It is a sad reflection on man and the progress of civilisation that any review which is made today by the Foreign Secretary of international affairs must almost inevitably be a catalogue of disputes and wars. When we could be planning investment in water, food, power and education, which are still the pressing needs of three-quarters of the world, we return time and again in this House in our debates to the sterile business of discussing quarrels and fighting between each other. It almost makes one despair of man's claim to be a creature of reason.
There is one topical example of this with which we are living. There was a rumour broadcast by a propaganda machine that Britain and the United States had intervened in the Egypt-Israel war. Within hours that charge was proved to be untrue. Every Arab Government knew that it was untrue. So did the Egyptian Government. The Soviet Government knows it to be untrue. All the countries represented in the United Nations know it to be untrue. Yet action was and is based upon that false rumour. It has disrupted commercial contracts. It has created an artificial and unnatural division between the Arabs and the West, who had previously been friends, and it has added a new dimension to the Middle East war. It is difficult to see that human folly could go further than that.
There are, I think, signs that there is a recovery of poise. Nevertheless, a warning must be given that if this kind of irresponsibility is to govern international relations, then there will be no peace, and, what is more, the victims will be the new and the developing nations.
What is the cause? Can we identify the source of all the unrest and outbreaks of violence that there are in so many parts of the world? It was following the Teheran conference during the war that I first became alerted to what I then considered to be, and still do, the overriding post-war problem of the free world.
Then, Stalin's interpretation of the international character of Communism became clear, and it was made even clearer at the Yalta and Potsdam conferences. His interpretation of international Communism was that subversion backed by force was legitimate. The aims of international Communism became clear, to reduce to a shambles all the evolutionary processes, social, economic and political, of countries which differed from the Communist creed, and to do so by internal and external pressures so intense that the countries concerned were faced, and are still faced, with a really acute and appalling dilemma.
Either those countries offer no resistance and have to go under, or else they react, and the reaction has to take the form of force. That is a dilemma which not only the great countries, but the small countries are facing and into which the Communist application of the international theory of Communism has driven almost every country, and it poses a great dilemma for the peace makers.
So the question is, and it is widespread across the world: does a country faced with such a dilemma capitulate, does it resist and probably be accused of being an aggressor, a charges e which is likely to be supported in the United Nations Assembly? In Europe, when faced with this challenge, we stood up to it during the years of the cold war. There is as yet no peace settlement affecting Germany or the future of Berlin. But there the dilemma was clear, and we had to decide whether we should capitulate or whether we should resist. In Europe, it has, as I think every hon. Member knows, been the presence of superior forces, and that alone, which has prevented the Soviets from exercising their option as to whether or not to turn the heat on Berlin and Germany again.
I am not one of those, I hope, who see a Communist under every bush. Indeed, for many years I have done my best to seek co-existence and reconciliation between the two points of view, and I think that we must go on in this search. Nevertheless, we must fact facts when we look at the world as it is and ask what is the source of the present trouble which is so rife that it leads to the conclusion that the world is in a severe malaise.
Who foments the riots and brinkmanship in Hong Kong? Who engineered the near take-over of Indonesia? Who compels India to consider arming herself with nuclear weapons? Who, when the rest of the world tries to find a peaceful solution to the Middle East problem, ostentatiously arms Syria and Egypt for the purpose, openly advertised, of a second round of war? Who undermines the authority of newly independent Governments in Africa, saying that the Continent is ripe for revolution? Who has turned the evolutionary process of emancipation of colonial territories from colonial rule into a mad economic, political and chaotic rush? Who is financing revolution, for example, through Cuba in South America? Who consistently prevents the United Nations from effective peacekeeping activities?
The answer—and we must face the fact, reluctant as one is to do so—that these policies, if one can so call them, are fomented in the one case by the Soviet Union and in the other by Communist China. The actions are so consistent and so continuing that I think that there is no alternative but to take them as hard evidence of the intentions of these two countries towards the free world.
I have reminded the House of these facts—and I think that they are facts which can scarcely be challenged—because from them certain questions arise which are very relevant to British foreign policy and defence policy in the modern world. If, as I think we must face, the United Nations is hamstrung, who is to contain these Communist exploits within any bounds? Is there any answer other than the democratic Powers who have the power to do so?
The Question can be even more related to the White Paper on Defence. In those circumstances, if there is any validity in what I have described, is Britain prepared to protect her own interests where these seem to be threatened, or to lend a hand where we have a presence or where we have the ability to deploy some strength to influence events in the direction of stability and order?
Vietnam would not be one of those places where we could have very much effect by deploying our strength.
I shall not debate in detail today the Defence White Paper, but in the context in which I am placing it there are three criticisms which I believe to be valid. The first is that the £2,000 million has called the tune and not the Foreign Secretary's concept of the strategic foreign policy of Britain, which takes second place. Secondly, the Government, in spite of the lessons from Malta and Aden, have made the error of indicating a date of withdrawal from Singapore. Indeed, the White Paper seems calculated to assure some critics that the Government will go and, on the other hand, to persuade some people that the Government might in some circumstances stay. In that way, they get the worst of all worlds.
Let us be clear about one thing. From the moment the Government say that they intend to leave some territory and withdraw their presence, both our friends and potential foes begin to think in terms of the successor to the United Kingdom. This is a dangerous thing to happen, because from that moment our influence and authority begin to wane.
Thirdly, if the Government were to slash the Army and Air Force to the extent that they now propose, the decision to scrap aircraft carriers is almost inexplicable. We shall examine in detail the question of the number of troops to be left in Singapore and Butterworth, and also the commitments to be retained—the contribution to the Commonwealth Brigade, membership of S.E.A.T.O. and a defence treaty with Malaysia. The Government are to examine how these commitments are to be fulfilled.
We have come to the conclusion that unless the overall military plan of the Government east of Suez includes a mobile naval and air task force which can give itself adequate air cover—which can deploy air cover from ships at sea—the Government's proposal of force levels in the area will lack all credibility in rela- tion to the commitments accepted, which are, in turn, related to the threat from a potential enemy. In these respects we find the White Paper causing us considerable anxiety.
The Government are quite right to give priority to the security of Britain and of the Continent of Europe. Indeed, now the consent of the majority of both parties—I say this carefully in the presence of the Foreign Secretary—has been given to creating a more cohesive unit of Europe, economically, politically and, as the right hon. Gentleman has added lately, perhaps militarily. The latter concept can only be advanced gradually. The idea of an integrated European defence force is not at present acceptable to France.
That United Nations forces might gradually be reduced in Germany would be acceptable to the Germans only if they could see a solid alternative. The shape of a European nuclear organisation must take time to evolve, but surely there can be no doubt that Britain's advice should lean strongly in the direction of Europe assuming a greater responsibility for her own defence. The United States will certainly go for this. It is consistent with the maintenance of the overall United States nuclear deterrent and with the Atlantic Alliance. The more that Europe can accept responsibility for its own defence, the more it will add to Europe's influence and authority in the councils of the world and, indeed, may lead to the day when Europe itself as Europe can take an attitude on some of the great questions I have been talking about.
It seemed in the debate on the application to join the E.E.C. that the Leader of the-Opposition merely raised a nuclear command as a possibility for discussion and negotiation. Is it now the official attitude of the Opposition that they actively desire the promotion of a new nuclear command based upon N.A.T.O.?
I have just said that the shape of any nuclear organisation and its relationship to the United States overall deterrent would have to be very carefully worked out. I have no fixed ideas on it, but it should not be impossible to work this out with the co-operation of the French and the Americans, perhaps with the kind of McNamara Committee concept to which the Germans might easily agree.
But it is a great mistake to advance this at present. I am saying that these things must be taken gradually. The Foreign Secretary was right when he mentioned the possibility of greater responsibility of Europe for its own defence. These things have to be taken gradually. Nevertheless, they should be looked at and considered now.
What are Britain's foreign policy objectives outside Europe? There are two arguments that I cannot follow and to which, therefore, I cannot at present subscribe. Because we rightly give priority to the defence of Europe, I cannot follow those who argue from this that there is nothing that Britain can usefully do outside Europe either to protect her interests or to assist the free world. Because the Arabs momentarily cut off oil supplies, I cannot follow the argument that there are no political or economic advantages which a British presence can gain anywhere and that, therefore, we should go and go now.
We should consider two questions strictly from the point of view of British interests. How, for example, are they best served in the Middle East? By a political set-up dominated by Egypt, Syria and Egyptian-controlled Yemen? Or are they best served by a set-up in which Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and a South Arabia closely linked to them will exercise the main influence?
I have no doubt about the answer, and that the latter, assisted by quite a modest British presence in the Gulf—and I am glad to see that, by not mentioning this, the White Paper implies that the presence will stay—and supplemented by a defence treaty with South Arabia, could gain the time to thwart the first possibility and ensure the second, thus achieving a very substantial political gain for the free world.
In view of reports in the papers today, I make one more plea to the right hon. Gentleman about the Egyptian use of gas. It is nothing short of an international scandal that this matter has not been taken up actively in the United Nations, and it is almost as great a scandal that Her Majesty's Government will not initiate action in the United Nations in this respect.
Having made that interpolation, nevertheless the Government have had some second thoughts about South Arabia. I hope that they will achieve the result so that our friends—the Saudi-Arabians, the Turks, the Arabs and South Arabia—in future may exercise the greatest authority in the Middle East area.
I suggest that a similar question should be asked in respect of South-East Asia. Which suits British interests best? is it an area in which the influence of Malaya, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Burma and the Philippines progressively assumes authority, or one in which the influence of Communist China spreads and eventually dominates so that there are puppet Governments everywhere? Neither Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, nor Singapore doubts the answer. Nor have I and my right hon. and hon. Friends any doubt. Does not the security of Commonwealth countries count any longer in the British Government's calculations?
One of the arguments for withdrawal which I find most specious is that the countries of South-East Asia are more likely to keep their independence if European and United States protection is removed. Would any hon. Gentleman who believes that say it to the Tibetans? Would the people of Malaysia accept it, knowing quite well that, if Britain had not protected them, Indonesia would have overrun them within a year?
One day it may be true that these countries can protect themselves, but it is not true yet. That they may protect themselves one day—and I hope that they will in a security system of Asians for Asians—is the reason why I am urging the right hon. Gentleman constantly to take a real initiative to get an Asian nucleus for S.E.A.T.O. There ought to be dynamic diplomacy in this respect by ourselves, the Americans, the Australians and the New Zealanders. On all the evidence which comes to me, it has not been pursued, with the urgency which ought to be given to it.
The ability of these nations to defend themselves is not yet and, therefore, those who advance the proposition that Britain should leave, give up her commitments and evacuate her bases here and now must be made to realise that that proposion can only be valid in the sense that the political and military structure which is left behind by the British itself protects the inhabitants of the area. That time is not yet.
Does it not follow from what the right hon. Gentleman is saying that the independence of South Vietnam, which depends most of all on Western military support, is the most secure in South-East Asia? Is that really true? Is it not a fact that the Americans themselves are committed to military withdrawal from South Vietnam when the war ends? What do we do then?
Let me put it the other way round. If there was no American protection, South Vietnam would be gone tomorrow, and Thailand would follow.
One is bound to come to that conclusion and make this the test: what do we put in our place when we leave, and is it effective? One has to make that the test if one has any regard for the survival of free nations and, to paraphrase the right hon. Gentleman's own words when talking about the Middle East the other day, any hope of preventing a decisive shift in the balance of power further in favour of the Communist Powers.
In these debates, one has the choice of making a sort of Cook's tour round the world or trying to assess the implications for Britain of the general tendencies inherent in a world ruled by power. I do not know which course the right hon. Gentleman will follow. If he takes the latter course, the House will be interested to hear his appreciation of Chinese intentions. We have not heard from him about these, and we should welcome his views.
I have felt compelled to express anxiety about the general situation in the world and, in particular, the relationship of British foreign policy to it—and British defence policy, since publication of the White Paper. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence are responsible jointly for the security of Britain and her rôle in the world. I believe that they will leave the Foreign Secretary with no recognisable foreign policy unless he is extremely careful.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reassure us that the Government have assessed British interests in different parts of the world, that they are determined to protect them, that they understand that Britain can still play a part in the world at the side of her friends and allies to preserve international law and enable ordinary men and women to go about their lawful occasions in peace. In these two respects, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to satisfy the House.
In many ways the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) was an odd speech. I have a great affection for the right hon. Gentleman, as he well knows. I shall deal with many of the points that he raised as I go along.
I was grateful for what he said at the beginning of his speech about the lie which the leaders of Arab nations are pretending to believe. As he said, it is untrue. They know it to be untrue, and it is time that some of them had the courage to stand up and say that it is untrue and arrange their policies accordingly.
I thought that the passage in which the right hon. Gentleman talked about Communism—what he called "the international Communist theory of Communism"—was both too black and white and a little too old-fashioned. It is not quite like that.
The right hon. Gentleman went on immediately to talk about "these two countries"—Russia and Communist China. Any of us dealing with foreign affairs today will know that one does not talk about these two countries in the same context of a so-called international Communist theory of Communism.
I will deal later with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the United Nations, and I will also deal with the question of Britain and her interests in the world.
Having denied that he would deal with the Defence White Paper, of course, the right hon. Gentleman proceeded immediately to do exactly that, as we always do in this House. As I understand, he put forward three accusations. The first was that money is dictating our defence policy. If right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have not yet got hold of the point that money—here meaning resources—must, in the end, dictate what we can do in defence and foreign affairs, they should arrange a seminar and get some people to instruct them. Of course, the resources which we have must, in the end, dictate what we can do.
The right hon. Gentleman's second allegation was that we had decided when to get out, and his third was that this proved that we could not have decided not to build "the carrier" as he called it. But "a carrier" would have meant carriers. There is not much left of the Carshalton speech after what the right hon. Gentleman said. There would not be very many tax cuts if we did all that. I shall deal with European defence during the course of what I have to say.
I have only just started. I shall give way in a moment. I am dealing with the right hon. Gentleman, who can defend himself.
The last thing that the right hon. Gentleman said, and on which I ought to comment before I start on my speech, showed one of the weaknesses from which the Conservatives have always suffered. This is what led them into trouble 11 years ago, and it is a besetting sin from which they never get away. The moment they think of the Middle East, they divide the world into the "goodies" and "baddies". There are those whom we do not like, they are bad, and the right hon. Gentleman was good enough to name them. I do not know what good he thinks that does us, or how much help he thinks that is. Then he named the goodies. I do not know what good he thinks that does them. I said this the other day.
I urge the Conservative Opposition to stop this business. In the Middle East, let us deal with nations as grown-up nations, and have our policy with them according to the way we see it. Do not let us go on identifying those whom we like, and those whom we do not like, and using emotive terms about them. It does no good to us, or to them.
As the right hon. Gentleman said, we have had many debates on foreign affairs this Session. Indeed, having done a little research, I find that we have had more than in any Session for a long time. We have had 10 specific debates on foreign affairs, so it is very difficult to make a speech today which either does not repeat much of what one has already said, or does not anticipate the debate that is to come next week on defence.
The hon. Gentleman is a great authority on that. I am not for the moment dealing with that.
We have had notable debates, on the Common Market on 10th May, and on the Middle East on 31st May, both of which I remember with rather special note. I thought that they were quite outstanding. It is six months since we had a general discussion. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether I wanted to do a Cook's tour round the world. It is one of my terrible fears that one day I shall fall into that trap for want of something else to do, but I do not propose to do it now.
In six months we have seen war and violence in the Middle East, in the Congo, in South Arabia, in Nigeria, and in Vietnam. I think that we might have a disagreement here. I believe that the world situation, beset as it is by wars, by the danger of the escalation of wars, calls more surely than ever for an effective world authority. I believe that there is only one practical road to that goal, and it is to make the most that we can of the United Nations.
This is why the basis of our foreign policy, despite the right hon. Gentleman's misgivings about it, is to give wholehearted support to the United Nations, to back it up, to be guided by its decisions, and to play our part fully in building up the authority which it needs. Without a real world authority, there can be no peace in the world. There can be only a peace troubled by fears of war, broken by recurring conflicts, and haunted by the dangers of total war. This is the theme of what I have to say today.
In the final analysis, a foreign policy based on active belief in the United Nations is, in my view, the only policy which carries with it a hope for a world order based on something more than the uneasy balance of power, and the jungle of the unbridled authority of sovereign States. I know the shortcomings of the United Nations. I know what, in present circumstances, it can do, and what it cannot do. Because of these shortcomings, we have, for our own security, and the security of the world, to pursue a policy of alliances, but this is not at variance with the purposes of the United Nations. Indeed, this is provided for in the Charter.
The point I want to underline at the beginning of what I have to say is that, in my view, we must never underestimate the rôle which the United Nations can play, and is playing today. The right hon. Gentleman took the Middle East for part of his case. Let me follow suit. This is the region of the world uppermost in our minds at the moment. With all the difficulties and disappointments that we have had there, it is still the United Nations which provides the means for dealing with the immediate and practical problems—the problems of the cease-fire, the problem of the refugees. It is still the organisation which provides the essential diplomatic framework within which a settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute should, and could, be reached.
Since our last debate on the Middle East, we have seen developments. U.N.T.S.O. officers have been deployed on both sides of the Suez Canal. This move came from an initiative by the Secretary-General, supported by the Security Council. It is, some may say, small, but it is without any question a most significant beginning in ensuring the continuance of the cease-fire, and in helping us to move to the next considerations which have to be taken into account. A further development has been the appointment by the Secretary-General of Mr. Gussing, of Sweden, to go to the Middle East to look into the problems of the refugees on the spot. There was, and there is, no other organisation, no other umbrella, under which this could happen.
At the General Assembly the emergency session is now drawing to a close, and again it is true that the debate showed a notably growing sense of realism among the nations and their delegates. As the debate progressed from week to week, it showed a wide measure of agreement in analysing a number of the main problems on matters like the need for a high level representative of the Secretary-General to be in the Middle East. But, despite all that, it seems likely—and to some extent I regret it—that the Assembly will now adjourn without giving any formal expression of opinion, other than the need—and this is important in its way—not to prejudice the future Jerusalem, and on the need for an international action to help refugees. The Security Council must now take the problem back, take up its work again, and get on with the task of working out answers to the difficult and dangerous problems, and Her Majesty's Government will play their full part in that.
As we are talking about the Middle East in this general context, perhaps I might turn briefly, as the right hon. Gentleman did, to the Persian Gulf, and say a word about that. This is a delicate area, where we have both major interests and continuing obligations. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, and as the House knows, we shall have left Aden by the New Year. We have done and are doing our best to ensure that South Arabia begins its independent existence in conditions of security, but in the present disturbed situation in the Middle East we must be particularly concerned about the stability and security of the Gulf area, for which we still have treaty responsibilities. It is our long-term aim to create a situation in which these small States can stand on their own feet. At present, they need our help and we propose to keep small forces there to meet our obligations.
I would like to correct one widespread misapprehension. Our forces are not in the Persian Gulf simply to protect our oil interests as such, but to maintain stability in the area. Many of the countries in the Gulf have unresolved territorial claims on each other. The House will remember that in 1961 there was a threat to Kuwait from Iraq. If we were to pull out at once we could only expect these old claims to come to the surface and the stability of the Gulf would thereby be put at risk.
My right hon. Friend says that our forces are there for the purpose of helping to delimit frontier disputes. Bearing in mind the fact that most of the countries in the Persian Gulf have never had recognised frontiers, does my right hon. Friend mean that we can carry out a cadastral survey and complete this task in the short time that we are likely to be there?
No, but knowing the area personally, as I do, I am certain that by being there for the time being—in the way in which we are—we are helping to provide stability in the period of carryover during which people can learn to live with each other and perhaps carry out their own cadastral survey.
The question of our treaty obligations in the Persian Gulf is frequently raised, but as far as I can ascertain they are limited to a treaty dating back over 100 years, by which we are obliged to prevent slave trading in the Gulf. Beyond that we have no treaty obligations in the area.
May I answer for the Government? I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for trying to help, but it is not always useful. The hon. Member is wrong in what he says. There are other treaties, exchanges of Letters and various matters of that kind. We certainly have obligations there.
But the real point is not that so much as the fact that I believe that at the moment, by maintaining what we are doing there, we are doing better than we would by getting out, if we are thinking in terms of stability, security and a peaceful transition to a different order, when these countries can stand on their own feet.
I was not going to say any more about the Middle East or to raise other subjects on which the House has recently spent a lot of time. As the right hon. Gentleman said, there is one part of the world about which we have talked very little during the Session. The right hon. Gentleman said that the House had heard little about it from the Government; the fact is that the House has heard little from either side. I refer to the question of the Far East and South-East Asia.
There is no doubt that this area will inevitably feature greatly in the debate on the Defence White Paper next week, and, therefore, it would be useful if I said something about it today, not only for its own intrinsic merits but also because it might help the House with the debate we will have next week.
There are three things that I should like to say straight away.
First, our defence decisions, announced in the White Paper, do not mean that we are no longer concerned with this area of South-East Asia, and do not mean that we are no longer concerned with the welfare of our friends there. We shall continue to honour our obligations to S.E.A.T.O. But I must make it clear that what is said in the White Paper means that our force declarations to S.E.A.T.O. will be progressively altered in nature and size. These we shall be working out in detail over the coming months.
As for the Anglo-Malaysian Treaty, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, we shall have discussions with the Governments of Singapore and Malaysia about how we shall meet our obligation, which is to help in their external defence. Secondly, we shall be giving significant—I underline the word "significant"—aid both to Singapore and Malaysia to enable them to adjust their economies to the new state of affairs. Although we use words here as economically as we can I am sure that the House will be cognisant of the size of the problem, for example, facing Singapore in terms of adjusting its economy to a situation where we are no longer providing, through our defence operations, the proportion of its gross national product that we do today. I want to make it clear that we understand this, sympathise with it, and will significantly help.
Thirdly, we fully realise that the countries in the area may still need our support. We consider that the best way for us to provide this is by helping them with the more sophisticated types of military equipment which we can contribute, but which, if they had to acquire them alone, would be a very heavy strain on their economies.
In considering South-East Asia, perhaps we should remind ourselves that that area means far more than the area of the Vietnam conflict. Nothwithstanding that conflict, it is an area where there are many positive and encouraging developments which merit a word or two in this debate.
First, there has been the progress made since confrontation came to an end. The policies of President Sukarno, which we and our Commonwealth allies firmly resisted, encouraged hatred between peoples whose prosperity lies not in hatred, but in peaceful collaboration. President Sukarno's policies failed, and with the ending of confrontation—and it is salutary on this 20th July to remember that just one year ago we were not sure whether confrontation had ended—a more hopeful future has opened up for the Governments of the non-Communist countries of South-East Asia. They are today evolving ways of living together in peace and of co-operating for their mutual benefit.
Last February, I told the House that I believed that the great promise for the peaceful development of South-East Asia lay in genuine regional co-operation between those countries. In all the moves that have taken place over the past 18 months—in the meetings of the Association of South-East Asia and of the Asian and Pacific Council, in the specialised meetings on education and economic development, and in the moves for a new Association which the Thais have told us are well advanced—the important thing is that the initiatives have come wholly from Asian countries themselves. It is the Asians who are the driving force behind this movement, who are giving it its impetus, and in my view it is important that this should be so and should be seen to be so. We should get away from the old criticism that there were some people from outside who were trying to make use of them for other purposes.
We in Britain are playing an active part in one of these organisations—the Asian Development Bank. We are contributing about £10 million to it. One of the first major enterprises of the bank looks like being the establishment of a Special Agricultural Fund, for which there will be big contributions from Japan and the United States. The purpose of this will be to provide loans on easy terms for the financing of agricultural developments in the countries which belong to it.
Much of the happier atmosphere in South-East Asia today is reflected particularly in the changes which have taken place within Indonesia in the past year. I wish to pay my personal tribute to the leaders in Indonesia who have courageously and powerfully led this change of policy and attitude.
Indonesia has returned to the community of nations and has achieved a new relationship of trust and friendship with its neighbours. Now there is the formidable problem of re-establishing Indonesia's economy. Together with Indonesia's other Western friends, we have been taking part in a series of international meetings to discuss the rescheduling of Indonesia's debts to her Western creditors and to discuss the aid which Indonesia needs to carry that country through the current year.
We have agreed that there should be a moratorium of Indonesia's debt repayments until 1971 and that, thereafter, the debts should be paid off over a period of eight years. As for aid, sufficient funds have now been pledged to cover the gap in Indonesia's estimated balance of payments this year, and we ourselves have followed up the £1 million grant which we made last year by a long-term, interest-free loan of £½ million, which we have now made.
This brings me to the subject of Vietnam.
I was glad to hear what the right hon. Gentleman said about Indonesia. Would not he agree that one reason why Indonesia has been able to make this important improvement is because Britain, with its allies, held the line in the Far East during confrontation? Was not this the essential factor on which progress has been built?
