§ 3.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
I beg to move,That this House requests His Majesty's Government, in the interests of peace and full employment, to accept the invitation to take part in the discussions on the Schuman Plan, subject to the same condition as that made by the Netherlands Government, namely, that if the discussions show the plan not to be practicable, freedom of action is reserved.This Motion stands upon the Order Paper in the names of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Liberal Party, and other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen above and below the Gangway on this side of the House. First let me say that hon. Members in all parts of the House will regret that the Foreign Secretary should have been prevented by illness from attending this Debate. We are sorry for the fact, and we are still sorrier for the reason.
We cannot, in my judgment, usefully consider the proposal which is now honourably associated with Mr. Schuman's name unless we examine it in the perspective of history. Relations between 1908 France and Germany have been the dominant political theme for a century; they have determined the lives and deaths of millions of our fellow men and women in every country and continent. The problem is still there, and exists in a world where the threat to peace is immediate and deadly. We have had an example of that this very morning, and the news from Korea surely urges the need for all free countries, East and West, to align themselves and their policies and agree upon their plans without delay. Certainly no event could give more confidence for the present and more hope for the future than to find practical means to reduce, and finally to eliminate, the possibility of future war between France and Germany.
Sometimes we stand too near to great events to see them in their true perspective, and that the Schuman Plan can be such an event I have no doubt. It is universally recognised, except by the Communists, that the French initiative towards an entirely new relationship with Germany is fundamentally a movement for peace. I do not think there is any argument anywhere about that. It must not, it cannot, be allowed to fail. That is the spirit in which we must approach it.
Now, what of the German attitude? Of course, there may be some who would say that the Germans welcome the plan because they hope ultimately to dominate Europe, particularly if we are not parties to the plan. It is likely enough that there are some Germans who take that view, but I have little doubt that the vast majority generally welcome it as a contribution to enduring peace with their French neighbours. I read an article from Germany the other day by a most experienced correspondent of the "New York Times,' known to many Members of this House, Mrs. Anne O'Hare McCormick. I shall not read a lengthy extract, but I should like to read to the House two sentences. It is written from Dusseldorf.
The extract is:It is fair to say that the Ruhr as a whole is tired of being a forge of war. Many voice fears that eventually re-armament will be forced on the Ruhr by the Allies. This is especially true of the young. It is one reason among many that the Ruhr is enthusiastic about the Schuman Plan. … For the present, at least, the idea of the Ruhr as a forge of peace has real popular appeal. … Labour is for the new organisation because it expects to take part in it.1909 The history of recent Anglo-French diplomatic exchanges has not been a very happy one. That is a gentle under-statement. It is not part of my purpose this afternoon to apportion blame on that account. There have no doubt been faults on both sides, but this Debate will not have been in vain if we can make some contribution to setting them straight.
I begin by submitting to the House that it is an essential British interest that the Schuman proposals should succeed, and to enable them to do so Britain should take her part in them. In examining these proposals, I shall not burke the issue, which I fully understand has to be faced, of how far we could have gone—or how far we could go now, because the present is more important than the recent past—to meet the conditions which the French sought to impose before the conversations opened. If I am to do this intelligently, I must take the House back a little in point of time.
The Prime Minister, it may be remembered, in November, 1945, not long after he took office, in one of the first Debates on international affairs that we had in that Parliament, spoke to us on his return from discussions on the control of atomic energy which he had had with the American and Canadian Governments, and he brought with him a Joint Declaration, which I have here, to set up within the United Nations an Atomic Energy Commission. The fate of that Commission we know only too well—or rather the fate of its work. It is not the fault not succeeded.
The point that we should keep in mind is that the form of that keep in mind is that the form of that proposed International Atomic Development Authority stretched far above and beyond the rule of Governments. For example, it was proposed that it should have powers of inspection and the power to give or withhold licences for atomic research. It proposed, among other things, that the ownership, management and operation of dangerous facilities should be by that authority, and that this international agency should own nuclear fuels and source material and that it should inspect to prevent clandestine activity.
In view of the decisive nature of this atomic weapon, what more truly supranational 1910 authority could there possibly be? Yet this conception was accepted by the present Government and by all the other Members of the Security Council at that time, save only the Soviet Union and the satellite Ukraine. The Russian argument, it is interesting to note, turned time and again on their refusal to accept what they chose to consider the surrender of sovereignty. That was the Russian argument. Here arises a crucial point relative to our discussion this afternoon. I ask the House was it really surrender of sovereignty that was involved in these proposals to control atomic energy? Or was it, in practice, a fusion of sovereignty, or if you will, its merger or extension, in a cause which all but the Soviet Union agreed must transcend the national prerogative? I myself said in that Debate in November, 1945, that I was unable to see any final solution which would make the world safe for atomic power save that we all abate our present ideas on sovereignty. I still believe that.
So, although there is no exact precedent for M. Schuman's plan, as he himself states, or for the authority he proposes, we cannot fail to recognise the trend among democratic nations throughout the post-war years to make arrangements among themselves touching very nearly this question of sovereignty. Curiously enough, no nation has been more sensitive upon this point than the Soviet Union. It was very quick to make the defence of sovereignty the formula, the House will remember, for refusing to take part in the Marshall Plan. When the Soviet Union set up the Cominform, its manifesto said that the Communists must take into their hands the defence of the national independence and the sovereignty of their own countries. That phrase was repeated by Mr. Stalin when he received a group of Socialist Members of Parliament in October, 1947, and explained to them that Soviet interpretation of the Cominform's purpose.
Indeed, the Marshall Plan was and remains an act of inspired and most generous American statesmanship. It was also, at that time, an unprecedented step, and it set us on the road towards measures of political as well as economic inter-dependence with Europe. It called for the adaptation of national plans by 1911 mutual consultation between Governments responsible for widely differing economic systems. O.E.E.C. is an intergovernmental organisation, but its responsibilities are, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would agree, more than national. No one would deny that. I mention it in the context of this Debate not because there is any strict parallel between its work and the Schuman proposals, but to emphasise how far we have moved from certain aspects of nationalism which have lost their reality in the urgent struggle for the recovery of Europe.
It soon became clear that economic recovery in the West was going to be open to continuous attack from the East, and, therefore the instrument of Western security was created and was indeed indispensable if our economic efforts were not to be dissipated. So we agreed on the really remarkable advance of the Atlantic Pact. For this His Majesty's Government and the Foreign Secretary are certainly entitled to their share of credit, although it is equally true that my right hon. Friend's Fulton speech inspired it, although it was not uniformly well received at the time.
Under this Pact, there is a pooling in times of peace of military information and resources which would certainly have been considered a surrender of sovereignty even a few years ago. Here again, the needs of the hour called forth, have compelled, an international co-operation on the widest scale. Military and political thought have encouraged national specialisation in certain essential components of equipment; so we have a policy which has led to inter-dependence between the armed forces of Western Europe and North America which has no parallel in the past. I suppose that we had the most absolute merger of sovereignty we had ever known in the organisation we called S.H.A.E.F., under General Eisenhower's so deeply-trusted leadership, because it had powers exceeding the military sphere, as hon. Members will remember. It. would seem illogical to make concessions to win a war but to hesitate to make them to prevent a war.
However that may be, we have gone forward in all these new organisations. We have undertaken direct or implied commitments, without regarding them as incompatible with our sovereignty or 1912 incompatible with our position as the heart and centre of the British Empire and Commonwealth. We of the Opposition have given our wholehearted support to the Government in these matters, and Commonwealth statesmen of every party, let it be said, in their turn have supported with admirable foresight our closer association with Europe and the United States. I quote only one, Mr. Menzies—perhaps it is more favourable to this side of the House than to Members opposite—who expressed it very well in a recent speech. He said:A peaceful and prosperous Europe would be a godsend to British people the world over. I, for one, am not, therefore, hostile to the basic idea of European union, but friendly to it and hopeful for it.I say that Commonwealth understanding of our special responsibilities in Europe deserves the greatest tribute we can pay, which is to pledge ourselves to take no steps of Commonwealth significance without broad consultation with them. One sphere where our mutual interest can never be denied is the sphere of security. Twice in our lifetime the Empire has stood loyally by us, and fought with us and in wars which had their origin in Europe. They are the first to recognise how vital is their interest that some progress should be made in European relations.
The post-war trends to which I have drawn attention have all of them had the search for security as their basis, and so has the Schuman Plan. I am quite sure that the problem which the resurgence of Germany must create has not been underestimated by observers in the Commonwealth. For the same reason, I am certain that the significance of the Schuman proposals is well understood in the Commonwealth. The fact is that Germany is ready—and we have helped to make her ready—to enter the international field once again. Not only Europe, but the whole world is watching that reentry. The fact that it is a partitioned Germany that we are watching adds to the crucial character of the decisions, which may now be taken, for Eastern Germany, however unwillingly, is already committed as a Communist satellite State.
It therefore follows that Western Germany, with its immense potential in the Ruhr, stands poised between the threat of Soviet expansion and the hope 1913 of a saving solidarity with its Western neighbours. It is certain that the threat, if it were fulfilled in Germany, would shatter our own hope of Western European peace. If we acknowledge that, if we acknowledge that we cannot afford to allow such an event to happen, then neither can we afford, I suggest, to inject weakness into the European structure which we have so patiently built up. But that is exactly what we shall be doing if we allow Franco-German relations to develop apart from us. That political separation, if it once crystallises, may easily extend to separation in matters of defence as well as economics.
I beg the Government to consider this, that if Germany obtains the dominant rôle in that partnership—it might not be a revised militarism so much as an artificial bid for neutrality—it would have disastrous consequences for us and immense advantages for Russia. I say deliberately that in all its dreams of wedge-driving Russia could hope for nothing better than the reduction of Britain to the status of observer in Franco-German relations. That would run entirely counter to our Commonwealth interests and to our responsibilities as a world Power, which we share with the United States, and that no doubt is why the Kremlin wants it so very, very much, as Members know if they have studied the Kremlin's outpourings in these last few days.
These are all reasons which the Government say they recognise, but I have gone over them, I fear in a little detail, because they are also, in my submission, reasons why we ought to have been better prepared for that French initiative, and why we ought to have been ready with proposals of our own, or best of all why we should have taken the initiative ourselves some time since. After all, if the manner of the French proposals was surprising—and it was, I agree—the matter was no more than the projection of a trend clearly marked out in recent years through the inter-play of Franco-German ideas. From the point at which the Ruhr Statute was agreed by the six Powers, its temporary nature ever since has been the subject of speculation. The problem was how to fit that limited control of Germany's iron and steel into an international framework which might include the basic framework of Western Union.
1914 The French did not disguise their uneasiness of the Ruhr becoming a "closed shop" in antagonistic hands if a European solution were not found. Personally, I shared this uneasiness. I remember saying at the time, in December, 1948, that I would like to see our Government working to evolve collaboration between the Ruhr and its complementary industries in France, Belgium and Luxemburg so that Germany could be woven, into a pattern of the free Western democracies. It is the French and not ourselves who have felt compelled to take the initiative, and to do so in political terms which have roused the hopes of the world.
The French communiqué, I observe—I have read it through carefully—does not include that hideous phrase "supranational"; I have not been able to find it in the White Paper. I have searched a little to see whether I could trace the origin of this hybrid monstrosity. Going back a little in time, I have found it about two years ago.
§ Mr. Eden
I have found it in a context I thought sufficiently interesting to trouble the House with it. It is in the terms of a resolution moved by Mr. Benn Levy, who was the Member for Eton and Slough in the last Parliament, at the Labour Conference at Scarborough in 1948, and approved by the Conference. I will read the last sentence, because it is quite interesting and not entirely irrelevant. It urges the Labour Party toco-operate with the European Socialist parties in taking practical steps to achieve the United Socialist States of Europe (including the establishment of supra-national agencies to take over from each nation powers to allocate and distribute coal, steel, timber, locomotives, rolling stock and imports from hard currency countries) in complete military and political independence of the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
I want the right hon. Gentleman to emphasise that the resolution urged the socialisation of these industries.
§ Mr. Eden
I am grateful to the hon. Member for having made sure of that point which had not escaped me. I can assure him that it had not. That resolution goes far beyond anything in the Schuman proposals, except that all the parties to it are to be Socialists. If that is the policy of Members opposite, we should like to know. Perhaps we shall be told in due course. The hon. Gentleman will be aware how completely this conflicts with the indignant repudiation made by the Prime Minister the other day that any suggestion of ideological influence could have anything to do with His Majesty's foreign policy at all. It will also be immensely interesting to know how the hon. Gentleman will reconcile this doctrine, defensible as it is politically, with our undertakings under O.E.E.C., of which, no doubt, we shall hear something from the Chancellor of the Exchequer in due course. I observe that the "Herald-Tribune" asks that question this morning, and I have no doubt it will be asked again.
I read extracts from those proceedings because they are immensely instructive, and I note that they were wound up by the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Minister of Town and Country Planning. I must be absolutely fair to him, I have read through the whole of his speech, and he did let fall some cautionary observations, including comments on the meaning of several words. He asked the Conference to endorse the resolution, and it did so without any disturbance so far as the paper records go. This was a unanimous resolution passed in 1948. I leave it for the House.
There is no mention in that resolution of how this would upset the Empire so badly, as we are now told these proposals would. On the contrary, the right hon. Gentleman used words, which I would certainly entirely endorse, and I hope he does not mind me saying that. He did not accept the dilemma between moving nearer Europe and away from the Empire. Nor do I. He said:I think we can move closer to Western Europe and at the same time maintain in all its fullness"—and I hope perhaps extend and expand—our relations with the countries of the Commonwealth.That is grand, I agree, but what about all this indignation, including that of the 1916 Minister of Health at the weekend, as to the damage that was going to be done? Damage is only going to be done to the Commonwealth, it seems, if the Governments of Europe are not Socialist. That is a very strange doctrine, especially at a time when the Governments of the Commonwealth are not Socialist either.
The French in their document use the words "a common high authority," under which Franco-German production of coal and steel would be pooled. Then we come to the statement that the decisions of this common high authority would be binding on the member Governments. To this all the other excellent, and courageous proposals in this document have been subordinated, because the French requested acceptance of the principle of a high authority as an essential preliminary to the discussion of any ensuing plan. Our Government took a literal view of this condition, and felt it to be an insuperable obstacle; that is to say, they felt that if they accepted those terms, the Government would have run the risk that, having got into the discussions, they might not have been able to agree with the final conclusions. That is perfectly true, but it is my own strong impression that the risks of having to withdraw from the negotiations were and are less serious than those of failing to attend the negotiations at all.
Events are already showing that we were right in that judgment. M. Schuman, very early in the discussions of the six Powers, stated:we shall pool our ideas, confront them and choose between them.Already the conception of a high authority seems to have been considerably modified. Most of us with any experience of international negotiations could have been fairly sure that that was precisely what would happen. But still, I admit there is a question which must be faced, and I propose to face it. Would we be prepared to enter discussions as a result of which a high authority would be set up whose decisions would be binding upon the nations who were parties to the agreement? My answer to that question would be, yes, provided—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."]—that we were satisfied with the conditions and the safeguards.
It was rather interesting to note the divergent views on the benches opposite. 1917 I notice that right hon. Gentlemen who have experience of negotiations nodded their heads, whilst there was ribald laughter from behind them. I ask hon. Members to ponder this—provided we are satisfied with the conditions and the safeguards. Of course, that is a reasonable basis on which to enter any negotiations, and a perfectly defensible one.
The House ought also to bear in mind that there are any number of questions which still have to be determined. Is there, for instance, to be a right of appeal and if so, to whom? Is there to be any form of voting? If so, will there be taken into account the proportionate production of coal and steel in the countries concerned? In this respect our claims would be immensely strong, for, of course, we hold the predominant position in the production of coal and steel. For that reason and for others, I think some hon. Gentlemen opposite are taking counsel unduly of their fears when they think that if we were to enter an organisation of that kind everybody would be "ganging up" against us. I do not believe that that is how it would work out.
There are lots of other questions; I will not worry the House with them, but one of them is this: Is the authority to control the size of domestic production? Has any country to have the right to stockpile if there is a surplus? Is the authority to regulate international exports between the participants in the pool or is some wider plan contemplated? All these are issues upon the answer to which our ability finally to take part in such a plan would admittedly have to be largely determined.
But surely we should be better placed to make a constructive contribution and to model the agreement in a form which we could accept if we were ourselves taking part in the negotiations. That is why we have stated that we would have accepted on the terms the Netherlands have used, and I will read to the House what those terms are. I do not know what the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) finds so very amusing. I am doing my best to put forward a serious argument.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
It is merely the proposition that he would give a conditional answer in the 1918 affirmative, which is exactly what the Government gave, and those conditions were what were unobtainable.
§ Mr. Eden
If the hon. Gentleman will consult the Front Bench he will find the position is not as he thinks it is.
The terms of the Netherland answer were these:Although the Netherland Government sincerely hope that the forthcoming negotiations which it deems to be of pre-eminent importance for the future of Europe, will lead to satisfactory results, it has, nevertheless, considered it necessary to inform the French Government that it wishes to reserve its freedom to go back on the acceptance of these general proposals during the negotiations if, contrary to what it hoped, it should prove in the future that the application of these principles raises serious objections in practice.That was the Netherland position and that should be our position. If it is the Government's position I shall be delighted to hear it, but nobody in Europe at the moment thinks so. I know it may be argued that it is all very well for the Netherlands to come into these discussions—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] All right—because they are more in sympathy with the federal conception than we are. That is a fair argument, but also it should be remembered—
§ Mr. Eden
I do not think that that is a good argument, because the more the contribution the more the influence a country is going to have upon the discussions that take place. Those who have, most cause to be apprehensive of an international arrangement are those who have the least to put into the pool.
As regards the federal line, the acceptance of European federation was no part of the political declaration signed by the six Powers, and was at no time a condition of the negotiation. I do not think that that can be challenged. I did not think there was anything so revolutionary in the proposal that the French Government have made as appears to be thought by some. At any rate it falls very far short of the words the Prime Minister used—he may perhaps remember them—in a remarkable speech which he made to his party early in the war, before he was a member of the Government, defining the aims of a peace settlement. He said: 1919In the common interest there must be recognition of an international authority superior to the individual States and endowed not only with rights over them but with power to make them effective, operating not only in the political but in the economic sphere. Europe must federate or perish.I do not personally take that view. I think that when these closer relationships develop they are more likely to take the form of a confederation than a federation, and more likely to be Atlantic in area than European; but there was nothing in entry to these negotiations which compelled the Government to make up their mind on this issue.
Unhappily there cannot be much doubt, whether deservedly or not, that these events have deeply injured our authority in Europe. For instance, the House may have seen a letter in the "Manchester Guardian" on Saturday from a most distinguished Dutch journalist known to many of us in this House, Mr. H. J. Huizinga. He has been in this country for many years. This is his opening sentence:As an old and devoted friend of this country I am appalled at the sudden and vertiginous drop in British prestige abroad.With the whole of the terms of that letter I do not agree, but it is extremely worth reading as an exercise in seeing ourselves as others see us in this respect, and it is disturbing evidence.
§ Mr. Eden
That is just the same mood as there is in the wretched khaki document. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely certain that everything that Socialism says or does must be absolutely right, and that no power on earth except the Socialists know anything about European federation. If he could just imagine how that tone and temper grates on our friends in America and elsewhere, he would not use it so often.
§ Mr. John Cooper (Deptford)
As a very young Member of this House, I only want to say that, apart from our certainty in these matters, we have never drifted this country, so far, into war.
§ Mr. Eden
I do not quite understand the particular relevance of that remark in connection with the argument which I am 1920 using. The hon. Gentleman may have an opportunity later to explain it in his own speech.
It is certain that less uneasiness would be caused both in Europe and elsewhere by the Government's recent action in respect of the Schuman Plan but for two other factors to which I must briefly refer. The first is the record of hon. Gentlemen opposite in regard to the movement for a united Europe ever since my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) launched it. It has always seemed as though they were perpetually hanging back because it is associated, and must always be associated, with his name. I am not going to recapitulate—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]. Of course, it is associated with his name. There is nothing for anybody to be ashamed of in that.
I should be delighted if any international agreement were perpetually associated with the name of any hon. Member opposite. The Foreign Secretary had a considerable share in picking up the Marshall Plan and carrying it forward in the way that he did. We need not carry our party prejudices so far. The sending of delegates to The Hague was frowned upon, and some were strongly discouraged from attending, yet that conference did result in Strasbourg and in the Council of Europe, now accepted by all the Western Governments.
The other factor which has added to the suspicion which some have felt has been the insistence, not by the Foreign Secretary but by others in high places, upon the need for Socialist Governments in Europe if United Europe is to succeed. I have no doubt that many hon. Members, when they read this document issued by the National Executive, recalled the Debates we had in 1948 about this very doctrine. I am not going over that ground again now, but I will only say that it was the insistence upon the need for Socialist Governments if United Europe was to succeed which I felt to be so utterly deplorable. I want the Prime Minister to believe—not because I am opposed to Socialism which I do, I admit, happen to be—that I am absolutely convinced that we can never succeed in uniting a free Western Europe, at any rate in the lifetime of anyone in this House, on the basis of one party political creed. I am certain of that.
1921 The Prime Minister told us at the time that the timing of this document was unfortunate. It certainly was. Nobody will argue about that now, and I do not want to go into that business any more, except to ask the Prime Minister this: Did he really not know that the document was going to be published a fortnight ago? After all, it did not glide coyly into the world. Its arrival was heralded not only at the Press conference but even before that, heralded and trumpeted. Did not the Prime Minister know it was to be published? Did not any of his principal colleagues come along to him and say: "Look, this document is coming out"? Did they not tell him?
I knew that it was coming out. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, I did. I read it in the "Observer" on the Sunday before. There was no secret. I was not in any confidential council. I say that because I see the Lord President of the Council looking a little uneasy. I read it in the newspaper, and surely somebody else must have read it in the newspaper, that the document was to come out. It was called: "The greatest pronouncement on foreign policy that the Socialist Government have put up since the war." There were great big headlines in the middle of the "Observer." It must have been known to Ministers that the document was to appear. Did they approve its appearance or did they not? It almost seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Town and Country Planning is carrying more than his share of responsibility.
At any rate, as the result of this, there is at least a suspicion at home and abroad that the Government's attitude to the Schuman invitation would not have been so rigid if the Governments with whom they had been dealing today were socialist Governments. There is no response to that from the other side. The Minister of Town and Country Planning was asked that question at his Press conference. He said: "Wait and see." I must therefore ask the Chancellor or the Prime Minister this question: Would they have found the proposal for a high authority so insuperable an obstacle if it had been put to them by a Socialist bloc of States?
Is it not far more likely that if they did not wholly agree with the terms put to them they would have strained every 1922 nerve to come in and to influence the situation from inside? That is precisely what we would have done. The difference is that we would have been prepared to take this step whatever the political complexion of the democratic party with which we had to deal. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Oh, yes. We have often done it. We have dealt with Socialist Governments on all sorts of difficult matters in the past. It did not create the embarrassment which hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to think it does. His Majesty's Government do not want to do it when the other Governments are not Socialist. That is the impression which exists. If it can be contradicted, let it be.
Should this Schuman Plan break down, I fear that we should see a return to the narrowest forms of European nationalism with far-reaching repercussions and a general weakening of our security and the defence of Western Europe against Communism. That is what I believe. If anyone has any doubt about it he has only to check it against Kremlin propaganda in the last few weeks. Weighing these considerations in the scale, and the still larger one of the immense gain to civiliation if France and Germany could be brought into working partnership—[Interruption.] Oh, yes—I say that the Government could well have taken the greater risk, if risk it be, in the matter of this high authority.
As to the economic consequences should the Schuman Plan break down, some admirable words were written by the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) the other day which I will read:Whatever the fate of the Plan, it is unlikely that the European Iron and Steel Industry will remain in its present disorganised form.That is true enough. He went on:Last December, there were unofficial conversations between iron and steel industrialists of the pre-war cartel, exploring the possibilities of re-creating it. If the British Labour Government does not try to make the Schuman Plan succeed, the Plan will almost certainly fail. But it will be replaced by a Franco-German cartel which will try to obtain new affiliates in Western Europe, and which will be a danger to Britain's interests.The hon. Member is absolutely right in every word which he has there set down. I agree with him. I will tell him that the greatest of these British interests 1923 which will be in jeopardy are peace and the employment of our people.
Let me now sum up. If our Government had felt a profound necessity to be present at Paris in its proper rôle of European leadership, I am convinced that it would have found a means to satisfy M. Schuman of its sympathy with the spirit of the proposals. I admit that this could only have been done had there been a real basis of mutual confidence between the two Governments. It may be that we must face the fact that this indispensable confidence between the two Governments does not exist. If it does not, are we so self-righteous as to declare that the blame lies only with the French?
We have had from the Prime Minister in his statement on the Schuman proposals just one glimmer of flexibility, and that was in his closing words when he said that we were approaching:A formative and decisive phase in the organisation of the Atlantic Community. This will require, by a more effective pooling of resoures, the surrender in an unprecedented degree by each country of the ability to do as it pleases."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th June, 1950; Vol 476, c. 37.]Here is something which goes to the heart of the matter, and if the Prime Minister means that, if he realises, as he cannot fail to do, that the majority of the Atlantic Powers are now meeting in Paris for such vital purposes, surely he must seize the opportunity to undo the harm which has been done by our absence.
I believe that there may now be such a chance. The French Government, so I am informed in the Press this morning, have tabled further proposals which have not yet been published. These are, I believe, in the hands not only of the participants of the conference but of our Government, too. There will be a number of points—perhaps a large number—in this document with which we shall not agree, but the most important consideration surely is that this text, as I understand it, is a working draft which is open to suggestions for amendment.
If that is so, I ask the Government, on the basis of that, to reconsider their decision. Here is another chance to share in these conversations and to mould final decisions of historic importance. If the Schuman proposals were not to succeed, nobody denies that this would be a calamity for peace. If they were to 1924 succeed without us, there would be real dangers for us, I think, political as well as economic. The Government must feel, as we do, that, whatever the mistakes or differences of the immediate past, here is an opportunity to play our part not only in uniting this nation but in uniting the free countries of Western Europe. Our appeal to the Government is to seize that opportunity. I pray that we shall not appeal in vain, remembering always that if this country is to be worthy of itself, it has not to follow but to lead.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I, too, desire with the deepest and most sincere pleading to join in that appeal which has just been made by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) to His Majesty's Government. The French communiqué on 9th May, with its offer and its high purpose, has been welcomed by all free countries of the world. I know of no country outside the Communist and the Communist-dominated countries which has not welcomed it and, indeed, has not, rightly, paid the highest tribute to France, to its Government and to its leaders.
Today in the Amendment which is on the Order Paper the Government in effect repeat the commendation made by the Prime Minister himself on 11th May to this House when he said that this was a notable contribution towards the solution of a major European problem. The main purpose of the French proposal is to secure peace; in the first place, peace between France and Germany; in the second place, peace among the free peoples of Europe; and, thirdly, the ultimate aim must be to secure peace not only in Europe but throughout the whole world. Surely this is a high and noble purpose which should commend itself to all right thinking men and women, and it demands also from them their active support and assistance.
Let us, therefore, consider what was proposed. It was that the Franco-German production of steel as a whole should be pooled and placed under a common authority to act within the framework of an organisation open to the participation of the other countries of Europe. For over 80 years now it is the possession and the working of coal and iron ore deposits in Alsace Lorraine, the Ruhr and the Saar which has provided 1925 the main cause of disagreement between France and Germany, and, what is more, it is the ill-use of those materials which has enabled Germany to throw Europe and, indeed, the world, into the horrors of two mighty world wars.
If the possession of these materials and the industries which depend upon them is given to one, then there arises the bitterest feelings in the other. The Treaty of Paris after the First World War failed to settle this question, and the steps which have hitherto been taken since the end of the Second World War have failed to bring about even the likelihood of a permanent solution. But now France—France which has suffered so much from the invasion of her territory by Germany in the space of a lifetime of many in those three wars since 1870, France with her national pride which in intensity transcends, I believe, that of any other nation—has come forward with this proposal to pool her coal and steel production with that of Germany and with that of any other country which is willing to come in and work within the framework of the organisation. Very rightly, France claims that if this immediate purpose is achieved, war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable but materially impossible.
Surely that is the greatest step towards peace in Europe which has ever been taken. Surely it is worth while paying even a great price for that. France and Germany, ourselves, the countries of Europe, the countries of the Commonwealth, and the United States of America have paid an enormous price in blood and in material because we failed in the past to make war between France and Germany unthinkable and impossible materially. The world is suffering today and will continue to suffer for some considerable time because of our failure in the past to achieve a sound basis for peace between France and Germany.
