§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. James Hamilton.]
§ 3.51 p.m.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. James Callaghan)
I have been looking at the balance of the speech that I have prepared, and I am aware that this is a general debate during which we ought to have a review of all foreign policy matters. In the light of the need to keep time down, at any rate during my speech, I shall endeavour to indicate the Government's general approach to a number of topics as well as our particular approach and to go into some detail on the question of our relations with the European Community. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State can, in reply, take up in more detail some of the issues which I would otherwise have covered, and which may be raised during the debate.
I wish to make some general observations indicating the stance which the Labour Government will take in their approach to foreign affairs. There are two particular issues upon which I wish to state our position clearly.
The foreign policy section of our election manifesto was entitled "Peace and Justice in a Safer World". How do we translate that into action? I begin by recommitting the Government to the purposes of the United Nations and to supporting it as the principal international organisation dedicated to the promotion of human rights, the rule of law, and the peaceful settlement of disputes.
No country has a greater concern for peace, security and prosperity throughout the world than has the United Kingdom. These are also the objectives of the United Nations. We recognise the 859 practical limitations of that organisation, but a Labour Government will make the fullest use of the opportunities for international co-operation which only the United Nations is in a position to offer on a global basis.
Complementary to our support for the United Nations will be the rôle which we shall accord to the Commonwealth. This historic association brings together more than 30 independent nations in a grouping which nowadays is fashioned not by conquest, or political expediency, or material self-interest, but rather by a common desire to meet together, to exchange opinion and advice, and for each of us to profit from the diverse experience of the others.
Its value is not limited to the headline-making and spectacular Heads of Government meetings. Of equal importance is the multitude of other meetings conducted under the Commonwealth's auspices. There is the Commonwealth Foundation, which exists to promote contacts between professional associations and individuals throughout all the member States.
Co-operation also takes place in such important matters as science, health, law and economics, ranging from the telecommunications network to regional arrangements such as the South Pacific Bureau for Economic Co-operation.
However, this machinery, although important, is only the nuts and bolts. The real value of the Commonwealth is more intangible. It is the common feeling we share that its very membership ensures that it has an outward-looking attitude towards the problems of the world—an attitude which the present Government will encourage and share. We shall give our full support to proposals which will bring the Commonwealth countries closer together.
I make clear at the outset that we shall have a dual thrust in the purpose of our policy, by using both the United Nations and the Commonwealth to the maximum of our power.
I turn now to the European Economic Community. We have consistently said that the entry negotiations and agreement of 1970 did not sufficiently protect British interests. That is why the Gracious Speech committed the Government to a fundamental renegotiation of Britain's terms of 860 entry. I should like to say how we propose to begin the process of renegotiation, but before doing so I wish to detain the House for a moment with an issue of equal, if not greater, importance; namely, the recent speeches and remarks of President Nixon and Dr. Kissinger, which have called attention to the unsatisfactory state of repair into which relations between the Community and the United States have fallen. By implication this raises the question with which we, and, I hope, all in the House, are much concerned; namely, the political direction that the Community itself seems to be taking.
We must go back to October 1972, in Paris, where a meeting of Heads of State and of Governments, which was attended by the Leader of the Opposition, was held. The Governments present pledged themselves to:Set themselves the major objective of transforming before the end of the present decade … the whole complex of the relations of Member States into a European Union.I hope that the House notes that all of this was to be done by 1980.
A year later, at Copenhagen, the Heads of State and of Governments declared that they intended to speed up this work—it was not going fast enough. In the meantime, they confirmed their common will that Europe should speak with one voice.
My colleagues and I, and some members of the present Opposition, frequently pressed the Leader of the Opposition and other right hon. Gentlemen to tell us, and, more important, to tell the country, what these epoch-making declarations really meant. They were undertakings which had been entered into without consultation with Parliament, or, even less, with the British people.
I was sceptical from the outset about their attainment, but either the Conservative Government would not say, or, as I suspect was more likely, they did not know. However, what must be clear to them now that they have fought an election recently is the deep scepticism that the British people feel about these objectives and the general political direction that Europe seems to be taking.
Clearly, we cannot enter into definitive discussions on the concept or form of such a union until our renegotiation has settled the whole basis of our future relationship with the Community.
I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, but I promise that I intend to go into some detail.
§ Mr. Johnston
The right hon. Gentleman referred at the outset of his speech to the election and to the fact that in his view its result demonstrated deep scepticism by the British people regarding our membership of the Community. In view of the result of the election, I do not understand on what evidence the right hon. Gentleman makes that statement.
I shall repeat my exact words. I spoke about the deep scepticism that the British people feel about these objectives and the general political direction that Europe seems to be taking. It is about those matters that I found the scepticism to exist. There is a divided view whether we should be in membership, but there is a very sceptical view about what is happening under the umbrella of Europe.
The fact that these issues have hardly been debated is in itself sufficient reason for my reminding the House what the previous Government committed us to. But we now have an additional factor—the doubts expressed from the other side of the Atlantic. The recent statements that have been made there should start a great deal of soul-searching about what kind of Europe it is that the Community is seeking to create and what is to be the relationship between that Community and the United States.
I wish to indicate our approach to these matters. First, our manifesto states:A Labour Britain would always seek a wider co-operation between the European peoples.I shall enlarge on that a little later. Parallel with that, Britain needs to base her system of alliances for defence and other purposes, as well as our system of trading arrangements, on a much wider foundation.
These two issues need not be in conflict, but in our estimation it is not possible indefinitely to sustain a close alliance with the United States on matters of defence, which involve the closest co-operation and interdependence, without a parallel co-operation on matters of 862 trade, money, energy and so on. My understanding from my early contacts with Community countries is that most members of the Community agree with that approach. In the light of M. Jobert's speech at the weekend, perhaps all of them agree.
I must emphasise that we repudiate the view that Europe will emerge only out of a process of struggle against America. We do not agree that a Europe which excludes the fullest and most intimate co-operation with the United States is a desirable or attainable objective.
That does not mean that European countries become satellites of the United States. A Labour Government will certainly want a great measure of control over multinational enterprises and companies in this country. We are in favour of maintaining the national identity of key enterprises either by a measure of public ownership or in other ways. Nor should anyone wish to see a Community organised in the interests of large-scale industry at the expense of the ordinary worker.
Some may have found President Nixon's rough words the other day unduly harsh. But at least they had the effect of introducing a greater sense of realism, and that has been a scarce commodity in much of the discussion over the past two years. The peoples of Europe have been treated to too much high-flown rhetoric and not enough substance. Our belief is that the Community should accept more modest and attainable goals.
I have no doubt that the attitude of this country and of other countries in the Community to world problems will be found to be similar on a number of matters. But surely the timetable laid down in the Paris Summit communiqué, both about union itself and about economic and monetary union, were never attainable from the start. On these questions, events over the past 12 months speak for themselves. I need remind the House only of the ill-fated "snake", which choked after its first indigestible meal.
We shall scrutinise with great care any future proposals for money parities fixed by the Community. We do not accept that such arrangements can be allowed to conflict with our objective—the much better objective—of making new monetary arrangements on a world basis.
863 What else will underlie our attitude towards the Community? First—and I come to a positive matter here—it is in our interests and in everyone else's to foster the good relations that have grown up between France and Germany over the past 25 years. I remember vividly the occasion at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg in 1950 when, after historic debates, the doors were flung open and for the first time the German delegates entered and sat down as colleagues among the French and the remainder of us, five short years after the war. It was a moment that I shall not forget. There are now only three of us in the House who were present on that occasion—you, Mr. Speaker, my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Edelman) and myself. It was a most moving moment so soon after the war to see the German delegates come in. at a time when there was much more feeling than there is now.
The memory remains with me of a day which has led to 25 years in Western Europe in which tension between France and Germany has been at the minimum. We must keep it that way. Therefore, we shall seek good relations with both France and Germany in particular. We shall do nothing to try to come between those two countries. Obviously, we shall also seek to have the best relations with the other members of the Community. I look forward to my visit to Herr Walter Scheel and to Chancellor Brandt, and also to meeting M. Jobert and my other colleagues in the very near future.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)
I do not disagree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said, but will he tell us whether the fundamental aim of the renegotiations is to stay in the Community or come out?
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue my speech, he may find at the end that his question is answered. I am now on the question of political co-operation. I shall come to the matter of renegotiations in a few minutes.
I want to make the next point, having made it clear that no one will use us to try to drive a wedge between France and Germany, if that were possible. Our aim is quite contrary. Many of us have lived through two world wars. Our approach 864 as a Government will be to intensify the system of political consultation and co operation and, in so far as it is possible, to work out common positions through joint discussion with the Community countries.
This seems to us to make sense, but it cannot be to the exclusion of bilateral talks or talks within international organisations. We have a natural affinity with the other countries of Western Europe; it is not limited to the Nine. There are, for example, the Scandinavian countries, with which we have close links. I must emphasise again that for us the value of political consultation and co-operation will be ruined if it appears to take an anti-American tinge or if consultation with the United States is inadequate. Of course, we do not always expect to agree with the United States. That is not the point. That is a different matter. We shall be ready to start talks and arrangements that may be made between the Community and other groupings.
There are two in particular that occur to me. First, there are the proposed talks with the Arab States. We certainly welcome such a dialogue between the Community and those States. But I assume that neither the Community nor the Arab States themselves would want that dialogue to hamper Dr. Kissinger's efforts to secure a measure of peace in the Middle East. It is clear that he believes that at present the beginning of that dialogue would do so.
Therefore, it seems to me to make common sense that I should assume that the Nine—going to them as I shall, I hope not with any posture other than that of an anxious inquirer after the truth—I want to explore the problem further with the United States to clear up any misunderstandings that may unfortunately have arisen, both on the range of the talks and on their timing. That is the proposition I shall put when I meet my colleagues on this subject.
We think that in principle there is much to be said for having these discussions with the Arab States. As soon as we can get the misunderstandings out of the way, let us get on with them. Leaving the question of oil on one side, the Government have a strong desire that bilateral talks on trade between Britain and the Arab States should continue when they already exist and should be intensified.
865 Next, a Labour Government will seek in the course of our approach to the Community that Europe's markets shall be more open to the world. We believe that it would be advantageous to Europe as a whole if there were wider access to European markets for foodstuffs from such traditional suppliers as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, the Argentine and others. We regard this question of access as vital to ourselves in this country, whatever Europe may think about it.
I have seen many prophecies. In my view, he is a bold man who prophesies what will happen to future world prices for foodstuffs and other commodities. We have seen their prices go up and we have seen them go down. Whatever the temporary position—and I hope that people will not base their long-term aspirations on what could be only a temporary position—two bountiful harvests in succession would make a substantial difference to the relationship between EEC prices and world prices.
Next we shall seek a renegotiation of the financial burden imposed upon Britain by the Community budget. The division of the burden within the Community must be fair. As my right hon. Friend the Lord President outlined last night, and indeed as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said again today, we shall ensure that arrangements are made for this Parliament at Westminster to have the fullest opportunity to scrutinise and to reach conclusions on the arrangements agreed at Brussels.
It is against this background that I look forward to meeting my colleagues, the other Foreign Ministers, in Luxembourg on 1st April. With the future direction and shape of the Community in a state of flux and its relations with the United States so uncertain, it would be irresponsible for Britain to leave an empty chair.
We shall discuss these urgent matters relating to prices and other issues of importance within the Community. Nor shall we aim to conduct the negotiations as a confrontation. It is hardly necessary for me to add that a Labour Government will embark upon these fundamental talks in good faith not to destroy or to wreck but to adapt and reshape the policies of the Community and our terms 866 of membership in such a way that they will better meet the needs of our own people, as well as of others in Europe, and meet our conception of the Community's relations with other States.
It is not unhelpful that these two strands come together at this point in time—namely, our general concern with the political shape and direction of Europe and the impact of the terms of entry upon our own people and upon our traditional trading partners. Even if we had not wished to raise the political questions, President Nixon's remarks ensured that this would happen.
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
Does my right hon. Friend's statement presuppose the fact that we shall renegotiate the terms of the Treaty of Rome?
If my hon. Friend will wait, he will find that I shall come even to that point. I am sorry if I am detaining the House overlong, but it is important that we should try to set out the definitive position. I hope that I have covered most of the questions as regards our prinicipal approach. The details will have to be worked out later. We shall start with a genuine attempt to see whether our approach and our interests can be accommodated by the other members of the Community. If they cannot, we shall try to find out whether we can overcome the differences that separate us.
One immediate question we shall raise, because it comes before us straight away, is that of domestic prices. Higher prices are partly the result of an increase in world prices, as was said during the election, but partly because of the requirements placed on us by the Community, and there can be no escape from that. The first may be inevitable; the second is unacceptable, especially in our present inflationary situation.
This is the first question that must be looked at urgently, and it arises immediately at the meeting of the Agricultural Council on Thursday and Friday of this week, which is intended to fix the intervention prices for the 1974–75 season. We shall not by then, of course, have had time to work out our renegotiation proposals in full. But, in accordance with our general approach to participation in 867 Community meetings, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture will be attending to ensure that our interests are safeguarded. His objective will be to make certain that for the British housewife there will be no rise in prices in basic foodstuffs as a result of that meeting. We cannot accept imported inflation.
Other matters with which we shall he concerned in our renegotiations include the protection of the interests of the Commonwealth and other developing countries. That will mean a review of aid policies and of the arrangements for the Community's trade with Commonwealth countries.
There is some difference of opinion whether achievement of our objectives will require some amendments to the Treaty of Accession. If we find on this issue or that that other members of the Community are unable to agree within the existing treaty framework to improvements which we feel are vital to our existing position, the question of amending the Treaty of Accession would arise, and we are examining this to see whether it is likely to do so. Given the general background which I have outlined, we shall begin with a subject by subject approach. We shall attempt to achieve our objectives in a series of parallel, co-ordinated negotiations. We shall not be seeking a confrontation, though other members of the Community will recognise that we are unable to carry forward further processes of integration which could prejudge the outcome of the negotiations.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on his healthy and robust speech. Since the Labour Party manifesto said… whilst the negotiations proceed and until the British people have voted, we shall stop further processes of integration, particularly as they affect food taxes",may we have an assurance that there will be no further integration from this moment onwards?
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), and I am delighted to see that he is such a keen student of Labour's manifesto. Indeed, had he fought the election on it he might well have had an even 868 larger majority than the one he achieved. The question of integration and intervention prices is a very difficult one, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture is going to Brussels to examine the situation this week. I want only to confirm the objective and not the means. The objective is that there shall be no increase in domestic prices to the British housewife in the shop. The kind of negotiations my right hon. Friend will undertake we must leave to him. But our basic requirement—and I am sure that this is the way in which the British family will see the situation—is that, whatever arrangements are made, they will not result in higher prices. That is the way in which my right hon. Friend will approach the matter. There is also a technical problem, and the hon. Member for Banbury, with his usual acuteness, has seized upon it. I am glad to say that the Minister of Agriculture has also noticed it.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
I should like to ask the Foreign Secretary to take a little further the manner in which he dealt with the question put to him by the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Baxter) and to clarify the juridical framework within which the Government see the processes of renegotiation. The right hon. Gentleman was asked about his intentions, if any, to seek amendment to the Treaty of Rome, and he replied in the context of possible amendment to the Treaty of Accession. Can he tell the House whether the Government have any proposals to make under Article 236 of the Treaty of Rome involving the possible amendment of that article? Is that matter included in any renegotiation, and how does he assess the prospects of achieving success in any such effort, bearing in mind the fact that amendments under the treaty have to go back to the national parliaments for their individual ratification?
The last part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's question gives a clue to the approach that we ought to make. Anything that will require the agreement of all the parliaments throughout the Community will be extremely difficult. Therefore, I should not like to start off from that point of view. We must see how we go and where we get. We start with what we regard as the 869 vital interests of this country. We shall see where they are brought short against the Treaty of Accession.
I come back to the Treaty of Accession because that is the major obstacle. At that stage we shall have to see whether we go to the various countries concerned and say to them "We are sorry, but we regard this matter as being so vitally important that it will require amendment to the Treaty of Accession". If then we find at a later stage that the Treaty of Rome itself is an obstacle, there will need to be a good deal of discussion before we get to that point. We shall come back to the House and discuss the matter here. I hope that there will be no hole-in-the-corner settlement of this kind of issue. We all recognise how serious and important this kind of approach would be. I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will understand my general approach. I assure him that I am not looking for obstacles or rocks which have not yet appeared. I can see that there are plenty of rocks in the way. I have not yet seen any rocks which arise under the Treaty of Rome. If they come, so much the worse. We shall have to navigate round them when we get to them. But for the moment that is not my approach. We have enough problems to deal with in the approach that I have taken so far, and I hope that no one thinks that the approach underrates the difficulties of the task upon which we are embarked.
It must be understood that we are in earnest. We are not reacting to other people. We are stating what we believe to be our fundamental approach and our fundamental interest. We believe that in a number of cases our interest coincides with that of other countries in the Community and that our general approach to the Community outlook is one which should be accepted. We shall approach it on that basis, seeking the co-operation of others and trying to persuade and convince others.
Our purpose is to look at the operation of the Community in both the economic and the political spheres not in a spirit of destructive criticism but of constructive realism. We shall be willing to take adequate time for these important discussions and negotiations, though everyone will recognise that they cannot be dragged out indefinitely.
In the light of the progress or lack of it that we make, we shall consult the 870 views of the British people and consider at what stage it will be right to submit the results of our efforts to them so that they may declare their opinion. In view of the unique importance of these discussions, we intend that they should have the opportunity to do so.
I have tried to set out our approach as clearly as I can without filling in the details. But the House will understand and, I hope and believe, will support this kind of approach.
Against the background that I have outlined of our approach to the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the Community itself, we shall look for opportunities to build a safer and more productive relationship with the Soviet Union. In particular, we shall use our influence to bring the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, now in its second stage at Geneva, to a successful conclusion. If we could do so, that would justify the original imaginative initiative on which it started and would reward the efforts that have been expended upon it.
Then there are the even more complicated and important MBFR negotiations in Vienna. These must not be allowed to take the sterile path of so many earlier disarmament conferences. I am reviewing the present state of the discussions there, and we shall help them forward as much as we can. We shall also make it our business to back and stimulate this multilateral diplomacy by developing bilateral relations with the countries of Eastern Europe up to the limit that the situation in each case allows.
Following on my visit to Eastern Europe last summer, I look forward to my discussions with the Foreign Minister of Poland, who will be visiting this country in April.
Success in the process of détente will be of the greatest value to us all. There is no country involved in NATO or the Warsaw Pact which could not think of a million worthwhile things to do with money saved from the crippling arms burden.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence is in the process of reviewing the contents of the Labour Party manifesto on the matter of defence in order to reduce the level of our defence 871 expenditure, and both he and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will shortly have more to say about the reductions which are to be made.
The quest for savings would be easier if there were signs from Eastern Europe that they were no longer bent on expanding their armed forces and their weapons programmes. At the Labour Party Conference last year I said that I would dearly like an agreement which would remove NATO weapons targeted on the Soviet Union but that for such an agreement to become effective it would need to remove the threat of Warsaw Pact weapons targeted on NATO.
However we get on in this connection—and we shall do our best to make it succeed—I think that there is common agreement that the largest immediate threat to peace lies perhaps not in Europe but in the Middle East. By a fortunate coincidence, in the week before the election was called, I was able to visit the Middle East and have conversations with both Mrs. Meir and President Sadat.
My talks with President Sadat convinced me that there is a possibility of achieving a situation in the area perhaps short of absolute peace but giving the region an era of stability unknown in more than a generation. Despite what is happening at the moment, I still believe that to be true, because the will is present.
Likewise, my talks with Mrs. Meir left me in no doubt that there is an overwhelming desire for a secure peace in her country, too. But we should be clear that it is Israel which runs the greater risks in the search for peace.
I wish to pay a sincere tribute to the the herculean efforts of Dr. Kissinger, whose tireless work has done so much to bring about the present situation of even modified optimism.
Our own policy is that we stand ready to play any role that would be constructive in peace-keeping or in the negotiations, but we do not wish to push ourselves forward. I discussed this with both leaders with whom I talked. There is no occasion for Britain to push herself forward unless there is a genuine desire on behalf of the main protagonists for our participation. Then we should consider it very seriously.
872 We believe that the earliest possible just and lasting solution will come through the full implementation of Security Council Resolution 242. Such a settlement will have to take account of the fundamental principles of that resolution—Israel's withdrawal and the right of every State in the area to live in peace and security. We also believe that there will be no permanent peace unless a settlement provides for a "personality" for the Palestinian people—a word which I choose deliberately for reasons which may not be immediately clear but I believe it to be the best word in the present circumstances.
The other problem resulting from the Middle East conflict—namely, the energy crisis—also needs urgent treatment. When Dr. Kissinger came to London three months ago, the Prime Minister and I had the opportunity of talking to him, and we both welcomed his ideas for cooperation between energy producers and consumers, and we believe that the Washington Energy Conference was a useful and timely initiative.
The repercussions of the massive increase in oil prices has transformed the world in which British foreign policy operates. International trade and finance are not accustomed to accommodating the levels of money now available to the oil States. We desire the closest possible co-operation with the major producing and consuming countries on such matters as price and demand management and research programmes, and we shall follow up the prospects of effective international action on the economic and monetary impact of the new situation. Some of the ideas now being put about are very interesting and could transform our relations.
Our capacity to help the less developed countries will obviously be determined to a great extent by the pace of our economic recovery. But our manifesto clearly commits us to the United Nations targets, and we shall seek to achieve them in the years ahead.
I apologise for dealing in the final part of my speech with one other important issue on which there may be differences between us. It is the area of British interest and involvement in Southern Africa, where there could be the seeds of a wider conflict.
873 It is our view that the prosperity and stability of the African continent depends in the long run on removing the sources of racial and other frictions between its different parts. We shall play our part in the international community in seeking to end discrimination and injustice in Southern Africa in conformity with the wishes of the majority of its inhabitants.
British firms trading with South Africa have a special duty towards their nonwhite workers who are prevented by apartheid regulations from defending their rights and interests through the process of free collective bargaining. Therefore, I welcome the public and parliamentary interest in the performance of British firms operating in South Africa and, in particular, the recent publication of the report of the Trade and Industry Sub-Committee of this House which the Government will examine in detail.
We shall continue to follow the policy which we pursued in our previous administration of embargoing the sale of arms to South Africa in accordance with our international obligations. We shall give no help or co-operation to the South African Government which could be used for internal repression or the enforcement of apartheid.
With regard to Portugal's involvement in Southern Africa, we made our position clear during Dr. Caetano's ill-starred visit last year. It is our view that the Portuguese Government, in the interests of their own people as much as in those of the peace and stability of the African continent, should state clearly their acceptance of the principle of self-determination for their dependent territories and should embark upon specific programmes to give it effect. Meanwhile, our policy will be to give the Portuguese Government no assistance by way of sales of arms for their military operations in Africa.
