This two-day debate, to which the Opposition and the Government have each contributed a day, can be expected to range pretty widely. In opening it, I feel that it may be more helpful to the House that I should not embark—as has sometimes been done in these debates in the past—on a comprehensive tour d'horizon, touching on all the issues of world affairs, but none of them, perhaps, very deeply. Rather I propose to single out three or four major issues which have dominated internationl relations in the past few weeks and months and which must be expected to dominate all our affairs for the rest of this year and perhaps much longer.
The issues which I think, the House would want me to deal with are Vietnam, Malaysia, the central problem of relations with the Middle East, the present situation in Europe, the prospects for disarmament, and measures to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.
To choose these subjects means that I shall not be dealing with a number of major issues which hon. and right hon. Members will wish to raise. It means excluding a discussion of the present situation in United Nations, although I know that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will hope to deal with that if he catches your eye, tomorrow, Mr. Speaker.
It leaves little time for discussing the wider problems of the Middle East, including South Arabia and the Gulf States, or the flare-up in Santo Domingo, the question of Spain, the Gibraltar issue, and many other issues which will be in the minds of hon. Members. But as three Foreign Office Ministers hope to take part in the debate if they catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, I trust that the Government will be able at some stage in the next two days to deal with any questions which are raised.
Before I turn to my main subject, I should like to say a word or two about some of the underlying themes of world affairs against which these three or four central issues have to be considered.
The first relates to the nature of the challenge that we are facing. I would be the last person to underrate or understate the grave dangers of the fighting in Vietnam escalating into a major land war in Asia, or even into a graver confrontation than that. Nor do I think that there is a sufficiently widespread realisation of the dangers that could occur by any intensification or extention of the confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia. But, having said that, I should point out that it is clear that the past year has shown us, with growing clarity, how the nature of the world struggle is changing.
We must remain on our guard in Europe; we emphatically cannot afford the luxury of further strains within N.A.T.O. or the further development of nationalism within an alliance whose essence and inspiration are international collective defence. But the very nature of the thermo-nuclear balance in the world—the so-called balance of terror, based on a recognition that either of the two major nuclear Powers has within itself the capability to destroy utterly large areas of the other, and thus of itself and of the world—means that N.A.T.O. must maintain adequate conventional strength in Europe.
Having said that, I submit that the main danger in the world now is a more subtle form of challenge, of penetration, not capable of resistance by purely, or even mainly, military means. We must guard against the temptation to be so dominated by the undoubted challenge and danger that we were facing in the early 1950s that we put all our strength into defending our front door while the back door and the kitchen window are left unguarded. It was this theme which underlay the important speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence at the last N.A.T.O. Defence Ministerial Meeting, and I believe that there was widespread recognition that his call for a fundamental reappraisal of the scale and nature of the challenge that N.A.T.O. was facing was timely—indeed, overdue.
We may look at this situation in rough periods of ten years since the war. If the problem of 1945–55—the first ten years after the war—was to come to terms with the new power situation which followed the defeat of Hitler, particularly the situation in Europe, and then to build up an effective situation of strength based on collective security; and if the dominant theme of the second post-war decade has been that of a world coming to terms with the facts of thermo-nuclear power—with Cuba, in 1962, providing the watershed—it is equally true that that second decade saw the emergence of new problems which I believe will dominate the third post-war decade from 1965 onwards, and, I believe, for many years after that.
This new problem is presented by the emergence of China as a world Power, by the ideological struggle between Russia and China, and by the growth of the so-called National Liberation Movements, not only in Asia, but in Africa and in Latin America. Just as there has been a growing recognition that the military, weapons appropriate to conventional land warfare are inappropriate, irrelevant and even dangerous in the jungle, so there is widespread recognition that political and economic infiltration cannot be dealt with mainly or even primarily by a military approach.
I say quite frankly to the House that this was one of the underlying themes of the recent and, I believe, successful Commonwealth Conference.
Behind all these specific issues which dominated that conference and which featured in the communiqué—such as the Vietnam Peace Mission, Rhodesia, disarmament, Commonwealth trade, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the rest—there was a deeper and more fundamental theme. I probably over-simplify it, but I do not think that I over-dramatise it when I say that what was at stake at that conference, and what is at stake in all the dealings of advanced industrial countries with the newly emerging nations, what was at stake in Algiers and Cairo and actually during the Commonwealth Conference, and what will be of growing importance as year succeeds year is the struggle for the soul of Africa. I hope that there can be no doubt in any of our minds who are the leading nations in that struggle. I hope that there can be no doubt either that Britain, through history, through geography, through the whole history of our Commonwealth development, cannot contract out of that struggle.
I refer to one other theme to which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition drew attention in opening the foreign affairs debate from this Box a year ago, namely, the rift which has developed between Russia and China. That was one of his main themes last year. I agreed with a great deal of what he said then, though I think that the passage of another year has underlined at any rate one warning which I gave him then. I said that, while I was not underrating the importance of this development, there was a danger in attitudes which might seem to suggest that because of disagreement between Russia and China we might automatically assume—as the right hon. Gentleman at one point last year almost seemed to assume—that Russia's desire for coexistence would cause her to agree more readily with Western policies, the feeling that we could and should play on this rift in the Communist camp. I said then that I thought that this was dangerous, and I think that the whole course of world events since then has proved it.
I do not want to compete with the professional demonologists, be they Kremlinologists, Pekinologists or any other kind, in seeking to analyse the significance of the theoretical and ideological part of the argument. More important, perhaps, is the difference arising from the stage of development which the two countries have reached, the fact that the Soviet Union has vast achievements, vast developments, a vast capital structure—I am not saying a "capitalistic" structure—to defend and has, in consequence, developed a system of society which, making complete allowance for political differences, has become, not least in its functional structure and in its class structure, more and more assimilated to that of an advanced Western country, whereas China, at a much earlier stage of development, is, perhaps, inevitably, more militant and more—as their leaders would claim—revolutionary in her ideological doctrines and, much more important, more revolutionary in her attitude to world affairs.
I think that my warning of last year stands. The very fact that there is a struggle between Russia and China not only for power and influence amongst uncommitted nations, be they in Afro-Asia or Latin America, but, still more poignant in the minds of leaders of Moscow and Peking, a struggle for the leadership not only of the uncommitted world, but of the Communist world, means that, when the strains are at their greatest, as they have been over Vietnam, one cannot assume—as, perhaps, might have been assumed a year ago—that the Soviet Union will then be driven into accepting more and more Western positions.
It is precisely because of this struggle, precisely because of this difference, that we are faced with this great challenge to our diplomacy, and we have to see that we do not force the Soviet Union into positions of competitive militancy which may not be in her long-term interests and which certainly are not in the interests of world peace. I believe that this consideration is one of the central ones in the first main problem to which I now turn, the problem of Vietnam.
I do not intend to take up the time of the House with a long account of the development and history of the present situation in Vietnam, from the 1954 Geneva Agreement onwards. The House will recall that, in our last foreign affairs debate, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary dealt with the whole ten or eleven years and, in his admirable Oxford speech which has been widely, and rightly, praised, he dealt with the history of this question with the utmost clarity. He explained, as I tried to do in that same debate last April and many times subsequently, why we have supported the actions of the United States in Vietnam. The American position, which we support, is this—that when conditions have been created in which the people of South Vietnam can determine their own future, free from external interference, the United States will be ready and eager to withdraw her forces from South Vietnam.
This is what they have said, and we support them. This is right, but it can only be as a result of a conference. We support that too. A unilateral withdrawal of the United States would have incalculable results, first in Vietnam. It would have incalculable results, too, over a much wider area than Vietnam, not least because it might carry with it the danger that friend and potential foe, throughout the world would begin to wonder whether the United States might be induced also to abandon other allies when the going got rough. One has only to look at the map of South-East Asia—rich, fertile, mouth-watering, not in current economic terms, but in terms of temptation to those seeking a wider sphere of exclusive influence.
Again, in terms of great power relationships, a unilateral withdrawal would be held as a humiliating defeat and would make not only countries such as Russia but—let us be frank—America herself, that much more intransigent and tough and determined to see that the experience was not repeated and that much less inclined to policies of co-existence. I think that there is now a growing recognition that the problem of South Vietnam cannot be solved by military means. Military means can prevent an imposed solution, but there can be no victory now. This war will end when that realisation penetrates those capitals which are at present intoxicated by hopes of an early military settlement.
However, if the South Vietnamese Government and people, with their American allies, may not be able to impose a settlement on the Vietcong and the North, equally, it is not within the power of the National Liberation Front, with whatever aid they get from North Vietnam, to bring South Vietnam and the Americans to their knees. Perhaps I am not going too far when I say that the only condition in which there could be a military solution of the struggle in Vietnam will be one which followed a major escalation, possibly a major world war. That would, on doubt, provide a military solution, but such a war might settle a lot of other things besides the position in Vietnam, not excluding the question of the future of human life on this planet.
If the House accepts this analysis, it is a question, by every means open to us, of getting men round the table to secure an honourable and lasting peace. This has
been the central theme of Her Majesty's Government's policy for many months. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, with whom I do not intend to pick any quarrels this afternoon—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"]—in speeches in the North the weekend before last—Why not? Because I think that there were one or two passages there which he would, on reflection, prefer that he had not used. He said:
I hope the Socialist Government will now recognise that peace is not furthered by opportunism, but by solid, secret work and preparation through diplomatic channels, leading to negotiation.
I wonder what he thinks we have been doing all these months. Let us take, first, our relations with Washington. We have, throughout, been in the closest discussion with the United States Government, one of the main parties to this dispute and to any possible conference. I had long discussions myself, as the House knows, with President Johnson on this matter last December and again in April.
Nor are our discussions limited to the times when the President and I are sitting on the same side of the Atlantic. My right hon. Friend has had many discussions with the American Secretary of State, both in America and in Europe, and all of us have discussed the matter with the American Administration at all levels. While it is true that, in those dark months in February and March, when it was difficult for me to explain to the House what we were doing and what we were urging: at any rate we were able, by April, not only privately but publicly, to express our full support for the President's Baltimore speech in which he called for discussions.
As the House knows, subsequently the President, other American leaders, the Secretary of State, Mr. Adlai Stevenson—with whom I was discussing this Vietnam problem for several hours only nine days ago—all the American leaders, have since April expressed their willingness without conditions to enter into negotiations. At one point they indicated their willingness to suspend bombing policies in order that discussions would take place. We played our part in trying to carry this message through to the North Vietnamese authorities through the channels open to us, but without success.
So much, then, for our diplomatic contacts with the United States. What about the other side? As the House knows, the Foreign Secretary is, with the Foreign Soviet Minister, a co-Chairman under the Geneva Agreement. In February we urged Mr. Gromyko to take joint action with my right hon. Friend for an approach to all the other Geneva powers as a first step towards a peaceful settlement. After some weeks, indeed on the eve of Mr. Gromyko's visit to London, we were told that it was not acceptable for the Soviet Foreign Minister to join in this approach. Throughout the week of Mr. Gromyko's visit to London my right hon. Friend day after day—supplemented by my own efforts at a two-hour meeting—tried to persuade Mr. Gromyko to join with us in an initiative on the lines we proposed. We failed.
Then, as the House will know, in April we took up the Soviet suggestion of a conference on Cambodia and expressed our willingness to join with them in calling such a conference. Even a Cambodia conference was bristling with complications, including the question of the attitude of certain other states directly affected in South-East Asia. When hon. Gentlemen sometimes express doubts about Mr. Gordon Walker's visit, let me say that to him more than to anyone they lay the credit for getting a general acceptance of such a conference in South-East Asia but we have not so far been able to persuade the Soviet Government to carry out their original intention in joining us in calling it.
On more than one occasion we have tried to use the good offices of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. His proposed peace tour secured the same result as the unofficial visit of Mr. Gordon Walker. The Indian representative was rebuffed, the seventeen non-aligned nations were rebuffed, and France was rebuffed. More recently we secured the almost unanimous Commonwealth support for a Commonwealth Mission on Vietnam, and again Peking and Hanoi refused to accept the Mission.
When the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition says that what he calls "opportunist proposals" such as the Commonwealth Peace Mission or the visit of my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) to Hanoi are "inappropriate, even dangerous", when, as he suggested, in a rather extravagant phrase that this was the Foreign Secretary falling into the Communist trap, I wonder just how he feels that the secret diplomacy for which he calls can operate in this situation. I hope we shall hear from him about this. Of course, he tells us how successful this was in the case of Laos, but I remind him that even though this took place at a time when Russia and China were both willing to see a conference take place, it took him almost two years to get agreement, including the time for getting the conference established. When we look at the situation in Laos today we can be forgiven for wondering whether it was the unqualified success it is sometimes suggested to have been.
Laos is not a parallel with the situation in Vietnam. The situation in regard to Vietnam is entirely different. It is in part, both in origin and character, a civil war, but it is equally a war that most of us feel would not be sustained and could not be intensified but for the participation of North Vietnam in the fighting both with troops and with supplies. Therefore, Hanoi is the key to this situation. I hope I carry hon. Members opposite with me in the statement that Hanoi is the key to this situation. What I want them to understand is that that key cannot be turned in Moscow. There is no direct line from the West through Moscow to Hanoi. If there were it would have been turned a long time ago, but I assure right hon. Members opposite that there is no possible means for diplomatic appoaches in Moscow to get through to the authorities in Hanoi.
The Soviet position is that the Vietnam situation is one which must be settled between the parties to the fighting—listed by them as the United States and Vietnam, including, of course, North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front, the Vietcong. The Soviet position is that they are not involved in the fighting and, further, that they have not been asked by those whom they support and recognise as allies, namely North Vietnam, to intervene in a mediatory or any other rôle. When the Commonwealth ambassadors went to see Mr. Kosygin about the Commonwealth Peace Mission, he made these points clear to them and he told our representatives that they should go to Hanoi. So, in those circumstances, it is quite impossible for the normal workings of diplomacy to get through to Hanoi via Moscow.
I hope this will be agreed as one of the basic facts of the situation when we are asked to use diplomatic channels, that we cannot use Moscow diplomatic channels to get at Hanoi. Equally, there is the position of Her Majesty's Consul General in Hanoi—perhaps here I may pay my tribute to him and to his predecessors for the faithful and devoted way in which they carry out their duties in most difficult conditions. Her Majesty's Government—and this, of course, was true of right hon. Gentlemen opposite as well as of ourselves—do not recognise de jure or de facto the D.R.V. Our Consul General therefore exercises purely consular functions, although there have been occasions—nothing like universal—when he has been able to transmit messages, and indeed to get a reply. But there have been other times when, I must tell the House, the absence of diplomatic recognition has led to refusal to receive an important message. It was for this reason—however much we may regret it—that Mr. Ponsonby was not allowed to accompany my hon. Friend in his talks, although my hon. Friend had the valuable benefit of his advice in a whole series of meetings during his visit.
So the impeccable view of the right hon. Gentleman about using diplomatic channels, although I heartily agree with this as a principle, simply will not work as far as Hanoi is concerned. It will not work in this dangerous Vietnam crisis. Unless he is suggesting that we should accord diplomatic recognition to North Vietnam—if that is what he is suggesting, I hope he will make it plain to us, but I do not think he is suggesting it—then I think his criticism is entirely unfounded. What is worse, it might appear to carry with it the suggestion—I am sure he does not mean this—that if we cannot work towards peace by ordinary diplomatic methods, then we ought not to go on working towards peace.
So far I have been talking entirely in terms of the initiatives and approaches necessary to get a conference. This was one of the two declared objectives of the Commonwealth Peace Mission. We intended also, of course, to try to identify the conditions which would make a ceasefire possible. Here I draw a distinction between what might be called external action on the one hand and a cease-fire in the fighting within South Vietnam on the other. The Commonwealth Peace Mission, with the full support of the Commonwealth—this is in the memorandum for guidance to the Mission, endorsed by the conference and printed with the communiqué—called in terms for
At various times suggestions have been put forward for the kind of settlement to which this conference might lead if we were able to get the conference established. Some have suggested an Austrian-type solution, with neutrality guaranteed by the major powers. Others have suggested a Korean-type solution, with the country divided for a time, with effective defence of the frontier—if that is possible in Vietnamese conditions—leading to an integrated country at a later stage.
Others have suggested—and I think that this is right—a straight return to the 1954 Agreement. I do not think it would be helpful for us to try to decide this question in detail today. This must be a matter for the conference. As I have said, the main objective of the Commonwealth Peace Mission is to establish the conditions in which such a conference can be held with any hope of success.
What I think is more immediately relevant is the type of conference which should be held. This is something which I hope lies sufficiently in the near future for us to be able to be discussing how it should be done. I do not think there is any difference of view on either side of the House about it. Her Majesty's Government strongly take the view—and this was the view of our Commonwealth colleagues and, I think, of right hon. Gentlemen opposite—that we should be creating the conditions in which Mr. Gromyko and my right hon. Friend, as Geneva co-Chairmen, could convene a conference, whether at Geneva or elsewhere, under the aegis of the 1954 Agreement and under their co-chairmanship. This proposal has the support of the United States, and I think it right to remind the House that the United States Government are ready to accept the 1954 Agreement as a basis for the ultimate solution. The American Secretary of State said on 4th July:
We would be glad to go to the conference table and take up these agreements of 1954 and 1962 to see where they went wrong and try and bring the situation back to those basic agreements.
I am sure the House will agree with that approach. To sum up the Vietnam situation, I invite the agreement of the House to these propositions.
First, this is a war—and this is inevitable in conditions of modern war, even conventional war—which as long as it continues will bring death, destruction, tragedy and mutilation to thousands upon thousands of people whose only desire is to live in peace with their own people, and who in all conscience have seen enough fighting, fighting on their own homeland, fighting without respite, for almost a quarter of a century. I think that there will be no disagreement with proposition number one.
Secondly, this is a war which carries with it the gravest danger of escalation; of extension to the point where we might, within a very short period of time, see it extended to become a major land war on the Asian mainland. Nor is that the entire extent of the danger which it presents, because my third proposition is that this is a war the very fact of which is poisoning the whole of international relationships, is halting the hopeful progress towards co-existence on which Eastern and Western nations alike have pinned their hopes and which, if it is allowed to continue, may possibly lead to a reversal of the hopeful trend and a hardening of attitudes which it may take years to break down again. I do not think that there will be any disagreement on that.
Fourthly, a solution to this problem will not be found by military means alone. A decision to defer any hope of a political solution, to deny the means of a political solution, is a decision that the military measures may be intensified with all that that means. I do not think that there will be any disagreement with that proposition.
Fifthly, to get a political solution means getting men round a table. Every effort to do this—whether through the co-Chairmen, whether through the Secretary-General of the United Nations, whether through the French initiative, whether through my right hon. Friend's message to the Heads of the Geneva Conference Governments, whether through the initiative of the 17 non-aligned countries, whether through the initiative of the Commonwealth Peace Mission and subsequent attempts to get acceptance of that Mission—has so far foundered on the unwillingness of Hanoi, and, to the extent to which China accepts responsibility of these matters, of Peking to agree to negotiations. I do not think that there will be any disagreement with that proposition.
Sixthly, all these attempts have established the willingness of the United States, the Government of South Vietnam and of the majority of the Geneva parties to have negotiations. No further diplomatic approaches are necessary with them. That is probably accepted by hon. Members.
Seventhly, the key to the situation is Hanoi, as I pointed out earlier. This is the view of Her Majesty's Government. It is the view of the United States and of the Soviet Union. I hope that I carry hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite with me as well in saying that because, if they agree about this, it brings me to my eighth proposition, which is that there is no means open to Her Majesty's Government and to the vast majority, whether of Western powers, Geneva powers, Commonwealth powers or of non-aligned powers, of influencing Hanoi by ordinary diplomatic means because diplomatic channels do not exist. I hope that I carry hon. Gentlemen opposite with me on this proposition as well.
My ninth proposition is that, in these circumstances, it was the duty of Her Majesty's Government, and it remains their duty, to seek to get the message through to Hanoi in the hope of getting acceptance, first, for the Commonwealth Peace Mission and, secondly, of getting support for the conference. It is our duty, in these circumstances, to do this by any means open to us, orthodox or unorthodox, conventional or unconventional, regardless of whether we may have to suffer disappointments and what right hon. Gentlemen opposite like to call rebuffs. Again, I would like to hear from the right hon. Gentleman whether he agrees with this proposition, which seems to follow from those I have argued.
The outcome of my hon. Friend's visit was a disappointment, due partly, in his view, to a high degree of confidence in North Vietnam—no doubt reflected in China—that time is on their side, that they are winning, that they have more to gain on the battlefield than in the conference room. I believe that this view is tragically wrong, and I think that my hon. Friend's visit and his 16 hours of persistent argument about it may have done something to shake that confidence. I hope it has.
I hope that, in the cooler atmosphere of this debate, recognition will be given to the fact that, in these uniquely difficult circumstances, my hon. Friend's visit represents the first occasion on which we in the West have been able to get a message through. That message was delivered with vigour, with conviction and with sincerity and fluency, if not directly at the North Vietnamese personalities we should have liked, and even if we had to accept Hanoi's refusal to receive Foreign Office officials on the ground that we did not recognise North Vietnam. That was the reason we could not have them there.
Of one thing I am sure; that these arguments have by now got through to the political high command of North Vietnam in a way they have never got through to the leading Ministers there before. The danger we faced only a month ago when the Commonwealth initiative was announced was of rigidity, fixed positions, inability to communicate and unwillingness to consider fresh attitudes. One thing the Commonwealth Mission has done is to make every country involved think again.
I believe that my hon. Friend's visit, while it has not melted the ice, has caused some cracks and shifting to take place in what seemed solid pack ice. Those who think that these two initiatives were wrong have a duty to explain what they would have done in these unique circumstances to stop the present conflict and the danger of a further drift to war.
Can the Prime Minister say something about Dr. Nkrumah's visit? Is it part of the Commonwealth initiative, or has it been arranged by the right hon. Gentleman, or has it been done solely on Dr. Nkrumah's responsibility?
All I can say is that Dr. Nkrumah as well as Dr. Williams and, of course, Sir Abubakar, and I have been in the closest touch from the moment the Commonwealth Peace Mission was appointed and have consulted throughout on all messages, initiatives, and the rest. But until Dr. Nkrumah has given his own reply to the invitation which I learned from my hon. Friend North Vietnam was intending to give, I think that I had better not say anything more. But I would be glad to say something further when we have the reaction of Accra to the particular proposal. I think that within a few hours—probably before this debate ends—it may be possible to say something.
I hope that my hon. Friend will have brought home, not only to us in the outside world but to those in Hanoi, the danger of continuing in a position where they carry so much of the responsibility for the continuance of the war. In this country, and in every other country, there is a great desire for peace in Vietnam. That is a banner—the "Peace in Vietnam" banner—that I hope we could all carry, although it is becoming clear that some of those who shout loudest for it, both here and in other countries, are concerned not with peace in Vietnam but with victory in Vietnam.
There will be no quick or easy victory for anyone, and a refusal to negotiate now will mean an intensification of the war in which, in the end, inevitably after thousands more have lost their lives, after thousands more have been made homeless, and after innumerable children have been made fatherless, the realisation will slowly dawn that peace will come only at the conference table. If that is what occurs, as I believe it will occur ultimately, the responsibility will lie on those who refuse to come to the conference table. For let us be clear—the enemies of negotiation are the enemies of peace.
I have spent so much time on Vietnam because, as I have said, this utterly dominates world relationships; because it is the cloud overhanging every East-West dialogue. But, as the House knows, we are deeply concerned, deeply involved, in another Asian confrontation—that between Malaysia and Indonesia. Our full support is pledged to Malaysia in its struggle to maintain its integrity as a nation against a country which refused to recognise its very existence. This country, under the previous Government and under this Government, has been unstinting in providing military support, and I want the House to know that although actual fighting has been up to now on a relatively limited scale—and we thank God for that—we should be utterly wrong to dismiss the danger of a much more serious crisis over Malaysia if this issue is not quickly settled. I have said before now in this House why Britain cannot take the initiative in mediation here—I think that it is well understood—but other Asian countries, including Commonwealth countries, may well have a rôle to play as soon as there are signs of a willingness to talk.
Turning from that subject, since I understand that my right hon. Friend will be dealing with the Middle East tomorrow, if he catches Mr. Speaker's eye, I will not go into the vast issues of that region today, save only to say this. Within hours of this Government taking office, the then Foreign Secretary, Mr. Gordon Walker, made clear his desire for improved relations with the United Arab Republic. He embarked on a series of discussions, the so-called dialogue, with the United Arab Republic Ambassador. For our part, we see no reason why the hostility and difficult relations of the years since Suez should be continued into the future, though in saying that we have certainly no intention, as we have made clear, and as I now repeat, in any way of deserting our traditional friends in the Midle East or in any way altering our relationship to the Arab-Israel dispute. As part of our contribution to civilising and improving relations in the Middle East, we envisaged at the earliest possible moment a visit by a senior Foreign Office Minister to Cairo.
This is still our intention and our hope—we want to see relations improved. But one major obstacle stands in the way; and this is the series of subversive and terrorist actions taking place in South Arabia in circumstances which make it impossible for us to acquit Egypt and her friends of connivance, even involvement. We have addressed the strongest protests to the U.A.R. on this question. Many of us in all parties took the opportunity of the entirely helpful and friendly visit of a U.A.R. parliamentary delegation to make this country's position clear a week or two ago. I hope to have another opportunity of doing this tonight because, given an ending of this terrorist campaign, I believe that one of the greatest difficulties standing in the way of a speedy and mutually helpful improvement of relations between Britain and the U.A.R. will have been removed. If it is removed, I should like to pay my tribute to the visit of the U.A.R. parliamentary delegates and to the contribution which hon. Members of all parties in this House made to the success of that visit.