There is no doubt at all that the contribution which we made, with our allies, in Malaysia during that period provided the opportunity for this to happen. It did not have to follow that it would happen, but it did happen and that is the important thing. I therefore do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman.
The enormous potential—and it is enormous—in South East Asia can be developed only in conditions of peace. The major obstacle is, of course, the war in Vietnam. Despite what we feel about the Middle East, no part of the world scene is today more full of tragedy and human suffering than Vietnam.
No solution has so far been found, but I repeat that this is not for lack of any effort on our part, nor for any lack of readiness to work on the many suggestions put forward. A solution has not been found because no one has yet managed to create the conditions of confidence in which both sides can agree to take balanced steps towards reducing the fighting and, therefore, towards negotiations.
For our part, we can claim to have been unremitting in our efforts to aid in the creation of these conditions. We have maintained continued and close contact with the United States, with the Soviet Union and with others whose special knowledge or special position might be used to break the deadlock. On every possible occasion I have urged the Soviet co-chairman to reconvene the Geneva Conference. I have supported the efforts which the Secretary-General of the United Nations has made. I have tried every way I know to get it across to Hanoi—I choose my words carefully—that peace is there for the asking.
A balanced peace, which alone can guarantee stability, needs a balanced approach to negotiations; and, for this, I believe that something must go into both sides of the scales. If the North Vietnamese can show that something will go into the scales from their side, I am absolutely sure that the American side will be filled with ample measure. The tragedy is that Hanoi remains silent.
The subject of Vietnam leads me, as it did the right hon. Gentleman, to a consideration of China, a country on which inevitably the future of mankind depends so much. For more than a year the Chinese have been engaged on a vast internal transformation, the so-called cultural revolution, which they tell us is aimed at staving off the onset of "revisionism".
Even from the limited information available to the outside world, it is clear that this movement is having tremendous repercussions within China. I do not wish to go into this highly debatable issue of internal questions in China. The Chinese must, of course, decide for themselves, in their own way, the kind of society they want and I, at any rate as Foreign Secretary, am not concerned with that aspect. Recently, however, the cultural revolution has spilled over into the sphere of foreign affairs in ways which impinge directly on us, and it is on these aspects that I wish to comment.
First, there is the serious question of the treatment of Her Majesty's representatives in China. Our Mission in Peking has recently been the object of several organised demonstrations. On two occasions demonstrators broke into the Mission's premises, molested the staff and damaged property. But the Chinese authorities, despite requests from our Chargé d'Affaires, made no attempt to restrain the demonstrators.
Earlier, our representative in Shanghai and his family were subjected to gross indignities and physical maltreatment, and their personal belongings were destroyed by a mob acting with the consent, if not the connivance, of the Chinese authorities. I am sure that the House will genuinely join with me—and these are not just words introduced for the purpose—in paying great tribute to the courage and patience shown by our Chargé d'Affaires and all our staff in these very trying circumstances.
There is a growing tendency on the part of the Chinese Government in their dealings not only with us, but with the diplomatic representatives of other countries to encroach upon the normal functions of diplomatic missions and to flout the internationally long-accepted principles of diplomatic immunity. I find this extremely disturbing, to put it mildly. It calls in question the normal civilised means of communication between governments which, for centuries, have formed the basis of international diplomacy. We have recently reminded the Chinese Government of their obligations in this respect and we have told them unmistakably that we consider this to be a matter of fundamental importance in our relations.
While absolutely accepting my right hon. Friend's statement about the bravery and courage with which our diplomats in China resisted the sort of treatment about which he spoke, cannot my right hon. Friend say something about why the Chinese may be behaving as they are? Would he care to comment on the fact that while we voted for China's inclusion in the United Nations, we went on, at the behest of the United States, to vote for China's exclusion by means of a procedural device, which meant that we knew that everybody else knew—[Interruption.] I hope that my right hon. Friend will comment on this matter, which is vitally important.
I intend to discuss the question of China's membership of the United Nations, and I will be doing so quite openly. I say to my hon. Friend, with the greatest affection and respect, that she will get no mileage out of trying to explain away China's behaviour in this matter.
Before dealing with that—and I promise to do so in a moment—I want to consider the second field in which the cultural revolution has, as it were, lapped over and impinged on us, and that, of course, is Hong Kong. My right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary has already told the House that the Hong Kong Government have acted with the greatest possible restraint in maintaining peace in the territory, and I want to repeat that there is no foundation whatever for Chinese accusations of atrocities, or anything meriting that word, on the part of the British authorities, or the Hong Kong authorities.
But we cannot allow ourselves to be intimidated either by threats from China, or by violent outbreaks of local Communist sympathisers. As my right hon. Friend made clear in his statement of 10th July, the Hong Kong authorities have the full support of Her Majesty's Government in taking all necessary measures to maintain peace and security there. We intend to fulfil our responsibilities towards Hong Kong and to take all the measures needed to restore the situation so that the people who live there may settle down again to their normal pursuits, which is what the vast majority of them want. On this basis, we hope that our relations with China may return to their previous footing, to the mutual benefit of China, ourselves and Hong Kong.
I now come to the issue which my hon. Friend raised. Clearly, it is in the interest of everyone that a country of more than 700 million people should play its legitimate part in world affairs and co-operate in helping to keep the peace. China is one of the great nations of the world. An effective world authority needs China to play her part within it. That is why we have constantly and consistently supported the admission of China to the United Nations. We shall continue to do so, but I must add that China herself, by her behaviour in the field of diplomacy and by her attitude towards the United Nations, seems to be her own worst advocate, and that needs saying to China.
Some hon. Members may wonder whether much is to be gained at present by maintaining our relations with China in view of the treatment meted out to our Mission. Her Majesty's Government believe that recognition of a foreign Government, as I have said many times before, should not depend on our approval of its policies or its politics. Experience has also shown that once relations are broken, resumption is often a lengthy and difficult business. For these reasons, we shall seek to maintain our relations with China, to continue to trade with her and to have other contacts in so far as these are possible.
The question which my hon. Friend is asking is whether one should vote for a resolution in the United Nations which would declare that the admission of China was not an important issue. I am bound to say to my hon. Friend that one would swallow very hard before actually saying that the admission of China was not an important issue. I know what she has in mind, but I beg her not to overplay her hand. This is a very difficult issue to settle. Some year it will be settled, but it will be settled in a year when the climate and the behaviour of China are both such as to mean that China is about to he admitted.
Has the right hon. Gentleman had occasion to consider the argument on the legal point which was put to his colleague the Minister of State by Mr. Humphry Berkeley, of the United Nations Association, and which showed that under paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 18 of the Charter this ought to be dealt with as a matter of procedure, that is to say, by a majority vote, as was done in the case of Czechoslovakia and other nations which have changed their Governments since becoming members of the United Nations?
I am very much obliged to my right hon. Friend. I regard him as more of an authority on these matters than is Mr. Humphry Berkeley.
I have the issue very much in mind. Last year, I considered very closely whether we should change our practice in this procedural matter. It is a very difficult issue and one must pick the moment when we bring the procedural vote into line with the other vote. I do not think we would have helped if we had done anything about that up to now.
I was saying that international relations must, of course, be a two-way business. I think that we can honestly claim that we have made considerable efforts in the past to improve our relations with China. We are willing to go on doing so, but all the efforts cannot come from one side. If China is interested in better relations, it is up to her to show it and to recognise that such an improvement cannot be based on action by us alone.
In so many of the really important fields in foreign affairs, as the right hon. Gentleman will know better yet than I do, policies must be pursued consistently and vigorously over long periods if they are to have a chance to be successful. There are very few short cuts in this area of policy. This is true of our determination to have better relations with China; it applies equally to our policy of détente between East and West, to the whole movement towards European integration and, above all, as I said at the beginning, to our United Nations policy. We believe that we have the right aims in our foreign policy. We recognise the need to pursue them consistently and in the knowledge that results must sometimes—and I might even say often—be slow in coming. We also know that the tactical handling of these matters requires a great deal of flexibility. I ask the House to approach these issues in the debate in the same spirit.
Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, may I ask whether he has read accounts that Egyptian officials in San'a are saying that if the Royalist Government does not capitulate, villages in the Yemen will be bombed with gas? Is not this an occasion on which the right hon. Gentleman must take an initiative in the matter?
I have read the reports, but, as I said to the right hon. Gentleman in the Middle East debate the other day, this is a matter in which the initiative ought to be taken by the authorities of the country on whose territory it is happening. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Hon. Members can contest that with me, but I take the view that that is the right way in which to approach it. I do not think that I would help by myself raising it, or getting it raised on our initiative.
Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, may I ask whether he is seriously suggesting that the Republican Government of the Yemen will raise at the United Nations the fact that poison gas is being used in their support? Surely he is not asking us to accept that he believes that.
I am not having a question and answer session; and, in fact, I have sat down. I shall carefully listen to what hon. Members have to say, but I can only say that, having considered this very carefully, I have come to the conclusion that it simply would not help if this were to be an issue raised by Britain.
The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary chided my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) with having said that he would not comment on the Government's Defence White Paper, and then proceeded to talk about the Defence White Paper a certain amount himself. As the right hon. Gentleman will not doubt admit, defence and foreign affairs are, of course, closely interrelated. We cannot discuss the one without considering the other.
The Foreign Secretary also accused my right hon. Friend of being a little too black and white in his description of the "goodies" and the "baddies", but I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman was a bit too facile himself in talking about the rsources which a country must have to build up its defences. Of course a country, must have resources, but what we on this side of the House argue and disagree about with the Government is the proportion of our resources which they are prepared to allocate to our adequate and proper defence and the carrying out of our foreign policy. We maintain that a great country like ours, which is not prepared to devote 7 per cent. of its gross national product to looking after its interests in the world, is not worthy of continuing to be described as a great country.
I should like to take up with the right hon. Gentleman his insistence upon the importance of the United Nations as a world authority. This would be an ideal, but, so long as the veto in the Security Council, as it exists today, continues, I cannot see how it is possible for the United Nations to be an effective world authority. Until the great Powers are prepared to treat the United Nations as it should be treated, it cannot possibly fulfil its proper functions.
I want now to look at one very important part of the world and, in the lengthening list of withdrawals from our responsibilities, to speak about the latest—South-East Asia and the Far East. Despite the Government's mistaken policy, as we maintain, in Aden and South Arabia, the Government now propose to withdraw from our bases in South-East Asia and they have given dates. There is to be a very substantial withdrawal by 1970–71 and complete withdrawal by the mid-1970s.
However, as so often with this Government, they tend to hedge their bets when they produce White Papers. On foreign policy the new Defence White
Paper, at the end of paragraph 8 on page 5, states:
We plan to withdraw altogether from our bases in Singapore and Malaysia in the middle 1970s; the precise timing of our eventual withdrawal will depend on progress made in achieving a new basis for stability in South-East Asia and in resolving other problems in the Far East.
That is quite a bibful, but to name a date publicly by which the Government propose to withdraw from our bases in South-East Asia they must surely have had some grounds for seeing the emergence of a new basis for stability. It would be very interesting to know what they do see, because I hope that it is not just the end of confrontation.
Personally, I am not convinced that this is by any means necessarily permanent. Nor do I think that the Prime Minister of Malaysia or the Prime Minister of Singapore are by any means convinced that Indonesia has permanently rejected a policy of confrontation. It could easily be switched on again. Those parts of Malaysia in Borneo, Sabah and Sarawak are very much out on a limb. They are very susceptible and could very quickly be threatened by a reintroduction of a policy of confrontation, to say nothing of the protected State of Brunei with which we have a treaty.
Indonesia is far from stable as yet. I do not believe that in his heart of hearts the Prime Minister of Malaysia trusts the Indonesian situation or many of the elements that go to make up that widespread, diverse and very unsettled country. They have a long way to go before any stable relationships in that part of the world emerge.
It would be very much to the advantage of those countries if the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation could be widened and strengthened, but there is little sign of that at the moment. There have been suggestions that the Malaysian, Philippino and Indonesian peoples might get together in some kind of federation, but those who are leaders in that part of the world and who know the area best do not even take this proposition seriously as yet. It is not even a starter.
Rather than a tendency to stabilisation, there has been a tendency to fragmentation, because Singapore, which, at one time, was part of Malaysia, has now separated off and, in a way, could become something like a Far Eastern Israel. There is no doubt that the island of Singapore, peopled by a great majority of Chinese who could become very formidable fighters if they so made up their minds, is determined to defend itself and, under extremely able leadership, is an island which will have to be reckoned with in that part of the world.
The situation in Vietnam is still a long way from settlement.
In these circumstances, it seems the height of folly to give notice of a time of withdrawal of one of the greatest stabilising influences in that part of the world—namely, Britain—particularly against the wishes of the countries concerned. Both Singapore and Malaysia are very anxious that Britain should remain and play her part. If we withdrew and left a power vacuum, as we should, I do not believe that the Americans can at the present time adequately fill that vacuum. Such action on our part is asking for increased pressure upon the peoples of that part of the world and increased instability, and that will increase as the time for our withdrawal draws nearer.
Turning to Europe, the state of the North Atlantic Alliance, too, is becoming weaker rather than stronger. It has been seriously weakened by French actions and now by us. I believe that many of our allies are beginning to ask themselves whether Britain really cares about looking after her interests adequately and of being a good ally. As that happens many of our allies, too, will begin to lose interest.
It seems to me that there are already signs that a vigilant potential enemy is already beginning to take advantage of a weakening situation in the West. We are now seeing a formidable build-up in the Mediterranean of Russian power, particularly naval. Today the Foreign Secretary is neglecting the advice and the statement of one of his great predecessors in his own party who said that in no circumstances would he walk naked into the council chamber. It seems to me that Britain is steadily and not very slowly throwing her clothes away. I hope that I am wrong.
However, I come back again to some of the opening remarks of some of the right hon. Gentlemen. The basic strength of the country, its power to influence the world and its power in foreign affairs depend upon its economic strength at home. This is at the bottom of everything.
The right hon. Gentleman says "Hear, hear", but, unfortunately, he and his right hon. Friend are the architects of the economic chaos and mess that we are in.
The great plan that the right hon. Gentleman originally produced went into the wastepaper basket. Foreign affairs depends on the economic strength of the country. That is at the bottom of it all. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that not long ago he said that his party would have no more alibis to produce in relation to the economic situation of the country, that it took the blame for the position that we are in. If we have not the resources to have a proper, adequate foreign policy it is his fault and that of his right hon. Friends.
I shall not follow the hon. Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel)—I should be in some danger of error if I did—in discussing the National Economic Plan. Much of his comment seemed hardly appropriate, beyond a passing reference, in a debate of this kind.
I want to say a few words about a situation in a country with which we are involved in many ways—through the United Nations, through our activities and interests in connection with O.E.C.D. and also through a very long traditional friendship and alliance. I refer to Greece.
One of the tragedies of the Greek situation is that so many great world events have overshadowed what has been happening these past weeks in Greece. There is grave danger of Greece being swept finally behind the Fascist curtain while these other great events outside are taking place elsewhere. We have, however, responsibilities and involvements in Greece, just as we have in the Middle East and South-East Asia. What has happened in Greece is in danger of causing much wider trouble in that part of the world. I need hardly mention Cyprus, and what is feared may happen in Cyprus even at this moment, to show how involved we are in the problem.
When the military coup took place on 21st April, 149 members of the Labour Party and the Liberal Party expressed their grave anxiety about what was happening in Greece. Nothing has happened since then to lessen our anxiety. Indeed, the situation is consolidating itself for the worse.
I agree with the noble Lord. It was not quite the peace of the the graveyard, but it was the silence of a people confronted by tanks and guns. If he were in such a situation he would be quiet, too, and would not have dared to interrupt as he has just done.
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree—I know that he was in Athens, and I aslo know that he is a man of integrity—that there were very small military forces in Athens? Hardly any were visible. Normal life went on not affected by the Military.
If the noble Lord will allow me to go on with my normal speech in my normal way I shall perhaps come to that subject. However, what he says is, in fact, a point strongly in favour of what I am about to say, first, conditions in Greece were extremely normal considering that elections were to take place a few weeks later, promised by the King and the Government and arranged for through the Parliament. For the first time in many elections, the 'two major parties in Greece had agreed that no caretaker Government would be required during the election. It was agreed that the Right-wing Government should remain in office for that purpose. There had not been such an agreement for many years.
Once that had been agreed, a calm descended upon the country which had not been possible for several months beforehand when the nation was frustrated from going to elections because of the activities of the extreme Right, the Establishment and the Palace itself. Efforts had deliberately been made in one attempt after another to demonstrate the failure of Parliamentary democracy in Greece by setting up collapsible coalition Governments. But it had not failed any more than it had in many other countries, nor to a greater degree. So, with the elections due, calm existed. But the very fact that the agreement between the parties existed was one more reason why no unconstitutional action should have been taken to disturb the course of the elections. So I find it extremely difficult to justify the arguments about the disturbances which were going on in Greece which the military junta now uses as part of its justification for taking over the country and abolishing the Parliament and all the democratic institutions in Greece.
But Hitler at least appealed to the electorate and was elected. But the mob in Greece who claimed to be the Government dared not face elections and would not allow free elections to others. As the noble Lord said, calm prevailed at election time in the country, but it was, indeed, only remarkable, considering the refusal month after month to allow normal elections to take place and considering the plot to prevent earlier elections in which the Palace was involved.
When one considers all these provocations and electoral irritations, it is only remarkable how calm the people were. After the coup the calm continued; but it was a calm enforced by the army. The noble Lord could not have gone into the side streets in Athens or looked behind the university or the Parliament or into the Royal Park. If he had he would have seen the tanks. I agree that they were not on the streets. One cannot have both tanks and tourists on the same streets, at any rate not for long. If tanks are there the tourists will go. I am surprised that the noble Lord did not see a great deal more than he says he did. He could not have been very observant for a journalist of his receptive capacity.
There was no violence from the Centre, and none from the Left because neither the Centre nor the Left was planning violence, and neither was equipped for violence. The revolutionaries, so called by the junta, were found peacefully in their beds and dragged out of them in the middle of the night. These included the Conservative Prime Minister, Mr. Canellopoulos, a Greek 1967 version of Stanley Baldwin, a highly respectable constitutional Conservative. Nevertheless, he was regarded as being insufficiently reactionary and Right-wing by the junta, and it dragged him out of his bed. He resisted, but he was dragged away to imprisonment. So was ex-Premier George Papandreou, another elderly man; and, admits Brigadier Pattakos, 10,000 other people were also dragged away to prison early on 21st April.
The calm prevailing was, as I have said, the calm next to the calm of the cemetery. It was the calm of people threatened with the cemetery if they broke it. We know that Greece has gone, for the time being, behind the nearest thing to a Fascist curtain that we have in Western Europe outside Spain and Portugal. Who have declared themselves in favour of this régime? Very few indeed. I do not think that even General Franco sent a congratulatory telegram; or that Salazar has sent any congratulations. Nor has anyone, so far as I know, in any country, except for Colonel Grivas, who sent a telegram—it was not too welcome for obvious reasons—from Cyprus, immediately after the coup.
Without mentioning names, I regret that in this country there are a few prominent people who have aligned themselves with the new Fascist régime. So far as I know, no one else in Europe has expressed approbation of this mutiny and rebellion against the constitutional Government, against Parliamentary and the other free institutions of Greece.
Who are these people in power in Greece? They were absolutely unknown until the day after the coup. They were not even the senior command of the Army, but from the second rank. It was a rebellion against their seniors and against the commander-in-chief. The King claims to be the commander-in-chief and if the junta was not, in fact, technically in rebellion against him, then it must have done what it did with his connivance. That is still a very open question indeed. So much confusion was deliberately woven round it, that it is difficult to establish the exact part played by the King at this moment.
It is less than generous for the hon. Gentleman to say that the King in any way connived at this revolution. There is much evidence to show that he did nothing whatever.
There is no evidence whatever to show that he did not. There is every indication that he was very quick indeed to endorse the action of the junta. There has been no public statement that he did not approve it Everyone in contact with Greece over the years and particularly these past months knows that there has been a long-term plot brewing in which it was widely suspected throughout Greece that the Establishment and the Palace itself was very much involved. When Pattakos and Papadopoulos and the rest of the rebels took action on the night of 20th-21st they are believed to have adopted a N.A.T.O. emergency plan, devised for a different situation of national danger, and to have forestalled the longer-term coup which was being planned by agents provocateurs by the extreme Right and the High Command, through possible disturbances in the elections and otherwise.
The reasons given by the junta and its supporters and apologists here and elsewhere for taking over were that it expected the leader of the Centre Union, Mr. Papandreou, to go to Salonika on the Sunday night and rally the nation to revolution. At the same time it was believed that the Centre Union would win overwhelmingly in the elections in a few weeks' time. Who in his senses, as the leader of any political party on the eve of his own overwhelming victory, would involve himself, his party and country in violent revolution?
Secondly, there is no evidence whatever that any arms had been accumulated by any party, or that any organised violence was contemplated by either the Centre Union or the Left-wing forces in Greece, because they were taken by surprise in the middle of the night and offered no violence, except possibly with their fists. They were wheeled away en masse in trucks to concentration camps and island prisons.
Throughout this, the calm admired so much by the noble Lord continued, but it was the calm of imposed tyranny, and the enforced calm, politically, of a new brand of Fascism. What worries me is that this sort of coup can happen in other countries. It may well be the pattern for similar action in Italy, France and elsewhere within the N.A.T.O. Alliance. It has already happened, indeed in Greece, with the N.A.T.O. Alliance. The N.A.T.O. emergency plan used in Athens is common knowledge to the French, Italians and everyone in N.A.T.O. It was used first and perverted by this group of Greek officers. We have to look at this as one of the fundamental dangers, and we have been warned.
These people now in power have no constitutional authority, in spite of what has been said, even on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. The suspension of certain Articles of the Constitution is provided for against certain national emergencies, particularly danger from outside the country, involving great disturbance within the country. Article 91 has a provision, however, that any suspension of those rights of the Greek people must be ratified by Parliament within 10 days. The King has no constitutional authority to endorse the suspension of those Articles of the Constitution without the official ratification by Parliament within 10 days.
In spite of that, he permitted, accepted and endorsed the action of the junta in suspending the rights of the people under the Constitution, and recognised the junta as a Government. On this very tenuous and doubtful constitutional point—its acceptance by the King, illegally—the Government here and Governments throughout the world have recognised the junta as the Government of Greece. This is a very feeble constitutional basis, and Her Majesty's Government should look again at this point, because it is one of very great importance.
I cannot blame the noble Lord for talking about the Athens calm. I am sure that if he had been there a few days before the coup, like everyone else he would have been taken unawares by it, as most people were. It is astonishing to find out how naive even people like Mr. Canopoulos, a leading Greek politician, with all his experience of Greek politics, were within days of the coup. I had had
correspondence with him and other Greek leaders on that very subject for a long time and almost a year to the day, in the course of a letter of 21st March, 1966, he wrote to me:
You say that powerful circles in Greece are working for a possible abolition of Parliamentary Government in the country. I am afraid that your information is not correct. Such powerful circles do not exist as far as I know.
Almost everyone in Greece was taken by surprise. No one expected this exact type of rebellion by this rank and type of military mutineer at that very moment. They were not fully ready for it, even on the Right wing, which was always suspicious of what the Left wing was up to and thinking in terms of a take-over to stop them. There was, however, growing preparation for this brand of revolution further to the Right. Deeper into the Establishment, the responsibility for the military violence is greater, and the knowledge of military coup preparations was much more intimate.
Can one say, on the other hand, that there was a pattern or background of violence so far as the mass of the Greek people, or the Centre Union party was concerned? That is the idea used to justify this coup, as having forestalled violence. The apologists for this coup have to go back 20 years, to the old violence of the Civil War, in order to get some background of disturbance against which to justify the coup taking place in April, 1967. A more feeble argument than that I cannot conceive of.
The two big political parties had reached an agreement such as had not been reached in other elections. The elections were being conducted by the Right-wing party without any fundamental objection by the others. Yet they had the coup.
This is a tragedy for so many, because not only Greece is involved. This is a pattern of mutiny and seizure of power which could be very dangerous in certain circumstances in some other countries within the N.A.T.O. Alliance.
I regret that it is necessary to underline the constitutional point of the King's involvement and illegal endorsement of the rebel junta as a government. This is the one point upon which our recognition has been accorded to the new junta in Greece—the fact that the King has
accepted the junta. This is, and will remain, a matter for considerable constitutional, moral and political argument. Brigadier Pattakos, who is one of the two really tough guys in the junta, said in Northern Greece on 3rd July:
I want to convey to you"—
he was talking to the Greek people—
this message of faith and optimism and to reassure you that the revolution of 21st April, inspired by our beloved King Constantine, symbol and creator of the unity and power of our nation, and guided by the incorruptible servant of justice, the President of the Government, Mr. Kollias, and working tirelessly in complete harmony with the members of our national Government of selected scientists and military persons, has decided to complete her task by any means.
