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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 Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East 12:00 am, 31st July 1961

I am rather tempted to follow the precedent set by the Lord Privy Seal in our last general debate on foreign affairs by spending a good deal of time now on the Common Market, but as we have two days to debate that question later on this week I think it is quite a good thing to take the opportunity of this debate to discuss other issues, not only because there are many urgent and critical issues which are overdue for discussion in this House, as the right hon. Gentleman admitted, but also because it gives us a chance to define the context of global policy within which Britain's European policy must fit.

As the right hon. Gentleman said, barely two months have passed since our last foreign affairs debate, and we must face the fact that there has been a steady deterioration in the world situation in those seven weeks. I think there is no doubt, too, that the major responsibility for the deterioration in world affairs over the last two months is that of the Soviet Government. What the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State once referred to as the "duality of Soviet policy" has been even more marked in the last few weeks than previously. On the one hand, we hear Mr. Khrushchev asking for discussions, for a peaceful settlement of disputes and for negotiations on disarmament, and, simultaneously, we get an all-out propaganda attack on the West and on the neutral countries all over the world, the deliberate heightening of international tension, particularly in Europe on the Berlin issue, and the gratuitous creation of crises.

Mr. Khrushchev warned us last January that he intended to make us jump about like fish in a frying pan. I only wish that he could get it is into his head that one cannot negotiate disarmament or anything else with fish in a frying pan, particular when one is holding them over the fire oneself. I must confess that until the Soviet leaders recognise that there is a fundamental contradiction in their whole approach to peaceful co-existence, the chances of making rapid progress on the big issues which divide us will remain very small.

Most depressing of all, in my opinion, is the current deadlock on disarmament and the breakdown of the talks for a test ban which all of us in this House, on both sides and without distinction of party or even of tendency, have always regarded as by far the most hopeful candidate for agreement between East and West and as by far the best possible first step towards general disarma- ment. What we have seen, instead of disarmament, in the last two months is a new major momentum given to the arms race. I cannot help feeling that Mr. Khrushchev has been trying to provoke the United States into resuming atomic tests in the hope that it would somehow divert the odium of a test resumption from the Soviet Union, and, perhaps, from China, which seem to be very keen to resume tests at the present time. I hope, on behalf of the whole House, that Mr. Kennedy will resist the temptation to resume tests and will stick to the determination which he has shown with us so far to try to force the Soviet Union by the weight of world opinion into finally concluding an agreement for the permanent inspected ban of atomic tests.

Simultaneously, we have seen the Soviet Government flaunting a Whole range of new atomic weapons—rockets and aeroplanes—and a tremendous increase in the Soviet military budget, which has gone up by one-third as a result of Mr. Khrushchev's decision a few weeks ago and the end of the Soviet programme of reduction in its conventional forces.