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Anglo-American Talks

Volume 530: debated on Monday 12 July 1954

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Mr. Speaker, I should first like to explain to the House how our visit to America arose. On 17th February of this year Mr. Sterling Cole, the Chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy, made a speech which was reported at some length in the "Manchester Guardian." I was astounded by all that he said about the hydrogen bomb and the results of experiments made more than a year before by the United States at Eniwetok Atoll.

Considering what immense differences the facts he disclosed made to our whole outlook for defence, and notably civil defence, depth of shelters, dispersion of population. anti-aircraft artillery and so forth—on which considerable expenditure was being incurred—I was deeply concerned at the lack of information we possessed, and in view of all the past history of this subject, into which I do not propose to go today, I thought I ought to have a personal meeting with President Eisenhower at the first convenient opportunity.

Very little notice was taken over here at first of Mr. Sterling Cole's revelations, but when some Japanese fishermen were slightly affected by the radioactivity generated by the second explosion, at Bikini, an intense sensation was caused in this country, and the House will remember the hydrogen bomb Questions and statements of 23rd and 30th March, and the debate of 5th April.

All this seemed to emphasise the need for me to see the President personally, therefore, having made inquiries about the President's engagements, proposed my coming to the British Embassy in Washington about 20th May and having some talks with him. This suggestion was at once cordially received by the President, and after some correspondence it was arranged that our two Foreign Secretaries would also be present. But as the Geneva meeting had in the meanwhile begun, and was protracted from week to week, a succession of postponements was inevitable and the final date was fixed for the weekend of 25th June, for which the President very kindly invited my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and myself to be his guests at the White House.

Very full reports have been made public upon what followed. I had not in the first instance specified any particular topics for our private conversations, which would, as they so often have done on similar occasions, have ranged over the whole field of affairs. The thermo-nuclear problem was, of course, foremost in my mind, and it was evident that if we waited from May to June it would be possible to evaluate more exactly the results of the Bikini experiments which had been concluded.

In the meanwhile, many other questions had arisen connected with the Vietminh operations in Indo-China, which were being sustained by the Communist Government of China. There was also the state of affairs in Europe, including the failure of the French Chamber to ratify, or afford any prospects of ratifying, the Treaty of two years ago upon the European Defence Community, on which so much study, argument and negotiation had been previously consumed. It was evident that these matters would occupy a leading place in our talks.

On 23rd June, the day before our departure, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made two speeches in this House—one at the beginning and one at the end of the debate—which attracted great attention in the United States, and when we started by air on the night of the 24th it was reported that we should be facing a storm of hostile opinion on our arrival. The contrary proved to be true.

I have never had a more agreeable or fruitful visit than on this occasion, and I never had the feeling of general good will more strongly borne in upon me. I had many hours of conversation with the President alone, and also in company with my right hon. Friend and Mr. Foster Dulles; and the two Foreign Ministers had prolonged and more detailed discussions at the State Department and at Mr. Dulles's residence. Lord Cherwell, whom I had planned from the beginning to take with me, and Sir Edwin Plowden—Chairman of the Atomic Energy Authority—discussed at length with Admiral Strauss and other American authorities the technical matters connected with the current atomic and hydrogen problems.

In their discussions and in my talks with the President about the exchange of information and technical co-operation in this sphere we were, of course, governed by the conditions created by the United States legislation, by which the President himself and all his officials are equally bound. It would not be in the public interest for me to make any detailed statement upon what passed. I can only say that there was cordial agreement that both our countries would benefit from a wider latitude both in cooperation and in the exchange of knowledge. Far-reaching amendments to the MacMahon Act had been proposed by the President some time ago, and as the result the Congressional Committee is preparing a Bill which, among other things, would enable the United States Government to impart more information to or exchange more information with, friendly and allied countries. As this Bill is now before Congress, I shall make no comment beyond wishing it a fair passage.

The United States experts are of course well aware of the very high level which has been reached independently by our own scientists on this whole subject, and we are also both aware of the formidable progress of the Russian Soviet Government. Close contact on this topic was kept by us with the Canadian Government, who have so long been a powerful factor in these affairs.

