§ Question again proposed.
§ Mr. Darling
Just one sentence. I hope that the questions which were put by the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) and myself will be properly examined and will be answered before the end of the debate.
§ Mr. Speaker
Just one sentence, or perhaps two. I am very disappointed about the number of hon. Members that I have been able to call. About 150 back benchers wanted to speak. I was able to call 12 yesterday and about 16 today. On Monday I am disposed to try an experiment. I will have to call the Front Benches, and there are four Privy Councillors, two on each side, differing in their views. After that, I am disposed to call only hon. Members who will guarantee to speak for under 10 minutes. [Interruption.] I have no power to impose a sanction. I am the servant of the House. I have therefore said this as an indication of what I think would be the overwhelming view of hon. Members.
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)
This, by general agreement, has been an excellent debate. It falls to me to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Sandelson) on his maiden speech. I have known him for many years : in fact, I had a fight with him 33 years ago, and I must warn hon. Members that his mild manner is very deceptive. We have waited a long time to have him in the House. He made a very hard hitting speech.
I must also ask the indulgence of the House in that, unlike many hon. Members who have spoken, this is the first time that I have had the opportunity of speaking on the Common Market. Like many other hon. Members, I have greatly looked forward to the opportunity of contributing.
This is certainly the most important debate that the House has had at any time in the 21 years that I have been here. It involves a most difficult judgment for those hon. Members who have to decide. It is, however, a matter of 1812 judgment and not of conscience, and it deeply divides those of us who are arguing about it in both parties. Like some who have spoken, I envy those who find it so easy to reach a view.
But as we approach this issue we must set the debate in its widest political economic, industrial and social context. We cannot discuss the question of British adherence to the Common Market in the abstract, as if it were an academic issue. We must see it in relation to the lives of the people of this country, their problems, their hopes, their fears and their aspirations.
In approaching this matter, although, quite properly, hon. Members have said that this should not be the appropriate moment for an exchange of party attacks, we should remember that it is essentially a political debate. In the course of the discussion, it would be improper if we did not allow our political philosophy to inspire what we say about it.
Second, we must be free to speak our minds frankly. However we may vote on the issue—I want to come back to this later—there is no excuse for any of us not saying exactly what is in his mind. That must necessarily mean that every hon. Member speaks for himself and that none can really claim to speak for others.
Of course, it follows from that that we must respect the views of others who disagree with us. There is no reason to assume that others who take a different view are not sincere. Indeed, the historical judgment of our decision cannot be made for many years to come, and it is far from certain that those of us who may feel most confident now will be supported by the historians when they come to look at this decision.
We must give far more consideration in the debate to how we reach the decision before us than we have so far done. What is valuable in our system of government is dependent upon the way in which we settle our differences. People do not come from all over the world to study the British Parliament to find out what happened to the Hill Farming (Amendment) Subsidy Bill ; they come to see how we settle our differences. It is absolutely central to this decision that we should consider, alongside the rights and wrongs of entry, the whole subject of 1813 how a nation should approach the question of its own future, involving, as it necessarily does, a fundamental change in our parliamentary system of self-government. I want to return to that later because it has been much underestimated so far. This proposal strips Parliament and the country of part of its constitutional sovereignty, and this must be an element in our discussions.
Every hon. Member speaking today has had an element of confession in his speech. Everyone has wanted to explain how he approached the decision at one stage or another in the course of the controversy. I must do the same, without documents to support me, but I must argue my case in the light of my own experience.
I was no early advocate of the Common Market. Its laissez faire inspiration, its cold war feeling, its cultural nostalgia affected me not at all in the early years. However, when the Labour Cabinet came to concern itself with whether or not it should apply, as an industrial Minister I approached this in the light of my experience with responsibility for a large part of British industry. I had the curious title of Minister of Technology but it entailed very largely the same responsibilities as the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
There are certain obvious reasons why a Minister with those responsibilities should favour entry as I did. There is the larger market. But, candidly, Britain will never survive unless the world is its market, and the idea that its only market is Europe did not weigh very much with me. There is the high cost of research and development. But it will always be true that most research and development know-how will continue to flow across the Atlantic to Britain, in or out of Europe. That did not weigh with me.