That is a fine piece of almost Oriental oratory which would stick in the throat of the ordinary politician. But these are not politicians, which is another tragedy for Greece: they are soldiers and only soldiers. Not one of them has any political experience. This is a gang of military mutineers attempting to run a country which was rapidly becoming a modern, Western European type of State.
A common plea of the present Government in Greece is to say that previously there was corruption. The apologists or supporters of the junta say that there was corruption in the last two, three or four years. Of course there was corruption. But it certainly did not start in the last two, three or four years. Those who say that it started in the last two, three or four years are saying that it did not happen to appear to threaten their interest in the days of Karamanlis and the extreme right wing, because they are supporters of the extreme right wing and this is their way of reacting to the first winds of real democratic change and a new surge of economic development in the country's real interest.
It may be said that when we attack this unprincipled military junta we are "attacking Greece". But we are, of course, doing nothing of the kind. People in Greece were constantly telling us to do everything that we possibly could to use the good offices of our own Government, and to try to impress on international organisations in which Britain is a partner or participant the need to ostracise, discredit and bring down the rebel army junta and to help to bring full democracy back to Greece again as quickly as possible. The Greek people have a right to an answer and response and action from every democracy, particularly in Europe, and especially from those of us, united with them in defence, as N.A.T.O. claims to be, of the free world and the free, democratic way of life.
We cannot pass over the suppression and subversion of the free Press of Greece and the imprisonment of quite large numbers of decent able, men and women in the journalistic profession—of editors, publishers, and others. Madame Vlachou, a woman of very high principles, who used to run one of the best conservative newspapers in Athens, refuses to publish as long as there is any censorship or as long as this rebel mob is in control. She has been driven near to bankruptcy. The rules which have been laid down for Press censorship constitute a unbelievable story. There is censorship also of the mail, of the theatre, of the cinema—indeed, censorship all round, in every sphere.
In addition, the Army has involved itself so deeply and widely in so many things that it is no longer an effective military force for any serious N.A.T.O. purposes. It is now the Government, the Civil Service, the censorship of the mail, of the newspapers, and so on—it is totally involved in a hundred different unfamiliar activities. If there were a serious N.A.T.O. emergency tomorrow, Greece's forces would be useless to us—much more useless than France was when she was involved so deeply in the Algerian war, with her fleet also involved in support of her armies in Africa.
From the point of view of the people of Greece, it is high time that we took serious note of what has happened in their country and took action as quickly as possible in our own interests as well as in the interests of our allies and the Greek people to undo the already grave damage which has been done.
It is unbelievable the number of ordinary things which Greeks are not now allowed to do. There is an almost total suppression of real freedom. Almost every article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been broken by the rebel junta and is treated with contempt from day to day. I can give article after article which, on the evidence which is coming in every day about what is happening in Greece, has been flouted and abandoned by the military junta.
If one is visiting anybody in Greece and staying overnight, especially, the resident—one's host or hostess—has to report the fact to the police. I have had experience of this myself. I did not stay in a house at which I had often been a guest, on the night in question, because I did not want to involve those living in it with the police. This is common experience now throughout the country. If people are caught listening to the B.B.C. Greek language programmes to Athens they can be sentenced to from two to four years' imprisonment. In Thessaly and elsewhere such cases are confirmed. There is compulsory church going, as a sop to the church, which is one way of finding one's way to the new Fascist heaven. This is not all. Compulsion is buttressed by the determination of Mr. Kollias to produce what he calls the nearest thing "to a perfect man" in due course in Greece. It is an astonishing vocabulary to use in the middle of a lawless mutiny and revolution. Yet these busy men even found time for other serious work like banning miniskirts and beards.
People must not call the junta a dictatorship. They have been imprisoned for calling it that. To prove, no doubt, that it was not a savage dictatorship, they were put in prison. If people want to go through Yugoslavia, to Austria or the West, they must sign a document that they will not contact any Yugoslav. That would be difficult enough, unless one were very good at dodging the Customs.
There is no mail to Eastern Europe. The universities are being interfered with unbelievably and most deplorably. The civil servants have to attend brain washing classes and have to become exemplary blood donors. One can almost understand that, with a stupid Government of that kind, they are bound to become bloodthirsty in respect of their academics and politicians. It is not surprising that the civil servants give the last drop of their blood in compulsory loyalty to this great Fascist cause—to keep their jobs. The students have now to wear identity badges. As I have said, there is censorship of the Press, of the mail, of the theatre and of the cinema, all literate activity and culture.
The tragedy is that the junta in Greece cannot let go and survive. It cannot suddenly stop being a so-called Government. It cannot suddenly decide to cancel out the mutiny or suddenly stop being censor, civil service and all the other different things it is doing so clumsily. If it did that, it would be letting go the lion's tail. There is a calm in the streets of Athens. The tourist industry in Athens is very important. Calm, therefore, is enforced and there appears to be acquiescence; helpless calm. But the Fascists cannot let go. This is the danger. Unless they are prised away by force or unbearable pressures from their power, they will not let go voluntarily; I am sure of that. Every new statement which is made, therefore, more and more cancels out all the fine promises of the early days about a new constitution in six months with a referendum and free elections. I have asked the junta leaders repeatedly for dates or estimates as to when the elections would be held. Not one Minister—the Prime Minister or the Minister of the Interior or any other—could give such a date or target. If people put placards on walls, they would be "shot". That is the wonderfully appropriate, terse, precise reply of the military junta in Greece. That was Mr. Pattalcos's own reply at an interview. Equally clearly he answered "Shot!" when asked about giving out leaflets.
Responsible journalists by the dozen have conducted interviews on the spot about the situation in Greece. Hon. Members will have seen during the last week a series of two first-class articles in The Times last week by a first-class team of journalists. They certainly did not exaggerate. They underplayed the situation in their reporting to make it credible in this country that such things could happen in Greece, in a civilised country, among the people who have so long been our respected friends and our allies, and very gallant ones at that, in more than one great war in this century.
To say that if we were to take action we should be interfering in Greek affairs is absolute nonsense. Mr. Cannellopoulos and Mr. Papandreou and his son have always welcomed the interest of British politicians and of the British generally in the affairs of Greece. So have all reasonable statesmen of all parties in that country. They are glad to see us interesting ourselves, in particular, in their struggle for the enlargement and widening of democracy. The aim of Mr. Papandreou's party and of Andreas Papandreou, in particular, was to bring Greece right into the second half of the twentieth century politically and economically as a modern state. She has a long way to go. Her modern Parliamentary democracy does not go back many years; though one could say that of the full franchise in this country, too. At least, in this country we were given the full free opportunity to develop and expand it and to make it universal and to establish and consolidate it through the years without that sort of disturbance by rebels and mutineers or violence. Greece has been less fortunate.
I could give many evidences of the feelings of the people from the Right wing and the Centre. I am not talking of the Greek Left. Apart from anything else they were in gaol since the coup—and still are—as the noble Lord knows. Every leader of the Left was either on one of the islands or in the concentration camps. It is important for a journalist to get all shades of opinion from the whole political spectrum. The noble Lord should know these things.
Some of those of the Right-wing party were also in gaol or under police surveillance in their homes. Many Centre Union M.P.s were also in goal, and many awaiting trial. More of them, indeed, are in prison now, with no charges against them, than when we were there. More Centre Union Members of Parliament are in prison awaiting trial, uncharged, or on spurious charges than were in prison or under detention at the time of the coup.
It is with no pleasure that we have to condemn what has been happening in Greece. There is no excuse on earth for it. There was an electoral and general calm prevailing in Greece in late April, which even the military coup itself, be- cause of its surprise and suddenness, did not completely disturb, because nobody, least of all at Easter, expected these things, such organised treachery, and because there was no organised, armed resistance on the Centre or Left.
We know why the coup was so successful technically. It is because a N.A.T.O. exercise, planned to take over in national crisis, was used to carry out that undemocratic operation against the Parliament and the people. But we are involved in this, too. The peace of Europe could be involved in issues, which threaten the peace of Cyprus. This is obviously now a greater danger spot in the world than ever. As long as these rebels are there, in power in Athens, it daily becomes increasingly more dangerous.
I hope that Her Majesty's Government and all our allies, at least in N.A.T.O., in the Western Europe organisations, and in Scandinavia, will use every possible pressure to prise these dangerous people out—because the only thing they recognise is power and pressure. Logic and persuasion cannot hope to be used with success. They must be forced to relinquish the illegal power which they seized by mutiny, condoned by people in the Establishment, who are not themselves concerned with democracy in Greece, but only with holding on to their own power in turn.
It is high time that the Greek people were helped to speak again freely for themselves, as they were about to do at the elections of 28th May. If they had been able to do that, there would today be a government of the Centre Union, centred about a hard core of people who had resisted every attempt at their bribery and corruption—honest, intelligent and progressive men. That is the Government that the people would have had. Instead of that, they have the tragedy and humiliation of a military rebel junta of stupid men. The sooner that a proper Government can be established once again the better for the Greek people—and for the peace of the world.
The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) has spoken with great passion on the subject of Greece. I would like to try to look a little less passionately at it than he has done, although I would like to begin by saying that I associate myself with many of the remarks and sentiments which he has expressed. Nobody can like seeing the destruction by a military junta of a democratic régime. Nobody, on either side, can like seeing the closure of a free Press or the throwing into prison of a large number of parliamentarians and people who are opposed to the authority in power.
What is of interest, however, is to realise why and how this happened. When the revolution came, it came so totally peaceably that, as far as I know, the only casualty in the whole of that night was the young Mr. Papandreou, who fell out of an attic and cut his leg on an electric installation.
There cannot be a bloodless revolution unless there is considerable assent to it. It is my belief that there was considerable assent to the revolution, because democracy in Greece has ceased to be the ideal democracy which the hon. Member for the Western Isles likes so much to defend and had become very much a corrupt oligarchy.
There were in Greece about 400 Mem13.rs of Parliament, which is roughly equivalent to 2,400 Members of Parliament in this country. I do not think that it is realised exactly what undemocratic advantages those men had. To begin with, they all had £4,000 a year free of tax. They could buy land on which to build their houses at an almost nominal price. Another almost overwhelming advantage was that they could travel free anywhere in the world by any means of Greek transport. Therefore, if a Greek Member of Parliament wished to go to New York and to come back via Tokyo, there was nothing to stop him doing so as long as he could do it by Greek transport.
Is the noble Lord advancing that kind of argument to justify the overthrow of a duly elected Government? Does not the logic of his argument imply that when the Government in this country raised the salaries of Members of Parliament, he and his hon. Friends should have lead a coup d'etat against them
I was saying what had occurred. I shall not follow the hon. Member's suggestion about how to make a speech, because he makes more dreary speeches in the House than almost anyone else. The last thing to do is to follow his advice. Why he wants to give it is another matter.
I was explaining why there was such a stable takeover. We regret it, but that was why it occurred. That was why it was possible for me and the hon. Member for the Western Isles to walk about Athens and see the military only in certain key positions. That in itself is regrettable. The most regrettable aspect of all was that democracy had so traduced itself that when it was overthrown, hardly anyone cared anything about it.
What the noble Lord says is true. I have conceded that it was calm for the obvious reason that unarmed people cannot successfully argue with tanks and guns. They were not ready or armed for violence and they were not violentminded. Had the noble Lord gone on any of the Centre Union tours like the so-called "march of the people" to Thessaly, as I did, with Georges Papandreou, he would have seen hundreds of thousands of people from just outside Athens and all the way up to Salonica, immense crowds of people, using tractors, bicycles, every possible means of transport, giving a tremendous show of feeling and support for the Centre Union Party. There was no violence of any kind, but any amount of political excitement—
Order. The hon. Member has made one speech. I should like to remind hon. Members that a large number of Members wish to take part in the debate and I hope that they will be brief.
I am sorry that I cannot answer the question of the hon. Member for the Western Isles, but I do not know what it is.
The other thing that the hon. Member said and which, I thought, was most unfair was that he was not sure that the King was not involved. All the evidence that I saw in Greece persuaded me that the King was not involved.
To begin with, the King's a.d.c, who was a close friend of his, had his door shot down and was threatened and manhandled by the members of the revolutionary union. There is evidence that when the King went to the military in the middle of the night, he put up many arguments against the take-over by the junta. Although it may seem a contradiction in terms at the present time, I believe that the maintenance of the King in his position offers the best hope of a return to democracy at some future date.
The King has always believed in the democracy and in the holding of elections. If, as I argue, he was not involved in this junta, he therefore remained someone above politics who can be a figurehead and who can bring democracy back. If in two or three years the military junta were to hand back power to an assembly whose numbers were reduced, there is no doubt that the junta would have achieved great and necessary reform.
The real tragedy in Greek life is the payment given to civil servants. They simply are not paid enough money to live adequately. The result is that bribery and corruption are almost inherent in the Greek Civil Service system. If the junta were greatly to upgrade the status and salaries of civil servants, and if within a period of two years it were to make parliamentary reforms and return power to the Assembly, I believe that the junta would have done the country a very great service.
But the doubts which the hon. Gentleman expressed remain. This revolution could easily go the other way and become as authoritarian in Greece as Nasser has become in Egypt. It is a revolution of the colonels and is, in many ways, comparable with the Egyptian one. This is the great danger we must face, because, if it goes that way, if a military junta is established, that will mean the end for a very long time of every sort of liberty in Greece. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we should express our hope that the revolution will not take this long-term end, because, if it did, it would be a tragedy for Europe.
I turn now to some other subjects on which it had been my intention to concentrate before the hon. Gentleman introduced the subject of Greece. What struck me whilst listening to the Foreign Secretary was the peculiar and striking lack of idealism about the Middle East now coming from the Government Front Bench. I should have thought that this was the time for the Government to put forward the idea, which has often been expressed by hon. Members opposite, that there should be a moratorium on the sale of arms to the Middle East. I believe that this is the moment when it would be psychologically important and wise to make such a suggestion. We should have to agree to go on completing the military contracts which we have made, but a great opportunity has been missed by the Government in not suggesting a cessation of the supply of arms to both sides. I find it odd, striking and peculiar that no suggestion upon these lines has come from the Front Bench spokesman of a party which always pretends to be dedicated to morality in internationl affairs.
Does the noble Lord recall that some weeks ago my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made just such a suggestion and that we temporarily stopped supplying arms to the Middle East, but that other major Powers, including the Soviet Union, refused to agree to the British Government's suggestion, so if we had carried on it would simply have meant a unilateral suspension by this country?
The Government stopped supplying arms for one day. There has been no major diplomatic initiative on behalf of Her Majesty's Government to suggest that there should be a cessation of the supply of arms. This is a great pity. It is also a pity that hon. Members opposite have not expressed this view at this time.
I wonder why Britain has not taken this step. Is it because the Government have now forgotten the moral road that they used to pretend that they were walking and are not prepared to sacrifice the economic advantages which flow from the sales of arms to the Middle East? I hope that the Government spokesman will mention this subject in winding up the debate.
Again on the subject of morals, the hon. Member for the Western Isles suggested that we should interfere in Greek domestic affairs. The hon. Gentleman is entitled to say that, but it is rather odd that he should make this suggestion when the Foreign Secretary has just stated that he believes that it would be totally wrong for us to interfere with any affairs in the Yemen. How can hon. Members opposite ever flaunt their morality again when they see gas being dropped in the Yemen? I was in the Yemen this year. What struck me as most appalling about the use of this weapon is that it was used primarily, not against front line soldiers, nor against the men actually fighting the Egyptians, but against their wives and children and old people in villages many hundreds of miles from the conflict.
Is the noble Lord aware that we on this side are as horrified as he is by the use of poison gas, that we have protested, and that we continue to protest? It is remarkable that neither he nor any of his right hon. and hon. Friends have considered it necessary to protest against American action in Vietnam. They have not protested against, for example, the use of napalm. Why not? Why not be consistent and logical?
These are farcical interventions. What is the point of trying to justify the use of gas in the Yemen by asking me if I have read a document of 1925? The point is that in the Yemen now gas is being used against old people, women and children. They are being killed in a brutal and unpleasant way. Is that made any better by the fact that unpleasant weapons are being dropped in Vietnam?
I am only too glad of that. If so, why does not the Foreign Secretary, representing the Labour Government, bring the matter up at the United Nations, about which the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) has spoken more than almost anybody? I hope that when he speaks later he will suggest that this matter be taken up by his beloved United Nations. On this occasion we want to use the United Nations to prevent a brutal type of war, with Arab killing Arab in the most brutal way imaginable. All we suggest is that the United Nations, which hon. Members opposite always accuse us of hating, should be used as an instrument to stop brutality at this time.
There is no doubt that it was only because Britain in the last war had planes loaded with gas always ready to take off against Germany that we were able to prevent the use of gas against us. Gas as a deterrent is a weapon of considerable value and its possession is the surest way of ensuring that it is not used, as was proved in the last war.
One cannot help thinking that the reason why the Foreign Secretary has not pressed this case, the proof of which is absolutely apparent, is that he basically does not want to offend Egypt. We are going far too far along, the line of doing practically everything to placate Egypt.
I want to bring before the House an individual case which has been drawn to my attention by, a constituent. It concerns an ex-squadron leader of 74, who has lived in Egypt for many years. He suffers from angina pectoris, which all hon. Members know is one of the most agonising diseases known to medicine. This man was, at the time of the six-day war, seized by the Egyptian police, dragged to their headquarters and interrogated. He was not allowed to call his doctor. He was not allowed to summon the British Consultate to his aid. By the time he was put on a ship at Port Said he was literally at death's door, and only the skill of the doctor on the ship saved him.
I believe that no protest has been made by Her Majesty's Government to the Egyptian Government. If there has been, I would be glad to know what it is. It took a long time for the case even to be acknowledged by the Foreign Office. If we allow our nationals in Egypt to be treated in this way, without any protest from us, we shall not in any way cease to irritate Nasser—he will merely lose the last vestiges of respect he has for us.
I hope that the Government spokesman will say a word or two about an area of which I believe we shall hear a great deal in the future—the adjoining territories of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. Here, especially now the temperature has so risen as a result of the six-day war, there lie all the seeds of a future disastrous war, and a war which could put us in the most difficult of positions.
Speaking very generally, one can say that Kenya has the closest relations with the United Kingdom, that Ethiopia has the closest relations with the United States of America, and that Somalia is, at the moment, to a large extent armed by the Chinese. We therefore have world conflict in preparation there and it would be a conflict that would bring the great Powers up against each other. It was because of the great unsettlement in this area, I think, that we had hoped earlier that there would be some internationalisation of the island of Perim, which lies off Djibouti, because it is unlikely that French Somaliland will continue indefinitely to belong to the French.
It seems a great pity that the Government are not more determined to utilise the United Nations in the right way. As I say, I hope that whoever winds up the debate for the Government tonight will draw the attention of the House to the very dangerous trends existing in this area. We do not want to he caught as unawares there as, apparently, we were by what occurred in the Middle East.
We have heard two quite remarkable speches about Greece from hon. Members on either side, and I am quite sure that, whatever else we thought, we had at the back of our minds an immense sadness that this sort of thing should be happening in Greece at all, and a feeling of impotence in having to stand by and watch a democracy, whatever faults it may or may not have had, overthrown by a group, to use a neutral word, of apparent ignoramuses in political affairs, and certainly in international affairs, who may be good soldiers but who certainly know nothing of the government of a country. We all hope that whatever may be done there in the next few weeks, months or even years, the foundations will be already laid for a return of democracy to Greece; and that we in this country will do all we can, within the properties of international affairs, to help that movement on.
We also listened to a most remarkable speech by the Foreign Secretary. Here was a speech which, while dealing with the withdrawal of British forces from various parts of the world, also had a constructive suggestion to make. All the time, the emphasis was on the United Nations. That was a great thing to do, particularly at this juncture, when it is so easy for people to poke fun at the United Nations when they should be poking fun at themselves for not using the machinery of the United Nations, and when there have been occasions on which there have appeared to be legitimate criticisms of the way in which even the United Nations Organisation had used itself in international affairs. I was therefore delighted to hear my right hon. Friend speaking in those terms about the United Nations.
He referred largely to the withdrawal in the next few years of our troops which will take place from many parts of the world, particularly from Asia. I very much approve of the Government's line here. It is quite ridiculous for a Government to allow themselves to be overstretched financially in carrying out tasks they are no longer able to carry out. We saw a good example of that in France after the First World War; and a pathetic sight was. I hope that we never see it here.
We should withdraw in such a way, and with such consultations with our friends in the areas from which we withdraw, that we help them to adjust themselves to the situation we create. I believe that we are doing that. I congratulate the Government on the way they are to come out of Aden—I know that it is not very popular in all quarters to say that. But I was uneasy until the Government indicated that they intended to give some kind of aid to the peoples of Southern Arabia, should they need it, in the period after our withdrawal.
I was particularly proud of the Government when they suggested that responsibility for Perim should be undertaken by the United Nations—that is, by the world, through the machinery of the United Nations; and when the Foreign Secretary undertook to do everything he could between now and the beginning of next year to see that the United Nations did shoulder that responsibility. Perhaps we may be told later in the debate what steps have been taken at the United Nations to try to persuade other Governments that this should be a world responsibility, and what progress, if any, has been made.
I believe that this "Perim line", if one can use the term, should be increasingly followed in today's world. There are many places of vital importance to the peace of the world, whether for commercial or strategic reasons, which come to mind, and which could very well be subjected to this treatment. One thinks of Suez, Panama, Gibraltar, the Dardanelles, Singapore—perhaps Antarctica, and the whole seabed beyond the Continental Shelf. All these would be very much better under the control of the world than under the control of any one State. I look to the Government, in their sane and civilised approach to foreign affairs, to lay increasing stress on the world aspect, as opposed to the national aspects of the problems.
That brings one fairly easily to the Middle East. I believe there is now a chance, which I confess I did not see before the fighting, perhaps a glimmer of light that there may be a just settlement which could result in a stable peace. But action will have to be speedy to achieve it. Before the fighting—indeed, it is unfortunately likely to be true for some time afterwards—the Arabs would not recognise the Israeli right to exist. Now, seeing that it is apparent—and I think it is—that the Russians are not prepared to risk a major conflict by supporting the Arabs, and seeing that the Arabs are unlikely to achieve their aims alone in the foreseeable future and—a further "if" I am afraid—if the Israelis behave in a statesmanlike manner, I think there is a chance of a settlement now which would be just to both sides.
If it does not happen quickly the Israelis will remain in possession of their gains and the refugee problem will continue to fester, only more so, and in 10 or 20 years I suppose the whole thing will boil up again with incalculable results for the future of the whole human race. So it behoves us all in the United Nations—this is the only hope in this matter—through its machinery to get on with the matter extremely quickly.
The first necessity is that every Government which believes in the United Nations, as I think this Government do, should urge their friends who are part of the United Nations that the Security Council should take charge of this whole matter of the Middle East as soon as possible. In the Security Council the super-Powers, the great Powers and the other Powers are represented. Nowhere else does that happen. The sooner that the super-Powers and the great Powers realise that they are only just little worms waiting to be trampled on the better, and unless they all act in common in the world sense together they will be trampled on—
Would not my hon. and learned Friend agree that one of the tragedies of the recent situation was that the trouble on the Israeli-Syrian Border was discussed as long ago as last autumn in the Security Council and, because it was not discussed seriously enough, somehow the Security Council lost its grip of the problem in the intervening period?
I think that is true, but, having had a jolt such as we have all had, I think that quite possibly there is now a chance. No other body but the Security Council has the necessary authority to be seized of this situation effectively, not even the great super Powers by themselves, unless they were prepared to be seen in public together, so to speak. We know that at least one of them will not be seen in a huddle with the other for fear of what some of its friends or its big enemy might think. Inside the Security Council it is perfectly respectable for them to associate. There they can exercise their admittedly great power beneficently.
It is not for us to make detailed proposals about what the Security Council could or should do. There are so many combinations of suggestions, each of which could bring about the desired result if there were the will in the Security Council to bring it about. I of course would like a very substantial United Nations presence in that part of the world. I draw the attention of the Minister of State who is to reply to the debate to Motion 603, which already has 72 signatures. It advocates the leasing or purchasing of Sinai as a United Nations territory.
I believe this could establish the United Nations in a big way in that part of the world, if it could be negotiated. If it could be negotiated as a result of the influence of the Security Council—and if it acted in unity it could do this—immense benefit would result. It could lead to the development of the land of Sinai. No land is uninhabitable if it has pipelines bringing water, and means of desalination to enable sea water to be used for irrigation. This could make a substantial dent in the problem of refugees and it could keep certain of the contestants apart.
After a just settlement had been negotiated by the Security Council, an effective United Nations presence there would give people confidence in its permanence and render stable the just peace which had been agreed. The essence of the whole matter is that Her Majesty's Government—we have no influence over the others—should urge at once the taking into its lap by the Security Council of the whole problem of the Middle East, that it should take charge of it and use its whole might to bring about a just settlement. I hope that our Government will urge in the Security Council that this should be done.
