§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I beg to move,That this House, being gravely concerned at the pressure to make this country enter a European common market and the consequent threat to subject its independence, its membership of the Commonwealth and its right and power to plan its economy in its own way, to a political union with Germany, France, Italy and Benelux, as well as at the threat to the survival of the Commonwealth inherent in these proposals, urges Her Majesty's Government not to enter into any negotiations concerning such entry until expressly empowered so to do by a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers and by this House.
§ Mr. Speaker
It might be convenient if I indicate now that, of the Amendments to the Motion, I intend to call that standing in the name of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) and other hon. Members, and none of the others. The Amendment is, in line I, to leave out from "House" to the end and to add:conscious of the threat to the Free World inherent in the present divisions of Europe, would support Her Maejsty's Government in entering into negotiation with the European Economic Community after consultation with the members of the Commonwealth, and with due regard to the interests of British agriculture and of the European Free Trade Association".
§ Mr. Silverman
I have the leave of the House to move this Motion by reason of the fact that, on 13th June, I was successful in the Ballot for Motions in private Members' time. The House will forgive a personal reference. This is the second time in my nearly twenty-six years' membership of the House that I have been so fortunate.
It happened to me the first time when I had been a Member only three or four months, and on that occasion I moved a Motion about the plight of Lancashire, to which, also, there was an Amendment, and I like to remember that I carried it to a Division and nearly succeeded in defeating the Government. There were 97 votes on one side and 93 on the other. In those days I convinced myself, rightly or wrongly, that I would have defeated the Government of the day if half my hon. Friends had not been away from the House attending a reception at the Soviet Embassy. Where the majority of my right hon. and hon. 520 Friends are on this occasion it would be idle to speculate, and I would not impute to their absence any motive induced by any improper source to embarrass the proper use of private Members' time.
I chose this Motion because it has always seemed to me that, although it is not the only function which private Members might perform if they are lucky in the Ballot, it is, nevertheless, one of the most important that the occasion may be used, and on suitable occasions should be used, for important questions of national, and, indeed, of international policy for which neither the Government of the day nor the official Opposition are ready, no doubt for good and sufficient reasons, to find time.
On this occasion there was no doubt about the importance which was attached to the subject of my Motion. I cannot do better than to quote the Prime Minister, who said, on 13th June:I think that both parties are broadly agreed that these are very grave issues for the future of our country and the world, and that we must try to think about them objectively to see if we can find a solution.Later, he said:I think that the mood of the House as a whole is that this is a very serious and almost solemn question that we have to consider."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th June, 1961; Vol. 642, c. 209.]If that is so, it was perhaps a pity that we did not have, in a more official way, the opportunity to consider this solemn and important question, and I hope, therefore, that the House will bear with me if I offer it in, I hope, not too long a speech the opportunity of considering it tonight and of coming to a decision.
When I say a decision, I am not pretending for a moment that this is the proper time or the proper occasion for deciding whether this country shall or shall not become one of those countries in Europe which accept the provisions of the Treaty of Rome, or for coming to any decision in substance at all. There are some matters which are common to all of us in the House. One I have already referred to—the historic and fundamentally important nature of the decision, whether to join or not to join, that we ultimately take. I think that we are all agreed about that.
Then, I think that we are all agreed about something else. Certainly, the 521 Prime Minister was perfectly clear about it. It is that in no circumstances would any hon. Member, as I understand it, be prepared to sign the Treaty of Rome as it stands, without amendment, without modification, or without safeguards. I think that there is no doubt that that is common ground.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North) rose—
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Member will understand, I am sure, that I cannot give way to interruptions without taking too great a share of what must necessarily be a short debate.
When I say "sign the Treaty of Rome", I mean to enter into association with the European Economic Community on the unamended lines set out in the Treaty now. There is nobody who is in favour of doing that.
Then there is a third proposition which I also claim to be common ground. Certainly, if there are differences about this, as there may well be, they are not differences between the Government Front Bench and me. This proposition is that not merely ought we not at this moment to decide to join, with or without amendment, but at this moment we should not decide even to negotiate to see whether suitable amendments or suitable safeguards or suitable conditions can be arrived at. The Prime Minister was very clear about this and I venture to quote him again. Time after time during this exchange of questions he returned to this point.
The right hon. Gentleman said:The question is exactly what is meant by' before decisions are taken'. There is first a decision to negotiate, and then, much later, a decision, as a result of negotiations, to see whether any satisfactory arrangements can be made.Then, later, he said:The first thing is to get these Commonwealth discussions before any further discussions between ourselves and the members of the Six.A little later still, he said:The only decision now is whether or not to enter into negotiations which may or may not be successful"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th June, 1961; Vol 642, c. 205–7.]I have borne all that in mind in framing my Motion. I do not pretend—it would be idle to pretend, because 522 nobody would believe me if I attempted it—that my Motion does not indicate a personal view, a personal view which, in due course, I shall shortly defend. But the operative part of my Motion does not invite the House to agree, even in principle, to join or not to join the Common Market. It says only that before any decision is taken—which the Prime Minister says has not yet been taken—to enter into negotiation which may produce a constructive and favourable result or may not, and after which alone we may decide to enter or not to enter, before there is a decision to negotiate on behalf of the United Kingdom and inevitably, also, on behalf of the British Commonwealth, the Government must make sure that they have the authority to negotiate from those on whose behalf they are seeking to negotiate.
That is a very reasonable proposition and it is a proposition which could command the support of everyone, whether his inclinations are to be in favour of the Common Market, or not to be in favour of it. No one can deny—this, again, is one of the things which I claim always to have been common ground—that this decision of historical importance is a decision of historical importance for the United Kingdom and also for the Commonwealth and for a number of other people on whose behalf the Government are not entitled to negotiate.
If the future of our country and the confederation of countries which is mow the Commonwealth are fundamentally at stake, if it is important to both whether we take the right or wrong decision, it cannot be too extravagant a proposition, too cautious a line, to say that we should first make sure before we enter upon any negotiations that the people who are to be affected by their result wish us to negotiate.
That brings me to the Amendments. I studied them to see which, if any, was in contradiction with that proposition. I could find none. The Amendment which you have indicated that you intend to call, Mr. Speaker, says:conscious of the threat to the Free World inherent in the present divisions of Europe, would support Her Majesty's Government in entering into negotiation with the European Economic Community after consultation with the members of the Commonwealth, and with due regard to the interests of British agriculture and of the European Free Trade Association".523 Although that Amendment arrives at its conclusion by a road very different from mine and in conflict with it, nevertheless it accepts the conditions precedent for which I am pleading—that there should be the authority of the House and that there should be prior consultations and, presumably agreements, with the Commonwealth before the negotiations start. That is my Motion. It may be said that it is arrived at for different reasons. No doubt it is, but I hope that the House will accept the proposition that it is no derogation to the proposition that two and two make four that it is accepted by many people who do not agree about anything else.
If it is conceded that one cannot negotiate with any authority, that one cannot negotiate with any effect, or make the negotiation real or acceptable, unless it is clear that one is negotiating with the authority and with the leave and with the permission of those on whose behalf one is negotiating, that is the first Amendment. I hope that, having heard that explanation, the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden), although he will be called to move it, may feel that it is not worth while to move his Amendment. He can undoubtedly say that he wants us eventually to go in, just as I shall say that at present I do not accept that we ought to go in. What he cannot say, because his Amendment is in defiance of it, is that we ought to negotiate without first giving the Government the authority of those on whose behalf they seek to negotiate.
I say nothing about the Amendment of the hon. Members who sit immediately behind me, on the Liberal Bench. They want Her Majesty's Government just to negotiate, but even they are accepting the first half of my Motion and giving the Government the authority to negotiate. Their Amendment urgesHer Majesty's Government to negotiate for United Kingdom membership of the European Economic Community".Apparently they do not care, so far as we are to judge from the wording of their Amendment, whether the Commonwealth wants us to go in or whether it does not. They do not care about our agriculture. They do not care about our standard of living. They have nothing 524 to say about our right to control our own affairs. They have nothing to say about our planning our own economy.
All they say is, "Go in and negotiate". Negotiate about what? Nothing is laid down. They do not say, "Get authority. They do not try to find out whether anybody wants us to negotiate or for what we are to negotiate and they do not decide what we want to get out of the negotiations. All that, they say, is immaterial. They say, "Just go and negotiate". I feel sure that even if you called their Amendment, Mr. Speaker, hon. Members on the Liberal Bench would not seriously contend that.
Then I come to the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins): This is like the first Amendment. It seeks toleave out from first 'the' to end and add 'political and economic isolation facing this country if it remains out of the European Community, and with the corresponding threat to Great Britain's future influence, standard of living and ability to assist the development of the Commonwealth'"—and, conscious of all that—urges Her Majesty's Government to seek early discussion with the Commonwealth Prime Ministers"—this is wonderful—and approval from this House for negotiating full United Kingdom membership of the European Economic Community".Wonderful!
My hon. Friend wants the negotiations to take place and he wants them to be successful. He believes, for the reasons which he gives, that it would be a good thing. But, as much as I do, he says, in effect, that there should be no negotiation until the House has given approval and until the Commonwealth has given approval. Why in the world, in those circumstances, he wanted to put an Amendment on the Order Paper, instead of merely making a speech in support of our going in, I do not know.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins (Birmingham, Stechford)
I do not give every member of the Commonwealth the right to veto, which my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) specifically does.
§ Mr. Silverman
I will not take up time answering points like that. There is not a word about veto in my Motion, nor 525 does it say that the conference of Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth must be unanimous. This is a fantasy which my hon. Friend has read into the Motion to give him some semblance of justification for having put his Amendment down, which otherwise he would not have had. It is clear that in the substantive part of it he believes, as I believe, and as I am sure we all believe, that if we are to negotiate with effect we had better negotiate with the authority of the beneficiaries of the negotiation.
What in the world doespolitical and economic isolation facing this country if it remains out of the European Communitymean? For my part, I would not be afraid of the word "isolation" [Laughter.]—in the sense that my hon. Friend means. I remember when this country was last isolated. We were last isolated in June, 1940, and for the rest of that year.
§ Mr. Silverman
It was described by the then Prime Minister as this country's finest hour, and I believe that it was. If it had really been the truth that a united Europe was the overwhelming consideration, the overriding factor which we had to decide to justify, whether we remained isolated or not, in June, 1940, we had a united Europe, and it was the determination of this country that we should bring it to an end as soon as possible; and we did bring it to an end.
Suppose we did not go in. We would be isolated with Sweden, and Norway, and Denmark, and Austria, and Switzerland—[HON. MEMBERS: "And Portugal."]—and Portugal, and India, and Australia, and Canada, but not with South Africa any more. That is not isolation. There is no isolation involved here.
One is not isolated from Europe because one does not join France and Germany and Italy. It is a great illusion to suppose that the great dream of European unity which all of us in our time have found so fascinating and attractive is to be achieved by the European Economic Community. Nonsense. The European Economic Community is a step away from the unity of Europe. It 526 is a step towards the perpetuation of division in Europe. It is inspired not by economic considerations, but by political considerations, and by political considerations which few hon. Members in this House would support if they got down to understanding them properly.
Why is it that Sweden, and Austria, and Switzerland, would not, and could not, follow us into this Common Market, this so-called European Community? It is because they feel that their neutrality would be prejudiced and embarrassed if they came in. There can be no true unity of Europe in circumstances in which a nation cannot feel that it can join without committing itself to one side or the other in our dangerous, distracted world.
European unity even on economic grounds requires much more than Italy and Germany and France, even if we throw in Holland and Belgium. It requires much more even if we were to concede the impossible that the Scandinavian countries would come in too. There can be no economic unity without Central Europe. How does one do it on any basis not solely inspired by the narrower political considerations if one really wants a wide area of common citizenship, free movement of people, the breaking down of customs barriers, and all the other things which would be necessary to make an economically viable large market comparable with the Soviet Union, on the one hand, or the United States of America, on the other, without including Central European markets? It is a fantastic notion to suppose it.