§ Mr. Hastings
How does the right hon. Gentleman match that with the fact that we had the first S.S.T. flying in Europe, something of which he was very proud?
§ Mr. Benn
May I come to that argument later? I am trying to develop and explain to the House the way in which I approach the issue, without arguing the merits.
The research and development argument or the larger market or the scale of modern industry did not primarily influence me in the decision. What I found decisive was the scale and power of the multi-national companies with which I was dealing—the fact that General Motors spends more money in a year than the Japanese Government, that Henry Ford has the same budget as Indira Gandhi, that Philips of Eindhoven commands resources greater than those of some European countries.
These giant industrial enterprises are a political entity under no sort of democratic control whatever. They move across frontiers as if they did not exist. One of them with which I dealt ran in Britain by internal transfer payments, with a balance of payments deficit, at a time when we were blaming the British people for the problems confronting this country.
These companies treat the British Government with great courtesy—the sort of courtesy the chairman of I.C.I. would use in addressing the chairman of an urban district council. No one should suppose that in trying to make an impact on our time it will be sufficient for us to rely upon a scale of human organisation that is smaller than that of some industrial enterprises.
The Minister of Technology was supposed to be preoccupied with nuclear reactors, supersonic aircraft, computers and the like. I confess that I could tell nothing to a 13-year old about any of those things that he did not already know. In fact, one's interest in the job must principally be, as it was in my case, political—about the power generated by modern technology and how to control it.
I will not enter into the exchange of quotations across the House and discuss who said what and when. However, I wish to make one small quotation about technology :Technology discloses man's mode of dealing with nature, the process of production by which he sustains his life, and thereby lays bare the mode of formation of his social relations and the mental conceptions that flow from them".1815 That comes from Karl Marx's "Das Kapital".
It was the development of modern industry that absolutely transformed the social system in the 19th century, and this problem of the institutional consequences that flow from technical change is the central problem to our generation and the central political question involved in this debate.
When Rutherford split the atom he not only turned the Pentagon into the most awesome military machine but, in terms of history, was responsible for the creation of the United Nations. When Henry Ford designed the Model T he not only started the multi-nationals but was responsible for creating the demand for industrial democracy in Dagenham. When Baird created television he did not only start Intelsat but created a world demand for human rights, a demand that was spread by the fact that knowledge and information could move across the globe. When Arkwright invented the spinning jenny he not only founded the industrial revolution but released forces such as the trade unions, and gave them a chance to democratise Parliament.
If we look at the impact of technology we see that the decisions that flow from it do not only need the creation of industrial institutions but make us consider how to create human institutions which are strong enough to control the power that technology releases. And we must decide whether we do it by consent or by technocratic managerial decisions taken by a litle group of wise men who thnik they know better than everybody else.
Such an approach would be specifically Socialist and so unacceptable to the Government because they do not accept the analysis. They do not like it. However, that was the reason why I became persuaded that this had merit. Would joining the E.E.C. guarantee Socialism? The answer is, "No"—but then the existence of Parliament does not guarantee Socialism. The way in which institutions are used determines far more how they develop than the intentions of those who establish them.
One day, I know not when, the trade unions in Europe will recognise that they must get together to fight the multinational companies. They will be looking 1816 for a political instrument in exactly the same way as the trade union movement in this country created the Labour Party to deal with capitalism as it found it in the 19th century.
It may be that the Labour Government were a bit premature in their analysis of the possibilities of controlling this power. It may be that we were rather optimistic about how it might be done. Nevertheles, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that whether or not we go into the E.E.C. this is the question which will determine whether democracy, on which we pride ourselves and which we celebrate with Mr. Speaker in his wig and the Sergeant at Arms, survives or whether this place becomes a tourist attraction while real power moves elsewhere.
