The House may have noticed in this morning's newspapers that I have been cast for a number of rôles, few of which make much appeal to me. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has held that office for some time, and so did I, and it would be an impertinence of me even to remind him that to a very particular and peculiar degree the Foreign Secretary holds the reputation of his country in trust. He will accent that as being so. But I want to make it quite clear that if we think that the conduct of foreign policy is at fault we censure the Government as a whole and not the right hon. Gentleman in particular. Certainly we do not deal in personal affairs, which are his own matter for him to decide.
The speech from the Throne is a traditional occasion on which the Foreign Secretary has the opportunity to review the world situation, and that section of the speech which deals with foreign affairs contains a number of sentiments that are quite unexceptionable. I miss one time-honoured phrase, which used to record that, "My Government's relations with foreign countries are friendly". Had the right hon. Gentleman put that in, I think that it would have had a somewhat wry reception. The melancholy truth is, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said only a day or two ago, that there are few political developments in the world which hold much comfort for Britain.
I want to start on our own doorstep. When in the spring the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary toured Europe selling Britain's case for entry into the European Economic Community they went there cocky and buoyant, unlike the country bumpkins who negotiated in 1962. The ramparts of Europe would be stormed by a nice, judicious mixture of intellect—cold intellect—and charm—warm, sometimes over-warm, charm. I doubt if they are now wiser men but they are at any rate sadder. The Foreign Secretary, whatever brave words he may use, cannot doubt that there has been a pretty serious setback to the British intention to enter the European Economic Community, and that the road into Europe is by no means a smooth journey.
We support the Government's purpose and policy to enter the European Economic Community. The right hon. Gentleman may absolutely rely on that. I was able one day to follow the Prime Minister in the Council of Europe immediately after his speech and to assure the British Government of support on the Continent and of our support in the Lobby in Parliament. We have certain misgivings about the Government's tactics. There are certain questions which we think should have been considered in depth and an attempt made to clear them up long before this, particularly with the French. The most important for us and for the European Community are the rôle of sterling and the practicability of devising an alternative reserve currency which would reflect Europe's economic integration after Britain became a partner.
The Government are now right to wait until 20th November to see the result of the discussions in Brussels. I hope that we shall reach the negotiating table, but if we do not I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will have in mind fresh initiatives to ensure that there are detailed discussions of these outstanding issues, on which there must be understanding before Britain can become a member of the Community.
One thing is certain, and that is that bluster is useless. When the stories began to circulate that the Minister allocated the job of carrying out the negotiations in Brussels had adopted a posture of threat and given a hint of reprisal which included reprisal in the European security system—incidentally, the security system is our own as well—and bringing in Berlin, the folly of it was so egregious and the dangers for Britain and Europe so stark that when I was asked my reaction I immediately said that the report was totally incredible. I could not see that any other conclusion was possible.
The Prime Minister, a day or two ago, denied the implications drawn from Lord Chalfont's Press interview. I am afraid that I must press the Foreign Secretary a little further on this. The interview was apparently spread over a good many hours. It was interrupted and the journalists were brought back in order that it should be made quite clear to them what Lord Chalfont's views were. Three German journalists have since confirmed that Lord Chalfont used almost exactly identical language to them. The Prime Minister said that the Press conference was unattributable and off the record. He knows enough about these matters to know that it must have been one or the other. If it had been off the record, nothing would have been printed. If it was unattributable, that means that the name of the Minister concerned must not be used but that the views can be broadcast. The journalists interpreted this as being an unattributable meeting.
The damage is not that Socialist Ministers think aloud. It is that when they do, the thoughts they reveal are so awful. Lord Chalfont has offered to resign, but the Prime Minister could not accept his resignation. Of course, he could not. It would be very odd if the pupil had been sacked by the master of the double-entendre. What sort of a Government is it, one might ask, when the Prime Minister must call on three officials to see if the report given by his Minister was accurate? My conclusion on this sad episode is that the Government are a poor thing, misrepresented, misreported, misphotographed and miscast, a total liability to us at home and overseas as well.
There is another area in which Britain alone had the opportunity to support and assist order and stability, and where failure has been abject. I of course refer to Aden and South Arabia.
There is one other region, Aden and South Arabia, on which I should like to say a few words. I have no firm knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman's plans, but there is reason to assume that the evacuation from Aden may be at a very early date. I want to make plain to the right hon. Gentleman that if it is the conclusion of the High Commissioner and the military advisers that this is the only course consistent with safety for the lives of British Service men and British civilians, then we must support him in his timetable. I think that that is the duty of a responsible Opposition if this is necessary to save British lives.
Nevertheless, some pertinent questions have to be asked. Who are the British subjects who are going to be left behind? Will they be the employees of the British Petroleum Company? If so, what arrangements are to be made for their protection when all British troops are out? What are the terms of compensation that will be arranged for the British property taken over by the Government of South Arabia? What will be the cost of compensation by Her Majesty's Government to British subjects whose career in Aden is at an end? If the right hon. Gentleman for some reasons of security cannot answer some of these questions—I hope that he will be able to answer some—I shall understand, but I hope that he understands how important they are and that the lives of British subjects and the property of British subjects are at stake.
On the larger political issue I cannot disguise the disgust that we feel at the Government's mishandling of South Arabia's future. They have achieved exactly—
The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Maxwell) is vocal sitting down, but he has taken the words out of my mouth. The Government have achieved more than my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) forecast, and that is total political confusion in that area.
I sense that we on this side are grateful for the way in which the right hon. Gentleman has tackled this debate so far. However, I must ask him in what conceivable circumstances he can justify the mess made by the right hon. Member for Streatham with which my right hon. Friend has been landed. My right hon. Friend is now having to clear it up. How can the right hon. Gentleman blame my right hon. Friend for the troubles caused to us by the right hon. Member for Streatham?
One of the things that I have noticed in contemporary politics is that my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham is capable of speaking for himself.
The Government seem to me to have achieved more than my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham forecast, and that is total political confusion in the area. They apparently contemplate with equanimity handing over the government of South Arabia to F.L.O.S.Y. and N.L.F., F.L.O.S.Y. being an Egyptian organisation recruited not for government but for terrorism. The only conceivable element of stability left is the Federal Army, which Sir Humphrey Trevelyan—let us pay tribute to him—has very skilfully kept in being. But even there the right hon. Gentleman knows very well that the subverters are active among the tribal elements.
The future of Arabia seems to me now to rest on the outcome of the Yemen war. Either it will be dominated by an Egyptian-based Yemeni Republic or by the Royalists if they and their sympathisers win the day. That is the state of a once-thriving British Colony, of a country which we were leading to independence, and I think that it is a monument of reproach in the history of our colonial record to Her Majesty's Government's lack of purpose and will.
It is at this point that the right hon. Gentleman proposes to renew diplomatic relations with Egypt. Let him be clear as to the principle here. Diplomatic recognition does not mean approval of another country's political policies, but in this case I believe that there are certain circumstances which the right hon. Gentleman must consider. British subjects are being illegally restrained. Property compensation is due and has illegally been withheld. The Canal is closed to British shipping, also illegally. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is paying particular attention to the contents today of Cairo Radio. During and following the talks of this month with Sir Harold Beeley that radio has been directed against British interests in the Persian Gulf. We have been accused in the last few days of robbery, killing, treachery, torturing and pauperising. Seldom does one hear such political vitriol poured out of any Government publicity instrument, and this while Sir Harold Beeley and President Nasser were, according to the communiqué, embraced in an atmosphere of friendship and understanding.
But President Nasser's renewed interests in relation with Britain—I hope that the right hon. Gentleman realises this—are twofold. First, President Nasser has achieved a good many of his objectives, including that in Aden. Secondly, he wants the right hon. Gentleman—not without cause from some of the things which the right hon. Gentleman has previously said—to tip the balance in Egypt's favour during the settlement of the Israel-Arab war. Those are President Nasser's interests in renewed diplomatic relations. I am not saying that they are wrong, but I beg the right hon. Gentleman not to humiliate this country when he resumes diplomatic relations, because the country is in no mood for any more of that.
It would be interesting to hear what the right hon. Gentleman has to say on the chances of a negotiated peace between the Arabs and the Jews either with or without the assistance of the United Nations. Cutting through the emotion of the situation, two facts seem to be clear. The first is that Israel as a State exists; surely that cannot be denied. The second is that it is useless to invite her to concede territory taken in war without compensating guarantees of security which are more absolute than anything yet devised.
The present deadlock is due to the fact that the Arabs will not come to the table. The anxiety is that United Nations forces, which left at the drop of a hat only a few weeks ago, will not in future be acceptable as a guarantor. In this context I have one suggestion to make. If demilitarised zones consistent with the security of the neighbouring States could be defined—let us admit that it is a big "if"—United Nations forces could be deployed in them. Might it not be possible for the great Powers to guarantee that force and say that the force would be kept by them inviolable? It seems to me that in these days in a turbulent area it is very difficult for any of the great Powers to give a guarantee in respect of a frontier. The inherent risks involved in the fact that one never knows who started the trouble are too great. That is really what led to the end of the Tripartite Declaration.
But this is a somewhat different conception. It is that the great Powers should guarantee the existence of a United Nations force in a demilitarised zone. I put that forward for the Foreign Secretary's consideration. It is a slightly different conception but it is one which I think Israel, Egypt and Syria might be prepared to consider. It is conceivable, too, that the Soviet Union might cooperate in this or at any rate might not veto the proposal. Anyhow, it is an idea in a context where ideas seem to be in short supply.
That could be so. It depends where the demilitarised zone is.
Finally, I turn to Vietnam. Two years ago, I believe in the corresponding debate, I said that I thought that no third party could do much to end the war and that it would only end either if North Vietnam became tired under the strain or if the Soviet Union took steps to stop it. I think that until now, whatever the impression left by Mr. Kosygin on the Prime Minister when they met in London some time ago, the Russians have not been interested in ending this war. The involvement of the United States in Asia and the unpopularity incurred by the United States in this war were too useful a stick with which to beat the West.
But the military evidence now is that North Vietnam is beginning to tire. The recruits coming into South Vietnam from North Vietnam are now in the 15 to 16 age group—a really terrible thought. The rate of desertion has lately doubled. This is going to be a slow business but nevertheless these are, I believe, the signals of exhaustion. It may be that, before long, although the American elections are, as usual, an inconvenience, there will be an increased willingness in North Vietnam to talk directly with South Vietnam or for North Vietnam in conjunction with her Russian allies to talk with South Vietnam and the Americans.
Pending that day, I do not think that Britain can do much to hasten it. I have only one suggestion to make. I believe that the Secretary-General of the United Nations could with great advantage put out a plan, using all the organs of publicity at his command, for the future of all South-East Asia—Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia—based on nonalignment and on a co-operative economic programme assisted from outside. To begin with it would, of course, have to be internationally policed, but its appeal would, I believe, be that it would hold out the prospect, which is not there now, of an honourable alternative to the policy of vendetta and revenge which is the only one which rules the circumstances today. It would be an honourable political alternative and it would hold out some economic alternative to the poverty to which all these countries look forward unless the war can be brought to an end. I think that such an act now might well assist the move from war to peace.
There are many other subjects one would have liked to raise. There is the question of the U.N.C.T.A.D. meeting in New Delhi to which, I hope, the Government will make a positive contribution to assist the developing countries, particularly through new arrangements about commodity agreements. I hope that we shall have an opportunity perhaps to debate that matter. One would like to have raised the general strategy of foreign policy in a world in which power still tells but in which there are great changes, largely due to China's appearance on the world scene. But power itself at the moment rules the circumstances of the world.
In Britain, we have not as much power as we had but that is all the more reason why we should make the most of what we do have, both to protect our real assets and to assist in the security of the free world. Where we feel that the Government have recklessly abandoned British assets and interests and have needlessly left our friends in the lurch, we must criticise them, but our purpose in this Session, as it has been all along, is to try and assist the Government to create a strong economic base for Britain by entry into the E.E.C. and to make sure that, with such power as we have left at our elbow, we are a partner valued in the Commonwealth and an ally which is worth while.
I am sure that I reflect the views of the whole House in genuinely complimenting the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) on a speech which we all found not only easy to listen to, but agreeable to listen to.
The right hon. Gentleman began in terms that were characteristically very kindly in relation to myself and, of course, I was therefore softened up for what was to come. I was, however, rather sorry that he departed from that high level and seemed as he went on to mistake the House of Commons for Brighton. Most of what he said afterwards I will be commenting on and, I trust, answering directly, but I think that I should take one matter up at once.
The right hon. Gentleman referred, in rather less charitable terms than he had done to me, to my noble Friend Lord Chalfont. I want to get one thing absolutely clear. Lord Chalfont made it absolutely plain—there is no doubt about this; and reputable newspapers have printed it and made it plain—in responding to the repeated requests that the correspondents should have, as it were, a "think session" with him, that he was doing it both unattributably and off the record.
The right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong in saying that these two things cannot both be so. I must say that I think that, for Lord Chalfont, it is a pretty awful business if people press him to talk with them on these terms, and he agrees—and this situation could apply to right hon. Gentlemen opposite as well as to the Government—and makes it clear not once but many times that he is both speaking non-attributably and off the record, only to find his trust betrayed. Then something changes in the way in which we conduct our political life.
Lord Chalfont will draw the lessons from this incident and so will many of us. But I say firmly in this House that the lessons to be drawn from that incident, like the lessons from some other incidents, will weaken the basis on which political-journalistic life has been conducted over a very long time.
If I do not pick up other points made by the right hon. Gentleman, my right hon. Friend who is replying will do so.
It is no exaggeration to say that 1967 has been a year of enormous importance for Britain's position and rôle in the world. During this year, a whole complex of policy decisions have been taken which are affecting and will affect profoundly the position of this country in international affairs.
First and foremost is the decision of last May to apply for membership of the European Communities. Secondly, and perhaps just as fundamental, is the whole range of decisions on our rôle and position east of Suez which were contained in the Defence Review.
We are moving towards a more European based policy. These decisions reflect the end of the imperial era of our history and with it the inevitable change in our pattern of interest and obligation in the world. They also reflect the fact that we are determined not to allow our overseas commitments, defence arrangements and external policy to outrun the economic resources of our country.
Of course, this whole process of adjustment to new realities is nothing new or sudden. It has been a continuous process reflected in the policies of all post-war Governments, of whatever party. But I am not sure that when the right hon. Gentleman opposite were doing this they were always conscious of what they were doing or the consequences. In 1967, we have given this process a very decisive impetus and deliberate drive in what we regard as the right direction.
I would like at this moment to discuss, as the right hon. Gentleman did, the question of Britain and the European Communities. Although our commitments are still worldwide, our major field of operations from now on must be in and through Europe. In Europe, because that is where we are through Europe, because only by means of a united Europe can we and our fellow Europeans play our part in the world. And there is a great and influential part which European unity will enable we Britons to play in furthering the process of peaceful change in the world and in helping the poorer nations to tackle the enormous problems of development.
These are the impelling motives of our European policies, and of our application to join the European Communities. We have said quite plainly that we want to work out in Europe and with other Europeans our common destiny—and not just our economic destiny, but our political one, too. Our commitment is total.
Our sincerity in this is, I believe, no longer doubted. Time and again over the past few months, we have been able to demonstrate the support which the Government's European policies command. I will mention only the overwhelming all-party vote here in this House on 10th May; and the substantial majority given at the Labour Party conference for our policy.
This support within the country has, naturally, had its effects abroad. For we have been able to remove the last doubts which some of our friends still held about our motives, and also to cause them in their turn to see more clearly than they did before the greater opportunities which are now within Europe's grasp if only we can unite.
There is a tide of public opinion now flowing throughout Western Europe which is pressing us all forward to achieving the really effective European unity we want, and—the essential prerequisite—the admission of Britain into the European Communities is accepted as part of that.
On the contrary, if my hon. Friend will sit back and think about what I am saying he will see that what he has raised is contrary to what I have been saying.
Whenever one thinks of anything as an irresistible force, one's thoughts turn immediately to the immovable object. Let me say, first, that I do not believe anything in the real world of international relations and historical developments is immovable. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or irresistible."] I believe the irresistible part, but I do not believe the immovable part. If the right hon. Gentleman opposite will reflect a little on history he will see why I say that and how right I am.
Besides—and this is very important to grasp—the forces which are building up more and more in support of our entry into the European Communities are not ranged against France or against the French Government. The tide of public opinion of which I have spoken is for Europe; and France, no less than Britain, is an essential part of that Europe. So let no one say that we are ganging up against France or are seeking to encourage others to do so. France, so long our ally, is our prospective partner in the European Communities. We must seek to build the house together.
Last week, the Council of Ministers of the Six began in earnest their discussions about our application. The differences of view between France and the other Five countries were, as we all know, not resolved; and the Council of Ministers is to meet again on 20th November.
In my statement to the House last week, I said that we should not rush to draw conclusions—and I was glad to note that the right hon. Gentlemen did not today—from what is said to have transpired at that last meeting of the Six. That remains my view. Nevertheless, in the hope that what I say here might clear away some doubts and make it easier for the Six to reach an agreement when next they meet, let me take up what now appear to be the chief points of difficulty for the French.
The objections which, we understand, were made at Luxembourg, and some others which were not made, have often been discussed between us and the French, notably when my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister and I visited France and spoke to General de Gaulle earlier this year. So we have nothing new confronting us, as a result of the Luxembourg meeting. We discussed at the utmost length the problems that are now paraded.
But it does seem that there has been a change of emphasis. To judge from accounts of the Luxembourg meeting, France may now be less worried than she seemed to be that our entry into the European Communities would in some manner introduce unwelcome "Atlantic" features and thereby, so it was said, damage the prospects for détente between East and West Europe. Instead, the French apparently now claim to see the rôle of sterling and our economic position as the principal obstacles to our entry.
These issues were already touched on, as the House knows, in the Report of the European Commission. The conclusion there recorded was that the Community would need to discuss with us a number of questions about the prospect of our economy and how sterling could best be fitted into the Community's own monetary and economic arrangements. Therefore, let me say straight away that we think it not a bit unusual that the Community should want to do this.
We are, after all, a sizeable country with substantial resources. What happens to our economy will affect theirs, and the addition to the Community of an international currency such as sterling will be no small detail.
We ourselves think that this, which will have to be tackled like other problems, when the negotiations begin, is soluble. We think that it offers them new opportunities for financial and commercial expansion and could add greatly to the Community's collective influence in the world at large. But the Community is entitled to be reassured on these points and we are very willing to discuss them.
We shall, of course, assume that whatever doubts the Community may express on this subject will be serious ones; not just difficulties raised for the sake of delaying progress. We should expect the objective of any such discussions to be clearly formulated and any proposals for change would have to be realistic. We would not, for example, think it realistic if anyone were to propose that sterling's international rôle could suddenly be abandoned.
Sterling is an important part of the world monetary system. The Six, like ourselves, have substantial interest in maintaining that system in working order. The system has evolved in the past, is evolving now, and will continue to evolve whether we join the Community or not. Historically, evolution is slow. It involves consultation with other interested parties, including, of course, the holders of sterling, but there is no reason why one of the possible alternatives should not be to work out with the Six a European approach to these problems.
In the same way, we are prepared to discuss the prospects for the British economy. Our views on this in relation to the E.E.C. remain what we said they were at the very outset of our approach to the Community when we made the visits round the capitals, to which the right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to refer. We have embarked on a course which will secure a healthy economy and a strong balance of payments. The measures we have taken are bearing fruit. We have had setbacks in recent months, but I am confident that we shall be able to demonstrate to the Community that before there can be any question of our entry having effective consequences for them a healthy economy, a strong balance of payments will have been achieved.
Our position, I submit, is clear and cogent. I do not believe that there is any real or justifiable reason why negotiations between us and the Six should not be entered into immediately. We know that this is the view of the Five. We know it to be the wish of the overwhelming majority of public opinion in Europe. We are, therefore, waiting with confidence the outcome of the deliberations of the Six. It is they, the Community as a whole, who must reply to our application, and if the Community remains true to itself, and to the spirit and the letter of the Rome Treaty, there can be only one reply—let negotiations begin.
First, the progress that we are already making, and, secondly, the issues which we shall discuss with them once we start negotiations, which I hope will be very soon.
I want, now, to turn to another aspect of the decisions in 1967, which the right hon. Gentleman also covered, and which, as I said at the beginning, are giving us a more European based policy. If I may, I would like to ask the House to look with me east of Suez, at South-East Asia, and at our part in the development of events there.
Vietnam, because of the appalling war which still rages unabated, is of the greatest concern not only to this House, but to most opinion throughout the world. I wish I could say that there was a good prospect of negotiations to end the conflict, but, frankly, I cannot, because the gulf between the combatants seems at the moment to be much too wide. The Americans—and this I must say quite frankly—stand ready to bridge that gulf. Indeed, the idea which the right hon. Gentleman put forward—in all fairness let us recognise this—has already been put forward by President Johnson.
The newly-elected President of South Vietnam is about to try. Somehow, some time, there will be an understanding with Hanoi, but, equally, there must be understanding in Hanoi that the Americans desire, above all, an honourable settlement which will leave the South Vietnamese in peace. Until we get that understanding I fear that the fighting will go on.
Not at the moment, perhaps later.
The cessation of the bombing is a much canvassed way to peace. I repeat that we would like to see the bombing stopped, as we want all the killing in Vietnam stopped. What is more, I am convinced that it will stop as soon as it is clear that the possibility of progress to negotiations and to peace is in sight. But with no indication from the other side as to what might or might not flow from a decision to stop the bombing, the cost has to be counted in terms of Vietnamese, American, and, let us not forget, Australian and New Zealand lives—[An HON. MEMBER: "What are they doing there?"]—and of continued conflict in South Vietnam, as well as in terms of the possibility of an assured peace.
When I have finished this passage, yes, but I hope that my hon. Friend will hear it through. My view, and that of the Government, is that this is an assessment which only those who are closely engaged in the conflict can be asked or expected to make.
Will my right hon. Friend recall that the Secretary-General has made precise proposals which are now supported by the Governments of Canada, India, France, Belgium and the Scandinavian countries, all our major and closest allies? Will he now join them and put pressure on the President and the United States Government to implement the Secretary-General's proposals and stop the bombing unconditionally so that negotiations can start?
My hon. Friend knows that I have answered him and many others in this House. We take the view that the Secretary General's proposals, taken together, are the same as those which we ourselves put forward, and, therefore, we support them, but the operative phrase is "taken together", and I have tried this afternoon to set out the reasons why I believe that this must be so.
There is no easy solution to a conflict of this complexity. The combatants are deeply involved, and deeply committed. We, Britain, stand ready at all times to help if we can. Meanwhile, while acknowledging the frustration and the disappointment, we must keep our attention on the essential objective, which is to bring about an end to the fighting, and negotiations which will lead to a lasting political settlement.
I ask the House to view Vietnam in the perspective of all South-East Asia, because we tend, in a way quite understandably, and in a way quite rightly, to be so mesmerised by the continuing horrors of the war that we often forget that elsewhere in the area the picture is increasingly encouraging. There are many signs from South-East Asia that events there are on the move, and on the move in the right direction. Except where the war casts its shadow, we are seeing political advance, and we are seeing economic progress, and this is what is needed, after all, to ensure a better living for the people in the area. In South Vietnam, too, despite the war, there has been political progress. Formidable problems abound, and the pattern is not, of course, uniform, but for the area as a whole it is one of progress.
We welcomed the formation in August of the Association of South-East Asian Nations. The Bangkok Declaration recognises, and perhaps I might be allowed to quote it:
The collective will of the nations of South-East Asia to bind themselves together in friendship and co-operation and through joint efforts and sacrifices, secure for their people and for posterity blessings of peace, freedom and prosperity.
It is this sort of regional co-operation which is in our interests as well as in the interests of the people of South-East Asia.
We have taken vital decisions that our military presence east of Suez should be progressively reduced. One reason why we could take those decisions was that we were confident in the independent future and stability of South-East Asia. Our deep concern with the region will continue, but in future we shall be demonstrating that concern in different, practical ways.
Indonesia is emerging from a dark period, though its economic problems are far from solved. We are helping her, and hope to keep on doing so, and our own trade will benefit thereby. In Thailand, too, the picture is one of effective economic progress. Thailand has launched its second development plan, an imaginative programme envisaging expenditure of more than £900 million over the next five years. We are now talking with the Thais about this. Already, Thailand gets more British technical assistance than any other foreign country in the region. British industry will have abundant opportunities to participate in the development plan.
Over a wide area the desire for economic and social progress is one that we can and, in our view, must support, as we are already doing through organisations like the Colombo Plan and the Asian Development Bank, and we will continue this. South-East Asia has great natural wealth, and the more we help the region towards prosperity the better for everyone, including ourselves. Even now, when the Vietnam war is a terrible brake on progress, the prospects look bright. When it ends they will be enormous. Just because we do not often enough remind ourselves of what is going on I thought it right to include it this afternoon.
Does my right hon. Friend think that the interests of this country and the so-called West are more important, or the interests of the people of South-East Asia? Does not he also understand that Thailand has no semblance of democracy; that it is run by 20 men dressed as generals, who call themselves the Cabinet of Thailand, and that there is no freedom there whatsoever? The Thai people have absolutely no freedom whatsoever—
I dislike seeming to be discourteous, but that is one of the reasons why I hesitate to give way. So often when one gives way to an interjection it is not one that is relevant to the speech that one is making, but to the speech which the hon. Member who is interjecting fears that he or she will not be able to make later on.
I should like to turn to another area of the world to which the right hon. Gentleman also referred. I now want to look at South Arabia.
So far, I have not been unreasonable about giving way.
Just as in Asia, the pattern of our interest and obligation is altering in South Arabia as we move towards a more Europe-based policy. This is true of the whole of the Middle East. Our long declared decision to bring South Arabia to an early independence must be seen as part of the process of which I spoke at the beginning of my speech—the ending of the imperial era.
Conditions in South-Western Arabia as a whole have been transformed since we last discussed the subject in the summer. The Government of the United Arab Republic have decided to withdraw their forces entirely from the Yemen by the middle of December, and the movement is well under way. In South Arabia, the Federal Government threw away the last chance they had of broadening their base. In consequence, a ground swell of revolt overwhelmed the Arab State authorities in the Protectorate and the Federal Government ceased to function.
This was not the work of a single group, as the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think. Many old divisions in tribes and States persist, and it can be misleading to rely on political labels. However, in general terms the National Liberation Front played the major part, and has established ascendancy in most of the States. The South Arabian forces and the Federal Civil Service have held the structure of the Federation together. The forces refused to take over political control. Instead, they told the High Commissioner that the Nationalists had in their view become representative of the country as a whole and that it was imperative that Her Majesty's Government should recognise them as such and express readiness to negotiate with them.
Her Majesty's Government accepted this judgment. The High Commissioner issued accordingly—with my authority—a statement on 5th September. The South Arabian forces immediately called upon the two factions to resolve their differences, to form a common front and negotiate with the High Commissioner. It is over eight weeks since that happened. It is a month since the groups finally started talks between themselves in Cairo. Despite appeals to them from many quarters there was no sign until literally yesterday evening that any progress was being made. On the contrary, there was increasing tension between the factions in South Arabia itself, who continued to contest for supremacy.
We had to take account of the consequences of this prolonged uncertainty, with its constant danger that the divisions in the country might divide the South Arabian forces. Last night, the groups negotiating in Cairo announced that they had reached agreement on matters they had discussed so far and would shortly be able to reach agreement on the composition of a delegation to negotiate with us. We welcome this and we look forward to negotiations at the earliest possible moment.
I told the House on 19th June of the measures that Her Majesty's Government thought it right to take in the circumstances prevailing at that time. I warned the House, however, that events in the Yemen, South Arabia and the Middle East in general could have effects which might make it essential to reconsider the proposals I was then announcing. I also made it quite clear that the Government had serious doubts about the soundness and durability of the Federation of South Arabia.
