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Orders of the Day — Foreign Affairs

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th December 1968.

Alert me about debates like this

Motion made and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Fitch.]

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Before the debate opens, may I remind the House that between 30 and 40 hon. Members are seeking to take part in it? All have an equal right to be called if I can get them in; brief speeches will help.

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

On a point of order. May I have your guidance before the debate takes place, Mr. Speaker? You will have seen on today's Order Paper a Motion, signed by 143 hon. Members, asking for certain action—

[That this House, appalled by the mounting starvation and killing in Biafra, urges Her Majesty's Government to press both sides for an immediate cease-fire, and to seek agreement with the three other Governments still permitting the supply of arms to the combatants for a joint ban as proof of its readiness to stop British arms supplies forthwith; and to help organise a massive international operation to provide food and medical supplies.]—

and another, signed by 173 Members, asking for a debate on Nigeria—

[That this House urges the holding of a debate on Nigeria before Christmas.]

Tonight, there is to be a Division at the end of this debate, which will range over such matters as the nationality of 3,000 Falkland islanders, which, some of us feel, is of somewhat—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. The hon. Gentleman must put his point of order briefly and not traverse the whole of the foreign affairs debate which we are to have.

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

I have to indicate my point, Sir—which some of us feel is of slightly less importance than the lives of millions of people.

A number of us wish to indicate our views by abstaining in the Division, provided that a satisfactory decision has not been taken by the Government. How do we indicate that we are abstaining, or acting, on the Nigerian issue and not on such trivial matters? The whole relevance of Parliament on issues of importance is involved.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

The hon. Gentleman has clearly indicated, if he takes the step of abstaining from the Division or of voting for the Motion what his opinion is, and why he will be doing so. Obviously in a foreign affairs debate all kinds of matters will be discussed. The hon. Gentleman is keen on one and other hon. Members are keen on other aspects of the foreign situation. He must decide, as every hon. Member must decide, whether he votes for or against the Adjournment of the House, or abstains. It is as simple as that.

3.50 p.m.

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

The House is glad that the Foreign Secretary has returned for this debate, because it will give him the opportunity to give authoritative answers on behalf of the Government to a number of questions which have been causing concern to hon. Members on both sides of the House. One of them is Nigeria, to which I shall return.

The first matter which I wish to raise is the treatment of Mr. Anthony Grey by the Chinese. His continued detention is unjustifiable and offends against every standard of international behaviour. That is true and will not be disputed. But when it comes to action there must be only one test: would that action hasten Mr. Grey's release? The House, while rightly expressing its grave concern, will, I feel, be generally inclined to trust the Foreign Secretary's judgment as to whether this is the time when, however hard it may be, he has to ask for even more patience from Mr. Grey's relatives and friends, or whether the point has been reached when there is no alternative but retaliation.

I make it clear that if the Foreign Secretary prefers to say nothing today, I will not press him, and I believe that the House will understand. Nevertheless, it is right that, on behalf of hon. Members on both sides, it should be stressed what a very serious view hon. Members take of the Chinese Government's delay in releasing a man who is innocent of any crime. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]

The second matter about which many hon. Members on both sides of the House are anxious is the handling of the Falkland Islands negotiation. The Foreign Secretary had a taste of the mood of the House at Question Time yesterday. It is true that the Foreign Secretary and other Ministers have repeated—the Foreign Secretary said it again yesterday—that the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands would not be changed unless the islanders wished it. It is pertinent to ask why, in spite of these repeated assurances, there is such widespread disbelief and disquiet and why it persists. I hope that I can help the right hon. Gentleman to understand the foundation for the anxieties.

On 31st January, 1966, the right hon. Gentleman told the House that he had not discussed the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands with the Argentine Government since the British Government did not regard this as negotiable. That was accepted by the House, because sovereignty was not on the agenda of the talks. But suspicion has arisen in recent weeks on two counts. Ministers in another place and in this House—and the Minister of State dealt as valiantly as he could with this matter—when questioned on the point and scope of the negotiations, have replied by saying a number of things: that they were about links, that they were about communications, that they were about links and communications.

They did not say that they were not about sovereignty. But the conclusion became almost inescapable that, although the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in another place, did not feel free to say so, the negotiations were essentially about sovereignty, and certainly that was the impression of the Argentine Government. The Foreign Secretary confirmed this yesterday. Therefore, the situation is different from the situation which the right hon. Gentleman described in January, 1966, and our assumptions and suspicions were correct.

In addition, we have had the persistent rumours of what Lord Chalfont is said to have said. He must be the most prolific off-the-record talker which any Government have ever had. Some examples are these. He is said to have said to the islanders that their economic future was bleak without Argentina; that the dependence on wool exports could not possible provide them with a living for much longer; that Britain could not continue the expense and responsibility of their defence.

I do not know whether the Foreign Secretary can confirm these rumours about what the noble Lord said, but he can hardly blame the Opposition, or, indeed, a number of hon. Members opposite, if, as a result of all this, we have concluded that the purpose of this exercise is to come to an agreement with Argentina and to present it to the islanders as an agreement made jointly by the British and Argentine Governments with which they had better concur or else.

If the purpose is to give confidence to the Falkland Islanders, the Foreign Secretary could so easily have said that, as it is clear that the islanders do not wish to change the status quo, sovereignty will be taken off the agenda of the future discussions. He was unwilling to say that. Therefore, I think that two conclusions are justifiable. Either he is using sovereignty with no intention of conceding it, in which case the Argentinians are being encouraged in false hopes and are being led up the garden path, or he has in mind a form of agreement where he would argue with the islanders that in return for this or that, in exchange for this or that, they would do well to surrender their sovereignty to Argentina. The line between persuasion and pressure is very, very thin. If the Government so intended, the sustained interest of the House has, I think, prevented them from taking this course.

Nevertheless, the Opposition will divide the House tonight because we want to make it crystal clear that should the Conservatives inherit a state of continuing negotiation we will exclude the subject of sovereignty from the talks. We cannot see any point in the talks continuing if sovereignty is included. Is there any reason why the islanders should not be a party to these discussions and in the talks? Perhaps the Foreign Secretary will tell us what he thinks about that.

The third matter to which I should like to draw attention which is of enormous interest to the House and of great complexity and difficulty concerns the civil war in Nigeria. Africa presents a most pitiful picture of tribal rivalry and warfare. From all accounts, there is a massacre in Southern Sudan, where the dead can be numbered on a comparable scale with the dying and starving in Nigeria. It it a terrible fact that tribal warfare is rife. The anxieties over Nigeria are twofold. The first is the supply of arms from outside the country, and the second the feeding of the under-nourished and starving.

On the supply of arms, the British Government are assailed for continuing to send arms to a Federal Government in the circumstances of a rebellion, or so-called rebellion, whereby Biafra seeks to escape from central control.

The first reflection that I have on this aspect of the matter is that there can be no rule applied in Britain's dealing with a Commonwealth country. For example, the House will recall the cases of two other Commonwealth countries, Tanzania and Kenya, which were threatened with internal rebellion. Britain not only sent arms to these countries; she actually intervened militarily and, what is more, to universal applause.

The Nigerian case concerning the secession of Biafra is not, I admit, an exact parallel, but, nevertheless, it is worth recalling the previous actions taken by a British Government in those countries. In this case, the Government were asked, and are being asked, to cut off traditional supplies to a Commonwealth Government which is represented in all Commonwealth conferences. I have never felt justified in asking the Government to do that. For Britain now, unilaterally, to renounce the supply of arms to the Federal Government of Nigeria would not, I believe, serve the cause of peace, and for an additional reason to those that I have given. The situation has changed for the worse. France and Russia have now entered the lists of suppliers, the first with cynical opportunism, the second of set purpose.

It may not be generally known to hon. Members that the Russians have taken what they call "technical control" of all the Algerian airfields and far to the south in Algeria. There is nothing they would like better than to penetrate the north and the west of Africa and be the sole supplier of arms and aircraft to Federal Nigeria, thus achieving what they have achieved in Algeria, virtual control over the airfields of that country. The Nigerians are well aware of this pitfall, and I hope that we, too, shall take it into consideration.

Now that the civil war is complicated by the intervention of other countries from outside and, therefore, the situation has been altered from what it was only a few months ago, ought there not to be a cut-off of all external arms supplies? That could only be organised, I would suggest, by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, but I think that the effort should be made. With the Soviet Union involved, the policing of such an agreement would have to be done, and, as all hon. Members know, that is difficult to achieve when the Soviet Union is involved. Nevertheless, I believe that such a scheme ought to be tried and that the British Government should take the initiative with U Thant, even though the chances of success are small. I think that the House would like the right hon. Gentleman's reaction to such a proposal.

My next subject is food. The malnutrition and the death roll both in Federal and Ibo territory are harrowing now. If, as is rumoured in certain areas, the inhabitants are eating the seed corn, then the suffering and death could multiply into a tragedy of completely horrifying proportions. Let us not underestimate the work which is being done by the voluntary societies, the Red Cross and others. I dare say that hon. Members have received the pamphlet which I have received from Oxfam. The information contained in this paper adds up to a substantial assistance in food, medicine and generally in relief. It is a most creditable story on which all concerned should be congratulated. The most useful thing that the House can do now is to ask the Foreign Secretary if we can establish the true facts.

It is, I think, agreed that the scale of the mercy operation requires a land corridor to Iboland. Do the Federal Government agree to the use of a land corridor, and will they make it available? If so, what is the obstacle to relief going that way? It is extremely important that the Foreign Secretary, if he feels able to, should answer that question.

It is also agreed that an air flight into one important Biafran-held airfield should be organised. While it could not do the job that a land corridor could do, it could do a very important supplementary job and deal urgently with particular areas in which famine is rife. Have the Federal Government agreed to facilitate such flights by day into this airfield, and, if so, what is the obstacle to relief going that way? I think that the House may take it that, short of forcing a way into a Biafran-held airfield, the Red Cross and the British Government are eager to exploit any opening that is given, as neither funds nor lack of organisation will stand in the way of a full-scale operation.

It seems that the Government are renewing the efforts to promote new discussions on a cease-fire and a possible peace to follow it, and that two Ministers are abroad now with that in view. As those talks are likely to take a considerable time, would it be possible to achieve quick relief by proposing to Colonel Ojukwu that the international observer team, which has been well received in Federal territory, should be allowed on to this vital airfield to control and regulate the daylight flights bringing in food to Iboland, to ensure that the supplies are received and, more important, that the supplies go to the right place, since there is a great deal of doubt where the food that goes to Iboland ends up, very often not with the children and the starving. It would be helpful if the Foreign Secretary would give us the latest information that he has and the answers to the questions I have asked, which, I hope, are quite plain.

Only a few weeks ago we had a foreign affairs debate on the Queen's Speech, when we were able to review the strategy of the free world and Britain's part in it. I do not intend today to retrace or retread that ground. The Soviet Note to Her Majesty's Government was a Note of vulgar abuse from a country which has a bad conscience, and it courted the reply which it received. The right hon. Gentleman was right, too, to ration the number of the rather common run-of-the-mill secret service agents to which we are automatically expected to give hospitality in the Soviet Embassy.

To the general foreign and defence policy of the Government we shall return on a future day. I do not know whether the Foreign Secretary will want to say anything about developments in Europe. I notice with satisfaction that there have been discussions in Brussels on organising technological co-operation.

In conclusion, I turn to the wider scene and the reaction against the actions of the Soviet Union. If there is a criticism of the Government's action, it would rot apply to their policy in support of N.A.T.O., but rather to this, that they do not seem fully to recognise that the danger from the Soviet Union is not one of direct war; it is one of what I might call creeping expansion round the flanks of the free world. Against: hat, the Government not only do not ensure but are actively abandoning positions which are vital to the strategic defence of the free countries.

I hope that the Foreign Secretary will be able to satisfy the House in answering some of the questions that I have raised, because I believe that they are of general concern.

4.20 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) has referred to the specific points in which the House has the greatest interest at present, and we must accept that those of us who are opening this debate do not seek to develop any general theme of international affairs but deal with certain issues which have forced themselves on the attention of the House and the general public.

However, I notice that some of them are concerned with areas such as Nigeria, where there is actual fighting, some are concerned with Central Europe, where there is tension, and we have also had references to matters where mankind has avoided either fighting or tension and is trying to seek negotiated settlements of disputes.

It seems to me that the whole task before mankind, in which this country must play its part, is to help to get ourselves back from the edge of the precipice towards a situation in which human beings can live normal lives and engage in activities which are more constructive than violence, tension and conflict.

As the House knows, recently I have spent a fortnight in Pakistan and India. I would like to have told the House about the possibilities of trade and economic advance beneficial to them and to us, because, as I say, what we must seek to do, everywhere in the world that we can, is to stop fighting, to reduce tension, to encourage negotiated settlements of all points in dispute, and so create the kind of world in which mankind can apply himself to the solution of all those economic problems which beset him so intensely.

The first step, then, is to stop fighting, and immediately we must think of Nigeria. I accept the right hon. Gentleman's setting of this in the whole African framework. We have to recognise that Nigeria is a large and fully independent country and a partner in the Commonwealth. We cannot claim to order its affairs. But while its affairs take this present tragic form, there is no Parliament or country in the world which cannot fail to be concerned about them, which cannot fail to express that concern, and try to seek a solution.

We have to remember, too, that, weighed against each other in this conflict, there is, on the one hand, the dread of some of the Ibo people about what their situation might be in a united Nigeria, though I believe that the evidence is now overwhelming that, fortunately, their fears would not be justified. Unhappily, they are still there. Against that, we have to weigh the fact which is very much in mind in the States and the Organisation of African Unity that tribal secession could be the road to disaster, not only for Nigeria but for Africa as a whole. This great issue is involved, and no attempt can be made to judge the problem if one neglects that issue, which is of so much concern to Africans.

This means that, in any steps that we take, we must endeavour to work both with Nigeria and with the Organisation of African Unity. Above all, we must avoid any posture which would enable it to be said that we are the former Imperial Power interfering. We have to be a nation concerned as a matter of common humanity with what is happening, and to demonstrate that we must seek to work with Nigeria and with the Organisation of African Unity.

Among all the differences of opinion that are expressed, I believe that the universal concern now is with relief for the starving and with such progress as can be made towards a cease-fire as will enable relief for the starving to occur. It is that, therefore, on which I want to concentrate.

First and foremost with regard to relief, as the House knows, Britain has already contributed £250,000. Last month, the International Committee of the Red Cross issued an appeal. M. Ruegger, of the International Red Cross, was in this country recently, and he discussed the matter with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. The Government have decided, therefore, subject to the approval of Parliament, to make a further gift of £700,000. That will bring our total contribution to nearly £1 million. The necessary Supplementary Estimate will be put before Parliament in due course. Meanwhile, if necessary, payment will be made out of the Civil Contingencies Fund.

Of course, it is not enough to provide the funds. We have to find an answer to the problem of how to get in the food. This has been discussed with an eye both to an airlift or air drop and to a land corridor. The right hon. Gentleman asked me if the Federal Government have agreed to daylight flights of relief into rebel-held territory. The answer to that is yes, and recently they have confirmed their consent to these. Unhappily, I have to tell the House that Colonel Ojukwu still maintains his objection to daylight flights. While we should be prepared to use the Royal Air Force to assist in an airlift or air drop, I think that the House will accept that we could not do that unless we had the assurance that both sides were prepared to allow these flights to go on in safety; but I will develop this point a little further later.

We are seeking to get in touch with all the persons concerned in the matter to see if this necessary degree of consent can be obtained. If it is, we shall not be backward in providing the means for an airlift. However, were all that done, it would still remain true that it could not provide supplies on anything like the scale needed for the tragedy.

I have heard it argued that some of the figures of deaths from starvation which have been quoted so far have been exaggerated. I hope and believe that that is true. But, even when allowance has been made for that, already there is a great tragedy occurring and an even greater one looming up in the months ahead unless food can be got in by a land corridor.

Here again, I have to tell the House that the Federal Government agreed some time ago to what were called mercy corridors to get food in by land. I believe that the concern of Colonel Ojukwu is that, if there were such corridors, they might be used for a sudden military incursion into the territory which he now holds. Whether or not we think that it is reasonable to maintain that objection in the face of starving people—and I am not sure that it is—we must see if we can try to overcome it. My right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Shepherd is now in Lagos, and one of the matters which he will be discussing is the possibility of arranging some kind of international safeguard to make sure that there is a mercy corridor for food, that Colonel Ojukwu is sufficiently confident that it will not be used for military purposes and that he will be able, at long last, to consent to this absolutely essential step if famine is to be stopped and greater famine averted.

The House will understand that much still depends on the attitude of Colonel Ojukwu. We have asked, and shall continue to ask, all those who are in contact with him to get him to modify his attitude on these matters and not—I am afraid that I must put it this way—to hold his people to ransom.

I have referred to my noble Friend's visit to Lagos. That is concerned not only with matters affecting relief, but with the possibility of a cease-fire. I am not in a position—and I do not think that the House would press me—to say very much about the conversations so far. It is not the first time that this country has been active in trying to get a solution to the problem. There were the discussions at Kampala and at Aburi before that. We have made efforts jointly with the Organisation of African Unity. We have already made it clear that if, as a necessary condition to a. cease-fire and ending the war, there must be a peace-keeping force to give assurance to the Ibo people against the fears that they entertain, we are ready to take part in the provision and organising of such a force.

While the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, is in Lagos and since, as I stressed earlier, it is vital to act in concert with the Organisation of African Unity and to recognise how much this matter means to all Africa, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary visited Addis Ababa. Again, I cannot go into detail, but he has had encouraging talks with the Emperor of Ethiopia and with representatives of the Organisation of African Unity.

On the two issues of relief and the promotion of a cease-fire, I believe that this country is fulfilling its responsibilities and duty to humanity. But I want to raise one other point about which many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House are concerned. The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire raised the question of single-handed action by the Government to stop the supply of arms. I recognise that this matter is bound to evoke strong feeling. I believe that if we are to get it right we have to begin by accepting all round that, whatever our differing views on the matter, we all want to take the kind of action that will avert famine and bring a stop to misery. There are genuine differences of opinion about the effect of particular kinds of action. That is why I believe that it would be wrong to advocate the single-handed stopping of the supply of arms by this country.

But there is a further proposition: an attempt to get universal stopping of the supply of arms. I have explained to the House before that, while this is by no means an impossible concept, it is an extremely difficult one. No multilateral control of arms would be satisfactory or would achieve the object which so many right hon. and hon. Members have been pursuing unless it was effective in controlling private shipments as well as those approved by governments. That must be accepted if we want to get an all round stoppage of arms going in. It would mean that governments would be required to take not merely the negative action of stopping the supply of arms themselves, but the positive action of preventing, so far as it was in their power or that of their territories, private persons sending arms. If a cease-fire and a meeting of both sides seems to be within reach, I believe that in that context there would be the possibility of getting multilateral control of arms and so achieve the objects which so many right hon. and hon. Members have in mind.

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

Why cannot the Foreign Secretary attempt now a joint ban by the four remaining Powers? Each of those Governments are quite capable of stopping any black market supplies. These are not drugs; they are armoured cars and heavy weapons.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I am sure that my hon. Friend realises that it is important that we be sure they are not only capable, but prepared to do so. I doubt whether any embargo would be completely effective unless we could get it policed at the point of entry into Nigeria and into the rebel held territory. That seems to be one of the great difficulties.

I must also make a point with which my hon. Friend may find it difficult to sympathise, but which he must understand is a real difficulty. It would be quite easy for me, as a diplomatic gesture, to say that Great Britain calls for this action without any consideration of the kind of response I should be likely to get. I should risk very greatly that not only Nigeria, but all Africa, would regard this as a hostile move, and a move helpful to the idea of tribal secession. It would not matter whether that was a justified suspicion. The fact that the suspicion was there might do great damage. Despite the agreeable prospect of appearing to have tried to make peace, I could not take the responsibility of doing something which would be more likely to make the situation worse.

Having said that, I ask right hon. and hon. Members to realise that we are now in the middle of one of several moves to try to get again the idea of a cease-fire and a meeting of the two sides. If we can make progress in that respect, the objective about which I have just been speaking may be more easily in reach. I have tried to state both the difficulties and the possibilities as fairly as I can.

Photo of Sir Peter Emery Sir Peter Emery , Honiton

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I also thank him for his comprehensive statement. However, there is one section concerning relief with which he has not dealt, namely, the much more difficult possibility of night flying relief in. The right hon. Gentleman has not mentioned this. Will he do so?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

There is some night flying going on now, but, frankly, this is desperately inadequate to meet the need. To relieve the famine we must at the very least have daylight flights. Indeed, only a land corridor will really meet the need.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

The Foreign Secretary has been very patient and comprehensive in his coverage. Could he clarify two further points about daylight flights for relief? First, are the Federal Government prepared to accept that flights should take place from any airport? Secondly, can he say whether Colonel Ojukwu objects to flights during daylight coming from any airport, or will he consider certain places from which they could come, provided that they did not come from Federal territory?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I hesitate to give an answer that is anything less than precise, so I will ask my right hon. Friend to deal with that point when he winds up the debate.

One of the difficulties is that Colonel Ojukwu feels that if food came in by day it could then be presumed that all-night flights were bringing in arms, and the Federal Government could legitimately try to shoot down night flights. That would not be welcome to Colonel Ojukwu, and for that reason he is not prepared at present to give his consent to daylight flights. My recollection—I shall not say more than this—is that the consent of the Federal Government would apply to any airport. If I am wrong about that, my right hon. Friend will put the record straight before the end of the day.

As I was speaking on the theme of stopping the fighting, I was going to refer to another area, where we have not so great a tragedy now, but a potential tragedy, and sporadic fighting, the Middle East. All I wish to say to the House at this stage is that the slow progress of Dr. Jarring, and the continual outbursts of fighting across the River Jordan, create a situation in which all the parties concerned would be very ill-advised simply to let matters slide, thinking that the present situation suits them best.

I believe that what is needed is from Israel a clear unmistakeable statement that they will carry out the United Nations Security Council Resolution, a statement made in the knowledge that that resoluion includes the withdrawal of forces, and from Israel's Arab neighbours an equally clear statement that they will carry out the resolution, in the knowledge that it speaks of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. It is the fear on each side that one side will not withdraw, and that the other will not make a lasting peace, which blocks the way to progress.

We have urged, and will continue to urge, on the parties concerned the importance of making clear declarations to Dr. Jarring on those lines. That, I believe, might remove the suspicion and make it possible for Dr. Jarring to get on with the substance of the dispute.

I have spoken of areas where there is fighting, intense and sporadic. I now turn to the area of greatest tension, without fighting, in the world, which now, unhappily, since the invasion of Czechoslovakia, is Europe. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Russians had made their vulgar abuse, and had got their answer. It has been suggested in certain quarters that I should have tried to vie with them in the kind of language used. I do not think that any useful purpose is served by that kind of thing, and I am sure that the Soviet Union did not enhance its standing in the world either by the substance or by the language of its statement to us.

What I wanted to make clear, and I believe did make clear, in our answer was that the responsibility for the setback in our relations lay entirely with them and not with us, and the idea that we were already planning on worsening relations, and that we used the invasion of Czechoslovakia as a pretext was such that it was difficult to see how an intelligent man could compel his hand to the pen to write that.

Secondly, I wanted to make clear that the invasion is the concern of us all, and that it cannot be regarded as some kind of bilateral relationship between the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. It is the concern of all nations, and particularly of N.A.T.O. Thirdly, I thought it right to make it quite clear that the feeling in this country about Czechoslovakia has not been organised by the Government, that it is a spontaneous expression of both people and Government.

Further, I wanted to make clear—and this I trust in time will prove to be the most important part of my reply—that the future choice still lies with the Soviet Government, that we are deliberately not pressing this to the point where one cuts off all hope of a return to better relations. But whether we are able to do so must now depend on what degree of respect the Soviet Union is prepared to show for the rights of nations and the opinions of mankind.

The right hon. Gentleman was concerned with whether we had properly taken the measure of the Soviet threat to the world. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware of the steps taken at the recent N.A.T.O. conference in Brussels, where our increased commitments to N.A.T.O. were very well received by our allies, and where nearly every member of N.A.T.O. announced his intention to make some further commitment to the strength of the alliance.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke of creeping Soviet expansion around the flanks. This is a matter to which the member States of N.A.T.O. have paid particular attention. At the Brussels conference there was particular concern with the naval position in the Mediterranean. It was with that in mind that we had earlier increased our naval presence there, and are now doing it still further. There has recently been a full-scale N.A.T.O. exercise in the Mediterranean, and an air reconaissance force has been set up.