It is against that background that I want to consider the Government's proposals. The Secretary of State will come forward with an industrial case tonight, but there is no guarantee of growth in Europe. The markets are worldwide, and research and development will be generated all over the world. There is no magic solution in Europe, any more than there was a magic solution in the Empire, in technology or in any of the other dreams in which we have encouraged the public to believe in at one time or another.
The plain truth is that what Britain will be like in 1980 depends far more on what we do in this country than on any other single factor, and anyone who now holds up Europe as a new solve-all of our problems is deceiving the British public into supposing that the Europeans will be doing for us what we, it is argued, have failed to do for ourselves. There is no one, if I may say so, more addicted to that view than the Secretary of State himself. I do not want to reopen the argument about the motor car tariffs, but when he made his statement on that subject he made it clear that it was competition from Europe that he saw as the major instrument for achieving the Government's domestic objectives.
The House should consider the impact effects of entry into Europe, and the many firms, industries and areas which will suffer under the hammer blow of competition, even though some other firms may do better. One of my complaints about the way in which the whole 1817 matter has been handled is that for 10 years Whitehall has assessed in detail the effect of entry into Europe, for 12 months the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has been negotiating in Europe on these very questions, and what we get is a White Paper that does not contain 0.1 of 1 per cent. of what the Government know about the effects of entry upon British industry.
There is no one to whom one can go, if representing a firm or an industry which might be adversely affected, in order to make a case. Compare it with the way in which the American Congress has handled the 250 million dollar loan for Lockheed. Both Houses of Congress had Select Committees sitting for weeks or months before Congress felt itself able to decide. Again, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley) and I were allowed to go to America to represent Bristol interests when Concorde was threatened by a local noise regulation. But if I thought that parts of my constituency were to be adversely affected by entry into the Community there is no Select Committee here to which I can give evidence, or to listen to those who will be adversely affected. It is a very bad example of decision making that there should be no machinery made available by the Government to allow Parliament consider the effect of this change upon individual firms or industries.
The question is : when the competition begins to have its effect, how will the Government react? We know very well how they will react. They have already reacted to industrial change by disengagement. We were laughed at for running an ambulance service from my Department, but that is better than running a hearse. The right hon. Gentleman will send a hearse to any firm adversely affected by competition but to be the mortician of the third industrial revolution is not a sufficient answer to the problems of change that will confront us. When one looks at Rolls-Royce, at Upper Clyde, or the rest, one wonders how people will survive the enormous acceleration of technical change that will come to the British economy when exposed—
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say which industries are at the moment known to 1818 him to be complaining about their prospects if we go into the Common Market? The C.B.I. has declared otherwise.
§ Mr. Benn
The hon. Gentleman diverts me into forecasting. One can look at the areas where the tariff will be drastically reduced. There is no provision for anyone to bring his anxieties to this Parliament before we are asked to vote. It is all done on hearsay, and on C.B.I., Economist and Financial Times estimates. There is no provision at all—[Interruption.] The truth is that there are many Members of Parliament who have these anxieties in their constituencies, and there is no provision for them to be properly dealt with.
This Government will approach the process of industrial change without any of the instruments which we developed to try to cushion people against the effects of these changes. Just as I regard the Government's industrial policy as now pursued in Britain as a disaster, in my opinion if that policy is pursued when we enter Europe it will be a catastrophe for many firms and regions, particularly the regions, because they will not be protected against the changes that will occur.
This is what explains why the trade union movement is so anxious about this proposal. When my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) spoke he was representing many trade unionists, who sense—correctly—that they will be in the front line when these changes occur. It is no accident that the trade union movement should be the one to reflect this anxiety most accurately and most strongly. After all, those of us who speak in the debate—the lecturers, the economists, the writers, the businessmen—are not the ones who will be affected immediately by the change.
The real issue confronting the Labour movement is not the simple problem of marshalling Labour M.P.s into the Lobby on the night. I promise the Government that. What we are discussing is our relationship with the Labour movement—feeling these anxieties—in the country which we were elected to serve. The Labour Party is different from the Conservative Party. I cannot comment on the Conservative Party because I do not know it that well, but it is an old party that has built a mass base.