There is still one area of Southern Africa which remains a specifically British responsibility—Rhodesia. I imagine that we all want to see a settlement of that problem, but it must be one which we are satisfied enjoys the support of the African majority there. The Africans themselves must play a major part in working out the terms of a settlement which they could support. Until that happens we shall continue the policy of sanctions and examine whether they can be 874 made more effective. Whether they agree or disagree, the white minority in Rhodesia will recognise, in what I have said, Britain's clear determination to accept nothing short of an honourable settlement and that they face a lonely future if they continue along their present road.
Nations often find themselves in the same difficult position as individuals. We frequently have dealings with people whose politics we disagree with and whose actions we dislike. So it is with countries. There are nations whose internal repression of their citizens we deplore. Whether such nations fall on the right or on the left of the political spectrum, the case for speaking is even stronger when silence might be deemed to be consent or indifference. The violation of human rights has the same degrading consequence for the individual as for the State which practises it whether he resides in a country that calls itself left or right.
More than ever we are part of one world in terms of human rights, in terms of the need for defence co-operation, or the need to overcome the world's interlocking problems in economic, energy and monetary matters.
I realise that the degree to which Britain can exercise a positive and independent influence in the world is limited. It depends to a great extent on regaining our economic strength. The country is back at work and the Government are pursuing policies which, in my judgment, will promote social unity and greater national cohesion. That is the best foundation for our hope that Britain can make an increasingly influential contribution to the peace and prosperity of the whole world.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
My first words must be of cordial congratulation to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs as he assumes his office. We have both been the shadow, but the substance is very different. Mr. Harold Macmillan used to see the Foreign Office as a killer. Perhap3 I can do something to reassure the right hon. Gentleman on that.
The weighty decisions that the right hon. Gentleman will have to take will be relieved only by their variety and the help of those supremely well-qualified persons 875 who are always at call and who make up the Diplomatic Service.
We debate foreign affairs sometimes in general and sometimes on more particular matters. On this matter we do not seek confrontation across the Floor of the House. I say that with, I hope, suitable gravity after yesterday's proceedings. We cannot eliminate emotion from matters which in the end can involve peace and war, but I trust that the highest degree of consensus in the House will be our aim.
Any wide-ranging debate is apt to look like a Cook's tour. Therefore, I shall follow the right hon. Gentleman in being selective. My starting point will be roughly the same but my emphasis rather different in the order in which I put the problems facing this country and the world.
Since the last war, foreign affairs in the countries of the northern hemisphere have been frozen into a pattern which, at worst, has been one of active confrontation, and, at best, one of rather sterile mobility. At very heavy cost, NATO has been able to provide security. The resolution and the will has been there to protect our way of life, and it has been worth while. We have lost nothing to the Communist world. But the question that nags and so far goes unanswered is, how do we reconcile security with détente? The right hon. Gentleman just touched on this matter. I should like to take it a little further.
However passionate our desire for peace—of all things, that is the situation in which this country flourishes—we cannot allow ourselves to be diverted by the words of détente alone and we must look at the deeds.
When we look at the deeds, the shortfall from the peace which we would desire is still very real. The hard fact of life is that, despite the most generous policy of Ostpolitik pursued by the Federal Republic of Germany, 20 years after the disarmament conference has been sitting in practically continuous session there have been no reductions in Soviet forces on Germany's eastern frontier. I will not elaborate on that at the moment, because the right hon. Gentleman knows the facts. Despite the fact that there are now 45 Soviet divi- 876 sions facing the Chinese on the Chinese frontier, those facing NATO have in no way decreased. On the contrary, their numbers are up, their equipment is regularly renewed, and they stand in a constant state of readiness. There are on that front far more men, machines and guns than are necessary for a defensive shield.
I recall these facts of life to the House not to dramatise the situation, but to point out that, unless we face the realities, we are likely to get the answers wrong.
I was glad to read in the Gracious Speech that NATO has the full support of the Government and that they feel that, as well as being a defensive alliance, it should be regarded as an instrument of peace. That is right.
I hope that the words mean what they say, for we shall not arrive at that peace unless at all times NATO is equipped with the strength necessary to deter any military adventure. I was, therefore, relieved to read the words on defence in the Queen's Speech, which are different from those used in the Labour Party's conference resolution and in its election manifesto. If cuts were to be made in our expenditure, reckoning in hundreds of millions of pounds, on our defence forces and weaponry, it is certain—the right hon. Gentleman will find this when he studies the figures—that we could no longer parade as a reliable ally in NATO.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
Does the right hon. Gentleman admit that our proportion of GNP devoted to defence is higher than that of any of our Western European allies, with the single exception of Portugal, which is deeply involved in its African war? Secondly, I regret as much as the right hon. Gentleman the size of the Soviet Navy and Armed Forces, but may I ask why he always conveniently forgets the equal, if not greater, size of the United States Navy and Armed Forces?
§ Sir A. Douglas-Home
At least in that I am with the hon. Gentleman. I am certainly for peace.
877 The hon. Gentleman referred to the percentage of our GNP. When his right hon. Friend examines the figures, I think that he will come to the conclusion that it is not us who ought to move down to the percentage of the others but that the others ought to move up to our percentage. The hon. Gentleman knows a great deal about these matters. He must recognise how thin on the ground are the NATO forces relative to those of the Warsaw Pact, so we cannot reduce our strength very far. We should run a real risk of triggering off a process of defence reductions among the European members of the Alliance just when in the last few years Europe has begun to establish a more equitable sharing of the burden with the United States. I feel sure that when the right hon. Gentleman discovers how relatively thin on the ground are the NATO forces—we must include the formidable Soviet Navy—he will conclude that, rather than us go down in our expenditure, the others ought to come up in their expenditure.
How does the right hon. Gentleman square those sentiments with the cut of £178 million in defence expenditure that the Chancellor in the former administration announced just before Christmas?
§ Sir A. Douglas-Home
I do not say that defence should not take its share in any cuts that have to be made, but cuts anywhere near those proposed in the resolution which was passed at the Labour Party Conference, or even the hundreds of millions of pounds mentioned in the manifesto, would, I am confident, do grave damage to our NATO stance.
There is one opening which the right hon. Gentleman may be able to exploit. When I was in Moscow at the end of last year the Russians agreed to the principle of undiminished security. That principle is vital in the proper sense of the word. But it is not translated into practice by unilateral disarmament, and progress, if it comes through disarmament, must come through disarmament which is mutual and balanced. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will take time to impress upon his colleagues the reality of the military facts and to consult our allies before authorising savage cuts in defence expenditure. We can and we should pursue disarmament, but it must be mutual and balanced.
878 There is available, apart from the disarmament conference of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke, one instrument through which, if the Soviet Union and its allies will plan, one could start truly fruitful co-operation between the USSR and Eastern Europe and the West. That is the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. At the first of these discussions last July, with NATO and Community agreement and approval, I put forward proposals to develop contacts between the peoples of East and West Europe and for the better exchange of ideas which would lead to closer understanding. I admit that they were modest. They concerned the ability of people to marry and live in the country of their choice. They concerned facilities for divided families to reunite. They concerned wider exchanges of information through newspapers, magazines and television programmes, jointly agreed and controlled. The reception for that idea was polite, but all such ideas have so far fallen on stoney ground.
I renewed them lately in Moscow, with the same negative result, and it is the failure to make progress on this wavelength of contact between people that makes it so difficult to build up that confidence between East and West which is a prerequisite of successful mutual and balanced force reductions. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman will persevere, but somehow we must face the fact that the Russians have to be persuaded that the ordinary and compelling habits of interdependence which all of us have to practise are not aimed at interference with their internal affairs. I do not know whether it can be done.
Certain recent events which are familiar to every hon. Member are rather discouraging and disheartening, and there is a long legacy of suspicion in Russia towards the outside world. But I hope that the gulf between ethical and social standards is not such that the East and the West cannot meet except at the extremities of armed neutrality at best and confrontation at worst. If there can be a real advance here, nothing will do more to restore confidence to a very badly shaken world.
Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
Those of us who think the defence of this country is still the number one priority are disturbed to hear an exchange 879 across the House which gives the impression that because the last Government reduced defence expenditure by £178 million, the new Government are entitled to reduce it by the same amount, or even more. If the last Government cut expenditure by that amount for strong economic reasons, there is good reason to believe that they reduced it to a point beyond which it should not go and that there should not be a competition to see who can go furthest.
§ Sir A. Douglas-Home
As I have said, defence expenditure is a matter of practical politics and we cannot escape from that.
I believe that we are approaching the point among our NATO allies where the line on the frontier of West Germany is almost too thin and we have to watch that with the greatest care, because if we do not great damage could be done. Meanwhile, while the ways of reconciliation are tested we have no option but to pursue peace making and reconciliation from a basis of strength and through NATO.
The Foreign Secretary devoted some time to various aspects of the affairs of the EEC. That is another organisation designed to contribute to the economic strength and political cohesion of Western Europe, and therefore peace. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the Community should not be antagonistic but complementary to the United States. That is essential. Of course, it is not easy to build a new Community with a recognisable economic and political identity without getting in somebody's way or with others thinking that the intention is to get in their way. But it is possible to build a Community which is complementary to the United States, and I have no doubt from what the right hon. Gentleman said today that his authority will be exerted in the interests of harmonious European-United States relations. An effort of understanding is necessary from both sides of the Atlantic.
Perhaps the House will allow me a short analysis which might conceivably be helpful to clarify some of the factors which I think led to the recent discontent and irritations and which have tended to overshadow the basic identity of interest between Europe and the United States. During 1972 some American officials and 880 politicians evolved a theory of relations with Europe labelled in their picturesque vocabulary, the ball of wax principle. Put in its crudest form—and this was not uncommon—it meant that unless Europe conformed to American economic ideas, the United States would not feel obliged to pay such attention to Europe's defence.
Making every allowance for the fact that at the time America's balance of payments was weak, that approach was psychologically and philosophically wrong. Of course there is a link between economics and defence, but of course, too, essentially the defence of Europe, of the Atlantic Ocean and therefore of the United States is indivisible. I hope therefore that no such mistake will come again from that side of the Atlantic.
The ball of wax has now happily become unstuck. Some aftermath lingers which the Foreign Secretary will have to square up, and that can be done with good communications. By that I mean anticipating the possible differences which might arise between the United States and Europe and then dealing with them quietly with diplomatic methods before they burst out on to the public gaze. That must be right.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Some of us might go along with what the right hon. Gentleman said on the defence of the Atlantic. What worries many of us is the extension of Anglo-American cooperation into the Indian Ocean, the increasing number of naval bases such as Diego Garcia, and the increasing commitment. Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why he apparently agreed to the extension of these bases in the British Indian Ocean territories?
§ Sir A. Douglas-Home
The hon. Member is referring to what is mainly a communications centre. I shall explain one thing to the hon. Member about my own view on the matter. It is dangerous in an ocean such as the Indian Ocean for there to be a monopoly of one navy, and there was rapidly developing a monopoly of the Russian Naval Fleet.
If I may turn back to the irritations felt between Europe and the United States, I believe it is also true that while the President of the United States always supported the concept of a Europe which would be able to speak with one voice, it was not recognised in America that what 881 was said might occasionally reveal a difference of approach to the matter in hand.
Curiously enough, the economic approach to the review of the GATT was not one of these causes of difference. It was not, I think, a cause of difference because the Community took immense trouble to try to anticipate and meet the fears of the United States. It did this also in relation to possible trading relations with the African countries about which the Americans felt very strongly in relation to compulsory reverse preferences. These difficulties were removed, and I think that the Foreign Secretary will find that the paper produced by Europe on approaches to GATT comes very close to the American point of view. Again, good communications were responsible for such success as there was in that case.
The Middle East presented, and presents, a more difficult problem. For many generations Britain and Europe have naturally been involved in that area, and they had much first-hand experience. Until lately, the United States has been reluctant to accept that if there were to be a future for the State of Israel, a fresh pattern of security would need to be evolved which did not involve occupation of Arab territories, because that would no longer serve. I expressed that point of view as long ago as 1970, but one must recognise that America was, America is, the only country which can deliver a peace in the Middle East on those lines, although others of us may be able to guarantee it.
Doctor Kissinger is now making the most imaginative and strenuous efforts. I associate myself with everything that the right hon. Gentleman said about that. Dr. Kissinger deserves our full support in this area, where he is doing such a good job. It is good news that the oil embargo on the United States has been lifted and good news, too, incidentally, that the British and Americans are to begin to reopen the Suez Canal.
Still, it is essential that there should be a follow up of the Washington conference on oil in a real attempt to find an identity of interest, which I think began to emerge there, between the producer and the consumer countries in the medium and longer term. No doubt that 882 conference will be followed up and there will be another stage.
More generally, in NATO and the Community, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not approach either in a state of depression. He will find already drafted declarations which interpret favourably the complementary relations between the Community and the United States and which redefine in terms of intimate collaboration the spirit and purpose of the Atlantic alliance. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will seek an occasion when those declarations may be published. Perhaps the 25th anniversary of NATO in April might be an appropriate time. Anyway, no doubt he will consider that matter.
I recall a remark of the right hon. Gentleman in 1967, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he said,I do not know of any economic or political problems in this world which would be easier to resolve if Britain is outside rather than inside the Community."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th May 1967; Vol. 746, c. 1323.]I think that that was right then and it is right now. Our economic performance is surely not so good that we can neglect a free trade area of that size—[An HON. MEMBER: "It is not."]—it will be a free trade area in a very few years—in which, provided we are competitive, we should derive rich industrial and commercial dividends which will repay the price of membership.
This is not an exaggeration. A recent poll that the right hon. Gentleman may have seen after our first year of membership showed that 84 per cent. of the British firms expected long-term benefits, 78 per cent. said that they would be harmed should Britain withdraw, four out of ten showed that profits had risen for 1973 as a direct result of membership. In the capital goods sector, 86 per cent. considered that membership would help them and in the consumer sector 85 per cent.
The lesson of this century, in which two world wars started in Western Europe, is surely that we should exchange rivalry for partnership. I will leave my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) to study what the right hon. Gentleman said today about reorganisation inside the Community. I keep an open mind on the form of any 883 modifications which may be possible or desirable.
One thing that I do know—the right hon. Gentleman gave us a warning about this—is that although we all want cheaper food, we also want more production from our own fields. If he were to come to my constituency now, he would find knowledgeable stockmen arguing that the costs of production in Britain justify Common Market prices now, and that production will not come from our farms without this incentive. Therefore, we may have to look at the CAP with a slightly different, or at any rate an open, mind. My right hon. and learned Friend will make more detailed comments.
§ Mr. Marten
I was interested to hear my right hon. Friend quote that opinion poll, which was on a very limited front. Now that we are quoting opinion polls, did he see the one at the end of January, a very large one, which asked the question of the British people, "Do you think that it was a good thing or a bad thing that we joined the Community?"? Only 12 per cent. thought that it was a good thing that we had joined.
§ Sir A. Douglas-Home
Perhaps the people who gave that answer had not read the poll that I am quoting.
But I do not think that I misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman if I conclude that he means to try to modify some of the Community policies from within the Commission and the Council. That is not exactly the impression that his leader conveyed, but his words are none the worse for that. This is an improvement. Of course one should negotiate or adapt —whatever word one uses—policies from within the European Council. There is no other way, unless one is prepared to leave the Community.
At any rate, I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will keep his eyes on what I call the strategic gains which are available to us, some of which I have mentioned in the economic field, and also, of course, the huge strategic gain on which he put his finger—the most important event that has happened in my lifetime since the war—the rapprochement between France and Germany. French-German rapprochement is the basis for the whole European Community. So I hope that he will keep 884 his eyes on the great strategic gains which seem to me possible in this adventure.
§ Mr. Ronald Atkins (Preston, North)
Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the real problem in Europe today is not enmity between members of the Common Market but enmity between Western and Eastern Europe and that the Common Market has exacerbated that enmity?
§ Sir A. Douglas-Home
I do not think that that is true. The Foreign Secretary is to meet representatives from Eastern Europe. I have seen quite a number of them and I know that they are not antagonistic to the Community. In fact, they expect to do a great deal of business with it.
I want to turn to the complex problems of the Middle East. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that Resolution 242 offers the best opportunity for a negotiated peace. That is common ground. It has, of course, its ambiguity, on which so far a settlement has foundered, but one can take comfort from one development and encouragement—the military withdrawal and the pattern on which it is proceeding. Israel and her neighbour Egypt have agreed that their forces should withdraw out of artillery range of each other and that a United Nations force should patrol in between.
If that pattern can be carried forward in Sinai and further in the Golan Heights, which is the most important of all the frontiers for Israel, then there will be a chance of a peace which has eluded this area for so long. But the right pattern is there if it can be extended and taken a good deal further. However, some way must be found to give the State of Israel security other than by the occupation of Arab territories. It may be, as I hope, that Dr. Kissinger will be able to make the peace, and it may be that Europe will be able to help with guarantees. There is certainly a mutual interest in the United States and the Soviet Union in avoiding a clash, but that is not enough. I agree that the enterprising Dr. Kissinger has been extraordinary, and his sense of urgency is right.
Finally—and I am sorry to say this —the Socialist Government seem to have a unique capacity for alienating friends. It is not as though there were any principle that I can see in their moral judgments. The Russians offend just as gravely 885 against the code of social ethics as the countries which incur the right hon. Gentleman's displeasure. There are countries in Africa and Asia where people have been imprisoned without trial for years. These gestures are political. I do not believe they do any good, and they are not designed to help British interests, particularly that of our security. I hope the right lion. Gentleman will realise that Britain's future lies in making friends and not shedding them.
On any reckoning of the last few years, Britain has made the most of the diplomatic opportunities which were open to a Power of medium size. Some people have a nostalgia for past power. Others exaggerate what we can now achieve. But if we can pursue Britain's own interests, at the same time reconciling them every time, if we can, with the needs of interdependence, then we shall serve the cause of greater stability and peace for which the right hon. Gentleman asked.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
First, I should like to echo the congratulation from the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir A. Douglas-Home) to the Foreign Secretary on his appointment, and in so doing I must express my own admiration for the way in which the former Foreign Secretary conducted himself during his own term of office. To back benchers like myself—and this applies not only to my party but to all parties—it is very important that senior Ministers conduct themselves with reason and politeness throughout, and these are characteristics of both the right hon. Gentlemen. This is one of the reasons why our democracy works.
In the limited time available to me I want to concentrate exclusively on the future of Britain, within or without the European Economic Community. This is a basic, if not the basic, point of the Queen's Speech and one on which the Foreign Secretary spent some time. I refer to the Government's intention to embark upon a fundamental renegotiation of the terms of our entry. I want to examine this proposition and its consequences.
There is no doubt about the Liberal Party's continued dedication to the idea 886 of European co-operation, and equally there can be no doubt about our deep dissatisfaction with the way in which that co-operation, particularly in this last year, has been working. There is no doubt at all that this has not been a good year for Europe. It has been a bad year for Europe. It has been a year in which the long-term interests of the Community —the long-term good of the Community, which means the long-term good of the individual members of the Community—have given way on every side to short-term domestic political pressures.
The oil crisis broke, so the British attitude was "To hell with the Dutch. Let us make sure that we are all right". The Germans suddenly said "Let us stop the regional fund". So the French went to the Washington energy talks and took a straightforward nationalistic view. They said "If we can get a good deal but our Community colleagues cannot get the same deal, then it is tough luck". I underline what was said by both the Foreign Secretary and the Shadow Foreign Secretary. I entirely accept that our concept of how the Community may work is a concept of a Community in partnership with the United States. In short, this last year the advance of the Community—which, in our belief, offers the only hope of economic stability for this country and the only possible safeguard against the inflation which affects all of us, through common monetary policies and common economic policies—has yielded to excessive nationalism.
I suspect the Government of excessive nationalism. I shall come in a moment to the Secretary of State for Trade, who is sitting quietly and decorously on the Front Bench beside the Foreign Secretary. I suspect them of excessive nationalism. If what I suspect is true—I shall come to some of the points in a moment—I believe that it will do lasting damage to the very things that the nationalist wants to protect. I believe that there is an innate contradiction here.
At the last election—and, goodness knows, it was not long ago—Labour candidates in Scotland where I fought, while wrongly, in my view, resisting the argument for self-government for Scotland, rightly attacked the Scottish National Party for slogans such as "Rich 887 Scots or poor British". Yet they seem to be advocating that very point of view on a British scale vis-à-vis the rest of the Community.
What is the concept of the Community? I do not believe that a Community such as we are in can work other than by the very free collective bargaining which the Government, as we heard it so wonderfully expressed yesterday by the Secretary of State for Employment, believe in. In short—it seems to me that there is this clear assumption in their present attitude—the Government's attitude is that we must always have everything our own way in the Community. That is just not on if we are to remain in the Community at all. If the view is that we must never put in more than we get out, that is not a principle which I accept. It is also contrary to any possible evolution of a regional policy, and the Government have always expressed themselves, on a domestic British scale, as being in favour of a regional policy.
Let me take two basic points about the nature of the Community. First, and I think it would be hard for the Government to rebut this, the economies of the countries of Europe are becoming so interlocked that it is becoming necessary for some agency to control them across national boundaries. It seems to me most extraordinary—and I have always felt this in regard to the Secretary of State for Trade, whose sincerity I have never in any way questioned—that someone who is so persuaded of the necessity for improving, or, rather, strengthening, the management of the domestic economy by the State should seem to resist the development of some agency to manage economies across national boundaries.
How are we to control the multinational company other than through some sort of multinational agency? I do not know what the answer is.
§ The Secretary of State for Trade (Mr. Peter Shore)
That is to oversimplify the problem, as I think the hon. Gentleman will recognise. I think that many of us who have been critics of the Treaty of Accession in the past would have said that we would certainly subscribe to international organisations and co-operation to deal with very many problems. I cite only the IMF, OECD and many others 888 which are necessary, and more will be found necessary in the future.
§ Mr. Johnston
I accept that I am speaking in shorthand. It is difficult to do otherwise in the time available. I was about to come to the point which the right hon. Gentleman has made, because I expected that argument, which we have argued across the Floor of the House many times. If the alternative is, as the right hon. Gentleman would have it, that we have some kind of inter-State co-operation, some kind of new European free trade area, as it were, I do not think that that genuinely offers an alternative democratic solution.
With great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, a great amount of the argument about Europe which has taken place in this House has been about the reduction in the powers of the House, the reduction of the sovereignty of Parliament, the reduction of the ability of hon. Members to control what is going on. If one poses as an alternative inter-State co-operation through inter-State treaties and negotiations between Heads of Governments, these are far less get-at-able than the Community now is get-at-able. The Community is less get-at-able than we on the Liberal Bench wish. The real solution, which would strengthen democratic control of European activities, which all agree has to be done on this scale, is to strengthen the European Parliament. The Foreign Secretary himself said that it was "irresponsible of Britain to leave an empty chair in Europe." Why are there 18 empty chairs at the European Parliament? It is a relevant question.
Mr. Frank Hanley (Sheffield, Heeley)
The point is that the European Parliament has no powers. Those of us who oppose the Common Market do so partly on the ground that there is no effective democratic control of the laws, rules, regulations and heavens knows what which an international bureaucracy in Brussels is continually passing, and which bypass this House.
