Foreign Affairs

Part of Orders of the Day — Civil Estimates and Supplementary Estimates, 1965–66 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th July 1965.

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Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire 12:00 am, 20th July 1965

—and all over the world. If the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. William Yates) owned 60,000 acres in Scotland he would be afraid of Communism, too. Naturally the Leader of the Opposition is perturbed about Communism coming dangerously near to us and is alarmed that it may gain momentum in Africa. I am not disturbed about Communism in that part of the world. I have seen a little of it in China and whatever may be the faults and difficulties of the present Chinese Government—for which nobody, not even the Russians, have a good word to say at present—from the little experience I have had of seeing China. I suggest that it has a Government which is infinitely better than the Governments of the warlords and the bandits which preceded it.

Why does Communism come in any part of the world? The conditions of Communism are a poor peasantry and an unemployed working class in the towns. China is a huge country, with a huge population and a vast number of villages. There had been the war, and then the Japanese invasion, and then there was this immense upsurge of revolt. One of the things the Chinese did was to get rid of the landlords. They got rid of the usurer, the banker and the pawnbroker, and the landlord went at the same time.

Naturally enough, that is why the Opposition get alarmed. I do not want to see Communism come into this country in the same way. I want to see the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition peacefully retired. I do not want to see him hurt or injured in any way. I would be content if he were left for the rest of his life to carry on with his salmon fishing and other peaceful avocations, with his 56 farms taken over, perhaps, by some public body.

I mention this because in all these countries where Communism comes we have a landless peasantry, half starved, and the inevitable revolt. One thing one notices in all Chinese propaganda in literature and on the television screen is that the villain is usually the landlord who has seduced the wife of the landless peasant. This is crude propaganda, but it happens to be basic fact. The result is that feudalism in China collapsed, and the present strong, steady central Government are, on the whole, in spite of difficulties, building up the country, and the standard of living and the economy are rapidly developing.

I am not alarmed about that. I am not alarmed at the possibility of Communism coming in Vietnam or in Africa. We have heard some searching questions asked about what the Americans would do if they won the war in Vietnam. They would have to repair the bridges. They could not send back the landlords to the rice fields. They would need a planned economy very much like that which the Chinese have under Communism. I fail to see why we should be so enthusiastic about taking the side of the Americans in this war.

The Prime Minister yesterday made a very interesting speech. As he spoke, I was reminded of a rather famous saying by the late Mr. James Maxton, the Clyde-side M.P. Jimmy Maxton was speaking on the street corner. He was interrupted by someone who, thinking that he was getting dangerously orthodox, said, "Jimmy, you're trying to ride two horses at the same time." Jimmy looked at him reproachfully, and said, "Politicians who can't ride two horses at the same time are not worth their place in the bloody circus." That is what I was thinking about the Prime Minister. He is an exceptionally good performer, but yesterday I thought he was trying to ride two horses at the same time when, unfortunately, they were not like the ones referred to by Jimmy Maxton but appeared to be going in opposite directions. That is a very difficult thing. It is difficult to retain one's peace and stability. The Prime Minister defends the bombing, on the one hand, and then, on the other, he talks about initiating peace. These two lines of policy cannot be reconciled. That is my difficulty in understanding the policy of the Government.

It is possible to believe in the bombing and to believe in American policy and one can carry that through to its logical conclusion, but I do not see how anybody can work the two lines of policy at the same time. I shared the perplexity of my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Anne Kerr), who asked how it was possible to reconcile the appointment of a Minister of Disarmament and a super salesman for armaments at the same time. That is my perplexity and dilemma. Although I am a loyal supporter of the Government, I believe that these views are those of a large percentage, if not the majority, of the supporters of the Labour Party. They are perplexed about this support of American policy and they are anxious about the future. I hope that this will be cleared up.