I invite the House to consider what we risk by going into this "phoney" gerrymandering of bits of Europe in the name of a United States of Europe or a common European Community. My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) had something to say the other day about the dangers to the Commonwealth, and was greeted by the Prime Minister with what I thought was an unworthy sneer, only to be explained, if not justified, by the depth to which my right hon. Friend had pierced his skin.
I do not know whether the Prime Minister would like to rewrite any of the New Testament parables, but it would make a very different story if, when the prodigal son returned repentent and of 527 a new mind, his father greeted him not with the fatted calf, but with a jeer. I should have thought that even if it were true that hon. Members on this side of the House had, in the past, taken the wrong view about the British Commonwealth, and were now taking the right view, this would be a thing to be welcomed and not sneered at from the other side of the House. I am surprised that the Prime Minister, even momentarily, should allow himself to be betrayed into any other behaviour, but there is no foundation for the charge that was made.
It is quite true that this party, from its inception—as, indeed, the Liberal Party through most of its career—has been very critical and will remain very critical and sometimes bitterly ashamed of some of the things that have been done in our name and in the name of the Empire—and, indeed, of the Commonwealth.
But we are moving from that. We are moving from it fast. I hope that no one will mind if I say that on the other side of the House there are some who are still fighting a bitter rearguard action to prevent the kind of improvement that makes us now support the British Commonwealth when, formerly, we were critical of it. The tide of history is against them. We have a long way to go and a lot to achieve. But, by and large, the British Commonwealth of Nations remains almost the only and quite the best free association of free peoples acting together for peace throughout the world.
It has some colour bars left. We are trying to get rid of those. We have even gone so far as to deny membership to one powerful and wealthy former member of the Commonwealth because its standards of human rights were such that we thought them not compatible with the general view that the Commonwealth was meant to serve. But, on the whole, has history a better example to show of Empire changing over into a free partnership of peoples? This remains the heart of it: a little colour bar; no racial bars; no veto; no Supreme Council; no binding obligations of a legal or constitutional nature—and yet a solidity and stability that have borne all the heavy tests of the twentieth century and, if we leave it undisturbed, will bear more.
Does anybody suppose that we do not risk an undermining or an impairment 528 of that great historic achievement by the kind of association that is recommended here? Of course we risk it. There may be ways of avoiding it, or of overcoming it, or of reconciling the two things. It may at some time be right to negotiate for such a reconciliation. All I am asking the House to decide tonight is that if we negotiate we should negotiate with the authority of our Commonwealth partners—we should consult them, and consult this House.
When we have the agreement of both to begin negotiations, then let us negotiate, and good luck go with us. But do not let us, in this conjuncture of events and on this historic and solemn issue, as the Prime Minister described it, slip in by the back door, sneak in by an unauthorised negotiation of which we are told nothing. Let us do it with our eyes open, having made up our minds, having weighed the pros and cons, and having come to a clear decision. Then let us tell our Government and representatives to go in and negotiate on our behalf.
But until then let us not negotiate. Let us insist that the Government go very cautiously indeed, and that they hold their conference and obtain the consent of the Commonwealth countries in an adequate way and then get the authority of the House of Commons. Until then, let them do nothing. I invite all quarters of the House to support me in that proposition.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)
beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:conscious of the threat to the Free World inherent in the present divisions of Europe, would support Her Majesty's Government in entering into negotiation with the European Economic Community after consultation with the members of the Commonwealth, and with due regard to the interests of British agriculture and of the European Free Trade Association".I ought to explain to those who are as uninitiated as I was when I put down the Amendment that we have not been able to amend the title of the Motion or the first line and a half, so that the Motion, as amended, would still call attention to the danger of our entering the Common Market. That is somewhat ironic, because one of our objects 529 in putting down the Amendment was to eliminate any reference to the danger alluded to by the hon. Member.
Milton must have foreseen this evening when he wrote, in "Paradise Regained":Ye see our danger on the utmost edge Of hazard, which admits no long debate.That we can debate the subject at all, albeit for only three hours, is thanks to the private enterprise of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). I, for one, am grateful to him for that, and also for the manner in which he moved this Motion, with his usual eloquence, wit and clarity. For it is an issue which, as he says, the Prime Minister has described as one of the two most momentous of those which face our country today.
Nevertheless, I ask the hon. Member not to press his Motion to a Division this evening. The Commonwealth is being consulted. It is not our constitutional practice for the Executive to consult the House of Commons before they come to a decision. It is after the Executive come to a decision that they bring it before the House for approval. It must he obvious to everybody that at the moment there are some differences of approach to this issue. That is illustrated by the fact that some 40 other hon. Members have put their names to no fewer than five different Amendments. Few Motions can have collected between the sheets of the Order Paper so many strange bedfellows.
In spite of the number of Amendments, I believe that opinion in this House—although not yet fully formed—can be divided into three groups. First, as the hon. Member has said, there are those who would sign the Treaty of Rome as it stands. They—including the whole of the Liberal Party—can probably be numbered on the fingers of one hand. Secondly, there are those who would have nothing more to do with continental Europe than we have at present and who would pin their hopes for our economic expansion, and therefore for our political security, solely upon the Commonwealth of Nations. I hope that I shall not set the cat among the pigeons and disturb the even tenor of this debate when I say that I was surprised to see among that 530 group the lion of Chigwell lying down with the lamb of Easington.
Thirdly, there are those—and I include myself among them—who believe that we should long since have taken the opportunity offered by Article 237 of the Treaty to any European State, and sought to negotiate terms upon which we could enter the Community to the mutual advantage of ourselves, the Commonwealth, our E.F.T.A. partners and the Six.
I would remind the House of what Article 237 says. I find that outside the House few people who so freely express opinions on this issue have seen so much as the outside of the Treaty of Rome. In this House, of course, it is only necessary for me to remind hon. Members that Article 237 reads as follows:The conditions of admission, and the amendments to this Treaty necessitated thereby, shall be the subject of an agreement between the Member States and the applicant State.So that amendments to enable the accession of other European States were envisaged from the very outset. Professor Hallstein said in Hamburg only last month that there isno suggestion that Britain was being asked to make a complete surrender to the terms of the Treaty.It is true that in considering any application the Council must act by means of a unanimous vote, that is to say that any member of the Six may veto any application. Whether any of them would do so in our case will never be resolved unless and until we can bring ourselves to negotiate. Where I venture to disagree with Her Majesty's Government is that if, after negotiation, one of the Six were to veto our application we should be in any worse position than we are now. I think that we should be in a better position, for the certainty that one avenue was closed might spur us to explore others, such as bringing the whole of E.F.T.A. into the Commonwealth more resolutely.
§ Mr. Longden
If we were to go into the European Community on whatever terms, some businesses would gain and some would lose. So they will if we stay 531 out. The chairman of I.C.I. said at the annual general meeting last month:There is every indication that … these markets"—he was referring to the European markets—will give that security and resilience in our exports as a whole, which would be absent if we had too great a concentration on the Commonwealth and the Americas".But it is impossible to assess the precise effects on any business, or upon the Commonwealth, until we know the terms upon which we would go in.
The main point, the point which I particularly wish to stress, is that this matter is not solely—here I agree with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne—nor even chiefly, a matter of £ s. d. We in the West, particularly in Europe, have created a civilisation upon foundations laid long ago in Greece, Rome and in Palestine. We like to live subject to laws whose purpose is to prevent liberty from becoming licence and which are passed by elected representatives of the people and not at the whim of any one man or of an oligarchy. That civilisation and that way of life are today openly threatened by Communism. No attempt it made to hide the threat and it should not frighten us. On the contrary, it should make us the more determined that all our policy must be shaped to withstand it.
I do not believe that Europe—and that includes us—is pulling its weight in this stupendous struggle. Its present division, now economic but potentially also political, is, as our Amendment says, a threat to the free world, or as I would prefer to say, to the Atlantic Alliance. I agree with Mr. James Reston's recent comment in the New York Times thatthe Alliance is out of balance mainly because Europe is not doing what it could do … and that partly is because it has abdicated; and partly because the United States has been willing to carry the load long after Europe was able to do much more in its own defence.How much longer will the United States be willing to do it? That is why I support the fundamental objective of the Rome Treaty, namely,to establish the foundations of an ever closing union among the European peoples.All of those peoples; we are one of them and that is why I believe that the dangers prophesied in this Motion are 532 nothing compared with the actual danger of a rift in the unity and therefore in the strength of the Western Alliance.
May I remind the House why we cannot sign the Treaty of Rome as it stands and of the obstacles which have to be overcome before we could conceivably enter the European community; and may I deal with them—there are four—in the ascending order of difficulty?
First, the free trade association between the Seven or the Eight. I believe that if the obstacles which prevented us from joining the Community could be overcome, it should not prove too difficult to bring in our partners either as full members or, in the case of those who are neutral, by inclination or treaty, in a mutually acceptable association. At any rate, we are bound in honour not to leave them out on a limb.
Secondly, there is our agriculture. In our 1959 General Election Manifesto my party gave a pledgethat the long-term assurances to agriculture contained in the 1957 Act will continue for the lifetime of the next Parliament.That is to say at the latest until October, 1964. But it is unlikely, as I think everybody would agree, that the Six will have agreed upon their "common agricultural policy" much before that date, or have begun to implement it. And after that date it is likely that in any case we should have to devise some other method of maintaining "a healthy and prosperous agriculture" in these islands.
Certainly we could all agree to collaborate in attaining the declared objects of the common agricultural policy of the Six which are to increase productivity, ensure a fair standard of living for the agricultural population, stabilise markets, guarantee regular supplies and ensure reasonable prices.
Thirdly, there is the Commonwealth. In one of the earliest White Papers on this question—Cmd. 72 of February, 1957—it is stated that:Her Majesty's Government could not contemplate entering arrangements which would make it impossible for the United Kingdom to treat imports from the Commonwealth at least as favourably as those from Europe.That, so far as I know, remains the Government's policy. And rightly so. For no European, however impatient 533 with Britain's hesitation, could expect her to discriminate against imports from her colonial territories. The question is, therefore, can we negotiate similar terms for our associated overseas territories to those which the Six—or those of the Six which have them, four of them—have done for theirs? If we can, the Commonwealth will be strengthened and not weakened by our doing so.
It does no service to the Commonwealth to pretend that it is something which it is not, and I cannot but think that we have at least as much in common with the ancient nations of continental Europe as we have with some members of the new Commonwealth. I am as proud as anyone in this House of our achievement in having led so many divers races and creeds through the paths of peace and justice to sovereign independence. But, except for our remaining Colonies, our work is done, and we have been gracefully thanked by those who have benefited from it. From now on we may influence by our example; we can no longer command their allegiance. If anyone is tempted to forget that the nations of the Commonwealth are independent, I recommend him to study the behaviour of some of the new members at the United Nations.
Let me say this before I leave the subject of the Commonwealth. In 1959 a Study Conference, organised by Chatham House, was held at Palmerston, New Zealand. Sixty delegates came there from fifteen countries and my right hon. Friend the present Minister of Aviation chaired the Economic Sub-Committee. It was then agreed that the Governments of all the Commonwealth countries should urgently consider conducting joint negotiations with the European group because the only alternative was that each must, sooner or later, negotiate with it separately, and therefore on a weaker wicket.