Events since have justified those warnings and those reservations. We retain the objectives we have so often stated—to withdraw our forces in good order and, if possible, to leave behind us a united, stable and independent country. But the events since June have caused us to reconsider how best to achieve these objectives and to take some new and firm decisions.
I respond to the right hon. Gentleman's request; I shall say clearly what they are. Our first decision is that the independence of South Arabia will now take place in the second half of November and that all British forces will be withdrawn from South Arabia at that time. We shall, by the middle of this month, fix and announce the precise date for independence and withdrawal. The precise date, which will be in the second half of November, will depend on events and on whether a few days one way or the other will help us to start negotiations with an emerging Government.
It is quite clear to us that the radical nationalists and other groups must face their own problems and resolve them themselves. We can complete the removal of our forces from the country at any time after mid-November. Early withdrawal—and this bears on something rightly said by the right hon. Gentleman—will reduce any danger that our forces may become involved, and sustain casualties, in any renewed violence by or among the South Arabian factions.
In these circumstances, some things which we had expected to settle before independence may have to be left pending, but that, in the circumstances, must be accepted. Early withdrawal will also, in our view, help the South Arabian forces. In the changed circumstances, they are ready to take over fully now. The High Commissioner and the Commander in Chief are satisfied that the South Arabian forces will no longer expect the support of British units.
Secondly, the changed circumstances in the Yemen remove the danger which the Federal Government and Federal armed forces faced in June; that, in the difficult period immediately after independence, there might be the threat of organised military attack across their frontiers supported by modern air power.
Thus, our offer of deterrent naval and air forces for a period after independence has become irrelevant. Consequently, we have cancelled our plans for naval and V-bomber deterrent forces, though, as the House will know, a substantial naval force has concentrated at Aden to cover the period of our withdrawal and independence—
Could the right hon. Gentleman perhaps clarify one point? He said that the Federal forces are ready and willing to take over now. Does that mean that they are going to take over now, or will they not take over until after the withdrawal of the British forces? If they are to take over now, to whom will they be responsible—to the High Commissioner? —because there is apparently no Government.
Obviously, there cannot be divided authority during the interim period. They will take over when we go, but they would be able to take over now were we to go now. However, for reasons which I have explained, we have decided that the right time to bring about independence and withdrawal is in the second half of November, and the Federal forces are ready and able to assume responsibility at that time—
Thirdly, there remain the questions of the financial support offered to the Federal Government for three years after independence and the offer of support for the Eastern Aden Protectorate forces which was made last June. Those offers always carried the condition that they were subject to review if political circumstances made their continuance inappropriate. I think, however—I hope—that the House will agree with me that it would be right to leave these questions for decision rather later, when the future may be clearer. The formation and attitude of a new Government will be important factors, but it is impossible, especially in the light of what I have just said, to prejudge these at this moment.
I now turn to a related question, that of the clear opinion of this House, which I represented to the United Nations, that the island of Perim should be internationalised under the United Nations. I am sorry to tell the House that, though the Secretary-General is not yet in a position to reply formally to our approach to him, both he and the Chairman of the U.N. Mission have said that the latter could not entertain the proposal since, in their view, it was contrary to the letter and spirit of the U.N. resolutions which include Perim in what they call the territory of Aden.
Moreover, the delegates of all Arab countries represented at the U.N. sent a joint, formal communication to the Secretary-General in August opposing the separation of Perim from South Arabia. It is, on that basis, clear that, when the question of South Arabia is debated at the U.N., the proposal we made will be rejected. There is, as I told the House in June, no question of our retaining sovereignty or responsibility for Perim after the independence of South Arabia. The island will, therefore, unless its inhabitants, against expectation, were to demand otherwise, stay with South Arabia.
I hesitate to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman again, but he has dealt fully with the question of the Federation and that of Aden, except for the European population who will be left behind there. What arrangements are to be made about them?
We were discussing the arrangements for this with the Federal Government when it seemed as though that Government would succeed. We will, of course, have to discuss this and make arrangements with whatever authority succeeds us. I simply cannot forecast how those negotiations will go: I can only say that it will, of course, be the duty of Her Majesty's Government, as of any Government, to ensure that arrangements are made to cover those people and also to cover the compensation for those who are entitled to it.
The right hon. Gentleman has my firm assurance that these matters are being taken care of at the moment and will be taken care of the moment that we can negotiate with the succeeding authority. This is one of the reasons why we are working so hard to ensure that we hand over to a successor authority which has power and authority to carry on.
I was turning to the Arab-Israeli dispute. It is now nearly five months since the June war, and far there has been little progress towards a settlement. The urgent humanitarian problem of Arab refugees, both old and new, is no nearer a solution, and the plight, as winter starts, of those who left their homes or camps on the West Bank as a result of the war is an appalling reminder of the consequences of war which will be far more terrible if large-scale fighting breaks out again.
Recent events, the sinking of the destroyer and the severe damage to Egyptian oil installations at Suez have further underlined the dangers inherent in the present tense situation.
It is my firm conviction that, as matters stand, time is on nobody's side. On all sides nerves will get strained; public opinion will become impatient; positions will become harder and more inflexible, and the pressures on national leaders will make it harder for them to display the spirit of compromise and realism which will he necessary if we are ever to reach a just settlement.
And yet I believe that there are no elements in the problem which are fundamentally insoluble, no vital interests of either side which cannot be met by the other, given the will to do so. It is the cloud of suspicion, fear and recrimination which prevents progress. So dense is this cloud that it seems unrealistic to think that the mere pressure of events will bring the two sides together in negotiations.
This is why we think that the rôle of the U.N. is so vital. This is why I have been pressing, ever since the crisis started, long before hostilities broke out, for the appointment of a representative of the Secretary-General who could establish communications between the two sides.
It is obviously desirable that an emissary of the U.N. should be fortified by a directive setting out the broad framework which the Security Council regards as appropriate to a just and lasting settlement. Without such a directive, his counsel and persuasion would not command the necessary respect. That is why my noble Friend the Minister of State, Lord Caradon, has been working hard at the U.N. for a balanced resolution setting out the essential broad principles.
I have been glad to note, in my talks with foreign representatives in New York and subsequently here, the very wide measure of international agreement on the need to move forward as quickly as possible on these lines. It has been all the more disappointing, therefore, that an agreed text for a Security Council resolution has not yet emerged.
The responsibilities of all members of the U.N., and especially of members of the Security Council, to promote action towards a settlement of this dangerous problem are very heavy. There must be no compromise on principles. But, equally, no insistence on any particular approach should be allowed to obstruct progress. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may not realise it, but what we are saying here today could have a very considerable effect on the events in New York at this crucial time.
The non-permanent members of the Security Council are meeting constantly in New York in an attempt to arrive at an acceptable formula. I do not want to go further at this stage than to say that Lord Caradon is doing and will continue to do all that he can to encourage and assist their efforts. We, for our part, will be prepared to support any fair and balanced formulation which commands substantial support.
Within the whole complex of these problems, there is one matter of particular concern not only to the Government, but also to other nations who use or are served by the Suez Canal, including, of course, the countries east of Suez. This matter is the opening of that great waterway as soon as possible to the shipping of all nations. But there is obviously a close link between this particular problem and the wider problems of the Middle East about which I was talking just now. Our over-riding concern is with the peace and stability of the whole area, and we shall not allow any narrower interests to affect the policies which we are pursuing to that end.
However, it does seem to me that there is one aspect of the problem of the Canal, to which the right hon. Gentleman often referred, which could be dealt with without prejudice to the wider issues. It ought to be possible to arrange for the clearing of the southern part of the Canal and, therefore, to ensure the release of the ships of eight nations, including four British vessels, that are now blocked in the Great Bitter Lake. I have represented and continue to represent very strongly indeed that this should be done.
I instructed Sir Harold Beeley to take this up with the U.A.R. authorities when he visited Cairo the week before last. [HON. MEMBERS: "What did they say?"] They undertook to examine the matter carefully, and I am expecting them to do so, and I am reminding them that I am waiting for the answer. I do not know how hon. Members opposite think that one conducts foreign affairs if it is not in this way. Perhaps some of these days the right hon. Gentleman will instruct his hon. Friends on these matters.
That apart, the purpose of Sir Harold Beeley's mission was to discuss the resumption of diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and the United Arab Republic. I heard what the right hon. Gentleman said at Brighton and I heard what he said this afternoon. For my part, I am glad to be able to say that progress was made. The Government of the United Arab Republic shares our desire for this, and I expect to be able to make an announcement soon. I think that the House will agree that at present it is more than ever desirable that we should have regular access to the U.A.R. Government at a high level. We cannot lose by so doing, as the right hon. Gentleman clearly saw. As General Dayan said at a Press conference on Egypt the other day, many people could easily gain from our having that sort of contact and that sort of influence there.
I apologise if my speech has been a longer speech than some hon. Members would have liked, but we have not had a foreign affairs debate for some time and there were a number of issues on which I thought the House would like to hear the Government set out as clearly as they could what their position was. Like the right hon. Gentleman, I have had to leave a number of issues unexamined. I decided to leave out the Question of China, which is a very big subject to leave out, simply on account of time.
Perhaps at the end I may return to my broad theme of our move towards a more European-based policy. Two things need to be stated quite clearly, First, this does not conflict with our policy towards the Atlantic Alliance. We want to see greater unity in Europe, and, as part of that, for Europe to express its own view within the Alliance in the defence field. But the defence of Western Europe makes absolutely no sense without the wider framework of the Atlantic Alliance. We remain, therefore. firmy committed to the alliance as the basis of the security of this country.
Secondly, a more European-based policy does not mean a rejection of or a turning away from exercising our influence in other continents. On the contrary, by providing the firm base here in Europe, I believe that Europe, and through Europe this country, will have a renewed strength and influence which can and must be brought to bear on those problems of peace and development in other continents of the world. On that policy the Government will continue to act.
The House will be grateful to the Foreign Secretary for at least having covered the ground. After that neutral sentence, I must say that I thought that his remarks about Vietnam were bitterly disappointing. It is certainly a very ill day for this country when the Foreign Secretary of a country which is co-Chairman of the Geneva Conference says that he is unable in any way to dissociate himself from the bombing by a third country of the territory of another country—and that particularly from a Foreign Secretary who was the first to indicate that Israel, whatever the merits of her case, must immediately give up the territory, particularly Jerusalem, that she had occupied.
I also thought that the right hon. Gentleman underestimated the difficulties which face us in Europe, so that there is a real possibility that he will not take the necessary initiative to overcome those difficulties which I sincerely hope that he will succeed in overcoming.
I think that the Government are at last doing the right thing in Aden, although they have left it until the eleventh hour and the fifty-fifth second. This means that we shall leave in emergency circumstances, with the result that we probably shall not get the political permanency in the situation which we could have obtained had we recognised the situation months or even weeks ago. I well remember that when the Foreign Secretary was speaking on Aden on the last occasion, he said that our policy was based upon a coalition between the nationalists and the feudal rulers.
Some of us then said that that would not work, that it was doomed to failure, and that the sooner that political objective was abandoned, the better it would be. Indeed, my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Liberal benches divided the House on that occasion. The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Francis Noel-Baker), to his great credit, came into the Lobby with us, in a very honourable tradition.
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that the matter on which he divided the House was to deny the Government the right to withdraw troops? If his vote had been carried, the Government would not have been able to withdraw at the time at which they now propose to withdraw.
The hon. Member may recall that I followed him in that debate and pointed out that what he was saying was "We want to get the troops out. We do not mind what political settlement we get, even if we leave a Duncan Sandys Federation behind. That does not matter. We have no responsibility." What I maintained then, and still maintain, is that before we withdrew we should in a matter of weeks either have dismembered that federation—as we did following the Monckton Report in Central Africa, unfortunately, too late—or, alternatively, we should have given up any pretence that the nationalists and the feudal rulers could form a coalition.
I said that merely because we wanted to cut our commitments east of Suez—and no one is more passionate in wanting to do that than I am—it did not relieve us of the obligation to leave behind an orderly political set-up, the possibility of which had been made all the more difficult by reason of the Government's policies, inherited from the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys).
Yesterday, the First Secretary of State said that, if we wanted to get expansion in our social services and tackle the problem of poverty and unemployment, we had to have a strong economy. If that is right for our domestic affairs, it is equally right in our foreign affairs, because the effectiveness of Britain in foreign affairs, our ability to take an initiative in spheres where there is a British interest, has time and again been affected by our economic weakness.
Who can doubt that, if our economic situation had been stronger in 1964, we might have had very much greater influence over our American allies in regard to Vietnam? Who can doubt that, if we were not facing a very real balance of payments problem, we could have taken a far greater political initiative in the Middle East, instead of taking a position of neutrality—not, I suggest, out of any great morality, but simply out of economic weakness?
Who can deny that doubts which have been expressed as to Britain's application to join the European Community would not be as strong were it not for the weakness of sterling, both as to its valuation and as to its reserve status? Who would doubt that we would have taken far swifter and more effective action in regard to Rhodesia were it not again for overriding economic considerations? Therefore, I believe that to have an effective and credible foreign policy it is vital that we have a strong economy. This cannot be overlooked.
This is one of the reasons why I want to see Britain successfully join the European Community. But what we must realise is that the doubts of Couve de Murville at Luxembourg not only represented the views of the Republic of France, but very largely reflected the views of the Report of the Commission itself, to which the Foreign Secretary made no reference.
For the benefit of the many hon. Members who were not able to be present on the Monday before last, perhaps I may be forgiven if I repeat one or two of the passages in that Report. The Report says—this was not General de Gaulle; this was not a leading de Gaullist; this is the Report of a European Commission:
Sterling … will be a problem for the Community, and even the modest 3 per cent. growth rate between now and 1970 may overstrain the economy.
These people went on to say that they wanted a detailed elaboration of Article 2 and Article 104. They also said this:
This would particularly include the sterling problem. It is not enough for the British Government to say that it would give up the advantage of Article 108 of the Treaty. This does not constitute a valid reply to the Community.
The House will recollect that under Article 108 members of the Community must come to the aid of any other member of the Community whose currency is under pressure. This is a great fear that we would be a prospective liability for the Six were Britain to join them. What the Prime Minister said in the House was that it was possible to differentiate between external pressures on sterling—that is, pressure from outside nations which were not members of the Six—and internal pressure on sterling by reason of our joining the Community.
I remember suggesting at the time that this was an artificial distinction which could not be drawn, and it was certainly one which would not satisfy our prospective partners in the Community, because I believe that external and internal pressures cannot be separated. This is certainly the view which the Commission has put forward in its Report.
The right hon. Gentleman, like a number of others, had been misrepresenting my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman has said that my right hon. Friend made no reference in his speech to the Report of the Commission. In fact, my right hon. Friend referred to it at great length and pointed out that matters to which the right hon. Gentleman has been referring were capable of negotiation once negotiations started. The points which the right hon. Gentleman has been raising can be negotiated. These are details which do not stand in the way of our application.
I must first say, to my own credit, that it is a brave man that seeks to misrepresent the Foreign Secretary and face the consequences. It is the very fact that the Foreign Secretary has not indicated the extent of the fears of our prospective European partners in regard to sterling, and has not referred to the suggestion that
no national currency could assume the rôle of a Community currency. The E.E.C. monetary system should be achieved by progressive co-ordination of the policies of the Member States. The disequilibrium of the economy is such as to make it difficult for Britain to shoulder her community obligations",
that causes me to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman has underestimated the difficulties facing us in our application and is therefore unlikely to take the necessary initiatives to overcome them.
I will leave the House to decide, when hon. Members have read both speeches, who is misrepresenting whom. Just as my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) did, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to be fair to himself. Will he now go on to read that passage of the Community's Report which states:
And we believe that negotiations should now start''?
The Foreign Secretary must be patient. As he said to one of his hon. Friends, sometimes one is interrupted at a rather difficult moment and it is rather inconvenient to one's train of thought.
It is true that the Commission did not recommend, nor could it recommend, that we should change the valuation of sterling. Nor did it say that there should be any bar to opening negotiations—quite the reverse. The Commission wanted negotiations to begin, and it so recommended.
We had a very helpful speech from the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Rio, which I welcomed and which reiterated the Government's undertaking to have discussions on the possible future rôle of sterling and on the question whether there could not be a European reserve currency. How far have the Government taken their investigations into the matter of contingency planning for transforming sterling into a European currency? To what extent have they consulted the Bank of England about our existing contractual obligations to those who bank with us and on the extent to which sterling could be transformed into a European reserve currency? Have the Government done their contingency planning? I can think of a hundred and one other cases, from the case of the Governor's radio in Salisbury to many others, where they have not done their contingency planning and have waited almost for events to overtake them. I implore the Foreign Secretary not to underestimate the very real feelings, fears and doubts in the Six about sterling. If we are to get into the Six, I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that this is something on which we ought to come forward with an initiative in regard to a European reserve currency.
The right hon. Gentleman speaks about Article 108, the recommendations of the Commission, the proposals it will make, and the powers it already has. Is he not concerned about the fact that, if we were to join the Common Market, these could all have a very saddening and deleterious effect on our Parliamentary system, which would be utterly objectionable to the British people?
The hon. Gentleman is entitled to his view. It so happens, rightly or wrongly, that the majority of right hon. and hon. Members are in favour of Britain's going into Europe and accept the political implications of our going in. I personally would like to see Britain playing a very great part in the political leadership of Europe. It is for this reason that my party at least has been entirely consistent—
—and has wanted to get in from the very beginning.
The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) have a point of view. I respect their point of view, though I disagree with it. I do not think that this is the time to discuss the rights and wrongs of whether we should give up sovereignty, whether there should be weighted voting, whether we should have greater powers over the Commission, and so on. These are matters more for internal discussion within the Labour Party than across the Floor of the House.
Do not let us underestimate the very real difficulties. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will overcome them. Unless he faces the problem of sterling, I think that he will be in very real difficulties. What worries me is that, if we are rejected, opinion in this country could go sour. If the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, had made that speech which we now all know he did not make—it was part of a discussion; I accept that—it would have been an extremely acute analysis of what could happen in Britain if we fail to get into Europe and are rejected for the second time.
We might either want to have a highly directed economy of a neutralist variety rather like a super Sweden, in which case we should be a high tariff area, probably attracting the same sort of trading relations from America; alternatively, there might be a move for a North Atlantic free trade area, possibly to include Australia, which again would give us very little political influence. We are already seeing pressures on Canada from the very high rate of American investment and domination, and I personally think that both of those are poor alternatives. For that reason, I hope that, even if we do not get in on this occasion, we shall keep on trying and not allow this country to become isolationist.
There has been a suggestion about delayed entry and whether or not we should agree, at the end of six years, that we should become full members, having passed through a transitional phase in that period. I know that the Government cannot say that they are in favour of that, because obviously we want full entry. However, it may be that this could be a solution if we were not able to get full and immediate entry.
Turning to the Middle East, events have proved that the balance of terror in the Middle East kept the super Powers, Russia and America, from intervening. I do not think that there will ever be lasting peace in the area unless certain factors flow. Obviously, the first is an international arms control agreement. It is staggering that Britain, America, France and Russia should have been supplying thousands of millions of pounds worth of military equipment over the years and should then throw up our hands in surprise when our customers use the products which we have sold them. It may be that the build-up has already started. The Americans are lifting their ban on arms supplies to Israel. The Russians have already re-equipped the Egyptian air force, and Russian warships are at present in the Mediterranean.
There will not be a permanent solution unless and until the big Powers recognise that they have a real responsibility for the limitation of arms supplies. I agree with the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) that Israel is entitled to have her frontiers guaranteed, not by an Armistice agreement which can be broken at will, but by a properly negotiated peace treaty between the countries involved.
The failure of Britain during the events of June was that, while we were prepared to put extreme pressure on Israel and while it was partly through British and American initiative that Israel was prevented from going to war on 23rd May as a preventive measure—in which case she would have taken on Egypt alone—no comparable pressures were put on the Arab states to desist, particularly on Jordan. As a result, we were somewhat unbalanced before going into our period of neutrality if we were prepared to put pressure on Israel but little on our Arab friends. After all, Israel was faced with extinction.
Obviously, we want diplomatic relations with Egypt, as we do with almost any country. However, I hope that the Foreign Secretary will not regain the friendship of Egypt by derogating in any way from any of the principles which we have supported in regard to Israel and her right to protect herself and her people.
There is the great problem of the refugees. Anyone who has been to the refugee camps on the West Bank of the Jordan and seen people living in temporary tents will know that it is a tremendous human problem. The Jordanians have been very unwise in the inflammatory speeches which they have made that the refugees must go back to be a thorn in the side of Israel. But, accepting that the Israelis are entitled to exclude those who are a security risk, I hope that they will accept as many of those refugees as possible back to their homes and to permanent camps on the west bank at the earliest possible moment. That must be followed by a settlement of the more intractable problem of the 200,000 refugees in the Gaza Strip, who have been cooped up like a human zoo there for 20 years.
I hope that the world will realise that it is in the interests of peace in the area that as many refugees as possible are settled in permanent conditions with some economic basis on which to survive. There have been suggestions of desalination plants being established round El Arish, but that is a problem for the world to solve and not one which it is economically possible for Israel to do unaided.
As for the Far East, we in this country have little influence in regard to the war in Vietnam. I deplore it, particularly when one reads the article of Joergen Petersen in The Guardian this morning about the use of pellet bombs which have inflicted grave suffering on the civilian population. However, we are far too committed. The only difference between us and our co-Chairman, Russia, is that we pretend that we take a neutral line and Russia comes out quite openly and denies that she does.
We are supplying Royal Navy barges on charter for use in raising wrecks in the Mekong Delta. I hope that they are not operating from Hong Kong, because that would add to the difficulties of that territory. We have built a runway in Thailand. It is true that it is for civil purposes, but one would like to know how much pressure it has taken off other airfields used for military purposes. We have not condemned the bombing of the North. We are the only European Power which is so involved, and it is unlikely that we can bring much pressure to bear—
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that there has been a 400 per cent. increase in British maritime trade to South Vietnam over the last two years, amounting to nearly £5 million worth of goods. Since that trade has to go into the harbours of South Vietnam, does he object if British Servicemen assist in clearing wrecks?
The right hon. Gentleman is saying that since we have important trading interests involved, are we not justified in taking action which will make it clear that we are supporting the military effort of the Americans in Vietnam? Without wishing to be offensive, this is a very conservative argument. We support sanctions in Rhodesia, provided that they are not expensive. The minute that they become expensive, we have to call them off.
Principles are principles, whether they are cheap to put into practice or expensive. It is not part of this country's job as one of the co-Chairman to have Royal Navy ships on charter to the Americans to raise wrecks which have been sunk in the Mekong Delta by the Vietcong as a consequence of a war in which we should not be involved.
In many respects, in Europe, in Aden, in the Government's withdrawal from east of Suez, we are moving in the right direction. I do not think that they are wrong. What I find so disappointing is that, when they are right, they are usually right only at the eleventh hour and fifty-fifth second, and that their conversion comes too late in the day to have the effect that it might.
If we had real economic strength, which we quite clearly have not, if we had a strongly based economy and much more foresight on matters like our rôle in Aden, the need to have broken up the Federation there much earlier, the need to have withdrawn from east of Suez much earlier, the need to have taken a European initiative much earlier, coupled with economic strength, the rôle and authority of this country in foreign affairs would be ten times what it is today.
It is for those reasons that, more in sorrow than in anger, I plead with the Government that, when they show foresight, they should try and show it at the beginning rather than at the end and, in tackling those problems, to have behind them a strong economy from which to operate.
At a moment when the whole world is looking forward expectantly to an exhibition of fireworks in this assembly, to a clash of personalities, to a demonstration of acrimony and acerbity, we have descended to an insipid, tame repetitive foreign affairs debate. We have had this sort of thing before. It is just the mixture as before. Neither from the Opposition Front Bench—despite my respect for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) —nor from our Front Bench, and certainly not, if I may say so, from the somewhat irrelevant speech of the Leader of the Liberal Party to which we have just listened, have we had anything more than a muted exhibition such as could have been provided by a gang of assistants to a funeral undertaker.
I am very disappointed. I came this afternoon with the full intention of supporting my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary 100 per cent. I was delighted when I learned that he was facing up to the newspaper barons, the Cecil Kings, the Max Aitkens and, particularly, to the Lord Thomsons. I wish to make clear beyond a peradventure that I take no exception to Press criticism. We are not immune from criticism. Besides, it is a corrective. But the remarkable fact, also beyond doubt, is that if we politicians, whether those occupying Government positions or those on the back benches, dare to respond or even say a word in our behalf against Press criticism, which is usually, though not always, of a mischievous and malicious character, the Press lords squeal like anything, like a lot of apprehensive pigs.
It is as well to be realistic. It is about time there was some straight talking in the House, and, as some members of the Government are a bit reluctant to indulge in straight talking—they usually prefer double talking—I venture to step into the breach.
However, as I say, I am disappointed. I thought that it might be possible to defend my right hon. Friend. I say just this about the incident which historians of the future will call the Savoy affair. It occurs to me that I have many words in my vocabulary which I have not yet used, and I dare not use some adjectives here because this is a respectable assembly, but, if I were invited to the Savoy, I could let my hair down. However, that is not likely to happen; back benchers like myself are not invited.
We are discussing certain fundamental issues. I take, first, the question whether we should enter the Common Market, and I put this question to the Government. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has disappeared. I wanted to ask him. I do not think that it is much use asking his subordinate, because we shall not get even a dusty answer at the end of the debate. My question is this: do the Government accept decisions of the annual conference of the Labour Party? It is a fair question.
I know the constitutional position. I was involved in it way back in 1920 when I ventured to make a speech at a Labour Party conference and demanded that our Members of Parliament—there were only a few at that time representing Labour—should respect decisions of the Labour Party conference. I was told that that would be highly unconstitutional. The constitutional position is that we take no notice of what happens at the Labour Party conference. We listen, but that is all.
However, it is a remarkable feature of the situation in today's debate that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made it perfectly clear on the issue of the Common Market that he had the backing of the Labour Party conference, though when we come to the question of Vietnam, of course, that is a horse of another colour. One cannot have it both ways.
Let us deal with the first point. How did the Government get the decision at the Labour Party conference? [An HON. MEMBER: "Oh."] Is it a secret? I am merely asking a question. Was there a deal? Was it not likely that a very large section of votes would be cast against the Government, but those concerned were pursuaded, as a result of an offer made to them, to change their course at the last minute? It does not do for the Government, on the issue of British entry into the Common Market, to pretend that they have the complete backing of Labour people in this country. They have not.
Do not waste my time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] I believe in being realistic. I am quite honest. I do not wish to pay attention to someone whose views I know. He need not accept my point of view. Why should I be interrupted? I lose the thread of my discourse as a result, and it takes time.
My right hon. Friend boasted that he had the support of this House in the debate which took place last May. He had the support of the majority of Tories. If that is the sort of thing he wants, he can have it. I extract no enjoyment from support provided by a majority on the other side. My right hon. Friend had a large majority. There were 110 members of the Government who voted under threat of resignation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It was said at the time. Members of the Government were told, "Either you accept this or, perhaps, you had better go". There were 110 of them. If we subtract the members of the Government who voted with the Tories on this issue on the last occasion in May and look at the remainder, we find that practically 100 hon. Members on this side of the House either abstained or voted against the Government.
The Government have not got the majority of Members of Parliament, except under threat of resignation, withdrawing the Whip or something like that. It is not good enough. The same applies to the country. The people of this country have not been fully informed about all the facts of the situation.
There has been a lot of talk about sterling. I am sorry that I may have offended the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party by describing his speech as irrelevant. What I meant was this. He talked about sterling and the reserve currency. This is supposed to be an obstacle, although, of course, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary dismisses all the obstacles; nothing is insurmountable. But what are the facts? If the Government said to General de Gaulle, his Foreign Minister and their friends in the French Government, "We will accept anything you want—sterling, the reserve currency, your agricultural policy, whatever you want", they would not have us in. They do not want us in. It is as plain as that. They do not want us in. All the pleadings and all the propaganda, some of it unofficial but subsidised by the Foreign Office—let them deny it—would be of no avail.