If the Opposition are in the mood to say that we are not doing enough against this threat to the N.A.T.O. flank, I must ask them how they reconcile that with their insistence that we are to try to take back on the shoulders of this country responsibilities right across the world which no nation of our size and resources attempts to maintain at present? There is a real cleavage here, which some of the shrewder, if not necessarily kinder, personalities on the benches opposite have perceived—[Interruption.] There is a real state of what some call ambivalence, and others dithering, between their passion for an east of Suez policy, and their emphasis on the problem in Europe created by the invasion of Czechoslovakia. We believe that the general decisions we have taken are those which will provide the best concentration of our effort, and our best contribution to the alliance.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

The right hon. Gentleman will recall that in the N.A.T.O. communiqué to which he referred there occurred the phrase," the quality of reserve forces will also be improved." Two weeks later we had the bad news about our own reserve forces. How does that follow the communiqué?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I thought that if it were not the right hon. Gentleman, it would be somebody else who would raise that point. We are having a debate on this subject next Monday. I do not think that hon. Members who attend that debate will feel that there is any need for anxiety there. All I am saying in response to the right hon. Gentleman is that, having regard not only to the central threat to N.A.T.O., but to its flanks, I believe that we are making the right disposition of our forces; but I think that further discussions on military matters can properly be taken up by the House next Monday.

Having mentioned the problems arising from one great Communist Power, it is inevitable to think of the other, and of the case of Mr. Grey, to which the right hon. Gentleman quite rightly drew attention. I was grateful, and I think that everyone concerned will be, for the great care with which the right hon. Gentleman handled the matter. On several occasions I have had to consider whether the policy we have been pursuing, of trying gradually to improve relations with China, or the policy which some have urged on me, of some kind of retaliatory measure, was more likely to help not only Mr. Grey, but nearly a dozen other British subjects for whom we are concerned.

My view at present is that we should continue the line which we have been adopting. May I remind the House, as I said in an earlier debate, that in recent months we have secured the release of three British subjects? In August, 1967 we imposed certain restrictions on Chinese with official and diplomatic passports in this country. That produced no result of benefit to our subjects in China, but, not long after, we relaxed those restrictions, and that did give some improvement, both in the treatment of our own Mission and in the release of British subjects.

However, I recognise that policy on this matter has to be subject to constant review and I do not think that any outside who are interested in it will be in any doubt of the profound sympathy of everyone in the House for Mr. Grey and those dearest to him. We have all read the report which our chargé d'affairs made after he was able, at long last, to see Mr. Grey, referring to the deplorable conditions in which Mr. Grey was being kept. It is now recognised, I think, throughout the world, and China herself must surely realise, what reputation it brings her when she treats innocent people in this fashion.

Photo of Mr Brian Parkyn Mr Brian Parkyn , Bedford

While recognising that it was right for the Government not to retaliate over the treatment of Chinese journalists in this country, would my right hon. Friend not agree that there are 16 remaining Chinese in prison in Hong Kong without trial and without charges being brought against them, and that this itself exacerbates the situation? If they were to be released or tried, would this not itself do a great deal to achieve the release of Grey?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I am not sure that that would be so. Although my hon. Friend is referring to people detained under emergency legislation and, in that way, not tried, there are very important differences between their treatment and that of Grey. Their case is subject to review, the detention is only for a limited period and the conditions in which they are kept are totally different from those of Mr. Grey. They receive regular visits from relatives. One must remember the difficult task which the Hong Kong authorities now have; I should have to think very carefully before increasing the difficulty of that task.

I turn now to this problem: if we do want to stop fighting and reduce tension, mankind must find other ways of settling disputes. It is not in the nature of the world that disputes between nations will not arise, and part of the curse of our present situation is that the violent means of settling them—armament—are plentiful enough and ready to hand and can be brought into use at any moment. The peaceful techniques of solving disputes—mediation, arbitration, conciliation and the others mentioned in the U.N. Charter—are laborious legal instruments sometimes rusty with disuse.

We have been pressing for some time in the United Nations for a proper study of all the methods of peaceful settlement of disputes, with the object of making them, as it were, a handier and more up-to-date armoury for nations which want to settle their disputes peacefully. If one is to do that, one must show that, whereever it is possible, one is ready to try to deal with a dispute by negotiation. That brings me to the question on which all hon. Members have shown an interest—our attempt to deal with the dispute which exists between us and the Argentine over the Falkland Islands.

I fear that I must begin by saying, once again, what I have said so often, something which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite first say they believe, although they then endeavour to wriggle around into the opposite position. It is this: we are not prepared to make any settlement which would oblige us to hand over the islands against the wishes of the inhabitants. Every other conceivable remark that can be made about the whole matter must be interpreted in the light of that, which is a fixed point.

The question which was raised is. in that case: why negotiate about sovereignty at all? The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire said that, if he had his way, he would strike sovereignty out of the list of things to be negotiated about. He must understand this: if he does that, there will be no discussions at all. If he accepts that, he must accept that the islanders are to remain indefinitely in a position which is seriously and increasingly vexatious to them, that they are cut off from their nearest continental mainland, that this can be a great hardship in their present affairs, and—I would not exaggerate this, but it is true—that it makes their economic development more difficult, and, of course, cuts them off from that group of human beings who are nearest to them and with whom they would have most affinity, that is to say, the very considerable British community living in Argentina. As things now stand, they can have no communication with those 20,000 equally British people living in Argentina.

This does not seem to me to be a happy situation. I believe that it was right to enter into negotiation in the hope—I stress again that it cannot at present be more than a hope—of reaching a settlement. To do that one must be prepared to talk about sovereignty, but, quite clearly, one could only talk about cession of sovereignty subject to certain conditions, one of which is the one which I have repeated so often that I will not attempt to repeat it again—

Photo of Mr John Rodgers Mr John Rodgers , Sevenoaks

While accepting the point which the right hon. Gentleman has made repeatedly, that he would not make any cession of sovereignty without the agreement of the Falkland Islanders, would he go one stage further and say that he would not take any steps to make them change their minds on that issue? That is the point at issue.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

We might as well have them all at once.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would try to clarify a little more the point which, I think, is puzzling many of us on this side. First of all, would he say whether it is not true that the Argentine Government have made it clear that they are not prepared to sign any agreement which does not provide for a transfer of sovereignty? If that is so, can he explain what can be the possible basis for a settlement and could he give us some indication of what kind of settlement he is hoping to achieve?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers) was here yesterday, because I dealt then, in answering questions, explicitly with that point—that we have not pressurised, and shall not pressurise, the islanders to change their minds.

With regard to the point of the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), I said that a settlement involving the cession of sovereignty, which is what the Argentine Government have said they want, could be made only subject to certain conditions and we have made that condition perfectly clear. Although there is a great divergence between the two positions of the two countries, I do not believe that the divergence is such that we should throw up the search for a solution.

As to the form of settlement, frankly, I do not intend to answer questions on that. Anyone who has been engaged in negotiations of that kind knows perfectly well that while they are going on, all kinds of proposals and counter-proposals are made. They are all ad referendum to the Governments concerned at the time and I would not tie myself to saying that it had or had not got to be in a particular form. What I will tie myself to is this, that, whatever the form, one of the provisions must be that we should not be in a position where we could be required to hand over the islands against the wishes of the islanders. I really think that that ought to do.

Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough

Supposing that the economic position of the islanders deteriorates so badly, because wool becomes less valuable, and, therefore, their economy is no longer viable, and, as I have been told is possible, many of them want to emigrate to New Zealand, and supposing that the islands become depopulated and that there is then no objection to transfer, would the sovereignty then be transferred?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

That intervention contained a lot of hypotheses. If the hon. Gentleman's gloomy predictions occurred and if, for sheer economic reasons—and certainly not as a result of any pressure from Her Majesty's Government—the condition of the islanders was so gravely altered that neither nobody lived there or those who did wished to be transferred, then that situation would arise. But I do not think that I should be asked to pursue that sort of matter any further.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I must get on.

Since the question of the price of wool has been raised, it links up with the point made by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire, who suggested that there was only a thin line between persuasion and pressure. It seems, from what the right hon. Gentleman said, that he accepts my assurance—I do not think that anyone doubts it—that we shall not transfer sovereignty against the wishes of the islanders, but must find some point of disagreement to gratify certain hon. Members. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Let us consider what sort of point of disagreement that is. There is no conceivable evidence to show that at any time we have either pressurised or persuaded the islanders to agree.

When my right hon. and noble Friend was there he, in speaking to the Executive Council, described what Her Majesty's Government had in mind. It was then, as a result of ensuing questions and discussion, that points affecting the economic situation of the islands were raised. Any answers that my noble Friend gave there were genuine, objective answers, and that was what the Falk-landers wanted.

Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough

Why not say what they were?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

Because this was a discussion in confidence with the Executive Council and because one cannot conduct negotiations of this kind in public view—not if one hopes to have any chance of success.

Nor do I think it necessary for me again to defend my noble Friend against the ludicrous charges that have been made. I have seen one charge in one newspaper that he gave them totally false information about the price of wool. In fact, he quoted no wool prices at all. Back in London, at a Press briefing, he repeated a perfectly correct statement about the price of wool that had been made by the Chairman of the Falkland Islands Company. That was distorted in one newspaper into an assertion that he gave them totally inaccurate information about the movements of the price of wool during the last two or three years. That is the sort of thing that people who are interested in this matter must take into account when they read this quite reckless misinterpretation of what my noble Friend said.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Thorpe Mr Jeremy Thorpe , North Devon

Accepting what the right hon. Gentleman said about sovereignty, would he accept that there is a lesser stage than giving up sovereignty, namely, the granting of preferential political rights such as Spain at one time enjoyed in Gibraltar? May we have an assurance that no such preferential political rights will be granted to the Argentine, unless they, too, are submitted to the Falkland Islanders?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I am glad that I do not have to negotiate with the right hon. Gentleman as well as with the other parties concerned, because he is now bringing a new and unexpected dimension into the matter.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

Unless one knows exactly what preferential rights the right hon. Gentleman has in mind, it is difficult to answer him, except to say that I would say nothing inconsistent with the human rights of the islanders.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Chigwell

The right hon. Gentleman and Her Majesty's Government are talking to Argentina in an endeavour to improve relations. I cannot understand how, in this way, relations can be improved. Her Majesty's Government say that sovereignty will not be transferred against the wishes of the islanders and that they are convinced that the islanders do not wish their sovereignty to be transferred. Are the Government not doing what my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) said, which is leading Argentina up the garden path? Is this not likely to sour instead of improve relations with the Argentine?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

To give the hon. Gentleman a perfectly candid reply, I must tell him that one took a risk in opening discussions on this subject at all. It could be argued that we should not have bothered about the inconveniences which the islanders are suffering, but I do not think that that would have been the right position to have taken up. In view of the civilised manner in which the negotiations have proceeded, I hope—whatever their outcome, whether or not they are successful—that there will certainly not be a worsening of relations.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

This is an important point. The right hon. Gentleman has accused my hon. Friends of trying to find a point of difference with him. [Interruption.] Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that we have accepted assurances from him and his predecessors in the past, particularly about the Middle East and the Far East, all of which have then promptly been withdrawn and the promises broken?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that what we really fear is that he will reach an agreement with the Argentine for the transference of sovereignty on terms which he will then put to the islanders, with the backing of Her Majesty's Government, and which they will then feel in no position to resist? That is the underlying fear which grips my hon. Friends and many hon. Gentlemen opposite below the Gangway. Only those who are naive about this will not accept the real situation.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

What the right hon. Gentleman is really saying is that he does not trust me or believe my assurances. [Interruption.] Well, I do not mind very much whether or not he does. The Executive Council of the Falkland Islands say that they believe Her Majesty's Government to be acting in good faith and that any settlement that is reached will be consistent with the pledge that we have given. That is my reply to the right hon. Gentleman. I assure him that we shall not conclude an agreement with another country behind the back of Parliament and then try to conceal what we have done, as the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member did. [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I fear that I—or at least hon. Gentlemen opposite and I between us—have taken up a lot of time. We must allow for those many hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate.

I remind the House of the theme I put forward at the beginning of my remarks. I have spoken of areas where there is fighting and tension. I have spoken of the possibilities and difficulties of trying to settle disputes in a civilised manner, all of them having the object of enabling mankind to carry out more humane and constructive activities than waging wars or preparing for them.

This was deeply in my mind during my recent visit to the East as I saw those two countries, India and Pakistan, unhappily divided by a dispute the solution of which must rest with them but which is diverting them from so much that needs to be done in their countries. I was, at the same time, encouraged to find that both of them, though facing economic and social problems of a totally different dimension from those to which we are accustomed—or, indeed, to which the countries of West Europe are accustomed—are, nevertheless, making undoubted and encouraging progress in agriculture and are so laying the foundations on which there can be industrial expansion in which, I hope, the skills and investment of our country can help to play their part.

I hope that in this whole process of stopping fighting, reducing tension, promoting the peaceful settlement of disputes and encouraging the humane and constructive efforts of mankind, Britain will play a part consistent with its power and duty.

5.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Hugh Fraser Mr Hugh Fraser , Stafford and Stone

The whole House will be pleased to hear, in the old Colonial Office phrase, that the interests of the Falkland Islanders will be regarded as paramount. What seems to lie between us is a matter of negotiation.

I turn to something which lies more fundamentally between the back benches and Front Benches on either side of the House. This is the question of arms supply to Nigeria. The Foreign Secretary has worked hard on this problem, but it is only fair to say that neither my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) nor the right hon. Gentleman could give much comfort to this House on these issues, except to say, in the words used by the Chancellor on television the other night, that nothing further can be done except this continuing round of negotiations, of visits by Ministers to Addis Ababa and to Lagos.

It is the belief of many back-bench Members on both sides of the House that the reason that nothing can be done is simply that nothing can be done within the concept of present policy. This is where we join issue with both Front Benches. What at least 140 hon. Members are asking for is a change of policy. Surely at this stage the main object of British policy should be to achieve a settlement. Of course that is the object of the right hon. Gentleman, but so long as we go on supplying arms to one side in what every independent international jurist, from the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, to others in Europe, must regard as a civil war between two de facto Governments, so long as Her Majesty's Government take one side in the same way as American diplomats and military until recently treated the Vietcong, what hope have we of being regarded either as a mediator or a trustworthy purveyor of relief to those starving in Biafra? We have no chance whatever.

Whatever permutations and gyrations and movement of Ministers may take place, until there is a changed policy I believe there can be no progress. That change of policy has been written fairly clearly by hon. Members who have signed my Motion. What fills me with sorrow is that pursuit of the present policy can be achieved only by the implementation of the objective—however horrible it be, however much it may be dismissed by Ministers—by support for one of the contestants and can be made successful only by the process of what has been called the quick kill. Ministers may deny that, but the present policy can work only if there is a quick kill in Nigeria.

Even that policy has failed. The August offensive has not been successful. It has not gone through. The Russian night-fighting Migs, with Russian pilots, of course, may achieve this. They may change the position in a few weeks, but as we meet here this afternoon there is military deadlock in Nigeria. Surely this is the time when the Government and the Conservative Front Bench should decide not just on a new series of initiatives which have little or no chance of success, but on a change of policy. That change of policy is written in the Motion signed by 140 hon. Members. Its essence is cessation of arms supply and negotiation for a cease-fire. Until there is a cessation of arms supply we can have no standing in the organisation of such a cease-fire.

Of course it might not work, but the present policy has no hope of working at all unless it be by the application of tactics of mass starvation or a military hecatomb. At least such a policy as we have recommended would put us in a position to lead in an act of world mediation, including the dispatch of envoys to Biafra, and bring us into line with most of our European allies. I do not know why right hon. Gentlemen are so fearful. Has the Dutch refusal to supply arms meant the destruction of Western property? Has it led to the cancellation of development rights for the Royal Dutch Shell Company? Of course it has not.

Right hon. Gentlemen should be aware of the danger of the failure of the policy of the quick kill which was announced by General Gowon in August last year. Surely they must be aware of the real danger of continuation of this terrible deadlock and bloodshed. Surely they must be aware, if they read the Nigerian Press on the Federal side, of mounting tension inside Nigeria. Surely they must be aware of the massive charges of corruption. Surely they must be aware of the Russian assistance which is coming in. Surely they must be aware that in this matter it is not the people who pursue a butcher's policy who are realists in power politics, but people such as hon. Members who signed my Motion. We are more realists than some members on the Front Benches.

Those who signed the Motion are left in something of a quandary tonight. This is the second time in four months that the wish of the House of Commons to vote on the question of arms supply has been frustrated. It is a vote which I believe not only members of the House of Commons wish to exercise. It is a declaration which the leaders of the churches and millions of our constituents wish to see done, but we are being frustrated. There is only one way tonight for those hon. Members who feel as I do. For tonight the two parties, I gather, have issued a three-line Whip. The only way for us to manifest our political and moral conviction on these issues, from whatever political party we come, is to abstain from voting. Unless there is either a condemnation of arms supplied to Nigeria or a statement by the Government that they will stop, I can have no part in the foreign policy of either party.

I am told that it is a serious matter to defy one's Whips on a three-line Whip.

I regard it as a very trivial matter. There are other acts of defiance being carried out in the world—defiance by men, women and children against Ilyushin bombers and Saladin armoured cars from this country I propose in my wretched way to manifest my defiance tonight.

5.10 p.m.

Photo of Mr Hugh Delargy Mr Hugh Delargy , Thurrock

The short speech which I shall make will be almost a personal statement. I ask the House to bear with me.

Until recently I was as strongly opposed as is the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) to the policy of the Government in Nigeria and to the Government's manner of presenting the facts. Indeed, I was the first Member to raise the question of the conflict in Nigeria. On 22nd February I asked this business question: When may we expect a debate on Nigeria, where a cruel civil war has been raging for nine months "— it was not nine months, but I was speaking off the cuff— chiefly with arms sold to one side by the Labour Government? "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1968; Vol. 759, c. 651.] It was a pretty loaded question. Since then I have signed Motions protesting against the policy and protesting against the supply of arms, one of them a very recent Motion.

Had there been a Division after the emergency debate last August, I certainly would have voted against the Government. As it was, I shouted, "Shame, shame!" as loud as anybody, because at that time the situation appeared to me to be like this. There was a country in Africa, I thought, called Biafra whose people were highly civilised, predominantly Christian and Catholic, a country surrounded by hostile States, principally Muslim and pagan, which were determined on genocide. Indeed, there was a frightful massacre of Ibo people in 1966. So, as a last resort the Biafrans rose in arms against their oppressors in defence of their liberties, their lives and their religion. That is how I saw the situation for a long time.

I do not see it quite like that now. First, Colonel Ojukwu's uprising is not a last stand for liberty. It was a carefully prepared campaign to secure power all over the country. His army over-ran two States and began the advance on Lagos. It was stopped. The confusion and ruin caused by his retreat from the capital are very largely responsible for the frightful refugee problem which is now causing such anguish.

The second important point is that Colonel Ojukwu's uprising has nothing whatever to do with religion; or at least it had not until he made it an issue. The fact that one half of the Ibo people are Christians has been used to enlist the sympathy and help of Christian people everywhere. This week three bishops, including the Archbishop of Lagos, are flying to Rome to see His Holiness the Pope. They may be there already. They are to give His Holiness another viewpoint. They are to express their deep concern at the foreign Catholic support which is being given to Biafra. I know that other religious leaders have other opinions.

I know that missionaries in Biafra have identified themselves with the people. This is quite understandable and admirable. To be persona] again, I have a special affection for these missionaries, because they belong to a religious order which was responsible for my education.

But this does not make of this uprising a holy war. When I spoke to one of their own bishops, he did not claim that it was. Anyhow, look at the line-up. On the Federal side there is the support of Britain, America, some Afro-Asian states, and the Soviet Union. On the other side, supporting the Biafrans, there are France, Portugal, some African States, and China. There are not the makings of a holy crusade in that lot.

My friends may ask me why I have suddenly changed my mind. They have a right to. I have received more information and have had more conversations, but not, may I hasten to add, with anybody in the House. I have not discussed this matter with one Member of Parliament.

I was particularly impressed by a report which I read last week in a weekly called the Tablet, which is a very old-established paper, very Catholic, and exceedingly conservative. The editor of the Tablet went to Nigeria to see for himself and to write it up. This paper was the last paper in the world, I thought, which would have condemned Biafra. But it has.

It may seem naive that I am impressed by a magazine article. I usually am not, because I am in the trade myself. But I know the man who wrote this article. He is a trained observer, an experienced and widely travelled journalist, and a man of undoubted integrity.

My friends may ask me whether I approve of the sending of arms from here to Nigeria. I do not approve of the sending of arms from here to anywhere. If the Government were to decide never to send arms to anywhere again, I would leap with joy. But I am also convinced that the withdrawal of arms from here to Nigeria now would not affect the fighting at all. It must be said for the Government that they did not step up the supply of arms and they refused arms, particularly aircraft. This is where the Russians stepped in. The Russians said that the aim was to crush Biafra.

Biafra must not be crushed. Biafra must be saved. The longer the war goes on, the more remote becomes its salvation. I agree with what the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) said about the total embargo, which might still be proposed, I think, by our representative at U.N.O. I could not quite follow the argument of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that somehow or other, if Britain first suggested it, this would encourage other rebellious tribesmen in other parts of the continent. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look at that point again.

This war will come to an end some time. Everything comes to an end some time. The longer the war goes on, the more bitter will be the peace that follows it. That is why I shall vote for the Government tonight, without doubt and with a clear conscience.

5.20 p.m.

Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough

The moving personal statement which we have just heard from the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) shows how difficult is the Government's problem in handling the Nigerian situation. The hon. Gentleman would not have made in February the speech which he has made today, and who knows what further evidence might be produced to move him just as greatly again to change his ground?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that, if all arms supplies could be banned everywhere, that would help to stop war and we should all go into the Lobby in support of it. The one thing we are all agreed upon in every part of the world is the paramount need to stop fighting. The reports which we have received through the post of the horrors in Nigeria convince us, whichever side we take, that somehow this fighting must be stopped. But, moved as I was by the hon. Gentleman's statement, I am not sure that I accept his position today any more than I should have done six months ago.

Before the debate began, the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) raised a point of order in which he said that the matter of the Falkland Islands, which we have been discussing, was trivial compared with the troubles in Nigeria. There is a lot of truth in that, but I wish to put to the Minister a bigger issue. The greatest horror facing us will develop if we allow Anglo-Soviet relations to become more and more sour so that the security of all Europe is involved, for this would affect us much more closely than either the affairs of the Falkland Islands or the Nigerian situation.

No one in the House will justify what the Soviet Union has done in Czechoslovakia. We cannot understand why it has done it. All I hope is that the Government, through the normal diplomatic channels, will do everything in their power to heal the breach that is now growing and see that it does not develop so that the old cold war which we had in the past under Stalin is revived and the security of all Europe is endangered. This is the over-riding issue facing us in foreign affairs.

I want to see the better understanding which was being developed under Khrushchev restored and the concept of peaceful co-existence re-established. I beg the Foreign Office on that one issue to do its utmost and not allow the situation to drift into sourness and statemate.

I come now to something in the nature of a personal statement myself. A year and a half ago, the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) and I were chosen by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to represent this House in the Falkland Islands. I have two points to make about that visit. The Falkland Islands are the last place to which I should want to go to live, and I do not believe that any hon. Member could persuade his wife to go and live there for 12 months. It is the most desolate place I have ever seen in my life.

There are 2,000 people living there, and they have 600,000 sheep between them. Their economy depends entirely upon wool, and that economy is made viable by the Falkland Islands Company, which has played a very good role in the history of the Islands. It takes a ship there once a year, bringing out the wool clip and taking in all the stores which the islanders require for the year. The company treats the islanders extremely well. But there is no denying that the basic wool market—it is a very coarse wool which the islanders produce—is throughout the world endangered—I put it no higher—by the artificial fibres which scientists are producing in greater perfection every year. If the artificial fibres which we use in various textile trades could take the place of wool, the Falkland Islanders could survive only if this country were prepared to support them financially. This is the problem as I see it.

I stayed on one farm where a young man and his wife were just getting ready to go to New Zealand. New Zealand has welcomed Falkland Islanders because they are good farmers and hard workers. I believe that the majority of the young people of the islands would leave at once if they had enough money to go to New Zealand. Many of the older ones said that, if they could get a reasonable price for their bits of property there, they would like to come back and live in England.

I put this problem to the Minister of State. I do not doubt his honesty. I do not doubt that he is dealing honourably. I do not challenge him. I believe all he says, and, in my view, in many ways he is trying to do the right thing. I am convinced that, if the Argentine were to say to those 2,000 islanders," We will provide £10 million", the islands would be depopulated within 12 months. If that happened and there were then no islanders to object to the transfer of sovereignty, would the Government transfer the then empty and useless islands to the Argentine? I think that they would, and for my part I see no reason why not. That may be an unpopular view, but I see no reason why they should not. Strategically, the islands are no longer of importance to us.

What worries me in the present situation is that we do not know all that has been said or done. Lord Chalfont went out and spoke to the Executive Council. So did the hon. Member for Chorley and I when we were there. I do not see why the House of Commons cannot be told what was put before the islanders. How can we judge whether it is good, bad or indifferent if we do not know what was put before them? For the life of me, I see no reason why we should not be told.

On our return journey, the hon. Gentleman and I were encouraged or, rather, ordered by the Government to go to Buenos Aires and stay with the ambassador there. There we met the English colony. They put these points to us, which are crucial in the whole argument about the Falkland Islands. The representatives of the British colony said," There are 20,000 of us in Buenos Aires and the surrounding area. There are 2,000 in the Falkland Islands ". The trade of the British colony in Buenos Aires was, we were told, worth about £200 million a year. The islanders' trade is worth about £2 million a year. They said to the hon. Gentleman and me," Surely, our case is much stronger. We are more important than the islanders ". I believe that this is something which lies at the back of the Government's mind and has a lot to do with the present situation.