Before I sit down, the House will, I think, expect me to refer to the situation in Europe, and also to say something of our hopes in the forthcoming Geneva Disarmament Meeting. I do not think it necessary for me to add anything to what has been said in this House in foreign affairs and defence debates about Britain's relations with the N.A.T.O. Alliance. We approach its problems in a radically reforming spirit designed to bring closer unity within the Alliance, to create a more effective defence, and to ensure that it responds to the changing nature of the challenge it is facing. Progress in this matter is slow, and will be slow. I know that the House understands the difficulties—particularly in regard to our own Atlantic Nuclear Force proposals—of advancing further until after the German elections.
But I must make reference to another aspect of European affairs, namely, the strains that have recently developed with the European Economic Community. I hope that we can all agree on this; that no one in Britain, and certainly not the Government, can find any cause for rejoicing in the situation that has developed within the E.E.C. in the past two or three weeks. We have had many debates in this House about whether Britain should join the E.E.C.—or, more precisely, about the terms on which Britain could join the E.E.C.—but, whatever the disagreements, and there have been disagreements within parties at least as much as between them, I think that we are all united in one belief, which is that the success of the Community itself is vitally important for the countries concerned and for Europe as a whole.
I have had occasion in the past to quote the Labour Party's statement, endorsed by an overwhelming majority at the Brighton Conference three years ago. I think it right today, in this present set-up, to remind the House of the opening words of that statement, because they express the views of Her Majesty's Government today as surely as they expressed our views as a Party in 1962. The statement opened:
The Labour Party regards the European Community as a great and imaginative conception. It believes that the coming together of the six nations which have in the past so often been torn by war and economic rivalry is, in the context of Western Europe, a step of great significance. It is aware that the influence of this new Community on the world will grow and that it will be able to play—for good or for ill—a far larger part in the shaping of events in the 1960s and 1970s than its individual member states could hope to play alone.
Our arguments were not about whether we wished to see the Community succeed, but about the question whether Britain could or could not join it on the particular terms open to us without perhaps fatally compromising our essential national and Commonwealth interests.
We had those arguments, perhaps we shall have them again, but, at any rate, the fact that we have had these arguments about the conditions in which Britain could join, should not detract from our earnest hope that the present difficulties in Europe will be overcome on terms acceptable to the member countries. It is not for us to take sides or to express opinions, still less to exploit this serious difficulty which has arisen for advancing a particular conception or a particular doctrine about European unity or about British participation. I hope no one is going to start saying, "Ah, well, because there are five who hold one view and the others hold another view, we can take advantage of the split between the five and the one." I hope no one will say that an assertion has been made that supranationality is unacceptable and that that fits in with our doctrines, which most of us hold, against a supranational solution in political and defence matters. I think we can be most helpful by not attempting to take sides but by using such influence as we have to make sure that our European friends settle this problem amongst themselves on terms acceptable to them, because by so doing they will not only be helping themselves but peace in Europe.
Our position remains, too, that means should be found as soon as possible to begin the dialogue between E.F.T.A. and the Common Market countries with a view to reducing and ultimately ending the economic and political damage which results from this costly and far from economic division of Europe.
There is no immediate issue of our being asked or being able to join the Common Market, and so we do not need to argue at this moment about the terms. What all of us agree about is the need to get a single trading market for the whole of Europe, first covering the countries of the Six and E.F.T.A., and, as political realities permit, capable of bringing about closer economic relations between Western Europe and Eastern Europe. Equally, we are anxious to play our full part in increasing political unity within Europe on the basis of a growing and more intimate inter-governmental co-operation. My right hon. Friend has repeatedly urged—indeed, we all have—the need for Britain to be in on the ground floor in any such political discussions.
This review of foreign affairs and the rôle of British policy in the present world scene that I have tried to give this afternoon is inevitably a sombre one. For reasons which I have explained and which are well understood by the House as a whole, we have gone through some very difficult months, not only in direct East-West relations, but in the wider expression of East-West relations in such fields as the United Nations and in disarmament.
My right hon. Friend will no doubt wish to deal in greater detail with some of these questions. But, while our attention in the House has been so highly concentrated on Vietnam in these months, I hope the House will have seen and, indeed, will recall its judgment on the leadership which Britain has been able to give in helping the United Nations to emerge from its difficulties stronger, more united and more effective. After years of doubts about the degree of support that this country was prepared to give the United Nations, when the chips were down, I believe that Britain's acceptance of the U.N. as a cornerstone of our world policy is now recognised by every nation in the world.
If that is true, I believe no one is more responsible than our representative in the United Nations, a member of the Government, my noble and learned Friend, Lord Caradon. The hon. Gentlemen who laugh have identified themselves as the small group of men who do not begin to understand the nature of the world that we are living in. Not only have we taken action to act in accordance with resolutions of the United Nations, not only have we taken an unprecedented lead in pledging logistic support for world peace-keeping operations—the first step to the international police force we have all dreamed of—but, at the darkest moment in the United Nations financial crisis this summer, a crisis where finance was the symbol rather than the cause of the strains between nations, it was Britain who came out with the proposal for an unconditional contribution, and it is now for more nations to follow our lead.
We have played our full part in the Disarmament Commission, and now I think the House will be glad to welcome the fact that the 18 Nation Geneva Conference is to resume in a week's time. We have a Minister—and I think this is unique in the world—charged with full-time responsibilities in the realm of disarmament. During the weeks and months when hope of renewed discussion seemed dim, he has been active, not only in Whitehall, but in almost constant discussion with our allies, our friends, and with anyone who had anything to contribute in the disarmament field. By setting up a highly authoritative advisory council in this country, including scientists, defence and international experts from the universities, from Parliament and elsewhere, the Government have been able to draw on a wide range of expert advice.
We have been hard at work on the general problems of comprehensive nuclear and conventional disarmament. But we believe that the first and most urgent task must be an agreement to prevent the further spread of nuclear weapons. In our aproach to the disarmament conference, we are reinforced—and I know the House will welcome this—by the powerful and unanimous declaration of the entire Commonwealth, 21 countries, of further proposals and further steps for disarmament and non-proliferation which we issued from our meeting last month.
We have spent these months working on the draft of a non-dissemination treaty which we have been discussing and are still discussing with our Western Allies and which we hope to present to the Geneva Conference. This treaty is not based on any exclusive attempt to preserve nuclear privileges for a small group of powers. It is based on a realistic recognition of the consequences there would be if nuclear weapons were to pass into the hands of more and more states, with all the dangers that a nuclear war by mistake, miscalculation, accident or madness could bring.
We shall press on urgently to extend the plans for a partial test-ban treaty to cover the whole area of nuclear testing, including underground tests. We should like to see progress made towards President Johnson's plan for a freeze of strategic nuclear delivery vehicles, on which both sides have agreed in the past. But we believe that we should go further with this and link with it a phased destruction of some of these weapons, as well as a freeze on their extension; because, pending a comprehensive and complete disarmament treaty, we believe that it is urgent to make a move towards limiting and reducing nuclear armouries, without destroying or upsetting the present overall military balance.
It is our hope, starting from this conference, to move forward within Europe, and not only within Europe but to achieve, within a maintained balance of military power, areas of controlled disarmament in which there could be agreed and balanced reductions of conventional forces and nuclear-free zones, provided, as I have made clear, they are genuinely nuclear-free, taking into account the missiles trained on an area as well as those sited within it.
A sombre scene, therefore, but one where there are hopes of advance. I believe that it is the duty of Britain to take initiatives in any and every field where they are needed today. I believe that we can claim that in only a few months we have not been backward in doing so—initiatives within the Western Alliance, initiatives to improve relations with France, initiatives towards bridge-building in Europe, initiatives that led to a cease-fire and easing of tension between India and Pakistan over the Rann of Kutch, and initiatives for peace in Vietnam. Wherever one looked last autumn—and I want to make it plain that this is a commentary on the international scene and not a reflection on our predecessors in office, who played their part in moves to ease tension—there seemed to be vast, apparently limitless areas of solid pack ice, rigid, immobile and to all appearances permanent and immovable. I believe that cracks are appearing in that cold front, a thaw here, signs of movement there, and I believe that we as a nation have contributed at least as much as any other nation to those cracks appearing.
I believe that this is a rôle for Britain. Our traditions, the skill of our Diplomatic Service at home and abroad, our pattern of alliances and our unique relationship with a great Commonwealth all fit us for what the world needs today, at least in relation to many of the world's problems, and that is a phase of diplomacy by movement. If I may change my arctic metaphor, we have tended, in relation to problems not only of East-West tension but of European economics, to dig ourselves in deep in a system of diplomatic trench warfare. Patient preparation through diplomatic channels—yes, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, where they exist they should be used; and intimate daily contact with our friends and allies in preparation for the next move, yes, that is our policy. But we must have the courage to recognise that some of the great battles in history have been won by recognising the right moment to break out.
What in the right circumstances can be true of a war of movement can be true of a diplomacy of movement. No one is better fitted than Britain to take advantage of open territory—nor to choose when the moment has arrived to embark on it. That, I am sure, has been the traditional rôle of Britain in world affairs throughout history. I am sure that it is the main lesson to be drawn from this serious but not entirely unhopeful review of the world position that I have tried to present to the House today.
I think that the House will agree in welcoming the Prime Minister's decision not to cover the entire field of foreign affairs but to concentrate on certain important points. I shall do the same, particularly concentrating on South-East Asia and on the current problems of Europe, which seem to me, as they seemed to the Prime Minister, to be the most important and most urgent ones that we have at the moment.
The Prime Minister also referred at some length to the disarmament situation. All I would say in comment on his remarks on this subject is that I heard nothing in what he said that sounded in any way new, and I thought this was a little disappointing after the promises given some months ago and after the efforts, of which we have so often heard, of the Minister responsible for disarmament.
Another basic point on which I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman arises from the fact that he seems all the time to pursue the theme that initiatives are a good thing whatever the initiatives are. This we on this side do not and cannot accept. We accept that it is a good thing to make progress towards peace, but we also wish to point out that one can get further away from peace by taking initiatives which are ill-considered, foolish, and doomed to failure.
I want to talk first about Vietnam. It must be agreed, I think, that the object here is to achieve peace, but not peace at any price. Unless it is a peace which establishes a frontier beyond which Communist aggression will not further move, all the efforts will turn out to have been in vain, and all the problems, damage, troubles and tragedy will arise once again a few hundred miles further on.
No. We listened to the Prime Minister without interruption, and I hope that I may have the same courtesy.
All the lessons of recent years surely point out the truth of this. Frontiers can be established and must be established. In Korea there is one. In Cuba there was another. En Europe, most important of all, there is one if one looks at the wall in Berlin and the wire that surrounds Berlin, with the grim tragedy that all this involves. In every case a frontier has been established. Nothing is more important, with the power of modern weapons, than to establish these clear lines, because the deterrent works—the Prime Minister himself said this—to the benefit of mankind only so long as it deters without being used, and this will be true so long only as the point at which it will certainly be used is clearly defined and clearly understood.
Therefore, I say that the essence in South-East Asia is not only to have a conference but to have a successful conference, not a conference at which the Communists succeed in gaining by diplomacy what they have not succeeded in gaining by force. It is of the utmost importance that the United States of America and its friends and allies, including ourselves, the Australians and the New Zealanders, that we remain united and fully determined not only during the dangerous period of struggle to be faced at the present moment, but also throughout the subsequent conference, because anything that divides us now or then is of the greatest importance.
It is surely clear—as the Prime Minister said—that the Communists, Hanoi and the Chinese, will not talk so long as they believe they can win by fighting. This is the fundamental point. This struck me very much in the talk I had with Mr. Kosygin about this whole situation. It is clearly the belief of his Government that the Hanoi people and their friends now in South Vietnam can handle the situation to their satisfaction with the degree of support already given by Russia and China. But he went on to say to me in very categorical terms that if the Americans extend the war, then volunteers will go from Russia and China. The danger to my mind, as I said to him, is this: "You may say that the Americans cannot win. I tell you that the Americans will not lose." This is the thing that we must establish. It must be established. It must be understood that the purpose of the Americans is not to extend the war—the last thing they want to do is to extend it—but what they are determined on is not to be thrown out.
Once this fundamental fact is recognised, I am certain that a conference can be achieved. It must be in everyone's interest. It is in the interests of this country, obviously, with our commitments in that part of the world and our overall devotion to peace. It must be in the interests of the United States, which, whatever people may say about them, are not there to bring profit to themselves. They are spending their blood, treasure and resources in what they believe to be a just cause. The American Government do not want to stay and fight there longer than they have to. Also, it is not in the interests of the Russians, quite clearly, from the point of view of their influence in South-East Asia, and quite clearly from the point of view of the escalation of the war it is not in their interests to see the continuation of the struggle. It is also not in the interests of the people of Vietnam, who have suffered these hideous tortures for so many years now. Even in China, I believe that once it is realised that the battle cannot be won by force it will be recognised that even for China the escalation of the struggle would bring danger and not profit. Therefore, I conclude that our responsibility in the West now must be to hold firm and give no impression of weakening in any way.
I talked to Mr. Gromyko about the possibility of reactivating the co-Chairmanship as a way of solving the problem. He did not dismiss it entirely but said that it was impossible at present because some countries would not agree. I deduce that once it is clear that a solution cannot be found by force, once it is clear that there must be a conference, we shall have support in re-establishing the co-Chairmanship on an active basis.
Clearly, in that part of the world—the Prime Minister talked about solutions—the solution must be one that establishes a frontier. Whether it be by one form of arrangement or another, it must be a clear definable frontier and one guaranteed, I am certain, by the great Powers. Nothing less than that is going to carry conviction in that part of the world, and any solution which does not carry conviction will not be of any great value.
I turn to the Prime Minister's own diplomatic activities in recent weeks. He tended, I think, rather to resent the criticism that we have made of his initiatives. Therefore, I will explain why we think that what he has been doing has lessened the ability of this country to contribute to a solution in South-East Asia. [Interruption.] Hon. Members may not agree, but this is my belief, and I will explain the reasons why.
The Prime Minister appears to go on the principle "I am for peace. Therefore, anything I do cannot be criticised, and anyone who criticises me is against peace." That came up more than once in his Answers to Questions recently, and it seemed to be popping up again during his argument today. It is clearly a fallacious argument, because, as I said at the beginning, ill-timed and ill-conceived initiatives can do positive harm to the cause of peace.
Secondly, I must say that his technique and his methods have been such as to give the impression that he acts precipitately, without due preparation. They certainly have given the impression, not only in this country but outside, that in the actions that he has taken he has been paying considerable attention to domestic political considerations. [Interruption.] I thought that hon. Members opposite might disagree. Perhaps they have not seen what Dr. Williams, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, said on Saturday about the Commonwealth Conference being a "football" of British party politics. Whether that view is right or not, it is held, and held outside this country, and by a number of people.
That is not a fact. I checked the quotation very carefully. He was talking about the recent conference. He said that it had been the "football" of British party politics and that many other Commonwealth Prime Ministers took the same view. He said of previous meetings that they appeared to exist
… only … to approve British policy aims and needs.
[Interruption.] There is a difference between British needs and party politics.
Will the right hon. Gentleman also recall that, on television, Dr. Williams also expressed the view that this conference was a better conference than previous ones in this respect?
I am quoting what Dr. Williams said to The Guardian. The Prime Minister cannot get away from this one. Dr. Williams made it clear what he was referring to and to the fact that many other Commonwealth Prime Ministers thought the same way. Indeed, the reasons are clear.
The Prime Minister, in a series of actions that he has pursued, has followed courses that are difficult to explain. There was Mr. Gordon Walker's mission, which was, I think, doomed from the start to failure and was a tragedy for Mr. Gordon Walker himself. There was the E.F.T.A. Prime Ministers' initiative, which came from the weekend socialist conference at Chequers much to the surprise of other E.F.T.A. Governments and which finished up, as The Times said, merely by illuminating the differences within E.F.T.A. and between E.F.T.A. and the European Economic Community. There was the Commonwealth Mission, and, finally, there was the recent mission of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, which provides the clearest example of how an initiative of this kind can do harm rather than good.
I leave out many of the obscurities that have arisen about the origin of the Mission—at whose suggestion it took place, what status the hon. Gentleman had, the question of the secrecy and the leak and why the leak took place, the affair of Mr. Murray and the circumstances of the hon. Gentleman's return. There are many things that I leave on one side from the argument in order to concentrate on this one point, because it is of very great importance.
Why did the Prime Minister expect the authorities of North Vietnam to receive the Joint Parliamentary Secretary when they had not received other emissaries? Is it not the case that they expected him to take a different line from that of Her Majesty's Government? This is what worried us on this side of the House. This is what we pressed so strongly because, in these matters, misunderstanding can lead to great danger—and there is a real danger when the North Vietnam authorities receive an hon. Member who has spoken often with great sincerity but with great vigour, about conditions in that part of the world. There is misunderstanding when he goes to see them.
Indeed, my argument has been substantiated by the Prime Minister himself. When asked why the North Vietnam authorities did not after all receive the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, he said:
I believe that the reason he was not received was that when he got there he spoke so toughly in support of the line we have taken that they decided there was nothing to talk about."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 16th July, 1965; Vol. 716, c. 789–90.]
If the right hon. Gentleman really believes that, surely from the start there must have been a misunderstanding about the Mission. I do not accept the argument about lack of diplomatic channels. The right hon. Gentleman has put that forward time and again, hoping to trap us into something about recognition of Hanoi. But surely the fact is that if the people in Hanoi want to listen to the British Government they will, and if they do not want to they will not, no matter what the channel is. The Prime Minister confirmed this view today when he said that, on some occasions recently, the Consul-General has been able to transmit messages. That is the point. The Consul-General can do so when the North Vietnam authorities want to listen and cannot do so when they
do not. That applies to every other channel of communication.
On this point, I do not accept the Prime Minister's argument. This particular initiative did no good and can have done positive harm in casting doubt on the views of the British Government and their determination in this matter.
This is a two-day debate and no doubt the chance of the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. Leadbitter) catching the eye of the Chair is very considerable.
I want now to turn to the European situation, which I think is the second most important feature in foreign affairs. Our policy as a Government was to join the Common Market. We negotiated to that end. We were disappointed when the French interposed their veto. It was and remains our view that it is in the interests of this country and the Commonwealth that Britain should join the Common Market. Of that, let there be no doubt. Our job now must be to mitigate the damage at present done by the division of Europe and prepare for the future.
Let not these two things be confused, because they are quite different. "Bridge building", which is a term so much used lately, may make sense in terms of mitigating damage, but it makes no sense in terms of finding a long-term solution of the problem. The real present difficulty, of course, is the tariff barriers running across Europe, and the way to deal with that is three-fold.
The first is to try to reduce these barriers through the Kennedy Round. Secondly, possibly after that there could be schemes for free trade in particular products. There are ways and means of encouraging projects which run across tariff barriers, and these—governmental, private, technical and economic—would all add to the general build-up of progress. Thirdly, there could be common policies towards restrictive practices patents and standards. We should try wherever possible to reach agreement across Western Europe and, where that is not possible, concentrate on keeping our own practices as much as possible in line with those of the E.E.C. All these are right and sensible things to do, but they will not provide the solution because the problems of European division are not economic—they are political and strategic.
The failures of two negotiations—in 1958 and in 1963, for a Free Trade Area and then on our joining the Community—at a very late stage in each case showed quite clearly that the economic problems, serious as they are, can be solved given the political will to do so all round. Therefore, we must start by tackling the problems of the basic political and strategic structure of Europe. If we succeed in solving, them, the economic problems will follow. If we cannot solve the political problems of Western Europe our chances of solving the economic problems become very small. As the Prime Minister rather implied, at the moment there are temptations facing us because of the difficulties that France is causing within the Community—the temptation to say, "It serves them right for not having us in"; to say, "Let us try to agree to something with the other five without France"; or to say, "Let us agree to something with France without the other five."
All these temptations must be sternly resisted because, if we do otherwise, we shall be making no progress in Western Europe. The first and most urgent problem is the military organisation of Western Europe. N.A.T.O. has been a success and the major result of that success has been the shift of the threat from West to East. It is also, I believe, clear that, for a modern defence in modern tehnical terms, particularly in the air, an integrated defence system like N.A.T.O. is essential.
But while N.A.T.O. has proved and continues to prove its worth there have been basic shifts within N.A.T.O. First, there has been a shift of power and influence across the Atlantic towards Europe, mainly, of course, in the economic aspects. Secondly, there has been a shift in the threat to Western Europe from the European theatre to the Asian theatre. In any reorganisation of N.A.T.O. surely these things and the changing nature of the problem must be clearly borne in mind.
There is the attitude of France and the French Government—and this is one of the most serious factors in the situation—who appear determined to destroy the present structure of N.A.T.O.—not the Alliance but the integrated command structure. I have even heard it described by leading French statesmen as being a form of military occupation.
Then there is the position in Germany which is also extremely complex. During a recent visit I discussed it at great length with Dr. Erhardt, Herr Willi Brandt and Herr Schroeder. One must recognise that the problem in Western Germany is basically a psychological problem. There is the real and genuine fear in Germany that if a war should come the battle would be fought across the heart of Germany before the full power of the allied deterrent was brought to play. This is a genuine fear which we must respect. It has led some Germans to support the idea of the force de frappe, not because it is strong or convincing in itself, but because they think that it is a way of compelling the Americans to come to the aid of Europe at the right time.
Then there is in Russia the extraordinary fear that somehow or other the West Germans can once again cause international war, and the Russians seem impervious to the argument that now Russia is so strong in military terms that she could crush Germany at one blow. This is a fear which is just as real and just as dangerous as the lingering fear in Western Germany of what the Russians can do.
The tragedy of Europe is the extraordinary lack of direct communication between the two halves and the unrealistic but nevertheless definite fears on both sides of the Iron Curtain. In framing Western European strategic considerations these are factors which must be taken into account—these and the need to avoid proliferation and to get somehow control over the dissemination of nuclear vehicles. The solution for Western European strategy must be some form of integrated command. If we move beyond that a great deal is lost, but it must be an integrated command system which, on the one hand, guarantees the Germans that they will be defended in good time and, on the other hand, at the same time guarantees the Russians that the position of West Germany will not be such that the West Germans can themselves initiate any attack which must be disastrous. On these lines we must tackle the problems of N.A.T.O. and, when we do, we shall make the way much easier and more open for a European economic community including Britain.
The second point is the political organisation of Western Europe. Here again General de Gaulle recently has been of great service because he has brought clearly to the foreground the real problem of European political union which has not yet been fully thought out. One hears arguments between supporters of a Europe des Patries and the Federalists conducted at many levels, but there is too much generalisation. This argument of principle between the two sides is not sufficient unless it is built up with arguments on a far more pragmatic plane. Those who support the Europe des Patries concept are making unreal assumptions about the disappearance of European national consciousness. There is still much Welsh about the Welsh and much Scotch about the Scots after many years of union. As a result of the economic development of the European countries, the need for central decisions, often of a political character, has become quite definite and cannot be avoided.
On the other hand, I think that the federalists are a little unrealistic in that their point of view is not in practice generally acceptable and in modern conditions is based partly on a false analogy with the United States. Great Powers will not accept a federal conception. This is becoming apparent. Nor is this necessary at this juncture. There is need for Europe at present to concentrate on a new and pragmatic approach. Let us isolate the problems which must be decided at the centre.
When one looks at the facts, and the economy of the Community in particular, one sees the problems of common reserves, of common currency emerging, the need for a common policy to deal with the pressure of demand in a single integrated market. All these problems are bringing forward matters for decision which much be decided centrally. It may be that the machinery for it will take the form of a Council of Ministers with a majority vote. It may be that decisions could be made in a European body such as the Commission, in which case surely Parliamentary supervision in some form or another would be required. These are the fundamental problems which Europe has to tackle at present.
What is meant in practical terms now by European political unity? We the British with our pragmatic approach can make a great contribution to this discussion now and in the future. Let us add to the theoretical arguments the essential adjuncts of a pragmatic approach to problems which must be decided centrally and to the means by which they can be decided centrally. If we adopt this approach to these two major military and political themes we shall find the economic issues falling into place behind them. It is of fundamental importance that we should not argue the old sterile economic problems but let them fall into place in circumstances where there is for the first time a real and universal will in Europe to agree on a fundamental solution.
The Prime Minister referred to the United Nations and sought unsuccessfully to cast some doubts on our attitude to it. Any sane person wants to see a world ruled by law. When one looks back on the history of individuals and states it is interesting to note how progress took place from individual self-defence to community self-defence and to a real rule of law. This took many centuries in individual states and will take many a long year between nation states. We should be foolish to overlook this.
At the same time, the structure of the United Nations is stronger than that of its predecessors in that it recognises the basic fact that in the modern world one must distinguish between particular people and particular Powers. It is on the united action of the strong Powers that the peace of the world depends, and the United Nations is a machinery to ensure that this is fully utilised.
The problem in foreign affairs in the coming years is to ensure the agreement of the great Powers and to ensure that they are together prepared to use their authority to ensure peace is maintained and that the proliferation of means of destruction is avoided. This is the ultimate goal. This can only be achieved fully when we have agreement in Vietnam. We can only achieve progress now in Vietnam by holding firm. It is only by making sure that we do not waver and by making apparent that force cannot triumph that we shall succeed.
I shall not follow the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) in his negative and controversial speech. He made it quite plain that he at least thinks of foreign policy in party terms. I resented particularly the denigrating words which he used about my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. My hon. Friend, with his broad knowledge of South-East Asia, with his acquaintance with the personalities of all parties there, with his warmth and his sincerity, was the best delegate that we could have found to send to Hanoi, and I remain absolutely convinced, in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, that his visit was right and that it did a power of good.