That, then, is the first and the highest purpose embodied in this proposal. It entails, however, a great deal more. It extends the area of production. It will tend to ensure greater and better and cheaper production. It will make possible the modernisation of production with improved quality, the supply of coal and steel on identical terms, and the development of common export to other countries. It will tend also to the comfort as well as to the improvement of 1926 living conditions of workers in those industries. It is proposed that the movement of coal and steel between the member countries will immediately be freed of all customs duties, and there will be equalisation of transport rates.
It is well worth looking at the French communiqué, document 10, page 10. paragraph 7 where they meet the point that might be made by the British Government, namely—The British Government are of course legitimately preoccupied with following a policy of economic expansion, of full employment, and of a rising standard of living for the workers. The proposed scheme, far from obstructing such a policy, is calculated in the view of the French Government to avoid the dangers which may suddenly obstruct its course. For competition based on exploiting labour will be substituted a concerted rise in workers' conditions; for the restrictive practice of cartels, the development of outlets; for dumping and discrimination, the rational distribution of products. The policy of full employment only reaches its true objectives if it provides labour with the most productive occupations, and it cannot finally be carried out under pressure of the development of unemployment in other countries. The task entrusted to the high authority thus excludes the possibility of its work compromising the results achieved by this policy where it is already being carried out, and means that it will favour a general expansion, allowing rationalised production to be reconciled with the maintenance of full employment.That is what is stated. Does anybody quarrel with that?
So it is that while the great aim and purpose is the securing of peace, it carries with it a better economic condition, increased and better production, the availability of steel and coal to all member countries without their being hampered and handicapped by tariff barriers, the extending of the area where the market shall be free, and the goods that are needed shall be available to the people as they are wanted. That in itself, of course, not only tends to raise the standard of living for all those people but it helps to do away with the envies, the jealousies and the frustrations which can bring hatred and which might lead to disputes and ultimately to war.
The wider the area, the better it will be. The removal of national restrictions which hamper trade should be encouraged and the goods produced made available to all. That again underlines this. Undoubtedly this will lead to increased production, to better production, to better quality and, with modernisation of the ore and coal 1927 available without the added cost of high tariffs, it will make production cheaper. It will also increase the demand which so often today is throttled down by high prices. So it will lead to more stable employment and to full employment.
There is nothing more likely to lead to unemployment than the restriction of trade; there is nothing more conducive to full employment than the expansion and extension of trade. So this offer made by the French Government and people, which has now been accepted by Germany, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, and which they are today discussing in Paris, is designed to achieve these purposes.
Now what of ourselves? Why are we not in Paris? Why do we remain outside? We have welcomed the proposals—we are welcoming them today; we are anxious that the discussions should succeed and have a fruitful end; we are anxious to know what is taking place, and the French have told us that we shall be so informed. We are even engaged in working out for ourselves proposals which we can make, but, in the meantime, we are to remain outside. Why?
We have said in our communiqué that we have been most anxious to be associated with these discussions but that we cannot pledge ourselves in advance. Pledge ourselves to what? Let us consider that. We are glad that the six Governments are determined to pursue a common action. We know that the purposes they have in mind are threefold—first, peace; secondly, European solidarity; thirdly, economic and social progress. We say that all those are estimable and right. These countries have, at the outset, however, said that the way to achieve these purposes is to place the following objectives before themselves: first, the immediate pooling of the production of coal and steel; secondly, the institution of a new, high authority whose decisions in respect of that coal and steel will be binding upon the countries taking part.
For ourselves we have objected, although the French Government have made it quite clear that not only must the proposals be fully discussed, but then, if agreement is reached, the proposals are to be embodied in a treaty to be signed by all the Governments. Even then the treaty will not be binding until its terms 1928 have been debated in each Parliament and every country and every Parliament has approved and ratified. So all that France was asking for was that we should have as our immediate objective these two purposes—the consideration of how pooling arrangements could be brought about, and what kind of authority could be created to see that the arrangements were carried out fairly and equitably—and they asked that attention should be focused upon those points.
Surely France was right in asking for this? We have all had experience now of the continual conferences and meetings where discussion is at large and where there is endless talk and little achievement. So many high hopes have been raised during these years and so many hopes have been disappointed. We are getting no nearer, even today, to the solution of peace. We have made agreements for common defence. There are the Brussels Treaty and the Atlantic Pact. We have proposed to pool our defences and we have by those means limited our own freedom, quite rightly, and so have other countries. Again, the three countries of Benelux came together and took quite a notable step forward to remove the causes of disagreement and inequalities.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman supports this Motion which says that we should go in and discuss these things with the other Governments. Is he and his party in favour of binding ourselves to these commitments for which the French Government ask?
§ Mr. Davies
Certainly; that is why I signed it. I am willing, and so is everyone in our party. It may interest the hon. Gentleman to know that every Liberal council and committee that has met since this proposal has been made has passed a resolution in favour of it. It is quite in accordance with the principle underlying the great Liberal doctrine, namely, that we shall not get peace unless we get barriers removed and people working together for one common cause. This is a far greater step towards removing the causes of disagreement than even the broadest defensive alliances, and it should take a far more prominent place in ensuring peace.
What did the Government say?—" Your ideas are excellent, we hope you will succeed in making them practical. It 1929 may be, after you have succeeded, we will have something to say, but at the moment we are not prepared to come in and sit with you and help to work out the ideas which might be fair to everybody, including ourselves, for we are not prepared at this moment to say that it is, or it might be, a good thing to join with others in pooling our coal and steel production."
And although we think it is a good thing for the others to have in mind the creation of an international body that will see to it that these proposals, when accepted, are carried out, we are not prepared at this moment to contemplate them for ourselves. That would be surrendering part of our sovereignty and we are not prepared even to contemplate that, even in the interests of peace, of European solidarity, of economic and social progress, or even in the interests of full employment.
There would have been nothing to prevent us sitting round that table, putting before the others our difficulties and asking them to consider our position, for example, as the centre of a great Commonwealth and Empire, and to consider our desire to work even more closely than we do today with the United States of America. Surely, we have something in mind; otherwise we would not at this very moment be preparing our own proposals. We must be ready with concrete proposals to try to help in securing these great aims, and surely the right time and the right place at which to put forward those proposals would be now, at the outset, in Paris, sitting round the table with the others at the beginning of the discussions, and not at the end.
Indeed, our very own proposals might be of vast assistance in bringing about an agreement, and it may be that owing to our very absence the conference of Paris will fail. Would that be a matter at which any hon. Member would laugh? Is anyone here desirous to see it fail? If it does, what a tragedy it would be. Each of us once again would be following our own independent paths, fending for ourselves, watching our neighbours and not assisting them, putting up tariff barriers and all the handicaps that hinder production and trade, and yet we all of us know that we have one mighty common interest: the safeguarding of our own lives 1930 and our own civilisation, and the improvement of the condition of life in all the free countries.
But, "No," said the Government. "We cannot at this stage even contemplate saying that we think it would be a good thing to join with others in pooling our resources in coal and steel." Still less, they say, can we contemplate giving authority over coal and steel to some outside body. We cannot contemplate either of those proposals, although later, perhaps, we could assist and ultimately agree, if so minded, upon the terms and conditions of the pooling and even upon the nature and the limitations of the supreme body.
I should like to know what has become of the fifth point, to which the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) referred, which was made by the Prime Minister in that speech of his at Caxton Hall on 8th November, 1939. It is well worth our while considering again the terms of that fifth point:Fifthly there must be acceptance of the principle that international anarchy is incompatible with peace"—I find myself in complete agreement with that—and that in the common interest there must be recognition of an international authority superior to the individual states"—That is still the Liberal doctrine. Is it still the doctrine of the party on the other side of the House?—and endowed not only with rights over them, but with power to make them effective"—Is there any hon. Member opposite who would challenge that today?—operating not only in the political but in the economic sphere.Europe must federate or perish.Then the right hon. Gentleman added:Bold economic planning on a world scale would be an imperative necessity to meet the post-war situation and to avoid recurrent economic crises. International institutions for this purpose must be created.What is this but an international institution which is now put before the Government, and yet, in spite of that clear declaration made in 1939 by the Prime Minister, it is today rejected? Nor will they play a part in creating that international institution. Have the Prime Minister and the Government abandoned that fifth principle, or is there some new doctrine now which seems to visualise 1931 a new sort of Cominform—the Western Cominform—and that agreement can be made only with countries that hold the same doctrine and want to socialise everything so as to have a Socialist State? I hope that this is not the view of the Prime Minister, and I sincerely hope that he will remain faithful to that fifth point which he laid down so clearly in 1939
Federation is a long way off. It would take a long time to get a federated Europe, but that is no reason why we should not continually move along the road which makes co-operation between these States not only easier, but more effective. That is no reason why we should not extend the area of free trade and mutual help. We should make every effort to break down, remove or even to lessen the barriers which divide us, and give freer play to trade and movement, both of goods and of people. Surely that is the way which really leads to greater prosperity and to a greater standard of life for all and will bring us towards the road which leads towards universal peace. It is the way which leads us also towards a stronger defensive position against any aggressor that would take away from us our freedom and impose an alien way of life. To me, this is a way of mutual agreement. It is a democratic way, by consent and not by force.
It may be said that any such agreement as is contemplated in Paris might imperil our position with regard to the Commonwealth. I do not think for a moment that that is so, nor do I think that it makes it difficult for us to maintain to the full our obligations and commitments towards the Commonwealth. Nor do I think that the Government see any difficulty in that respect. Otherwise, instead of using the language which they have done in the communiqués back to Paris, they would have made that the major point and said at once that it be impossible owing to our close relations with the Commonwealth and Empire to join in any such pact.
Furthermore, such an agreement, if it could be made satisfactory to all, does not interfere in any way with our good relations with the United States. The American Government and people have all along hoped that such an agreement could be made. Moreover, it was implicit in the Marshall Aid offer. We all 1932 know the keen disappointment in America because we have found it impossible at this moment to join with the others in Paris, and we all know the dismay that has been caused there by the issue of this document, "European Unity."
It may be said that there is a danger that there will be an international cartel. I think that there is a far greater danger of cartels if the meeting at Paris fails to come to an agreement. If we object to cartels, as I most strongly do, if there is any danger that the agreement will tend to allocate production, still more to allocate it in some way unfairly and likely to do harm to a particular country, surely the right place in which to emphasise the objections to cartels and allocations is at the conference table at Paris, where the whole of the facts and figures, the ramifications and repercussions, can be thoroughly explored, discussed and finally agreed.
Further, I should like to have seen some step taken, and taken at once, for I am hoping that this will be only the first step and that it will be followed, and followed soon, by other steps which will bring us all closer together and make our economic position more stable, make it easier for all of us to work and trade together and give us a stable currency, and make it possible for us to trust and help one another in every way.
So it is that now, even today, I implore and beg of the Government to reconsider their attitude. They have said that they are anxious that this should succeed. They are working even upon the proposals which they are prepared at some time to put before the others at Paris. Why do they stand outside? All we have done in this Motion is to request them to reconsider the matter, and go to Paris and take part with the others in working out these proposals for the benefit of all. If they do this it will have a lasting effect, I am quite sure, throughout Europe and all free countries. It will be welcomed everywhere in the Commonwealth, and I am perfectly sure it will be welcomed by the people of this country.
There is an opportunity arising today; I only hope and pray the Government will take advantage of that opportunity 1933 now and withdraw from their present position, go to Paris and assist those others in bringing about a decision which will be fair to all of us.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Stafford Cripps)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:welcomes the initiative of the French Foreign Minister of 9th May and, while recognising that it was not possible for His Majesty's Government to take part in the international consideration of his proposals on terms which committed them in advance of such consideration to pool the production of coal and steel and to institute a new high authority whose decisions would bind the Governments concerned, approves the declared readiness of His Majesty's Government to take a constructive part in the conversations with the hope that they may be able to join in, or associate themselves with, this common effort.I have been very puzzled, as I think a great many people have been puzzled, at the form of the Motion put down by the Opposition and even after the two speeches introducing it that we have heard from the coalition of the Opposition we are not very clear whether it is intended to be a vote of censure, or indeed, if so, what it is that is being censured. However, we shall feel obliged to treat it as such.
Some Members of the Opposition, for in this matter quite clearly there is no unanimity of views between them, have suggested that His Majesty's Government were not helping forward European cooperation to the extent that they would themselves be prepared to do, and with that general suggestion I will deal presently. But there is another and more limited criticism which is apparently represented by the Opposition Motion, to the effect that in the negotiations as to the Schuman Plan we should have adopted a more forthcoming attitude, and, instead of taking the line that we did, we should have followed that of the Netherlands Government. From what the two right hon. Gentlemen have said on that subject matter, they have either completely misunderstood the situation, or else they have completely misrepresented it to the House, and I hope I shall be able to make clear what the situation was.
When discussing the Schuman Plan, the House will, I am sure, bear in mind the immense importance of the steel and coal industries to our own economy. All our 1934 great manufacturing industries and particularly the engineering industry which is now so vital an element in our export trade, are dependent upon coal and steel, so that any weakening of our coal and steel industries would be bound to have the most profound effects upon the whole of our external and internal trade. Our special trading relationships with the Commonwealth and Empire must likewise be greatly affected by the conduct of these two basic industries. Not only so, but the location and distribution of these industries in Western Europe are matters of the highest strategic importance.
We cannot, therefore, enter light-heartedly upon any scheme or plan which may affect profoundly these two basic sections of our industrial and economic life. Any action which may interfere seriously with them must be preceded by the most thoroughgoing examination of the proposals made and of the consequences that would flow from them. It is very relevant to the consideration of this matter that the output of British coal accounts for about one half of the total coal production of Western Europe, and that in the steel industry our output is the largest of any single country and about one-third of the total. Thus we have a greater economic interest in these proposals than any other country and we must, therefore, be very much concerned with them.
But there is a strong political reason for our interesting ourselves in them. As the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate stated, twice within our lifetime we have been drawn into a world war through our close and vital connection with the Continent of Europe, so that anything that can help towards the maintenance of peace in Europe is a matter of the most urgent and deep concern to all of us in this country. No one who has followed the sustained efforts of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to organise and strengthen the power of Western European democracy to resist aggression and to ensure peace can possibly doubt the sympathetic interest of His Majesty's Government in the Schuman Plan. It was indeed as a further step in the strengthening of European peace that we first welcomed the initiative of the French Foreign Minister.
1935 His plan, as introduced in Document 2 of the White Paper, stressed particularly the "Franco-German aspect of the scheme," and, in the Prime Minister's first and immediate welcome to the proposals on 11th May, my right hon. Friend stated:It is the declared policy of the Western Powers to promote the entry of Germany as a free member into the comity of European nations. The French proposals are designed to facilitate that process and must consequently be regarded as a notable contribution towards the solution of a major European problem."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1950; Vol. 475, c. 589.]The subsequent documents set out in the White Paper deal with the participation of this country in the immediate negotiations and it is the Government's handling of this matter which is, I understand, the subject of condemnation by the Opposition.
The main point of the French Government's proposition is to be found conveniently set out in Document 12 of the White Paper. The communiqué annexed to that document was stated in the document to:express the unity of view which is indispensable for the successful prosecution of the negotiations.In other words, if we could not share that "unity of view" it was no good our entering the negotiations. The unity of view that was demanded by the communiqué was in these words:the immediate objective of the pooling of coal and steel production and the institution of a new high authority whose decisions will bindthe participating Governments. The negotiations proposed were to be for the purpose of working out the terms of a treaty to accomplish those common objectives, which would be assumed to be accepted by the parties and would not of themselves be subject to negotiation at all.
Our reply is to be found in Document 13. We say:After careful consideration we have come to the conclusion that there is still a difference of approach between the two Governments as to the basis on which the negotiations should be opened. If His Majesty's Government accepted the revised wording they would feel committed in principle to pool their coal and steel resources and to set up a new high authority, whose decisions would bind the Governments concerned, possibilities 1936 which they do not exclude but could not accept without full knowledge of their political and economic implications.From what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) stated, I imagine that the Opposition agree with the attitude thus expressed—they do not have any qualifying idea—that is, that we could not bind ourselves to these two principles in this vital matter without first discussing and ascertaining their implications and their effect upon our other international and inter-commonwealth relations and upon our own economy and commerce. If the Opposition do not agree, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will explain in the course of this Debate what other attitude they would have adopted at that point of time.
The French reply in Document 14 accepted the situation that there existed a complete difference of view. The French Government stated that theyfor their part remain convinced that the inevitably complex negotiations necessitated by the proposal contained in their declaration of 9th May"—let the House mark these words well—cannot hope to succeed unless the countries taking part have already from the start indicated their unity of view upon the objectives of these negotiations.Nothing could have been more frank and friendly than that reply, making clear beyond all doubt that the French Government desired to enter upon the negotiations only with those who were already agreed upon the objectives. Would the Opposition have been prepared to accept that point of view of the French Government, or would they have wished to try and force themselves into the negotiations upon a basis which the French had stated was unacceptable to them? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I do not want them to answer now. They can answer tomorrow.
The House will remember that we suggested at this point a meeting of Ministers, seeking a reconciliation of these two different points of view, but this was not considered appropriate by the French Government, who made these observations as to it:Such a meeting would have the effect of delaying the opening of the negotiations"—and the House will now mark these words— 1937without offering any real possibility of reconciling divergent policies.That made it even clearer that there was an irreconcilable divergence between the points of view of the two Governments, each of whom fully appreciated the other's outlook. It was as a result of this understanding of one another's differing approaches to the negotiations that the final communiqués were drafted, and in Document 16 we stated:His Majesty's Government do not feel able to accept in advance, nor do they wish to reject in advance, the principles underlying the French proposal. … An unhappy situation would arise if, having bound themselves to certain principles without knowing how they would work out in practice, they were to find themselves, as a result of the discussion, compelled to withdraw from their undertakings.That surely is a frank and honest statement of our position with which the whole House must agree and it was fully accepted by the French Government in their admirably friendly communiqué set out in Document 17.
What hon. Members must remember in considering this matter is that very understandably the French Government did not want to negotiate the principles which they and the German Government had already accepted, and that it would not only have been embarrassing but it might have been destructive of that vital initial Franco-German agreement if we had entered into the negotiations and insisted—as we should have had to do—upon discussing not how to put into operation the principles but whether the principle, for instance, of the new high authority with supra-national powers was or was not acceptable.
I should like here to comment that this very friendly conclusion as to the differences of view was possible because at no time in our history has the understanding between this country and France been greater than it is today.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I think I am in as good a position to judge as the right hon. Gentleman. I have spent more time in association with French Ministers than he has over the last few years, and I think that the visit of the French President earlier in this year must have made that situation clear to everybody in this country.
1938 It is suggested by the Opposition that we should have adopted the same attitude as the Netherlands Government. This, of course, raises the further question as to whether, if we had done so, we could have persuaded the French to admit us to the negotiations and to allow us to discuss the very questions of principle which we could not accept without discussion and which they thought it vital not to discuss.
Let us, therefore, first see exactly what the reservation of the Netherlands Government amounted to. I quote from their original acceptance of the French invitation, including a sentence which the right hon. Gentleman omitted:However in view of the fact that this text"—that is, the communiqué—involves the acceptance of certain principles underlying the French Government's memorandum"—and note that it involves the acceptance of those principles—the Netherlands Government feels obliged to reserve its right to go back on the acceptance of these principles in the course of the negotiations in the event of their proving impossible to translate into practice.That is a reservation, of course, upon the feasibility of translating the accepted principles into practice. It does not entitle the Netherlands Government to do what we insisted we must be able to do, and that is to discuss whether in principle a new high supra-national authority could be made acceptable to our Parliament and people.
It is, of course, by no means certain that the French would have been content with such a reservation from us. It is one thing to contemplate the possibility of the withdrawal of a Government responsible for only one-fortieth of the coal production and 1/150th of steel production and quite another to risk the withdrawal on this basis of a country with one-half of the coal and one-third of the steel production. The two cases are not comparable and we take the view that it would have been most undesirable—
§ Mr. Churchill
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, is not it a fact that the French have said that the Motion we have placed on the Order Paper contains terms which would be acceptable to them?
§ Sir S. Cripps
No. We have had no such communication of any sort or kind 1939 from the French Government; and we have the closest liaison, organised with them, by which we are being kept informed every day of what their ideas and thoughts are upon the Schuman Plan.
I was just remarking that the two cases, of the Netherlands Government and ourselves, are not comparable, and we take the view that it would have been most undesirable to try to evade the declaration of unity of objective which the French desired by some sort of acceptance with a reservation, when, whatever we might have said, we meant that we could not accept the principle of the supra-national authority without very full discussion as to its implications, which are only now becoming apparent as further details of the proposals are put forward. I am bound to say that such indications of the draft Treaty as have so far appeared do not in any way dispel our doubts.
I can easily understand the Netherlands Government being prepared to take a risk in view of the small part of their economy that will be affected and accepting the principle without knowledge as to how it was to be applied or whether it could be applied, but I could not understand any British Government taking that risk with a major part, indeed, it may almost be said with the whole, of its economy at stake. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to make it quite clear to the country, if this is his view, that the Opposition would have taken such a risk, and that the only other implication is not correct—that they would have wished to camouflage their refusal with words that might be taken by others to imply some sort of acceptance when, in fact, there was none.
I am certain that the sensible and candid agreement arrived at between the French Government and ourselves, that we should not participate for the time being at least, is a far better solution and less liable to damage our future relations, than if we had put ourselves into a position in which we might well have been accused, at a later date, of either going back on our promise or of wrecking the negotiations by our refusal to agree to the principle upon which they had been launched.
I am not sure how far hon. and right hon. Members are aware of the complexity of the matters that must come 1940 under review before a decision can be arrived at in this vitally important field. From come of the observations of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. C. Davies), it seemed to me quite obvious that his party could not have been so aware. I will refer them to one or two aspects of the problem which arise directly or indirectly out of these proposals, as examples of the sort of matters that any responsible British Government must examine and decide upon before agreeing to the principles underlying the Schuman Plan.
First, there is the question of access to raw materials—many of which we now import from other European countries. What effect will supra-national control have upon that? Then there is the question of access to markets as affected by tariffs, quantitative restrictions, subsidies and so forth, and the effect upon our export trade to the Commonwealth and Empire, where we enjoy preferences in exchange for those we give to them. The whole price structure of the two industries is, of course, vital to the standard of living of the workers and to the other industries which depend upon them for their fuel and raw material.
Another vitally important matter, especially to this country in view of the condition of our coal and steel industries, is that of capital expenditure and its bearing upon the efficiency of the industry. We are today, for instance, shutting down uneconomic pits and opening others. Is this question to be left to the direction or recommendation of this supra-national high authority, who could cause a whole coalfield or steel centre to go out of production without any social or political responsibility for their action? There is here a dangerous echo of our own experience with shipbuilding between the two wars.
These are only a few of the sort of points that must be clarified and decided before we can come to any conclusion. I hope I have said enough on this point to show that no responsible British Government could enter into such a matter blindfold and without the fullest consideration.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman one question? Are not all the 1941 points which he has now enumerated eminently suitable for discussion during the negotiations?
§ Sir S. Cripps
The main point with which I am dealing is whether you can put the whole of these important responsibilities on to a supra-national body. It is not open for discussion in the negotiations. That has been expressly stated by the French.
§ Mr. C. Davies
Surely the powers of this body are to be discussed round a table, and such limitations may be put upon them as are agreed?
§ Sir S. Cripps
The question whether this is the right way in which to bring about a pooling of the European coal and steel industry is not open for discussion. The question as to the precise powers to be exercised is quite another point, but this is, in our consideration, a matter of vital importance.
The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington introduced the case of atomic energy. That is an inter-governmental body, not a supra-national body at all. The O.E.E.C. is another intergovernmental body, and none of these bodies has been a body of six or nine people set up by Governments who thereafter had not a word to say in regard to the conduct of those bodies. They are international bodies on which the Governments concerned can instruct their representatives, and that is a completely different thing from what is proposed here. I venture to think that that is something which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have not yet appreciated.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am glad to think right hon. Gentlemen opposite do appreciate it, but I am surprised at the attitude they have taken.
§ Sir S. Cripps
It must be remembered that these two sections of our industry are so extensive that whatever happens or is done with regard to them must have an effect upon the whole of our industrial life. If, for instance, our share of the extra-European markets for coal and steel was to be seriously reduced through the action of the supra-national authority, 1942 how should we continue to get the essential imports that we need? And yet this question of our imports would be of no interest to the supra-national authority. It could not be. They would have no knowledge of it, and would have no rights in regard to it.
§ Mr. Churchill
No, the right hon. and learned Gentleman uses it because he is the inventor of it. He has used it before, and in fact invented it.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The right hon. Gentleman opposite is quite wrong. I am not the inventor of it. The right hon. Gentleman used it no doubt because he thought it a convenient phrase, and it has been used by a few others.
§ Sir S. Cripps
It may be odious, but it is also convenient. Quite a lot of things are odious but convenient—even Oppositions.
What I should like to know is whether the Opposition are telling the country that they are satisfied that we could safely and honestly have accepted the principles underlying the French Government's memorandum, as did the Netherlands Government. They accepted the principles. Is it now said that we ought to have accepted the principles—because that is not what the right hon. Gentleman said in his opening speech? Whatever reservations we subsequently added --that is another point—we must be honest about whether we accept the principles or do not accept them.
To have accepted them would have bound us, provided a practical way could be found of doing it, to remove from the control of the Government of this country and of Parliament not only all matters concerning the production of coal and steel in this country but in fact a great range of other matters that would inevitably be affected by decisions in these large sections of our industry. I therefore ask the House to say that we adopted the only honest and sensible course that was open to us, and so to 1943 reject the Motion of the Opposition, and to substitute our Amendment for it.
I must now say a few words about the suggestion which, as I have said, lies behind a good deal of the criticism on this subject matter, that is, that the Government are less concerned with European co-operation than is the Opposition. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to get confirmation that I am right in that assumption. In this connection I think no argument can be more convincing than a review of the facts of the situation over the last five years. The contribution of the British Government has been a remarkable one, as I shall show, and it has very largely been due to the energy and imagination of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary that so much has been accomplished. I only wish, as the right hon. Gentleman said in his speech, that my right hon. Friend could have been here himself to speak of his own work.
Let me here mention a matter which has led to a good deal of comment during the last few weeks—that is the Labour Party pamphlet. The Labour Party, upon whose support, curiously enough, this Government is based—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—curiously enough, in the view of the Opposition. They seem to be surprised. The Labour Party has certain very definite economic beliefs, and the party has expressed those views in a pamphlet which opens with these words:Ever since 1945 the Labour Party has been guided by a firm conviction that the peoples of Western Europe must, work closely together and that Britain must play a leading part in their co-operation".That, I venture to say, has been the keynote of the work of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, as I shall show.
The party have expressed the view that no full and final integration of European economy can take place except upon the basis of common economic policies, and that such policies should be those of a planned social democracy. This they have stated in their pamphlet upon European Unity, and it is no more surprising to find such a statement than it would be to find the Conservative Party stating that such an integration should be on the basis of the sort of unplanned economy in which they believe.
But that has no relation whatever to present Government policy which must, 1944 as always, deal with the factual situation. And the fact is that there is not an identity of view in economic matters between the principal Governments of Europe. The Government therefore approach their problems upon the basis of this known fact and attempt to get agreement upon practical action, leaving aside unnecessary theoretical discussion. That is the practical job of Government whatever party is in power. Thus the history of the advance in European co-operation since the war, in which this Government has taken a leading part, is largely the history of a series of practical steps which have gradually extended the mutual trust and confidence in political and economic co-operation so that it may one day, we hope, grow into something even closer.
It was immediately at the end of the war that we began our help to the recovery of Europe, despite our own very great difficulties at that time. We gave financial help by way of gifts to Western European countries amounting to some £180 million in the form of relief and medical supplies, surplus stores, and so on, and granted loans to the value of £450 million. Since then we have in addition made available a net amount of £80 million under the European Payments Schemes. These figures exclude the very substantial gifts to other European countries made through our contribution to U.N.R.R.A. A great deal of this assistance was, of course, before the Marshall Plan and was during those early years when we were still hoping and trying to continue over the wartime partnership with the Soviet Government into the period of post-war reconstruction.