1819 That is not the history of the Labour Party. However imperfectly we may do our job, we are here to look after the interests of the people who are trying to work through the parliamentary system. If any of us who speak for a Labour movement separated ourselves from it outside, it would not just be the Labour Party that would suffer. It would be the security of the parliamentary system itself. It is when the Clydesiders do not think it worth coming to the House of Commons with their anxieties that the Tory Party will begin feeling the wind and begin to see how unstable its fabric of government really is.
Historically the great changes—
§ Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North) rose—
§ Mr. Gorst rose—
§ Mr. Gorst rose—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)
Order. The hon. Gentleman knows quite well that if the right hon. Gentleman does not give way he must resume his seat.
§ Mr. Benn
It is not because of a reluctance to answer that I do not give way, but I have a lot to say and I want to have a chance of saying it.
It would be the end of democratic politics as we know it in Britain if the Labour Party embraced an aristocratic view of its function as Members of Parliament, believing itself to be cleverer or wiser or more knowledgeable than those it was sent here to serve. I profoundly believe that. Indeed, I believe that this is the whole heart of the argument now going on inside the Labour Party.
§ Mr. Benn
The day the Daily Telegraph appoints the Leader of the Labour Party I shall resign from it ; so we will have no more of that.
It is no part of my argument that the trade unions should have any special claim to decide this matter, because the 1820 House knows very well that my view, which I have consistently advocated, is that this is a political decision of such magnitude that everybody in the country should be entitled to participate in it.
When I heard the Prime Minister yesterday, or the Foreign Secretary today, and some speakers from our side, too, talking about a common foreign policy, or a common industrial policy, and some even of a common defence policy, it became absolutely clear that in the minds of the Government this is a major political act far more significant than the Act of Union, in that then there was not even the industrial advance to make real the connections between Scotland and England. If the Prime Minister's dream of rivalling the super-Powers were true, we are to be the California, the westernmost province, of a United States of Europe.
I am not arguing at this stage whether that is sensible. I only say that the Prime Minister cannot come forward with arguments that are meaningful only in terms of a federation and then say that it is to be settled by a three-line Whip imposed upon the Government party of the day with no consultation with the British public. He cannot say one and the other at the same time. This is much more than a treaty. It is an irreversible commitment. It involves harmonisation of our policy and subordination of our legislation. Public opinion is being ignored.
It is said, I understand, by those who comment on the Prime Minister's thinking that he is watching only one poll, and that is the poll of people who believe it is inevitable that we shall enter Europe. I do not know whether it is true. But if it is true, then he is building on the lethargy of the public and mobilising the fatalism of the public, and that is not the spirit with which to get the country to support his policy.
§ Mr. Benn
No. I have a few more words to say and I must be allowed to develop them.
No hon. Member in this Parliament has been elected with a mandate to strip this Parliament of its basic powers to legislate for the British public.
1821 I do not argue the case, because it would be extreme, but if one were to look at the history of the last three General Elections one could argue that both Governments which applied for entry were defeated at the General Election following their application. The Secretary of State in his maiden speech last year quite fairly said that he felt that he had no mandate to enter the Common Market. He said it in a moving and impressive maiden speech. More than half the Cabinet never mentioned Europe in their manifestos. Only 38 per cent. of Conservative candidates nationwide mentioned it in theirs.
If anything, looking at the Prime Minister's emphasis on prices, dealing with immigrants and standing up for Britain, anyone superficially observing his position in the General Election would have concluded that he was "an applicant and not a supplicant", to use his own phrase, but not that within a year he would come forward with a three-line Whip to take this country into Europe. It is not the sincerity of the Prime Minister or any of my hon. Friends that I doubt. What I dispute is their credentials to take this country into an arrangement that is meaningless except in federal terms.