I want the Government to take the House more into its confidence. Let us know exactly what has been said to the Executive Council so that we may judge whether it is good to go on with the negotiations.

5.29 p.m.

Photo of Mr Dingle Foot Mr Dingle Foot , Ipswich

For a reason which I do not propose to elaborate, I shall not say much about Nigeria tonight. That does not indicate any lack of interest on my part. I have made many visits to all parts of Nigeria during the past 15 or 20 years, and I have friends on both sides of the conflict. I hope as devoutly as any hon. Member that the Government's attempt at mediation will succeed. There is, however, one comment I wish to make arising out of what we were told by the Foreign Secretary about the land corridor and daylight flights.

In two world wars we in this country have employed, and very effectively employed, the weapon of blockade. We did not only prevent munitions of war from reaching enemy countries; we also prevented food from going into those countries. That was an extremely effective weapon in the First World War, though it struck mainly at the civilian population. I well remember that every Tuesday in the Second World War I used to justify at the Despatch Box the Government's policy of refusing to allow food to go into enemy-occupied countries. In view of what we did—as I believe, necessarily and legitimately—I find it rather remarkable that in an African State where a very savage civil war is being conducted one side should be prepared to allow food to go through by air or land to the civilian population of the other.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

The point my right hon. and learned Friend has made is very sound, but the problem in Nigeria is that it is the recipients who are asking for the blockade to remain.

Photo of Mr Dingle Foot Mr Dingle Foot , Ipswich

I appreciate that, but comment should be made on the Federal Government's attitude on food supplies.

I now turn very briefly to three other aspects of the debate—first, defence; second, the situation in the Middle East; and third, the Falkland Islands.

In the past 10 years or so, our defence policy has been based on certain political assumptions. It was assumed that the world was becoming a more peaceful place, and that we could look forward to a continuing detente between East and West. That was explicitly said in the Statement on the Defence Estimates, 1967, in which the Government said: The Government believes that N.A.T.O. cannot produce a strategy appropriate to the real threat facing Western Europe, unless it takes into account the political intentions as well as the military capability of the Soviet Union and the other Warsaw Pact powers. The starting-point of any inquiry must, therefore, be to consider how the threat has changed since N.A.T.O. was set up, and why. The allied governments recognise, by their actions no less than by their public statements, that tension in Europe has relaxed and that there is little danger of aggression at present.

An Hon. Member:

That was true then.

Photo of Mr Dingle Foot Mr Dingle Foot , Ipswich

It may have been true then, but that assumption lost any validity it may ever have had in the summer of this year, when the Soviet troops invaded Czechoslovakia, since when we have had the threat to Yugoslavia. In Moscow, if there be hawks and doves, it is clear that the hawks have won. I recommend hon. Members to read the article by Mr. Frank Hardy on the Moscow scene in last Sunday's Sunday Times. It made it quite clear that times have changed since Mr. Khrushchev's day, and that it is the heirs of Stalin who are in control.

I listened to the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary at the Labour Party conference at Blackpool. When he was being challenged, he asked: Is it possible to mention the invasion, even to think of it, without thinking in the same moment of what defence remains for ourselves and for the peoples of Western Europe? I do not pretend to speak with special authority on these matters, but during the past 10 years, when occasion has arisen, I have constantly tried to draw attention to Russian naval expansion. I have said that we in this country should be concerned not so much with the Red Army as with the Red Fleet. Her Majesty's Government are obviously concerned with the growth and activities of the Red Fleet in the Mediterranean. We should be no less concerned with its growth and activities in the Indian Ocean, because no one can doubt the extent of Russian interest in the Middle East.

These developments make it imperative that the Government reconsider the decisions they made when cutting our defences last January, particularly the decision to withdraw from the Persian Gulf. The Gulf States are the main source of oil supply not only for this country but for the whole of Western Europe. My right hon. Friend should not dismiss so lightly this country's role east of Suez, because only a year ago he and all his colleagues on the Front Bench believed in that role. It was not until we had the struggle between the Treasury and the other Departments at the beginning of this year that the other Departments gave way and—disastrously, as I believe—the Treasury won.

The fact remains that 62 per cent. of our crude oil comes from the Middle East. If those supplies were cut off it would not matter very much what happened on the ground in Europe or at sea in the Mediterranean. Western Europe would be nearly paralysed. It does not make sense to build up our N.A.T.O. defences in Europe and the Mediterranean and at the same time create a power vacuum in the Persian Gulf.

Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it is equally important to use the diplomatic channels and try to get back to the situation in 1967, when the position between ourselves and the Soviet Union was better than it is today?

Photo of Mr Dingle Foot Mr Dingle Foot , Ipswich

Maybe, but I do not think that: one does it just through diplomatic channels. I do not think that Russian policy ever changes very much, whether it is Czarist or Communist. The Russians are always trying to expand, always feeling their way until they meet resistance. We had that lesson last over the Berlin airlift. There is no doubt that we should keep our diplomatic channels open and use them when the occasion arises, but I do not think that the language of diplomacy alone is adequate for the present situation.

I was about to turn to the situation in the Middle East. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is having or is about to have interviews with Mr. Eban, the Israeli Foreign Minister. My right hon. Friend referred in particular to the Resolution moved by the representative of this country and passed in the United Nations last year. I remind the House that it called for the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict and for achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem. I emphasise that second part, because it is essential. Restitution must be made not only to the refugees of the recent war but to the earlier Palestine refugees. That is a price of settlement in the Middle East, and unless it is paid I do not believe that there will ever be a settlement with the Arab countries. Almost every year since 1951, the United Nations has passed a resolution calling on Israel to allow the 1949 refugees to return to their home or to pay compensation. Those resolutions have been consistently ignored by the Israeli Government.

There could be a settlement; the chances still exist. The Israelis could get everything they can legitimately want—freedom of navigation, and probably international recognition of their frontiers but only on condition that they are prepared to pay the entirely reasonable price which I have indicated.

There is another aspect of the situation in the Middle East. An Arab regional conference on human rights ended yesterday in Beirut. It received a number of reports on the situation inside Israel and the occupied territories, and in particular a report from the Institute for Palestine Studies. It is a terrible document—almost as bad as some of the reports we hear from Biafra. I quote two paragraphs from the newspaper report dealing with the matter. This said: The first section "— of the report— is called 'mass executions and individual killings', and the report finds that these take five forms: during the demolition of villages, city quarters and houses; during attempted crossings of the Jordon River by west bank residents trying to return home; during sudden and arbitrary roundups of civilians going about their ordinary business; during searches and curfews, and the killing of stragglers and homeless wanderers.In its section on torture, the report said that it would be impossible to compile an exhaustive list of methods of torture used in Israeli prisons, but from the evidence so far available it listed 16 practices of physical, as opposed to psychological, torture. In a separate report (to be enlarged into a book) one, Asad Abdul Rahman, described at length his ten months in four Israeli prisons as well as his impressions of the experiences—often worse—by other prisoners. Those are the allegations, and, if true, they are very serious.

On 27th September, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for the dispatch by the Secretary-General of a special representative in order to investigate just this kind of allegation. That has not yet been acted upon. I ask my right hon. Friend to impress on Mr. Eban the great importance of urgency in this matter. There should be an early inquiry conducted either on behalf of the United Nations or by the International Red Cross.

I come finally to the question of the Falkland Islands. The issue is really the same as in the case of Gibraltar and British Honduras. I was glad that yesterday my right hon. Friend referred to our paramount obligations under the United Nations Charter. In view of the terms of the Charter, there is no point in arguing about historical claims made by Argentina or Guatemala or discussing the precise interpretation of the Treaty of Utrecht because Article 103 of the Charter says: In the event of a conflict between the obligations of the Members of the United Nations under the present Charter and their obligations under any other international agreement, their obligations under the present charter shall prevail. Those obligations are contained in Article 73, which was quoted by my right hon. Friend yesterday. This provides that … the interests of the inhabitants of these"— dependent— territories are paramount…. It goes further. A later paragraph provides that it is the duty of the governing power … to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions, according to the particular circumstances of each territory and its peoples and their varying stages of advancement. We could not possibly carry out that obligation if we were to hand over anyone against their will. I think that that proposition would be accepted throughout the House. But I observe to right hon. and hon. Members opposite that, if they accept the principle in the case of the Falkland Islands, they must also accept it in the case of Southern Rhodesia and this is why, quite apart from all the other reasons, we cannot possibly surrender sovereignty to the racialist minority in Salisbury.

I appreciate that the analogy cuts both ways. Perhaps I can introduce a personal note. During the last 20 years, I have been privileged to meet many of the leaders of emergent African countries. I generally met them for the first time in prison and the acquaintanceship has ripened later in happier circumstances. I am glad to count as friends a number of heads of state and ministers in those countries.

One never knows, speaking in this House, how far one's words will carry but I would like to say this to my friends in these countries: I and many of my hon. and right hon. Friends, and some hon. Members opposite, have the greatest sympathy and agreement with them in the views they have expressed at the United Nations and at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference about Southern Rhodesia. We think that at any rate some of the criticisms directed against Her Majesty's Government are justified. We shall hear those criticisms again, no doubt, next January when the Commonwealth Prime Ministers meet in London. But I would also say to them that their expressions of opinion would be even more logical and effective, and would carry even wider conviction, if they were to support the United Kingdom at the United Nations in its stand on Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands and British Honduras. They should make it clear that if the people of Southern Rhodesia have a right to choose their own destiny, so no less do the people of the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar and British Honduras.

5.46 p.m.

Photo of Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker , Cheltenham

The speech of the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy), to those lucky enough to hear him, will remain as one of the bright lights which occasionally occur in this House. All of us who recognise his integrity, independence and humour will have been pleased by what he said and respect his admission that eight months ago he was wrong.

I found the remarks by the Foreign Secretary about Nigeria very clear. As far as I am concerned, I am sure, as I have been before, that the attitude of the Government towards this very difficult problem is correct. He raised one question which I should like the Minister of State to draw to his attention in due course. I cannot find the reference, but some time in 1964 the Prime Minister raised the whole question of arms control, not just in crises like that of Biafra, but of arms control throughout the world, and, indeed, other controls—over slavery, for example.

To me the Brussels Treaty does not just mean the Treaty of 1954, but the 1866 Treaty on Slavery. If a warship were to arrest a ship of another country on the high seas; and search it for slaves, what a row there would be at the United Nations, particularly if Britain dared to do it, as we did before the war. Yet only some such system of policing the world, as a result of United Nations acceptance that the distribution of arms does so much harm to the world, will bring an end to these uprisings from time to time which are supplied from outside.

It is a cynical fact that so many of the arms, particularly in Africa, being used throughout the world come from Czechoslovakia, which itself is in deep trouble which we all regret. Far too little time is provided in this House to discuss this kind of problem except in a crisis situation such as we have today.

I do not think I quite got right the point made about the Sudan by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home). I do not regard the situation there as comparable with Biafra. A mere half century or so in the Sudan was insufficient to allow this enormous country of the greatest divergencies to be welded together into one nation state as we understand it. When the time came for transfer of power in 1955, there were difficulties which the then Government had failed to resolve. So the fact that there were troubles in later years is not entirely the fault of the present administration in Khartoum. They are individuals of goodwill, who have been doing their utmost in the last 12 years to solve this extremely difficult problem.

I come now to the Falkland Islands. I accept the words of the Foreign Secretary because I believe he spoke them in good faith. But I want to recall briefly the background against which he has made this statement. The form of Commonwealth which I believe Lord Attlee and his colleagues had in mind after the war, when the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) was a member of that Administration, has not materialised. It was a sort of framework within our overseas policy, both in Africa and Asia, based on a feeling of mutual regard for each other's welfare and independence.

By the 1960s another mood had taken this country. There is a decreasing interest in overseas affairs, despite the fact that our defence and so much of our prosperity depend on our overseas relationships. One sign of this has been the mistrust by many of us in the general attitude of some hon. Members opposite. This was shown by some of the sneers which we heard from the benches opposite, which I do not think are characteristic of that party's attitude as a whole. There were two in particular, whose names I will not recall, who sneered yesterday, with remarks about the imperialist past of this country.

Many hon. Members on all sides of the House have, over the last 20 years, been trying to do the best for these people entrusted to our care. Ministers still have, and the Falkland Islands is the latest case, a responsibility for the remaining dependent territories. I asked a Question on Monday, No. 76, about these remaining dependent territories. The smaller they are the harder in some ways the problem seems to be. We must, as hon. Members on both sides have said, try to resolve these problems having regard to the interests and wishes of the inhabitants. We must not just clear the decks at the behest of the United Nations Committee of 24.

I feel that as time goes on the attitude of the Treasury Bench has been subjective, based on domestic and insular political outlook. This is not a new factor because, circumstances being as they are, there are fewer people than ever on the Treasury Bench who have had experience and are able to take a global view. It is difficult today, because of taxation and patronage, for the average Member to get around the world and see what is going on. The approach is becoming more domestic and insular.

I would like to mention the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Constitutional Development of the Smaller Colonial Territories on which two hon. Members of this House served. It reported in 1951. It gave some indication of what might be done had any Secretary of State for the Colonies between that time and now that sufficient time and inclination to study the Report and follow up some of its suggestions. Although circumstances had changed by 1968. perhaps some suggestions made there are being followed, on the lines of "associated" states, which were called in the Report "island" or "city" states. The Report was written in the belief that the United Kingdom would continue to feel a responsibility for the welfare, freedom and educational standards of these small territories.

This is the fear which lies behind the attitude of many of us towards what the Government are doing. It would be so easy to make a proper agreement with the Argentine about the Falkland Islands, to build up communications and then see discrimination results, as Spain has discriminated recently against Gibraltar; so easy to add to that discriminatory tariffs, and other non-tariff barriers to trade, which we know so well in other parts of the world.

We must press on with further self-governing status for this distant but important territory, if it wishes to remain within the Commonwealth. We must accept some financial and defence responsibility for these smaller territories. A number of members of the United Nations are getting worried at the presence of the "micro" States there. I cannot see how such small territories as these can become full members of the United Nations. Therefore, we must press on, and we have done this successfully in the past, to find the sort of status which they can accept and which is acceptable to us.

It was said by an hon. Friend that if all the inhabitants went away it could be handed over. At Tristan da Cunha everyone went away because of an earthquake. It was not handed over to anyone else, and having endured one winter in this country a lot of the islanders preferred to go back and sit on an earthquake. Many of us will feel sympathy with them. I would like the Minister of State to have someone in his office to have another look at this. It disturbs many people abroad, as well as in this country, that there is apparently now no one Minister appointed to the office from the ranks of those hon. Members on the other side who are widely recognised abroad as having spent a lot of time interesting themselves in these affairs.

One point now about what is happening to defence in this country and Europe. The Soviets have chosen to pick on this country as, possibly in the case of the Falkland Islands, they think that we may be the one who will give way. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will continue to stand up to the Russians in the way that he replied to their abusive Note and show that we are not prepared to take any nonsense from them. We have to do something more. They will pursue their self-justification if they can, over Czechoslovakia. We have to show that we are prepared to stand up. Profound changes are going on in Eastern Europe as well as Russia, among educated circles, but such circles have little or no effect on government policy, any more than the sit-in at the L.S.E. has upon the Treasury Bench.

I do not claim to be an expert on this, but the present Soviet Government appear to be weak and indecisive, certainly compared with Stalin. Such information as I have is that it was the military which forced their hands over Czechoslovakia. Many people are frightened that as they miscalculated over Czechoslovakia they may miscalculate again. There are rumours going round Eastern Europe that Roumania is to be occupied in February and Yugoslavia next May.

In view of these circumstances, we should maintain all our personal contacts, to the best of our ability, with those in Eastern Europe and beyond. The occupation of Yugoslavia would be a very different matter from that of Czechoslovakia. The results of such an action would be incalculable. It may be another Vietnam in reverse. What many people are wondering, if this does happen, is how would the United Kingdom react? I do not ask for an immediate answer to this, but it is a matter about which many hon. Members, and people outside, are wondering. This recalls the 1930s when I started to come into contact with such matters. One sees again a wish, understandable no doubt, among many hon. Members on all sides of the House to see the social services put before defence. We very nearly did not survive the last time, and I hope that we will not make that mistake again.

Although it will arise better on Monday's debate, I hope to hear from the Government how N.A.T.O. is to be further strengthened. The right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot) mentioned this in connection with the Eastern Mediterranean. It is of vital importance to the stability of the Alliance to maintain our friendship with Turkey and Greece. What action are the Government proposing to take in the Eastern Mediterranean? Are they prepared to expand their forces there? Are they prepared, as many of us believe to be necessary, to build up a Western European Union task force, alongside the Sixth Fleet, under N.A.T.O. command to show that this area is a Western European interest and not one for the United Kingdom and U.S.A. alone? That raises the question of reserve forces. I think that today we have the finest professional Army which we have ever had, but it has inadequate reserves behind it.

I should like to know whether the Government believe that if we run out from all our responsibilities and commitments overseas, east of Suez, as it is called, and elsewhere, the rest of the world will go on supporting us, to enable us to keep 50 million people in these islands when we produce only about half our food and have no raw materials. It is not, as some sneer, because of our imperialist past, but by tradition that we have always co-operated with our allies and friends all over the world, and we must continue to do so.

I do not want to be controversial about it, but when the Foreign Secretary was likening the problems of India and Pakistan in the years after the war to the present problems of the Middle East, I could not help remembering that one problem of India and Pakistan resulted directly from the misjudgment of the Labour Government in 1947, in transfering power too soon. If we had delayed the transfer of power, a few weeks or a few months more, following the Wavell Plan for India, we might have avoided leaving our friends the running sore of Kashmir—and of the Middle East in similar circumstances.

Unless we can show that we are prepared not just to use words to stand up to the Soviets, but to take action in Europe, in the Eastern Mediterranean and east of Suez, the U.S.S.R. will continue to pick on the British Government. I hope that Ministers will continue to face up to the Soviets and take action over N.A.T.O. in particular to show that Britain is still prepared to fight for our freedom, together with our allies it required.

6.3 p.m.

Photo of Dr John Dunwoody Dr John Dunwoody , Falmouth and Camborne

I want to restrict myself to considering some aspects of the Nigerian civil war, not because I consider the other subjects mentioned so far to be unimportant, but because I believe that they all pale into insignificance when compared with the magnitude and urgency of the humanitarian problems which we and the rest of the world face in Nigeria. I want to give the House a factual account of what I saw myself during the last ten days or so when visiting Biafra.

Many of our debates in the House and much of the discussion in the country have taken place in a vacuum only partially filled by propaganda from both sides in the conflict. There are many facts about the situation which may not be fully appreciated. I spent some six clays inside Biafra, a short time, but sufficient to travel around the limited area which is this beleagured and beseiged country. During that time, I was allowed to go where I wished and to meet whomever I wanted. I met the leadership of the Biafran people and I met many ordinary people, missionaries and expatriates. I went to Biafra knowing West Africa where I lived for two years some time ago, and I went with the advantage of a medical qualification which has given me some understanding of the humanitarian problems being faced.

I want first to talk about the nutritional problem which the people living within the area controlled by the Biafran forces are facing, a problem which is shared by others living in areas controlled by the Nigerian federal forces It is difficult to talk about these problems without being emotional. The pitiful sights which one sees, arouse a violent emotional response in anyone, even one used to seeing disease and death in childhood, but we have to look at this as realistically and as practically as possible.

There is no doubt that the present nutritional condition of the people in Biafra is slightly improved on what it was three or four months ago. The harvest is in and the yams and cassava have been gathered and some local fruit is available. There is no doubt that the death rate from starvation is lower and probably significantly lower than it was in August and September. That is not to say that there are not many people dying of starvation today. I saw some both dying and about to die. It is not to say that there are not many thousands of children throughout the country suffering severely from diseases like the protein deficiency disease kwashikhor and other deficiency diseases. The situation is somewhat improved, however, but only temporarily.

Already in large stretches of the country, an area which I estimated to be populated by 20 to 25 per cent. of the population, there is now no local food available. The population there is surviving on the protein brought in by the relief organisations and the carbohydrates transported by the same organisations from other parts of the country. Inevitably and inexorably, in the weeks ahead, perhaps in the next four to six weeks, the population faces complete elimination of all local food supplies. A small amount is being, and presumably will continue to be, smuggled across the firing line, and the Biafrans have hopes of recapturing some farm land where food is available, but these two things together could have only a marginal effect on the situation.

This means that the prospect of starvation increasing is real. The people are eating the seed yams. There is little or no agricultural work being done and the area in which between 7 million and 8 million people are trapped is an area which is normally food importing. This means that over the next three or four months, considering the present poor nutritional condition of many of the population, at least one quarter of the community will probably die. In numerical terms, this means about 1,500.000 to 2 million people. The deaths will concentrate among the children and among the old, because these are the groups in the community least able to sustain starvation.

There are other factors which affect this estimate. Many responsible people would suggest a higher figure. There is particularly the unpredictable possibility of epidemic disease. It is remarkable that in this war situation there has been no epidemic disease on either side of the fighting line, but there is a grave risk. There is a very grave risk of measles among the children, a disease much more virulent in an African community than with us, a disease which, with a debilitated group of children such as the Biafran children today, could carry a very high mortality.

There is a serious risk of an outbreak of smallpox. Little or no vaccination has been carried out in the last 18 months and public health measures are not at their normal level. If there were to be an outbreak of smallpox, it would not only affect those in Biafra, not only those under Federal control, but be at least something of a risk to world health.

I want to mention the relief organisations whose work on the ground is truly remarkable. At a higher level there may be a certain amount of bickering and difference among the various organisations and in practice there may be difficulties, but the humanitarian assistance which they are providing in a civil war situation should not be underestimated. But organisations are getting supplies in and distributing them. The work which I saw was very impressive. The International Red Cross, the church organisations, particularly the Scandinavian and German church organisations, Caritas, Oxfam and U.N.I.C.E.F. are all playing a part. The food gets to those people who need it. I did not see any evidence anywhere in the country of food going astray. Everyone to whom I spoke said that food reached the people in the community. At every one of the feeding centres which I visited where I saw people being fed en masse the food which reaches them is acceptable. When a person is starving, it matters little what sort of food he is offered; he will eat it.

The food which the relief organisations provide is mainly concentrated protein foodstuffs. They carry in on their night flights, medical equipment, drugs and a certain amount of fuel for the relief organisations. The flights carry between 40 and 200 tons of material each night. The amount depends on the military situation and on the amount of bombing of the one airstrip which is used. If we are not to see the collapse of the domestic carbohydrate food supplies which I fear is inevitable if the war continues, the amount of food required by the community to give them just 8 oz.

of food each, with perfect distribution, is over 2,000 tons a day. It is utterly and completely impossbile for the relief organisations to manage this in a war situation, irrespective of the question of daylight flights or land corridors.

I do not suggest that the position about daylight flights and possible land corridors is satisfactory. It is not satisfactory. But in the war situation which people in this region are facing, it is understandable that there are objections. The objections raised are military and strategic objections and have no other origin.

I am convinced that it is impossible to solve this humanitarian problem or to make any progress towards a solution unless we can make some progress towards a military and political settlement. I should like to say a few words about the military situation.

There is near stalemate. In recent months there has been a considerable improvement in morale on the Biafran side due to increased supplies of arms, increased fire power and to the fact that the Biafrans have regained certain limited stretches of countryside. They are obtaining two to three times as many recruits as they require. They are intensively training them and some civilians, not only in orthodox warfare, but in guerrilla warfare. There is no chance of a military collapse. These people mean it when they say that they will fight on. When I met Biafrans, as I did on many occasions, and they said that they would rather starve to death than surrender, they were telling me the truth. Perhaps what they say is based on a certain amount of false optimism about future food supplies and the continuation of arms supplies, but the fact is that these people are prepared to starve to death rather than surrender.

The civilian population is undergoing very considerable privations. I have mentioned the food situation, the near starvation and the threat of real starvation in the weeks ahead. Air raids occur frequently. In a military sense, they are not of very great significance. The number killed in the air raids is infinitesimal compared with the numbers killed in the fighting or who die from lack of food. But the impact on the African community, to whom even an aeroplane is strange, unusual and unreal, cannot be underestimated. The impact which the air raids have made on the people is remarkable.

Over half of the community in this packed area are refugees who, in most cases, have lost all their possessions and wealth and things which mean much to the Ibo people. There is almost complete economic disruption. There is virtually no money economy. Inflation is rife. While wages and salaries have remained much the same, a box of matches costs 5s., a small tin of meat £2 10s., cigarettes 1s. 6d. each, and a gallon of petrol, if one can buy it, £10.

Despite the considerable burdens which the population is having to undergo, there is an air of normality. There is law and order. The courts are sitting. Traffic moves about to a certain extent. There is even a railway running. The public services attempt to operate. Perhaps the overwhelming impression with which I have come back from this area is the determination of these people to continue what they believe to be their just fight. There is mass popular support for this war. It is no good anybody in this country talking in terms of this being a small group of people leading the great mass of the population against their will. There is mass support for the regime in Biafra, and morale is high.

