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Foreign Affairs

Part of Orders of the Day — Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 31st July 1961.

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Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes 12:00 am, 31st July 1961

Certainly I would not. That is exactly along the broad lines of the proposals which have been made on successive occasions by Conservative Governments, and I cannot see that disengagement has any possibility in practical politics except in the context of some kind of European settlement.

I also feel very strongly that the disengagement plans which have been put forward at various times by hon. Members opposite, particularly the hon. Member for Leeds, East, have been based on a wholly false premise. The original disengagement plan of the hon. Member for Leeds, East, which he elaborated in a Fabian pamphlet, was based on his view that international Communism as an instrument of Russian foreign policy had decayed. His actual words were: the decay of international Communism as an instrument of Russian foreign policy is now a dominant theme of world politics. Nothing could be further from the truth. Today the hon. Member said exactly the opposite. If his original disengagement plan were based on that premise, it was certainly based on a false premise, and I hope later to hear on what premise any new disengagement plans which the Opposition have are based.

I am also made very suspicious about disengagement plans when I find that Mr. Khrushchev believes in them because they will emphasise the status quo in Eastern Europe, which must not be altered, and when hon. Members opposite tell us that they believe in them, as I am prepared to believe that they do, because they will help to loosen the Soviet grip on occupied countries. Mr. Khrushohev cannot be right if hon. Members opposite are right.

I should like to know more about what the Opposition have in mind in any plan which they put forward. I know that they desire to help to try to loosen the tension in Europe, but what reductions are visualised in terms of manpower and armaments, both conventional and nuclear in Eastern and Western Germany, for instance? Western Germany is providing about 40 per cent. of N.A.T.O.'s manpower. Would there be definite reductions in and restrictions on the size and armament of Soviet forces in Eastern Germany, where the Soviet Union has 20 divisions? It is not much good talking about disengagement unless one explains more fully what is meant.

There was another serious deficiency in the original disengagement plan put forward by the Opposition when they even went so far as to talk in terms of "swapping" a neutral Denmark for Roumania, a kind of bargain in neutrality. We cannot insist that Denmark will be neutral, and I cannot understand that anybody could seriously put forward a plan like that.

Connected with all this and not mentioned today was the possibility of an "Austrian solution" for Germany. Superfically, this is a very attractive idea, but the factors which were present in Austria and which made a solution there possible are not present in Germany. First, Germany is large and powerful, economically and politically. Secondly, when Austria agreed to move into a neutral position it was a united country, which Germany is not. Thirdly, Austria had a freely-elected coalition Government, which Germany has not, so that the Austrian Government, on behalf of the Austrian public as a whole, was able to accept the peace treaty terms.

Suggestions far an Austrian solution for Germany do not bear examination. I only wish that they did. In this connection, I must say that if Austria chooses to change from its neutral position—although there is certainly no sign of that—we should be hard put to it to know what sanction we could apply. Some of the solutions for Europe's ills which are put forward in a rather airy-fairy fashion prove on examination to be unworkable.

I conclude my rounding off what I said about Berlin. So long as Mr. Khrushchev clearly understands that the N.A.T.O. Powers mean every word of what they say about the future of West Berlin, there need not be any Berlin crisis. Let Mr. Khrushchev beware of being misled by answers which may be given to the trick question which Communists and others are going around the country and asking—"Would you rather be Red than dead?"

The fact that people who pose such trick questions are mostly Red themselves means that there would be no change for them. Some of the people who reply to it and who say that they would rather be Red have no understanding whatever of what Communism really is. It is a question which should not be asked and which does not deserve an answer.

It was in the 1930s that the British Fascists put about the slogan "Mind Britain's business", no doubt from pro-Nazi motives coining such a plausible slogan with the same object as the "Red or dead" question today. I am glad to say that nearly all of us in the House, leaving party politics completely aside, have learned our lesson since the 1930s. Britain will not make the same mistakes again. Berlin is Britain's business.