The House knows that I have introduced a Private Member's Bill to provide for a referendum on this matter. That is a technique advocated by Churchill, and to be practised by other applicants, and it seems to me to be one way of dealing with it. When I hear the case for a free vote argued quite passionately in the House today I find it offensive that hon. Members should want a free vote in this House while denying to their constituents the right of a free vote as well. Therefore, my view is that a referendum would be the right way to handle it.
It is argued that it would create a precedent, but so would entry into Europe. Burke is argued against it, but Burke did not believe in universal suffrage. It is argued that the public are too ignorant to understand it. I dispute that argument. Even a Rhodesian settlement, if ever it comes about, will include provision for a Royal Commission to see whether it is "acceptable to the Rhodesian people as a whole ". That is something which is not even allowed by 1822 our Government for the people of this country. This is a major constitutional issue. If the Prime Minister will not give us a referendum, there must be a General Election to test the issue and to test his policy.
Fifty years ago, when the House was debating the House of Lords question, the Crown would not assent to the Parliament Bill without a dissolution. The Crown has now disappeared in that sense from influencing political events. But if the Government will not give us a General Election on this question, I believe, and I recommend to my hon. Friends, that we should fight for a General Election, campaign for a General Election and force a General Election in order to allow the people to decide the most important question that could possibly be decided ; namely, whether this Parliament which represents the people of this country is to be permitted, without public check, to give up its power without any opportunity for the public to express a view on it.
That is the central question of this debate. That is how it will be judged when the historians come to write of it, and that is the recommendation that I make to the House.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and President of the Board of Trade (Mr. John Davies)
May I first offer my sincere compliments to the maiden speaker, the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Sandelson). I sincerely regret that I was not here on the Front Bench during the course of his speech, but I am told that it was a robust performance. Fortunately—and I am glad to hear it—he is an advocate of Common Market membership, and I understand that he spoke stoutly to it.
My purpose is to confine myself largely to the matters which affect industry and trade considerations which have arisen during the course of the debate up till now. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister indicated that there would be a variety of different members of the Cabinet speaking, each one trying to devote himself to those things for which he is specifically responsible. This does now allow me, unfortunately, to follow quite as rovingly the curious exposition to which we have just listened. It seemed 1823 to me that it did not concentrate profoundly on the issues of an exploratory, explanatory and expository debate. It portrayed, I thought, a remarkable attitude of mind for one who undoubtedly was party to many of the decisions taken in the Cabinet of the former Government and who undoubtedly must have taken part in the considerations which led that Government so stoutly to advocate application for membership and negotiation.
The evolution of the Community to date has, over 20 years or so, concentrated on a number of different questions—
§ Mr. Paget
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We have just heard a declaration that the Minister who is winding up the debate has been told that he is not to answer any of the speeches made in the debate except those which concern his own Department. Is not this a departure from our whole Parliamentary practice?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman knows that that is not a matter for the Chair.
§ Mr. Davies
In response none the less to the hon. and learned Gentleman's point, I understand that this is a four-day debate and I am intervening in it. I am hardly winding up the final stage of the debate. If the hon. and learned Gentleman had a complaint to make, surely he should have made it when my right hon. Friend clearly defined the rôle of the Ministers in endeavouring to contribute to the explanatory and expository nature of the debate.
To resume, I was saying—
§ Mr. Gorst rose—
§ Mr. Davies
Not now. The experience of the Community to date has been one primarily and in the first place of setting up a complex series of institutions and organisms catering for a very wide variety of activities which for the first 1824 time in the history of Europe have to be dealt with on a central basis, whereas hitherto they have always been the sole prerogative of Governments and national interests. At the same time, it has been involved in the complex problem of moving towards a customs union as a first step in the transformation of a great series of countries into a Continental entity.
In these first 20 years, the Community has been dealing also with what seemed to it—I understand why it saw it that way—to be the most complex of its problems. The countries of the Community are countries which had not at an early stage, as we did, transformed their economies from agricultural to industrial economies. Understandably, therefore, the Community countries have given concentrated attention to dealing with their big agricultural background which is a heritage of their past. I think that if we had found ourselves in the same position as these countries on the Continent we could, perhaps, better understand their concentration on agricultural matters than we occasionally do.