This is not just a tribally-based movement. There is room for a great deal of argument about the opinion of minority groups in the area which Biafra claims as part of its territory. There are different opinions among the minorities, their leaders and the ordinary people, but many of the minority people and their leaders are just as deeply committed to the Biafran cause as the large majority, virtually all, of the Ibo people. As I have said, I see no prospect of a military solution to this conflict. Colonel Ojukwu is representative of the leadership of his country and of the people as a whole. To suggest that he is unrepresentative reduces our chances of approaching this problem in a realistic manner.

I wish to try to be constructive and to put forward some suggestions about where we should be moving. I found a degree of flexibility and a willingness to face some of the realities of the situation which surprised me. I never heard from any of the leaders or from the ordinary people to whom I spoke in Biafra the word "secession". Everyone to whom I spoke accepted, sometimes unwillingly, the inevitability of co-operation in many fields with the Federation. People said," We live next door to each other". Economic co-operation, common services, co-operation in social policy and similar fields, customs policy, and so on, are obviously areas for discussion and negotiation.

What these people insist on, rightly or wrongly, is that they should have a guarantee of their physical, economic and political security. After their experiences in recent years, they believe that they cannot be guaranteed this unless they have control of their armed forces. This immediately produces a much more difficult subject for negotiation than the points which I have mentioned. Nevertheless, I do not believe that it is impossible. In each State of the United States there is a militia, controlled by the governor of the State, which is probably armed to a much higher level than the Biafran soldiers.

We must face the realities of the situation. After nearly 18 months of war, there can be no going back completely to the pre-war situation. It is not realistic to expect people to forget completely everything that has happened in the last eighteen months. It is as utterly unrealistic for Biafra to attempt to become an independent State completely divorced from those around it. A compromise must be reached somewhere between these two extremes.

The urgent, essential need is for a cease-fire as soon as possible. It should be unconditional and followed immediately by negotiations over a limited field. The negotiations should cover positioning of the troops, the role of a peace-keeping force, which will be essential, and the co-ordination of relief to both sides.

At the same time, I would like to see an international moratorium on arms supplies to this area, if not on a permanent basis at least on a temporary basis. If this cannot be achieved I ask the Government to reconsider their position on arms supplies, since the political, economic and military justifications for this policy in the early days of the war are to a considerable extent now proven to be untrue. The war did not end in a few weeks. The régime is not unrepresentative of the people in the country. I am dubious whether the continuation of our policy is causing us political and economic damage throughout this area. One of my hon. Friends said that at least there has been no change in the amount of military aid we have been offering. May we have this assurance from the Front Bench?

The more difficult problems of economic co-operation and the military and political solution of the conflict will obviously take a much longer time; very much more detailed discussion and negotiation are necessary. This I found to be accepted on the Biafran side, and I believe it would also be accepted on the Federal side. I think that there is sufficient political courage, foresight and ability on both sides to reach a settlement; the difficulty is in achieving the first few steps towards a negotiated position.

There is extreme urgency about this. I have already spoken of the humanitarian problem and of how a large number of people will starve to death in the months ahead. There is another reason why we should look at this matter very urgently, and that is the real and increasing risk of external involvement. Many people are prepared to fish in these troubled waters, some of whom are much less responsible even than those fishing in these waters today.

We are seeing unfolded before us possibly the greatest preventable human tragedy the modern world has known. I appeal to my colleagues in the Government to exert any and every pressure they can. I appeal to my colleagues on this side of the House and to hon. Members opposite to do all that they can, if they have any influence whatsoever on the people on either side of this conflict. I ask all men of good will in Africa and in the rest of the world to think of the innocents on both sides, the people who are suffering and dying. For many of them, if we do not do something about this in the next few weeks, this will be the last Christmas that they will ever see.

6.24 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Davidson Mr James Davidson , Aberdeenshire West

I must first congratulate the hon. Member for Falmouth and Cambourne (Dr. John Dunwoody) on his most moving and intensely interesting first-hand account of conditions in Biafra. I agree with his ideas on a solution, and I shall return later to this subject.

Scientists tell us that, deep inside, the earth is still bubbling and seething, and this is true of the international situation. Apart from the occasional bubbles that come up, there are danger areas which seem to heave and then subside, and it appears at any moment that one or other is likely to erupt.

We have had some fairly recent eruptions. There has been a small eruption in the area of the Falkland Islands, but I do not regard this, relatively speaking, as of major consequence. I will, however, mention two points in passing. While I fully accept the assurance of the Government Front Bench that they will not on any condition pass sovereignty of the Falkland Islands to the Argentine without the agreement of the people of the Falkland Islands, may I ask the Minister what we hope to gain from these negotiations? It seems to me that we have everything to lose and nothing to gain by them. The Foreign Secretary spoke of better links between the Falkland Islands and the Argentine but what does this mean in practice? Does it mean long weekends for Falkland Islanders in Buenos Aires? Does it mean a weekly air service? Perhaps in winding up he will be a little more explicit on this point.

There are other areas of the world where there have been eruptions which are now slightly more quiescent. One is Vietnam, and we are delighted that talks are proceeding in Paris and that we can hope for a fruitful outcome. It is strange that it has taken so long for the nickel to drop. We on this bench and many other hon. Members have said many times that until the Americans were prepared to accept the need for an unconditional bombing halt, and until they were prepared to negotiate with the National Liberation Front, it was unlikely that progress towards a solution would be found.

When I had the privilege of going recently to the United Nations with an all-party delegation, the Middle East and the Rhodesian situation were uppermost in discussions. In these areas we seem to have reached a temporary stalemate. We had the good fortune to hear a most interesting debate when the United Arab Republic brought before the Security Council the purported incursion of Israeli troops into U.A.R. territory. We also had the privilege of meeting the ambassadors of the U.A.R. and Israel and, after talking to them, it was easy to understand why this position of stalemate has been reached. There is a striking difference of priorities between them. Whereas on the U.A.R. side the solution of the problem of refugees seems to be paramount, on the Israel side the de jure recognition of Israel is paramount. Although both parties, at least superficially, agree with the November 1967 resolution which had overwhelming support in the United Nations, when it comes down to brass tacks there are these extremely wide differences in emphasis.

We were fortunate to hear a brilliant 15 minute speech from the British representative, the noble Lord, Lord Caradon. The speech followed the striking of attitudes on the Middle East situation by the parties directly involved, but during his speech the noble Lord was able to bring down the temperature, bring everybody back to the resolution of November 1967 and reintroduce a rational attitude into the Security Council debate. This atmosphere was almost instantly shattered by a speech made by the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia who, I understand, is a Lebanese. He made an uncompromisingly nationalistic speech which completely wrecked the atmosphere of the debate and, incidentally, exposed for all to see the difficulties of reaching a rational solution within the United Nations. After coming back from that most valuable and interesting visit, I feel that what goes on in the corridors and behind the scenes between individuals in consultation is of more importance than what happens publicly in committees and debating chambers.

The discussions on Rhodesia in the United Nations took place in a climate of unreality. Nations were asking the United Kingdom to take steps which they could not and would not attempt to take themselves. My impression was that had the Minister without Portfolio come back from Salisbury with a compromise agreement involving a retreat from the six principles or a compromise on the principle of no independence before majority rule, the repercussions would have been felt from New York to New Zealand, and I do not mean via the Pacific.

In Central Europe things are now relatively quiet. I am surprised that the Soviet Union has somehow got away so lightly with the violation of Czechoslovakia; but of course they are, and always have been, skilled chess players. In the weeks since the invasion they have succeeded by various means, in particular by forcing Mr. Dubcek and the other Czechoslovak leaders to shoulder the responsibility for compromise decisions, in discrediting these courageous Czech leaders in the sight of their own people, but this was probably their major intention in the political skirmishing that has taken place since the invasion. I believe that the Russians were misinformed by their diplomats on the spot as to the reaction they would get from the Czech people. I think that they were probably surprised to find that they were not welcomed with open arms.

At the moment, perhaps the major crisis facing Western Europe is not an urgent threat from the Russians, though that may yet come, but finding a solution to the recurrent economic crises. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman what steps he is taking in support of the Treasury in efforts to establish a European reserve currency.

To come to the main subject about which I want to speak, the situation in Nigeria, it is undoubtedly the area which is suffering from the most severe eruption in the world political scene at the moment. It seems that the British Government are distrusted by both combatants. The pretence that the British Government exert a good influence by continuing to allow British arms to be sent to the Nigerian Federal Government has become ludicrous in a somewhat macabre way. The "quick kill" merchants have been proved lacking in both humanity and judgment. We know that if Britain stopped sending arms, probably the Soviet Union would fill the breach, but that is no reason for continuing an utterly discredited policy for the sake of a few paltry orders for military equipment or possibly for other commercial considerations. I suggest that the policy of selling a gunboat is no improvement on the Victorian policy of sending one.

In my view the situation, which never justified the Government's policy in any case, has changed entirely, and that view has been supported strongly by what I have heard today in the first-hand report from the hon. Member for Falmouth. Surely this is the moment for a reappraisal. Forgetting for a moment the horrors of human suffering in Nigeria, would the Government admit that it is already too late to dream of rebuilding the Federation? Let them take note of the fact that already our friends in Western Europe and the Commonwealth have lost a little more of their trust and respect for Britain because of the ignoble part played by Her Majesty's Government in this unfolding tragedy.

Photo of Mr James Davidson Mr James Davidson , Aberdeenshire West

I am not certain whether that question is asked of me.

Photo of Mr Alex Lyon Mr Alex Lyon , City of York

Which are the countries that the hon. Gentleman has in mind?

Photo of Mr James Davidson Mr James Davidson , Aberdeenshire West

Let me give the hon. Gentleman one example—

Photo of Mr Alex Lyon Mr Alex Lyon , City of York

With respect, one example is not good enough. The hon. Gentleman said that there were countries throughout Europe and the Commonwealth. One example is no good.

Photo of Mr James Davidson Mr James Davidson , Aberdeenshire West

Very well. I will give more than one. Britain is very unpopular in Scandinavia. At one point, the office considering running a British Week during the summer which, in the end, was very successful, wondered whether it would have to be called off because of Britain's unpopularity as a result of her action in Nigeria.

Photo of Mr James Johnson Mr James Johnson , Kingston upon Hull West

I will give the hon. Gentleman an example where a British Week was called off. It happened at Berne, in Switzerland.

Photo of Mr James Johnson Mr James Johnson , Kingston upon Hull West

Whether it was Berne, Basle or Geneva does not really matter. It was called off. When the matter was discussed at the Council of Europe, a delegate from that Canton told us why. They had been deluged and brainwashed month after month by a famous firm of public relations consultants, Mark Press of Geneva.

Photo of Mr James Davidson Mr James Davidson , Aberdeenshire West

I am well aware of that, and I am not taking sides. I am merely stating what is a fact and what is believed to be a fact by the majority of hon. Members in this House. Certainly it is believed by the majority of people in the country. It is that the attitude of the Government in continuing to send arms to the Nigerian Federal Government is wrong, whatever reasons they may have given for it. I repeat emphatically my words about the ignoble part played by this Government in this unfolding tragedy.

I have never seen two Ministers look so embarrassed as when I went with all-party groups to see them about this matter. Undoubtedly, they were extremely unhappy about it. I would hate to have been in their position.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

Instead of making generalised statements, can the hon. Gentleman indicate how the policy of supplying arms has prolonged the great suffering about which he is rightly concerned?

Photo of Mr James Davidson Mr James Davidson , Aberdeenshire West

I am not suggesting that the Government's action has prolonged the agony, but it is an ignoble part for the Government to have played to have sent arms to one side or other in a civil war. I maintain that point of view. The time has come for a reappraisal, and the initiative will have to be taken by someone who is trusted by both sides; for example, someone from among our friends who has a reputation for humanity and integrity, such as the Scandinavian countries and Canada. Could approaches be made, if they have not been made already, to ask them first to propose a United Nations ban on all arms deliveries to Nigeria—not a unilateral ban, but a ban on all arms?

Let me make it clear that we on the Liberal bench do not favour one side or the other in this struggle. We want to see the war finish. We are for common humanity, not for Biafra or the Nigerian Federal Government.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. Interventions prolong speeches. Many hon. Members wish to speak.

Photo of Mr James Davidson Mr James Davidson , Aberdeenshire West

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I intend to finish shortly, if I am allowed to do so.

Secondly, I suggest that we ask Canada or one of the Scandinavian countries to propose a U.N. call for a cease-fire, and to do it again and again until some heed is paid to it. Thirdly, suggest that they should act as intermediaries to negotiate a safe conduct for Colonel Ojukwu and the Ibo people. I think that that will be required before anyone can convince them that they should not fight to the death. Again, this point has been underlined by what the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne said.

Lastly, before it is too late, they should try to persuade both sides to allow a massive lift of food and medical supplies. I have received two letters containing practical suggestions which may be of help to the Minister. The first is written by someone with great experience of the country, and he refers to a television interview with Sir Bernard Fergusson on 9th December. He writes: Sir Bernard was asked whether he had seen any starvation. He replied that he had seen dying children at Itu, where conditions are very bad. I know Itu well. I have served there as Divisional Officer, and it was in my Province when I was Provincial Secretary at Uyo Sir Bernard gave as an excuse for the failure to relieve the suffering at Itu the war damage to roads and bridges. But surely he must have noticed that Itu is a river port on the Cross River. Why have not relief supplies been brought in by river from Calabar or from Oron? The excellent, natural waterways of the South-East were found quite adequate for evacuating the so profitable slaves for British commercial interests, and right up to the present war large tonnages of palm oil and palm kernels were evacuated this way. Why cannot ocean-going ships unload supplies at Oron and Calabar for distribution throughout the South-East by water? Last July (when Lord Hunt was visiting Nigeria), I wrote to the Commonwealth Office giving details of the waterways and the available facilities and, in reply, Mr. D. C. Tebbit, C.M.G., wrote as follows: 'Thank you very much for your letter of 9th July and its most helpful information about possible relief routes into the South-East. I much appreciate your efforts to help in this way…. We are of course in touch with Elder Dempsters. As you surmise, there are unfortunately plenty of political hurdles to surmount, but we are doing our best to get over them'. Can the Minister tell the House what are these political hurdles and whether this method of delivering supplies has been explored?

The other letter points out that the R.A.F. achieved considerable success in Kenya, dropping bags of maize and other products from the air. It says that precision drops are possible, and that sacks can be landed without bursting.

I know the difficulties and the problems, but a solution must be found before the African continent compounds perhaps the greatest tragedy in its history. I ask the Minister, once again, what specific steps have been taken to persuade any country that still has the respect and trust of both sides in the civil war to pursue the initiatives that I have outlined.

6.40 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Jackson Mr George Jackson , Brighouse and Spenborough

I hope that the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson) will forgive me if I do not follow him in what I should describe as a rather liberal round of world affairs, except to say that I totally disagree with most of his comments about Nigeria. How the hon. Gentleman could imagine that British policy in terms of supplying arms to the legitimate Government of Nigeria could in any way jeopardise the situation there or cause unpopularity for this country round the world I fail to see—[Interruption.] Perhaps I might pursue, without the help of the Biafran lobby, one or two suggestions on the Nigerian situation. I was very impressed by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody), who gave us a sane assessment of the situation.

To begin with, I believe that we should attempt to secure a universal cessation of arms supplies. I see nothing to be gained by a unilateral British cessation of arms. This will merely increase the strength of the French and Portuguese balance on the Biafran side and prolong the conflict.

I should like to take up the suggestion made by Colin Legum in the Observer last Sunday that uncommitted Security Council nations—in particular he mentioned Uganda and Canada—should raise before the Security Council the suggestion for a universal ban on arms. Should that proposal be put before the Security Council I believe that Britain, in advance, should pledge her willingness to accept any decision made by the Security Council. This will give us the key to a ban on arms.

Concerning the future political solution for Nigeria and Biafra, I believe that there are encouraging developments. I was encouraged to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne say that Biafra realised we were not talking about secession and that there would be economic links, customs links and the like. I have also been encouraged to hear that Lagos, for instance, would now use the word "confederation". In other words, we are in sight of a very loose association, and accepting the interesting point about the control of armed forces or the police, on the analogy of the United States. We are within sight of a solution which is not either or, but keeps the basic concept of an area, which we used to call Nigeria, that will allow the people to co-operate economically, avoid the problem of the Ibo people being the subject people or the river people, and that will undoubtedly give expression to the brilliance of the Ibo people and their fear of being subordinated to a government in Lagos.

I believe that the moment is almost upon us when we can get a resumption of the talks between Lagos and the Biafran authorities. We should not pursue a policy of trying to support Colonel Ojukwu or Major-General Gowan but to search for a solution which leads to an ending of the hostility. To accuse the British Government of being a friend of one side I consider to be totally unwarranted.

I turn now to a smaller subject which has raised a great deal of hot air on the other side, namely, the Falkland Islands. I do not believe that the British Government can say that the Falkland Islands will never have a territorial association with the Argentine. One right hon. Gentleman in this House on a previous occasion when the word "never" was used, reminded us that "never" was a relative term which varied according to the prevailing situation. For this House to say "never" would be ridiculous.

I should like to mention the attitude of the South American countries, particularly the Argentine, on this topic.

There will obviously never be a link between the Falkland Islands and Argentina if the Argentinian authorities continue a hostile attitude towards the Falkland Islands people.

Reference has been made to the 20,000 Anglo-Argentinians living in Buenos Aires. I was in that city this summer. I was struck by the fact that these citizens were anxious to play their part in improving relations between the Argentine and their fellow nationals, as it were, in the Falkland Islands. Before there can be any question of association, the Argentine must give indications of a wish to increase communications, regular services to the islands, and make it obvious that the Falkland Islanders are welcome as neighbours to visit Argentine at any time. In that way we may gradually be able to review the situation again.

We do no good to this country by appearing to consider only the Falkland Islands and to think nothing of our friends in South America. In the long run it is obvious that there must be a closer association. Falsely blown up political speculation about early changes in the Falkland Islands does no good to the future of that part of the Atlantic.

The third subject I should like to deal with concerns the Middle East crisis. Although I am optimistic about Nigeria and Biafra, although I think there are ways in which we can improve relations between Argentine and the Falkland Islands, I have almost complete gloom about the future of the Middle East and relations between the Arab States and Israel. I do not intend launching into an exposition for one side or the other. It is, nevertheless, true that what we are witnessing in the discussions on the Middle East between the Arabs and the Israelis is a dialogue to the death. These two communities are not talking about the same thing. Hon. Members who admire the Israeli point of view often praise them. Nevertheless, it would be wrong for them to dismiss the views of the Arab peoples who resent the presence of the Israelis as somehow or other being the views of unreasonable people. Our job is to bring the two sides together.

There have been encouraging indications that Israel will be prepared to consider a situation other than a total annexation of Jerusalem. There have been recent reports about it. If that is true, it would be one element in breaking the log jam of intolerance between the two.

The second way in which we might achieve better relations and a better chance of the implementation of the United Nations resolution of 22nd November is by looking more closely at the possibility of a phased implementation of the resolution. I wonder whether there might be something in the suggestion that, as a beginning, Israel should withdraw from the canal, for example, 50 or 60 kilometres and simultaneously there should be a statement by the Arab nations as a whole guaranteeing freedom of passage to Israeli cargoes through Suez.

It is difficult to know where to begin in unscrambling this desperately dangerous impasse. If this last suggestion could be carried out, it would illustrate the good faith of both sides. We need some element of confidence between the two. Otherwise, I fear that if the conflict goes on and if the fourth round comes about, the world may be in danger of encompassing its own destruction. Those of us who know the works of Nevile Shute—who foresaw metal fatigue before the crash of the Comet—will know how, in "On the Beach" he foresaw the end of the world as a nuclear confrontation resulting from an initial conflict between Israel and the Arab States.

It is false for Israel to imagine that she can hang on by military strength alone. In the long run, time is against her, and population and space are on the side of the Arab countries. A new attempt is desperately needed to get the 22nd November resolution implemented. I am glad that our Government gave the lead this year in bringing that resolution forward and I hope that they will give the lead next year in getting down to detailed implementation. Otherwise, in a fourth round, this dangerous situation might destroy us all.

6.51 p.m.

Photo of Dr Winnie Ewing Dr Winnie Ewing , Hamilton

I wish to speak about the enormity of the human problem in Nigeria which, as a mother of three children, I can appreciate, as well as all hon. Members who have spoken about it. I am on no side and have taken every opportunity to speak with those who have lived in both parts of Nigeria. Divisional officers in my constituency have told me how much there is to be said for both sides. There are a few facts which I have gleaned from the evidence available to me which are an encouragement to believe that the two sides would come together if they were no longer the pawns of the big Powers which are supplying arms to both sides.

We can learn from these facts why the Government's policy will not solve the problem of getting the sides together. From what I have learned of the Ibos—I used to be a lecturer with, every year, a full class of Africans from every part of Nigeria—they seem to have a genuine desire to strive to do well. The result, over a period, is that they have naturally filled many jobs in education, medicine and the Civil Service. They did well, and, perhaps naturally, were somewhat resented by some other groups which did not strive so hard. They were operating a democratic system and even had total enfranchisement in each community, including women, which puts them ahead of Switzerland.

There is no point in analysing whether or not the Ibos should be afraid when we have reason to believe that they are afraid. If massacres ever took place—and 30,000 is the accepted figure—one of the difficulties which have created the fear is that at least two or three came from every village—which made the fear very widespread. Perhaps the best evidence of the reality of the fear is that it is accepted that one and a half million Ibos left their profitable jobs and fled to the East. Some came from the North and some from the West. At that time, with a huge refugee problem. Ojukwu was encouraging some of them to go back and that was after the massacres.

Perhaps one of the really encouraging things is the meeting at Aburi, at which both sides were prepared, I understand, to consider confederation on a loose basis, and that at Aburi they entered into an agreement to consider plebiscites for the minorities. Since this has happened after the massacres, is that not the most encouraging thing for us to remember when we wonder whether the two sides can ever get together?

I found the speech of the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody) extremely moving, and the encouragement I mentioned is borne out by the evidence which he gathered in the best possible way, at first hand.

I am not qualified to speak on the food problem, but apart from the problem of distribution and physical communication, there seems to be a grave problem of human communication—a simple question whether the experts on the ground speak the language of the people. If there is fear and suspicion, are we sure that the people that we send out can speak the languages concerned, which is the best way to allay suspicions and fears? Of the British people sent out, how many speak the languages of the people? The Minister will know as well as I that there are many experts all over Britain with knowledge of both the Ibo and Hausa and the other languages of Nigeria who would be willing to go if they could assist in speeding up the distribution of whatever food is available.

I once led a petition on behalf of Biafran mothers. One of them, Mrs. Ogidi who lives in Glasgow, has just heard through the Red Cross that her mother-in-law, who was looking after the children, is in hospital with appendicitis. How does she feel about her six children who are out there? Could not the Minister send some experts to seek information in answer to that petition? I was told at the time that the Red Cross would help, but no encouraging information seems to be coming through and the example I gave, which was very discouraging for a mother who had heard nothing for two years, is the only one I know.

Why do we supply arms? The Government must have based their policy on wrong advice. Of course, they must take advice from people on the spot, but which spot? Here we have the problem that, if one is in Lagos, one feels differently from how one feels in some other place. Why, for example, did one high official, I think the Deputy Commissioner, feel very differently from the High Commissioner? Why, originally, did the High Commissioner think that it was a question of quick police action and seriously misread the degree of feeling which would be involved?

Second, if the Government are in any way influenced by property considerations, will they not heed the remarks of the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser), who said that Holland has not found that its property has been affected? As to the "quick kill" argument, firstly it has already been proved wrong, and secondly it is extremely likely that guerrilla warfare would continue for a long time in this terrain, so we delude ourselves if we think that we would stop the war by supplying arms.

The other argument is that if we did not supply arms, others would. But others have already stopped. Which is more likely—that the other suppliers, Russia and France, will stop supplying arms if we stop or if we continue? Could not some people in those countries feel the way I do, and be against arms being supplied? If one of the big suppliers stopped, would not the others be glad of an excuse to do the same? Is that not more likely than the strange logic of the argument that, by supplying arms, we are helping anyone to do anything?

These arguments have been rehearsed before but I felt so strongly that I had to repeat them. But one which has not, I think, been advanced is the practicable one that, if we stopped supplying arms, there would be a pause in the fighting. The Federal Government rely on British arms, small arms ammunition and military vehicles for ground fighting. The soldiers naturally have to be trained in the use of these arms and, if we stopped the supply, would there not have to be a delay—even if others took up the supply—before they learned the new techniques of arms supplied by other countries? Would not that be a good moment for the parties to come together? Would the hon. Gentleman comment on that?

I also suggest that we should make a declaration that we shall not supply arms, and we should appeal to the other Powers to take the same attitude. We should remind Russia that she once fulfilled a magnificent function as arbiter in a dispute between India and Pakistan, a dispute which at one time was thought to be impossible of solution. Could we not remind Russia of that side of her activities, and appeal to her to stop supplying arms? Could not we similarly appeal to France? This declaration must be made. Whatever these countries do, we should not have blood on our hands, and I cannot understand why the hon. Gentleman should be smiling at such a serious situation.

Photo of Mr James Johnson Mr James Johnson , Kingston upon Hull West

I shall tell the hon. Lady why I smiled.