I point out to the hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) that the suggestions about Perim came from my hon. Friends. He will have an opportunity on Monday, when the Aden Bill comes back from another place with certain Amendments, to support the proposals we put forward.
Of course, I recognise that for the first time so far as I know—and I was delighted to hear it—the Opposition made that suggestion, but the Government said in reply that they did not need the suggestion because it was already incorporated in the Bill and they would try to carry it out.
Whatever the hon. and learned Member may think about the origin of the suggestion and whatever he is trying to interpolate, he will have the opportunity on Monday to support us on this point.
The situation in Greece has been discussed with great feeling by hon. Members on both sides of the House. It is very difficult to get accurate information about exactly what went on there. It aroused strong feelings in Europe at various meetings which were attended by some Members from both parties. Only two weeks ago I was told that there were lorry-loads of arms introduced from Bulgaria to the north-east of Greece and that probably there would have been a coup about the time of the elections. The Government of the day might have had to suspend the Constitution had the other coup not taken place. One regrets that the military had to step in, and I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will echo the hope that as soon as possible the authorities there may reinstitute a democratic constitution and the home of democracy in Greece may look forward to a democratic future.
Unlike the hon. and learned Member for Brigg, I found the speech by the Foreign Secretary rambling round in the trees. It seemed like an end of term speech about things which should be put on the record. Certain points the Foreign Secretary rightly wished to give publicity to in the House before we rise for the Summer Recess. I want to look at the wood.
The first six pages of the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy 1967, which will be debated next Thursday, is, in fact, a foreign policy document. It contains the policy which will decide our role in foreign affairs. I want to discover whether Her Majesty's present advisers seriously believe, having read that White Paper, that the United Kingdom will continue to play its part in defending freedom east of Suez, in honouring its written alliances and in helping to protect the unwritten system of self-help—unwritten in the sense that Commonwealth countries automatically came to help us in 1914 and 1939. All this is omitted from the philosophy contained in the first six pages of that document. It is the first duty of any Government to provide the means to defend the country which it represents, to protect its existence and to help its friends and allies to do the same.
As might have been expected, this debate has concentrated on a number of detailed points. I wish to bring it back to the important question of our foreign policy, which, in turn, sets our defence policy. As one who was brought up in the 'thirties, some of the recent remarks of the Prime Minister have vividly recalled to my mind the line taken by the Labour Party in the 'thirties; the belief in, abcve all, the collective security of the League of Nations—"the sheep against the wolf", as it was sometimes called. The policy of hon. Gentlemen opposite has today been changed in that it is now reliance on the United Nations.
I would be as keen as any hon. Member to rely on the U.N. if it possessed an effective peace force—the sort of force which, for more than 20 years, we have been trying to establish. The hon. and learned Member for Brigg was one of those who helped to establish the World Government Group in this House soon after the last war. I do not think that when we did that we could have believed that, 20 years later, there would not now be an effective peace force to carry out the recommendations and resolutions of the U.N.
In the Near East no effective action is being taken by anybody apart from the United Kingdom. I recall the conference at which Sir Samuel Hoare, as he then
was, made his speech about the Ethiopian incident, when he said:
Not a man, not a gun, not a ship was moved by anyone but the British
In 1956, when Egypt nationalised the Suez Canal against its international obligations, almost no other country was prepared to lend a hand or do anything else. In 1967 the U.N. withdrew what forces it had, precipitately and without proper reference to the General Assembly.
Although we are keen on the U.N., in the state of the world today it is difficult to think that we can rely on it; and so we should not throw away all the resources and will we have on our side. For example, no hon. Member has tried harder than my hon. Friends—and, I admit, a number of hon. Gentlemen opposite—to get something done about the use of gas in the Yemen. The Yemen Relief Committee, which has been in existence for about three years, has been raising this matter for a long time, and it was a considerable time indeed before the International Red Cross took cognisance of it.
My understanding of the Geneva Convention of 1925 is that it contains an obligation on all signatories—this has nothing to do with the U.N.—to take cognisance of matters of this kind and to do something about them at once. The right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) challenged my noble Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) about his knowledge of this issue. The Foreign Secretary refused to face this problem in his speech and, in doing so, went back on one of Britain's commitments as a signatory to the 1925 Geneva Convention. My hon. Friends and I have been plugging this matter for a considerable time, and I trust that the Government will finally honour our commitments to this Convention.
At present it seems that the U.N. is no more willing to do anything about it than the League of Nations was about the use of gas in Ethiopia by the Fascists 30 years ago. I trust that the Under-Secretary will look up the Geneva Convention and see just what are our obligations under it.
The Prime Minister has raised a number of doubts in my mind following some of his recent Parliamentary Answers. On
13th July, answering my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish), he said:
… we cannot achieve economic viability and stability on the scale we want still less the social service result, unless we cut our defence costs to the resources available".
That, apparently, is the right hon. Gentleman's policy. It is a popular policy today. It was an extremely popular policy 30 years ago. The Socialists maintained that policy through the 'thirties and right up to 1939—even the Fulham by-election, which a number of hon. Members will recall. At that time I was serving abroad. We were aghast at the fact that the people in Britain, seeing what was happening in Europe, could swing over to that extent. We see the same sort of policy being enunciated today. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) said after the Prime Minister gave that reply:
Is not this a rare and refreshing example of a Minister blurting out the unvarnished truth?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th July, 1967; Vol. 232, c. 1003.]
Meanwhile, replying to a Question on 18th July, when my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) asked:
Will the Prime Minister give an assurance that there has been no change in policy about giving assistance to Commonwealth countries since the Labour Government came to power?
the Prime Minister replied:
There has been no change of policy in this matter. Each case has to be considered on its merits, as has always been the case …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th July, 1967; Vol. 750. c. 1711.]
I do not think that it was always the case. Nor do I believe that these two points can be reconciled, because if we are to run down the forces to the point envisaged in the White Paper, in both materials and for the purposes shown in the first six pages of that document, I do not believe that we will be in a position to support our friends in the Commonwealth in the way we have supported them in the past. I have challenged Ministers on a number of occasions in recent months to deny that they have changed this policy, particularly in the face of their having refused to give a defence agreement to Aden.
I am certain that that was the policy of the post-war Labour Government of Lord Attlee and Ernest Bevin, when the Commonwealth was regarded as a mutual defence organisation, just as it had been regarded in 1914 and 1939. I therefore hope that the Under-Secretary will make this point clear, particularly since I do not believe that the circumstances today are as clear-cut as they were between 1945 and 1951.
I suggest that Her Majesty's Government are going much too far in the other direction in being prepared to opt out of virtually all our Commonwealth responsibilities, beyond N.A.T.O. I do not see any reason why we should not play our part east of Suez and, at the same time, become a closer and stronger European Power. It is within the resources of this country, while keeping our defence costs to within 6 per cent. or 7 per cent. of the gross national product—and within a growing national product, which we had under the last Tory Administration—to devote this amount to our defence.
It is extraordinary to observe, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) pointed out, that the run-down of troops envisaged in the White Paper is about equal to the increase in civil servants since the Labour Party came to power. There is widespread fear that the present cuts will render our remaining forces outside Europe largely ineffective and unable to carry out our commitments under C.E.N.T.O., S.E.A.T.O., and the Anglo-Malaysian Agreement, as it is now known. We can expect very little help from Western Europe, as those of us who attend meetings of Western European Union appreciate. Like the U.N., we will go on passing resolutions and making recommendations there, but in the end we will have to rely on the United States and ourselves to do something about it.
Can we be told whether, faced with the power vacuum that is appearing East of Suez, the countries of W.E.U. are showing any signs of doing anything practical about guarding their flanks outside the immediate land mass of Europe? The only honest conclusion to be drawn was drawn by the majority of the Press yesterday, when they pointed out that the Government have decided their policy outside Europe for reasons of domestic vote-winning along three lines. The first is to opt out of playing an effective part in defending our alliances, our Commonwealth interests and our friends outside Europe by the mid-1970s. I join with my hon. Friends in deploring the setting of these dates in this way. The only omission is the omission of talking about the Persian Gulf. That is at least one reason for hoping that the Government may be facing up to realities.
The second line of their policy is to refuse to support the United States outside N.A.T.O. The United States are fighting an unpopular and rough war in Vietnam, thereby giving hope to the Governments and peoples in Asia that someone will help them against the Chinese. Let us consider Tibet, and India in 1962, and Burma and Indonesia today. In 1954 I visited most of those countries and every head of State or of Government said, "Who is going to help us against Chinese expansionism"? My information is that what is happening in Vietnam, despite what we are told particularly from the benches opposite, is giving heart to those who are prepared to stand up against Chinese aggression.
The hon. Gentleman knows that when the war ends in Vietnam the Americans are fully committed to withdrawing. Is his policy to be on the mainland of Asia without the Americans?
No. Nobody has ever said that. If the hon. Gentleman heard the speech of my right hon. Friend he will, no doubt, be in agreement with his remarks, which were also made at our Party Conference last year, that what we want to do eventually is to strengthen the non-European, non-American and non-Australian aspects and supporters of S.E.A.T.O. but not have commitments on land. That was made quite clear. Once the Vietnam war is over we hope that we can withdraw from our land commitments. But that does not mean that we shall withdraw early or entirely. The Government have said:
We are therefore planning to maintain the military capability for use, if required, in the area, even when we no longer have forces permanently based there.
Those words appear in paragraph 9 of the Statement on Defence Policy, Cmnd. 3357.
We shall have base facilities there. We shall work these up, although I think we all agree that we hope to be able to reduce substantially the land forces) which are needed to sustain the alliances there. But we shall do this with agreement with our allies and particularly with our Commonwealth friends.
The third line of policy which I believe the Government have decided upon is to continue to pay lip service to S.E.A.T.O. and CENTO, but running down these facilities prematurely and cutting the arms in the plan which is vaguely defined in the White Paper—according to the Press, deliberately trying to fool their own left wing. It is really stupid not to be more definite about it, where one can be definite. To set a date in the mid 1970s and to start up problems such as we have seen in Aden is doing far more harm than good.
I believe that the result of this White Paper, and the purpose, or lack of purpose, set out in it, will be to make it much harder for any successor Government to undertake or rebuild the responsibilities which we have always held as members of these alliances and of the Commonwealth. Now that Russia is in effect established at one end of the Indian Ocean, the result which will follow from this policy will be to give the best chance for China in the next few years to establish herself at the other end by the mid-1970s'. I am sure that the Under-Secretary when he replies will not claim that this is for the benefit of peace and prosperity in that part of the world.
While talking about Russia and Communist China, I see no reason why by the mid-1970s, with the death of Mao, Russia and China should not come together again. We used to hear, when Tito had his quarrel with Russia, that it was all over between them, but their relationship was re-established especially after the death of Stalin.
On China itself, I support, as I am sure we all do, what the Foreign Secretary said in regretting attacks on Her Majesty's representatives not only in Peking and Shanghai but also in Macao where the consul general stood up most nobly to the uncivilised and disgraceful attack. We support the Foreign Secretary's remarks about the patience of the Foreign Service officers there, and in the Middle East, too, where they have had a very rough time. It will destroy the basis of relationships between the Governments if this sort of behaviour is meted out to the representatives of the various countries, who are striving their utmost to keep good relations going.
On Hong Kong, I support what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Government there who have acted with the greatest restraint and patience in the face of the gravest provocation. I am glad to hear that Her Majesty's Government are going to defend Hong Kong. I am also glad that it is intended to clear up some of the so-called trade unions and banks which have been citadels of illicit arms and subversive organisatons.
Britain has got to be patient. There is little more that we can do at the moment. It may take some time before China's extraordinary gyrations between the Maoists and anti-Maoists die out and she returns to a more co-operative frame of mind not only internally but also outside. Reports that one hears from recent visitors to China describe activities which I find quite incredible among those who are members of what is, after all, one of the oldest civilisations in the world.
To come back to the foreign policy element of the White Paper, I think that in the Far East, as elsewhere, we can imagine the discussions which are going on in Commonwealth and other allied Cabinet rooms at the moment about the contents of this document, seeing as they do that in this most disturbed state of the world as it is today, Britain is apparently opting out and is going to withdraw prematurely, certainly in the views of those who are more closely involved—the authorities in Kuala Lumpur, Australia, New Zealand and our other friends in the Far East.
I think that of all documents which have been produced in the last 1,000 days none is more disastrous, and will be so regarded as time goes on, as this White Paper. Wrong actions, misleading assurances and counter-assurances for the past three years appear to be a deliberate betrayal of so much that this country stood for in the past, in helping others to help themselves, by premature withdrawal especially round the Indian Ocean. The Foreign Secretary, I understand, is a supporter of the late Mr. Bevin's patriotic policies, as I am. I beg him to try to follow those policies in supporting our Commonwealth friends and in honouring our alliances.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on his speech, and particularly on the manner in which he made that speech. The more I hear my right hon. Friend speak the more he appears to me to grow in stature and to grasp the problems with which he is forced to deal. One is grateful for having a Foreign Secretary of his stature. Nevertheless, there are one or two questions which were not touched upon in sufficient depth this afternoon. It is quite impossible for the Foreign Secretary in a speech of half an hour or so to be able to deal in detail with all points of foreign policy. I take it that the purpose of this afternoon's debate is to allow others to touch more specifically on one area instead of attempting to telescope the whole of these aspects into one speech.
I wish to refer to South-East Asia. When this House discusses South-East Asia we are concerned mainly with Vietnam. Whilst, no doubt, there are other hon. Members who will be speaking about that, I wish to speak about the overall situation in South-East Asia and Britain's future policy in this area. I take the view that South-East Asia in the next 10 years will be the most acute area in the world. The future peace and stability of the world will depend upon the sort of policy which the Western Powers have in relation to South-East Asia.
I am convinced that, in any agonising reappraisal of Britain's military contributions, there should be no complete withdrawal from Singapore. Because of the economic arguments, which are certainly impressive, there will have to be a strict division of labour in that area. I am of opinion—this is one of the reasons why I favour going into Europe—that Europe is not playing its part in the defence of Western interests. Indeed, in areas where we give military protection, France, Germany and other European countries have vastly increased their investment since the post-war decade, without any of the responsibilities. I hold the rather unorthodox belief that it is possible for us to withdraw troops from Germany, and even to withdraw, eventually, I hope, from our Persian Gulf commitments, but not to withdraw from South-East Asia. I do not suppose that many accept that view, but I have come to it because I believe that South-East Asia represents the threat in the next ten years, because of China.
Admittedly, no one can be certain what China will do in the next ten years, but, if present statements are anything to go by, there are sufficient warning signs for us at least to consider a balance of power against China. Some hon. Members say that China is not susceptible to a balance of power. I do not accept that view. China is no different from any other Power in this respect. In the postwar period, the Soviet Union was subjected to a balance of power, which has worked to her advantage as well as to ours. The same is true of China.
What sort of balance of power should it be, and where should we draw the line? It is easy to say that the line drawn in Vietnam is the wrong one. People say this because the battle is tricky and difficult. I believe that a balance of power in which the local forces themselves eventually play a major part must be built up, and it must be built up with Western support. This is why it is so important that we have mobile forces which can get to South-East Asia quickly. At the same time, we have to have bases there. We cannot take troops and sophisticated equipment out by R.A.F. Transport Command to do an effective job, to stop the outbreak of war, not to go when war has broken out, for that would destroy the whole purpose of the exercise. We must have sufficient power to deter any precipitate action.
This is why I am concerned about the references in the White Paper to a drastic run-down in Singapore. Where I differ from hon. Members opposite is in not believing that it is possible for Britain alone to undertake all the commitments which we have at present. In S.E.A.T.O., CENTO and N.A.T.O., we are members of every major alliance and we make a military contribution in respect of each. We cannot go on doing that, but we can specialise. In South-East Asia we are as much trusted as any Power, and more than most. Another good reason is that, if we do withdraw from Singapore in the middle 1970s, almost certainly—I say this with respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew)—the Americans will be forced to underpin the situation in the vacuum which we shall create. If that be so, would anyone be happy with the idea that the United States should underpin every Asian balance, so subjecting us to the grave risks of the vagaries of American politics?
In my view, we should have a hard look at the relationship of our own contribution to the Western Alliance in South-East Asia in order to work out whether we can create an effective balance of power. I do not believe that this, in itself, will upset the Russians too much. Quite the contrary. The Russians have the same interest as the United States and ourselves in stability, and so far as one can see, they are as apprehensive about China as we are. I believe, therefore, that we could involve the Russians in this balance of power. Already, to a certain extent, the Soviet Union has relations with India which have given the impression to most foreign affairs commentators that there are, perhaps, some hidden protocols or an agreement with India should China decide to attack India. The Russian influence could possibly work in this balance of power.
I do not agree with what I understand to be the conclusion of the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) when he tried to relate—perhaps he was telescoping his argument and I am not doing justice to it—Russia's designs and China's designs all in one view. We must make a sharp distinction between Chinese foreign policy and Russian foreign policy. This is why I favour a reduction of forces in Europe, believing that there is no likelihood of war there, and no prospect of it because of the stabilised foreign policy of the Soviet Union. But this is not true of China.
I hope that, as a result of the agonising reappraisal of defence brought on by the cost of an overall defence strategy, one of the lessons we shall learn is that we must not withdraw into an isolationist stance in Europe. Although it will be tempting to do so, it would be utterly disastrous, and a policy which I should find very difficult to support. I hope that the Government will still take the view that we have an important world role within the United Nations and also in a balance of power in South-East Asia which can lead to peace throughout the world and to the containment of China so that she can develop along peaceful lines, to the benefit of mankind as a whole.
I am happy to follow the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Alan Lee Williams), as his views are much more in keeping with those expressed on this side than on his own. In the vernacular, I say to him, "Welcome aboard". We are glad that he has been able to join us in these matters.
There has seldom been a time when her Majesty's Ministers have enjoyed so little respect in the capitals of the world. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am sorry to say that, but I believe it to be true. We have seen our diplomats assaulted in Peking. Her Majesty's Ministers have protested but their protests have been ignored. One of our citizens was seized recently in Algeria. Ministers have protested, but they have been ignored. A British national, Mr. Brooke, has been detained in the Soviet Union for a long time. Quite rightly, the British Government have protested, but Mr. Brooke is still in detention. Recently, we had the strange case of the High Commissioner of Zambia who described this country as a humbled and toothless bulldog. His Foreign Minister repeated it. His President went to Peking and said something even more damaging. The British chargé d'affaires walked out of the banquet at which these insults were made, and the Foreign Secretary, quite rightly, in reply to a Question said that he entirely approved the action of our chargé d'affaires But only three days later we learned that Mr. Simbule was to be presented to the Queen as the new High Commissioner.
These are, perhaps, superficial aspects of the situation, but they say a good deal about the decline of our Government's voice in the affairs of the world.
A great deal higher. I turn now to the more fundamental matter of our standing in the great centres of world power today.
Let us consider, for example, the recent events in the Middle East, and particularly the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home). He put directly to the Foreign Secretary the question of what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking on the question of gas bombing in the Yemen. The Foreign Secretary studiously ignored him. Later, pressed by another hon. Member, he gave a grossly unsatisfactory reply. His attitude is precisely that of the Pharisee who, seeing a man lying wounded in the gutter, passed by on the other side of the road. That is not exactly the stand I like to see a British Foreign Secretary adopt.
One of the great centres of power is the Soviet Union. The Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have rightly paid a number of visits to Moscow. Recently, Mr. Kosygin flew to America to discuss world affairs with President Johnson. He did not stop in London on his way there or on his way back to Moscow. Surely there is a tale there.
In Europe, too, we have had many journeys by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, to the capitals of the Common Market countries. We even had the Foreign Secretary telling us that General de Gaulle did not dare to keep us out of the Common Market. But I can see little progress that has so far been made. I wish to see us in the Common Market, but so far the momentum of which the Prime Minister spoke has achieved very little.
I intend to speak now on one subject only—our relations with the United States. I am a pro-European, but I would never wish to see us join an anti-American Europe, because I believe that the United States is our military shield, our firmest political ally and, in human terms, probably our best and closest friend. I say this partly on personal grounds, having lived in that country for many years, but mainly on a cool assessment of our country's best interests, whether economic, political or military.
There is a basic interdependence, a fundamental chemical affinity, between our Britain and America. But I am deeply worried about the present state of our relations with America. Beyond all the hearty handshakes and the toasts at the Anglo-American dinners, the harsh truth at the moment is that our Government's handling of foreign affairs has placed the Anglo-American relationship at risk. I am not speaking of the special relationship of the British and American peoples. That will continue and prosper, because it is founded not only on the same language, the same set of values, the same sense of humour, but on a joint belief in individual freedom and justice under the law.
Yet, if the people-to-people relationship will and must endure there is at present a marked cooling between the two Governments. To put it bluntly and perhaps over-simply, many Americans no longer feel sure that they can rely on the present British Government as a partner in their world strategy. I could give a great deal of chapter and verse to support this, but I wish to be brief and I shall go on simply to look at some of the reasons why I believe that this is happening.
The first reason is change in America itself. The enormous growth in American power is creating a disparity between their strength and ours which is now immense. Another aspect is America's involvement in areas where we no longer are directly concerned—in Vietnam and Latin America, and in their negro problem at home. We cannot influence these things very much.
But there are several other areas where it is British Government action, or lack of it, which has mainly been responsible for the weakening of relations that I now detect. One aspect is the collapse of the Government's economic policies. The faltering of our economy is holding back our diplomacy at every level of foreign affairs. I remember Ernest Bevin's statement—I think I quote him correctly" Give me an extra 1 million tons of coal and I will lead Europe".
I am grateful.
He said this, making very good sense, during the post-war period. I am sure that the Foreign Secretary today must feel, "Give me an extra 3 or 4 per cent. production and I too will make our mark". The fact is that the right hon. Gentleman has not got the production, and therefore he is not so able to make his mark. His policy—our policy—in the world is held back by the lack of economic vitality. The Americans have not failed to notice this.
The second reason why I believe that there is a derioration in the relations between ourselves and Washington is that we have not been successful in the grand design to enter Europe. I hope that we shall be, but so far we are not. Since President Kennedy, the Americans have hoped and believed that Britain would serve as the hinge on which the narrow Europe of the Treaty of Rome would swing open into a much wider conception looking towards the Atlantic and the whole wide world. But this is not happening. So far, British diplomacy has not succeeded in bringing it about. Once again, the American Government have not failed to notice.
The third factor is that we have gone back on too many undertakings. I shall not refer, because it would be simply party political, to the question of the E.F.T.A. surcharge, our attempt to get out of the Concord project and E.L.D.O., the whole question of whether or not we gave a defence pledge to Aden. I simply wish to stress the American and Australian reaction to yesterday's White Paper. Looked at from Washington and Canberra, it seems incomprehensible that a nation which spends about £1,000 million a year on gambling and more than that on smoking, which has taken on about 40,000 new civil servants at the national level and another 150,000 at the local level, cannot keep another 30,000 of its men in uniform. It is incomprehensible to America, with its half million men in Vietnam, and to Australia, making the effort she is now at last beginning to make, that Britain no longer is able or willing to do its duty in the world.
I was very careful to say that the Australians were at long last beginning to carry their share. I am well aware of the hon. Gentleman's point, which I accept.
The attitude one meets among people who think on these things in the United States is that there always was a possibility that Britain would no longer be able to carry on east of Suez. But I do not believe that responsible opinion in America expected that the pull-out—or, as I prefer to call it, the scuttle—would come so soon. Of course, the Americans are outwardly polite, Mr. Dean Rusk is always polite, but Congressmen and senior officials are not so polite.
The hon. Lady does not sound like any Congressman I have ever heard of. She sounds—well, I had better not say.
What they say, behind the kind words, is that Britain is now beginning to settle for a little England policy, a policy of, "Give in and give up and get out." This process has, I believe, been going on for some time. There is something to be said occasionally for seeing ourselves as others see us—and looking at it from the point of view of Washington, I think the process started with the morality mincing attempt of the Prime Minister to dissociate Britain from the bombing of Haiphong. He has forgotten that now, but the hon. Lady has not. Since then the policy has developed with the decision to scrap the aircraft carrier, and beyond that it deteriorated again with the decision to get out of Aden. Now there is the White Paper.
I accept that the White Paper says that we shall keep some of our commitments in the Far East. I am very glad of that. But there is little evidence in the White Paper that we shall have the men or the ships and the aircraft with which to carry out these commitments. Once again the Government will the end but they do not will the means.
I predict that out of this latest White Paper and the escalation to which I have referred there will be not a parting of the ways with America—not at all—but a break in the continuity of the Anglo-American alliance. This has rested for a long time on an implicit bargain in which the United States provided the nuclear protection to the Western world and contained China. But the other side of the bargain was the implicit understanding that Britain would maintain a presence, a useful if modest presence, in the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia. It is from this tacit understanding that Britain now appears to be contracting out. I suggest we shall regret it.
