody, on either side of the House, under-estimates the gravity of the decision we shall have to take tomorrow night. I strongly support the Amendment which has been put down in the names of my right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench, and I am strongly opposed to the ratification of the German treaties at this juncture.
I approach the subject on two assumptions, with which I think all hon. Members opposite would be in agreement, although I am not sure that all hon. Members on this side would be in agreement. My first assumption in approaching the international problem is that our welfare in the future depends upon our co-operation and friendship with the United States. Secondly, I do not for a moment under-estimate the gravity of the menace from Soviet Russia who, I believe, would take any opportunity that presented itself of doing an injury to the welfare of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Having said that, I think that the two vital questions we have to ask ourselves tonight are these. First, is German re- armament necessary at the present time? Secondly, is German re-armament more likely to ensure world peace or bring about a third world war?
The world situation has been radically transformed from what it was in the middle of 1950, when the subject of German re-armament was first mooted. I think we all agree that even now it requires overwhelming arguments of military necessity to justify re-arming the German nation and thereby taking a step which, I think, we all recognise is prima facie repugnant to the majority of people in this country and to be avoided unless we are convinced that it is absolutely necessary.
In the middle of 1950 we were led by the Americans into accepting the principle of German re-armament because at that time panic measures were being taken in the United States of America, partly because of events in Korea and partly because they realised the paucity of Western defence. But since then the world situation has been transformed. Two years ago the most significant fact in the international situation was the predominant strength of Soviet Russia. Since 1950 another even more significant fact has emerged, namely, the preparations that have been made already by the nations of Western Europe and, even more important, the fact that the United States of America has embarked upon the mobilisation of her whole military and industrial potential.
That has transformed the international situation for this reason: that whereas two years ago it was common talk that if Russia had wished to start any aggression in Europe she could have got to the Channel ports in the matter of a few days, since then America, by her action in Korea, and by her mobilisation, has served notice on Soviet Russia that any attempt at aggression by Soviet Russia will now meet the full resistance of the United States and of the free world in Europe and elsewhere. In that context we have to ask ourselves, is it necessary now, at this stage, to take the further step of embarking upon the re-armament of Western Germany?
As I understand it the hon. Member is arguing that because the United States and Western Europe are now so strong, a German contribution may be unnecessary. But that is exactly the opposite of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who was saying that because France and other countries in Western Europe are still so weak, he is opposing it. Which is the real argument?
That may arise in six months time. If it were to do so in six months or 12 months time, we should have to consider it in the light of the international situation then existing.
I am really not interested in whether the Amendment is called or not. As I understand it, the scope of this debate is sufficiently wide to enable me to make my speech in my own way on the Motion before us and on the Amendment which has been moved. I was trying to underline the fact that, as compared with the military situation in Europe two years ago, there is far less risk of war today than there was in the middle of 1950. That, I think, is generally recognised. It is evidenced by the announcements made by the Prime Minister yesterday for the slowing down of our own military defensive efforts, which are conditioned by economic causes.
I agree entirely with what my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) said. One of the most potent reasons in the present improvement of the international situation as compared with what it was two years ago is the diplomatic threat of the rearmament of Western Germany. That, coupled with our own measures of defence, has already had the desired deterrent effect on Soviet Russia in Europe.
The real question before us today is whether we are going to change the proved value of that diplomatic threat to re-arm the Western Germans, and transform it into a military threat which will deprive us of one of the most powerful bargaining weapons we have had, or ever shall have, in our negotiations with Soviet Russia.
The situation in Germany today is such that the overwhelming mass of people there, as was the case a year ago and two years ago, are anxious that there should not be any immediate revival of German arms or German militarism. Anybody who has visited Germany recently, as I have, cannot help being impressed by the immense material progress that the German nation have been making during the last two or three years. They are the most virile, active and industrious people in Europe.
We can easily understand why the Americans would like to have armed German divisions. I was talking in Hamburg the other day to an American visitor, who was impressed, as I was, with the evidence that is abundant everywhere in Germany of their recovery. He said that he could understand why the United States wanted to arm a number of German divisions rather than a number of French divisions. The German people know how to use their arms. No doubt 12 German divisions, from a military point of view, would be far more valuable than 12 French divisions. No one disputes that.
It has always been the accepted policy of this country, and it was one of the essential so-called Attlee conditions—which were accepted, I emphasise, by Members of the Conservative Party when they were in Opposition, no less than by Members of this party—that before there should be any German re-armament, there should be full equipment and rearming of our own Western allies.
The assumption on which American policy is based, and the assumption on which the present Government support the American policy of driving through the Bonn and Paris agreements with such unseemly haste, is, first, that they are necessary to preserve peace in Europe, which does not appear to me to be the case; and second, there is the assumption, for which there is no evidence, either in the situation today or in the facts of history, that the German nation will continue to be either democratic or friendly towards us, or pacific in its intentions.