I am an old friend of my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) and I was very pleased when he decided to go on his mission. It is surely not for the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) to complain about an unorthodox mission. I wish that the hon. Member were present. He objects to a mission to Ho Chi Minh, but the hon. Member went on a successful mission. He went to Yugoslavia and helped to establish Tito Communism in that part of the world. Therefore, I fail to see why he should object to an unorthodox mission.

We have heard a lot of talk about humiliation. It will be a humiliation if the Americans are forced to withdraw. A lot of Americans are feeling a sense of humiliation because they are there at all. The most encouraging thing that is happening is that they are asking in different quarters of America how American traditions and ideas of democracy can be reconciled with this. It is only 200 years ago since George Washington was leading the Vietcong guerrillas against the British Government. All that the Vietnamese, the Chinese and these people who are fighting for their independence are doing is acting under the inspiration of Washington.

I do not see any humiliation in admitting when one has gone wrong. General de Gaulle is a big man. In spite of the fact that I disagree with him, General de Gaulle appears to me to be one of the biggest men in world politics. General de Gaulle has recognised the inevitable. He came out of Indo-China. It was a humiliation to the French.

I remember being at the Geneva Conference at that time as the correspondent of Tribune. My most vivid memory of that Conference is of the gorgeous peacock outside the building of the United Nations. It was a very discourteous peacock. It fluttered on to the bonnet of Mr. Molotov's car and used it as a lavatory, at which the Western journalists were delighted; but the next car was American and the peacock showed its impartiality by doing exactly the same thing to it.

I remember that at that time there was similar talk about the humiliation of the French. But it has been good for the French to be humiliated, because they have come out of Indo-China, which has become Vietnam, and they have come out of Algeria, and six or seven years ago nobody thought that that was likely to happen.

President de Gaulle takes the realistic view that the days of colonialism and imperialism are over and that the white race cannot hope to lord it over the whites and the yellows and the blacks. When he speaks out about the Americans, he expresses the view not only of the French but of intelligent people all over the world. As one of the Prime Minister's loyal supporters, I would have been more pleased if he had taken up a similar attitude and had expressed the view of many British people and had spoken out against American policy in Vietnam.

We have our own experience. We came out of Suez. The Americans did us a good turn by helping to stop the madness of Suez. We have come out of Africa. We are rapidly abandoning our rôle of liberators of other countries. If the Americans were frankly told that by the British Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend would be expressing the view of many people throughout the world.

The real reason why we are so friendly with America and do not criticise America is that we have financial difficulties because of previous over spending on, among other things, armaments. We are indebted to the pawnbroker and we cannot be uncivil to the pawnbroker. That is about the root of it—that we cannot afford to criticise America too much, because if we take a different line on Vietnam, it will mean a financial crisis for this country. This is not 30 pieces of silver but 300 million and for that we are abandoning the moral leadership of the world.

We seek our truths in the newspapers and I am distressed that the Prime Minister is President Johnson's poodle. That is humiliating. We have to consider it from Hanoi's point of view and when Hanoi sees the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions coming along, naturally it says, "Here is the pup of the poodle". That is the irreverent way in which the cartoonists of the Communist world regard us. They are putting rather crudely in their caricatures what Dean Acheson said bluntly a few years ago. So when my hon. Friend arrived in Hanoi they did not bring out the red carpet. I am told he was in conversation there for 16 hours, and I gather that the conversation would not be on one side. I am not in favour of conventional diplomacy, and I would like to see a White Paper of exactly what the North Vietnam people whom he met said about the whole situation. The more information we get the better.

Supposing this thing had been in reverse. Supposing it was suddenly discovered that there was arriving in London the Joint Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance for Outer Mongolia to tell us that he wanted to solve a problem in Malaysia. What would the Foreign Office have done? Would it have put out the red carpet and introduced him to the Prime Minister? No it would have said, "Go and have a 16-hour talk with the junior Whips". I am not sure whether he would have learned just as much from the junior Whips as from the more exalted personalities in the political establishment.

