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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 Victor Goodhew Mr Victor Goodhew , St Albans 12:00 am, 31st July 1961

I am not being pompous. The hon. Gentleman should know that; he is much more adept at it than I am.

The hon. Member for Leeds, East started by accusing my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal of complacency, of having no sense of priority, and of having no coherence in his speech. There then followed a catalogue of items on which he said that he agreed with my right hon. Friend.

The hon. Gentleman then said that the two great forces, Russia and the West, were hurtling flat out towards each other and that a frightful collision would result if no one made a move to get out of the way. He said that the Government should try to make a move, but he did not say what that move should be.

The hon. Gentleman then went on to say that one thing about which we should not get excited was acceptance of the East German régime by a treaty declared unilaterally by Russia; that it did not matter whether East Germans were stamping West German passes instead of having them stamped by Russian officials, but, of course, we have to be careful because if it starts there it might go on to other things.

Having said that we in the West must produce a united front against the Russians, the hon. Gentleman went on to castigate my right hon. Friend for not attacking in public all our N.A.T.O. allies, or at any rate a good number of them when he had an opportunity to do so. There used to be an advertisement, "How to win friends and influence people". He was advocating a policy of, "How to lose friends and not to influence people".

One thing which is clear from the speeches so far, including the interesting and impressive speech of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly), is that there is no difference between the two sides of the House about the rights and wrongs of the Berlin position. We know that on the right side the West has allowed the West Germans to have free elections, and that West Berlin is a free city. This carries with it certain rights for the West Berliners. I was glad that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) stressed the point about not yielding an inch or a millimetre, and that the hon. Member for Pembroke made the point about making it clear that we were not prepared to negotiate on the freedom of the West Berliners. We have these rights in the city, and the right of access. These rights were conveyed to us by the agreement mentioned by the hon. Member for Pembroke, but, in addition, we are there because the West Berliners want us to be there. That is equally important.

The wrong in this case is that these considerations do not apply to East Germany. They have not their own freely elected Government. East Berlin is not a free city. It was put under Communist control, and is merely supported and maintained by the Soviet Army.

It is unsatisfactory, and, indeed, anomalous, that sixteen years after the war no peace treaty has been signed with Germany, but this is not because of anything the West has done. It is simply because Russia has insisted on dividing Germany and has imposed an iron rule on East Germany and put her behind the Iron Curtain with a puppet Government in control. It is, therefore, clear that the East German Government are not qualified to speak for the German people when it comes to treaty negotiations, and the corollary is that the only Government who can be qualified to speak for the Germans is a freely elected all-German Government.

So it seems to me that if there is any change desired at all in the position of Berlin and Germany, it is in the direction of restoring the right of self-determination, about which so much is spoken by the Russians in relation to other people. It would be in the direction of restoring the right of self-determination to the East Germans, and, of course, to the East Berliners, so that a peace treaty may be finally negotiated.

This is not the change suggested by Mr. Khrushchev. First, he says that we should form a confederation of the two Germany States and that then there should be a peace treaty signed with that confederation and that West Berlin should become a free city. To start with, that is quite an unrealistic approach. There is no possibility whatever of the Germans in West Germany accepting a confederation with East Germany so long as there is a Soviet puppet Government in charge which is Communist inspired. Of course, they take the view—I think that I should, too—that for this to happen would be merely to perpetrate a division of Germany. One cannot imagine West Berlin remaining free for very long once it was surrounded entirely by a completely Communist-controlled East Germany without the presence of the Western allies.

We have been told that failing such a peace treaty with the confederation of the two German States, Mr. Khrushchev would negotiate a unilateral peace treaty with East Germany. That means annexation so far as the Germans are concerned. We have been told that once that has been done we shall have to negotiate any question of right of access to West Berlin, as well as anything else, with the East Germany Government.

I ask myself what chances there are of our getting those rights if a treaty between Russia and East Germany became a fait accompli. We heard Herr Ulbricht on 15th June making quite clear that one of the first things he would do after a peace treaty had been signed would be to close the refugee camps of West Berlin. He said, further, that the next thing he would do would be to close the Tempelhof airfield from which 80 per cent. of the refugees—who have been spoken about today in such moving terms—take off to fly to West Germany. We can, of course, realise why the East German régime wishes to stop this flood of refugees which has been increasing constantly over the years. Until recently the number was 250,000 a year, but with this additional threat the figure has been stepped up to well beyond 1,000 a day and is close to 2,000 a day.

We have, I think, been warned of what sort of treatment we may expect if such a treaty were negotiated between Russia and East Germany. In these circumstances, I am quite certain that hon. Members on both sides of the House would agree that my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary was right to insist in all the speeches he made on certain principles upon which any negotiations must be based. The first is the maintenance of international law and order. The second is the observance of the sanctity of all agreements and treaties. The third is the principle that we can have change only by consent, and that no unilateral change in a treaty can take place.

