Debate on the Address

Part of Orders of the Day — Queen's Speech – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th November 1960.

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Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley 12:00 am, 4th November 1960

I was not in the least intending to suggest that; of course, that is not the case.

In the Congo, the Soviets have pressed their ambition to penetrate newly independent countries, and when the United Nations effectively prevented that, then, of course, they turned on the United Nations itself and set out to destroy its influence. I should like to discuss some of these particular points later on. The point which I wish to make here is that Soviet claims and pressures are now very widely spread and we must expect to encounter them all over the globe.

In the meantime, a new dimension has been added to the world-wide struggle between the free countries and those with Soviet support and in particular, of course, with the newly emerged and non-committed nations. This was one of the most striking features of the Soviet leader's campaign in the United Nations Assembly, to which the hon. Gentleman himself has made reference. What he tried to do was to represent the Soviet Union as the patron of these countries and of all peoples who were formerly under colonial rule. The culmination of this was his suggestion that the United Nations' Secretariat and influence should be divided into three blocs: the Communists, the Western Powers and the uncommitted countries.

Of course, these uncommitted countries themselves do not feel like a bloc in many cases and do not wish to be treated as a bloc. There are many Commonwealth countries which want to remain uncommitted, but they certainly do not intend to forgo their individual opinions and independence of judgment and act purely as a member of a bloc. Her Majesty's Government do not accept the idea that the world should be divided into these three blocs, nor do we believe that the United Nations, if it were organised in that way, could survive.

Nor, of course, did the uncommitted nations themselves at the General Assembly accept this thesis of Mr. Khrushchev. On the contrary, in the question of the Congo and on the position of the Secretary-General, they showed themselves fully able to judge for themselves the validity of Mr. Khrushchev's claims. They were not swept away by them. They supported the United Nations' action in the Congo and opposed the attempt to introduce a veto into the Secretariat.

Our own purpose is quite clear. It is to help these countries to develop in their own way, to improve their living standards and establish themselves as independent nations. At the United Nations, the Soviet Government developed attacks against our own colonial policy. They levelled accusations against us which will certainly not make it any easier for the inhabitants of our remaining Colonial Territories to develop peacefully towards independence.

This, then, looking over those few months, is what has emerged since the failure of the Summit Conference—the abandonment of the policy of détente, increased pressure on a widening number of trouble spots, and a new tone of violence in propaganda against the colonial countries, the attack on the United Nations and Secretariat.

I should like to look in some detail at some of these pressure points. The first pressure point is Berlin, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, and I am grateful for the support which he gave on this. The East Germans have here imposed restrictions on movement between East and West Berlin. They did this first of all for a five-day period on the excuse that meetings were taking place in West Berlin and public order was threatened. In the past, however, similar gatherings had taken place annually. The meetings passed off without incident. The restrictions were removed. A few days later, they were reimposed, without any reason for this being given at all, and they are still in force today.

In a note of 26th October, we stated our view clearly to the Soviet Government that the actions by the East German authorities were completely illegal and unacceptable to the three Western Powers. But, as a consequence of these acts, the Western Powers have had to safeguard their own position. In the exercise of their special powers in Germany, they have placed restrictions on the issue of travel documents to East Germans. These documents are required by East Germans in order to travel to countries, like our own, which do not recognise their so-called Government. Without such a document no entry visa can be granted.

I know that some hon. Members in the House are asking whether in imposing these travel restrictions we have done serious damage to British trading interests. It is also being said that West German interests have gained an unfair advantage. It is true that the methods which have been taken by the Federal German authorities are not exactly parallel with those taken by other N.A.T.O. Governments. This is necessary because the problem of movement within Germany itself is a separate and special one. But the measures being applied by N.A.T.O. Governments, apart from the Federal German Government, are exactly the same as our own.

Moreover, the Federal German Government are taking measures in other spheres designed to ensure that the trading interests of no member of N.A.T.O. will suffer by comparison with those of other members, including themselves. At any time I shall be glad to consider details of any case which any hon. Member likes to bring before me if he thinks that this balance is not being kept. I will gladly look at it and see what can be done about it.

The real nub of the matter is this. The Western alliance is not prepared simply to acquiesce in these illegal actions, whether taken by the Soviet or the East German authorities. The counter measures which we have taken so far are entirely reasonable and justified. It is a simple matter to put things right. All that the East German authorities have to do is to restore the position as it existed before they themselves put on their restrictions.

I should now like to deal with the question of the Congo, about which quite a lot has already been said, partly today and also earlier in this debate. Some hon. Members have expressed disquiet about events in the Congo. The Government, too, are anxious about the situation there. No firm structure of Government has yet emerged and there is much political confusion. Throughout this prolonged crisis, our objectives have remained the same.

We want to see conditions created in which this emergent country can develop and we want to see it develop on a basis of law and order and stability. We want to see it do so as a united and independent State within its present borders. We want to see it kept free from intervention from outside and we want to prevent it from becoming an arena in the cold war. We have a particularly close interest in the stability of the Congo because of the British territories which lie alongside it.

Our policy throughout has been to give our full support to the effort that the United Nations has been making to keep the peace and to put the territory economically and administratively back on its feet. What the United Nations has already been able to do, in the face of great difficulties over this huge area, is impressive. The United Nations force was organised with considerable speed. It was smoothly and speedily carried to the Congo. It has undoubtedly played a useful rôle in preventing excesses of the kind that were prevalent before its arrival. A beginning has been made with the large programme of United Nations technical assistance that is required. Moreover, the presence of the United Nations and its rôle under the Security Council resolutions has undoubtedly succeeded in preventing the Congo from falling a victim to power politics from the outside.

It is true also, as hon. Members have pointed out, that the United Nations has not always been able to quell outbreaks of tribal warfare, and that we deplore. The country is, however, an enormous one, four times the size of continental France, and despite all the support which the United Nations has received, its resources are still limited. Nevertheless, we remain convinced that the best hope of restoring the situation in the Congo to normal lies in full support of the United Nations. We shall shortly be announcing our response to the Secretary-General's appeal for contributions to the emergency fund, and I hope that other Governments will provide their fair share.

In the debate earlier in the week, a number of hon. Members were critical about the activities of the United Nations in Katanga. The Government have already made plain their view that the Security Council resolutions referred to the Congo as a whole and they therefore supported the Secretary-General's position when it was decided to send a United Nations force there. This brings me to the important question of foreign technicians. I am sure that nobody wants to question the right of the Congolese authorities to employ civilian technicians of their own choice from abroad, nor can there be any doubt that Belgian experts, who know all the local problems, can make a special contribution in the Congo. It would be a great mistake to forget this. There is, however, the practical question of marrying together the aid that comes from all these various sources.

For some time, the Congo will have to rely very largely on external aid to help it to run its services. By far the greater part of this aid is coming from the United Nations. It is, therefore, important that advisers and technicians who have come there by other means and from other places should work closely with the United Nations.