§ Mr. Johnston
It is perfectly true that the European Parliament has no power we are all aware of that. I am arguing that it should be given more power. If the Labour Party, which calls itself a progressive party and has always been on the progressive wing of politics, wants 889 a crusade, here is one waiting for it—to make Europe democratic. Surely, this is a good aim. If all we can do at present is to exert influence—which I accept—it is worth doing of itself, while moving towards the greater objective.
What does fundamental renegotiation mean? The Foreign Secretary was cagey about this. He may mean the CAP, our contribution to the CAP, the form that the CAP will take. It may mean our total contribution and the form of financing of the Community. Will value added tax be acceptable? It is easy to condemn value added tax, but the political party which introduced selective employment tax, also a form of indirect taxation, should not get over-excited about it. It may not be a perfect form of indirect taxation, but in my experience no form of indirect taxation is perfect —or, indeed, any form of taxation. It is not something on which it is easy to take stands of principle.
If we genuinely want to bring about an improvement, why do we not say "We are in the Community and we are improving the Community", rather than seek some sort of confrontation? The Foreign Secretary said that he was not seeking confrontation; but he was seeking confrontation all the same.
I accept that the CAP requires to be changed. But, surely, all hon. Members recognise that any agricultural policy—the CAP is no different—has two opposing jobs to do: first, to produce fair prices for the consumer; and, second, to produce a fair income for the farmer. These are two difficult objects to achieve.
The Community decided to base its policy on the price mechanism. This has produced problems of surpluses. It has meant paying the rich farmers a lot of money in order to keep the marginal farmers going. In many ways, it is unacceptable, and I believe that it can be changed. It is generally accepted that there can be a move towards deficiency payments. But there need not be a confrontation about it immediately, particularly since it was part of the bargain of our entry. I repeat that if right hon. Members now on the Treasury Bench had been on that bench in 1970 they would, no doubt, have gone along with entry.
890 All through the last election we heard about food prices and the effect of the Common Market entry on food prices. It was a bogus argument that must be nailed. It was a bogus argument because world prices have moved well ahead of European prices.
§ Mr. Johnston
The Foreign Secretary shakes his head, but this is so. One can quote innumerable statistics to show it. One can quote the current price of grain, sugar, barley and many other items to indicate it.
Time presses. What are we doing now? The Foreign Secretary touched on this glidingly during his speech. Rumour is a great thing in the corridors of power—I have never actually walked them, but I look in the side doors now and again—and rumour has it that orders have gone out to stop any commitment on behalf of this country not only to the evolution of new policies but to the implementation of on-going commitments. It is being said that, pending further negotiation, the Government are not necessarily bound by previous commitments. Is that so, or not? If it is so, what does it mean? Shall we withhold payments to various funds to which we are due to make payment? Shall we hold back payments to the Social Fund and the Agricultural Fund? I should like a specific answer to that question.
I should also like to know whether it means that we are ceasing to seek to reach agreement on the Regional Fund. The clock has stopped, in the Community euphemism. Will the Treasury Bench seek to make it go again, or will it wait until the negotiations are over? I repeat—why this approach at all? I do not understand it.
The Foreign Secretary said "We are not seeking confrontation." He also said "We believe that our interests coincide with other countries in the Community." If that is so, why make this great issue, and what will be done about it ultimately? Will it go to a referendum? That was talked about during the election campaign, but we have heard nothing about it since. The alternatives which has not been put bluntly to the British people, are: if we do not cooperate in Europe, where else shall we 891 co-operate? What alternative do we have?
The Shadow Foreign Secretary spoke of the view of those engaged in industry —84 per cent., or whatever it was—and he was later interrupted by the assiduous hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), who has pioneered opposition to the Community throughout. As I see it, it is better, to use the Treasury Bench's own language, to be in a large, strong union than in a small weak one, because a better deal is achieved in industrial negotiations.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. David Ennals)
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he would not wish to see a renegotiation to get better terms on behalf of the British public from the Community?
§ Mr. Johnston
I am certainly not saying that. What I am saying is that, in my concept, once having entered the Community one is placed in a situation in which one is involved in non-stop renegotiating, correcting, making it fairer and balancing it out. The best way of making the whole Community work is not for one country to strike an attitude and say "Unless you play with me so that I have everything my way, I shall run away and leave you by yourself." That is not my view of how it should be made to work.
The Commonwealth was trotted out again by the Foreign Secretary. I say that bluntly, because, although in no way do I seek to detract from the value of the Commonwealth as an inter-racial, cross-country grouping of peoples, I think that the economic value of the Commonwealth have been heavily overplayed for years. We must bluntly recognise that when we talk about Commonwealth preference, as we have done for years, essentially we have been talking about British preference, because Commonwealth preference was designed for our benefit, not for the benefit of the Commonwealth. We have heard so much from the Prime Minister, as he now is, about New Zealand and its future. New Zealand is not even taking up its butter or cheese quota now because prices on the world market are higher.
In conclusion, it seems to me that one of the issues on which the Labour Party fought the election was against entry into 892 the Community. That is not true of all its candidates, but it was the general posture. Again and again arguments were used which were contra-Community.
§ Mr. Johnston
I have read the manifesto, but, with great respect to the Foreign Secretary, what is said in a manifesto is often at wide variance with what candidates say on doorsteps and at public meetings, and what they said was that the Community was causing rising prices and that, therefore, something should be done about it, and that an elected Labour Government would renegotiate and obtain terms suitable to British interests or would get out of the Community. That was the posture posed—or so it seemed.
§ Mr. Ennals
I wonder to what extent the hon. Gentleman would say that his fellow Liberal candidates fought the election campaign oil remaining in the EEC without renegotiating to get a better deal, and to what extent they stood as champions of the EEC, as the Liberal Party had done in the past. Would not the hon. Gentleman accept that many of them evaded the issue because they knew of the electoral consequences?
§ Mr. Johnston
I must say that I would not accept that suggestion. The Foreign Secretary grunts, but——
I had the privilege of having two Liberal candidates. One was in favour of the Community, and the other against it.
§ Mr. Johnston
If the right hon. Gentleman had two Liberal candidates against him, in the pursuit of the Government's desire for democracy we must already be moving towards multi-Member constituencies. As a member of the European Parliament, I was under the severest attack in my constituency by Labour candidates on this subject, and I spoke for Europe throughout.
§ Mr. Johnston
My constituents voted. That is all I can say. The Foreign Secretary was vague, fair and general. I believe the country requires clarity on this issue, and, in my view, the clear fact is 893 that Britain's future, like that of France, Germany, Italy, the Benelux countries, Denmark and Ireland, lies with Europe. Only if we are able to operate together can we have any hope of a viable future and the capacity to exert reasonable influence in the world. I hope that the Government will remember that.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North-West)
I join the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) and the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir A. Douglas-Home) in congratulating my right hon. Friend on his appointment as Foreign Secretary. I go further and congratulate him also on his speech.
Listening to my right hon. Friend, I was reminded of the speeches of his great predecessor, Ernest Bevin, both in its power and in its constructive and philosophic qualities. It recalled to me the time when Ernest Bevin, after making his famous tour d'horizon, would then deal with some of the underlying questions affecting his foreign policy. He regarded foreign policy, first, as a means of securing our legitimate national interests and, secondly, as a means of playing a benevolent role in world affairs. This afternoon my right hon. Friend illustrated that theme by his references to the United Nations and Europe, his search for peace and also—I felt that this was most important—his references to theunderlying principles on which his foreign policy will be conducted.
Ernest Bevin did not ask for a nuclear weapon in order to attend the conference chambers of the world: what he asked for was a million tons of coal. He did so because he recognised that foreign affairs was a matter of economic relativities. Oil producers have just proved that diplomatic power lies with the economically powerful.
With his deep roots in the Labour movement and his involvement in foreign affairs my right hon. Friend will, I know, summon to his task as Foreign Secretary all the energies and enthusiasm of the Labour movement as a whole so that he does not leave the question of settlements merely to be the collective decisions of a handful of expert diplomats but seeks to embrace all the people in the policies 894 with which he is concerned. Paramount among those policies, of course, must be the question of the renegotiation of the terms of entry into the Economic Community.
I disagreed with the Liberal spokes, man, the hon. Member for Inverness, when he said that the election was fought on some sort of anti-Common Market policy. The election was fought on the manifesto of the Labour Party and on the description of the intention to renegotiate contained in that manifesto. I am sure that is what my right hon. Friend will seek to do, and he will do so with a united party behind him.
In recent days we have seen an extraordinary collision between the United States and France. I believe that in the course of this debate it would be proper to emphasise the damage done, more so in the Continent than in Britain, to the normal relations between the countries of Europe and the United States.
At a time of transatlantic tension—first, with Dr. Kissinger and then with President Nixon exchanging harsh words with M. Jobert, President Nixon in Chicago threatening to withdraw American troops if France, as he put it, sought to gang up with Europe against the United States—it is appropriate that my right hon. Friend should have stated this afternoon that it is possible to be both pro-Atlantic and pro-European. The two themes are not inconsistent. Indeed, it is important that that should be emphasised this afternoon.
The besetting sin of the United States in its approach to Europe has been an ill-concealed impatience with and sometimes even contempt of European attitudes. The sin of the French particularly has been a prickly anti-Americanism dating from the time of President de Gaulle and provoking a constant atmosphere of tension in Atlantic-European relations. Although I object to the United States hectoring Europe, I can understand a certain measure of President Nixon's irritation. After all, he has been consistently pro-European. The United States has been consistently pro-European since the formation of the Council of Europe in 1949, when the Americans sent a delegation precisely to support the formation of European unity after the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia.
895 The State Department has consistently favoured European unity, and before the Presidential campaign President Nixon made a clear statement in favour of American co-operation with Europe. We have to ask ourselves what the origin of his present outburst is. Why did he make his threat in Chicago? I believe that the reason is clear. When President Nixon, following in the tradition of the President before him, supported the idea of European unity, he did so in the belief, held by Churchill, that if America reinforced the economic and political strength of Europe, Europe would be able not only to play a part in the general defence of the West but to stand up to pressures from the East.
That is not just an academic thought. It is a most practical one, because the invasion of Czechoslovakia just before 1949 was later repeated. It is clear that national isolation of the European States is a constant temptation to make the Russians apply their diplomatic and even military pressures in order to secure their own ends.
Therefore, the Americans encouraged European co-operation and unity. Suddenly, in accordance with the Gaullist doctrine, the Americans with all their gifts, contributions, and diplomatic and tactical support to Europe, now find themselves faced with a situation in which some of the European countries show a lack not only of gratitude but, even worse, of recognition of the general and benevolent purpose of the United States.
There is a doctrine known as "standing up to America". If that means resisting certain economic pressures, in particular by the multinational companies, and attempts by America to export her inflation in order to buy up certain strategic sectors of Europe's economy, that kind of standing up to America has a valid basis. But if it means constant objection to any policy initiated by the United States, if it means a bogus speaking with one voice, as my right hon. Friend indicated, irrespective of the content of what the message may be, I think the Americans are right, as Dr. Kissinger has said, to object to a speaking with one voice which merely means an acting in concert in order to frustrate the object of American diplomacy.
896 French diplomacy has been ambivalent ever since the time of de Gaulle. On the one hand, there is the doctrine of standing up to the Americans expressed at its sharpest in the French withdrawal from NATO, when the Americans declined to allow de Gaulle to take part in a triumvirate controlling NATO. That withdrawal from NATO did not cause the French to withdraw from the Atlantic alliance. Indeed, they are still members of the Atlantic alliance. They have merely withdrawn from the organisational body of NATO.
Therefore, if one had to sum up the tradition of Gaullist diplomacy, it would simply be to have the benefit of the Western alliance while using that umbrella in order to promote what the French have called a "sacred egoism"—the kind of egoism which consists of pursuing specifically national policies while talking about European integration. In other words, what the French Government have been trying to do has been to obtain the benefit of a unilateral policy while paying lip-service to the idea of a collective policy in Europe. Nowhere has that been better illustrated than in the case of the oil policy.
I do not suggest that the French are alone in their wickedness in running for individual cover in times of crisis or in paying lip-service to the idea of European integration while pursuing particular and nationalistic purposes.
When the crunch came in the Middle East, when the war broke out, it was a case of panic stations all round, and we, like the French, sought to achieve our own purposes. That is legitimate; people who are drowning do not argue ideologically but clutch at the nearest lifeboat or even the nearest straw. What happened was that the Community disintegrated when it was faced with a crisis, and at the same time there were those inside certain Foreign Offices—I do not want to be too specific, and I do not particularly mean our own at this moment—who thought that they would use the break-up to try to obtain specific advantages.
The French, as we know, rushed to get their oil. They rushed to exchange, or barter, or sell arms for the oil, so that for M. Jobert to claim that somehow or other the political weakness of the Community is due to the partners of the 897 French inside the Community flies in the face of facts. There was no consultation internally. The Copenhagen meeting, which had, I believe, been arranged long before the Middle East war broke out, was merely a conference which confirmed that the idea of a political integration of Europe was not a valid concept. Nor, indeed, was it a practical concept.
Here I must revert to the recent exchange of asperities between the American President and Dr. Kissinger and M. Jobert, because it is all related to oil. It is related to oil specifically, because there is a proposal to have a European oil producers' conference in the near future, which is in basic defiance of the conclusions of the Washington conference on oil, where the French declined to show solidarity with the other Europeans concerned with obtaining oil.
My right hon. Friend touched on this subject, but in a slightly sibylline way. He was not very specific about the actual objects of the Arab-European conference on oil which has caused so much offence in the United States. Perhaps he or one of his Ministers will say in due course whether the preliminary Arab-Europe conference will be exploratory, pending a more general conference in which the United States will participate, or whether, as I believe the French intend, this Arab-Europe conference will seek to establish solutions—if not permanent, at least transitional—where quotas, prices, and so on, will be discussed.
For my own part I believe that in dealing with the question of oil, when the purchasing power of the West is of cardinal importance, to fragment that purchasing power and seek to go it alone on that vitally important matter of energy would be detrimental to our own interests. I hope that my right hon. Friend, as I believe him to be an Atlanticist with a sympathy and understanding of Europe, will do what he can to broaden the conference to include the United States, Canada, or whoever else may be directly interested and thus enable him to practise his diplomacy in the way that I mentioned earlier; namely, to use the economic resources of our allies and of ourselves to exert the maximum amount of power where it is needed.
I turn now to the Common Market, because that is, I am sure, in the minds of every hon. Member, and it is a matter 898 in which everyone will wish success to my right hon. Friend in his endeavours to renegotiate certain areas of the Common Market where we feel—rightly so—ill done by. I said before that in seeking that renegotiation the spirit in which he does it will be all-important. I believe it will be a spirit of conciliation and understanding. I do not imagine that he will be going to the capitals of Europe to throw his weight about, but at the same time I am equally certain that he will be firm, that he will seek to obtain for Britain our fair entitlement within any arrangement or any transaction which will be concluded.
The paramount question is the nature of the common agricultural policy. Here again, it will be necessary for my right hon. Friend to weigh the quid pro quos. This is a constantly changing area. Prices are constantly changing. World prices today may be above those fixed inside the Common Market, but in three months' time they may be below. Therefore, it is of vital importance that whatever arrangements my right hon, Friend makes should have that quality of elasticity which will not crystallise a situation which may apparently be of advantage at one time and later turn out to be substantially disadvantageous.
What is true of the CAP is true of that other most important area of the Common Market, the phantom Regional Fund, which has yet to become a reality. I am sure that my right hon. Friend, with his experience of the depressed areas of this country, will fight hard to see that Britain achieves its fair share of the fund.
My right hon. Friend is a realist. I am sure he recognises that if and—as I hope—when he achieves the major purposes of his renegotiation he may be in the dilemma that he is the victim of his success. If he achieves a successful economic renegotiation of the Common Market and changes its institutions to the advantage of Britain, he may find that he has become a pro-Marketeer. In that situation he will have the problem of going to the country to try to explain how the new reorganised Market will benefit Britain. At that point he will have a further problem, because it will not simply be a question of putting the new terms to the country in the form of a referendum or General Election. His 899 task will be to deal with the major problem that he touched on, something which should concern us all. That problem is whether the inherent principle of the Treaty of Rome, which involves a marginal and limited surrender of sovereignty, is acceptable in principle, or whether that should be rejected.
Every treaty involves a marginal surrender of sovereignty. That is the nature of a treaty—that one agrees by treaty to make certain surrenders to achieve a common purpose. I am merely describing, not recommending.
§ Mr. Cormack
Can the hon. Gentleman explain how, if acceptable terms are renegotiated and put to the country in a General Election and all three parties agree with them, one will get an impression of the opinion?
§ Mr. Edelman
I think that would be the happiest de facto coalition that we have seen for over 100 years. That might conceivably happen, remote though it may seem today. Time will show whether that is possible.
There is one matter to which I should like to refer which arises from the effect of the Common Market debate during the General Election. I refer not to the deterioration in American-French relations, of which we have recently been the unhappy witnesses, but to the fact that because the Common Market in its present form has been frightfully unpopular in the country somehow the French have been cast as the villains of the piece, which has produced a wave of Franco-phobia in the country. This is regrettable and something we should not encourage. After all, those who may temporarily put forward a specific argument in favour of a particular policy do not necessarily represent the enduring attitudes which the French have towards this country and which we have for France.
I hope that we do not allow our present disagreements and acerbities to damage our relations. I hope that my right hon. Friend, with his sympathy and friendship towards France, will do whatever he can to try to re-establish harmony between our country and the French. After all, we are arguing about procedures and not about fundamental attitudes. I am sure that he will seek to achieve harmony.
900 The time has come when Europe, if it is to engage in a constructive dialogue with the United States and if the Community is to engage in co-operation with the 'Eastern countries, should have some effective machinery of consultation so that every summit meeting would not be regarded as a crisis meeting, so that we could have, so to speak, a standing committee for consultation so that European countries could look eastwards and westwards and invite Dr. Kissinger and Mr. Brezhnev for talks. That would be a means by which we could avoid some of the disastrous embarrassments of the past and the chaos which happened at the time of the Middle East war. I was glad that my right hon. Friend referred to the East as well as looking outwards to the United States.
We have had nearly 28 years of peace in Europe. My right hon. Friend referred to that matter when he spoke about the moving occasion when he and I and Mr. Speaker were present at Strasbourg at the earliest meeting of the Council of Europe. The Germans, thanks to the broad vision of Ernest Bevin, were admitted to the Council and for the first time after the war took their place in an international assembly. That was a great and moving occasion.
Any occasion which brings about cooperation in Europe, imperfect though it may be, and any organisation which is capable of binding together the countries of Europe in peace, even under a nuclear umbrella, is to be encouraged. We have seen in parts of the West how people can fight and perpetrate the most horrible acts against one another without recourse to atomic bombs. When we see that, surely we must welcome any kind of co-operative organisation such as that described by my right hon. Friend which will have the effect of bringing peace to Europe and preserving it.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker (Cheltenham)
Before the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs leaves the Chamber—for, I am sure, a well-deserved break—I want to pay tribute to the patience which he has shown during the debate. Further. I pay tribute to him and add my congratulations to him on attaining such high office.
901 I take up what the hon. Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Edelman) has said. I, too, am reminded of the time when I started at the House, when Ernest Bevin was Foreign Secretary. He had been one of the leaders of the coalition Government which had led us through the war. I hope that the present Foreign Secretary will be able to use his experience from those days, and since, in resolving some of the problems which come before him. Perhaps I may excuse the right hon. Gentleman from staying and listening to the other points which I shall make. Perhaps the Minister of State will tell him what I have to say.
The impression which I retain from the days when Ernest Bevin was Foreign Secretary is that he used to say that overseas policy should be national, rather than party. That was the atmosphere of the wartime years which carried on into the post-war period. At this stage I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir A. Douglas-Home) on the office which he held for the past four years and for the 20 years which he has spent in high offices dealing with overseas affairs. This is not the time to try to assess his contribution, but history will show that it has been one of the major personal efforts of the post-war period. Though power has gone, his influence played a greater part in our international affairs.
I wish the new Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs well in what he proposes to do regarding the Commonwealth. He is, of course, a Commonwealth as well as a Foreign Secretary. We need urgently to take practical action on economic and defence problems. In such action, there are priorities other than the Commonwealth, although Commonwealth countries may help. I believe that the international economic and political situation is as serious as that which faced us in 1929. At that time mishandling led to major disasters in the following 20 years. I believe that we can, that we must and that we shall avoid repeating the errors of those years.
I have three brief linked points on matters in which I believe United Kingdom initiative, experience and influence can help and where the interests of the United Kingdom coincide with those of the outside world. The most immediate problem is a settlement in the Middle 902 East. I add my congratulations to Dr. Kissinger in his efforts to try to reach a settlement. I pray that they will produce results which will help all those living in the Middle East. I am glad to note that the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs welcomed the talks with the Arabs.
It is not only the peoples in the Middle East who are suffering from the troubles of the past 30 years but those people around the Mediterranean and in Europe whose affairs have been linked for millenia with that part of the world where the trouble is most acute. I believe that the present Government should be seen to be supporting the initiative of Resolution 242, which Lord George-Brown did so much to initiate when he was Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs: and my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire, in his Harrogate speech, carried on and helped create a background for the settlement which we all hope will result from such initiatives.
The great majority of those who live in the troubled countries of the Middle East want a settlement after 30 years of conflict. Ten, and 20, years ago there were those who thought that something better might turn up. Today, I believe, the overwhelming wish of people living in the area is that there should be a settlement. In that respect I put forward a proposal which has been made by many Members from both sides of the House for many years—namely, that the United Kingdom, with its European colleagues, should offer to underwrite either an interim or a final settlement by policing any demilitarised zone which may result from a settlement.
If such a settlement were achieved, oil affairs should then be more easily negotiable. There are genuine fears of inflation throughout the oil-producing areas. We must take seriously the statement which was made last week by the OPEC. The effect of the statement was that oil prices will rise with price rises in industrial countries unless those countries can control inflation.
I was talking to the ambassador of an oil-producing country not long ago. He said that oil was taken out of his country and that it was given a bit of paper worth so much. He pointed out that by 903 the time his country wanted to buy something with it is was worth 10 per cent. less. I have considerable sympathy with countries which face that sort of problem. We must take the problem of inflation as seriously abroad as we take it at home. Unless we in the Western world can set an example of controlling inflation we shall destroy not only ourselves at home but international society on which other countries depend.
I believe that the OPEC settlement is not an idle threat. It could lead to increasing the inflationary spiral, with catastrophic results to other countries as well as to our own industrial regions. The Foreign Secretary's experience as Chancellor of the Exchequer and his connections with the International Monetary Fund might lead him to bring forward ideas, for instance, about the multilateral restriction of the increase in the money supply of the leading industrial countries, which is essential if we are to control inflation.
Thirdly, there is a need for co-ordination of economic and foreign policy within the Atlantic Alliance. To be a European does not mean that one is not an Atlanticist. The Atlantic Alliance—perhaps the OECD area is a better description—can work satisfactorily with a European approach. There again, the Foreign Secretary's work for United Kingdom-United States relations, as Chairman of the British-American Parliamentary Group for some time, will stand him in good stead. Even if that is only a small group, there are parliamentarians on the other side of the Atlantic who will look to his personal relationship with them as being of value in these present difficulties. I hope that he will not pay too much attention to the chance remarks of American Secretaries of State and others because the pressure under which they work is such that they are apt to "blow their tops" without meaning it.