It would not be helpful for me at the present time to say more on this subject, except that I have every hope that more satisfactory conditions will prevail between our two countries in the future than has been the case since the war with Germany came to an end.

We spent four and a half days in Washington and we worked hard. We had no fixed agenda, but we had an exchange of views on all subjects of major current importance. We talked with perfect frankness and in full friendship to each other. We dispelled, I think, some misunderstandings—even some nightmares—from the minds of our American friends about the direction of our policies. I think we convinced them that we have changed none of our ultimate joint objectives, and that there is at any rate some wisdom in the means by which we are proposing to reach them.

The House has no doubt studied the two documents which were published in Washington on successive days about world affairs. The first was the communiqué or statement—which term the President prefers—usual on these occasions. And the second a reaffirmation of the Atlantic Charter together with further declarations relating to present circumstances.

In addition to our exchange of views on particular current problems, President Eisenhower and I decided to use this occasion to reaffirm the fundamentals on which the policies of our two Governments have been and will continue to be built. We did so in a declaration of six points. I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, to bear in mind this declaration of our basic unity in days when the newspapers are so full of bickerings and disagreements; for these points of unity transcend all passing differences and give a framework within which the incidents of daily life can be amicably resolved and dealt with.

In that declaration we affirmed our comradeship with one another; we stretched out the hand of friendship to all who might seek it sincerely; we reasserted our sympathy for and loyalty to those still in bondage; we proclaimed our desire to reduce armaments and to turn nuclear power into peaceful channels: we confirmed our support of the United Nations and of subsidiary organisations designed to promote and preserve the peace of the world: and we proclaimed our determination to develop and maintain in unity the spiritual, economic and military strength necessary to pursue our purposes effectively. These are the principles which we share with our American friends.

No one, I think, should complain of these declarations, or still less mock at them, because of their necessarily general and sometimes vague character. When the representatives of two great countries, comprising hundreds of millions of people, are trying to set forth the principles which will be right and in the main acceptable to the immense number of men and women for whom they are responsible, it is not the occasion for the sharp and sprightly literary peformances such as we so often have the pleasure of reading in our daily and weekly newspapers. Disagreement is much more easy to express, and often much more exciting to the reader, than agreement. The highest common factor of public opinion is not a fertile ground for lively epigrams and sharp antithesis. The expression of broad and simple principles likely to command the assent and not to excite the dissent of vast communities must necessarily be in guarded terms. I should not myself fear even the accusation of platitude in such a statement if it only sought the greatest good of the greatest number.

But for myself, on this occasion, I was thrilled by the wish of the President of the United States to bring our two countries so directly together in a new declaration or charter, and to revive and renew the comradeship and brotherhood which joined the English-speaking world together in the late war, and is now, if carried into effect, the strongest hope that all mankind may survive in freedom and justice. I can well understand that such a document may incur the criticism of mischief makers of all kinds in any country, but for myself I rejoice to have had the honour of adding my signature to it.

The Washington communiqué states that the President and the Prime Minister
" agreed that the German Federal Republic should take its place as an equal partner in the community of Western nations where it can make its proper contribution to the defence of the free world. We are determined to achieve this goal—
says the communiqué—
" convinced that the Bonn and Paris Treaties provide the hest way."
Nobody can call that a platitude. It is a grave decision but not a new decision. It is a policy which has been steadfastly pursued by successive British Governments. The need for a German contribution to Western defence was recognised by all the members of N.A.T.O. as long ago as December, 1950. There have, of course, been differences about how this contribution should be made. There has been no difference that it must be made.

It was the French Government which put forward this idea of a European Defence Community instead of an army based—as I had myself somewhat conceived—on the principles of a Grand Alliance. This French plan offered a means of associating Germany politically as well as militarily with the West, and of creating a partnership of nations in place of the rivalries and hatreds which have torn Europe for so many centuries.