I have left carefully to the end a special feature of the deterioration of our relations with Washington, and that is the decline in confidence between British and American Ministers. The President evidently likes the Foreign Secretary. I do not blame him; he finds the Foreign Secretary amusing. However, I believe the Prime Minister continues to claim an intimacy and consequence in Washington which he no longer possesses. Once again, I could give many examples, but I do not do so because I wish not to be provocative. However, the Prime Minister's standing, and with it that of the British Government, has taken a tumble in America. It has done so for many reasons but most of all because there has been a tendency for the British Government to make many vainglorious pontifications without having the power to carry out the policies they set out before us.
This we see again in the White Paper. There is a cutting of British power but a continuation of British oratory. If we wish to stay in that close relationship with America which I believe to be fundamental to world peace and to our prosperity, we must speak with power. Theodore Roosevelt had an interesting maxim: "Talk quietly and carry a big stick". The charge that I make against the foreign policy of the British Government is that they have whittled away the stick while shouting at the top of their voices.
I will not follow the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths). He seems to think exclusively in terms of military power. I believe that our national prestige stands very high precisely because the Foreign Secretary makes the kind of speech that he made this afternoon.
Like every other hon. Member, I have been disturbed by many aspects of the still unfinished Israeli-Arab war. But what has most alarmed me has been the fact that many people seem to treat it as an isolated, almost ephemeral, event. They say "There was a war, as in 1947 and 1956. It was quickly over. It could have been much worse. We must devise some new a better measures, a scheme for refugees, a ban on arms sales"—how easy to say, but how hard to do—the right of passage for all ships through the international seaways.
The Foreign Secretary went to the General Assembly, and in his speech, he spoke of the Israel-Arab war and of nothing else. He proposed the special Middle East measures of which I have spoken. But, alas, the Israel-Arab war is not an isolated event. It has been part of a long process of mounting international anarchy. It was one more in a series of armed conflicts, in all the Continents, most of which are a special menace to Britain and the Commonwealth, conflicts which may easily erupt into a wider and perhaps a world-wide conflagration. It was a milestone on a road on which the world has travelled far too far.
The most important of the other wars is that now raging in Vietnam. Month by month the fighting still grows fiercer, the use of weapons more unrestrained, the devastation of the countryside more total. It began as a civil war, Vietnamese against other Vietnamese. Now it is almost wholly the United States against Vietnam. Not long ago the New York Times reported that 18 per cent. of Air Vice Marshall Ky's forces deserted during 1966. It said that of his ten divisions, five were "combat-ineffective", two were "marginal" and only three were thought by the United States High Command to be tit for battle. A month ago I talked in Geneva with a young Swiss journalist who had been for years in Vietnam and who talked the language. He told me that the Arvin, Air Vice Marshall Ky's forces, were almost everywhere on excellent terms with the Vietcong, that they kept each other informed about their movements, that they never fired to kill, and that the Arvin even made it easy for the Vietcong to levy tolls on lorries bringing up Arvin supplies.
While the great mass of the people in Vietnam only long for peace and order, and the Arvin have in great degree opted out of the war, the United States forces are far more deeply committed than ever before. The Commander-in-Chief, General Westmoreland, is bombing both North and South Vietnam around the clock at the rate of 3,000 1b. of high explosive per minute. There has never been anything like it in aerial war before.
General Westmoreland has explained his plan as follows:
We'll just go on bleeding them until Hanoi wake up to the fact that they have bled their country to the point of national disaster for several generations. Then they will have to reassess their position.
So the general looks to military victory to bring a settlement and means to win it by a merciless air bombardment which, on his own description, comes not far short of genocide.
He is using weapons which up to Hitler's war were recognised to be forbidden by international law. Fire was one of them. In 1933 Sir Anthony Eden put in his draft disarmament convention in Geneva a clause which laid down "as an established rule of international law" that no incendiary weapons of any kind should ever be used. Napalm is an appalling weapon. To use it systematically to burn defenceless villages would have revolted Europe before 1939, and it utterly revolts Asia and Africa today. So does General Westmoreland's use of poison gas. The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) denounces Nasser's use of mustard gas in the Yemen. So do I. I was present at the first gas attack in April, 1915, and since then I have always thought that all the gases should be banned. Ten years later, I was at the conference in Geneva when that was done. The Treaty said:
The use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of all analogous liquids, materials or devices shall be prohibited.
There was nothing in that Treaty to the effect that only poisons which killed humans should be banned, that poisons
which kill the food on which humans live should be allowed.
We often talked then about the possibility that some day poisons against crops might be devised. Of course, they were intended to be covered by that clause which I have read out. Of course, the Asians think that gases which sterilise their forests for 50 years, which destroy the crops by which the people live, are quite as much a crime against humanity as Nasser's mustard in the Yemen—and, of course, these Vietnam gases kill far more people. The Vietcong get their rations. They have to fight. It is the children and the aged who will die.
Hon. Members opposite will say, as my right hon. Friend said this afternoop, that the war could stop tomorrow, if only the Hanoi Government would accept President Johnson's generous offer in his letter to Ho Chi Minh earlier this year. The President offered to stop the bombing of the North and to have a conference, if only Hanoi would take reciprocal action, and would stop sending soldiers and supplies to the Vietcong in the South.
Since that offer was made, I have had the chance to dicuss it with spokesmen of the N.L.F. and other South Vietnamese. They were eloquent about reciprocity—saying, "Let the Americans promise not to bomb Vietnam and we will promise not to bomb the United States." Let hon. Members ask themselves what the President's letter really meant. What would happen if the North cut off all supplies, especially the supplies of food, to the South, with its crops destroyed, with its villages ravaged? The N.L.F. would soon be starved into submission.
With the best will in the world, the N.L.F. spokesmen thought that they were being cheated, as they think they have been cheated so many times since 1945. They think that the letter was not an offer of peace, but a call for unconditional surrender; the so-called offer of peace was intended to cover up the escalation which was shortly to begin.
Of course, to them the American action is an intervention in a civil war for which President Johnson never obtained the sanction and approval of the United Nations. They accept the view of eminent American jurists whom I have quoted here before, and who say that this intervention in a civil war without United Nations approval "tears the very heart out of the Charter".
Hon. Members opposite denounce Nasser for sending forces to the Yemen. So do I. But, of course, Nasser could claim that it is an Arab party, that they are all of the same colour and race. Nonetheless, he did intervene in a civil war without United Nations approval; and it was a flagrant violation of the Charter. But I believe profoundly that he only dared to do it because the Americans had done it already in Vietnam. The United Nations could do nothing, because it had done nothing in Vietnam. So, by a kind of Gresham's law, acts of violence spread around the world.
Earlier this year, I raised in a Question to the Foreign Office the information I had received that Tshombe was organising mercenaries in Angola to invade the Congo and detach Katanga as a separate State. To my regret, nothing was done to take the matter to the Security Council, and to expose Tshombe's traitorous and charter-breaking plans, or to expose the responsibility of the Portuguese. Four months later, the invasion happened, and the troubles are still not at an end.
We are face to face with an even more dangerous confrontation, an even more dangerous use of force, in Nigeria. Last week, a Biafran friend of mine, whom I have known for a long time and in whom I have great confidence, told me that his leaders and his people only want peace and order. They will accept economic co-operation with the other regions, a common currency confederation—whatever is needed for the joint prosperity of Nigeria as a whole. But they say that, if General Gowon insists on fighting, then the war will be long and very bloody. Biafra can get arms, as anyone can to day; and if their Army is beaten the Ibo men and women will fight on as guerillas until the Northerners go home.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is listening, and I venture to express the hope that our Government will not furnish arms to General Gowon. I hope that they will seek some means to prevent this blood bath in Nigeria, if it can possibly be done.
Britain is faced with other confrontations, to which my right hon. Friend referred—in Aden, where the dangers are not growing less; in Hong Kong, where they are likely to grow greater, since the Peking Government think that we are allowing the United States to use it as a naval and military base. Thailand is now a full belligerent and may well expect a long guerrilla war of its own.
In South America, the C.I.A. has so thwarted the liberal and social-democratic forces that thousands of young people think that Communist guerrilla force is now the only hope of social progress. That deadly doctrine has spread to Africa as well. Perhaps hon. Members read in the Sunday Times of the guerrilla leader, a Ph.D. from Harvard, who now holds one-seventh of Mozambique and rules 1 million of its 7 million population. He, like the C.I.A., preaches the deadly doctrine of naked force as the instrument for human progress.
It is this long catalogue of wars and confrontations which made the Canadian Secretary of State, Mr. Paul Martin, say in the General Assembly a month ago:
The incidence of violence in the world has already reached the limits of international tolerance. The stakes are simply too great, the dangers too obvious, for the international community, and the great Powers in particular, to let matters drift.
To Mr. Martin, all the events of which I have spoken are part of one great world problem, which needs a world solution by world action through the institutions of the United Nations.
What kind of action? There are two main causes of the present troubles.
First, the world is much too full of arms. Everyone agrees that the arms race was a major cause of the Israel-Arab war. The arms race between the larger powers is growing ever more intense. It is spreading to Continents which were previously immune. Two-thirds of our fellow human beings still live in poverty and hunger. Yet the under-developed countries, countries receiving technical assistance and economic aid, have spent £3,000 million on sophisticated arms in the last 10 years. If that vast sum had been spent on developing their natural resources long steps to ending world hunger would already have been made.
Secondly, the lawless use of force has been allowed to replace the legal obligations of the U.N. Charter as the guiding rule in international affairs. In his speech to the General Assembly a month ago, speaking of the settlement of the Israel-Arab war, the Foreign Secretary said that Article 2(4) of the Charter must be the basic principle on which all the Governments should act. He cited its terms:
All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or the political independence of any state.
That is the true foundation of the whole fabric of the U.N. If it is law—and unless it is law it is nothing—it must be observed in every case where force is used or threatened.
Think back across the last decade starting from Suez and Hungary, going on to Laos, the Bay of Pigs, Santo Domingo, Vietnam, and others. One cannot say, "In the Israel-Arab settlement we must apply the law, but in Vietnam or the Dominican Republic we cannot be legalistic; we must be pragmatic; we must find another way".
If we are to solve the great world problem of anarchy and violence, of which Paul Martin spoke, we must find some means to end the Vietnam war. It is the great decisive issue in the world today. We must curb the arms race and start the real disarmament of which we have talked so long. We must revalidate the binding power of the Charter clauses about the use of force.
I believe that it was to start on this great task that Mr. Kosygin called the Special Session of the General Assembly a month ago. Before he went there, after his first talk with President de Gaulle, he said that his purpose was real and lasting peace, not only for Israel and the Arabs; but for Vietnam and for the world. He said it in his speech in the Assembly, very loud and clear. He said it when he got back to Moscow. He said that he did not believe that two-Power agreements could end the troubles of the world; he believed only in settlements reached in the U.N. with the concurrence of all the nations of mankind.
Who is to lead? Who is to mastermind the mighty effort that is needed to solve Paul Martin's great world problem and to ensure the survival of mankind? Russia cannot do it, as Mr. Kosygin found a month ago. The U.S. do not seem disposed to, and, perhaps, now they could not, even if they tried. There is one force still left in world affairs, which may be perishing, and which will surely perish if it is left to rust unused, but which, in the General Assembly, might have enormous political and moral power. I mean, of course, the Commonwealth of Nations, of which Britain is still the leader.
I hope some day to convince my right hon. Friends, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, of the great efficacy of sustained and genuine international debate if the responsible senior Ministers take a personal part and if it is used as men like Arthur Balfour, Robert Cecil, Arthur Henderson, Austen Chamberlain, and Ernest Bevin used it in times gone by.
I make a practical proposal which I hope my right hon. Friends will reflect on when this debate is ended. I believe that the Government would do well to summon a meeting of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers and Foreign Secretarys just before the U.N. General Assembly in September. The meeting should consider Paul Martin's problem in great depth. The Ministers, including the Prime Ministers, should go on to the Assembly to represent their nations and should stay there as long as might be required. They should so lead the debate in the Plenary, and in Committee, that guide lines for action could be agreed. On Vietnam, the Foreign Secretary's speech of last October might still achieve agreement; on Israel his speech a month ago might do the same.
I will not expand my proposal, for other hon. Members wish to speak. I end by saying to my right hon. Friends, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, two things on which I hope that they will reflect. I speak from a long experience of international failures and success. First, international institutions have immense authority when senior Ministers take part; often they achieve what seems impossible when they start. Secondly, my right hon. Friends now have an opportunity for leadership in our distracted world. If they miss it, they will regret it all their lives.
I must pay tribute to the splendid speech made by the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker), which I cannot possibly hope to emulate. However, I feel very much at one with most of the opinions which he has expressed, if I may make that rather humble observation following what he had to say.
Recent developments in the Middle East have certainly demonstrated the dangers to world peace which still exist. One thing that has been proved is that the cold war, which many of us thought was disappearing, is by no means over. I do not wish to go in any great depth into recent events in the Middle East, which to some extent are still sub judice, but if Britain is to have any real influence in the world and on international events, it will have to be through Europe and through the United Nations and not through summit talks and special relationships, however important these may be in some respects.
It would appear from the course of the debate that many hon. Members think that we can still exert tremendous influence on the balance of power and in protection of our interests. Most of the speeches have been somewhat pessimistic, which is understandable in the atmosphere of wars and troubles in the world today. We cannot assert any great influence on the balance of power, nor is the time still here when we can directly protect our interests. However, we can exert very considerable influence indeed as a member of the European Community in due course and as a member of the United Nations.
There are four main dangers to world peace. There is the continuing danger of nuclear proliferation. There is the fact that at least five major nations now have a nuclear potential and others are knocking at the door waiting to join the club. I remind the Foreign Secretary that when a few weeks ago I suggested that it was most unlikely that India would sign a nuclear non-proliferation treaty so long as China refused to sign he cast some doubt on my contention and treated it with a certain asperity. I hope that he will now realise that my information, which came from talking to many Indian Members of Parliment when I was in Delhi last year, had some substance. That is indicative of the difficulty of proceedings much further to achieve a meaningful non-proliferation treaty.
The second major danger to world peace has already been effectively mentioned. I pay tribute to the Foreign Secretary's speech on this matter. I agreed with everything he had to say about the efforts to include China in the United Nations. It is a tremendous omission that a nation of more than 600 million should still be excluded from the one international forum which can still be expected to work, and its exclusion is obviously detrimental to hopes for world peace. Not only are the Chinese excluded from the United Nations, but by that they are also excluded from the world dialogue on international affairs. The fact that in present circumstances they may not wish to join is understandable, but let us hope that before long the time will come when we can find some means to get China into the United Nations.
I strongly believe that we must do everything we possibly can to maintain confidence in the United Nations regardless of the setbacks which it has suffered recently through having lost a certain prestige, particularly due to the rapid withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Force from the Middle East, which precipitated, or did much to precipitate, the recent Arab-Israeli war.
Another grave danger is the continuing and widening gap between developed and under-developed countries, between what we have and what they have not. We can think of India, of the recent starvation in Bihar and the U.P., now slightly alleviated by the breaking of the dry weather, of the tremendous swelling of population which can be only partly countered by birth control methods, of the vicious circle in Africa where insufficient food leads to insufficient energy and initiative to do the work to create the wealth which provides the food, a vicious circle to be found not only in Africa but many other developing countries.
There is a crying need for aid and development through United Nations agencies, and not by methods used merely to try to gain influence. I make one comparison to indicate what I mean. If it were not for the war in Vietnam, there would be a tremendous scheme going on—it is going on, but it is inhibited by the war—in the Mekong Delta, an area to which many nations have contributed, an example of a united effort of world aid to develop an area and so alter the whole economic position of that part of the world. The other kind of aid is that which, like the building of the Aswan Dam, is largely a prestige effort by one nation. Aid and development must be through United Nations agencies and not by independent nations trying to gain influence.
There is also a great need for generous trading policies, continuing tariff reductions and paying fair prices in particular for the primary products on which our industries depend and to give credit wherever possible so that the underdeveloped countries can become purchasers in world markets and, by development, can create the internal wealth which will enable them to take part in world trade as equal partners.
The fourth main obvious danger to world peace is that of racial tension. I am not referring just to the racial tension between black and white, but also to that between Arab and Jew and between Asiatic and European and even to the not uncommon attitude of "English versus the rest", the "wogs" the "Celtic fringe", the "dirty Continentals". Fortunately, this attitude is rapidly disappearing, but it still exists in certain circles.
To counter these dangers it is only logical that Britain should pursue her efforts to join Europe with the greatest determination. This may well mean temporary sacrifices and a certain surrender of sovereignty, but in time we can hope to see developing out of the European Economic Community a European political community and perhaps eventually a European defence community on the widest possible basis, a political community which can develop its own foreign policy, although to some extent it may be obliged to depend on joint guarantees from the super Powers, the Soviet Union and the United States, but a European political and economic community with a tremendous potential to contribute to the United Nations world peacekeeping force in the military sense and in the sense of world aid and investment in under-developed countries.
We can make by far the greatest contribution through Europe rather than as an individual nation, but the Treaty of Rome must be accepted. Some people might have found it a little easier to accept if it had been the Treaty of London, or the Treaty of Amsterdam, or even the Treaty of Edinburgh, but we must accept it with only the essential transitional arrangements. We must be prepared to co-operate in a science and technological community run supra-nationally and with a strong central fund. We must rethink the role of sterling. There is obviously a great need for a European reserve currency to ease the whole problem of international liquidity.
It is easy for opponents of our entry to Europe to produce rather facile arguments about the expense of the Sunday joint, or the inconvenience of fish on Fridays, but those facile arguments are tremendously outweighed by the overwhelming need for political unity and the cold wind of competition on an entirely equal basis to give a spur to our less efficient industries with larger markets and longer production runs.
At the same time as working for entry into Europe, to counter the other dangers we need to continue to work to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and for the effectiveness and prestige of the United Nations and, wherever we still have influence and responsibility, against all forms of racial discrimination wherever they occur.
When the time comes, as I believe that it will, when a supra national European political community evolves from the E.E.C., whom will we want to see as members of that community? If it is to follow on from the E.E.C., one of the qualifications for entry will obviously be the unanimous approval of new entrants by existing members. On a majority basis, we could be in the E.E.C. tomorrow and it is only because France is standing out against us, or at least raising certain objections to our joining, that we do not find it easier to get in. But in the long run this should not preclude East European countries from joining such a European political community. Britain should now take the lead in endeavouring to set up a N.A.T.O.- Warsaw Pact conciliation committee which could work out common ground and at least discuss ways and means for beginning co-operation in trade and in an economic sense which could lead to a more lasting economic co-operation.
For those nations which are unable to join for political or for other reasons, or are unable or unwilling to join, we should consider some method of associate membership with the European political community. There are nations, not only in Eastern Europe but in Western Europe, which might be unacceptable. I am thinking particularly of Spain and Portugal, and even Greece under the present régime.
It came as a great surprise to me to see how rapidly this Government were willing to recognise the present régime in Greece while they were unwilling to recognise, in my view for the right reasons, the ré gime in Rhodesia. At least the Rhodesian régime can say that there has never been a true democracy in Rhodesia, whereas in Greece they have put the clock right back. The alacrity with which this Government were prepared to recognise the régime which has abolished all basic freedom in that country was a great surprise to me, and I listened with the greatest interest to the extremely well-informed speech of the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) on that subject.
What will we do if insurmountable obstacles are raised to our entry to E.E.C.? It is possible that de Gaulle and Keisinger have reached some private agreement to keep Britain out. Even if this happened we will still be Europeans, and we must regard ourselves as such. We still have friends in Europe and we might even get the Benelux countries and Italy to join us in E.F.T.A. They may prefer this to a Bonn-Paris axis, if such should come about, although I hope it will not. There will be a growing demand for a bridgehead for a wider Europe which we must obtain at all costs.
We left it very late to get into Europe. If we had tried in 1956 not only could we have helped to construct the foundations, but we could have wandered in and out of the front door at will. Now we are limping up the fire escape, trying to get in through the seventh storey window. If, in the course of doing this, we have the window slammed on our fingers, we had better be ready with all the answers. Eventually, when European political community is evolved from the E.E.C., its institutions, the Commission, the Council, the European Parliament, can develop and work out common policies. We want to see a weighted majority vote in the ministerial council, with advice from international commissions of independent experts. Eventually we would like to see a directly elected European Parliament for common policies.
This is in no way incompatible with liberal policy for Scottish and Welsh Parliaments for home affairs. We believe that Scotland and Wales have every bit as much right to representation in a European Parliament as have other small countries such as Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg and so on.
I want to say a few words about the future of N.A.T.O., a subject which most politicians seem to avoid at all costs. I hope that the Government will show a flexible approach to the future of N.A.T.O. It certainly has a function but it would be a great pity if it came to be self-perpetuating, a sort of revered institution, rather like the Beefeaters, but on a European scale. We accept that at present there is a need for a continuation of the Atlantic Alliance, pending a satisfactory East-West security agreement, and possible mutual guarantees by the super powers.
Eventually, if within a European political community we can develop a European defence community, this should be non-nuclear. We do not wish to preempt a decision by such a European defence community about what its defence set-up may be. We feel that it should be non-nuclear, but this is a decision which will be taken by the member nations. Its functions will be largely internal security and the protection of territorial integrity within the community.
It can make a great contribution to the United Nations forces. It can serve in a sense as the bridge between East and West—not as a third nuclear force, an idea which has been put forward from the official Front Bench in a recent debate, but as a bridging force for good between East and West.
This would inevitably involve the scrapping of the French force de frappe. It would involve a non-nuclear West Germany which would do a great deal to allay the fears of the Soviet Union. It would eventually involve withdrawal of the United States and Soviet forces to their own countries. I am not one of those who regard the Soviet Union as a European nation, nor do I foresee a European political community stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals. This is so idealistic as to be unrealistic.
At the same time, an independent Europe with possibly a joint nuclear guarantee by both the United States and the Soviet Union would be a dominating force for good in the world. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has never been truly European. Throughout its history Russia has acted in a sense as a breakwater against aggression from the East. This has been its historical function, and it now sees itself partly in this role with the gathering clouds over China. I know that when I was in the Soviet Union, between 1952 and 1954, below the surface there was a very real fear, even then, of what was going on inside China. This is no new phenomenon.
The Vietnam war has a profound effect on politics within Europe and until there is some resolving of it it will be almost impossible for a straightforward dialogue between Western Europe and the Soviet Union. The obstacles to the kind of European political community which I have outlined, apart from the continuing war in Vietnam are secondary ones—such as the Soviet involvement in the Middle East, which is partly caused by, and partly the result of the war in Vietnam. It is a sort of second line set-up by the U.S.S.R., which would never have been necessary, from its point of view, had the war in the Far East not been taking place.
There is still to contend with a statement of November, 1960, made at the convention of Communist Governments when they said that they would continue to do everything within their power, short of war, to bring about the downfall of the Western Powers. That has never been abbrogated and I am always hoping that one day the Soviet Union at least will come into the open and declare that its signature on this document no longer applies.
Lastly there is the continued division of Germany. In our view there is no easy or immediate solution to this. The only solution is for both East and West Germany to become members of a supranational European political community. Prior reunification is not even a remote possibility, but recognition of the Oder-Neisse line would at least be a step in the right direction.
There are matters beyond Europe. We welcome the aims of the Defence White Paper which has just been produced, but it has two basic flaws. It says very little about United Nations action and action that we can take through the United Nations. It also seems to emphasise the reduction of conventional forces but the maintenance of nuclear forces.
I was interested to hear the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir A. Douglas-Home), for whom I have the greatest respect but with whom I do not always agree, putting forward the arguments and views which could not be expressed by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), the official Opposition spokesman on defence, in next week's debate. I think that, after that debate, there will be some diversity between what is said by the official Opposition defence spokesman and what has been said by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire today. [HON. MEMBERS: "Wait and see."] I will do so, with the greatest interest.
What has been shown is the futility of Britain's continuing to try to play an individual world role. Our role must be played through the United Nations. We are no longer an imperial power; we are no longer the protector of the Commonwealth; we are no longer the world's special constable. The penalties of attempting to try to play this role, apart from the penalty of the burden on our balance of payments, is that it definitely inhibits Britain from integrating into Europe and it certainly prolongs the cries of neo-colonialism from abroad.
We have some remaining obligations east of Suez. We have the obligation to the Commonwealth. But the Commonwealth is growing up; and there is an alliance called the ANZUS Pact, which I hardly hear mentioned in the Chamber. We have an obligation to S.E.A.T.O., but many people think that that Treaty is
more or less a dead letter. We have some limited obligations in the Persian Gulf. I referred to that matter in an intervention earlier. I should have liked to admit that we have a friendly convention with Bahrein dating from 1861 in which Bahrein agreed to abstain from all maritime aggressions if we protected them
against similar aggressions directed against them by the chiefs and tribes of this Gulf".