§ Sir S. Cripps
There is nothing peculiar to notice about it. In this matter our special position in relation to the sterling area and the free use of sterling, which we were able to maintain within that area, gave us special opportunities, and so responsibilities, for aiding our European friends and Allies. In those first post-war years the wide availability of sterling enabled them to have access to imports which were essential, and which otherwise would have been denied 1945 them. The unrequited exports which this policy entailed were the cause of heavy criticism from the Opposition, but we have no regrets because we realise the essential help which it gave to Europe. [Interruption.] Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford would not mind showing the courtesy of not talking the entire time. If he wants to talk perhaps he would talk outside.
In March, 1947, the Foreign Secretary became convinced that some fresh action was required to renew confidence in the democratic strength of Western Europe, and it was as a result of his initiative that the Treaty of Dunkirk was signed, the first of a series of treaties which have gradually built up political and defence co-operation throughout the Western European and now the North Atlantic countries.
By the middle of 1947 it was obvious that some further economic steps would have to be taken unless European recovery were to collapse. The Soviet Union was using the methods of the fifth column and was even then starting out upon its cold war policy. Things looked bad in Europe when Mr. Marshall on that memorable date 5th June, 1947—only just three years ago—made his offer to which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary immediately responded. In association with M. Bidault he agreed to set up the Committee for European Economic Co-operation of which Sir Oliver Franks was made the Chairman, and, later, the first Chairman of the Executive Committee of the O.E.E.C was another distinguished British public servant, Sir Edmund Hall-Patch.
While the foundations of the O.E.E.C. were being laid in Paris and in Washington, the Foreign Secretary in this House on 22nd January, 1948, first put forward his idea of a Western Union, and from that initiative sprang the Brussels Treaty for collaboration in political, economic, social and defence matters, between France, Benelux and ourselves. The convention of the O.E.E.C. was signed in April, 1948, and with the generous help and full support of the United States the Western European Powers went into action upon a policy of economic co-peration and industrial revival. Since that time the countries of Western Europe have been heavily engaged, with the help of America, in building up the military, 1946 political and economic strength of Europe, and we have between us accomplished a very great deal.
The participation of the United States of America and of Canada in the North Atlantic Treaty in April, 1949, barely a year after the conclusion of the Brussels Treaty, was a most significant event for Western Europe, and one towards which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary had done a great deal. A full meeting of that Atlantic Council was held in London last month, and set in train the practical steps necessary to realise coordinated progress. It was while the discussions for the North Atlantic Treaty were proceeding that the Brussels Treaty Powers discussed and settled upon the setting up of the Council of Europe. In May, 1949, the statute of the Council was signed in London, and the first meeting was held in Strasbourg in August of that year.
Throughout these latter post-war years, it has been our policy, in conjunction with the Governments of France and the U.S.A., to bring Germany back into the community of Western European nations, in both the political and economic interests of Europe as a whole. The first step was to bring German representatives into the O.E.E.C. and the next will be for Germany to become an associate member of the Council of Europe. A third step is now being considered in the Schuman Plan, which has already helped to bring Germany and France closer together.
Ever since it was set up, the O.E.E.C. has been making progress in active cooperation, so that today the degree of mutual understanding and co-operation between its members exceeds that in any other association of Nations ever known in the world. Two very major achievements stand to its credit, both of which were initiated by this country. The first is the liberalisation of trade between O.E.E.C. countries, which has progressed very far already as the figures of our total trade with the participating countries will show. In 1947, exports and imports amounted to £600 million; in 1948, £815 million; in 1949, £974 million, and for the first four months of 1950 they were at the rate of £1,140 million a year.
The second great achievement is the series of European Payments schemes culminating in the European Payments Union, which we hope will come into 1947 being within the next few weeks. This latter scheme has been a difficult one for this country with its obligations to the Commonwealth and the rest of the sterling area, and we have gone a very long way to reach accommodation. This negotiation is, I think, typical of what can be accomplished by a freely negotiated arrangement between Governments. I am perfectly certain that if in this case some supra-national body had attempted to impose upon us by a majority vote some payments scheme without any prior discussion between Governments, it could only have resulted in a complete failure, and in our having to leave the organisation. It was the necessity for compromise on all sides with the alternative of failure that made it possible to reach an agreement freely arrived at.
Throughout all this period of intense intra-European activity, we have been able to carry the Commonwealth with us, and we have not in any way sacrificed the interests of the Commonwealth to those of Europe—nor have we done the reverse. It will be a bad day for everyone if it is ever sought to set intra-European interests against those of the Commonwealth. Given understanding and a not too hasty or ill-thought-out development, the two sets of interests can and will be worked in one with another.
This record of five years' work towards European solidarity and co-operation in all fields proves beyond any shadow of doubt that the British Government have taken a leading part in all the work, a part of which they and the people of this country may well be proud.
So far as the Schuman Plan is concerned, it seems to us that the French are looking at the proposals from a different angle from that which we adopt. The French Government in the document on page 4 of the White Paper say this:By pooling basic production and by instituting a new higher authority, whose decisions will bind France, Germany and other member countries, these proposals will build the first concrete foundation of the European Federation which is indisipensable to the preservation of peace.I was waking for the cheers from the opposite side.
This approach involves the other partners in the scheme, not only in commitments 1948 in regard to coal and steel industries, but also in commitments in regard to the future political framework for Europe. In our view, participation in a political federation, limited to Western Europe, is not compatible either with our Commonwealth ties, our obligations as a member of the wider Atlantic community, or as a world Power, and I gather from what the right hon. Gentleman who opened this Debate said that the Opposition would agree with that proposition.
There are, however, very real problems which may before long face the coal and steel industries of Europe, and there is no doubt that these can best be, and should be, solved by international arrangement. We agree with the French Government that a private international cartel, such as existed before the war, could not now be tolerated, and that any arrangements made must be on the basis of an expansionist policy and continued full employment. It does not, however, seem to us—as at present advised—either necessary or appropriate, in order to achieve these purposes, to invest a supra-national authority of independent persons with powers for overriding Governmental and Parliamentary decisions in the participating countries. Indeed it seems, to us that, even if desirable, such a scheme could hardly prove to be workable in democratic communities, unless it were to be preceded by complete political federation.
Certainly this Parliament has always exercised the greatest caution as to agreeing to any removal from its own democratic control of any important element of our economic power or policy, and I am certain that such caution would be even greater if removal to an external supra-national authority were contemplated.
Nevertheless, we regard the French objective of the elimination of the agelong feud between France and Germany as being so important that we are prepared to do our utmost either to join in or to associate ourselves with any scheme that meets with the approval of the six countries now meeting in Paris. We must, however, await the results of that meeting before we ourselves can take any initiative, for we do not wish any more than the French do that by any suggestions we might make the chance of agreement between those Powers upon the basis of 1949 the principles laid down in the Schuman Plan should be diminished.
We shall continue as in the past to foster European co-operation by every practical step upon which the Governments can agree. It is, we are convinced, such free and voluntary association and co-operation between the Governments of Europe that can best achieve the most stable results for the present, and we shall continue in our effort to strengthen the democracies of Western Europe by such practical steps of co-operation as have proved so effective over the last five years, and we trust that in these policies we shall have the support of this House.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
Mr. Speaker has asked me to inform the House, before I call upon the next hon. Member, that over 70 Members have already indicated their desire to take part in this Debate. There will be very little time available tomorrow, and it will not be possible for Mr. Speaker to call on many hon. Members today unless speeches are cut to the absolute minimum. Mr. Speaker has asked me to invite Members to make their speeches as short as possible.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Maclay (Renfrew, West)
I assure you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that I will do my best to obey Mr. Speaker's request.
I must begin by referring very briefly to the speech the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just made. Had we wanted any explanation of why the atmosphere of the discussions was not such as to make possible an agreement between the French and British Governments on this very important subject, the speech which we have just heard from the Chancellor has given us the clue. I am sorry to say that in his speech the Chancellor was ungenerous. He referred to the great developments towards unity in the world—among the Atlantic Treaty Powers and in Western Europe—but he did not once mention the all-important part which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) has played in this great work. It was an unfortunate omission, and one regrets it.
What interested one, above all, was that the Chancellor based his whole case for the defence of the Government's position and action on Documents 12, 13 and 14 in the White Paper which we are discussing. 1950 Surely our argument is that negotiations should never have reached that position which the Chancellor described? May I refer the House very briefly to paragraphs 3 and 4 of Document 10? This is something which has puzzled people in this country and all over the world In their Memorandum of 30th May, which is Document 10, the French Government stated, in paragraph 3:The special position in these negotiations which the British Government wishes to preserve is justified in their Memorandum by the intention, said to be held by the French Government, of asking, as a prior condition, for full participation in the discussions, for an undertaking to pool coal and steel resources, …It then goes on to state, in paragraph 4:As their representatives have informed the British representatives orally, the French Government wish particularly to confirm once more that these are not their intentions. As has already been made clear in the French Memorandum of 9th May, there will be no commitment except by the signature of a treaty …etc. If ever in international relations there was a wide opening given by a Government having difficulty in negotiations, surely it was here.
What has been the effect abroad of the British Government's failure to accept that invitation and make something of it? There is a lot in this discussion which is controversial and a lot upon which there is agreement. Briefly, I think we all agree without any difficulty that any solution of the age-old Franco-German problem is something we must work for by every means at our disposal. Secondly, we agree that that cannot effectively be done without full United Kingdom cooperation in some form to be determined. Thirdly, that United Kingdom co-operation must have full regard to our relationship with the Dominions. Fourthly, nothing that the Commonwealth and Europe can do separately or together can really be effective unless the United States is in close co-operation and harmony throughout.
I would, in passing, refer to the great importance of the London Conferences and the White Paper published a day or two ago, in which it is made clear that already the Canadian and the United States Governments have indicated that they will in future take part in a semiofficial capacity in the work of the O.E.E.C. That is a vastly important decision which provides the essential link 1951 in whatever may come out of these Schuman discussions and whatever may happen on the other side of the Atlantic. I shall not go into that in detail.
The subject I wish to discuss very briefly is the effect abroad of what happened in those weeks of negotiation. My justification for so doing was that it so happened that on 12th, 13th and 14th June I was attending a conference in Paris at which were present people from 23 countries in Europe and the other side of the Atlantic. It was a pretty difficult experience for any British citizen to be there with those people from all over the world while this extraordinary story was unfolding itself in London. Hon. Members opposite seem to believe that when hon. Members who sit on this side of the House go abroad, they spend their time running down their country or the Government. I assure them that that is absolutely not the case.
The extraordinary thing is that the reaction that one invariably has, when this country or even this Government is criticised abroad, is to find oneself trying to find some excuse for it. One finds oneself positively struggling to find some excuse for the Government. Just occasionally truth will out but that is the general reaction, and I know I speak for other hon. Members as well as myself. I would ask hon. Members on the other side of the House how they would have liked to be defending the position of the British Government in private discussion with representatives of 23 countries on 12th, 13th and 14th June?
This was the position I found when I arrived there: it was quite remarkable how the early disappointment in Paris at the apparent reluctance of the British Government to take an enthusiastic part in M. Schuman's proposal was beginning to disappear. There was a feeling that although they were disappointed it was just possible that M. Schuman had gone too far in his pre-conditions for discussion. There was a suspicion that this was not really the whole story, that there was something more behind British reluctance, because they, like we, could not understand why, from the published statements on the discussions, we were not reaching agreement. Nevertheless the atmosphere was substantially better than it had been during the negotiations when suddenly—what happened?
1952 Monday's newspapers were filled with reports of the astounding Press conference held by the Minister of Town and Country Planning in London. It is presumptuous for any individual to try to pretend that he can express what was the feeling of a great city; but if ever there was an occasion when a whole city's mouth seemed to be hanging wide open with horrified surprise, it was when news of that Press conference was published in Paris. How could one explain that the Labour Party executive was not the Labour Government, and that the Prime Minister was Prime Minister at one moment and a member of that Executive the other moment?
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)
Will the hon. Member explain what were the headlines of the newspapers in Paris of which he speaks?
§ Mr. Maclay
First of all, I did not say "headlines." I said the "news of a Press conference given by the Minister for Town and Country Planning," and I will come to that in my own time in my own speech.
We will leave that interruption at the point where Paris had its mouth hanging open, and come to the next stage which was even worse from the point of view of a Briton abroad. That was when the Prime Minister gave his explanation on the Floor of the House of Commons on the Tuesday. Because I am going to cut my speech short, I will just say that the reaction abroad was laughter. It just was not understood or believed. We found that foreigners were saying, "What is this Government of the United Kingdom? What has happened to Britain when we get chaos like this and a statement by the Labour Party Executive and a statement by the Prime Minister, a member of that Executive, apparently contradictory? "There was almost helpless laughter for a short time at the depths 1953 to which British diplomacy had fallen and the confusion within the Labour Party.
The final part of the misery for a Briton abroad was that the French Press came to the inevitable conclusion that they had been wrong ever to expect Britain to take an active part in building European co-operation under the present Government. They said, "It is almost a relief to know where we stand. All we can expect is to go ahead on our own. We, France, are now leaders in Europe. It is up to us. We will lead in no sense of hostility to Britain"; but—and this is the most difficult part of all to bear—this was all said with a good deal of pity for the position to which our Government has taken us.
The hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) asked for headlines. It was not a question of headlines, but, throughout the French Press, of the substance of the document issued by the Labour Party Executive. It has been said latterly, in many places, that if only people had read and quoted the whole of this document and had not taken parts out of it, their impressions would have been quite different. It has been said that there was a lot of it which should have been taken in conjunction with the bits that had prominence in the early reports.
Hon. and right hon. Members opposite should be profoundly grateful that this document has not been translated and spread over Europe, because if the whole document had been read I cannot imagine how much worse their position would have been. Is it conceivable that the Executive of any political party in this country should have said:The European peoples do not want a supra-national authority to impose agreements. They need an international machinery to carry out agreements which are reached without compulsion.For sheer intolerable, self-righteous arrogance that is unbeatable. Who are the Labour Party to speak for the peoples of Europe? There is another quotation. How can Europe be expected to throw its arms out in eager co-operation with a Government based on a party whose Executive says:And many European Governments have not yet shown either the will or the ability to plan their own economies.The thing was simply tragic.
1954 I realise well that there was a slip up somewhere and that this document should not have come out at that precise moment; but I am convinced that the reason the French Government were unable to reach agreement with the British Government was that they sensed the existence of this kind of document in the background of Labour Party thinking. There is no other explanation why the Dutch could come to an agreement and the United Kingdom could not.
I would give a great deal to see Britain go into this conference at once on the terms of the Motion on the Order Paper, but I do not believe it is going to be easy for the Labour Party ever to get results. They say in their statement on European unity:The Labour Party could never accept any commitments which limited its own or others' freedom to pursue democratic Socialism …and so on. I will not read the rest of it. It is very well known. What is this Labour Party democratic Socialism? Is it their 1945 programme or their 1950 programme? Is it Mr. Morgan Phillips at Stockholm? Is it the Lord President of the Council and his recent adventures in the Highlands; or is it the writings of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the early 30's? With the confusion of thought that exists in the Labour Party, how can we know where we are? How can Europe know where it is? I repeat, it is a tragedy that the United Kingdom has been made to look so intolerably foolish as it has been in the last four weeks.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)
I thank the hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay) for the great compliment he has paid to my party in saying that if we were clearer about our ideas the rest of the world would be much clearer too. That is the foundation of our own belief as a party. If more people understood what we mean, the world would be better off for it.
" The Times," in a leading article last Thursday, pointed out that the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition in the House on Monday would need interpretation. That still remains true tonight; and the devastating statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer today would have saved a lot of debate in this House. In spite of the help he 1955 has had from two Opposition speakers and a Liberal, the Leader of the Opposition had better do some thinking if he wants to reply to the case put by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
In my view, that case is unanswerable. There has been during the last three or four weeks more deliberate misinterpretation of the attitude of my party on this subject than, I think, on anything ever before. It has been misrepresentation of the worst character. It is said we have turned down the idea of the Schuman scheme altogether. That is perfectly untrue, and I am bound to say that I have come to the conclusion that it is deliberately untrue. There has been no statement made from the Front Bench on this side, or by my party, which did not welcome the idea put forward by M. Schuman on 9th May.
I think we all appreciate to the full the agonies of M. Schuman and the French people. We know he would like to bury the hatchet between France and Germany. We know he would like to see Western Europe treading the path of peace. There is a good deal to be said for the first step being in the international field, but I am bound to say that the situation bristled with difficulties, and still does. I have no time to go into detail, but I would point out that M. Schuman's own statements vary from day to day. One day the scheme is all inclusive; another day it is restricted only to trade; another day they intend to stop all this nonsense about dumping and tariffs and restrictions—and that would have been a headache for the Conservative Party, had they been in office.
There is not a plan; there is a broad idea, and with that broad idea everybody on this side of the House agrees. We have long held such views. After all, we are an international movement. During my membership of this House I have heard many times from hon. Members opposite the accusation that members of this party loved every country except their own. Some of my hon. Friends will remember that having been said—the accusation that our internationalism made our love for the native country far less.
But now we are being criticised for being supremely nationalist. Of course, 1956 there is an international basis for the party of which I am a member, and it is just as strongly international after two world wars as it was before, sorrowful though it was about the two world wars. In the years since 1945 no political bodies in this country or anywhere else have given as much thought to European world affairs as have the Socialist parties of Western Europe. Now we are accused of doing something wrong because we are Socialists.
The document from which quotations have been made is one for which I will take my fair share of responsibility. I do not want to shirk the issue. It was a document which was called for because a new situation had arisen after the first Strasbourg Conference. We had never discussed the matter with the full annual conference of our party, from whom we derive our authority to take action in between the annual conferences. We thought it well, therefore, after Strasbourg a year ago, that we should lay down, for the consideration of our countrymen, our broad ideas as to the general European set-up and all the implications and difficulties which were involved. There is nothing wrong about that; it was a Socialist document with a definite Socialist purpose, and there need be no apology for that.
I believe, myself, that it is perfectly right that people should stand for and expound the policies in which they believe. I should regard myself as a traitor if I put my hand to a document in which I did not believe. It is no blame to us that, being Socialists, as we are, we should try to put on any set of problems, whether they are European or whether they are wider problems, the views which are in conformity with our principles. There is nothing new about that, as far as I have ever understood it. It will be a poor prospect in politics if every time a Conservative Government get into office—which I hope will be long postponed—the Conservative Conference, for what it is worth, has to wrap up and go home, and if nobody is to hear a word about the Conservative Party.
Modern politics are not run that way. My party has been built by men sticking to their principles and views, in times of great trial and difficulty. Even when things were not going right for us we still stuck to our principles.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Norwich, South)
I thank the right hon. Member for giving way. I want to follow what he said about the Labour Party document. Does he agree with this contemporary Socialist comment on it?… the document reveals what Mr. Attlee, as leader of the Labour Party, really means without committing Mr. Attlee, as Prime Minister, to all its conclusions.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I do not intend to be drawn into any comment on some Press reference the origin of which I do not know.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I am not called upon to answer that question at all. I have had longer experience than has the hon. and learned Member for Norwich, South (Mr. H. Strauss). As I was saying, we cannot be criticised because we have stated the Socialist view, nor can a Labour Government be criticised because, within the ambit of the accepted policy of the party, it moves as quickly as it can to the objectives to which the party is pledged, that is the distinction between the two, and that, again, is far different from the Conservative Party. They hold a grand annual jamboree in the Empire Hall at which masses of Amendments and resolutions are introduced. A good time is had by all, and many resolutions are passed, but at the end of the day the Leader of the Conservative Party comes down and tells the party exactly where it gets off. No resolution has any authenticity at all. That is not done by my party.
Perhaps I may say a few words about this supra-national authority. This is a point upon which I disagree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He said that it was a convenient term. For once I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I think it is an ugly word. As the words "high authority" are used in the French document and in the discussions, they do not mean a supranational authority; they mean a supra-international authority, the like of which does not exist in the world at all. Such steps as have been taken in international action have been within the framework of some United Nations organisation or of some general understanding.
As the Chancellor of the Exchequer pointed out, such authorities have been responsible to their Governments, but this 1958 new body, once set up, is responsible to no Government at all, up to now at any rate, and it could well run across some of the most important decisions of O.E.E.C., for example, or other bodies. That kind of conception of a supra-national authority is far, far ahead of anything which will happen in my time or will probably ever happen at all. I hope it will never happen.
We are playing in this Debate; there is something deeper behind it than appears. Why is it that we now see an Amendment about full employment? When we repeat our Socialist phrases in which we believe, our opponents sneer. We say that we have a policy of which we are unashamed and it is customary for the party to go on developing its policy. It is perhaps a new thing in politics for the Tory Party to borrow a high sounding phrase and to put it in their Motion when it is something in which heretofore they have never believed at all. I say this is sham fighting.
This is not the happy Debate it might have been—a Debate among a number of men, all equally concerned about the future of Europe and of the world. This is play acting, and I am sorry to have to say that. Hon. Members opposite had unhappy expressions on their faces when the Chancellor was speaking, but I suppose they now think the only way to get out of their difficulty is to try to be cheerful.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I did not say that, but it represents my sentiments. However, I do hope something comes out of this plan, and I hope that the door will be unlocked somehow.
§ Mr. Greenwood
It would be wrong, in my view, to attempt to go in on any other conditions than those agreed and set forth by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, just as it would be dishonest to go in on the terms suggested by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington, that if we do not like it we shall not sign. We cannot play fast and loose like that when we go into a high powered international conference of this kind, especially as, by going in, we imply that we accept membership of the body, and that we 1959 shall agree with its conclusions. It is all wrong, and I hope the House will redeem itself tomorrow by carrying on the Debate without the sort of sneers, and so on, which have been put into it today by hon. Members on the other side of the House.
Let us see if we can get a plan to be carried out without any sacrifice of principle by any taking part in it or who ought to be in it. Even so, I am concerned not only with the prosperity of Europe but with the prosperity of the world, and this plan, as it stands, holds out no hope for Europe, in so far as it is a European plan only. Europe by itself can never save itself. The prosperity of Europe is bound up with the prosperity of the world.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley)
As this is the first occasion on which I have had the privilege of addressing the House, I ask for that customary indulgence which is generously given to new Members. I am very glad indeed of the opportunity to take part in this Debate. As I was fortunate in being in the Federal German Republic for part of the Whitsun Recess, I should like to place before the House what I found were the objectives of the German Government in taking part in the Schuman discussions.
Before I do that, however, I should like to follow for a moment the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood), and also the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the arguments that they produced. It is a tradition of this House that new Members in making their maiden speeches should not be controversial. I hope I shall not be thought to go beyond the bounds of that tradition if I answer some of the points that were raised by those two right hon. Gentlemen.
The right hon. Member for Wakefield accused us on this side of the House of play-acting. Nothing could be further from the truth. We on this side of the House realise the importance of the issues at stake, and today, with the threat of war in Korea, nobody on this side of the House can be accused of playacting in considering the affairs of Western Europe. The right hon. Gentleman also said that his movement was an international movement. The strange 1960 thing is that, from their document which was published recently, it is now apparent that in this country, at any rate, the movement has become a national movement, and that the views which were expressed in that document are not representative of those of other Socialist parties in Europe—certainly not of those members of Socialist parties whom I have met.
It seems to me that the point at issue in this Debate arises out of a word used in the last communiqué presented with the French memorandum of 1st June. The French put forward their proposition in the words:The Governments have assigned to themselves as their immediate objective …The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his speech, spoke of the "principle." I think it is interesting to see the change of tone which has taken place in the time between the communiqué, which is the report of the conversations of the Minister of State with the French Ambassador, and the final communiqué in which the British Government refused to take part. If I may quote the Minister's words, they were that the Ambassador said we were not taking up an attiude of opposition to this principle but were prepared to enter into discussions with the object of finding a practical method of applying the principle. With that the Minister of State agreed. Then the French put forward the word "objective." It is surely different from "principle," because one may have an objective, and the way in which one reaches the objective is governed by principles, and so the principles safeguard the road to the objective. If one finds one cannot carry out one's principles, then one does not reach the objective, and one withdraws—which is the position covered by the Motion we have put forward.
Now, the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke looking at the worst point of view the whole time. He spoke of the high authority, suggesting that we should have no say in arranging the power of the high authority. Surely, that would not be the case. He said we should be taking a risk with the whole of our economy. We on this side of the House feel that, by standing aside from the discussions, we may be taking a very great risk with our economy in the coming years—a very great risk indeed. He said it would also 1961 be a great risk if we went in and then withdrew. We regard it as a greater risk to stand aside altogether at this stage.
The Chancellor spoke about the position of the Empire. We all realise the importance of the Empire, and we on this side certainly think it must be supported above all. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not tell us what the views of the Empire are. What are the views of the Empire in this matter? Have the Government had discussions with the other Governments of the Empire about this matter? Can we be told what are their views—what are the views of our Empire statesmen? As far as we can ascertain, they have not protested against this scheme.
The Chancellor spoke all the time as though this were to be a restrictionist plan. Surely the object of the plan is to be one of expansion? Surely, the task to be put upon the high authority is to be the task of expansion, rather than of restriction. Lastly, the Chancellor, as do the communiqués, and as does this document published by the Labour Party, spoke of the importance of full employment. So did also the right hon. Member for Wakefield. From that stems their desire not to co-operate with any Government that is not a Socialist one. This is in contrast with a document called "National and International Measures for Full Employment," by a group of economists, which is published by the United Nations. It has received scant attention from the Government. On page 7 the authors say:In our view, however, the steps required to promote full employment in free enterprise economies are fully consistent with the institutions of such countries. The measures recommended in the present report to sustain effective demand do not involve any basic change in the economic institutions of private enterprise countries.The position which the Government take up is that no other country wants full employment and that no other country is capable of pursuing full employment unless it has a Socialist Government. That is obviously far from the truth.
Now I should like to say a word about the reasons which I found the German Government had for taking part in these talks, and of what is the attitude of the German Government. I found that their attitude was governed entirely by political considerations. I believe there is a 1962 genuine desire on their part to reach agreement with France and with the other countries of Western Europe. I believe that in that desire the German Government are genuine, and I believe, too, that the German Government would be prepared to make economic sacrifices in order to achieve those political results which they desire. I am convinced that when the negotiations take place between the countries about the economic details, the German Government will be prepared to make sacrifices.
I think it is also true that when the German Government accepted the invitation they were quite aware that no precise details of the nature of the high authority were known, and that they were not aware of many of the economic details involved, but that, in order to achieve the political results which they want, they were prepared to accept the invitation to join these discussions. The first thing they want is to achieve agreement with France, and secondly they want to achieve the unity of Western Europe in order to stand against the threat from the East. On the Continent people are very sensitive about that threat from the East.
That is not to say that the German Government does not see many advantages in coming into the Schuman discussions. It sees, first of all, that it will negotiate on a basis of equality in Europe—a position it has only just reached for the first time since the war. It also sees, I believe, a means of securing the abolition of the International Ruhr Authority, the implications of which are obviously very considerable. We must realise that if within the Schuman Plan agreement were reached for the abolition of that Authority, with the support of America, it would be extremely difficult for this country to object. The German Government sees, too, a solution of the Saar problem. Above all, it sees a means of abolishing the restriction of 11.1 million tons on its steel output. That is an important point indeed for the German Government, which is capable at the moment of seeing steel production in Germany go up to 14½ million or 16 million tons. It sees also a means of securing a vast expansion of German coal production.
If those are advantages, there are sown in those advantages the seeds of conflict with France over this economic basis. I wish to spend a moment or two on these 1963 economic details because of their political implications. Under Marshall Aid, France has been able to expand her steel production very considerably. She would like to see German coke go to Lorraine and German steel production to remain pegged, while the Germans see in the plan an opportunity for expanding their steel production. There, firstly, is a possible seed of conflict.
In addition, Germany wishes to see set up again the dismantled broad strip rolling mill at Dinslaken, while under Marshall Aid France has been building two such strip rolling mills, and not all will be required, by Europe. There may also be difficulties over German markets in Bavaria and the Saar because it may be easier for the French to supply those markets than for the Germans. Finally, there is the grave problem of future trade with Eastern Europe which many in the Ruhr want to start to develop. There are seeds of conflict in these negotiations between France and Germany, and I submit that that is a very strong reason why we should take part in these discussions, in order that we may balance out the difficulties between France and Germany which are bound to arise on the economic side.
Under the Schuman Plan, Germany may very well become once again a major factor in Europe. Anyone going to Germany today is bound to be impressed by the fact that the German dynamic has returned; that Germany is once again working hard and producing hard, and that therefore Germany will become a major factor in Europe. I suggest that there are only two ways of dealing with that situation. One is to attempt to prolong control, which the Chancellor has already dismissed as being undesirable and impracticable. The only other way is to lead Germany into the one way we want her to go, and I believe that these discussions would give us a chance of leading Germany into the way we want her to go.
