Foreign Affairs

Part of Orders of the Day — Queen's Speech – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd November 1967.

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Photo of Mr Frank Judd Mr Frank Judd , Portsmouth West 12:00 am, 2nd November 1967

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.