After long negotiations the E.D.C. Treaty was signed in May, 1952. It has been ratified by four of the six signatory States. Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government have given the most solemn and far-reaching pledges of their practical support and intimate partnership with the Defence Community. They have substantial armies now standing on what we must call the Eastern front, both of which, in the event of war, would serve in a single line of battle with the E.D.C. under the supreme N.A.T.O. commander. But although France was the author of the plan the French Chamber has so far been unable to ratify it. It is not easy to foresee, nor would it at this moment be wise to forecast, the consequences of this deadlock should it continue.

We have both in Britain and the United States to consider the position of Germany. Under the Bonn Treaty the Federal Government will not regain her sovereignty until the E.D.C. Treaty comes into force. At present she remains in law a State under military occupation. The Federal Republic of Germany is willing and anxious to co-operate with the Western world, and it is right that she should do so on a footing of equality. Germany under Dr. Adenauer has shown a very high degree of patience during the last two years when we have all been hoping, almost from month to month, that the French Chamber would ratify the Treaties signed by the representatives of France and supported by her Allies in the war.

It would indeed be a tragedy if this opportunity were lost of bringing Germany back into the European family while also at the same time preventing the recreation of a German national army. Dr. Adenauer in his wisdom has made it clear that he much prefers an international army. To me, the bulk of whose public life has been spent in war or preparation for war with Germany, it seems little less than madness to leave that active and virile nation with no choice but to raise an independent national army—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—and to reject associations with her in the Western world.

On a point of order. I should like to ask your guidance, Mr. Speaker, as to what we are to do about the statements to which we have just listened. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down."] Is it not a complete abuse of the proceedings of the House that it should have, not a statement which the House can study in preparation for the debate next Wednesday, not a statement of such urgency that it could not be withheld, but a series of opinions on policies—indeed, a speech which the right hon. Gentleman is now making? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not? "] Because it cannot be answered today. I respectfully submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that this is a complete abuse of the proceedings.

I do not think there is any point of order in this for me. The Prime Minister is giving us an account of the subjects discussed at Washington—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is what I understood. Anything of an argumentative character can easily be discussed during the debate that we are to have next Wednesday. I think the Prime Minister ought to be allowed to finish his statement.

I cannot have two right hon. Gentlemen standing at the same time. I understand that the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) is raising a point of order.

At the end of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, will the House be permitted to put any question on these personal points, or are questions to be reserved for Wednesday when we properly discuss foreign affairs, as the right hon. Gentleman now seems to be doing?

Only one hon. Member can speak at a time. Naturally, I should have supposed that with the debate so imminent as Wednesday the House would desire to pass at once to the Orders of the Day.

Might I say, Mr. Speaker, that I expressed through the usual channels my willingness to do whatever the House wished, to make the statement fully, as I am trying to do, today and then have the foreign affairs debate on Wednesday, or to make the statement on Wednesday at the beginning of the foreign affairs debate, or to have the foreign affairs debate this afternoon. However, the decisions which were reached, in agreement, were that I was to make the statement today, and I hope I may be allowed to do so, so that it may be studied and the whole subject debated on Wednesday.

On a point of order. Whatever may have been agreed between the usual channels would not, I feel sure, determine your judgment, Mr. Speaker, on a point of order relating to the rights of the House. In so far as the right hon. Gentleman had given us or had intended to give us a factual account of what took place in Washington in preparation for the debate on Wednesday, that would have been one thing, but, as I understand it, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) has put to you, as a point of order, that the Prime Minister is not doing that at all but is making an argumentative and very controversial speech about matters which are very much in dispute and which will be the subject of the debate on Wednesday. The point I am putting is that either the right hon. Gentleman should confine his statement to the facts of what took place or that his speech should be debatable today when he sits down.

I do not see how it is possible reasonably to give an account of conversations which were held embracing foreign affairs without some expression of views on the questions of policy which arose out of them. I cannot myself draw such a hard-and-fast line as the hon. Member invites me to draw. I have heard nothing in the Prime Minister's statement which is out of order. I do think it is the duty of the House to listen to him.