It is said that General de Gaulle will disappear some day. That is the sort of thing that is said about people like myself. Of course, it can happen. But General de Gaulle may outlive most of them. Even if he does disappear under God's will, he will leave behind him an important, intellectual and determined number of politicians who do not want Britain in, because they are afraid that Britain might lead. They do not want anything like that to happen.
Therefore, when my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary speaks about pressing on with determination it is an obsession with him. If at the end of the day he fails, what is the alternative? People are always asking what is the alternative. There are a number of alternatives. I wonder whether right hon. and hon. Members read the speech made by Sir Robert Menzies, the former Australian Prime Minister, at the Ditchley Foundation in May. The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire was present. He must have heard the speech by Sir Robert Menzies. I happen to have read it.
Sir Robert Menzies, who is no mean authority in these matters, made it clear beyond doubt that, whether we like it or not, going into the Common Market means the abandonment of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth could not be sustained. If some hon. Members want that, they can have it, but I dislike it. I believe that the great majority of people in the country equally dislike it, perhaps even more intensely than I do.
These are realities. This is not fiction. The fiction resides in the members of the Government who are pressing on with something which, in the long run, would be of no benefit to this country. Besides, look at the contradictions that we have had this afternoon. At one moment my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary talked about security being vested in Europe and said that we cannot abandon it. Then he talked about the security which is vested in the Atlantic Alliance. General de Gaulle, however, does not care much about the security which is vested in the Atlantic Alliance. The two cannot be reconciled.
Let us come to the question of Lord Chalfont. The last thing I would like to do is to indulge in derogatory terms of Lord Chalfont. It is alleged, however, that he made certain statements which were a kind of threat if we do not get into the Common Market. I do not know whether he said it or not, but if he did not say it, I would like to say it for him. As for these off-the-record speeches and observations, even if a Minister says something off the record, one can depend upon its whispering right through the environs of Whitehall immediately afterwards. Anybody knows that.
Lord Chalfont is alleged to have said that if we are not allowed to go into the Common Market we must look around and consider our situation and that we might have to withdraw troops from Europe. Some of my hon. Friends would agree with that. There is nothing remarkable about it, except that my hon. Friends are not members of the Government, although some of them hope to be.
Lord Chalfont apparently spoke in that fashion. I should not be at all surprised if he said it. It is the kind of thing I would have said, sitting along with a lot of foreign journalists, probably jibing at us and using the language about which we have read in the Press, which seems to emanate from the French or somebody on the Continent. They say that we are not fit to come in. One can understand Lord Chalfont reacting against that. He is an honourable man. So why are we getting excited about it?
Therefore, if my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary wants an obsession, he can have it, but let him not inject us with the obsession. He expects that in two or, perhaps, three months' time negotiations will begin. If it does not happen, where are we then? Does this mean disaster for the United Kingdom? That was denied by the late Hugh Gaitskell and it has been denied by the Prime Minister. It might be good to get in, but it might not be bad if we are out. I leave that because there is not much time to develop it.
Now, about the Middle East. I have not the least doubt that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is naturally anxious to bring that deplorable affair to a satisfactory conclusion, but he is going the wrong way about it. I do not believe that one can get anything out of Nasser by appeasing or encouraging him. Only recently, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) made an excursion to the United Arab Republic. I had the suspicion at the time that it was probably inspired by the Foreign Office, but I understand that he was invited by Nasser. Why should Nasser invite him, I asked myself. I was not able to give a satisfactory answer. My right hon. and learned Friend did not succeed in what he was up to. What he was up to, I do not know, but he did not succeed.
So Sir Harold Beeley, of the Foreign Office, was sent out. We know that a large section of the Foreign Office—I regard it as deplorable and regrettable, but I know it to be the case; it has been the case for many years, long before my right hon. Friend came to the House—is, generally speaking, pro-Arab. They can deny it as much as they like, but that is their point of view. No doubt, it is a genuine and sincere point of view and conviction.
Sir Harold Beeley went out and has come back. My right hon. Friend this afternoon said in muted fashion that there has been some progress. I would like to know what progress. Does it mean that British ships have been released from the Canal or that the Canal is likely to be opened? Of course not. This is the real trouble ever since we had the last debate. My right hon. Friend will remember it. Incidentally—I say this parenthetically, but I mean it—there is nothing personal about this. Before my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary came back into the Chamber a moment ago, I was telling the House that I wanted to defend him today 100 per cent. but he disappointed me. However, that is by the way.
When we had the last debate, my right hon. Friend objected when I said that I took sides. Of course, I take sides. Most of us take sides one way or the other. My right hon. Friend denied that he was taking sides—he was neutral, non-aligned; that is the jargon of the Foreign Office. There was no evidence however, of non-alignment. My right hon. Friend did not send out my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich, but he sent Sir Harold Beeley. He has been trying to appease Nasser.
A charming way my right hon. Friend has. I enjoy it. But let me make it absolutely plain so that there is no misunderstanding anywhere that the visit of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) was his own affair; it had absolutely nothing to do with me. The visit of Sir Harold Beeley was on my own authority and instigation. Its purpose was to discuss the possibilities of resuming relations with the United Arab Republic. No other negotiations were conducted. Any question of appeasement is an emotive issue which only clouds the whole thing. As I said earlier, I regard the resumption of diplomatic relations with the United Arab Republic as important for our national interests, important for our arrangements with Arab countries, and, as General Dayan said the other day, possibly also of very great value to other people in the area.
I accept what my right hon. Friend says, and of course we want diplomatic relations with all countries. Of course we do. It is the proper thing. But what is to be the result of resumption of diplomatic relations with Egypt? Do they want more money? Or do they want equipment?
They have been getting plenty from Russia. And, by the way, that is one of the most tragic things that has happened in recent times. I should like to know what the Russians are up to. I have a suspicion of what they are up to. There is a great deal to be said about that in the debate; perhaps in the next foreign affairs debate we may be able to analyse the Russian situation, and what their game is—and we ought not to be afraid of speaking up to them. I know it is difficult for the Foreign Secretary, but it is not difficult for some of us.
Let me deal with one other point. It has been argued—my right hon. Friend has argued this in the House or outside—that the Israelis must abandon the occupied territories It is remarkable this argument that it is immoral, if one has won a victory, to occupy the territory one has gained. If that argument is sound we should never have had a British Empire. [An HON MEMBER: "Have we?"] I hope what I have said is not regarded as offensive. [Interruption.] It is a bad argument? If my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr Mendelson), with his authority, says this is a bad argument, I withdraw it at once. All I say is that I hope, whether it is a good or a bad argument, the Israelis will not give way. That may be regarded as a bad argument, but I mean what I say, because they will gain nothing by showing any sign of weakness—not in the face of the United Arab Republic.
But there it is. I leave it at that. I have only one final word to say, and it is about the Gracious Speech itself.
I read the Gracious Speech with the utmost enjoyment. Every item was agreeable to me. There was an omission to which my hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr Will Owen) has already directed attention, namely, that there was no reference to a national fuel and power policy. We must deal with that later on. Generally speaking, however, I accept all the items contained in the Gracious Speech.
The only question I venture to ask is, are they going to be implemented? I say that if by mid-summer of 1968 there is no diminution in unemployment, if there is no evidence of growth and industrial expansion, if the balance of payments has not been corrected, if that is the position by mid-summer, the economic crisis will remain but, just as serious, there will be a political crisis. I do not think this country will stand for it. There is far too much disquiet already, a feeling of depression, almost of melancholy, among our people: apathy.
I am not blaming the Government for the present situation. I am not going to waste any time attacking the Opposition for the last 13 or 15 or 20 years. Most of our troubles derive from the last war. We were bankrupt at the end of the last war. That was not the fault of the Labour Party. We, in 1945, inherited a condition of bankruptcy. We have never recovered from that. We have been living on borrowed money all the time, borrowed either by the Tories or by us. That is the position. There is no use denying it. When we indulge in acrimony, imputing blame to one side or the other, we are not realistic. Let us face the fact.
But the people in this country are beginning to be worried about the situation, and I beg my right hon. Friend to use all the influence and the power he possesses—and I know that much power and influence reside in him, and he has humanity: that is the one certain thing he has—to use all his power and influence in the Cabinet to ensure that those items contained in the Gracious Speech are implemented as rapidly as possible, and so give us reassurance, and implant some confidence in our breasts. We need it badly. If that is done it will be all the better for the Government and, what is even more important, better for the country.
I wish this afternoon to speak about Aden, but before doing so I would like to clarify one point made by the Foreign Secretary in his speech about what has been called the "Chalfont affair". I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that Lord Chalfont's talk to the Press was not only on a non-attributable basis, but was actually off the record. I see that the right hon. Gentleman confirms that. But that does amount to accusing the entire British Press of a breach of confidence, and I would like the Foreign Secretary to confirm that that was really his intention.
I shall confine the rest of my remarks today to the shameful events in South Arabia. Since our last debate the Gov- ernment's policy has totally disintegrated. All their proudly proclaimed objectives have been abandoned—the creation of a stable Government, the establishment of democratic institutions, the orderly transfer of power. All that has come out of these fine promises is chaos and bloodshed.
What is the Government's explanation of the total collapse of their policy. After being in charge for three whole years all they can think of is to blame their predecessors, and me in particular.
We have been criticised for the original decision to form the Federation. But was it really such a bad idea? There were a score or more sheikhdoms of various sizes in that area, each with its separate treaty of protection with Britain, its separate little army and separate customs barriers, often quarrelling with one another. Surely the only sensible thing was to encourage them to join together.
Those hon. Members opposite who now criticise us for having formed the Federation may be interested to know that, having searched HANSARD, I can find no word of objection from the then Labour Opposition. They did not even feel it necessary to debate the decision to form the Federation of South Arabia. It is only now that they are thinking up these criticisms and objections.
I have repeatedly been accused of having forced what has been called the sophisticated people of Aden against their will to join a Federation controlled by feudal sheikhs. This has sometimes been referred to as a shot-gun marriage. But that is not borne out by the facts.
The initiative came not from me, but from South Arabia. Within a few weeks of my becoming Colonial Secretary in 1962, a delegation of representatives of both the Federal Government and the Aden Government came to London to ask me to unite Aden and the Federation. Their views were set out in a joint letter which has been published in Cmnd. 1814 of August, 1962. The relevant passage in that letter reads as follows:
We, the Ministers of the Federation of South Arabia and Ministers of Aden, have, over a period of months, held meetings together in Aden to discuss the future relationship between Aden and the Federation.
The inhabitants of Aden and of the Federation are predominantly of Arab race and Muslim religion. They share a common language and regard themselves as one people.
The Port of Aden is the main outlet for the surrounding territories, which form its hinterland; and the economic interests of both are closely inter-woven. For these reasons Aden and the Federation belong essentially together.
We are accordingly convinced that the ending of this unnatural division between them, which is due to the accident of history, would be in the true interests of all who live in this area, and would contribute greatly to their prosperity and safety. Moreover, we trust that, by increasing their economic strength and political stability, the union between Aden and the Federation will bring nearer the achievement of full independence, to which we attach the highest importance.
We therefore earnestly request the British Government to give favourable consideration to the entry of Aden into the Federation.
Incidentally, the principle of uniting Aden with the Federation was not only put forward by the Aden Ministers, but endorsed by all the political elements, in Aden, including even Al Asnag's party, which issued a statement of policy including these words:
Aden has to accede and should accede.
So much for the shotgun marriage. I hope that we shall hear no more of that utterly unfair and untrue accusation.
Then, it is said that we should not have backed the sultans. But who else could we have dealt with? They were the lawful Governments of the States, with whom Britain had treaties of protection. I did, however, persuade them to agree to modernise the Federal Constitution, to separate the functions of State rulers from those of Federal Ministers, and progressively to introduce democratic elections. These and other reforms were unanimously approved in principle at a conference in London, over which I presided in July, 1964.
At this meeting, it was agreed that the Federation should secure independence not later than 1968, on the understanding that Britain would, for a period thereafter, continue to afford it protection against external aggression. It was decided that a further conference should be held as soon as possible after the Aden elections, which were due three months later, to work out the detailed application of these principles. As a result of these elections, the Aden Government retained its majority and Baharoon, who had led the Aden delegation at the London Conference and had approved its decisions, was confirmed as Chief Minister.
The stage was thus set for the completion of a fair and workable settlement. That is what the Foreign Secretary likes to call the "mess" which Labour inherited from the Conservatives. The truth is that they wantonly threw away all the fruits of our painstaking preparations.
The new Colonial Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood), like other members of the Labour Party, started with a strong prejudice against the Federal Government. He seemed to imagine that the solution to the problem lay in collaboration with Al Asnag and his group. The right hon. Gentleman soon dispensed with the services of the man who knew most about South Arabia, the High Commissioner, Sir Kennedy Trevaskis, no doubt because he was "well in" with the Federal Government, and was not on particularly cordial terms with the extremists, who had tried to assassinate him. He was replaced by a man who had had a distinguished career in East Africa, but who knew nothing about Arabia and spoke no word of Arabic.
The Colonial Secretary's attempt to woo Al Asnag was from the start doomed to failure. Al Asnag was no longer a free agent. He and his party had become entirely dependent upon their paymaster in Cairo. The Chief Minister, Baharoon, not unnaturally, resented the British Government's flirtation with his opponents, and he soon resigned. The High Commissioner instantly invited Mackawee, a close collaborator of Al Asnag, to take his place. I do not know what the Colonial Secretary expected. But, far from helping him, the new Chief Minister openly sided immediately with the terrorists and demanded the release of all detainees suspected of terrorist activities. That was something which even the Labour Government felt obliged to refuse.
Having thus alienated all elements in Aden, and having run out of ideas of his own, the right hon. Gentleman announced his intention to send a Commonwealth Mission to study the situation. But this never got off the ground. Mackawee turned it down fiat and threatened to arrest the members of the mission if they set foot in Aden. The Colonial Secretary then rushed out to Aden himself to try to sort things out. All that he could achieve was the setting up of a working party to draw up an agenda for a conference. But the working party failed to agree on anything, since Mackawee and Al Asnag would discuss nothing except the release of the detainees.
From then on, terrorism began to be organised from Cairo as a military operation. One by one, members of the intelligence branch, upon whom the British authorities were wholly dependent for information, were assassinated. Soon, our security forces were left groping in the dark. Although the Federal Government had extensive contacts among the Arab population, which would have been invaluable, they were still not allowed to play any major part in the work of restoring order.
The Government then decided to send the Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson), to Cairo to beseech Nasser not to be beastly to the British. By an act of supreme ineptitude, the Government chose this very moment, when the right hon. Gentleman was in Cairo, to suspend the Aden Constitution and to dismiss Mackawee, who was Nasser's protégé. Nasser reacted, as might have been expected, by refusing to see the right hon. Gentleman, who had to fly back to London humiliated.
The provocative decision to suspend the Constitution and introduce direct Governor's rule could have been justified only as a perelude to strong action to suppress terrorism. But the British authorities neither acted with firmness themselves nor allowed the Federal Government to do so. As a result, the internal situation in Aden went from bad to worse.
The Government's next and most serious blunder was the announcement in February, 1966, in the Defence White Paper, of their intention to abandon the base in Aden and to withdraw protection after independence. Apart from being a flagrant breach of a solemn undertaking, it played right into the hands of Nasser, who took the credit for driving the British out.
If the Government thought that the announcement of this withdrawal would take the heat out of the internal situation, they were very sadly mistaken. The terrorists responded to this sign of weakness by stepping up their campaign of murder. As law and order disintegrated, the Foreign Secretary—who by then had taken over responsibility for Aden—looked around frantically for someone to pull his chestnuts out of the fire. He started writing letters to his friend Nasser. When this got him nowhere, he revived the proposal for a United Nations mission. As we warned him it would, the U.N. mission, like the Commonwealth mission before it, was a complete fiasco. Both F.L.O.S.Y. and the N.L.F. boycotted the mission and the mission, in turn, refused to talk to the Federal Government. As a result, the mission met nobody.
Having by then exhausted all other possibilities, the right hon. Gentleman at long last decided to turn to the Federal Government, whom he had hitherto despised and cold-shouldered. He sent the Minister of State to confer with the Federal Ministers in Aden, and then invited them to come and see him in London. In a speech last June, which we all remember, the Foreign Secretary virtually announced the reversal of his previous policy. He accepted the Federal Government's constitutional proposals, which he had previously ignored: he agreed to the suspension of trial by jury, for which I had long been pressing; and he even announced that, contrary to his previous declarations, British forces would be maintained in the area to protect the Federation after independence.
Although very belated, the right hon. Gentleman's dramatic change of policy might still have saved the situation, if only he had pursued his new course with consistency. The urgent task was to restore the prestige of the Federal Government and the morale of the Federal Army, which he had done so much to undermine. There was only one way to achieve this. That was to allow them at last to launch an all-out drive to suppress terrorism, using whatever force was necessary to restore order. Given a free hand, I have no doubt that they would have been able to do it.
Instead, the right hon. Gentleman chose this moment to lift the ban on the N.L.F. He thus undid with one hand what he had done with the other. By legalising terrorism he broke what was left of the spirit of the Federal Army and encouraged open rebellion. Within a few days the flags of the N.L.F. were flying from the house tops and the British forces were driven out of a large part of Aden.
Finally, the right hon. Gentleman's nerve broke. He hoisted the white flag. As he told us today, he authorised the British High Commissioner to mouth—there is no other word for it—the formula dictated to him by the terrorists. He had to declare over the radio that he recognised this band of gangsters and assassins as the true representatives of the people. Representatives of the people indeed! Their sole claim to recognition rests upon murder and intimidation. But even this act of abject surrender did not achieve peace. British soldiers and civilians continued to be killed in the streets of Aden, as before.
Answering Questions only a few months ago, the Prime Minister scoffed at the idea of capitulating to terrorism. His words were cheered in the House, but today they have rather a hollow ring. "Capitulation to terrorism"—does not exactly describe the outcome of the Government's disastrous mishandling of this whole problem? That is the shameful end of this melancholy story of betrayal and vacillation.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the difficulty was that the more support the Government gave to the Federal Government, the more the Federal Government appeared as a puppet and lost local support? Is it not quite clear, looking back on the situation, that the Federal Government, which he established, never really had a hope of gaining sufficient public support? Is it not, therefore, rather presumptuous of the right hon. Gentleman now to lecture the House on this subject?
Not at all. The Federal Government was the only possible Government on whom a future stable administration in South Arabia could have been based. Of course, we all wanted their composition broadened, and we were in the process of doing it. In the last debate, in June, I urged Her Majesty's Government to try to introduce some leading personalities from the Federal Army into the Federal Government, because I felt that the Federal Army held a key position in this situation. It was never any good running after people who were controlled by Cairo. That is what the present Government did from the start, and the result was disastrous. [An HON. MEMBER: "What would you do now?"] The hon. Member may ask what I would do now. It is rather like somebody taking a glass bowl, dashing it on a stone floor and then saying, "What would you do about it?" If I had continued to be responsible, this situation would never have come about. [HON. MEMBERS: "You have done enough."] I will not shirk the issue.
It is no good pretending that we can any longer exercise any effective influence on the course of events in South Arabia. But if we can take that little positive action let us at least not mortgage the future. I consider that, for the time being, the Government should refrain from entering into any commitments of any kind, economic or military; and this seems also to be the view of the Foreign Secretary, judging from his speech today. Above all, there should be no question of using British forces to bolster up any gang of thugs who may call themselves a Government. I therefore welcome the cancellation of the previous defence undertakings.
I was, however, far from satisfied with the assurances of the Foreign Secretary about the measures to protect the British civilians who will remain behind. I will not press him now. But, since time is short and these people are living in great anxiety, I hope he will find it possible to make a much fuller statement next week. Now that all Britain's physical power and moral influence in the Middle East have been thrown away, there is really no purpose in our delaying our departure. Having reached the point of no return, the Government may as well complete their ignominous scuttle.
Within the next few weeks the last British soldier will leave Aden, and South Arabia will be abandoned to anarchy and civil war. Blood and chaos—that is the legacy which Britain is bequeathing to that unhappy land. Whatever the consequences, and they are quite incalculable, the responsibility will rest fairly and squarely on the shoulders of this disastrous Government.
With apologies to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), I am afraid that I must turn from Aden to Western Europe. This is the first speech I have ever made in this House on the European Common Market, and in many ways I hope that it may be the last. I share this with the right hon. Gentleman, that I propose to say what I think the Government should do now in this situation, and what it should not do.
Since the House last debated this issue two major changes have occurred in the scene. First, the E.E.C. Commission has produced its massive report arguing that the United Kingdom economy is not now capable of assuming what the Commission itself calls the "additional burdens" of entering the E.E.C. on the terms which it proposes. Secondly, we have had M. Couve de Murville's speech demanding that this country should, before entry, accept wholesale the common agricultural policy, the common external tariff and the rest of the Rome Treaty, and should, in addition, revolutionise sterling in some so far unspecified fashion.
As to the Commission's report, it is. unfortunately, true and undeniable that the United Kingdom balance of payments is not at this moment capable of taking on enormous new burdens, and is not likely to be able to do so in any near future. As to M. Couve de Murville's conditions, they are, in my view, manifestly and totally unacceptable to this country, and I could wish that the Government had already said so plainly. Nevertheless, I believe that there is a positive solution now open to us which would be beneficial, and not burdensome, to this country, and which would avoid all harm to the Commonwealth, to E.F.T.A. and to the outside world. To see this clearly, however, we want to analyse the real problem, and I wish that more time could have been spent on this in the last year than on some of the long discussions we have had on short-term tactics.
The key to the real problem is to realise that the United Kingdom's greatest single necessity is the restoration of our balance of payments to strength—and here I think that I would carry the leader of the Liberal Party with me, judging by what he has said this afternoon. In the light of that—and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman agrees here, too—it is at once plain that the common agricultural policy and dear food régime of the E.E.C. must be so damaging as to be quite insupportable to the United Kingdom. For the E.E.C. Six, of course, who have practised high agricultural protection for the last hundred years, to continue this régime is no more damaging than it was before. But for us, who abandoned it 120 years ago, to accept it now would be economically ruinous.
I am glad that on this matter there is a measure of unanimity between the two Front Benches, and particularly between the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Speaking in a debate in this chamber on 12th February, 1959, the right hon. Member for Barnet said:
It would be wrong for us and for the whole free world for us to adopt a policy of new duties on foodstuffs and raw materials, many of which come from under-developed countries, at present entering a major market"—
that is us:
duty free."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th February, 1959; Vol. 599, c. 1381.]
Those very wise words from the right hon. Gentleman actually converted me at the time to the views I have held on this issue ever since, and the much more intensive study I have given it thereafter has persuaded me again and again that he was right.
It may be said that 1959 was a long time ago. But the Prime Minister reaffirmed the same truth even more forcefully and eloquently in a speech at Bristol
as recently as 18th March, 1966, at the time of the last General Election. Explaining what he thought the conditions for entering the E.E.C. were to which the Labour Party and the Government were pledged in their election manifesto, the Prime Minister said:
We will negotiate our way into the Common Market, head held high, not crawl in. And we shall go in if the conditions are right. And those conditions require that we must be free to go on buying food and raw materials, as we have for a hundred years, in the cheapest markets—in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other Commonwealth countries"—
and I still quote him here:
and not have this trade wrecked by the levies the Tories are so keen to impose. For what the Tories propose"—
and by this he meant the levies:
would mean, first, an unacceptable increase in the cost of living, and hence in wages and export costs; secondly, an unacceptable increase in our imports bill, which would wreck any hope of paying our way, and, thirdly, a total disruption of our trade with Commonwealth countries.
I agree wholeheartedly with both right hon. Gentlemen. I regard the latter statement as an election pledge, and I want to elucidate it a bit further this afternoon.
The first effect of saddling the United Kingdom with the E.E.C. high agricultural protectionist policy and the food levies would be to force our living costs indefinitely thereafter to a level higher than would otherwise have prevailed. Both our own Government and the E.E.C. Commission now estimate the additional burden on our cost of living at around 3 per cent. Though I personally think it an underestimate, let us accept it as the minimum for the purpose of calculating the effect on our balance of payments.
The next effect would be the payment back by this country across the exchanges of most of the proceeds of the levies to the E.E.C. and, in effect, very largely to France. The Commission's new report, most strikingly, insists that there can be no concession on the principle that 90 per cent. of the levy proceeds must be paid hack across the exchanges to the Community. According to our own Government's estimate—this is not in dispute—we start, therefore, with a new burden on the balance of payments resulting from higher food import prices and these levy payments alone of rather over £200 million a year.
The next effect on our economy would be the rise in money wage rates, also predicted in the Prime Minister's speech, and, therefore, in our export costs. The C.B.I., which has produced a report on this which is often quoted, interestingly enough assumes that we could push up living costs in this country without pushing up wage rates at all. That may conceivably be what some of those in the C.B.I. want; but, of course, it is not remotely realistic. If the cost of living went up and wage rates did not, as the C.B.I. assumes, the net effect of entering the E.E.C.—which some people used to hold out as a great economic prize for this country—would be to leave the real standard of living of the mass of our population lower than it otherwise would have been; which is a curious effect for a major economic policy.
But that is not what would happen. All experience shows—and, indeed, all incomes policy assumes—that if we force up living costs we will force up wage rates and manufacturing costs in sterling at the same time. My estimate, having studied the other expert forecasts made in the past year, is that a 3 per cent. extra burden on the cost of living would mean an extra burden on export costs and export prices at the very least of somewhere between 1 per cent. and 2 per cent. That in turn of course would damage our exports in all markets all over the world.
The next stage in the process, if we accepted the common agricultural policy, would be loss of present preferences for our exports throughout the Commonwealth and to a less extent in E.F.T.A. at the same time. Efforts have been made to pretend that this would not matter very much; but that is wholly a misconception based largely on ignorance or disregard of the figures. Our exports to the Commonwealth and E.F.T.A. together are more than double our exports to the E.E.C. The countries in the Commonwealth which matter from the point of view of British exports are not the smaller countries where our preferences are pretty minor anyway, but the four great preference markets of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, which, although she is not in the Commonwealth, is still in the preference area. Australia is of course one of the great expanding markets of the world and is likely to remain so.
To these four markets now we export £900 million a year, rising from year to year, and some 50 per cent. of this enters those great markets entirely duty-free and over 50 per cent. under some preference. There is no reason to think, as the Kennedy Round showed, that if we maintain our free entry here for those countries' primary products, they will seriously modify our reciprocal privileges. But, if we place reverse preferences on their goods it is inevitable that they would withdraw the bulk, if not the whole, of their privileges in their markets. We have to take this into the balance. We would also lose the preference in E.F.T.A. we have now over the exports of the Six; and in those E.F.T.A. countries which did not join the group, we would lose the right of free entry altogether.
The next effect of higher living costs and manufacturing costs in the United Kingdom would be a further rise in manufacturing imports here, inevitably caused by the fact that our costs of living and production costs, relative to our competitors, and therefore our prices, would have risen not merely overseas, but in our own home market at the same time.
The final item of the balance of payments calculation is the extra burden on capital account, which we would be bound to suffer due to the total dismantling of exchange control even on outflow of capital by British residents, which is laid down categorically in the Rome Treaty. Decontrol of exchange control of this kind has not been operated in this country since September, 1939; and the really dangerous result would be not simply capital outflow for either portfolio or direct investment overseas, but flights of speculative and refugee capital by United Kingdom residents. In a year when balance of payments or sterling was weak—and no informed person could say there will never be such a year—such total decontrol might cost many hundreds of millions across the exchanges.