There was the treaty with Qatar dated 1916 in which the Sheikh of Qatar undertook to refrain from aggression by sea, and we said that we would grant him "good offices" if he was
assailed by land within the territories of Qatar
but only in the event of such aggression being unprovoked. There was a more recent agreement with Kuwait in 1961. This was merely an exchange of notes which showed the readiness of Her Majesty's Government to assist the Government of Kuwait if the latter requested such assistance.
Although we have these limited treaty obligations in the Persian Gulf, they are not sufficient to warrant the maintenance of a permanent force and permanent base in that area. We can still fulfil these obligations without such a base. If we are to keep a base east of Suez, it should be an Australian base. The Australians should supply us with the necessary basing and servicing facilities to enable such force as we need to keep in the area to play its part in fulfilling these obligations.
I am about to conclude. I beg the indulgence of the House if I have slightly overstayed my welcome.
There is nothing shameful in the passing of the imperial era and the decline of Britain's military power. May I make a brief comparison. It is like the parents whose family have grown up and reached independence and who are looking for a smaller house, reduced insurance commitments and trying to join the local community club. In this sense, it is wrong for hon. Members, particularly among the Opposition, to feel that it is shameful that the rôle which Britain played in the world in the middle of the nineteenth century is no longer the rôle which she should play in the middle of the twentieth century.
I join those who have congratulated the Foreign Secretary on what I thought was a most imaginative introductory speech. Anyone looking in retrospect at the recent Middle East crisis can see that, once again, the United Nations has demonstrated its indispensability. The fact that we have recognised this only at the eleventh hour is another factor of international crises too frequently repeated. I am glad to note that the Foreign Secretary is still determined to put support for and strengthening of the United Nations at the centre of his foreign policy. There is only one observation which I wish to make on his remarks in that respect. Perhaps he will be able to give higher priority in the allocation of his tame to visits to the United Nations, because we can see from his presence at the United Nations that he has won immense respect from the community of nations there represented.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu), in discussing the crisis in the Middle East, referred to the Early Day Motion on the Order Paper dealing with the possibility of a United Nations presence in Sinai, with United Nations control of that area. There is a great deal to attract one in this proposal, but we should caution those who support it by commenting that at this juncture it could too easily be interpreted by the Arabs, whom we are desperately anxious to bring to the conference table, as another hostile attitude of the world community.
I should like to say a word or two about what I felt was the most courageous speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Alan Lee Williams). I believe that we have a direct responsibility to ensure that if we withdraw from areas where we at present carry special responsibilities, such as in South-East Asia, we do not just mouth platitudes about international security arrangements to take the place of our presence but actively get down to the job of constructing meaningful international security arrangements. I fear that there is precious little evidence that we have done much about this.
In looking at the past year—and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that we had had 10 debates on foreign affairs—I am a little disappointed that the Labour Government have not found time this year for a major debate on overseas aid and development policies. I wish to concentrate my remarks on this vital aspect. In a way it is perhaps fortunate that I can do it in the context of a foreign affairs debate, because it may give me the opportunity of stressing that this sphere of activity should receive a far greater degree of importance within our overall foreign policy.
A few statistics taken almost at random emphasise the size of the problem. Thirty per cent. of the world's population has 60 per cent. of the world's foodstuffs. Average earnings in Europe and North America are 10 times those in Asia. A young Briton starting out on employment would think that he was earning only modestly if he were receiving £10 a week. A farmer in Africa may still expect to earn £10 per annum as his total income. The West, collectively spends seven times as much, or 700 per cent. more, on armaments or preparation for the negative containment of violence should it occur as it spends collectively on a positive attack on the causes of conflict—hunger, poverty, disease and ignorance, which are the festering grounds of revolution and violence.
One of the stark realities is that this gap is growing daily. Furthermore, it is a gap underlined by race. When some of us, in a sense of relief welcome indications of a reconciliation between the Soviet Union and the United States, we do well to remember that within the Communist bloc there are differences developing on racial grounds as serious as those which exist in other parts of the world. We would do well to remember that if through this widening economic gap we are to see an emphasised difference between the wealthy and the poor nations of the world, there will be an increasingly powerful China standing by ready to lead the revolutionary situations when the opportunity occurs. We all surely agree that the possibility of direct confrontation between the great Powers in the international community is remote, but the possibility is always there of indirect confrontation which could occur as the result of a local revolutionary conflict growing out of control.
If we learn one broad lesson from history, it is that almost without fail, when the majority of the population in any community have become aware that the privileged minority are in control of the wealth and influence which is their prerogative and that these are not being shared by the community as a whole, it is only a matter of time before change must come. Where those in control have been blindest to this truth, the change has been most violent.
I see no reason to believe that that truth in the history of the nation-State will not be translated also into the national community. I am not arguing—it would be naïve to do so—that we are likely to see in the near future a direct and simple race war. What I am suggesting is that out of this situation, an era of tension and danger could develop which could make the worst days of the recent cold war look mild by comparison.
Faced with the magnitude of that problem, it is reassuring that while still in opposition the Labour Party was able to commit itself by categorically stating in an official publication that
A Labour Government will give a new impetus to the war on want. We see it as part of our Socialist obligations to intensify the struggle against world poverty.
It was reassuring to see that theme taken up in the election manifestos of both 1964 and 1966.
If I may quote from those manifestos, I take first 1964. The Labour Party said firmly:
We believe that the Socialist axiom 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need' is not for home consumption only.
It went on to argue that a full-fledged Ministry of Overseas Development was needed. In dealing with that sphere of activity, it said that
An increased share of the national income devoted to essential aid programmes, not only by loans and grants, but by mobilising unused industrial capacity to meet overseas needs
would be a priority of the Labour Government.
At the following General Election, the manifesto was still able to concentrate on that sphere. It said:
A Labour Government will mobilise increasing resources in money, expert advice and voluntary effort to make war on want.
To support that collective viewpoint—and we know that in an election issues always become a little over-simplified—we have on record the personal commitment of a whole range of party leaders; the Prime Minister himself had a written commitment to that theme; the Minister of Transport had committed herself on many occasions in the House. The Minister of Education had also committed himself—to mention only three.
In referring to the higher priority that should be given to these policies, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport said in the House on 3rd February, 1964:
To begin with, therefore, it would help to get the world development authority launched if we had a Ministry of Overseas Development in this country, with the same co-ordinating function as a Ministry of Planning and with Cabinet rank to show the importance which we in Britain attach to the challenge of the Development Decade." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd February, 1964; Vol. 688, c. 846.]
Three days later, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister repeated that same conviction and said:
Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman what we need. A full-scale Ministry of Overseas Development, under a Minister of Cabinet rank, to take over all responsibility for all Commonwealth and other overseas development; to assist and co-operate with voluntary effort in this country…and to take responsibility for our representation on the U.N. specialised agencies."—[OFFiciAL REPORT, 6th February, 1964; Vol. 688, c. 1382.]
That promise was followed by speedy action after the election of a Labour Government in 1964. The Ministry of Overseas Development replaced the Department of Technical Co-operation. We saw a Minister of Cabinet rank. Very quickly, we saw an imaginative White Paper and a great deal of work was begun on the rationalisation of aid programmes.
Almost immediately, however, counter-pressures became evident. There was the five-year plan which paid lip service to the principle of aid but which seemed to say in a rather tired way that we had, perhaps, been doing more than we could afford as a nation. It was a five-year plan which more disappointingly, when commenting on how wealth should be distributed in the future, when we had created the extra wealth by 1970, said nothing whatever about a large and significant increased share of the cake for our civil policies overseas.
More recently, in 1966, as the result of the freeze, despite exemptions made on social services at home, we saw the swingeing cuts on the overseas aid programme. We saw a cut of 10 per cent.—£20 million—on a minimal programme of £225 million, a reduction to £205 million; cuts far greater in proportion than those elsewhere. Some of us who were disappointed by that were even more crestfallen when the Government decided later that they were bound to increase the fees for overseas students.
At the start of this year, when we were already depressed enough, there was the still more depressing news that the Minister of Overseas Development, about whom such tall claims had been made in earlier speeches, was ejected from the Cabinet.
All this has to be seen against the background of one halfway mark in the United Nations Development Decade.
I will be forgiven if I remind the House briefly of the objective of that Decade. We remember that it was simply to see a mere 1 per cent. of the gross national product contributed by the Governments of developed countries to development. It was hoped that through this policy a modest 5 per cent. growth rate could be achieved in the developing countries.
To those who might say that that is too ambitious, I would stress that a 5 per cent. growth rate, allowing for a 3 to 3½per cent. population growth, would mean a per capita income increase of only 1½to 2 per cent. a year in the developing countries. It would take 35 to 50 years to double living standards in the developing countries. That would leave the people of India after 35 or 50 years with a per capita income of still only £50.
Halfway through that Decade, all is not well. Aid from the developed countries, far from increasing, has levelled off since 1960 both absolutely and as a pro-
portion of the gross national product. No less an authority than George Wood, President of the World Bank, said last year that
Unless the Development Decade, as President Kennedy christened it, receives greater significance, it may in fact recede into history as the decade of disappointment.
We should not underestimate the difficulties inherited by the Government from their predecessors. The Government see a strong base in the British economy as essential if we are to do all we want to do in Britain and abroad, but I make several criticisms basically of the faltering policy—of the negation of the original aims in overseas aid and development policies—which we have seen in the past year.
First, it demonstrates a sad lack of political courage and leadership. Just as we said that there were certain urgent social priorities at home which must be exempted from the full impact of the economic crisis, likewise the Government should also have said that their Socialist principles demanded that the same should apply to aspects of their policy and work overseas.
Secondly, it has been misleading to suggest to the House and the nation that there is a proportionate relevance in the cuts to the balance of payment problem. When I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development earlier this year what was the saving to the balance of payments of the recent cuts in overseas aid programmes, he replied:
While it is not possible to calculate an exact figure it would be reasonable to suppose that if aid is reduced by £20 million a balance of payments saving of the order of £7 million may be expected."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th May, 1967; Vol. 746, c. 97.]
Answering another Question, he assured me that for every £ contributed to the International Development Association, Britain secured 30s. worth of orders.
The next criticism is that it smacks of traditional charity when, because we are in economic difficulties, we say that we cannot afford to do as much as we were doing. We must recognise that the economic growth of the world community as a whole is very much in our interests —that just as, since the Industrial Revolution, economic growth in Britain has been sustained by the increased purchasing power of the working classes, so also our national expansion can now only be sustained if the purchasing power of the developing nations is increased.
Further, we are not recognising the strategic importance of aid. We are failing to recognise the political interdependence of the world community as a whole and, that if we care about peace in the most positive sense, we must give priority to programmes of this sort. The best guarantee of human survival is to be found in increased world prosperity based on practical partnership.
What action do I suggest? I am sure that the Government will not have failed to notice that already 60 of my hon. Friends have signed Early Pay Motion headed, "Support for war on world poverty". Those who signed it would like to see, as a first priority, the Minister of Overseas Development put back in the Cabinet, where he belongs—put back there on grounds of Socialist priorities and Socialist planning.
We should also like to see restored quickly the original targets for overseas aid development programmes. Equally, we want to see an increased concentration on multilateral programmes. We must recognise that, in a developing country, a host of different agreements with different countries of origin ensures economic chaos as the country tries to develop. Co-ordinated international help will lead to cohesion in such areas and I hope that there will be increased support for United Nations development programmes led by that great practical internationalist, Paul Hoffman, at the United Nations.
Priority should be given to agriculture and literacy. We want to see Her Majesty's Government giving more attention to the indicative world plan of the Food and Agricultural Organisation and committing themselves more fully to U.N.E.S.C.O.'s World Literacy Programme to combat the growing rate of illiteracy in the world. It has been estimated that there are now 700 million to 1,000 million illiterates.
Her Majesty's Government should give increased support—some support is already being given—to the various international family planning programmes. Equally, the Government should say more about their plans for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. It was the last conference of U.N.C.T.A.D. which gave the developing nations their first real hope for economic maturity and self-sufficiency. We would be churlish not to recognise the outstanding record of the last Conservative Government in their performance at that conference. I hope that the Socialist Government will be able to go on and do even more in this respect.
In considering U.N.C.T.A.D., we must recognise that long-term price guarantees for the primary producing countries are essential. At present, wild fluctuations in the prices of primary commodities—sometimes fluctuating as much as 12 per cent.—can wipe out in one year the progress made in several years. We cannot pretend that all this will not necessitate changes in our pattern of industry, but at a time when the Government are claiming that they are endeavouring to streamline the industrial pattern in Britain, it would be absurd to ignore the international perspective.
We must also regard the problem of world liquidity, from the point of view of the developing countries, as something requiring high priority. We in Britain are ourselves directly concerned with this matter and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister care desperately about these problems. The International Development Association of the World Bank estimates that the developing countries could absorb £1,000 million more each year quite effectively. Barbara Ward, the international economist, commenting on this situation, suggested:
…it might be possible to evolve a scheme in which part at least of the world's reserves were provided not by gold, nor by currencies, but by some controlled creation of credit on the part of the world's embryonic central bank, the International Monetary Fund.
If each year it were empowered to issue credit certificates to the value of, say, 5 per cent. of world trade, and these were placed with the near-liquid assets of the World Bank. the Bank could then transfer an equivalent amount of capital to its subsidiary, the International Development Association. for investment in the developing world. Alternatively, to make such a proposal respectable to banking opinion, it could follow the French suggestion that new credit issued by the International Monetary Fund should be given to developed nations in the proportion to which they give aid to the underdeveloped.
If the developing countries are to achieve sound economic development, the right
balance between the infrastructure, which is essential, and the spreading of economic progress throughout the community in that country as a whole must be secured.
In this respect, I believe that the Government could give more attention to the work of Dr. Schumacher and his Intermediate Technology Group. This Group has done some extremely interesting research recently on relevant policies for development in developing countries. Speaking to an Africa Bureau meeting last year, he summed up this theory in a few neat sentences. He said:
If you want to go places, start from where you are. If you are poor, start with something cheap. If you are uneducated, start with something relatively simple. If you live in a poor environment, and poverty makes markets small, start with something small. If you are unemployed, start using your labour power; because any use of it, any productive use of it, is better than letting it lie idle.
Replying to the criticism that intermediate technology is second-best, he said:
Well, is it? For whom is it second best? Is a bicycle second best for someone who has got nothing? No, it is the best for him, and the gift of a car would ruin him. Is a computer the best thing for the illiterate? Certainly not!
The success of his Group is indicated by inquiries which have been received from all over the world. I will quote only one, which stated:
Some twenty or thirty years ago there existed a bit of equipment which one could purchase for £20 to do a particular job. Now it costs £2,000 and is fully automated, and we cannot afford to buy it. Can you help us?
Her Majesty's Government have an opportunity to lead the world by supporting the work of this Intermediate Technology Group.
In conclusion, the principles and philosophy on which we base our policies here at home cannot be forgotten at the English Channel or even at the Mediterranean. They have a universal significance. The rapid development in recent years of world communications—the capacity that has been developed by mankind for his total self-destruction—illustrate that we can no longer afford to regard peace in its most positive sense as a romantic pipe dream. It is an urgent, practical necessity. To achieve this, in our attitudes to Europe, to the Commonwealth and to the United Nations, we must accept our large and special responsibility for, and give the necessary priority to, the economic and social development of the world community as a whole.
I am well aware of my lack of knowledge of foreign affairs and general matters connected with this debate. I would, therefore, hate to try to praise or criticise any of the speeches made today. I am only one of many millions of people who fought in at least one war and who desires never to see another war. I am always intensely interested in these foreign affairs debates, and today we have heard some excellent speeches from both sides. I rise to raise two points which have been brought to my notice in recent days.
The first point concerns a constituent whose son is on the "Scottish Star", one of the Blue Star Line, lying in the Suez Canal. She wrote a fortnight ago asking me to find out, as a matter of urgency, the whereabouts of the boy, the state of his health and when he was likely to get home. I understand that the boy is aged 18 years or under. I phoned the Foreign Office and after some time got in touch with an emergency call unit. The lady there appeared to have no knowledge whatever of conditions in the Canal. It seemed as though we had no contact at all, at least directly, with the ships there.
I received another letter from my constituent this morning. She had received a letter, dated some three weeks earlier, saying that her son was well, but there seemed to be no information as to when the ships would be freed or when the crews could hope to be replaced by fresh crews from home. I again phoned the Foreign Office and received the information that the person concerned had gone on leave and that the papers had been lost. I was later put in touch with the Commonwealth Office, where someone told me that it was understood that the Canadian Government were looking after our interests but that the Canadians themselves could not get on board the ships to find out what was happening.
As these ships have now been held in the Canal for several weeks, I think we should have far closer contact with those on board them. I know that the Foreign Secretary had many subjects to deal with in a short time, but I hope that later in the debate the Government spokesman can refer to this matter. It is a human problem, and we should assert our authority in one way or another, to bring home those people on the ships or, at any rate, to assure their parents or other relatives that they are well.
A day or two ago I met a gentleman who had just come back from Jordan. He is director of an organisation there called M.B.D.T., which I understand is a medical research unit that has a lot to do with the treatment of burns. He had spent a long period in hospitals in Jordan giving advice on the treatment of the burns of some of the wounded.
We must keep a link with the Arab countries. I think that most people in this country and in the House were very pleased that Israel had achieved what she set out to do. Sympathy with her was overwhelming. On the other hand, we have many good friends in the Arab countries and Jordan may prove to be our best link.
The gentleman with whom I talked told me that what was badly needed in Jordan was a small hospital unit, costing some £30,000, which could be provided almost immediately from stocks in this country and then go with the team he had already organised for the treatment of burns. I gathered from him that the friendship for Great Britain of the ordinary people, and the doctors, and so on, in the hospitals is extremely great. A gesture such as providing a hospital could help to keep our ties with the Arab countries intact and would do a great deal for our future friendship with them.
I do not intend to enter into the great debate on foreign affairs, but I tope that something can be done about the two matters I have mentioned. In particular, if something can be said about the men on the ships, and the ships, now held up in the Canal, I shall be very grateful.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his very interesting argument. I want, first, to refer to what was said about Vietnam by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker). I do not want to speak about Vietnam as such—we only recently debated the subject—but I find it impossible to understand how any hon. Member can justify the way in which the Americans are waging that war.
It will be no secret to my colleagues in the House that I am opposed to American action in Vietnam. I have never believed it to be a clear-cut, black-and-white issue, but the way in which the United States are waging the war—the napalm, and the indiscriminate killings —really horrifies me as a British citizen and a Member of Parliament. I only wish that Members like the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths), who puts the American point of view, could try to understand the shock and horror caused to so many people in this country by what the United States are doing. If, occasionally, when he makes his visits to the United States, and they seem to be very frequent, he would try to explain to the American Administration that feeling of shock and horror it would do his cause and that of the United States a great deal of good.
I have endeavoured to do that. More than that, I have taken the opportunity to write extensively in American newspapers expressing the very point the hon. Member is putting forward.
I must be forgiven for not having read the American papers and the hon. Member's articles but, of course, if he has been pursuing this line I am very pleased. In all fairness, however, one must say that in his contributions in the House—and he is a very interesting and fluent speaker—the hon. Member has put more or less the point of view of the American Administration.
I want now to return to the subject of Greece, referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan). On 24th April, a day or two after the military coup in Greece, I had a Private Notice Question to the Foreign Secretary. In a supplementary question, I described those who had taken part in the military coup as "military riff-raff", and some right hon. and hon. Members opposite felt that it was, perhaps, an exaggerated expression, and that I should not have used it. However, it seems to me that what has happened in the few months since the coup has well justified my description of the colonels as military riff-raff.
We have seen in Greece, a Western European country and a N.A.T.O. country, the complete suppression of freedom of speech. We have seen mass arrests. The Observer last Sunday reported that 45 Greek M.P.s were held without trial in detention and 26 were members of the Centre Union Party. Others who are held include the President of the Athens Bar Association and the former head of the Greek Mission to N.A.T.O. We know that a number of people are being held on the Island of Yioura.
I congratulate The Times on the reports it has carried in the last few weeks. They have been extremely informative. We have a duty and responsibility to be aware of what is happening in Greece and to express our very deep concern that the democratic process has been destroyed and in Greece we have a military dictatorship. I do not think anyone can deny that. There have been stories of hardship and brutality against political detainees. There seems a brutal, callous indifference on the part of the new rulers in Greece to those in Greece who disagree with them.
What sort of responsibility have we and other nations in N.A.T.O.? I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary is not present at the moment. What has rather disturbed me has been that very little action has been taken on our part in expressing condemnation of the military dictatorship in Greece. I am glad to know that Denmark, a member of the United Nations, has made a very strong protest. It is to the credit of that country that it has done so. The Dutch Foreign Minister has also made a strong protest. There has been a sort of feeling here, to a certain extent shared by both Front Benches, that we should not intervene but that we should leave matters as they are and that we cannot do any good by intervening. This is rather bad. I should have thought that we should go out of our way to give every possible moral support to democrats in Greece who are suffering under a military and near fascist dictatorship.
I read from an editorial which appeared in The Times on 15th July. It says that the Western Governments should use all the influence they possess to speed the restoration of democracy there and adds:
The frontiers of freedom are narrow enough as it is: acquiescing in their further limitation diminishes our own freedom.
I wish that speakers on both Front Benches had gone as far as The Times did in that editorial.
The situation in Cyprus is closely related to that in Greece. There is a great deal of concern that there might be a coup in Cyprus. There is great concern that those who rule Greece at the moment will try to overthrow the democratic government in Cyprus and tie Cyprus up with Greece. It will come as no surprise to the House that secret negotiations have been going on—they are supposed to be secret—between the Greek and the Turkish Governments. One has the suspicion, which I hope is unjustified, that if there were a coup no great objection would come from the Turkish Government. In Cyprus over the years there has been a desire among some of the people for union with Greece, but I do not think many of them would want to be linked with Greece while it is ruled by military dictatorship.
I should have thought it possible to issue a warning to Greece, as she is a member of the United Nations and Cyprus is a member of the Commonwealth, that we will not be indifferent to any military coup organised by the Greek rulers against the territorial integrity of Cyprus. I am very much concerned about the Cypriot position, I hope that my feeling is shared by those on the Government Front Bench.
I do not always agree with the Daily Mail, but today one of its columnists—a very well known one, Anne Scott James —writing about the military dictatorship, says that she will not take her holidays in Greece this year. She is showing concern about the situation which I hope will be followed by a great many others in regard to the victims of the miltary dictatorship.
I pass to the subject of the Common Market, which has not been discussed today. I believe that on balance, given the right conditions, we should enter the Economic Community. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame"] Someone said "Shame". We are all entitled to our views. I am in favour of going in, given the right conditions, and I was in favour of the British Government making their application.
What worries me is that with French obstruction and the possibility later of a French veto, we may be involved in many months and perhaps a year after submitting the application in negotiations and then find ourselves in the same position as we did at the beginning of 1963. I think we were right in making the application because I believe that we should go into the Community, but I hope I shall be forgiven for saying that I believe the time is coming when the Government must make an assessment of the situation. If there is no chance of getting in and if it is obvious that there is to be a French obstruction to our entry, we should say that the time has come to withdraw our application.
I see little sense in continuing with the application if we know that we shall not be allowed to enter. We have not even started the negotiations yet. I do not know when they are due to start. The French are opposed even to our negotiating our entry. Therefore, it would be far better if at some stage in the next few weeks we were to say, "It is obvious that we cannot get in. In these circumstances, we withdraw our application".
I do not want Britain to be in the position which it was in last time, of being involved for months and months in negotiations, being undermined all the time by France, and then being faced with a veto at the end of the day. The Government have a responsibility to make an assessment of the situation with regard to our application.
In foreign affairs debates there is a tendency to make what one hon. Gentleman described as a "Cook's Tour". but I especially want to mention two other matters. The first is the question of the Arab refugees in the Middle East. During the week's war I said in the House and outside, that, given the circumstances in which it found itself, Israel was justified in taking military action. I still believe that to be the case.
We know that the State of Israel was being threatened. We know that there were those in the Arab world and amongst the Arab leadership who spoke of conquering Israel. We know that the person who headed the Palestine liberation army, when he was asked what would happen to the Israeli survivors, replied, "What survivors? " In these circumstances, I believe, rightly or wrongly, that the State of Israel, as any other independent country, was right to try to defend itself against aggression.
What causes me some worry—I am sure that I am not the only pro-Israel person who feels like this—is the position of the Arab refugees who went from the west bank once it was occupied by the Israeli authorities and who now wish to return. I read with great interest yesterday that the first 50 or 60 Arab refugees have been allowed back by the Israeli authorities to the west bank. This is very good. I am very pleased about it. I hope that the Israeli authorities will be willing to allow back many more Arab refugees who want to return to their homes.
I do not believe that it would do Israel's cause any great good if there was a feeling throughout Britain and other countries that the Israeli authorities were indifferent to the suffering and the tragedy of the new wave of Arab refugees. Yesterday at Question Time I asked the Prime Minister if he was aware of the deep concern in the country about the position of the Arab refugees. I was very pleased indeed with his reply.