The new Germany is only now beginning to arise from all the distress and strain of the most serious defeat in war that any nation has ever suffered. We do not know what Germany will be like in five years' time; whether it will be democratic, Communistic, or whether there will be a revival of Nazism. It is idle to speculate on that today, as it would have been in 1924 and 1925 to speculate on what would be the political condition of Germany in 1930 or 1934. That is one of the risks we are taking.
The other assumption on which this policy is based—it may be a right assumption, we hope it is, but nevertheless, it is an assumption—is that Western Germany will develop friendship towards this country and be willing to remain partners with us in the European Community and the Atlantic Community. But there is nothing in German history to warrant such an assumption. And still still less is there anything to warrant the assumption that Germany once rearmed, will remain a pacific nation, content to use their military equipment purely for defensive purposes.
Why should they? Why should Germany be content with the status quo? Germany is the one country in the world which cannot be so content. We and the French and the Belgians could be, and the rest of the European communities, and the United States. But there is nothing in the political situation in the world today which would cause a German to maintain it any longer than he could hope to do.
I think the Russians have their hands completely full with their own problems, and that will keep them out of military adventure—unless they are tempted into military adventures—for quite a long time.
One of the greatest dangers ensuing from the reckless policy of ratifying these Paris and Bonn Treaties is that we shall get a situation in which the Germans, being fully armed with American money, and at the expense of the British taxpayer, are tempted to take aggressive action to re-unite both parts of Germany. I do not think that anyone could blame the Germans if they do want German union, but I do not see why we should go out of our way, and at our own expense, to provide prematurely conditions in which that threat to world peace may become a possibility.
A number of hon. Members have tended to assume that there is something different between arming a number of German divisions and, as it is called, integrating them into a European Defence Community and having a German national army. It was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) that German rearmament was inevitable. I am not talking about the distant future. One day German re-armament may be inevitable. But other hon. Members have said, with obvious sincerity, that the question before us is not whether or not Germany should be re-armed, but whether they should rearm themselves in their own way on their own terms; or—and this is the Government's case—whether we can protect ourselves against that admitted danger by re-arming them now on our own terms as part of the European Defence Community.
It is assumed that if we do that they will not be a national force, but will be integrated with British, French and American troops. This talk of integration is a complete delusion and a complete snare.
I am trying to explain to the House my view that it is no use hon. Members opposite or the Americans deceiving themselves by thinking that, because they talk about integration with an American Supreme Commander they will then have 12 divisions which are anything other than independent, or at any rate potentially independent whenever they want to be.
I am not sure that hon. Members who talk about integration in that way really know what they mean. It is difficult enough for our own 4⅓ divisions in Germany to be integrated with each other. It is difficult to produce integration between ourselves and the Americans. A military division for the most part works as a self-contained unit. I was glad to see the other day that General Ridgway has abandoned the idea of having all the forces under his command take part in mass manoeuvres in Germany this year. It is much more sensible that they should carry out summer manoeuvres as ordinary units.
I am afraid that I did not hear the earlier part of the hon. Gentleman's speech. I think that it is the only part I have missed of the whole of the debate. Is he in favour of not arming the Germans at all and keeping them completely disarmed?
I am deeply against German re-armament at the present stage. Before the hon. Member came into the Chamber I tried to point out the political and military dangers which I thought were involved. I am now trying to undeceive any Members opposite who delude themselves into thinking that, by re-arming the Germans and doing what they call integrating them in the European Defence Community, they are thereby producing something different from a German national army.
If Germany is not to be armed, is she to contribute towards the cost of French and British divisions? If so, do we become mercenaries to the Germans? Does Germany pay us to act sentry on her borders against the outside world?
I do not want to be diverted too much by answering all the hon. Gentleman's questions. For the last three or four years we have had an Army in being in Germany and the Germans have been paying the cost of it.
My belief is that the best contribution which the Germans can make to the military defence of the West, at any rate for some time to come, is to continue to pay the occupation charges which they have been paying for the last few years.
If I might revert to the question of integration, if we are really to have German re-armament and 12 German divisions, we must face the fact that they will be 12 German national divisions and that when the day comes for them to take independent action they will be able to do so if they want to. Do hon. Members realise that the British troops in Germany, like the American troops, are dependent upon German civilian services? Do they realise that they are dependent upon German transport, German means of communication, and co-operation with the German civilian population in every kind of way?
A fortiori, if that be the case and if we have a number of German divisions in Germany, we shall then have a situation in which the German divisions with the German civilian services, on which our Armed Forces are dependent, will obviously become the most powerful military forces in Germany. They will be able to dictate policy, or they and the Americans will be able to dictate policy, or we shall have a condition in which we are powerless from a military point of view to oppose any policy in Europe, aggressive or liberationist or otherwise, which may be desirable.
I am not arguing that. I am saying that we shall be, from a military point of view, unable to oppose policies which are felt to be convenient to Germany or America, or to America and Germany combined. Therein will be an element of danger. Do not let us deceive ourselves about that. I am arguing about the ratification of these treaties.