The total net burden on our balance of payments can be calculated within some margin of error, and has been by many experts and statisticians in the past year. The first two items, higher food prices and levy payments, are officially put at a middle figure of rather over £200 million. If we take the official estimate of a 3 per cent. rise in the cost of living and the resulting effects I have mentioned on export costs and preferences, there would be a further net loss of about £200 million in exports to the world outside the E.E.C. and a further addition to our imports probably of about £100 million. In our trade exchanges with the E.E.C. their imports to us would be bound to rise by more than our exports to them. These estimates are in fact very moderate. I have estimated the total loss in exports to the whole Commonwealth at about £100 million, whereas the Australian Government estimates that to Australia alone the loss would be near to £100 million.
If we take these figures together, the minimum estimate of the net loss to our current balance of payments must be at least £500 million a year. To that must be added the extra capital outflow, which I think very few experts would put at less than an average of £100 million a year and in years of weakness very much greater. The lowest estimate, therefore, that can be made of the common agricultural policy and the dismantling of exchange control together would be an extra £600 million a year on the United Kingdom balance of payments. As most of these estimates are minima, and, frankly, almost all our balance of payments forecasts since the war have tended to be too optimistic rather than pessimistic, my belief is that it would be more likely to be £1,000 million than £600 million.
For the United Kingdom, after the experience of the last 20 years, to take on an extra burden of even £600 million gratuitously, when we need not do so, is an act so frivolous as to be well nigh irresponsible. As a serious economic policy it is out of the question. For, of course, this is not a short-term burden. It would handicap and weaken us indefinitely as a nation, for as long as the common agricultural policy remained in force. Nor would it in the least be alleviated by the device of a so-called "transition" to this state of affairs. After the transition the burden would be as great as if there had been no transition. A transition to something better may be comforting, but a transition to something less good is not so comforting.
The teal result of such an "adventure" as this—if I may use Lord Chalfont's favourite word—would be even more damaging. For not merely should we force ourselves deeper and deeper into deficit through the higher import prices and higher export costs, but the Rome Treaty would then deprive us of the two main defences which have enabled us at least to survive, if not exactly to overcome, the balance of payments crises of the last 15 or 20 years.
Under both the G.A.T.T. and E.F.T.A. Stockholm Treaties we have entire liberty to maintain exchange control as we wish for U.K. residents, as we have had since 1939, and to impose import quotas when our reserves are threatened. Under the Rome Treaty we cannot do either of these vital things without the leave of the Commission. I should have thought that no one with even a nodding acquaintance with the last 20 years of economic history of this country could seriously think that, in these circumstances, with a huge extra burden on balance of payments, we could long escape becoming a suppliant nation, asking for financial help from lenders who could impose what conditions they like, and would be likely to be a great deal less friendly to us than those from whom we have been borrowing from time to time in the last 15 years. Hon. Members, whatever their views have been up till now, should seriously and impartially consider into how extreme a position of political weakness this process would thrust Britain.
Another effect which we should not overlook of total decontrol of the exchanges, even on British residents, would be, in my view, greatly to undermine our present distribution of industry policy and the success of our efforts for bringing new industry into the development areas. If a firm now asks the Board of Trade for an industrial development certificate in the Midlands or the South-East and is told that it can have one only in a development area, which has been the policy of this Government, the firm cannot reply that in that case it will build its factory across the Channel, because our exchange control effectively prevents it from transferring its capital from out of its country.
I am sorry to have to interrupt my right hon. Friend. I hope that he will not think I am being offensive by putting this question to him. If he felt so strongly about this matter at the time that this Government applied to join the Community, why did he remain in the Government? Surely the important thing was to come out and express his opinion at that time?
That is not offensive at all. The reason was that the Prime Minister and other Government spokesmen gave the assurances they did last summer, one of which I shall quote later in my speech, if I have time. I was in the middle of saying that, if the sanction of exchange control is removed, any firm can say to the Government, "If you do not give us an I.D.C. in the South-East of England or the Midlands, we will transfer", as I think many of them would, "to Belgium or to Holland". I have little doubt that that would seriously undermine the greater part of our development area policy. Our development area policy in fact depends far more on the I.D.C. control than it does on the grants and payments of money which the Government make.
We should remember that, although we are told sometimes that there are what are piously called "regional policies" in the member countries of the Six, none of them has any I.D.C. system. This is very largely why, even in the case of Southern Italy, their efforts have not been nearly as successful as ours.
The full provisions of the Treaty of Rome would be a serious threat to Britain's coalmining areas. Not merely would our development area policy be undermined in this fashion. But, in addition—it is interesting to note that the E.E.C. Commission's new Report makes this point—we would not be able to shut out E.E.C. coal imports into Britain any longer.
Faced with this threat of a huge new burden on our balance of payments, some people still try to argue that it would not be as heavy as I have estimated. The main reason such people advance is that the present gap between food prices in the E.E.C. and food prices in the outside world may well be narrowed, if a rise occurs in world food prices. Unfortunately for that argument, during the last two years during which it has been repeatedly advanced, food prices in the world have been tending to fall, and it is anybody's guess how they will move over the years ahead. Even if world food prices rose, however, the odds are overwhelming that farm prices in the E.E.C. would also rise. At present, the E.E.C. Commission is proposing higher food prices, and the French farmers are angrily demanding that they should be raised more steeply still. To base our national policy on a forecast of this gap narrowing would be a somewhat reckless gamble.
In view of the very considerable disparity between the figures which the Government gave at the time they asked the House to approve the policy of Britain's applying to enter the Common Market and the figures the right hon. Gentleman has given today, may I ask him whether the figures he has given today were available to the Government at that time; and, if they were, what were the arguments which they used to refute the right hon. Gentleman's figures?
The figures I am using today are the official figures which the Government, so far as they have given any figures at all, have given to the House. I personally think that they are somewhat under-estimates, but, for the purposes of the argument, I am accepting them today, adding a few of my own. I am, however, in no way questioning the figures the Government advanced.
Again, it is said by some that, if we do not join the E.E.C., E.F.T.A. will break up and Commonwealth trade will decline. I believe that there is no truth in these oft-repeated myths either. Of the E.F.T.A. countries, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland and Portugal are deeply anxious to preserve and strengthen E.F.T.A. Norway and Denmark will certainly remain members if we and those other countries do. Austria, which wants to join the E.E.C., has been trying for five years, wholly unsuccessfully, to do so. E.F.T.A. will certainly keep going if we have the sense to preserve it, and it is vital to us that it should be preserved.
As to the Commonwealth, there is no reason to believe that the really important preferences would be lost if we show that we value them and maintain the reciprocal preferences in return. Nor, indeed, is the oft-repeated story of declining Commonwealth trade anything but a gross distortion of the facts. Our exports to the Commonwealth are 80 per cent. higher today in volume than they were in 1938 and our imports are nearly 80 per cent. higher. All that has happened to the percentage of our trade with the Commonwealth is that the share of our total trade which we do with the Commonwealth increased, for fairly obvious reasons, from 1938 to about 1950 and since then, as wartime conditions have wore off, and as great nations like Japan, Russia and the United States have increased their economic weight in the world, the percentages have returned nearer to where they were before.
In any case, if it really were true that our trade with the Commonwealth or with any other part of the world were declining, that would surely be a reason for building it up and not letting it dwindle further. Indeed, at the moment the main factor losing us markets in the Commonwealth, particularly in Australia and New Zealand, is constant and unsuccessful efforts by Britain to join the E.E.C.
It is also argued that all the extra burden on our balance of payments that I have described would be offset by alleged economies of scale derived from a supposed "larger market" and greater technical co-operation. This argument rests on a plain misconception. What determines the economies of scale for a firm is its total sales everywhere in the world, not just its sales in one area. As I have already said, if we were to adopt the common agricultural policy, with all its consequences, our total exports would be lower in total, and our imports would be higher than they otherwise would have been. Therefore, the market would in fact be narrowed and not widened.
As to technical co-operation, there are a few industries, like aircraft and missile production, which benefit from very large-scale manufacture. But those industries do not depend for their orders on tariffs. They depend on co-operation between Governments, as the story of the Concord, the European airbus, and other such enterprises have shown. Signing the Rome Treaty and raising our cost of living would make virtually no difference to technical co-operation of this kind, as is interestingly shown by the fact that there is almost no technical co-operation between the existing members of the Six, eight or nine years after the Treaty of Rome started operating.
Therefore, if the whole argument is taken seriously, the alleged more distant economic benefits which are somehow to offset this certain and lasting additional burden to the balance of payments turn out, on examination, to be illusory or almost totally non-existent.
We are then told that there are political wins which would somehow make up for these economic losses. It is still very far from clear what these huge political gains are which would justify so enormous a cost. I am not much impressed by the sweeping and rather cloudy assertion that as a nation we must become a member of some super-bloc if we are to survive. I would have thought that Canada, Sweden or even Switzerland had at least as much influence in the world as Pennsylvania or the Ukraine. However, I do not press the point. One could argue it for a very long time without coming to any very clear conclusion.
There are, however, at least three plain facts in the political prospect which seem to emerge from what is otherwise a cloud of uncertainty. The first is—and here I follow the Leader of the Liberal Party this afternoon—that we should grievously weaken ourselves politically if our balance of payments become so adverse, and our economic defences so disarmed, that we become chronic suppliants for financial help from other countries.
The second is—and I ask hon. Members to reflect on this—that for inexorable reasons of population, if we become a purely European power, we are bound to he second to Germany in strength and influence. If anyone argues that we can only resist this by joining a tightly-knit West European unit, I am afraid the answer is that in hard economic and military reality we can only maintain our influence as against Germany in the future, as in the past, by preserving our links with our real and tried friends in other continents.
Thirdly, in the political balance, one cannot avert one's eyes from the fact that the E.E.C. Commission's present power of legislating for the internal affairs of member countries, in some cases without even the approval of the Council of Ministers—because that is the constitution—in certain social and economic spheres is contrary, not merely to democratic principle, but to the whole Parliamentary tradition of this country. That, although it is not my main point this afternoon, does not seem to me to be something which can be taken lightly.
This is not just a known and explicit limitation of sovereignty such as this House accepts from time to time when it ratifies an international treaty. It would be a wholly unprecedented decision by this Parliament to hand over to an outside undemocratic body the power to legislate in the future for our internal affairs in ways not now known. I do not believe that in principle we here have any right to do this unless and until the issue has been plainly put to the electorate and they have been given a chance to give an answer.
For all these reasons, I believe that we should aim at a different solution, which is, in fact, now more likely to be open to us than full membership, and which would avoid the crippling burden of the common agricultural policy, the loss of our ability to protect the £, the undemocratic powers of the Commission and the damage to the outside world. This would be for us to work towards an association between E.F.T.A. members and the E.E.C., on the basis of industrial free trade for the whole wider group within the common external tariff, but a free choice for each country, whether or not in addition to accept the common agriculture policy, together with membership of and control by the E.E.C.'s ruling bodies. Technically and economically that is a perfectly workable arrangement, and I hope that those who do not like it will not just summarily denounce it as second-class citizenship or some easy slogan of that kind.
Yes, I am coming to that.
This would mean essentially that there would be an inner group accepting the common agricultural policy and the whole Rome Treaty mechanism, and an outer group accepting the industrial external tariff only, with each country free to choose which group it wished to belong to.
For Britain, who would clearly in those circumstances join the outer group, this would involve placing the common external tariff on manufactured goods imported here from the Commonwealth, but these are, of course, relatively unimportant, and I think there is no sense—here I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree—in the largely one-sided free trade in manufactured goods which we now practise with developed countries such as Canada and Australia in particular.
It would, however, leave us entitled to import our food and raw materials duty free, and so avoid all the damaging consequences to our balance of payments which I have described. In return, we and other members of the outer group would obviously not be able to export food products to the inner group except over the levies and other barriers which they maintain. We would not for a time, at any rate, claim voting rights in, or accept the authority of, the E.E.C. ruling bodies.
That solution would avoid the whole damage to the United Kingdom, to E.F.T.A., to the Commonwealth and to developing countries involved in the full C.A.P. and Rome Treaty paraphernalia. It would also end the main economic split in Europe, and be far more liberal and outward looking than the present E.E.C. It would leave the option open for wider association by countries like Poland and Yugoslavia, and conceivably possibly for a still wider Atlantic free trade area. In the sphere of realities rather than the myths and slogans that we have heard, it would offer every advantage and no disadvantage.
What is there against it? Here I come to the right hon. Gentleman's point. We have repeatedly been told that the French would never accept it, or anything like it, in practice. The irony of the situation is that, on all the evidence, this is something very like what the French are now proposing. I am not speaking of the right hon. Gentleman—that would not be courteous—but there are some doctrinaires in this country who have got themselves into a position of arguing that we must not accept what is the best solution for Britain, on the ground that the French will not have it, when in fact the French are urging something very like it upon us.
It would be certainly overwhelmingly worth our while to avoid all the damage involved in the common agricultural policy, at the cost of renouncing the rather dubious privilege for some time ahead of voting among a number of others in the Council of Ministers of the E.E.C. General de Gaulle, on his side, may very well on the evidence of his recent statement—he usually goes on saying the same thing—be willing to grant us the economic concessions vital to us, if he can avoid a number of new nations threatening to outvote him inside the Community. It seems to me that there is at least the plain opportunity here for a bargain which is, at any rate, very well worth exploring and which would bring immense relief to E.F.T.A. and the Commonwealth and would avoid another damaging head-on political clash with France. Surely we would be wiser to explore the possibilities of this rather than to continue on our present collision course.
To keep repeating that we will not take "No" for an answer is not a policy. If the right hon. Gentleman at the next General Election were to find himself at the bottom of the poll and went to the returning officer and said "I am not taking 'No' for an answer "that would not be an act of statesmanship. He would merely be making himself ridiculous, and that applies to all of us.
What is the real prospect this autumn and winter if the Government go on banging their heads against the wall? To demand negotiations, from a position of obvious economic weakness, with a nation which does not want to negotiate, and which will at the very best insist on highly injurious as well as humiliating terms, does not seem a very sensible course. Yet at the moment, for the sake of this strange objective, we are paralysed in our internal economic policies. We dare not reflate at home. We dare not even think of import quotas, which would enable our economy to expand. We are thus in danger, so it seems to me, of slipping into the worst situation of all—a paralysis of policy in which we hardly dare take any initiative for fear of imperilling negotiations which may wry likely not take place at all. Yet what we ought to be doing now is giving first priority this year and next to the rebuilding of our own economy and the resumption of growth and full employment. so that we may negotiate from strength thereafter.
The Prime Minister said in the House last November, and repeated on 8th May this year—I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) has left, but I am about to quote one of the Prime Minister's statements which I have always supported and supported during the summer—
… we should not seek to enter upon negotiations except on the basis of a strong balance of payments and a strong £".—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 8th May, 1967; Vol. 746, c. 1077.]
I wholly supported it then, and I wholly support it today.
I have heard a very large part of my right hon. Friend's speech. I was about to say to him that, if he will refer to the passage in the Prime Minister's speech from which he is now quoting, he will find that my right hon. Friend was referring back to a speech which he had made earlier in which he made quite clear that, as I said today, entry would be on that basis, but that does not preclude negotiations starting earlier.
Anyone can look it up in HANSARD for himself. I do not want to argue about words, but what the Prime Minister said, in November which he repeated in May, was that
we should not seek to enter upon negotiations except on the basis of a strong balance of payments and a strong £.
Anyone can look it up in HANSARD for himself.
In my view, the Government should now ascertain whether the French and the Five are willing to negotiate for the sort of settlement I have described. If by, say, the end of this year, that has not proved possible, we should, in my view, then withdraw our application, and concentrate all our efforts on restoring our own economic strength, and taking full advantage of E.F.T.A. and all the other outlets increasingly open to us in the Commonwealth and, still further, by the Kennedy Round cuts which are now coming into effect.
To those who still refuse summarily to consider any solution other than conventional and full membership of the E.E.C., I say, "For heaven's sake, conceive of the possibility that you may be mistaken".
I deem it a privilege to follow the thoughtful and penetrating speech just made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay). I am not sure that it is wholly appropriate for me to tender to him the formal congratulations of the House on his "maiden" speech from the back benches, but this I do say with great sincerity: the right hon. Gentleman has been known in the House for many years as a man of integrity, judgment and experience, and that is the sort of Minister whom no Government can lightly afford to lose—this Government, I venture to say, a good less easily than most.
I shall confine what I have to say to the single topic of the present position in regard to Europe. I say that, albeit the Foreign Secretary's speech provoked several other thoughts in my mind. He apologised for the length of it. It would have been more appropriate if he had apologised for the lack of clarity of certain passages which seemed to me to cry out for clarification by particularisation and interrogation. I have had much ado in resisting the temptation which my forensic nature moved me to indulge, but I shall resist it because it is right that backbench contributions should be limited to one subject.
I shall limit my speech further in this way. I do not propose to go into the pros and cons of British adherence to the E.E.C., which were fully canvassed in the debate last May. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea, North has made a massive and formidable onslaught on the case for entry, making it with all the triple authority of a former President of the Board of Trade, a Fellow of All Souls, and the father of the economics editor of The Times Business News.
For myself, I start from the position that we debated the question in May, when I was privileged to take part. The House came to a decision. The Prime Minister has spoken of the large Parliamentary majority which the Government then secured. I respectfully doubt that in this particular case the size of the Parliamentary majority accurately reflected opinion in the country outside, but I am a good enough constitutionalist, I hope, to accept the decision which was then taken. For what I have to say now, I could be content even to assume that the decision was wisely taken in the context of those times, though I do not myself hold that view.
It was a decision only to apply, that is to say, to seek to enter into negotiations with a view to entry. There is nothing irrevocable until membership is achieved, if it be achieved. At that stage, as we know, it becomes irrevocable under Article 240 of the Treaty of Rome. The die is then cast, and it would be foolish as well as useless to repine if that time comes, as it would be a breach of faith to try to undo the work which would then have been done. If those circumstances should arise, it would then be the duty of us all, whatever our views have been in the past, to work for the success of British membership, and there would be a great deal of work to do, one can readily imagine, with like-minded people in Europe, in seeking to soften the supranational rigidities of the Common Market and to introduce more democratic procedures into it.
But that is not a position at which we have yet arrived, and we may never arrive at it. The House still retains its sovereignty in respect of the affairs of this nation. There is, therefore, a particular and peremptory duty lying upon us now to undertake a vigilant scrutiny to ensure that there is no drift to a position of hurt and humiliation for this country.
When the decision was taken in May, it was taken in the faith of the Government's representations as to the likely time table of events. Things, we understood, were to move speedily to the desired end. There was talk of negotiations starting by July and the position being clarified by Christmas. The Foreign Secretary—he has again left the Chamber—said,
We aim to join the E.E.C. without delay
and the Prime Minister's watchwords at that time, the House will recall, were, "Pace and momentum".
I reminded him then that pace and momentum also characterised the action and dictated the fate of the Gadarene swine. In all fairness I should now withdraw that comparison. There is certainly nothing Gadarene about the pace at which the Government have pursued their objectives. It is more like that of the tortoise or the snail, or perhaps even that flatters the rate of progress and it is more like Alice in Wonderland, running hard to stay in exactly the same place.
There would be no complaint if the necessary negotiations on these great issues took time, provided that they were promptly started and were real negotiations with a thorough examination of all the problems between equals, conducted on a basis of give and take. But this is not the position. There has been no start to the negotiations six months after this country's formal application. There may never be a start to negotiations and even if there is they may only be a series of unilateral retreats and concessions by the British Government.
The present position is humiliating for Britain. It is a position that was not within Parliament's contemplation when the decision was taken in May. It is humiliating for Britain to have to appear in the rôle of a suppliant standing at the outer gates petitioning for leave to enter and awaiting the pleasure of those within. It is doubly humiliating because the objections, objections to entering into negotiation let alone to admission, seem to derive not only, or not so much, from what we; might do or say in negotiations, but from the basic facts of the British position and policies.
After all, even General de Gaulle can hardly object to entering into negotiations on this matter for fear of the concessions that the British Government might extract by tenacious and skilful bargaining. Of course not, because they are not trying to get any concessions. I understand that they are not attaching any conditions. When Mr. Macmillan made his application to enter in 1961 right hon. Gentlemen opposite said that the conditions he attached were insufficient, and so they drew up the Gaistkell conditions. Now those have been abandoned. Right hon. Members opposite say that time has overtaken them. Is it time that has overtaken them, or is it not rather time-serving, a desire by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, whatever the cost to the country, to seek to secure what they can present as a tactical triumph and be able to say that they have, succeeded where Mr. Macmillan failed? Now they have abandoned all conditions—the Gaitskell conditions and all others. I understand that they are now prepared to swallow the whole bitter draught without a qualm.
I am following the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech with interest. I know that he would want to be fair, but to be fair he must also put the appropriate blame on his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who has all the time harried the Government, demanding that the Gaitskell conditions should be abandoned.
My right hon. Friend attached three conditions in 1961, which at least was three better than right hon. Members opposite are now doing, because they are prepared to swallow the whole bitter draught without a qualm. They are prepared to impose reverse preferences on our friends of E.F.T.A. and the Commonwealth—
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to reach the next semi-colon.
They are prepared to dismantle the whole of our agricultural machinery, to extract vast sums from the consumers here to subsidise the less efficient farmers of Europe —
The right hon. Gentleman made a point about agriculture. Is he not aware that he is a member of a party which supports dropping the whole of the present agricultural system, whether we go in or not?
That is a matter which I view with less enthusiasm than most of the wise principles advocated from these benches.
All these things the Government are now prepared to do and all these concessions they are prepared to make, but still it is not enough. The door even to negotiation remains firmly shut so far, and the House might well ask what further concessions the most exigent bargainer could demand and what further concessions even the most pliant petitioner could concede.
I think that the answer is that it now appears to be not enough for Britain to accept what the Treaty of Rome expressly provides. There must be further sacrifices, further concessions, not even as the price of certain entry, but as the price of being admitted to the negotiations. Devaluation and the abandonment of sterling are the sort of additional requirements which are now spoken of, beyond the heavy forfeits of the Treaty. Sterling is not to be abandoned suddenly, the Foreign Secreary said this afternoon. By implication, something less than suddenly it is to be abandoned.
The House is entitled to know where the Government stand on all these further concessions. Do they stand at all, or is it right, as has been unflatteringly suggested, that they have a different posture—on their knees? They are as profligate of concessions as the 18th century gamblers were of their patrimony. Their attitude to concessions is, "You name it, we give it". To what avail? It is humiliating to have to offer a large price, but it is still more humiliating to offer it and nevertheless be refused.
We all recall the Prime Minister's famous reference to the spaniel rolling on his back for the favours of General de Gaulle. But the Prime Minister's position is not even that of a spaniel receiving the customary and requited affection. His attitude in this matter will ensure him in the verdict of history the uphappy description of the spurned spaniel.
There is no proof that even all the concessions will procure entry. At the end of it all we can apparently still be told, having made all the concessions, abandoned all conditions and put the country in this humiliating position, "You are not the sort of members we want in our club". In that case the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary will be in the unhappy position of the millionaire who spent his fortune curing himself of halitosis only to discover that his friends did not like him anyway.
There is a growing and widespread feeling in the country that Britain has been put, or is being put, into a position incompatible with her dignity and interests. There is a widespread feeling of humiliation and frustration, and it is by no means confined to those who have either opposed or had doubts about our application to join the E.E.C. in the past. It is a widespread, growing and natural feeling and one that a proud people will not bear indefinitely. They will expect action of the Government and expect it speedily, beginning with action to cure her economic weaknesses.
We are tired of being thought of and referred to as the sick man of Europe in economic terms, of having the finger of scorn pointed at our balance of payments difficulties. It is essential, whether this country is inside the Community or with- out, that action be taken to put us on a firm base of economic strength, because in the modern world there is no political influence without economic strength.
Secondly, we should take action to strengthen our association with countries outside the Six so as to have constructive alternative arrangements. I stress "constructive" because I have not in mind at all the sort of action to which Lord Chalfont was said to be referring. I would not counsel or condone any action taken in a spirit of pique or petulance against our European, friends or in a spirit of revenge if they do not allow us in.
On the contrary, I believe that this country should persevere with arrangements honourably entered into in the national interest. I think that that is the right approach, and I believe that it justifies the claim I made in the House on 10th May to be as good a European as the applicants for entry. It turns out, I think, that I am probably rather a better European than some of them.
The action that I have in mind is the exploration of the possibilities of extending, on the basis of retained sovereignty, the scope of our association with E.F.T.A. and the Atlantic and Commonwealth countries. There has been considerable interest and support for this sort of exploration. I want to refer to two aspects.
The Canadian-American Committee, non-governmental but a very influential and important body, recommended:
That as a first step the Governments of the United States and Canada initiate discussions with the United Kingdom and its partners in E.F.T.A. to explore their interest in establishing under G.A.T.T. rules, a broad free trade association of developed nations, recognising that special consideration must be given to less developed countries.
Sir Robert Menzies, in a speech referred to already by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), said:
If, as appears to be the case, the consideration of the British application is indefinitely postponed, what is the most important task for the future? It seems to me that, in the period ahead, serious consultations should be put in hand by Britain, the developed countries of the Commonwealth, and the United States, to determine whether special economic arrangements cannot be established.
It is not, I believe, right to consider that we have a stark alternative between complete and unconditional absorption into the Community, on the one hand, and isolationism, on the other.
There is one further consideration, and that is in regard to the time factor. Time is eminently not on our side in this matter. It very seldom is. The chances of making appropriate arrangements elsewhere will diminish with every day abortively spent awaiting the pleasure of the Six. We cannot, if we are realistic, expect the world to stand still to please us. We cannot expect other countries to keep the options indefinitely open and to gear their pace to ours. Therefore, it is not only humiliating to be kept waiting in the outer courtyards of the Community. Because it prejudices the chances of fruitful association elsewhere, it is also damaging to the national interest.
Therefore, I conclude by urging the Government to stop this policy of drift and acquiescence and take note alike of the present frustrations and underlying determination of the British people and initiate action to ensure their future wellbeing and a rightful place for Britain in the councils of the world.
I should have liked to follow the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) and the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith)—I have often observed that there is an unholy alliance between the isolationists of the Right and the isolationists of the Left—but I intervene for a somewhat different purpose.
I wish to bring the House back for a few minutes to the situation in the Middle East. Twenty-two years ago I was selected by Sir Winston Churchill as one of the British delegates to San Francisco. That was in 1945, when we drew up the Charter of the United Nations.
At that conference it was generally realised that we must take account of the realities of power. Hence the great Power veto in the Charter. We realised that the United Nations, at any rate until it became stronger than in its early days, could not prevent a clash between the great Powers. But it was intended to create a peace-keeping organisation which could deal with all other threats to world peace. The situation which now prevails in the Middle East is precisely the kind of situation that the United Nations was originally intended to deal with. It will be a tragedy if it fails to do so, and a very heavy responsibility will rest upon any Government represented at the United Nations which contributes in any way to such a failure.
Today is the 50th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. We shall all, I think, acknowledge that, first, the creation of the Jewish National Home in Palestine and, second, the setting up of the State of Israel represent one of the greatest and most remarkable achievements in recorded history. But we must also acknowldege that this was achieved only at the price of gross, wicked and monumental injustice to the Arabs of Palestine. That injustice has persisted.
Almost every year since 1948 the United Nations has called attention to the Arab refugees from Palestine, and has recommended—if that be the correct term—either that they be allowed to return to the homes from which they were expelled or that they should receive compensation. No effect has ever been given to those resolutions. That is tine underlying cause of Arab-Israeli enmity in the Middle East.
I intervene because I believe that there is now an opportunity, although it may be only a very faint one, of achieving a settlement. My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) exhibited some curiosity about my recent visit to Cairo. I assure him, as he was assured by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, that I did not go in any way as an emissary of the Foreign Office. If my right hon. Friend asks why I should have been invited by President Nasser, I will explain that I went on my own initiative. Because of an article which had appeared in the Press from the editor of Al-Ahram, which interested a great many of us, it seemed to me that there might be occasion to visit the Egyptian leaders, and that is why I went.
