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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 John Baird Mr John Baird , Wolverhampton North East 12:00 am, 31st July 1961

Portugal has been reactionary all the way along. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. M. Hamilton) made a remark to which I want to take objection. He said that there was no room in the modern world for neutrals. He seems to have gone back even beyond the Eisenhower régime. He disregards President Kennedy, the present Pentagon policy and the last Eisenhower policy, and has gone back to Dulles. I believe that the only hope for peace in the world is to build up more and more neutrals, and I hope that we soon will be in that camp.

I should like to know what the Government's attitude is, for instance, to the Rapacki Plan, the neutralisation of Central Europe. This was a constructive plan of vision to remove all atomic weapons from Western Germany and Poland and Czechoslovakia and to create a neutral zone. It was once the policy of the Labour Party, but I do not know whether it still is. It is one of the things on which we should seize to establish peace in that area.

I do not want to spend long talking about Berlin, because I want to speak about other subjects, but I must say that there has been much hysteria talked about Berlin. It is true that East Berlin is drab—I have been there and in West Berlin and in West and East Germany. But is also true that the further one gets from it and into Eastern Germany the happier are the people and the better the situation becomes.

Let us not "kid" ourselves about the refugees. It has been said that many refugees from the East are doctors and teachers and technicians. That is true, but there is also a flow from the West to the East of people who want to become doctors and teachers and technicians. Education is free in the East and there are those who go there to get their education free under a Socialist system and then return to sell their knowledge to the West Germans because remuneration in the West is higher.

The present status of Berlin cannot be continued, and the sooner the Houses face that the better. It is only a temporary situation and we cannot have this citadel of capitalism in the centre of a Socialist State. The Berlin situation cannot remain static, but the major issue is that the Oder-Neisse line must remain static. Everyone who has travelled in Eastern Europe knows that the major fear of the people of Czechoslovakia and Poland is the fear of a resurgent militarism in Western Germany, using N.A.T.O. and West Germany's other allies to help in a struggle to break the Oder-Neisse line. If we are to get peace Berlin is not nearly so important as the Oder-Neisse line.

I want now to turn to three subjects which have been hardly mentioned and about which I know something—Laos and Vietnam, Algeria and Iraq. I have been in all those countries, and I returned from Bagdad only last week. In Laos the danger of war is as great as it is in Berlin. In his last statement, President Kennedy spoke of the danger of war in South-East Asia and linked it with Berlin. But the position in Laos is the logical continuation of United States policy in South Vietnam. The House knows that in 1954 in the Geneva Conference there was agreement that there was to be no infiltration of military forces either north or south. But that did not happen. There was infiltration. The French withdrew and the Americans took over their responsibilities, and they infiltrated forces of all kinds under all kinds of names into South Vietnam. They are now infiltrating into Laos to carry on the same policy. But they are losing the battle there, and I am glad that we are not involved. Ideologically, the mass of the people are more closely linked with North Vietnam than with South Vietnam.

South Vietnam has recently complained to the Control Commission that there has been subversive activities in South Vietnam, although at one time she refused to recognise the Commission. She now suggests that these subversive activities have been organised by North Vietnam, and I believe that the Control Commission is to investigate the position. This is completely outside its terms of reference, unless it can prove that there has been infiltration from North Vietnam. There has not been. This is a spontaneous uprising of peasants and ordinary people in South Vietnam, who want to see their country united and to take part in the free elections which they were promised in 1956 and have never had yet, because of American pressure.

I want to ask the Minister of State whether he has seen the report in The Times of 17th June which states: The United States is to increase its military and economic aid to South Vietnam under agreement reached in Washington. The aid is to include the equipment, maintenance, and pay of 20,000 troops to be recruited to increase the Army to 170,000 men; and the supply of arms to the 60,000 National Guard who defend villages from guerilla attacks. The United States military aid and advisory group which was sent there only as a temporary measure, but has been there ever since 1955 now 685 strong is to be increased and American officers are to accompany anti-guerilla forces in the field. Is this so? If it is, what is the Foreign Secretary going to do, as co-Chairman of the Geneva Commission, to see that it is stopped? It is no good his trying to shelter behind the Chair any longer. On 19th December last year I raised this matter and warned the House of the danger of war. On the advice of the Foreign Office, you, Mr. Speaker, tried to tell me that there was no longer a Geneva Commission and that therefore the Foreign Office could not reply to my charges. A few weeks later the Geneva Conference was reconvened, which proved that I was right and that the Foreign Office was wrong.