I know all the difficulties between the Arab countries and Israel. No hon. Member can be unaware of these difficulties. I believe that, apart from anything else, and apart from the humanitarian cause, it would do Israel's own cause much more good if it showed a quicker willingness to allow the refugees in Jordan who want to return to be allowed to return to the west bank.
Finally, I turn quickly to the position of Aden. I believe that there are only about six months left before we leave. Every day we read about new violence and new tragedy in Aden, of more people being shot. I have never wished to condone violence or mob rule, and I shall never be willing to do so; but I still believe that we have a responsibility in the last six months of our rule in Aden to try to get a negotiated agreement with the F.L.O.S.Y. leaders.
I know what is said. It is argued that we try and that we are willing to meet the F.L.O.S.Y. leaders. I believe that we must not only be willing to meet them but that we must also be willing to state that we are ready to make drastic changes in the South Arabian Federation. The Foreign Secretary should not forget that this Federation—a very tragic set-up—was initiated by the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), supported by his colleagues. We said when in opposition that we were opposed to the Federation. I believe that we should be willing, even at this late stage, to say that, if the F.L.O.S.Y. people are willing to meet us and are willing to negotiate, we for our part are willing to take Aden out of the Federation.
I have said that every day we read about more violence. I can well visualise the sort of situation which will arise once we leave. Is it not worth the effort, even at this late stage, to say that the linking of Aden to the Federation was a mistake? After all, this is what we said in opposition. Bearing this in mind, we should be willing to take Aden out of the Federation now. It would be interesting to see what would be the reaction on the F.L.O.S.Y. leaders. In the last resort these are the people who will decide the future of Aden. We may not like the F.L.O.S.Y. leaders. I certainly do not like their violence and their methods. But this is not uncommon in Colonial situations. In Ireland, Cyprus, India and Egypt the same sort of action was taken by the nationalist leaders. We should be willing to make one last big effort to secure a lasting peace in Aden. If we can achieve this, we shall be able to leave the area without feeling that there may be even more bloodshed and even more violence.
I hope the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick) will not mind if I do not follow him too closely in his analysis. I disagree with him so profoundly over the position of the Americans in Vietnam that it would take me at least two minutes to demolish his case in its entirety, and I do not think I can spare the two minutes.
I propose to refer to what the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon. It was once said of Asquith that he drove a Roman road through the heart of every subject. Having listened carefully to the Foreign Secretary, I visualised someone working his way through a jungle using a machete rather inefficiently. However, at one stage he brought us to a little pool of light when he talked about world order. World order is obviously of the greatest concern to both sides of the House. I do not think, though, that sufficient attention has been paid to the perfect analyses which have been produced by people like Reinhold Neibuhr about the possibilities of creating within the foreseeable future in this century the type of large-scale world government which is so dear to the hearts of hon. Members on both sides of the House.
What we know and what we can build on is simply this. We know that the functional world organisations work—organisations like F.A.O., I.C.A.O., the World Bank, I.A.T.A., and U.N.E.S.C.O. —one could name a long list. There is great scope for the expansion of functionalisation in dealing with world government. This is something we ought to do whenever the opportunities exist. I suggested the other day a form of international insurance to deal with the wicked damage which is done to one foreign consulate after another. Another such body is an international maritime court to deal with the type of misjudgment and error at sea which was involved in the "Torrey Canyon" disaster. Many fields can be explored. These will yield something positive.
I turn to the distinguished analysis by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home). He pointed out that it was the aim of Communism to reduce all evolutionary processes to a shambles. This we can accept. But where is this more true than in central and southern Africa today? There is an obligation on all of us to recognise the character of an evolution comparable in speed to that which we attained in this country during the middle of the last century. It is an interesting fact that the first ballot box in a Parliamentary election in England was used only in 1872. It exists in a club in the centre of London. This is a date which the House might bear in mind.
There is an obligation on us to recognise the character of this evolution in Africa. There is equally an obligation on them to demonstrate that their evolution is continuing, that it is purposeful and constructive. These two obligations I feel are fundamental to any real move forward in our relationships with Africa as a whole.
Fundamental to our consideration of the whole problem is that criticism of Dean Acheson about us having lost our rôle. What kind of power are we? Therefore, what ought we to be trying to do in terms of our forces and foreign policies?
We have then to ask who is our enemy. Is it not characteristic of the 20th century that traditional national enemies are no longer necessarily or automatically our enemies? No names, no packdrill. But tyranny, autocracy, racialism, brutality, intolerance and aggrandisement, whether philosophical or territorial, are still the enemies of this country, wherever they may be found.
What kind of a Power are we? We still have to deal with these things. I believe that we are a very considerable Power. We have the hydrogen bomb. In some ways, the House is embarrassed by this. We prefer not to talk about it. But we have the power to use it. I do not underrate the power capability of a Polaris missile submarine. Also, we are a responsible Power. This is the third parameter. We have, therefore, in addition, considerable conventional forces, because we are a responsible Power. I believe that, in a crisis, this country could mobilise 3 million men. The character of that army is one which the world has recognised in the past, and it would in similar circumstances do so again.
We have considerable international responsibilities, in areas of the world where power is respected more than idealism. This is a sad state of affairs, but I think it true and realistic. Of course, we want to bring desalination to the world, of course we want the overseas development programmes of which my colleague the hon. Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) spoke. We want to do all these things, but first we must have the power to protect our investment, to protect our trade, to protect our ships and to protect our citizens. These come first. Everything follows after. We must protect them—the Foreign Secretary himself mentioned this today—from thugs, from vicious confiscation, from vindictive and destructive violence. The right hon. Gentleman described how much of this there is in the sad, savage and sorry world of today.
I said that we were a responsible Power. We would, therefore, never consider using the H-bomb to release our ships from the Suez Canal. But there are other techniques—I wish I had time to discuss them—which we could and should use, and which we should now be thinking of using.
We denigrate ourselves too much, we denigrate our power, we denigrate our purposes and our responsibility. This, as I see it, is the deep cause of the lack of will which is so much at the centre of our problems today. We argue more than most that Britain is no longer in the big league. It is an argument developed most sophisticatedly in this country, and probably in this Chamber. What does it mean?—that we could not launch a missile war? But who would ever think of doing so? If a so-called super-Power were to launch a missile attack on the United Kingdom or the Commonwealth, would it not make one of the greatest and most classic mistakes of history? It is a mistake which has been made before by many dictators who, applying their own scales of judgment, decided that it was something which they could undertake. It is a mistake made by every Power, and they have been many, which has based its military judgments on our criticisms of ourselves. I am not privy to national defence secrets, but I am powerfully convinced that any Power which made such a miscalculation could inflict appalling and intolerable damage on this island, but it would suffer the most appalling retribution.
That is my judgment of our position in the so-called super-Power league. But we must hope that it is a league in which no match will ever be played. Do we, therefore, keep in training? Do we keep our Polaris fleet, our V bombers, the F111s, a British rocket system, our British radio and electronics ingenuity and other forms of military capacity? In my view, the answer is, Yes, we do, because there is no certainty that matches will never be played in the second league.
Unfortunately, there is considerable certainty—the history of the last 18 months demonstrates it—that the third league is one in which we are likely to be constantly involved. I concede that in this league Britain alone can achieve any purpose which her people feel to be either morally justified or in our vital national interests. It is the task of statesmanship to ensure that these two essential conditions are never separated. Britain, as leader of a great Commonwealth alliance, need accept no limitation on the exercise of power for any purpose which would bring such a coalition into being. I understand that this has always been the key to British power, authority and greatness. Sometimes I think that we have forgotten it. Sometimes I think that we want to forget it, because the exercise of power, responsibility and leadership imposes onerous burdens, calls for difficult decisions, and requires us to recognise that the world is one in which not all nations, not all races and not all national leaders accept the inevitability of idealism.
My time is brief and, therefore, I shall mention only one other aspect. We are told that the fundamental limitation is economic—the economic limitation of absolute wealth. I do not think that it is so fundamental a limitation as is sometimes thought. This country has never been richer in absolute terms than it is today, give or take a couple of years about which we need not worry. We have never had greater resources in absolute terms than we have today. The resources we employed to dominate—a word that will please some hon. Members opposite—the world in the 19th century were a small fraction of what we have today.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) pointed out the amounts of our sumptuary expenditure, including spending on gambling and smoking, which have increased in the past 10 years. Compared with them, the cost of four nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, for example, pales to insignificance. It is a burden that we could consider imposing on ourselves. Bearing in mind the growth rate of our gross national product since the end of the last war, it would be absorbed in continuing growth. We would have lees money for sumptuary expenditure, but we would rediscover the prestige which comes from the knowledge that we are capable of defending the realm, which would amply compensate for the economic costs we would have to incur.
It is my profound conviction that the Government would obtain popular support if it decided on a policy to restore the power and prestige of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy, supplying the former with the aircraft it needs to lead a great Commonwealth and defend its heartland—this island. We need formidable weapons, and we can afford them.
The country may deplore it, but will conceivably allow an incompetent Government to devalue the £, shackle the economy, denigrate our past achievements, and make sackcloth and ashes the national dress. It will deplore it, and it will not allow any Government to devalue our power to the point where the rest of the world knows that it can paper its walls with the statements of British Prime Ministers.
The House will forgive me if I do not pursue the same arguments as the hon. Member for Portsmouth, Langstone (Mr. Ian Lloyd). I want to confine myself to the situation in Vietnam, for three reasons.
First, I believe that it is the critical flash point in the world today, that it is the part of the world where a third world war is most likely to start. Second, I believe that many other world problems of recent months and years are linked to the military and political stalemate in Vietnam. That is perhaps truer than many people realise of the Middle Eastern crisis. Third, only a few weeks ago I was in South Vietnam for about 12 days with three Parliamentary colleagues from both sides of the House. We travelled thousands of miles, visited all parts of the country and had an opportunity of meeting a large number of Vietnamese, Americans and our own representatives there.
I want to speak on the basis of what I saw and heard in that unhappy country, and to talk about the military, political and social realities of the situation. I want briefly to look to the future of the problem and say a word about Britain's rôle.
My visit emphasised for me the enormous difficulties that we face in reaching any solution of the Vietnamese problem. It is not, as one hon. Member said, a question simply of black and white, a question of right or wrong. There is a complex mixture of motives on both sides. It is not simply a confrontation between Communism and the free world. There are elements of nationalism, racialism and religious difference.
But the war is unique in one way more than any other in that the whole community is involved. The community is absolutely involved in a way that has never happened before in war, certainly in recent years. In Vietnam we face a war situation which has continued in one way and another for well over 20 years. It is like a modern Hundred Years' War. We see in Vietnam a sort of Mother Courage situation in the twentieth century.
The fighting part of the war can be divided into two parts, the orthodox military confrontation between regular forces and the guerilla war in the community. What frightened me in Vietnam was to hear so many people express the belief that they felt that their side was winning the war. I am certain that the same belief was held by the other side. Having seen the country and having seen the war being fought, I am convinced that it can never be won by either side purely from a military point of view.
At the moment we have the orthodox battle between regular units on each side. This is taking place between regular American forces on the one side and regular North Vietnamese forces on the other side who have infiltrated to the south. I have little doubt that the American forces will win this part of the war because they are better equipped and more numerous and have logistic support which the other side does not have.
The guerilla war is a battle between Vietnamese, the South Vietnamese army and the Vietcong. In most parts of the country the Vietcong are largely locally recruited. From the way that things have been going in recent months, it is very difficult to see how the guerillas, who are deeply entrenched in the community, can ever be defeated by purely military means. It does little good to have jet bombers flying at 600 miles per hour when one's enemy is a man harvesting rice six days out of seven and going out only once a week early in the morning to fight a guerrilla action four or five miles up the road. It was a disturbing feature of the situation to me that so many people saw a complete military victory as the end point of the war.
Another disturbing feature was that, while there has been a very rapid buildup of the war in the last two years—there has been an increasing number of American troops going into the country and also a vast amount of military equipment, as well as increased infiltration from the North. First smaller units and now bigger regular units. We have seen more and more effort on both sides devoted to the waging of the war in a military sense—we saw in the part of the country that we were in a continuous and increasing run-down in the social services and the disastrous political consequences of the military actions inseparable from the war, actions which, in the purely military sense, are often labelled victorious. We saw these consequences in health, education, housing in the towns and the refugee problem and in connection with the recurrent economic crises and inflation which the country faces. One sees military victories being achieved, perhaps a victory in which 200 or 300 Vietcong have been killed for the loss of 30 to 40 American troops. When there is a victory, the cost in political and social terms is enormous because in so many cases, in order to achieve this victory, perhaps as many as 30,000 or 40,000 civilians have had to be moved from their ancestral homes to what are virtually refugee camps in provincial capitals perhaps 50 miles behind the line.
Many of these unfortunate individuals are condemned to continue to live in these camps with little prospect of a return to their own home areas, the rice fields they know being denied to them. They are left in this "neither nor" existence in a camp on the outskirts of a town they neither know nor want to know.
I want particularly to talk about the medical services, in which, as a doctor, I was naturally interested and about which I am perhaps qualified to make some judgment. The medical services are almost exclusively our only direct interest in South Vietnam. We have a Government-financed civilian medical team in Saigon.
The task facing the civilian medical services in South Vietnam is truly quite hopeless and while the war continues no absolute solution can ever be found. The number of civilian war casualties varies from area to area and from time to time. We saw hospitals where 50 per cent. of tae patients were civilian war injured. When the war gets more active in an area, the percentage may go up to 80 per cent., while it may sink as low as 10 or 20 per cent. in other areas where the war for the moment is not so active.
As a doctor trained in a Western country and used to medical standards here, I was deeply disturbed, not so much by the standards in South Vietnam, which I accept as perhaps inevitable in the circumstances, but by the effect on young people and children who are innocent bystanders in a war not of their doing and from which they have virtually opted out. When one sees all this, one questions the whole sense of the conflict.
While we were at one hospital, a mother and her baby in arms were brought in. They had both been severely injured 40 or 50 miles away by a mine. They were having transfusions as they were being brought in and possibly would survive. These are the real casualties of the war. They were innocent bystanders. In another hospital we found one of the patients chained to his bed because he was a Vietcong suspect. This sort of thing underlines the atmosphere and the attitude that certain people have towards the war.
But perhaps more than anything else I was disturbed by the apathetic acceptance of the war by the great bulk of the ordinary population. One would have thought that people blown up by Vietcong mines or bombed by American aircraft would feel some bitterness, especially those who had been severely injured or mutilated. But the war situation has been with them for so long that they accept war as being part and parcel of life and their reaction to civilian war casualties is much the same as ours is to road injuries. They are accepted as a risk of living and it is just bad luck if one happens to be a casualty.
Of course, there is a desperate shortage of staff in the hospitals. There were never many Vietnamese doctors anyway and they are mainly in the army. There is an acute shortage of nurses. If it were not for the medical teams from many parts of the world, civilian medical services would be non-existent in many parts of the country.
But outside the hospitals there has been an almost complete breakdown of public health services and elementary things like mosquito control and rubbish collection, resulting in a steadily rising toll of infectious and preventable disease. A large proportion of the community suffer from active tuberculosis without hope of treatment. Cases of plague occur more frequently every year. It is difficult to be definite about figures but I estimate that between 10,000 and 20,000 cases of plague occurred in South Vietnam last year. This is getting to the stage where there is real risk to world health. Diseases like cholera and leprosy are all too common. Most simple and elementary public health measures are not carried out because of the war situation. It is not the fault of anyone. There just are not the people or resources to do these things.
In the centre of Saigon, staying in one of the best hotels, I could go out on to my balcony in the evening and see rats running in the street and families sleeping in the open on the other side of the road. Rats, of course, carry the plague in this sort of situation.
I mentioned the British medical team. I know that my right hon. Friend who will be answering the debate has been in Vietnam and I hope he will be able to say a word about the team. We have a team of British doctors and nurses running part of the only children's hospital in the whole country. I visited the team on two occasions and I should like to pay a personal tribute to the work which it is doing. It is of incalculable benefit not only to the children being treated, but to future generations of Vietnamese children, because it is playing a large part in the training of the medical students and doctors of the future in this country. This is a very effective form of overseas aid and something which we have discussed earlier.
I have deliberately concentrated on the medical aspect of some of the things that we saw, because I feel qualified to do this. However, this is one example of social breakdown that is the inevitable result of a war of this kind. It is in the social and political field that the real conflict is to be won and lost. I saw examples of the latest efforts of South Vietnam, supported by the Americans, to win this particular battle. There has been a succession of different methods of indoctrination introduced. Each has failed. The latest method, known as revolutionary development, is now beginning. Teams of young people are trained in a special camp. They undergo training for 12 weeks in batches of 6,000. These youngsters, in teams of 59, then go out into the villages. They spend six months in a village. At the end of that time they are meant to have re-indoctrinated the population, which may well have lived under Vietcong control for 20 or more years. Although some of the individuals behind the idea and some of these teams are genuinely dedicated, it is almost impossible to see it succeeding. There does not seem to be any real political motivation behind this method of indoctrination and it seems unrealistic to believe that it will convert people from a form of Communism which they may well have been brought up with and to which they may well be very deeply attached.
Some of the other efforts which are being made to introduce means of winning this particular battle also disturbed me somewhat. There is a demand, not so much from the South Vietnamese themselves but from the Americans, for what I might call instant democracy—a sort of prefabricated form of democracy—which has been foisted willy nilly and far too rapidly on South Vietnam.
We saw some village elections, which are comparable to our parish elections and in that sense had some meaning. However, in the next few months there will be the presidential election and the election of a national legislature. For these elections to take place in a country where there are no political parties and the Government have control only over a proportion of the population and the country and where there is no freedom of the Press—there is a very rigorous political censorship—is, to my mind, putting the cart before the horse. I should like to see some elementary political freedoms given to the people before they are forced to participate in elections of this nature.
I should like to end by referring briefly to the future and the position of the British Government. I was very disturbed by the way in which almost everyone we met in South Vietnam assumed it to be inevitable that there should be a rapid increase in the number of American troops in the country. There were 430,000 American troops there, and this number has been reached at a fairly rapid rate over the last two years. There was talk of perhaps 600,000 or 700,000 by the end of this year, and these troops would all come with their military equipment and their hardware. If this happens we shall see an increasing infiltration from the North in the same way as over the last two years. More and more regular units would come down from the North and, despite the efforts of the American troops and to some, although not a very great, extent of the South Vietnamese Army around the borders, this infiltration would continue. We would also be running the risk of volunteers from other Communist countries coming in, and if this were to happen, the threat of a third world war would loom very large.
There is no easy solution to the problem and there is no easy solution in terms of the Vietnamese conflict alone. The problem of Vietnam can be solved only as part and parcel of a world agreement which must involve primarily the super Powers. But Britain has some small part to play. Our co-chairmanship of the Geneva Conference still means a great deal. The fact that we have repeatedly refused to send troops to South Vietnam also retains a degree of independence for US.
We should tell our American allies that if they are rapidly to increase the number of troops which they have in South Vietnam, if there is to be a major escalation of the war, we will dissociate ourselves from this further involvement in the same way as we did from the bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong. It was interesting to meet many people in South Vietnam for whom this dissociation had a considerable meaning, whatever they might have thought about it. We must do these things, because to fail to do so would mean that we no longer retained any vestige of influence. We would then have opted out of seeking a solution to what remains the greatest threat to the peace of the world.
Our debates on foreign affairs are rather sad and sombre events, not least because we hear the events such as those described so effectively and movingly by my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody). Our malaise and frustration go a little deeper and I am reminded of Dean Acheson's comment that Britain had lost an Empire but not yet found and defined a world rôle. Our difficulty in defining our world rôle in the shrunken arena as we see it is that we are not yet fundamentally reconciled to losing our empire.
Listening to the contributions of one or two hon. Members who have spanned the global theatres of war and peace, I have been reminded that for generations to Britons the world has been a stage and has been their stage. The emotional tug of the centuries is still clearly very powerful, and I suppose that it will have to fall to those now at school and who are not being brought up with the Mercator map plastered in red to come to terms with a world in which black, brown and yellow will no longer be hidden from their view.
It will not he easy for older generations, particularly for the English—and I speak as a migrant Celt—who are not only a formidable people—they did not come to rule a fourth of the world just by accident—but who are also a people who behind their obvious pragmatism believe in their romantic myths, and if this romanticism is not to go sour, as it could so easily in Britain today, it is very important that the myths should be translated into the contemporary setting.
In the few moments available to me I want to touch on two themes—the preservation of peace and the strengthening of democracy in which Britain can still play an important and perhaps decisive role. Some years ago, I was active, as were many of my hon. Friends, in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament at a time when Britain was the third nuclear Power, although insignificant, of course, in comparison with the armoury and delivery systems of the two super Powers.
I believed then—and I think that it was a correct view at the time—that for Britain to pursue her nuclear programme was to encourage the proliferation of nuclear weapons and to reduce the security and stability of world order. I believed that the previous Government, as revealed so strikingly by Suez, had delusions of grandeur which were dangerous nonsense and that the British force de frappe was a nonsensical and non-credible concept. Given Britain's efforts to remain a world poseur, it was alarming to envisage British nuclear weapons being despatched all over the world to various bases with incalculable risks to our national security.
I believe that the world situation today is even more dangerous not least because whatever hopes there might have been—and it is idle now to speculate on what proved in the event to be unobtainable—that a British unilateral decision might have discouraged proliferation, were to be stillborn.
China is already a major nuclear Power, having perhaps developed a cheap and reliable method of separating Uranium 235, a method which could accelerate the spread of the hydrogen bomb to relatively poor and unstable regions. France is also on the verge of becoming a major hydrogen bomb Power, and the arguments which have proved persuasive to her, no less than to our own country years ago, to go nuclear will be arguments of increasing force in countries such as India, Pakistan and Egypt.
I have to say that I do not believe any longer that in this rapidly changing situation a unilateral renunciation of atomic weapons by Britain would matter a tinker's cuss in discouraging proliferation. Nevertheless, proliferation is profoundly dangerous, perhaps the most dangerous problem we face, and an effective method of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons is more urgent than ever. It can be argued that the risks of nuclear proliferation are exaggerated, and that just as the nuclear stalemate between the United States and the Soviet Union, has given us peace, however uneasy, so too would the dissemination of nuclear weapons among the minor countries reduce the incidence of limited wars fought under the nuclear umbrella. This is an argument with some merit. For instance, I suspect that the war between Egypt and Israel would not have broken out if they had possessed atomic bombs.
It is a fallacious argument, for the whole concept of deterrent rests upon the assumption that one is dealing with fundamentally rational human beings, men of civilised anxieties or at least with sufficient imagination and foresight to proceed with infinite care and circumspection. The men of straw who occupy so many positions of power today in the third world cannot be trusted so to act.
The risks of an accidental escalation to nuclear exchange in such countries are immensely higher than they were in the confrontation between President Kennedy and Mr. Krushchev over Cuba. Even if these strictures upon such Governments were to prove totally unwarranted and quite unfair, the sheer profusion of bombs, the ever-growing complexity of delivery systems, security arrangements, all these factors would accelerate inexorably the pressures to the pre-emptive strike.
If nuclear proliferation is to be prevented, and without it a nuclear war becomes certain this century, how is it to be done? Words and sweet reason will not be enough; the lesson of the French and Chinese surely confirms that point. The only answer, difficult and hard though it may be for us to accept, is that the existing nuclear Powers will have to enforce prohibition, and if necessary by force.
It may seem unrealistic to think in terms of the United States and China ever agreeing to co-ordinate their policies, certainly on this. I accept that this is a very long shot, but the alternative is so much worse that we must make a final effort to bring together, once again the Big Five in the Security Council, the old allies of the anti-Fascist war. These are the powers upon whom the founders of the United Nations placed the essential peacekeeping responsibilities and gave them the veto, symbolising the necessity for them to work together if peace were to be maintained.
We should envisage an immediate conference of the Big Five nuclear Powers. Nothing is more fatuous than to exclude China from all the discussions proceeding on non-proliferation. We should see, if we can, whether a peace-keeping force under the direct control of the Security Council can be established to veto and enforce such prohibition upon any nuclear dissemination. It may sound hopelessly naive even to suggest such a course of action, but against that it can be argued that such action would correspond to the essential great Power interests of the Big Five, including China.
If China is ever to be brought into the comity of nations again, some such gesture, recognising her greatness and overcoming her present petulance is urgently required, for there is a much more ominous possibility that arguments will be used that the time is now when the pre-emptive strike should be used and the parallel will be drawn between the situation in the Rhine in 1936. and what we might or should have done then to prevent a second world war.
Because we have had a series of debates in the past on the Middle East, there has been a general understanding among hon. Members that their speeches should not be concentrated on the Middle East where the dramatic events of the last few weeks have taken place. Instead, we have had a series of notable speeches on a variety of subjects by Members who have concentrated on different parts of the world scene. We have had speeches on Greece and the notable speech of the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody), who has recently returned from Vietnam. The majority of speeches have been concentrated on the Far East. That has been advantageous, because the Far East is the chronically troubled area of the world and there is very little sign that the disruptive influence of China will diminish in the immediate future.