I want to deal mainly with three areas where in recent months there has been the use of force. I want to argue that the United Nations should have been more freely used to bring the fighting to an end.
Since this Parliament was elected nine months ago, the world, as the Prime Minister said, has been in the state of crisis which he described. All the issues of which he spoke have helped to spread anxiety and distrust throughout the world. Speaking on 16th December last, Lord Butler, now the Master of a great college in Cambridge, recalled that on the Address there had been no debate on what he called:
the vital issues of life and death which are involved in the conduct of foreign policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1964; Vol. 704, c. 402.]
He was opening a two-day debate on foreign affairs. In fact, most of that debate was given over to the A.N.F. and to other matters more closely connected with defence. Since then we have had one day on foreign affairs-1st April.
In all the long weeks since then, with all the changes which they have brought, in Vietnam, Malaysia, Santo Domingo, and the Middle East, we have had no discussion on foreign affairs. Since October, we have had no debate on Article 19, and we have had no debate on disarmament at all. I am second to none in my support of the Government's domestic legislation, and I do not blame the Prime Minister or the Leader of the House in the smallest degree for the procedure of the House as it is today. But I say, with great conviction, that the British Parliament is robbed of one of its historic functions, if it cannot voice its views on world affairs. The case is worse on these "vital issues of life and death", because there have been very few significant international debates in the U.N. There has been no serious sustained attempt to use the law and machinery of the U.N. to seek a settlement of the dangerous wars now going on.
I venture to remind my right hon. Friends that the U.N., in the phrase of General Smuts, is not "a fifth wheel in the diplomatic coach". It is a new method of dealing with international affairs, a Parliamentary method, a method of public debate. I am not theorising when I say that this method, when it has been used by competent Parliamentarians who had the authority of high office, has proved a very remarkable success. I was with Robert Cecil when he used world opinion in the League Assembly to drive Mussolini from the Greek island of Corfu, which Mussolini had occupied and firmly intended to annex. I saw Austen Camberlain bring France and Germany to agreement on a vital issue in the Saar after months of private diplomacy had failed. I was with Ernest Bevin in 1946 when, by public debate, and by refusing to go into private, he drove the Russian armies from the Northern provinces of Iran.
We all saw President Eisenhower use the United Nations in 1956 to end the Suez war. We all remember how Mr. Khrushchev's troika died in the flames of a General Assembly debate. I could give scores of illustrations to show that Robert Cecil was right when he said that "publicity", meaning debate in public, open to the Government, the Press and the peoples of the world, "publicity is the life-blood of the League". Experience has shown that world opinion, what President Johnson calls a consensus, is the greatest force in human affairs.
I want to make some suggestions to my right hon. Friends as to how this force might be used to ease the tensions that now afflict mankind. First of all, I want to deal with Santo Domingo. Halyard Lange, Foreign Minister of Norway since 1945, said in the N.A.T.O. Council here the other day that, while the Vietnam war might escalate out of control, he nevertheless thought that the situation in the Dominican Republic was "even more dangerous".
What happened there? On 24th April a popular revolt, led by Colonel Caamano, broke out against the military junta which had torn up the democratic constitution and driven out President Bosch eighteen months before. The junta, led by General Imbert, were being overwhelmed. In a few short hours President Bosch might have been recalled. But the lives of foreigners were being endangered. President Johnson ordered a small party of United States marines to land and rescue them.
That was a violation of the Charter of the Organisation of American States. Article 17 says in terms that
territory of any American State may not be an object, even temporarily, of military occupation or other measures of force taken by another State, directly or indirectly, on any grounds whatever.
All the loopholes are closed.
But while his action was on purely humanitarian grounds, President Johnson's action could be defended by arguments drawn from customary international law. However, within a few hours President Johnson destroyed that legal defence. In pursuance of a carefully mounted plan, he sent in 30,000 United States troops. He said he had done so because Colonel Caamano's movement had been taken over by Communists. Pressed for details, the President said that the Central Intelligence Agency had drawn up a list of 58 known Communists who were the leaders and the driving force of Colonel Caamano's movement.
That was the only evidence adduced to justify the President's illegal act. Let us look at it to see how it appears today. There were more than 30,000 men in arms, Dominicans, in Colonel Caamano's movement. It seems unlikely that 58 outsiders could play a very important role. United States journalists in Santo Domingo made strenuous efforts to identify the 58. I have the testimony of some of them here, all staunch anti-Communists themselves.
They were given stories of meetings between Colonel Caamano and the Communists, which they found had never happened. They were told of three Communists to whom Caamano had given important jobs. Mr. Kurzman, of the Washington Post, checked on these three men. One has a diehard Conservative another was a naval officer and a Conservative, and the third was a 15-year-old boy. Others of the 58 had never been in Santo Domingo at all. The so-called evidence of the C.I.A. was a fabrication. Three weeks later Mr. Averell Harriman, who had just completed a tour of Latin America, said on television:
There is no contention now that Colonel Caamano today is dominated by the Communists.
The next day, 18th May, the Washington correspondent of The Times wrote as follows:
The effort to prove that the rebel constitutionalists were about to be captured by Communists is now seen to be ludicrous".
In the same message he said that General Imbert's
JUNTA, which earlier enjoyed the protection of American arms, is now seen to be the step-child of the murdered dictator, Trujillo.
In other words, President Johnson acted at the invitation of a gang of Fascist generals and on information furnished by the C.I.A.
Just reflect on the recent record of the C.I.A.—the Bay of Pigs adventure, exposed yesterday, in all its squalid details, by Mr. Arthur Schlesinger in the Sunday Times; the "opium army" of Chinese Nationalists in Burma; the deposition of the neutralist Prime Minister of Laos, Prince Souvanna Phouma, whom President Kennedy had to bring back to power; their dark deeds in Vietnam.
What did President Johnson do on the fabricated information given to him by the C.I.A.? He violated the Charter of the O.A.S.—I have read the terms of Article 17. He violated the Charter of the United Nations—not only Article 2(4), but Article 53, which says:
No enforcement action shall be taken under regional arrangements, or by regional agencies, without the authorisation of the Security Council.
In a few hours President Johnson destroyed the work of decades in building up Franklyn Roosevelt's "good neighbour" policy. Three Latin American statesmen in the last three weeks have hold me that that policy has been compromised for many years. For nearly a month he allowed the United States generals in Santo Domingo to give help and succour to General Imbert; to give him money; to allow him to make attacks on Caamano's forces from points of great military advantage, until it was being freely said that Caamano could not last for long.
Then on 22nd May—the Foreign Secretary will remember it—something happened. It was headlined in the Press as follows:
Britain takes an independent line.
The British delegate in the Security Council, deaf to United States pleas and protests repeated all day long that the United Nations should keep its hands off and leave it to the O.A.S., asserted instead the authority of the United Nations. He proposed a resolution calling in the name of the United Nations for a total and permanent cease-fire; and he said that that must be followed by the wider United Nations action which would be required. In the course of the debate in the Security Council, the British draft was replaced by a simpler, more categorical resolution drawn up by the delegate of France. The French resolution was adopted by ten votes to nil. Only the United States abstained.
The results were startling. On the morning of that Saturday, General Imbert was saying loudly to journalists at large that there would be no cease-fire, that he would fight; he would destroy Caamano and his Communists. By the evening of that day, after the United Nations vote, he had changed his tone. He said, "I will keep up my guard. I won't fight, unless I am attacked". Evidently the United States generals in Santo Domingo had told him that he must make the change. From that day his dangerous aggressions virtually ceased. Much more important, the ten to nil expression of world opinion changed the whole policy of the United States. Very soon they were calling on Imbert to withdraw. They are working now, it seems, for a return to constitutional Government, for free elections, perhaps with the return of President Bosch.
I believe that that followed from the Foreign Secretary's assertion of U.N. authority on 22nd May—on his independent stand. I ask him this question: Suppose that he had gone himself to the Security Council at the very beginning. Suppose that he had said, "I am here as a member with a permanent seat—not as the delegate of Britain only, but as a trustee of all the nations of mankind". I heard A. J. Balfour expound that theme in the Council of the League of Nations in San Sebastian many years ago.
Suppose that the Foreign Secretary had said, "I am here, as a trustee of all the nations, to uphold the Charter, the integrity of which is the most vital interest of us all. In pursuance of Article 53, which lays a clear duty on us all, I propose that the Council shall call now for a total and an immediate ceasefire and that it shall send a high-powered delegation to the Dominican Republic to help the parties to return to constitutional government without delay". Suppose that, with the authority of his great office, and with his great debating power, he had taken that independent stand at the beginning of May. I believe that he would have had behind him not only Latin America and Canada, not only the Commonwealth and France and Norway and perhaps all our other N.A.T.O. Allies; he would have evoked a world consensus in which I am convinced that President Johnson would have speedily concurred, when he had come to understand the facts.
If the Secretary of State had done what I am suggesting, he would have set a precedent of vast importance for the future of the United Nations. He would have had to say that the United Nations had ultimate authority, and not the O.A.S. Yes; but that is precisely what he did say on 22nd May. It would have been no harder, and it would have been far more efficacious, if he had done it at the start. He would have done just what President Eisenhower did to Britain in 1956, when he used the General Assembly to save us from the dire results of the lamentable mistake which we committed then.
I will deal more briefly with the two other wars where I believe the law and the machinery of the U.N. might be usefully invoked.
The facts about the confrontation in Malaysia are very simple. Indonesia has 100 million people. It is very rich in natural resources. Malaysia has 10 million people, one-third of them Chinese. In January this year the Malaysian delegate told the Security Council that in the previous 12 months, from the end of 1963, there had been 200 "incidents"—that is, armed clashes—an average of four a week; that Malaysia had suffered 100 casualties in her forces; that 500 Indonesians had been killed or captured. There are also 50,000 British troops on the battle front in Malaysia, and some of them, including some of my constituents, have lost their lives.
In August 1964, the defence correspondent of The Times wrote that this was a war which could not be won. In March this year, General Walker, who was in command, said that it was getting tougher; the Indonesian professional army was taking over from the original volunteers. In April a new defence correspondent of The Times said
This is a war, and it is our war";
and he added:
The battle here will not be won with standing armies, but with better communications, with roads, and hospitals".
Nobody knows what President Sukarno is seeking in mounting his attacks. Sometimes he says that he is against, not Malaysia, but colonialism, by which he means the British troops in Borneo and the British Base at Singapore. In February he said that he would accept a new United Nations referendum to determine whether the people of the Borneo territories are satisfied to belong to Malaysia.
Of course, he has no right to put forward any such demand. There has been a United Nations inquiry which U Thant himself controlled.
But it is of supreme importance to the people of Malaysia that, somehow, this confrontation should be stopped and that their relations with their powerful neighbour should be based on confidence, co-operation and mutual trust. I believe all these things should be thrashed out in the United Nations. I cannot think that it right that in these long years of war there have been only two brief discussions in the Security Council, on 15th September, 1964, and 5th January this year. That is not the way to mobilise opinion against aggression. It is not the way to sift the merits of the case. It is not the way to devise the conciliatory and other action which the United Nations might take.
There are various kinds of action which the United Nations might take. It might send teams of United Nations observers to check the Charter-breaking raids; observers have been most effective in other areas of the world. It might send a high-powered commission of international statesmen to investigate and to report. It might help more with roads, hospitals and schools, if that is what matters, as The Times man says. Certainly, the United Nations should consider carefully whether a voluntary U.N. peacekeeping force on the Cyprus model could be raised.
The Malaysian Deputy-Prime Minister tentatively put that proposal forward not long ago. If it could be adopted, who believes that the Indonesian aggressions would go on? Britain and other nations could afford very generous contributions for the sake of peace. Of one thing I am immovably convinced. It cannot be right, month after month, to go on drifting, with the fighting growing fiercer and the United Nations machinery unused. That must inevitably undermine the Charter and the rule of law. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will find the way to put us on a new and better road.
I turn briefly to Vietnam—briefly, although, by rights, it should have had long days of discussion to itself. I have long believed that President Johnson wants peace in Vietnam on terms that would satisfy us all. I quote a speech which I quoted in The Times this morning, the first major speech made by President Johnson as President of the
United States. He made it to the General Assembly of the United Nations and he said:
We are more than ever committed to the rule of law—in our land and around the world. We believe more than ever in the rights of man, all men of every colour—in our own land and around the world. And more than ever we support the United Nations. … I leave with you today my unswerving commitment to the keeping and the strengthening of peace.
Hon. Members will recall that in 16 months of office, the President fulfilled the first part of that pledge. By March this year, the civil rights programme had become the law, and he crowned his triumph by a speech in Congress that was among the greatest ever made.
On 7th April, President Johnson made another speech, to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has referred, a speech at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, about Vietnam. He offered unconditional discussions with a view to peace and he did so in such majestically persuasive words that almost all the world was swung over to his side. Next day, 8th April, the Government of Hanoi made an answer that came near to saying "Yes" to unconditional discussions. Even the Government in Peking hesitated for four days before it answered "No".
What has happened since 7th April? Why did that great proposal fail? First and foremost, it was because the President took wrong advice about the use of military power. The bombing of North Vietnam went on. The White Paper on 18th February, which sought to prove that there was no civil war but only international aggression—a White Paper at once naïve and disingenuous—destroyed all trust among the other side about the United States' ultimate objectives. Today, alas, the President's authority is much diminished. The danger of major escalation is much increased. The Pentagon is asking for 180,000 solidiers in Vietnam. Will China sit by idly if that should happen?
What can be done to restore the hope of peace? I attach the highest possible importance to the Prime Minister's Commonwealth mission. I believe that he and the Foreign Secretary would much increase its power if they could use the General Assembly of the United Nations as I will now suggest. They would have to go there, not for days, but, if they wanted results, for weeks together. I recall that the late Arthur Henderson, the father of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson), when he was Foreign Secretary, used to spend two months a year in the Council and the Assembly of the League. If the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister were to go to the General Assembly, if they were to raise a great debate about Vietnam, I believe that they could evoke an almost irresistible consensus of agreement on the following points, some of which have been mentioned by the Prime Minister this afternoon.
First, further fighting, as the Prime Minister said, cannot advance the warring parties towards a satisfactory peace. Second, to create the atmosphere for profitable negotiations, the bombing of North Vietnam should forthwith cease. Third, a ceasefire should follow with the least possible delay. Fourth, a conference should meet even before the ceasefire had taken effect. Fifth, at that conference all parties to the fighting, including the Vietcong and the N.L.F., should be admitted. Sixth, a settlement should be made of which the cardinal point would be that North and South Vietnam should be guaranteed against aggression and should be neutralised, with no foreign troops or bases of any kind. Seventh, in due course the people of each part of the country should be allowed to carry out the elections provided for in the Agreements of 1954, under international supervision, as then foreseen. Eighth, the people of North and South Vietnam would then themselves decide whether and on what terms they wanted to unite. Ninth, a programme of economic aid would follow, administered, as President Johnson has so generously proposed, not by the great Powers, not by the donors, but by the United Nations, a programme which should embrace the people of North Vietnam to the degree that the people of that territory might desire.
I believe that there is no point in that programme which would not have the overwhelming endorsement of the General Assembly as a whole.
In all that I have said I have asked my right hon. Friends to mobilise opinion for the rule of law, and to do so through the institutions of the United Nations. Opinion is an instrument more potent than any stock of bombs. That proposition is the rock foundation of all democracy, in both national and international affairs. In the last months and years the instrument of opinion, in my view, has been under-used. I have asked my right hon. Friends to use it in a bold and in a daring way. I have done so because we are in a very dangerous situation. Small and timid measures will not meet these dangers. Someone said the other day that two years ago we were rejoicing in the new "hot line" between the Kremlin and the White House, but today the "hot line" lies unused; only the guns are speaking. I hope my right hon. Friends will bring the guns to silence by voicing the aspirations of mankind.
The continuing purposes of British foreign policy remain the preservation of peace, the defence of freedom, and the protection of our own interests. What we have continuously to reconsider is our strategy for attaining those purposes and for resolving possible conflicts between them. We can seldom act independently. We must play our part within one of the international groupings such as the United Nations, the Western Alliance, the Commonwealth area, Europe. All these groupings have different possibilities and different purposes.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) has put in an eloquent plea for more use in the present situation of the machinery of the United Nations. I would not disagree with him in some of the criticisms which he has made over American policy in Santo Domingo, but I fear that by asking the United Nations to do more than it can bear we may in fact do that organisation more harm than good. I do not agree that where the interests of one of the super powers, such as America or Russia, are ultimately involved the United Nations is capable of solving that situation. The right hon. Gentleman asked our Foreign Secretary to go to the United Nations and announce that he was a trustee of all the nations. Now, I am afraid that the world's view of Britain is not as complimentary or as simple as I sometimes think the right hon. Gentleman believes, and I personally—
I apologise for interrupting, but I do not think the right hon. Gentleman got my point. I said that as the holders of a permanent seat we were there as the trustee of all the members of the United Nations.
I do not see that that is at variance with what I said, but if I have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman I hope the House will take his correction.
I understood him to say that as the holder of a permanent seat we should speak in the name of world opinion. I wish we could; but I fear that, for a number of reasons, that would not receive that universal assent which he thinks it might. I do not believe that the Communist world would simply assent to it as a self-evident truth. I doubt if other groupings of the world would assent to it either.
The right hon. Gentleman called upon the United Nations to take a more active part in the troubles in South-East Asia and South Vietnam. As far as I know, U Thant has tried to go to North Vietnam and has tried to get a conference and has been rejected. Who by? By the North Vietnamese themselves. I do not see much good in talking vaguely about the rôle of the United Nations unless we can pin this rôle on to particular nations within the United Nations and try to discover where responsibility for its failure lies.
One of the reasons why it is comparatively weak today is too few nations will pay for it. It is not the British who will not pay for it; it is not the Americans who will not pay for it. To criticise the Americans entirely for failing to use the United Nations and make not even a passing reference to the Russian and Communist view of the United Nations seems rather one-sided. To say that the United Nations succeeded in making us withdraw from Suez is true, but the United Nations was singularly unsuccessful in getting the Russians to withdraw from Budapest. I do not think we can truly accuse the Western world of sabotaging the United Nations.
So far as the Foreign Secretary himself is concerned, I have not checked his recent speeches, but I think he has made it perfectly clear that Britain would wel- come with open arms an initiative by U Thant or anybody else in the United Nations if there were any chance of its being successful in North Vietnam. He is here, and he will correct me if I am wrong but I think he said that if the situation allows of it we must put forward the idea that there should be a massive programme of aid and development in South-East Asia through the United Nations.
Therefore, I do not agree that we can accuse the Western nations of being the members who are foremost in weakening the United Nations. Nor do I think that in the present situation it would be fair to expect the United Nations to resolve the type of conflict in which we are involved.
This leads me on to two points about the state of opinion in this country. It seems to me that we are suffering from two illusions. First, that although we are one of the major debtor nations of the world with very little to spare in the way of military strength, and a considerable history of diplomatic reverse—for instance, Suez and the Common Market—we are in a position to lecture the world and to produce some immediate solution of its problems.
Secondly, we seem to be under some illusion that a situation such as that in Vietnam can be cleared up in a few months or even in a few weeks. We have still to come to terms with our own destiny.
I was struck by the brevity and indeed the blankness of the remarks by the Prime Minister about the situation in Europe. He expressed the hope that in spite of setbacks the E.E.C. would succeed, but I heard no statement of intention about what we would do, I heard no move in the Government's attitude away from the attitude founded on the five principles laid down three years ago or so by Hugh Gaitskell. I would have thought that, to meet two major interests of British foreign policy, defence of freedom and defence of our own economic and political status in the world, we must get into the Common Market. The basic reasons for this have been put forward often enough by Liberals and by others and so I do not intend to reiterate them in detail today, but I do say this, that certainly it is desirable that the old divisions of Europe should be healed, and surely no one could deny that the scale of modern politics, the scale of modern defence and industry, make it essential for us to be inside the E.E.C.
Let me make this point: were we inside the E.E.C., instead of groping after export markets we should have a very large and a very rich home market, and there would be all the difference in our situation.
Where, as I understand it, those who take the opposite view from me differ about going into the E.E.C. is over the surrender of national sovereignty. But how grave an objection is this surrender of national sovereignty? Certainly membership of the United Nations and of N.A.T.O. requires some surrender of national sovereignty. Though it is important it seems to me that it is in danger of being distorted. The language about independent foreign and economic policies seems to me often empty of content. Britain would certainly be able to pursue a more independent economic policy were she freed of her debts, but it would be more likely if she were inside rather than without a large economic unity such as Europe. One of the very things which limits our influence in the world is our balance of payments position, one of the very difficulties about our balance of payments position is that we have not got this large market.
Therefore, this argument that we would in some way limit our field of action if we were to go into Europe seems to me to have no real meaning. In any case, the surrender of sovereignty within the Six is going to be slow and limited. The proposals for a Community budget are hedged about with all sorts of safeguards, and, as was said by the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), there are many practical problems which require solution and which will need a certain pooling of sovereignty, but which do not imply a sort of philosophical total surrender of one's rights and freedoms. But what independence of action can we retain alone, even within the Commonwealth? I shall return to the political rôle of the Commonwealth later, but, as far as economic action is concerned, the old argument that the Commonwealth could be an economic alternative to the E.E.C. has largely disappeared.
Some people see in the stresses which have developed within the Six a chance to work for a more loosely articulated Europe which they believe it will be easier for Britain to join. They wish to see an economic union between E.F.T.A. and the Six as an alternative to the E.E.C. and the Treaty of Rome. I believe that it would be fatal for Britain ever again to appear to be putting forward E.F.T.A. as an alternative to the Six. I believe that that did immense damage in Europe and should never be repeated.
The only possibility of any useful coming together of E.F.T.A. and the Six lies in, first, a firm declaration that we want to get into the Six. When it is clear that that is our main objective, there might be valuable negotiations between the E.E.C. countries and the E.F.T.A. countries. I am advised that the interests of the individual E.F.T.A. countries differ in their relationships with the Six, and therefore the negotiations might be better carried on individually than as a whole.
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that all we have to do is to state our objective, that we desire to enter the Common Market and negotiations will take place? Have not we gone through that phase before? Why does he suggest that by going into the Common Market we can solve our balance of payments problem? Has that happened in the case of Italy?
As regards the first question, of course I do not believe that it will solve all the difficulties, but I suggest that it is a prerequisite to beginning to solve them. Unless Britain makes it clear that she wants to get into the Common Market, and is prepared to accept the implications of that, all the negotiations will fail. I accept that the right hon. Gentleman does not want to go into the Common Market. I have this argument with him every time we debate foreign affairs. The right hon. Gentleman wants to make friendly noises to Europe and then lay down conditions which will make it impossible for us to get in.
The right hon. Gentleman is wrong. He has taken part in debates on this subject over the years, as I have done. I am not concerned about the loss of sovereignty to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. I agree with what he said about N.A.T.O. and about joining an international organisation. There is some loss of sovereignty, but here something else is proposed, namely, a supranational Government and a supranational Parliament. That is the basis of my objection.
If the right hon. Gentleman reads the reports of the negotiations on the Common Market he will realise that that is not what is proposed. That may come in time but this is not the moment for it.
What we want to do immediately is to open up a much larger market for our exports, and for this reason alone there is a strong case for going into Europe.
I cannot give way. I must get on, and others want to speak.
I believe that we should take up what has been called a "maximalist" approach to the Six, because this would serve our interests best. If we took the opportunity to make it clear that we were good Europeans, we would cut the ground from under the French who are being seen to be not good Europeans, but who have used the argument that we are not good Europeans against our joining the Common Market. Therefore, the present situation in Europe requires something more than sympathetic noises. It requires a firm statement of our intentions, and it is at this moment that the Five would be very receptive to it. If we do not take this step now we may find in the future that we are forced to be content with some association in Europe which may have many of the drawbacks and limiting factors, with none of the compensating advantages.
I turn now to deal briefly with the situation in Vietnam. I think that I was one of the first to raise doubts in this House about American policy in Vietnam. When I did so it was noticeable that there was very little concern about American policy here. At that time it seemed to me that what the Americans ought to do was to make it clear that they were willing to negotiate without strings. This they had now done. I am not one of those who think that the Americans are never right, and now I am much more satisfied about their policy in South-East Asia because they have made these announcements and have made genuine efforts to negotiate on any terms. They have not gone the whole way that I should like to see them go, but they have gone some way by calling off the bombing and trying to get a form of cease fire as a preliminary to the negotiations. I believe that it will be worth while to call off the bombing if North Vietnam would call off her aggression, and so try to improve the atmosphere for negotiations to take place.
I believe that the House would mislead itself if it did not face up to the realities of dictatorships, and of Communist dictatorships in particular. I do not believe that while they are winning—and they are—the North Vietnamese are likely to agree to free elections and stopping the war and all the other agreeable things that we would like to see. In my lifetime I have learned to be profoundly suspicious of dictatorships of all sorts, and also to be profoundly suspicious of the Communists. I do not say that after a time, as has happened in Russia and Yugoslavia, they do not settle down, but in the early stages of a Communist dictatorship there is, to put it mildly, a strong tendency towards aggression. I believe that the Foreign Secretary has shown clearly that the aggression came from North Vietnam. There were only 700 Americans in South Vietnam when the aggression started in this acute form, and therefore I am not wholly optimistic about the chances of negotiations in the short run.
The Prime Minister said that he regarded the key to the situation as being in Hanoi. He also said that the mission of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions was possibly the first time on which a real statement of opinion on the proposals of the West had gone through to the North Vietnamese Government. I find it difficult to accept this. I find it difficult to accept that Hanoi is so cut off from the world that they were totally unaware of the proposals made by the British Government or those made by the American Government. These have been widely publicised by various means, which may well have reached the North Vietnamese Ministers.
