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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 agree entirely. I do not try, as the Lord Privy Seal suggests, to establish a general rule for action. There are some cases, and Laos was conspicuously one of them, where quiet diplomacy behind the scenes may obtain a great deal more than public diplomacy, but in other cases—and I believe Bizerta to be such a case—there may be only one way of dealing with an intransigent Government, and that is by mobilising public opinion. That has been the case in South Africa, and the Prime Minister recognised this when he made his speech on the wind of change in South Africa two years ago. I believe it is also the case with Portugal in Angola, and I believe it is the case with France in Tunisia.

I hope, at least, that it is not true, as has been widely said by Arab delegates in New York, that the real reason why the British Government do not express more sympathy in public with Tunisia's tragic losses so far is that they are trying to curry favour with President de Gaulle in view of forthcoming negotiations on the Common Market.

Britain is now entering, thanks to the Prime Minister's decision, some of the most complex and difficult negotiations she has ever entered with six countries in order to find out if conditions can be established under which Britain can enter the Common Market. If the British Government once let it appear to their partners in these negotiations that they are prepared, so long as the negotiations continue, to capitulate to them on any of the other extraneous issues of world affairs in order to have their support in the negotiations, the negotiations will go on for ever.

We shall find ourselves bound hand and foot to those with whom we are negotiating. I would have felt very much happier about the decision which the Prime Minister announced this afternoon if I had felt that the British Government had this point well in view, and if I felt that the British Government had a clear view at all about what Britain's rôle is in the world in the second half of the twentieth century.

My real concern is that the way the Government are handling this issue—and the other issues which we are discussing—shows no real sense of Britain's rôle in the world or a real sense of priority or vision of the vital need for British initiative. As my predecessor at this Box, Mr. Aneurin Bevan, said, the Government's motto might be if you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there.