Lastly, I want to mention one point which I think has received scant attention in the discussions about the Schuman Plan so far. There is a sentence in the very first communiqué of M. Schuman, in which he says:After the talks have been successful, Europe with new means at her disposal will be 1964 able to pursue the realisation of one of her essential tasks—the development of the African Continent.That has touched the German imagination in a way in which many other parts of the plan have not, because she sees in the outcome of the Schuman Plan once again the outlet to Africa, and if the outlet to the East is to be blocked, then the outlet to Africa is the most obvious alternative. But does it not also mean for all of us a development of steel and coal production for those markets? I would also submit that, if we can say that we have united Europe in the matter of steel and coal, we can say to the Americans, "There is an outlet for the President's Fourth Point, in the capital development of a great area of the world." That might very well be most important from the American point of view.
After the First World War we all thought it would be extremely easy to secure peace and prosperity in Europe. After the Second World War we all realised that it was going to be extremely difficult; and it will be extremely difficult to make a plan of this kind succeed. What I think worries many of us on this side of the House is that, even if the arguments put forward by the Government are correct, we do not feel that behind those arguments is really the will to succeed, and it is that will which we most want to see. It was said long ago in this House that magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom. I appeal tonight to the Government to follow that dictum, and to go into the Schuman Plan to develop Europe and to co-ordinate it in the way suggested.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
It is one of the pleasing conventions of this House that the speaker following a maiden speech should congratulate the hon. Gentleman who has made that speech, and I gladly conform to that convention, which I presume originates in the fact to which the hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) called our attention—that the maiden speaker should generally also conform to the custom of this House and be non-controversial in his first speech. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that he has certainly been non-controversial—at least, not violently controversial—although I fear that as the Debate goes 1965 on, especially tomorrow, we may indulge in a little more partisan warfare.
Every hon. and right hon. Member who takes part in this Debate today or tomorrow should be conscious of the facts with which we are dealing. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer endeavoured to point out and to crystalise the issues which arise from the Schuman Plan. No hon. Member on either side of the House will disagree with the express objective of M. Schuman—to eliminate the possibility of future war between Germany and France. France is not alone in that desire. Britain has every reason to be just as passionately convinced of its desirability, because twice in one generation we in this country have poured out blood and treasure in order to come to the aid of France and civilisation.
I think we are entitled to ask our friends the French: is the Schuman Plan a practical one to achieve the objective which M. Schuman says he desires, or is it a vague political hope? If it is the latter, we should be very unwise at this stage to enter it on the terms suggested to us by the French. I am bound to say that the manner of introduction of the Schuman Plan was a little startling. It was introduced just before a tripartite meeting of the Foreign Ministers in London without, as far as I can understand, any prior consultation with His Majesty's Government, as there should have been with such a remarkable suggestion.
It might have met with a more whole hearted response from His Majesty's Government if a hint had first of all been conveyed—as I imagine it was not—through official channels, as has been done in the past in relation to Germany. We have a well-defined organisation for dealing with all matters concerning Germany. We have the tripartite organisation in Germany itself, with the High Commissioners settling many matters similar to those with which the Schuman Plan wants us to deal. In addition, we have the Foreign Secretaries meeting regularly from time to time to consider, and if possible to approve, these proposals.
In the examination of this Plan, which I think we must give it, because obviously we want some sort of a plan to succeed, 1966 let us consider what France means, because only if we understand what she means can we decide whether it is something that will appeal to us. The Plan talks of Germany being taken into a new higher authority as an equal partner—a very good offer to Germany considering that, at the moment, she is still technically at war with France and the other Allies, and is not even a junior partner in Western diplomacy. The official text states, and M. Schuman has reiterated it recently, that all restrictions on German heavy industry will be maintained. Let us examine what these restrictions are, if we want to see how far the Schuman Plan is a genuine and workable one.
I can quite understand the German Government jumping at this idea of being taken into some integrated authority as equal partners; but will that be the case? What are the present restrictions on Germany which M. Schuman has said will not be removed? They were made by agreement with the tripartite Powers of France, Britain and the U.S.A. Here are some of the main restrictions: Crude steel production is limited by tripartite agreement without any consultation with Germany, or very little, to 11.1 million tons per annum, although, as the result of the Washington and Petersburg Agreements, the capacity left to Germany is between 14 million and 15 million tons, and she is probably, at the present moment, exceeding the permitted target of 11.1 million tons.
Furthermore, any alteration in this limitation is not subject to agreement between Germany and France alone but is subject to the permission of the three High Commissioners in Germany and also to the Military Security Board. Probably that was the reason that my right hon. and learned Friend referred to the strategic implications of any such pooling arrangement as France has suggested. The same limitations apply to the installation of finishing equipment above certain sizes, such as heavy rolling mills and presses, and special limitation is imposed on electric furnace capacity, while the distribution of German coal production as between home use and export is controlled by the International Ruhr Authority.
How then does M. Schuman propose to make Germany an equal partner when these restrictions have been imposed by a tripartite authority? To say the least 1967 of it, it seems something in the nature of an anomaly. I merely mention these fundamental points to show that the Schuman Plan is not really a plan at all at the present stage, but is simply a laudable desire which we can all endorse, but which we cannot underwrite until we know the terms and conditions and also the premium of the policy.
I think that His Majesty's Government were undoubtedly right not to commit the British nation, and not only our nation but other nations that depend on us for their needs and guidance without fuller particulars. We cannot allow the matter to remain in abeyance, and I imagine that His Majesty's Government will not allow it to develop to a point where the plan fails utterly, and where nothing else is put in its place. My only criticism of British policy—and it is a small one—is that we are much too modest as a Government in telling the world what we have achieved towards that desirable end which the French Government have now announced to the world and which seems to have had a wonderful Press.
My right hon. and learned Friend called attention to some of these considerations. Where would be the integrated Western defence, upon which France depends to a large extent for her future safety, had it not been for the prominent part—the leading part, I might say—which His Majesty's Government with our present Foreign Secretary have played, sometimes perhaps under circumstances of doubt and hesitation on the part of some of their own supporters?
We, as well as the French and the Germans, are a great steel and coal producing country, and we have as vital an interest in the preservation of peace on the continent of Europe as has France or Germany. We have shown that twice in a generation. Why must Britain be put on the defensive by a request from the American Foreign Affairs Committee to declare our position vis-à-vis Western Europe? Have we not given the answer repeatedly? It has been on record consistently during the time that the present Government have been in office. I would remind my right hon. and learned Friend, because I am sure that he will welcome the reminder, that the Labour Party of all parties has a duty to pioneer 1968 better and more workable relations between nations. We in the past have proclaimed that policy for years in what we have termed the brotherhood of man. Maybe it is a trite expression in the minds of some hon. Members, but it has activated our association with foreign Socialists, not only in the last five years but in the last 50 or 60 years.
I suggest that the actions of His Majesty's Government since they have been in office have all tended towards trying to unite the discordant elements which exist on the continent and perhaps even in our own nation as well. The time has arrived when the relations between Germany and the occupying Powers should be placed on some permanent and regular footing and if not with a united Germany—and it is not our fault that we cannot talk with a united Germany—then with Western Germany. I hope that the revision of the Occupation Statute, which is almost as important as the Schuman Plan, and which is due for discussion in the autumn, will offer to Germany every inducement to co-operate with the Western world on a peaceful and democratic basis.
We cannot ignore 40 millions of hardworking people in Western Germany with the inventive genius which they possess, allied to Western ideas of live and let live. They are ideas which they have not always followed and which many perhaps have not even assimilated, but I am convinced that if such an understanding could be come to with Germany—and it will need very close consideration and analysis before we can do it—it would indeed bring about a better standard of living in many countries so long as distribution is properly controlled.
His Majesty's Government, in my opinion, have been right in refusing to be hustled in signing away the rights of the British people, of whom they are the trustees; some may say they are only the temporary trustees, but, nevertheless, they are for the moment the life tenants and answerable to the electors of this country, as indeed are hon. Members opposite, and if this is to be made an issue of the next General Election then I have no doubt of the result.
His Majesty's Government have a grievous burden of responsibility, and it will not be lightened by any factious opposition or Party manoeuvre such as I anticipate we 1969 shall get from the Leader of the Opposition tomorrow night. Never was there a time more opportune for Britain to lead the way and to take the initiative in far-reaching schemes of international agreement. We have done so in defence matters, but we must widen the sphere of co-operation. That cannot be done by hasty or ill-conceived plans requiring prior acceptance of vital principles before examination of their general application.
Britain's word is her bond, and therefore it must not be given to abstract ideas. If hon. Members opposite want to do that, France will then be able to say "Perfidious Albion." I hope it will be possible to say to the world as a result of this Debate that we do not lag behind others in our desire to contribute to peace, but we can only do so if the House gives its unanimous support in the sense that the Leader of the Opposition was sustained during the war. If we can send out a message of that nature with some measure of agreement on both sides, then the people of France will be ready to see our point of view, as we have so often seen theirs in the past.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Mr. David Eccles (Chippenham)
The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) said, as though it were a criticism of the French, that there is no Schuman Plan. Surely M. Schuman intended there to be no detailed plan. His idea is that these matters are so serious that the prospect of agreement upon any detailed plan depends upon all the participants entering on the ground level and together creating the plan itself. We should be under a much worse difficulty if there were a plan. The fact that there are only principles seems to me to be an act of statesmanship.
I have no doubt that Members will continue throughout the Debate to point to the great dangers to British industry, employment and strategic interests, but every one of those dangers is an argument for going in on the ground floor. If this were not a very serious matter we could wait, but now that the Government have found it impossible to climb up two steps of the Schuman ladder, how do they think that they can climb up 20 steps when the French and the others have extended the ladder to its full height?
1970 Our Motion draws attention to peace and full employment. If I devote most of my remarks to full employment, that does not mean I think it to be more important than peace. Peace is our primary duty. We all agree about that, and we all make speeches about it—the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made one today. But, in Western Europe they are getting tired of fine phrases. They want action They look round and see that Germany is striding back to economic power. They hear that the Russians have discovered the atom bomb. They look at their own dollar deficits and at the state of their national defences, and they are far from satisfied with what they see.
The smug self-satisfaction that reigns in this country is not to be found on the Continent. There are, of course, plenty of international meetings, conferences, inter-governmental agencies, paper plans and staff cars stuffed with brigadiers and their secretaries, but there is no security. There is no advance towards a stable peace and security at the same rate as Germany and Russia seem to be growing stronger.
It is this anxiety to prevent another war that accounts for the astounding welcome given to the Schuman plan. I happened to be in France at the time, and the common people did not stop to ask for any details. For all they cared, the plan might have been about cabbages and carrots. The fact is that Europe was thinking much more about the "cold war" than about coal and steel. That is why the British refusal to enter these talks was and is utterly incomprehensible to the restless and nervous millions living between us and the Iron Curtain.
The Government have complained that the reaction in Europe and the United States to their refusal does not do justice to their efforts for peace. The Chancellor told us that he and his colleagues have been largely responsible for setting up a number of institutions with the object of organising the resources of Europe for peace—the Brussels Treaty, O.E.E.C., the Council of Europe, and so on. That is true; but on the Continent it is almost universally held that these institutions fall below the level of events. There is very little confidence anywhere that they will provide either military or economic security.
1971 To many observers in Europe and in the United States, one reason for this failure has been a defect in the structure of these institutions—namely, that the members of each inter-governmental agency are nothing more than delegates of national policies with no power to decide anything for the common good. As right hon. Members opposite are only too well aware, the responsibility for preserving nationalism inside these agencies is laid at the door of the Socialist Government of Britain.
If it is difficult to take decisions for the common good through inter-governmental agencies of which the members were allies or friendly neutrals in the war, how much more difficult will it he to take such action if our ex-enemy Germany is invited to be a member of the agency? That is the origin of the Schuman conception, with its emphasis on going beyond the O.E.E.C model and creating an authority whose decisions, subject to appeal and proper safeguard will be binding on the members. The argument runs that if we want Frenchmen and Germans to co-operate, we must give them something to think about beyond their narrow national interests. We must arrange matters so that they speak and act, not as Frenchmen and Germans, but as Europeans.
It is a Continental view, shared by the United States, that if we aim at organising peace in Europe and include Germany in that organisation, then something more is required than talking-shops and intergovernmental agencies. Most of our friends are ready to embark on new and bold policies, and the Schuman Plan challenges Britain to declare whether or not she is prepared to go forward with them. Even if there were no German problem and no "cold war," we should still have to consider how to maintain full employment. That is a second reason why we consider it was desirable for us to join the Schuman talks from the outset.
One of my constituents the other day asked at a meeting this question: "How can you be against nationalisation at home and in favour of international control of the same industries?" Does not the greater include the smaller? He might have gone on to ask: Does not the Member think that international control of heavy industry will put in danger the 1972 employment of British workers? Those are questions which require full answers. I am going to submit arguments to the House to show that the more free an economy is, the more necessary it is for it to make international arrangements to maintain world demand for its products.
At the other end of the scale, a totalitarian country like Russia, which produces almost all the raw materials, is from its very nature a bitter enemy of any such international arrangement. At the price of personal freedom the Soviet Government have obtained the power to employ all their people at some standard of life. Their liberty is exchanged for some kind of economic security. On these benches we are determined to have tooth a high and stable level of employment and personal freedom. We are resolved to preserve a comparatively free economy, because we do not see how personal freedom could survive in a Socialist State.
Also, a smaller point—we have a shrewd suspicion, which is now being proved correct by experience, that nationalised industries, are not as efficient producers as private industry. In the past a liberal economy of this kind has revealed a terrible defect. It has generated booms and slumps, and especially after the distortion of a great war has thrown up massive unemployment. Lord Keynes, who called unemployment the serpent in our Paradise, came forward with a remedy. He said that a free society could spend itself out of unemployment by stimulating demand at home when it falls off from any quarter. His policy assumed that at all times we should be able to pay for our essential imports. Today we know that if we tried to do this we should spend ourselves straight into a foreign exchange crisis. Therefore, there is something lacking in the Keynes policy.
I concede here that a liberal economy is in a weak position to resist the contagion of slumps from abroad. If we rely on tariffs rather than quotas, if exchange control is abolished and consumers allowed to choose what they want to buy and to buy at competitive prices—all these things I wish to do—then, of course, the economy would be ill-prepared to deal with a trade recession coming from the outside world. Against this contingency there are two kinds of remedy and only two. We can barricade 1973 ourselves in at home with all manner of controls—and that is Socialism—or we can make adequate international arrangements to prevent a serious slump from ever taking place. That is the choice. We cannot hope to succeed with the second method unless we are ready to endow with considerable powers a number of international institutions. It is a recognition of this fact that makes the Governments of Europe on the economic side enthusiastic supporters of the Schuman Plan.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I have followed the reasoning and arguments of the hon. Gentleman with interest, and it seems to me that what he has been arguing is exactly what the capitalist system has done in the past—not what Socialism has done. In 1926 we had a crude type of cartel system between France and Germany that controlled 45 per cent. of the world's steel, restricted production and increased prices by 30 per cent. This created the sort of crisis of which we are now afraid and which we want to avoid.
§ Mr. Eccles
The hon. Gentleman is not talking on the same point. My point is that international arrangements supervised by Governments are now the answer if we are to have freedom at home. It it that fact which accounts for the duality in American economic policy. The old Democrats still believe in multilateral free trade without international planning, while the new men, like Mr. Hoffman, Mr. Harriman and the Secretary of State are pressing Europe to undertake such planning and are quite willing that the United States should participate in it.
The modern Conservative or Liberal, be he in Europe, the Commonwealth or the United States, recognises that if he wants his society to be both free and fully employed, then his economic policy must be international and not isolationist. On the other hand, British Socialists are next to Communists in rejecting international arrangements for full employment. The Socialist Government relies upon physical controls, bilateral treaties, exchange control, and so on. I do not dispute that these controls are very powerful, but they have not yet been tested. We have not yet experienced either a considerable recession outside Britain or life without American aid inside Britain. If these 1974 controls are, then, our only defence, it will be found necessary to increase them to a degree which will destroy a large part of the liberty which we on these benches are determined to preserve.
§ Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
I am not quite clear why the hon. Gentleman thinks that the Schuman Plan or a Schuman type of authority would protect us from the effects of an American slump. I wish he could explain that to us.
§ Mr. Eccles
I am coming to that, and at the appropriate moment I shall point out that the Schuman Plan is merely a step in the direction of organising a full employment policy throughout the whole free world, but it is a sensible step in that direction. It is the conviction that we have to do these things that attracts me to the idea of the Schuman Plan. Coal and steel are very sensitive industries. They usually feel the first onset of a slump when the rate of investment falls off, and is it not common sense to try to maintain effective demands for the products of heavy industries over as wide a field as possible? Of course, I suppose the hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) would agree that if the United States would join the Schuman Plan, so much the better.
§ Mr. Eccles
I am optimistic. As was said by a distinguished French Minister in Paris at the time when we refused to go into the talks, had this plan been an Acheson plan, the British Foreign Secretary would have committed his colleagues to full membership without even hanging up the telephone receiver. The invitation came from France and the area suggested was Western Europe. That is not the whole of the free world, but that is no reason why we should not enter discussion to move towards a full employment policy within this very important sector.
I want to say quite bluntly that I do not believe that His Majesty's Government will join these talks at any stage in a spirit which will make their contribution really helpful. There is a fundamental difference of opinion between them and the French, and it cannot be overcome. How can it be? Right hon. Gentlemen opposite believe that they can maintain full employment by their efforts. 1975 They have consistently refused, as all the Continent knows, to advance an inch nearer European union than can be achieved through inter - governmental agencies. The leopard is not going to change his spots.
I should like to give the House an illustration, which I take from something the Chancellor said earlier, to confirm this gloomy prediction. What has actually happened in the negotiations for the European Payments Union? This is a proposal to make currencies convertible, and so assist in the expansion of trade. Obviously the whole scheme depends upon keeping the net credits and debits within a reasonable size. European gold reserves are too low to stand anything but minor stresses and strains.
In those circumstances, first the Economic Commission of the Consultative Assembly of Europe, and then the O.E.E.C. in their second report, strongly recommended that the Governments of the member States should, as part of the payments union, agree to consult regularly on credit policy. The idea was that unless divergencies in the direction of deflation or inflation were dealt with by common action in good time, there would be unemployment in one or more countries, and that that would then spread to the others.
I am sure that this proposal for credit consultation would be supported by the majority of this House, but not by His Majesty's Government. What did they do? They insisted upon taking out of the payments union every valuable suggestion for joint consultation and action on monetary matters and any form of what is generally known as international management of the union. All they would agree to was automatic machinery for settling net balances among members; so that an opportunity has been lost to do something constructive in the monetary field to ward off the onset of European unemployment.
Informed opinion in Europe knows all these things. For several years it has watched His Majesty's Government preach co-operation while practising isolation. [Laughter.] Yes. There is no other way of accounting for the low state of the prestige of His Majesty's Government in every European country. We have only to read the daily Press, and 1976 there it is. The Europeans have made full allowance for the Commonwealth factor. Time and again their Ministers have said that they only wished that His Majesty's Government would tell them where the Commonwealth difficulties lay and that they would do their best to meet them. His Majesty's Government were given the benefit of the doubt. Europe believed that their slowness was due to genuine, removable practical difficulties, even if those difficulties were never made clear
Then came the pamphlet on European unity. In one day—I saw it happen in Strasbourg where I happened to be on the morning when the document was published—in a few hours, Europe understood that what they had believed to be practical and removable obstacles were, in fact, fundamental matters of disagreement. Nothing that has been said today or that will be said tomorrow can undo the disastrous effect of that document. The Prime Minister can say that he did read it or that he did not read it, and that he likes it or that he does not like it. It will make not one ha'porth of difference. The doctrine of smug isolation is there in black and white. It has fused itself into the thought of Europe and it has explained once and for all the dragging of the feet over the last few years.
The sad part of it is that there are many Socialist friends of hon. Gentlemen opposite and of my hon. Friends and myself in Europe who are deeply hurt by the British attitude and cannot understand what has come over us. I call in evidence a few words from a speech made here in London by a great French trade unionist, Leon Jouhaux, at the first Congress of the International Federation of Trade Unions. He said:What seems to me the first aim, the first objective, the first goal, of our new organisation is peace. This is not a new problem. The working classes and the trade unions have always desired peace, but if we ask ourselves honestly: 'Have we succeeded in getting peace?' we must have the courage to say that we did not succeed. And I will say why we did not succeed. It was because we did not act at the moment when we should have acted; because we did not speak at the moment when we should have spoken; because we have been influenced by the rising nationalism of every one of our countries; and because we have chosen the national answer instead of obeying the mandate of the international. Therefore, we have failed.1977 Are we to fail again? To preserve peace, the whole House is agreed, it is necessary to sign treaties and alliances which bind us not to make war upon another country and to come to its aid if it is attacked. We have reached the stage in economic development where we ought also to agree that to maintain full employment in a free world it is equally necessary to make binding arrangements not to invade the other countries with our inflation or our deflation and to do all we can to come to their help if unemployment appears in their country—in fact, to welcome and to make operative an instrument such as is contained in the Schuman Plan.
Here is a chance of doing something which we shall have to do in many other ways for the sake of full employment. The Labour Party have failed to understand this employment aspect of the problem, and their Government cannot now retrieve their mistake. That is why all those who believe in peace and employment should vote for our Motion. Let them realise that only the defeat in this House of our British isolationists will restore the prestige of our country and bring hope to countless millions on the other side of the Channel.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I would like to be able to spend a lot of time in following the argument of the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) but I am afraid that there are some more important aspects of this matter with which I would like to deal. I will spend a few moments at the beginning of my time in asking him precisely what kind of agency he was advocating. He referred to the many existing arrangements for the securing of co-operation, such as were cited by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and to which proper tribute has been made, not only by the Leader of the Opposition but my many other hon. Members. The O.E.E.C., the Marshall Plan, the Brussels Treaty, the Atlantic Pact, and so on, have taken us very much further into the realms of international co-operation than anything which has ever been attempted by any other Government.
The hon. Gentleman said there was a general impression on the Continent that existing agencies fell short of what was 1978 required. There is also that feeling here, certainly on this side of the House and I hope in some quarters on the other side. I want to know what precisely was the kind of agency that the hon. Gentleman was trying to advocate beyond what already exists. He referred to the necessity for the setting up of a new kind of international institution, presumably a supranational authority, a term to which the Leader of the Opposition has objected. It is a term referred to very clearly and precisely in the French communiqué as the institution of a new higher authority over the decisions of the national contracting parties. That is a supra-national authority. If that is what the hon. Member was trying to advocate, it would have been useful if he had said what kind of authority he had in mind, what kind of powers they should have and to what extent they should be subject to control by Governments and, beyond Governments, to the democratic control of Parliaments.
We have heard a lot in this House in recent months about the lack of direct democratic control over the nationalised industries in this country, although they are directly responsible to the Government, and although there is a Minister in the House to reply to questions from individual Members of Parliament about their day-to-day activities—[HON. MEMBERS: "They are not answered."]—with certain limitations. Here there is an opportunity to inquire into the activities of these organisations, but under the new authority which the hon. Member for Chippenham advocates there would not be any democratic possibility of inquiry into their activities.
§ Mr. Eccles
I believe that the essence of this matter is this. Would the hon. Member prefer such an authority, with all the dangers and things which he dislikes, to be set up in Europe without us, rather than that we should go in now and try to make the powers of the authority reasonable?
§ Mr. Hynd
I should have thought that that was adequately dealt with by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am dealing with the point raised by the hon. Member himself, that he wanted some new kind of authority which, as I have suggested, could not be subject to any democratic control at all.
1979 I should also like to have known whether it is conceived that this higher authority which will be responsible for the administration of these key industries, including the British, presumably, will be, as has been suggested in M. Schuman's latest statement, restricted to production only or whether it will have some control over distribution. If it has no control over distribution it has no control over prices and no control over any of the essentials to which the hon. Gentleman has just referred as being necessary for the maintenance of a policy of full employment, because we cannot maintain a policy of full employment nationally or internationally unless we have control over something more than actual production.
Would hon. Members opposite suggest that that authority, presumably of private individuals nominated by Governments but having no further responsibility to Parliaments, whatever they might have to Ministers, and comprising German, French, Benelux representatives and Italians, should then be able to say that only certain fields of production shall be developed and that the others shall be put out of production? That is the implication. While I should be the last to suggest that the French and Germans would gang up against Great Britain, that kind of thing would not have to be ruled out altogether. There would have to be in our minds the possibility of that kind of situation arising and, therefore, it is essential that whatever kind of higher authority was established there should be democratic Parliamentary control either by the individual Parliaments, or, as I would prefer—I say it quite frankly and I hope that hon. Members opposite will be just as frank—by a federal government controlling Western Europe or a wider area.
§ Lord Dunglass (Lanark)
I think we should have some clarification. The French document, in paragraph 4, on page 10, says:There will be no commitment"—from which I take it that there will be no detailed scheme—except by the signature of a treaty between the States concerned and its parliamentary ratification.Surely the hon. Member has the safeguard which he wants there? Parliament has to ratify the detailed scheme.
§ Mr. Hynd
I do not know if the noble Lord was here during the whole of the speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. My right hon. and learned Friend went through the document in detail and I do not want to have to repeat it. It is already on record and I do not want to extend my time by repeating what has already been said. It is laid down in the French communiqué that the plan, in so far as it has been developed, regards the institution of a new high authority whose decision will be binding as an essential part of it, and later on it says categorically that unless there is acceptance of that conception from the beginning there can be no hope whatsoever of the success of the discussions. That is a sufficient reply to the noble Lord.
The Schuman Plan has been welcomed with a reservation by the Prime Minister and by the Labour Party in the opening paragraph of the pamphlet which has been referred to so often and which was read out by the Chancellor. It was warmly welcomed at the recent meeting of the Socialist Parties held in London. The Resolution which was issued to the Press began with the words:The conference welcomes the Schuman proposals as a bold example of European initiative—and laid down conditions which should be observed—conditions which, it should be borne in mind, would not permit us to enter into the discussions at this stage according to the correspondence with the French authorities.
Whatever may be said on the Opposition benches today and tomorrow, it has been made very clear in the Press of this country and by the omission from what is being said by leaders of the Opposition, that the Government were entirely right and had no alternative, bearing in mind their responsibility to the people of this country and to Europe, but to lay down the conditions which they did before entering into these discussions. They wanted to know what this higher authority was going to be before they accepted. They wanted to know what its powers were to be. Nobody yet knows into what the Schuman Plan might develop. I hope that it will go very far and much further than many hon. Members opposite are prepared to accept. But there have already been modifications 1981 which, in my opinion, would render the plan completely useless.
The first of the two chief modifications is that, presumably, it is intended only to control production, in which case it is useless as an instrument of full employment, and is outside the control of democratic parliaments, which is a danger to this country and every individual country which participates. The second modification is that pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger). M. Schuman has already indicated very clearly that it is not intended in any way to enable Germany to develop her production of steel but the development will only take place in the other countries with Germany, an equal member, being the only one which is restricted. I do not think that that is a practicable proposition.
The Socialist Party attitude is pretty clear, in spite of all that has been said by the Opposition. The Socialist Party is pre-eminently the international party. The Socialist Party is pre-eminently the party which, throughout its whole history, has sought the extension of international arrangements and the abolition of international frontiers. I think I speak for the whole of my colleagues on this side of the Committee and in the Party when I say that we are prepared to go into a political union, federal or otherwise, not only covering Western Europe but covering the whole of Europe and the whole of the world—that was declared by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary from the Front Bench only a few months ago—but not on any condition, not unconditionally. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but I should like to hear whether they are prepared to enter into any such arrangements unconditionally.
§ Mr. Duncan Sandys (Streatham)
The hon. Member says that his party and the Foreign Secretary have openly committed themselves, the Government and the party, to entering into a full European union. What does he mean by that, and when was the statement made?
§ Mr. Hynd
The memory of the right hon. Gentleman is rather short. Only recently in a Foreign Affairs Debate the Foreign Secretary stated that his objective and the objective of the Government—and he was speaking for the Labour Party at the same time—was a federation 1982 of the world. That statement is on record. I said, "not on any conditions," whether it be a federation of the world, Western Europe, the Atlantic Powers or the whole of Europe, or whatever it may be. I do not accept the fact that we are necessarily more allied to the western parts of Europe, which have accidentally been defined by the Iron Curtain, than to the rest of Europe, to America, to the Commonwealth or anywhere else. What I am concerned about is the extension of national frontiers and the extension of economic areas over the widest possible range.