Might I respectfully make this submission to you, Mr. Speaker? The system of making statements at the end of Questions has grown up in the last few years—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and it has been respected by the House because it is a convenient administrative arrangement for the House of Commons. What is extremely difficult for back-benchers is for a statement to be made which becomes a controversial speech and which is then not debated. The point which I am seeking to establish, and which my right hon. and hon. Friends have sought to establish, is that a tradition of this House has been violated and that the rights of hon. Members are to be prejudiced as a result. I respectfully put to you, as the Speaker of the House of Commons, that you should look into this matter and reconsider the Ruling which you have given.

There is nothing in this for me to look into. The practice of Ministers making statements upon policy is a very old one and by no means of recent origin. I honestly do not see how one can separate these matters of policy on which differences of opinion are held, from questions of fact as to what actually occurred. This arrangement has apparently been come to by some sort of common consent. It is rather an abuse of the system of points of order to interrupt this statement. Anything of a controversial character can be dealt with fully and freely on Wednesday, and that is the proper time to do it.

I think it is my duty, as far as I can, to avoid controversy, but it is necessary for me to do justice to the character of the conversation which we have had. I never have known, Mr. Speaker, even before your Ruling today, that statements by Ministers were supposed to be confined only to subjects and issues on which everyone in the House was agreed. Even on domestic matters—very domestic matters—some differences of opinion have been felt about statements which it has been my duty to make quite recently. I assure the House that I have no wish to raise controversy. I thought it would be convenient for hon. Gentlemen to be able to consider the most scathing terms with which they could repel any point in my narrative on which they differ from me.

I was speaking on the question of bringing Germany into the system of European defence. The convictions of Her Majesty's Government upon this issue, as were those of our predecessors, are in full harmony with those of the United States. That is factual, anyhow.

We feel that we are bound to act in good faith towards Germany in accordance with the Treaties we have signed and ratified and also that those concerned in these decisions owe this to Dr. Adenauer, who, during a score of long and weary months of delay and uncertainty, has never shrunk from facing unpopularity in his own country in order to keep his word and to range Germany definitely with what is called the Free World, including Britain and the United States. We welcome the statement of the new French Prime Minister, who has other anxieties on his hands, that France should now put an end to the present uncertainties, and that the French Chamber should take a decision before it separates for the Summer Recess.

The Treaty contains effective safeguards for the future peace of Europe—the E.D.C. Treaty—and these safeguards the Federal Republic of Germany has freely accepted. Dr. Adenauer has recently stated that the guarantees are a benefit for everyone concerned, the Germans not excepted. We earnestly hope that what Britain and the United States have said in unison at Washington may play its part in averting the measureless consequences which may follow from further delay by the French Chamber.

The Washington talks have helped to get Anglo-American discussion of the problems of South-East Asia back on to a realistic and constructive level. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has returned today to Geneva with the feeling that we have moved towards a common outlook on the problems now being discussed there. Further progress at the Geneva Conference depends largely on the results of the military negotiations now taking place between the French, the Associated States and the Vietminh. We and the United States share the hope that the parties will be able to reach an understanding which can be referred back to the Geneva Conference with some hope of success.

Our ideas about a guarantee of any settlement that may be reached at Geneva were explained to the Americans and are now better understood. It is hoped that, should an acceptable settlement be reached on the Indo-China problem, means may be found of getting the countries which participated at the Conference to underwrite it. We hope, too, that other countries with interests in the area might also subscribe to such an undertaking. This was the basis on which the idea was put to the Americans and it is one of the problems to be examined in Washington by the Anglo-United States Study Group set up as the result of our talks.

The other problem which this Group is studying is that of South-East Asia defence. We have to plan not only for the contingency of a negotiated settlement but for other eventualities less agreeable. The arrangements for collective defence in South-East Asia will proceed whether or not agreement is reached at Geneva, though their nature will depend on the results of the Conference. The concept of a collective defence system is not incompatible with the settlement we hope for at Geneva and, after all, the Communists have their own defensive arrangement in the form of the Sino-Soviet Treaty. There is no doubt that the Foreign Secretary's care and zeal in bringing the five Asian Colombo powers prominently into the situation is fully appreciated now by the United States Government. Their association would be and is regarded as important and welcome. All I say on the subject today is that there is no intention of presenting cut-and-dried formulas on a "take it or leave it" basis to potential Asian members.