As for the efforts made to reach the North Vietnamese Government, first through the Commonwealth Mission, and then through the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), my only comment is that they seem to show a split mind behind our policy. Do we approach the North Vietnamese as an honest broker between the two sides, without previous commitment to either, or do we approach them as a friend of America? It is clear that the North Vietnamese Government regard Britain as a friend of America. The Prime Minister made this clear again this afternoon, and I am all for it. The right hon. Gentleman made no bones about where he stood. He stands shoulder to shoulder with the Americans, and he is right to do so, and it is therefore no good pretending that we are an impartial uncommitted nation. If this latter is the line on which the approach is being made, it would be wiser for the Prime Minister to get out of it and to allow someone else to take charge of that Commonwealth Mission.
Equally, that is what bedevilled the mission of the hon. Member for Leek. He was clearly acceptable because he was believed to be sympathetic to the North Vietnamese point of view, and the fact that he was not concerned with the Foreign Office was an advantage. But then he had a Foreign Office official attached to him, and I must say that if I was a North Vietnamese I would have wondered whether he was a sort of trojan horse from the Foreign Office; perhaps Patrick Gordon Walker in disguise. I do not think that one can blame the North Vietnamese for thinking that there was something doubtful about the status of the mission.
It seems that the posture is a possible one at the right time. But it does not seem possible to go to Vietnam saying, on the one hand, that we are paid-up friends of America and, on the other hand, that we are anxious only to do an honest job between the two parties.
We should divide this problem into the short-term and the long-term. So long as the Vietcong is winning it will not negotiate. It must be stopped from winning. This will be a painful process, and I would lot want to see it done by mass area bombing. Perhaps America should abandon some territory and put in far more ground troops, and then hold her positions in South Vietnam. But once the Vietcong are seen not to be winning negotiations would seem to be possible. At that time there may be a rôle for the United Nations or the Commonwealth Mission. But until that situation is reached it is difficult to believe that we can do much about matters in the short-term.
In the long-term surely there must be a settlement of the whole area. I am surprised that so far in this debate there has been no mention of India. Malaysia has been mentioned. Our prime interest and involvement is in Malaysia, but what we say about Vietnam and what we do about it may have a direct effect upon what others are prepared to do for us in Malaysia. I see the situation becoming more stable in the long run, but still remaining a danger for many years. Britain must face the possibility of having to put troops into Malaysia for many years to come, and in the whole process of defending Malaysia we may be glad of American assistance at some time.
I turn finally to the move to reconvene the Geneva Conference and put a stop to the spread of nuclear weapons. I regard this as a move of great importance, and it is encouraging that at this time the Russians have taken the initiative. We had been told that the Vietnamese situation might mean the return of the cold war, and that it would cause the Russians to be extremely reluctant to show any deviation which might enable a wedge to be driven between them and the Chinese. But today they are willing to talk about preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
I hope that the Foreign Secretary will say more about this than has been said so far. I share the surprise expressed by The Guardian that the West is apparently talking of putting off this conference and is saying that it is not ready. Who is responsible? Do we not have a responsibility? How do the Government think that this attitude will affect the proposals for a M.L.F. or A.N.F.? These proposals may have to be recast. If our European allies want some say in the programming of nuclear weapons we may have to consider the matter again to find a different way acceptable both to them and to Russia.
How do the Government think that this will affect India? I am told that the Indians are frightened by the entry of the Chinese into the nuclear field and by the possibility that the Chinese have got much further than people thought. This would seem to be the real crux of the problem of the spread of nuclear weapons. We must provide some safeguard or guarantee to India without allowing these weapons to proliferate still further. The House will be interested to hear of the Government's thinking on this problem.
I end by returning to the theme that I started on: the strategy of this country must be pursued within the groupings of which she is or should be a member. We cannot go it alone. I do not talk only of the past year but of many years when I say that of late it has seemed that British foreign policy has been played far too much "off the cuff". It has consisted far too much of waiting for something to turn up, and, in many instances, for people to die. We have said that we cannot make a move until a certain statesman moves from the world map. That is not a useful posture. The best thing for Britain today would be a strengthening of our economic position and of those organisations of which we are a member. I should like to see this country limit its commitments as far as possible. We should not undertake vague and ill-defined rôles, say, in the Indian Ocean, which have been referred to in previous debates—although I was glad to note that they were absent from the present debate.
In the long run our hard obligations to Malaysia are more important than our attitude about Vietnam, because, at the end of the day, there is not much that we can do about Vietnam. Malaysia, however, is our responsibility. I should like some shift of emphasis away from the Far East and back to our neighbours in Europe.
The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) is almost always worth listening to, but I was very disappointed today to find that so much of his speech was negative. For instance, he upbraided my right hon Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) for what I regarded as the speech of his life. My right hon. Friend was urging that the machinery within the United Nations should be used more than it has been to deal with present difficulties. This argument should have fitted in very well with the right hon. Gentleman's remark that we should work within our present groupings.
I was disappointed that the right hon. Gentleman—especially as he speaks from the Liberal benches—should feel that our influence in the United Nations was, so to speak, hardly worth trying to exert.
I think that the hon. and learned Member is under some misapprehension about my attitude. I believe that the United Nations has a rôle but that it is unfair to ask it to step in between Russia and America. I said that the Foreign Secretary—and also past Foreign Secretaries—had attempted to use the United Nations. I do not understand what the hon. and learned Member is complaining about. I merely think that we should not overburden it.
I am glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South was pointing out many ways in which the United Nations could legitimately and obviously be used, and the right hon. Member seemed to be pouring cold water on my right hon. Friend's suggestions.
Some of the worst pains in the neck which Governments have are those of their supporters who expected too much of them, or whom they think expected too much of them. By that standard, with regard to the present position of the United Nations and the size of our efforts to extricate it from that position, I must count myself as pain in the neck No. 1 to this Government, because I could hardly be more disillusioned as to the way things have gone and the way in which the Government have measured up to the situation in which United Nations finds itself.
There is only one qualification—and I make it without stint—namely, that it is possible that the present Government have been in power for too short a time to be able to make their full presence felt. I believe that they have an influence. I do not want to pretend that I know more about what goes on in foreign countries than many other hon. Members do, but it is my duty to do a great deal of foreign travel and come in to make representations to Governments in the course of my duty as Secretary-General of The World Association of World Federalists at The Hague. My experience is that in spite of what many people think, this country still has an immense influence which it can exert for peace if only it will do it.
What is it that becoming a Minister does for a man? We all know what the real and sincere views of our Ministers are—at least, I am absolutely convinced that I do. I think that what happens is that when a Minister first goes to a Ministry he finds a pile of papers on his desk, with a group of respectful officials standing around, saying "We must have a decision upon this question in a very short time." They make the best show they can. They try to read through the papers and, by the end of the day, they have to take them home to finish them, until 4 o'clock in the morning. When they come back in the morning, there is another pile of papers and other officials making similar suggestions. Ex-Ministers on the opposite side of the House have been suffering, judging by the results of the policy which they adopted with the United Nations and with other matters in the last few years, in similar ways. The result is that Ministers are incapable in the end of following a consistent initiative, if ever they are capable of making one in the first place.
I have not the slightest doubt that they hold their views with sincerity, but these views are placed in a limbo, partly because of the burden of work and partly because of some inevitable circumstances, like having far too many decisions to make. The woods are invisible: trees, miles of them, remain. The saddest case of all these has occurred in the Foreign Office. Six appointments were made in the Foreign Office and the Prime Minister is greatly to be congratulated on having made two of them in a new and imaginative form—one of disarmament and one for United Nations. A great deal could have been achieved even in this time in disarmament and the United Nations, the two most important questions which any Government has to face.
However, we have had to face a progressive deterioration in the situation, both with regard to the United Nations and to disarmament, and, of course, the two are inextricably entwined. We cannot have the one—disarmament—unless the other functions as it was intended to function in the first place. So we get crisis after crisis. When a crisis happens there is a scurry of Ministers away from the small amount of long-term thinking which the burdens of their work allow them to undertake. And after the particular crisis is solved, back they come to their papers.
Thank heaven they have tried to solve the particular crisis. I would not attempt to say that Vietnam is not a most tragic and dangerous situation; but I suggest that this situation is only a symptom and by no means the real disease from which the world is suffering. There will be a succession of such symptoms. We went through the Congo and Cyprus and now there is Vietnam. There will be others, of course, because there is no general and complete disarmament and there is no world law or machinery to enforce it which would enable general and complete disarmament to come about.
The Labour Party election manifesto said:
… our most important effort will be concerned to revive the morale and increase the powers of the United Nations.
I am not entirely blaming this Government, but, all the time, the United Nations has gone downhill and, with great respect to the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, neither Her Majesty's Government nor any other Government have been prepared to do what is necessary to stop this. The United Nations; employs 4,500 people in New York and Geneva—less than the Sanitary Department of New York. It spends £40 million a year—£3 million less than the towns of Britain spend on sewage disposal. Is this the stuff by which successive generations are to be rid of the scourge of war?
I do not want to hammer this subject incessantly, but the Parliamentary Group for World Government, which is one of the largest all-party groups in the House—if not the largest—has taken four initiatives since this Government came to office. One was by one of the Conservative Members, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney), who, on 7th December, introduced a Motion asking for a permanent United Nations force, a Motion which was unopposed by the House. We have submitted suggestions to the Prime Minister as to how the United Nations might be revived, we have made an appeal to the Government àpropos the Commonwealth Conference and the Commonwealth Prime Ministers, asking them to take an initiative, which we set out, hoping that it might bring back the United Nations machinery to something of its former usefulness.
We have put down Motion No. 180, which is on the Order Paper signed by 70 hon. Members, two of whom are right hon. Gentlemen on the Opposite side of the House, asking for a world security authority capable of enforcing world law. The activities of this group in this Parliament have had practically no result, save two rather depressing letters from the Prime Minister, in one of which he actually retreats from the Motion passed by this House on 7th December. I want the Government to know that there is very real disappointment in this group and I am disturbed that I should be able to say with truth that this is the case.
We know that there have been some good gestures towards the United Nations idea and I say, profoundly, "Thank God". The two new offices were allocated in the Foreign Office, so very near to the heart of the problem. There is the logistic support offered to six battalions of troops volunteered by other Governments to be on call by the United Nations; and there is the sum of 10 million dollars to help to wipe out the past debts of the United Nations. But there is no promise, though asked for, from the Prime Minister that a proportion, however small, of that sum which may be saved when general and complete disarmament comes about will be devoted to the development of the underdeveloped parts of the world—an easy enough thing to promise, one would have thought. How important that would be to encouraging support for peace-keeping measures now, on the part of those under-developed nations.
We have been told that it is not practical at present to propose a permanent United Nations force. We are told that the Government know that it is unacceptable to other Powers besides ourselves. I should have thought that it was at least acceptable to ourselves. Which other nations are these to which it is unacceptable? When was it proposed to them? Another suggestion which we made was that it should be proposed that a United Nations commission should be set up to explore the principles and the details of a permanent force and to find out what was the highest common factor which could be agreed upon. We were told that this was a good idea and that it could be discussed in the 33-nation committee now trying to find a way out of the United Nation's difficulties. Has it been? With what result? Was any proposal made about it by our representative there?
I return to the statement that the proposal of a permanent United Nations force would be unacceptable to other major Powers at present. Maybe it would; their Governments are composed of ministers like ours who are harassed and have far too much to do and not nearly enough time to do the broad forward thinking necessary for these things, bbut what about the peoples? Is it unacceptable to them? What do our Government think of that splendid initiative which was taken by Pope John? What do they think of the response which that initiative had in the hearts of nearly all people of all religions, colours and continents?
I think it is bordering just a little on the impertinent to say that something for which he called and which received that response from the peoples of the world—not only for an expression of a desire for peace, but for institutions to maintain and enforce world law—when a Government say that such a proposal is not acceptable to them. The Parliamentary group urged the Commonwealth Prime Ministers, and in particular our own Government, to implement their own declaration of 1961, which asked for the setting up of a world security authority capable of enforcing world law.
I happened to know that earlier this year that the present Pope—I am not a Roman Catholic and I can speak with complete objectivity about these things—was willing to go to the United Nations, to take that unprecedented step to try to lift it out of the slough in which it was, and was prepared to give his accolade and his full support to any government which would put forward a scheme capable of raising the United Nations out of that position.
Nobody will deny that had the Commonwealth made the proposal which we suggested and had that been backed by His Holiness the Pope, it would have been a very formidable combination of influence for good in the world. Did Her Majesty's Government make any proposal for joint Commonwealth action which might have forged that combination? If so, they have been very quiet about it. The world now knows that the Pope does intend to go to New York, but what we do not know is whether our Government—or, far better, the Commonwealth—will by that time have earned his accolade and will have forged that combination which I believe could still sweep the world.
The Commonwealth is in a unique position; I need not go into its multiracial composition and the rest. The proposal we were urging on the Government and the Commonwealth was one which was agreed to by the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in Copenhagen last year. It was agreed to by the Iron Curtain countries and it contains the principles upon which peacekeeping machinery can in future be regulated, principles which we shall need if we are to have general and complete disarmament without which most of us believe stable peace cannot be achieved. I will read it; it is very short:
The 53rd Inter-Parliamentary Conference considering
Calls upon the Secretary-General of the United Nations to take the necessary steps, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter,
Nobody is pretending that that, if it came into being, would stop clashes between the great powers. What is being said is that this is a prototype of machinery which eventually will do that, but in the meantime will have the very important task of damping down much smaller dangers and perhaps preventing their escalation. It is no use Her Majesty's Government saying, "Ah, but the Russians will not agree with this; the Inter-Parliamentary Union may have agreed." The Inter-Parliamentary Union consists of Members of Parliament who are uncrushed by these burdens of paperwork and all the day to day decisions and duties which are weighing on Ministers and which kill their initiative even when they are keen and devotedly sincere about a particular cause.
I pause to thank my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for his compliment to our branch of the Inter-Parliamentary Union for the part it played in the recent visit of Parliamentarians of U.A.R. That was a very much welcomed compliment. I can assure my right hon. Friend on behalf of our branch that we shall do all we can in future to help in the way of smoothing troubled waters and oiling machines which perhaps do not go so well as they should. The Inter-Parliamentary Union may consist only of Members of Parliament, but when Mr. Gromyko was here only the other day I made a special point of asking him, "What about this Resolution?" I asked, "Is not this Soviet policy?" He said, "Of course it is. Our delegates would not have proposed it had it not been."
Therefore I say have faith, do not just accept Foreign Office briefs, redolent as they are of urbanity, scepticism and suspicion. Go in and make proposals. I say to this Government that if by the September Session of the United Nations—there will be a Session, thank heavens, a small thing to boast about, but one can say that—if they have not made a real initiative on the lines I have suggested following that Inter-Parliamentary Union Resolution, or something very like it, I submit to them with all sincerity that their responsibility will be a heavy one, to their own supporters, to this country and to humanity.
I find myself in a somewhat unusual position, for I feel sorely tempted to defend the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues against the accusation made by the hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu), who accused the Government of giving only lukewarm support to the United Nations. However, I am sure that they do not need me to defend them and I will leave it to them to answer the hon. and learned Gentleman's charges later in the debate.
We all recognise the sincerity of the hon. and learned Gentleman, although his accusation seemed unfair. Certainly I have not read the events in the way he described them. We appreciate his passionate yearning for a world Government, although many of the theories which he advanced seemed to presuppose a degree of agreement among the 114 Members of the United Nations which I do not believe exists. I wish it did. If there were such a degree of agreement half the problems which are now so difficult to solve would not have arisen, but I will not argue further in that vein at this stage.
We are right, this being the first day of a two-day debate on foreign affairs, to be devoting a good deal of time to the problems of South-East Asia. That is, in my view, by far the most serious part of the world for us to be discussing. It is right to remind ourselves from time to time that it is not only Vietnam which is a danger spot. Malaysia is equally important. In that area we are fighting a battle for the freedom of Malaysia; to defend it against aggression from Indonesia with the same objectives as the Americans have in intervening to defend South Vietnam against North Vietnam. Indeed, the two territories hang together.
The Foreign Secretary put this clearly in his last speech in a foreign affairs debate in the House in April. I suggest that Malaysia is almost a text book example of a defence agreement which must at all costs be honoured. Here is a newly independent country within the Commonwealth with no aggressive intentions of any kind. It is a country which has no territorial ambitions and which has done nothing wrong. Its federation with Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore, has been confirmed by a United Nations Com- mission, and it has been subjected to absolutely unwanton and unprovocated aggression from Indonesia. It is right, therefore, that the present Government should have undertaken precisely the same defence commitments in the area as the former Government undertook 18 months ago.
The right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) rather over-simplified the problem of Malaysia. He quoted a correspondent in The Times, mentioned a few of his own opinions and more or less said, "One does not want troops. One wants roads, schools and hospitals". Who will walk up a road to work in a hospital or teach in a school if there is only an even money chance of getting there, let alone getting back again, without being ambushed or shot? Suppose we had taken that view about Malaya when it was still administered directly by the British Government? Suppose we had not used troops to get on top of the very serious Communist threat from inside and a terrorist movement of great proportions 10 or 15 years ago? If we had not got on top of that movement would Malaya and the surrounding territories have become a free and independent Malaysia? How does the right hon. Gentleman consider that it achieved independence? Was it not because we guaranteed and secured its safety?
I was a member of the Government that began the resistance against the Communists in Malaya. When I quoted the defence correspondent of The Times in connection with roads and hospitals I suggested that a great many other measures were needed and which, I thought, it might be possible to take. I did not for a moment suggest that there should be no defence against raids from Indonesia.
Unless I misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman—and his remarks are within the recollection of the House—he suggested that the troops were not doing much good and that the war could not be won that way; that a new form of United Nations commission or committee would do something which our defence commitments to Malaysia could not do. I understood him to say that the United Nations would, by some means, achieve a settlement between Indonesia and Malaysia which none of the other powers concerned could do. I respect that view but I am bound to tell the right hon. Gentleman that I do not agree with it.
I quoted the defence correspondent of The Times, who had pointed out that this war would not be won by standing armies but by more roads, hospitals and so on. I did not for a moment suggest that the defence should De stopped. I suggested that it was urgently necessary that the confrontation should be ended with the least possible delay. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will not dispute that.
I must leave it to the House to decide whether the right hon. Gentleman was agreeing or disagreeing with the defence correspondent of The Times and whether he was or was not suggesting that some form of United Nations commission or committee should intervene in Malaysia and do something which U Thant and others have hitherto failed to do.
I cannot keep giving way. A great many hon. Members wish to take part in the debate.
As I have said, South Vietnam is subject to precisely the same aggression, but in a slightly different way, and the United States was asked to help. The United States is doing in South Vietnam precisely the same, in terms of defence against the Communist threat, as we are performing in Malaysia. It should be pointed out that if for any reason South Vietnam were to collapse, so to speak, and be overrun there would be a chain reaction right across the whole of South-East Asia, involving Borneo, Sarawak, Malaysia and many other areas with almost incalculable consequences which no one knows better or has put more clearly than the Foreign Secretary himself.
I believe there is no one in the House or outside it who does not want to try to get a settlement in Vietnam and Malaysia. There must be very few people, if any, who have not had at the back of their minds the lurking fear that the war in Vietnam might escalate. For that reason we would all endorse the Prime Minister's view that it is right to make attempts to get a settlement, no matter how unorthodox or unusual the means. However, I would make one qualification. It is that the methods so used should not prejudice the objective.
A number of attempts to achieve a settlement have been made. The Foreign Secretary has done his best to reconvene the Geneva Conference, of which he is co-Chairman. Nobody could conceivably blame him for his not having been able so far to persuade Mr. Gromyko to come along. Then we had the Gordon Walker Mission. That was attempt No. 2. I would be surprised—although I do not, of course, know—if Mr. Gordon Walker brought back from his trip to the Far East very much more information than was already known, for the simple reason that he could not go to either Peking or Hanoi.
Then we have attempt No. 3—the Commonwealth Mission. This seemed to me to be a bit of a shotgun marriage—conceived on the croquet lawns, so we are told in the Press. Of that Mission, I only say that it has not got off the ground at all. China and the Soviet Union have refused to receive it, and the Vietnamese have also returned a negative reply through their News Agency, which is the only contact we have.
Was it wise to embark on a mission or an idea of this kind without first discovering whether those likely to participate in it were all agreed as to its objective? In this case, they were not. We know that President Nyerere and the Prime Minister of Ceylon openly said, "No.". To embark on such a mission without the agreement of all the Prime Ministers about the settlement sought, and to embark on it without knowing whether it will be received at the other end, seems to be a little hasty. I should have thought that the golden rule about this kind of manoeuvre would be, before flying the kite, to make quite certain of at least 50 per cent. success. That cannot be said of the Commonwealth mission.
Fourth, we have the trip of the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. If the Foreign Secretary will forgive my saying so, I find this one of the strangest of all the manoeuvres, and I would be surprised if it did not cause the right hon. Gentleman himself a great many headaches. In circumstances like these, there is a good deal to be said for sending a backbencher who has a special and long-standing contact with a particular country, and whose views are well known, to that country, and to ask him, so to speak, to take the temperature. He can talk freely, what he says does not commit the Government and, when he returns and reports, the Government can assess the value of his views as they wish. There is much to be said for that kind of manoeuvre.
I do not think that there is much to be said for taking a junior Minister from a Department that has not been dealing with Hanoi—there is not much demand for National Insurance in Hanoi—and sending him out, as a member of the Government. The Prime Minister was most insistent that that was what the hon. Gentleman was doing. The Prime Minister said from the Dispatch Box that the Parliamentary Secretary went as a member of the Government. To send out a junior Minister of another Department, without knowing whether he would be received by any Minister in Hanoi, or even knowing whether he would get a visa, seems to be an almost perfect example of having the worst of both worlds.
The Foreign Secretary tried to send Mr. Murray with the Parliamentary Secretary. Those of us who know Mr. Murray know very well what an exceedingly able, competent and experienced official he is in respect of that part of the world; the right hon. Gentleman could not have sent anyone better. But what a farce! The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance and this very able official from the Foreign Office go off in an aeroplane, get three-quarters of the way there—and what happens? When they get to Ventiame, the Parliamentary Secretary, as a member of the Government—the phrase used by the Prime Minister—merely gets a tourist's visa. What happens to Mr. Murray? Through no fault of his own, he does not even get a tourist's visa. He is turned back, and cannot go on. So the Parliamentary Secretary, representing the Government, without an official with him, goes off on a tourist's visa to make what contacts he can. Was it really thought that this was likely to pay off?
I know that the Prime Minister has said that the Consul-General, Mr. Ponsonby, was of great assistance—I am sure that he was. But the Consul-General there is in a very difficult position. It must be a most awkward position, because there are no diplomatic relations, which means that he has no official contact with the Government of Hanoi. So little contact has he, through no fault of his own, that when the suggestion was made that the Commonwealth Mission wished to go to Hanoi, there was no answer to the offer because the North Vietnamese Government refused to receive the proposal from the Consul-General. I find it very difficult to believe that Mr. Ponsonby, for all his ability and experience, could have been of much help at that moment to the unfortunate Parliamentary Secretary; he had not been in touch, because there were no diplomatic relations with the Government of Hanoi.
Does the Foreign Secretary think it right that a junior Minister of any Department, as a member of the British Government, should be put in this position, this curious kind of hole-in-the-corner, rather furtive mission, fulfilling the rôle of an amalgam between James Bond and Will Hay? I do not think that it is right, and I do not believe that it is the way to negotiate, nor is it the way to get across to anybody in Hanoi or anywhere else that the Government mean to stand firm.
I must also ask, with due respect to the hon. Gentleman: was he really the best choice?
Because the Parliamentary Secretary's views are very well known. He wrote an admirable pamphlet entitled "Why S.E.A.T.O.?" which condemned in no uncertain terms the whole idea of S.E.A.T.O. and the whole American policy in South-East Asia. Whether the author of that pamphlet was the right person to go as a member of a Government whose policy is directly opposite to those expressed in this pamphlet, is another matter. Is this really the way to negotiate? I do not think that it is.
There is always one certain way by which we can negotiate, as some people call it, "successfully" with the Communists. It is quite simple. All one has to do is to make a unilateral concession in return for the promise of a call-off or cessation of an aggression that never should have started. That is advocated in certain quarters. It is the diplomatic version of the old gold-watch trick. I steal the right hon. Gentleman's watch. He says, "I want it back." I reply, "Yes, you can have it back, but if I give it back it is a concession on my part. I want a comparable concession on your part, so give me your notecase."
That is one way of dealing with the Communists, but, if I may say so, it is not the way to get a lasting settlement, or to keep peace, or to win freedom for millions of people in South-East Asia, and nobody knows that better, or has been more firmly against it, than the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues. That is why we on this side support them in their determination to do what they can to get negotiations going, knowing quite well that there are certain essential conditions that must be fulfilled, and certain bargaining points that can be ceded but other essential points that cannot.
No matter how much difficulty the Foreign Secretary may have from certain quarters, the country as a whole—and, I am certain, three-quarters of the Members of this House—fully support him, in the knowledge that he will stand firm for South Vietnam, because other parts of the world are involved as well. South Vietnam and Malaya hang together, and there is the defence against Communist aggression in a very large area of the world.