At the same time, one has to realise that because of the Government's majority these treaties will be ratified by them. If they are ratified, then as a nation we shall have to make the best of it. Once we are committed to a policy of having the maximum German force in a European Army there will be a totally different political situation so far as we are concerned. Obviously, we shall then have to make the best of that situation.
I think it will be a sorry look-out for the French. I do not think there will be much room for French recovery in Europe once we have created a situation in which the Germans become the predominant military force on the Continent. One of the reasons I attach some importance to the vote that will be taken tomorrow night is that, although the Government will succeed in carrying the Motion, there will at any rate be evidence in France—which is probably the country most vitally affected after our own—that there is a very solid and very large numerical opposition in this country to the policy of ratifying these treaties at the present time.
Do not let us forget that it will still be open to the French in their wisdom to call a halt in taking steps which I believe will be irretrievable, which will be fraught with danger to our own country, and which will bolt the door on the possibility of peaceful talks with the Russians.
Before the hon. Gentleman goes any further, can he make this point clear? He says, I understand, that he is against re-armament of the Germans—simply like that. Is that right?
I am saying that I am against German re-armament at the present time; I think it would be inopportune and premature. I am not arguing the question as to what may be the case at any future date.
I am not in favour of it. Even at this late hour I would urge the Government not to press forward with the ratification of this treaty before the people of Germany or the people of France, who are, after all, more vitally concerned than we are, have had an opportunity of expressing their views upon it.
Mr. W. M. F. Vane:
No one who has listened to this debate tonight can complain that he has not listened to a wide variety of arguments from hon. Members opposite in support of a wide variety of policies. One can sympathise with the unfortunate person whose duty it was to try and draft an Amendment which might cover the greater part of the gap between such hon. Members as the hon. Member for Erdington (Mr. J. Silverman), with his sympathies for Russia, on the one flank, and the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in another place who found when they divided that he could not support it.
Everyone, surely, must respect the view taken by the noble Lord, bearing in mind the responsibilities for the administration of Germany which he bore for a considerable part of the time that the late Government were in office, a duty which I think every hon. Member will agree he carried out with considerable distinction.
So one comes to the conclusion that this Amendment, with its emphasis on timing, as we were told at the end of the first speech from the opposition side, is really a political expedient, and a shallow political expedient at that. Although it does represent the complete reverse of the policy of the late Government, as stated so clearly in the statement of September, 1951, it is not really so completely novel because there was considerable bewilderment immediately after the war in many people's minds, not least in the minds of the late Government and their supporters as to what the correct policy regarding Germany should be.
When I first came into this House in 1945, I fully expected that the problems of the administration and future policy towards Germany, and Central Europe in general, would be one of the biggest problems with which this House would occupy itself; and when we had a special Minister deputed to look after this task I thought that my surmise was right. We had the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—the "overlord" principle, in fact—deputed to look after the occupied territories.
But it soon became clear that in this House, just as I think among a large number of people up and down the country, there was no great appreciation of the importance of the task ahead of us. We had thought that for the third time we had beaten Germany, and we said to ourselves "Thank God! Now for a time we can forget them. They have no army; their country is occupied. What may happen in the future is not an immediate problem; that can look after itself. Let us turn our minds to other things."
While that was going on, although I do not impute any motive or particular intention to the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd), who was the first holder of the office of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, there was, I am sure, a feeling that whatever we did in the administration of Germany at least we ought not to put unnecessary obstructions in the path of the German Socialist Party and organisations closely allied to it.
Now, I do not think that has stood us or the German Socialist Party in good stead. But we were not alone among the Occupying Powers in following some such policy because, as we all know, the Russians quite blatantly favoured the Communist Party in their zone, and I think it is fair to say that the Americans in theirs also did perhaps what they could to smooth the path of the C.D.U. or C.S.U. We did follow some such policy, so it does not surprise me today that this Amendment may have been drafted, not only in order to try to bridge, as far as was possible, this very wide gap between the views of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, but perhaps, too, to give a little electoral fillip to the S.P.D. in Germany, who are hoping to improve their position at the next election.
But then there is another side to it. We in this country are all afraid, in general, of foreign entanglements. We look forward one day to a fresh shape, and I think I was probably not alone in supposing it might have been as far ahead as 20 years after the end of the war that we would have to decide the question that we are going to decide here tomorrow. That would have had the great advantage of giving the civil power in Germany time to gain its stature, and also allow a real break with the past—a past of which we are justified in having considerable suspicions.
In spite of the division that took place in Germany between East and West, the conquered there had one great advantage: the victors were divided; the Allies no longer had a common policy towards Germany; we were hustled along by Russia, step by step, and, as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said, we find ourselves conducting a foreign policy not as we would like to have it, but as we find it. Today we find ourselves—I admit quite freely some time before I would like to see it—making a very, very important decision.
The important part of the Amendment appears to be the intention to delay this decision. I cannot see why, particularly in view of one sentence in the statement of September last year, which talked about anticipating an early agreement between the four Governments to enter into, in effect, such an agreement as we are considering today—