Some of us still remember President Kennedy's "Twin Pillar" concept of the Atlantic Alliance, with North America on one side and Europe on the other. It cannot be stressed too often that the defence of freedom in this country is still dependent on the United States' nuclear umbrella and on their conventional forces, bearing in mind that the Soviet 904 Union now probably has the largest offensive naval force in the world. The United States dollar is now stronger and the country has a vast agricultural potential. As the Foreign Secretary said, a couple of good harvests could make an enormous difference to the well-being of the world. Those two factors are still the basis of the free world's economic strength. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will continue to encourage the United States to promote common policies in defence, international trade, food and energy. Only the United States, with its economic strength, can take the necessary lead.
The hon. Member for Coventry, North West and I have been colleagues in Europe on many occasions. The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) is a colleague of mine at the European Parliament, and he has just made an excellent speech, which I support. In the Community I find no antagonism towards the United States, either in the Commission or in the Parliament. From time to time there is a display of nationalism in the Council of Ministers, but that is something that the rest of us are trying to control. Last year there was an excess of nationalism, but I hope that that will be tempered in 1974. In the Community the political decision takers are more "get-at-able" than they are in EFTA or OECD. I hope and believe that as the Parliament in the Community develops we shall see more parliamentary control of the other organs of the Community.
This is the moment for the United Kingdom to make an extra effort in helping Europe. As a member of the Parliament and of the European Conservative Group I am not so anxious as are some people about the future of the Community. When Herr Scheel made his excellent speech in January he said that he was depressed. I said that in the time scale of 20, 30 or 40 years we had made enormous advances. To me, the political and defence union of Europe is even more important than economic union. Had we had such a union in the past at least one of the last two world wars might have been avoided. If institutions and policies are fluid at present, this is no bad time for Ministers, the Commission and the European Parliament to establish an organisation that is nearer the heart's desire.
905 I think that the European Parliament will have greater powers. For instance there is to be parliamentary control over the budget from 1975. A great deal of the progress that has been made has been due to the efforts of Mr. Rafton Pounder, who, alas, is no longer a Member of Parliament. The United Kingdom proposals which were put forward last year are also being considered. All Parliaments are organic—they will grow. As time goes on their powers will grow, and we can make our contribution. We can show that we can make changes without disruption. Fundamental renegotiation is going on all the time, and all of us who are involved play a part in it. When one joins a club one is always free to advocate a reduction in the club's subscription, even if one is not always able to obtain a repayment of the entry fee. Active discussions are going on in the European Parliament every day of the week except for one month in the year, and in those discussions United Kingdom experience has been of considerable value.
Only last week my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir B. Rhys Williams) made an extremely valuable intervention in the proceedings of the European Parliament on the subject of VAT and zero rating, and his argument was accepted by the Parliament. There are scores of such interventions and they are fed in through the Commission for final decision by Ministers.
In my humble way, I am trying to get through a report on sugar. It is based on work done by hon. Members on both sides of the House. Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker, at the time of the 1945 Labour Government, was instrumental in getting the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. We are trying to go wider and take in Europe with the Commonwealth in a world setting.
I hope and pray that the Labour Party will send constructive representatives to Europe before long. Our Continental friends are bewildered that after all the help given by Ernest Bevin, John Hynd and others in the 1945 Labour Government to the post-war economic and political reconstruction of Europe, the majority now seem to be unwilling to cooperate. For instance, I am on a committee which deals with worker partici- 906 pation, equal pay and migrant workers, on which the Labour Party would be able to make valuable contributions. I am also on a committee concerned with the development of trade and help to the third and fourth worlds—those countries that have no raw materials. The Labour Party has much experience that could be used constructively in this way. On the other side of the Channel, the trade unions are playing an important part in this work. I shall not press the Foreign Secretary to say anything on this, but I hope that the Labour Party's co-operation will become much more active and constructive before the end of this year.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock and Port Glasgow)
The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Sir D. Dodds-Parker) is a kind man, and I am sorry that his cornucopia of congratulations to everyone did not include my hon. Friend the Minister of State—the right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals), whom we are all pleased to see back in Parliament and also as a prominent member of the new administration. We look forward to hearing his contribution this evening. I am speaking deliberately in a flattering way because I have to ask several awkward questions to which I hope I shall receive helpful answers.
As a qualification of what the hon. Member for Cheltenham said, I thought that the former Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir A. Douglas-Home) showed signs of lacking a brief from the Foreign Office although of course no sign of lacking diplomacy. Unless I misunderstood his arguments, his attempt to argue that all was well in the European Atlantic situation was paper-thin. I do not quarrel with his second example, but his first example of defence and his third example of oil were patently at loggerheads with reports that have appeared in the Press over the last few days. From listening to his speech, one would think that President Nixon had never said a word in Chicago last Saturday. One would think that Dr. Kissinger had not even made an apology for what I am told was a private utterance to, of all people Congressmen's wives—[Interruption.]—or State Department officials' wives. Whatever it was, no one can deny that the whole of the Press of the West has been full of alarm, 907 and concern at what is a divergence of our interests by these misunderstandings.
The former Foreign Secretary, in his speech, used the word "communications", but all is not well in this regard, and I felt that my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Edelman) was more realistically emphasising the dangers in that situation.
§ Sir A. Douglas-Home
If, tomorrow, the hon. Gentleman reads what I said I do not think he will find that I said that all was well. I was insisting that the difficulties have to be anticipated. I gave three examples in which this has been successful, but of course there are strains.
§ Dr. Mabon
I shall read fully and carefully what the right hon. Gentleman said. I do not agree that he gave three good examples. It may be that one was a good example, but I did not understand the other two. Perhaps I am not being very bright. In my view it is always a disservice, at a time when there are difficulties in the Alliance, to pretend that they do not exist. That was my quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman. Incidentally, I do not normally quarrel with him. I am not being difficult over this matter.
However, if I may be a little more querulous, the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) was not doing any good for any of us in arguing that what the Foreign Secretary said this afternoon was an example of confrontation. One of the major reasons I wished to speak in the debate was to find out, if necessary—I discovered that it was not—the attitude of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to one of the central issues, if not the central issue, of British foreign policy at present. The Foreign Secretary, the Labour Government in which he serves—headed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. Wilson)—indeed, all of us on the Government side,will embark upon these fundamental talks in good faith not to destroy or to wreck but to adapt and reshape the policies of the Community and our terms of membership in such a way that they will better meet the needs of our own people, as well as of others in Europe, and meet our conception of the Community's relations with other States".That is a direct quote from today's speech. I could not have hoped for a more reassuring assertion of what I under- 908 stand to be the policy of the Labour Party. I do not think that the hon. Member for Inverness is doing himself, his party, the country or the Government any justice by trying to pretend that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke of confrontation. My right hon. Friend's policy is nowhere near the empty chair policy.
§ Mr. Johnston
I did not suggest that the Foreign Secretary was other than benign in what he said. I sought to contrast his benign approach with that of his party and ask why, if his was the Labour Party's real approach, it was necessary to enter unique, fundamental renegotiations, and why they could not be carried out through the normal mechanism of the Community.
§ Dr. Mabon
I recognise that the hon. Gentleman has come bloody but not bowed from the battlefields of Inverness, where there was a particularly vigorous campaign, but he must not fall into the elementary trap of generalising from the particular with reference to the Labour candidate in Inverness, a kind of argumentum ad hominem, imagining that that able young man necessarily represented every facet of Labour Party opinion. If the hon. Gentleman got the wrong impression I am sorry about it.
We are not monolithic parties but a coalition of interests, and there is nothing to be ashamed of in this. It has been expressed by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and argued by the Labour Party—often with narrow votes, I agree, but it is nevertheless true—that the Government and the party are committed to the principle of the European Community, and of being part of it. But they disagree profoundly with the terms under which we were shanghaied into the Community.
In the last Parliament the Industrial Relations Act received the same sort of parliamentary treatment as the European Communities Act inasmuch as not a dot or comma was changed on the Floor of the House, and both were guillotined mercilessly. That was a disgrace to parliamentary procedure, and that is why there are so many troubles about renegotiation. But I am not going to argue about semantics—I want to get down to realities.
909 Let us look at the Conservative Party manifesto. Less than 18 months ago the Conservatives put the European Communities Act through without changing a single point in it, but in their manifesto they talked about renegotiating the common agricultural policy. It has been suggested that it might be more desirable to move away from the present fundamental rules of the CAP to perhaps some form of deficiency payments. I do not regard that as a bad thing.
It is sensible that we should be willing all the time to look at the changes taking place in the Community. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has said not only that we are acting fully in good faith—I have quoted his precise words—but that we were going to take each subject by subject. There are some important subjects, and indeed some are less important than others. It depends who you are.
The hon. Member for Cheltenham mentioned sugar. My constituency is the refining area for Scotland, supplying four-fifths of Scotland, all of Northern Ireland, and other parts of the United Kingdom. It is a vital matter for 2,000 families that we continue with cane refining production. There are two other centres in the United Kingdom—London, which is the largest, and Liverpool, which is substantial. These three areas are intrinsic in British domestic terms and are also linked to the question of whether we shall be allowed, under the Treaty of Accession, to have the importation of 1.4 million tons of raw cane suger into the European Community. But even that argument is beginning to change.
On 22nd October last year the Conservative Government, sensibly, and to our surprise, accepted our motion on this and the then Minister of Agriculture the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) promised that he would go away and negotiate what was proposed. I have no doubt that it could be very simple for us to succeed in the next few months, if we wish, to get the 1.4 million tons written into an understanding in the Council of Ministers. I could be wrong, but the right hon. Member for Grantham said that he would bet his political life on it, which is a dangerous thing for a politician to say. But he said it. It 910 is on the record, and various other Conservative Ministers have since endorsed this. I shall be surprised if we do not get it.
I do not wish to turn this into a debate on sugar. I dare not try to do so. But it is an important subject, not merely for the Third World, but for some of our own people as well. We must try to have the matter negotiated sensibly and properly, as soon as we can, by February 1975, when all the agreements expire. the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement and all the other arrangements for producer subsidies—the £17 a ton and so on—introduced last June. I am glad that the Government will take each matter step by step and will seek comprehensively to renegotiate, on as many fronts as possible, the terms on which we entered in 1973, but I hope that in such negotiations the Government will take into account the fact that they could have allies in the European Parliament. It is rather pathetic for Labour Members to have to rely on Liberal or Conservative Members to make sure that the case for their constituencies is argued in the European Parliament.
I do not accept that that rather useless body is as useless as some of our colleagues pretend. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is a contradiction."] Of course it is a contradicition. It cannot be a useless body if it debates such subjects and can in some way, however marginal, affect Ministers. If we stay in the Market my party will profoundly want to see that body democratised and made effective. The whole history of our party is such that we shall insist on that. We could not have a federal or any other kind of Europe which did not have a publicly-elected body with control over taxation and the rest.
That being so, why do the Government take the view expressed by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council yesterday in answer to questions by the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) about the membership of the European Parliament? I found my right hon. Friend's answers—reported at column 664–5 of HANSARD—most disappointing, and cannot understand them in relation to an answer he gave later the same day in a speech, when, talking about the 911 implementation of the Foster Report, he said:The Government have undertaken to seek a fundamental renegotiation of our terms of entry into the EEC. This does not, in our view, weaken the case for Parliament's effectively scrutinising proposals for Community legislation now coming forward under existing terms of membership."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th March 1974; Vol. 870, c. 796–7.]If it is a good thing to have a Select Committeeeffectively scrutinising proposals for Community legislation now coming forward under existing terms of membership",as I think, and as did almost all Members of the last Parliament and I presume almost all Members of this Parliament, why is it not a good thing for us to be properly and fully represented in the European Parliament, from whence that Community legislation springs? It is illogical for the Government to say one thing very sensibly in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary but not to agree that we should be represented in the European Parliament.
In the process of renegotiation, what is the possibility of a favourable decision on the setting up of the regional development fund? There is a proposition within the Clyde Port Authority area, part of which I represent, to reclaim 1,500-2,000 acres of sands at Hunterston, on the Maplin principle, at a cost of about £15,000 an acre. That will give us the best deep-water port on the west coast of the United Kingdom. The plan has been quantified and assessed. It has been taken up by the public trustee authority concerned, which is prepared to put it forward to the Government in the hope that it will be one of the first beneficiaries of the fund.
There must be other examples in the country. That is one which is ready and waiting for money that is now available, if only we can reach an agreement. Why cannot we have a decision by the Government to make an agreement on the fund? Some will say that that involves paying money. It does. We should have to pay about 14 per cent. of the fund, but we should get back 29 per cent. As a Scotsman, I am in favour of that kind of payment.
If it is true that, as one of my hon. Friends suggests, one or two of our partners in Europe might not want to accept 912 the regional fund as it is now proposed, we should try very hard to secure as good a bargain as we can manage. Perhaps 14 per cent. and 29 per cent. will not be the final figures, but there should be a net gain to Britain. Surely that would help to put an end to the claims that we are always continuing to pay money into Europe and getting little or nothing out.
I hope that I have not embarrassed my right hon. Friend the Minister of State too much in making these points. I understand that the Government cannot arrive quickly at decisions in their early days. They have already made the best foreign affairs decision of this Parliament by the announcement today that we intend to renegotiate in the way stated.
I hope that the two points I have raised, which should not be considered small points, will be answered favourably at the end of the debate.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Hurd (Mid-Oxon)
It is a great honour to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, and to ask indulgence as a new Member speaking for a new constituency.
Mid-Oxfordshire includes part of the old Banbury division, and part of the old Henley division. It would be impertinent to comment on my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), as he is very much with us, but it is right that I should say something about Mr. John Hay, who represented Henley for 24 years before standing down at the last election. He very kindly came to support me during the campaign, and it was immediately clear how much respect he enjoyed among the people in Wheatley and the surrounding areas, whom he represented so well for so long.
Mid-Oxfordshire is one of those constituencies which look a good deal more rural than they really are. It contains a successful farming industry, but it also includes many thousands of people who go to work in the city of Oxford every day. It has a good deal of industry tucked away in rather improbable places behind old Cotswold facades. For example, the town of Witney has made itself famous for one industry. It is no good talking to my constituents about an energy policy which is based just on coal, oil, gas and nuclear energy. No energy policy will satisfy the people of 913 Witney unless it includes maximum support and encouragement for the manufacture and use of blankets.
My constituency also includes the town of Burford. I was reminded of the town when the Secretary of State for Employment was fascinating us yesterday with his description of Cromwell as one of the great forerunners of Socialism. It is true that in the seventeenth century there were in this country Socialists, or Levellers. On Burford Church can still be seen the bullet marks where Cromwell lined up the Levellers against the wall and shot them. The Secretary of State for Employment is lucky to be separated by several centuries from his hero, the Lord Protector.
In the two years I have known them the constituents whom I represent have shown a keen interest in the affairs of the outside world. That is particularly seen in the degree of support which now exists for a foreign aid programme—something that has impressed me very much.
Before I say something about that, I should like to deal with a matter of great personal interest to me. I shall try to do so in an uncontroversial manner. As you may remember, Mr. Speaker, I spent four years in a humble capacity in the British Mission to the United Nations in New York. I should like to say a few words about the appointment of the British representative there in the past two weeks. During the four years that I was there under the late Sir Pierson Dixon—the father of my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. Dixon)—I came strongly to the conclusion that the top permanent job there was one for a professional diplomat. The reason is simple. He does not have to deal with just one Government, with one set of Ministers or officials. He now has to deal with a hundred missions almost in perpetual motion, as well as with the Secretary-General and his staff. If the skills of professional diplomacy are needed anywhere, they are needed in New York.
That is borne out by the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, who went there with a great reputation, which he still enjoys, great eloquence and great experience of the United Nations. Yet I wonder whether that experiment was a success. It seemed to me that Lord 914 Caradon was constantly arousing, through no fault of his own, expectations which the Government at home were not always able to fulfil. Now the experiment has been repeated in different, and perhaps less promising, circumstances. The new representative will replace a respected professional diplomat who has been there for a few months and who has worked himself into the job. He will go as the political appointment of a minority Government, with all the uncertainty which that involves. I wonder whether, through no fault of his own—this is no criticism of the distinguished person who has been appointed—he may find himself in a rather difficult and sad position.
The decision to hive off the Ministry of Overseas Development from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is a repetition of what was done in 1964. I am a little puzzled why this should be done again. It seemed to me that the foreign aid programme fared pretty well under the guidance of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) and also under my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir A. Douglas-Home). Indeed, it survived, better than had been usual in the past, the attacks of those wishing to economise in public expenditure. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that the head of the Department was a member of the Cabinet, whereas in future that will not be the case.
The argument has been that one needs a separate Department so that one can have a consistent long-term aid programme which is not bedevilled by the short-term comings and goings of foreign policy. That is an essential part of the case. Yet immediately we are up against a controversy over technical assistance to Chile and the suggestion that we should cut off that programme for short-term political reasons. This is the real problem, and it also affected the Conservative Government in respect of Pakistan and Uganda. This is what happens when one comes up against Governments whose actions are in some respects offensive to public opinion in this country. However, aid programmes are supposed to benefit people, not Governments. They are long term, and must be left to the long term if they are to be successful. If they are constantly messed about because of changes in political opinions in this 915 country or in the receiving country, they are not likely to succeed. This is a genuine problem which has faced Labour and Conservative Governments, and I am sure that it is a topic which the Minister for Overseas Development would like to consider.
I make one final point about the aid programme. It is common ground that most Government expenditure programmes depend on public support. It is also true that in terms of the British foreign aid programme a good deal of progress has been made in recent years, thanks to the efforts of all parties—but support arises only if the programmes, as part of the foreign aid effort, are based on the real world and on what is happening in it. There have been massive changes in the real world in recent months. We now have before us a group of newly-rich States in oil-producing countries. Some, like Iran and Nigeria, have large populations on which to spend their money, but there are others which do not have large populations and which will face difficult problems when dealing with the resources to which they have suddenly become heir. Their decisions have sharply affected the prospects for developing countries, particularly those with no resources of their own. Therefore, it is reasonable that these newly-rich States should be encouraged to share the burden now borne by the aid-giving countries—a burden which we have been carrying for so long. I hope that the Government, either alone or through the EEC, in the dialogue with the Arabs to which the Foreign Secretary referred this afternoon, will make this point to them as strongly as they can. The oil-producing countries should be brought to recognise that with their new riches they carry new responsibilities. This is an important point if we are to continue to maintain progress in this country in persuading our fellow citizens to continue to bear part of the burden.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Clemitson (Luton, East)
My first and pleasant duty as a new Member is to pay tribute to my predecessor Charles Simeons. He undertook much good and hard work in the constituency during the three and a half years he spent as Member for the old Luton constituency.
916 The new Luton, East constituency covers much of the same territory, and is one of those marginal seats which come within the are of the swingometer. If the pointer of that blessed instrument had stuck as far in the Labour direction as we in Luton, East pushed it, there would not even be a mathematical possibility of a defeat of Her Majesty's Government in any Division, real or hypothetical. However, that was not to be. In voting behaviour, as in progress down the path of the affluent society, Luton is ahead of the times.
I am not saying that Luton's comparative affluence is as great as all that for most of its citizens. Even with the latest pay offer a track worker in Vauxhall Motors will earn only £39 for a flat week's work. Even if the pay were twice that sum, or even greater, I am sure that there are few hon. Members of this House who would exchange what they might sometimes consider to be the tedium of this place for the tedium of a track in a modern motor car factory.
My reference to wages of a number of my constituents may seem to be out of place in a debate on foreign affairs. After all, in foreign affairs are we not dealing with such great matters as the relationship between sovereign nation States? My point is that the sovereignty of separate nation States is a concept which to a considerable extent has been overtaken by events.
I have referred to Vauxhall Motors, and the House might like to know that that company employs 35,000 people, most of whom work in Luton and Dunstable, The plant in my constituency is the largest of the three Vauxhall manufacturing plants. Yet in 1971 Vauxhall Motors provided only 1.8 per cent. of the profits of the parent company, General Motors, of which Vauxhall is a wholly-owned subsidiary. I have no need to remind the House that General Motors is the largest manufacturing company in the world. The story does not end there for Luton. The commercial vehicle section, what used to be known as Rootes Motors, is also in south Bedfordshire. And, incidentally, what used to be called Rootes Motors is now part of the Chrysler Corporation, the second of the three giant American car companies. Furthermore, also in my constituency is the British headquarters of Skefco, which is part of a world-wide company of 917 Swedish origin, SKF—the Swedish equivalent of which I shall not attempt to pronounce.
Therefore three companies, Vauxhall, Chrysler (UK), and Skefco dominate the manufacturing scene in my constituency. All are part of huge, world-wide companies. The fashionable name for these companies is "multinational", but that word is a misnomer because the word "multinational" merely means "many nations", presumably implying that the companies concerned carry out operations in many countries. That is merely a platitude. A truer and more incisive term would be "supra-national" since these companies transcend nation States. Their size is enormous. The sales of General Motors exceed what is spent in this country on education, health and all the social services put together. The budgets of the largest supra-national companies make those of most nation States look like very small beer.
If we were to rank nation States and supra-national companies together in cash terms we should find that our view of the world changed very considerably. We are so used to looking at maps of the world with their brightly coloured blocks representing the separate nation States that our minds are diverted from the realities of the wealth and the power of the supra-national companies. We need somehow to draw a new world map.
It is often argued that the power wielded by super-national companies is used benignly and not malignantly. Our attention is drawn to the benefits conferred upon a host country by the activities of such companies—the investments they bring and the employment opportunities they provide. That is not the point, however true those arguments may be. The point is that enormous power is exercised within what I term these vast industrial states, and it is a power which is formally accountable neither to those employed in those companies nor to the nation States in which the industrial states operate. In the last analysis, more power over the people in my constituency is exercised from Detroit, New York and Gothenburg than from the town hall in Luton or from Westminster or Whitehall.
Whether any nation State on its own is powerful enough or, perhaps more important, willing enough to control these 918 vast industrial states is open to question. In the long run, if the power that they wield is to be made properly accountable it will have to be done by separate nation States getting together to exert power over the super-national companies.
I have always regarded the argument against the Common Market from the point of view of the loss of sovereignty as questionable. I say that not because I am enamoured of the Common Market. I am not. I believe that our first year of membership of the Common Market has been an unmitigated economic disaster. A mere £70 million trade deficit in 1970 has been turned into one of more than £1,000 million in 1973. So much for the great pro-EEC argument that entry would provide us with a massive market for our goods.
When we talk of loss of sovereignty I wish that we were more concerned with the more important if less obvious and more insidious loss of sovereignty to supra-companies.
It could be argued that the banding together of nation States in an organisation like the EEC is a significant step towards the assertion of proper political control over those supra-national companies, which is precisely the point that I was arguing a moment ago; but the reality seems sadly to be the reverse. Far from limiting their powers it seems to be increasing them, and it will go on increasing them, first, because removal of controls over investment and trade serves to accelerate the process of rationalisation within those companies. It makes little sense in the end, for example, to have two sets of people designing virtually the same vehicle in two different countries. The fears of a number of my constituents on this kind of score are not without basis in logic.