The Study Group is therefore examining methods of associating other countries with any settlement of the Indo-China problem that may be reached at Geneva. This involves a security arrangement for South-East Asia assuming an Indo-China agreement, or alternatively a security arrangement for South-East Asia assuming no agreement on Indo-China. The cases are different, quite different.

The joint statement issued in Washington on 28th June stated that if the French Government are confronted with demands which prevent an acceptable agreement regarding Indo-China, the international situation will be seriously aggravated. These words are not intended to be a threat; they are undoubtedly a blunt assertion of fact.

That is all I have to say today upon this complicated and dangerous subject. But I should not conceal from the House the deep anxiety which must naturally be felt lest the military events which are taking place become dominant, with a consequent serious increase of tension in every quarter. We meet under that direct and immediate anxiety.

I now come to a question which has suddenly received a degree of publicity out of all proportion, in my opinion, either to its importance or urgency when compared with the vital matters which I have been outlining. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I were astonished on our homeward voyage to read the Press extracts and other reports which were sent us of the storm suddenly raised in the United States by Senator Knowland about the possibility of Communist China being admitted to U.N.O. against American wishes, and still more that these reports seemed to be in some way or other linked with our visit as if we had come over for such a purpose. In fact, although it was mentioned, it played no notable part in our discussions, and was not an immediate issue. It cannot in any way be raised for some time and if it should be raised, which is by no means certain, we shall undoubtedly have a different situation to face than any which now exists.

The United Kingdom policy on the subject of the admission of Communist China to the United Nations has been unchanged since 1951 when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), then Foreign Secretary, stated that His Majesty's Government believed that the Central People's Government should represent China in the United Nations but that, in view of that Government's persistence in behaviour inconsistent with the purposes and principles of the Charter, it appeared to His Majesty's Government that consideration of the question should be postponed. That was the policy of the late Government and it has been the policy of the present Government, reaffirmed in July last by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Since then the Geneva Conference has discussed but failed to reach agreement on the reunification of Korea, and although the armistice remains in force the arrangements for its supervision have proved far from satisfactory. Although no actual fighting is taking place, the armies still remain in the presence of each other.

Moreover, as we can all see, the problem of Indo-China has assumed far more serious proportions. Indeed, as I have indicated, a military climax may well be approaching. No agreement has yet been reached at Geneva either about Indo-China or Korea. If such agreements were reached in either or both these theatres, the arrangements would still depend on good faith and co-operation, for which time would certainly be required. In these circumstances, although, Her Majesty's Government still believe that the Central People's Government should represent China in the United Nations, they certainly do not consider that this is the moment for the matter to be reconsidered.

Before our return home, the Foreign Secretary and I paid a flying visit to Canada. We were received with glowing warmth of friendship and full understanding, and during our 30 vibrant hours in Ottawa we had very good talks with Mr. St. Laurent. We sat at the Canadian Cabinet table—I have the honour to be a Canadian Privy Councillor—and we carried away with us renewed conviction of the harmony in sentiment and policy of our two countries.

I have a final thought, which I do not think will raise disagreement, to present to the House, and I should be glad for it to travel as far as my words can reach. In the speech which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made in winding up the debate before our departure, in speaking about the relations of the Communist and free worlds, he used the remarkable phrase "peaceful co-existence." This fundamental and far-reaching conception certainly had its part in some of our conversations at Washington, and I was very glad when I read, after we had left, that President Eisenhower had said that the hope of the world lies in peaceful co-existence of the Communist and non-Communist Powers, adding also the warning, with which I entirely agree, that this doctrine must not lead to appeasement that compels any nation to submit to foreign domination.