During the course of the conversation that I had with him President Nasser made the suggestion that there should be a revival of the Armistice Commission of 1949. He did not insist on any preconditions; he merely suggested that the Commission should be brought back to life. It consisted of three Israelis and three Egyptians in those days—they would now be representatives of the United Arab Republic—with a United Nations chairman. That seemed to me a very reasonable and constructive suggestion. It was made not only to rue, but through me, and it appeared in the Press all over the world. It must have been observed in Tel Aviv. I can only regret that no response has come to that suggestion from the Israelis.
The other matter upon which President Nasser laid the greatest emphasis is that which I have already mentioned, the Palestine refugees. He made it abundantly clear that there could be no lasting settlement until that problem was solved.
The meeting followed the Khartoum conference, where President Nasser's views prevailed and where the leaders of the Arab States adopted a line of extreme moderation. In spite, therefore, of the events which followed—the sinking of the Israeli destroyer and the firing of the Egyptian oil refinery—I believe that it may still be true that there is a chance of a settlement, one which could lead first to the acceptance by the Arab States of the existence of Israel and even the passage of Israeli ships through the Suez Canal.
I am not saying that this was what was said to me by anybody. It was only the impression I was able to form. In return, there would have to be in the long run a solution of the refugee problem and in the shorter run a withdrawal from Egyptian territory now occupied by Israel.
When my right hon. and learned Friend keeps on referring to a solution of the refugee problem, surely he is aware that, during these years, Israel has accepted refugees from Arab countries in considerably larger number than the Arabs expelled from Israel. Mesopotamia, for instance, has less population now than it had in Biblical times. There would be no difficulty in settling these people in Arab countries were it not for the political advantage of their existence which has been exploited.
Of course Israel has accepted immigrants from many quarters. I referred earlier to the plight of the Arab refugees who were driven from their homes, whose land it was and who have been referred to year after year in United Nations resolutions. I reiterate that no effect has ever been given to those resolutions by the Israeli Government.
As I have pointed out, there was the Armistice Commission in 1949, which operated with three members from each side under United Nations chairmanship. It was precisely that arrangement that President Nasser proposed to revise.
It seems to me that if this chance, if there be a chance, is lost, it is one which may never recur in our lifetime. For Israel, it is not just a question of formal recognition, because Israel's survival in the long run must depend upon coming to terms with the other nations of the Middle East. It is true that, so far, the Israelis have won every military encounter, twice by their own unaided efforts and once with Anglo-French connivance and support. But there is an historical analogy, to be drawn from the war between Sweden and Russia at the beginning of the 18th century.
Sweden was a much more highly organised and progressive State than Russia and in 1700, at the Battle of Narva, a small Swedish Army led by King Charles XII was victorious over a Russian army ten times its size. When the news was reported to Peter the Great, he observed, "The Swedes will defeat us a hundred times, but in the end they will teach us how to defeat them." His prophecy was justified in the event.
We have now an opportunity to restore our relations not only with the United Arab Republic, but with the whole Arab world. Those relations have, of course, been impaired by the memories of two events—and memories are very long in the Middle East. First, there is the memory of the dishonoured pledges given between 1915 and 1918 to the Arabs; secondly, there is the memory of what happened 10 years ago at Suez.
When I discussed this matter in Cairo, the editor of Al-Ahram repeated to me with considerable emphasis what he had already written in the Sunday Times, in which he stated:
Britain has made a positive contribution here and could do so again. She laid the basis of our civil service. We respect her scholars, teachers and doctors. We trust her machines and appreciate her type of efficiency which achieves results discreetly without show. We admire her courage and endurance of the Churchillian variety and her sense of fair play although our faith in this was sadly shaken by Suez. It was not so much that you attacked us. If you had said outright that you were invading Egypt we would have hated but respected you. But it was the deceit, the lies and the collusion, which took years to be revealed.
In this, as in other matters, it falls to this Government to repair the errors of their predecessors. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has gone a long way to do so. We have the opportunity now for a fresh start. The war in Southern Arabia is being brought to an end and so is the war in the Yemen.
Many of the causes of conflict have been removed. Certainly, I came back from Cairo with the impression that not only in official circles, but very widely indeed,t here was a desire for a rapprochement with this country. It was largely due to the speech made by my right hon. Friend at the United Nations at the end of the fighting last July. I think that we can now feel that we are entering a new and more hopeful chapter in Anglo-Arab relations.
I hope that the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the dust and sand of the Middle East, but turn, instead, to the paddy fields and mangrove swamps of Vietnam. These debates often tend to become something of a geographical patchwork quilt.
The Gracious Speech says:
My Ministers will seek to use all available means to achieve a negotiated settlement … in Vietnam.
Of course, that is an immaculate aim. No one here or outside would be other than delighted to see peace in Vietnam.
No one who has seen the extent and ferocity of the Vietnam war and the havoc and destruction that it is bringing, as I have myself during recent weeks, can doubt that the task of bring an end to the war is extremely urgent in every way.
The only differences which we are discussing and which are likely to divide the House today concern the means by which peace in Vietnam is likely to be achieved. There are those who consider that this can be done by gimmicks, by sending special representatives to Hanoi, and so on. But I feel that these gimmicks are now discounted and that there is a general realisation of what a very large-scale problem this is.
It is not too much to say that the situation in Vietnam has been developing for nearly 50 years. I suppose it started with the despatch of Borodin to the Far East by the Bolshevik Government. Since then, we have had the years of the warlords in China, the Japanese expansion and defeat, the Chinese civil war, the revolt against French colonialism with the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu, one of the most remarkable battles in history, the Geneva Conference and years of subversion by the North against the South. So perhaps it is rather too much to hope that a problem of this magnitude and of such very long standing can be easily or quickly solved—at one stroke of a pen, so to speak.
About this war, it is tempting to discuss "bombing pauses", "escalation", "hawks and doves"—the sort of slang which has arisen in connection with it. But these matters are really outside Britain's control. What we surely ought to be discussing is what Britain should do to assist the peace in Vietnam that we all wish to see. There are only two possible courses. Either we must support the American Government's action, broadly speaking, or we must dissociate ourselves from American intervention altogether, as recommended in an Amendment on the Order Paper.
In saying this I discount the third possibility of sitting on the fence, which I fear is what the British Government have been doing so far. I discard this as being too despicable and, indeed, as liable to bring us the worst of both possible worlds in the long run.
I personally advocate—I have said this before—lending all possible support to the American intervention: and I will give a few reasons why. In the first place, much more than just the fate of South Vietnam is at stake. If South Vietnam were to be abandoned to her fate, President Eisenhower's "domino" theory, which I believe to be a valid theory and a very vivid way of expressing the situation, would operate and many other countries of Asia would quickly fall prey to militant Communism.
If South Vietnam were abandoned to her fate we might, in the short term, have a temporary end to the loss of American, Australian, New Zealand and other soldiers. But there would inevitably very quickly be a resurgence of Vietcong activity. We must remember that the Vietcong from 1st January, 1967, have already murdered—I use the term advisedly—2,500 people, they have wounded another 3,500 and they have abducted from their homes and villages another 5,000.
I do not consider that the Americans have murdered anybody.
If Vietnam were to be abandoned to her fate, we should inevitably have a much bigger war on our hands certainly for our children and probably in our own lifetime.
In this context it is important to realise that physical fear is much nearer the surface in Asia than it is in the over-civilised countries of the West. Fundamentally what makes a peaceable peasant into a Vietcong guerrilla is fear of the consequences to himself and his family if he does not submit to intimidation. We in this country tend to take law and order for granted, but in countries where it does not occur naturally people are much more vulnerable to the sort of intimidation about which I am speaking. Countries like ours which have achieved, broadly speaking, a freedom from fear, have, I believe, a very strong moral duty to protect people who are in this predicament. The Australian De- fence Review makes this point extremely well when it says that the countries of South-East Asia need the assurance of strong friends to protect themselves from external threats and from internal subversion so that their economic systems may evolve and their political systems may work out in the way which we all wish to see.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman a moment ago, as the defender of American policy in Vietnam, denied that the Americans had murdered anybody. May I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman whether he saw the letter published in the Sun and the Daily Mirror this week from a G.I. serving in Vietnam about what happened on his operations, and the report in The Guardian today of a correspondent who visited the casualties of American bombing when the Americans used anti-personned bombs and pellets? Yet the Americans claim that they are only interested in bombing military installations. How does he explain that?
I have not read either the letter or the report which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned, but I have myself seen the war there.
I agree with those who say that for peace in the world freedom from want must be achieved. This is not entirely a military problem. Freedom from want must be achieved if we are to make any progress in this vast problem which faces us. I believe that morally the West has an absolute responsibility to go to the economic rescue of these under-developed countries; but—and this is the essential point—no amount of economic aid can be of value unless peace and law and order can be achieved and guaranteed.
The Mekong Delta alone could grow enough rice to feed the whole of Vietnam, North and South, with plenty to spare for millions and millions of other people in South East Asia if only peace and law and order prevailed. New strains of rice seeds developed in America could assist this process, but while there are still Vietcong bands terrorising the countryside and the paddy fields in the Mekong Delta it is impossible for anybody to use them. These Vietcong guerrillas must be cleared out first. After that has been accomplished the technology of the West could then move in and make a real onslaught on hunger and disease and the other tribulations which face the under-developed countries.
While I am on this subject, I would like to pay tribute to the British medical team which is working in Saigon. The activities of this team have not been sufficiently widely made known in this country. There are five doctors and a number of nurses who were sent out by the Ministry of Overseas Development. They are working in a children's hospital in Saigon. With enormous tact and patience they have completely gained the confidence of the Vietnamese doctors and medical staff in this hospital.
It is a very moving experience to go to this hospital, which has about three times more patients in it that in has beds, and see cots with three children crawling round in each one like puppies in a basket in a pet shop. By their devoted work these doctors and nurses are doing a tremendous amount to overcome the difficulties of these children and, in particular, in dealing with cases of disease arising from under nourishment and malnutrition.
I should also like to pay tribute to the Ministry of Overseas Development which, I was told by the doctor in charge, has been quite splendid in providing quickly the money and equipment and everything which his team could possibly need.
This is all very fine, but it is a drop in a bucket, and I feel that it is important to realise that this kind of work, which is attractive and valuable, can only take place if security has first been guaranteed.
The American military effort is vast and effective and extraordinarily impressive. I saw the United States Marines at Dah Nang. I went to sea with the American Seventh Fleet and saw its gigantic carriers operating at sea and flying off strikes. I also flew over the area where the Australians, who are making a tremendous reputation for themselves, were operating in the jungle.
The fact is that the Americans are steadily gaining the upper hand militarily, but it will be a very long job. What a tragedy if this expenditure of blood and treasure were to be wasted by lack of patience in public opinion in the United States or in any other country. This is why I personally deplore the activities of Vietnam International, World Congress of Peace and so on in London, Stockholm, Vienna, and other places who, by such curious coincidence, seem to stage their demonstrations on the same weekends. I believe that these are largely unashamedly Communist-run organisations, but which also largely consist of well-meaning people who wish to see peace, but who have not thought out the problem and who are duped by very cleverly organised Communist propaganda. [An HON. MEMBER: "Farcical."] I do not think that the subject of peace in Vietnam is farcical.
The Americans understand perfectly well that this war cannot be won by military power alone. American soldiers and sailors to whom one talks understand this. The United States is making vast efforts to assist the South Vietnamese Government with its classification and rural development programmes. In passing, I would like to pay tribute to the hospitality given by the South Vietnamese Government to Members of Parliament, from both sides of the House, who went there during the Summer Recess to inform themselves of the real conditions in Vietnam.
I think that tribute should be paid too, to the South Vietnamese authorities for the work which they are doing under extreme difficulties. They have held an election, something which a democratic country like ours was not able, or was not willing, to do during war time. This holding of an election is an achievement in itself.
The South Vietnam Government have under way a most imaginative scheme to deal with rural development and reconstruction. This is the so-called Revolutionary Development Corps, which has an enormous training camp at Vung Tao. There are 7,500 youths under training at any one time, and the object is to send them to areas recently liberated from the Vietcong. They are there to stiffen and support the morale of the local villagers, to use their arms to prevent any resurgence of Vietcong activity, to help with medical assistance, agricultural advice, and so on. It is an imaginative and large-scale activity.
In this context, what must Britain now do? What part can Britain most effectively play? I believe that there are three principal points which should be made. First, it is vitally important at this time, of all times, that Britain should remain in the Fast East. I think that the Government's policy of announcing a withdrawal from the Fast East at this time is catastrophic. We must stay in the Far East because of our stabilising influence. We must remain there to bear our fair share of peace-keeping. We are, incidentally, strongly requested to stay there not only by the Americans, whose motives are clear, but by Australia, New Zealand, and many South-East Asian countries. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew said:
I feel the fate of Asia—South and South-East Asia—will be decided in the next few years by what happens out in Vietnam.
That is a clear understanding by a most notable South-East Asian statesman of the side on which his bread is buttered. It is as simple as that.
While Britain has any forces at all, an Army, a Navy, or an Air Force, if they are not deployed in the Far East where the threat to peace is greatest, where should they go? A year ago the Foreign Secretary—I mean the present one—said:
..I cannot accept the proposition that our rôle east of Suez has come to an end. Are we to dissociate ourselves entirely, may I ask, from that part of the world in which the greatest danger to peace now lies. If you are an isolationist or a pacifist you can answer that question 'Yes' … the good old `I'm all right Jack' doctrine … but whether we like it or not we have still got responsibilities east of Suez. It is being said that we should plan to discard or transfer these by 1970 … Mr. Chairman, I do not think that would he a plan, I think that would be a plain scuttle.
One must reflect that perhaps the Foreign Secretary's views are less "immovable" than he is.
The second basic reason why Britain should continue to exert her influence in the Far East is to support Australia, about whom hon. Members on both sides have spoken today. Our relations with Australia have become rather strained because of the Common Market, although I think that the Australians are well on the way to understanding the problem now. They have been strained by our failure to support them actively in Vietnam, though when I was in Australia for several weeks I was never reproached by anybody on this score, or at least not directly. The Australians have not agreed with the British Government's actions over Rhodesia, and they have bitter feelings about the present Chancellor's restrictions on the export of capital, which, as Sir Alexander Downer has pointed out, are extremely short-sighted and liable to do Britain more harm than anybody else in the long run.
Most of all, the Australians feel that our withdrawal from the Far East now is quite incomprehensible. In April of this year, at the S.E.A.T.O. Conference, Mr. Hasluck, the Australian Minister for External Affairs, said
… Lack of interest in Asia today is isolation in its most feckless form.
I think that one can sum up the Australians' attitude to Britain in the words of one of my Australian friends who said that they see the United Kingdom as a beloved old aunt who is beginning to behave a bit oddly in her old age; she is a bit eccentric.
Finally, I believe that it is vitally important for the British Government to stop sitting on the fence. I believe that as a constructive contribution to peace in Vietnam we should send at least nominal military assistance to the United States. We should do this to show the world that we admit and recognise the moral right of what the Americans are doing out there for the peace of the world as a whole.
I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) will not be surprised to hear that I cannot accept a word of his interpretation of the situation in Vietnam. I think that most decent people in this country, and, in fact, throughout the world, accept that the Americans are carrying out an imperialistic war in a country where they have no right to be.
It is clear that our party—and I think that it reflects public opinion in Britain as a whole—is completely opposed to the attitude taken so far, and is very anxious that the British Government should take more energetic and vigorous steps to bring the American Administration to a reasonable frame of mind.
I pay tribute, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman did, to the work being done by the pediatric team in Saigon, but we should not overlook the fact that, by a tremendous voluntary effort, people in this country have collected enormous sums of money to send to Vietnam as a whole to help the victims of American aggression. I have the honour to be the vice-chairman of this medical aid appeal. l hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is listening to me, because I am still addressing him. If he is concerned about the situation there, and would like to play his part in helping, perhaps he will join one of the blood donor sessions which are to be arranged in the near future for Members of Parliament.
I am not going to bite on that one now. We are discussing the Gracious Speech. Many speakers seem to have overlooked that fact. We are all concerned to see that our economy is placed on a firm basis and that we overcome our balance of payments difficulties.
In that context, if we look at the contents of the Gracious Speech to discover what is contemplated we are disappointed, because the key problems of industry are not to be tackled in the legislative programme for the coming Session. We are promised legislation to assist the modernisation and technological development of industry, but if we are to become only merchant bankers, as the Prime Minister suggested, there will be many discontented voices on this side of the House. If Government money is to be invested in private industry, it must be invested in the wisest way. We do not want to assist the down-and-outs. We must be certain that we have some control over the policy and a share in the profits of industries which are helped by public money.
In his first-rate Bristol speech in March—which was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay)—the Prime Minister listed the
economic problems that will face us if we should be so unwise as to enter the Common Market. He said:
Unless we modernise and streamline our industries, base our attitude on a full day's work for a full day's pay at all levels within industry, unless we continue, as we have in the past eighteen months to strengthen sterling and our balance of payments—then the Common Market choice is simply between being a backwater inside Europe and a backwater outside Europe.
The Prime Minister also said in that speech that the Common Market was not a cure-all for Britain's economic problems. We would all agree that we have to use the possibilities, talents and skills available here and to use every means at hand to get ourselves into a state of economic health.
What the Prime Minister was referring to when he talked about modernising and streamlining our industry was productivity, the basic problem of industry. Here we come up against what was referred to recently by another gentleman outside—someone with whom I do not normally agree. He uttered some strictures about incompetent, inept and untrained managements, who made their contribution to the difficulties in which we find ourselves, and he was absolutely right. We must do everything we can to make sure that our industries are placed on a modern, streamlined basis, of the kind mentioned by the Prime Minister.
Many industries are modernising, but others are far too slack, and this is something to which the Government must pay attention. The Government have it in their power—they wield enormous power—to concentrate on encouraging efficient industries to become even more efficient, and to encourage those who want to modernise to do so, by the simple expedient of using their purchasing power. This is not done, although certain industries rely, as to 70 per cent. or 80 per cent., on the work given to them by Government Departments and local authorities.
The building industry is a classic example. But when I asked the Minister of Public Building and Works if he would see that orders were placed with those industries which had a certain number of technologically trained people on their boards of directors, his answer was "No". This is the way in which the Government could encourage industries to become up to date and re-equip themselves.
We must look for salvation at the means which are at our immediate disposal. I want to refer to the trade agreements that Britain has, but I want first to add a word to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North said about Commonwealth trade. We are enjoying very considerable Commonwealth trade. No less than 25 per cent. of our total exports go to the Commonwealth. This represents a considerable amount of trade, which could not be replaced by trade with the Six if we went into the Common Market. Common Marketeers say that Commonwealth trade does not matter, but I do not agree. Commonwealth trade is tremendously important both to us and to the Commonwealth countries.
Common Marketeers play down our Commonwealth trade and say that it is no longer as important as it was in the past. This may be so. Commonwealth trade has shown a tendency to fall off since our last ill-fated attempt to get into the Common Market, and it is not surprising if that trend continues, because Commonwealth countries must set up their own defence mechanisms, and we should not be surprised if they end by looking in other directions because of the way in which their economies will be affected if we go in with the Six.
It is not surprising if important Commonwealth countries are now looking in other directions for their trade—looking to America and Japan. We must fight against this; we must not accept it. Commonwealth trade is valuable to us and we want to increase it, so as to get it back to the level at which it used to be, and even to do better than that. The first thing that the Government should do is to win back the Commonwealth trade that we have lost because of our attempts to get into the Common Market.
But several Commonwealth countries have geared their whole economies to the British market, and if they now find that British customers are not going to buy so much from them they will change direction and look to other areas for their trade.
The problem of E.F.T.A. trade is not appreciated by those who are anxious to get us into the Common Market. Until 1966—seven years after the formation of E.F.T.A.—one of the most startling aspects of the situation was the lack of interest shown by British industry in E.F.T.A. trade. British industrialists thought that the E.F.T.A. market was not important. They were not interested in the small population of Norway—3 million—or the 5 million people of Switzerland. But the 20 million inhabitants of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, together with Finland, import more than twice as much as the 50 million people of France, and Switzerland's trade deficit with the Common Market was about 400 million by 1966.
British industry, like certain sections of the British people, were fascinated by the idea of going into the Common Market, having been brainwashed by certain sections of the Press. They overlooked the possibilities of E.F.T.A., and neglected it. Only when the tariff wall was reduced did some British industrialists realise the full potential of E.F.T.A. trade.
The result has been that our main competitor—West Germany—has been able to get into the E.F.T.A. countries and is now their main supplier of electrical goods. She also supplies a large proportion of their consumer goods, including cars. About seven out of 10 electrical appliances in E.F.T.A. countries come from West Germany. The West Germans also have about 60 per cent. of E.F.T.A.'s car market. This is a serious reflection on our industry and trade, because these are goods that we could supply E.F.T.A. countries just as well.
In 1959, Britain had 35 per cent. of E.F.T.A. trade, about £1,300 million a year. In 1966, over 6 years after the Association began, it had fallen to 29 per cent. Clearly, we are allowing our trade in an important area in which we have influence to decline. If our percentage of trade with E.F.T.A. had remained at 35 per cent. we should have had about another £150 million of exports, which would have been an important contribution to our balance of payments. The Government should give far more vigorous attention to the need to increase this trade. The possibilities are there and there is no reason why British industrialists, goods and skill should be pushed out of that market by West Germany.
Another area in which we have considerable potential but are doing practically nothing is the Comecon countries in Eastern Europe, where our total trade, out of about £5,000 million-worth of exports a year is the almost unbelievably ridiculous figure of £150 million—to a market of about 350 million people. This is utterly stupid and indefensible.
For example, last year we exported about £196 million-worth to Holland and £179 million-worth to the Irish Republic, but only £150 million-worth to the whole of Comecon, including the Soviet Union. That means that we send £19-Worth of goods per person per annum to Holland and about 5s-worth to Eastern Europe, which makes it clear that we have a good deal of leeway to make up.
The interesting point about our trade with Eastern European countries is that they are very anxious to increase theirs with us and their spokesmen have said that they wish to see a considerable expansion of their trade with the West. I was in Rumania this summer and know that their target is to increase their trade with Western Europe by 55 per cent. by 1970. The Czech Prime Minister last year said that he wanted a 25 per cent. increase in exports from Western Europe.
The potential of these countries is growing, to buy not only heavy machinery, including complete factories, but also consumer goods. As they are now increasing their gross national product by 6 per cent. to 11 per cent. a year, which is a significant increase—far more than we have been able to achieve—it is clear that there is scope here for a great increase in our foreign trade potential.
Of course, we do something to stimulate the knowledge of British goods which are available. I congratulate the Board of Trade on what it has so far done in stimulating and supporting trade fairs and exhibitions of British goods. This should be continued; most industrialists who have exhibited abroad would agree that they are well worthwhile and lead to valuable orders.
There has also been an improvement in the commercial and scientific staff sent to our embassies, certainly since 1964, and this useful trend should also be continued. A commercial attaché can play a useful part in acting as a contact between the State buying organisations of a country and the British firms who want to export. I wonder whether the, Department is doing everything possible to promote interest in and knowledge of the potential market in Eastern Europe. The Board of Trade's Export Department dealing with Eastern Europe, for example, is staffed by only a handful. I hope that this will be extended, since many firms have proved that they can trade in Eastern Europe.
Many in my constituency are really "swinging" and have invested in new machinery and sent selling teams and experts there, and have received substantial orders as a result. One now hopes to sell a complete factory to East Germany, which will bring us about £250,000. There are great possibilities here, and the Government need to stimulate this, to make sure that, in this area, we are not beaten again by West Germany and Japan.
In all the countries that I visited recently—Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Germany to some extent, and Roumania—West German and Japanese electrical and consumer goods are to be found. The French have sold complete car factories to Roumania which will be producing large numbers by 1970. British firms which tendered for these were left out in the cold, partly because the prices and delivery dates were not right—these are the old arguments of those who want to buy from us—but partly because we were unwilling to engage in joint scientific and technological projects with the countries concerned. It is a great pity that we should lose car and plane orders for these reasons.
I hope that some of the projects now in the pipeline with some of these countries will mean that we shall go all out to secure the orders and will not allow these considerations to prevent us from clinching the deals and these valuable contributions to our trading position to go to West Germany or France.
If the Prime Minister and the Government are concerned about the encroachment of American capital in Europe, and if this is the reason why we have to go into the Six to form a larger unit, we should look at the figures which the Foreign Secretary gave some time ago about the G.N.P. of the different groupings of nations. They show that we are looking in the wrong direction and for the wrong solutions.
He said that the G.N.P. of the Common Market countries and the E.F.T.A. countries together was about £135 billion. It is not certain, of course, that all the E.F.T.A. countries would wish to enter the Common Market, and we know that some have serious reservations, but that is the total, taking the two together. The G.N.P. of the Soviet Union, without the rest of Eastern Europe, is about £72 billion. The G.N.P. of the United States of America is £210 billion. Therefore my arithmetic shows that the G.N.P. of the United States is the equivalent of that of E.F.T.A. and the Common Market and the Soviet Union together, but that the G.N.P. of the Common Market and E.F.T.A. and the whole of the Comecon bloc exceeds the United States G.N.P.
I endorse the proposals that my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North made for the inner and outer ring, but we should not at this stage cast off the potentiality of the Comecon bloc so easily. There is great trade potential there if we could bring together the three blocs now dividing Europe. I think that this is the rôle that Britain ought to be playing. She could not play it if she became swallowed up in the Six for she would have no room to manoeuvre and no credibility vis-á-vis the Comecon bloc. This is the part that I want Britain and the Labour Government to play. It is clear that if the three blocs of Europe could be brought together in a trading organisation it would do much to remove the political difficulties that divide us.
There is, of course, the over-riding problem of the American war in Vietnam which poisons the atmosphere. There are also other problems. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) congratulated the noble Lord upon what he had said and mentioned only the removal of British troops from West Germany and said that all of us would support that—we do—he did not refer to the other things the noble Lord had said. The noble Lord is alleged to have said that we should recognise the Oder-Neisse line. We should. It is stupid that 22 years after the war we do not recognise the frontiers established as the result of that war. Millions of people lost their lives to establish that frontier, and no one in his right mind would suggest that we should restart the war to change it.
There is also the question of Germany. We should recognise East Germany. It is ridiculous that a State that has existed since 1948 should not be regarded as being on the map and that we should pay lip-service to what the West Germans say about East Germany—that it does not exist and that the West German is the only Government that can speak for the whole of the German people. This is nonsense, and we have said so at Labour Party conferences. What the noble Lord said was no more and no less than the policy of the Labour Party laid down at the party conferences, that the Oder-Neisse line should be recognised and that de facto recognition should be given to East Germany. At the 1961 Labour Party conference we carried a resolution moved by the present Foreign Secretary for the recognition of East Germany.
If we could get such a kind of trading agreement between the three blocs and use the tremendous gross national product that exists between those blocs in the whole of Europe we could really go forward and not only trade but contemplate valuable and useful technological and scientific development that would put in the shade the ideas put forward for development within the Community.
I hope very much that some of these ideas will be acceptable to some of my right hon. Friends. It is time that we got away from the sterile old ideas. I do not believe that the idea of going into the Common Market commands support in the country. I believe that the majority of our people are opposed to it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North put forward his case in very great detail today. Our entry would mean that our cost of living would rise and so there would be pressure on wage and salary levels. That would affect the cost-effectiveness of our export goods. Therefore, our trade in all the areas that I have mentioned would be affected. Our Commonwealth trade would be affected still more. Our E.F.T.A. trade would be affected. Our trade with the Comecon countries, small though it is, would be adversely affected.
It is nonsense. How can the Labour Government contemplate putting this burden on the backs of the people? It is beyond all comprehension. They are following the policies that the Opposition unsuccessfully put forward. Why do we have to follow the same line? Is it not time that we looked in other directions, showed a little more adventurous spirit and were a little less conventional in our foreign policy and our home policy, too?