The second reason why the EEC is increasing the powers of the supra-national companies is that the whole ethos of the EEC prevents any real control over the supra-national companies from being developed. It is little wonder that we do not find the large supra-national companies among the ranks of the opponents of the EEC.
I am not a little Englander or a little Britainer. Like everyone who believes in the essential equality and brotherhood of mankind I yearn for the day when the 919 nation States can disappear from the face of the earth, but I do not want them replaced by the faceless and unaccountable sovereignty of supra-national companies, nor by an organisation such as the EEC as it is at present under whose aegis those companies seem to bloom like hothouse plants. Sovereignty should be sovereignty of the people, and it is the restoration of sovereignty to the people—to all people wherever in the world they may live—which should be our primary aim and concern.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. John Davies (Knutsford)
It falls to my very happy lot to be able to welcome two maiden speeches. First, I have great pleasure in welcoming that of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd). Many in this House know better than I the splendid antecedents that he has in this House. His profound, interesting and interested survey of the matters with which he dealt, especially those of aid, promise very much for the future, to which we all look forward greatly.
Equally warmly I welcome the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson). He, too, dealt with some interesting and difficult problems. I have little doubt that the matters which he raised will be repeated here very often and will give rise, perhaps, to some heated exchanges. We are pleased to have the hon. Gentleman with us and we hope very much that we shall have the opportunity to hear more from him on the subjects with which he dealt.
There is no doubt that the issue of the European Community has been a central factor for many years in the policy considerations of all the parties in this House. The approach to them has been different from time to time, but today it must be admitted freely that the Foreign Secretary adopted what I can only describe as a very conciliatory tone. Although he was at pains to deny it he was clearly not carrying through the full austerity of the meaning of "fundamental renegotiation" as contained in the Labour Party's manifesto and as repeated on many platforms throughout the country. I do not complain of that, but both in that respect and also in the whole sound which has emerged from the Government benches today there is an 920 extraordinary and critical contrast with that to which over recent years I grew accustomed to receiving when I was trying to deal with matters concerning the Community.
Even with the conciliatory tone of the Foreign Secretary, however, there remain some fairly clear distinctions. The first one is in terms of the commitment to the Community, and I shall return to that in a moment.
The second, which is the one with which I wish to deal more extensively, is the approach which the right hon. Gentleman's speech gave to what can only be considered to be a static Community. The right hon. Gentleman was dealing with a new situation which he was negotiating in what was apparently a static organisation. This is in total contrast both to the Community itself and to the views and attitudes of the Conservative Party in relation to the development of the Community.
I see the European Community as a great construction job. We are building an edifice in Europe, and one which, like most others, has four walls and a roof. These four walls and a roof constitute an edifice in which we who have a deep faith in the future of Europe mean to live and to have our being. In the consciousness that we are building something from the ground up, in which we have progressed very little hitherto, we are thinking not of a static but of a great dynamic job which we have set ourselves and must pursue. To that degree I find a marked contrast between the views expressed by the Foreign Secretary today and those which certainly I hold and which I think the majority of my colleagues on this side of the House hold, too.
The four walls seem to be as follows. The first wall is the internal economic structure of Europe. We are involved in building a kind of super free trade area. It goes much beyond the conventional thought of a free trade area because it greatly exceeds the concept of simply disarming a tariff structure and perhaps entering into the periphery of the non-tariff barrier and of the like obstacles put in the way of the development of trade. We are seeking to go far beyond that. We are trying to evolve a system in which, in this great sphere of economic activity in Europe, there is progressively attained 921 complete freedom of access by and establishment for all industrial and commercial enterprises throughout the Community. This represents more than the concept of a free trade area; it requires the evolution of a great variety of common rules.
These common rules give rise at times to great criticism and apprehension that they will mean harmonisation for the sake of harmonisation and that they will be the cause of the abandonment or loss of sovereignty by the nation States involved. But they respond to the needs of the evolution of a great free trade area. The rules concern the preservation of the rights of small companies, the preservation of the consumer against the forces of monopoly, of excessive size and market power. The rules are part of the creation of the free trade area. There is the ability of all parties in the Community to have access to the public purchasing capacities of individual countries; the production and introduction of common standards to apply to safety, to measurements and to like matters; and the evolution of a common approach to company law in order that the freedom of establishment may be complete and not undermined by a variety of different interferences in the ability of concerns to trade at will. These are all part of the evolution of a great free trade area.
The concept embodies something still further—a much deeper analysis than is common in free trade areas of the whole welfare and improvement of industrial and commercial enterprises. It requires a review and an opportunity to be offered for the creation of better, more effective structures for the rationalisation and improvement of research and for a common approach to energy to secure that it shall be supplied at the most reasonable cost that can be attained and in adequate and assured supply. It requires a great measure of internal agreement on the handling of money. Barriers to the handling of money also constitute bars and limitations to the effective handling of a free trade area.
Although this concept of a much wider activity than is conventional in the thought of a tree trade area may seem extreme to some, none the less it represents the logical extension of the thought of abandoning the barriers which over the centuries have been created to protect—and 922 inhibit—the trade of the world. As such it should not cause concern to those who implicitly accept the notion of a free trade area, even if they have difficulty with that of the Community. Nor should the methods by which it is attained be subject to their critical comment.
Surely the right methods to be applied are those which are used—the methods of discussion and negotiation, perhaps ad nauseam negotiation, to a point when consensus is reached and where on every matter of substance there can be no change till that change is sanctioned by every member of the Community concerned. Surely these must be the right methods of approaching the development of this new style, new dimension, in free trade arrangements.
The second wall of the Community would seem to be concerned with external relations. If I might find fault with the Community—the House knows that I rarely find fault with it—one of its great deficiencies has been to try to draw a sharp dividing line between external relations of a political and commercial character. These seem to be so closely interwoven as to defy the ability to segregate them. I should have thought that as we go along the construction of this outer wall facing the outside world must inevitably be concentrated on both spheres of development.
The new trading relationships which we wish to secure worldwide by our membership of the Community will be the stronger for the fact that they are achieved by consensus between the members. We are not satisfied with the adoption of a customs union. We seek to go much further still. We seek new relationships with the whole of the trading world, developed and developing. We are surely right to believe that the aggregated strength of the Community countries in dealing with the problems of the developing world will be the more effective. We have seen evidence of that even in 1973, and we shall see it again.
In political terms, we have the difficult, sensitive and, at times, almost perplexing problem of the transatlantic alliance. That has been referred to continually throughout today's debate. There again, the capacity of Europe to work out a valid and long-lasting relationship with North America will not be achieved by 923 Britain standing clear of the European consideration of the problem. It will be far better achieved by Britain being deeply involved in that consideration and playing her part to ensure that there are no ruptures on either side.
The methods of attaining the objectives to which I have referred in external relations must be right—the methods of negotiation and of discussion within to a point of consensus. Surely these are the democratic methods of attaining an understanding and an agreement. World negotiations would be the poorer if we were to foreclose the opportunity to evolve with our partners a valid response to the demands of the outside world in political as well as in commercial terms—a grouping of countries which without worrying the House with all the statistics, represents 40 per cent. of world trade and nearly the same percentage of the world's currency reserves and the like. The world would be poorer if we foreclosed, unless they were co-ordinated, negotiated and put on a common basis of agreement.
The third wall of the European structure relates to its social and environmental development. Again, surely the approach here is right. It is not an approach of trying to set hard and fast rules which shall apply to the living standards and environmental conditions which we seek to attain as individual countries. It seeks to set constantly progressing and higher levels of attainment in those matters to which a member country should aspire. It seeks then to try to raise our sights in terms of our treatment of people at work, the lives they live, the potential they have for enjoying their leisure and the circumstances which surround them. That is the approach and that is the way in which even during 1973 the Community has moved forward substantially.
The fourth wall seems the most controversial and difficult of all. It concerns the allocation of joint resources. The Community gathers in from the member States large sums of money and then expends them in a variety of ways to improve clearly identified areas of deficiency. This has hitherto been primarily concerned with agriculture but it will move into other areas. It is already considerably developed over social support. 924 It will undoubtedly move on to regional health.
In agriculture about which there is so much criticism is it not right to say that the fundamentals which we have accepted, and which we have always thought difficult to change substantially, are wise? In recent times world prices have risen steeply, but those price rises are a reflection of the growing shortage of foodstuffs. It is easy to suggest building our future concept on the presumption that that trend will be reversed, but that is an extraordinarily dangerous assumption. On the contrary the evidence may well turn the other way.
Of course, Common Market prices have been extremely high compared to those enjoyed by Britain in the past. However, some of them have recently been substantially lower, and a fundamental of the CAP is to create a price system supported by an interventionary system which supports the floor of the pricing, certain methods of subsidisation, external levies and the like, and compensatory payments which have been of great service to Britain in maintaining food at more reasonable prices than would otherwise be the case. All these things have sought to produce a balance between the needs of the agricultural community, including our farmers—those who produce what we must continue to have and who must be encouraged to do so—and those of the consumer who must have, particularly in view of recent events, a continuing assurance that production within the Continent will be maintained and enhanced.
Of course there are objections to the CAP. There are imbalances, but they can be corrected. However, the fundamentals are not there simply because we accepted them when we signed. They have a valid purpose to serve, which can prove as important to us as to any other member of the Community.
§ Mr. Hooley
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain what valid purpose there can possibly be in storing away 500,000 tons of butter out of the reach of the consumers so that they may not enjoy it and use it?
§ Mr. Davies
I can say only that I deplore it very much and would regard it as being one of the elements which 925 need to be changed. I agree with the hon. Member. There is an imbalance between the support of the dairy farmer and that of the livestock farmer which can and should be revised. But in the present situation there is the prospect of similar intervention supporting the production of beef. The importance of that may be that if and when beef becomes scarce in the autumn, as it very well may, we shall have a means of curtailing the rising prices by releasing the stocks of intervention, and that could be a powerful factor.
Any genuine assessment of the potential of the CAP must reveal great deficiencies which I believe can be remedied. But it must also reveal that the inherent basis is one which gives guarantees both to producers and consumers in Britain.
Finally, the roof of the building seems to comprise an administrative and political system whereby this great enterprise may be administered. The Commission is greatly but wrongly criticised by so many. Of course, it is probably bureaucratic, and it may and probably does proliferate paper. Of course it may be too legalistic. But on the whole bureaucracies are bureaucratic and they do proliferate paper, as we well know. That does not mean, however, that they do not have an immense capacity of analysis and proposal, which the Commission has consistently shown during our membership.
I tend to agree with a good deal of the criticism made of the Council. It is by far too nationalistic and not too European. I could wish it to have a very much stronger European quality than it has shown hitherto. Maybe we shall find through the utilisation of more frequent summit meetings of Heads of State and Government means of lifting the European discussion out of the level of pure nationalist bargaining into one of real European imagination.
We then come to the Parliament. Of course at the moment it exercises influence more than power. However, it is on its way. It is wrong to imagine that all the work of the last 15 months aimed at trying to procure more effective means for Parliament to intervene in the decisions has not been giving results. It has been giving results, though, of course, too slowly for some. An interventionary 926 body could be surprisingly effective in containing the operations of Ministers and the Council.
Therefore, I believe that this structure will in due course meet our requirements for a forceful democratic unit within the framework of the Community institutions. In this building operation we are not following a master plan. This is an original and unique organisation and we are doing so much by experiment, learning by our mistakes. I think that the Foreign Secretary referred earlier to what seems to have been a mistake, the thought that one could bring about some rigid relationship of parities at a time when the economic structure of the Community had not been developed to a far greater degree without breakdown as a consequence.
But it does not prove that the right process is not to try to bring about parallel development of all that for the benefit of the whole Community. On the contrary, learning as we go is an essential part of the European Community. One of the big differences between the Foreign Secretary and myself, judging from his statement of his intentions today, lies in the question of commitment.
By and large, we have hitherto, as I think all our eight partners have done, shown an absolute commitment to the purposes of building this edifice. We have been talking not as though we were going to build a building and then see whether we were prepared to live in it, which was rather the implication of the Foreign Secretary's speech, but as though we have been building a building in which we mean to live and which we mean to build in such a form that we can live in it. In this lies a marked difference.
The words "fundamental renegotiation" seem exaggerated and excessive in this situation. We are talking about a continuing negotiation, to a very large degree as we have been conducting it for a long time, but if the terms of that negotiation are seen to be in that rather offhand way of "let me see what the product is and I will tell you later whether it is acceptable to me", that will be in sharp contrast, with all the difficulties that there are, with the attitude of the other members of the Community, 927 who are building for themselves, as we were building for ourselves.
I hope and trust deeply that the Government, in their approach to Europe—an approach which I find today more conciliatory, more helpful, more hopeful—will not by obdurate methods risk alienating the will and desire of the members of the Community to build a great edifice for the future.
§ Mr. Ennals
Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, could I ask him a question? Would he accept that it is not just for my right hon. Friend to satisfy himself that the house which has been built is one in which he wants to live? Does he not also have to satisfy himself that the house is a satisfactory one for the country to live in?
§ Mr. Davies
As the right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to allow me to maintain the myth that I was still on my feet at that point, perhaps I could respond by saying that in so many other matters Government and Parliament consider that they are given a remit to interpret the will of the people in the form of the house in which they live.
§ 7.7. p.m.
§ Mr. Ben Ford (Bradford. North)
The right hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) made an interesting speech, but I shall not be able to follow his arguments too far, not least because of time considerations.
As so often, the Foreign Secretary made a speech which seemed exactly to fit the occasion, appealing broadly to all parts of the House. It was a very good springboard from which he can launch his various rounds of talks and discussions throughout the world. His principal theme was the EEC. We are talking about fundamental renegotiation, which means, as has been explained, not renegotiation with a view to coming out but renegotiation for the benefit of this country.
I hope that the terms of reference in this renegotiation will include strengthening the European Parliament. I should like it to have a real influence over events, particularly budgetary and political policy. I should like it to be directly elected and have real powers. I hope that there will be a push towards mone- 928 tary reform, moving to a European unit of currency. Many people have experienced great difficulties with exchange rates, particularly floating rates, over the last two or three years. It is becoming a widely accepted view, within the business community particularly, that a European unit of currency would greatly assist.
Last, I should like to see a framework of company law Europe-wide in which we can take account of the matter mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson)—the international company. These great organisations can be dealt with within a framework of European company law, whereas, as he said, it is difficult to deal with them country by country.
Turning to European security, I believe that the conference on security and cooperation has an important rôle to play in securing understanding and co-operation, particularly in Europe and perhaps throughout the world. It is vital for my right hon. Friend to pursue on behalf of this country the aims that he set out. I hope that he will maintain the requirements of freedom of speech, freedom of contact and so on as pre-requisites to further developments in East-West relations, since this is absolutely basic for countries wishing to develop co-operation.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will particularly pursue economic, technological, scientific and environmental cooperation. I was fortunate to be rapporteur for a commtitee dealing with this matter in the Inter-Parliamentary Union which met at Geneva last year—a conference unfortunately transferred from Santiago. After consultations and discussions, we arrived at a resolution on these matters which is three pages long. It was the result of some hours of discussion and anxious thought and of some time spent in negotiation. We finally decided that the resolution was one of the ways in which we could help to reach international understanding.
The House will no doubt forgive me if I do not read the full three pages, but I should like to pick out one or two salient points which I hope my right hon. Friend will pursue in his negotiations. For instance, the conferenceAppeals to the Parliaments and Governments of all countries to take account, as far as possible, of the recommendations of the 929 United Nations World Plan of Action for the Application of Science and Technology to Development, as approved by the various UN Agencies, and to contribute to their implementation;Urges, also, the Parliaments and Governments of all countries to seek urgently the early implementation of the relevant provisions of the international Development Strategy for the Second United Nations Development Decade, as well as the Work Programme in the field of Science and Technology of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development ….Recommends that, in all scientific and technological development, Governments give full consideration to its impact on the human environment and that, towards this objective Parliaments give attention to the establishment of mechanisms in Government for the conduct of technology assessment.I recommend the whole of the resolution to my right hon. Friend and hope that he will study it and endeavour to implement many of its provisions. It was arrived at in a full international forum and so, from that view, is worthy of consideration.
I turn to the main burden of my remarks which are connected with Latin America. I have mentioned this matter before in foreign affairs debates. Unfortunately, one always seems to strike rather a discordant note, because nobody else seems to discuss these matters. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was pressed for time during his speech and I make no apology for introducing these matters into the debate. We rarely have foreign affairs debates in this House and I cannot recall a debate devoted entirely to the question of relations with Latin America.
An active group in the House, which, over the years, has gradually spread its influence, believes that it is extremely important to develop—or perhaps one might say redevelop—relations between this country and the countries of Latin America. In recent years there has been a loss of impetus in this process, but Latin America is an increasingly important region in the world's affairs. It contains at least one country, Brazil, which has shown every indication of becoming a world Power by the end of the century, and it has the capacity and will to do so.
I give one figure to show the importance of Latin America to us. Exports from this country to Latin America in 1973 amounting to £355,447,000—a considerable sum, representing much em- 930 ployment for people in this country. As a result of the oil crisis and the consequence flowing therefrom, the balance of comparable economic advantage appears to be swinging in favour of most South American countries, particularly those such as Venezuela and Ecuador, which produce oil, and Brazil, which exports many valuable commodities.
I regret that this country seems to have been a little remiss recently in attending to its diplomatic duties. I hope that my right hon. Friend or perhaps the Minister of State will give a public assurance that no offence was intended recently by the absence of special representatives at the inauguration ceremony of President Ernesto Geisel of Brazil and President Carlos Andres Perez of Venezuela. These were big occasions, and there were powerful delegations from almost every other country. I hope that steps will be taken to remedy the absence of special representatives from this country.
Venezuela will, I think, be a good friend of this country. I was visiting there at the time the General Election was called and, sitting by the side of Lake Maracaibo, I saw a picture of Westminster flash upon the television screen. The right hon. Gentleman responsible for calling the election was not exactly top in my thoughts at that time. Nevertheless, I had spent two or three days in the country with a colleague who is now a Member. We had spread ourselves considerably and made a number of contacts, and had made an arrangement to meet the incoming President. The talks we had indicated that in Venezuela there is a fund of good feeling for this country, and I hope, therefore, that we can look forward to developing our trade, cultural and other relations with it.
I assure my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary that there is much good will towards this country through, out Latin America. No doubt he would join with me in congratulating Venezuela upon its well-established democratic system, which has encompassed two changes of Government without incident following democratically-conducted elections. Years ago that would have been unthinkable for any country in Latin America. It is a measure of the development of the area.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman did not intend it, 931 but he used the phrase "unthinkable for any country in Latin America". I am sure he would agree that Costa Rica has a very long and quite unique democratic tradition in Latin America.
§ Mr. Ford
That is true. It also has no army. I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I am not sure whether Costa Rica would take kindly to being referred to as part of Latin America, but that is perhaps an esoteric argument.
Whilst, quite rightly, this country should pursue its unilateral interests in connection with Latin America, we should be aware of the increasing interest which all the countries are showing in the European Community as an entity. My discussions with many Latin Americans, including the Brazilian Foreign Minister and the Chairman of the Mexican Foreign Affairs Committee, have shown that there is an increasing desire to build up trade and diplomatic relations with Europe as a whole and to seek more independence from North America. I believe that we should do everything in our power to encourage that movement.
At the moment an international trade conference is taking place at Punta del Este, where 20 Latin American countries and nine EEC countries are represented. I should be glad to learn from my right hon. Friend what policy directives have been issued to the British representatives at that conference and whether or not there is a co-ordinated European Economic Community approach to the matter. I understand that the conference is being held under UNCTAD auspices.
Perhaps, in view of the time, I should leave it there and invite my right hon. Friend to spare some thought for our relations with Latin America, with a view to continuing the development of our trade, economic affairs and cultural and political relations to the mutual advantage of all concerned.
May I conclude with one specific item—the question of the unveiling of the statue to the Liberator. This has already been postponed twice—first because a conference of Foreign Ministers sprang up at the last moment and, secondly, because of the General Election. When the present Opposition were in office they made some contribution towards building up an awareness of Latin America in 932 this country. First, they called the very successful South American seminar which was held in London fairly recently. Secondly, they showed their good offices in easing the way for a statue to the Liberator to be erected in Belgrave Square.
I believe that the statue is ready for unveiling now. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that some time in June would be an appropriate time for this event to take place. A number of South American countries would find great pleasure in that event, which would also reflect some credit upon this country.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm Rifkind (Edinburgh, Pentlands)
It gives me great pleasure to participate in this debate, but as a new Member I feel that, both of necessity and through pleasure, I should make some observations on my constituency and on my predecessor. I have the pleasure of representing the Pentlands division of Edinburgh, a city that returns some seven Members to this Parliament, thus ensuring that all the deadly sins are well represented on both sides of the Chamber; I leave it to hon. Members to decide for themselves which should be attributed to whom.
Pentlands is somewhat unusual for an urban constituency in that almost half its area consists of the impressive hills that give it its name. In addition, within the boundaries of the constituency there are three thriving villages, and at least one full-time shepherd, which ensures that the agricultural interest cannot be ignored. The bulk of the electorate, however, live in the gracious houses of Colinton and Merchiston, the new massive council estates of Wester Hailes, the older estates of Sighthill, and the new private housing estates of Bonaly, Buckstone and Baberton.
My predecessor was a man whom the House held in high regard—a former Lord Advocate, Norman Wylie. He had the somewhat unusual distinction of having Front Bench responsibilities not only from the very day on which he entered this Chamber but as Solicitor-General for Scotland for some months before that. I know that hon. Members on both sides of the House will have been delighted to hear of his elevation to the Scottish Bench as a Senator of the College of Justice.
933 I, too, am an advocate, and I am sure that the House will be glad that the quota of lawyers in this place has not been diminished by Norman Wylie's departure. However, I can sympathise—if not agree—with those who, like Burke, believe that the country should be governed by law but not by lawyers.
I am particularly delighted to be able to speak in a debate on foreign affairs. It has been one of the sadder features of recent election campaigns that our overriding infatuation with economic statistics and the cost of living has driven considerations of Britain's international rôle into forgotten corners.
Perhaps the only issue which came to the forefront in the election campaign was our relationship with the European Economic Community. It was sad that, for the bulk of the electorate, that was largely a matter of domestic significance, concerned only with the price of butter and eggs. We are in danger of becoming morbidly introspective and insular, forgetting that, while we do not have an imperial tradition to continue, we have a vital contribution to make towards the solution of international problems.
I hope that I am not being unduly optimistic. I accept that we cannot look back on a world that has left us for ever. I know that we cannot emulate the naïve innocence of Canning, who, having sent British troops to Portugal in 1822, was able to remark that the British flag now flies from the heights above Lisbon, and where the British flag flies no foreign domination shall come.