Surely that was the sensible and obvious thing to have done. But conference after conference of Prime and other Ministers have taken place since then and nothing has been done. A fortnight ago I asked my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister why he, somewhat cavalierly, dismissed the concept as having been totally unrealistic. But to those outside it seemed more likely that the Government were then, and until quite recently, drifting rudderless upon 534 a sea of indecision. Now it is to be hoped that they have plotted a course and that they will, as soon as possible, take this House and the country into their confidence.
Lastly there is the question of sovereignty. Although the Treaty of Rome says nothing about Federation we all know that much closer ties are the aim of its signatories. Professor Hallstein has said:What we have built up is essentially political in character, and its trend is to expand further and further into the political sphere.The question is how much further? M. Monnet says:It is too early to predict.But could we not, and should we not, have a say in the shape of things to come? We shall not if we stay on the sidelines. Surely we could at least agree with President de Gaulle that:Of course the nations must not cease to be themselves; and the path to be followed must be that of organised co-operation between States while waiting to achieve, perhaps, an imposing confederation."Organised co-operation" between all those states but do not leave to others the defence of freedom is the least we must aim at and we are far from having it now. It will mean some abrogation of sovereignty, though less perhaps than that we should have to surrender in a treaty of general and complete disarmament. I am ready to face that. Are Her Majesty's Government? It is difficult to tell from their many delphic utterances. I could quote countless extracts from speeches by my right hon. Friends dating from the days when the Prime Minister and half the Cabinet— when out of office—crusaded for a United Europe. Here are a few of the more recent:Our purpose is a united Europe and we accept the need for some political organisation as an element in this unity.That was the present Chancellor of the Exchequer in this House last July.
We need unity—a wider unity transcending traditional barriers: unity of purpose, of method, of organisation.That was my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in Boston in April.
Britain in Europe could contribute more to the Commonwealth than Britain out of Europe.My right hon. and noble Friend the Foreign Secretary in Chicago this month. 535 While in the Treaty which forms Western European Union we undertook as one of its signatoriesto promote the unity and encourage the progressive integration of Europewhatever that word means. The only thing I know about it is that it is the opposite of disintegration. Even my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison), who is in his place, began a letter to The Times on 2nd June with these words:We favour unity with Continental Europe and regret British failures to take the initiative—which is only a summary of this Amendment. But what does "unity" mean in all these contexts? If it means anything at all it must surely mean that Her Majesty's Government could declare that, subject to the successful outcome of negotiations covering the Commonwealth, E.F.T.A. and agriculture, they will join the Community.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has mentioned some of the drawbacks and what he calls the dangers. I should like to suggest a few different lines of thought in concluding my speech. The voice of Europe in the councils of the West will soon be the voice of the Community. Ought we not to be part of that Community so as to strengthen and modulate that voice? I am certain that to play a leading part in Europe need be in no way incompatible with our rôle as head of the Commonwealth and that Commonwealth trade would benefit. I am certain that we shall not be able to aid our developing territories, either with money or trade, nearly so effectively if at all if we stay out of Europe.
If as some Jeremiahs in the Press seem to think we cannot compete with continental competition in our home markets, how do they think our exports are to fare in continental markets, or how are we to compete with continental exports in world markets, if we stay out? And it is possible that our biennial crises which no Chancellor can cure and the root cause of which is that these islands can never be self-supporting, may not recur if we were part of a domestic market of 250 million people.
I am quite sure that of any agreement which may ultimately be reached we shall be able to paraphrase Oliver 536 Goldsmith's remark about his "Vicar of Wakefield":There are an hundred beauties in this work and an hundred things may be said to prove them blemishes".But where does the balance of advantage lie? The anti-Europeans, if I may call them so, seem to me to have very little faith in their own country. It is necessary to change our habits of thinking in the confident knowledge that change can be our ally. The days of Sir William Gilbert and Mr. Rudyard Kipling, glorious as they were, are over, and we live in a world as different from theirs as theirs was from that of the Elizabethans.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins (Birmingham, Stechford)
With the general direction of the argument of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Long-den) and with many of his points, I find myself in fairly close agreement, although I would not quite share his confidence about the skill on which the Government are steering us between these three difficulties of British agriculture, the Commonwealth and E.F.T.A., at least one of which is entirely of our own creation.
However, I should like to turn primarily to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne Mr. S. Silverman). Towards the end of his speech, I thought he put some of the objections to our going into Europe with great force and great oratorical effect. I was sorry that in the earlier part of his speech he indulged in what I thought a lot of periphrastic chop logic in an effort to show that the Motion and my Amendment on the Paper meant the same. They do not mean the same, for they represent two entirely different approaches of Britain to Europe. We should face that and not try to prove that there is a unity of approach on some purely procedural question.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I hesitate to interrupt my hon. Friend, but what I said about the similarity was only said about the operative part of the Motion and the Amendment. I conceded, as I could scarcely conceal, that the approaches were fundamentally different.
§ Mr. Jenkins
My hon. Friend devoted a great part of his speech to saying that he could not understand why I and 537 others had put our names to this Amendment because apparently the Motion and the Amendment led to the same conclusion, but I say that they lead to an entirely different approach. I think my hon. Friend made clear in his Motion and by his speech that there are three objections to Britain's going into Europe. All three of these objections are to a large extent common to what I would call the nostalgic Imperialist isolationists on both sides of the House. I think the element of nostalgia in my hon. Friend's approach came out most clearly in a most effective part—rhetorically—of his speech when he asked why we should fear isolation, were we not last isolated at Dunkirk? If that approach to the sixties and seventies is not dangerously nostalgic, I do not know what is. The Dunkirk spirit as a recipe for action in 1940 was all very well, but as a cushion for complacency in 1961 it is an extreme national danger. And did we welcome being put in that position in 1940? Why were we put in it? It was because of what had happened in Europe in the previous ten years and which we in Britain had failed to influence. That created the extremely dangerous position for us.
I was surprised when my hon. Friend then switched from a summoning up of the Dunkirk spirit to a summoning up of the absolute importance of neutrality from the point of view of this country by asking how we could possibly go into this European Community when neutrals like Sweden, Switzerland and Austria felt that they could not go into it without impairing their neutrality. My hon. Friend rather boxed the compass between these two arguments. I do not know what my hon. Friend thinks Sweden and Switzerland were doing when he was so proud of our position in 1940; and I do not think that he can urge the spirit of Dunkirk and the advantages of neutrality upon us at one and the same time. Three objections emerge from the Motion.
§ Mr. Jenkins
Germany was fighting against us. One of the reasons why we should go into Europe is that I do not want to see again the division in Europe which has precipitated three wars in the last 100 years. French rapprochment 538 with Germany makes it less likely than ever before. I cannot dismiss this as a light or unimportant achievement so easily as some hon. Members are apparently able to do.
Three fundamental objections emerge from the Motion and from a large part of the speech of my hon. Friend. The first is that echoed by some hon. Members opposite, that by going in we should be sacrificing the Commonwealth and choosing Europe instead of the Commonwealth when we ought to choose the Commonwealth. I think that this argument, as it is constantly put, presents an entirely false choice. This came out very clearly by my hon. Friend's extraordinarily loose use of the words "Commonwealth confederation" on one occasion and on another occasion "Federation of Commonwealth Nations". Does my hon. Friend believe that the Commonwealth is a confederation or a federation? It cannot be both, and in my view it is neither.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I corrected the use of the word at once. It was a slip of the tongue and I said instead an association, a partnership of free nations.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I accept, of course, the correction of my hon. Friend, but he used the term twice. The important thing, however, is not who said what but the substance of the point.
The substance of the point is that the Commonwealth offers no such alternative to a fairly tight grouping as Europe offers at the present time. So far as I know, no one in the Commonwealth wants this or has advocated it. The Commonwealth, I believe, is unsuitable on a great number of counts to be a tight, economic or political unity. I do not believe that anyone in the Commonwealth believes that it should be. Indeed, the tendency in recent years, initiated to a large extent by Whitehall, but I think welcomed and encouraged outside in other parts of the Commonwealth, has been towards a far looser economic unity than there was ten years ago. Certainly there has been no closer movement towards political unity.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
Will the hon. Gentleman explain to the House why he thinks that it is necessary for us to enter into a tight economic community.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I am coming to that. I am saying that the choice which the noble Lord and his allies, like the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, present to the House on this issue of either going into a tight union with the Commonwealth or with Europe is in fact a false choice, and that no such opportunity exists in the case of the Commonwealth. Indeed, if there were an opportunity to go into a tight union with the Commonwealth, I wonder what many of the present opponents going into Europe and the present upholders of Commonwealth unity would say about it. I wonder what the Daily Express, which has been carrying out an extraordinary programme of misrepresentation hardly paralleled in the history of British journalism, would say about what really is happening in Europe. It is an extraordinary misrepresentation of simple facts. I wonder what the Daily Express, which is so worried about the effects of the Southern Italian standard of living upon us, would say if we were to merge ourselves into a tight union with Ghana or Malaya or India. The proposition is one from which most hon. Members opposite who share this point of view would recoil immediately.
In talking about the Commonwealth in this context, I ask people like the noble Lord and my hon. Friend, from their rather different points of view, which Commonwealth they have in mind. Do they mean the old white Commonwealth, or do they mean the new coloured Commonwealth—because there is a sharp distinction between those two Commonweaths in their attitude to Britain's relations with Europe? It is the old white Commonwealth, primarily New Zealand, and to a much lesser extent Australia and Canada, who are opposed to Britain's joining Europe; and Australia and Canada have not been particularly concerned about our economic interests in the past when they have wished to move away from us. It is the white Commonwealth which is primarily opposed to this move. The new Commonwealth, for extremely good reasons, is primarily interested in Britain as a source of capital and is at least open-minded on this issue—and some important countries are positively in favour of Britain going into Europe.
The new Commonwealth, as I say, is primarily interested in Britain and other 540 countries as a source of capital. Whoever doubts that should look at the speed with which the emergent African nations are opening up missions in Bonn at present. Secondly, they are interested in Britain and Europe as a growing market—my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) made this point very powerfully in a meeting the other day—for simpler manufactured goods. If we want to assist the developing Commonwealth in the long run we must be prepared to take increasing numbers of simpler manufactured goods, even though that may make difficulty for some of our industries. Surely it would be very much better for us to have the whole of Western Europe helping us in sharing that necessary burden than that we should attempt to do it all on our own, or even that we should not do it at all.
I think that the Commonwealth objection is founded on a fundamental misconception, first of all about the nature of the Commonwealth, and secondly about the true desires of people in the Commonwealth, particularly in the new developing Commonwealth countries.
I turn to the second objection which emerges in many speeches which are put forward. It is that we do not want to get mixed up with possibly unstable political régimes in Europe. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne would add "reactionary régimes", although I am not sure whether the noble Lord would go with him all the way about that.
§ Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)
Is the word "reactionary" objectionable to my hon. Friend? Does he want to unite with Germany's Adenauer and with de Gaulle?
§ Mr. Jenkins
I certainly do not find that Dr. Adenauer or President de Gaulle are my ideal politicians, but nor, for that matter, do I find the Prime Minister my ideal politician. [HON. MEMBERS: "Or Diefenbaker."] Nor do I see the clear Socialist point between remaining insulated from Dr. Adenauer and President de Gaulle and going in fully with Mr. Diefenbaker, Mr. Menzies and Mr. Holyoake. The picture is not as simple as my hon. Friend and some others like to see it. Nevertheless, the view is put forward that these are unstable and possibly reactionary régimes 541 in Europe. I would say several things on this. First, do not let us underestimate the degree of economic planning in Europe. I feel that France, in particular, has made more success of economic planning than many of my hon. Friends realise. She has been more successful in that respect than we have been in this country for a long time. If we could have an economic plan working as effectively as the French, that would be a very great step towards social and economic progress in this country.