I hope that we are not at the end of the Commonwealth Mission. It cannot go to Hanoi, it cannot go to Peking, but it can go to Washington. Why should it not go to Washington? The mission is composed of a very large and representative collection of people who have firsthand experience in liberating their countries from foreign domination. President Nkrumah has been in a British gaol—I do not know how many of them have not been in British gaols. They are exactly the people to go and tell the American Government that the time for carrying on the traditions of eighteenth century British Palmerstonian imperialism is over and that it is time they learned sense.

It is a curious thing but I am, for what reason I do not know, suspected of being anti-American, because I take an international outlook. Yet one gets some very anti-American sentiments being expressed in some very strange quarters these days. What is the gentleman who is occupying this new position of super arms salesman going to do? Fight the Americans. What was the whole key to the criticism of the Government's action in doing away with TSR2? Hon. Members got eloquent because the Americans were trying to destroy our aircraft industry.

So I say that instead of this happy unity with America there are grave economic contradictions. American industrial policies and our policies do not coincide. If the Americans are trying to sell arms in different parts of the world, and we are competing with them, then our interests are conflicting. I have heard a lot about the American alliance in the course of this debate. I have never believed in it. One of the most interesting moments in my life in the House of Commons was when I was a Teller against the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. I have never believed in N.A.T.O., and now even Lord Montgomery does not agree with N.A.T.O. A new generation has arrived, wanting new ideas and new diplomacies, not the traditional deal of the Foreign Office. They are not going to be content with the old shibboleths, the old platitudes that have served as foreign policy during the last decade.

I say to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who has just returned to the Chamber, do not be so afraid of Communism. Communism is coming anyway—not perhaps the kind of Communism which has come in Russia, in China or in Vietnam, but a planned economy which means to make an honest man of the landlord. In another 10 or 20 years, if we have not destroyed ourselves in an atomic war, we shall see tremendous changes in the structure of society in every country. I believe that in 20 years' time every country will be a country in which the land and the industries are used for the benefit of the people. The right hon. Gentleman will have to accept the inevitable.

However, like the Leader of the Opposition, I want to see a world free of war. I have one beautiful quotation from a speech of his which I want to read now that he has returned. I have been a student of his speeches—and today's was not the worst. I have suffered, too. I do the right hon. Gentleman the credit of believing that he is just as sincere in trying to avert a world nuclear war as I am; but he is on the wrong lines. When he goes to Moscow, he makes good speeches. That is the benefit of sending our great politicians to Moscow: they breathe the rarefied air of a far-off Communist country. The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), who speaks for the Opposition on foreign affairs, has been there recently. It has done him good. I did not notice it in his speech yesterday, but I have hopes.

I remember going on a historic mission to Moscow with Mr. Macmillan. He made wonderful speeches in Moscow. He made two wonderful speeches at the British Embassy in which he lauded Mr. Khrushchev as the prophet pointing to the promised land. I took it down, and I brought it home. He owes me a debt of gratitude.

When the Leader of the Opposition went to Moscow, he gave two talks. One was at the signing of the nuclear Test Ban Treaty. I do not begrudge him any credit in contributing to the signing of that treaty because anybody who does anything about ridding the world of the possibility of nuclear war deserves our approbation and thanks. The right hon. Gentleman appeared on television. He was very popular on the Russian television. I have a copy of the speech which he made on television. It was a very good speech. He quoted from my immortal constituent. He quoted wrongly, because he said: It's coming yet, for all that,That man to man the world o'er shall brothers be. It was a notable utterance on his part.

However, the real gem was in his television talk. He said, "We want to do much more than co-exist. We want to co-operate". Russia is a Communist country. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about co-operating with the Russians. If we can co-operate with the Russians, I do not see why we cannot think of co-operating with the Chinese. The right hon. Gentleman said: Each of us can do good things separately, but if we do them together they will be very much better, and we believe that if we work together it will be good not only for each of us but for the whole world as well. That was a quotation from the best speech that the right hon. Gentleman has ever made.