We must consider these bread and butter things. We are in politics because politics means power. We have to consider the effect that this will have on us when the next General Election comes. [HON. MEMBERS "Oh."] Of course we have. If we have any sense we must do. We had the disastrous results of the local elections in April and May when all over the country local authorities which had been Labour-controlled became Conservative-controlled largely because of the disenchantment of the people with the economic policies being pursued by the Government.
If the Government are to pursue this Common Market application, which everyone admits will have a very serious effect on the cost of living, what do my right hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench think will happen about our chances at the next General Election?
We shall not win.
When the British housewife finds that she has to pay 8s. a lb. for butter, that milk may be rationed in the winter and that the Sunday joint may disappear from her table, does anybody suppose that she will continue to support the party that brought these things about? Of course she will not.
I hope, therefore, that my right hon. and hon. Friends will think very carefully about our Amendment on the Order Paper and that we shall not continue to go round begging and knocking on the doors of West Germany or France. I think that both those doors are closed to us; it is not only France. Herr Kiesinger made this very clear when he was here a few days ago. Once we find—I hope that this will he in a very short period of time—that the application will not be accepted we should withdraw it.
I would remind the House that hon. Members have been sitting all day, some for two days, waiting to be called. Anyone who has the good fortune to be called might think of those still waiting.
I shall resist the temptation to follow the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) in a number of the points that she raised. Eastern European trade is much tougher than she makes it sound. The hon. Lady talks about slack management. I was not sure whether she was talking about her own constituency. There are not many slack managements in this country. Most of them are working very hard. All know that they have shortcomings, but present conditions do not help.
The hon. Lady is surprised at the fall in our E.F.T.A. trade in 1965–66. She does not seem to understand the resentment felt against the surcharge. However, I was glad to hear her talk about profits, knowing what a fervent admirer she is of the present Prime Minister. He was talking about profits the day before yesterday. "Profits" used to be a dirty word on the Government benches, but I am not surprised that after 20 years of nationalised industries they realise that someone has to make the surpluses out of which taxes can be paid.
The hon. Lady talked of putting certain people on the boards of companies. I know a company which put a young Ph.D. technologist on the board and sent him to Australia, but he never came back. These are the sort of practical realities that we are up against in this country.
But I do not want to talk about those things. I wish to confine my remarks to paragraphs 5, 6 and 8 of the Gracious Speech. I fully support the statement of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that he "doubts whether at any time since 1945 the Speech has been read in a more dangerous situation overseas or a more disturbing one at home." I will confine my remarks to what is happening overseas.
Readers of the newspapers can follow daily, almost hourly, the disasters that are taking place overseas. I doubt whether we have yet reached the trough, and my hon. Friends and I must watch with dismay and frustration as bad is made worse by Ministers of the present Government, despite the warnings and advice being given to them by us. I intend to come to the subject of Aden, in particular.
First, however, there is one area in which the Government might usefully call in aid the growing potential of influence, if not of power, known personally to the present Foreign Secretary, the Minister of State and the Commonwealth Secretary, for they have been there and they are regarded as good comrades and colleagues. I refer to the Council of Europe and the Western European Union Assembly, to both of which I have had the privilege of being a delegate for the last three years.
In the 'thirties, when I started taking an interest in public affairs, a great many journalists, diplomats and businessmen had a good idea of what was afoot in Europe—but, alas, with respect, this House did not seem to have such a good idea. Now, however, there is very much less excuse. I believe that there are in Europe several hundred politicians who have worked for 20 years or more to solve what they broadly understand to be each other's problems. They have been working towards creating a united Europe. I believe in our joining the Community and the importance of E.F.T.A. and, like many of these politicians, that we should be working for something beyond that. The hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East mentioned Eastern Europe. I want to see Spain and Yugoslavia—two great countries of Europe.
The present Foreign Secretary, in these Assemblies, is regarded—as are his two colleagues to whom I referred—as a good European, because, like those other two Ministers, he has been there for a number of years, including the visits he paid when in opposition, and, therefore, has a good following. But when these Ministers are in a position to do something constructive, then, like others, they often pay too little practical attention to what goes on. This is a pity, particularly since the great majority of Parliamentarians in the Council of Europe and elsewhere are working towards the same end.
For example, Resolution 353 of the Council of Europe, which was passed unanimously on 28th September of this year, calls on those concerned
… to make the most determined efforts in a spirit of mutual understanding to resolve the problems"—
which we are facing in Europe
and therefore to begin the negotiations with a minimum of delay".
Despite what has been said in this House today, it is worth recalling that that Resolution was passed unanimously only a month ago. I will not say anything now which might in any way endanger the negotiations, which I hope will be entered into without too much delay.
Having said that, there are three points which I must make. First, I spent a month in France at the Agricultural Committee meetings of the Council of Europe and I went on to the Assembly meeting, I met many, including a number of former war-time Gaullist comrades. Not a single one did anything but look forward to the time when we are members of the Community.
Secondly, however, it should be made clear that the majority of them support General de Gaulle on domestic policies, as the referenda, which they from time to time hold, show. They prefer the stable Government which he has given them to the disarray of the Fourth Republic. This is a considerable warning to all politicians. It is a dangerous trend to those of my generation, a trend which we have seen before.
Thirdly, I sincerely believe that this country sometimes looks rather odd from the other side of the Channel. The Community is a market economy. Few of them, three years later, believe the myth which the Labour Government here tried to put across about "the mess they had inherited" in 1964. On the other side of the Channel they have seen what has happened since 1964 and they realise who has made the mess. Even the Socialists among these Europeans do not want more nationalisation and more intervention in industry and commerce of the type the Prime Minister was talking about when speaking to the Address a couple of days ago. That is not the sort of development they find works, and that goes for the Socialists in their ranks.
I need give only one example to illustrate this point. Within the Community at present there is a free movement of capital. Yet in this country, 22 years after the war—with our second bout of Socialism—one is allowed £50, if one has it, with which to go on holiday. The psychological effect of this on Europe is incalculable. It is deplorable that at this time we should still, for a fourth year under a second Socialist disaster, be maintaining that limit.
I listened with some interest and some dismay to the speeches of three right hon. Members among the half-score of right hon. Members who have so far spoken in the debate, but for whom I have considerable regard. I refer to the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith). I listened to them putting forward the sort of objections to our closer association with Europe which one has heard so often voiced, both in this House and outside, in the last 10 years.
I can only believe that the right hon. Member for Battersea, North, when President of the Board of Trade—with all the machinery of the Government behind him—must have worked out these proposals and put them forward to his colleagues and that they must have been turned down. They must have been seriously considered in the ranks of the Government and the Cabinet. And as my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) pointed out, the proposals which the right hon. Member for Battersea, North put forward were discussed in Europe 10 years or more ago. I believe that at present they are not negotiable. However willing we may be, I do not believe that the Europeans will find them acceptable, considering how far they have got with the Community. If we want to get associated with the free trade area in the Community we must accept not only industrial free trade but also the common agricultural policy.
Like many of my hon. Friends, I have political aims for the Community beyond economic ones. I have always believed that if we had had the Community in years gone by we would have avoided at least one of the last two wars. The way the world is going, we must work harder and faster towards a common European policy. This being so, I particularly draw attention to Recommendation 498 of the Council of Europe, the last paragraph of which calls on the Committee of Ministers
… to take all appropriate steps in order to reach a common European stand on the Middle East crisis".
For the past three years—indeed, since the war—many hon. Members on both sides of the House have tried to get European support for a common policy on the Middle East. The Middle East problem stems from the creation of Israel, which itself resulted directly from the anti-Semitism of Europe. Whatever the rights and wrongs of its creation, its existence has been accepted by the United Nations, and that is the basis on which we must all work.
I find that in recent months—certainly since the war of June—there is a greater understanding of this problem, and of its origins, in Europe. It is for Europe to take a greater interest in this at Strasbourg and also at W.E.U. I find that this interest is growing, first, because they realise that the energy supplies—that is, oil—of the largest part of Western Europe, and of a great part of the free world in the Eastern hemisphere, depend on the free flow of oil from the Middle East.
I commend the committee which was set up—and Her Majesty's Government took part in its establishment—under O.E.C.D. to organise the free flow of oil. The necessity for this organisation was vital following the June war. I pay tribute to the Committee because I understand that, in effect, there has been no check in the flow of oil and no shortage of a serious nature to any consumer in the Eastern hemisphere. I should like to know whether the Government intend to maintain this committee permanently, or intend, at least, that it should do some contingency planning so that if such a situation should arise again the committee would have plans ready.
My second reason for finding increasing interest in Europe in what is happening in the Middle East and the Mediterranean is on the strategic side. The French are about to cede Mers el Kébir—that port of great sadness to all in this country—to Algeria, and the British are about to abandon Aden. By about the end of 1968, therefore, it may well be that these great bases will be occupied and used by the Russians in a way that the Czarists would never have dreamt of achieving 50 years ago.
On Aden, I recall the warnings given from these benches in the last few years, in particular about the deterioration that would take place if responsibility for internal security were not transferred in time. Nevertheless, there was delay in the transfer, and I believe that the result will be even greater chaos than there was in Palestine. Not many hon. Members now remember those days, but then we did not have the sort of warning we have had over Aden. It is now more a matter for the historians to record than for us.
I believe that, when the time comes, one of the greatest condemnations of the Government or lack of government will be what the Socialists have done in the last two years over Aden. They will leave another running sore there, and a blot on the good name of this country, by the vacillation and incompetence in the last few months of our rule. One's sympathy and regrets go to the High Commissioner, the administrators, the troops, and particularly to those in the business community, of many other races besides our own, who thought that they had found prosperity and some sort of security in Aden but who are apparently, to be abandoned in the next four weeks without there being any definite plans about what is to be done for them.
I only pray that the final stages will not be too prolonged or bloodstained, and that we shall find some authority there to avoid the running sore of civil war such as we have seen in the Yemen. It is all very well for the Foreign Secretary to say that the situation is much better there but my information is that that is not the case. I trust, too, that we will not give aid to a successor Government in Aden unless they appear to be not only responsible but humanitarian. I hope that we shall not support one side in a civil war.
When I heard what the Foreign Secretary had to say about Perim, I recalled what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) during the Committee stage of the relevant Bill earlier this year. It is a great pity that the Foreign Secretary has not been able to persuade the United Nations to accept our suggestion to take an initiative which might have set a standard for peace-keeping activities in other parts of the world. Instead, that organisation appear again to have accepted sectional rather than universal interests in turning aside our offer.
I have not been able to find the quotation, but I remember that soon after the Prime Minister took office he talked about the waste of expenditure on arms in developing countries. Hundreds of millions of pounds of aid are being poured out by this country and other countries to those who use their own resources to buy arms, and receive them also from Eastern Europe, in order to attack their neighbours. Egypt, I suppose, is the prime example. We all know the difficulties there have been in the Middle East since the breakdown of the 1950 declaration.
Unless there is universal agreement on the supply of arms I do not believe that we can go on handing out arms indefinitely in the years ahead. We see the advocates of Marxist Socialism at home and overseas decrying, hindering and punishing free enterprise economy, yet expecting those countries which follow a successful market economy to continue with aid and arms so that those countries may go to war against each other. We had the so-called confrontation in South-East Asia, which I am glad to say has now come to an end.
I would call the attention of the Foreign Secretary to the remarks of Sir Duncan Oppenheim, at the International Chamber of Trade dinner. I see that the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs is present, and I hope that he will pay attention to what Sir Duncan said about overseas investment, the Reddaway Report and the C.B.I. booklet on overseas investment. Our balance of payments is as good as it is only because we have brought back £400 million from overseas capital investments this year.
When Ministers give instructions for the reconvened U.N.C.T.A.D. conference in Delhi in February, 1968—which organisation was given such a splendid start by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) and the present Leader of the Opposition—I pray that these will be linked with some agreed control of arms sales. Without such control, I believe that insanity will become criminal.
Although I shall not follow the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker), I admit to being somewhat intrigued by his ability to use the word "Socialism" as though it were a four-letter word. That has never been my own view. Like him, however, I can claim to be more representative than other hon. Members who have so far spoken in this debate of the eight-to-one decisive majority registered in the May vote for our application to join the E.E.C.
Although I am a convinced European, and was a convinced European before it was fashionable in my own party to be so, I should like, in particularly, to compliment my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea. North (Mr. Jay) on his presentation which was, perhaps, the best delivered in this Chamber on the Common Market issue. At the same time I felt that he was parading the arguments of yesteryear, the arguments before the decisive vote was taken here in May at a time when he was a member of the Government, and a member of the Government, too, when the Foreign Secretary laid out our conditions in his July speech to the Assembly of the Western European Union.
I thought that my right hon. Friend's speech was marred by his selective quotations. He quoted from the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) in 1959, from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in 1964 and more recently, instead of tackling what is now said by the right hon. Gentleman and by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on the European issue.
My right hon. Friend's speech was marred, too, by his pessimistic assumptions, for example, about industrial development certificates. He argued that any firm denied the ability to go to one of the development areas will up and go to the Continent and be a complete loss to the country, but did not take into account the other side of the balance sheet—that European firms are more likely to settle here as a result of our entry. He forgot entirely the likely increase in U.S. investment here once we are part of this larger market, and U.S. investment which can be steered more easily to the development areas. This is a fact. There are particular attractions in our market for U.S. investors, partly because of the habit of relationships with our country and partly because of the influence of the London capital market. We are likely to gain substantially from an increase in U.S. investment which is more likely to be steered to development areas.
Another pessimistic assumption was the £175 million to £240 million contribution to the agricultural fund which, in the White Paper prepared by the Minister of Agriculture, was put as the most pessimistic assumption, suggesting that when the prices are reviewed in 1969 the relationship between cereal prices and livestock prices will remain the same. It was a totting-up of the most pessimistic assumptions in each field, making a formidable total which of course no one would accept.
The basic argument against the intellectual case put by my right hon. Friend is that it is entirely built on sand. It is based on a false alternative, on an association agreement with the Six, the association of the E.F.T.A. countries with the Six, which, as everyone knows, would be quite unacceptable to the E.E.C. and that we should gain the advantages of the industrial market with no attempt to align our policies on the agricultural side. This is not at all what the French Government have talked about when they have broached the idea of association. To build his case on this alternative is to build on a false alternative and to build his whole structure on sand. Those are a few remarks I make about a speech which otherwise was perhaps the best which has been made on this subject in this House.
Following the Luxembourg meeting last month, many are asking. "Where do we go from here?", as if there had been some sort of fundamental change in matters since the decision was made by this House in May to seek negotiations. This fundamental change in policy is desired by a minority in this House and many of their spokesmen have given their views in this debate as if at Luxembourg the French Government and M. Couve de Murville had imposed a new veto. This questioning as if things had changed fundamentally was increased by the Chalfont incident over last weekend, which I believe has been blown up out of all proportion by Press comments and incidentally by comments of some Opposition spokesmen who have not helped the Government in their attempt by parading it before public attention to make party capital out of this issue.
What were merely hypothetical answers to hypothetical questions have been called by some official policy, but I pose the question, has anything fundamental changed in regard to our E.E.C. application following the Commission's report and following the Luxembourg meeting last month? Certainly the French position has not changed. I am sure that the position adopted by M. Couve de Murville was not unexpected by the Government at that time. The French attitude is quite consistent with the attitude adopted by the President during the visit of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in March this year and consistent with the Press conference given by the President of the French Republic immediately after the debate in this House.
The basic point is that the French Government have found that we in the United Kingdom have answered successfully their earlier objections to our entry. On the first objection—is Britain really prepared to accept the Treaty of Rome?—successive Government spokesmen have made clear that we are pre- pared to accept the full implications of the Treaty. The second one was, what about the special relationships that the U.S.A. has with Britain? The difference between 1962, the time of the last negotiations, and 1967 is the difference between the Nassau Agreement and the Defence White Paper to which the Foreign Secretary drew attention in putting our emphasis on defence entirely in Europe.
So, having had these two objections answered, the French have changed their tactics and are now raising the two new objections of the weakness of the United Kingdom economy and the rôle of sterling. These are real objections, but, as the Foreign Secretary said today, we are very ready to discuss them if the French and their partners are willing to discuss them on their side in a constructive spirit. I think the real French objection has not yet been brought forward. It is rather more a political objection based on French interests and not on the best interests of Europe. The French at the moment are playing a very dominating rôle within the E.E.C. Some people say the French have taught their partners to speak their own language and when forced many French spokesmen will argue that their fear is that their own comfortable position in the Six will be overcome by some sort of West German-United Kingdom dominance if we enter, that we in the United Kingdom who were unwilling to enter the train as it left the station have jumped into the guard's van and would like to make our way to the driver's seat.
It is this sort of objection which we have to recognise at the basis of the French view of our attitude to the E.E.C. Therefore, if the French Governmental attitude has not changed since May and nor have the views of our friends in France, including those in the Gaullist Party and in the féderation, so the position of the Five has not changed since May—
I certainly have not noticed a fundamental change among my colleagues in this House. The position of the French Government has not changed, nor the position of our friends in France and the attitude of the Five has not changed in this E.E.C. context. There are limits, of course, to what they will do to help us. They will not wreck the E.E.C. undertaking because, largely as a result of agricultural policy, they are already too enmeshed in Europe and are gaining too much industrially and agriculturally from relationships with the E.E.C. at present.
I think the domestic position in this country—this is the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck)—has remained unchanged since May, underlined by the massive majority in this House in the vote following that debate and underlined by the Scarborough decision which removed the last domestic obstacle in the way of our entry. In parenthesis, I am a little saddened by the lack of evidence on the part of the Government of further research since May into the implications of our entry. I should hope that there would he now considerable attempts to analyse the effects region by region using the economic councils to prepare for entry.
I have tried as best I can to work out the effects on my native Wales of our entry into the Community. I am not worried about the regional policies and I am less worried about the effects on coal and steel, but clearly the agricultural sector in Wales is highly vulnerable. I hope that much research is going on within the Government into how we can meet these difficulties. We say that we are going in basically for industrial, political and technological reasons. We must ensure that farmers do not suffer as a consequence. I hope that when we get to negotiations Ministers particularly concerned, in this case my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Wales and the Secretary of State for Scotland, will sit in on negotiations to ensure a fair deal for their own peoples. I hope that more work is going on, both on the effect on regions and on a deal for sterling, than is so far evidenced by governmental publications.
If there were a further veto by the French, clearly we could not enter this time round. Equally, if the price demanded were too high, which virtually is the same thing, it would be foolish for us to enter this time round. If there is a veto or if the terms offered are too high, I believe that we must avoid at all costs the very real danger of a hasty reaction on the part of the House and on the part of the country. At lowest, this could take the form of action of the type of the cancellation of Princess Margaret's visit to Paris, which I hope that the Tory Opposition will try to forget, following the last veto.
People will come forward parading the same old alternatives. I understand that the Atlanticists, for example, are about to launch another offensive in Britain. This link-up on a North Atlantic basis will be no real alternative but will be a very unequal partnership with the U.S.A., with the danger of political domination, which I consider to be very unwelcome. There would be a danger of our reacting to a further veto by changing our course irrevocably and in a way which many of us on mature reflection would much regret.
We must continue to make it clear, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made it clear in his speeches, that for us Europe is our first best. The big question is: have we chosen the European road? I believe that by the decisions of the House and by the decisions of the country we have proved that we have chosen Europe and that for us Europe is our first best alternative.
The problem in the interim period before entry is that of doing nothing to stand in the way of possible entry and of looking at all our problems through European spectacles. For example, we must ensure that in new legislation nothing is done which would make us drift further apart, possibly irrevocably, from what we have decided firmly is our best alternative. We must not flirt with false alternatives from which we could not disengage when the right time comes.
The normally pro-French The Times said this in a leader on 26th July:
General de Gaulle's term as French president has another five years to run, and although it is perfectly possible that his successor will take over before 1972. … It is necessary for French and foreigner alike to prepare a general line of conduct to adopt during the long, sad process of the General's erratic decline. … The Common Market, and Germany in particular, must brace themselves for further chastisement and British policy must continue along its present lines of bearing with the General's provocations and preparing the ground for a speedy entry into the Common Market as soon as he departs.
This is a difficult period for those who, like myself, were brought up with a profound veneration of French civilisation. It is a very difficult period for people who would normally be Francophile, as myself.
In conclusion, the arguments in favour of our entry are still as they were at the time when the House made its decision. The political, economic and technological arguments put forward so convincingly by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary at Scarborough still apply. The degree of Europeanisation in this country is just as strong as it was then. The fundamentals remain unchanged. I believe that it will be a difficult and a long haul, but with stamina we will do it.
I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you will not consider it impertinent if I start by complaining about the way in which we organise our foreign affairs debates.
I have listened today to a series of admirable speeches on a very wide range of subjects, in particular, those in Europe and the most moving speech on Aden by my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). I find it difficult to consider this a debate when, instead of dealing with one or two subjects, we try to deal with the whole range of world subjects. It ceases to be a debate. It becomes a series of intersecting monologues. The House should give some thought to dividing these foreign affairs debates in such a fashion that we attempt thoroughly to deal with one subject such as Europe rather than spot ourselves round the horizon and deal with nothing as thoroughly as it deserves.
That said, I will pass quickly from one subject—the Middle East—to the other theme that I want to deal with. I mention the Middle East briefly because of a phrase that the Foreign Secretary used today. He said that some of the problems of Aden had been dealt with. He then said that those problems which had not been dealt with by the date in November when British troops are to withdraw, would be "left pending".
That was a most extraordinarily irresponsible statement. Always in the past, when British territories have come to independence, we have required and brought about four things—order, representative government, protection for minorities, and economic viability. I put it to the Minister that in Aden none of the prerequisites has been attained. There is no order, there is no representative government, there is no protection for minorities, and there is no economic viability. If these are to remain under the heading of "left pending" this will be the first time in our long and proud history that we have ever cut adrift a small country in so disgraceful a fashion.
One of the problems left pending is the Island of Perim, in which a I have a special interest. I was very sorry to hear the Foreign Secretary say this afternoon that the United Nations would not accept a British offer for this vital strategic point to be internationalised. The Foreign Secretary undertook in the House to do his utmost. I am sure that he has. But it was a misconceived procedure that took him to the Special Committee of 24. The right hon. Gentleman would have been much wiser to have gone to the General Assembly so that this matter could have been debated in public by all the nations of the United Nations rather than being placed before the Committee of 24, which has a built-in majority of those who would in no circumstances have accepted the offer.
I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary did it that way. It is also a humiliation that the letter sent by the British Government to U Thant making a unique offer to the United Nations is still, some four months later, unanswered. That is a very unsatisfactory situation and I wish to give the Minister notice that when we come to the Order in Council which the Government will need to cut Perim adrift, some of us on this side of the House will want to hear much better arguments than we have been given this afternoon.
I turn now to my main theme—the widespread sense of helplessness and frustration that many British people feel about our dwindling capacity to influence events in the world. Many Members have spoken about a mood of frustration and anxiety in our country, and nowhere is it more apparent than in foreign policy. Our diplomats have been beaten up and humiliated, in Peking if not in the Savoy, and there is nothing effective that Her Majesty's Government are able to do on their behalf. Our citizens, including our pilots, are seized and there is nothing that the British Government are able to do for them. The Suez Canal has been closed, and yet for all the protestations and all the sensible steps that I believe the Foreign Secretary is taking in Cairo, the Canal remains closed. Our ships are still locked in the Bitter Lakes and seem likely to remain there for some time.
More important is the evidence of British powerlessness in the three great centres of world influence—the Soviet Union, the United States and Western Europe. I start with Russia. The Prime Minister knows a great deal about Russia, especially Russian timber. Yet on the 50th anniversary of the Bolshevik Resolution I doubt whether British influence in Moscow has ever stood so low as it does today. We heard not so long ago of Mr. Kosygin, the Soviet Prime Minister, flying to the United States to consult President Johnson on a possible settlement in the Middle East, a matter of vital importance to Britain.
Mr. Kosygin flew to Paris and held meetings with General de Gaulle. He then proceeded to Washington, omitting to stop in London. On his return, once again he felt it right to stop in Paris. And once again he overflew London in spite of—so I am informed—private attempts by British Ministers toencourage him to come here. I think it is perfectly plain or the evidence of Mr. Kosygin's journey that the Soviet Union—not to put too fine a point upon it—simply does not give a damn for Her Majesty's Government's views on world affairs. British Ministers in Moscow have about as much influence as a flea in a bearskin.
Now I turn to the United States. A year ago I wrote an article in The Times in which I said that the Americans like us more as a people but respect us less as a Government. At that time the Prime Minister was furious. He complained that this was very damaging to the British case. But what does he say today, when we see in the American Congress the beginnings of protectionism against British goods, difficulties arising about the supply of American aircraft to the armed forces of this country, when we see the United States pre-empting the sale of British aircraft in Latin America and when we see the Foreign Secretary complaining, inaccurately as it turned out, that he was not consulted over the American decision to build an anti-ballistic missile screen? Against that background, who will doubt that British influence in Washington is waning?
I turn to Western Europe, the third great area of power. I am proud to stand here as an ardent European. I wish the Government well in the policy that they are pursuing. I believe we have had a setback and I am sorry that the other day the Foreign Secretary denied that there had been a setback. But I am sure that it is right for our country to pursue a European policy, and though the way will be difficult and long, I believe that eventually we shall, as we must, succeed.
Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that our influence in Western Europe is smaller today than it has been for a considerable time. There has opened up again a credibility gap. One of those achievements on which I would compliment the Foreign Secretary is that, representing a Labour Government which in their 1964 election manifesto made some very anti-European sounds, by hard work he has nevertheless convinced a majority of the Governments of Europe that this country really does want to get in. He got over the problem of disbelief that first existed and he deserves full credit for that.
The unfortunate thing is that over the last two or three weeks much of his hard work has been thrown away. Our credibility once again is in doubt. The doubt perhaps was begun by the Prime Minister's casual statement after the Luxembourg talks that we should now have to strengthen E.F.T.A. No doubt, there is advantage in strengthening E.F.T.A., but the Prime Minister should be very careful, for it is precisely that kind of remark at this particular stage which raises questions about the sincerity of the British Government.
Again, we had the incident of Lord Chalfont. May I say, having myself attended innumerable off-the-record briefings with senior statesmen in this country and many others, that I can well understand how Lord Chalfont got himself into the difficulties that he did. I understand it, and I sympathise with him. Nevertheless, I am bound to make a comparison between this and those long and difficult months when my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, negotiating in Brussels over an infinitely more complex series of problems than Lord Chalfont has yet had to face, week after week saw members of the Press and helped them to understand what the Government were seeking to do, without making one single gaffe. It is the difference, if I may say so with the greatest respect, between a man and a boy. My right hon. Friend showed at that time how the handling of negotiations should be done.
The credibility gap having been opened, I am sorry to say that it was widened still further two or three days ago by another incident which the Press, fortunately, has not reported widely in Europe and which I hope it will not do so. This time it was the Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), who, speaking in the by-election at Leicester, was taken to task about the increased cost of living in Britain. He replied that under the Tories it would be even worse because we stood for levies under the Common Market, whereas the Labour Party stood for subsidies. He said that at a public meeting last week.
I am sure that the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, who is sitting on the Front Bench, will agree that if the present Government are to get into Europe, as he and I both hope they will, it is absolutely imperative that we accept the common agricultural policy, the levies, the financial regulations, and so on. This is an essential part of our negotiating position. So, for a senior member of the Cabinet to have gone to a by-election meeting and once again to have damaged the Government's negotiating position in this fashion, is irresponsible and is likely to open further the credibility gap.
I turn now to the reasons why, in those three main centres of power, the Soviet Union, the United States and Western Europe, our influence has sunk so low. The first is that we are throwing away a great deal of British power. In the first instance, it is economic power. Our balance of payments difficulties and our failure to develop a vibrant and dynamic economy have, without doubt, lowered our influence in the world, But there is too the doctrinaire abandonment of a good deal of our military power. This, too, unquestionably, is reducing our capacity to influence events.