But even if those régimes are unstable, even if France nearly had a civil war the other day and if Germany has a pretty murky political history, what follows? Does it follow that in those circumstances we should turn our back on Europe, believing in this way that by preserving our own little corner of sovereignty we can contract out of the difficulties of Europe? I am amazed that anyone who has lived through two world wars, through the history of Europe since 1914, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) has, can believe that this is a sensible or feasible proposition. It seems to me to show an extraordinary lack of both historical and geographical perspective.
Our sovereignty has been impaired overwhelmingly, and the pattern of all our lives has been affected by what has happened in Western Europe during the last fifty years. If we have this greater political facility and this greater political knowledge—and I hope that we shall not be too self-righteous about it—it would be both more sensible and right for us to go into Europe and to contribute these qualities as far as we can, rather than standing outside, self-righteously trying to preserve our little corner of sovereignty.
I turn to the third objection, which is one of sovereignty. I think that the surrender of sovereignty involved in signing the Rome Treaty, however it is signed, whether immediately or after long negotiations with many special protocols, can be greatly exaggerated. No doubt some surrender of sovereignty is involved. No doubt to the extent that Europe is a success and that we contribute to its being a success and have our say in how it shall be developed, 542 that surrender of sovereignty may increase in the future. But I cannot altogether understand the position of some of my hon. Friends who appear to believe in world government as an objective which we must seek—and world government is certainly in the Labour Party's programme at present—but who recoil at even the limited amount of surrender of sovereignty which is involved in becoming part of a European economy.
§ Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)
Does it not occur to my hon. Friend that the principle of world government is based on world unity, whereas that of the Common Market is based on world division?
§ Mr. Jenkins
I doubt whether I share many of the premises on which my hon. Friend advanced that argument—whether what is happening in Western Europe is desirable. But the sovereignty argument is not about whether we in Britain, as a British Conservative Party or a British Labour Party, should be prepared to give up sovereignty to this body or that body. When people advance an argument about its affecting our ability to determine our own destiny, to plan things exactly as we want to plan them, and to determine our own policies, that is an argument which is not affected by whether we are giving up sovereignty to a world authority or to a more limited authority.
§ Mr. Jenkins
It does not affect the issue from the point of view whether this is a step which one ought to be willing to take. It is an argument only if one wishes to put the objections and the advantages in balance. But I have heard a great number of arguments put forward to say that we cannot countenance any interference with our ability to order our lives as we like in our own way in this country.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
There is all the difference in the world between saying that we are willing to give up a measure of sovereignty for a particular purpose in some circumstances to some people, and what my hon. Friend proposes. It does not necessarily follow that we should be ready to give it up to anybody at any time.
§ Mr. Jenkins
There is all the difference in the world between making general statements that one is willing in some remote eventuality to give up sovereignty to a body which does not exist and being prepared to do something practical about it in the immediate future. I agree that there is a very great difference. Those who merely talk largely about giving up sovereignty and yet recoil from doing it in practice are working themselves into a false position.
I am not surprised that there is an alliance between my hon. Friend, the noble Lord and the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) on this sort of thing. I always thought that the Suez Group and the extreme unilateral approach are the reverse sides of the same coin. They are both based on a greatly exaggerated view of Britain's importance in the world, and that is an extremely dangerous view for us to hold. It is by far the best thing that we should recognise our true position in the world, that we should contribute what we can to this great new movement which is growing up in Europe, and that at the same time we should get what we badly need—an injection of dynamism into our rather stagnant economy in this country. I hope that the Government will move towards Europe a great deal more decisively than they have yet shown any sign of doing.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Birch (Flint, West)
I, too, am grateful to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) for raising this subject tonight. Now that he is a leader of an independent party he is performing the useful function of a Parliamentary minicab.
This subject has been under-debated in the House, and perhaps for good reasons we have tended to approach it from the wrong end. This is a very big argument indeed, and one cannot knock down a big argument with a small argument. We have tended, first, to look at some of the minor objections—for example, the tomato interests. The tomatoes interest is a perfectly respectable and good interest; but tomatoes by themselves could not be a sufficient argument for not entering the Common Market.
544 Next, there is the question of whether it will put up the cost of our food. Mr. Colin Clark has calculated that joining the Common Market might have the effect of putting up the cost of living by .9 of one point. One single major wage settlement would have a larger effect upon the cost of living in this country. That kind of argument, therefore, is on a small scale.
What I want to do this evening is to try to consider the big arguments—some of the positive big arguments. There are many people answering negatively. I want to try to put the positive argument for joining the Common Market as well as to answer the arguments against it.
It is worth while thinking why it was that the Six signed the Rome Treaty. I believe that the answer is this. They saw and understood that a change of scale had come about in world affairs. At the beginning of this century no one would have contradicted anyone who said that Western Europe was the centre of the world. It was here that the inventions were made and the institutions were conceived which led to the great society, and it was here that military and economic power resided. Relatively, that position was bound to decline to a certain extent. America was being developed at a tremendous pace and Russia had already started industrialising. Nevertheless, as late as 1939 it was possible for a single country in Western Europe, Germany, to fight once again for the hegemony of Europe and hence have a dominant position in the world, just as France and Spain had done before. She failed, as they had done, but the point is that it was still possible for one country in old Europe to struggle for hegemony.
Surely these dreams have faded. They are dead. With modern weapons they are a nonsense. Modern atomic weapons give the advantage to those countries with distance and dispersion on their side. It would be utterly impossible for a single country in Western Europe, with its population crowded together into a relatively small space, to challenge the world as countries in Western Europe have challenged it in the past. And not to believe that is to write oneself down as an old gunboat type or worse.
545 The Six saw this change of scale very clearly. They saw that it would be utterly absurd for them to carry on their quarrels. They had fought each other often enough in the past, but they then had something to gain by doing so. Now there could be no point in fighting each other, when the chance of hegemony had gone. What they wanted to do by getting together as much as they could and by abolishing the criss-cross of tariffs was to get their affairs so mixed up that war between each other would be not only unthinkable but utterly impossible, as indeed to us war is impossible between England, Scotland and Wales. It may sometimes be thinkable, but it is quite impossible.
The other day I read again some words spoken by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) at Zurich, in 1946. He said:I am now going to say something that will astonish you. The first step in the recreation of the European family must be the partnership of France and Germany.It may have astonished his audience then, but is has happened.
This change of scale is true for us, too. In the old days we used to say that the integrity and independence of the Low Countries were vital to us. Surely the whole of Western Europe is now our "Low Countries". The scale has changed. It is because this unity of Europe is so vital to our defence that Communists are solidly both against the Common Market and against our joining it. The change of scale has not meant that Europe is necessarily safer. It has meant that the countries in Europe cannot threaten each other, but they are still being threatened by Russian Communism, Russia being the only country in Europe with both the will and the power to subvert Western Europe.
The scale has changed. This applies to weapons and to economics. I must give one example, though it is not altogether happy, it is very apt. We are often told that we ought to be going into space research and doing more with rockets, etc. I calculate that next year America will spend £2,600 million—pounds not dollars—on space research and missiles. That is £1,000 million more than we spend on the whole of our defence. Before the war a Spitfire cost £5,000. This is one illustration of 546 how the change of scale operates everywhere.
The same is true in economic affairs. The expense of research is rapidly increasing all the time, and large research projects can be sustained only by a big market. Factories and plants tend to get larger all the time. The advantages of specialisation are unquestionably increasing. Size has a dynamic of its own. The Six are fairly well placed in the not too distant future to surpass the production of goods and services which is now America's. They may well surpass America in this respect in the not too distant future. This has a snowball effect, because the more rapidly they grow the more new processes will go there. More capital will flow in. I believe that it will go on faster and faster.
If we joined the Six, there would be a community with a population a good deal larger than that of Russia or America. It would be a community occupying the fairest part of the surface of the earth. It would be a community comprising the most intelligent, the most inventive and the most hardworking populations in the world. It would be a community well able to defend itself against the menace in Europe. Further, this country, with the added strength that membership of this community would give her, would be far better able to help the Commonwealth and far better able to do the most important thing of all, namely, to supply capital and know-how to under-developed countries. This is not so very fanciful or chimerical. We can see what is happening in Europe today. There is nothing fanciful about it. We should think very carefully before we cast aside the advantages which we might have by joining. So much for the positive case.
I turn now to consider the position if we do not join. In the economic field we should be deprived of the advantage of size and the greater market. Capital would tend to flow more and more to the Community and not here. We should lose a great deal in that way, but there is something more important than that. This country needs an external stimulus. What we want here is a good shake up. I resigned from the Government because I thought that the policy of my colleagues meant that they would slob on in the old way. Slob on in the old way 547 they did, with the usual and inevitable results.
We cannot supply the stimulus. We need an external stimulus. So does the Labour Party. I see today that it has produced another policy. The right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) has produced his "Four Year Plan" in the New Statesman. They are both hopelessly absurd. The figures in the plan of the right hon. Member for Huyton are pathetically dishonest. One would never expect them to be honest but one would sometimes expect them not to be pathetically dishonest. There is simply no future in that sort of thing. Typically enough, the right hon. Member for Huyton has now assumed on this issue his favourite pose of the little plastic bulldog.
If we do not join, the disadvantages will not be confined to economic affairs. As the House knows, the foreign policy of the Six is increasingly concerted between themselves. We are apt to be presented with a fait accompli. If we do not join, we shall not be able to rely upon our special position with the United States, which has been so valuable to us. I do not see that we can rely on that continuing. It will go on for a certain time. There is so much good faith between the Ministers of both countries and so much good faith and affection between officials on both sides that it will go on for quite a time, but as the relative power of the Six and ourselves changes so will our special position with the United States tend to decline.
Therefore, there are very strong arguments in favour of our joining. Many people say, "We agree, but what about the Commonwealth?" I do not want to shirk this issue in any way. There are two strands to the Commonwealth argument. The first, which I deeply respect, is that we are part of a family. We bear affection and loyalty to each other and we do not want to do anything to hurt or damage a member of the family.
The second argument, which is really a reversion to the dreams of Joseph Chamberlain at the beginning of the century, and which still turns up in the oddest quarters, is the idea that we can live off our own. It is the idea that 548 by having closer union with the Commonwealth we can be economically self-sufficient. The argument of family affection I deeply sympathise with, and I deeply respect. But when we see some of the gnarled old Imperialists like the hon. Members for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun), Wednesbury (Mr. Stone-house) and Penistone (Mr. Mendelson)—when we see these types climbing on the bandwagon—it makes one feel ever so slightly sick.
We talk about "the Commonwealth" There is hardly anything more difficult to generalise about than the Commonwealth—this loose association of nations, of many different races, different colours, different religions, pursuing very different economic policies and very different foreign policies. It is very difficult to generalise about it, but there is one generalisation which I think is fair. In so far as the Commonwealth is held together, the essential link is the strength of the mother country, and the strength of the mother country in Europe. The Commonwealth was won in Europe and it was kept in Europe. If we cease to be a strong country, and cease to be a market and a source of capital, the threads that bind the Commonwealth to the central link are bound to disintegrate and break.
Therefore, the strength of this country, as I see it, is the one essential link which can hold the Commonwealth together, and which can provide for its survival, which I deeply want to see, because, in the future, and several hon. Members have said this, the one thing more important than anything else in holding the Commonwealth together is the provision of capital. That will not be too easy. The Joseph Chamberlain policy is not too easy.
The deficit on current account of the rest of the sterling area was £699 million last year. In this country, we had a current account deficit of £344 million, so that it is not so easy to live off our own. Take India. Suppose that we were earning the surplus which the Treasury think we ought to earn, and that instead of a deficit of £344 million we had a surplus of £450 million. And if out of that surplus, we lent, gave away and invested all that it was prudent to do, and supposing that we gave away or lent the whole of that sum to India, leaving 549 nothing for other Commonwealth countries, or oil and other interests, it would still be only part of what India says she requires annually for her third five-year plan.