I believe that these principles represent the only sound basis for a peaceful settlement of world problems. Any unilateral peace treaty signed by Russia with East Germany cannot possibly affect our legal right to be in Berlin. Therefore, in the absence of any new all-German peace treaty signed by the four Powers with a united Germany it seems to me that we must, as has already been said, insist that we secure those three main rights—the right of Berliners to conduct their own life in the way they wish; the right of the allies to be in the city so that they may guarantee that freedom for the West Berliners; and also their right to unrestricted access to the city.

There are those who say that by adopting this position we are being too rigid and that we should not state these principles as being the prerequisite to any negotiations. I can understand people being somewhat unnerved by Mr. Khrushchev's sabre rattling of late. We have seen illustrations of him photographed in military uniform for the first time for many years. We had the film showing the might of the Russian air force, and we have heard of the remarks reported to have been made by Mr. Khrushchev to our Ambassador in Moscow, when he boasted that he had all Europe at his mercy, that only six bombs were needed to wipe out Britain and nine more would take care of France as well.

One can understand people being uneasy about it, and that is exactly what was intended by Mr. Khrushchev in playing upon the feelings of those who fear the possibility of a world war. But, I ask myself, what would these people have us do? Are they suggesting that we should allow Mr. Khrushchev to deny us the right to be in Berlin purely by unilateral action and cut off the people of West Berlin and take away their freedom and thus break the four-Power agreements of 1944 and 1949? If so, I maintain that they are asking us to take the first step an the slippery slope leading to world war.

Believe me, if Mr. Khrushchev found that he could secure the control of Berlin by mere threats that is not where he would stop. We should soon find that he would rapidly proceed to pick various vantage points throughout the world until such time as we found ourselves faced with the choice of making a belated fight for our own freedom, which it might then be too late to wage, or surrendering to Communist domination. That is a position in which we have been before with people like Mr. Khrushchev. We saw it with Hitler. Once we let people tear up treaties and abrogate them unilaterally, it is not long before we find ourselves against the wall and we have to attempt to fight our way out from an impossible position.

Mr. Khrushchev has put out a new blueprint and in which he talks of his desire to establish permanent peace. At the Russian Exhibition, in large letters an the wall we saw a quotation from Lenin: Above all we treasure peace. But what sort of peace? Are not we entitled to ask that? Is it the sort of peace we want, the sort of peace which enables people throughout the world to live without fear and threat and to carry on in their own way? Is it peaceful coexistence which we are told about and which seems to mean something quite different? Or does it mean just peace in Russia for the time being while Mr. Khrushchev will go round stirring up trouble wherever there is a likelihood of his being able to exploit it in various parts of the world by infiltration and subversion and by gaining control of strategic points all over the world and thus imposing his way of life on us all? I think we may be forgiven for thinking that on present showing that latter type of peace is the type about which Mr. Khrushchev is talking rather than the one we normally think of.

There is peace in Berlin now. There is no threat to that peace from the West. The only threat which exists at all comes from Mr. Khrushchev himself and his determination to try to provoke a crisis. It is difficult to know what Mr. Khrushchev can hope to gain from all this. He must realise that the West is not prepared to give way to these threats to the freedom of Berlin and our right to be there. I have tried to think what he really hopes to gain and I find it difficult to imagine. Of course, he may think that we are complete idiots or that we are prepared to climb down on all that we have said in the past. He has some difficulties. A large number of people each day lock their doors in Eastern Germany on everything they have ever owned and are prepared to flee with whatever they can carry in their pockets to escape the Communist régime.

I wonder whether there are certain fringe concessions which he wants which would make his life easier and which would not affect the vital rights about which so much has been said this afternoon. If there are, we must try to negotiate. Most important of all, in the meantime we must state again and again, not only in the House but throughout the world, especially wherever it is possible to do so on radio programmes in the uncommitted countries, the rights and wrongs of the present position. We must make certain that everyone throughout the world who is watching this crisis develop knows exactly why there is a crisis, who is promoting it and who are doing their best to prevent it.

Above all, we in the House should send a message of loyalty and united support to the Foreign Secretary. [HON. MEMBERS: "That is cheek."] Are hon. Members opposite prepared to sit here and to suggest that they need not be loyal and united supporters of the Foreign Secretary when he is perhaps negotiating for the safety of the world and the future of their sons and daughters? That is fantastic, and it is exactly the point on which I started my speech. There is a feeling among hon. Members opposite that they have to attack all the time and can never give the Government any support. Hon. Members opposite have been told time and again by the Foreign Secretary, if they bothered to read, that if we are to have a strong foreign policy we must have a strong economy, but the moment it is necessary to take measures to put the economy right they squeal and fight here as if the future of the country did not matter. I am appalled to hear such an interjection from hon. Members opposite at such a time as this. Let it be known outside the House that, although there may be a few hon. Members below the Gangway who feel as they feel, the vast majority of hon. Members and people in the country will give their loyal and united support to the Foreign Secretary when he goes into the delicate negotiations which lie ahead.