The third reason is a diplomatic one, the tendency of right hon. Gentlemen opposite to talk beyond their power. One example is Rhodesia. They would like to bring down Mr. Smith, but they cannot. In short, they have talked loud, but they have not been able to achieve.
Then there is Vietnam. Not so long ago the Foreign Secretary was going to solve the problem for us. He has talked big, but he has not been able to achieve. Then again, there was the Prime Minister's statement when the latest Middle East crisis broke. He was going to reopen the Straits of Tiran with a multilateral fleet. He talked big, but he failed to deliver. Again and again, by using language in excess of the power available to Her Majesty's Ministers, the Government have devalued their own influence in the world.
Yet the biggest reason for the dwindling of British influence is that Britain has not yet found a satisfactory rôle for the latter part of the 20th century. A distinguished American writing recently in the Atlantic Quarterly said that our situation was "post-imperial and pre-European". That accurately diagnoses our present situation. But I know what our rôle ought to be. It ought to be founded essentially on Europe, and, to that extent, I support the Foreign Secretary's efforts in the Common Market and wish him well in them. But beyond the Common Market there is the indispensable requirement for us to maintain the Atlantic Alliance. Quite simply, without N.A.T.O. we should be either Red or dead
But N.A.T.O. is out of date. The cold war has been replaced by something different; the Iron Curtain is punctured by "pop" music and by the motor car. There is today a majority of people in America and in Europe under the age of 21, and to these young people the pictures of Indian children starving or of the war in Vietnam are far more urgent than SACEUR's need for more or fewer troops on the Rhine.
The Atlantic Alliance it is true is changing. But in some ways it is changing for the worse. France has resigned. The United States is preoccupied in Vietnam. There is an upsurge of neutralism and even pacifism in much of Scandinavia. Many young Germans are beginning to look to the East. Our own country's contribution dwindles in proportion to its economic difficulties.
These are not the hallmarks of an alliance forging ahead. They are symptoms that all is not well. N.A.T.O.'s biggest problem is, quite literally, to make itself relevant to the generation of the Beetles. To do this, it must tackle, and must be seen to be tackling, the problems of today and tomorrow, not the problems of yesterday.
The first problem is the growing disparity of power between the United States and Europe. The only answer to that problem is to make Europe stronger, and this requires British membership of the Common Market. I wish that those Europeans, French, Germans and others, who complain about United States dominance of Europe would recognise that there is no possibility of achieving equilibrium between the two sides of the Atlantic without British membership of Europe.
The second problem which must be tackled is that of nuclear sharing. The M.L.F. is dead. The A.N.F. was always a farce. The McNamara committees have borne fruit, but it is urgent that we go much further towards finding a political answer to this awesome problem.
Lastly, N.A.T.O. must find ways of more effective and quicker consultation over threats to peace and security, wherever they may occur. It is not good enough that the Suez Canal was closed, that the non-proliferation treaty was brought almost to the point of signature, or that the U.S. decided to develop an Anti-missile screen, without N.A.T.O. having achieved a common front on these vital matters.
It is therefore crucial that, in pursuing their European policy, which I support all the way, the Government should at the same time seek to make the Atlantic Alliance stronger and more relevant to the new generation. In the end, by going into Europe, it is my hope that Britain can serve as a hinge upon which the narrow Europe of the Treaty of Rome may swing open into a much wider Atlantic conception.
I hope that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his interesting speech. The moments of perception which characterised his latter remarks, when he referred to the nature of the widespread feelings among the younger people of Europe, led me to think that, for a moment at least, I was with him in his diagnosis even though I profoundly disagreed with his remedies.
I wish to refer to the Amendment which stands in the name of several of my hon. Friends and myself, in which we ask the House
humbly to regret that the Gracious Speech contains no undertaking to implement the new official Labour Party policy of dissociation from the United States Government's intervention in Vietnam".
Lest some hon. Members may not be conversant with the precise terms of the resolution there referred to, I shall quote it. It was a resolution carried at the last Labour Party conference in Scarborough,
That this Conference calls upon the Labour Government to dissociate itself completely from the policy of the United States Government in Vietnam and urges it to support U Thant and the overwhelming majority of the United Nations in trying to persuade the Government of the U.S.A. to end the bombing of North Vietnam immediately, permanently and unconditionally.
Conference believes that any settlement must he based upon the 1954 Geneva Agreement, which required the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Vietnamese soil, and the reunification of Vietnam under the government chosen by the Vietnamese people".
In his interesting speech today, the Foreign Secretary prayed in aid of the Government's policy for entering the Common Market the support which the Scarborough conference had given to that
policy in one of its resolutions. In these matters, the Government cannot be selective. They must not say, "The party supports us in this resolution, and we therefore act with that support", without saying, equally, that they will act in the light of the party's resolutions when those resolutions are ones they do not want.
The resolution on Vietnam which I have read was carried. My right hon. Friend has pointed out that it was carried by a narrow majority. Precisely what we are meant to infer from that I do not know. A resolution is either carried or lost. If it is carried, it becomes the official party policy. This means that those of us who support the resolution are free to advocate, inside this Chamber and everywhere else, that it be carried out and in so doing we are the custodians of official party policy. As members of the party, we should in those circumstances expect members on the Front Bench to take due note of what the party considers the Government should do. I hope that the Government will not reject that proposition. It is fashionable nowadays to depreciate the rôle of party in the processes of democracy, but I think that it was Disraeli who first pointed out that in modern society without party there is no democracy.
I deplore the tendency to play down the importance of conferences and congress. Our democratic system really consists of two stages. We tell people that it is their duty and privilege to vote every so often, but we also say that if they want to go a little further, and not only make choices but take a part in deciding the nature of the choices, they can do that by joining a party. If we do not take due account of party decisions, therefore, we destroy a fundamental upon which our democratic process is based. Accordingly, while it is true that the Government in power are the Government of the country and must make their own decisions, and that party decisions are binding upon them, it is equally true that a Government will ignore the decisions of party conferences at their peril.
The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) referred in his speech to the possibility of finding a solution to the prob- lems of Vietnam, and it struck me how very similar was the solution he sought to that which was found in 1954. That was perhaps the last time when this country played an essential peace-keeping rôle in the world, and it is to the credit of the party opposite that they had a part in it. Since then, the peace has been kept significantly not by this country but by others. For example, it was the United States which intervened to rescue the party opposite from the folly of Suez, which followed so quickly and tragically after their much more satisfactory intervention in the Vietnam troubles in 1954. It was the Soviet Union which intervened between India and Pakistan in Tashkent and re-established the peace there.
We have an opportunity to play a really adequate peace-keeping rôle in Vietnam on the line of the Labour Party conference resolution. We should take the first step of not following the United States in every twist and turn of its policy. That is what we seem to have done ever since we took the tentative step of dissociating ourselves a little from the bombing and then drawing back quickly in case we should have offended. It is not a position in which we can take great pride. It does not seem to me that the United States will take offence if we speak openly and plainly, as the Americans spoke to us when they disagreed with us on policy. I am persuaded that my right hon. Friends cannot have that complete identity of view with United States policy which seems to be suggested by their failure to protest at some of its manifestations.
The 1954 solution which the right hon. Gentleman recommended we should attempt to re-create was sabotaged chiefly, if not solely, by the United States, which failed to follow it. It did not sign or ratify the Geneva Agreements. It established in Saigon a series of Governments—military dictatorships—which are a travesty of democracy. The present Government in Saigon, is not subject to an election which would be ratified had it been overseen by outside observers.
If that is so and the United States established a series of monstrous Governments in Saigon, how does the hon. Gentleman explain that nearly 1 million people, voting with their feet, left the North and went to live in the South under the Governments he is disparaging?
There is a very simple explanation. The people who came from the North to the South are sometimes described as people who have left the North and sought refuge in the South, and on other occasions as infiltrators who have come from the North to the South to sabotage the Government and have had to be rounded up, kept in corrals and so on and prevented from having effective participation in the affairs of the South. I shall be glad to go into the history of the war in Vietnam on another occasion with the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds. We might stage a debate on it. If I did so now I should exceed the time limit which I want to place on myself.
The nature of the decision taken by the Labour Party is not one which the Government should try to throw off. The day after the decision was taken, The Times said:
… there might be a little temptation for a few members of the Cabinet to begin pressing for the conference motion to be acted on."—
as though it was something rather reprehensible that a member of a Labour Cabinet should go so far as to suggest that the party policy was something of which the Government should take note. The Times added that Mr. Brown was so committed on the Government's present Vietnam policy that a Cabinet decision on the lines of the conference resolution might oblige him to resign. It said that Mr. Wilson's attitude was likely to be decisive, for where he went the rest of the Cabinet was likely to follow without hesitation. I do not know whether that is true, but let us hope that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will decide to go in the direction in which party policy advises him to go. He says that he will go that way on the question of Europe. Let us hope that equally he will go that way over Vietnam.
On the same day the Daily Telegraph said of the resolution:
It will strengthen the hand of the 'rebels', by no means confined to Left-wing MPs, who will be satisfied with nothing short of complete dissociation from American policy.
In fact, they actually want to see the resolution honoured. What is wrong in that?
The Daily Telegraph points out that if M.P.s do not support the Government at the next Division on a policy that conflicts with the resolution they can hardly be disciplined. I hope that the Daily Telegraph is right in that assumption.
I should like finally to refer to the article in this morning's Guardian. The article states again something about which we should know—the intense savagery of the war in Vietnam. It has been the custom of the Front Benches to equate guerrilla activity with aerial activity, but I believe that it is a false equation. The right of a man to defend himself on his own soil by means that are sometimes very savage is deep in history, and if there is any fighting that is right that is it. It is the sort of fighting we can all understand. It is instinctive in most people. But the sort of warfare which employs the most sophisticated weaponry from overseas and is now admittedly based on a policy of endeavouring to terrorise the civilian population is the sort of war which is utterly unworthy of the United States and which our Government ought to have the courage to denounce.
I hope that the Government will think again about their policy in respect of Vietnam. I hope that if another group of students attempt to come here from Vietnam the Government will not feel frightened and refuse to let them in. I met some of them. They were, perhaps more than students. Whatever people come here from that country, I do not think that there is anything that they can say which will reveal more to our people then the very respected journalists who have time after time made the sort of report that appeared in The Guardian this morning.
I do not know whether the Amendment to the Gracious Speech which we have tabled will be called. If it is, I hope that many of us will go into the Lobby in support of it. Even if it is not called, I trust that the Government will take note of it and act in the light of it.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkin) will not be altogether surprised if I say that there was very little that I found in his speech with which I could agree, except his remark that, whatever one's views are, the Government's present policies towards the Vietnam war represent in undignified and illogical posture. Having spent a substantial amount of the Recess in Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia and Vietnam in particular, I want to address most of my remarks to that subject.
Before doing so, I want to comment on one point that the Foreign Secretary made because it seemed to be of over-riding importance. It is in regard to Aden. I say this in a spirit of inquiry and not just of criticism. As I understand it, we are now going to take our forces out of Aden and bring our influence in Aden to an end within a week or two before the end of November, whatever the situation reigning there at the time. It was said that we should meanwhile negotiate various matters about the future government of South Arabia with whatever authority would emerge within the next week or two, and that we should also negotiate the security of British civilian subjects remaining there and of British assets remaining there. Nothing was said by the Foreign Secretary about how we should do these things if there was no effective authority there. The Government owe us a genuine explanation about what will happen if the right hon. Gentleman's optimistic prognostication that a Government is in process of formation is not fulfilled. Do we then change the date, or do we go out openly leaving a situation of chaos? The House deserves a definite answer tonight.
There has been a good deal of talk today about our abandonment East of Suez. I speak with particular reference to Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia. Even some of my hon. Friends may have fallen into the error of thinking that this is a price that we have to pay for closer association with Europe. I do not think that this is so. It is a very valuable asset to the peace and security of the whole world if British influence, in whatever form, remains strong in South-East Asia and Australasia. Certainly people in that part of the world, of all colours and races, concur with what I have said.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) spoke about closing options. I wonder whether we are being so fervent about our abandonment of responsibilities in that part of the world in order to try harder to get into Europe and to convince our European partners that that is what we have in mind. If that is so, it is a great error, because if by chance the present series of negotiations should fail we should have closed the options and caused very considerable disturbance in South-East Asia and Australasia and still not have achieved our object.
There is an unfortunate concatenation of circumstances which has made our threatened withdrawal appear all the more serious to the people of the countries that I have just visited. In the first place, there is the announcement of our fast military rundown. There may well be for economic reasons good grounds for a British rundown, but far too much emphasis and definiteness has been given to the final date of British withdrawal without any regard to the circumstances which may be obtaining at that time. There are those who say, "Why worry about trade influence in that part of the world just because troops are withdrawn?" We are told to look at Japan and other countries which have no forces in that part of the world and how successful their trade relations are. But there is a great difference between not having had a military presence there and taking one away which has been there a long time, along with the influence it gives.
At the same time, the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and again it is an appalling sequence of ill-considered decisions that this should all happen at the same time—has made it very difficult for British investment to continue in Australia and elsewhere just at a time when it would start to prove most profitable to this country.
Our friends in Australasia take note of this. They do not just look at one item in isolation. They do not only note that the British are withdrawing their forces, but that they are also cutting investment out there. They take it that this means that the British are losing interest in that part of the world. The two things are put together in their minds and strengthen their apprehensions about the total withdrawal of British interests.
Some of my Australian friends have said to me, "You British must be going mad. For many years you have been spending blood and treasure to bring about security and stability in this part of the world. Now, when it looks as though Australia is beginning to find its feet, when almost every day you read that a new mineral mine has been found, and when one can start thinking in terms of dividends, you are giving up your commitments on this part of the world on the basis that you cannot afford them."
Over the past 50 or 60 years, irrespective of what Government have been in power here, we have never, except for seven years, balanced our trade by open exports as such. We have always only been able to balance our trade because of invisibles—through facilities granted to our ancestors to invest in other countries and ultimately to draw dividends after a period of time. It is not now or in five or 10 years but in 20 or 30 years that we shall find ourselves in serious difficulties with overseas earnings because of the Government's short-sighted policy of cutting investment in one of the few really pioneering and profitable parts of the world, Australasia.
Also noted out there is the political dissociation from our Australian and New Zealand colleagues in their efforts in Vietnam. I join with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) in his view of what is happening in Vietnam. When I was there I never received any reproof from Australians and New Zealanders. Indeed, there was a marked lack of bitterness, for which we should be grateful.
But earlier, when Australian intervention in the Vietnam war was mentioned, there were cries from below the Gangway opposite, "What are they doing there? Let them go home". That is an unfortunate sort of remark because, I remind the House, the Rhine is as far from Australia as Vietnam is from London. Twice, once in my lifetime and once before, we were only too pleased that the Australians and New Zealanders did not go home but fought for us when our interests and security were threatened. We can be grateful that no remarks like that were then made in the Australian or New Zealand Parliaments.
I was delighted that my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) made the point that there are signs now of a war weariness and exhaustion in North Vietnam. I am talking facts now and not morality. Any visitor looking objectively at the scene will agree that this is so. The signs are there for all to see who care to see them.
In the first place, the number of defectors from the Vietcong, both from the North and from the South, is increasing all the time. They are beginning to lose heart and that is shown also by the reduced ages of those still coming from the North to fight in the South. At the same time—and this is significant—the tails are going up in the South Vietnam Army. Morale is rising and desertions are falling.
Perhaps even only seven or eight months ago, in every five Vietcong captured in South Vietnam there were usually four local recruits, with one "stiffener" from the North. Those figures are now precisely reversed. Nowadays, the Vietcong is finding it difficult to get any recruits from South Vietnamese villages because, for the first time, throughout South Vietnam there is growing a feeling in the villages that, after all, they may not indefinitely have to put up with the intimidation and attacks of the Vietcong and that maybe it is no longer in their interests to bow to the threats of the Vietcong. With this there has been an increase in the resistance of the local home guards, and all the other factors show a building up of morale in the South.
Does not the hon. Gentleman find it rather strange that it is terribly difficult for people who are trying to lay on teach-ins in this country to find anyone who will put up a case for either the Saigon Government or the United States approach on their aggression in Vietnam?
I do not think that that comes within the purview of this debate. I should have thought that I was doing the best job I could in being temporarily committed to it tonight and I propose to go on doing so for the next few minutes before giving others a chance to speak.
The other important point is that we notice that the actual fighting is moving northwards towards the demilitarised zone. Why is that happening? There is a military answer. It is because the Vietcong are finding it increasingly difficult to fight with longer lines of communication, because they have lost the confidence of the local people, and, therefore, are having to fight nearer their own sources of supply north of the demilitarised zone.
With reference to the British rôle in Vietnam, there are two possible views about it. One, which I would not agree with is that we should dissociate ourselves as those who say that this is a bad war for the wrong reasons in the wrong place at the wrong time. I can understand that, but there is also the point of view, which I understand to be the view of Her Majesty's Government, and which I share, that the Americans are doing a valuable job in preventing the expansion of Communist aggression in that part of the world. I understand that that is the Government's present attitude towards the war, yet in other words it could be summed up that we are behind the Americans as long as we are allowed to stay far enough behind. If that is not so, I would like the Foreign Secretary to tell us what is the British rôle. If we think that the Americans are doing a bad job and should not be doing what they are doing, we should dissociate ourselves from the war that is going on there. I take a different view, in favour of more active support but at least the former would be an honest and straight view and would be more appreciated by the Americans and people in South-East Asia than is our present equivocal attitude.
Finally, very little has been said today about Indo-Pakistan relations. I think that in this case we should realise that, despite the temporary settlement that was reached at Tashkent, this was really only cramming the lid on a simmering kettle for a little longer. Conditions are particularly bad in India. They are rapidly getting better in Pakistan, for rea- sons too long to go into now, but both countries are devoting too much of their resources to arms. The differences between India and Pakistan, with particular reference to Kashmir, are not only upsetting relations between two great countries, but are distorting the entire pattern of political relations outside the Indian sub-continent at the present time.
In the past the Soviet Union has not been particularly helpful in trying to bring any pressure towards an amicable getting together of India and Pakistan on these problems. There are signs not only at Tashkent, but otherwise, that the situation may have been improved in recent times. I think that if we in the Western countries and the Soviet Union are to continue sending taxpayers' money to these countries, we have a right to insist that they sit round the table and try to reach a settlement on the problems that are not only dividing the sub-continent, but distorting the entire economy throughout South Asia.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) referred to Britain's falling influence and standing abroad. I do not think that even the Foreign Secretary can deny that this is so. I have been on a Commonwealth tour, and it is a tragedy to find that wherever one goes one is regarded with pity by one's friends, and with contempt by those who are hostile to us. Occasionally one finds bewilderment on their part as to how the British nation has fallen into the state in which it is today. If the Foreign Secretary thinks that the standing of this country is as good now as it was when he took office, let alone when the Labour Government first came to power, he is capable of greater self-delusion than I imagined, and is the greatest self-delusionist in the House.
I have great pleasure in congratulating the Government on what I regard as increasing evidence of an effective and constructive foreign policy. I believe that this policy and this trend is well evidenced in the current policies in Southern Arabia.
During the debate a good deal has been said about direct and outright opposition to the European Economic Community. I believe that more characteristic of the trend of public opinion is a degree of hesitation and reservation about what is involved. I think that those who share this hesitation and reservation want to know more about possible alternatives, and, therefore, are not necessarily disturbed by the remarks attributed to Lord Chalfont.
They want to know more about the alternatives because they want to know what insurance policy is being studied by the Government in case we are not able to achieve entry to the Community. They also want more information about the alternatives because they believe that if it were demonstrated that we were actively considering viable alternatives this would, in itself, be evidence that we were fundamentally seeking to belong to wider economic and political groupings. I think, too, that some of those with hesitations want to know more about how not so much the interests of the old Commonwealth will be preserved—although this is very important—but about the position of the new Commonwealth if we enter the Community.
On the political level, some of us with reservations are a little disturbed by the argument which is creeping in that by entering the Community we will somehow to create a new viable Power bloc in international society. We believe that this is the very time to be moving away from traditional concepts of power politics, and that what matters is flexibility in international affairs, a flexibility which, traditionally, Britain has been in a good position to exploit. When we look at the international scene, we realise that there are two super-Powers, the Soviet Union and America, and we want to see demonstrated how, by entering the Community, we will be in a better position to influence these two Powers in their actions in the international community.
In the long run the most serious threat to international stability and world security arises from the world's population explosion, from the increasing world food shortage, and from the growing gap between the affluent and the poor nations of the world. In the past, traditionally on this side of the House a great deal of attention has been paid to this problem. It was expressed in our manifestos at the last two General Elections. It has been stressed in countless official party publications, and my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Minister of Trans- port, and the present President of the Board of Trade are all on record, in strong terms, as supporting the importance of policies to combat it.
Soon after the Labour Government came to office we saw the creation of the Ministry of Overseas Development, with a Minister of Cabinet rank, and a most encouraging White Paper, but, following the publication of this White Paper, the counter-pressures became obvious. The National Plan suggested that perhaps we had been doing more in this respect than we could afford, and when discussing how the extra wealth to be created during the next five years was to be shared said little about doing more in the fight against world ignorance, poverty and disease. Early this year we saw excessive cuts in the aid programme—cuts of about 10 per cent., amounting to £20 million out of £225 million. Then we saw the increases in fees for overseas students, and the Minister of Overseas Development put out from the Cabinet.
There is a grave omission from the Gracious Speech. There is no reference to overseas aid and development policies. Some of us are deeply distressed at this omission. We have to look at this in the context of the present economic situation and make three highly relevant observations.
First, people frequently suggest that because of the present economic situation and balance of payments crisis it is difficult for Britain to continue with aid at the same level. I believe that the balance of payments cost of our aid programme is grossly exaggerated. Earlier this year figures were quoted in the House which indicated that, in terms of our contribution to the International Development Association, for every £1 we contribute we receive 30s. worth of orders.
Secondly, just as, since the Industrial Revolution, we have seen the sustained growth of our economy by the increased purchasing power of the artisan and working classes, so it is true that as a trading nation we can see our economy continue to expand only if we seek to expand the purchasing power of the developing nations.
Finally, we spend ten times as much on a negative insurance policy against the outbreak of violence and conflict in world society as we spend on the vital fight against the causes of tension and conflict.
I suggest that this serious omission in the Gracious Speech can be put right only by a categorical assurance from the Dispatch Box that the Government intend to put the Minister of Overseas Development back into the Cabinet; intend, as soon as possible, to restore the cuts made in overseas aid and development programmes, and intend to increase the targets of those programmes.
We must have from the Dispatch Box a reassurance of the Government's attitude towards the forthcoming conference of U.N.C.T.A.D. at New Delhi. As I have said before in the House, it would be churlish not to accept that the Opposition, when in power, established a fine record on behalf of Britain at the U.N.C.T.A.D. conference, and we want to see the present Government improving on that record in the forthcoming conference at New Delhi.
I want to make three other points. First, on Vietnam, in keeping with the new sense of realism which is present in our foreign policy we should have more honesty from the Government in their references to the position of the Secretary-General of the United Nations towards this crisis. As I have understood it, the Secretary-General has said categorically that the unconditional cessation of bombing of North Vietnam by the Americans is a precondition to achieving further steps towards the solution of this critical problem. I cannot see how the Government can constantly say that they fundamentally accept and support the Secretary-General when, at the same time, they fail to support him in what he sees as the essential first step.
Secondly, I want briefly to refer to the crisis in Rhodesia. In historical perspective this may be seen as the biggest single issue confronting the present Government. Inevitably, in the long run we shall see African majority rule in Rhodesia. The basic question it how it comes. The harder and more firmly it is resisted at the moment the more likely is violent conflict and large scale bloodshed. In historical perspective it will be seen that we have a direct responsibility in this sphere—more direct than our inevitably marginal influence on the present situation in Vietnam.
Also, we should see the wider implications of the Rhodesian situation, extending beyond the problem of displacing the present illegal régime to the fact that it is the nerve centre of the racial conflict which threatens to divide the world community in a way never known before and that, having failed to deal effectively with the situation on our own and having called in the U.N. to assist us in displacing the régime, we should never be forgiven by international society if it were believed that what had happened was that, having seen that we were impotent, we decided to try to spread the blame for that impotence to the international community, calling into question the viability of the U.N. itself.
The only possible future policy in Rhodesia and the course which we have now taken is to follow the logic of sanctions, to extend them, and to take any necessary action to police them and make them effective. We would start to build up public support in Britain for such action if the Government would spell out in greater detail what the régime there means, the fact that, in our name—for we are the responsible authority—people are being imprisoned without proper trial, that there is no free education as we understand it, at either secondary or university level, and that none of the elementary human rights and freedoms which we possess are shared by the people in Rhodesia for whom we are responsible.
We must also recognise that, however relevant the six principles may have been in the past, we can now have no confidence that the present Rhodesian Government would abide by any agreement signed or made by this country guaranteeing majority rule in the future. For this reason, Nibmar is absolutely fundamental. The issues in this crisis are too vital for empty sentimentalism. We shall be judged in historical perspective not by our words at this juncture, but by our deeds.
After that firm comment to the Government, I would refer now to the situation in the Middle East, because it is there that the present Government and Foreign Secretary are building up immense respect for the Government's foreign policy and for their leadership in the international community. We must recognise that there are strong arguments on both sides in the Middle East. We must recognise Israel's need for survival, but, on the other hand, we must recognise that the Arab world has to pay a price in territorial sacrifice for Israel's existence which no one else in the international community has to pay.
For all those who care for Israel's survival again this is no time for sentimentalism. We must point out firmly to her that she is defeating her own objectives of stability and security by her present policy. Less than three weeks ago, I was on the Allenby Bridge between Jordan and Israel and saw refugees still coming across, this time mainly from Gaza at the rate of about 500 a day. There are now 220,000 new refugees in Jordan alone, a country denied the most prosperous part of her territory, on the West Bank. We know that 175,000 of them had applied to go back, that only 18,000 were invited back and that, of the 14,000 who went, only 3,000 were displaced persons, 11,000 being skilled people whom the Israelis need to run society on the West Bank.
We know that the refugees in their camps on the East Bank can see the better facilities of the camps in Jericho, within four miles of their shocking conditions. That is obviously generating tension. We know that there can be no question of imposing unilateral solutions of the frontier problems between Israel and her neighbours, since this will only perpetuate tension. Therefore, we ought to lend the Foreign Secretary outspoken support when he says that we recognise Israel's right to survival, but cannot, therefore, automatically endorse her present policies.
The Government have stressed their commitment to the United Nations and, in our present Foreign Secretary and Lord Caradon, we have two Ministers who are demonstrating effectively our determination to work through the U.N. I believe that the interesting challenge before the Government, which they are beginning, perhaps in a fumbling way in some respects to answer, is that as a nation we have to relate our foreign policy to international institutions. In the nuclear age there is in a very new sense no divisibility of peace. Peace is essentially indivisible, because of the constant threat of the escalation of any international crisis. It is impossible in these days to look to the national interest other than its being essentially related to the international interest.
In his excellent speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) said that the debate had ranged so widely over many topics that it made it difficult at times to follow previous speeches because one had to jump from one part of the world to another. In the few minutes which I have available, I find myself in much of the same predicament, and I shall therefore confine my remarks to the Middle East.
It is perhaps appropriate that I should be speaking on the Middle East today, the fiftieth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration—that declaration which was described by a distinguished Member of the House in 1939 as
invalid in origin and essence because it was promising to an undefined and unidentifiable party something which the promising party did not own and had no right to promise and could not promise except at the expense of a third party.
There is a good deal of truth in that remark, but it is irrelevant today because too much water and too much blood have flowed under the bridge—irrelevant except to explain the deep sense of grievance which exists among the Arabs about the situation in Israel and Palestine, a grievance which is not confined, as some people in this country believe, to Egypt or Syria but which is spread throughout the Arab world.