Photo of Dr Winnie Ewing Dr Winnie Ewing , Hamilton

I give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. I understood that the hon. Lady gave way to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson).

Photo of Mr James Johnson Mr James Johnson , Kingston upon Hull West

I was smiling because what the hon. Lady was saying was on a par with what was said earlier about experts being able to speak the language. Does not the hon. Lady know that at least in Nigeria they teach English in the schools, and that the youngsters speak that language both in the schools and elsewhere? I am not being vain when I say that I have been all over this territory; I know that the people there converse in English, even with people like myself.

Photo of Dr Winnie Ewing Dr Winnie Ewing , Hamilton

In parts of Nigeria they speak other languages, and that is the point. I believe that the Minister took my point seriously. At any rate, he seemed to do so.

I submit that the supply of arms is wrong in itself; it is immoral. One cannot supply arms on the one hand, and aid on the other. It can never be right to do that, and that is why citizens outside the House are judging the decision of the House of Commons on this matter. To me it is a question of more arms—less influence. If the Government hope to bring the two sides together, the only chance of doing that lies in stopping the supply of arms.

Earlier in the debate in August of this year it was obvious that the majority of the House was against the Government policy and yet there was no vote. Indeed, it was a most distressing experience. One is impotent, not only when one is an ordinary citizen, but, when one is elected to the House one is still impotent. One cannot even vote on such a matter as this on which feelings are so strong. History and the citizens of this country who feel strongly about the fact that one and a half million people will die will judge us unless we do all that we can right now to stop the supply of arms. Personal statements are in fashion, and I feel personally about this issue. What I am particularly concerned about is the fact that this is a preventable tragedy.

7.3 p.m.

Photo of Mr Raymond Fletcher Mr Raymond Fletcher , Ilkeston

The fact that I do not intend to follow the hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) into Nigeria does not mean that I do not feel as strongly as she does, and indeed as everyone else does, about this terrible tragedy. As a Member of this House I am not prepared to accept, and I do not see why Her Majesty's Government should accept, total responsibility for this tragedy. It is not, as a placard outside the House suggests, a British Belsen. It is caused by other people, and other factors, and in many ways I wish that I were in a position to address either the Assembly in Lagos or such Assembly as may exist at the moment in Biafra.

I hope that when this tragedy is ended—and by God I want it to end soon—we can devise machinery within the Commonwealth which will make it possible for a Commonwealth military presence to go into any of these tortured territories to stop brushfire wars escalating into the kind of mass murder which we are witnessing, and witnessing impotently.

I want to go into Europe, and to do so very briefly. I want to travel a rather long and difficult journey, a journey of the imagination, rather than a journey into strange territory. I want, very briefly, to do what is normal practice in wartime, but is very difficult in peacetime, and that is to go on to the other side of the hill to try to present to the House some of the calculations which I think must have been uppermost in the minds of those Soviet leaders who ordered the invasion of Czechoslovakia. The fact that I have certain strong feelings about this episode must not colour what I am trying to state to the House.

It seems to me that, looking at the world from Moscow, which is the centre of a security system, the possibility of what used to be called Bohemia passing, either into potential enemy hands, or, worse still, dissolving into chaos, was a greater threat to that Soviet security system than two hydrogen bombs planted in the heart of Moscow, and we must make the imaginative endeavour to try to see this issue from the Russian point of view.

It is also a fact that the territory which our grandfathers used to call Bohemia is an important source of the uranium which goes into the Soviet nuclear weapons from time to time. I have no enthusiasm for nuclear weapons, be they American, British or Russian, but this is a fact which must have been very much on the agenda of the Soviet leaders, and when they moved into Czechoslovakia I believe that it was primarily these military considerations which were uppermost in their minds. It was a question of the security system which, for good or ill, they had fashioned since the end of World War II.

I believe that when one acts on purely military considerations one is almost invariably wrong, and my indictment of the Soviet leaders is couched in rather different terms from those which are customary on both sides of the House. If one wants to hurt a Soviet Communist, one accuses him not of committing a crime but of perpetrating a blunder, and this was one of the worst blunders in the whole of Russian history. I am talking, not of the history of the last 50 years, but of the whole of Russian history, and if we look at it as a blunder, if we denounce it as a blunder, and if we make the effort to understand the very real fears and the real military considerations which prompted this blunder, I think that we shall save ourselves from the great danger of over-reacting to it.

I cannot for the life of me see that the Czechoslovakia tragedy has basically altered the balance of power in Europe, but it has provided clear and rather startling evidence of two things. First, that Soviet forces can move very quickly and very secretly. The absolute assumption in N.A.T.O. circles has always been we would have a long warning time, that we would know what was happening, that we would have rather a long reaction time. We now have to abandon that rather comforting assumption. In spite of all the apparatus of military movement, and in spite of the fact that movements can be seen by spy satellites, we now know that the Russian Army can move swiftly, secretly, and can take us by surprise. That is alarming indeed.

The second thing is summed up in one word, Antonov. The use of the Antonov aircraft in Czechoslovakia was a military factor of the first magnitude, and I hope that this is being carefully studied in the Ministry of Defence, which only a few years ago was so completely hypnotised by the nuclear fallacy that it decided that all manned aircraft were fit only for the scrap heap.

Apart from those two significant discoveries, which we must take into account in our military planning, and in our forward thinking in foreign affairs, I cannot see that any basic change has taken place in the balance of power within Europe. The significant fact about the Soviet Union today is that what was a land animal has now become an amphibious one. In short, the bear is learning to swim, and learning to swim very effectively.

I refuse to get excited or hysterical about this. It is totally wrong to approach these matters, which must be approached coldly, in terms of anger or excitement or moral indignation. Not only is the bear learning to swim, but it is now swimming into the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean and is making its presence felt as a sea animal.

This means that the correct and necessary response must come at sea. To some extent we are seeing that in the Mediterranean. We must also see it in other areas. I will not delay the House by commenting further on this matter, which should be debated at length later. I want an assurance that the Government have taken this significant change in Russian military preparedness, its nature and type, fully into account.

When we match Russian sea power, as we must, and when we protect N.A.T.O.'s southern flanks, as we must—and as I believe we are doing—we must not run into the danger of so completely overreacting in a morally indignant way that we refuse to maintain those contacts which still offer the best hope of getting us out of our present disastrous impasse. In other words, although we are prepared to defend, we must be prepared to talk. The late Sir Winston Churchill summed it up adequately, almost on the birthday of N.A.T.O., when he said," We arm to parley."

Although I am in danger of exceeding the time I promised to take over my speech, Mr. Speaker, I must emphasise that while we must arm and organise, we must do it specifically to parley, and never cease in our attempts to parley, always understanding that the Soviet Union may—I believe has—perpetrated a blunder rather than has committed a crime of the grossest magnitude.

When we talk of reorganising the defences of Europe there is a glaring need for structural changes to take place in the European part of N.A.T.O. It is totally wrong to operate in Europe on the bland assumption that every gap in N.A.T.O.'s organisation will be filled by a benevolent President of the United States and the extravagant gestures of the American military organisation. Europe must do certain things on its own. Europe has no right to talk to either the United States or the Soviet Union until it is prepared to do those things on its own.

The one instrument in this whole array of organisations in Europe—I am not anti-European because I correctly predicted that we would not get into the Common Market—that should be built up and assume an increasingly important role, diplomatically and militarily, is the Western European Union; the Six plus Britain. Our influence would be far more effective—remembering that it is, on the whole, very healthy—channelled into an expanded W.E.U. instead of dissipating itself over all the other organisations in Western Europe.

I conclude as I began, by urging us to make an imaginative effort to go on the other side of the hill. Let us try to understand the calculations which were uppermost in the minds of the Soviet leaders when they perpetrated this stupid blunder. Having decided to match the firmness of their side on our side, let us never refuse to speak with them on any question whatever.

7.14 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Cordle Mr John Cordle , Bournemouth East and Christchurch

I accept in their entirety the opening remarks of the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher). The United Kingdom is in no way responsible for the war in Nigeria. I wish to make it clear at the outset that, when discussing such a tragic matter, the Government should have allowed additional time for this debate. At least a full day should have been made available and I am sure that, had that been done, we could have made greater progress.

Like the right hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Sir Dingle Foot), I have made several trips to Nigeria, both on business and on fact-finding tours. I have been there four times this year. I have seen a little of what goes on on the Federal side, although I have been unable to make arrangements to visit Biafran areas. I understand that arrangements are to be made for those areas to be visited shortly.

One's heart is rent asunder as one hears of one's friends and their relatives in both the Eastern Region and Federal territories dying and suffering, often through starvation. One is bound to be greatly affected when one learns of the hardships that are suffered in a civil war of this kind. I was indeed stirred by the excellent speech of the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody). We were privileged to hear his remarks because, in his valuable contribution to the debate, he gave a faithful though tragic description of the affairs of this unhappy land.

Had the hon. Gentleman been in his place I would have asked him if he was able to meet Colonel Ojukwu. He said that he had met missionaries and other leaders, but I would have liked to have known if he had had the opportunity of meeting Ojukwu.

Photo of Mr John Cordle Mr John Cordle , Bournemouth East and Christchurch

In that case, I would have asked the hon. Gentleman if he was able to ascertain from where the arms were coming. He referred to the recent moral uplift which the Biafrans had experienced as a result of more arms being supplied. I wonder if he was able to ascertain the supplier. When, in October, I was in Abidjan I was shown the arms that were coming through that airport. I was informed by a pilot that they were being run from Gabon via Abidjan into the eastern territories.

The Foreign Secretary made some full and forthright comments. I thank him for that because many of the anxieties which are felt by the people of Nigeria, 57 million of them, hinge on their watching and waiting for the comments of this House. They will be relieved to know again that Her Majesty's Government are standing firm behind their policy of continuing their support, morally, physically and financially by allowing arms still to be bought in this country under ordinary commercial arrangements.

There are a number of facts which we should remember when discussing Nigeria. Unfortunately they often seem to be ignored or distorted. Over five years of successful, peaceful and harmonious development in the independent sovereign State of Nigeria were brought to a savage end by an Ibo-inspired coup in 1966, in which Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, that great statesman, and many other Nigerian leaders were killed. The tragic events of that year led inexorably to the situation today, despite the attempts of General Gowon to prevent conflict.

Secondly, before making too much of the Ibo case for a break-up of the Federation into separate States, we should remember that it was Major-General Oronsi, himself an Ibo, who promulgated the Unification Decree No. 34 of May, 1966, which sought to abolish the whole Federal system.

Thirdly, the territory claimed by Ojukwu covers all the non-Ibo areas of Eastern Nigeria as well as the mineral and oil deposits, which Ojukwu hopes to gain for Biafra through successful military action. In other words, his territorial ambitions also cover 5 million non-Ibos. The voluntary enlistment of so many of these Ibos in the Federal cause is sufficient indication of their alienation from the rebel régime.

There is no question of genocide being perpetrated in Nigeria, despite rebel propaganda. Equally there is no question of British arms being used for this purpose. Reports by teams of international observers of the peaceful existence of many Ibos in Federal territory prove this conclusively. Ibos are living here in London and are actually employed in the Nigerian High Commission. Ibo cooks are still helping in private houses when we go to Lagos. This proves that they are quite happily able to go back into Lagos, Kaduna and Kano without fear of being killed.

Whatever is said to the contrary, our support in Nigeria has given us a degree of influence in Lagos. We helped to get Federal agreement of the mercy land corridor for the teams of observers for the earlier moves towards peace through negotiation. I do not believe it is too much to expect that in future we shall be able to use our influence with equally constructive purpose. Most hon. Members would agree that our immediate objectives should be twofold. We have discussed this fully this afternoon. They should be to help to bring about a ceasefire and to relieve the appalling starvation which has moved the conscience of the world.

These objectives are closely linked. Taken together, their fulfilment would save Nigeria. No one in this House wants to see Nigeria fragmented; we want to see Nigeria one country. The point was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) about the viability of the whole of Nigeria. Those of us who know Nigeria recognise the importance of keeping it as one. The most effective way of relieving starvation and suffering is to stop the fighting. Then the nations of the world could join together in a crash programme to bring help to all parts of the devastated country.

The main obstacle to a cease-fire is the unquenched ambition of Colonel Ojukwu who refuses any cease-fire until Federal troops withdraw to their original positions. He demands recognition of his control of non-Ibo areas of Biafra where oil can be found. It is too much to expect the Federal Government not only to acquiesce in the break-up of the Federation, but to concede his completely unjustifiable territorial claims. It seems tragically the case that a cease-fire is unlikely until it is finally demonstrated that the rebels have no chance whatever of achieving even the most limited victory. I think most hon. Members would agree about that.

Failing an early cease-fire, there are ways in which the suffering could be relieved. Colin Legum argued in last Sunday's Observer:If millions of Ibos are to die in the months ahead, it will be due as much—perhaps even more—to Ojukwu's policies than to the Federal offer of a mercy land corridor; total famine would immediately be averted. A terrible responsibility rests on those who have chosen not to accept this offer ". Mr. Legum went on to say: The great international pressures built up around the propaganda of genocide, and reinforced by the damaging evidence of starvation are an important aspect of Biafra's strategy for changing Western policies; while this is a perfectly understandable tactic, it does not acquit Biafra's leaders of direct responsibility for contributing towards disaster ". Those in all parts of the world who have any influence with Colonel Ojukwu should prevail upon him at once with great urgency to accept the mercy corridor offered by the Federal Government last July. Better still, persuade him for the sake of his people to talk, and talk quickly. In the meantime, if there is no immediate chance of a cease-fire, what should we do? This is a big question. First, we should press on with all resources of energy to help to relieve the situation. We are delighted that the Government have seen fit to contribute another £700,000 towards relief. I hope that the visit of Lord Shepherd and the Under-Secretary of State to Ethiopia will result in increased British aid before thousands more Nigerians die through lack of food, medical equipment and other essential supplies.

We recognise what has been done already, but I make two further suggestions. Even though the situation in the Federal areas is not so bad as that in the rebel territory, the suffering there is acute. It is easier to get help sent there and we should see what further help we can provide in that sector. Secondly, we should exert all our influence on bringing about a Christmas cease-fire, similar to that called in South Vietnam. Even a limited cease-fire over Christmas could be a first step to a wider halt to the war. It would allow us to rush in a large amount of desperately needed supplies while the cease-fire was in operation.

I turn to a little more contentious policy which we should pursue. It is to continue support for the legal Government, which, after all, is a fellow member of the Commonwealth, by supplying the arms necessary to put down the rebellion. I am sorry that I cannot agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) and those who support her views. If this war is to come to an end, to withdraw arms at this stage would be tantamount to recognising the rebellion and it would take us way back—

Photo of Mrs Anne Kerr Mrs Anne Kerr , Rochester and Chatham

Is this not a terrible example of British hypocrisy for which, sadly, we are known throughout the world? When we consider that we have not found it possible to put down the rebel regime in Rhodesia, yet we send arms to the Federal Government of Nigeria, is this not a perfect example of the sad state of an ex-imperialist Government?

Photo of Mr John Cordle Mr John Cordle , Bournemouth East and Christchurch

I cannot take that view. Nigeria looks to us as parents for help in a time of serious need.

Photo of Mr John Cordle Mr John Cordle , Bournemouth East and Christchurch

The Ibos are friends of many hon. Members on both sides of the House, as well as Yorubas and Hausas.

I take the opportunity of congratulating the Foreign Secretary and Her Majesty's Government on standing up to the considerable pressures placed upon them to halt the supply of arms. They have been right to argue that banning the supply of arms would be tantamount to recognising the rebel regime and prolonging the war. It would mean that the legal Government would successfully seek arms elsewhere as it is doing. When I was there I saw arms coming from satellite countries of the U.S.S.R. I believe there have been additional supplies since.

I find it very difficult to disagree with Lord Milverton, who said in another place: An initial support by Her Majesty's Government, had they been able to see the way clear to do it, in allowing to the Federal Government an increased purchase of war materials from British sources to meet the emergency might well have ended the rebellion in a few weeks and have saved thousands of innocent lives. Her Majesty's Government were in a difficult position to make such a decision, he believed. He went on to say: No such doubt can surely exist today."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 27th August, 1968; Vol. 296, c. 741.] I repeat what I said last June with even more urgency, and with equal know- ledge of the abuse which the suggestion will earn in some quarters. We should give the strongest moral, physical and financial assistance to General Gowon and the Federal Government. Part of the moral support we should give to the General would be to make the strongest possible representations to the French Government about their meddling in Nigeria's internal affairs. It seems that the military help which is being supplied from France to Biafra is the result of the direct intervention of President de Gaulle's private office.

Photo of Mr Stanley Henig Mr Stanley Henig , Lancaster

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. Interventions prolong speeches.

Photo of Mr Stanley Henig Mr Stanley Henig , Lancaster

Will the hon. Gentleman expain, for the benefit for those of us who do not understand, the difference between France intervening in Nigerian internal affairs by sending arms to one side and our intervening in Nigerian internal affairs by sending arms to the other? Personally I cannot see the difference.

Photo of Mr John Cordle Mr John Cordle , Bournemouth East and Christchurch

I do not think that there is time to answer that in full. The French are meddling for obvious reasons. I will deal with that in a minute. The French Foreign Office apparently professes to know nothing of French help to the rebels. Perhaps we should address our charges to the Elysee Palace. It is intolerable that, to pursue the speculative prospect of a future stake in the exploitation of Biafra's oil and mineral deposits and to follow the absurd historical analogies of their President, the French should pump military supplies into rebel territory, with the inevitable result of prolonging the war and the suffering.

In conclusion, I believe that in helping the Federal Government to halt the war we will, above all, be bringing the starvation and suffering to an end. We will also be helping General Gowon, in my view a man of great courage and integrity, in his statesmanlike quest to prevent the Balkanisation of Nigeria, with all the dangers that that process would bring to Nigeria and, eventually, to other sovereign African States.

7.32 p.m.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

A few months ago I would have been inclined to support the Biafran side of the situation in Nigeria and have taken the view which was once taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy), as he explained earlier. We on this side have an instinctive detestation of the sale of arms anywhere, to anybody, for any purpose. It is very easy sanctimoniously to adopt moral attitudes in these affairs or to wash one's hands of the whole affair and pretend that one's conscience is salved by such an exercise. One might be tempted the more so to do that when there is, as we must recognise, in the country as a whole a substantial increase in moral revulsion against what is happening in Nigeria, not only in Biafra, but on the Federal side, too. There is a revulsion that the television cameras have presented us with—the millions that would appear to be dying of starvation and poverty; the sheer horror and obscenity that all of us have witnessed on the television screens of women and children and innocent people everywhere.

But it is not unimportant to remember that those same television cameras could have gone to the peaceful streets of Calcutta or to any of the million towns and villages throughout the world and televised exactly the same scenes and depicted the same hunger, the same poverty, the same despair. We all have a moral responsibility for that situation.

The moral gesture which the Government are now asked to make in Nigeria is unilaterally to stop supplying arms to one side. At the outset I said that some months ago I was inclined emotionally and instinctively to support that view.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

I will not give way because I think that I know the point my hon. Friend wishes to raise. In any case, Mr. Speaker has pointed out that interventions prolong speeches. If my hon. Friend wants multilateral cessation, I am with him all the way.

As I was saying, we are being asked by some to stop the supply of arms unilaterally and hope that other nations will take a lead from us. I think that this is being naive in the extreme. I think that it is an instinctive impulse, particularly on this side, to want to make such a gesture. Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, we live in a world in which unilateral moral gestures are almost invariably ineffective.

Photo of Mr Peter Jackson Mr Peter Jackson , High Peak

It has never been tried.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

It is all very well saying that it has never been tried. I can cite examples where this gesture has been made.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

The most recent example was Czechoslovakia. The Russians have repeatedly asked, when these gestures have been made," How many divisions have they got?" The Russians said that of the Vatican on one occasion. If and when these gestures are made, they seem to be made as much to salve a guilty conscience as to do anything else. They are made to salve either an individual or a national conscience.

Photo of Mr Michael Barnes Mr Michael Barnes , Brentford and Chiswick

Has not by far the greatest emphasis in this debate been placed from both sides of the House, beginning with the speech of the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), on the suggestion that Britain should seek at the United Nations an internationally agreed arms embargo on the part of the Powers supplying arms? Would my hon. Friend address himself to this very real and important argument instead of seeking at great length to knock down arguments which have not been put forward in this debate?

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

I knew that that point would be made. That is why I was reluctant to give way. I am coming now to the argument which has been adduced by certain hon. Members that we should now stop our supply of arms to the Federal Government. I want to quote the article by Colin Legum in last Sunday's Observer. Colin Legum could not by any stretch of the imagination be regarded as a Right-wing reactionary. On the contrary, he has a very progressive attitude to these problems. I am bound to agree with his statement that the stopping of British arms supply to the Federal side would not be a significant contribution to the solution of the problem besetting that unhappy country. Of itself it would appear to me to make probable an extension of the war and the consequent hardship to the people.

I come directly to the point my hon. Friend has made. Our endeavours should be devoted, not to the unilateral cessation of arms supply, but to securing a multilateral cessation of arms supply to either side. This sounds very fine. It sounds suitably idealistic to everybody. When it is sought to translate ideals into practical politics, it is a very different kettle of fish.

Earlier today, my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock spoke of the diversity of support being given to one side or the other, from China, Russia, the United States, Britain, France, and goodness knows who. Any effort to secure the agreement of all those would have to come through the only international organisation we have, the United Nations, and, what is more, the initiative will have to come from non-committed nations, as Colin Legum rightly said.

Our Government have argued over the months, with seemingly less and less conviction, that our continued military aid to the Federal Government has enabled us to exert influence and pressure on that Government which would otherwise have been impossible. I was inclined to be a bit cynical about that argument. But, when one examines the facts more closely, one finds that the influence has not been negligible. Certainly, it would have been infinitely less had we not done it. It is easy for hon. Members on either side to deride that influence, to reject it as a barren exercise in pursuing a path of international immorality. I am not inclined at this moment to engage in that cynical derision.

I believe that my Government—I think of it as my Government, as our Government on this side—have sought to achieve a peaceful settlement of what is a civil war which is not our responsibility. We did not start it. We have started a lot of things in our history, but we did not start this. It is said that it is a cruel war. I have never heard of a war which was not. But the most cruel war of all is a civil war, and that is why all our endeavours ought to be directed to ending it.

I passionately believe—I must believe—that the Government are doing all they can to bring the two sides to the conference table after a cease-fire has been agreed. Meanwhile, the heartrending starvation and death and the desperate need for international aid on a massive scale must be tackled by all who have the welfare of all Nigerians at heart. From all the evidence which I have been able to glean, at least as much responsibility for this sad state of affairs rests, as has been said time and again, on the shoulders of the Biafran leader Colonel Ojukwu as on any others. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made that clear this afternoon, and I am prepared to accept it.

At present, both sides appear to be equally intransigent and inflexible. It is our bounden duty in the international organisations of the world to break that inflexibility, to get some reason into both sides, for the sake of the Nigerians and for the sake of humanity itself. That, I believe, the Government are trying to do.

7.43 p.m.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

One impression I have formed in listening to speeches today is that, in general, the softer the heart the softer the head. One cannot help but be struck by the passion which hon. Members on both sides have rightly shown about the tragedy in Nigeria, yet again and again the more tragic their words, the less practical their solutions. I have been in Nigeria several times. I am appalled by what is happening. I say frankly that I cannot see the solution to this problem, and I very much sympathise with Her Majesty's Ministers in having to deal with it.

I shall confine myself to three matters. First, I wish to protest about the way in which we run our foreign affairs debates. It is obvious that a large number of hon. Members would have liked to have a debate on Biafra, with a vote at the end of it. It is, with respect, an abuse of Parliament that so large a number of hon. Members have been denied that opportunity today.

The world is strewn with subjects which the House of Commons should debate—the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the whole question of the seabed, the Middle East, and so on. These are vital subjects. If, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) said, there is an increasing insularity and introspection among the British people, this is partly because the House of Commons is not doing its job of debating these international issues intelligently and effectively. I hope that Ministers will recognise the urgent need for the House to have more opportunity to debate foreign policy.

Photo of Mr Philip Noel-Baker Mr Philip Noel-Baker , Derby South

I warmly agree with what the hon. Gentleman has said. Will he agree, further, that as a result the Executive controls foreign policy without regard to Parliament at all?

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

I am glad to hear what the right hon. Gentleman says, though I think that the Executive does take some notice. At least, I speak in that hope.

I come now to N.A.T.O. I believe that without N.A.T.O. most hon. Members would be either "red" or dead. But two illusions have been shattered over the past six months. The first was the illusion that, somehow, the Soviet Union had changed its spots. Anyone who has a doubt about that now merely has to look at the evidence, the increased Soviet arms spending, the persecution of intellectuals in the Soviet Union, the threats—and they are real threats—to Yugoslavia and, perhaps, Rumania, and, last but not least, the evolution of a Soviet world maritime policy.