The House must not under-rate the importance of this broad measure of concurrence of what in this case I may call the English-speaking world. What a vast ideological gulf there is between the idea of peaceful co-existence vigilantly safeguarded, and the mood of forcibly extirpating the Communist fallacy and heresy. It is, indeed, a gulf. This statement is a recognition of the appalling character which war has now assumed and that its fearful consequences go even beyond the difficulties and dangers of dwelling side by side with Communist States.

Indeed, I believe that the widespread acceptance of this policy may in the passage of years lead to the problems which divide the world being solved or solving themselves, as so many problems do, in a manner which will avert the mass destruction of the human race and give time, human nature and the mercy of God their chance to win salvation for us.

We shall, of course, study very carefully the statement of the Prime Minister prior to the debate on Wednesday, in which we shall want to consider very fully just how far common ends and aims are worked out in practice by the English-speaking peoples on the two sides of the Atlantic.

I should like to put only one question to the Prime Minister at the present time. In the course of his talks did he consider the suggestion, which was put by this House, of a meeting between President Eisenhower, Mr. Malenkov and himself to deal with the, biggest question of all that threatens the world—the hydrogen bomb? The Prime Minister has rightly said that he does not intend to discuss detailed points and matters of technical importance, but this, after all, is an over-riding question. Was it discussed at all?

Yes, Sir, it was certainly discussed in general terms between me and the President and in our circle, and all its difficulties were surveyed. Broadly speaking, the question is more of timing than of anything else, but I do not feel that it would be of advantage for me to make any detailed statement upon the subject at the present time, and I do not expect that that would be so on Wednesday. I assure the right hon. Gentleman, however, that it is always in my mind.

In view of the importance which President Eisenhower and the Prime Minister attached to a reaffirmation of the principles of the Atlantic Charter, may I ask the Prime Minister whether it is intended to invite the 11 Governments, including the Soviet Union, who subscribed in 1941 to the principles of the Charter, to reaffirm their support for them, so that we may look forward to the principles being put into operation and not merely remaining as generalities?

In view of the refusal of Mr. Dulles to attend the renewal of the Geneva Conference, what assurance can the Prime Minister give to the House that the United States Government does, in fact, favour a negotiated settlement in Indo-China, as the Prime Minister stated they do?

The United States Government are officially represented at the Geneva Conference. The fact that they have not sent Mr. Dulles or General Bedell Smith is a matter which really is for them to decide.

Referring to the question by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, has it occurred to the Prime Minister that for a start it might be possible or more suitable for him to meet Mr. Malenkov on his own? Has the right hon. Gentleman given any consideration to this possibility? Does he not think that a suitable opportunity might occur in the near future after the outcome of the Geneva Conference is known?

I do not desire at the present time to add in any way to the statements I have made from time to time in answer to Questions in the House since I first raised this question of top-level meetings on 11th May last year.

As one who accepts the view that it would be a tragedy to lose the opportunity for military cooperation between the Western Powers and Germany without the creation of a German national army and general staff, may I ask the Prime Minister whether he and the President discussed whether there was any means of discussing this matter with the present Prime Minister of France, M. Mendes-France, with a view to seeing whether the issue cannot be brought to a decision, and a right decision, in France? Is there any way in which the representatives of the three countries could get together with a view to a peaceful settlement of this matter being made and France coming into friendly collaboration with us about it?

I am quite sure that every effort is being made by the United States to present to the new French Prime Minister the importance which they attach to this issue being settled. I understand that continuous discussion is going forward in the most friendly spirit but without in any way under-valuing the gravity of the issues at stake.

Can the Prime Minister say as well as drafting the part of his communiqué with the President in which France was urged to sign E.D.C., what discussions they had about devising some alternative supposing the French do not do what the President and the Prime Minister have told them to do?

Everyone can conceive of alternatives for himself. I certainly have thought of several alternatives, none of them very agreeable, but I did not think that this was a good moment to endeavour to outline them.

Business Of The House

Proceedings on Government Business exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House).—[ The Prime Minister.]