However, Britain—as, indeed, does France—has a strength which cannot be matched by the super-Powers. We share parliamentary, historical and linguistic links with the great majority of the nations of Africa and Asia. We are part of their history, and they are part of ours. More importantly, we are no longer a threat to their independence or to their security. At such a time as this, Britain and France have the potential to bridge the awful and depressing gulf between the rich nations and the poor nations, which happen also to be the white and the coloured nations. It is a terrible responsibility upon us, and it would be tragic if at such a time we were to retreat into being a small island off the western coast of Europe, concerned only with our 934 domestic problems and whether we should sub-divide ourselves even further, like some schizophrenic amoeba.
I wish to speak specifically about Southern Africa. I believe that Britain has a rôle, through both history and inclination, of vital importance to that area. I speak with a little knowledge, having spent almost two years working at the University of Rhodesia in Salisbury. That university was multi-racial in character, which is very unusual for that country. Indeed, it was its multi-racial character which caused some of the Rhodesian Front members to describe it affectionately as the "Kremlin on the Hill".
Despite that, Rhodesia is of considerable importance. It has, perhaps, been one of the more endearing features of the activities of this House that successive Governments have produced what can only be called a bi-partisan policy on the problem of Rhodesia. I, for one, welcome that fact. Few who have been to Rhodesia, whether to visit or to live there, cannot but be aware of the grave injustices that one finds in Rhodesian society. One cannot but be aware of the deep division in Rhodesian society between white and black, and of the great gulf that separates the two halves of the population.
There is one aspect of the present Government's policy towards Rhodesia which I cannot but regret. As I see it, there are two schools of thought in Southern Africa. There are those who, on the one hand, however optimistically, however naïvely, believe passionately in the possibility of a multi-racial society in that unhappy country. There are, however, on the other hand, those who, equally sincerely and perhaps equally passionately, believe that the only alternative to European domination is African domination. Adherants to the latter view can be found both in the Rhodesian Front and in the African Nationalist Parties.
While I clearly and willingly accept that the Government in their policy support the former view that we must work towards a multi-racial society, there is one aspect of their approach which belittled that. We saw how, in the Queen's Speech, it was stated that the Government would accept only a settlement that was 935 supported not by the majority of the population but by the African majority.
Likewise, the concept of NIBMR is often referred to as "no independence before" not "majority rule," but "majority African rule." That is not simply a matter of linguistic importance. It is of great importance, because it suggests that the Government of our country are moving towards a situation where they believe that the only alternative to European domination is African domination. Indeed, it confirms the belief of the Europeans in Rhodesia that Britain in general, and the Labour Party in particular, does not care for the interests of the European community in Rhodesia with regard to their long term future. It is terribly important that at every available opportunity we should make it abundantly clear that we believe that there is a long-term future for the European community in Rhodesia, albeit in a very different Rhodesia from that in which they are living today. But it is vital that we should put that point.
There is one final matter concerning Southern Africa to which I should like to refer. Many arguments are made about the rights and wrongs, the pros and cons, of economic or diplomatic boycott. I should not wish to enter into those arguments at present, save only to say that the arguments have force on both sides. But there is one passionate plea that I would make, and that is to dissuade as far as I am able those who would argue for a cultural and academic boycott of Southern Africa. I do not, for one moment, doubt the sincerity of their motives, but I know from the people, both black and white, who are fighting against apartheid—not in Trafalgar Square, but in Southern Africa itself—that this sort of approach creates the greatest of anguish.
There is little enough originality, creativity or progressive ideas in the Southern part of the African continent, and it would be singularly unfortunate were we to support those who suggest that what little originality, what little cultural creation there is in that part of the world should be stifled from it. I say instead that we should encourage all forms of cultural and academic contact with Southern Africa, not because it will turn the Europeans into the great believers 936 in a multi-racial ideal—I am not sufficiently naive to believe that to be likely—but I believe that where there are whites and blacks in Southern Africa fighting for contacts with the finest parts of Western European civilisation we should maximise their opportunities and not minimise them.
I have said what I wished to say. A former resident of my constituency—Robert Louis Stevenson—once remarked that politics is perhaps the only profession for which a training was not thought necessary. I thank the House for listening to me, and I hope that I have not confirmed that observation.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)
I have a double delight—in speaking for the first time before you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and in welcoming to the House of Commons a fellow Scot who has made a most easy flowing and most amusing contribution. I hazard a guess that he and I share mutual benefits. I should think that we were brought up on the same Robert Louis Stevenson. I hazard a guess that we enjoyed the same morning porridge and I would be pretty certain that we wandered around those blustering, windy hills of the Pentlands in our youth and learned many secrets—all natural, I assure the House—in those hills, and perhaps we may compare notes on those matters later out of the Chamber.
This debate has been somewhat wide-ranging, as most foreign affairs debates are inclined to be, and somewhat unfocused. We have even strayed to the shores of Lake Maracaibo—wherever that may be—and a lot of the points that have been raised I do not wish to pursue because I want to concentrate my remarks on an important area of our foreign relations—our contacts with the Arabs.
No major Power can any longer claim to determine the policies of any State in the Middle East. Nevertheless—and perhaps my right hon. Friend agrees with me—because of her long contacts with the Arab world Britain has a vital political rôle to play in educating the West, as it needs educating, to an appreciation of the realities of the transformed situation in the Middle East. Our political interests must surely be in greeting and helping on its way the great renascence of the Arab world, launched by factors 937 as varied as the Socialism of that great man, Gamel Nasser, the universal dependency on oil and, strange as it may seem, the welfare concepts which flow even in the more feudal States from the great brotherhood of Islam.
To the Conservatives' credit, they had cottoned on to some of the implications of this Arab revival. It would be sad indeed if the Labour Party were to prove less welcoming and understanding of the political changes and economic prospects throughout what we used to term Arabia. As a Socialist I welcome—and I hope that I carry some of my colleagues with me—the success of the Arabs in asserting control over their national resources. The new wealth of the Arab States has enormously strengthened their economic and political position, and because part, but only part, of our economic difficulties is due to the rise in oil prices it is all the more vital for the recovery of this country that we reassess our relationships with the Arabs. I must he honest here and say that the previous attitudes of Labour leaders, both in Government and in Opposition, will not suffice today to further Britain's interests.
On the economic level a new era is emerging in which the prospects for Britain are enormous. The Arab world, almost without exception, is keen to maintain good relations with Britain. Contacts must be pursued and established for reciprocal development. The Arabs supply the oil necessary to invigorate our economy. In return, Britain can play a positive rôle in helping to develop the Arab nations. The wealth of the Arab world will not provide riches merely for a small élite—although this is the popular joke of the day—because the new political awareness abroad in the Arab world will ensure that this money provides new industries, social development projects, such as housing, schools and hospitals, throughout all those countries.
This process will continue, whatever the attitude of the British Government, but the people of this country will not thank the politicians if the progress of our economy is continually hampered because the massive multi-million pound contracts for schools, hospitals and industrial and other development projects are won by the French, the Germans, the Japanese or the Americans and lost to 938 the British. Our success will be decided as much by our determination to win these vital contracts as by our political attitude towards the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The problem of the borders between Israel and the Arab States, although very important, is a side issue compared to the fundamental issue—the original conflict between the Palestinian Arab and the Zionist settler in Palestine. The world somehow appears to have convinced itself that to erase the consequences of the 1967 six-day war will bring an end to that conflict. This assumption totally ignores the fact that the conflict existed long before 1967 and will long continue unless a just resolution of the problem is reached. It is a delusion we in the West suffer from that we see the Palestinians simply as a band of terrorists and allow ourselves to be blinded to the basic injustice which they have suffered—largely due, let us frankly admit, to British foreign policy—and ignore the political programme that they have adopted.
The concept of a unitary and democratic State in the whole of Palestine providing equal rights for Jew, Christian and Moslem is not a goal, unfortunately, that will be achieved overnight. We must realise, whether we like the prospect or not, that it is the only long-term answer. Consecutive British Governments have found it easier to ignore the Palestinians than to make any sincere attempt to ensure that their rights are restored.
§ Mr. Michael Fidler (Bury and Radcliffe)
Will the hon. Gentleman, in his plea for some State in which Jew, Arab and Moslem have equal rights, apply the same test to Syria and to the other Arab countries where rights for Jews are completely denied?
§ Mr. Faulds
My response to that is simple. The rights of the Jewish communities in those Arab countries were perfectly safeguarded until the iniquity of Israel. The imposition of a Zionist State on Palestinian territory triggered off, not unexpectedly, sufferings by the people there which were then imposed on other people in Arab territories. The history of Jewish-Arab community in the Middle East had been one of happiness and content and of little persecution until the imposition of a Jewish State on the Palestinian motherland.
§ Mr. Faulds
I have dealt with that point. Consecutive British Governments have found it easier to ignore the Palestinians than to make any sincere attempt to ensure that their rights are restored.
I hope, therefore, that the new Labour Government will give serious consideration to agreeing to recognise the Palestine Liberation Organisation as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and, if the PLO so wishes, to support its participation at the Geneva Peace Conference. The Labour Party has a record for support of legitimate liberation movements, even when this has not been popular in the country. The Palestine Liberation Organisation has been almost universally accepted into the chambers of United Nations committees and into other world bodies. Whatever the Zionists in the Labour Party may say I hope that the Foreign Secretary will have the courage to take a positive stand on this issue. I welcome what he had to say earlier today about the Palestinians.
There is the real prospect facing us that soon the PLO may decide to form a Government in exile. It will be a black day in the history of the British Labour movement if we fail to extend our recognition and support to such a body. On the other side of the barricades that exist in the Middle East, Her Majesty's Government, with their known sympathies, are well placed to present their view to the Israeli Government.
Many people in Israel are disturbed by the policies of their Government. It is our duty to align ourselves with the progressive forces within that country and not to bolster the extremism of Mrs. Meir's Government, dependent as it is on such a personality as General Dayan. Such a position will only prolong the tragic conflict between Israel and the Arabs.
Civil rights campaigners in Israel send frequent reports of mass arrests of Arabs, not only in the 1967 occupied territories but within the State of Israel itself, of houses and villages destroyed by the Israeli military authorities and of continued torture in Israeli prisons, although 940 at a lesser level than before, largely due to international pressures. The Government must open their ears to the cry of these civil rights workers in Israel and, with their close contacts, must advise the Israeli Government to make the necessary concessions which will create an atmosphere in which Israeli Jew and Palestinian Arab can honourably work together to establish peace in the area.
We have as a Government an opportunity, indeed a responsibility, in Britain's interests to reciprocate the friendliness of the people of the Arab countries. We cannot allow the Labour Party's past emotional and partisan attachment to Israel to endanger our healthy prospects in trade and development in the whole of the Middle East. We are deeply suspect among the Arabs—more particularly, if I may make a personal point, when the most promising ministerial ambitions and talent come to nought because of forthright anti-Zionist advocacy.
We must as a people and as a party explode the all-too-common attachment to Zionism by examining its racial and religious bigotry and rejecting it. I have enough faith in the Foreign Secretary—and I am sure the House and the country have, too—to be sure that he has carefully assessed Britain's interests in the Middle East and has determined resolutely to defend and pursue them. I commend him to my friends in the Arab world. Do not laugh too easily at that. It is a pity that some hon. Members have not had the opportunities which I have had to discuss our mutual interests with Arab ambassadors since the formation of this Government. They do not giggle when they examine certain appointments in the Government; and are sometimes not too pleased at the implications.
I say in all seriousness that there are those of us working in this country and in this House who are furthering Britain's interests by trying to keep as healthy and as warm as possible our contacts with the Arab world. It would do many hon. Members a world of good were they to travel further afield than Peterborough or Grimsby and find out exactly what new developments are happening in the Arab world. I commend that course and that voyage to more Members of the House.
941 I assure my right hon. Friend of my support and welcome the pronouncement in his speech.
§ Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
My hon. Friend is on record as having got into some difficulty in a recent debate on foreign affairs by accusing some hon. Members of a particular religious persuasion that their loyalty was not to this House but to another place. Is he now saying that Her Majesty's Government should be chosen not on the basis of what is best for Britain but on the views of what Governments abroad think is best for Britain? Is not that a dangerous precedent?
§ Mr. Faulds
Perhaps I may correct my hon. Friend. The reference I made in an earlier speech was to dual loyalties. I do not think that that phrase can be questioned when one considers, say, the Irish interest in certain matters, perhaps the Zionist influence in certain matters, and perhaps the Communist influence in other matters. I think my right hon. Friend is well aware of this point. Enormous developments are taking place in a part of the world which is very rich in certain resources. In our interests we need to examine very carefully our relations with that part of the world. We need to be very conscious of how dependent or interdependent we and the Arabs are.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Jim Lester (Beeston)
It is difficult to say at this moment that one is at home in the Chamber, but I felt immediately at home when I walked into the Lobby. I believe that that was mainly because the servants of the House thought that I was the reincarnation of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), whose name I happen to share but for one letter.
It took me a little time to explain that there were little differences and that neither of us would be flattered if it were suggested that we either looked alike or shared political views. However, we are already having difficulties with crossed mail and so I should like to make a proposition to the hon. Lady: perhaps we should share a room and a secretary and, with the permission of the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon), form a regular pair, although I gather that that 942 is not the custom. However, if he would not allow us to form a regular pair, we ought to be allowed to pair regularly.
It is a great honour to represent the new constituency of Beeston, because this is the first time that the name has appeared in the annals of the House. My constituency is situated in the west of Nottinghamshire and represents seven-eighths of the old constituency of Rushcliffe, which has been so well served in the House by succeeding Members. Currently, my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) sits immediately below me. In the past, Lord Redmayne and Tony Gardner were hard-working and industrious Members.
It is an area of settled communities of great variety and richness. It is a pleasure for me to speak of at least two aspects of the constituency which one feels are to be affected by Europe in the future. Industrially, it is as varied as its people, with many major companies. I was sorry to hear that the Leader of the House had 'flu over the weekend—an illness that I shared with him—but I hope that the medicines produced by Boots, in my constituency, helped him through his difficulties, as they did me. Equally, as Members punch the buttons of the telephones in the House they may be interested to know that they were installed by Plessey Telecommunications, another big company in my constituency. I am sure that many people's homes are warmed by the boiler which bears the name of this constituency.
There is much more—light engineering, hosiery, knitwear, and 52 farms. My hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker) talked of moving about on her bicycle and using it for getting around her constituency. She will be pleased to know that that also, although not built in, was certainly invented in Beeston.
As one travels round the industrial constituency one finds that in many ways it has accepted the challenge of the EEC by collaboration, by working with other companies in Europe, and by genuine increases in exports. I believe that the marketing director of Boots described its increase in exports as "explosive". As one who abhors violence in all forms, particularly in its present form in modern society, I enjoy using the word "explosive" when we refer to trade and exports within the Community.
943 I am concerned that the uncertainties raised in the Queen's Speech will not necessarily be helpful to the long-term livelihood of the area that I represent—an area which has accepted the challenge so well. When discussing fundamental renegotiation, one wonders whether it includes and takes account of the great deal of industrial groundwork that has been carried out over the past years, because within one year it can scarcely begin to bear fruit. I hope that these figures and calculations, when they come through, will also play a part when the benefits are calculated.
My constituency is in the heart of the country, in Nottinghamshire. In the heart of the constituency there is the Festival village of Trowell, which was chosen by the right hon. Herbert Morrison at the time of the great Festival of Britain. There is, therefore, a constant reminder of where one's heart should be.
Equally, in my constituency the coal industry has played a big part. I want to get involved in this subject, particularly in the House, because in local government I have been involved in the coal industry in so many ways, dealing with closures and with the healing of the scars that the coal industry has left on the landscape. I view the industry's future with great concern and interest, particularly within a European framework, in which it has played a founding part. The total of British energy, particularly the production from the coalfields of Nottinghamshire, will play a major part in the future.
But Europe is not all industry. At the top of my constituency there is the little town of Eastwood, which was part of the constituency of the hon. Member for Ash-field (Mr. Marquand) until the boundary changes. It is a town with a character and accent of its own. It is also the birthplace of D. H. Lawrence—and many of us are quoting literary figures in our speeches today. D. H. Lawrence was a man of few inhibitions, and there is no question but that he drew strength from his background in this community, and those of us who read both his books and his poetry know it. It is significant, however, that it was not until he visited the Rhine that his poetry started to blossom and his pansies or pensées were really a product of the Suns of Tuscany—and 944 Tuscany is an area which I should like to consider my second home. This, therefore, is part of Europe and part of the important thinking that influences most of us.
One of the most enjoyable occasions that I attended as a candidate was when the Eastwood comprehensive school staged a celebration of our entry into Europe. The young people of that school, with comparatively scarce resources, captured the culture, the variety, the cuisine, and the expanding horizon that was part of their natural history. They put that before many of us, including their parents. Whatever comes before the House concerning Europe I shall tend to judge in the light of these young people and hundreds of thousands like them, and their interests. We tend to talk about Europe as if it were just today; yet for many of us it is much more than that.
The Queen's Speech could mean that committed people would work for a better Europe. I was delighted to hear the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies). Indeed, one was comforted by the tone of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the practical way he approached the future. Many of us feel that there could be a tepid disinterest which is merely an excuse for withdrawal and a referendum which would just take account of the temporary discomforts.
Yesterday the Secretary of State for Employment showed a fine sense of the House and of the historic past, but many of my colleagues and I are concerned that the House should show an equally fine sense of the historic future.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
I have great pleasure in congratulating the hon. Member for Beeston (Mr. Lester) on his maiden speech to which we all listened with pleasure and interest. In view of my interest in matters other than foreign affairs, I was delighted to hear that there is a successful comprehensive school in his constituency. I am sure he will enthusiastically support the policy which the Government pursue towards comprehensive secondary education.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on the attainment of what is the most fascinating and colourful job in the spectrum of Government. 945 It has the drawback mentioned to me when I first took it on, when somebody said, "Remember that two-thirds of the human race are awake all the time". One becomes increasingly aware of this the longer one holds the post, but I am sure that my right hon. Friend will have the stamina. I also congratulate him on the fine quality of his first speech as Foreign Secretary.
I do not wish to detain the House unduly, so I shall concentrate on the topic raised by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir A. Douglas-Home) at the end of his speech. It was the one point where he differed sharply from my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. It appeared to concern the actions and attitude of the Government toward Chile, Greece and the white racial tyrannies in the African continent. The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire argued that the Government's policy in these matters was wrong; it was a failure to make friends. That means that there is a dimension of foreign policy which the right hon. Gentleman, and, I fear, many other members of the Opposition, have failed to grasp.
It is sometimes argued by the Opposition, "Why do you merely express a hostility to the tyrannies of countries such as Chile and Greece and the white racial tyrannies of Africa? Are there not other harsh tyrannies in the world?" There are, indeed, but our hostility to the tyrannies in Communist countries is known to the whole world; it is spelt out in the plainest manner possible by the establishment of the North Atlantic alliance, by this country's firm adherence to it and the clear expression of view, when there are exchanges between East and West, that we reject any policy that could lead to the extension into the West of the tyranny that now hangs over Eastern Europe.
But—and this is what is not understood by hon. Members opposite—it is also essential to make clear our rejection of other forms of tyranny. If we do not do so we shall increasingly forfeit the support of the younger generation for the North Atlantic alliance. If it comes to be supposed that Britain and its NATO partners, by their policies, are prepared to give a pat on the back to any collection of scoundrels provided that they say that they are anti-Marxist, that will erode 946 NATO in a way more serious than a decline in the number or quality of its weapons. It will erode it by reducing the number of people in the West who believe that NATO is serious and sincere when it says it is an alliance for the defence of liberty.
It must be admitted that the existence and the presence in the alliance of the present Governments of Greece and Portugal is an embarrassment to the alliance. I have never taken the view that we should try to exclude them from the alliance. I hope and trust that the alliance will prove more long-lived than the tyrannies in Greece and Portugal. I believe that it will still be needed and that it will still be standing when liberty returns to those two countries.
We must realise that the presence in the alliance of Greece and Portugal is a source of offence to other members of the alliance and that it creates a strain. To have them in the alliance is one thing, but to give them extra pats on the back by naval visits and compliments will impose a strain on the alliance that might prove far more serious than the loss of those two countries from the alliance. Hon. Members who are acquainted with the situation inside the alliance know that that is so. More than one member of the alliance has been asking seriously how long it can remain in the same alliance as those tyrannical countries. It is that dimension of foreign policy which the Opposition have not grasped.
§ Mr. Stewart
The hon. Gentleman interrupts everyone, and he nearly always makes a party point. He tries to trip us up on some sentence in the Gracious Speech. I am making a serious case. The hon. Gentleman can make his comments later, if he gets the chance to do so.
It is sometimes alleged against us that we criticise the white racial tyrannies in Africa and apply to them a double standard compared with other tyrannies. The point to be noticed is that there are many kinds of tyranny in the world. It is a nice question to decide which are the more wicked and the more cruel. It must be noted as a fact of world history in its present stage that white racial tyrannies are more dangerous to the peace of the world than any other kind of 947 tyranny because of the explosive situation which they create.
If it were the British Government's policy to show that it condoned white racial tyrannies in Africa, it would swing a huge part of the present uncommitted world on to the Communist side. It is that point which some of the apologists for the white racial tyrannies in Africa on the Opposition benches have not properly grasped. We cannot defend democratic liberties against Communism with one hand and applaud racial supremacy with the other. Apart from the moral absurdity of doing so, we have not the resources to do it.
I commend the actions which the Government have already taken. I hope that they will continue along those lines. I hope that they will look especially carefully at the Rhodesian situation, as it now stands. I fear that they will find that there has been a certain amount of slackness in the pressure of sanctions against Rhodesia. That should be remedied, not only because we detest the injustice of the present Rhodesian regime but because Britain will be judged by millions in Asia and Africa by the way it behaves on this issue.
I listened with great interest to the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind). He expressed the view that we want to see in Rhodesia a multi-racial society and not merely the replacement of white domination by black domination, even if that be domination by a majority. I agree with him. However, the longer the white domination by Ian Smith continues unchecked the smaller the chance of a happy multi-racial society in Rhodesia. The burden of wrong and injustice may have reached the point where reconciliation may not be possible. That is why it is of enormous importance to press on with sanctions.
One of the factors that keep the rebellious régime in Rhodesia alive is the belief that in the long term Britain will get tired of it and the world will forget it. If ever Smith and those with him are to be brought to the position where they can agree to terms which we can all honourably accept, it must be done by a policy which makes it clear to him that there is no hope of Britain or the rest 948 of the world forgetting or condoning his offence against liberty, humanity and loyalty to this country. If that is not done he will be encouraged in his present course to the injury of Africa, ourselves and the cause of liberty throughout the world.
I am sure that the Government will have these points in mind. I wish that they were more fully understood by the Opposition.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Sir Frederic Bennett (Torbay)
I tender my congratulations to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on your new position. We have enjoyed many years of friendship, going back to my father's representation of the seat which you now hold with such distinction.
I had intended before the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) rose, in case I should catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to begin with a compliment to him. I shall still pay him that compliment. I should have liked to see him—I mean this sincerely—as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the present Government. I think he knows that that is a genuine wish because he will remember occasions in the past when I was in Opposition and when he was Foreign Secretary when I had the pleasure of supporting him during some of his more difficult moments. As he has been a bit rough today I must remind him that on those occasions he was then often supported more strongly by my right hon. and hon. Friends than by some of his colleagues.