The vast majority of the Commonwealth countries are masters in their own houses, and it has been pointed out that they did not always do things that entirely suit us. They put quotas on our goods for balance of payments reasons. They impose tremendous taxation on many of our plantation companies, for example. One reason why our investments abroad yield small return is that the taxation is confiscatory and it is very often impossible to remit what is left.
We have seen Canada virtually abrogating the Commonwealth Shipping Agreement without, as far as I know, prior consultation. They are masters in their own houses, and we are glad that it should be so, but, surely, the corollary of that is that we should be masters in our own house, particularly when we believe that what we are doing is in the interests of the Commonwealth.
I wish to say one last word on the question of sovereignty and independence. The question is, sovereign and independent for what? It is very easy, I think, to mistake the realities of power for its vanities, but, if we examine it, we find that it is no good being independent unless we can do something with our independence. I suppose that the most independent man in the world is a tramp, and yet few mothers and fathers advise their children to become tramps. I am not saying that this country is in danger of becoming a tramp, but we are in danger of getting out of the main stream and getting into a backwater, of mistaking memories for hopes.
§ Mr. Birch
My noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) reminds me of Cato in the Senate at Utica:Like Cato, give his little senate laws,And sit attentive to his own applause.We are in danger, all of us, of being Catos in this matter.
No one, of course, can know what will happen. We are in a fairly dangerous position and any conceivable course we can take is beset with risks, but in grave affairs one must wager. It is not optional. I believe that we have got to the end of one road and have to take a new one. I believe that the best road to take is the road towards the Common Market, and I hope that we shall take it.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
I am very well aware that I am intruding on private Members' time, so I will try to make my remarks very short. For that reason, I do not wish to spend time in dealing with some of the scorching wit of the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch). It is the first occasion that I remember upon which he has referred to the reasons for his resignation from the Government, five years ago. We are now told that he left the Government because he felt that they were going to "slob on" in th same old way. He kept very quiet about it at the time, and I suggest that he had a duty to the nation to declare his objection to the Government's policy of drift and slobbing on, as he put it, at the time, because we are now paying the price for the indecision of his own Government in recent years.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) on his fortune in the Ballot and on his selection for this discussion of such a topical subject, although I am sure that he would agree that it is not the most convenient time for the Government nor, I venture to say, is it the most suitable occasion for the House to be discussing this subject. I wish to deal with the Motion and, if I may, offer to the House a few remarks which, I feel sure, will find general acceptance on this side.
The operative part of the Motion relates to procedure, although the 551 Preamble scarcely conceals an underlying hostility to entering into negotiation at all which by no means all hon. Members would share. The Motion asks the House to urge Her Majesty's Government not to negotiate… until expressly empowered so to do by a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers and by this House.My hon. Friend's speech left no doubt at all that he is against entering into negotiations at the present time with or without the express consent of a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers.
We on these benches have asked the Government to convene a meeting of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition pressed the Prime Minister to do that, but the right hon. Gentleman answered that although he did not rule it out he believed that the visits of Ministers to Commonwealth countries, which have now begun, would be better to start with. I think that the whole House will want some firmer assurances on consultation with the Commonwealth than we have so far had, but whether this House could ever bind itself and Her Majesty's Government not to enter into certain negotiations unless… expressly empowered so to do by a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers …is a very different matter.
Many hon. Members on both sides, devoted supporters of the Commonwealth as we may be, could not lightly concede to a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers the right to veto a step that we in Britain might believe was necessary to our survival as a prosperous trading nation. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne said that there was no veto in the Motion. But surely a veto is implied if the Motion says that we shall not do something unless empowered so to do by a conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers?
Many hon. Members would want much more time to debate that far-reaching proposal alone than will be available this evening. Indeed, many hon. Members on both sides of the House would sharply challenge the very premise on which that proposal rests in the Motion. As to the approval of this House, although we are now in closer touch 552 with what the Government are doing, we are by no means fully informed, and a more suitable occasion for the House to express its views may come after the wandering Ministers return home.
There are five Amendments to the Motion, each with differing points of view and each with influential support. Each of these shades of opinion can claim the consideration of the House. It would be unreasonable for the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne or for hon. Members whose names appear on the Amendments to expect the House to reach a conclusion after only three hours' debate on a matter of such importance, for each deeply stirs all sorts of emotions and convictions. Whatever Milton may have said, this debate will not be long enough to reach a conclusion on the matter before us.
I join with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) in asking the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne not to press his Motion tonight, for it would be better for the House to suspend its judgment for a while on the substantive part of the Motion. However, hon. Members are entitled to receive more information in this short debate and it is that request that I am putting to the Minister who, I understand, will intervene a little later. After all, the Government—through the Lord Privy Seal—started this great debate. They aroused the burning curiosity of the nation and of the world as to what the Government are really doing; and that is what everyone wants to know.
May I, briefly, retrace the Government's steps to see how they have got to where they are, or to where many of us are led to believe they are? After the rather pessimistic speech of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was then the Foreign Secretary, on 25th July, last year, the Prime Minister and the then Foreign Secretary went to Bonn. A little later the Lord Privy Seal went to Rome. After that there seemed to be some fresh impulse behind the desire for closer European unity, but from where that impulse came—from the Government or from countries in the European Economic Community—has never really been clear.
However, the situation changed and prospects of a settlement seemed to improve, or so it was said at the time. Mention 553 was made of this development at the meeting of the Commonwealth Finance Ministers in September of last year. Then we had a debate in this House on 4th November, last year, on the initiative of the Leader of the Liberal Party. We were then told that explorations were going on and talks were taking place, but that they were informal and confidential. The Lord Privy Seal hoped that the House would not expect him to say much about them on that occasion.
Then, on the 17th of last month, came the Lord Privy Seal's dramatic and unexpected intervention in a general debate on foreign affairs which set the world talking. We were then wondering whether we were on the brink of negotiations or whether, in the words of the witty correspondent of The Guardian, we were "on the brink of the brink." But whatever it was, that speech was the signal for perturbation to be publicly expressed throughout the Commonwealth. On that occasion, it seems to me, the Minister probably said too much to preserve the essential conditions of exploratory talks, because they are now neither informal nor confidential. And he said too little to allay fears and remove doubts and uncertainties about the course that the Government would pursue.
No doubt suspicions have been spread abroad that the Government are concealing their real intentions. The reactions of Commonwealth Ministers and Mr. Diefenbaker's call for a Commonwealth conference appear to be the reason why the Government decided to send senior Ministers on tour to Commonwealth countries, but it is still not clear what they have gone there to do. Are these travelling Ministers salesmen, negotiators, or merely explorers? We are entitled to know a little more clearly what mission these Ministers are setting out upon. Have they gone to listen, or have they gone to do all the talking? If they have gone to consult, what have they gone to consult about?
Although assurances have been given by Ministers about taking the Commonwealth into full consultation, nevertheless Canada is worried, New Zealand is very worried, Australia has her anxieties, and the West Indies are deeply concerned. I suggest that we must not overlook the position of the West Indies, in view of 554 their long and close association which has bound them to the British economy. It looked, in the first instance, as though the West Indies had been overlooked in fixing the itinerary of the wandering Ministers, but I am sure that the House is relieved to know that the noble Lord, Lord Perth is going there now.
What is being explored? Another question is: where do explorations end and negotiations begin, whether with the Commonwealth or with the Six? It is also pertinent to ask what chance there is of successful negotiations when Ministers have shown all too clearly that, in their opinion, Britain will be negotiating from a sense of failing strength to go on as we are.
It is of importance to note the remarks which were made by the Foreign Secretary in another place on 21st June, when, in a general dissertation on the importance of a stronger Britain to the Commonwealth, he said:… we must ask ourselves—and the Commonwealth, too, must join in asking this question most seriously—whether we can afford to be excluded from this European market which is expanding so rapidly and offering so many opportunities. Not only that: in passing we should look at and face the question as to whether there is, indeed, any other way—any other comparable way—in which the United Kingdom can increase its wealth so that it may consume the maximum amount of Commonwealth goods and may export the maximum amount of capital to the Commonwealth. Where else can we find the earnings on the necessary scale?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 21st June, 1961; Vol. 232, c. 624–5.]If the perils of staying out are as great as Ministers imply, or are even saying openly, are not the Government weakening our negotiating position?
If Ministers say, "Can we afford to be excluded?", clearly implying that we cannot, what confidence can the world have in our future if we find, after all, that we cannot go in? This is the most worrying part of the present situation. To persuade the British people and the Commonwealth to agree to negotiations, we have to scare them, apparently, with the consequences of not doing so. The world will then take our pessimism at its face value if we finally stay out and it will make us less and not more welcome to those with whom we have to negotiate.
I believe most strongly that to stress the likely damaging consequences of 555 staying out is the worst possible argument for going in. Also, which of all the reasons given in the past for not joining will be less of an obstacle now than previously? That is what we want to know. If, as the Lord Privy Seal says, there must be give and take, what are we prepared to give? We have had all the reasons for not joining the Six. We had them from the President of the Board of Trade in 1959, and they have been repeated frequently since—the difficulty of accepting the system of majority voting to settle our commercial policy with the whole world, the difficulty of abolishing Commonwealth free entry, the problem of home agriculture and the problem of political integration.
The President of the Board of Trade said on 12th February, 1959, that we must be absolute realists about what signing the Rome Treaty would involve for us. I think that we are entitled to ask whether those difficulties are any less real today.
§ Mr. Houghton
The right hon. Gentleman must judge for himself. What I am doing is putting before the House some observations, first, upon the Motion which is before the House and, secondly, upon the present situation. There has been no comment on the present situation. We have had discussions about whether we should go in or stay out, but what I am dealing with is the critical situation created by the actions of the Government today. That is the most important matter before the House at this moment.
Since some time in 1960 we have had reiterated the well-known problems in the way of our joining the Common Market, and as recently as last month the Lord Privy Seal repeated them and gave firm assurances upon them. It seems to me that in this short debate we are entitled to examine the propositions which were put to us and the possibilities which were outlined by the Lord Privy Seal in the debate on 17th and 18th May. The right hon. Gentleman then said that there was now evidence of a desire throughout the Six that we should reach 556 a settlement. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a speech to the E.F.T.A. Ministers two days ago, said that there were signs of a more forthcoming spirit.
One of the courses open to us is to accede to the Treaty of Rome as it stands. We are told by the Lord Privy Seal that that is what France would prefer us to do, and others as well. But right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have been asserting very clearly that this is not what we should do. Another possibility would be to try to make an economic arrangement between the Seven and the Six, each retaining identity. We were told that that did not commend itself to the Six.
Another possibility which has been mentioned is that the United Kingdom and other members of E.F.T.A., not as a group but individually, should make some form of association with the Community. The Lord Privy Seal was noncommittal about that. I think that there are grounds for believing that what Her Majesty's Government are seeking to do is to establish contact between E.F.T.A. countries and the Six individually so that they may find some sort of accommodation with the Six, separately, not jointly, but none of them deserting the others.
It will be an extremely delicate operation to get agreement between the several countries of the Seven and the Six. I think that we are entering an extremely difficult period of negotiation if that is the basis upon which the Government propose to approach the matter.
We have been told that we shall not desert our E.F.T.A. partners. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, only yesterday, said that if some members sought solutions of their own independently of their partners, that would be deplorable. There again, there is, I think, uncertainty as to what the Government intend to do.
So I come to this final point. The Lord Privy Seal has reiterated and reaffirmed not only the problems, but the pledges which the Government are prepared to give: first, to safeguard British agriculture; secondly, full consultation with the Commonwealth before we decide on the course to follow; and, thirdly, that the interests of our E.F.T.A. partners must be safeguarded and that they are being kept informed.