I want to ask the Conservative Party a question. If the proposition were made that a wider federation than that of Western Europe or a wider political authority than that of Western Europe should be established—because if all the advantages which they claim from the extension of economic areas, political authority and so on are valid in regard to Western Europe they must be equally valid or more valid over a still wider area—would they be prepared to enter into an unequivocal unconditional political union with other countries, irrespective of ideological considerations?
That is the charge they make against us, that we lay down an impossible condition, that we would like to have under Socialist Governments all the countries with which we are associated within these organisations. They say this is not a question into which ideological considerations should be introduced. I ask whether they would be prepared to accept such a situation themselves in conjunction with, for instance, Soviet Russia or some of the other countries behind the Iron Curtain? Or do they agree that, in the ultimate, the ideological considerations and principles, accepted by these governments have something to do with the commitments that a democratic Government can accept?
We have never had any answer to such a proposition from the benches, opposite, and we are not likely to get it within the next two days. Some hon. Members opposite who make so much play about these matters, as if they were the internationalists, as though they believed in immeditate political union, know very well that if a challenge were put to them when they were in the position of government, they would be the last to 1983 accept any political link-up of this country which surrendered any atom of our sovereignty. They know, too, that this Government has gone further than any other Government in the history of this country towards approaching a political union with other countries.
I have looked over the speeches of the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) and many of his colleagues, as well as of the Leader of the Opposition, to see whether they have accepted any higher authority whose decisions were binding on the contracting parties, and I have still to find that they have. I read the whole of the Debate on this question of 10th December, 1948, and not a single hon. Member opposite made such a proposition. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition used these words:This brings me naturally to what is called Western Union, in respect of which the greatest credit will rest upon the right hon. Gentleman, and the Cabinet, of which he is Foreign Secretary.In the light of that, it is difficult to understand the sniggers that went round those benches when the Chancellor of the Exchequer claimed a certain credit for the Government in these matters.
The right hon. Gentleman went further:We ask for a European assembly without executive power.I would ask the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) how he is going to get his higher authority and full employment with an authority which has no executive power. The Leader of the Opposition went on:The structure of constitutions, the settlement of economic problems, the military aspects—these belong to governments."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1948; Vol. 459, c. 711 and 712.]It is not only in this House that the Leader of the Opposition said that, because "The Times" said this in quoting the right hon. Gentleman at the opening of the United Europe Exhibition on 18th November, 1948:Mr. Churchill said that to imagine that Europe today was ripe for either a political federation or a Customs Union would be wholly unrealistic.I hope these words will be borne in mind in the rest of the Debate today and tomorrow.
1984 Now I want to refer to some more precise indications of where the Opposition stands in this matter. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) has recently been writing long and interesting letters to "The Times" telling us how criminal is the attitude of the Labour Party in regard to rejecting a political authority in Europe. He has been the high priest of closer union—political union, if necessary—with the Western European countries, but has never yet in any official statement committed himself to any kind of political authority, federal or otherwise.
Referring back to the Debate of 10th December, 1948, the hon. Gentleman used these words:Naturally I am delighted to welcome the complete conversion of my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hull (Mr. R. Mackay). … He will remember that at Interlaken I advocated precisely the kind of council that he advocated this afternoon, and also a deliberative and consultative assembly for Western Europe; and the hon. Member for North-West Hull opposed me vehemently. He swung the conference against me, in favour of a written federal constitution for Europe. I was beaten then, but now I emerge triumphant."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1948; Vol. 459, c. 783.]I like to lay that against the statements which the hon. Gentleman has been making recently in regard to a European political authority. I recall also that only recently there was an interesting Adjournment Debate in the House concerning the reduction of certain import duties on the lenses for lighthouse lamps. Incidentally, there was no question of any surrender of British sovereignty or throwing away of British nationalism. In the course of that Debate the hon. Member interjected an interesting speech which I noted carefully because I assumed that such a Debate as this would arise sometime and I hope I shall be forgiven if I remind the House of what he said.
The hon. Member referred to the chiselling away of the foundations of British prosperity, of how he had sat in the House in the 1920's and had seen this country sunk by the post-war application of free, multilateral trade. He sat in the House in the 1930's and saw it saved by the application of protection and Imperial Preference. Then the hon. Member said that the two little Orders then under discussion chiselled away that principle of protection and Imperial 1985 Preference on which the survival of our prosperity was founded before the war and could only be founded in the future. He finished with this dramatic cry:I hope this is the last Order of this kind he will ever bring before the House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th April, 1950; Vol. 474, c. 919.]That Order was a small one which we made as a result of the Annecy Conference towards the development of European trade, towards breaking down those very barriers that impede the free flow of goods in Western Europe.
That was the attitude of the high priest of political union on the Opposition benches. We have had that over and over again when we have discussed bulk purchase and State trading of all kinds—how far we would be implicated in diplomatic difficulties because of the State interfering with economic affairs. How far would we be implicated in diplomatic difficulties in regard to this supra-national authority or this higher authority which would be running not lighthouse lenses but the vast complexes of coal, iron and steel over all Western Europe?
I would not baulk at that, but I take it from the words of the Opposition that they would. I go much further than they do and support completely the traditionally Socialist attitude not only of this country but of all other countries, that we wish to see as rapidly as possible first the link-up of all those countries which accept a democratic set of principles and then, so far as possible, also of those other countries which are prepared to go with us along the lines of social democratic planning, towards real full employment, with the super-imposition if necessary, and as speedily as necessary, of an effective political authority.
This Debate will be unreal, it will produce no satisfactory answer for anyone outside, unless we can get clear precisely where the two parties stand. The position of the Labour Party has been made quite clear and is quite honest. The Opposition case has not yet been made clear. All we get is lip service to closer unity but never a single statement as to where they stand in regard to the acceptance of the political super-authority which will fritter away British interests or, in the words of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East, chisel away the foundations of the British Empire.
1986 That is what we want to know and that is what the outside world wants to know. If the House would be interested in my own conception of the position, it is admirably summed up in the much criticised Labour Party pamphlet. In the first sentence it starts off by advocating the closest possible union with Europe and, having later discussed and demolished to its own satisfaction certain arguments which I would not accept as having been demolished, goes on to produce a practical alternative. It is an alternative which, I have the satisfaction of knowing, I suggested in the House in the Debate before my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster went to Paris to draw up the Constitution for the Council of Europe. I had only five minutes on that occasion and I tried to put it forward as concisely and succinctly as possible, and I subsequently did it in the form of a memorandum.
That alternative is that we do not necessarily reject either the federal approach or the functional approach, in so far as federalism is not yet acceptable to certain parties, whether our own or other Governments in Europe, and in so far as the functional approach is not enough. It does not remain that there is no alternative. The alternative is as laid down in the Labour Party pamphlet; and the most practical alternative I have yet been able to conceive, and the most practicable that I have ever heard proposed, is the alternative of the type of constitution and instrument which has been tried and proven as a result of long experience; that is, the kind of instrument which is used in the International Labour Office through the method of its convention, which is adopted in free, democratic discussion at the central Council of Europe or wherever it may be, but imposes no obligation upon any individual Government except the obligation of submitting to its controlling authority—its Parliament or its Government. By that means we have an instrument in which it is possible to participate in combined operations over either the economic field or whatever other field may be chosen, without irretrievably surrendering the sovereignty of the individual nation.
That is a proposition which has been published in the Labour Party pamphlet, a pamphlet which is a subject for discussion, not here, but within the Labour Party. Nevertheless, that proposition is 1987 well worthy of the attention of this House and of the Government, and is so far the only proposition that has been put forward as an alternative to these apparently mutually opposed propositions of federalism and functionalism which so far are the only ones which have been discussed.
If there is a further alternative, if the Opposition have any practical proposal to make, if they want to clarify where they stand in regard to the surrender of the sovereignty of this country to the imposition of a supra-national political authority over the political operations and the economic field of Western Europe, then I hope that they will bring them forward in the course of the Debate during today and tomorrow. Otherwise, the Motion which they have on the Order Paper can be regarded as nothing else but political bribery, which is not worthy of the House or of the situation in which Europe finds itself, and, most of all, is very much unworthy of the very dramatic and serious situation into which the world is finding itself flung, as instanced by the unfortunate news from the Far East. Therefore, I hope that unless we can get a substantial and clear explanation from the Opposition benches, the House will rally overwhelmingly in the Lobby to support the Government.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
The hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) said in the course of his remarks that what he wanted was some form of federalism in Europe because he believed that to be based on democratic lines. He said also that there has been a certain amount of party play in the Debate today; I would remind him that perhaps one of the reasons for that is that now the House is fundamentally opposed as a matter of principle so far as foreign affairs, as well as home affairs, are concerned. That used not to be the case, and if the speech which I make today could be devoid of any party feeling at all, I should be only too glad; but if the Labour Party choose to say the sort of thing which they have said in their document "European Unity," I think that they must be answered. Any document which presents the passage which I am about to read is certainly liable to produce party politics in foreign affairs. The document says: 1988In particular, the peoples"—that is, of all Europe—must be able to decide the investment policies of the basic industries. Joint planning means nothing unless the industries in each country are required to fit their investment programmes into a European plan. The Labour Party is convinced that nothing less than public ownership can ensure this fully.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am interested to have the "Hear, hears" from the other side, because they show that there is an attempt at party domination by the Labour Party so far as foreign affairs are concerned. So long as that is so, it is inevitable that we should see party politics in foreign affairs Debates. If the Labour Party take the view that they do, it is a good thing that it should be reflected in the House.
We are today debating the wisdom of whether or not we should set out on a voyage the end of which we cannot possibly see and which as yet is lost in the haze of hazard and speculation. We have, however, had some pointers this afternoon and also in the White Paper which the Government have published. In Document 2, for instance—that is, the famous letter of 9th May from the French Government—there appears this sentence:The pooling of coal and steel production should immediately provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe.The three opening speeches of this Debate have each taken rather a different line so far as federation is concerned. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) produced what I considered in all humility to be a brilliant indictment of the Government's handling of this matter, but he did not say one way or the other whether he was ultimately in favour of federation. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) did say so. He supported what the Prime Minister used to say before the war; he said that he was in favour of federation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer did not say whether he was in favour of federation, but it was perfectly obvious that he was sufficiently endorsing the Labour Party's document "European Unity" to give the impression that in the end he was certainly only in favour of European co-operation at the price of every nation in Europe being Socialist.
1989 The subsequent interchange of notes which is published in the White Paper has shown very clearly that to the French it was a prerequisite in their minds that any nation coming to the conference should accept the aim of the deliberations; and that aim is stated quite clearly to be the first step in the federation of Europe. Whether or not a common aim is the same thing as an agreement upon principles as to how to achieve that aim is another matter—I will try to deal with that presently—but at least it is clear that agreement as to the aim has been demanded throughout by the French.
Are we agreed in this House that such an aim is desirable? The Government say that they are not prepared to prejudge the issue, but as to whether an agreement about aims is the same as one about principles, it seems to me that the most significant document in the White Paper is Document 9, which describes the conversation between the Minister of State and the French Ambassador. There His Majesty's Government made quite clear that they are not prejudging the principle, and, in fact, are prepared to enter into discussions with the object of finding a practical method of applying the principle. My own view is that the Government are right in saying that they cannot accept in advance the principle and in implying that to accept the aim is in effect to accept the priniciple.
My quarrel with the Government is not that they have stood out against committing themselves in principle, but that what they are doing is in effect to accept the aim. In the communiqué of 3rd June they have welcomed the French note of 9th May and it is that note which contains the statement of the ultimate aim, the federation of Europe. Today the Amendment in the name of the Government asks us (o endorse that welcome to the note of 9th May.
As you may have suspected, Mr. Speaker, I am no federalist, and I will try briefly to tell the House why. The nature of men, as I see it, is occasioned by many factors, not least their race, the geography of their countries and the climate in which they live. There are, I believe, limits to which such factors can be ignored. I do not believe that common interests or even common fears are enough; there must also be common sympathies and common characteristics. 1990 Whilst those exist in the United Kingdom and in the United States, they do not exist in Europe. It is, as Disraeli once said, a matter of traditionary influences being allowed to operate, here is a quotation from the "Life of Lord George Bentinck," by Disraeli, in which, in discussing this subject he said:It is very desirable that the people of England should arrive at some conclusions as; to the conditions on which the Government of Europe can be carried on. They will, perhaps, after due reflection discover that ancient communities like the European must be governed either by traditionary influences or by military force. Those who in the ardour of their renovation imagine that there is a-third mode and that our societies can be reconstituted on the great transatlantic model will-find that when they have destroyed the traditionary influences there will be peculiar features in their body politic which do not obtain in the social standard which they imitate and these may be described as elements of destruction. …. In this state of affairs, after a due course of paroxysms, for the sake of maintaining order and securing the rights of industry, the State quits the senate and takes refuge in the camp.It seems to me that that quotation is singularly apposite to M. Schuman's proposal. I believe that federation in Europe can never work because, although the geography is very often the same, there is not sufficient common ground in sympathy and characteristics to make it work. To hold out hopes of federation I therefore consider to be dishonest at this time, and I feel there is no greater sin in government than falsely raising people's hopes that something can be achieved which is from the very outset impossible or impracticable.
Federation of European nations, even of the six attending the conference, seems to me to be both impracticable and incapable of establishing what is the real aim of federation—a real solidarity against Russian Communism. The surest barrier, I believe, against Russian Communism is a close alliance—and that is-quite a different matter from federation.—a close alliance between States, organised in ways most suited to their own people. It may be argued that the-Brussels Treaty and the North Atlantic Pact are expressions of a more closely-knit coagulation of command than a mere alliance. That may be true, but what goes for strategic defence does not necessarily go for things political, for 1991 armed forces are not to be run democratically, however much hon. Members may think they may be.
Let us be in no doubt that the purpose of pooling steel and coal production, although in itself an economic step, is in fact political. It is a means towards federation as far as the French are concerned, and perhaps others, and by setting up an economic high authority we should also be setting up a political high authority. Just as all international authorities tend to be, it will, if it is to do its work, tend to be totalitarian; and if it does not work it will be a waste of time setting it up. In the French note of 9th May, published in the White Paper, we also find the words:This production will be offered to the world as a whole without distinction or exception.Is that to be welcomed? I say it is to be deplored by a nation such as ours, a great nation standing as it does at the head of a great Empire and Commonwealth, with whom we not only have common loyalty, but also deep and abiding obligations to give them preferences in our trading relations.
So much, then, for my objections to the idea of federation and this high authority. My course so far on the Government Amendment is quite clear. It is to vote against it and to show as clearly as I can that not only do I not welcome the French note of 9th May, but also that I am rigidly opposed to even discussing methods which I deplore.
May I turn to the original Motion? That Motion at least does not express any welcome to the French note. [Interruption.] I will not go into it in detail, but it does not express in detail any welcome to the French note; it requests His Majesty's Government to accept M. Schuman's invitation to take part in the talks. The argument for doing this is, I understand from my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) and my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles), that as the talks are taking place anyway, we should be there to keep an eye and ear on what France is doing. I do not doubt that my right hon, and hon. Friends are deeply sincere in their desire to see no in more war in Europe, or anywhere else, and I would join them in that. I do not 1992 doubt that they are anxious to see Britain taking a lead in Europe, which is crying out for leadership, and I do not doubt that there would be calamitous results if France and Western Germany should take the side of Soviet Russia.
I do not doubt that some method will have to be found to ensure an even flow of products from the great industries of Britain and Europe, not only of steel and coal. I think it is an over-simplification to say that if we do not go to this conference the whole thing is over and we will never have any more say in Europe. But, because I have opposed the State taking over British industries, even more I deplore the very idea of establishing, or trying to establish, some new form of international control which could bind Governments and which would work only if all men were perfect—in which case it would be utterly unnecessary. The Motion before us has safeguards. If the Plan is not practicable, we shall reserve freedom of action. But I submit that no plan which aims at the establishment of a high authority that can bind Governments can, in my view, ever be practical with men as imperfect as they are, save in the cause of setting up an international tyranny and totalitarism.
I am on record in this House and in my constituency during the election as having said that the United Nations organisation ought to be wound up. I say it again today. I say it because not one single member of the United Nations has been elected by the nations of the world. Even if they had been, I should still not approve of it. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but I wish to point out the way in which the world is going at the moment. My reasons are that statesmen are elected by their own countries to suit those countries and not to suit the countries whose future they will be deciding at U.N.O. Another objection is that a system in which men are elected by one nation to deliberate on the affairs of another is in itself totalitarian if it works, and chaotic when it does not work; and as it is not working at the moment we have chaos.
The United Nations organisation, as was the League before it, was set up to restrict the operation of national sovereignty. That in itself may or may not have been desirable at the time it was done. But what has happened? As did 1993 Germany in the League, so Russia in U.N.O. has used an organisation set up to limit all national sovereignties in order to increase her own. Let no one imagine that Russia would remain a member for one moment longer than it served her purpose to do so. Let no one fail to see that the purpose of Russia since the Revolution has been to increase her national sovereignty until she becomes the ruler of the world. It is that organisation which the French desire to see sending an accredited representative to the high authority, the supra-national authority.
What, then, must other members of the United Nations do? They have but one safe course, and that is to increase their own national sovereignty as rapidly as possible. I do not believe that Great Britain can ever fully restore hers 100 per cent. What she can and ought to do is to base herself upon the sovereignty of the British Commonwealth and Empire, and restore that to the maximum she can achieve.
The rôle of the Conservative Party, I think, is quite clear. Surely it is to make absolutely plain that it will not countenance, still less discuss, any steps which from the outset will restrict the right of Britain to make whatever arrangements she cares to make with other members of the Commonwealth. From the very outset, from the French note of 9th May, this idea of the pooling of steel and coal production is inevitably an interference with that right. Therefore, the rôle of the Conservative Party is to declare here and now that it will play no part in the construction of a body which must be as unconstitutional as it is undemocratic and which must, if it is to achieve the aim visualised, automatically interfere with the British Commonwealth.
Let no one imagine that if, as I hope, we refuse to take any part in these negotiations, we can stand idly by. We should, without delay, negotiate with our Dominions with a view to their taking all the steel and coal we can let them have; but that will not meet their full needs—it will fall short by about 3 million tons. It is for that reason that Britain must keep on close relations with the United States and never forget that she is a European Power as well as an Imperial Power. That is why the document of the Labour Party on European unity 1994 is so wrong. The Socialist Party ostrich is to bury its head in the British Socialist sandpit, until it emerges as completely bereft of industrial plumage as the head of the author of that document is devoid of hair.
We must play a part in Europe, indeed we must play the lead. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but I believe that one is sent to this House to say what one thinks, and that is what I am attempting to do. If Britain is to lead Europe she must be as mighty in her own political strength as possible. She will not lead Europe, or anyone else, by hurrying off to a concert, for which she is already late, there to play a flat second fiddle under the baton of a third-rate Svengali in an overture that ought never to have been written.
I cannot support the Motion of my right hon. Friend and I hope that I have made my reasons clear. Let him not think that I am any less fervent in my belief that the hope of Britain is the return of a Conservative Government. But let him know this, too; it must be a Government that is Conservative abroad as well as at home. It must be a Government that will take no chances about the future of the British Commonwealth. It must be a Government that holds certain things sacrosanct. I hope it will be a Government that will not sap the energies of our own people by attempting the impossible task of bringing about a state of affairs in Europe contrary to all the traditionary influences of the nations that form that continent. As was said in this House a long time ago:The world is governed by conciliation, compromise, influence, varied interests, the recognition of the rights of others, coupled with the assertion of our own.Upon the assertion of the rights of Great Britain, with all her great ability in conciliation and compromise, and with all her varied interests, hangs the peace of the world. Let the Conservative Party speak first, not for a Western Union that few understand and which can never materialise on a basis of federation; let it speak for all those many millions of our people who, though they wish the whole world well, are first proud to call themselves subjects of His Majesty, to whose Crown they give their first loyalty.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
We have listened with interest to what I am quite sure was a sincere speech from the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke); but I may say that I frankly disagree with every word of it. This evening we have the spectacle of a great and historic party which has been made effete, flaccid and futile by a Leader who has the faith of a child and the heart of a lion. I believe that the party opposite has been dragooned into placing on the Order Paper this piece of political trickery merely to serve the purpose of the party at the present moment in its efforts to regain the initiative in the country which was lost as a result of the falsification of its prophecies during the General Election last February.
During the February election this country heard, in droning tones, what would happen if the helm of State was once again put into the hands of the Labour Party. Now we, the party of internationalism, have been accused of developing a myopic nationalistic outlook, as the result of about 10 journalists who have not bothered to read the document turned out by Transport House, broadcasting to the world a garbled version of it. Mr. Hoffman himself at first believed that version, and then, being the statesman that he is, he had the decency to repudiate it, after he had taken the trouble to read the foreign policy put forward by the Labour Party National Executive.
On this side of the House this Government is not expected to accept the responsibility for a document put out by my party. That document is put out to be discussed, to exercise the minds of our followers in the country, and ultimately, in a much more democratic fashion than is practised by the party opposite, to come 'before the National Conference to be weighed in the balances; and then we propound our policy upon it after we have had that opportunity of discussion. Trying to link that document with the Schuman proposal—'because it is that and nothing else—is merely an attempt to befog the minds of the public and also to besmirch this party abroad.
I am delighted to see a difference in opinion arising between hon. Members on the benches opposite and those on this side of the House, because I am aware 1996 that when there were differences of opinion over our Socialist policy for India we were right and the Opposition was wrong. Whenever we have applied in our Foreign policy those principles which we have been propounding during the 50 years of our struggle for power, this Government has been right; and whenever we have dragged our feet behind the oratorical arpeggios of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) we have been wrong.
Let us ask a few elementary questions. What is there that is new in this Schuman proposal? In 1936, there was a cartel in existence in Europe, and France was the predominant partner, being more powerful than Germany. We had in existence an influential steel cartel controlling 45 per cent. of the world output of steel. Here, in fact, was a supra-national organisation, in so far as no Government had any power over private enterprise in the steel industry in the inter-war period. There was no power, either in the hands of the British Government, whatever its colour, the German or the French Governments, to control this steel cartel, which made decisions just like a supranational authority in 1936, with the result that it restricted the output of world steel by 30 per cent., increased the price and created unemployment all over the world. All that we are asking now is whether there will be a real difference between the present proposals and that type of organisation that existed in 1936.
Secondly, I make this challenge to the Leader of the Opposition. Far be it from, me to denigrate the achievements of the right hon. Member for Woodford, in view of the magnificent work which he did for this country during the war, but, despite his great statesmanship and undoubted capabilities, would he be prepared to run into a General Election in this country today on the basis of supporting the Schuman Plan, and, at the same time, safeguard the interests of the British Commonwealth of Nations? Do hon. Members of the Opposition realise that we have commitments as far as Commonwealth defence is concerned, and that steel figures very largely in this question?
Those of us who have been brought up in the mining areas are wondering what would be the effect of this plan on British coal exports at present. How far would it go before it was found that we 1997 should have to deal with the question of Fascist Spain's ore? Have the advocates of the Schuman proposals discussed the relative economic importance of Polish coal in regard to these proposals? Would we be precluded from making an agreement with Poland if we were to enter completely into the Schuman proposals? Again, would the Schuman proposals move over the frontier of Eastern Europe and accept Polish coal as a contribution towards the economic balance and integration of the coal production of Europe? One hon. Member opposite has asked us where the National Coal Board would be in relation to the Schuman higher authority.
I believe it is essential for us on this side of the House to realise and to state to this country that not only do we want unity in Europe to be a reality, but that we realise that if it is to be a reality we must not restrict the output of steel and limit the advance of a united Europe. Whether we like it or not, Russia is a fact in the world, and, because she is a fact in the world, we have to face up to the economic implications of Soviet power. If we want friendship with the U.S.S.R., we are much more likely to get it by trying to integrate—that is another evil word, for which I apologise—the economy of Eastern Europe with that of Western Europe, and not to bisect Europe and create an unnatural European child, which has come into existence at present.
Finally, the French Government is no longer in existence. Far from my party not being realistic, it has proved itself during the last six years of power the most realistic ever known in this honourable House, and the employment figures and trade returns of this country are proof positive of that fact. The best bet for the U.S.A. has not been private enterprise Europe, but Socialist Britain. I am saying that at the present moment the French Government is non-existent, and that we have a situation in Korea and the Far East which is alarming to those of us interested in Far Eastern affairs who have said many times that it was the flashpoint of the world. There are other possibilities in the world today. If the United States is sincere about this business, let her swing her output of steel behind the Schuman proposal. Why not bring it in, together with Indian and other steel?
1998 Somebody wanted to sling atom bombs around today, and it only shows the paucity of thought and the degradation to which we have now descended in world affairs. Far from the situation between Russia and the United States growing worse, the fact is that it may act as a catalyst and bring about a rapprochement between those two great nations. The possibilities are that a friendship will grow up between the United States and Russia, between two great countries, one of which is capitalist and the other Communist. Only by supporting a plan for peace and understanding in Europe shall we be supporting the plan to counteract the building up of a machine ultimately to embark upon war against Russia.
I will wholeheartedly vote in the Division Lobby tomorrow evening in support of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and his Government on having done the most practical and honest thing for the British people in protecting their interests and those of the Commonwealth, which will ultimately lead to complete understanding between the peoples within the United Nations organisation.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Watkinson (Woking)
I am afraid that I should find it rather difficult to follow the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), because at the conclusion of his remarks I still did not know whether he was talking about the Schuman Plan or the broad sphere of world politics as a whole. However, may I, with due humility, not as one familiar with these high levels of political interplay but merely as a business man who has spent much of his working life trying to do business on the European Continent, bring two practical points to the attention of the House?
I have some sympathy with hon. Gentlemen opposite, because I think we are perhaps debating today not only the Schuman Plan but the great Socialist dilemma—'the dilemma of how our business machine, which is rather stiff in the joints and a little bit hard in the arteries after five or six years of Socialist rule, is to be brought face to face with the much more lively and difficult competition which is coming from Europe in the next few years.
I want to refer the House to some of the representations which I get 1999 from overseas customers and agents of the growing threat of German competition. I know that the Government view is that it is of no great significance. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Well, I would refer hon. Gentlemen to the answer given to me by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs only recently, in which he said that the volume of German competition was not a significant factor at the moment. The hon. Gentleman can look it up in HANSARD for himself.
Let us get back to the point. My first point is that the great dilemma of hon. Members opposite is the problem of bringing this Socialist machine, this machine where business and Government work together and hinder one another, into the harder times and the freer and more cutting wind of competition that is blowing about Europe at the moment. I sympathise with them. It is a very difficult problem. The only way it will be resolved is to get away from the present methods and adopt more rational and businesslike methods in our affairs. However, perhaps I am prejudiced in this matter.
I have listened to some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House expressing the reactions of people in Europe to what has happened in the last few weeks. I should like to tell the House what one of my customers said to me in Luxembourg. Luxembourg has a deep interest in the steel industry, which is its basic industry. He said, "You are very out of touch in your country since the war with what we feel in Europe. We have the dominant feeling that we do not want to be liberated again, this time by the atom bomb." It is that feeling in Europe that we have encouraged, almost, in the last few weeks.
That is why, as a practical business man, I think that the failure of the Government to go into the Schuman Plan, as indicated in the Motion which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) has laid before the House, was a great and tragic failure. It makes all these people in Europe feel that they will compose their differences with Russia on the best terms they can get rather than be occupied and then liberated by the atom bomb. What we should have done was to give them the maximum encouragement to believe 2000 that we will stand with them shoulder to shoulder, come what may. That is why I think history will record that we should have been there when the first discussion took place in Paris. So much for my first practical point, if it may be so considered, on what I admit is a very mundane level, on this question of the Schuman Plan.
There is another point on this practical level. Whether they like it or not, hon. Members opposite cannot avoid the increasingly competitive position of European industries vis-à-vis our own. The right way to deal with that problem, and to safeguard full employment and maximum productivity in this country, is not to stand on the sidelines and let the other team play the game and abide by the result when it is over. To safeguard our industries and competitive position and employment in this country we should have gone into the game and had a hand in passing the ball about, and perhaps we would have shot a goal and done something for our side in the process. That is a mixed metaphor, I admit, but I think the House will gather what I mean. The present trend of Socialist integration of business and Socialist political theory must lead this island to be a high-cost island alone in a low-cost sea.