It would be wrong to take the time of the House to speak in detail about the Soviet Navy. But I hope that hon. Members do not suppose that the threat is confined to the Mediterranean or the North Sea. The difference between a navy and an army is that a navy has world capability. All that we can say with certainty is that the Soviet Union is now in a position to strike, to take action politically or militarily, at almost any point on the globe. This was not so before. This is the change from the Soviet Union as a super-Power based mainly in Euro-Asia into a super-Power which is a genuine world Power. It is an entirely new dimension of Soviet policy.

The second illusion shattered this summer, an illusion, I am sorry to say, which was very much fostered in this country, is that N.A.T.O. could safely run down its forces because we should always have a political early warning of any Soviet intention to attack. This was not just a theory. It was the proposition on which the United States began to remove some of its forces from Europe, and the British at least a brigade. The proposition was that a political early warning would give us notice so that aircraft could bring back the troops, even across the Atlantic, by way of the big lift. Events in Czechoslovakia have demonstrated that the political early warning system on which our strategy was beginning to be based does not work in practice.

For a few moments, I shall direct attention to the views of General Kielmansegg, the N.A.T.O. Supreme Commander in the central area with special responsibilities for the forces facing Czechoslovakia. He concluded a study of the results of events in Czechoslovakia with four important lessons. First, he said: The Russians have proved—not for the first time but most convincingly—that they are able to launch manœuvres off the cuff and to get a major deployment of their own and allied ground and air units without any visible signs of preparation and within a very short time. This lesson, says General Kielmansegg, is to be drawn from the first phase of the Warsaw Pact manœuvres, those of June and July.

The second lesson is: The Soviet Union succeeded in hiding her real intentions until the very last moment. Enough forces to invade had probably been provided not later than 31st July and the Minister will have examined this timetable carefully and will appreciate its significance. They therefore had enough forces to invade by the end of July, when combat readiness was publicly said to have been achieved. But this latter announcement", in General Kielmansegg's words, escaped the attention of Western Chancelleries, so the fact that military readiness can be continuously increased without revealing the true political intention behind it is the second lesson which should be drawn from the August phase of the manœuvres. I turn to the third lesson. The military and strategic warning time, started with the partial mobilisation and the escalation of the manœuvres, that is to say in mid-July. Yet the same political importance was not attached by this Government or any other in N.A.T.O. to those manœuvres as was attached to the peaceful intentions exhibited in Cierna and Batislava.

General Kielmansegg concludes: If these manœuvres had been intended as a redeployment of Soviet forces directed against Western Europe, N.A.T.O. would not have had 30 or even 15 days left to bring its defences up to full readiness by the return of the troops withdrawn, and by mobilisation. Our strategy cannot be based on a concept of political warning time that rests on speculations about possible political intentions. The concept of military warning time for military counter measures has to be based on the assumption that we cannot exclude total surprise. I have gone into this in considerable detail, because I think it is the fundamental point which should be underlined. If N.A.T.O. is to work, we must keep convincing forces, ready, on the ground in Central Europe, and as far forward as possible.

Cutting out most of my speech in the interests of brevity, I come now to the conclusions that I draw from the situation in N.A.T.O. I am not certain that the response which we have shown so far to Czechoslovakia has been adequate. The Rekjavik communiqué and the Brussels communiqué are handsome and, in a way, comforting documents, because they commit the Alliance once again to work and work well for security. I am glad, without making political points, that the British Government have to some extent changed their view about the speed of our defence run-down and have begun, in the Mediterranean and, to some extent, in Europe, to return elements which had

But we will have to do better than that. And this depends, as much as anything else, on what happens in Europe. We Europeans—I count myself a European—are going to be left a little more on our own, I suspect. I say that because of the change of Administration in the United States and the change of mood which one can discern there. I very much welcome what Mr. Nixon has said about the N.A.T.O. Alliance. A short time ago, in New Orleans, he said: I say to you that America should seize upon this moment of European awareness "— he was referring to Czechoslovakia— To reforge the ties that bind the Alliance together. He went on: We have now to re-establish the cohesion and the strength of the Western Alliance because one of the reasons that the Soviet Union is probing everywhere against the West is that they think the Western Alliance is weak and divided. If we are strong, I believe that they would not probe. He ended: I say, strengthen the Western Alliance. But, in a later speech, which I would also ask the Minister to observe, Mr. Nixon said something else which rang a bell in the whole of his country. He said: It is time to look at the balance in the world. When there are 200 million Americans and when there are two billion people who live in the free world, then we shall have to find a foreign policy where other nations bear a greater share of the defence of freedom, and that is what I will work for. So said the President-elect of the United States, and I am sure that the Minister appreciates the significance of it.

I am also sure that Mr. William Rogers, the new Secretary of State will actively pursue such a policy. It is a policy that envisages the United States joining hands with Western Europe, provided but only provided that Western Europe retains its own strength and its own forces. I believe that there is a lesson for our own country there.

I therefore conclude with three thoughts. First, we should now stop the run-down in our armed forces, particularly of the reserves. Second, we must, within N.A.T.O. create a West European element, perhaps through the W.E.U., whereby a European naval force can work alongside the Americans in the Mediterranean and in the South Atlantic all the way to South Africa.

I believe that N.A.T.O. as a whole must also work at any rate towards two important decisions—first to extend two responsibilities, if not the scope of the Treaty itself, at least its operations, to the Cape of Good Hope. I think that the Soviet naval presence has made this need perfectly apparent. One way or another N.A.T.O. will have to extend its wing to cover the South Atlantic.

Finally, I think that we shall have to work towards some understanding of our responsibilities in the "grey" areas. The threat to Yugoslavia is a real one but I cannot believe that any American President or British Prime Minister will accept that an invasion of Yugoslavia is worth a nuclear war. I cannot believe that our people would be politically willing to accept such a risk, but what I worry about here is the danger of miscalculation.

We have lived for some time in a world of comparative certainties—the appalling certainty that, if either side moved across the Iron Curtain, there might well be war. We are now moving, as I see it, into a time of uncertainties, and there is a grey area—particularly in the Balkans, possibly in the Mediterranean, where it is important that both sides should understand the limits beyond which they must not tread. The problem of the grey areas is one on which this country should offer a great deal of thought to the Alliance as a whole.

I end with one last word for Mr. Anthony Grey. I am very glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) opened his speech with a reference to the appalling treatment which Mr. Grey is being subjected to. We raised this matter with the Government on the Consular Relations Bill in Committee and on Third Reading, and were told not to make too much fuss because the Chinese might not then be willing to listen to the Government's efforts behind the scenes. Those efforts have not worked and we are now told that a little fuss might not go amiss. I therefore hope that the Government will press, in public and in private, to help our fellow citizen.

7.58 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) touched upon the same subject in his speech as was taken up by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher), but there was a marked contrast between the two—

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

Well, it is sometimes possible, although one does not entirely agree with an hon. Member opposite, to find that the direction and the tone of speeches are rather similar and there is nothing unusual or dishonourable about that. But there was a marked contrast between the two speeches in this case. All the hon. Gentleman talked about was military strength. There was not a modicum of policy or diplomacy in his contribution, while my hon. Friend did justice to both parts of the subject and stressed the importance of the Government continuing to seek political solutions and agreements.

One of the gravest aspects of the wholly unjustified invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union and the four other Warsaw Pact countries is precisely the danger that it might produce on the N.A.T.O. side the kind of response just indicated by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds. I can find no possible excuse for that invasion. Moreover, I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston that it was primarily the international security position of the Soviet Union which led it to take the decision. I do not accept that analysis.

Over the years, I have argued the right of the Soviet Government to establish their security. I have produced the kind of arguments that other hon. Members have also adduced. The Soviet Union lost 21 million people in the last war—seven million at the front and 14 million behind it. A merciless policy was applied to the Russian population which was quite different from the policy applied, for example, to Western prisoners of war, bad though that was. If the evidence were available, I would therefore be prepared, and would regard it as important, to say that the international security of the Soviet Union was involved and impelled it to this action.

But I believe that analysis to be incorrect. The evidence is overwhelming that what produced this decision by the Soviet Government and by the Governments of the other four Powers—whose influence must not be underestimated—was that, in Czechoslovakia, the Socialists and the Communists were beginning to say, publicly and openly, on radio, television and in books and pamphlets—their foremost Communist theoretical leaders were saying it ably and brilliantly—" In 1948 we accepted the Soviet model of Communism. We knew no other model and have found over the years that we were desperately wrong. We have found that the Soviet model of Communism is a degenerate model and that, in the absence of democracy, freedom of association and expression, one ends up with neither Socialism nor democracy ". That was their language.

Secondly, the Czech leaders were examining in public the economic relations between the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. That is a taboo subject from the point of view of the Soviet Government. They were beginning to look at the disadvantages Czechoslovakia was suffering because of decisions imposed upon them. They saw that the country's volume of production was not going up each year as it might have done had they not been in the straitjacket of Comecon arrangements. All these things had lain under secrecy for 20 years and now the leaders of Czechoslovakia were discussing them in public for the first time.

In contrast with the Hungarian revolution, no responsible leader of the Czechoslovak Communist Party or of the Government and no responsible member of the Writers' Union—which played an important part in bringing about the changes—ever suggested that Czechoslovakia should leave the Soviet alliance. They pointed out that their security lay in the Warsaw Pact and that they had every intention of staying there.

Nor was there any question of a counter-revolution. It is important that the lie that there was a counter-revolution should be nailed at every opportunity when we discuss this subject here or anywhere else. We owe it to the people of Czechoslovakia to do so. At the moment, they are not allowed to discuss these matters freely in their own country.

The evidence for the absence of a counter-revolutionary movement or of groups of counter-revolutionaries is to be found in the simple fact that, when the Soviet troops reached Prague, the first military security detachment did not go searching for counter-revolutionaries in Prague or anywhere else. It was sent to the headquarters of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, where the first man it arrested was Mr. Dubcek, the First Secretary of the party. It did not hunt for counter-revolutionaries. The Soviet authorities knew that there were none. They made Mr. Dubcek a prisoner, removed him to Slovakia and flew him to the Soviet Union. It was only at the insistence of President Swoboda that he was freed to take part in the negotiations.

Photo of Mr Peter Mahon Mr Peter Mahon , Preston South

Do not the events my hon. Friend is referring to so clearly and lucidly show that any form of Communism is degenerate?

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

In the brief time at my disposal, I do not want to enter into theoretical discussion of philsophy. I am describing facts which are relevant to the accusations made in the Soviet Press and in the Soviet Government's note to the British Government. I want to confine myself strictly to these practical facts.

Although Mr. Dubcek was freed again and is the leader of his party, he has not been allowed to give to the people of Czechoslovakia an account of what happened to him in those bitter days. It is significant that this kind of account has never been given to them. It has never been published anywhere in any of the Czech papers.

As my right hon. Friend rightly said, the reaction in his country was not just a Government reaction. It was a reaction by people in all walks of life and of all opinions. It was the sound and good reaction of a people who have an understanding of democratic politics and of the rights of countries, large or small, to decide their own internal political affairs. The people of this country have had a very clear understanding of such matters in the past and they showed it again on this occasion. I put on record my own view, for what it may be worth, that Her Majesty's Government have done no more than give clear expression to the point of view of the British people on this tragic matter in speaking through the voice of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary in this House, outside it, or in the United Nations.

Given that this is the situation we face, I invite my right hon. Friend to go a little beyond the Note he has just published in reply to the wholly unjustified accusations made by the Soviet Government. I believe that both the tone and the content of the Government's note are correct. I have no criticism of it. But it is essential—and in this I follow the direction of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston—that we should not only hold out the possibility of future political arrangements, discussions and agreements, but should go on with specific proposals we have already pursued in the past. I have time to refer only to one—an advance to a European security conference and the setting up of a European security system which the Government had already to some extent pioneered and discussed with the Soviet Government before the invasion of Czechoslovakia took place.

I agree with the Foreign Secretary that the invasion has made all these things far more difficult. The only decisive contribution the Soviet Government can make to helping such discussions along again is. to take all their troops out of Czechoslovakia at the ealiest opportunity, and allow the people of that country to settle their own affairs without interference and hindrance.

Even while the present tragic and deplorable situation continues, however, my right hon. Friend should tell the Soviet Union and the other countries involved that we wish to pursue a policy of preparing for a European security conference, that we wish to work towards the dissolution of the military blocs, and call upon them to make their contribution. I have two reasons for urging this. First, I believe—and I think that my right hon. Friend will believe—that it is in the best security interests of the people of this country and of other countries. Second, I also believe that an argument is bound to be going on within the Soviet Government and the Governments of the other four countries involved in the intervention.

We cannot just go on repeating that there might be general discussions in the future. We should provide concrete evidence that certain discussions could continue even though the situation is as difficult as it is now. This would help those in the high councils of the Soviet Union who are critical of their Government's mistaken policy. There are bound to be such people. I do not believe in the monolithic bloc; it is only an outside appearance. It is not good enough merely to say that there might be possibilities. We should give more concrete evidence to such people to enable them to say that there is some hope, if they reverse their policy, of going on with what they regard as desirable in the interests of the security of the Soviet people. That is as my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston suggested, looking at it from the other side of the hill.

The right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) is not here. I do not blame him for his absence, because he has been here for most of the day. He complained early in the debate that the House will not be able to express its view clearly in the Division Lobby tonight on the subject on which he wants a decision—Nigeria and Biafra. I remember the times when I pleaded and made the same complaint on the subject of the tragic war in Vietnam. Women and children were dying in large numbers in Vietnam at that time, and the mightiest air force in the world was inflicting its punishment on a small nation that has no such modern arms, but I did not get the support of the right hon. Gentleman when I made those pleas. It did not matter to him then whether the House would have the opportunity of making a decision on Vietnam. But that is not a point we should argue about at great length, as we are under pressure of time. It appears to different hon. Members on different subjects that it is essential to have a Division.

Vietnam should not go unmentioned in a foreign affairs debate now, because the danger was not passed. There has been a considerable improvement, for which we are all profoundly grateful. Many have made a contribution to it, including the Government of Hanoi, and the President of the United States, whose announcement that he would not run again and that he would stop the bombing played an important part in bringing about the Paris Conference. The Government of the Soviet Union, which helped diplomatically for the first time, also had something to do with bringing about the Conference. But we see a new stalemate in the Parish negotiations, and dangers, of the war starting again, with dangers of escalation, if the truce during the Christmas period does not lead to a definitive ceasefire.

I have often maintained in our debates on the subject that the real enemies of peace are in Saigon, where they have always been. We are now in the absurd position that even after the President of the United States has agreed that the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam should be a full partner in the negotiations, the whole conference is sabotaged by the Military Committee that really controls the President of South Vietnam, its Prime Minister, and the Deputy President. It is insisting that there must be a certain arrangement at the table or it will not attend the Conference.

Behind this deadlock there is a far deeper conflict, and my right hon. Friend has a responsibility in this matter. With other hon. Members, I have urged upon the Government over the past 2½ years that two pre-conditions must be fulfilled if there are to be meaningful negotiations that could lead to a final peace. I said that first there must be a cessation of the bombing, and mercifully that condition has now been met. Second, I used to urge that the National Liberation Front must be accepted as a full partner in the negotiations. Time and again I was told by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary," We have it from the President of the United States both in private and in public that when the time comes the full representation of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam will not be an insuperable obstacle."

But we have reached the negotiations, and it is a serious obstacle. Behind it is the dangerous calculation of the Military Committee in Saigon that it might wait for President Nixon to take over. Its hope is that it will not have to engage in serious negotiations with the National Liberation Front, and that there might be a new policy. I hope and pray that it is mistaken, but it is a grave risk, and I invite my right hon. Friends to make a public pronouncement that, as the Government have been working for a long time in the interests of bringing about negotiations, they condemn the attitude of the régime in Saigon and demand that the Saigon Government should take part in the negotiations, accepting the National Liberation Front as a full negotiating partner.

My last point concerns the Division that the Opposition are to call tonight. Nothing has been more irresponsible and unconvincing than the justification the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire gave when he said that he would divide the House. In the 9½ years I have been here, I have never felt more that such an explanation has been dragged in and the bottom of the barrel has been scraped in such a way to find a justification for a political decision that has nothing to do with foreign affairs. The Opposition Front Bench obviously cal- culated that this was the kind of week when they wanted to come to the aid of Lord Shawcross, Lord Crowther and the leader writers in The Times, and to have a Division no matter what subject we had been discussing. If we had been discussing the rules of cricket, they would have found a reason for calling a Division against the Government.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

I agree with my hon. Friend. There would have been a much better case if that had been the subject.

The right hon. Gentleman took great care to tell the House that the question of the Falkland Islands was the only matter on which the Opposition would call a Division; they were not going to jumble it up with all sorts of other complaints that they might have against the Government. He made it clear that that was the subject on which he would call the Division—in the face of the clear evidence my right hon. Friend has given the House that he has conducted the negotiations in a responsible way, with the best interest of the islanders at heart—on the spurious ground that my right hon. Friend has not yet revealed every single sentence he used in a highly confidential negotiation.

The right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood), who is now the only member of the Praetorian Guard present, was a member of a Government which also used to engage in international negotiations. He will remember how we used to ask the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire what sort of discussions he had had with the President of the United States and how we used to get the same reply—we did not get half the information which right hon. Friend gave on this subject yesterday—when the right hon. Gentleman said that the discussions were confidential and that he could not, therefore, indicate even their subject matter. How he has the effrontery to charge my right hon. Friend with refusing to give information is beyond belief.

I believe that he has had the temerity to do so because a political decision has been reached for altogether different reasons, and he thinks that any Tammany Hall argumentation will be good enough to justify calling a Division. It is wholly irrelevant to the affairs which we have been discussing and I shall, therefore, have no difficulty in going into the Lobby tonight to support my right hon. Friend's case that these negotiations are being conducted in good faith and rejecting, with the contempt it deserves, the Opposition's attack on the Government.

8.20 p.m.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

The subjects which have occupied the time of the House during the debate have been varied and all have been important, but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) said, it is on the issue of the Falkland Islands that the Division will be called. No doubt, for that reason the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) came back to that subject, though rather reluctantly and belatedly, at the end of what he had to say. I do not criticise him in the least for wanting to talk about other matters in a general debate on foreign affairs, but I must tell him that he did much less than justice to my right hon. Friend, to the Opposition as a whole—not that I particularly ask him to do justice to the Opposition as a whole, of course—when he said that we would divide tonight simply in order to show our general displeasure with the Government and their conduct of the economy. That is very far from being the case, and it is because of that sort of attitude, which may be typical of other hon. Members opposite—that the Falkland Islands are much too unimportant an issue to divide the House—

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

The hon. Gentleman did not use that word, but he indicated that it was a ridiculous issue on which to divide.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

The hon. and learned Gentleman must not put words into my mouth. I said none of that. I said that my right hon. Friend had given a full and clear explanation proving that he had conducted these negotiations with the best of intentions to help the islanders and in a most responsible manner. I said nothing to belittle the subject as a subject.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

In that case—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."]—I do not propose to withdraw anything; I propose to add a little to what I have said. I must point out to the hon. Gentleman that it is possible for the Secretary of State, or for the noble lord, Lord Chalfont, to carry out negotiations to the best of his abilities and with the best of intentions, but still to merit the censure of Her Majesty's Opposition. I imagine that that is exactly the position at the moment. I want to say why I think it is important and what are the issues which arise.

I think that all hon. Members have been worried for a long time about what has been going on in the negotiations about the Falkland Islands. I think that it will also be agreed that the assurances that we have been given have all been very cautious and qualified. For many weeks, there has been an atmosphere of concealment and it was only last week that the Minister of State, answering some questions and anxieties, quoted the somewhat Delphic utterances of Lord Chalfont as though they should set our minds at rest.

It will be remembered that Lord Chalfont was asked at a Press conference in the Argentine whether he could give a day or date on which sovereignty would pass from the United Kingdom to the Argentine Republic. The right hon. Gentleman read out the reply: We are not thinking in such terms of a change of sovereignty ". As this was an oral exchange across the House, it was quickly wrongly repeated as," We are not thinking in terms of such a change of sovereignty". What Lord Chalfont said, however, was: We are not thinking in such terms of a change of sovereignty ". By that I suppose the noble Lord to have meant that while we were thinking in terms of a change of sovereignty, we were not thinking in terms of being able to name a date on which that transfer would take place. That was a quotation which the right hon. Gentleman gave us to assuage our anxieties about this issue. It was not until the Foreign Secretary came back this week that we knew explicitly that sovereignty was on the agenda of these discussions, had been discussed, was being discussed, and, so the Foreign Secretary told us on being explicitly asked, would continue to be discussed.

As we know that the islanders are not willing to pass from our sovereignty to Argentine sovereignty, one is driven to ask why the negotiations have been continued. After all, the Argentine Government have said expressly that they are not concerned with an agreement which does not transfer sovereignty. That was said in another place by Lord Chalfont last week. We also know that the islanders are not willing to have sovereignty transferred. One naturally asks why the negotiations continue.

The Foreign Secretary tried to answer that. He said in effect that this might seem to be a logical dilemma, but that we continued with the negotiations because we thought that there were some small useful matters of communication which might be cleared up, and we hoped that if the negotiations went on, the Argentine Government might not insist upon its attitude. Logically, that is a conceivable answer to the objection, but many reports have come from the Falk-lands and the Argentine and have appeared in the Press giving the impression that what the British Government are seeking to do is to find an agreement with the Argentine which provides for the gradual transfer of sovereignty and then commend it, in a joint operation by the two Governments, so strongly to the islanders and over such a period of time that they would abandon their objections.

There have been so many strong indications to that effect that the Foreign Secretary must not be surprised if our anxieties are not set at rest by what he said about carrying on the negotiations in the hope of changing the mind of Argentina. Can the Government say explicitly that it is no part of their intention to seek to persuade the Falkland Islanders to agree to a change of sovereignty? I do not think that they can say that, because they have half admitted that this is their intention.

Why are the Government doing this? Why are they going through all these negotiations? Why are they seeking to persuade the islanders, as they plainly are? As my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire said, the dividing line between persuasion and pressure can be very narrow. There are not many—2,000 or 3,000—of these people. They are in a very isolated and dependent position. If sufficiently strong persuasion is brought upon them sufficiently long, and if it is backed up by a sufficiently black painting of their prospects, it would not be surprising if they lost heart and did not so much accept the prospect as abandon as hopeless their opposition to it. If that be the true picture, as I fear it is, there devolves upon us a heavy duty to ensure that they are not put in the position which I have described.

It is very difficult perhaps to isolate motives. There has been talk about very large shipbuilding contracts being involved. I do not wish to deal with that matter because I have no positive knowledge. I know only that these rumours have existed. They should be referred to when the Minister winds up the debate, because it would be very bad if commercial considerations underlay this matter. But I will put those aside and merely ask that we hear about them and express the regretful view, which I nevertheless hold, that this is all just part of the current death wish of the Government and indeed to some extent, of our nation.

There is a desire to dismantle, to withdraw and to abandon, a weary unwillingness to have distant cares, and there is the positive desire, strongly manifested by some hon. Members opposite, to turn our backs on anything which reminds us of our former greatness. That is why Ministers have embarked upon this otherwise inexplicable activity of trying to bargain away the Falkland Islands and to persuade these people, who are British in the full sense of the word, that they should consent to be ruled by a febrile mob in South America where Governments are so unstable and change so rapidly. We in Britain may envy them just now that feature of their institutions, but it would come most ungratefully and unfamiliarly to people of British stock.

One has only to ask oneself what must be the reaction of people of our own race in the Falkland Islands to the suggestion that they should put themselves under the Argentinians and be ruled by them to realise how preposterous and disgraceful an operation this is and how typical it is of the Government's attitude to everything which is British and everything which derives from our great British past. It is a ludicrous, misguided internationalism.

The justification for this extraordinary and meaningless thing which the Government put before us is that the General Assembly of the United Nations has asked them to do it. The General Assembly of the United Nations will always ask for negotiations when anybody makes any claim, however improbable, upon any British territory, and will always want the matter to be settled by compromise, so that the predator gets at least half of his booty. When we reflect upon how the General Assembly is composed and upon what considerations it normally acts, we ought rarely to accede to its rulings, and in a case where the future of a people of our own stock is in issue we ought to reject with contempt the temptations which it puts in our way.

8.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Brian Parkyn Mr Brian Parkyn , Bedford

Like the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell), I shall not be discussing Nigeria, but, apart from that, my speech will not, I hope, bear much resemblance to his.

There are two main streams of thought on foreign affairs. There are those who accept the need for and recognise that there must be change but who see England as just another country like France, Germany, Italy or Holland. There are those who understand the uniqueness of England and the contribution which it can make in world affairs. All too often such people are still basking in the glory of the dying Empire and dreaming of imperialism. There are a few people who fit into an area somewhere in between and make a bridge between the two. This is the group into which I fall; those who have seen the change in the world over the last 20 years and who accept the need for our contribution to change, while still recognising the unique contribution which we can make.

What is our unique role today? Hon. Members have seen major problems in Nigeria, in Argentina and elsewhere, but I believe that the two major problems are these. First, China and, secondly, national sovereignty.

China will remain the major influence and the major problem in world affairs for as far ahead as we can see. It is not merely the size of China, its antiquity or its position; it is all these things plus more. China is the only part of the world which is not Europeanised and which still has its own culture. Those who have been privileged to visit China recently, as I have on a number of occasions, know that something dynamic is happening there which is not happening elsewhere. We may not approve of some extremes in China, but there is a ferment of ideas which we must try to understand.