557 What is the House to make of this? What does the House think the Government are up to? When the Minister of State replies he should tell us more. He was asked earlier to take us and the country more into his confidence. This gives him the opportunity of doing so. There must be some purpose behind what the Government are doing. What is that purpose? What have the Government made up their minds to do which they are concealing from the country and, possibly, from the Commonwealth at present? That is a question on which some light should be thrown, even in this short debate.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign Office (Mr. J. B. Godber)
I wish to intervene for only a very few minutes, because I realise that the debate is essentially a back bench affair and, knowing as I do that a large number of hon. Members wish to take part, it would be wrong for me to be more than brief. But I want to reply briefly to one or two points made by the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) and to one or two other matters that have been raised.
I listened with care to the hon. Member for Sowerby's speech. He accused the Government of not being forthcoming about this, but I must admit that when he sat down I was as wise as when he got up about where he and the party opposite stand on this matter. I am as entitled as he is to ask that he should clarify his position.
I remind the House that the Government's position up to this moment was stated fully by my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal in his speeches to the House on 17th and 18th May. That was the position taken, and, in direct reply to the hon. Member for Sowerby's last point, I say that there is no definite position which has been taken. There is nothing that the Government are holding back from the House or the country. The position is abundantly clear and has been stated many times—we are continuing with our discussions and seeking to find a basis. That is what we are still doing.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Can the hon. Gentleman say, then, from the Prime Minister's speeches, when and in what 558 conditions he will decide whether to negotiate or not?
§ Mr. Godber
I am about to deal with the position that we will have got to after discussions and after my right hon. Friends come back from the Commonwealth, if the hon. Member will bear with me for a moment. Certainly, at this moment, we are not in a position to take the matter further. Last week, my noble Friend also addressed himself very much to a number of the aspects concerning the Commonwealth, and I cannot usefully add much to that tonight.
It is clear so far that we have had, at least up to the speech of the hon. Member for Sowerby, a very vigorous and free flowing debate on both sides. I cannot say that I would endorse all the things said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) at one stage of his remarks, but I think that some most interesting points have been raised on both sides. I only repeat that at the moment the Government have taken no decision. We are continuing the discussions which we have set in train to see whether it is possible to establish the basis on which negotiations can profitably go forward.
The hon. Member for Sowerby referred to the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 25th July last year, and called it a pessimistic speech. I would have said that it was rather a sober appreciation of the position as it then obtained. The hon. Member asked how further things developed. Of course, it was the initiative of Chancellor Adenauer in inviting my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to Bonn which started a fresh cycle of discussions last August, and they have continued right through up to the present time.
Discussions with our E.F.T.A. colleagues have also been close and continuous, and have been going on this very week at the Ministerial Council meeting here in London. We have maintained the very closest contact with our E.F.T.A. colleagues all along, and they have fully understood the point of view which we have put forward and have known exactly where we have got to in our discussions with the Six.
But it is with the Commonwealth aspect that the Motion largely concerns 559 itself. I am very glad to note the concern which the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) expresses for the future health and stability of the Commonwealth. He said something about the Prodigal Son. I would be only too happy to welcome him back as the Prodigal Son in this matter, and any of his hon. Friends, too.
§ Mr. Godber
In that case, the hon. Member is not entitled to the fatted calf. He cannot have it both ways. He has forfeited his right and I need not pursue the matter further. For whatever reason he may express his views, he may be sure that they are views which will always command a ready response from both the Government and hon. Members on this side of the House.
I remind the House that we have maintained the closest consultation with our Commonwealth colleagues on the whole of this problem ever since our consideration of a closer association with Europe began, not only of late, but first in our discussions for a Free Trade Area, then with discussions on E.F.T.A., and subsequently these more recent developments in the E.E.C.
The visits on which three of my right hon. Friends are now engaged are a further manifestation of this close consultation. In the light of the outcome of those discussions, Her Majesty's Government will obviously be considering what the next step will be. It would be quite premature for me to speculate on it tonight. The hon. Member for Sowerby repeatedly asked me to say where we went from there. We must see what the outcome of the discussions is. My right hon. Friends have not gone to our Commonwealth colleagues merely to tell them of a fait accompli, but to discuss with them and find a basis, in the light of our latest discussions on the Continent, on which we can take the matter further.
§ Sir L. Ungoed-Thomas
Are these discussions going on with the Commonwealth members purely economic discussions, dealing simply with questions of trade and tariffs, or is there 560 any consideration of the political effect on the Commonwealth as a whole? If the political effect on the Commonwealth as a whole is being considered, does not the hon. Gentleman recognise the necessity of having a round-table conference of Prime Ministers of the Commonwealth? Would that not keep the discussions together, instead of having merely three commercial travellers from this country picking off members of the Commonwealth one by one?
§ Mr. Godber
That is a very poor way to put it. This is not a question of commercial travellers picking off members of the Commonwealth one by one. The discussions are on the problems affecting the economies of the different Commonwealth countries and they all have different problems which have to be confronted. It is no good lumping the Commonwealth together and saying that the problems of all the member countries are the same. They vary enormously and any association which we might have would have a different impact on each of them. It is not helpful, at this stage, to suggest having round-table discussions.
§ Mr. Godber
Of course they have, but the Commonwealth countries are perfectly well able to have them discussed and we have full discussions on a Commonwealth basis. That is a perfectly sound and proper way to proceed if we want to make progress in the matter.
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
Is my hon. Friend saying that Mr. Diefenbaker's suggestions were not very helpful?
§ Mr. Godber
I did not say that at all. I said that at this moment of time the best way to make progress was in these discussions with individual members of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister was quite clear. He did not rule out at a later stage discussions such as have been suggested. Neither Mr. Diefenbaker nor anyone else need feel that we have not taken full account, as indeed they know we have, of all the points that they have put forward, and are putting forward.
561 When one considers the real economic problems which confront the Commonwealth, one finds that they vary considerably. One has to consider temperate foodstuffs such as wheat, butter, lamb, and other products of that nature which are produced by different Commonwealth countries, and for which different arrangements may have to be made. I do not want to go into that further. As I said, I wanted to speak for only a few minutes, but it is right to remind the House of those points.
I agreed with my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West when he said that the Commonwealth was held together by the strength of the Mother Country. That is an essential factor which we must consider in regard to any arrangements we make in relation to the Common Market.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South)
Dealing with the point about Commonwealth co-operation on the economic side, does my hon. Friend agree that what was said by the Prime Minister is all right as far as it goes, but that it does not go far enough? We need an undertaking that after the commercial travellers' visit, or whatever one may call it, has taken place, there will be a Prime Ministers' conference.
§ Mr. Godber
A Prime Ministers' conference has been held whenever necessary. We may be sure that if the Prime Ministers concerned wanted a conference one could take place, and indeed would. I am not excluding that. I am saying that it would be improper for me to say tonight that one would be convenient. One does not know the position of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers. I do not think that it would be helpful to follow this further now. Surely we ought to allow the Ministers concerned to return to this country and report on their discussions before we decide on the next stage.
The only other matter that I wish to consider is the question of sovereignty, which also bulks large in the Motion. I believe that, here again, a lot of formless fears have been generated on this subject. On this, I will say three things. First, that we in this country have, in these post-war years, accepted certain important limitations on our sovereignty, and of some at least of these I have 562 always understood that the hon. Member and his hon. Friends were in favour—for instance, the United Nations. O.E.C.C., which has now merged into O.E.C.D., W.E.U. and N.A.T.O., which together, while providing for our defence in Europe, have meant some derogation of sovereignty. The concept, therefore, of some loss of sovereignty is one which this country has been able to accept in these particular spheres.
Secondly, anyone who reads the Treaty of Rome throughout will see that such loss of sovereignty as is proposed is related solely to the fulfilling of the basic aims of the Community as set out in Article 2, and expanded in Article 3. It is related, in the main, to the control of trade arrangements as they would affect our relations within the community and outside, and to certain clearly defined and limited matters having a strict bearing on this.
It is certainly going too far to describe the Community as at present set out as a political unit in the terms in which that phrase is generally understood, and as used in this Motion. Any extension of the powers of the Treaty of Rome in the political, or, indeed, any other, field, would have to be brought about by unanimous vote, and if we were members of the community then, clearly, we would have a definite say in the direction in which developments might take place.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
Suppose we were outvoted? My hon. Friend says that we will have a say in what happens. If it were a minority say and we were outvoted, what would be our position? Suppose all the other parties decided to move forward to political federation. Would we be committed to go with them, or, if we wished, to dissociate ourselves; what would be our position in regard to membership of the Economic Community?
§ Mr. Godber
Any extension beyond the existing terms would require a unanimous vote. If we were one of the members, we would have the power of veto. There is no question of a majority vote. We would have the power, just as other members would have the power, to prevent extensions in that way.
Thirdly, those who fear dramatic loss of sovereignty should remember the States that are at present comprised in 563 the Community. Is there any indication that they want to lose or merge completely their individuality? I see no sign of it at present. My noble Friend dealt with this matter last week in his speech in another place, and I do not propose to expand upon it, but I hope that those who fear this issue of sovereignty will consider the very limited extent to which it is involved, and the real safeguards that there would be if we did choose to go in.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne made a very persuasive speech, in which he sought to obtain support from my hon. Friends—
§ Mr. Godber
From everybody, of course, but, in particular from my hon. Friends. His speech was directed to the question of the right of the Commonwealth to full consultation. Of course, we accept their right to full consultation. But the hon. Member did not convey in his speech what he sought to convey in his Motion. The Motion went a great deal further than his speech, because the Motion prejudges the issue. The Motion speaks of our beinggravely concerned at the … threat to … independenceandat the threats to the survival of the Commonwealth inherent in the proposals".
§ Mr. Godber
I am trying to draw a proper distinction between the Motion and the hon. Member's speech. I hope that hon. Members will bear with me. The phrases in which the Motion is couched show the hon. Member's fear. I am merely making the point that the Motion seemed to go a great deal further than his speech. His speech was based largely on the need for full consultations.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I thought that I made it quite clear that the operative part of my Motion could be acceptable to everybody, whether he was in favour or against our going in, in principle, whereas I thought it fair to the House that I should indicate my own view. I did that in the Motion and I did that in my speech.
§ Mr. Godber
The implications of the Motion as set down on the Order Paper are fairly clear. However, I do not wish to pursue the matter further. It is quite clear that other hon. Members are very anxious to take part in the debate, but I felt it necessary to make one or two comments upon some of the things that have been said. The Government will take careful note of all the comments made in the debate, as they must do on such a vital issue. It is desirable that we should have a debate and a very full discussion of this matter. It is for that reason that I welcome the fact that a debate has taken place, although I cannot recommend the House to accept the Motion.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
Although I disagree fundamentally with the speech of the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) and reject unreservedly the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins), at any rate I extend full credit to them for their forthrightness. They know what they want. They have made up their minds. There are no reservations or qualifications in them. They want to liquidate the British Commonwealth. That is what they said. They produced a variety of arguments which seemed to indicate some hestitation, but in the end they abandoned the idea of this country being able to pay its way, to conduct its agricultural system efficiently and effectively, and all the rest.
Many derisory comments have been made about the strange alignments that have occurred in the course of this controversy. References were made to my support of the Commonwealth. I must tell hon. Members, most of whom were not in this House before the last war, or, for that matter, during the war—and they may have been absent for quite proper reasons—that they are unacquainted with the views expressed by hon. Members on this side, especially by myself, on the subject of the Commonwealth. And so more particularly because of the Prime Minister's jibe the other afternoon—which was quite unworthy of the right hon. Gentleman—I should like to direct attention to the terms of a Motion moved in this House eighteen years ago. I should like to read it.