Several hon. Gentlemen opposite have sought to indicate that we on this side have hesitated to commit ourselves on this subject. I do not know how they can square that with the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). They seem to think that we are not committing ourselves in any way. Let me give one or two points where I think the maximum advantage, from a business point of view, would have sprung from our associating ourselves with these ideas from the beginning, with certain safeguards if hon. Members like.
I want to lay a very grave matter before the House. The point that we may soon have a surplus of steel production in Europe has already been mentioned. How are we to know that there may not be a surplus of coal production at the same time? To my mind, as a business man, the grave thing is that the countries of Europe are cut off from one-third of their natural markets—that is the markets of Eastern Europe now behind the Iron Curtain. We can trade 2001 there only on Russian terms—terms which, in my submission, are not those that this country or other countries should often accept.
This grave situation, in which we might he faced with increasing production and the loss of one of our main natural markets, cannot be met by expedients, such as cartels and other devices which solved that particular problem before the war. Things have marched on since those days. The problem can be remedied only by adding to this idea of the Schuman Plan a larger conception, and we, the centre of the Commonwealth, are the one country that could have brought into it that larger conception. I agree with that sentence in the communiqué from the French Government which deals with the development of Africa in connection with the plan. Some hon. Members opposite might think that Germany might use that once more as a back-door to her African ambitions. I do not agree.
We in the Western world have to run our affairs as a business concern. We have to find more outlets for our industries, and find some way of disposing of this surplus when it arises, as inevitably it will arise; and we have to face the fact that we are irrevocably cut off from one of our main markets. We should have brought into the Schuman Plan a larger idea, perhaps of a sterling plan, a plan for the Commonwealth and Europe, which would deal with the development of those vast areas of Africa and other parts of the world, which it is essential we should develop if we are to keep our economic machine running and not collapse by economic strangulation following over-production. That is the task to which this country, and this country alone, could have addressed itself in Paris. It is a tragedy, to put it in the mildest terms, that we did not associate ourselves with this great enterprise from the beginning.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)
We can, at any rate, congratulate the hon. Member for Woking "(Mr. Watkinson) on putting very clearly what is obviously the dilemma in the minds of hon. Members opposite. Some of the other hon. Members opposite, being if I may say so, naturally more experienced politicians, slurred it over.
§ Mr. Bing
As the hon. Gentleman pleases. I shall deal with his argument later, if he will allow me. Just to deal with his first point, to use his own words, it is not much use going into the game, and perhaps hoping to be in a position to shoot a goal for our side, if we enter it with both legs tied behind our backs. That was, after all, the proposal that in the first place, we shall bind ourselves to a series of propositions which would prevent us from ever scoring a goal. I must, therefore, prefer the speech by the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke). He at least put forward what is, or what was until recently, the Conservative point of view. All other hon. Members opposite appear to have undergone a conversion so speedy that it would have been startling, I think, even for the late Aimee Semple MacPherson.
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) is not here, because if he had been here I could have recalled to him his speech on the Second Reading of the Coal Bill in which he put forward, point after point, an exact refutation of what he is now suggesting. As he is not here, and as it would be said that that happened in 1946 and that it is not fair to rake up old material, perhaps the House will bear with me while I deal with the arguments advanced on the Third Reading of the Iron and Steel Bill, because the arguments then put forward by the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) are an exact refutation, point by point, of the case put forward by the other side of the House today. First, he said, we should reject the Third Reading of the Bill, becauseit will bring evils much worse than private monopoly, for three reasons. The first and obvious reason is that State monopoly is much larger, much more comprehensive and much more powerful than any private combination can be.But we are being condemned for not entering a combination which is not of one State but of five States. He continued:Secondly, the consumer has no protection.What knowledge have we about the plans of this giant organisation for dealing with the consumer? Thirdly, he said: 2003State monopoly will lead to a loss of exports. Let hon. Members face that point. Once State-owned products are in question, they become counters in foreign policy or in political policy.These may be wrong arguments which they put forward, but they were arguments put forward less than a year ago by the party opposite upon which the House should act. The right hon. Gentleman said:The second main indictment is that there is no plan—not even a pretext—in the Bill or the Debate as to how production is to be handled and certainly not how it is to be increased."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th May, 1949; Vol. 464, c. 1510.]One can go through the whole subject, point after point, and find a refutation of every argument put forward today by hon. Members opposite—so far as they have put forward arguments today. But is not the basic fact this—that it is quite wrong to nationalise an industry and have it in the hands of the ordinary people of this country, but what is quite all right is to internationalise it, particularly if it is to be in the hands of the sort of people whom they believe have a divine right to run the steel industry? Is that not the case presented by hon. Members opposite? It is quite all right, after we have fought a war—a war largely brought forward by the steel barons of the Ruhr—to submit our steel industry to general control provided those people have a hand in it.
§ Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
Surely if the hon. Member has read the document, he will realise that the authority proposed is to be independent of both Governments and of the interests concerned.
§ Mr. Bing
I appreciate the hon. Member's point. The reason he voted against the Third Reading of the Steel Bill was that he thought the Board was not sufficiently subordinated to Parliament, but he is quite prepared to hand our steel industry over to some international authority which is not responsible to anybody, when we may possibly even not have control over their appointment?
It is a little odd, I think, that the same voices in the United States which suggested that Marshall Aid should be cut off because we were to nationalise our steel should be, to a very large extent, the same voices which now cry out that Marshall 2004 Aid should be cut off because we are not prepared to internationalise our steel. If we look at the sort of people all over the world who put forward that sort of argument, we very often see them as the people who, rightly or wrongly, consider that, after what they would possibly designate as the Communist or Bolshevik menace, the next greatest danger to the world is the sterling bloc. I do not consider, and nor do my hon. Friends, that there is any threat to world trade or anything else in the sterling area. Indeed, I consider—as I believe do my hon. Friends, whatever may be thought on the other side of the House—that the existence of the sterling area is one of the finest achievement of this Government and is one of the things—
§ Mr. H. L. D'A. Hopkinson (Taunton)
Is it not a fact that the sterling area plan was introduced early in the war, in 1939?
§ Mr. Bing
The hon. Member will be aware that very often in war-time it is necessary for the party opposite, when at last the interests of the nation become paramount, to introduce matters which until then they have always considered most inappropriate. It will be remembered that the railways are always taken over by the State in the early days of a war, but as soon as we get back to conditions of peace—
§ Squadron-Leader Burden (Gillingham)
I should like to ask the hon. Member when it was, during the war, that hon. Members opposite realised that we were, in fact, at war and that they should throw the whole of their efforts into it?
§ Mr. Bing
I do not think it would serve the purposes of this Debate to rehash those old questions, but if we were discussing, as the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington did discuss, the point at which British reputation stood lowest in Europe, I should say that it stood lowest at the moment the British Prime Minister deigned to take advice from Mussolini as to who should be his Foreign Minister.
§ Mr. Bing
Perhaps I may return to the main theme of my argument. I think the case of hon. Members opposite really is this—that they would not like to do anything 2005 to endanger the sterling bloc, but that they say that in certain circumstances, if we were forced into an agreement with other Powers which did not belong to it, then that would endanger it; and therefore they say, "Do not let us do that, but we ought to make some gesture." The word "gesture" has been used time and time again. They want some "gesture towards European unity."
We on this side of the House believe that it is not right to make political gestures and to give political promises which the hard facts of the situation make it impossible for us to fulfil. That, of course, is not the doctrine held by the Opposition, as one can see from reading "The Right Road For Britain." That document is constructed on the basis that one has only to insert a sufficient number of contradictory promises for one always to be excused from executing any particular promise on the ground that it would involve the breach of another.
It is for that reason that we have heard nothing really constructive from hon. Members opposite. Those hon. Members who have read some of the pre-war Debates will remember the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) quoting with great approval a statement by his father, Lord Randolph Churchill, in which he said:It is the duty of an Opposition to oppose everything, propose nothing and to turn out the Government.However unsuccessful hon. Members opposite have been in following the third of those precepts, at least it can be said that they have slavishly stuck to the second one.
It is really necessary in a serious Debate of this nature to consider for one moment what will be the effects of the Schuman Plan.
§ Mr. Bing
My hon. Friend asks, where is the plan? What would be the effect of this plan were there one—from such hints as we can get of what are its possibilities? First, it is said that it would mean an increase in steel production. The hon. Member for Woking said, very rightly, that there may be a surplus of steel. Therefore, if we are to deal with production, and talk in terms of production, the only terms in which we can think are the terms of restricting production and of 2006 doing away with that surplus. Production is not the problem. The problem is in sending iron and steel to those parts of the world where it is needed. Therefore, in my submission to the House, unless increased steel production is linked with a scheme for increased distribution, all that will happen is that one country will use such mechanism as is created for undercutting ours, and we shall be faced with the old cartel position over again. Is that the idea of hon. Gentlemen opposite? Is that the way they think the plan should work?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am sorry to interrupt again, but the hon. and learned Gentleman did refer to me. I would remind him that one of the main advantages that I think would accrue from our going into the Schuman Plan from the very beginning would be that we should have some opportunity of getting rid of the production that apparently worries the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Mr. Bing
I am just coming to that point. The hon. Gentleman also said it was no good at all to try to trade with Eastern Europe. If we say that, then in my submission to the House we are already inviting complete cut-throat competition. We are throwing away all the value of the steel production, because the whole of Western European industries cannot be built upon that basis, and we cannot substitute somewhere else for that market. That is one of the reasons why it is obvious that we ought to try to do something to terminate the "cold war." It is no use talking of a plan of this sort in terms of the "cold war." A plan of this sort can be worked only if it is a scheme linked with the cessation of the "cold war."
Let me give hon. Members opposite just one illustration, which perhaps may be in their minds. It comes from their late leader, the late Mr. Neville Chamberlain. He had the idea that we could possibly persuade the Germans to come into a "hot war" with the Soviet Union, and that all that we needed to do therefore was one way or another to relax various restrictions that were placed upon them after the First World War, and that ultimately the Germans would come into a war with the Soviet Union. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are producing exactly the same idea. One hon. Gentleman 2007 suggested that we should increase German steel production and let the Germans into the "cold war," and that the restrictions which are placed on their steel production should be removed or relaxed, and that then the Germans would come into the "cold war" with the Soviet Union. May Hot exactly the same thing happen as happened in Mr. Neville Chamberlain's colossal miscalculation? Should we not find that in the economic war this project was switched against ourselves unless we did something to find an outlet for their production?
Then we ought to consider just for a moment what are going to be the effects of such a plan on the standards of the ordinary working person in the industries concerned of this country and abroad. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) painted a picture, which really might have come from the Yellow Book in its earliest form, of what the conditions would be under the plan. But is that really so? Is it not foolish to suppose we can level up the European wages in steel and coal without levelling up all other European wages as well? As that is practically impossible, we should be not levelling up but levelling down—a levelling down possibly concealed by one or two differential rates, and possibly one or two speeches from the Liberal Party.
However, if we look at the real facts behind so much of the policy put forward by hon. Members opposite we see—and we can see from the correspondence in the columns of "The Times"—that the real objects are political, and that we ought to forget the economic evil this might do us in order to get the good political advantages of a union of this sort. How far is this going to go? What are the countries that will be drawn into this great political union? Sweden? What do hon. Gentlemen say? Sweden is the third greatest producer of all. Spain? Some hon. Gentleman thinks so. Spain, perhaps? I do not know how many hon. Members have seen and read a circular which was published by the Spanish Socialist Party in exile. It did describe in some detail how industrial relations are maintained in Spain at the moment. I shall not go into the various examples that are given, but I will quote just one. 2008 They say:On 21st May, 1948, nine years after the civil war had ended, two special brigades of the Guardia Civile arrested 22 miners in the Asturias. They threw them into a dried well, poured a large quantity of petrol on them and set it alight with dynamite. The crime alleged against them was that they had belonged to the old Asturian miners' trade union.It is for a regime of this sort that it is suggested miners here should make economic sacrifices.
§ Mr. Bing
Stretch it out, says the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps we shall have from one hon. Gentleman opposite the view that Spain should not be included in this plan. When I have heard that, I will be prepared to modify what I have to say about their attitude.
I want to deal for a moment or two with the point made by the hon. Member for Woking, on the subject of Africa. Let me give one example of how this conception is so nebulous and so ineffective, and how it would be unfair to encourage people in Europe by pretending that we are going in for this sort of thing. The French High Commissioner in Germany, in setting out how he thought it would be possible that the Schuman Plan would develop, said that it would lead to a common currency and a common passport for all Europe, and that the pooling of the coal and steel industries might be followed by the pooling of electrical power and agricultural produce.
In Great Britain and throughout the Commonwealth we have built up an agricultural policy based on guaranteed prices, and on marketing boards which are prepared to pay stabilised prices by paying more for commodities in a bad year than the market will face, in that way guaranteeing prices ahead. If once we start abolishing frontiers we leave the way open for the pushing across frontiers of the produce of all the other people who have not contributed to the marketing boards in the good years, and who will thereby wreck the scheme in the bad years by swamping the market. That sort of thing makes it impossible to do away with the frontiers between planned and unplanned economies.
This is an approach, not from a doctrinaire point of view but from a practical 2009 standpoint. I ask those hon. Gentlemen opposite who suggest that we should use increased steel production for development in Africa: How in Africa would they secure that surplus wealth to buy the steel if at the same time the frontiers are opened in such a way as to ruin the whole of the marketing schemes which would produce the extra capital needed?
I think that there are two ways ahead of us. One is the plan which has been, in a tentative half-formed way, put forward by hon. Members opposite. It is that, if only we could secure an economic merger, in some form or other, with those experienced industrialists, those steel barons of the Ruhr, with those gentlemen of the comité de forge, and with all those people we all knew so well before the war, who so successfully ran our steel industry in those days, if only we could get together with them, and perhaps with General Franco, we should have a real basis for intellectual liberty and political freedom. That is their case.
The other course ahead of us is far more difficult, and is one which needs far more patience and for more hard work to achieve. It is the course of trying to rebuild the United Nations, of utilising its excellent machinery, both for the uniting of industries and for investment in backward areas. This is the course which I think we must take, if it is not to be too late, if this "cold war" is not to change into a "hot war," and if we are to deal with European steel production or anything of that sort. We must at the same time lessen international tension, for unless we do that we shall merely be forced back on to the old unrestricted competition in Europe, with a lowering of the standard of living, with a break-up of the Commonwealth, and with all the ills from which we suffered in the inter-war years.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Colonel Lancaster (Fylde, South)
The hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) has, I think, during the few years that he has been in Parliament gained something of a reputation for his industrious researches into the past. If I do not follow him in that respect, I hope that he will bear with me. I want, for a very few minutes, to confine myself almost wholly to the economic aspect of this problem. I listened very carefully to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, as was perhaps inevitable and indeed appropriate, 2010 he confined the majority of his speech to the political aspects of the Schuman Plan. The part which he devoted to the economic side of it was, to say the best of it, very brief indeed.
What I think we have to decide for ourselves today is: Are the dangers of going into these talks, or this plan, greater than those which undoubtedly lie ahead if we stand outside, and is there any advantage to be gained by going into them? We have heard from several hon. Members about the steel cartels in existence before the war, but in fact there was a fairly close integration of the whole range of heavy industries on the continent before 1914. This was revived during the inter-war years, and these cartels, as I have said, were not wholly confined, as suggested by one or two hon. Members opposite, to steel. They went a good deal deeper than that. The Saar and Lorraine, Westphalia, Luxemburg and the Ruhr were working very closely together. Whether or not we think they were good things, or that they did more harm than good, undoubtedly that integration was a very real one.
What is happening on this occasion is nothing more than that a political umbrella has been spread out over something which has been in existence during most of our lifetime. The position, on the other hand, has changed somewhat fundamentally. Before the war, we were on the whole rather expensive steelmakers, and we produced coal somewhat more cheaply than on the continent. Today the position is reversed. We are producing steel more cheaply than on the continent, and we are producing coal more expensively. We are confronted with this problem: If we stand outside these conversations and plan, whatever it may eventually become, shall we or shall we not be confronted by an integration or cartel—call it what you like—which is so powerful that it will have the effect of squeezing us out of our traditional European markets.
There are now going into this countries who hitherto were not in this integration—Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy; they are all going in and it may well be that other countries will join them. The tendency of going into a plan of this sort would be to have such an integration that there would be a ringed fence around their activities. What are our European markets? Mostly we send our 2011 coking coals to Belgium, Holland, Denmark and a little way into Germany itself. We send our steam coals to France and Italy, and by virtue of the fact that before the war we had some advantage in our cost of production in this country we maintained those markets despite this integration; today we no longer have that advantage.
Whatever advantage we have in steel we have lost in coal. It may very well be that, if as a result of these talks there is integration not only covering these areas which I have mentioned, but including additional countries which are taking part in these talks, we may find ourselves inevitably squeezed out of our traditionally European markets. When we are talking about the level of wages and full employment in this country I do not believe hon. Members opposite have the right to ignore these factors. We should have wished to have heard something in this regard from the Minister of Fuel and Power or the President of the Board of Trade.
With all the overwhelming advantages we are supposed to have from nationalisation of coal, we lack on this occasion the point of view of the National Coal Board. I have tried during the last week or so to discover the view of experienced men who have spent their life in the export of coal. All say that there is a very real danger in not taking part in these conversations. I believe that to be right. I believe that members of the National Coal Board experienced in these matters will probably say the same thing.
What, therefore, are the advantages? We can all see the obvious disadvantages. Quite shortly, they can be confined to the fact that if we go into these conversations we may guide them into intelligent and sensible channels. We have every prospect of doing that if we enter into the conversations at the beginning. We are still extremely strong. We have the largest production of coal in Europe, and our steel is being produced at a level which can compete with anyone in the world. And so, we can go into these conversations at the moment in an extremely strong position. But we have this advantage only temporarily.
Undoubtedly, European recovery as far as steel and coal is concerned is going 2012 on very quickly indeed. Germany is making a phenomenal recovery, and I have a shrewd idea that Silesian coal will shortly be pouring on the European market at very low prices. The steel industry in France is also recovering. This means that in due course our advantages will be dissipated, and if we do not go into these conversations at this stage our chances of leading matters into the right channels will inevitably disappear.
We have to take these two factors into account, balancing the advantages against the disadvantages. In the light of the two, I have no doubt that we should take part in these conversations, and because of that I shall unhesitatingly go into the Lobby on behalf of my party.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
The House has listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde, South (Colonel Lancaster), because it is recognised that he knows this subject thoroughly. He was concerned to point out that the kind of organisation which the Schuman proposals envisage is really the same kind of organisation that existed before the war, but with what he described as a "political umbrella." That is exactly what we object to in regard to these proposals. The mistrust and anxiety we feel is founded on the point the hon. and gallant Member has made—the danger that what is contemplated is not really anything new in terms of economic organisation, but is a revival of the prewar cartel organisation with a political umbrella.
The reasons why the hon. and gallant Member wants to get in on the negotiations are commercial. It is obviously desirable from his point of view to take part in them. The conversations represent to him a build-up of the type of organisation which will simply be a survival of what we had before the war.
Previous speeches we have heard from Members opposite were not so revealing of the true intentions of the Conservative Party but did reveal differences of opinion. It appears that the Conservative Party is not united on this subject. The hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Watkinson) was in favour of the Schuman proposals, whereas the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) was entirely hostile. Let 2013 the country remark the crucial and important division which exists within the Conservative Party on this issue—on what they think of the proposals and what they think ought to be done.
I believe on this issue there is a far greater degree of unity on these benches on the Government side, because we recognise there is nothing easier than to drift and slide into international conferences and commitments of one kind or another without any preparatory work and without knowing what the commitments are going to be. It is that fact which the Government recognise and it is that danger which the Government have avoided.
In this country today we have a Labour Government, recently returned after four and a half arduous years of office, recently returned with the support of a party which received two million more votes than any other party in the country. That is a fresh mandate to the Labour Party which believes that the solution to this problem of integrating European industry and production is a Socialist solution. To that we are committed. It was that which the party pamphlet represented and declared. Astonishing is the condition of British politics if it is regarded as objectionable for a Socialist Party pamphlet to recommend a Socialist solution for economic problems.
Hon. Members opposite are so obsessed with what they regard as the relative decline of this country when considering the economic power of the United States, that they rush in like Mr. Hoffman with baneful howls against a party pamphlet but they show much less speed than Mr. Hoffman in retracting what they say. We believe there is only one fundamental and effective solution to the problem of the development of European economic unity, and that is the Socialist one. The ideal chance of solving the great problem which exists in developing European unity would come by the co-operation of like-minded Socialist Governments. That is what we declare in the pamphlet. The Government face the realities of the situation, and realise that Governments are not like minded to that extent. They have adapted their policy accordingly.
§ The question of steel is one which provides a crucial example of the difference between the Socialist approach and the non-Socialist approach to these problems.2014
§ The steel industry in Europe, so we are told, will shortly be facing a condition of surplus production. Our information is that, if the existing programmes are implemented, by 1953 Europe will be producing 70 million tons of crude steel and the expectation is, even on the most optimistic assumptions of full employment and a high level of trade activity, that Europe will only be able to consume some 58 million of this 70 million tons. That again is on the assumption that there will be favourable conditions of trade.
§ Mr. W. Robson-Brown (Esher) rose—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)
The hon. Member cannot speak unless the hon. Member who has the Floor gives way. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] The hon. Member must also resume his seat when I stand.
§ Mr. Robson-Brown
Would the hon. Member give me the source of the figures which he has quoted with regard to steel? The O.E.E.C. expect a figure in the present circumstances of something like £7 or £8 million.
§ Mr. Irvine
My authority for the figure that I am quoting—I am glad that I gave way to enable the hon. Member to put his Question—is the report of the Economic Commission for Europe, which forecast—I think I am right because I checked the matter very carefully—that if existing programmes were implemented, crude steel production in Europe in 1953 would be about 70 million tons and the European consumption of steel would be 58 million tons. The amount of steel which could be exported, even on a favourable view of prevailing conditions, would be a little over four million tons. That being so, there is obviously a danger in quite a short period of the steel industries in Europe being faced with a crisis of over-production.
Just when it is confronted by a crisis of that kind a Socialist outlook manifests its profound variance from the capitalist point of view. It is not the purpose of my argument to suggest whether hon. 2015 Gentlemen opposite or we are right. I merely seek to point out for the moment that there is this point of fundamental variance between us. When that kind of situation develops we seek to maintain the level of investment in the steel industry because we know that the surplus does not reflect a real decline in the need for steel in the undeveloped areas.
The private capitalist, confronted by such a situation, immediately tends not to invest money in something which he regards as unlikely to provide a profit. In the same way, a Socialist confronted by that situation aims to maintain productivity and to concentrate production in the efficient plants. The private cartel, such as the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde, South, indicated was likely to be revived under these new proposals, seeks to protect the inefficient producers by maintaining high prices for all producers in the industry. Whatever the merits of the issue, if there be a real, fundamental variance between the approach of the Socialist and the approach of the anti-Socialist to a problem, what is the use of either one or the other committing himself to a high international authority when they know that that variance between them will bedevil the whole thing from the beginning?
The fact that the variance exists, although it is fundamental, is not a reason for not co-operating to the maximum possible extent with other Governments, but it is a reason why that co-operation should not take the form of a step towards federalism. The basic assumption of any effective movement towards federalism must be that there is agreement upon fundamental objectives. In the present situation that agreement does not exist. That is why, in my opinion, the Government were absolutely right in not entering into this prior commitment.
I entirely agree that we of the Socialist movement in this country cannot hope to plan our production and our industry in isolation. We are a great trading and exporting power. The notion of developing a Socialist economy in isolation is not practicable. We therefore want the greatest degree of co-operation that is practicable, and the only kind that is prohibited by the fundamental variance to which I have drawn attention is the federal approach. The others are all 2016 open and we can pursue them, and we are not isolationists at all.
Let this country's contribution to the conversations which take place make it abundantly clear that, short of federalism, we are ready to co-operate. Let this be our contribution, that before we can commit ourselves to the decision of any high international authority that authority must first commit itself to certain standards of behaviour and policy, and that one of the things to which any such high international authority will have to commit itself before we will support it is an expansionist policy of new production when recession is threatened and a policy which will cut down the inefficient producers and not protect them by the policies adopted by the old cartels. If the other Governments of Europe accept that proposal, if they accept a high international authority on our conditions, then there is a prospect of real progress being made and of our being able to take a really effective lead, but, until that time comes, easily the best service which this country can give in building up European unity is by building it up from below—by functionalism.
Confederation has been suggested as distinct from federation. That is the way to do it. It is being done in defence, in the European payments union and in several other ways, and that is the effective—not sensational but profoundly effective—way to develop and build European unity. It has several great advantages. If that policy is pursued there is far less danger of violent rivalries between French and German units of production than there would be within the kind of high authority which is adumbrated by the Schuman proposals. That is one advantage of such a gradual policy as I suggest.
Another advantage is that if we pursue it, it is far easier for us to keep in pace and in harmony the several obligations and duties confronting us and the several purposes which ought to be before us. The several purposes are these: to participate in European co-operation; to retain our relationship with our fellow-States of the Commonwealth inviolate, and, at the same time, to act as a bridge between Western Europe and the United States; and, if our greatness is to be maintained and revived, the policy of this country in the next few years should 2017 cling to these three aims. As I have said, if we pursue the policy of functionalism and of gradually building up European co-operation and unity from below it is a great deal easier than otherwise to maintain co-operation and harmony between the three.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Preston, North)
The hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine) has expressed the view that the party which he represents would be prepared to accept participation in a high authority if that high authority conformed to certain conditions which he adumbrated; but is not the only prospect of obtaining the adoption of those conditions, whether they be wise or unwise conditions, participation in the discussions which precede the setting up of the high authority?
That seems to me to be the fundamental fallacy in the whole of the case which the Chancellor of the Exchequer pleaded in a manner which I thought more suitable to a county court or a court of appeal than to the Houses of Parliament. As I understood his argument, the right hon. and learned Gentleman based the refusal of the Government to participate in the Schuman talks, or to accept the Opposition Motion, on the ground that they could not accept a prior commitment to make as an immediate objective the institution of a high authority with binding powers.
We must ask ourselves what is the objection to the institution of a high authority. After all, we know nothing about what this high authority is to be—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members opposite say "Hear, hear," but we cannot object to it on the ground of its powers until we have discussed them and contributed to their formation because we do not know what they will be. We cannot object to the question of to whom it will be responsible because that is not yet decided. We cannot object to its constitution because that is also not yet decided. It may be that after the discussions we shall find the constitution is not one in which we can join. If so, then the honourable and natural course is to withdraw. It seems to me to be very unwise to reject a thing out of hand when we do not know what it is. In fact the rejection of participation in the Schuman 2018 Plan talks has been taken on purely theoretical grounds.
§ Mr. Mitchison (Kettering)
Is the hon. Gentleman in favour of buying pigs in a poke when he does not even know if they are pigs?
§ Mr. Amery
The comparison is in many ways apposite. I would not say that I would be prepared to go to a market and buy an undefined animal, but I would be prepared to go to market with my money in my pocket and then, if I did not like the animal, come away with my money still in my pocket rather than not to go into the market at all.
The advantages and defects of high international authorities is a proper subject on which constitutional theorists may differ, but the concern of practical statesmen is quite different. The concern of practical British statesmen should be to bear in mind those interests, commitments and obligations which are specially ours and, bearing those in mind, they should then be prepared to explore any proposals, determined all the time not to sacrifice those obligations or interests. No one can say whether we can square our interests and our obligations with the Schuman proposals until those proposals have been elaborated. The only way in which we can hope to make those proposals conform to our interests and obligations is by joining in the talks.
There is nothing at all wrong in the Government being rather sceptical as to whether the high authority will achieve all that is hoped of it. A little scepticism can be healthy. A little humility can be healthy, too. It is quite possible that the Government have doubts as to whether a high authority will succeed, but it would also be wise to see whether the French, Germans, or whoever is at this conference, have not found some formula which will reconcile our interests and obligations with this proposal. Certainly we should not condemn the proposal unheard.
Besides, a conference can give valuable results even if those results are rather different from the objectives which it first set itself. The history of the Imperial Conference is a case in point. The movement for Imperial unity at the end of the last century took a primarily federal form, and at the two Imperial conferences over 2019 which Mr. Joseph Chamberlain presided, purely federal proposals were laid before the assembled representatives of the Empire. They were invited to discuss, and did discuss, the institution of a high Imperial political authority, a Customs union, and an integrated defence system. When these proposals were looked at, they were not found to be practicable in quite the way Mr. Joseph Chamberlain proposed, but the conferences were not a failure for that. Indeed, the Commonwealth as we know it today has very largely grown out of those conferences. What really matters in international conferences is not the plans with which one goes into the conference; it is the spirit in which it is approached.