I start by complaining that there should be a debate on foreign affairs generally. This is by now a customary complaint which I raised on the last occasion on which there was a foreign affairs debate. To debate foreign affairs in general is like debating domestic affairs in general: there are far too many aspects of foreign affairs for us to be able to have a single debate. Why not have one day on Vietnam, one day on the Common Market, and another day on the United Nations? These are issues on which debates are needed, but a grand tour of the world is not something which enables us to have a proper debate of any kind. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will represent to the Leader of the House that in future we should have proper and more frequent debates on foreign affairs, each one dealing with specific issues.
It is because I wish to deal with a subject which is the predominant subject on this debate that I cannot follow up some of the very interesting remarks already made. I should very much like to take up remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party about the future of Britain's membership of Europe; but it is Vietnam that clearly takes the centre of the stage today, and it is about Vietnam that I wish to talk. I wish to examine the question of Vietnam in the wider context of East-West relations.
At the heart of many if not most of the foreign policy problems which face us, clearly there lies the relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States. The question of disarmament, the question of the United Nations and the future of the developing countries are all directly affected by the relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States and the possible relaxation of tensions between the two.
In recent years the relations between the two biggest powers in the world were improving. There had been a relaxation of the rigidity of the foreign policy of the United States under Foster Dulles and welcome signs of a preparedness to move towards relaxation on the part of the Soviet Union. With the stalemate in Europe, which was in my view contributed to by the firmness of the Western Alliance, with the development of ever increasingly destructive weapon systems, a common interest seemed to emerge, a realisation that neither could win a nuclear war and that there was a common interest in stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The test ban treaty was a result of this, but it was only one field in which the Soviet Union and the United States appeared to be moving more closely together.
It has been said that one of the worst affects of the war in Vietnam is the worsening of relations between the Soviet Union and the United States or, at any rate, an end to improving relations between the two. I want to see how far this is true and, if so, what the implications are.
Before I turn to the actual position in Vietnam and the various parties involved, I want to say something about the historical background. I think it is possible to be too much dominated by past rights and wrongs. As events evolve, from time to time one may have to change one's original view because events have overtaken one. There are many fields in which that is true. In quite a different field, I feel that the Arabs were grievously wronged over Palestine, but that does not justify the attitude of those Arabs who now wish to eliminate the State of Israel. Similarly, in the case of Vietnam, by looking at the history of the rights and wrongs since the Geneva Agreement, it is possible to be too much dominated by it. Of course there were breaches of the agreement by the Americans and by the North, but one has to look, at a certain stage, at where one is now, and the central question one has to answer is, what do we do now?
I turn therefore to the position of the various Powers involved and, first, that of the United States. The United States is massively committed to the defence of South Vietnam. It is determined to avoid defeat and not to abandon its ally the South Vietnamese Government and, in particular, not to suffer humiliation in the face of China and to stop the expansion of Chinese influence in the area. I do not accept that United States policy in the past has been above blame or has always been wise.
In the first place, in my view there was a fundamental error in United States policy in failing to recognise the Government of China. In the second place, in seeking to draw a line in the face of China and to limit Chinese influence, I am not sure that they chose the right place in which to become deeply committed.
I am less and less impressed by the domino theory. It seems to me that with the entirely different history of Vietnam from the history of Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Burma and the entirely different religious background and influence in those parts of the world, it by no means follows that if there should be an establishment of Communism in the whole of Vietnam, Communism would spread automatically to those other areas. I think that the religious background of those other countries makes them a much less fertile field for the spread of Communism.
Again, I do not think that Vietnamese interference in the affairs of Laos is something which necessarily leads to the conclusion that the domino theory will apply, because that interference might have taken place even with a different kind of Government in Vietnam.
Thirdly, again I doubt if the tactics of the United States in their struggle in Vietnam have always been wise. If they were determined to prevent victory of the Vietcong, it could clearly only be done on the ground and if, as they have now shown themselves to be, they are prepared to send troops to attempt to prevent the Vietcong victory on the ground, one must raise some question about the wisdom of the bombing of the North. It has not proved decisive. It may have been of some military help; I am not in a position to judge. It is undoubtedly more dangerous than a land commitment in the South. There is a greater chance of conflict spreading, and fighting a ground war in the South is more easily compatible with the achievement of a limited settlement.
But, when all is said and done and when one can point to the mistakes which the United States may have made in the past, nevertheless two points stand out. The first is that the United States are prepared to negotiate. It is also clear that they are prepared to negotiate for limited objectives. They accept the objective which was announced the other day by the Foreign Secretary. They accept the position that at some stage they may have to withdraw. They accept the aim of a neutralised South Vietnam
The second point which stands out—and this is one of the basic issues which face us as members of the alliance with the United States—is that if the United States withdraw in circumstances of defeat, then, as the Prime Minister has mentioned, no other ally of the United States in Asia or possibly elsewhere can rely with any confidence on American promises of support, and the whole Western Alliance will have received a severe blow.
I turn next to the position of China. Whatever might have been if China had been recognised by the United States—and again that is an idle subject for speculation; it may well be they would now be less intransigent—the clear fact is that the Chinese are now in an utterly uncompromising mood. I am not clear about their territorial ambitions. I do not think it is a factor which can be ruled out after the history of Tibet, but again I find it very hard to judge how far they seek direct territorial expansion for themselves. What is clear is that in South Vietnam and elsewhere in South-East Asia, they seek the humiliation of the United States. The stepping up of the propaganda in Thailand and the support for the Thai Government in exile that they recognise is yet another sign of it. It is also clear that the whole emphasis of the Chinese Government at the moment is against a policy of relaxation.
This policy of relaxation between East and West is denounced as revisionism, as the greatest of all crimes. The World Peace Conference in Helsinki again underlines the utterly inflexible and uncompromising mood of the Chinese at the moment.
It is, unfortunately, also clear that the mood in Hanoi is very similar to the mood in Peking. There appears to have been a long struggle in Hanoi between the Russians and the Chinese. The fact that for a considerable time the Hanoi regime did not answer the request for a Commonwealth initiative may be traced back to this struggle. But, unfortunately, it is clear that the Chinese elements appear to have won. Only today there is a report from Hanoi showing that there, too, revisionism is denounced.
Hanoi has an additional reason for rejecting the idea of negotiations. It is not just that it appears to be winning. I think that in understanding its position one must bear in mind that in 1954 it felt cheated of victory. In 1954 it had some reason for expecting that it would win the elections in the South. But there were no elections. This is an additional reason why Hanoi should be extremely suspicious about negotiations and about a further settlement.
I turn, lastly, to the Russian attitude. The Russian position seems to be a very difficult one indeed. Clearly, the Russians cannot be seen to abandon another Communist Power. Clearly, they cannot be seen to be less enthusiastic in their support for a Communist ally than other Communist powers. In this sense it is clear that the conflict in Vietnam has worsened the relations between East and West. At the same time there is no evidence that the desire of the Soviet Union to achieve relaxation has become any the less. In fact, there is some evidence to the contrary. Firstly, its help to the North Vietnamese régime has been defensive. Secondly, the Russian attitude to the Commonwealth initiative was different from the attitude of Hanoi and Peking. The Russians did not say, "This is a ridiculous initiative." They did not denounce it as a swindle and a trick in the way the Chinese did. They referred the initiative to Hanoi.
Thirdly, as the Prime Minister said today, the renewed interest of the Russians in the Geneva talks on disarmament and their apparent renewed interest in some non-proliferation agreement can only bring encouragement to those who wish to see relaxation between East and West. There is every reason to suppose that the Soviet Union wishes to see a negotiated settlement as opposed to an American humiliation and defeat. After all, the core of the Soviet argument with China is relaxation and coexistence on the one hand versus wars of liberation on the other hand. Negotiations followed by some neutralisation settlement and withdrawal of United States forces would prove the Russian case. A defeat and humiliation of the United States and a withdrawal in circumstances of defeat would enhance the Chinese case. If the latter were to take place, the Soviet position would be weakened and the prospects of agreement between the Soviet Union and the United States would also be weakened.
If this analysis is right, it is clear where our support should now be. Whatever may be the past rights and wrongs of both sides, we face a very stark and ugly choice in Vietnam. While no negotiations are acceptable to Peking or Hanoi, we face a very ugly choice from which we cannot escape. It is one choice only, short of negotiations. We must either continue the war or else face defeat and humiliation. I say "we", but it is, of course, the United States which has to face this choice. Our power, as a previous speaker observed, is strictly limited, and the influence that we have is limited. But the Western Alliance or the United States, which is our ally, must face either continuation of the struggle or defeat.
My hon. and learned Friend used the word "humiliation". Does he recollect that we were humiliated when we lost the American colonies and that humiliation was a very good thing for us?
I think that there is in this area of the world a difference between neutralisation arrived at possibly with a Communist victory in the elections, arrived at after genuine free elections and after a settlement on the subject, and a Communist military victory, which would prove the Chinese argument. If this is the choice that we face, the second result, of an American defeat and of the Americans leaving in a situation of humiliation, would be not only that the position of the United States would be weakened, not only that it would be a blow to the Western Alliance, the alliance which is the basis of our foreign policy, but it would also be a weakening of the Soviet position and of the Soviet argument, and it would mean that the prospects of agreement between the Soviet Union and the United States, which must be the basis of any real peace in the world, would have much further receded.
The hon. and learned Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taverne) started by pointing out that we had to switch from subject to subject, and he made a plea, which I support, for more time for foreign affairs debates so that it might be possible to split up days or half days between subjects.
The hon. and learned Member spoke about Vietnam, and I intend to speak on another subject, but we both took part in a university "teach-in" a short time ago on Vietnam, and I found myself then, as I do now, in agreement with a large part of what the hon. Gentleman has said, in particular about the importance of the conflict between Soviet Union and China in regard to their interests in South-East Asia.
The subject about which I wish to speak—the Prime Minister mentioned that it would be dealt with by the Foreign Secretary tomorrow—is the situation at the United Nations. This foreign affairs debate is the last opportunity for the House to consider what can be done at the United Nations about the present deadlock in the General Assembly before the normal time for the 20th session of the General Assembly to open, which would be the third week in September. The General Assembly is at present virtually suspended in order to avoid voting and, therefore, testing Article 19. The other organs of the United Nations can, of course, carry on and work can be carried on in the field. The Security Council is not at present directly affected. However, so much of the activity of the United Nations requires the sanction or the support of the General Assembly that paralysis could set in if a settlement is not reached. Even the Security Council could find itself in difficulties because its functioning depends up the election of its members by the General Assembly.
The cause of this is an argument on two points, first, the costs of peace-keeping operations, and, secondly—to my mind more important—the authorisation of peace-keeping operations. The second raises a basic argument about the meaning of the Charter. Another reason why the present situation is important and why it must be resolved is that these peace-keeping operations are themselves a useful and necessary part nowadays of the United Nations security and political functions. For example, in Gaza and Cyprus there are peace-keeping forces at present. It is an odd fact that when these forces are successful they tend to fade out of the news. If they were not successful in their job the places where they are would soon become danger spots again. In my view there would be a signal improvement in the machinery of the United Nations if agreement were reached on future procedure for these peacekeeping operations.
The United Nations Charter did not specifically provide for such operations. The situations which have arisen in the Congo and Cyprus were not uppermost in the minds of those who were framing the Charter in 1945. They were more concerned with what can be called the old fashioned kind of aggression, of the Hitler and Mussolini type, with which people at that time were only too familiar.
Here I hope that I can make, modestly, a contribution to this debate arising from my own experience in a previous incarnation as a diplomatist. I worked as an official at the United Nations in its early days, including three years in our permanent delegation when the United Nations was at Lake Success. In those days, we were working with the Charter when it was new and seeing it being applied for the first time to different situations.
Some countries involved in the argument now, notably the Soviet Union and France, consider that the Security Council should control peace-keeping. They have refused to pay the cost in some cases where there have been operations which they do not consider were properly authorised. In my opinion, the Security Council has the primary responsibility for keeping peace, but it also contains a veto, and the use of the veto can stop it from doing anything.
However, it is important to recognise that the veto was necessary and, indeed, was a part of the concept of the United Nations at the beginning. The reason for it, as I have always seen it, was that, if a majority of the United Nations voted for a military action against a great Power or against the vital interests of a great Power, it could bring about the head on collision which it was one of the primary purposes of the United Nations to avoid and there would then be a situation in which it was about to provoke, or be in danger of provoking, the world war we were trying to avoid. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) said, the concept of the United Nations recognised and reflected the facts, and it is a fundamental point that the great Powers could not be involved in a clash of this kind without the danger of world war.
In 1950 there occurred the aggression in Korea, and this is what could be described as an open kind of an aggression. There were United Nations observers on the border. They telegraphed that the North had attacked the South. I remember the occasion because I was a member of our permanent delegation and I rushed to the emergency meet- ing of the Security Council on the Sunday afternoon, the aggressors having, typically, chosen a Saturday afternoon, 25th June, 1950, along the pre-Second World War lines.
Because of the presence of United Nations observers—althought the Soviet bloc continually took the opposite line that the South attacked the North—most of the world agreed that the North had attacked the South. Because of the coincidence of the absence of the Soviet Union from these meetings at the beginning of the Korean episode, the veto was not used. The Russians were sulking over the question of Chinese representation. A United Nations command could therefore be set up and United Nations operations started.
I thought that point would come up. I shall not go into it now because it would be the subject of another speech. The view of this side of the House and of the Government is that the Peking Government should be in China's chair at the United Nations. But that is not a question of membership. China was a founder member of the United Nations and has a seat on the Security Council with a veto. This is a matter of representation. It always comes up as a question of credentials, which makes it about five times more difficult than simply admitting China as a member, as the hon. Lady said.
We all know that if the Peking Government were offered the chance of coming into the United Nations as an additional member they would almost certainly refuse. What the Peking Government want is to replace the present occupants of China's seat at the United Nations and that is a difficult problem. We in Britain have made it clear since 1950 what our view is.
Following the aggression in Korea, the General Assembly session at the end of 1950 passed the "United for Peace" resolution. This had two important points. First, it spelt out how the General Assembly might make recommendations under the Charter if the Security Council were unable to take any action owing to the veto. It should be noted that the word "recommendations" was used. Whereas the Security Council, throughout the Charter, can take decisions which are binding, the General Assembly can only make recommendations to members. The second point was that the Assembly set up the Collective Measures Committee which could co-ordinate action against an aggressor.
But since Korea situations have not occurred of this particular kind which could be called "open aggression", and the call upon the United Nations has been for forces to garrison an area in order to carry out what have come to be known as peace-keeping operations. It is very relevant to remember that one of the troubles has been that the part of the Charter which would have provided the Security Council with a military staff and other military arrangements has never been put into effect—Articles 43 to 47—although the Soviet Union agreed to the Charter in that form and to the Articles at the San Francisco Conference twenty years ago.
There must have been a change of mind in the Soviet Union soon afterwards, because it made it clear that it would not be a party to these Articles being put into effect. The result of the "United for Peace" Resolution, the failure of Articles 43 to 47 and the great use of the veto by the Soviet Union has been to bring the General Assembly into security matters more than was intended by the Charter.
This is what the Soviet Union and France, in particular, appear to be wanting to redress. They have both proposed in the Committee of 33, which was set up following the abortive session of the General Assembly last autumn to go into peace-keeping operations, that action under Articles 43 to 47 should not be started. This, I think, is significant, and I would firmly recommend to the Government that they should follow it up. It may not lead very far and may take some time, but this certainly is a change of view after twenty years on the part of the Soviet Union.
I believe also that the Security Council's primary role should be recognised and that the Soviet Union and France have a definite point here. But this should not be to the exclusion of the General Assembly's ability to act and to make recommendations if there has been a veto. I believe that it is in the interests of Britain and the United States that this situation should be so and that more balance should not be given to the Security Council as the Charter originally intended.
In a situation at the United Nations of "one country, one vote"—a system that will, I am sure, carry on for many years—a two-thirds majority in the General Assembly could represent a very small percentage of population and power and could be completely at variance with the real majority and with the facts of the situation. An interim report was made by the Committee of Thirty-three up to 15th June when it was due to report finally, and the President of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General have put in a Report on general principles which have been agreed.
Time is running out and it is essential that there should be a settlement before the General Assembly is due to meet again in September. I have always thought that there were the bones of a settlement there, based on more being put in the hands of the Security Council in security matters, more flexibility over future payments for peace-keeping operations and the recognition of special occasions where voluntary peace-keeping can be carried out or peacekeeping with the consent of the parties involved. Above all, speed is essential. If the procedures of the future are to work they must be procedures which can be operated quickly so that there is no long delay before forces can reach the ground. I believe that the financial side can be settled at the same time as assurances are given to some of the complaining countries on this point.
As for earmarking forces, the hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) advocated a kind of United Nations Legion composed of persons individually recruited from all nationalities. I do not support that suggestion, although I know that it finds favour with hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House. My feeling is that the difficulties of language, training and discipline are very great and that if such a force is to come about this will be a long way ahead. The numbers required are always unpredictable. I believe that there are 10,000 troops in the United Nations peacekeeping forces at present. These could be added to, but we hope that they will be diminished if problems are settled. The difficulties of having a standing army with nothing to do when there are no peacekeeping jobs could be a cause of complaint.
I think that we are right in taking the view that peace-keeping should be based on the supply of national contingents. There is a convention that the great powers themselves do not provide combatant troops. This is part of the principle which I mentioned earlier in connection with the veto in the Security Council, because if a peace-keeping force was put into action by a General Assembly recommendation which included a large number of combatant troops from a great power, then unless there were special circumstances this could cause a dangerous situation because it might be against the crucial interests of another great power. I suppose that this is the reason why the British Government offer only logistic support. Perhaps the Foreign Secretary can tell us more about this tomorrow.
It must be remembered that Britain has herself carried out some very successful peace-keeping operations with her own forces in parts of East Africa and South-East Asia, but these were all in Commonwealth countries or Colonial Territories, and with the consent of the Commonwealth Governments this kind of operation can be carried out by our forces. They were dependent upon our bases in various parts of the world and the over-flying facilities we were able to obtain. This is an important point which the Government should remember when they themselves, as they have done in the past, commend these operations as successful British operations. But there are situations in which only an international peace-keeping force will be acceptable and on occasions only an international force which has the blessing of the United Nations. It is, therefore, not only important from the point of view of the United Nations and its functioning that this problem should be solved, but also that the United Nations should be able to supply these forces quickly.
On balance, it is to the interest of all groups and of all countries which are members of United Nations that the United Nations should continue to function Properly. It has its weaknesses and failures. I will not go into those now but anyone who, like myself, has worked there as an official is conscious of them. The United Nations reflects the weaknesses and failures of its membership, but there is an essential need for an organisation based on universal membership as well as the associations and alliances which exist for special purposes.
The United Nations provides a meeting place for East and West and for all the countries of the world of different views and interests, but we should not expect too much of it. Here I agree with the Leader of the Liberal Party. If we expect too much of it we may be disappointed but we must use it to the full extent of its capacity. One of its troubles in its first five years, of which we who worked there were only too conscious, was that many people expected far too much of it.
Now is the time for confidential diplomacy. The Committee of Thirty-three has reported and we do not know what is going on behind the scenes, but we should try to get a settlement before the next session of the General Assembly. I hope that the Government will tell us that there energetic efforts are being made to agree upon procedures for peacekeeping and to cover its cost, because the future of the United Nations depends upon this.
The hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) spoke with intimate knowledge of the affairs of the United Nations. He made one point on which I offer him my support at the outset when he discussed the dispute over financial contributions as a dispute over policy and procedure. That is the only intelligent way in which that problem may be discussed and I think that it was with the support of the whole House, with a few exceptions, that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made a statement on this matter not long ago. That statement was republished in all the capitals of the world and had a beneficial influence on the situation in the United Nations. It was precisely because my right hon. Friend highlighted the significance of the political disagreement, reserving the position of his Government and at the same time repeating that we would exercise patience in this difficult situation, that he had such widespread support.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in opening the debate today, said that he would confine himself to a small number of subjects so that we would not have a debate too far-reaching and thereby shapeless and difficult for the Government to reply to in detail. My right hon. Friend added that as there were three Ministers from the Foreign Office batting either today or tomorrow a good many of the other problems that he had not raised but which other hon. Members might mention subsequently would be attended to in replies.
I should like to follow the Prime Minister's advice and concentrate my remarks on two subjects only, the first being the important problem of nuclear proliferation and European security. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will be able to say a good deal more on this than did the Prime Minister who concentrated Largely on Vietnam and one other subject.
First of all there has erupted into the general discussion recently a statement by the German Foreign Minister, Dr. Schroeder which I regard as unhelpful, and in many ways dangerous. I am particularly alarmed that this statement has come from Dr. Schroeder, who is by no means an extremist in these matters, and who has in the past, given evidence that he would like his own Cabinet to be co-operating in this matter of nuclear non-proliferation with other Governments far more than some other members of the West German Government. I was therefore perturbed to find him giving voice to what can only be considered as a threat as to what the attitude of the West German Government might be unless we adopted certain policies.
He said in an interview with a West German paper—and the point was subsequently repeated by Herr von Haase, the Secretary of State responsible for the office of information in the West German Government, at an official Press conference in Bonn—that there were two conditions attached to the participation of the West German Government in trying to agree on a treaty of non-proliferation of nuclear arms. If I may summarise these two conditions, they were, firstly, that there must be an agreement concerning the participation of West Germany in the control of nuclear arms in the N.A.T.O. Alliance roughly along the lines of the M.L.F., if not exactly on those lines, which would allow West Germany to feel secure. The second condition was that there must be an irrevocable international agreement to bring about the reunification of Germany. It is quite clear that this statement comes at a most unfortunate time. There have been a number of discussions during the last twelve months on this subject of non-proliferation, and Her Majesty's Government have stated on many official occasions that they attached the greatest importance to the solution of this particular problem.
Recently there has been a most hopeful development in the United States. The President has set up a committee to advise him on this problem, under the chairmanship of Mr. Gilpatrick, a former high official in the administration of defence in the United States. The report of the Committee has not yet been published but enough of an outline has appeared that is not being contradicted either by the President or by his entourage, and we may be certain that the main recommendations of the Gilpatrick Committee on non-proliferation place a very high priority on the solution of this particular problem.
It has been suggested, by Senator Kennedy, and also, it is assumed on good authority, by the Gilpatrick Committee in its recommendations, that the President should attempt to bring about a nonproliferation agreement, even if it means giving priority to such an agreement over any rearrangement for the control of nuclear arms within the Western Alliance.
It is this priority recommendation, which was made public by Senator Kennedy, which has produced a counter-move in Bonn. The German Foreign Office sent Herr Knappstein, the German Ambassador in Washington, post-haste to see Mr. Dean Rusk and to protest most vigorously against any such concession. What were they protesting against? They were protesting against giving a high priority to an international agreement to end proliferation of nuclear arms. This is quite consistent with the policy which the West German Government have pursued for many years, to sabotage every attempt at real agreement against a spread of nuclear arms.
Whenever a hopeful suggestion has been made, Bonn has been the traditional opponent. It was the opponent of any suggestion from the Labour Party, when we were in Opposition under the leadership of Mr. Gaitskell, to have a treaty for the freezing of nuclear weapons on either side. Bonn has been the leading opponent of any suggestions which have come from the Labour Party when in Opposition to have a European security pact. It has been the leading opponent against any suggestion that has come from the Conservative Government, when in office, to try to reach an agreement, with the Soviet Government on the control of nuclear arms.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House will remember the famous occasion when Mr. Harold Macmillan went to Moscow. He agreed to a joint bulletin, published in Moscow, which stated that an agreement between East and West on the control of nuclear arms and proposals for disengagement "are worthy of serious study and should be seriously looked at". That was enough for Mr. Macmillan to be attacked by heavy fire from the Bonn Government. In fact all he did was sign the communiqué and from then on he forgot the proposal. The suggestions that have been made in Washington, and the proposals put forward again and again by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to give high priority to a treaty of non-proliferation, are now again being attacked by the Bonn Government.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will make it quite clear, when he speaks tomorrow, that the British Government, at any rate, will give full support to the proposals that have been made by the Gilpatrick Committee and by people like Senator Kennedy, that priority will be given to any non-proliferation treaty, and that nothing will be done with the help of Her Majesty's Government to rearrange matters of nuclear control within N.A.T.O. in such a way that it will he a hindrance to a wider East-West agreement later on, which is the only sure foundation of international peace.
Whilst I agree with the point made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) about seeking to prevent proliferation, before he leaves Germany would he not also add to the catalogue which he has just given of German thoughts on this matter, that Germany is the only country which has accepted the A.B.C. agreements imposed by the German Government themselves?
I should have thought that that would not really belong to the kind of catalogue which I was giving, because I was giving a catalogue of sabotage emanating from the Bonn Government. If the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) wants me to add all the useful things that have been done in various capitals including Bonn, or have been imposed upon the Bonn Government, I could do so, but I took it that we all know that the Government in Bonn was by treaty bound not to manufacture nuclear arms, and I did not want to waste the time of the House by repeating that.
This is perfectly correct, and that is what I had in mind when I said that at the time of the Governments of Mendes-France, Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden, these conditions were imposed upon the West German Government.
I should now like to turn to the other main subject of this debate, the dangerous position in Vietnam and South-East Asia. I want to do so first of all by dissent from the manner and tone in which the Prime Minister dealt with this subject. He was determined to give a very quiet opening to this debate, and who can blame him for it? He obviously wanted to keep the temperature down, but during the course of his speech, which opened the debate and was bound to set the tone of it, he left out a great many of the most dangerous elements in the position today and failed to mention others in any detail whatsoever. It is true that he said in general terms that the situation was very dangerous and that we had to do all we could to try to make peace in Vietnam. Everybody will agree with him in that. But when he came to enumerate some of the factors influencing the situation he was rather one-sided.