565That the United Kingdom should do its utmost by close co-operation and regard for the different points of view of the nations of the Commonwealth to preserve in time of peace the unity of purpose and sentiment which has held them together in time of war.I was responsible for initiating the debate and moving that Motion. Moreover, I should not be at all surprised to find that I have a longer membership of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association than any hon. Member at present in the House. Many years ago, when it was by no means fashionable in the Labour Party to uphold what was called at that time the Empire, which has now merged in the Commonwealth, I expressed an affection for the Commonwealth not only on grounds of sentiment but because of the economic ties which I regarded at that time—and still do—as essential for the well-being of the whole Commonwealth.
It is remarkable that in this debate those who have ventured to express an opinion in support of the Common Market and have, by implication, derided the effectiveness of the Commonwealth, have overlooked the volume of trade passing between the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth countries and the volume of trade passing between the United Kingdom and the six countries represented in the Common Market. Because of that I shall venture to give the figures. It is just as well that the House should have them.
In 1959, we imported more than three times the amount from the Commonwealth than we did from the Six. In 1960, we imported rather more than this amount. In 1959, we exported about four times more to the Commonwealth than we sent to the countries of the Six. In 1960, we did rather better than in 1959.
§ Mr. Delargy
May I ask my right hon. Friend one question to get the figures accurate? Will not he agree that our exports to the Commonwealth—I am not making an argument, but if we are to have figures let us have them correctly—are dwindling and that our exports to European countries are increasing?
§ Mr. Shinwell
There may very well be some diminution in the volume of trade passing between this country and the various Commonwealth countries at the present time. But I gave the last 566 available figures, the figures extracted from the Board of Trade Journal. If my hon. Friend wants the actual figures, I can give them, because they are very interesting.
In 1959, the Commonwealth imports were more than £1,600 million and to Europe £558 million. There is a remarkable variation. Regarding exports, and, of course, exports are particularly important, the exports to the Commonwealth countries were £1,400 million against £465 million to the Six. Let us get down to realities. Let us get down to brass tacks. It is all very well to talk about sentiment and affection but, after all, we have to speak in terms of trade. To talk in this airy-fairy fashion about the Commonwealth not being so important as it once was, which, after all, was the implication of what my hon. Friend has just interjected, is simply beside the point.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I do not want to argue along economic lines in this matter. I leave that to the economists. Incidentally, I remind some of my older hon. Friends that way back before the war we were discussing the Ottawa Preferences. I was appointed by the Labour Party as chairman of the then Ottawa Committee, and I made the acquaintance for the first time of a young economist who was a member of that Committee, although he was not then a member of this House, the present Leader of the Opposition. The Labour Party was in favour of preference as long as it was understood that it would not increase the cost of living in this country, and neither did it. I am as much in favour now of preferential treatment among the Commonwealth countries as I was at that time.
I say that only in passing, and I make a further observation in passing. I understand the need in the present situation for some economic co-ordination among the countries of Europe—and, indeed, among the countries of the world—but that is not the primary objective of the Treaty of Rome. It is all very well to say that it does not deal with the political aspects, but let us hear what those in authority have to say about it. There is, for example, one gentleman, whose name I shall give so that there can be no doubt about his credentials, Baron 567 Snoy, one of the principal negotiators of the Rome Treaty, the Common Market and Euratom. He said it is a fact that the fundamental objective of the Rome Treaty, the aim which ensured the support of the people in the Parliaments of the Six countries, has always been the progressive creation of a minimum of political unity in their countries. The Common Market of the Six is inconceivable in any other perspective.
Of course, that is so; they cannot deny it. The Liberal Party agree that we ought to abandon our sovereignty and join with the Six. What is the good of talking of political unity in Europe when even the two Germanys cannot unite? Let us stop talking about political unity in face of that acute division in Europe. What is the actual purpose behind it? I think the right hon. Member for Flint, West let the cat out of the bag. The purpose is to continue the division in Europe. On the one hand we have what is called free Europe—that is the expression used by some of those who support entry to the Common Market and the political community—and on the other hand there is Communist Europe. I can see the result of that in the course of a few years.
To those who talk, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stechford did when he derided my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) about his support and Labour Party support of world government, I venture to say that is a false analogy. It is possible to project the idea of world government, although I can see almost insurmountable difficulties in achieving that aim, but there is no comparison between the ideal of a world government and the project of political unity in one part of Europe which is a provocation to the rest of Europe and will lead us into disaster before we are very much older.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
I certainly did not deride the idea of world government. I very much support it. I think it perfectly possible to argue, although I do not share the argument, against going into Western Europe because one does not like the grouping in Western Europe, but I do not think it wise to argue against going in because we must preserve 568 sovereignty and still to say we are in favour of world government.
§ Mr. Shinwell
It is unnecessary to tell me or any other hon. Member giving consideration to what is happening and has been happening in the world since the last war that of course we must abandon some part of our sovereignty. We have handed over some part of it to the United Nations, although I am bound to say they have not handled it very well. We have handed over authority to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and it is as weak as it can be. Of course, in the course of time, we shall have to abandon some part of our sovereignty, but there is a real distinction between handing over some part of our authority to some international organisation and going lock, stock and barrel into the Common Market, knowing quite well that there is political instability in France, in Belgium, and in Germany because of the division between the two Germanys. That would become a provocation to the rest of Europe.
I want to deal with what I believe is at the bottom of the whole trouble. I am bound to say of two speakers, one an hon. Member opposite and the other on the Front Bench on this side of the House, that I do not know what they spoke for. I can understand those who say that we are for the Common Market and those who say that we are against the Common Market. It reminds me of the mugwump, the person who sat on a fence with his mug on the one side and his wump on the other.
What are the Government doing? Only two years ago there was a General Election and the Government won a glorious victory. They were as bombastic as they could be. A few months later, the Prime Minister said, to use the vernacular, which I do not like doing, but which I have to use for the purpose of the argument, "We have never had it so good." We were told that the standard of living was good and that everything in the garden was lovely. Now we are told that there is something wrong with the balance of payments, something wrong with the £ sterling, that there is the possibility of deflation, another credit squeeze is in prospect, and that our agriculture is in a chaotic and shocking condition. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Let me point out that only the 569 other day the Minister of Agriculture at the Dispatch Box indulged by implication in a piece of intimidation—in fact harsh blackmail—when he said to the farming community, "Either you go into the Common Market and take all the advantages or you lose your deficiency payments."
§ Mr. Godber
The right hon. Gentle-man is being unfair. My right hon. Friend never said that or anything approaching it. The right hon. Gentleman may indulge in a certain amount of poetic licence, but that is going much too far.
§ Mr. Shinwell
It was implied not only by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture but by the hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent), who was formerly Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture—he is not present and I do not complain about that—that the deficiency payments would disappear entirely unless we went into the Common Market and obtained the benefits of their agricultural system.
The Rome Treaty has been in operation for four years, but not one speaker in this debate who upholds the Common Market concept has demonstrated that any benefits have accrued to any of the Six countries. The farmers in France are having a revolt. In Belgium the coal industry is in a more chaotic condition that ever before, and in a far worse condition than the coal industry in this country. In Italy there is a vast amount of unemployment. Of course, Italy will benefit as a result of the provisions of the Rome Treaty and the free movement of workers. What a glorious prospect for the workers of this country. "Keep the coloured workers out and let the Italian workers in": is that the idea?
The same comment applies to tariffs. Let German goods into this country free of tariff but keep Indian and other Commonwealth goods out by imposing a high tariff, or at any rate a tariff which is likely to make things more difficult for them. That is the proposal.
The Government are in a difficulty and are looking for an escape route. This is a way out for the Government. But if they find things so difficult they can plan our resources more wisely or adopt the addendum proposed by my hon. 570 Friends and myself—which asks that we should further the economic development of the Commonwealth with what provision of capital we can supply. I remember some years ago that the late Sir Albert Braithwaite, with other members of the Commonwealth Unity section of the Tory Party, and many others who supported his point of view, expressed the opinion that if we could raise £300 million in order to provide the beginning of a fund to develop the Commonwealth countries, we could exploit their resources. At the same time we should exploit resources here, planning and organising. What is wrong with the Government? They think that this country is played out when in fact the Government are played out.
There has been derisory comment about the alignment in the House today. I am not ashamed of it. Even if I have to tell my party that I do not agree with them, I would rather support principles which are in the interests of the country and of the Commonwealth. I hope that other hon. Members will do the same. A little more courage on the part of hon. Members and on the part of the Government would do no harm.
I believe that much of this inspiration has come from the United States. The United States has not always been—
§ Mr. Godber rose—
§ Mr. Godber
I am grateful to the right hon. Member for giving way. There is no foundation in what he says. The impetus has certainly not come from America.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Where has the inspiration come from? We know quite well that President Kennedy wants a unified Europe.
§ Mr. Shinwell
These interjections are enough to shake anybody's faith. I heard my hon. Friend's still, small voice.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I dismiss my hon. Friend. I regard him as of no importance. Put him on the Front Bench.
I do not deny the difficulties of the Commonwealth. This country, too, is confronted with economic difficulties. But there is a way out.
We have been told that there is a strange alignment between some of my hon. Friends who hold the extreme left-wing view and some hon. Members opposite who are regarded as the extreme right wing of the Tory Party—and that is saying something! But is it not a good thing occasionally that we should cut across the party view in order to establish first principles? That is what counts. I do not care who challenges me on this issue: I am for the Commonwealth. I am for New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and India, too. Why not? There is much to be done for India, and I do not think that the exploited, illiterate and poverty-stricken masses of India will gain much from the Six. They are much more likely to gain from the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth partners. I uphold the Commonwealth concept. I say to the Government, "Do not try any tricks". I gather from a vast correspondence in the last couple of weeks or so that there are many Tories in the country who are only wishing for the opportunity to tell the Prime Minister where to get off. We shall support them to the best of our ability.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
Like the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), I am for the Commonwealth, but I shall not follow him throughout his remarks because, if I do, I shall not be able to sit down and allow the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) to get in, as is desired. It is a maxim of Tory democracy to "Trust the people". I tell the Government frankly that as I move around among my constituents I find them hungry for a British lead in world affairs. They are in the same doubt as I am about what the Government are after. They are perplexed by the lack of a coherent principle of European policy.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister of State on his promotion, but I regret to say that I did not find his 572 speech helpful or enlightening. My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) tabled a Question today to the Lord Privy Seal which was not reached. He asked the Government if they would submit any agreements in this connection to Parliament before ratification. I ask the Government this further question. If Parliament is not sitting and it comes to the point of such agreements, will the Government support an application for the recall of Parliament?
The Motion in the name of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) and the Amendment bearing my name refer to "pressure"—pressure and propaganda aimed at hustling this country into a common market, the logical outcome of which is common currency and common government. My hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) rightly speaks in his Amendment of the interests of the agricultural community. I would add to that the interests of horticulturists. If we let them down, it will not be just a question of this Government going into Europe. I fear that it will be a question of this Government going into opposition.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West mentioned our partners in E.F.T.A., with whom we have old and historic ties of friendship and to whom we might well extend honorary membership of the Commonwealth. There has been great concern amongst them. I am glad that the Government have stated that they are not to be let down. My hon. Friend referred to consultation with the Commonwealth, which can mean a great deal or nothing at all. I am not impressed by this hectic helter-skelter globe-trot. I wish that Her Majesty's Government had responded more favourably and that the Minister of State had not spoken so loftily of the wish of the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Diefenbaker, and other Commonwealth statesmen for a full conference on this great matter.