I am afraid that the two documents which we have considered in this Debate—the White Paper and the statement of the Executive of the Labour Party—show that the Socialist Government approached the question of the Schuman proposal in completely the wrong spirit. Let us take the evidence from the White Paper first. That document shows that there was only one talk between the responsible Ministers of this country and of France in the whole of the negotiations. M. Clemenceau, I think it was, once said that war is too serious a matter to be left to statesmen. I do not want to go so far as to say that foreign policy is too serious a matter to be left to diplomats, but there are times—
§ Mr. Foot
If the complaint of the hon. Member is about the negotiations and that there were very few conversations between British and French Ministers, would he give his view on the British proposal that, in order to discover a way in which the procedure should be arranged, there should be a meeting between the Foreign Ministers? That was the proposal which was advanced by the British Government but which the French Government rejected.
§ Mr. Amery
It was advanced much too late in the whole series of negotiations. The thing had dragged on for weeks, and although the Foreign Secretary was not in a position at the time, because of his unfortunate ill-health, to take part in direct negotiations, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the 2020 Exchequer were there—they were in France.
If one goes on to the statement prepared by the Executive of the Labour Party, of course it contains some sound sense; with some of it I quite agree. There is a welcome appreciation of the importance of the Commonwealth which we did not always find in papers issued by the party on the other side of the House. I also applaud the statement on page 5 which speaks of the importance of redeeming Eastern Europe from Soviet domination; I am very glad that the party opposite should now be committing themselves to that course. But the whole thing is pervaded by an insufferably smug complacency, a sort of bureaucratic negativism wholly inimical to the idea of European co-operation, isolationist in its conclusions and sectarian in its spirit.
It is not a bad thing for Ministers to think that the British people are superior to anyone else—I confess I rather share that view myself; but it does not really justify making a sort of political apartheid as the basis of one's foreign policy. I know that the statement claims that the Socialist Party wish to see cooperation with the countries of Europe. So does Dr. Malan; he talks about cooperation with the natives—co-operation on a basis of segregation.
§ Mr. Amery
Then there is the ideological factor. I am no Socialist myself, but I confess that in 1945, when the whole of Europe was left to Socialist Governments, I thought the fact that the Government here was a Socialist Government also might be a national asset. Certainly, the Government were in agreement with the advice which was preferred from this side of the House. Rightly or wrongly, however, the Government decided not to play the Socialist card. They may have been right then, or they may have been wrong—I do not know; but to try to apply it now, when the whole of Europe has gone Right, is like a bad bridge player who holds back his ace until it can be trumped by any of his opponents. As I understand it, the deeper argument is not the technical question of the commitment and so on to a high authority; 2021 it is a fear on the part of the Government that they could not reconcile participation in the Schuman talks with their commitments to the Commonwealth and to the United States.
Let us deal first with the question of commitments to the Commonwealth. I look at this question primarily as an Imperialist. I tried to inform myself on it and discussed it as much as I could with representatives of the Commonwealth, which seems to be more than the Government have done. The conclusion I have reached is that, far from requiring us not to participate in the talks now going on in Paris, our economic and strategic Imperial interests dictate that we should go into those talks, participate in them fully and try to mould them in a direction compatible with our interests.
I will take the economic side first. The truth is that the United Kingdom cannot provide today all the capital goods the Commonwealth requires. Nor is our market, great as it is, big enough to consume all the raw materials, or all the foodstuffs, which the Commonwealth can, or could, produce. These domestic limitations of our own impose a certain limit, for the moment, on the development of the Commonwealth; but if, by participation in a plan such as M. Schuman has adumbrated, we could somehow direct some of the productive power of the Ruhr and French industry to the development of the Commonwealth and the Colonial Empire, if we could broaden the industrial base of the Commonwealth and Colonial Empire and in return secure a preferential position for Commonwealth produce in the European market, a new era of the Commonwealth development might open. This sort of thing is in M. Schuman's mind, as was shown by his reference to the importance of Colonial developments.
We have of course to safeguard preferences between this country and the Commonwealth and Empire and to assert our right to determine the inter-Imperial level of trade and production and investment. But these are points which could be made clear in negotiations and to which I do not think the European representatives would object. Anyone with experience of European conferences on these problems of European unity will, I think, agree with me that the Europeans are prepared to make the greatest possible effort to 2022 enable us to participate with the full backing of the Commonwealth. After all, they not only want United Kingdom co-operation; they want our co-operation precisely because we are the head and heart of the British Commonwealth.
Then, on the strategic aspect, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) made clear, there is a danger, if we do not go into these talks, that the French and Germans may agree between themselves and reach an agreement too rigid for us to join, which it will be much harder for them to modify after it has been published than it would be in the course of the negotiations now going on. Our isolation would then be complete and we would be faced with the prospect in a few years' time of German domination of Western Europe, a domination which might tend towards precisely that neutrality which the Labour Executive statement deplores, or even on the lines of the Rapallo Agreement or the Ribbentrop-Molotov Agreement to the signing up of Germany with Russia. The latter event would bring us back to the position in which we were at the time of Dunkirk with a hostile wedge driven between this country and the Middle East and that part of the Commonwealth which lies around the Indian Ocean. It seems to me that, on economic and strategic grounds, our Imperial interests dictate our participation in the talks.
What of our relations with the United States? The future of the world, we are all agreed, depends upon the maintenance of a close partnership between us; but the value of a partnership depends on what each of the partners can contribute towards it. A strong United Kingdom—the heart of the Commonwealth and the leading power in Europe—could help the United States to carry her vast burdens and could relieve it even of many of its responsibilities. The stronger we are the more valuable we shall be to the United States, and the more influence we shall be able to exert in the councils of the West. They know it over there, as one can see by the newspaper articles which have followed the refusal of the Government to participate in the talks. The United States are not, thank God, an aggressive or Imperialist Power, but if we fail to discharge our responsibilities in this matter, it will not be surprising if 2023 little by little they look upon us less as partners and more and more as air-strip number one.
There are risks in entering these talks—of course there are. There are risks if we go in or if we stay out; ut it is foolish in life to fear the unknown. The Government should make an effort to overcome the curious combination of moral complacency and intellectual inferiority complex which seems to assail them. In my judgment Britain is never so weak as when she is afraid to step in and give a lead. We are still the strongest and most stable power in Europe. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Yes, in spite of five years of Socialist Government. Here is our opportunity. Let us go into these talks determined to safeguard our vital interests; determined also to build on the foundations which M. Schuman has laid.
This Debate—to use a hackneyed phrase—may well be the turning point in the history of Europe. The defeat of the Motion supported by hon. Members on this side of the House would profoundly discourage all those in Europe who are working for European unity and for a return to European stability and strength. If the talks in Paris go forward without us they may, as I said, lead to German domination of Europe; they may equally lead to general discouragement and a relapse into impotence and anarchy; and the happenings on the 38th Parallel and Korea remind us of what that would mean. I beg the Government and hon. Members opposite to withdraw the Amendment which they have moved. If they do that, Europe will heave a sigh of relief. We could then go forward and build up a structure which would go a long way towards ensuring in the years to come, not only maintenance of full employment, but the development of the British Commonwealth and the preservation of world peace.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Adams (Wandsworth, Central)
In view of the shortness of time I am sure that the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Amery) will not expect me to deal with his speech in any detail. I would only say that we did not need his assurances that he is not a Socialist. I would also say that in my 2024 view he made a valiant effort to marry the well-known views of his father with the views now being enunciated by the official Opposition in the course of this Debate. I myself think that this Debate was ended this afternoon after my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had answered the speech made by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden)—
§ Mr. Adams
But we understand that this Debate is to last until tomorrow afternoon when we shall be treated to another champagne speech by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). But however sparkling it may be with brilliant wit and charm, there are many of us who have learned to recognise the deception that lurks beneath the beaded brim, and we shall much prefer the honest draught of British beer which will follow.
Whatever may be the course of this Debate, whatever the discussions that may take place upon certain documents or communiqués, the main purpose of this Debate, so far as the people of this country at any rate are concerned, is to assess the political judgment of the right hon. Member for Woodford, who has once again opposed the policy and course of action adopted by His Majesty's Government. I would only mention in passing that in a different order of society from our own this discussion could not take place as the right hon. Gentleman would long since have been liquidated because of the part he played in the Dardanelles campaign.
§ The question I should like to put this evening is this. What has been the real driving force in the political views of the right hon. Gentleman in his long career in public life? What is it that enabled him to dispatch the troops with equal facility to Archangel and Tony-pandy? What is it that enabled him to snarl with equal ferocity at the India Bill and the Trades Disputes Bill? What is it that led him to say with complete sincerity that if he had been an Italian, he would have marched with Mussolini and to acknowledge—
§ Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)
On a point of order. What relation has the speech of the hon. Member to the Motion before the House?
§ Mr. Adams
If hon. Gentlemen opposite will tell their hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) to remain quiet, I will get on with it, but in my own time and not at the speed dictated by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg).
I was saying—what is it that enabled the right hon. Gentleman with complete sincerity to say that, if he had been an Italian, he would have marched with Mussolini, and to acknowledge that he served with the Gestapo during the war? [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman stated during his election speech in 1945 that he served with the Gestapo. What is it that enables the right hon. Gentleman to embrace with joyous abandon this supra-national authority outlined in the Schuman declaration and yet to reject the nationalisation of industries at home?
The answer is that the common factor which runs through all the actions and speeches of the right hon. Gentleman in his long career is the ruthless determination to defend at all costs the privileges of the class to which he belongs. What is the most notable offer he ever made to this country? It was "blood, sweat, toil and tears." That phrase united this country against a common enemy, but it was made with all the sincerity and conviction that comes from a life-long adherence to the policy underlying the phrase—the blood of his enemies, whether abroad or at home; the sweat of the worker needed to maintain his order of society; and the tears of the oppressed who suffer from his rule of power. [Laughter.] I can see how much hon. Members opposite appreciate the significance of this analysis, judging by the roar of approval with which they greeted it.
The truth is that the right hon. Gentleman is now prepared to yield power and responsibility if only ownership remains intact. He is prepared to go outside this country to seek a muzzle for Socialism at home. It really is pathetic, Mr. Speaker—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I 2026 notice the hon. Member who sits for Sheffield has recovered his good spirits despite—
§ Mr. J. Hynd
On a point of order. Which hon. Member for Sheffield? There is more than one hon. Member for Sheffield.
§ Mr. Adams
It will be obvious from the direction to which I was pointing, and from the stupid remark made this afternoon, to which hon. Member for Sheffield I was referring. I repeat, it is pathetic to find the Opposition trying to incite the Government to follow the example of the Netherlands Government. The Chancellor of the Exchequer gave very good reasons this afternoon. To those I would only add one other, and it is that Dutch trade before the war was two-thirds within the confines of Europe and one-third with the rest of the world. The position is exactly opposite with Great Britain. We do only one-third of our trade within Europe and two-thirds with the rest of the world.
I wonder what hon. Members opposite would say—[HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down."] That is not an invitation I would accept at any time from hon. Members opposite. However, as time is going on, Mr. Speaker—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am very pleased to see hon. Members opposite are really enjoying themselves; so we can proceed, though I am afraid I shall be longer than I would otherwise have been.
The next point concerns the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) who I am very glad to see in his place. I listened very attentively, as I am sure many others did, to his speech on the wireless on Saturday night. I was surprised to hear him say, "I have never known our ranks more united." If this is the best example of unity which the benches opposite can offer, I am sure it will be a long time before the country accepts them in office again.
Look at the display of unity we have had on this particular matter. There is the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, just back from America. He says, "I have spent my time talking to the Americans about the Empire." He did not say a word about Europe or European unity. Then there is the noble Lord, the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke). He has been saying over the week-end 2027 that he agrees with the action taken by the Government. What about the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) who has just left the Chamber—
§ Mr. Adams
In 1945 the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East—[HON. MEMBERS: "He is back."]—was speaking strongly for the Empire à la Beaver-brook. Now he goes to Strasbourg as a European Unionist, and the only qualification be makes is that when he comes back to this House he is an isolationist with regard to white fish.
§ Mr. Boothby
The hon. Member should not take his political views from the leading articles of the "Daily Express."
§ Mr. Adams
I do not take my views from the "Daily Express," but I am very interested when I find the "Daily Express" has to turn up its records in order to confound the hon. Member. That is an interesting experience. Even the hon. Member for Paddington, South (Mr. Somerset de Chair) found it necessary, in a letter to "The Times," to say that if the Conservatives insisted on following the policy they are enunciating now, then they could not expect the Commonwealth for ever to follow them "like a gaggle of Strasbourg geese." So much for the unity of the party opposite. We shall be very interested to see whether the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden is confirmed in the Division which will take place tomorrow night.
In conclusion—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and in view of that approval I will alter my remarks and say that at great length I propose to deal with the reasons behind the Amendment standing on the Order Paper in the name of some of my hon. Friends and myself. I want to make it perfectly clear that there is no division on this side of the House in regard to European integration, but some of us feel it necessary to stress the importance of the Commonwealth and the sterling area. Because this country is not a European power only, union in Europe raises many serious problems.
I hope all hon. Members have read the excellent letter in "The Times" last Friday from Professor Robbins, because 2028 that sets down very fairly some of the fears which some of us wish to express. I want to refer to a point he made in regard to Canada. Suppose this supranational authority were set up in Europe. Suppose that we had some supra-Parliament or Cabinet and suppose Canada were attacked by a foreign Power. Suppose that the supra-national authority were defeatist or collaborationist in outlook. Would this country be forced to accept the orders given by that European authority, or would it feel in honour bound to go to the assistance of Canada who recognise the authority of the Crown? I am very pleased to find that Mr. Dingle Foot agrees with that point in a letter in "The Times," today. That is, indeed, one of the points dealt with in the Labour Party pamphlet on European unity.
I am conscious that I have overrun my time. There are many points which I should like to make in relation to the Commonwealth but my time has been overrun. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It has been overrun through the idle cheers of hon. Members opposite. I can only take it that they approve of the points I have made about the Commonwealth. We feel that we have an historic rôle to play as a pivot of understanding between Europe, the Commonwealth, the Atlantic Community and the rest of the world, and that if we were to rush into a close federation in Europe without thinking about it—as hon. Members opposite would have us do—that would destroy the future greatness of this country. That is why we stress the importance of the Commonwealth and the sterling area. That is why we shall back the Government in its cautious approach to the European problem and shall support the Government fully in the Division Lobby tomorrow night.
§ 9.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Leather (Somerset, North)
I rise for just three minutes to deal with the nauseating spectacle of hon. Members opposite seeing themselves as the defenders of the British Commonwealth and Empire. After 50 years of villifying everything the Empire has stood for, they should be hanging their heads in shame; yet they seriously tell us that because of their great knowledge and their great idea of Empire, they cannot go into the Schuman Plan. What is the truth of the matter? If this is their view, did they 2029 immediately rush to the Dominion Prime Ministers to ask what the views of the Dominions were? Would it even have been necessary to do that?
§ Mr. Adams rose—
§ Mr. Leather
I have only three minutes, and I cannot possibly give way. Would it even have been necessary to do that? Because the Government know as well as we do that for the last five years the Dominions have been urging the Government to get on with their programme for a united Europe, and not to hold back. Those are the views of the Dominion Prime Ministers, and the Government know that. Yet they have the audacity to come here and pretend that because they are protecting the dear Commonwealth for which they have so great a regard, they cannot go ahead with these talks.
The concern of the Commonwealth and of us all—and we have not heard it said by any hon. Member on the opposite side of the House tonight—and what is important for the Empire is the danger of another war. Let us be frank about it. Is not that it? Is it in the interests of the Empire that there should not be a future war? It is, is it not? Perhaps, if we could press forward with constructive measures and a constructive leadership for a united Europe, it might not be necessary once again for the young men of the Dominions and the Colonies to cross the oceans to die in Europe's mud.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Carmichael (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Notwithstanding that atomic effort on the part of the hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather), perhaps I may be permitted to say a few words, and make it quite clear to the House that we are not attempting tonight to defend the Empire as formerly understood by hon. Members opposite. I hope in the course of my remarks to make quite clear the relationship of this Government and this party with the Commonwealth of Nations.
First of all, I suggest we are entitled to assume that every hon. Member taking part in our deliberations tonight is seriously anxious, not only for Europe to be united along the lines of social democracy, but to extend that union throughout the world. That, at any rate, is my 2030 approach to the problem. We are entitled to welcome the efforts of the French Government to have a better understanding with the German Government in Western Germany. Everyone of us is entitled to accept that as a gesture along sound lines. Anything that can be done to end the feud which has lasted for many, many years between the German and French nations is in the right direction. Surely it does not follow that, because somebody calls a conference and we fail to join it, we are making a serious mistake in our approach to European affairs, or a serious mistake in regard to world unity?
What is the argument that has been submitted all day from the other side of the House? That we have made a grave mistake in not entering this conference. One hon. Member, who has a father who distinguished himself by his advocacy of the Empire and preferences for the Empire, told us distinctly that he had no knowledge of what the conference would be discussing, but that it was right and proper to enter the conference to find out what would be discussed, and that if we disagreed during the deliberations we could retire from the conference. Surely he does not expect a serious Government, attempting to build a sound economy in this country and to link it soundly with the economy of Europe and the world, to enter a conference without knowing the problems that will confront the conference or the ultimate outcome of the conference?
§ Mr. Carmichael
I have studied sufficient documents, which cannot be quoted now, that make it quite clear where the approach of the French Government to this conference differs from the approach of the British Government. The difference is quite distinct. The French say that before the conference begins we have to accept the idea of a high authority, an authority standing above the governments of the countries participating. That is the first thing, and therefore our Government have laid it down—it was laid down in great detail by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—why they refuse to enter a conference 2031 which accepts the idea of a high authority standing above governments.
What is the real approach to world politics today by democrats? I think that we are looking for three things: we are looking for world peace; we are attempting to make our contribution from this Government to world peace; and we are equally looking for a sounder world economy than we have ever had before. On the basis of that approach we desire to extend the principle of democracy. Democracy has been destroyed in many parts of Europe; but it was destroyed because of the power of an aggressor. I have heard speeches today from hon. Members claiming to have some knowledge of political advancement, arguing that we should destroy democracy by our own efforts by walking into a conference and saying, "We are not anxious to conduct the domestic and economic life of our people. We are prepared to hand it over to some high authority." That is the attitude adopted today by hon. Members opposite.
When the Opposition talk to us about "Smug respectability," I quote the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles), who told us that we had made no effort towards co-operation. In my short life in this House I have heard all kinds of gloomy forecasts about what would happen because of what we had done. When the American loan was negotiated, we were immediately told that we were being tied to the boot of America; that the string would be sufficiently slack to enable America to kick us all round the place, but would be tight enough to prevent us from making any movement. It was assumed that before very long there would be serious unemployment in this country.
Then we had subsequent Debates on the future of the Commonwealth, and I am amazed that hon. Members opposite should castigate us about that. What kind of speeches did we have about Burma and about India? Every speech from this side of the House was regarded by hon. Members opposite as a signal to the people of the Commonwealth to rise in opposition against us. What has happened? Today, there is greater unity in the Commonwealth of Nations than ever existed formerly in the healthiest period 2032 of the Empire. There is more loyalty and understanding between the British Government and the Government of India than ever existed in the past.
When we enter a European conference, we must not lose sight of our relationship with the Commonwealth. We must enter any European conference by way of the Government. I accept the Government as the responsible body to exercise authority for this country when negotiations take place on any subject concerning the people of the country as a whole. That seems to be the objection of hon. Members opposite, who say that we have made no attempt at co-operation. Today, the Chancellor gave detail after detail of the contribution made by this country to save Europe in its direst hour.
Another thing that amazes me about the hon. Member for Chippenham is his great desire now to maintain full employment. That is certainly a new doctrine to hear from the Opposition, because I have heard many speeches from them, when debating the Economic Survey, in which they have told us that the way to increase production and to develop it to the full is to have a big army of unemployed.
§ Mr. Carmichael
Yes, I can give chapter and verse for statements of that kind made by hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Carmichael
The hon. and gallant Gentleman was not in the House at the time I am talking about, so there is no need for him to get over-excited.
§ Squadron-Leader Burden rose—
§ Mr. Carmichael
I am not giving way. I decided not to give actual quotations, in view of my promise to finish by ten o'clock. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) must not tempt me into saying things about what he is saying at the moment. What I did say, and I will repeat it—and I will produce documentary evidence in this House at the appropriate time—[HON. MEMBERS: "Now."]—was that Members opposite declared during the economic Debates that a larger army of unemployed 2033 would be helpful to the production effort in this country and would increase output. I will repeat the evidence in detail at some other time. I am not trying to run away from it.
§ Mr. Somerset de Chair (Paddington, South) rose—
§ Mr. Carmichael
I am not giving way at this moment. Hon. Members opposite seem anxious to give an opinion because they may not be in the next Parliament. I shall be here long enough to be able to amplify the statement that I have made.
The crux of this Debate lies in the fact that the Government refuse to enter into the conference unless they know exactly what they are to discuss. I say, with all enthusiasm for the Schuman Plan, that if we accept the high authority, this will be a very serious departure. It was asked by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and I think we are entitled to repeat the question—Is this authority to have complete power over the coal and iron production of all the countries concerned? Is the trade union movement to have any say in any of these negotiations? Are the Government entitled to give authority to this particular body to carry out certain duties? After they have given that authority, the body can act as it likes. It can close down establishments and extend establishments without having any conference with any particular country. [HON. MEMBERS: "How do you know? "] How do I know? Because its task is to produce essential commodities of iron, steel and coal, and produce them at the highest point of efficiency, and therefore it is possible at particular stages, taking into account the conditions of the workers, hours and wages, to say what pits should be closed down, what steel works should be closed down and what iron foundries should be closed down. Surely that is implied in the White Paper.
Therefore, I say that, in my view, we are in favour of the greatest possible cooperation with other countries in the world, and we do not intend only to negotiate with people accepting our ideology. [Interruption.] Everyone knows that we have been negotiating in international gatherings and in European gatherings. In spite of the so-called Iron Curtain, the President of the Board of Trade last week, in answer to a Question, made known that we had already made agreements with 2034 Russia for a larger supply of timber than we had formerly.
Surely that is evidence to the House that we are not attempting to associate ourselves in conference only with people that accept the Socialist doctrine. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Russia?"] We have negotiated with Russia, which is a Communist country, and we have negotiated with America which can be regarded as the outstanding capitalist country. We still make our efforts in U.N.O. to be associated with all countries whatever their ideology. We have taken part in European conferences. Conferences are now beginning at Strasbourg, which is very largely a platform, but it is a platform which will expound ideas that will ultimately penetrate into the Governments of Europe. Surely that is sound.
I, for one, will go into the Lobby confidently supporting the Government, because in my view the only way we shall get real understanding in world affairs is by delegating responsibility to the Governments of the countries concerned. Those Governments are answerable to the Parliaments of the respective countries. That is the only way to defend and extend democracy. In the last resort, this Parliament depends upon the will of the people. I am satisfied that if the Opposition go to the country with this Motion, they will find the people are prepared to rest responsibility on the Government and not on a high authority.
§ 9.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Fitzroy Maclean (Lancaster)
Listening to some of the speeches we have heard from the other side, I could not help wondering if Members oppossite really understood the magnitude of the issues involved in this Debate. The Government said in their communiqué on 3rd June that what they called "an unhappy situation" would arise if once they had joined in the discussions they had to withdraw. That is quite true. But the situation will be very much more unhappy if they do not get into the discussions at all. If that happens we shall be left, and very badly left indeed.
I sometimes listen to the Russian wireless, and if I had not already been convinced of the importance of this issue, I certainly would have been after I had heard what the Russians have to say about it. They hate the idea of this country going in on the Schuman Plan. 2035 They warn us against it with all the eloquence they can muster. They say it will be the end of British prosperity and independence. "But," they add, "even among bourgeois circles, some more sober-minded people are beginning to realise the magnitude of the danger. I wonder who these sober-minded bourgeois are. I suppose the Minister of Health and the Minister of Town and Country Planning.
Why are the Russians showing this sudden concern for our welfare? Why are they so anxious that we should keep out of the Schuman Plan? It is because they realise—and I wish I thought Members opposite realised it—the immense political, economic and, above all, strategic importance of this issue. It is because they realise that in British participation in the Schuman Plan lies our best hope of a genuinely united Europe, a Europe strong enough to be an effective barrier to any further expansion or aggression on their part in the West. That is why they are against it.
I think most people are agreed that if there is to be a united Europe, if there ii to be a European security system that works, the Germans have somehow got to be brought into it. The problem is how to bring them in without at the same time creating a Frankenstein's monster, without creating a menace just as dangerous as the one we are trying to guard ourselves against. It seems to me that the Schuman proposals provide a way out of this difficulty, but on one condition, on condition that this country takes part. That seems to me to be absolutely essential. Otherwise there is a danger that a Continental bloc will be formed, dominated inevitably by Germany, and by a Germany not necessarily very well disposed towards us.
If we can make Germany as an integral part of Western Europe, with ourselves, France and the other Western European countries holding the balance, then it should be possible for the Germans somehow to regain their position as a nation without risk of a repetition of what happened between the wars. If we can achieve that, we can also achieve something else. We can make a united Europe a reality. We can build up on the Elbe—and it has to be on the Elbe—an effective barrier against 2036 Russian aggression and expansion. And that is something that has got to be done without delay. Let us have no illusions about it. There is no such barrier in existence today. If there was war tomorrow the Red Army could be at the Channel within a week.
Everything, it seems, depends on us. If we act now there may be still time, but if we delay, it will be too late. The longer we wait the more likely things are to go wrong and the less chance we shall have to put that right. It is the old story of the Sibylline books. The longer you hesitate the higher the price becomes and the less you get for it. That is why I beg the Government to stop hesitating, to stop lecturing us on Socialism, and to take bold, positive and imaginative action while there is still time.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
The hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. F. Maclean) said he was making an effort to return the Debate to its proper subject. He did not do it. There is no disagreement that it would be a good thing if Britain, France and Germany cooperated in the control of iron and steel. The Schuman Plan was greeted by the Prime Minister even more warmly than the hon. Gentleman has just greeted it.
The issue of this Debate, which has been selected for the first challenge to the Government on foreign policy since 1945, is not whether or not we are in favour of co-operating with Europe and working out our economic problems. Our legalistic problem was narrowed down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). The right hon. Gentleman said that he was in favour of accepting the principle of a high authority with every qualification and every loophole; the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he was against accepting the principle but would do everything possible to co-operate despite that difficulty.
There is the precise difference which we find in this Debate between the two Front Benches, and no blame should attach to back benchers in view of the fantastic decision to have this Debate for a day and a half on this very fine issue. Angels on the point of a needle are nothing to the legalistic niceties and balancing on this issue by the right hon. 2037 Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington, when he says, "I am not discussing whether or not we should be members of a supra-national authority, while I am blaming the Government for refusing to commit themselves beforehand to that issue."
What is the Conservative Party's precise issue on this point? Why have they chosen for the first major Debate on foreign policy this issue of a supranational authority? On the whole they were right, because there is a basic issue, but I would suggest that that basic issue has not been faced by Conservative speakers. They have tried to make this a great deal too easy, and considering their experience in ruling they demanded rather too much naïveté from us. Their suggestion is, "Do not worry about signing; it is all right. It is quite unimportant, for it does not make any difference if one signs anything one likes to get in." Frankly, the Germans do that, but we do not. The Conservatives tell us that we should sign and then they tell us that we can back out like Dutchmen. If I may say so, the Dutch are small enough to back out in a big way; we are too big for that sort of thing. I am astonished that the Tory Party should come to this House of Commons with the attitude, "Do not worry about phrases. Let us get in on the talks. Let us sign anything to get in."
Let us at any rate take the French seriously. It was not we who were doctrinaire, but the persons who invented the phrase "high authority." The so-called Schuman Plan is not a plan. It is a great mass of soapsuds out of which emerges one solid iron point. Everything is vague in the Schuman Plan, except one thing, the supra-national authority. Why was it that, in a plan where everything else could be modified, the one thing that was sacred and which could not be compromised by the French was the supranational authority? Was it inappropriate of His Majesty's Government, observing the French obduracy on this point and observing that they were prepared to agree to any other changes except on this, to believe that the French gave great importance to it and that therefore we should give great importance to it and consider it very carefully? Was it so unreasonable, when we understand—and here I agree entirely with the right hon. 2038 Member for Warwick and Leamington—the purpose of the plan? What is the purpose of the Schuman Plan?