Almost all the problems in the world concern matters of national sovereignty. In Vietnam, in Rhodesia, in Nigeria, in the Falkland Islands, the problems are of sovereignty. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson) mentioned the seabed; this also is a matter of sovereignty. Ireland, Scotland and Wales are concerned with sovereignty. We tend to think of the concept of legal sovereignty as having been with us for all time, but it has been developed within the last 150 years in this country, and we perhaps more than anyone else have seen the limit of the idea of legal sovereignty and its pitfalls.

It was my hope and that of many hon. Members on both sides of the House that, after the last war, the British Commonwealth of Nations would have showed the world something other than the idea of national sovereignty and provided the basis for some kind of co-ordination of nations tied together in a loose way, without falling back on the simple idea of a nation's legal sovereignty. I believe that it would have come about had it not been for Suez, and, for me, the great tragedy of Suez was that it blighted for all time the possibility of making out of the British Commonwealth of Nations what could have come about if it had not occurred.

We in this country have flexible ideas on sovereignty, we have this extraordinarily arrangement with the different parts of the United Kingdom, including the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. None of them fits into any simple legal idea, but the system works more or less. We have extremists in some parts of the country, and we know that there will have to be more devolution. But the system works, and we have a maturity about the problem of sovereignty which I believe will help us find a way forward to enable other nations to come together.

On the subject of sovereignty, we must also be aware that there are many forms of associations of nations. We tend still to think in terms of territorial association and territorial representation. Largely speaking, we have territorial representation in Parliament. We think of federation as being some form of association of nations on the basis of territorial representation. But we must not be unaware of the fact that it is probable that world government will come through the development of polyvalent federalism and the representation in some central authority of functions rather than of territories. World government is coming perhaps faster than we realise. The agencies of the United Nations are a form of polyvalent federalism. Each country has sacrificed some of its sovereignty to the various international agencies which are coordinating these functions.

As for the problem of the Falkland Islands and Argentina, I think that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is right in recognising that we cannot think merely of the 2,000 British people in the Falkland Islands. Those who know Buenos Aires and Argentina know that there are not just 20,000 British people there. Though they may not own British passports, there are something like a million people with a British background, a British outlook on life and English surnames. Those people were surprised, shocked and saddened that the Queen did not go to Argentina during her recent visit to South America.

We have responsibilities for those people. If we think purely in terms of legal sovereignty, whatever that means, we shall be concerned only with the 2,000 people in the Falkland Islands. But if we feel that legal sovereignty is a relic of the past which must now be transcended, we shall recognise our responsibility to associate ourselves with the British people in Buenos Aires and elsewhere in Argentina. I am sure that it would be possible to establish a kind of half-way house between the black and white situation of the legal sovereignty of the Falkland Islands in British hands as opposed to Argentinian. It may be that a solution to the problem would be found in setting up a condominium.

I come back to China. While there is not time to go into it in depth, may I refer to the problem which was touched on by my right hon. Friend and the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) earlier in the debate? It concerns Mr. Anthony Grey, the Gordon family and the other British subjects who are unable to leave China.

Those who know China—I hesitate to feel that anyone who is Western really understands China—and those of us who have been there in the last few years know that one way out of the problem is not for us to retaliate by restricting Chinese journalists in London. I am sure that my right hon. Friend is right not to succumb to pressure to take action of that kind.

The position of the 16 Chinese, as they are now—five, fortunately, were released yesterday—in prison in Hong Kong without trial and without charges brought against them is another matter. I am aware of the difficulties of the situation in Hong Kong. I was there last year and by only two minutes escaped being killed in Kowloon as I was walking along the street. Just after I had gone over a particular part of the road there was a bomb explosion. I am aware of the difficulties and dangers of that period, which fortunately seem to be at an end. At the same time, it does not seem that British justice is being done unless these people are either charged or released.

Chinese people, whatever else they are, have a great concern about the way that they are treated. Only 30 years ago we, the British, did not allow the Chinese courts or the Chinese police to interfere in any way with ourselves, our property or our ships in Shanghai.

We must remember that the Chinese, more than anyone else, are concerned with loss of face. This is the one thing that means so much. I believe that it is very important for us to ensure that those remaining in Hong Kong prisons are either charged or released. Until we do, I do not think there will be any possibility of us saying that we have done as much as we can to bring Mr. Anthony Grey, the Gordon family and others in China back to this country.

We must recognise the need to change, but we should never forget that, in the world outside Europe, England is still seen by many as the only hope for a civilised world. We must say that and believe that without being jingoistic or over-patriotic. We, in this House, have a grave responsibility. Hon. Members who see different parts of the world know what I am getting at. We still have a reputation, despite everything, which no other nation has. We must keep this in mind, accept the responsibility, and be prepared to give a moral lead of the world in getting away from the idea of national sovereignty. If we took this lead, most civilised people would be only too glad to applaud.

8.49 p.m.

Earl of Dalkeith:

I seek only a brief moment in which to put to the Government some questions concerning Nigeria which, but for my politeness, I might possibly have put to the Foreign Secretary during his speech.

I hope that the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Brian Parkyn) will not think me discourteous if I do not follow him into his different points of the globe, although I was interested by his views on making our influence felt without having to depend upon sovereignty. Concerning the Argentine, I was beginning to wonder whether the hon. Gentleman was coming near to empire building in a new way. As he was dismissing legal sovereignty, I could only assume that he must be suggesting we should go back to illegal sovereignty of some kind. I thought it a most interesting point.

The point which I should like to put in connection with Nigeria is really best expressed by reading the Amendment which I tabled to the Motion put down by the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun), and other hon. Members, entitled Ending the war in Biafra. The Motion reads: That this House, appalled by the mounting starvation and killing in Biafra, urges Her Majesty's Government to press both sides for an immediate cease-fire … and there my Amendment takes over. and to take the initiative, now long overdue, in sailing an emergency meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers for the express purpose of establishing a Commonwealth Peace Keeping Force and for negotia- ting with the Federal Government of Nigeria for its deployment at the scene of hostilities, as the most effective means of securing a peaceful and just settlement of the present dispute. I have not been alone in pressing the Government on this matter for many months, and at no time have I had anything in the way of an explanation from the Government of why they seem to be disinterested in pursuing this issue. What I have been doing is asking the Government to take the initiative among Commonwealth Prime Ministers.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness

Does not the hon. Gentleman understand that in Africa there is an organisation called the O.A.U.? Does not he know that in West Africa people object to Commonwealth Forces coming in under any guise? This is regarded as an African affair for the O.A.U., and our Government have accepted that.

Earl of Dalkeith:

That is a fair point which I accept and take into consideration. I accept that that is a line which should be tried, but so far it has not produced any results, and I still do not see why the Government have not discussed this matter, as they appear not to have done, with the Commonwealth Prime Ministers.

Have the Government had any such discussions? If they have, what answers have they had from them? If there are some difficulties, may we be told what they are? Have the Government discussed the matter with the leaders of the Federal Government in Nigeria, and, if they have, what was their response? I cannot see how we are going to get anywhere near bringing this dispute to an end, possibly for years to come, unless some sort of assistance is given from outside.

The hon. Lady the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) is probably a greater expert on tribal secession than I am. We had the same kind of problems of suspicion and mistrust within various parts of Scotland, and it took generations to solve them. I do not believe that there is any reason to think there is a short-cut to ending this trouble in Nigeria, and I therefore think that the offer of some interventionist force might be accepted by the two sides to the conflict, provided it is offered to them in a way which is seen to be to their advantage.

All I ask the Government to do is to see whether the problem can be tackled rather more seriously than it has been hitherto. I do not try to lay down what sort of forces should be enrolled in the Commonwealth, or even in the African, peace keeping force, but I suggest that the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders might perhaps be a very useful mixture to put into such a force, because they behave with the utmost tact and diplomacy, as well as a certain amount of firmness when it is required.

I ask the Minister to amplify the Government's thinking on this, as the matter was rather skated over this afternoon.

8.55 p.m.

Photo of Mr Clifford Kenyon Mr Clifford Kenyon , Chorley

In the short time which remains to me, I should like to deal with the question of the Falkland Islands. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will pursue the negotiations between the Argentine and Britain. It is not a question of transferring sovereignty but of helping the islanders. People do not seem to realise how these islanders have to live. They are prisoners. A ship comes once a month delivering letters and newspapers. They have no T.V. and radio reception is pretty limited. They are out of touch with affairs here.

They need better communications so that they can come quicker into the modern world, and the Foreign Secretary must pursue these negotiations with the hope of helping these islanders. Those who talk about the islanders being pressurised into giving way do not know them. They are people of the most independent character who will stand up for their rights to the end. There is no question of them giving way under pressure—they would not do it, and no one had better try to make them or they will be in trouble.

I went among these islanders into the schools. I saw children there and asked myself: "What of their future? There is no higher education. A child leaves school at the age of 14, and if he wants to go in for higher education he must go to Montevideo or this country, as many do. What of their parents?" Under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, 1962, they are colonials and can only come here on a work permit. They cannot settle here, and that is why they are building up colonies in New Zealand and Australia. They have great difficulties in going to the mainland. Their passports are not recognised. The Argentine Government will recognise only an Argentine passport. When we were discussing these things with the First Minister of the Argentine Government, each time we mentioned the Falkland Islanders he spoke of the Malvinas. The Argentine Government will not recognise the Falkland Islanders as being apart from the Argentine.

These are the things that the Foreign Secretary must pursue so that these people can enjoy a fuller life. The islanders need a landing strip. I did not want to go to the Falkland Islands, but a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House came to see me and pressed me to go because they said, "You are the only chap who knows anything about this land of sheep." Another hon. Member said," You have been a sailor, four days sailing across to the Falkland Islands should not trouble you." Because I have been a sailor I know what the South Atlantic can do to an 1,800 ton boat. However, I finally went, in company with the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne), and we had a most interesting visit.

The apprehension which dominates the lives of the islanders has arisen from the landing some time ago of a highjacked aeroplane carrying 20 armed irregulars. As the aeroplane had been circling the territory for some time, the islanders thought that it was just a plane in difficulty. The Governor was away, leaving the Colonial Secretary there in charge. When the aeroplane landed the Colonial Secretary and one of his men went to see what was wrong. Out of the craft came two armed men and took the Minister and his colleague prisoner and locked them up in the aeroplane.

Until that time the islanders thought, their homeland being surrounded by sea, that they were safe from invasion. Fortunately the Colonial Treasurer and a union leader took charge of the situation, armed some of the islanders and surrounded the aeroplane. Only their handling of the situation prevented bloodshed. It was a tense moment. Had a shot been fired by the irregulars there would have been bloodshed on both sides. That event has caused all the apprehension that is now felt by the islander;;. From that moment they lost faith in the Argentine Government. They said, "If the Argentinas cannot control their own people, what will happen next? ".

However, the Argentine Government were not responsible. The irregulars received 15 years' jail sentences and are now in prison. Nevertheless, that incident thoroughly disturbed the islanders and everywhere we went we were asked, "What are you going to do? ". Their protection, a naval boat, was 14 days away from the islands when that incident occurred, leaving the islanders virtually helpless.

There must be a proper relationship between the islanders and the Argentinas to ensure that this sort of thing does not occur again. The islanders must have confidence in the Argentine Government so that the islands may develop. In this connection, in recent days hon. Members will have received a circular from an alginate firm which proposes to build a factory there.

If this comes about it will be a good thing, because the islanders are entirely dependent upon wool. The price of wool—I speak as a sheep farmer—goes up and down. This year it has been rather better—very seldom will a farmer admit that—but it is in a precarious position. The islands lose 20,000 sheep a year. The position is hopeless because the islands are in a climatic position which makes life difficult. It takes 12 months longer for Falkland Islands sheep to develop compared with our sheep. Sheep which in this country lamb at 18 months lamb in the Falklands at two-and-a-half years. The pasture is so poor and the nutriment in the grass so bad that animals do not develop well. Mutton as a commodity is completely out. They have to rely entirely on wool.

A licence has been applied for to the Governor of the islands so that this factory can be set up to build up the industry. Application has been made to the Overseas Development Corporation. Today I was in conversation with one of the directors of the firm. He informed me that when the plant is in operation 200 or 300 men will be required, but they have not got that manpower. If the plant is established on the islands men will have to be imported from Argentine and Chile to run it. Under present conditions that cannot be done. The Argentine will not agree to this interchange and the islanders will not agree because they want to keep the Argentinians and the Chileans off.

There is far more at stake than sovereignty. Wipe sovereignty right out of the discussions; put it on one side. There is enough to discuss between the two Governments to establish a better life for the people. [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Clifford Kenyon Mr Clifford Kenyon , Chorley

I said last week that if we could put some hon. Members on the islands they would change their minds. It would quieten them.

There will be a tremendous change in the islands' schools and education. When I went into the schools there I was reminded of the days when I went into my village school. There was the same reading, writing and arithmetic as the basis of their education. Even the maps and the pictures on the walls reminded me of my days in school. If relationships between the two countries are to be improved, Spanish must be taught in the schools. At present very few islanders-can speak Spanish, yet Spanish is the language of South America. It is absolutely necessary that the children be taught Spanish.

Progress should be made. The two Governments came together because the United Nations asked them to. The United Nations have some principles. The General Assembly adopted at its 10th—21st Session this principle: All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of the right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. Surely we can ask the United Nations to stand by their own principles. If they will do that, the security of the Falkland Islands and British sovereignty there cannot be touched.

9.12 p.m.

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

I hope that I shall be in order towards the end of our debate on foreign affairs in congratulating the new Secretary of State in the future Cabinet of the President of the United States, and in sending him our best wishes in his great office.

At the end of October, during the debate on the Loyal Address, we had a wide-ranging discussion on foreign affairs. Today, not surprisingly, most speeches have been directed to the grievous situation in West Africa, or to the anxiety over the political future of the Falkland Islands, or to both these matters. This, in a sense, makes the task of the Minister of State and myself, the final speakers, if not easier, at least a little more straightforward than usual, although any speech on these twin topics is certain to appear, and indeed is certain to be, disjointed, because, apart from their connection within the Commonwealth, it is difficult to find any common theme which coherently combines these windswept islands, with their tiny population, to tropical Africa, with its millions. Therefore, I apologise in advance for an unavoidable lack of continuity.

Before coming to West Africa and the Falkland Islands, I hope that I shall be forgiven for adding one further complication and asking the right hon. Gentleman a queston relating to the Foreign Compensation Bill which passed through a Standing Committee on the morning of 19th November and which has since been spending rather a long time in slow progress downstairs for further discussions here.

In the light of the Soviet Note of last week, which was referred by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) and others, is it still the Government's intention to proceed with the Bill? The Bill embodies an Agreement reached between this country and the Soviet Union in international circumstances which were wholly changed, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) clearly implied, by the invasion of Czechoslovakia in the summer. The Soviet Note affects to make light of this grave event by suggesting that we are using it as a pretext for aggravating Anglo-Soviet relations. If we now proceed with the Foreign Compensation Bill, are we not open to the charge that we, too, are making light of the Soviet invasion? I should be very grateful if the right hon. Gentleman will tell us what are the Government's intentions.

The concern which was expressed in the debate on 27th August about the suffering and misery in West Africa has been repeated with even greater feeling and even more evident sympathy in the debate today. I doubt whether there is anything to be gained—I think that the House has generally taken this view—by espousing one cause or the other in this dispute. Some of us have our special sympathies, but common to them all is the longing to do something, first to relieve the suffering and to avert the disaster which seems to threaten the near future; second, to bring to an end the civil war; third, to help the reconstruction of this stricken country.

The right hon. Gentleman who was then Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs commended my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire in the debate last August for having earlier stated the priorities in that order. I believe still that that order is right. The relief of starvation in West Africa, as we have heard from many hon. Members today, is probably the world's most urgent problem this winter. We had a particularly sympathetic and well informed speech from the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dun-woody), who had just returned from Africa, and I join him in a sincere tribute to the organisations which are carrying on the relief.

In the area held by the Ibos, Colonel Ojukwu refuses a land corridor, so we were told today, to which the Federal Government are prepared to agree, and he refuses this corridor because he fears a military incursion through it. The Foreign Secretary said that the Federal Government, having first refused day flights into the Ibo area, are now willing to allow them, but again Colonel Ojukwu is unwilling to agree. We shall be grate-fut to have from the Minister of State any further explanation he can give of the reasons why Colonel Ojukwu does not agree to these day flights. We shall be anxious to know also whether his refusal is total. The right hon. Gentleman will recall the question asked him by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about supplies coming from certain sources which, perhaps, might be more acceptable than from others. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has recently been having discussions in Lagos, and I hope that progress will be made during his visit in the urgent matter of arranging more flights of food and medical supplies into the area.

There seems to be little difficulty in securing the right of Federal representatives to inspect these cargoes, if necessary with Ibo representatives present. The Federal inspectors could, presumably, satisfy themselves that no arms were included in the cargoes, and I assume that, if necessary, British aircraft could be used. But if it is now from Colonel Ojukwu that the opposition to these day flights comes and the opposition to the corridor, we have a curious situation: his enemies are prepared to allow the relief of starvation in Biafra, but the leader refuses to allow it.

In the areas held by the Federal Government, the situation, though less desperate than in the Ibo held territory, is still grave. The reasons for this are obscure—at least, they are obscure to me—and I should be grateful for any light which the right hon. Gentleman can throw upon it. Admittedly, the difficulties of communication and administration are great, and there have been reports of a shortage of money for the Red Cross in the past. We were all glad to hear the Foreign Secretary's announcement of the Government's further contribution of £700,000. I gather than the Red Cross is certainly not short of finance. None the less, we shall be anxious to hear anything the right hon. Gentleman has to say about the underlying reasons for the continued suffering, because there we have relatively easy assess to these people, and we believe that there must be ways in which we can give them help.

The achievement of a cease fire can barely be a lesser priority than the relief of distress. I cannot believe that there is any hon. Member who does not long for an end to the most bitter of all bloodshed. The Commonwealth Secretary and the Organisation of African Unity have both succeeded in bringing the two sides together, but the issue of secession remains unsolved, and the war continues. Now, with the arrival of arms in areas held by the Ibos, the balance of advantage has shifted after having been flowing strongly towards the Federal army.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) and the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne pointed out that the military deadlock, as in other parts of the world, seems depressingly complete, and in these unpromising circumstances it is small wonder that the demand for stopping the supply of arms to both sides has steadily grown more vigorous even since our last debate 3½ months ago.

I was very glad to listen to the moving speech of the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy). I still find it hard to understand what would be gained if this country one-sidedly stopped the supply of weapons to the Federal army. I have no doubt that the army would receive its arms from elsewhere, and the war would continue. We should be accused, with some justification, of bad faith, and nothing would be gained. It used to be claimed that our capacity to influence events would be weakened still further. Some months ago that argument, based on the supposed influence of Great Britain in West Africa, was thought to carry some weight. As time goes by and our effective influence seems to contract, the power of the argument seems to decline. But, there are other, more decisive arguments, which I have already briefly mentioned, against a unilateral arms ban. As far as I can see, the only hope for a permanent cease-fire lies in a complete cutting-off of all arms supplies to both sides. The fighting might continue for a time, but the prospects of a reasonable political settlement would no doubt grow as both Nigeria and Biafra lost their capacity to fight.

Both my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire and the Foreign Secretary have pointed out the difficulty of bringing about such circumstances, because even if all the Governments now supplying arms agreed to stop we should still have to cut off the private flow of arms. I believe that the civil war has been held to be an internal matter, and has therefore not been discussed by the United Nations. But the flow of arms from a number of nations outside has transformed this internal dispute into a conflict where many nations are closely involved. The United Nations has an undoubted concern in stopping the flow of arms supplies and bringing the war to an end. I have no doubt that if—it is a big "if"—there existed an international determination to stop all arms reaching both sides, the United Nations could successfully exercise supervision.

No one need underestimate the difficulties, but I hope and believe that the debate will have strengthened the Government's hand in any initiative they might take in the Security Council or, if they thought it more profitable, in a direct initiative through diplomatic channels with the other Governments concerned. We all hope that the visit of Lord Shepherd to Lagos and the journey of the Under-Secretary to consult the Emperor of Ethiopia and the Organisation of African Unity will be successful. But we are only too conscious that our ability to hasten the end of the war is, unhappily, limited. We tend for that reason to clutch at straws.

A cease fire in Vietnam over Christmas has again been arranged. Some of us found encouraging the passionate plea by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Cardinal Heenan and others for a new impetus towards peace in West Africa. I hope that the Government might with energy stimulate an international demand, with the support of religious leaders, for a Christmas cease fire, which was also urged upon the Government by my hon. Friend and Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle). If we were to achieve that, there would at least be an opportunity to convert such a respite into something more lasting.

The third priority, obviously not in anything but a chronological sense, distant as it may seem at present, is that it is important to know what consideration the Government are giving to the situation which will obtain in Nigeria when a settlement is eventually achieved. My noble friend the Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith) and the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher) asked about the possibility of establishing a peace-keeping force, from the Commonwealth or elsewhere. This will surely be vitally necessary if confidence is to be restored when firing ceases. What plans have the Government made for helping the West African authorities to cope with the chaotic situation which will then exist? Has this been discussed with U Thant, and what plans has the Ministry of Overseas Development made to provide effective technical assistance when the circumstances make it possible to do so? The very demand for this debate, and the views which have been expressed, give the lie to those who suggest that it would be wise for us to dissociate ourselves from the Nigerian tragedy. This is not a possible course. We cannot possibly opt out now. For us, above all others, to try to wash our hands of responsibility for millions of people whom we led to nationhood, makes no sense either to our heads or our hearts. In my opinion, we are committed to doing all that we can to bring it to an end and repair the damage of the years, just as much as if it were our tragedy, our secession and our civil war. Perhaps the conception that this might be our tragedy may strengthen our resolve and increase our energy to search out every possible means of achieving a lasting settlement.

Photo of Mr Hugh Gray Mr Hugh Gray , Yarmouth

Is the right hon. Gentleman speaking for the Opposition Front Bench when he advocates that the supply of arms to the Federal Government of Nigeria should be continued?

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

I have made my position quite clear about that. In any event, that was some time ago, and I have passed on.

I want to come, after a swift dash across the Atlantic Ocean, to the Falkland Islands. Reading The Times this morning, I was interested to learn that my remarks, and those of my right hon. Friend, were sure to be restrained. I will begin with a restrained comment, which I hope will satisfy The Times. I would like to tell The Times and the right hon. Gentleman that I accept completely the assurance that the Foreign Secretary gave us that

no transfer of sovereignty could be made against the wishes of the Falkland Islanders."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th December, 1968; Vol. 775, c. 425.] Those were the words in his statement.

I do not believe for a moment that the right hon. Gentleman or the Government intend to let the Islanders down, in the sense of dishonouring this undertaking, which is a very solemn one indeed. But there are other people, many miles from here, observing this situation, who know the right hon. Gentleman less well than we do, and who remember recent commitments that have been discarded when they became inconvenient. There may be anxious observers in British Honduras uncertain of the arrangements which the Government are making for their future in discussions with Guatemala.

These people abroad may not share this trust in the statements of Her Majesty's Government. There remain anxieties common to foreign observers, Members of the Opposition and perhaps some supporters of the Government, which relate to the ultimate intentions of the Government. The Government have argued that the United Nations asked for talks between Britain and the Argentine. I have never understood the Government's slavish adherence to this particular United Nations resolution, compared, for instance, with their disregard of the opposition of the United Nations to a referendum in Gibraltar. Nor, as far as I know, have the Government any intention of acceding to the demands of the United Nations for the use of force in Rhodesia. Therefore, why do the Government believe it necessary to conduct negotiations with Argentina about the Falkland Islands up to and including discussion of the most important question of all—that of sovereignty—when they have treated other United Nations resolutions with very much less respect?

The reason advanced by the Foreign Secretary is that the Government believe that great benefit would be bestowed on the islanders if communications with the continent of South America could be improved, and the Government appear quite confident that they know better than the islanders themselves what is best for them. They have made similar assumptions before and they have often been wrong before. It is just possible that they could be wrong again.

Would improved communications, about which the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) was talking, and which the Government believe would follow agreement with Argentina, be of such immense importance to the Falkland Islands? Four-fifths of the Falkland Islands' imports come from this country. Ships from Britain to Buenos Aires call first at Montevideo, and between that port and the Islands there is a direct ser- vice. Therefore, I find it hard to believe that closer communications with Argentina would be of more than marginal value to the islands.

What evidence can the right hon. Gentleman produce to show that there is an active demand in the Falkland Islands for such an improvement? Can he honestly claim that men live in the Islands who are ready and willing to pay the price of losing their connection with Britain, without which there would appear to be no possibility of agreement between Argentine and this country?

The Argentine Foreign Minister seems to me to have put the matter beyond doubt. He is reported as saying in Buenos Aires last week that Argentina would not sign any agreement with Britain about the islands which did not include recognition of Argentine's sovereignty. The right hon. Gentleman made it clear yesterday that he was seeking an agreement which he could persuade the inhabitants was so beneficial to their interests that they would henceforth opt to be ruled by Argentina. This is what causes us profound disquiet.