All the evidence, however, points to the likelihood that the next phase, perhaps the next decade, of European evolution will be very largely concerned with industrial policy. The big question which we have to decide is whether the effects of that concentration on the development of industrial policy will be of benefit to us, and whether, in joining the Community, we shall find that this concentration on the evolution of a Continental industrial policy is something not only to which we can contribute but from which we may gain very real advantage.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) said that he considered that the issues concerning the dynamic effects of membership had, on the whole, been discarded during the course of the present discussion. I regard that as entirely wrong, and, if I may say so, I thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) admirably pointed out exactly what were the considerations in relation to the dynamic effects in the evolution of the Community, and what the effects had been within the Community itself in evolving and developing more rapidly than it otherwise would the economies 1825 of the countries concerned, and, in particular, their inter-trade.
§ Mr. Davies
No, not at the moment.
I could certainly not accept the view of the right hon. Member for Battersea, North on this formidable dynamic effect. My own certain conviction is that we stand greatly to benefit from involvement in the decision-making process which lies ahead and also in the background of the Community, which has reached the point as a Community at which we can now develop our own interests and, equally, enjoy the kind of effects to which the right hon. Member for Stechford referred. I believe that, correspondingly, we should suffer greatly from exclusion from them.
The crucial importance to us of so much that will be discussed and decided within the Community during the next coming years could have the most debilitating effect upon our own prospects industrially if we do not both take part in them and be parties to them. In the first place—this matter has been frequently referred to during the debate yesterday and today—there is the question of the evolution of a Community regional policy. In opening the debate today, my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary alluded to the preamble and the stress there laid on the great importance attached by the Community to endeavouring to attain an equilibrium of development throughout the whole continent. There is no doubt that the Community has this deeply at heart.
It seems clear to me that during the next few years the evolution of a policy which will adequately take account of the problems of industrial obsolescence and all that that means in terms of their effect on the fortunes of individual countries on the Continent will be a primary factor in the whole consideration. When I think of the situation we might face in seeking to pursue a regional policy against the background of a Community putting all its resources at the service 1826 of trying to achieve that equilibrium, while we on the edge are seeking to do something with our much smaller resources, I am convinced that we should suffer nothing but harm from exclusion.
§ Mr. Davies
No. I will return to this matter later in dealing with the various points raised on the subject of regional policy.
We have a fundamental interest in many other factors involved in the evolution of an industrial policy within the Community, such as the evolution of an effective European company law which would allow companies to operate on the basis of a single incorporation within the Continent, with all the advantages that flow from that, the advantages relating to fiscal harmonisation and like matters. There is no doubt that in many ways we are involved and interested in the developments that take place. In matters like patents and standards, too, there is no doubt that we have the closest interest, and our exclusion from both involvement in the policy-making and the results thereof would be serious indeed.
Public procurement will also occupy the attention of the Community extensively in the next few years. A country like ours, with its great capacity in terms of major capital works and the very kind of investments involved in public procurements, undoubtedly has the foremost interest in taking part in that discussion and taking advantage of the results flowing from it.
All these things lend importance to the industrial structure on the Continent and the scale of operations in industry there which allow the Continent to develop capacities which enable it to hold its own throughout the world, capacities which, shorn of the kind of developments to which I have referred, will simply not be able to develop as we would like to see them develop.
The same is true largely in commercial policy. Reference has been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stechford, I think, to the weight of the Community in international commercial negotiations. Undoubtedly, in the course of the Kennedy Round the British 1827 interests were to a large degree put aside as the final negotiations took place. Although we may have been satisfied with some of the results, the fact is that the Community and the United States hammered out so much of the material.
§ Mr. Bob Brown (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)
Just as the Government have dismissed regional policies in a few sparse lines in the White Paper, the right hon. Gentleman has done so in a few words tonight. He owes it to the development areas and to Members like myself representing development area seats at least to enlarge on the question of regional policies.