Discussion on the Far East is particularly timely, because it is only in the past fortnight that a new dimension of gravity has been added to the area by the explosion of China's hydrogen bomb and also because only two days ago the Defence White Paper was published with the announced decision of the Government to withdraw British Forces completely from the Far East in the mid-1970s. We shall be discussing the Defence White Paper and giving our criticisms of it next week.
The purpose of this debate is, I think, to try to set out the broad framework of foreign policy for which that defence policy should be designed. Defence policy is the servant of foreign policy, although there is all the growing impression that under the present Government foreign policy is the servant of defence policy and defence policy is all too much the servant of the Left wing of the Labour Party. It seems to me rather astonishing that it is only today, after the publication of the Defence White Paper, that for the first time we have the foreign policy rationale of the reasons why we are deciding to withdraw from the Far East.
Looking at the broad framework of foreign policy, it seems to me that the major emphasis of our economic, foreign and defence policy should be placed on Europe. It is in Europe that there is the greatest opportunity for economic growth. It is in Europe that there is scope for our industries and for technological advance. It is in Europe that by creating a greater political and economic unity we will be able to achieve for Britain and for Europe as a whole a greater voice in world affairs and a greater influence in global strategy.
It is also in Europe that our immediate security interest primarily lies. The defence of our country must be given the highest priority. It is absolutely right that the main weight of our defence and foreign policy should be on the role which we play in N.A.T.O. I must however immediately enter a proviso. The N.A.T.O. shield has been held firmly during the postwar years and, as a result, there has been a relaxation of tension in Europe. We look forward to moving from this relaxation of tension to the next stage—to improving the climate of political opinion within Central Europe. We look forward to better relations with Eastern Europe.
As a result of holding the shield, the Russian pressure against Europe has been deflected. It has been turned aside to softer targets—for instance to the Middle East—where they think that they can ob- tain greater political dividends. But in the relaxed atmosphere which exists in Europe at the moment it is very easy to forget the cliché but, nontheless, truism that peace is indivisible. It is very easy to forget that just as every South-East Asian country was ultimately involved in the last European war, so the future, well-being and peace of Europe is inextricably involved in the peace and stability of the Middle East and Far East. It is easy to forget that, but we do it at our peril.
In a debate on international affairs, we should remember that Europe cannot only be defended west of Suez. Our safety does not depend only upon our troops in Germany. It depends, perhaps, even more upon the nuclear deterrent which is held by the United States of America and it depends upon the success of our global strategy.
None the less, in Europe we share the broad objectives of the Government in seeking to secure entry to the Community. It was not very long ago, admittedly to our surprise, that the Prime Minister announced that the time and tide were right for entry into the Community. As a result of his private consultations, about which we have no information, with General de Gaulle and the leaders of the Community, the Prime Minister decided on 8th May to announce Britain's application to enter the Community.
We have had lengthy debates on Britain's application to enter the Community and I have no intention of going over the same ground again, except to make two points in the light of the Prime Minister's declared determination to keep the British public informed and to sustain the momentum towards the Community.
My first point concerns public information. There has been an interesting article, which has been widely read and commented on, in The Times, written, I understand, by Mr. Jay—I am not sure whether it is Mr. Jay senior or junior—giving figures concerning the effect on our balance of payments and on our trade and industry were we to enter the Community. Those figures conflict substantially with the figures given by the Prime Minister.
I would like the Under-Secretary in replying to the debate to explain the logic of the Government's having issued a White Paper explaining the agricultural implications for this country of entry to the Community and another White Paper explaining the constitutional implications of entry to the Community, but not issuing a White Paper on the trade and industrial implications for this country of entry to the Community. I understand that such a White Paper has been in draft for a long time. When will it be presented to the House?
Secondly, I would like to make a point concerning momentum towards our entry to the Community. We have seen the unedifying spectacle of the dismissal of the Parliamentary Private Secretaries who had the temerity to disagree with the decision of the Government to enter the Community, but we have not had the dismissal of the Cabinet Ministers who are known to disagree with the Government's policy—the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Agriculture.
That creates an unimpressive picture of the Prime Minister's authority over his Cabinet. Admittedly this does not worry us. What worries us is the effect which it has in Europe and on momentum towards Europe and the policies which are pursued by the Departments in question. There has been no momentum in the Department responsible for agriculture towards amending our agricultural support system towards a levy system such as is applied by the Community and which, we think, is desirable for British agriculture in its own right.
There has been no harmonisation of the social services so as to conform with the best of the social services on the Continent of Europe. There has been no harmonisation of fiscal policies so as to get rid of our obsolete taxation structure and move towards the system which is being accepted by the rest of the Continent the added value tax. There has been no action by, for example, the Board of Trade, so as to achieve a harmonisation with the patent law so as to bring it closer to the rest of Europe.
As I see it, one of the main purposes of entering the Community is to achieve a stronger Europe to redress the balance with the other side of the Atlantic, so that, gradually, Europe will become a more equal partner with the United States. This means that Europe will play a greater part than it is at the moment in defending itself and should become less dependent on the United States.
The very fact of our dependence on the United States for our defence is largely due to the weakness which flows from the division of Europe into its present two—or, if one includes Eastern Europe, three—separate Power groupings. But it is not our aim just to strengthen Europe and see the most advanced industrial countries of the world retiring comfortably behind a customs barrier. Our policy is certainly to create a strong economic unit and to benefit our own people from this strong unit. But it is also our aim to create this stronger unit so as to enable us to carry out our moral obligations of aid, help and trade to the under-developed countries and the Commonwealth.
The French Government's reaction to the British application to join the Community has been to reiterate that Britain is still separated from Europe by entirely different and conflicting interests. The President of France said:
By comparison with the motives which brought the Six together, one can easily understand why England, which is not a Continental country, which, because of the Commonwealth and its own island status has distant commitments, and which is tied to the United States by all sorts of special agreements, could not merge into a Community of fixed dimensions and rigorous rules".
I do not think that we should be mealymouthed in repudiating this argument. It is certainly true that we have close ties with the United States and I trust that we shall preserve and strengthen them. It is also however equally true that the rest of Europe has very close ties with the United States. Indeed, the very freedom of Europe depends on the willingness of the United States to assist in our defence. It is equally true that we have distant commitments and treaty obligations in the Gulf, Singapore and Malaysia. We have treaty obligations to come to their aid and to defend their freedom and independence if they are threatened by external aggression.
Britain's interest in the Gulf and the Far East is an interest in peace and stability. It is surely exactly the interest which Europe itself has, with its investments in the Far East. It is just as much in Europe's, as in Britain's interest, that Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak and Kuwait should be defended against external aggression. I emphasise this point about Europe being outward looking because Europe should reassert its influence in world affairs. This influence can be exerted in several ways—by trade, by aid, as a peace-keeping influence in the United Nations or as a peace-keeping influence through our alliances in the Far East.
I reiterate a point so ably made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths). If Britain becomes introspective, if she re. tires into her shell, if she becomes solely concerned with the level of social security benefits, important though they are—though here, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) said, I hear too many echoes of the 1930s --if she withdraws from the Far East prematurely, there is a real danger that this isolationism could easily awaken a similar echo in the United States.
As the Americans look at Europe at the moment they see three things happening simultaneously. They see France violently attacking the United States for all her policies. They see N.A.T.O.—to which:hey have contributed so much, despite their burdens in Asia, and in Vietnam in particular—in danger of being damaged by the withdrawal of one of the countries that it was designed to protect. They now also see Britain not only limiting her commitments in the Far East—which they, and I, would certainly understand—but proposing to withdraw completely from the Far East, leaving them alone to face Communist aggression before the Asian regional defence groupings have been established.
The folly of right hon. and hon. Members opposite is in putting a date to the time of withdrawal from the Far East. In doing so, they are repeating the very folly they have committed in Aden. If they must withdraw our Forces—and one can certainly understand a limitation on the amount we can undertake—it would be much better to fix the time of our withdrawal, not to a date but to the conditions that apply in the Far East. It would be better to tie our withdrawal to the advances being made by the Asian countries themselves to stand up to the Communist aggression they might have to face.
I fear that the consequences of this may be that the United States may increasingly preoccupy herself with Asian affairs and allow her links with Europe to languish. If we become introspective and isolationist, there is an increasing danger that the Americans will attempt to settle the world's affairs, and our affairs, directly with the Soviet Union, and ultimately with China, and that the voice of Europe and of Britain will be of diminished influence.
The Foreign Secretary referred in some considerable detail to China. Personally, I am not convinced that China's prime foreign policy objective is territorial expansion. Equally significant for China is ideological expansion. Her purpose is not so much territorial expansion for herself as the creation of the maximum disruption in the Far East in order to achieve her ideological objectives. For instance, I believe that her attack on India was not so much for the purpose of extending her own frontiers as to humiliate India in the eyes of the non-committed nations.
China, unlike the Soviet Union, is prepared to take the most fantastic risks with her own security and with world peace. By her actions, she has drawn on to the Asian mainland, and close to her own borders, a massive American army. At the very same time as she has taken that action, she has been prepared to rupture her relationship with the Soviet Union and draw Soviet armies down to her northern border. At the very same time as she has done that, she has been prepared to insult Indian and other Asian diplomats. In passing, I join with the Foreign Secretary in paying tribute to the conduct and the quality of our British diplomats in China. China's methods are designed so that she does not become directly involved herself in conflict; her methods are subversion. We see this subversion being undertaken, for instance, in Hong Kong.
Here I also pay tribute to the firmness and restraint shown by the Hong Kong administration. China's methods involve encouraging civil war, be it in Korea, be it in Laos or, of rather a different nature, in Vietnam. Her methods are to encourage revolution, to set one Asian country against another Asian country, for instance the war between Indonesia and Malaysia. As my right hon. Friend said in a very telling phrase, her methods are to stop all evolutionary progress, be it in economics or in politics. Her purpose is to create economic and political chaos in Asia. Out of all this what she hopes to gain is the ideological victory which will give her the leadership of the Communist world.
Here I come to Vietnam. Of course because of shortness of time I am greatly telescoping my argument. If Hanoi wins in Vietnam, China will get the leadership of the Communist world. The so-called bourgeois Communist countries, the more responsible Communist countries, which follow the leadership of the Soviet Union will have been outbid by the more revolutionary leadership which is being given by China. If something different from victory is the outcome and some form of settlement compatible with the dignity and honour for the South Vietnamese people can be obtained, then one might perhaps foresee in the long term that this might be a turning point as significant for China as Cuba was for the Soviet Union. It might well lead them to more restrained policies.
I cannot give way. I could do so only at the expense of the hon. Member's hon. Friend the Under-Secretary.
One of the most remarkable features of China's foreign policy has been how unsuccessful it has been. It has failed to stir up revolution in Africa and South America. China failed to summon the Afro-Asian conference she set out to achieve. She failed to defend the Indonesian Communist Party, the third largest Communist Party in the world. She has horrified the uncommitted nations of the world by her attack on India. Now, as a result of the failures of her external policy, China is rent in twain by the Maoists and anti-Maoists. [Interruption.] It is very easy for an hon. Member to say that the influence of China is not all that significant. If he were to visit the Far East he would find that countries, surrounding China are deeply fearful of China's intentions. The events of the past fortnight—the explosion of a hydrogen bomb by China—has sent a tremor of shock and worry throughout Asia. It would be preferable if the Government's policy was to concentrate on building up Asian regional defence arrangements to tie in with their decision to withdraw, rather than putting a date on the time for withdrawal. I think this is a blunder which in the long term they will regret.
Finally, I turn to the general aspect of the conduct of foreign affairs. This week we celebrated the one-thousandth day of the Labour Government's conduct of affairs. It is right that we should try to weigh up their achievements in foreign affairs. I recognise that hon. Members opposite may look upon me as partisan and I should therefore like to quote from one of the best known independent newspapers on the Continent of Europe, Die Welt, which said the other day:
No European statesman has been so active this year as Wilson, but none—and this is the distressing outcome—can gaze on a foreign policy lying in such a pile of ruins.
I do not know whether it is lying in a pile of ruins. I simply do not know what the Government's foreign policy is.
Last year, the Government were opposed to entry into the Common Market. The Prime Minister was determined to buy his food in the cheapest markets of the world, something which he knew was quite incompatible with the very structure of the Common Market. This year, it is the Government's prime foreign policy objective to enter the Common Market. Two years ago, the Prime Minister announced that it was his purpose "to give up the nuclear business, or, as we say, the nuclear pretence", and we were to spend the hundreds of millions of pounds saved—those were his words—on developing a conventional Navy. What has happened? We have decided to abolish the aircraft carrier and we are pursuing the policy of building submarines armed with a nuclear capacity.
Finally, not very long ago the Prime Minister said that the maintenance of bases east of Suez should be regarded as "a specific and invaluable contribution to the Alliance". But this week we have been informed that the Government are abandoning the bases in Malaysia and Singapore in the mid-1970s.
I do not know whether a weathercock can lie in a pile of ruins. All I can say is that I am not deeply impressed by the Government's foreign policy.
Despite that rather irrelevant and aggressive ending which led the noble Lord the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) to overrun his time, I thought that a large part of his speech was thoughtful and coherent, although that does not mean that I agree with it. It was inevitable that a debate of this kind should round up a number of relatively loosely related matters. I am sure that many hon. Members will continue to have it in mind that the House might one day devise means which will enable it more effectively to study how Governments make their foreign policy and to probe the working of the Executive, but that is a matter for the House itself.
Meanwhile, we have had a useful debate, although sometimes more about defence than foreign policy. I shall try as best I can to answer at least some of the separate questions which have been asked, although I must apologise for inevitable omissions. For example, I cannot on this occasion deal with Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, as I was asked to do by the noble Lord the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton). Perim must wait until Monday morning. It would be better to deal with the two personal cases which were raised individually in correspondence, or in some other way. Nor can I say anything about the very interesting speech on nonproliferation which came at the end of the debate from my hon. Friend the Member for Bebington (Mr. Brooks).
Since 1945, Britain, in common with a number of Western European countries, has been obliged to adjust to a major change in her international rôle. It has been painful, as questions of status and presige always end to be. One of the most encouraging things about the debate and about public attitudes to international problems over the last year has been the exent to which this need for adjustment has been generally, if not quite always, recognised.
It is a truism to say that we no longer bask in the sunshine of mid-Victorian England when, as the workshop of the world and with a vast Empire, we both exercised unrivalled power and possessed unprecedented interests and commitments. Nevertheless, in practice it has not been easy to reconcile ourselves to this hard fact and to find a reduced but constructive rôle for Britain which would draw upon our experience and serve our current interests. But I think it is now very well understood that our resources simply do not permit us to stretch ourselves throughout the world accepting special obligations which place a crushing burden upon us.
Of course, there can be arguments about the extent of obligations and how crushing the burden may be. There can also be different views about priorities. The hon. Members for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) and for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) this afternoon seemed to want more defence spending, while my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) in a powerful speech demanded more for aid. But at the end of the day our foreign policy would lack credibility if it were based on an unrealistic assumption about our economic power or the willingness of our own people to sacrifice living standards to which they were entitled for a heroic world rôle.
There is also recognition of a change in the international context in which Britain operates. It is simply not possible for any country, however powerful—here I include the United States and the Soviet Union—to get their own way irrespective of the wishes of smaller and much less well endowed nations. On the one hand, world opinion is a reality. On the other, shifts of attitude and loyalty are constant. The transformation in the post-war period itself has been dramatic. There were 51 founding members of the United Nations. By 1957 this had grown to 82 and there are 122 today.
The empires of the great European Powers have been virtually liquidated in the last quarter century. Many new nations are still seeking a proper sense of direction, uncertain where their true interests lie. Whether we like it or not, in these ways the limits for Britain are set. There are times when we may feel frustrated by our impotence. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) expressed it in much of his speech. But we will make wiser decisions and serve our people best if we accept realities. There is no room for nostalgia.
Today we have discussed the influence which goes with economic power, military assistance and, to a lesser extent, with aid. May I add perhaps a little cautiously one other factor on the credit side of what Britain can offer. We should not wholly ignore the help which we can give to our friends and allies, and the contribution we can make to a peaceful solution of world problems out of our accumulated experience of diplomacy.
We have all criticised Britain's diplomats from time to time, and certainly I have done so myself. On this side of the House in particular we have been sceptical about old-world ambassadors apparently drawn from a single social stratum, more preoccupied, so it seemed, with pomp and circumstance than with the unglamorous aspects of trade and aid. In the past perhaps we have not always been wrong, but I am sure that it is very much the case today that, for the most part, our representatives abroad are shrewd and energetic men, close to the problems of the country in which they live and applying their considerable abilities to understanding them. We should not discount the extent to which we can usefully add in this way to the pool of knowledge about the behaviour of nations and their relations with each other, and it has got nothing to do with power as hon. Members opposite so often understand it.
May I now turn to some of the separate points which have been raised. The noble Lord the Member for Hertford who wound up for the Opposition, had a number of remarks to make about the Common Market and I agree with the tone of much of what he said on this subject. His general remarks on Europe were most interesting and certainly bear careful reflection. May I say a word or two about the progress which we have been making since our debate in May.
It may sometimes have seemed that this progress was not as fast as some had hoped, but I am sure that we are moving in the right direction, and we remain determined to pursue our application with the very greatest vigour. We are encour- aged, as all hon. Members who have travelled abroad lately on the Continent of Europe must be, by the support which we have received from by far the greater part of opinion in Europe itself.
The next step now is for the Six. The Commission's opinion on our application will, we understand, be available at the end of September, so that the Council of Ministers of the Six should be in a position to begin considering it early in October. We hope to be able to start negotiations with the Six soon after that. For our part, we have made clear that we want negotiations to be started as soon as possible, and we shall continue to impress this on the Community.
The noble Lord the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton), in commenting on the Middle East, accused the Government of lack of idealism, and he referred particularly to arms. Our position has been made clear in the House on several occasions, but it may help if I spend a moment in restating precisely what we have done, because the noble Lord's remarks were misleading, as one of my hon. Friends pointed out in an intervention.
It is not true that Her Majesty's Government have never proposed a moratorium on the supply of arms to the Middle East. On 6th June, the day after the fighting started, the Prime Minister told the House that, pending the outcome of consultations with other suppliers of arms to the Middle East, we were suspending our further shipments. On 8th June, he reported that we had had no positive response from the Soviet Government and it was clear that, for the time being there was no immediate prospect of a general embargo. Although, as he then announced, we reverted to our normal practice of scrutinising applications for arms in each case, my right hon. Friend made clear that we should do so particularly carefully in the present situation. He emphasised also that, in Her Majesty's Government's view, an agreement on limitation of arms must be an essential element in a Middle East settlement. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary underlined the same point in the speech which he made to the General Assembly on 21st June.
To be effective, an embargo or limitation on arms supplies would have to be applied by all the major suppliers of arms to the area, and we shall continue to work for effective arms control.
I must go on now to the rest of my speech. The noble Lord the Member for Hertford did not give way at all.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) made a passionate and moving speech about Greece, and affairs in Greece were referred to also by several hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Winnick). Both here and in another place, and in quite voluminous correspondence with hon. Members and the public, we have expressed our sense of shock and our concern at what has happened in Greece. Our ambassador in Athens has made our views plain to Greek Ministers. He has told them that Her Majesty's Government have taken note of statements of intent by the new regime regarding political evolution towards democratic and parliamentary institutions. He has made clear also that recent events have placed a strain on Anglo-Greek relations and that we hope that advances towards the restoration of democratic procedures and civil liberties will make our relations easier.
I think that we have made clear exactly how we see the present position, and our anxiety that the change in Greece might have any undesirable repercussions on Cyprus.
I should like to say a brief word about aid. I am only too conscious that in the time available I shall do a disservice to a very thoughtful and constructive speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West. Of course, we attach the greatest importance to overseas development, and I think that this can fairly be seen from the activities described by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development in the White Paper of January. I know that people were disappointed about the reduction in the aid programme this year, but the reasons—the need to reduce all forms of overseas expenditure—are well known and accepted, if not by everyone.
I note what my hon. Friend said about figures. Our aid in 1966 was the highest ever, totalling £209 million, and its terms have greatly improved over the past two years. In 1966, 90 per cent. of new loan agreements concluded were interest-free. I understand entirely those who press for an increase in aid. But it already has a special priority and will continue to receive it, whether or not we entirely satisfy my hon. Friend or ourselves.
My right hon. Friend said this afternoon that he did not intend to anticipate next week's defence debate, and I am in the same position. A number of speeches today dealt with aspects of defence policy, and discussions of the problems of South East Asia have gone a good deal wider. I understand that those speeches include one by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson), which I am afraid I largely missed. I do not complain that the speeches ranged so wide, but merely ask that hon. Members should not expect me to be drawn.
The typical and thoughtful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Horn-church (Mr. Alan Lee Williams) was one that ranged wide. There is room for legitimate discussions about developments in the next 10 to 15 years in South East Asia, and the part Britain can play. As is often said in the House, the tragedy is that the whole of South East Asia has been overlain with the war in Vietnam and its consequences. Incidentally, I was very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne said what he did about Dr. Evans and the British medical team in the children's hospital in Saigon. He spoke from personal experience, and from personal experience I can endorse all that he said. They deserve the highest tribute from everyone.
Having lately returned from a visit to South East Asia, I agree with hon. Members who say that by and large we are respected there. There is much good will. As my right hon. Friend said this afternoon, defence decisions do not mean that we are no longer concerned with the area and the welfare of our friends. In addition to the aid which we have given and will give, including that to Singapore and Malaysia, there is a whole range of contacts we can have at the levels of trade and educational and cultural relations. For example, there is a great demand for English teaching throughout the area. This may seem trifling, but it is not when we fully consider the implications. I know from my own observation that the work of the British Council is most important, and the B.B.C. is also making a very useful contribution in language teaching. These are not very dramatic demonstrations of power, but they are needed and appreciated. I also hope that British business men will increasingly see prospects in South East Asia which will be to our mutual advantage.
At the beginning of my speech I mentioned the remarkable changes in relative power and the room to exercise it which has occurred in the past 20 to 25 years. The pace of change has not slowed down. We do not operate in a static situation. For example, ten years ago at the time of the Bandung Conference the newly independent nations of Asia and Africa declared their intention of working together to provide a third non-aligned and anti-imperialist bloc. Subsequently we have seen evidence of this co-operation, particularly at the United Nations. But as time goes by the nations of Africa and Asia are recognising that the harmonisation of policies needs to be justified by more than the newly-won independence that they have in common.
There is evidence—I think that hon. Members who frequently visit Asia may be prepared to confirm this from personal observation—that the countries of Asia with their ancient civilisations feel that they have at least as much in common with the West as with Africa. I do not mean by this—I hope I shall not be misunderstood—that they wish to abandon non-alignment. Nor do I mean that we should seek to push them into new alliances, even of an indigenous and regional character. It is for the people of Asia to make up their own minds about the direction and pace of their development, despite what was said frequently from the other side of the House today.
But I think it would be a mistake to assume a fundamental resentment against the West. As I said a moment ago, there is goodwill and eagerness for cultural and economic co-operation for peaceful purposes, and we must not—and we shall not—turn our backs on it. This movement is part of an increasing realisation that countries with acute problems of development should not be thrown into wide-reaching associations where practical self-interest takes second place to sloganising and propaganda. As my right hon. Friend said earlier today, recent events in Indonesia—which I was able to visit—are an example of this.
Of course, the pursuit of self-interest is not the solution to world problems. All countries must recognise their interdependence and the extent to which peaceful international relations involve a degree of give and take. The richer nations have a special obligation of making resources available to relieve world poverty and stimulate self-sustaining growth. In addition, as my right hon. Friend made a special point of saying this afternoon—here I appreciate the remarks of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)—obligations to the United Nations very properly place a restraint upon sovereignty. Nevertheless, I am sure that there is a greater chance of achieving a stable and peaceful world as ideology recedes. The post-war years have so far been dominated by ideological conflict of one kind or another. There is reason to hope that in the years ahead—except in the case of China, and certainly there we cannot tell—that ideology will be a less potent factor in international relations.
Looking wider than some of the problems that we have discussed today, the problem of the growing population—it is at present increasing at 70 million a year—and food supplies is terrifying. It can be overcome only if all the nations devote a great deal more of their energy and resources to this humanitarian and peaceful objective and get away from futile political squabbles and the vastly wasteful military expenditure which goes with them.
I hope that Britain will be able to play an increasing part in pointing international co-operation towards a solution to this great fundamental problem of world poverty. We shall play a part from our own resources, and we shall co-operate with others. Britain's rôle in the mid-1960s and beyond will be different in many respects from even ten years ago, but it is a legitimate ambition to continue to contribute constructively to world affairs. With an appropriate sense of proportion, I am sure that we can succeed.