I hope that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, as co-Chairman, will look into this charge published in The Times of 17th June, that for the first time American officers are to accompany South Vietnam troops in the field. President Diem of South Vietnam holds his position only because he imposes terrorism with the support of the Americans. If the Americans were not there, Vietnam would be united within a few weeks and Laos would be free to remain a neutral state.

Recently I have been a guest of the Foreign Secretary of Iraq. I was rather shocked at what had happened. It is a military dictatorship of the right—there is no question about that. Yet Iraq has a long historical claim to Kuwait. Under the Ottoman Empire Kuwait was part of Basra Province. Under Nuri Said Iraq claimed Kuwait as part of her territory, and she has continued to make that claim. It would be wrong if the oil revenues of Kuwait were sent to Iraq, but I believe that the Gulf Sheikdoms are completely out of date—an anachronism. Our Ambassador in Iraq is a fine and able man, and the sooner he and the Foreign Office realise that we can no longer sustain these oil Sheikdoms as separate entities, the better.

The late lamented Nye Bevan once said that we should be willing to buy oil at commercial prices from the Middle East States, but that the revenue should be shared among all the Arab nations. I listened to General Kassem claiming that Kuwait belonged to Iraq. I discussed the position with the Foreign Secretary, and he agreed that there was a need for a complete reorientation of the approach to the oil position in the Middle East.

The main danger is Egyptian expansionism, not Israeli expansionism. Egypt needs the extra revenue more than any other country in the area. I do not think that it is beyond the wit of man for these States to get together to formulate a policy which will enable them to share the oil revenues and build up the resources of their countries, and in turn bring happiness to their people. I am saying this after having talked with almost all the leaders in Irak.

I wish finally to speak about another area in which I am greatly interested, Algeria. It is not part of the British Commonwealth. It is French territory, and for that reason a lot of people may think it is of no interest to us. I have watched our record in the United Nations and we have either voted with France or abstained. So far as I know, we have never voted with Algeria. For nearly seven years there has been a terrible war going on in Algeria. If hon. Members went there and saw what is going on, they would come back and support what I am saying.

Over 500,000 refugees have been forced out of their villages and have fled to Tunis and Morocco. They are living in hovels and many of them are dying. Apart from that, there are resettlement camps inside Algeria where a large number of people have been regrouped. So far as I know, no one has been allowed to visit them and we do not know what is the position regarding them.

I shall not refer to the torture which goes on all the time, with parachutists torturing what are very often innocent people. It has been the most bloody war since the Second World War. That is the position in Algeria, and yet the leaders of the Algerian nationalist movement, the F.L.N., are almost all pro-French. Most of them were educated in France and they respect French culture. So long as they get their sovereignty they want to work with France and they have been denied that right.

I recall the biterness which exists there. In one refugee camp I met an old man and I wanted to take his photograph. The interpreter said, "Yes. He is blind." I spoke to the old man through the interpreter who explained that I was not French but English. The old man said, "I know England, it is beyond France across the sea. But all Europeans are the enemies of the Algerians." That feeling of bitterness is growing, and if we do not get peace in Algeria soon it will be very dangerous for the whole of North Africa.

Now we have Bizerta as well. As I said earlier, Bizerta and Algeria together are forcing people who would have liked to work with France into the Eastern camp. They wanted to be neutralists. Bourguiba was pro-West, but certainly the Algerians want to be neutralists. But more and more they have been forced into the Eastern camp. When Tunis and Morocco got their freedom so easily why was there this terrible war in Algeria? It is because Morocco and Tunisia have few natural resources but in Algeria there is oil and there are metals of all kinds which have not been developed, and the French want them for their own economy.

I know all the Algerian leaders. They have told me that all they require is that France should recognise their sovereignty over their country. Algeria was not a nation until recently. It is only because of this war and the terrible hardships which they have suffered that they have been welded into a nation. Algeria says, "We must have our sovereignty first, and then we will accept French capital and French technicians to develop the Sahara". Yet the war goes on and the talks at Evian have broken down again—on the question of sovereignty. This megalomaniac de Gaulle—and he is a megalomaniac—is ruining any possibility of peace.

I do not think that there is much more that I want to say. I have covered the three areas about which I know a lot. But I hope that the British Government will look at the Algerian question in a new light and will take a more active position in the United Nations about it. I have seen young men with their hands and faces burned so that they could not be recognized—burned by napalm bombs dropped from French planes which had been supplied to France by N.A.T.O. We must face this. The sooner we stop this kind of thing from going on the sooner we shall build up friendship between the Arab world and ourselves. We had a more enlightened policy in India, Burma and Ceylon. Let us try to convince the French that just as they failed in Vietnam, so they will fail in Algeria. Let us try to convince them that our way in India is the only way to build up a healthy federation of North African States