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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 cannot blame the United States in this situation for following suit, and I think we must admit that the overwhelming responsibility for this new momentum in the arms race lies unequivocally at the door of the Soviet Government.

Even more depressing in the long run is the new major threat to the survival and the development of the United Nations. We have said before in this House, from both sides, that we regard the Soviet proposal of a "troika" to replace the Secretary-General as a dangerous and perhaps a fatal blow to the whole concept of the United Nations as we, at any rate on this side of the House, cherish it as the foundation of future world Government. But here we must note with sorrow the fact that the United Nations has been defied, not only by the Soviet Union, but by several Western Governments, too; by Portugal over Angola, by South Africa over South-West Africa, and latterly and most deplorably of all by France over Tunisia.

All these violations of obligations to the United Nations Charter by our friends or allies have passed without protest from the British Government. We should like to know in this debate why the British Government have been so silent on these issues. Many of us believe that it is partly for this reason that the uncommitted countries have been losing confidence in the West. I think we should be failing in our duty if we did not point to the very dangerous developments which have been taking place in Latin America where, mainly as a result of the American Government's policy in Cuba, Mr. Stevenson's good will mission suffered a resounding rebuff in nearly all the countries he visited.

Worst of all, in Africa, we have seen West Africa, including Nigeria, polarising against the West as a whole because of the failure of the West to make any effective protest against Portuguese policy in Angola. We see a grave danger at the present time of North Africa polarising against the West because of the failure of the Western Powers to make any effective protest against French policy in Tunisia and in Algeria. Even in Central and East Africa, though I know that this is not the subject of this debate, we have seen even moderate leaders of African nationalism turning against the United Kingdom—Nyerere in Tanganyika, because of his disgust at the treatment he has had in the economic field in the last two weeks, Mr. Kaunda and others elsewhere in Kenya and in the Rhodesias.

All this presents us in Britain and the West as a whole with a challenge of great gravity, which was hardly recognised, it seems to me, by the rather complacent speech of the Lord Privy Seal, and one of daunting complexity, and I believe that we can only hope to meet the very great challenge facing us at present if we have a strong sense of direction and establish the very clear priorities in international affairs.

Our main complaint against the Government is that it is quite clear that they have no clear sense of priorities whatever. It was almost impossible to see any general coherence in the introductory speech of the Lord Privy Seal. It was a mere collection of briefs read out on one subject after another with no real connecting link. Drift and dither is our complaint against the Government's policy, because we have a feeling that they are improvising all the time and have been at the mercy of the strongest pressures brought against them at any moment.

I agree with some things which the Lord Privy Seal said. I agree, however reluctantly, that whether we like it or not we must accept the fact that Mr. Khrushchev intends to continue the cold war. We must also accept the even graver fact that Mr. Khrushchev may miscalculate his actions in the cold war and run a direct risk of a hot war. I agree with the Lord Privy Seal that one of the most important tasks facing us in the West at present is to make certain that Mr. Khrushchev is not permitted to miscalculate in this way.