We want to know what arguments are being prepared to convince the Island population that this wise, far-seeing Government really knows what is best for them. We know what hints are being dropped about the awkward consequences of refusal. Strangely enough, although our conclusions are poles apart from those of the Government, the Government and the Opposition share two views. Both are determined that sovereignty will not be transferred against the wishes of the inhabitants and both are in no doubt that the inhabitants have no wish for such a transfer.

But the belief which the Government apparently hold and which we emphatically do not share is that the Islanders might be induced to prefer Argentine rule to British by the dangling of sufficient material benefits before them. Meanwhile, the right hon. Gentleman has denied any intention to supplement these incentives by the exercise of pressure.

However, the Government would be less than human if, having struggled for an agreement, they did not exercise at least strong persuasion, and the line between strong persuasion and pressure is small. It would be interesting to know whether the quotations from Lord Chalfont's visit which have been mentioned were in the form of exerting pressure or exercising strong persuasion.

I have never visited the Falkland Islands, but all I have heard and read, and all I have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) and from the hon. Member for Chorley convinces me that their very robust inhabitants are not likely to be so easily diverted from the strong views they hold. They will not be persuaded by Lord Chalfont or anyone else that their long connection with Britain has become meaningless. The right hon. Gentleman may reach his agreement with Argentina, and Argentina may demand sovereignty as the price, but the Islanders, if their choice remains free, will refuse the price and the agreement will therefore become void. If this is the likely course of the right hon. Gentleman's diplomacy, why should we be worried?

The reason is that continued talks on sovereignty could lead only to further anxiety and uneasy suspicion among the Falkland islanders. They may be encouraged by the Foreign Secretary's respect for the paramountcy of their wishes. But why, they will surely ask, in view of this encouraging undertaking, is a change of sovereignty still being discusssed when they have made perfectly clear that they want to remain British? I doubt whether they can feel confident until sovereignty is firmly off the agenda, and, unless we obtain this assurance, we are bound to vote against the Government.

Apart from the issue of sovereignty, we are anxious that the right hon. Gentleman should give the undertaking that no agreement reached between Britain and Argentina which affects the interests of the Falkland Islanders will be signed unless and until it has been put before the Falkland Islanders and freely accepted by them.

This is not the time to discuss the Government's unhappy inability to create confidence in quarters and spheres of even greater importance; but there in those islands, in the minds of a small population with an affection for this country which most of them have never seen, it could be done quite easily to- night if the right hon. Gentleman could allow to go out from here to the islanders this firm undertaking; if he said to them," We admire and are grateful for your attachment to Britain, and, while you remain so minded, we are convinced that it would be wholly improper to continue to discuss any question of sovereignty with a foreign Government."

The right hon. Gentleman may think it of small significance whether the islanders once more become confident or remain suspicious. The hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) let the cat out of the bag when he said that there were not many of them. But I remind the right hon. Gentleman that this is an issue of interest to thousands here at home and, I would guess, a surprising number of observers all over the world. I believe that he would be astonished by the new vitality which he might give even to this tottering Government if they were seen just this once to be unshakeably firm and, come what may, ready to stand squarely beside a couple of thousand friends of Britain at the bottom of the globe.

9.37 p.m.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

Before he got to more contentious matters, the right hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) asked about the Government's intentions for further proceedings of the Foreign Compensation Bill and, in particular, whether the agreement to which it relates was appropriate in the light of events in Czechoslovakia. This Bill, as any Bill in this Session, was introduced after the events in Czechoslovakia and related to an agreement which was made beneficially to settle a dispute between Britain and the U.S.S.R. and settled a long time ago. The purpose of the legislation is to provide for distribution among the claimants of the proceeds; and therefore the Bill will continue in its further stages after the House resumes after the Christmas Recess.

Like our usual debates on foreign affairs, the debate has covered a great deal of ground, but in a sense it has tended to concentrate, though not exclusively, on the two issues of the Falkland Islands and Nigeria. As the right hon. Gentleman said, there is not a great deal to link the two. The sovereignty of the Falkland Islands is a matter for which we have responsibility and has been before the United Nations. The subject of Nigeria is a matter for which we do not have exclusive responsibility and it has not been before the United Nations.

Other subjects have been raised, especially Anglo-Soviet relations and N.A.T.O. policy. If I have time, I will deal with some of them, but in the short time I have available it is unlikely that I shall do so. I did not think it right to ask for too much time, as so many hon. Members wish to speak, but I will write to those hon. Members who asked detailed questions with which I am not able to deal in the course of my remarks.

The debate has been different from our usual debates in that the Opposition have announced their intention to divide the House on the Motion to adjourn. This news, trailered in the newspapers this morning, was announced by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), and as I understood him—and I took down the words—the reason for dividing the House was that the Government would not exclude from talks with Argentina the subject of sovereignty. The fact that it was so widely announced indicates that whatever the Government said today the Opposition were determined to divide the House. They are extremely disappointed that a stick which they thought they had to beat the Government with has turned out to be rather a broken reed. It is not without significance that in between the fighting intervention by the Leader of the Opposition in my right hon. Friend's speech and the speech of the right hon. Member for Bridlington we have heard nothing which justifies calling a Division. A great number of hon. Members who, in previous debates and Question Times, have asked questions about the Falkland Islands have been conspicuous by their silence. Certainly there is no problem on the benches opposite about being called, but those hon. Members have not sought to take part in the debate.

As my right hon. Friend and I have explained many times in the House, the reasons why the talks began with Argentina were, first, to try to improve the relationships between the islands and the adjacent mainland and, secondly, in pur- suance of a United Nations resolution of December 1965. This was all explained by my right hon. Friend in the early hours of the morning on 26th March. According to HANSARD, the Opposition spokesman said that they accepted what my right hon. Friend said. As we have repeated today not only the chance of communication with Argentina, but the proximity of a large British community of 20,000 people in Argentina has a bearing on this matter. When the Leader of the Opposition sought to intervene in my right hon. Friend's speech, I thought that the intention was to withdraw the desire to divide the House.

We cannot discuss these matters without discussing the question of sovereignty, because that is what the dispute has been about. Whether or not one accepts the United Nations resolution, clearly it would be wrong for us to refuse to act on a resolution which asked us to talk to the other party to the dispute. One advantage of such talks was to make abundantly clear not only that we stand by sovereignty but that if legal questions arose we were prepared, like previous Governments, to refer them to the International Court. We also wanted to make clear to the Argentine Government that we stood behind the people of the Falkland Islands.

It is frequently said that if Argentina takes the view that it can come to an agreement only if we cede the principle of sovereignty, we cannot do that without the wishes of the islanders being respected and there is no point in further discussion.

In every dispute there are usually at the beginning two diametrically opposed views. This is the case in Nigeria. The Biafran leaders and those of the Federal Government are diametrically opposed on a matter of great principle. According to the Opposition's doctrine, it is impossible to proceed in this matter. Yet the same right hon. Gentleman who, in an eloquent speech, urged the House to divide on the question of the Falkland Islands said that the Government should try to bring the Nigerian and Biafran people together and get peace, which we all want. If one starts from the position that because of a public statement there is no possibility of agreement, then no progress would be made in any dispute. Biafra has stated today that it cannot agree to any negotiations except on the basis of independence. The negotiations, as is usual in negotiations between officials, are on an ad referendum basis to both Governments. It is right that the negotiations should continue.

We have been asked why we have told the islanders more than we have told the House. In March there were complaints in the House that we had not taken the Executive Council of the islands, the Government of the islands, into our confidence. My right hon. and noble Friend went there because, before we came to a conclusion, it was right that we should know what the people in the Falkland Islands were thinking. He went there for that purpose and gave them an indication of the possible outcome of such discussions. Whatever we do to try to meet wishes expressed by hon. Members that a Minister go we seem to be wrong. The Opposition are determined to get this kind of vote for purely internal party political purposes. It has been most eloquently brought out by the two hon. Members, one on each side of the House, who went there on behalf of the House, that the problems of the islanders are deep-seated; they are partly economic and partly concerned with the hijacked aeroplane, and so on. Both hon. Members urged us to go on with the negotiations to try to secure a fuller life for the people of the islands.

It is not we, it is the Opposition who are seeking to say that they know better than the islanders what is good for the islanders. After being told, as far as possible, the details of the discussions with the Argentine Government, the Executive Council of the islands passed a resolution, which they authorised my right hon. and noble Friend to communicate to all his meetings, that they accepted that the British Government were acting in good faith in this matter, and, if an agreement were to be reached along the lines that he discussed with them, that agreement would be completely within the assurances that we had given to them and to the House many times, that there would be no transfer of sovereignty against the wishes of the islanders.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

The hon. and learned Member has illustrated the point I have just made. They think that they know better what is good for the islanders than the islanders themselves. We are prepared to talk to the islanders, and I think this is right.

Photo of Sir Knox Cunningham Sir Knox Cunningham , South Antrim

I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to mistake what I said. I said that we knew you better. It was not that we knew what was best for the Falkland islanders; it was that we knew the Government better.—[Interruption.]

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. If a right hon. Gentleman allows an hon. and learned Member to intervene we ought to hear the intervention.

Photo of Sir Knox Cunningham Sir Knox Cunningham , South Antrim

My last words were, I think, drowned. I said that we knew enough not to rely on the Government's pledge; there was nothing in it.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I am quite prepared to submit my political integrity against that of the hon. and learned Gentleman's.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I think it would be the wish of the House that I should try to deal with the many points that have been raised about Nigeria. The Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Bridlington asked me to clarify the matter of daylight flights. The answer, so far as we are able to give it, since we have no means of speaking officially either on behalf of the Federal Government or of Colonel Ojukwu, is that the offer has not been gone into in great detail. The refusal by Colonel Ojukwu has also been unspecific. The offer has been repeated, and he has simply remained silent about it.

At present, the Red Cross night relief flights, which although not actually authorised are allowed by the Federal Government, fly across Federal territory from Fernando Po to Uli, which I think is called Annabelle. The Caritas and Norchuraid flights tend to go from Sao Tome.

That is the best information that we have about it but, as I have said, the response of Colonel Ojukwu to the latest offer has been silence. One of the objectives that we want to pursue is that of persuading him to take a different view about daytime flights of relief supplies.

The House was very struck during the debate by two moving speeches from my hon. Friends the Members for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) and Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody). We were all extremely enlightened by what my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne told us as one who has just returned from Biafra. As he said, his medical qualification was a great asset to him in trying to give an assessment of the situation. I would like to be associated, as I am sure all hon. Members would, with the tribute that he paid to the work of the voluntary organisations in all parts of Nigeria.

As the House knows, the fighting has been going on for about 18 months. Inevitably, the bitterness gets even more marked as time goes on. There is absolute unanimity not only in this House but throughout the country on two points. We would all like to step up the relief operations to try and halt the starvation and privations which we all know exist. Secondly, we would all passionately desire to bring about a cease-fire in that terribly torn country. I do not think that any hon. Member will object to the sincerity of other hon. Members who differ not on the objectives—we are agreed on those—but the means by which these two very difficult objectives can be attained.

As my right hon. Friend said in his opening remarks we must consider the situation within an African framework. We must recognise that Nigeria is not only an independent country but one which has been independent for eight years. Although the evidence to support it is perhaps not there, we must also understand the Ibos' fears of the possible consequences of an ending of hostilities.

The fact is that the Organisation of African Unity has been most active in trying to get a settlement, but at its conference, by 33 votes to four, it condemned the concept of a Biafran secession. It is in an attempt to co-ordinate our efforts and those of the African countries to bring about a settlement and to help establish the corridors necessary for relief that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has gone to Addis Ababa to talk to the Emperor and officials of that Organisation.

As I said earlier, there is a fundamental difference of principle between the two sides to the dispute which is extremely difficult to bridge. No one should underestimate the difficulty for these reasons. We are prepared to accept and explore any possibility of getting a corridor to take in relief supplies. As one of my hon. Friends said, in the next months and the coming spring there will be a grave shortage of carbohydrates in addition to the current shortage of proteins. The starvation situation will be very grave. It is a matter of grave urgency to do all that we can. We cannot mediate in the dispute, nor do we have exclusive or major responsibility for what goes on.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith) asked about the role of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. Nigeria is a member of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference. When the Prime Minisers are here in January, if we cannot proceed before that, no doubt there is a possibility of the matter being explored in the Commonwealth context. The Commonwealth Secretariat, the permanent Commonwealth institution, has been engaged from the earliest days of the dispute in trying to bring the two sides together to end the war. Mr. Arnold Smith has done all that a man humanly could in the Commonwealth context. Therefore, it is wrong for the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North to say that we have not brought the Commonwealth into this matter.

Our priorities must clearly be relief and a cease-fire. It will probably be very difficult to do what the world needs to do concerning relief without getting a cease-fire first. Equally, it is extremely difficult to see how we could get an arms embargo by all countries and private agencies supplying arms without first getting a cease-fire. It would be very difficult, because each side would need to be assured that the other was not getting illicit supplies. It would be a practical condition in getting that embargo to get, first, a cease-fire or a truce. That is why we are concentrating our attention on these two points.

I accept that the view is sincerely held that if we made a unilateral decision to end arms supplies, this would contribute to the two objectives of relief and a cease-fire.

We need to put the matter in perspective. The supplies from this country, which are strictly controlled, are less than 15 per cent. in value of the arms supplies going to the Federal Government and rather less than 50 per cent. of the weapons and ammunition going for the ground forces. It is, therefore, wrong to suggest, as did the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing) and other hon. Members, that we would get a pause by the unilateral decision of this Government.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I cannot give way in the last two minutes—[Interruption.]

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. The right hon. Member is obviously not giving way.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

It is clear that a unilateral decision would not bring about a ceasefire and would not help relief at this time. Therefore, the Government continue to supply arms on the same basis as previously. We will, however, use every possible endeavour, because we know that this is the wish of all right hon. and hon. Members, to try to achieve effective ways of getting relief. It is not sufficient, as my right hon. Friend said, to make a donation to the Red Cross. It is essential to do all that we can to see that that is translated into food and supplies where they are needed. The whole purpose of the mission on which my hon. Friend and my right hon. and noble Friend are now engaged is to see whether there is any possibility of getting the cease-fire and the truce, before or after Christmas, as soon as we can. We know that this is the key to all the future things that all right hon. and hon. Members want us to do for the bitterly torn people of Nigeria.

Question put, That this House do now adjourn:—

The House divided: Ayes 234, Noes 293.

Division No. 36]AYES[10.0 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Cooke, RobertGrant-Ferris, R.
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Cooper-Key, Sir NeillGresham Cooke, R.
Astor, JohnCordle, JohnGrieve, Percy
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)Corfield, F. V.Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)
Awdry, DanielCostain, A. P.Hall, John (Wycombe)
Baker, Kenneth (Acton)Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)Hall-Davis, A. G. F.
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)Crouch, DavidHamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
Balniel, LordCrowder, F. P.Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)
Batsford, BrianCunningham, Sir KnoxHarrison, Brian (Maldon)
Bell, RonaldCurrie, G. B. H.Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)Dalkeith, Earl ofHarvey, Sir Arthur Vere
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Cos. & Fhm)Dance, JamesHarvie Anderson, Miss
Berry, Hn. Anthonyd'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir HenryHastings, Stephen
Biffen, JohnDean, PaulHawkins, Paul
Biggs-Davison, JohnDeedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)Hay, John
Birch, Rt. Hn. NigelDodds-Parker, DouglasHeald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel
Black, Sir CyrilDoughty, CharlesHeath, Rt. Hn. Edward
Blaker, PeterDouglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir AlecHeseltine, Michael
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)Drayson, G. B.Higgins, Terence L.
Body, RichardEden, Sir JohnHiley, Joseph
Bossom, Sir OliveElliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Hill, J. E. B.
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. JohnEmery, PeterHogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir EdwardErrington, Sir EricHordern, Peter
Braine, BernardEyre, ReginaldHornby, Richard
Brewis, JohnFarr, JohnHowell, David (Guildford)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col.Sir WalterFisher, NigelHunt, John
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)Fortescue, TimHutchison, Michael Clark
Bruce-Gardyne, J.Foster, Sir JohnIremonger, T, L.
Bryan, PaulGalbraith, Hn. T. C.Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, NAM)Gibson-Watt, DavidJenkin, Patrick (Woodford)
Buck, Antony (Colchester)Giles, Rear-Adm. MorganJennings, J. C. (Burton)
Bullus, Sir EricGilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)
Burden, F. A.Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)Glover, Sir DouglasJopling, Michael
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith
Carlisle, MarkGoodhart, PhilipKaberry, Sir Donald
Carr, Rt. Hn. RobertGoodhew, VictorKerby, Capt. Henry
Cary, Sir RobertGower, RaymondKershaw, Anthony
Channon, H. P. G.Grant, AnthonyKimball, Marcus
Chichester-Clark, R.
King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)Nott, JohnSmith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Kitson, TimothyOnslow, CranleySmith, John (London & W'minster)
Knight, Mrs. JillOrr, Capt. L. P. S.Speed, Keith
Lancaster, Col. C. G.Orr-Ewing, Sir IanStainton, Keith
Lane, DavidOsborn, John (Hallam)Stodart, Anthony
Langford-Holt, Sir JohnOsborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)
Legge-Bourke, Sir HarryPage, Graham (Crosby)Summers, Sir Spencer
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Page, John (Harrow, W.)Tapsell, Peter
Lloyd, Rt.Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Lloyd, lan (P'tsm'th, Langstone)Peel, JohnTaylor.Edward M. (G'gow,Cathcart)
Longden, GilbertPercival, IanTaylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Loveys, W. H.Peyton, JohnTeeling, Sir William
McAdden Sir StephenPike, Miss MervynTemple, John M.
MacArthur, IanPink, R. BonnerThatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Maclean, Sir FitzroyPounder, RaftonTilney, John
Macleod, Rt. Hn. lainPowell, Rt. Hn. J. EnochTurton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
McMaster, StanleyPrice, David (Eastleigh)van Straubenzee, W. R.
Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)Prior, J. M. L.Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
McNair-Wilson. PatrickPym, FrancisWaddington, David
Maddan, MartinQuennell, Miss J. M.Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Marples, Rt. Hn. ErnestRamsden, Rt. Hn. JamesWalker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Marten, NeilRawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir PeterWall, Patrick
Maude, AngusRenton, Rt, Hn. Sir DavidWeatherill, Bernard
Maudling. Rt. Hn. ReginaldRhys Williams, Sir BrandonWebster, David
Mawby, MayRidley, Hn. NicholasWells, John (Maidstone)
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Ridsdale, JulianWhitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Mills, Peter (Torrington)Rippon, Rt. Hn. GeoffreyWilliams, Donald (Dudley)
Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)Robson Brown, Sir WilliamWills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Miscampbell, NormanRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Monro, HectorRoyle AnthonyWood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Montgomery, FergusRussell, Sir RonaldWoodnutt, Mark
Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)St. John-Stevas, NormanWorsley, Marcus
Morrison, Charles (Devizes)Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.Wright, Esmond
Mott-Radclyffe, Sir CharlesScott, NicholasWylie, N. R.
Murton, OscarScott-Hopkins, JamesYounger, Hn. George
Nabarro, Sir GeraldSharples, Richard
Neave, AireyShaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)TELLERS FOR THE "AYES:
Nicholls, Sir HarmarSilvester, FrederickMr. R. W. Elliott and
Noble, Rt. Hn. MichaelSinclair, Sir GeorgeMr. Jasper More.
NOES
Abse, LeoCastle, Rt. Hn. BarbaraFinch, Harold
Albu, AustenCoe, DenisFletcher, Rt.Hn.SirEric (lslington,E.)
Alldritt, WalterColeman, DonaldFletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)
Allen, ScholefieldConcannon, J. D.Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Anderson. DonaldConlan, BernardFoot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich)
Archer, PeterCorbet, Mrs. FredaFoot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)
Armstrong, ErnestCrawshaw, RichardFord, Ben
Ashley, JackCronin, JohnForrester, John
Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)Dalyell, TamFowler, Gerry
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)Darling, Rt. Hn. GeorgeFraser, John (Norwood)
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)Freeson, Reginald
Bacon, Rt. Hn. AlecDavies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)Gardner, Tony
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Garrett, W. E.
Barnett, JoelDavies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)Ginsburg, David
Baxter, WilliamDavies, Harold (Leek)Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.
Beaney, AlanDelargy, HughGreenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodDell, EdmundGregory, Arnold
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)Dempsey, JamesGriffiths, David (Rother Valley)
Bidwell, SydneyDewar, DonaldGriffiths, Eddie (Brightside)
Binns, JohnDiamond, Rt. Hon. JohnGriffiths, Will (Exchange)
Bishop, E. S.Dickens, JamesGunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.
Blackburn, F.Dobson, RayHamilton, James (Bothwell)
Blenkinsop, ArthurDoig, PeterHamilton, William (Fife, W.)
Boardman, H. (Leigh)Driberg, TomHamling, William
Boston, TerenceDunn, James A.Hannan, William
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. ArthurDunnett, JackHarper, Joseph
Boyden, JamesDunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M.Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith
Bray, Dr. JeremyEadie, AlexHaseldine, Norman
Brooks, EdwinEdelman, MauriceHattersley, Roy
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Edwards, Robert (Bilston)Hazell, Bert
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)Edwards, William (Merioneth)Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)Ellis, JohnHeffer, Eric S.
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)English, MichaelHerbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)Ennals, DavidHilton, W. S.
Buchan, NormanEnsor, DavidHooley, Frank
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)Horner, John
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Cant, R. B.Faulds, AndrewHowarth, Harry (Wellingborough)
Carmichael, NeilFernyhough, E.Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)
Carter-Jones, Lewis
Howell, Denis (Small Heath)Marks, KennethRogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Howie, w.Marquand, DavidRoss, Rt. Hn. William
Hoy, JamesMarsh, Rt. Hn. RichardRowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)
Huckfield, LeslieMason, Rt. Hn. RoyRyan, John
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)Maxwell, RobertShaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Mellish, Rt. Hn. RobertSheldon, Robert
Hughes, Roy (Newport)Mendelson, JohnShort, Rt.Hn.Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Hunter, AdamMikardo, IanShort, Mrs. Renee (W'hampton.N.E.)
Hynd, JohnMillan, BruceSilkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)Miller, Dr. M. S.Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)Milne, Edward (Blyth)Silverman, Julius
Jay, Rt. Hn. DouglasMitchell, R C. (S'th'pton, Test)Skeffington, Arthur
Jeger, George (Goole)Molloy, WilliamSlater, Joseph
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)Moonman, EricSmall, William
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)Snow, Julian
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)Spriggs, Leslie
Jones, Dan (Burnley)Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)Morris, John (Aberavon)Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)Moyle, RolandStrauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Judd, FrankMulley, Rt. Hn. FrederickSummerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Kenyon, CliffordMurray, AlbertSwain, Thomas
Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)Norwood, ChristopherSwingler, Stephen
Lawson, GeorgeOakes, GordonTaverne, Dick
Leadbitter, TedO'Malley, BrianThomas, Rt. Hn. George
Ledger, RonOram, Albert G.Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)Orbach, MauriceThornton, Ernest
Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)Oswald, ThomasTinn, James
Lee, John (Reading)Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)Tomney, Frank
Lestor, Miss JoanOwen, Will (Morpeth)Tuck, Raphael
Lever, Harold (Cheetham)Page, Derek (King's Lynn)Urwin, T. w.
Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)Paget, R. T.Varley, Eric G.
Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)Palmer, ArthurWainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Pannell, Rt. Hn. CharlesWalden, Brian (All Saints)
Lipton, MarcusParker, John (Dagenham)Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Lomas, KennethParkin, Ben (Paddington, N.)Wallace, George
Loughlin, CharlesParkyn, Brian (Bedford)Watkins, David (Consett)
Lyon, Alexander W. (York)Pavitt, LaurenceWeitzman, David
Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)Wellbeloved, James
Mabon, Dr. J. DicksonPeart, Rt. Hn. FredWells, William (Walsall, N.)
McBride, NeilPentland, NormanWhite, Mrs. Eirene
McCann, JohnPerry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)Whitlock, William
MacColl, JamesPerry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)Wilkins, W. A.
MacDermot, NiallPrentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.Williams, Alan (Swansea W.)
Macdonald, A. H.Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
McGuire, MichaelPrice, William (Rugby)Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
McKay, Mrs. MargaretProbert, ArthurWilliams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)Randall, HarryWilliams, W. T. (Warrington)
Mackie, JohnRankin, JohnWillis, Rt. Hn. George
Mackintosh, John P.Rees, MerlynWilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Maclennan, RobertRhodes, GeoffreyWilson, William (Coventry, S.)
MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)Richard, IvorWinnick, David
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
McNamara, J. KevinRoberts, Rt. Hn. GoronwyWoof, Robert
MacPherson, MalcolmRoberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)Wyatt, Woodrow
Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)Robertson, John (Paisley)
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Robinson, Rt. Hn.Kenneth (St. P'c' as)TELLERS FOR NOES:
Mallalieu,J.P.W. (Huddersfield,E.)Rodgers, William (Stockton)Mr. Alan Fitch and
Manuel, ArchieRoebuck, RoyMr. Charles Grey.
Mapp, Charles