In some quarters it seems as if the Commonwealth has just become a difficulty, a problem. Yesterday, the Daily Herald had an article on the Common Market headed, "Problem of the Commonwealth". The Commonwealth is not just a bunch of tiresome relations 573 and grown-up wards. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne spoke of our being isolated in 1940. We are inclined to speak with pride of how, when all our European allies were struck down, we fought on alone. But that is not true. We did not light on alone. A united Commonwealth, spread throughout the world, fought on until first Russia was attacked, and then the United States of America. German war lords, and a German lance-corporal, have taken it for granted, as some people at this moment take it for granted, that the Commonwealth has no solidarity and means nothing. Twice Germany thought to her cost that the Commonwealth would not rally to an effete and ageing lion.
Now for what my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West said about my letter to The Times newspaper, in which I said that I support European unity. I do, and I support an association between Europe and the Commonwealth. I believe that the Commonwealth shares the soul of Europe, the most creative of all the continents. But the Commonwealth is a partnership of sovereign nations, and I believe that the only sound European order will be based upon the sovereignty of the European nations—on that national principle which Europe has given the world.
This question of sovereignty is being obscured. Sometimes the nice phrase "institutional question" is used. The Minister of State said there were important Imitations of our sovereignty in our membership of the United Nations, but this is to confuse the issue, because the Charter of the United Nations upholds the sovereignty of all the members of that organisation. Some say we have surrendered sovereignty to N.A.T.O., but the purpose of N.A.T.O. is to defend the sovereignty of its members, and the Stockholm Convention would never have been passed, and certainly would not have received the association of Finland, if it did not uphold absolutely the sovereignty of the signatories.
It is said that the Treaty of Rome may not be exactly all we like but that we can sign it and then, perhaps, we shall be able to change it to suit us. The Treaty of Rome, as it stands, according to the statements of the leaders of the Six, is the only basis upon which they are ready 574 to negotiate. We hear often about many escape clauses in the Treaty, but I know one anti-escape clause, Article 240, which says:This Treaty shall be concluded for an unlimited period.Of all those who have told me that we can go in and shape the Community to suit our national purposes, none has ever said to me that we can go in on any other terms than on the acceptance of what is said in Article 3 about "a common Customs tariff" and "a common commercial policy towards third countries". It would split the Tory Party were we to bind, beneath the votes or veto of a foreign or supra-national agency, our liberty to arrange our trade with Australia, India or any Commonwealth realm or republic.
Sir Roy Welensky has recently said that it may well be that the entry of Britain into the Common Market would do irreparable damage to the whole Commonwealth structure. I agree very much with the right hon. Member for Easington, and I respectfully disagree with my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, when the former said that the clue to all this mystery can be found on the other side of the Atlantic. When we debated foreign affairs, the Lord Privy Seal said—and it seemed to be a matter for high gratification—that President Kennedy was prepared to accept additional discrimination against American exports, provided that it was in the cause of the political unity of Europe. Have Her Majesty's Government ever asked President Kennedy if he would be sufficiently indulgent to new discrimination by the Commonwealth countries against American exports, as conducive to the unity of the Commonwealth of Nations and, therefore, to the prosperity of the world? The consistent and persistent American policy has been by financial discrimination to dissolve the Commonwealth as a trading system and to organise the allies and client States of the U.S.A. in an Atlantic Community and a Pacific Community linked in Washington.
We notice that the Canadian Broadcasting Commission has recently been talking of plans for a Pacific Common Market containing Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and in the manner of Anzus, excluding the United Kingdom. The President of the New Zealand Meat 575 Producers, Mr. John Ormond, has invited President Kennedy to offer the Dominion compensatory trading opportunities to become part of a buffer State. Is it Britain's destiny to be federated in a buffer State of Western Europe?
The late John Foster Dulles in 1950 wrote a book called "War on Peace?" In it he said:The United States now has the opportunity to bring about peacefully what ought to be done—that is, European integration:but will not be done unless there is friendly but firm outside pressure. The United States can and should take that opportunity and exert that pressure. We have the right to do that because at Europe's request we have made a tremendous investment in Western Europe.We are moving into a period of danger in Europe, and I welcome the firm statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister yesterday about Berlin. The threat to the Allied position there must be met with constancy and unity. I think that is part of the motive of the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West. But to destroy the identity and independence, and to decry as "narrow nationalism"—the favourite phrase—the patriotic spirit of the nations of Europe and of the Commonwealth is in my view to sap their resistance to Communism, which shrewdly poses as the champion of national sovereignty.
I do not know what the Prime Minister said to President Kennedy at that last meeting in Washington, but I hope that he will take advantage of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) described as our special position with the United States to assert the right of our country and the Commonwealth to exist, and for our nations to make reciprocal arrangements one with the other, and then reciprocal arrangements with Continental Europe. It is always easy to find reasons why now is not the time to make a stand. It was like that in the 'thirties.
And so, in conclusion, I commend to the Government and the House some words which I hope will appeal to the latter-day Whigs below the Gangway apposite. They were uttered by one of the founders of the Fourth Party, Sir Henry Drummond-Wolff who, in 1878, when, as today, there was a Russian 576 threat to our European and our Eastern positions, said:Where are the remains of Lord Palmerston? Find them for me, so that I may present his backbone to the nation.
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
Nobody who has listened to this debate will suggest that it was improper or ill-advised that we should have had the debate and, therfore, I think that everyone will congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) on having introduced this subject. Moreover, we will have the opportunity, I trust, of a vote. This will be the first opportunity that the House will have had to express its views by its vote, which is the proper procedure.
It might, indeed, be argued that if my hon. Friend's Motion were rejected, this might be the last opportunity for the House to have a chance of expressing its view by vote, because if the House, by rejecting the Motion, were to say that it did not want the House of Commons to have the right to empower the Government to enter into any negotiations, if they are to enter into them, or if the House of Commons were to say that it did not want the negotiations to be made legitimate, or be examined or prepared by a Commonwealth conference, the House would be saying that it did not want either procedure, and I should have thought that that would be extremely dangerous.
There may be another advantage from the debate. It may even be that we shall influence the Government's decision. That might be something of a novelty; for a debate in the House of Commons to influence the Government's decisions—but I hope that it would not be a constitutional outrage.
Some people say that the Prime Minister has already made up his mind on this subject. Others say that this accusation is incredible. I do not presume to judge the question. Indeed, if the Prime Minister has reached firm conclusions on deciding to enter the Common Market, then at least the rest of us can take some satisfaction from remembering the Prime Minister's most notable quality—his resilience. It may be said of him, as it was said of someone else, 577 that one he has firmly and irrevocably made up his mind, no power on earth can prevent him from changing it. Whatever views we may have about that quality, I hope that this debate will be of some value in that respect.
The Prime Minister's view has changed, or it appears to have changed, slightly for the better. I recall the answer which the Prime Minister gave to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davidson), in which he said that he did not think that it would be desirable to have a Commonwealth conference. It was not necessary at all, the Prime Minister said. Indeed, there was no proposal then for sending the commercial travellers around.
But something has changed the Prime Minister's mind. Possibly it was the announcement by Mr. Diefenbaker that he wanted a full Commonwealth conference. That proposal for such a conference was welcomed in almost every Commonwealth country. I would have thought—whatever we think about the Commonwealth, or about its future—that it would be reassuring for other members of the Commonwealth for this House to pass a Motion saying that no decisive action will be taken until there has been a full Commonwealth conference on the subject.
What is it that the Commonwealth countries fear? It is true that they do not all share the same fears, but it was wrong of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) to have said that it was solely the white members of the Commonwealth who were concerned about the matter. My hon. Friend could not have read the protest made last week by Dr. Eric Williams, the Prime Minister of Trinidad. Apparently the Government had also forgotten about the West Indies. Dr. Williams said that what he would very much prefer would be a full Prime Ministers' Commonwealth conference at which the West Indies would be represented, even though they have not achieved full independence.
What is it that they fear? What they fear from the establishment of the Common Market is the effect of the common external tariff which will be set up. We hear a great deal about free trade inside the area, but little about the common external tariff which the European coun 578 tries are to establish. To the hon. Members of the Liberal Party, I would say that that is not Cobdenism but a bastard form of Cobdenism, for it is setting up a huge barrier against the rest of the world.
A few days ago Professor Meade wrote in the "Three Bank Review" about this part of the Common Market question. He said:At a time like the present, with increased hopes that the British Commonwealth can become more and more a club of real association between developed and underdeveloped countries"—I know that there may be differences of opinion about this but it is a hope that is shared by many of us—from all parts of the world, it would be particularly unfortunate if the United Kingdom changed from insisting on letting in Indian manufactures free and taxing German manufactures to letting in German manufactures free and imposing a common European tariff on Indian manufactures".
§ Mr. Arthur Holt (Bolton, West)
Surely the hon. Member realises that no hon. Member more than his hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) has been more concerned in keeping textiles from the Commonwealth out of this country.
§ Mr. Foot
That was such a trivial intervention that it does not appear to have any relation to the argument. Hon. Members of the Liberal Party are in favour of establishing a heavy external tariff around the Common Market countries. Although this is mentioned in the Treaty of Rome, and although it is of paramount importance to the whole idea, we are told that we shall later be able to do away with it, or that the common external tariff would be able to be reduced. Or, if we get inside it, it is said we may be able to alter it when we get there.
Thus to remove one of the main purposes of the operation is like a man saying that he wants to become a member of the Carlton Club, but in order to avoid difficulties and the opprobrium which this might arouse among his friends, he intends later to turn it into a Left-wing coffee house. Instead of the portrait painted by the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) of this wonderful new European paradise, what it will be is an economic Zollverein, a European Zollverein 579 against the under-developed areas of the world. It seems to me a peculiarly strange course to take when the primary concern of this House and of the country should be to develop the economic relations between the developed and under-developed areas of the world.
I should like to say a few words about the issue of sovereignty and the political implications. Here, there is as great a conflict of testimony as there has been in the whole debate. The Foreign Secretary, in another place in a debate on the Common Market, tried to suggest that this was a very subordinate problem and he was not worried about it at all. On the other hand, Lord Gladwyn, an expert on the matter, said that it was the most important, and Professor Hall-stein, who knows even more about it than Lord Gladwyn because he runs it, said, "We are not in business at all. We are in politics." Which is correct?
The excuse that the Minister made today was that we do not have to worry about the political implications very much because we shall always be able to help settle those matters later and we will not be committed to very much. If we went into the Common Market with that kind of attitude it would do more damage to our relations with Europe than anything else. With this concept of going into the Common Market not accepting in our hearts what the founders accepted and believing that if and when we get there we shall use our position instead to thwart the purposes of the founders of European co-operation, we shall not assist in establishing good relations with European countries. If we want to make Albion seem perfidious, that is the way to do it.
In other words, what we should do is to have the courage to recognise that we have still great associations with other countries that we can develop. We have not attempted to do it on anything like the scale that we should have done. Why are we so despondent? This debate reminds me more than ever of the debate in 1945 on the American Loan. We had both Front Benches uneasy, but agreeing 580 to the proposition. We had all the blessing of all the experts for the great free trade convertible world that the Loan and its provisions would bring. That mirage entranced the Liberal Party, which was the most enthusiastic about the proposition.
The whole thing was blessed by Lord Keynes. All the experts and economists said, "Yes, that is what you have to do." And the whole thing collapsed in two years. The whole convertibility idea did not work. The operation collapsed because in fact what we did then was to turn our backs on the possibility of what we could rebuild. I hope that we shall not make the same mistake again if we go into the Common Market. Let us agree that this House and the British Commonwealth should make the real decision. If we say that the Commonwealth should not make the decision, we should by that act itself have destroyed that great institution.
§ 9.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Martin Maddan (Hitchin) rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
I cannot accept the Motion. My reason is that I have not been able to get round to calling one representative even on each point of view on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. Maddan
In the speech by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot) we have had some very gross misrepresentations indeed.
§ Mr. Silverman rose—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.