Therefore, if we are to get a realistic picture of the dangers which are threatening, we have to begin with the policies of intransigence on more than one side which are so prevalent, and the first factor which we must mention is the determination of the United States Administration to bring about a tremendous and increased military buildup in Vietnam. Of this there was no mention in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. There is now serious discussion of seconding another 100,000 soldiers to Vietnam, together with the necessary additional air support.
There is discussion in serious political circles in Washington of the possibility of extending the bombing operation to Hanoi and Haiphong. Of this we have heard nothing in the debate. Of course, this was essentially in the Prime Minister's mind when he said that we must not miscalculate the potential dangers of bringing in other powers. But it is the duty of the House, in a debate of this kind, to spell out these dangers and not only to refer to them in general terms.
There is equal danger of intransigence on the other side. I fully agree with the Prime Minister that there are some people who have been calling for peace in Vietnam who now seem to be calling for victory for the Vietcong. I think that they are misguided. If this country and the Government of this country are to play a useful part in bringing about peace in Vietnam, they cannot possibly wish one side or the other to win. Those people who call themselves peace lovers and who think that they are particularly entitled to embrace the term "peace" do no service to a peaceful solution of the Vietnamese problem by trying to change the emphasis of making peace into one of support for the Vietcong—one side against the other. Therefore, I am interested in putting forward such proposals and seeing such policies enacted as would not lead to the victory of anybody in that war-torn, tragic country but would bring about a situation in which peace can be properly arranged.
It is, however, at this point that we have to fill in some more details which were missing from the Prime Minister's speech. In all the discussion which has taken place in recent weeks about the difficulties to get through to a discussion with Hanoi, there is one factor which must be stated with great emphasis. The policy of Her Majesty's Government over so many weeks of completely identifying this country with all the operations and policies of the United States Administration have been gravely at fault and has made a major contribution in inhibiting Her Majesty's Government from playing the rôle of mediator.
Week after week my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was urged in some organs of the Press and by many of his own supporters not to give such fulsome support to the United States Government's operations, to their policy of extending the war, and not to support the bombing operations against North Vietnam. By turning down these suggestions, he made it more difficult for his own Government to play a useful part in bringing about mediation and negotiations on Vietnam. It will not serve either truth or a real analysis of the problem to suppress this critique which must be somewhere at the beginning of any analysis of the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government.
We have not had much help in this respect from the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), who has just returned to the Chamber. He concentrated his brief contribution on Vietnam on a semi-technical dissertation of what might have been done and what might not have been done when the Government sent a junior member of the Government to Vietnam. The right hon. Gentleman's speech was empty and devoid of any real content. It was a continuation of the bizarre attitude of the Opposition throughout these discussions on Vietnam over the last four months when they had made no constructive contribution whatsoever to the solution of the problem. They have concentrated all the time on trying to make a little party capital in the hope that there might be some disagreement on the Government side.
I will give way in a moment. We are glad to see the right hon. Gentleman back in the Chamber. I want to give him the chance to say more; he said so little this afternoon.
The Opposition have either tried to make a little capital out of the situation, or, until they found that the country did not support them, indulged in niggling and unworthy criticism of the methods used by the Government when they knew that it did not help the situation. Even when my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) was in Hanoi, when they should have been helpful to him, they did everything they could to make his mission more difficult.
During this latest important episode, the Foreign Secretary made a clear statement in the country giving his full authority to the mission undertaken by my hon. Friend the Member for Leek and deliberately spoke with authority as Foreign Secretary in that difficult situation. That was the time when the right hon. Member for Barnet and the Leader of the Opposition spoke in the country about falling into traps. Instead, they should have exercised a certain amount of self-discipline in helping the Foreign Secretary in what he was doing.
Therefore, the task of producing a proper analysis of our policy and of making constructive suggestions reverts to the supporters of my right hon. Friends. They have tried to do their best and they must continue to do so. The past is relevant in analysing the future, and that is why I have mentioned a few details of the past. Without considering them, the future cannot be viewed correctly. What can we do to help to bring about a solution of this conflict? I thought that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister overstated the position this afternoon when he said that Moscow could not be one of the capitals through which an approach to Hanoi could be made. I do not accept his statement on this point. I agree with him that it is extremely difficult to find the right approach, but I believe that the key to the situation is as much in Moscow as it is in Washington and Hanoi.
May I give two important reasons why that is my conviction. The Prime Minister referred to Mr. Gromyko's visit to London. Members of the Government know well, as do members of the Opposition—certainly the right hon. Member for Barnet and the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne), who was one of the hosts to Mr. Gromyko when we had a meeting upstairs—that when Mr. Gromyko was asked in semi-public at the meeting of 200 Members, and in private by several hon. Members, why he could not be persuaded to be more active in co-operating with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to resume his work as co-Chairman, he gave two reasons, only one of which was stated by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister this afternoon.
Mr. Gromyko's first reason invariably was that, as long as the sovereign State of North Vietnam was subjected every day to major bombing operations, it was not possible to take any action of that kind. He said "You cannot go to Hanoi while the bombing continues and suggest that you are acting as a neutral co-Chairman". The second reason which he gave was the one quoted by the right hon. Member for Barnet, namely, that the matter was up to the countries most directly concerned.
There is other evidence which goes to show that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was not complete in his exposition when he said that the road at the moment is not through Moscow. One of the hopeful things that have happened in the last fortnight is the visit of Mr. Harriman to Moscow and the long discussions that are now taking place there. It has been noted that Mr. Harriman has postponed his departure by a full week and although statements have emanated from the State Department warning us not to attach too much importance to those discussions, they are obviously semi-negotiations and not merely discussions.
Mr. Harriman has long experience—this might be a point that will interest the right hon. Member for Barnet and would interest the Leader of the Opposition if he were present—and long associations with the Soviet Union. It could be said that he is persona grata in Moscow. That did not prevent the President of the United States sending him on a special mission. The President of the United States did not regard it as a disqualification for Mr. Harriman that he had long associations with the Soviet Union, starting during the war and continuing up to the present. He thought that it might be a good idea to send a man who had good contacts in Moscow with the Soviet leaders. There is in this a lesson to events nearer home which might be noted. I believe that Mr. Harriman is doing useful work.
If that is so, it is clear that Moscow is in a position of great delicacy, and I should like to make a firm suggestion to the Government about how a way out might be found. It is quite clear that the Soviet Government will not act in Hanoi as long as the bombing continues. I therefore make an earnest appeal to Her Majesty's Government to come out publicly with a statement in which they say that the bombing should cease to improve the international situation. This is now being done in leading articles in The Times, it is being urged by the New York Times and it is being said in the Senate of the United States every day. I cannot see why it should not now be voiced in the proper terms by one ally to another.
Jointly with the proposition that the bombing should cease, we should be getting busy with the co-Chairman suggesting that there should be, not an aggravation of the attitude of Hanoi, but that after a while, after the bombing had ceased unconditionally, in the new atmosphere which was thereby created, the Soviet Government might be persuaded to help us to make a joint approach.
One thing of which I am certain is that unless the bombing ceases, and, above all, if the dangerous proposals now being put forward in Washington that the bombing should be advanced to Hanoi and Haiphong are not reversed, we might be on the edge of that international military conflict of which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister warned us today.
I agree that the Peace Mission—and this was an improvement in the policy of Her Majesty's Government which I very much welcomed—at its first meeting put forward a proposal that ought to be made in Washington; but because of the difficulties appertaining to the work of the Peace Mission, the suggestion has never been made to the President. It has been mentioned only in a communiqué published in London. We cannot expect the President of a great Power to act on communiqués published in another capital.
What I am talking about is a serious approach from Government to Government by methods which must be determined by the Foreign Secretary but publicly made in this country and linked to the proposal that this would help not only to improve the international atmosphere, but also to get the co-operation of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Government in further approaches as joint co-Chairmen.
While I agree with a great deal of what the hon. Member has said, may I ask whether he would not agree that part of the Moscow problem of using its influence to secure peace is that Peking believes that war is inevitable between the Communist and the capitalist worlds and that therefore, as Peking has a great influence in the Vietnam war, it is extremely difficult for Moscow to exercise the influence which it would like to use?
That is precisely what I had in mind in suggesting that as long as the bombing does not stop, the Soviet Government cannot in any way be active in Hanoi. The Soviet Government cannot act even if they wanted to, precisely because, as the hon. Member suggests, they would immediately be accused by Peking of betraying Hanoi. That is why the bombing must stop first before any activation of the Soviet co-Chairman can be helpful.
More than that, however, the bombing must be stopped unconditionally, because no proud country under bombing would agree to negotiations. The proposals now being made in unofficial circles in Washington to bomb Hanoi and Haiphong must be opposed by all the Governments which are in alliance with the United States so that they never become actual.
At the same time, privately and in many other ways, I think that the Soviet Government could be persuaded, after the bombing has stopped, to help with the negotiations in Hanoi. If the authority that I have for this statement does not mislead me, it is reported in Washington that one of the subjects under discussion between Mr. Harriman and the Prime Minister of the Soviet Union is precisely this point: what are the conditions under which the Soviet Government might again play a somewhat more active part in intervening in Hanoi?
I should like the Government to give a helpful reply to these proposals when they answer the debate. I assure them that they would have the overwhelming support of the people of this country, no flatter who represent them in this House, if they came forward with such concrete proposals.
I draw to a conclusion with one final point. It is clear that if we are to make a contribution in gaining peace, we must not desire the victory of either side but we must keep in mind that there is a twin problem involved in Vietnam which will occur again and again in other countries. There is, first, the desire of people to change their political system. As men's minds cannot be controlled, we shall often meet situations in which people want to move in one direction or the other politically, and they must be entitled to do so. Any general veto upon where the people of Vietnam might or might not go, pronounced either in this House or elsewhere, would be completely illegitimate. It would be returning to the days of Metternich in South-East Asia and we would not have the power that Metternich had when he exercised his veto in Europe. It is a mistaken policy.
There is, however, a second part to this aspect of the problem, and that is the legitimate concern put forward by the President of the United States and the American Administration. They are, naturally, concerned that if there were to be a political change in Vietnam or in other similar countries, that political change would quickly be followed by a worsening of the strategic military position of the United States. It is a proper concern of the President of the United States, as he sees the strategic military future of his country—we do not have to tell him how to see it, and we do not have to share his view—to try to safeguard what he regards as important from that point of view.
That is the situation which must be met, and in my view it can be met in only one way. That is that politically the people of Vietnam must be allowed to choose their own future and other countries must do the same. If some want to move to the Right, they must be entitled to do so. If some want to move to the Left, equally they must be entitled to do so.
We must, however, immediately set up machinery by which, after the gradual withdrawal of troops has taken place, as suggested by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in a statement one afternoon from the Dispatch Box and repeated recently in the country, after a successful peace conference, there must be the introduction of such forces under international supervision as would make quite certain that the part of Vietnam that is now governed from Saigon does not automatically go over to a hostile alliance. To this we are as much committed by the general policy of the Government as is the President of the United States. This is something in which we should support the president and it is something to which I would give my full support.
At the same time, however, the policy which has been pursued by the American Administration has had, tragically, the opposite effect. Far from making more certain that the other half of Vietnam does not become too close an ally of the power in South-East Asia that America most fears, bombing operations, the cruelty on both sides, the real tragedy which afflicts the lives of many people in Vietnam, the fact that many new weapons have been tried out against a coloured population have contributed to playing into the hands of Peking.
In appealing in this concrete manner to Her Majesty's Government to make their contribution I have very much in mind in making my plea that we want to confirm our alliance with the United States of America. I am a firm supporter of that alliance. I can think of no British foreign policy which would make sense without it. But it is the right of an ally, I think hon. Members on both sides will agree, to have enough freedom of manoeuvre and independence of policy as to be able to state its own position, and yet co-operate, but criticise when criticism as necessary.
It is on those lines that I think this debate ought to proceed, frankly and freely. The Government ought to take note of what so many of their supporters feel, and if they pursue this new policy I have suggested they will have their reward not only in making a contribution to peace but in the support of millions of people in this country.
I shall listen with interest, as, I am sure, will hon. Members on both sides of the House, to the reply of the Government to some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson). I am delighted to hear him say that he fully supports the American alliance and that he is all for peace and not victory in Vietnam. I think it is worth pointing out for the sake of the record that Mr. Harriman, since he first came to this country in 1941, has been a consistent supporter of his country's foreign policy whichever party in America has been in power; and though he became for a short period Governor of New York he always supported the American Government's international policy taken up by either party in the United States, which, I suggest, is a different comparison from that drawn by the hon. Member.
This debate, as a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House have said, is somewhat unsatisfactory because it is drawn far too wide. I think we would all agree that the narrower a debate the better it is; also I myself shall be as brief as I possibly can.
I want to deal with three different parts of the world, considering as a thread connecting them the phrase "centres of dissolving power"—which is a phrase used, the hon. Member for Penistone may remember, at a conference we both attended in Poland some three or four months ago. It was interesting to have this idea raised in those circumstances, and I think it led them to feel, as we did, and as did my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell), who has had United Nations service, that we had a different approach to a number of these problems 15 or so years ago.
In the immediate post-war period our policy was based on the belief that upon the withdrawal of the colonial powers from various parts of the world they would be followed by the United Nations taking over and safeguarding the successor Governments from aggression, whether overt or covert, clandestine or subversive. Unfortunately, the experience of Czechoslovakia, Korea, Malaya, Cuba, Zanzibar have belied those hopes, and now Vietnam, as the latest and most immediate problem before this House, has brought again the fears that those hopes will again be belied, those hopes which were built up in the post-war years.
The next point I want to take is Vietnam, as a centre of dissolving French power, as it were, in the period of 1945 to 1954. It is a mistake, I feel, to suppose that, in that part of the world, or any other part of the world which the French or British or Dutch have occupied in their different ways, their influence has ended. I think myself that French influence will stay in Vietnam and that it will be of great benefit in the long run to the people of that country. My right hon. Friends have covered and will be covering in some detail the problem of Vietnam. They have been more responsible recently for British policy in that part of the world; but I may perhaps be forgiven, since I myself served at the Foreign Office at one time, for saying something about it; I cast my mind back to 1954 when Sir Anthony Eden obtained the Geneva Settlement in 1954, which was, perhaps, the year of his greatest achievements—that, and the establishment of Western European Union. Later that year he sent me to visit many of the countries of Asia and of South-East Asia, and I saw the leading statesmen, and they all welcomed the achievement of the Geneva Settlement, as it was then called. They were, however, all apprehensive about the possibilities of Chinese expansion and also of subversive activities throughout those areas.
It is strange, looking back, to remember how difficult it was to get the United States to take any practical interest in that part of the world and to remember how difficult it was then as, indeed, it still is, to get other Western Powers to take an interest or to become involved. It is one of the recurring problems of this country. My personal experience goes back to the League of Nations in 1935 declaring Italy an aggressor; and there was then all too little interest taken by other countries of Western Europe, and far too little was and is done by them to protect their friends and allies from aggression. Despite the lesson of Korea four years before—I am speaking of 1954 now—practically nothing was done in Vietnam, despite the knowledge of subversive action by what is now called the Vietcong south of the armistice line.
I would point out once again that the whole Western Alliance, and indeed the whole free world, is concerned with preventing the further spread of subversive anarchy in South-East Asia. The Prime Minister said in his speech today that it is a very difficult situation, and I am certain that we must back our allies, and look for every way to stop the bloodshed in that part of the world. When history comes to be written it will be found very difficult to say that the President of the United States has not done his utmost to try to find a way round these difficulties. He has offered to negotiate, and offered in a way which, three or four years ago, would, I think, possibly have been thought by sovereign States to be humiliating, but he has had the greatness and the courage to do what he has done, and I think we all have to respect him for it.
The next point I want to take is the Middle East; not the Near East as it is so often called, but the Arabian Peninsula which has been a centre of dissolving British—or rather, British-Indian—power in the last twenty years.
Looking back on the history of it, our original interest was that it lay on the line of communication first with the Persian Gulf and with India, and after that with the Suez Canal and Aden, the coaling station. Indeed, until comparatively recently—I think, 1935—Aden came under the Government of India and was only transferred then to the Colonial Office. So, until 1945 policy for the most part was made from Delhi. It was transferred to the Foreign Office here in 1947, with Indian independence, when the whole of the area came under the Foreign Office. During the same period oil was discovered in that area, both in the States with which we had a direct treaty relationship and also in Saudi Arabia, and so there was a common interest between them.
There was a book which I had the pleasure of reviewing recently, called "Eastern Arabian Frontiers", which tells the story in full. I shall not go into it, but I would make the point that in that period, since 1945, we have been preoccupied with other affairs, and new, direct responsibilities and circumstances led to insufficient attention being paid to that part of the world. One of the problems which have resulted has been insufficient delineation of frontiers, and that led to our conflict with Saudi Arabia. That conflict over the years is a great pity, because for so long the Kings of that country have been great friends of Britain. Ibn el Saud was among our best friends, and his sons, first King Saud and then King Feisal, have had very friendly personal relationships with this country.
I would point out to the Government, and to the Minister of State, who, I think, is to reply to this debate today, and who, if I may say so, made a very useful tour of that part of the world recently, that we should now make a particular effort to improve relations with the Saudis. I think in the last few years our relations with them have been better, but I think that a mission of a senior Minister to the Arabian Peninsula would be more productive of good than to other countries in the Near East. There was a recent visit by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation, who was the first Minister to visit Saudi Arabia since I went there in 1956. If the visit to which I have referred could include friendly visits to Saudi Arabia and the Trucial Coasts and South Arabia, again thereby linking up the whole area, it would be good. Since the unfortunate quarrel between the Trucial Sheiks and Saudi Arabia there have been a number of friendly visits by some of the Trucial Sheiks to Saudia Arabia when on pilgrimage which have led to better relations with Saudi Arabia.
These States, which are under British protection, and whose internal administration, and their health and education and other services depend equally with Saudi Arabia, on oil revenue, have many common interests. We should therefore go further and encourage a closer association between our friends and allies in the Persian Gulf and in South Arabia with Saudi Arabia. After all, their interests, both internal and external, are very much the same.
We should also help them, or prepare the way to help our friends in the Yemen when Egyptian aggression is forced out, as has been happening steadily during the last few months. I was in Jedda in 1956 just after the treaty between Saudi Arabia and the Yemen was signed. I think that we should now be ready to build on this and help our friends there to build on that treaty for the benefit of the Yemen, of Saudi Arabia and for our immediate responsibilities in South Arabia.
We must go on to stabilise this area which produces the main energy source, not just for this country, not just for the larger part of the Western world, but for almost the whole of the Eastern hemisphere. It is too little recognised that the policing of the area now called "east of Suez" has been carried out primarily by the British for the benefit of both trade and political stability of practically the whole of the free world. I commend to the Government the opportunity which now arises of following up and sending out a Minister who, by going round these areas, could do much to draw them further together for the benefit of themselves and of Britain.
My third point concerns a different part of the world, and that is Spain and her relationship with Gibraltar. This is not a "centre of dissolving power". It is possibly a point of "change of power". Here again the aim should be for closer association with, and co-operation in, Europe. If I might again go back in history; between 1939 and 1944 I was involved in Spain and in the Western Mediterranean. I had a number of Spaniards who had fought on both sides during the Civil War. They fought on our side during the 1939–45 war, and they all said the same thing, "Whatever else you do, do not start up the civil war again". They were prepared to go in on Hitler's line of communication when there was a German plan to go down and attack Gibraltar in 1942–43. They said, "If we do that, do not start up the civil war, because after the defeat of Germany the régime will ameliorate and change." It has not done so to a greater extent because, as I think is generally known, after the war certain Left-wing elements in the Socialist Party treated Spain as a pariah. This consolidated the regime and rallied many people who were friendly to us, many patriotic Spaniards, behind the regime. They disliked, as would most British, what they regarded as outside interference in their domestic politics.
Between 1951 and 1964 relations between Spain and this country improved considerably, to the benefit of the Spanish people, and of British holidays and trade. With the return of the Socialist Government in 1964, and the Prime Minister's speech in this House about this time last year, the Spanish realised that they had no friend in him. The cancellation of the joint manoeuvres and the refusal to allow them to buy frigates and arms, confirmed that there was a return to the old policies.
Listening to the Parliamentary Questions put to the Colonial Secretary, I often wonder whether he was consulted about all this, because he has certainly been left to carry the baby. The Spaniards were prompted to react in a way which was least harmful to Spain, namely, by blockading Gibraltar, and I must regret most strongly that Spain is taking it out of Gibraltar rather than out of Britain if she must take it out of somebody; and we are forced to support any defensive action by Her Majesty's Government because we do not believe that two wrongs make a right. It is regrettable that Gibraltar should be the exception to the improvement in British-Spanish relations. I am sure that it is a great grief to all the friends of the Spanish people—there are many on both sides of the House—who welcome this steady evolution in Spanish politics and economy—much of it is due to the extension of the O.E.C.D. to the affairs of Spain.
We are sad that the Spanish authorities are so vindictive over Gibraltar, to the acute detriment of good will between us all and hardship for the people of Gibraltar and the Spanish workers who earn their livelihood there. These actions over Gibraltar are losing Spain the support of many of her friends in this country. How much better it would be for Spain's relations with Gibraltar and with the British people if she now said, "We realise that this Socialist Government is only a temporary and final outburst in Britain" and withdrew all her restrictions. There would be an outburst of material benefit and good will between the three peoples—the British, the Spaniards and the Gibraltarians—which would show up the foolish dogmatic and outdated vendettas of certain Socialist elements in this country who, as so often before, luxuriate safely at home in futile impotence while others suffer for their mistakes. But if the Spanish authorities continue with these ill-judged counter measures, we must all be behind the Government in the measure they take to support our friends in Gibraltar.
There is, of course, one special point that I should like to make on this. I think that Spain is understandably interested in the future constitutional status of Gibraltar. I believe that this is of legitimate concern to her. Ever since I served on a committee under a previous Labour Government, from 1948 to 1950, I have believed that Gibraltar might be given some status equivalent to that of the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man. I am not a constitutional lawyer, but I believe that this can be reconciled with the Treaty of Utrecht. My hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) wrote an interesting letter on this point to The Times some months ago, and it was mentioned in the Press, I think yesterday, as being something which is being considered by our friends in Gibraltar.
I believe that such a status would benefit the people of Gibraltar, and would remove the fears of the Spaniards that they might one day find a hostile State on their doorstep. I therefore urge the Government to consider this and to discuss it with the Spanish authorities in due course, but not, of course, under duress.
Out of all this, I make two quick points. The dispute with Spain and Gibraltar shows once again the foolishness of Europe quarrelling over points which, given a modicum of good will and commonsense on both sides, could be solved without any delay, for the benefit of all. We are trying to unite Europe. We believe that thereby lies the best way of preserving our way of life. If we are going to do it, we must surely find a way to resolve this sort of problem within the community of Europe, within the Council of Europe, the O.E.C.D. or by direct confidential negotiations.
I believe that here is an opportunity for the Foreign Office to start making approaches. I am sure that the Iberian Peninsula, as much as the countries of Eastern Europe about which the Prime Minister talked today, is an essential part of Europe in which we all believe. Like the Prime Minister, I visit these countries behind the so-called Iron Curtain. I know, as does the hon. Member for Penistone, who was there earlier this year, that they such as Poland and Hungary and Czechoslovakia are great European countries, and I hope that one day in my lifetime they will be part of the full community of Europe. In the meantime, for Heaven's sake let us find a way of reconciling the position of Spain over Gibraltar, and not get into these painful disputes.
Lastly, in all these three areas of which I have spoken there is both a Foreign Office and a Commonwealth or Colonial Office interest. For long I have believed, with some reason, that the polices in relation to such areas are often not adequately co-ordinated in Whitehall. We must therefore work faster towards creating a Ministry of External Affairs, with Commonwealth Ministers charged with the duty of protecting Commonwealth interests within that Ministry.
The three areas that I have mentioned—Vietnam and Malaysia; South Arabia and Aden with the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia, and Gibraltar and Spain—are examples of areas in respect of which we need closer departmental co-operation than has existed in the past. Some advance has been made in the last ten years, but much remains to be done if we are to prevent our friends overseas being harmed by a conflict of departmental policies in the United Kingdom, as in my opinion exists at the moment over Gibraltar.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taverne) made some criticisms of the way in which the House organises its foreign affairs debates. I agree with him in general, but I am glad that we are able to discuss a wide range of foreign policy today because, at the beginning of my speech, I want to essay the back bencher's most difficult and sometimes unpopular task, that is, to give unreserved support—"unqualified" would be an unfortunate word—for one aspect of Government policy. I hope that the rules of debate will allow me to be a little more acceptable by striking a rather more discordant note at the end of my speech, when I refer to Europe.
I have listened to virtually every speech made in the House today—certainly every one dealing with the problems of Vietnam, and each speech, in almost exactly the same way and in exactly the same terms, demonstrated and epitomised the dilemmas and difficulties that the Government and the House are facing. There was in every speech a great deal of similarity in terms of basic principle. Practically everybody agreed that this was a nasty little war; that this was a war which must be solved by a negotiated settlement; that in this context winning had no meaning.
The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) was careful to say to the Russian Foreign Secretary and to the House that the Americans would not lose—specifically refraining from saying that the Americans would win. All of us agree with those principles. All of us agree with those basic assumptions. I suspect that everyone in the House agrees with the eight suggested criteria laid down by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) about the way in which we should approach the problem of bringing about the right sort of settlement and agreement.