I noticed today one element of unfairness which I am sure was unintentional in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I know that he is incapable of deliberate unfairness. It is wrong to suggest that because some of my right hon. and hon. Friends have a different attitude towards a solution of some of the problems arising from the racialist régimes from the attitude which he holds that my party applauds such regimes. Remarks such as "applauding" and "patting on the back" are no more justified than I might be if I were to say when a large Labour Party delegation went for a beano to Moscow or if the present Prime Minister went on another beano to Prague that the Labour Party was patting on the 949 back the régimes in office in those two countries. To suggest that either side has a predilection towards a particular form of dictatorship or racism just because we have differences is not quite up to the level of the right hon. Gentleman's normal contribution.
My intervention will be short because I want to allow time for other hon. Members to speak. I was not quite sure what the right hon. Gentleman was suggesting about those members of the NATO alliance which from time to time, adopt a form of government of which we disapprove. There cannot be an alliance the members of which come in and out according to the régime of their country at a particular moment. I cannot see how there can be a voting system for deciding whether a member State should or should not remain in the alliance. I know that the right hon. Gentleman said that he was not advocating that anyone should go out of the alliance. He was advocating putting such member States into cold storage. There is a slightly sanctimonious element about that. Are we to pick and choose which of our allies at any moment we should be more polite to than others?
I am not worried about the cancellation of the naval visits. They are just silly. I cannot feel indignant. One bet I could safely have made with any bookmaker was that that would have been the first great act of State to be undertaken by a Labour Government. I do not intend to wax indignant about it. On balance, it probably does more harm to us than it does to those on whom we exercise the option. Let us assume that one day these countries adopt a form of government of which the right hon. Gentleman and his friends approve. If by then we have done our best to offend them it may be that warships, which have to be ordered many years ahead, will have been ordered from another Power. It will not do any good for us then to go back to Chile or Greece and to say, "Now that you have a Government that we like, please come to our shipyards and buy some ships from us", because by then decisions will certainly have been made to the contrary.
I admired the maiden speech made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pent-lands (Mr. Rifkind) about Rhodesia. He 950 and I have actually lived in the country as opposed to visiting it. The right hon. Gentleman neglected to deal with one matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Pentlands who said that it would be a great mistake to think that we could achieve our end by a social and spiritual sporting and personal boycott of the people in Rhodesia. There are few hon. Members who do not know in their hearts, even if they do not care to admit it, that the net effect of our sanctions has been to sustain a Right-wing racist tryranny in Rhodesia. I do not know one white Rhodesian who will not tell me quietly that if his country is under siege from outside he feels bound to protect it, come what may.
The more one tries to force a country into isolation, the more the reactionaries succeed. If there is one person whose continuation in office is by virtue of a British favour that person is Mr. Smith, because we have undertaken the worst of all exercises—ineffective sanctions. We therefore get the worst of all possible worlds. We do not induce a political change of mind and we make sure that an ultra Right-wing racist régime stays in power. The facts speak for themselves. As I am speaking here tonight, to my endless regret, the Centre Party is breaking up, precisely because of that.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
The hon. Gentleman is known as a Right-wing Conservative Member of Parliament, but he has fairly and reasonably described the Rhodesian situation as an ultra Right-wing racist régime. Even if it means extending his speech, which he said would be short, I should like him to say what he thinks we should do about Rhodesia. I assure him that from a Liberal and, I am sure, equally from a Socialist point of view, the problem of what we can do to be effective exercises us all.
§ Sir F. Bennett
I should genuinely like to respond to that request. The hon. Gentleman—who knows me well—will know that it is not because of lack of willingness that I do not do so but because it would be unfair to other hon. Members who are hoping to speak in the debate. We shall have a Rhodesian debate later this year when, if I catch Mr. Speaker's eye, I shall be glad to take up the invitation. I have always thought that the terms "Right-wing" and "Left-wing" 951 were not particularly useful. The comparison is really between the realist and the idealist. It is by referring to him as an idealist—sometimes called woollyheaded—that I pay a return compliment to the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston).
The only great Power that was not mentioned in the Foreign Secretary's speech was China, and that omission should be remedied in the closing stages of the debate. One of the most significant developments of the last few years, initiated by the previous Labour Government and continued by the Conservative Government, is the change in our relationship with China. For the Foreign Secretary to mention his desire to see an improvement in our relations with the Soviet Union without also stressing the importance of better relationships with China is a little irresponsible.
The right hon. Gentleman said some hard things to me, so I think that I am entitled to answer back. He mentioned Chile. Many of my hon. Friends in the last Parliament were accused of being Fascists, Monarcho-Fascists and ultra Right-wing because we said that, although we did not like the Chilean régime, it was there, and we had to deal with it. When she was in Opposition, the right hon. Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) said of Chile:We demand that credit be withheld and that Britain ensures that no help is provided from other agencies. We are powerful enough in the World Bank set-up to do that, particularly as we are one of the largest contributors to the IDA and a major subscriber to the bank. Britain should ensure that World Bank and IMF assistance is not resumed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November 1973; Vol. 865, c. 471.]Will the Minister of State give an answer to that? If he feels that it cannot be replied to, I am willing to put down a Question to elicit whether it is still the policy of the Government to bulldoze the World Bank into a certain line of conduct.
Again, the Conservatives were under fire on the question of recognition. We said that in the case of the new Greek Government we had to abide by the criterion of a Government effectively in force with some apparent element of permanence, which was the criterion which had been applied by the previous Labour Government. The Foreign Secretary 952 when in Opposition made a forceful plea about recognition of North Vietnam in these words:Is recognition supposed to be some sort of prize for good behaviour? Is North Vietnam on trial?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th June 1973; Vol. 858, c. 1744.]That was his criterion of whether a country should or should not be recognised. It was not a prize for good behaviour: it was just a fact. Later on he said of Greece that he did not believe in that criterion. He thought there should be some other, unstated, criteria as well. I have always wanted to know what were those other criteria. I wonder what in future will be the Labour Government's criteria for recognition.
When I had the opportunity to ask the Foreign Secretary how he could justify one course of action in the case of Greece and advocate another in the case of North Vietnam I said that it was impossible for him to have it both ways. He said that of course it was possible to have it both ways. On what basis do the Government claim that it is possible to have it both ways? This makes nonsense of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He said that there were two different sorts of régimes. He said, "We do not like authoritarian régimes, Left or Right, but there are reasons why we are ruder to the Right régimes than we are to the Left régimes."
In the realm of recognition, which is a fact, it is not a matter of moral approbation. I want to know from the Government whether the criteria which they pursued for recognition of a country when they were in Opposition are still in force today or whether they have some new ones. This question is bound to arise over and over again during the next few weeks. I have a shrewd suspicion that we shall see the same hypocrisy over and over again.
When I was querying the value of sanctions to Rhodesia the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Prime Minister told me that I did not understand that a great moral principle was involved, and that, even if it meant economic sacrifice for this country, a high principle was nevertheless, involved. When I said that if we were talking about a high moral principle we should extend the trade boycott to South Africa, which is keeping Rhodesia alive, I was told that it was a high moral principle which we could not 953 afford. I have a shrewd suspicion that exactly the same argument—as opposed to that contained in speeches in the country—will be advanced in the next few months.
However, I hope that there will be fewer attacks on Opposition Members alleging that we are Fascist or racist, because we have considerable ammunition against this, which we shall use to the considerable embarrassment of the Government benches.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)
Before calling the next speaker I wish to point out that I see that there are a lot of hon. Members who are hoping to speak in the debate, but I fear that time may run out. I know the agony of not being called to speak after having waited a long time, and I appeal to lion. Members to adopt self-discipline and to speak as briefly as possible.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
It is rather sad, after an interval of three and a half years, to return to the House and listen to some wearisome defence of a Right-wing racist régime. I was in the House for four years, from 1966 to 1970, and I suppose that some quarters of the House never learn, and never recognise that there are important principles in foreign policy which we must do our best to maintain.
I do not wish to take up the argument of the hon. Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett), who has just spoken. I wish to refer to what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said in his opening remarks about the importance of the United Nations and the Commonwealth, and I wish heartily to endorse his pronouncement that these two institutions, which are of enormous importance as institutions of international co-operation, will occupy a high place in his considerations and in the formation of Government policies.
This is of immense importance, for one well-defined political reason. I am doubtful whether any serious confrontation will arise between Western Europe and the United States and I am equally doubtful whether any dangerous confrontation will arise between the Western world and the Communist world, under present circumstances, notwithstanding the obsession of the right hon. Member 954 for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir A. Douglas-Home) about all the Russian divisions and tanks.
But there could be a serious confrontation—in fact, to a point, it has already occurred—between the Western world and the Third World of Asia and Africa. There are issues on which an explosion could occur and areas in which there may be a conflict between what the West considers its own particular interests and what the Third World considers to be matters of fundamental importance. We have already seen this confrontation in one form in the oil dispute.
It is not purely an economic conflict; it is also a political conflict. It could be that in the coming years, unless the West pursues its policies with skill, caution and genuine consideration for the views and aspirations of the countries of Asia and Africa, we shall run into other confrontations as dangerous and as difficult as the oil problem.
There are two areas of the world in which confrontation could arise—indeed, to some extent, it has already arisen. One is the Middle East; the other is Southern Africa—and South Africa in particular. It is no coincidence that these two cases are linked, because the problem in each case derives from the same fundamental issue, namely, the importation into a particular area of a racist ideology, which has poisoned relations between the peoples, and set peoples of different races against one another.
In the case of South Africa this is the ideology of apartheid and in the case of the Middle East it is the ideology of Zionism. Both these ideologies postulate that because a person is of a certain race or creed he has special rights or privileges, economically, politically or socially, which other groups, who do not share the same race or creed, are not entitled to, and are, in fact, denied. It is no coincidence that huge numbers of nations within the United Nations itself have voted together in overwhelming majorities time and time again in condemnation of the policies, behaviour and activity of Israel on the one hand, or South Africa on the other.
The fundamental issue is the same. It is a condemnation of a racist doctrine—apartheid or Zionism—which is applied 955 to the grievous detriment, harm and disadvantage of particular peoples. In South Africa it is applied to the detriment of the black African people and in Israel to the detriment of the native inhabitants of Palestine.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
Surely the hon. Gentleman is being grossly unfair in comparing the attitude of the State of Israel with the attitude of the State of South Africa. I am not taking sides regarding Israel versus the Arabs in the Middle East conflict, but to compare the democratic State of Israel with the situation in South Africa is quite unfair.
§ Mr. Hooley
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I am saying that the consequencies of a racist doctrine in the Middle East, namely, Zionism, have been similar to the consequences of a racist doctrine in South Africa, namely, apartheid, on certain groups of people. The large majority of people in South Africa and a minority in Palestine have suffered grievous harm and grievous economic, social and political oppression because they happen to be on the wrong side of the racist divide. That is the point I am making, and that is the question which the Western world must face in those two parts of the world.
If the hon. Gentleman doubts that, he mast find it strange that the same large majorities in the United Nations have condemned in equally strong terms the attitude and behaviour of South Africa, because of its apartheid doctrine, and the practices of Israel in Palestine and in respect of her neighbours, because of the consequences of the Zionist ideology. Those sweeping majorities are not made up only of Communist countries, African countries, Asian countries, Commonwealth countries, black countries or white countries; they comprise all the nations. If the hon. Gentleman examines the record, I think that he will find that what I have said is correct. The United Nations has been closely involved in both conflicts and has taken many decisions and made many recommendations to seek to resolve them.
I do not wish now to go over the grievous history of the Middle East conflict. It is a tragedy that the Government of Israel should send her young men to die to hold on to territory to which she 956 has no shred of legal or moral title. It is an equal tragedy that the Arab peoples should feel that they must wage war to recover territory to which they are fully entitled by law and custom, and which has been taken from them by military aggression.
But out of the recent war two slightly encouraging things have emerged. The first is the recognition by the Government of Israel that Israeli security can no longer depend upon her military might. That has been stated by no less an authority than Moshe Dayan, who has told his people that in the future Israel cannot rely on pure military force for the defence of the territory she now holds.
The second and probably more encouraging feature is that there now appears to be some disposition on the part of Israel to admit the rôle which the United Nations can play in guaranteeing security and safety for the countries in the Middle East and to accept much more readily and willingly than she has in the past the usefulness of a United Nations peacekeeping force, certainly in Sinai, and I hope in due course in the Golan Heights area as well.
I very much hope that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will press upon the Government of Israel, in so far as he has diplomatic influence in that direction, that one reassuring thing which Israel could do is to accept in principle the stationing of United Nations peacekeeping forces not only on Arab territory but on her own territory, by suitable agreement, in suitable strength, at the appropriate place.
The tragedy of 1967 was that U Thant offered to station the United Nations Emergency Force on the Israeli side of the border, to provide an internationally accepted barrier against any possible Egyptian aggression, and the Israeli Government refused the offer. They refused to accept what Egypt had accepted for 10 years. They refused to go along with the principle that their security can rest more easily under an international guarantee. We all know the consequences of 1967.
We may be moving to a situation in which Israel will come to the point of recognising that under the auspices of the United Nations she might enjoy greater, more genuine security in the 957 future than she can enjoy by the might of tanks, guns, Phantom aircraft and the rest of the apparatus that she has employed hitherto.
This argument is particularly important in the case of the Golan Heights area. Although the argument has been pressed energetically by the Zionist people in this country and elsewhere that the possession by Israel of the Golan Heights is essential to her security, no one has ever taken the trouble to explain, as was explained to me by a British military attaché in Amman some years ago, that the possession of the Golan Heights by a foreign military force is a deadly threat to the security of both Syria and Jordan, as that area is as much a place of strategic military importance to the defence of Syria and Jordan as it is to the defence of Israel.
If my right hon. Friend can impress that upon the Israeli Government, and help, by whatever diplomatic influence he possesses on both sides in the Middle East, to get that area under international control and surveillance, a great deal will have been done towards creating a better situation in the Middle East. Equally, there must be a full recognition by Israel that complete recompense must be given to the 1¼ million Palestinian people who have been driven out of their homeland and denied any form of compensation for their land and property—not to mention the lives of their families lost in the past 25 years. This is the situation to which the two principles of Resolution 242 relate and it is important that we keep them in mind.
I slightly dissent from the Foreign Secretary's view that Britain should not press to take an active role in any peacekeeping arrangements which may be made in the Middle East. It would greatly enhance the permanence of such arrangements if all the permanent members of the Security Council in the United Nations were seen to be taking part in a genuine international guarantee of whatever settlement we can arrive at in the next 12 months, or perhaps longer.
I should like to say a few words about Southern Africa. I believe that that area provides a challenge to the development and the authority of the United Nations. I believe that the United Kingdom should take up a far more forceful attitude on Portugal and, judging by recent reports, 958 it may be that even among the higher echelons in the Portuguese Government there is some recognition at least that the bitter and savage war which has been waged in Portugal's African territories cannot go on for ever and that Portugal must come to terms with the peoples of those lands. I hope that the recent reports have some substance and that they will provide an opportunity for diplomatic and other efforts by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary—through NATO, for example—to bring strong pressure to bear on Portugal to abandon the vicious, cruel and useless set of colonial wars.
The other issue in Southern Africa which is of great importance in terms of the authority of the United Nations is that of Namibia—or what was formerly known as German West Africa. South Africa, without any right at all, is extending the savage and brutal practices of political separation and apartheid into that area and is trying and persecuting the indigenous political movements within Namibia. By so doing South Africa is defying the clear decision of the General Assembly and the International Court about the future status of the territory. I hope that my right hon. Friend will make it clear that the United Kingdom will do everything in its power to bring about the implementation of decisions on Namibia by the United Nations and by the International Court.
I have one final comment. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, Britain is what we now call a medium-rank power, but it is true that there are within the United Nations many other Powers of medium rank who are willing, with suitable leadership, to play a valuable and constructive part in developing the forces of the United Nations and in bringing to bear pressure in situations such as the Middle East and Southern Africa, to advance causes and principles which I think hon. Members in most parts of the House now share. Sweden, Finland, Canada, Yugoslavia, New Zealand and other countries are willing to adopt this kind of role—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) wants me to go on, I shall elaborate.
§ Mr. Hooley
I believe that, given the right leadership, the United Kingdom can 959 play an important rôle in developing the effectiveness of the United Nations and helping to resolve some of the extremely difficult problems which may lead to a confrontation between the West and the Third World.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe)
I begin by welcoming you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the Chair. In doing so I shall be careful to avoid incurring your wrath by speaking at too great a length in my first speech before you. I am only sorry that lack of time will prevent my commenting on the number of spectacular maiden speeches which I have heard in this debate. I should like to say one particular word about the hon. Member for Beeston (Mr. Lester) who now represents a considerable number of my former constituents. Having heard his first contribution to the House I am delighted to know that those constituents will be so well represented by him in the coming years.
I wish to take this debate away from the international geographical ramblings indulged in by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley), back again to the proposed renegotiation of the terms of our entry into Europe, which was dealt with by the Foreign Secretary. I was considerably reassured by the way in which the right hon. Gentleman put this singularly puzzling part of the Labour Party's programme now that it has formed a minority Government.
Nothing that the right hon. Gentleman said could have given much joy to anyone who still had any illusion that this country would leave the European Community at some stage. He assured us that the renegotiations would not be any kind of confrontation. It was clear that they would be conducted through the machinery of the Council of Ministers and within the set-up of the EEC as this Parliament legislated that the country should join it. I hope that, given the tenor of what he said, my party and the Opposition, who outnumber the Labour Party, will respond in kind and will not obstruct reasonable discussions with the Europeans if there is some prospect of a worthwhile advantage to our population coming from them.
The Opposition believe that we negotiated entirely acceptable terms, and 960 we remain glad to have put them to Parliament and to have recommended them to the country. However, if in discussions with our fellow members this new Government are able to produce changes in the balance of interests between the member countries I am sure that no one will want to try to prevent progress being made which will be to the advantage of our population.
Since we joined the Community the process of negotiation on issue after issue has been going on all the time, and in my view the Opposition should lend their weight to the Government's advocacy of British interests where they put them forward legitimately in the negotiations.
That is not the issue between the two sides of the House, of course. The issue that I feared might arise between my party and the Government was the idea that renegotiation would be some selfish or chauvinistic attempt to turn absolutely everything in the EEC to our short-term, narrow financial advantage. There are those Government supporters who would like to go through the details of Community policy extracting advantage from every single one of them in cash terms, in the mistaken belief that Britain has to be a net gainer on every head of European policy before the idea is at all acceptable. That is a strange method of bargaining for mutual advantage between any association of States, and it would be a strange foreign policy. But clearly that is not a policy which will be pursued by this Government. If it becomes the policy pursued by them under pressure from their backbenchers we shall have to take a sterner attitude.
Having heard the Foreign Secretary shed a little more light on what he intends to negotiate about, it was interesting to hear that the terms of entry, which originally were what the renegotiation was to be about, were not to feature very large. Most of the terms on which this country entered the EEC have been overtaken by events.
The sugar agreement remains an important element, and it was one about which we experienced difficulty when we entered the EEC. However, the details of the sugar debate at the time that we joined have now been overtaken by higher world prices outside the Commonwealth agreement. Again, the 961 terms for New Zealand seem to have faded, because they have not created any great practical problems. However, the Community's agricultural policy, which was one of the basic items in our negotiations to enter, remains an important matter, and in April the new Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries faces a tough agenda, which would have been faced by his predecessor had my party won the election.
For the immediate short-term future, the Foreign Secretary emphasised that he will try to stop domestic prices going up, and he reassured the British housewife in those terms. However, he knows quite well that the only risk of that arising in terms of any commodity, out of the April discussions, is in beef. If he intends to try to keep down the price of beef in the April negotiations I hope that he will take steps to guarantee beef production over the coming year or two as well.
The only other term of entry to which the Foreign Secretary intends to bring attention is our contribution to the Community. That certainly can be discussed. The method of self-financing of the Community is coming into question in the Community itself, but it is one matter which obviously will have to be taken up by the new Government.
The levy on imported foodstuffs will be an irregular source of finance to the EEC and it is looking of doubtful value. On the question of the 1 per cent. VAT, I am sure that the Government have every chance of negotiating zero VAT on foodstuffs and the like. That point was carried with the assistance of the Conservative delegation to the European Parliament only recently.
The Government will find that all these matters are already on the agenda. If they wish to call it "renegotiation", I trust that they will get on with the serious business of discussing all the other matters which Europe is evolving and which it is in our interests to get on with.
Some regional policy clearly must come forward quickly. I hope that the Government will do better than we did. I am not criticising former Ministers for the delay, but there has been disappointment that no new regional policy has come forward.
962 The democratic institutions must be reviewed and strengthened. Even if the Labour Government carry on with the almost laughable business of not sending representatives to the European Parliament, I hope that they will back up the efforts made by Conservative Members to increase the European Parliament's budgetary and other powers in the Community.
I turn now to the question of economic and monetary union. Half the EEC's currencies are floating, and the snake is long since dead and forgotten. Some form of economic and monetary union is a logical successor to any free trading area if there is to be genuine free competition within that area. I am sure that any renegotiation will be welcomed.
I could go on through all the matters that the Government have to "renegotiate" if they wish. For example, there is the matter of agreement with the 45 associated States. Progress needs to be made in strengthening the aid policy in the EEC.
The social fund should be developed. This country is doing quite well out of the social fund, but I hope that that will be "renegotiated".
Our common bargaining position on GATT has to be looked at. I look forward to the Secretary of State for Trade contributing to the evolution of a common bargaining position for the European Commission in the GATT negotiations.
The Foreign Secretary should take part in the regular meetings of Foreign Ministers. What he said about our position vis-à-vis the Americans and Europe and our relations with the Arab States are matters on which he will clearly make an extremely valuable contribution to the evolution of European foreign policy.
All these matters are on the agenda and were being actively discussed in the institutions of the European Community before the election. What is being called "renegotiation" is merely carrying on the process of the previous Government, but paying lip service to one part of the Labour Party.
The Government cannot, without prolonging a major political crisis, start negotiating on the matter of sovereignty to the extreme that many opponents of the EEC would wish. They cannot get round 963 the direct application of legislation once enacted by the Council of Ministers. They cannot throw out the entire common agricultural policy. They cannot abandon the principle of Community preference. These matters amount to complete withdrawal from the Community. I trust that this minority Government will not attempt to put them on the agenda.
I have spoken in terms of "renegotiation", but I am reluctant to allow this jargon to dominate the European debate in this country because it is not understood and is not what the country thinks we are talking about. The difficulty underlying the European debate is that the whole country is still split on the principles of entry, that the House is split on the principles of entry, and that the Labour Party is split on the principles of entry.
Renegotiation is a comforting formula which was devised to take the heat from this political problem at a time when there are those who still want us to withdraw from the Community. The formula devised originally, that the Labour Party wanted entry into the EEC in principle but not on Tory terms, has not been believed by anybody.