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. Gentleman clearly did not listen to what I said, which was that I would return to the question of regional policies to deal with the individual issues raised. I am coming to them shortly.
The major trade and industry issues raised during the debate which it is appropriate to answer now can be said to be, first, regional policies and all that surrounds them ; second, the problem of tariff adjustment and its impact on the trading capacity of the country ; third, the steel and coal industries, with particular reference to the E.C.S.C. I propose within the time available to deal as best I can with all three items.
§ Mr. Davies
Some concern has been expressed about the adequacy of the White Paper on the problem of regional policies.
In fact, the White Paper reflects the fact to a large degree that there was little or nothing to negotiate in terms of regional policy. The negotiations took place in relation to Britain's incorporation into an existing system, and the regional policy of the Community has not as yet evolved to a point which demanded any manifest degree of negotiation. However, I am aware that there are serious concerns about the matter, and I understand them. Whatever hon. Members opposite may say, they know that regional policy lies very much at the heart of Government policy as a whole and at the heart of my Department.
1828 Some concern, I know, has been occasioned by the fact that a document is known to exist in which the Commission has set out some considerations for discussion with the Council of Ministers on the subject of the future evolution of regional policy. It is essential to ensure that developments do not take place during the, so to speak, void period which might involve us in results and consequences which we do not wish. I see nothing at all in front of me at the moment which will worry me in the sense of making me believe that elements of the regional policy we are pursuing will be deprived from us by the Community. In so far as various incentive systems, the use of the Local Employment Acts, the I.D.C. policy, and so on are concerned, I see nothing which seems at risk.
§ Mr. Elystan Morgan
When the right hon. Gentleman says that he sees nothing in these matters which would be contrary to Government policy, does he realise that the persons who are entitled to determine the validity or otherwise of such developments are the members of the Commission? It is a matter for the Commission under Article 93 of the Rome Treaty.
§ Mr. Davies
The Treaty none the less is interpreted in terms of arrangements which have been entered into between the members. It is already public knowledge that the Council of Ministers will take a very firm hand in the question of the development of any such policy as this. Certainly, my right hon. and learned Friend has assured me carefully that the involvement of Britain in the consultations will take place before we find ourselves landed with new arrangements which might be in the least inimical to the pursuit of our own policy.
§ Mr. Michael Foot rose—
§ Mr. Davies
I am grateful for that.
On the contrary, experience that Britain has in the development of policy in relation to the industrial regions which are in a state of obsolescence and which need consideration is of considerable advantage to the Community, and is realised as being such. Any suggestions that may 1829 have been contained in the document or elsewhere are due not only for careful and deliberate discussion within the context of the Council of Ministers but also with any applicant for membership.
In some sense, one of the objectives of the document seems to me to be of some importance, however. It is entirely directed towards avoiding progressive and competitive bidding up between countries on regional policy incentives. Such bidding could be as damaging and dangerous to us as it could be to any other member of the Community. I am not at all unfriendly to some of the basic ideas which are apparently being evolved within the Commission.
It should be remembered, too, that one of the propositions which emerges from the document as it is said to be is the question of the definition of a variety of central areas. The Leader of the Opposition had a good deal to say about this yesterday. The critical issue were such arrangements to be adopted—and they have not been adopted—would be clearly the definition of what were regarded as central areas in Great Britain. This is entirely to play for and to discuss. Therefore, I find myself in no way committed to propositions which might be unfriendly to the pursuit of our own wishes in terms of regional policy. On the contrary, I find a certain comfort in the thought that if there is a concept of central areas there is also a concept of non-central areas—areas which are in need of special consideration and help.
§ Mr. Davies
No, it is not. The British Government would clearly regard this as a matter in which their fundamental interests were concerned, as my right hon. Friend has so frequently said. The fundamental interests cannot be and will not be overridden by the Commission.