But the task which faces the Government, and the Government alone, is not agreeing to a set of principles but getting that set of principles carried out. The argument that we are really carrying on this afternoon is one not about aims but about the judgment exercised in the execution of those aims—how those aims should have been executed and how they have been. This point was made clear by one example from the growing body of dissent to American foreign policy in America itself. My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) overestimates and overstates the amount of criticism in the United States of that Administration's policy. My hon. Friend should know that when the American Legislature considered the latest appropriation for the Vietnam war only three members of the Senate and seven members of the House of Representatives voted in opposition. Nevertheless, there is a body of dissent.
Even from his brief Parliamentary experience my hon. Friend will be aware that the full body of criticism of one's own Administration does not necessarily show itself in the vote at the end of the evening.
I am equally aware that the system of whipping, division organising and party management is a good deal less strong in the United States than it is in this country. I suspect that if my hon. Friend were a member of that Legislature rather than this he would have voted for the Government rather less frequently than he has voted for them during the last nine months, because in that assembly dissent is more easily expressed and more readily accepted in the Division Lobby than it is on the Floor of the House here.
There is a lot of dissent, much of it disreputable dissent for which hon. Members on both sides of the House would have no time. There is the Isolationist dissent which asks, "Why our money?" or "Why our sons?". One of the most critical was the slogan which appeared in virtually every newspaper while I was in Washington a few months ago on behalf of a thousand priests and clergymen of every denomination, which simply read, "In God's name stop this war now." The significance of that slogan, if slogan it is, is that it repeats almost exactly word for word the final sentence used by the Foreign Secretary at the recent Oxford "teach-in". The difference between my right hon. Friend and that body of dissenters in the United States and other dissenters in this country is that it is my right hon. Friend's task and travail to put this sort of principle into operation.
I want to spend some time examining how the many intiatives taken by this Government have helped to bring that about. One point should be made clear: there has been a great deal of criticism, much of it totally unwarranted, about the visit of my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) to North Vietnam 10 days ago. The part of that criticism that was direct and straightforward—I ignore the innuendo—was based on the fact that my hon. Friend some years ago produced a famous and highly informed pamphlet on Vietnam. It expressed views which were different from mine. I disagreed vocally, and continually, with those views. Notwithstanding that, it has never struck me for a moment that my hon. Friend's visit to Vietnam, 10 days ago, could do anything but good, and was anything but right. It never struck me for a moment that he would omit or add to the brief that he was given by one jot or ignore any of the obligations placed upon him.
There is great significance in the endeavours that the Government have made. First, the Soviet Union to a great extent, and the Communist Chinese to a lesser extent, must be susceptible to world opinion of one sort or another. The Vietnamese war is in no small measure concerned with general Asian policy, and it is not possible for the war to continue with the tacit agreement of the Soviet Union and the support of China if the position is firmly established that aggression lies in Peking and Hanoi, and not in Washington. One of the greatest achievements of the Vietnamese and the Communist Chinese over the last 18 months has been to suggest, with great success, that despite the enormous American restraint between 1959 and 1964—despite their delay in taking active reprisals—aggression came from the United States.
Surely, what we have proved beyond all doubt by our constant attempts to get all the parties round the conference table and what has been proved by the continually bellicose attitude of Peking and Hanoi is that aggression in this area is not the sole responsibility of the United States. Surely, all our efforts have proved that, and nothing but good can come from it. I do not mean good by means of aiding our allies but good in terms of bringing the war to an end. I am convinced that one of the ways it can be brought to an end is by making it clear that this is not a black and white, East-West issue, that there is blame and culpability on both sides and, by our efforts over the last months, we have shown that some of the blame and culpability lies in Hanoi and Peking.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln and many other speakers from this side. It is not possible for negotiations of this sort, which we all want, need and desire, to go on while the Communist Chinese and the North Vietnamese are so convinced that they are winning the war. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in the House a week ago, putting it exactly, that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions had found in Hanoi:
the evident conviction… that the prospects of victory were too imminent for it to be worth their while to forsake the battlefield for the conference table."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th July, 1965; Vol. 716, c. 783.]
That put it well and exactly, but it had been put better by the Deputy Prime Minister of North Vietnam, who said that the entire Commonwealth peace initiative was an "attempt by the Americans to escape from their inevitable defeat". Nobody in his right mind wants this war to go on a day longer than necessary, but we must face the fact that while the North Vietnamese are winning the war, our chances and opportunities of getting them and their supporters and partners to the conference table are a good deal worse than if they felt that this was their only possible means of bringing the conflict to any sort of conclusion.
They are, of course, winning the war. I am told that before the monsoons are over they will be in occupation of Bihn Dihn. Already, the Mekong Delta is virtually under their control and Western papers have told in the last five days of the famous North Vietnamese "War Map" which shows the purple lines of Vietcong infiltration moving week by week further south. These are not ideal conditions in which to expect them to negotiate.
Hon. Members on both sides still have to face the fact that it will be difficult to get them round the conference table after they have been convinced that the war cannot be successfully terminated in any other way. Probably, bombing is not the way to do it. There are moral as well as military objections to bombing. The moral objections are largely absolved by the precise, almost incredible care which the United States have used to limit their bombing to whatever military targets they think are necessary. There is the strange, almost Alice-in-Wonderland quality about American preoccupation with avoiding attacking anything remotely like civilian targets.
All peace-loving people should pay some sort of strange tribute to a military power which does not bomb rocket installations whose purpose is to shoot down its fighter bombers, because it feels that they are too near a major city. This is an almost incredible development in military history and something which we should put on record and which we should all pay tribute to. Nevertheless, irrespective of the Americans' great concession—
Where did my hon. Friend get this information that there has been pinpoint bombing of purely military objectives? Did he see reports in the Sun newspaper—certainly not a Communist newspaper—which gave full details of the terrible effects of the bombing on the civilian population?
I take my hon. Friend's point. If I have given the impression, the altogether ludicrous impression, that this bombing has gone on without some destruction of civilian life and property, of course I withdraw it. The point on which I insist is that the American military authorities have gone to some trouble to limit the civilian damage, death and injury as much as they can. Of course, my hon. Friend is right to say that it is not possible to follow this up and exclude every civilian from injury, death or damage. But I confirm and insist that there has been great determination on the part of the American Administration to minimise this as much as possible.
Notwithstanding the moral provisos, the real factor of the bombing is that it will not win the war. Heavy bombing does not undermine the morale of a people, and it may stiffen it. There is a case for saying that the bombing has convinced other nations in Asia that the Americans mean business, that American promises will be kept and that American protection is something on which one can rely. A rather fulsome open tribute by the Thai Foreign Minister was to the effect that the bombing in Vietnam would save not only Vietnam but the entire free world. This is evidence of the support which many of the non-Communist countries have for America, which they believe underwrites and confirms their future free existence.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House who say, as I do, that we want a negotiated peace and that a negotiated peace can only come about when the Vietcong acknowledge that there is no better alternative way, must support the entry of large numbers of American troops into South Vietnam. Some of my hon. Friends have spoken this afternoon about the possibility in terms of horror, disagreement and opposition. But if they subscribe as I do to the belief that a negotiated peace can come about only when we can negotiate from a position of strength, they must see that it may be a necessity. Supports of Government policy and of the policy of the American Administration are to some degree conditioned by basic reflexes and reactions.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone I have no hesitation in saying that I support entirely and completely the Atlantic Alliance and all the things for which it stands. Indeed, I go further. I am determinately enthusiastic about our alliance with America. I feel we owe an enormous debt to the Americans and have an enormous amount to gain from being allied with them. I do not mean by that that I feel bought by the dollar loan or feel the need for the support of the nuclear umbrella, but that there are good, positive and enormous advantages in continuing our permanent and detailed alliance with the Americans. This is one of the stumbling blocks which many hon. Members like me feel when we consider Britain and her attitude towards Europe and other economic blocs. They suggest that we must choose in some way between Europe and America and Europe and the Commonwealth.
I shall conclude by making three or four comments about what I regard as Britain's future as a European Power and her future relations with Europe and the Economic Community. I have said and confirm that I am to a degree critical of what I regard as a lack of enthusiasm for Europe among members of the Government. I have said and confirm that I that the Government could look at Europe with a more positive, determined and creative eye. Of course the Prime Minister is right to say that entry to Europe at the moment is not a practicability and that to sign the Treaty of Rome and negotiate afterwards is nonsense. Of course, there must be a great deal of preparation before we make concrete proposals and positive steps are taken to become a full member of the Community, but there are some things which we should agree in preparation for it.
If we are to gain from the enormous advantages which Europe could present, and gain from the benefit which such an enormous market would give us, we have an obligation to ourselves and Europe at least to take decisions which will make it harder for us to get in once the door is open.
First, we must convince ourselves that Europe is not simply a customs union in which low or high tariffs are the object of existence, but that it is a creative, viable economic plan and integrated unit. I believe that the community has enormous opportunities to offer the people of Britain and that we could play a large part in the community without prejudicing the sort of relationship we now have with the United States.
Were this country to have to choose between Europe and America I should find it an agonising choice, but I probably would choose America. At the moment we have everything to gain by having this relationship with both and I believe that our Commonwealth partners have most to gain by it too. Ghana and Nigeria are already doing their best to cement their own relations with the Community with a view to obtaining the benefits of aid and trade which membership would provide.
I urge the Government not to be restrictive, because I do not believe that we have to choose between one bloc and another. I urge the Government to develop greater enthusiasm for our membership of the Community. I also urge them—although I appreciate that I need not do so because their policies during the last nine months have shown their desire to do this—to show continued enthusiastic support for American foreign policy in Asia. It is in no way contradictory to Britain's potential rôle in Europe.
Many hon. Members have pointed out that winning the war in Vietnam carries no real advantage. We must realise, however, that losing it could be an absolute disaster for the West.
I agree with much of what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) said and, like him, I was recently in the United States. I talked with many people in most parts of that great country about foreign affairs for the eight weeks I was there. I believe that the people of the United States are, by and large, solidly behind their President over Vietnam. America is today far more one country than has ever been before. This is presumably due to the jet engine and the spread of television. I found that the majority of people there take much the same view about external affairs, whether they are in Syracuse or Seattle.
The strength of the President of the United States stems partly from the fact that as a Democratic Party President he has taken over Republican foreign policy—in the same way as the present Socialist Prime Minister here has taken over Conservative foreign policy. [Interruption.] Doing so obviously strengthens the position of both the President and the right hon. Gentleman. The Americans are determined to win in Vietnam, but I agree that, as yet, they do not quite know how to do so.
We do not have nearly enough time to discuss foreign policy in the House. We have just completed 117 hours on the Finance Bill. The maximum amount of time spent this Session on foreign affairs is 13 hours, the debate today and tomorrow, and in this Session we have had only some 13 hours to discuss Commonwealth affairs. I appreciate that the control of finance is a vital function of Parliament. I suggest, however, that the pressures of external affairs on our economy are equally vital and that the House should have as much time to discuss these external pressures on internal matters as is spent on other important subjects.
The same applies to defence. We spend six to seven days a year discussing defence. About the same amount of time is spent on that subject in the other place. Our opposite numbers in the United States, in the House of Representatives, spend two and a half months in discussion in the House Armed Service Committee and the House Military Affairs Sub-Committee. The Senate spends about the same amount of time followed by a four or five days debate. I suggest that many internal financial matters could be discussed in Committee upstairs so that more time would be available on the Floor of the House for discussing issues which really matter and which really affect our internal affairs. At present the external pressures affecting our internal affairs are only rarely discussed.
Britain's internal position is one of weakness, and I believe that the world is heading for a major crisis. Unfortunately we in Parliament are only given time to discuss some of these matters, so I will mention only two major issues; Europe and the Indian Ocean area.
In Europe our weakness is obvious. It is that we have far too small a home market. The disastrous effect on our space and aircraft industry of the policies in the last year has highlighted this weakness. We have a small home market of 53 million people. We could produce the TSR2, but at astronomical cost. America, with its enormous home market, is able to produce its opposite number, the F111, at relatively low cost. If we had a home market of that magnitude we could compete with America in many ways. Our markets must be enlarged—this is a fundamental fact and three alternatives or a combination of three alternatives have been suggested in order to accomplish this aim.
The first is the Commonwealth. This is an organisation with more than 600 million people. It is one of the largest expanding markets in the world, but it is a difficult market. The Commonwealth economics are no longer complementary to our economy. They have to protect their own industries. Commonwealth trade, both import and export, has shrunk to about 30 per cent. of our total trade, but the Government are to be congratulated on setting up the Commonwealth Export Council and the various committees covering the various sectors of the Commonwealth. It was pointed out by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations in a recent debate that the Commonwealth still represents some 25 per cent. of the free world's trade, so there is plenty of room for increase.
Two things must be said here. First, that trade follows investment, as I am sure, both sides of the House will agree. The Finance Bill will make investment in the developing countries of the Commonwealth far more difficult than it has been in the past Secondly, trade follows political stability, and I would again commend to the Treasury Bench the words of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in advocating insurance against political risk, which has already been undertaken by America, Germany and Japan.
The second alternative is Europe—a market of 170 million people, or even more, and growing each year. So far, we have always discussed Europe in economic terms, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) has today pointed out that Europe, and our future with Europe, is also a political and strategic question. I hope that the Government will now come clean and say what kind of Europe they want. The Prime Minister this afternoon said that it was wrong to interfere in the quarrels now going on in the Common Market, and I agree, but it is up to this House and to the leaders on all sides to tell the country what their view is of the political future of Europe, and of our political future in Europe if we join the European Economic Community.
Is it, for example, to be a United States of Europe, the federal concept, such as I believe the Germans, the Italians and the Dutch would desire?
The Prime Minister himself indicated that he came down in favour of this alternative, and I think that the vast majority of the people in this country would wish us to go into Europe provided we retained our sovereignty and had some association along the lines of l'Europe des Patries.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet pointed out, some form of compromise is possible. We should centralise as much as possible, but I would enter this caveat. I am certain that, whatever form of Europe we have, we do not want it run primarily by civil servants from Brussels with very little Parliamentary control. I believe that President de Gaulle has done a service to Europe and to this country by pointing the dangers inherent in the Commission's recent proposals, which were based on agricultural policy but which had very fundamental political implications.
The third alternative has to some extent already been referred to by the hon. Member for Sparkbrook; to increase our trade with the United States of America—a market of 190 million people, also rapidly expanding. There is a strong case for a closer link between the old Commonwealth, this country and the United States. The drawbacks are obvious. The United States would be the economic giant, but is she not already controlling the Canadian economy and, to a growing extent, the Australian and New Zealand economies, and penetrating deeply into our own?
The other drawback is that a closer link with the United States might cause in this country a depopulation somewhat similar to that in Ireland 60 or 70 years ago. Again, that might not be a bad thing. In fact, I should like to see a lot of the population of this country, which is grossly over-populated, going to the old Commonwealth and, if we were full partners, also to the United States of America.
Britain would, I believe, have a much greater influence if she were associated with the United States than she would have in association with Europe. If the Soviet Union joins Europe, as I believe she will eventually, this argument becomes even stronger. Britain would have a greater influence if she was closer to the United States than she would in a Europe which included the Soviet Union, as I hope and believe it will.
The £ and the dollar on their own are weak. We know the stresses and strains that there have been on the £. I have been told in America that there are equal stresses and strains on the dollar and that if the £ was devalued the dollar would follow very soon. But the £ associated with the dollar would become an unbeatable trading currency.
At the moment, the Kennedy Round negotiations are continuing in Geneva, though admittedly they are bogged down at the moment because of the difficulties about the European Economic Community. But may this not be an opportunity for us to construct a bridge between E.F.T.A. and the United States? It may well be that President de Gaulle does not want the Kennedy Round negotiations to be successful and that France might have kept the E.E.C. out of full agreement in the Kennedy Round. But my experience is that countries in the Free Trade Area are keen to lower tariffs and increase trade, and therefore there may well be a link worth strengthening between E.F.T.A. and the United States. That is, however, only a first step, because I am one of those who are convinced that an Atlantic Alliance—by which I mean a full political, economic and military alliance—between Great Britain, the old Commonwealth, Europe and the United States of America is inevitable and will probably come far sooner than most people seem to think.
I turn to my second point, and that is the matter which I believe is the most important problem in the world today and which really has not been mentioned during the debate. The basic problem facing the world is surely the extraordinary and astronomical birthrate in Asia. China, with 1,000 million people at the turn of the century and 700 million now; India, with a rapidly increasing population; the whole of Asia, by the end of the century, with more than the whole population of the world today. In other words, the number of hungry bellies in the world is increasing day by day.
What has the United Nations to say about this? U Thant, the Secretary-General, in his report on the Development Decade, pointed out that the gap in per capita income was widening. He said that the development of resources in the developing countries was being pushed back by progress in science and technology, because developed countries tend to invest more in these sophisticated concepts and therefore less in dealing with the relatively simple problems of the poorer countries. Thirdly, he said that help to the developing countries was, largely speaking, unorganised. He pointed out that two-thirds of the world's population share together less than one-sixth of the world's income.
I believe that this is the fundamental problem in front of us. What are we to do? Obviously we must try to give more Government aid, in the shape of grants and loans, and increase private enterprise investment, which is fundamentally far more important than Government aid.
What have we done? In our country we have cut down the chance of private enterprise investment because of our balance of payments problems. The situation is exactly the same in America. They are cutting down their private investment in developing territories because of the same balance of payments problems. That means that the gap between the haves and have-nots will get larger rather than smaller.
The problem is basically economic, but I believe it is also political. Is the world going to be able to evolve as we have evolved or as the Americans have evolved, or, because of the disparity between rich and poor, are we to have revolution on a world scale? If we have revolution on a world scale, the line-up is becoming clearer. On one side there will be Europe, the United States of America, some of the Latin American States, the Soviet Union, Southern Africa and Australasia against the rest of the world led by China. That, I suggest, is the recipe for complete and utter disaster, with on the one side the concentrated economic and military power of the world and on the other side the concentrated masses of the populations of the world.
I believe that we have, therefore, two tasks to perform, one military and one economic. The position is getting so desperate that it is absolutely essential to hold key areas of the world in order to buy time for economic development. The main key area of the world today is the Indian Ocean. It may well be that World War Three has started already in the Indian Ocean area, not a world war of an exchange of inter-continental ballistic missiles but a world war based on the subversion of existing governments and on guerilla warfare, a warfare at which the Chinese are the world's experts.
If we consider the Indian Ocean as an arch, let us consider what is going on around the periphery. On the right hand side we have trouble in Vietnam, Malaysia and Burma, and India is unstable economically and politically. That is why we must back the Americans in Vietnam. If Vietnam goes, Malaysia goes. If Malaysia goes, probably some years later India goes. I believe that it is equally important to do what we can to back our Commonwealth allies in Malaysia.
As an aside, I would suggest that we should give some thought to giving recognition to some of the new Governments in exile in that part of the world. I refer to the South Moluccas and West Papua. These groups of islands have been forced into the Indonesian empire, partly by force by Indonesia, partly through appeasement of the great Powers and the United Nations. West Irian is now part of Indonesia, who holds the island by force. We should gain a good deal by assisting the Melanesians. I consider it wrong that West Papua should be under Indonesia. The Indonesians have not carried out their promises to the United Nations. Indeed, they have now left the United Nations, and it looks as if they never will. We should consider helping our friends in order to embarrass our enemies. It is clear that in that part of the world President Soekarno is our enemy and that a Melanesian Federation would be to our advantage.
Looking to the left-hand side of the arch brings me to the Middle East. There, again, surely we must back our friends. We are now getting a reputation for never fully supporting our friends, and that is why we are losing friends and why we have not got the support that we used to have among nations of the Middle East. I suggest that our friends in the Middle East are the Federal Government of Southern Arabia and the Rulers of the Trucial States. I suggest that Britain should back the Federal Rulers against the politicians of Aden. I suggest that, while doing all we can to democratise and economically reform the States, we should realise that the Rulers of the Trucial States are on our side and are our friends. I commend to the House the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) when he spoke about the importance of good understanding with Saudi Arabia and better relations with that great Arab nation.
Still looking at the left-hand side of arch, there is not time for me to say much about Chinese penetration of Africa, but I assure hon. Members that that is proceeding apace particularly in East and Central Africa. The Chinese have the big advantage that their object is destruction. The Soviet object is constructive in that the Russians want to construct Governments in their own likeness, as the West also tries to do. The Chinese however are out to destroy the status quo and so to strike a blow at both the West and the Soviet Union. The House will appreciate that destruction is very much easier than construction.
If the Indian Ocean is vital to us, then the two flanks are the vital areas. These two flanks are Southern Africa and Australia. In Southern Africa there are 4 million white men and in Australia 11 million. It is absolutely imperative for the future of western civilisation that these men should exercise political power in those two areas for some time to come. It is only under their leadership that the economic resources of Southern Africa and Australia can be deployed fully, and it is only if these resources are deployed that the standard of living in one case of the whole of the continent of Africa and in the other case of South-East Asia can be raised. Therefore, here again I believe that the four million whites in Southern Africa and the 11 million in Australia are our friends and should be backed, whatever disagreements we have about some of their policies.
But it would be wrong to suggest that movements arising in Asia can be for long held in check by force. Obviously, we must have a forceful policy of building up the standard of living of these people. These hungry bellies must be filled. How? There is no time to develop the theme but I believe that we should concentrate more on agriculture and much less on prestige things like steel plants and civil airlines. Agriculture is what produces the food that fills the bellies.
Western aid should be better co-ordinated. For instance, France channels E.E.C. aid to the former French colonies. If we were to co-ordinate our aid more, we could perhaps bring in countries like Switzerland which has large investments in India and Africa. Far too little aid is given anyway but we could make much better use of what is given, both by co-ordination and a clear system of priorities.
Stable commodity prices would do more to help many small countries than almost anything else and, broadly speaking, trade is better than aid. We have therefore two tasks: first, militarily we must hold certain key areas; secondly, most important of all, we must see that the disparity between the too rich and the too poor is checked and the balance altered so that the good things that God gave us are spread more equally among mankind.
This has been a serious and very interesting debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) reflected the feelings of both sides when he asked for more time for debates on foreign affairs. To me, there appear to be deserts of Parliamentary time when we have to deal with the Government's unwieldy Finance Bill and do not have sufficient opportunity in the House to discuss what is really the major subject.
Almost every speaker has inevitably concentrated on Vietnam, and I want to speak on this too before dealing with the other two important issues which have engaged the attention of hon. Members—the United Nations and our relations with Europe. I did not hear the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker). I understand that he spoke about the Arabian peninsula and Spain and Gibraltar. I hope that the Minister of State will give him a considered reply. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will also have something to say in reply to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice about the population explosion.
On Vietnam, the Prime Minister gave strong reasons for the Government's backing of American policy. We on this side are sure that it is right. I think that this afternoon there was a general acceptance of their policy, except on the part of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), who implied that he spoke for a considerable number of hon. Members opposite who are in flat disagreement with the Government's support of the Americans in Vietnam.
The Prime Minister said that he would not deal with the origins of the conflict because these have been well explained before—notably by the Foreign Secretary—and, as we support him fully in his analysis, we must also fully support his policy in backing the Americans in South-East Asia. I was interested to hear that the leader of the Liberal Party also takes this view.
We are absolutely clear on the reasons for the American, Australian and New Zealand presence in South Vietnam. They are there to repulse a cruel assault upon an independent country which has asked for help and to hold the line of the Communist advance in South-East Asia. It is, of course, a direct British interest for two main reasons, first, because it holds a position in advance of our S.E.A.T.O. obligations and, secondly, because it protects our forces in Malaysia from having to fight on two fronts.
There must be many hon. Members present who have personal knowledge from their constituents of British forces fighting in Malaysia, as was said by the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) and as I have of our own Highland Regiment. These men are our neighbours and these men we know. This is why we are so directly involved in the stability of South-East Asia and why the whole House feels personally about the search for peace.
The desire to negotiate on behalf of the South Vietnamese has been made clear on a number of occasions and by the United States over a period of months, ending in President Johnson's Baltimore declaration that he would enter discussions under any conditions. This was backed by the withdrawal of United States bombers for five days, which however drew no response from the Communist side. It is, therefore, clear that in working for a cease-fire and a settlement there cannot be a one-sided withdrawal of forces from the battle area. As U Thant said, there must be restraint on both sides.
Suppose that the United States decided to withdraw on her own. As the
Australian Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, said at a Press conference at Canberra on 13th July:
Would anybody with his five wits doubt that before long Chinese Communism, acting through North Vietnamese Communism, would sweep down on South Vietnam, would put itself in a position to control Thailand would render the position of Malaya almost intolerable putting Malaya between two fires and therefore before long we would find ourselves with aggressive Communism almost on Australian shores.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet spoke in particular of the vital need that in making any moves for peace, that timing is all important, as it is indeed in all political affairs. Many of us have personal knowledge of the type of country and climate in South-East Asia and therefore understand only too well why it is that in this monsoon period the Vietcong are making such considerable gains. It is therefore unrealistic to expect them to stop now or for the South Vietnamese, with American, Australian and New Zealand support, to let them consolidate positions. The Vietcong and those backing them must first fully understand that the Americans will never give in. Equally, they must come to realise the enormous power that she has at her command.
It is against this background that the idea of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' mission must be set. In our view this valuable endeavour has been put seriously at risk by the manner in which the Prime Minister bulldozed it through the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference and sought the maximum publicity for its reception in various capitals before making careful, and tactful moves to prepare the way first.
The Prime Minister always says that he does not care how many rebuffs he has as long as he achieves his object, but I respectfully suggest that, for the sake of his own country's power of influence, he should try his best to avoid them. This is even more true when it is his country which holds the immense responsibility of representing 20 nations in the search for peace. The reason why we are so deeply concerned about the Prime Minister's handling of the whole affair is that it must lessen confidence among our allies in his judgment on such delicate matters. Above all it may very well impair any future chance that the Commonwealth Mission may have to use its influence at the right time in the right way.
