Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

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.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Edward Mallalieu Mr Edward Mallalieu , Brigg 12:00 am, 31st July 1961

I hope that the Lord Privy Seal was present at the beginning of the speech just made by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse). I am not sure that he was, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will read the speech very carefully from the beginning which was as good as the part which I know he heard. It was advice given in all sincerity and from great knowledge which might very well be followed by the Government.

I appreciate what the Lord Privy Seal said at the beginning, namely, that he cannot go into any negotiations saying exactly what he is prepared to give away. We on the back benches, on the other hand, have a rather freer rein in this respect and it is our duty, as it seems to many of us, including the hon. Member for Oxford, to suggest to the Lord Privy Seal what should be done in this matter. Every summer since I can remember there have been these war scares. I do not know whether it is because the statesmen of the world want their summer holidays so badly, and have been overworked, or whether it is because the European harvest has been gathered. I do not know what the reason is, but this war scare always comes up every summer. I believe that we should take this Berlin scare seriously but by no means tragically, because as has been pointed out before, almost all the things which are in play in this crisis are negotiable.

I wonder whether we had better not consider even some more serious concessions, as they might be called, to the other side, than those mentioned by the hon. Member for Oxford. He mentioned a whole gamut of stages of recognition. I want to tell the Lord Privy Seal that I would not regard it as a complete tragedy even if we recognised the East German State. I am well aware that if one gives any concessions at all, people in West Germany, at any rate, even in high places, and I suspect that it goes the whole way down, are apt to say, "This is the last straw. The whole of Eastern Europe will disappear if you give any concession at all to the Russians. They will merely use it as a jumping off place to the next." So they may, but surely it all depends upon the quid pro quo for that concession.

I could not agree more with the hon. Member for Oxford than when he said that we must negotiate. We simply have to, and we must make plain that we shall negotiate. It is not enough for the Lord Privy Seal to give us a tour d'horizon which is very interesting. He must make plain that our hands are clean, that we are reasonable, and that we want to negotiate.

What are we going to negotiate about? I suggest that even if we were prepared to go the whole way in recognition of East Germany—and I know that there are different opinions about this—there might be concessions which the other side would be prepared to give which would make even that concession worth while. It has been referred to before that we might possibly have some completely new corridor constructed, a wide corridor, which would be the sovereign territory of West Germany, going to Berlin.

It would not be capable of being arranged along the existing corridors, but that is a minor detail. It might have to be somewhat north of Helmstedt; but wherever it was, with flyovers constructed so that there would he no serious obstruction to any East German internal traffic, that would be a very small expense indeed to pay for absence of friction. That should he considered very seriously by the Government.

The suggestion has already been made that the United Nations should be brought in much more seriously than hitherto with regard to the Berlin problem. One of the suggestions has been that the whole of the United Nations headquarters should be brought into Berlin. That does not seem to me to be an entirely unreasonable suggestion. But whether that be accented or not, I submit that the presence of the United Nations, at any rate in Berlin, is very desirable when all the scare has died down and when we have been prepared to give and take on both sides.

I would add, in parenthesis, that if it so happens that the Russians are not prepared to accept our proposals in this matter—I hope that there will be proposals, and that we shall not wait for the Russians to make the running all the time—the battle will have been nearly won if the uncommitted world, the third parties in this matter, think that we have been reasonable. How important it is, therefore, that we should be reasonable.

To come back to the United Nations point, I believe that there should be a United Nations presence in Berlin when all this is finished. I should like to see it in the whole of Berlin, West and East, but certainly in the West. Does this not show how necessary it is that there should be established at the earliest possible moment a United Nations security unit, so to speak, a force in being with a staff, its plans already made—not just little contingents coming from various countries, including the smaller Powers, though all honour to them for their willingness to do it, ad hoc when each crisis arises, but a United Nations emergency unit to go where it is wanted in different parts of the world. The Congo is the latest example of where we had to improvise at the last moment.

I should like Her Majesty's Government to follow up something which I regard as one of the most important things which have happened in the last year at any rate, and that is something for which they must bear a heavy share of the praise, for once, namely, the declaration of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers with regard to what was necessary in the way of a security authority under the United Nations, and all that flows from it, in order to provide that modicum of security without which no sovereign State can or has any right to disarm.

I should like to see the Government follow up that marvellous suggestion which was made by the Commonwealth Prime Ministers from a multi-racial and multi-continental Commonwealth, by suggesting that as a first and immediate step there should be this United Nations emergency unit with its staff, with its judiciary, if need be, to deal with the emergencies which are bound to continue to crop up in the world until we have a sensible world Government in whatever form it might come.

I say this to the Government: if our hands are clean and our intentions are not hidden away in the minds of Ministers, including the Lord Privy Seal, but manifest to the uncommitted part of the world, our right arm is immeasurably strengthened when we go into the councils of the world.