Equally erroneous is the belief that there would be a tendency within the Community for the centre to act as a kind of magnet to the total periphery of the Community. This is improbable. It seems to me to stress too greatly the arguments which are related to logistics. 1830 I accept that those logistical arguments are powerful, but the arguments which relate to the natural features which make themselves available for installation of major industries and the availability of work forces are no less consequent and perhaps are very much more consequent.
§ Mr. Heffer rose—
§ Mr. Davies
How else would hon. Members imagine that such developments as the great steel works at Taranto and now at Fos-sur-Mer on the Mediterranean would take place were it not for the natural advantages of installing great industries in those places?
I turn to the question of tariffs and their effect on the trade of the country. Much comment has been made about whether it should have proved possible to put accurate quantification on the effect of the tariff change. It is entirely impracticable to do so. When one looks at the complexity of the various adjustments which are involved, one sees how much is conjectural and how great would have to be the bracket of uncertainty were quantification to be endeavoured. A whole series of things—from the progressive abatement of tariffs within the E.E.C. and the progressive adoption of the C.E.T. and the question of generalised preferences, the effect on E.F.T.A., which is as yet unknown, the question of the non-applicant countries—are unquantifiable. To think that one could put before the country and the House something which purported to be a reasonable statement of what would be the effect is an illusion.
§ Mr. Davies
The pattern of these things is so complex as to defy any proper quantification. However, it seems to me beyond question that the abatement of tariffs with those parts of the world which have large and expanding markets and in which we are expanding must in the end have a great advantage over even the erection of new barriers with those which are much smaller and much slower growing.
1831 May I give the figures in question? Export markets where we have either new advantage or the maintenance of existing preference are three times as great in volume and value as those in which there is a possibility of eventual diminution of advantage. There is no doubt that the whole eventual effect of the tariff exchange will be to our manifest advantage. To endeavour to quantify would be unrealistic.
I turn to the questions of steel and coal which again have exercised many people's minds during the two-day debate. The problems of adapting to the E.C.S.C. are no different today from what they were in 1967 when the previous Government sought such adaption. There is no difference in the incompatibilities, as they are called, between the British organisation of these industries and the system under which they work in the E.C.S.C. as it was drawn up originally in 1951 and modified since. Any problems which exist are ones which are well known to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
The right hon. Gentleman says that there is no difference between 1967 and the present time. Does he not agree that there is a difference in this sense, that since 1967 the British Steel Corporation has produced a plan for a £4,000 million plant investment? Will the right hon. Gentleman say what was the answer when he asked whether that plan could be carried out if we went into the Community?
§ Mr. Davies
I can answer that question with great clarity. It is interesting to know that the existence of that programme—and I am glad to have the hon. Gentleman's compliments on its existence—is one of fairly recent emergence, but it is right to say that the Community in question requires that there should be an autonomy of organisation and management, and, therefore, it is not free to anybody, and certainly not to any Government, to subsidise an organisation to the point of allowing it to maintain 1832 investment ; but this situation is no different from what it was in 1967.
§ Mr. Davies
I have answered it quite clearly.
I have already told the House the problems and the changes that would be required in relation to pricing policy, and I have little to add thereto. There would be such changes. They do not seem serious, and they do not do other than follow the purposes which lie in the Government's mind in terms of the autonomy of these industries and their movement into profitability and viability.
I was astonished at the comments made by the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) when he so firmly stated that the availability of consultation had been denied to industry and others. Nothing could be further from the truth. Industry has had a wide open door, and has used it, believe me. The truth is that industry widely supports these measures. Whether it be through the mouth of C.B.I., or—and I say this to my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann)—through the mouth of its Small Firms Council, it has been made abundantly clear that this application is supported wholeheartedly. The same is true of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the A.B.C.C., and the numbers of individual industrialists who come and make their views known very clearly.
There can be no question that those who are actively concerned in seeking to attain the prosperity which not only the industries themselves as such but their workers require believe wholeheartedly in the future of the membership of the Community, and that they have every confidence in the terms which my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has so successfully negotiated for our entry.
Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Clegg.]
Debate to be resumed tomorrow.