It is irrelevant, moreover, because Israel exists, a fact which it is difficult to contest. It is a member of the United Nations. International morality rightly calls for its protection. International morality, however, also calls for the protection of the rights of the Palestinian Arabs and of the refugees who are in camps on the east bank of the Jordan.
It is, I believe, in the genuine interests of Israel more than anything else that an acceptable settlement should be reached.
A great deal is spoken about the military importance of particular frontier lines, but I wonder how important they really are. Is it so important strategically for Israel to have its frontiers on the Jordan and the Suez Canal? When one looks in retrospect at the war in June it seems to me that the overwhelming lesson is that the war was decided in a couple of hours by a massive air attack which wiped out the Arab air forces. It is conceivable that if an acceptable settlement is not reached, at another stage, at another time, there could be an air attack on the other side, and this time it could be the Israeli Air Force which was wiped out in a single blow. If that were so, what would be the strategic value of the frontier lines which have been extended to what would militarily appear to be more defensible positions? I suggest, practically none. It is, therefore, important that a settlement should be reached which enables peace to come to the area, and if that is to be so, there must be a settlement which is acceptable to the Arab countries, a settlement which allows for the ending of the state of war and for the acceptance once and for all of Israel as a permanent factor and a part of the Middle East.
The war should be ended and there should be cast-iron guarantees by the great Powers on the lines suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Doulgas-Home), with a United Nations presence. When I say "cast-iron", I mean that they must be guarantees which ensure that the U.N. presence will not be withdrawn at the beck and call of anyone, as it unfortunately was at the time of the crisis in June. Such guarantees would give Israel much better protection than occupying more Arab land on the west bank or in Sinai.
There must also be an acceptable settlement over Jerusalem because while the Old City is deeply important to the Jews, it is equally deeply and emotionally important to the Muslims and Christians. There must be a status for the Old City which protects the interests and the religious feelings of the Muslims, Jews and Christians. It was wrong that for so many years the Jews could not go to the Wailing Wall. It would be equally wrong if the mosques of the Muslims were not protected by some sort of international status, and the same should apply for the sacred places of the Christians.
If a solution on these lines is reached, there will be a chance for this terrible danger spot being removed. If not, there will be an armistice for a time and then, in due course, at some unforeseen moment, there will be another conflict. This is a time for moderation and for taking a long view by both sides. There must be moderation and realism on the part of the Arabs, but also on the part of the Israelis. If they do not show this moderation and realism they will not be protecting their long-term interests.
Britain's function must be to show that we have sympathy and understanding for both sides. If we cannot do that, we will not be able to exercise any influence in this crucial area which is so important to us.
Some of us listened on Tuesday to an argument between the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about the relative degree of international gloom surrounding this and other Gracious Speeches. It was not a very important argument. All the speeches today have made perfectly clear the degree of apprehension that exists on both sides of the House and the concern, in particular, that some of the Government's policies have added to the darkness which today surrounds us.
I hope that the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs will not be offended by any criticisms I have to offer. They will almost certainly be less severe than those offered by his hon. Friend, if that is the way to describe the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short).
The diffuse character of these general debates, which was brought to your attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if it was not already there, by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths), creates a number of problems, especially for those who speak towards the end. In this debate, so many parts of the world have been included in the score of speeches we have had that it is harder than usual even to attempt intelligent comment on them all. For instance, several of the most sincere and best-informed speeches were, naturally and expectedly, concerned with the question of Britain's entry into Europe, but partly because I have a feeling that a specific debate on this subject is fairly certain before very long, and partly because my right hon. Friend has already expressed the Opposition's views on the present position and on the recent activities of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, I hope that I shall be forgiven if I turn to other matters.
It is in some ways unfortunate that the debate on foreign affairs has preceded our economic discussion. One of the right hon. Gentleman's distinguished former colleagues spoke of being forced to go naked into the council chamber. It was a graphic phrase, and a number of us would be tempted to sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman's metaphorical nakedness imposed by the present economic weakness of Britain if he himself had not for nearly two years occupied important economic office producing the particularly futile National Plan, and, therefore, shares abundantly the responsibility for our economic problems at home and for part of our alleged disability for entry into the European Community. Moreover, when this present incapacity of Britain is augmented by the Government's anxiety to contract out as speedily as possible from international responsibilities, not only the security of Britain but the peace of the world is likely to be seriously undermined.
We would all agree that the burden of maintaining world peace has seldom in history been effectively shared by more than a very few nations at a time. Through the United Nations at present a very large number of nations is charged with the responsibility for world peace, but the preservation, or the restoration, of peace must ultimately depend on the resolution—and I use the word in the non-technical sense of will backed up by courage—of still a very few nations. Anyone who emphasises today the continuing great importance of Britain in the world of 1967 is very often liable to be accused of living a century or at least half a century too late, but I believe that it may not be we, but others, who are blind to the significance of the changes in our international responsibility.
It is obvious, of course, that the present multiplication of our military strength—now many times greater than the strength at the disposal of Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington—has, at the same time, been overshadowed by a decline in strength relative to other nations which are now more powerful. But this consequent disappearance, I think forever, of the rôle that Britain played in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—it was described by the right hon. Gentleman as an imperial era—certainly does not compel the acceptance of the directly opposite philosophy, as the right hon. Gentleman seemed to me to suggest this afternoon. In other words, because Britain will not again play the dominant part it used to play, it by no means follows that there is not a part for us to play of the utmost significance. In conjunction with our friends in the Commonwealth and our other allies British action can and will frequently be decisive.
Moreover, if we opt out, we make certain that issues will be decided by the United States of America—not necessarily popular in every quarter of this House—by the European Community possibly with Britain outside it, by the Soviet Union, or by Communist China. Any views we in Britain might hold would be treated with exactly the consideration which our lack of involvement would earn for them.
If we reflect for a moment on the changes and fluctuations in international alignments, even over the last 50 years, it is tempting, and perhaps not wholly unrealistic, to think that almost anything is possible in the future. In addition to the changing alignments among the main powers today, there will be the new alignments of a whole host of modern nations whose various choices in future cannot fail to increase in significance over the rest of this century; and above all, a potential conflict, far greater in terms of power than the world has ever seen, the struggle between Russia and China, economic, ideological, territorial and possibly also racial.
In the shadow of all this and in the wake of the rapid relative decline in the authority of Britain, it is perhaps not surprising that we should ask ourselves as a nation the question which a great many of us in our introspective moments ask ourselves as individuals, can our own efforts really exercise a decisive influence? I beg the Government to reconsider the negative answer they appear to have given to this self-searching question. It is because of the fluidity and the very uncertainty of international relations, and because of the immensity of the issues involved, that Britain's contribution, although relatively smaller than in the past, was never so important as it is today.
If the right hon. Gentleman attaches the weight, which I believe he does in his heart, to the world's continuing need of Britain, I hope that he will express it—as he certainly can express it—with both clarity and realism. I give two examples of what I mean. One concerns the small territory of Gibraltar. There over the last year we have seen a marked lack of clarity in the expression of policy of the present Government; and repeated evasions earlier this year of questions from this side of the House led to a dangerous lack of confidence on the Rock, anxious doubts within this country, with a corresponding and comprehensible rise in the hopes of Spain. I am certain that clear statements earlier both of our claim and our intentions could have avoided much confusion and brought nearer the settlement which we should all like to see.
On the other side, the need for realism is most evident at the other end of the world. In connection with the Government's proposals for the Far East I understand that the Government intend to continue to provide military support for Singapore and Malaysia in the late 1970s and beyond. The effect of this welcome intention obviously depends on whether it can be believed—on its credibility. There are a great many questions which we should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State for Defence before we are convinced that the Government's intention can be translated into a sufficient reality to provide an effective guarantee of freedom in Southern Asia.
This afternoon the right hon. Gentleman made a most serious statement, which has been referred to in several speeches since, about Aden and South Arabia. It has been most authoritatively commented upon by my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), but mixed with the seriousness of his statement I found, as I think several of my hon. Friends found, an almost frightening levity.
The right hon. Gentleman told us that the future security of people from this country after the British withdrawal was a matter to be discussed. The position is only a few days off. I must repeat what my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham said when dealing with this question, that we shall certainly press very strongly indeed next week for a progress report on the action to be taken to secure the well-being of these people when we withdraw in the middle of this month.
Also, in his statement on Aden, the Foreign Secretary gave discouraging news to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds in connection with his imaginative suggestion for the future of the Island of Perim. My hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) also referred to this. I understand, if my hon. Friend is right, that an Order in Council will be necessary finally to decide the status of the island. We certainly intend on that occasion to discuss what seems to be an important opportunity that has been missed.
Apart from this, the Minister of State has been asked a good many questions. I shall not waste his time, nor that of the House, by repeating them. Before I finish, I should like to touch on a topic which I have always considered to be highly relevant to the important questions we have been considering today. This is the question which was dealt with by the hon. Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd), the question of overseas aid. He spoke of it with the deep conviction which I know he holds. We have had now seven years of the Development Decade which was inaugurated in 1960. In spite of great efforts by both this and other countries, the gap between the developed economies and the less developed is not narrowing; it is growing wider. Most of us know some of the reasons for this, but it points clearly to the need for increasing the effort we are making.
Unfortunately, since 1964 the Government appear to have been attaching to aid a very much lower priority than the seductive promises of the right hon. Lady the present Minister of Transport led us to expect before the last General Election but one. The present Minister of Overseas Development, a right hon. Member for whom we all have great respect, no
longer sits in the Cabinet, but from outside the Cabinet Room this Minister speaks, if I may quote from a recent speech of his, of the need to be
fired with the same dedication and determination as those reformers of the last century.
Well might he use those words, because before he became responsible the target of aid for 1967–68 was cut from £225 million to £205 million. Under the Conservative Government—the Secretary of State will remember the "thirteen wasted years"—
—aid grew at the rate of £10 million a year.
Over the last three years the Socialist Government's annual increase is fractionally just over half our performance. Unless the present Minister can do better in the remaining years or months of this Parliament, this comparison with the reformers of the last century will begin to wear a little thin. Moreover, I am doubtful—I think that some of my hon. Friends share my doubts—whether the Government will hit the target of 1 per cent. of the gross national income to be devoted to aid and private investment in the developing countries during the financial year 1967–68.
Now we await the U.N.C.T.A.D. conference to be held in Delhi next February. Like the hon. Member for Portsmouth, West, I shall be very anxious to know how the Government approaches this important conference. Before the conference in 1964, there was a conference of Commonwealth Finance Ministers. What is happening about the possibility of a similar meeting of Commonwealth Finance Ministers before the U.N.C.T.A.D. conference on this occasion? Secondly, has any agreement yet been reached about replenishing the funds of the International Development Association? The information that I have is that the Government have offered a substantial increase if other countries will co-operate. I should like him to tell us what has happened to this important initiative and what will happen to the Government offer if other countries do not come up to scratch.
Thirdly, could he tell us, after the many attempts that we have made to question his right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development, where will this proposed cut of £20 million be made? I do not see his advantage or the advantage of his right hon. Friend in continuing to be coy. I know the infinite resources of Ministers in refusing answers, but we shall certainly receive the answer eventually, almost certainly before the next General Election, and so I would be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman, on behalf of his right hon. Friend, would give us a clear answer tonight where this cut will be made and what countries will unfortunately suffer.
My hon. Friends and others have asked the Government a number of questions and have made a number of suggestions. I have added a few questions of my own, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will have time to answer all of them. But, more important than answering these questions that we have put to him, I beg that in the speech that he is to make at the end of this important debate he will declare his faith in the work that he believes lies ahead of Britain and that he will commit this country to a continuing international responsibility in the future.
Above all, I ask that his right hon. Friend, who, I hope, is listening to the debate, will never disregard either clarity or realism, nor be afraid—here, I fervently appeal to him—that our countrymen will be unwilling to answer any summons to continue to serve the world, certainly in different ways and by different methods, but in the same spirit as that in which Britain has served the world for many centuries.
This has been an extremely good debate, although naturally on an occasion like this it has ranged very widely. It has been a serious debate and I think it has done a better service than the fireworks that my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said he came to the House this evening to witness—or, I would suspect, take part in. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] In case any hon. Member should think that my right hon. Friend is discourteous, I should tell the House that he explained to me that he had another pressing engagement. In fact, I think he came to the House at some personal inconvenience expressly so that he could give his 100 per cent. support to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. Therefore, the House will understand why he is not able to be here with us at the moment.
It is completely wrong to say that our debate has been, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington said, a muted exhibition such as an assistant to a funeral undertaker would put on. In the context of his remarks, I rather suspected that he was very critical of me because I had not been subjected to either the criticism or the praise of the Press in recent months. In reply to a debate of this kind at this stage it is certainly my ambition not to upset that state of affairs, at least so far as today goes.
In following the right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood), I should like to express a welcome to him in what I think is his first speech since his appointment as a foreign affairs spokesman for the Opposition, although I think I am right in recalling that it is not the first occasion on which he has wound up a debate of this kind from the other side of the House. In that particular respect he has an advantage over me because this is the first occasion that I have had the privilege of replying to a general foreign affairs debate, and I am indeed acutely aware of the great difficulty of trying to cover in half an hour the great variety of topics and views which have been expressed by hon. Members.
Indeed, if I were to do justice to the questions posed by the right hon. Member for Bridlington, that would pre-empt most of my time. I have great sympathy for the point made by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths), when he suggests that we ought to try to find a way to debate some of these subjects separately instead of, as the pressure of time usually requires, trying to cover them all in a single debate.
I have been greatly assisted by the full and comprehensive speech which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made at the beginning of the debate. He gave a clear and cogent statement of the Government's policy on all the issues which have been the main burden of our debate today—Europe, Vietnam, South- East Asia, Aden and the Middle East. However, before I come to those matters, I shall try to deal with the important points raised by the right hon. Member for Bridlington about our aid programme, points which had been put forcefully a little earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd).
We are making preparations to play as positive a part as possible in the second United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, which is due to open in New Delhi next February. Last month, the developing countries met together in Algiers to concert their policy for the conference. We have not yet heard officially what they agreed, but we are to meet a small mission of representatives of these countries. We shall study their views with great care. It will be our object to do all we can legitimately to meet the aspirations of the developing countries, whose progress and economic development are of vital concern to us all. In the long run, it is by trade and by their development of their own resources and the skills of their people that the developing countries will attain prosperity, not simply by aid. We shall in this process keep closely in touch with the Commonwealth and our other friends and allies.
On the general question of aid, I am sure that the right hon. Member for Bridlington will not, on reflection, expect me to go into great detail at this juncture, particularly as the main responsibility rests with my right hon. Friend the Minister concerned. We found it necessary, for this financial year, 1967–68, to reduce our aid target from £225 million to £205 million. The House knows that this must be seen against the background of serious international payments problems. Such reductions had to be made.
Although the right hon. Gentleman was somewhat critical of the percentage rate of growth in the aid programme under this Government as compared with that under previous Governments, what he did not tell us was the point at which we start. It is the total amount of resources which are given to the aid programme that counts, not whether it is X or X minus 1 per cent. Having regard to our economic position, we have made and are making a substantial contribution.
I cannot give my hon. Friend the precise figure, but I shall write to him, or if, as I think may be the case, the information is available only from the Ministry of Overseas Development, I shall arrange for him to have it, if at all possible.
The House will be glad to know that we have decided to give more aid next year than this. We cannot at this stage say exactly how much because it depends on several factors which are still under discussion. One of them, which the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend mentioned, is the replenishment of the International Development Association funds.
We have also promised to give significant aid to Malaysia and Singapore, to help them adjust their economies to the changes in our defence expenditure. We have undertaken to provide over £5 million of food aid in connection with the cereals agreement in the course of the Kennedy Round. Not only shall we give much more aid, but we expect much of it to be more effective. In accordance with the decisions we made in 1965, many of our loans will be on interest-free terms, thus greatly assisting those developing countries where serious problems of international indebtedness threatened to prejudice development.
On the question of the replenishment of the resources of the International Development Association, I should like to join in the tributes paid to the work of the I.D.A. We want very much to see its work extended, and are prepared to make our proper contribution to such an increase. As the right hon. Gentleman said, we have taken an initiative; we have made a firm proposal to double the resources of I.D.A. We are pressing the other members for a successful and speedy decision on the proposal, but we are not yet in a position to know what the outcome will be. We shall certainly do all we can to increase the resources available.
I should like to say something about my own particular responsibility for disarmament. Our major concern in the 18-Nation Disarmament Committee in Geneva over the past few months has been the negotiations for a treaty to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons to fresh countries.
I do not see that that is relevant, but I have no intention of being present at any ceremony on Saturday.
At Geneva I have not disguised my disappointment at the delays in bringing a draft text before the Committee for consideration. As the House knows, the Soviet and United States co-Chairmen tabled identical draft texts on 24th August, though the important Article 3 of the treaty, which is to deal with the safeguards to ensure that there is no transfer of nuclear weapons—or materials which might be made into weapons—to those countries which do not at present possess them, was left blank in the absence of agreement on a text for that article.
Negotiations to produce an agreed draft safeguards article have been in progress since August, and I hope that in the very near future we shall have before us a text that is generally acceptable. In addition, a solution must be found—perhaps outside the Treaty—to the problem of a security guarantee from the nuclear weapon States to the non-nuclear weapon countries, which will satisfy the latters' apprehensions of the possible danger to their security of renouncing in a treaty the intention to acquire nuclear armaments for themselves.
Time is now short if we are to reach the goal of getting agreement on the draft treaty at Geneva in time to discuss it in the United Nations before the end of the year. Not only will a great opportunity be lost if we are not able to meet the timetable, but we shall also lose the opportunity of lessening tension between East and West and resuming progress for further measures towards complete and general disarmament.
The need to press forward with more ambitious work in disarmament is underlined by the recent announcement by the United States Government of their decision to undertake the development and deployment of a limited system of anti-ballistic missiles, designed essentially against possible attack from China. The announcement followed what was already known to be a Soviet decision some time previously to implement a limited deployment of such missiles in the Soviet Union.
Her Majesty's Government have for some time been concerned about the possibility that deployment of antiballistic missiles might add a new dimension to the arms race and make progress in arms control and disarmament negotiations more difficult. Ministers have drawn attention to these dangers in public, and we have made our misgivings known to both the United States Government and the Soviet Union Government at the highest level.
While we understand why the United States Government have decided to go ahead with a limited A.B.M. deployment, we have made clear our regret that they should have found it necessary to take this step, although it is important to note that this decision was taken in view of the development of Chinese military nuclear capability and that it is against a possible Chinese attack that their system will be deployed.
Now that both super-Powers have actually decided to deploy A.B.M.s, it is most important that the adverse consequences should be kept to a minimum. The United States Government have stated that their decision in no way indicates that they regard an agreement with the Soviet Union on the limitation of strategic nuclear offensive and defensive forces as any the less urgent or desirable, and they are continuing with their efforts to initiate discussions with the Russians to this end. We very much hope that it will be possible for the United States and the Soviet Union to move towards an understanding. These two countries carry a very special responsibility in regard to nuclear weapons.
Perhaps I could mention briefly another development about which I have answered Questions in the House, namely, the attitude of this Government to the treaty for the denuclearisation of Latin-America. It may have escaped the attention of hon. Members that the Government announced at the General Assembly last week that it is our intention to sign the two protocols, one covering our dependent territories in the area and the other in our capacity as a nuclear Power. We are the first, and at the moment the only, nuclear Power to have taken a step of this kind, and to have made its situation clear. I think that it was absolutely right that we should on the one hand support, where we can, all initiatives towards disarmament and arms control and, on the other hand, give full support to this welcome initiative of countries in Latin-America.
Could the right hon. Gentleman clear up one question? When the American announcement was made that they were going to construct the A.B.M. screen, the Foreign Secretary, I believe, said that he had not been consulted. At Ankara some three weeks later, Mr. McNamara made it clear that the Government had been consulted. Can he say which of the statements is correct?
I do not think I ought to get into an argument of that kind.
Disarmament is one field in which Her Majesty's Government have been playing a leading part in co-operation with our Allies and with the international community at large. We have also continued to play our part to the utmost of our ability in the various alliances to which we belong. In view of the very important speech on N.A.T.O. by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds, I should like to say a word about the recent developments in N.A.T.O., because I agree very much with him that it is the problem now to show the relevance of N.A.T.O. to the problems of the future and not only to the problems of the past.
N.A.T.O. is now sometimes criticised as an outworn relic of the cold war and as irrelevant to our present needs. It is certainly true that N.A.T.O. has served one of its purposes, and served it supremely well. It has succeeded in keeping the peace in Europe for 20 years, and because of the strength and cohesion that this gives the West the prospects of aggression, which are now perhaps too easily forgotten, have receded in Europe. This is the success story of N.A.T.O.
Last year the unity of the Alliance and of its military organisation was subjected to a more tangible test when the French Government decided to withdraw from the military side. That strain has been happily and most effectively overcome.
The move of S.H.A.P.E. to Belgium was completed earlier this year and last month the North Atlantic Council itself moved to the new N.A.T.O. headquarters outside Brussels. Much of the credit for this smooth transfer is due to the Belgian Government. The new N.A.T.O. headquarters, which I had the opportunity to visit last week, was built with miraculous speed. The building, which was begun only in March, was used by the Council on 18th October. On behalf of the allies, and certainly of the British Government, I should like to express our thanks and appreciation to Belgium.
The military side of the alliance—
I have responsibilities for disarmament and a number of other matters, all of which have been explained by my right hon. Friend.
The military side of the alliance and its constant state of readiness are not, however, the whole story. The other purpose of N.A.T.O. is political. Its purposes here include the promotion of détente—which I am sure my hon. Friend will agree with—and also closer political consultation and co-operation between the members of the alliance in the many common political problems they face.
We believe that real progress in improving relations with the countries of Eastern Europe can best be made in close consultation and co-operation with our allies. And this we believe is also true, for example, in pursuing disarmament and arms control policies.
This positive and constructive view of what ought to be the future political rôle of N.A.T.O. is now being reviewed within the N.A.T.O. Council on the initiative of the Belgian Foreign Minister, M. Harmel. The results of this review are to come before the next Ministerial meeting in December and we shall do all we can to see that the outcome is both constructive and positive. I am confident that a successful outcome of what is called the Harmel review will enable us the better to serve the second and perhaps more important purpose—the political purpose—of the alliance.
Aden and our European policy were two of the subjects occupying the time of the House today. The right hon. Member for Kinross and East Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) asked a number of questions concerning the position of expatriate public servants and about compensation. We had, as he knows, reached agreement in principle with the Federal Government on the normal arrangement for decolonization—a public officers' agreement under which that Government would assume responsibility for pensions and comparable benefit.
We intend to tackle this afresh with the new Government as soon as we can. I can assure the House that we do not intend to allow British public servants to go without their due. But I would prefer not to go beyond that until we have been able to negotiate with the new Government.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and a number of other hon. Members opposite also raised the question of the security of British subjects who will remain in South Arabia after independence. As my right hon. Friend said, there is an obvious obligation on Her Majesty's Government to seek appropriate safeguards for this from the successor Government.
Since the discussion of this matter with the Federal Government is now a matter of the past, the question will be one of the most urgent to be discussed with the successor Government as soon as they emerge. Meanwhile, the High Commissioner has, in the recent difficult months, kept in touch with the representatives of the British business community, including B.P. and also with the foreign consuls in Aden. They have, therefore, been aware of his assessment as events have developed. He will naturally keep under constant review the question of what advice, if any, should be given to the community for the future.
If the right hon. Gentleman had listened carefully to my right hon. Friend this afternoon, he did indicate the nature of the problems and the fact that there was some encouragement now, which we hope will turn out to be well-founded, that, arising from the agreement in Cairo yesterday, we shall be able shortly to get into the kind of discussions that I think the whole House would wish us to conduct.
I wonder if the Minister could assure us that the Foreign Secretary will make some statement early next week about the position of the British civilians who will remain behind. Our tenure in Aden is now numbered in days, and these people are living in great anxiety. We cannot meander on, waiting for some government to be formed, which may not be formed before we leave.
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman my right hon. Friend's intention is to keep the House as fully informed as possible, but it is difficult in these circumstances, for the reason that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, to give a particular date. The High Commissioner is constantly in touch with all the people concerned and will give all the advice that is possible in what we all concede are extremely difficult circumstances.
The right hon. Gentleman knows the situation perfectly well. Although he was not pressed, as I am, to a deadline, he declined for a long time to give way. I do not think that he has any complaint on that score.
As I understood it, both the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire and the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) agreed in their assessments that to depart early was the right course in present circumstances. However, there were differences between them on which, had time permitted, I would have liked to comment, but I can only do so extremely briefly.
I should like to draw the attention of the House to what seemed to me a very significant development, and that was the extremely defensive and apologetic explanation that the right hon. Member for Streatham gave about his difficulties over Aden and the Federation. Indeed, he might well have left it there, but I feel that he spoiled his speech by going on to a highly selective account of recent history which, had time permitted, I would have liked to take, point by point. On the other hand, all the points that he has made have been discussed and countered time and again in the many debates on this subject that we have had.
In the remaining minutes I should like to say a word about the discussion that we have had on Europe following the important statement that my right hon. Friend made last Thursday and the much longer statement he made at the opening of the debate. He made it clear that we shall continue to press hard for negotiations to open. Our application is on tile table. We, for our part, are ready to start negotiations now.
Various points have been produced in the debate, and inevitably there has been great discussion about figures—the, effect of joining the Communities on the cost of living, export costs, and so on. But again one needs to make clear that we are talking not about conditions now, but conditions when we join the E.E.C. In a three-day debate last May the lines on which we would seek certain arrangements were made clear.
I think that the House would expect me to make some reference to what I am sure we all thought was a most important maiden speech, the maiden speech from the back benches of my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay). If I had the time I would like to debate the figures which he put before us, and indeed some of the arguments, but I must make clew that the suggestion which he made, and which seemed to find favour with others. that instead of trying for full membership of the European Community we should aim at a form of association, a kind of industrial free trade area built around the central core of the Treaty of Rome, is totally unacceptable. The right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) reminded us that this was rather the kind of thing which his right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), and others, had tried during the Free Trade Area negotiations in 1959. I think that it is wishful thinking to believe that we can possibly negotiate anything on the lines suggested by my right hon. Friend.
The main reason why we are not interested in the idea of any form of association however is that it would not give us the advantages of membership. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made clear, we would regard this kind of solution as very unsatisfactory, and it would involve forgoing just about all the political benefits which a united Europe would bring, and which we and our prospective partners in the Community regard as so important an element in our application.
I would have liked to go on to deal with the points made about sterling and capital movements, but time does not permit. I will write to the Leader of the Liberal Party giving chapter and verse to refute his suggestion that we are in any way involved in the prosecution of the war in Vietnam. Time does not permit me to go through the three points that he made, but I will write to him fully setting out the position.
I conclude on the note with which my right hon. Friend began the debate, the changing rôle of Britain in a changing world. think that we have only to look at the vastly increased membership of the United Nations in the last 20 years to realise the great changes which have taken place, and are taking place in the world.
We have taken decisive steps in Europe and in reshaping our commitments east of Suez. Such a transformation is bound to lead to difficult, and, at times, inevitably, painful decisions, but I believe, as my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, West said in his thoughtful speech, that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary today presented to the House and to the country a constructive and positive foreign policy designed, in conjunction with our allies and friends, to try to solve the difficult problems which we and the world face today.
Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, will he tell the House definitely that either his right hon. Friend or he will make a statement next week, and early next week, on how the British subjects in Aden are to be protected?
My right hon. Friend has indicated, and I confirm it, that he will do his best to meet the desires and convenience of the House in this, but in a very difficult and changing situation I think that it would be not only unreasonable but unwise to tie him to a particular date, because this in itself is a factor in the situation.