§ Mr. Crossman
If I may say so to my hon. Friend, there is no economic plan, but there is a political plan. The purpose of the Schuman Plan politically is to tie the Germans up so tightly that they will not be a menace to the French, but what ties the Germans up so tightly that they cannot be a menace to the French might tie this country up so tightly that it could not do its service to the world. Some constitutional institution designed to keep the Germans tied might have the disadvantage of keeping the British tied. This is the dilemma of the Schuman Plan. If a Frenchman believes, as I do not, that we can tame the Germans with words and constitutions, then what we use to tame the Germans will make it impossible for a responsible Government in this country to accept the same plan.
§ Mr. Boothby
Surely, the implication of that is that you can never get effective co-operation from Germany by any method.
§ Mr. Crossman
I want to bring these remarks to a logical conclusion, so I will answer that point straight away. Perhaps the lesson is that we cannot tame the Germans by a constitution and that it is better to have the British in, on terms appropriate to the British, to maintain the power relationship, which is the only thing which can tame Germany. One of the things about which we ought to warn our French friends is the belief that a constitution can cure chronic evils. A constitution such as this will make no difference to the essential danger from Germany. It is a possibility, but it is a pity to sacrifice British support, which is all-important, for the sake of a phrase.
If this House were candid it would have to admit that it was the French who made it very difficult for us to come in. I know that it is impossible for the Government Front Bench to say this, but, after studying the White Paper, I must say that it was their great obduracy on this single point which made it difficult for anybody to come in who was not prepared, like hon. Gentlemen opposite, to sign his name to something in which he did not believe.
§ Mr. Anthony Nutting (Melton)
Does the hon. Member regard it as obdurate for the French to say in their communiqué of 30th May:As has already been made clear in the French Memorandum of 9th May, there will be no commitment except by the signature of a treaty between the States concerned and its parliamentary ratification."?
§ Mr. Crossman
If the hon. Member will read the next paragraph he will see why there is a catch in it still. I do not think there is any dispute that the French were determined to make acceptance in principle a basis of discussion. It may be that there is a difference in language, but surely everybody is agreed that the French wanted this conference by people who had accepted it in principle, except small nations like the Dutch. Big nations had to accept it in principle. I do not blame the French for this.
My second point is that the French want this for two reasons. One is the fear of Germany. The second is, of course, because of a certain inner defeatism which makes Frenchmen passionately believe in federal union. The amount of enthusiasm for federal union in any country is a measure of its defeatism and of its feeling of inability to measure up to its own problems. I do not underestimate the need for helping the French, but I would say that it is the nations who talk about "putting it in the kitty" who have nothing to put in. Look at the nations with self-confidence in Europe. We find that they are not addicts of federal union. Look at the nations which are defeated morally, the democratic Germans and the French. They feel that they must have a new framework of life, for the nation is no longer a framework which gives them a chance of survival.
I would say to the Opposition that it would be a very great mistake for this country to accept what a Frenchman feels as a defeatist, is the basis for defeating Communism. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have not taken that question nearly seriously enough. The French are obdurate about the principle of the supranational authority because they hope that the supra-national authority will lead to a European political union. They are quite right and logical as democrats so to do, for no one except a cartel addict could possibly agree to remain at the 2040 stage where 12 men make decisions binding on the Government and are responsible to no one. Is it not obvious that the next stage must be a European parliament to which these men are responsible and which has a capital? Every Frenchman puts this forward as a half-way house to federal union which may be more acceptable to the British Government than the more direct approach of the Council of Europe at Strasbourg.
It is only fair to ask the Opposition this question. Do they accept the principle of the Schuman Plan as the first stage towards the political union of Western Europe? If they do that, then they really are accepting it in the spirit of a Frenchman or in the spirit of the hon. Member for Reading, North (Mr. R. Mackay), who is, I think, the only Member of this House who conscientiously thinks that he believes in the federal union of Western Europe. But if they do not want a federal union of Western Europe and if they want to have this supra-national authority, and then one for transport, and then one for defence until we have half a dozen of them, responsible to no one, they are insulting the whole idea of democracy. The only way of democratising M. Schuman's suggestion is to complete it by a federal parliament.
It is absolutely essential that this House of Commons in reply to the French, who are our allies—that means that we treat them seriously and do not try to trick them by signing things we do not mean—should say quite openly whether they believe in federal union or not. I will say to the House that for some time I believed in it. I believed in it because I was a "Third Forcer." It was the only way I could see of bringing together a middle group. This was at the time when there seemed to be no hope of an Atlantic Union; it seemed the only thing to do in 1947 and 1948, to try to create a third middle group, because America was not going far enough for most of us who took that position. We could not foresee what would happen. We were wrong in our failure to see the great expansion of American foreign policy and possibilities since that date.
What astonishes me is that the Tory Party, which pours every sort of abuse on any idea of a Third Force, should fail to understand that a European federal 2041 union, which is the logical conclusion of a supra-national authority, only makes sense in terms of a third force.
§ Mr. Crossman
A Third Force means an independent middle group between America and Russia. I should have hoped that the hon. Gentleman, who has listened to this Debate, would have had the minimum education to understand what is it about.
Therefore I ask the Tory Party this question: are they in favour of the federal union of Western Europe? Up till now they have been clever in not answering that question. Their leaders have gone about Europe advocating the United Europe movement which has one unfortunate resemblance to the League of Nations Union. It is based on an ambiguity. Just as the League of Nations Union was based on an ambiguity about pacifism and fighting, so European Union is based on an ambiguity about European unity and federalism. It is run and financed by federalists, but the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) goes careering round saying "I am in favour of it," making all the federalists believe that he is with them and making Lord Beaverbrook believe that, in his heart of hearts, he is with him. It is about time the Tory Party stopped that double talk with Europe because we have to get a basis of understanding with Europe. If, as I believe, no responsible party in this country is willing to undertake federal union within any forseeable time, we ought to tell the French.
There are many reasons why we are opposed to federal union. The Commonwealth has been mentioned and it is the overwhelming reason. We cannot be a member of a federation of Europe, or even of a confederation of Europe—Switzerland is a confederation—and remain the motherland of a Commonwealth of independent nation states because the notion of Commonwealth is to achieve national independence, whereas the notion of federal union is to supersede nationalism by a new superstate. We cannot combine the two. We ought to tell Europe if we think so, even if we upset the Americans and lose Marshall Aid. But the Americans 2042 are our friends and it is high time they were told that there is no chance of federal union. If they are going to cut off Marshall Aid because of that, they must cut it off, but I do not think they will do it because they appreciate honesty rather than double talk.
Our pamphlet did that. It was a party pamphlet which gave party political reasons why the Labour Party would never consent to the federal union of Western Europe. Some reasons we have in common with the other side. The other side want a sterling area; so do we. The other side want a Commonwealth; so do we. The other side are concerned with British agriculture; so are we. [Interruption.] The only difference is that hon. Members opposite depend for more of their votes on that particular group and, therefore, are more emphatic on the subject. But whichever side we are on, none of us would like to see our farmers subject to completely free competition as we would have to do in a federal union. Therefore we can be quite clear that no one in this House is prepared to argue for federal union.
I have heard great play this evening with a suggestion that Socialists should not put forward Socialist reasons for opposing federal union. I would like to put to the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington, who is a fair man, the following hypothetical case which it may be difficult for him to imagine. Let him imagine that for the last five years there has been a Conservative government in this country and a Socialist government in France. Let him imagine that, instead of M. Schuman, M. Moch as Foreign Secretary of France five weeks ago had put forward a Moch plan in which he had said, "We will pool all our European industries on condition that they are all nationalised." Would we have considered it completely doctrinaire and ideological of a Conservative government to show a certain amount of self-restraint in showing its enthusiasm for defining the principle of nationalisation before they attended a conference? Would it have been so wicked if, not the Government—Governments are careful—but if the Conservative Party had issued a document saying that with Socialist Europe they were really not prepared to sign away the free enterprise of Britain and have it compulsorily nationalised in order to suit the Socialists 2043 of Europe? I should have thought that that was fairly simple, and I should like the Leader of the Opposition to answer that question.
§ Mr. Crossman
I am sorry that the right hon. Member came in late, because he missed the centre point of my argument, which was that a supra-national authority cannot be democratised except under a federal union, and that therefore, if he supports a supra-national authority, he must support a federal union, if he is a democrat; and I asked whether he did. I then pointed out that our party pamphlet, which is concerned with showing why we are not in favour of a federal union—not of the Schuman Plan, because we welcome it, but of federal union—gave Socialist reasons, why we were not in favour.
I want to turn now to the nature of the supra-national authority.
§ Mr. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland) rose—
§ Mr. Crossman
I should like to go on—[Interruption.] It is no good saying I do not like being interrupted—I do; but I want to get on with my party speech. I want to turn to the Conservative views on the supra-national authority. I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) that we are in something of a paradox. The Conservative Party for five years have been denouncing control and the upsetting of the price system, and now they suddenly say, "We want a complete and iron control, clamped by 12 just men, upon all Governments, on iron and steel and coal." [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite cannot have been listening to the Debate, but I have been listening to Conservative after Conservative saying that he wants success for the Schuman Plan. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who says so?"] We have been told that the Conservative Party is in favour—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who says so?"] I cannot answer while the shouting continues.
2044 The right hon. Gentleman said it, and every following speaker said that he wishes the Schuman Plan well and wants to accept the principle; and the principle of the Schuman Plan is that an authority shall be set up under which there shall be an iron price control, under which all production shall be centrally planned, under which there shall be no more free enterprise in iron or coal. Why should the party opposite, which up till now has stood for free enterprise, and has dilated against the control of iron and steel in this country, be delighted when it can find a control which is not subject to this Parliament, but subject to no Parliament at all? Then, it is perfectly all right.
I have one explanation. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are very used to international controls which are not subject to Parliaments. Many of them have taken part in arranging them.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Which?"]—We will mention tin and rubber. There are one or two hon. Gentlemen opposite who in their back lives took part in tin or rubber price-fixing, and they say, "All this is international. This is really the stuff." That is what we are accustomed to. We have never had that in any Parliamentary control, and now that we have the Schuman Plan that is perfect because there is no Parliamentary control. I suggest that that is a very undemocratic reason for approving of a non-democratic authority. Is it really a sound principle of democracy? I ask the Liberals. The Liberals are saying, "We want a complete destruction of free enterprise and free trade altogether, and we want a monopoly, a State controlled, and super-State controlled, monopoly," to which every American, if it happened in America, would have to apply the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, because it would be illegal in America.
Here are our Liberal friends saying that this is the solution in Europe, to institute a bigger control, a remoter control, a more central control, than anything dreamt of by a Socialist Government in this country, and to remove any vestige of democracy from it. Let us remember that that is the one point which M. Schuman made clear: that the authority shall not be subject to Parliament. Hon. Members may say, "We are going to change all that," but it is worth noticing 2045 that that was the one point which M. Schuman was not going to have changed in the three weeks of discussion before the Conference. In all seriousness I do not believe that a supra-national authority or high authority of this kind will do. I think it will either have to be a democratic Socialist authority—that is one way it could go—or lead towards it by having the industries nationalised, or it will lead to the corporate State. It either leads to the corporate State or to Socialism, and I warn hon. Members opposite that they do not like either and that they had better not support this sort of thing. In so far as it leads to democratic Socialism I am for it, and so is the democratic Labour Party and that is what the pamphlet says—
§ Mr. Grimond rose—
§ Mr. Crossman
I have only a few minutes, and in the concluding minutes I want to put forward two practical proposals. We have had to analyse and find out what the Opposition were trying to evade saying, and I have helped them to say it. It seems to me that the greatest tragedy would be if France and Britain were divided by two words and the two words are "inter-governmental" and "supra-national." It would be an absolute disaster if those two words were clung to by each Government and the result was that we had a Franco-German alliance against Britain. The important thing, therefore, is to urge on the Government and say, "You have been completely right in openly and honestly telling the French and Americans that this country is not going into a federal union; we think it is the wrong way to organise Europe."
I think the Government were completely right in saying to M. Schuman, "We cannot accept even the principle of a non-democratic Europe." M. Schuman has been changing his authority three or four times since, and it will be democratic if we stay outside long enough. What we must not do is to believe that we can rely on these negotiations breaking down between the Germans and French and our coming in to save the conference. My greatest fear is that for overwhelming reasons of French prestige and German national policy a treaty could very easily be signed between those two nations which might exclude us for ever.
2046 Therefore, I agree with the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington on the danger of Western European affairs being dominated by the Germans, for that is what any Franco-German cartel would mean. It would be a return to German domination of France such as we had under Vichy. A distinguished German diplomat over here said to me the other day, "After all, we ran France for five years. We are not going to worry about the terms that are signed. We sign first and change after." We cannot sign like that, but we have to face that danger, and I do beg the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister not to wait until the conference is concluded before putting forward their practical proposals—not to wait until Franco-German agreement has been reached.
It seems to me absolutely vital that the British proposals—for instance, the answer to the 40-page document which has reached London from Paris, I think, this morning—should be given as soon as possible in concrete terms, showing the concrete nature of the compromise proposal we are going to put forward, a proposal which would enable there to be an executive, that is to say a civil service, freed from Government interference and yet responsible to a democratic authority. It is not beyond the wit of man in Britain to devise that compromise. I believe the compromise can now be put forward because we have done the right thing in negating the two dangerous doctrines of federal union and the non-democratic supra-national authority.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
The brilliant but chameleon-like figure who has just resumed his seat has boxed almost every point in the political compass not only in his short and fascinating political career, but also in the space of a 25 minutes' speech. I think that no one who was not familiar with his political virtuosity could have believed that a speech in those terms could seriously be delivered in this House in support of an Amendment which begins with the words:That this House welcomes the initiative of the French Foreign Minister …First of all, the hon. Gentleman began by explaining that the only outcome of this initiative would be a European federation which of its necessary character would be undemocratic and in which 2047 he did not believe; and he went on to express his fears that a Franco-German alliance against this country would be one of its other consequences. I think he should have put a Motion on the Order Paper condemning the initiative if he thought it would have those fiendish consequences. But it would be easy to fritter away the few minutes we have left this evening by answering in kind the various jibes and taunts culled from the armoury of party warfare which have been flung to and fro across the Chamber.
In my view, at any rate, the matter of this discussion is far too momentous for such a course. Though it may seem unduly ambitious, my purpose, however unsuccessful, will be to try to break through the barrier which divides the parties and explain what it is that we who have put the Motion on the Order Paper regard as the ultimate issue which we shall have to decide tomorrow evening. There are only two observations, therefore, to which I would advert particularly.
Let not the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood) deceive himself. Those of us who support this Motion are in deadly earnest. There is no question of play-acting. And I must say this to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who in a momentary lapse from taste made a suggestion that ought not to have been put forward, that there is no camouflage here. It would not be our purpose, we do not think it would be the purpose of any Government of whatever political complexion, to accept proposals unless they honestly meant to accept them in their hearts. There is no idea of signing what we do not mean to perform, as the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) suggested.
We have moved this Motion because we believe in the course proposed, and for no other reason. The last thing in our minds would be to support it in the hope that the French might be dislodged from the fundamental principle of the plan or in the belief and expectation that it would break down as impracticable. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he did not know whether this was a Motion of Censure. A Motion of Censure is what the Government choose to make 2048 a Motion of Censure. But there is no word of censure in the Motion. It is a request to His Majesty's Government to pursue a particular course. It is still not too late for that request to be accepted, and censure, if censure there be, will come at the point, but not before, when all hope that this opportunity presented by the Schuman proposals has finally been lost. At this stage, if this Motion were carried and the Government took the course we ask, no one would be less anxious to make a purely political advantage of their change of direction than I or, as I believe, my right hon. and hon. Friends.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer made a speech of great cogency this afternoon. If he will forgive me for saying so, as a very humble member of his former profession, I have heard most of the great leaders of the Bar in my time, either in this House or in the courts of law, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman rightly is ranked among the highest of them. Speaking of his performance this afternoon, I can remember nothing like it since Lord Simon was Foreign Secretary. Nevertheless, if the right hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me for saying this, and perhaps for revealing a professional secret, forensic eloquence, even when it is of the best, depends for its value and for its validity upon its assumptions. The right hon. and learned Gentleman made two assumptions in the course of his speech this afternoon. Both were false assumptions, and his speech was therefore as valueless as I think it will be unfortunate in its consequences in Europe.
First, he assumed that by accepting the principles laid down in the draft communiqué, we would ipso facto be committing ourselves either to the justice of some particular set of proposals or, alternatively, to the acceptance of any course which turned out to be practicable. I do not so read these principles. The second assumption was that in offering the European comity of nations cooperation, he was offering an effective substitute, or a reasonable alternative, to a high authority. I do not believe that that assumption was well founded either. As the hon. Member for Coventry, East, reminded us, we are not, in this Debate primarily concerned with the question of co-operation as such. I trust that even 2049 though this great opportunity is missed, we shall still look forward to a considerable degree of co-operation in Europe. That is not in question.
The purpose of these proposals was to see whether a new departure in principle ought not to be made, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows as well as anybody in this House that a mere statement of the willingness of His Majesty's Government to cooperate, to adopt constructive attitudes or friendly poses, is by no means an alternative for adopting the principle of the pooling of resources or the institution of a high authority. It seems to me that the French Government did a notable service to clarity and honesty of thought in Europe in sticking to its guns upon this point. Before conversations of any sort can have any value, they must have a significant objective. The significant objective of these conversations was the pooling of resources and the institution of a high authority. They were entitled to ask of those who participate with them that they should affirm, aye or nay, whether they accepted these objectives, and to refuse to continue with those who said that they did not accept them. On the other hand they were equally entitled, it seemed to me, themselves to be rather cautious before they anticipated the results of discussions by attempting to elucidate what could only emerge as a consequence of discussion, namely, the general outlines, still less the details of a plan, with the safeguards which would have to be written into such a plan at the behest of the nations for whose protection the safeguards were proposed.
Whether the French Government were reasonable or not, we are entitled to ask a question to which so far no speaker on the other side of the House has attempted an answer. It is this: Are they, under any circumstances and, if so, under what circumstances, prepared for any purpose to consider as a desirable objective any institution of a supranational or a high authority or the pooling of resources as a desirable object to pursue? Hon. Gentlemen opposite have been ready with questions for us. Why have they proposed no answer to that question of mine? Is it that they do not know the answer, or is it they do know the answer but that they are 2050 secretly unalterably opposed to these very principles, but do not venture to say so in this House or in the comity of Europe?
It is here that one is bound to refer to the party pamphlet on European unity and to numerous speeches made in this House. This pamphlet, which I have carefully studied, makes it plain by explicit references to the Schuman Plan that, not merely does it not welcome the initiative of the French Foreign Minister and excludes the possibility of a supranational authority, but it does so in every possible form and rejects each without qualification and unalterably. Either the party pamphlet does not represent the policy of His Majesty's Government, or the conduct of the Minister of State in saying that they did not exclude the possibility of accepting the French principle was insincere. Either that pamphlet must be abandoned or the Motion on the Order Paper welcoming the initiative of the French Foreign Minister is hypocrisy.
May I deal shortly with the principal arguments, not in support of the Government Amendment, but in opposition to the principles of the Schuman Plan put forward from the benches opposite, and in one notably sincere but wholly misguided speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke). First, it is said that the Schuman Plan is inconsistent with our obligations to the Commonwealth and Empire. If that were true, then it would be a formidable objection. But whenever that assertion has been made it has been made as a sort of unproved piece of dogmatism. No single shred of evidence has been produced in support of it. Why should we assume that our relations with the Commonwealth would be unavoidably affected?
My hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. Amery), in what I think was a notable contribution, said that in his view the Commonwealth would like us to support it. I will only give my own conviction in the matter. Not only is our relationship with the Commonwealth not inconsistent with this departure, but our continued relationship with the Commonwealth is conditional on our acceptance of it. People say our relationship with the Commonwealth is not something inconsistent with our relationship with Europe; but I go further and say that one is conditional on the other.
2051 Culturally, militarily, economically and politically the Commonwealth will be nothing, unless Europe is prosperous and safe. Nor will Europe ever be prosperous and safe unless the Commonwealth is united behind the United Kingdom. These are not inconsistent ideals; if they were, we might as well close down the blinds on this House of Commons. No, that seems to me to be a peculiarly ineffectual argument.
May I now deal with the argument from the benches opposite which sought to prove that our adherence to this plan would be fatal to our economic prosperity. It is said that the plan is a danger to full employment or to the standard of life of our workers. To my mind, this is pure confusion of thought. If there be a threat to the full employment of our workers or to their standards of life, the threat to full employment lies in the industrial production potential on the other side of the Channel. If there be a threat to our standards of life, it lies in the lower standards of the German and the French workers. One does not raise these standards by refusing to participate in the plan. One does not close these strip-mills by refusing to participate in the plan. The threat, if it be a threat, is all the more menacing with us out of the plan than with us in it. The one hope we might have of organising the production of Europe and raising the standards of its workers to a level comparable with our own would be if we had accepted these proposals and boldly said that we would be prepared, in given circumstances, to pool our resources and to submit to the ruling of an international authority. But that the Government have refused to do.
It has been said that we cannot have the plan unless we have a wholly Socialist Europe, that only with Socialist Europe can we co-operate to the full. I should have thought that this argument either proves too much or proves nothing at all. Either it would be an objection to any form of co-operation with America and the Commonwealth which are equally non-Socialist countries, or it would not be an objection to full co-operation with Europe. But there are other objections, practical and on principle, to this argument. There is the practical objection that we have no guarantee that at one 2052 moment of time there ever will be a Socialist Europe. Certainly, the Governments of Europe are not Socialist now, and when they become Socialist, if ever they do, there is no guarantee that the Government of this country will remain so. Nor, if there ever were a moment of time at which all the Governments had the same political complexion, is there any guarantee that they would remain so for long. A European unity which is based upon the political complexion of individual Governments would be a precarious, ineffective in-and-out affair, and would hardly command the respect of the countries which belong to it.
In truth and in fact there is a theoretical answer to this argument. It is not possible logically to make a condition of the adoption of a new authority or institution the adoption of a particular policy by that authority or institution, even though it is believed that that policy is essential for success of that authority or institution. Had we been living in this country at the time of the heptarchy and one of the heptarchy governments had been Socialist, it would not have been a reasonable argument against the integration of the United Kingdom that all six other governments must immediately adopt the principles of the one which was Socialist.
§ Mr. Crossman rose—
§ Mr. Hogg
I will give way in a minute. The adoption of a planned Socialist economy in Europe, if that be a desirable objective at all—and that is something about which we must obviously agree to differ in this Debate—is an objective which can only be obtained as the result of the creation of institutions and not as a condition of joining them.
§ Mr. Crossman
Granted the hon. and learned Member's whole case about Socialism, does it not apply with equal force to federal union? Is it not equally true, if we cannot force Socialism on Europe, that nobody else should try to force federal union as the only form of political union allowed?
§ Mr. Hogg
I do not think I was trying to force federal union on anybody. I am willing to follow the words of Cardinal Newman in the hymn:I do not ask to see The distant scene; one step enough for me.2053 It is what M. Schuman referred to as a step in a limited but decisive sphere. It is an experiment which we ought to attempt to make. All of use are alive to the fact that there are dangers and difficulties in the way. That should not prevent us from taking the step and making the experiment from which one may, if in doubt, or if failure should result, withdraw; it will always be possible to wind up the experiment. But we, on this side, anticipate no failure, and we must confess that we are a little confused by the arguments made from the benches opposite to the effect that the Right-wing complexion of existing European Governments must necessarily prove to be an obstacle to the plan.
I am anxious to say nothing which can be construed as provocative to the sensibilities of hon. Members opposite on this matter and I therefore assume their premises. But what is the danger or threat constituted by this alleged Right-wing policy? It is the believe that laissez-faire economics and the free operation of economic forces will lead in Europe to slump and unemployment in the future. But what is the free play which would be likely to lead to that slump? Surely the free play of economic forces between our country and others, and not the free play of those forces simply within those countries.
But one does not restrict the free play of economic forces between one country and another by refusing to participate in the plan. On the contrary if we are outside the plan there will be free play of economic forces between our country and the countries who are in the plan. The plan itself, so far as it goes, can only have the effect of modifying the free play of economic forces. One cannot plan in a vacuum, and if that is so, one does not remove the threat by refusing to participate in the plan. By doing that, one refuses to accept the one positive chance of removing this threat for, whatever else the plan may be—and I think that the hon. Member for Coventry, East appreciates it—it is not the free play of economic forces.
I am also a little bewildered by the argument by hon. Members opposite that the policy of the plan must necessarily be restrictive in character. That I can only describe as the purest nonsense. If a set of economic circumstances existed such 2054 as existed before the war, in which it was found impossible to expand effective demand, the policy of an authority organising production would be restrictive in character. And so I must add in parenthesis, it ought to be, even restriction is better than chaos. But hon. Members opposite tell us, as I believe to be the truth, that it is now possible to plan effective demand so that we can have a continuous sellers' market, and then, quite obviously, the policy of an organisation of resources would be expansionist in character.
That disposes, as it seems to me, of a number of arguments which have certainly loomed somewhat large in the arguments, in this House and elsewhere, in the speeches of hon. Members opposite. Then there was the recurring theme that the plan would not be popular; that if it turned out to be an election cry, it would not be acceptable, and that it would not pay a party to accept the principles if it wished to win the next election. I do not attach much importance to that argument. I have no means of gauging if it is correct, nor am I as clever as hon. Members opposite in forecasting the results of an election.
But whether this be so or not there comes a time for parties and statesmen to adopt certain principles because they believe them to be right, and not because they believe that their action may bring them a temporary electoral success. It is the duty of statesmen and of governments to lead and to guide, and not merely to reflect opinion. This course of action which we advance to-night, we believe, on this side of the House, is right, and we believe that the time will come when it will be recognised to be right. We only hope and pray that the hour of realisation will arrive, not in the moment of catastrophe, not in the agony of despair, but in time to repair the mistakes which are being made at the moment.
For 2,500 years the nations of Western Europe and their predecessors have struggled painfully, brick by brick, to build up a body of political doctrine enshrining belief in the freedom of individuals and of nations, fortified by the rule of law, sustained and inspired in the later centuries by the massive philosophy and age-long tradition of historical Christianity, achieving, as I believe, not only an unparalleled measure of human 2055 freedom but also an unparalleled measure of human co-operation. This is the Western civilisation of which we talk. This is the Christian society. This is the thing which gives us all a second country above and apart from that in which we were born. This is the tradition which gives to our constant internecine feuds and strifes the poignancy as well as the bitterness of civil war.
It has not proved enough. The specific challenge of history to our civilisation has been its inability to solve the problem of peace. We have never achieved liberty except at the expense of a considerable degree of disorder. Nor have we ever built up a system of order without sacrificing some of the essential principles of liberty. Bloodshed has marked the course of our career through time. We have all become the children of Cain with his brand upon our brow, and if this plan can, as I believe it can, offer a step forward towards a specific response to this historical challenge, then I do not think it will be in vain.
But let not hon. Members seek to minimise the consequences of their decision. Let them not think or flatter themselves that because an opportunity has been missed now, it will necessarily ever recur again in the future. Let them not try to ride off with the reflection, when they have come to the parting of the ways, that the considerations which led to their decision were marginal or that the points of difference appeared to be small, as the hon. Member for Coventry, East seemed to think.
All the great splits of history have occurred around tiny differences of phraseology, a letter or a word in the articles of belief. But only the superficial are deceived by such minutiae. Behind the carefully-qualified phrases of the politician, behind the carefully-worded manifestos, there is nearly always to be seen a difference of principle which leads to a different conclusion. In this dispute there has been no exception. The Government have offered the peoples of Europe cooperation and constructive attitudes, goodwill and friendship. I seek neither to impugn the sincerity of that offer nor to minimise its value, but it is not enough.
Tonight we are asking for something more. We are asking that some definite step forward should be made by His Majesty's Government by stating in unequivocal 2056 terms that, given adequate safeguards, given adequate protection to the particular needs of our own community and of others, they would at some stage be prepared to step forward with a new modification or extension of the doctrine of sovereignty and some cession of their own privately held opinions. It is because I believe that that step is one which His Majesty's Government can still take and not one which it is now too late to take, that I urge the Government to accept this Motion in the spirit in which it has been moved and supported today.
§ It being Eleven o' Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.