Does it not reflect very strongly on the 20 Commonwealth Prime Ministers to suggest that these independent countries could be bulldozed or railroaded in this way? Is the hon. Lady not aware that throughout this period 20 out of 21 Commonwealth Prime Ministers supported this Mission?
Indeed, but he also said, and I have the quotation from The Times here, that the Commonwealth Prime Ministers had not come to London to support what he called "Wilson's mission". Those are not my words. Then there were the extraordinary manoeuvres over the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, which have been referred to by several hon. Members, notably my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe).
The Prime Minister said that he represented the Government, the North Vietnam authorities said that he was there at his own request and did not represent British Government policy. The Hanoi radio described him as:
One of the many British personalities who protested against United States aggressive policy in Vietnam and demanded that the British Government dissociate itself from United States imperialism on the Vietnam question.
Maybe it was for that reason that the Parliamentary Secretary was only allowed to go as far as Hanoi and the Foreign Office First Secretary was not. It is indeed sad that the hon. Member's personal friend, President Ho Chi Minh, could not receive him. At least we have got somewhere as a nation. We have had Mrs. Perl, as the Scots say, first-footing. The Prime Minister has defended his curious methods of diplomacy on the grounds that we do not recognise North Vietnam. But with whatever loyalty the Parliamentary Secretary sought to explain his
Government's publicly-stated position on North Vietnam, his mission was bound, from the start, to run two serious risks which could be most damaging to the search for an honourable peace.
The first was that his visit could be and was used by Hanoi for propaganda purposes, and secondly it might give the impression that the United States, Australia and New Zealand were weakened in their resolve to contain Communist subversion and attack. History is scored with tragedies due to such miscalculations. In the event, I think we were lucky that this Mission nearly failed. It could have been far worse. I agree with the Sunday paper which said:
The Prime Minister's Liking for weird diplomacy has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished.
Let us then return to sound diplomacy backed by strength, which has carried this country through many perilous years since the last war. Even the Prime Minister himself this afternoon referred to careful timing when, in the context of Malaysia, he said that a peace move could be initiated, "As soon as there are signs that there is a willingness to talk". I do not think we shall get that now while the monsoon is in progress. I do however think that the search for a just and stable peace may take us much longer than we would like, for the world now knows that the Communists will not sue for peace except on their own conditions. That is why it is vital, in any future initiative, that the Government should not just inform but also consult the Americans on its nature and content. For it is the United States that bears the brunt of the struggle on behalf of us all.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, South spoke with his great interest about the United Nations. He said that he thought that the machinery of the United Nations should be used more often for keeping peace.
Of course, while the Security Council is still in being, it is very necessary that the General Assembly should convene by agreement as soon as possible. The hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu), who also takes a great interest in the United Nations, made some very trenchant remarks about Ministers, and particularly about the appointment of the Minister of State for Disarmament and the Minister of State at the United Nations. He said that since they were appointed there had been a steady deterioration in both these important fields. I shall leave it to the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, or perhaps the Foreign Secretary, to reply to the hon. and learned Gentleman.
My hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) spoke with his great experience of the United Nations when he was in the Foreign Office, and, in particular, about the Peace-keeping Committee. I understand that the Foreign Secretary is to speak about the United Nations tomorrow. I hope that he will pay special attention to these three speeches on the United Nations. I should like to ask him, in particular, about the progress of the Peace-keeping Committee. We understand that the General Assembly will convene on 1st September, which I am sure everybody in the House welcomes. But it has also been reported that this has come about because Britain has agreed to waive Article 19, which deprives member States of their votes if they are over two years in arrears with their financial assessments.
It was reported in the Sun newspaper of the 17th of this month that Britain's compromise formula is:
that the West does not accept that the debt, although not collectable, was not incurred.
I hope that the Foreign Secretary will deal with this matter because, if it is true, the Government cannot pretend that they have not gone back on repeated assurances given in the House that they supported Article 19. Britain accepted the ruling of the International Court of Justice that all expenses of the United Nations, including its peace-keeping operations, should be the responsibility of all members. Indeed, Lord Caradon, as Minister of State, speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in January, said this:
it is the policy of my Government to support and strengthen the United Nations. It would indeed be a betrayal of that high purpose if we were to make our first act an abandonment of the principles of the Charter which we are all pledged to support. Most important of all, we should be betraying our obligations if we destroyed the sole sanction for the financial contributions which are essential for the continuation of all the activities of the United Nations".
As my hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn said, the root of the financial problem is the insistence of Russia and others that peace-keeping costs were illegal because the "uniting for peace" resolution in 1950, which circumvented the Security Council veto, was in itself illegal. But it was the Soviet Union which, on 31st October, 1956, voted for the resolution referring the situation in the Middle East to the General Assembly and, on 13th July, 1960, voted for the resolution authorising the Security Council to provide the Government of the Congo with military assistance.
It was Mr. Adlai Stevenson who pointed this out with so much force. May I say from my own experience of the United Nations that I know how very much he will be missed, not just for his gifts, but for himself.
The "uniting for peace" resolution has never in fact been judiciously determined, but the Interntaional Court of Justice based the validity of the United Nations Emergency Force on Article 14. In its advisory opinion it said this:
… it is apparent that the operations were undertaken to fulfil the prime purpose of the United Nations—that is, 'to promote and maintain a peaceful solution of the situation'. This being true, the Secretary-General properly exercised the authority given to incur financial obligations of the Organisation".
This, of course, is what Russia will not accept.
It appears from an Answer given by the Foreign Secretary to a Question on 21st June that while the Government accept that the primary responsibility for international peace rests with the Security Council
the General Assembly also has power in this respect and the two bodies should be considered complementary and not competitive".
The Foreign Secretary said that he would put forward new proposals on this fundamental issue. He said:
We attach great importance to evolving procedures for peacekeeping by consent"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st June, 1965; Vol. 714, c. 1186.]
The House would be interested to know exactly what else is meant by these words. Do they mean that the Government are moving towards the Russian position, that
the Security Council has the only responsibility for peacekeeping operations where enforcement and coercion are concerned? Or do they mean that, while supporting the Charter, in giving prime responsibility to the Security Council they are trying to gain support for the idea that the Assembly should be able to initiate peacekeeping measures by consent, financed voluntarily by only a proportion of member States who agree with this operation? These are important matters on which, I suggest, the House of Commons would wish to express its opinion.
It is just because the United Nations reflects the realities of life, if not of power, that the only real insurance for its future is that the political conditions should be created in which the Security Council can act as a team. That was the basic assumption on which the United Nations was founded. That is why the new move by Russia to resume disarmament negotiations is of major importance because it continues the East-West dialogue. No doubt, too, it will give opportunities to ease the Soviet Union's position in relation to China.
The House must have been interested in the speech made by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taverne), who placed the major problem of Vietnam in the context of Soviet American relations. We welcome also the possible—we hope, probable—visit to Moscow later in the year by the Foreign Secretary, and I am sure that the House was interested to hear of the very frank discussion which seems to have taken place between my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet and the Soviet leaders. It would have been interesting to hear from the Prime Minister what is his thinking about why the Soviet Union has so suddenly asked to have the Disarmament Conference again after so long a period without it.
If the free world is to edge towards agreement with the East, it is a cardinal truth that here in Western Europe we must settle the differences between ourselves. The crisis among our friends in the European Economic Community is as great a shock to the Alliance as it is to them. Yet somehow I feel that even this crisis will be overcome, because the Community has been such an outstanding success and one cannot imagine any European union without France.
Although the dispute seems to be over agriculture, it appears far more fundamental, over the nature of political control. This is the great debate, as several hon. Members have said, between those who believe in a federal structure of Europe and General de Gaulle's l'Europe des Patries. This has gone on with unabated vigour since the end of the war. It certainly raged throughout the three years when I was a member of the Council of Europe.
It is said that the Five will table compromise proposals at the next meeting of the Common Market Council of Ministers on 26th July but there will be, I am sure, a considerable period of uncertainty, because France has said that she will not attend on 26th July but might do so at the next meeting on 28th September if the compromise is acceptable. Wars of nerves take time, and they will affect the Kennedy Round and many other negotiations.
How, then, will it affect this country? My right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet told us how our last negotiations for entering the Common Market were based upon an acceptance of the principles of the Treaty of Rome. The reason for our application to join then are as valid today, and it is on the same principles that we shall have to negotiate when an approach from us would be welcome. Remembering always that we shall seek to join the Community not just as it appeared from the start but as it will be in the future. For it is for the Six now to decide how they wish to fashion their own brilliant conception. If France is to stay a fully working member, the Community may evolve and grow into something rather different from the original idea.
We cannot, however, support the view, put forward in some quarters, that we should work for a United Europe without political content. We must recognise that true European unity involves major economic, political and strategic decisions, and in many ways it is the most compelling reason for joining the Common Market. For it is, surely, a prime British interest to share in shaping Europe.
I believe there is a rising tide of public opinion in this country which believes this to be true, and I believe also that the Prime Minister recognises this and is trying his very best to skirt round the rather more rigid conditions which governed his Labour Party's approach to Europe. But it is a powerful tide of public opinion which we on this side of the House feel will before long sweep away the Labour Party, surcharge and all.
There is one thing in this debate which reflects real anxiety, and that is that the close grouping of six nations on the Continent will create permanent divisions in Europe. Six is not a magic number. Indeed, to limit the E.E.C. to six would limit the power of its growth and influence. If Britain and the E.F.T.A. countries contributed to its strength we should have a union of over 250 million people able to give real trading and capital opportunities for the Commonwealth, and, may be, able also, in time, to attract Eastern European States.
Many people seem to think that when General de Gaulle is gathered to his fathers all with change. But will it? I expect hon. Members will have seen the very interesting report on American. French and European relations given by the Republican Party to the United States House of Representatives, a report by a European fact-finding mission. It said this:
General de Gaulle's policies are not apt to disappear from the world when he leaves office. He rides powerful currents of opinion which flow throughout Western Europe.
The report then goes on to argue that the United States must now recognise that the European nations have rebuilt their economies after the war and now want to fulfil their rôles in the world of politics, and in science and technology which they have done so much to advance. It follows that the structure of the Alliance must shift
from the leader-follower basis, almost inevitable in 1949, to that of true partnership
This will involve difficult defence, political and economic decisions, if any reality is to be given to the transition from dependence to inter-dependence.
I submit, therefore, finally to the House that in Europe there are two central ideas which we should follow. Firstly, we must ensure that no single nation dominates the centre of Europe. Secondly, that, whatever greater respon- sibilities Europeans may bear, we must collectively remain true to the Atlantic Alliance. This is a prime British interest. It is also that of Europe, and of the free world.
The rôle of those who wind up on the first day of a two-day debate is a rather strange one. It was a former Foreign Secretary of the party opposite, who, when I was a very young Member of Parliament, told me that the only safe rule was to refer to no one who had spoken, and to none of the subjects that had been touched upon. I shall not be able to be a perfect pupil of Lord Butler, but the problem to which the Prime Minister referred in opening the debate remains, and that is that the Ministers who speak have to have a division of labour. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will deal at considerable length with the points that have been raised on Vietnam, Europe, and the United Nations, when he speaks tomorrow, but I should like to comment on a few points raised by the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) and the hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir).
First, if it is right to discuss Europe on party lines in this House, am I not entitled to ask why there was no reference to Europe and to joining the Six in the programme put before the British people by the party opposite less than 12 months ago? May I also, as one who was a minority in his own party, a minority in this House, and a minority in the T.U.C., and who advocated that Britain should be a founder-member of the Coal and Steel Community, say that Britain's relationship with Europe in the past, in the present, and in the future, is far too serious a subject to be debated in a party spirit, with the scoring of party points. I am glad that today the Prime Minister and the principal Foreign Affairs spokesman of the Conservative Party, in company with the Leader of the Liberal Party, united in saying that we wish unanimously that the Six can compose their differences, and that the great and magnificent concept which the European Community respresents can go forward.
I think that it would be wrong to spend any more time in this winding-up speech in dealing with the points that have been made on that issue. As has been made clear, we on this side of the House stand for a Common Market embracing the Six, Britain, and any other countries which wish to join. We are in favour of Britain participating from the beginning in any discussions on political unity in Europe, and we have made far-reaching proposals on defence which are of importance to Europe as well as to the Atlantic Alliance.
I was rather surprised that both the right hon. Member for Barnet and the noble Lady sought to make detailed party scoring points with regard to the Commonwealth Mission, and with regard to the visit to Hanoi of my hon. Friend he Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies). Surely it is well known that both these initiatives to substitute the conference table for the battlefield had the support of a virtually united Commonwealth Prime Minister's Conference, and of the United States of America? It seems wrong that this foreign affairs debate should be used in any party spirit whatever when such great issues as preservation of peace in the world, and preservation of liberty in the world, are at stake.
I now turn to some aspects of the problem of disarmament. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister outlined our positive programme for disarmament which will, we hope, be forwarded by discussions at the 18-nation Geneva Conference which is at last to be re-convened.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party—and with most of his speech I found myself in agreement—echoed the criticisms in The Guardian that Britain and the West were at fault in declining the Russian proposal to reconvene the Geneva Disarmament Conference on 20th July and proposing that it should start work a week later. It is entirely wrong to suppose that this proposal was due to any unreadiness for disarmament discussions in the West. We and our allies have been pressing the Russians for several months to go back to Geneva. I joined with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in pressing Mr. Gromyko on this point when he visited Britain in March, and we have been in constant touch with the Russians about proposals that we hope to put forward there.
The Russians, when they agreed, left only a week for bringing the meeting together. Administratively speaking, this seemed a deadline impossible of achievement by the secretariat or the Governments represented at the conference. We are anxious to resume as soon as may be, and we are perfectly ready to do so.
With regard to Central Europe, to which repeated reference has been made by hon. Members on both sides of the House and which, in a slightly different context, was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), I would say that the Government are in favour of any measures which would genuinely lead to a reduction of present tensions, and Central Europe is of great importance in this respect: it is the region in which the political differences between East and West are most acute and where the military confrontation between the two blocs is most immediate and massive. For these reasons Central Europe, of all regions, is one in which disarmament problems must be approached with caution as well as zeal.
In his Press conferences in Berlin and Bonn in March the Prime Minister mentioned four main conditions for arms control in Europe. These conditions have frequently been restated by other Foreign Office Ministers and myself in this House. They are, first, that we must act only in concert with our allies; secondly, that the existing balance of strength must not be upset; thirdly, that there must be impartial international inspection and verification; and, fourthly, that it would not be enough to consider only the armaments and forces within the actual zone of military confrontation in Europe: forces stationed outside the zone and, in particular, missiles targeted on to it from outside must also be taken into consideration.
We believe—and there is full agreement in N.A.T.O. on this—that there is a direct relationship between the political difficulties of Europe and the military tension on the Continent, and that proposals to ease one would be of little or no value unless they were accompanied by parallel proposals to solve the other. Proposals for military "disengagement", nuclear freeze, and disarmament must be linked with measures leading to a solution of the political problems of the area and, in particular, the division of Germany. A lasting détente in Europe can be achieved only by the re-unification of Germany on the basis of free democratic elections.
A conference on European security, to which my hon. Friend referred, would not help to bring about progress unless it were well prepared and the measures necessary to solve the political as well as the military problems of the Continent were discussed. Unfortunately, there is as yet no sign of any readiness on the part of the Warsaw Pact countries to enter into serious and constructive negotiations on this complex problem.
In spite of the difficulties that exist, we believe that a very useful first step—and a feasible one—towards a European security system would be the establishment of a system of observation posts in the N.A.T.O. and Warsaw Pact areas to guard against surprise attack and war by accident or miscalculation.
We regret, therefore, that, up to now, the Russians have rejected such proposals by linking them to measures for de-nuclearisation and reduction of conventional forces in Europe, which they know to be unacceptable to the West. We shall continue to strive for measures of agreement in European arms control, but we should recognise that, in the immediate future, progress is more likely to be made on proposals of a worldwide nature. The observation post proposal would, of course, cover not merely central Europe but the whole of the N.A.T.O. and Warsaw Pact areas. In addition, we are pressing for the conclusion of a non-dissemination treaty and a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty and we are emphasising the importance of beginning to reduce the numbers of strategic nuclear delivery vehicles in the hands of the nuclear Powers.
These world-wide measures would, of course, embrace the European countries and, if put into effect, would contribute also to European security. Since they do not single out Europe for any special treatment, they avoid some of the political difficulties associated with purely European measures. Real progress and mutual understanding at the coming eighteen-nation disarmament conference at Geneva could help to create the conditions for solving the political problems and military tensions of Central Europe.
It would be wrong to debate world affairs without making special reference to our friends in Gibraltar. I am glad, in that respect, that the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) raised this issue, even if I disagree with some of the charges which he levelled at the Government Front Bench. As the House knows—
Before the Minister of State leaves disarmament, could he say something more about the proposed non-dissemination treaty? I gathered from what the Prime Minister said that discussions are still going on with our allies and that, therefore, it is not certain that this treaty will be laid before the disarmament conference when it resumes on the 27th.
We attach the utmost importance to a non-dissemination treaty. It is true that this is being discussed. Before this debate concludes, a further statement may be made by a Government spokesman—
I am afraid that there are many topics to deal with and, therefore, I am sorry that I cannot give way to the hon. Member.
As the House knows, during the next few days, we shall have the pleasure of discussions with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar and with his deputy. Throughout the last nine months, we have made persistent efforts to secure the restoration of normal conditions on the frontier, but these efforts have, so far, proved unsuccessful. There has been no indication from the Spanish Government that they are willing to make it possible for us to meet them round the table to discuss our differences over Gibraltar. They have, in effect, done no more than invite us—in their note of 10th February this year—to negotiate under duress. This, as we have made quite clear, we are not prepared to do.
I think that we have shown great patience and restraint in this matter. We have made it clear that we have no desire to quarrel with Spain and that we seek an honourable solution to the present trouble. Hon. Members have suggested that we have shown too much patience and restraint by concentrating our attentions on positive measures to strengthen the economy of Gibraltar and make it more self-sufficient, rather than on other measures to bring the Spanish Government to reason.
I must say that I find it odd that hon. Members opposite can still talk about frigates and, at the same time, advocate drastic economic sanctions against Spain. Hon. Members opposite must make up their minds which of these two lines they support. I make that point with great reluctance, because, as hon. Gentlemen—[Interruption.] Yes. My words on this issue since last November are on record and, the whole time, I have sought, in every debate in which I have spoken on Gibraltar, to take it quite out of the realms of public controversy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I am asked why—for the very simple reason that if one studies the history of the Gibraltar dispute, going back for over 10 years, one will find that any attempt to score debating points by one side or the other since the original imposition of sanctions at the time of the visit by Her Majesty the Queen are quite beside the point. This is one of the issues of foreign policy on which there ought to be complete unity.
I explained the steps which are being taken on the economic side to strengthen the Gibraltar economy in some detail when I spoke in the debate on 18th June. I feel sure that the success of these measures and those which are now being put in hand, which inevitably take time to come fully into effect, and the fortitude of the whole people of Gibraltar in face of the present Spanish policy will bring home to the Spanish authorities the fact that obstruction and harassment will not force us into negotiations under duress and will never intimidate Gibraltar.
To those hon. Members who have asked for less talk and more action I would say that the steps being taken to strengthen Gibraltar's economy do amount to forthright and worthwhile action. On 15th April my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies told the House that Her Majesty's Govern- ment, when requested by the Government of Gibraltar, would be glad to give assistance. Requests so far received from Gibraltar and processed have been met. We will certainly give urgent and sympathetic consideration to any reasonable requests which may be made in the future, but we do not propose to direct the readjustment of Gibraltar's economy from London without respecting local responsibility in this matter.
As I informed the House in answer to a Question on 8th July, we are keeping under review all types of action which might appropriately be taken to defend and sustain the people of Gibraltar. The situation at the frontier has not materially altered since March and, bad as that situation is, I do not consider that the adoption of a policy of obstruction and harassment or of a policy of retaliation in other fields would at present—at present—be the appropriate way to help the people of Gibraltar. The adoption of such a policy would have implications which might be very far-reaching and would also be likely to lead the people of Gibraltar themselves into further difficulties. This, I am convinced, would be in no one's interests in present circumstances.
Attention has been drawn to the apparent contrast of the success of French diplomacy in securing favourable treatment for French subjects at the frontier and the failure of our diplomacy to secure similar treatment for British subjects. Many French subjects return home at this time of the year from North Africa via Spain and numbers of them pass through Gibraltar. The fact that these French people were for a few days subject to the Spanish campaign of obstruction at the frontier certainly shows the inflexibility and lack of sensitivity of the Spanish authorities concerned. Exceptions later made for transit passengers of all nationalities, including French, coming from Tangier via the Gibraltar ferry into Spain, seem to me to be an obvious move by Spain to avoid antagonising those countries which are not directly involved in the present difficulties. The Spanish information services have over the past nine months assiduously attempted to win over France and other countries to their point of view. The position of the French Government in this matter is in no way similar to ours and any attempt to compare the alleged success in securing better treatment for transit passengers whom the Spaniards clearly do not wish to annoy with our efforts seems to me quite meaningless.
Nevertheless, the passage without any difficulty of these foreign cars through the frontier post at La Linea during the past week or more has shown up in all its absurdity the contention that what has been done at the frontier since October is only the introduction of a normal régime in place of the allegedly abnormal one which existed hitherto.
Since October cars have usually been passed through the frontier at the rate of one an hour. The foreign cars in transit have recently gone through at the rate of more than one a minute. So much too for the Spanish argument that the restrictions are necesssary for the control of smuggling.
We intend, for the present, to continue to concentrate on the positive steps which can be taken to make Gibraltar more self-sufficient. These are already beginning to have effect and I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be giving further thought to these matters in the talks which we shall be having with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar and his deputy in the next two days. The visit of Sir Joshua Hassan and Mr. Isola, who arrived in London today, will be particularly helpful in this context and will also help to keep us informed of the strong feelings of the people of Gibraltar, which we ourselves fully share, that the Spanish campaign against them should be brought to an end. It will continue to be our aim to achieve this and we will go on working for it—to use the phrase of the right hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery)—with patience and firmness.
In the past year our economic problems have increasingly focussed the attention of the House on a truth which Ernest Bevin always emphasised and which I was glad to hear the Leader of the Liberal Party emphasise earlier—that a country's influence in foreign affairs depends on its economic strength. I propose, there-force, to say something about the commercial work of Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service and recent developments about which much more should be known.
I am glad that in recent times there have been questions and discussions in the House on this essential feature of British foreign policy. Part of this work is, of course, to deal with economic questions which may arise between Her Majesty's Government and individual Governments abroad. Each of our missions also has to report on economic, financial and commercial developments in the course of its general reporting to Her Majesty's Government on the country in which it is stationed. The main commercial and economic task of the Diplomatic Service is export promotion.
It is not the job of our embassies and high commissions to sell our exports. Only the exporter himself can do that. But missions abroad do create conditions in which British exporters are able to exploit overseas markets. They especially aim to provide specific information about specific opportunities for individual British exporters, at a practical down-to-earth level. Calls for tender and other openings for British goods are urgently reported. A large number of market research reports are produced to give exporters an initial idea of the prospects for opening or expanding markets in different territories.
As a matter of general routine, missions also send back to the Board of Trade information on all changes in local tariffs and regulations and any other general developments of interest to British exporters. This information is then available to exporters through the export services of the Board of Trade, which thus has available a large amount of up-to-date information about overseas markets provided by missions. It uses this to answer inquiries from British firms, but many inquiries still need to be referred to the officers on the spot who, in addition, receive numerous requests for information and assistance direct from firms. In answering such requests, missions provide information about the market for particular products, help to find local agents and publicise British products.
In the view of the Government, there is no contradiction whatsoever. The super arms salesman, we hope, is a temporary appointment for the stage of human history during which there are wars and rumours of wars, and Britain needs alliances in that period. The super arms salesman will do the kind of job I am talking about—the job of promoting British exports, solving the problem of the balance of payments, making Britain stronger, and making Britain able to exert a greater influence for peace in the world. On the other hand, the success of my noble Friend the Minister for Disarmament will render superfluous the services of the super arms salesman, and the sooner this happens the better.
Our Missions abroad, including those who have attaches who are responsible for selling arms to our allies, always hope that British business men visiting their territory will call on them. I share this hope. While many British exporters have the closest possible contacts with their customers abroad, the officers in our missions can often help, particularly when an exporter is breaking new ground. They can give the latest information on local conditions, and, from the head of mission downwards, provide introductions to leading industrialists or importers, to chambers of commerce, and to Ministers or officials concerned with commercial matters, or—increasingly important these days—with Government purchasing.
In countries where imports are in the hands of State trading corporations, the mission's knowledge of investment plans and import requirements can be of the highest possible value to our exporters. When a British firm sends out a negotiating team to clinch a contract, the mission in the country concerned will offer its support for the duration of the visit, and carry out appropriate follow-up work after the team has departed.
Already, the services offered to business men by the Diplomatic Service, particularly in the form in which they are now being strengthened, are, I believe, more comprehensive than those of the Governments of our chief competitors. The abiding truth is that Britain's capacity to play a full part in world affairs depends on her economic strength. This is so both in military defence and in the world war on want, which must succeed if humanity is to live in peace.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, which may have interest among back benchers on both sides, would it be correct to say that this is the first two-day foreign affairs debate in which on the first day there have been winding-up speeches from the Front Bench of the Opposition and from the Government Front Bench, and that this is not normal—without any reflection on the Chair—the fact being that we normally proceed with back-bench speeches and have winding-up speeches on the second day? Is this the first time that this has occurred?