Is the Secretary of State for Trade urging British membership in principle only if the terms can be put right? Is the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) suddenly against the terms negotiated by the Conservative Government which he endorsed at the time by voting in favour of entry? Did Enoch Powell lend his support to the Labour Party in the election because he thought that some of the terms for renegotiation were what the public were demanding?
The issue was whether we should join. That has been settled by Parliament. I trust that the Government will not use the charade of renegotiating to reopen this issue. I am delighted to see from his style that the Foreign Secretary intends to play for time and to allow these things to be conducted in a reasonable and civilised manner.
At the end of this strange process, which is really only a political formula devised for the needs of the moment, the results will be put to the British people, presumably in a referendum. The referendum has an unhappy history in our recent 964 Political past. The Prime Minister refused to contemplate it in principle at the 1970 election. Even when the European Communities Bill was going through the House a referendum was rejected by the Labour Party. The right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn)—now Secretary of State for Industry—however, kept it going and finally pressed upon his right hon. Friends the need to go for a referendum, with the result that the present Home Secretary resigned on that issue and has, as far as I know, never supported it.
Even then there was this division, and there is still genuine constitutional doubt about a referendum over the issue of whether or not we joined. How can there be a referendum on renegotiation once we have joined? We are not entirely clear what is being renegotiated, what question will be put to the British public, how it will be put and what the Government will say about it. I do not believe a referendum will ever take place. The Prime Minister said in the debate on the Queen's Speech that there would "almost certainly" be a referendum. We all know and the Labour Party knows better than we do what "almost certainly" means in the politics of the Prime Minister. It is very little guide to his future actions. At the end of these renegotiations I trust that the Foreign Secretary with his great skill will be able to persuade his party that all the worst Tory blemishes will be removed and the whole thing can then perhaps be made to work in an acceptable Socialist way if we carry on as we are. If he fails to do so and if a fraudulent question is put to the public about a supposed process of renegotiation, I hope that the House will reject such a clear affront to its constitutional position and our political tradition once again as it did in the last Parliament.
I trust that once the Government have got over the difficulty of saddling themselves with this strange election commitment they will get down to a sensible European policy aimed at producing a decent level of unity among the members. Even I, as a keen pro-marketeer, recognise the present problems of the lack of unity in Europe, the lack of a proper relationship with the United States, the difficulties of establishing a relationship with the Arabs, and general problems of payments deficits which will arise because 965 of higher oil prices. All these need a sensible European policy from the Government, which I hope they can soon find their way back to pursuing.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
This is the first time that I have spoken since you assumed your present office, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I therefore add my congratulations to those that have already been expressed. We welcome your clarion voice, hoping that it does not suffer as mine has done from the effects of the last election.
The hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) was obviously endeavouring to distract his right hon. and hon. Friends from their present troubles by stirring things up a little. I am not certain whether the redistribution of boundaries in his constituency qualifies him as a maiden speaker but he was a Government Whip in the last Parliament and no doubt we shall hear from him again.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) who has done a rapid streak, fully clothed, back to Parliament and right on to the Front Bench. There has been one change since he last sat on these benches. In the days of 1964, 1966 and 1970 he always listened to back benchers out of courtesy and interest. Now the numerical divisions of the House make it necessary for my right hon. Friend to listen with very special attention.
Despite pressure of time, I still hope to make this a short speech so as to leave some time for hon. Members opposite.
I want to do a sort of Cook's tour—four stops, one in Western Europe, one in the Far East, one south to Rhodesia and the last even further south in South Africa. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will simply scribble down a few notes; I do not intend to go into detail.
On Europe, I hope that the Minister of State and his right hon. Friends will appreciate that there are two ways in which negotiations can be conducted—either with the intention to succeed or with the intention to fail. Every hon. Member on the Government side ought to have fought the last election intending that those negotiations should at least 966 have a chance—that there should be a genuine attempt to succeed. After that genuine attempt, the British people will have their choice. My personal opinions are not important but if there is any attempt at going in to wreck the negotiations, difficulties may arise.
I turn now to the question of the Far East, and the subject of corruption in Hong Kong and the sanctuary afforded under British law to those people who have been in the colony, who are, in the formal phrase, "wanted to assist the Government of Hong Kong in their inquiries into corruption", yet who can, because of the different laws of the colony and the United Kingdom, maintain a perfectly lawful existence here. Why does the law of England protect those wanted in a British colony to help the police in inquiries into corruption? Why should there be two laws for what is, in the main, one Government and one crown colony. If my right hon. Friend could give his attention to this conflict it would be appreciated.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pent-lands (Mr. Rifkind) made a most moving speech about Rhodesia. My right hon. Friend will not be short of advice in this respect. Some will say that he should do more, others that he should do less, some that he should do nothing and others that he should do everything. My only advice is that lie should do as little as possible at this time, that he should wait and see. He and his right hon. Friends, particularly the Prime Minister, discovered a fortnight ago that there are times when it serves them and the country to sit and wait and do nothing and then to wait a little longer for the action. This is a time for waiting to see what happens in Rhodesia and for being prepared.
Finally, I turn to South Africa. The great argument that has echoed across the Chamber tonight is "contact or quarantine". Some say that the conditions in the Republic are so bad that no civilised decent human being would have anything to do with them while others say that there are hundreds of thousands of good men and women of all races, creeds and colours there working to help their fellow men of all races, creeds and colours. These people say—this is not just my opinion—that they say to everyone in every assembly in the world, 967 "Help us; do not abandon us." This is the cry that comes to me at least from South Africa, and I hope that it will be noted.
What frightens me about foreign affairs debates, more than any other debates, is the certainty which comes over in some of the views expressed. My right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) said in a recent foreign affairs debate that the Chinese have a special curse for their special enemies: "May you live in interesting times." My right hon. Friend did not want foreign affairs to be interesting, but dull, progressive and generally making progress. We have had enough interesting times from October of last year through to this time. I hope that that kind of spirit, plodding and perhaps dull, will allow those of us who speak on this subject to acknowledge the possibility that we may be wrong. Enthusiasm has little place in foreign affairs.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Rippon (Hexham)
I should like first to join those who have expressed their pleasure in seeing you occupying the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It will be gratifying to all of us to do as you tell us in future.
I should like also to join in congratulating the Foreign Secretary upon his appointment and upon his speech. I welcome, as I think my right hon. and hon. Friends do generally, the tenor of his speech this afternoon, representing, as much of it did, a continuity in the direction of British foreign policy. In the event, as my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett) indicated in his speech, much will depend on the way in which the words are translated into deeds. I certainly hope that the Minister will find time to answer the very pertinent questions which my hon. Friend raised in his speech.
We have listened to a number of fine maiden speeches this afternoon by my hon. Friends the Members for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd), Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) and Beeston (Mr. Lester) and also by the hon. Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson). They covered a wide variety of subjects from overseas aid to southern Africa to the important part that youth can play in the European move- 968 ment. They were all helpful and constructive, and I think that they are a happy augury for the calibre of the debates, to which we can look forward, on the great issues of international affairs in the House. I would wish that more of my hon. Friends had had an opportunity of contributing, because there are a number who have waited throughout this debate. It has been a full and an interesting discussion.
I wish to speak particularly tonight about the future of Europe and Europe's rôle in the world. Our starting point is that since the war successive British Governments have sought to achieve a closer European unity. The purpose of our application to join the European Community was never more powerfully expressed than in the historic speeches which the present Prime Minister made in this House on 2nd May and 8th May 1967, and I have never found any reason to dissent from the general propositions which he put forward on those occasions. On 2nd May 1967 he spoke ofthe long-term potential for Europe, and, therefore, for Britain, of the creation of a single market approaching 300 million people, with all the scope and incentive which this will provide for British industry, and of the enormous possibilities which an integrated strategy for technology, on a truly Continental scale, can create.That, of course, is still true, and, as my right hon. Friend indicated at the beginning of this debate, the poll of British businessmen conducted by the Economist confirms the situation. Quite apart from the poll, it is important to look at the fact that Britain's exports to the rest of the Community rose in value by 35 per cent. in the first 10 months of 1973–9 per cent. more than our exports to the rest of the world and faster than the expansion of world trade as a whole.
But our aims in seeking European unity are not just economic. As the Prime Minister said on 8th May 1967:Our purpose is to make a reality of the unity of Western Europe."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1967; Vol. 746, c. 1095.]I felt that was reaffirmed by the Foreign Secretary in his speech today.
Our differences lie not in the purpose of our European policy but in the nature of the terms on which our entry to the Community was negotiated. The way in which the Foreign Secretary expressed it 969 was that the agreements of 1967 did not adequately protect British interests. That is, and always has been, a valid difference of opinion between hon. Members on both sides of the House. In the event, in the last House of Commons a majority of 112, including 69 Labour Members of Parliament, voted for entry on the basis of the terms negotiated. But that was in the circumstances of that time.
Although the Community slowed down in order to make our accession easier, we were, of course, joining a moving train. That made the negotiations themselves difficult, but it also enabled me to forecast at the time—and this was borne out by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke)—that the terms that we negotiated, essentially transitional as most of them would be, would within a space of years be "in the ashcan of history".
I think that the Foreign Secretary, if I may say so with respect, made a proper distinction between the negotiation of, say, the financial burden and the question of negotiation or renegotiation of the terms either of the Treaty of Rome or of the Treaty of Accession. It may well be unrealistic to talk of renegotiating the terms of the Treaty of Accession and, say, the key to the budget which we agreed. On the other hand, we have said right along that the size and shape of the budget was something that would change consistently, and that is something on which we have every right to negotiate to ensure that there is, as the Foreign Secretary said, a fair burden, a fair balance of advantage between the countries which are members of the Community.
It cannot be, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe said, always a juste retour. There would be no point in a Community of that kind. On the other hand, we have a very great interest in the regional development fund and the way in which that is negotiated, and in the development of the social policies of the Community. We are already the largest beneficiaries of the Social Fund, receiving last year £24 million, or about a third of the total available. That seems to be one field in which, as members of the Community, we have a full right to negotiate or renegotiate, however one may put it.
970 The same is true of the common agricultural policy. As the Prime Minister said on 8th May 1967:It is useless to think that we can wish it away"—that is, the common agricultural policy—and I should be totally misleading the House if 1 suggested that this policy is negotiable. We have to come to terms with it. But we can play our part in affecting its future development if, but only if, we are members of the Community."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May 1967; Vol. 746, c. 1066.]As he said later the same year in his great speech at Strasbourg on 23rd January:Many of the details, many of the consequential decisions—important though they may be—can best be settled on a continuing basis from within the Community.I am sure that is right, and I am sure we all welcomed the way in which the Foreign Secretary said that he would not pursue the policy of the empty chair at the Council of Ministers.
I should, however, like to reinforce what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Sir D. Dodds-Parker) and the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Mabon) about the importance of full representation at the European Parliament. It is an influential body, and it would grow in influence if we played our full part within it. I hope that the Minister will be able to say more about that.
I think it was unfortunate in many ways, certainly in terms of the impetus of the European movement in the country, that subsequent to the signing of the Treaty of Accession all our hopes for European unity, its prosperity and its security were reduced almost to a question of whether or not we could or should have a Report stage for the European Communities Act. That was, of course, an Act to ratify the treaty by making the necessary changes in our domestic law in order to enable our accession to take place.
I was a little saddened by the way in which the right hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Sir A. Irvine) said in the course of the debate on the Gracious Speech that he had been greatly disturbed by the fact that there had been no Report stage on the Bill. But the trouble was that the period between the signing of the treaty and our accession 971 to the Communities after passing the necessary legislation was the one time when renegotiation or negotiation of any kind was manifestly impossible.
Negotiations can, and should, be a continuing process, not to destroy the European Communities but to widen and strengthen their purposes—as the Foreign Secretary suggested, political and social as well as economic.
As was said in our General Election manifesto:Renegotiation of the Community in the sense of reforming its practices and redefining Britain's place in it is a continuing process, which can only be conducted from within, and in which we are already playing a full part. Renegotiation in the sense of British withdrawal, which is what a section of the Labour Party seeks, would be a disaster for which future generations would never forgive us.
§ Mr. John Biffen (Oswestry)
Would my right hon. and learned Friend admit within the ambit of permissible renegotiation circumstances which would require the amendment of Section 2 of the European Communities Act and which would restore to this Parliament legislative powers that were surrendered under that Act?
§ Mr. Rippon
We had great discussions in the course of the Committee stage of the European Communities Bill on the extent to which sovereignty would be affected by our joining the Community. Here again, the position was set out fairly from the outset in 1967 by the then Lord Chancellor and by the present Prime Minister. They indicated clearly the extent to which sovereignty would be affected. In so far as that Act required changes in our domestic law to make it possible for us to adhere to the Treaty, I do not think that part of the Act is renegotiable. That is my personal view.
I prefer to accept the view expressed by the Foreign Secretary that we should proceed on the basis which he indicated—"You see how far you go". I have no doubt that he will then make suggestions regarding the Government's progress which will not involve renegotiation either of the Treaty of Rome or of the Treaty of Accession. We must leave him to do that in due course if he so wishes. No treaty has ever been 972 signed which a Government are not entitled to renegotiate.
§ Mr. Biffen
Will my right hon. and learned Friend clear up a point of some substance? Is he saying that it is his personal view that Section 2 of the European Communities Act is inviolate? Or is he seeking to say and to interpret the Conservative commitment that it is also the view of the Conservative Party, by virtue of its election manifesto, that Section 2 is incapable of amendment?
§ Mr. Rippon
It would be a very bold man who said that any section of an Act was incapable of amendment. The discussions were on the basis that the Act was necessary in order to ratify the treaty and to make the necessary changes in our domestic law so that we could fulfil the generality of the obligations under the treaty. That I do not believe is easily renegotiable. Of course, we had arguments about the ultimate sovereignty of Parliament. Of course, a treaty can be broken, or, with the agreement of all the other parties to the treaty, one can renegotiate any part of it if that is desired.
My view of the negotiation process corresponds more closely to that expressed by the Foreign Secretary and in the terms of our manifesto.
In the negotiations we should bear in mind the benefits we have enjoyed since joining, which have been considerable in respect of industry; our receipts from the Social Fund and the Coal and Steel Community's funds and payments from the European Investment Bank. We have received many benefits. Some fears have not proved quite as serious as many people felt, including that about the price of food, with which the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) fully dealt. The fears expressed have not been justified, and some of the allegations made during the General Election campaign were manifestly distorted and untrue.
The position was summarised fairly in a perceptive article by Mr. Robert Stephens in this week's Observer, in which he points out that there is strong evidence that the old picture of Britain being forced to choose between free access to cheap world food and the high prices of the protected Common Market is no longer valid. Indeed, he said that 973 membership of the EEC may have cut the cost of our food. There is a lot in the arguments that have been advanced that the era of cheap food, like the era of cheap oil, may now be over. That is already true of wheat and cereals and may prove true of other farm products, including meat and dairy products. In practice at this present moment, as Mr. George Thomson has observed, France is giving Britain a bread subsidy.
But the Foreign Secretary is quite right in saying that, in the area especially of world food prices, the situation can change rapidly and two good world harvests may make a difference. My right hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) is more likely to be right when he says that it is dangerous to proceed on the assumption that there will be some downward trend in world prices. But it is a fair point for anyone to make. It emphasises how negotiation has to be a continuing process, and, doubtless, there will be some difficulty in determining the point of time in which the negotiations that have to be made on an annual basis can be put to the British people.
Also, it should be recognised that my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), as Minister of Agriculture, had already proposed modifications to take account of the need for a proper return to efficient producers as well as the impact of our policy on consumers and taxpayers alike. Those two facets of agricultural policy are, as many speakers have pointed out, complementary.
My right hon. Friend, as Minister of Agriculture in the previous Government, listed six points on which he said that we set particular store in the coming round of negotiations. First, he thought that the Community must act positively in the context of the common agricultural policy to combat inflation and contain consumer prices. Secondly, methods of financial control must be improved, and forecasting, costing, and the expenditure control system must be tightened up. Thirdly, surpluses must be reduced and a new method devised for their control. Fourthly, the cost of the common agricultural policy must be contained. Fifthly, price support mechanism must be simplified and, sixthly, the price relationship between different products must be improved. That is quite a lot for the new Minister of Agriculture to be getting 974 along with in the course of the perfectly proper negotiations which should take place in the defence of our interests.
The Foreign Secretary also spoke of the Commonwealth and developing countries. Throughout the negotiations we were all concerned that the Commonwealth countries should not only have continuing relationships with us but with the European Community as a whole, both in the sphere of trade and aid, and investment.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe pointed out, quite apart from the special arrangements for Commonwealth sugar and New Zealand dairy products, where already terms have tended to change as the facts of the situation have changed, we negotiated special arrangements for developing countries to have association agreements with the Community and for the expansion, as well as maintenance, of trade with the Asian Commonwealth. What we want to achieve for the developing countries—here I entirely agree with the Foreign Secretary—is the diversification of export markets for them and a substantial increase in their trade prospects. We should welcome the fact that even now negotiations are in train between the Nine and the 43 States of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, to establish a comprehensive contractual relationship, which will, I trust, help convert the relationship between Europe and the Third World from one of dominance and dependence into one of genuine interdependence. It is in this sphere that we hope the British Government will play a full part.
When we talk about overseas aid we should sometimes remember that there is a basic incompatibility between the concept of a cheap food policy and increased aid to developing countries. What the developing countries need is the proper price for what they produce and a market in which to sell it. Further, they need now a wider market than we, in this country, can provide.
It is not, therefore, simply a question of a particular percentage of gross national product—whether it is 0.7 per cent. of official aid or a 1 per cent. target on another basis. It is a question of providing trade and a real rise in the standard of living in these countries. It makes no sense to lend money, as we sometimes do 975 in the developed world, to a developing country to develop secondary industries and then deny a market for what they produce.
§ Mr. Hooley
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that this is precisely what the policy of the Common Market has been hitherto? It has discriminated far more severely against the products of developing countries than this country has, and we are now drifting into its attitude instead of reinforcing our own.
§ Mr. Rippon
That is why it is so valuable that we should be within the Community—to influence what is for the good of the developing countries of the world. The Community is for them, as it is for us, one of the most important markets available. But we should not be too smug about our contribution to overseas aid. The Community has a fine record in this field and was the first to introduce a generalised preference scheme, which we support and want to see expanded.
Quite apart from any changes that we may wish to see in the attitudes and policies of the Community, whether they affect ourselves or the Third World, we should certainly be pursuing the concept—again, well expressed by the Foreign Secretary—of a wider Europe. The European Economic Community is not the whole Europe, and we have never pretended that it is. We want to protect the interests of our former partners in EFTA which have association agreements with the Community, which they negotiated instead of full membership in most cases because of their neutrality and other factors of their particular situation. We want to seek every opportunity—and the last Government did this—to involve every nation in Europe in developments in all fields where they can participate—for example, in environmental and energy policy—whether it is through the Council of Europe or the OECD or other appropriate organisation. We still retain our interest and influence within those organisations and we should now use it from our stronger position.
I was glad that the Foreign Secretary accepted the need for EEC co-operation in energy matters. We should also be prepared to co-ordinate European re- 976 search effort in finding alternative sources of energy—particularly in nuclear developments. This is in no way incompatible with continuing with all industrialised countries in seeking general political solutions in our relations with the oil-producing countries.
The Foreign Secretary referred particularly to the October 1972 summit conference in Paris and to last year's conference in Copenhagen—the effort that Europe should speak with one voice. I did not feel that he necessarily objected to the aims expressed but thought that they were a little over-ambitious. What they certainly are is perfectly compatible with our interests and obligations under the Atlantic alliance. As a number of Members have pointed out, it is not the danger of an excessive harmonisation of policy in Europe that threatens our future or that of the Atlantic alliance, but the lack of ability to co-ordinate and co-operate and harmonise as effectively as should.
So I believe that in the months and years ahead our purpose must be to lift the European theme to a higher and more political level. We need to emphasise the fundamental political importance of a strong European Community with Britain as an active member, not only for Europe but for the United States and the Atlantic alliance as a whole.
Successive United States administrations supported our entry into the European Community, and certainly the present administration did so. President Nixon and Dr. Kissinger supported it to the full and helped in every way that they could. They recognised that it might mean some sacrifice in the first instance of the United States economic interest, though we for our part have tried, as it were, to repay the obligation, as my right hon. Friend said, in the GATT negotiations.
§ Mr. Rippon
I do not think that I should give way.
It is still an American, as it is a European, interest, that we should be full members of the European Community. It does not, of course, mean that the sacrifices should be all one way, and I think we must all recognise that there are many Americans who have felt for a long time that the United States has 977 shouldered a disproportionate share of the burden of the alliance—not only in defence but in the international monetary community and in the aid and development area.
At the same time, I am sure that the United States has no intention of diminishing its commitment to Europe or of imperilling the Atlantic alliance itself. I believe, however, that we have to be prepared to examine the instruments of the alliance and show a greater willingness in Europe to assume a greater responsibility for our own defence.
This may hardly be the moment to contemplate a reduction in the effectiveness of our own defence. It may be the other way around, and the countries of Europe may have to consider increasing their own contribution. They are wealthy enough, experienced enough, but they are not yet, I believe, united enough. I believe that the continuance in Europe of divisions and weaknesses is far more dangerous to the United States than the creation of a stronger and more self-reliant partner. Only by developing within the Community do I believe that we can in the end establish the satisfactory relationship we want between Europe and North America.
As my right hon. Friend was saying at the beginning of this debate, Europe has torn itself apart, and with it most of the Western world, in two fratricidal wars. In Europe we would, I believe, do well to consider the cost of dying as well as the cost of living—dying, I would say, not just in a physical sense but in a spiritual sense. I believe that the greatest danger we face is the intellectual disarmament of the West. What is required is a greater will on the part of us all to survive in a European Community and to create this better, wider European Community.
In so far as that was what the Foreign Secretary was driving at, he will have our support. I am sure he will take the advice of my right hon. Friend and heed these wider strategic considerations because we must not stumble for a third time in this century into disaster.
§ Mr. Marten
If the Labour Party does a successful or semi-successful renegotiation and then proposes that it should be put to a referendum, could my right hon. and learned Friend say, as spokesman on the Front Bench today, whether the 978 Conservative Party would oppose the referendum?
§ Mr. Rippon
We expressed our view in the course of the debates on the European Communities Act. We did not think that was the right way of proceeding, and neither did the present Prime Minister for a long time. I think those were the correct constitutional principles.
The Labour Party are committed not to a referendum but only to finding some suitable means of putting the results of their negotiations to the country. I do not believe there will be a point of time when a referendum would make sense in terms of continuing negotiation.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign and Commenwealth Affairs (Mr. David Ennals)
There have been many congratulations to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary not only on his assumption of office but on the speech which he gave this afternoon. I want to say personally what a pleasure it is for me, on returning to the House after a number of years' absence, to be serving with him. I am in the almost unique position of being one of the only two Ministers who have never sat on the Opposition benches. This is a record that I intend not to break.
During the debate there have been four maiden speakers, and I know that all right hon. and hon. Members wish to congratulate them on their performances. It is always difficult to make one's first speech in this Chamber. I congratulate the hon. Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson), who brings with him a great experience of the motor car industry and of supranational companies. The hon. Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd) has a lot of experience in the United Nations. I did not agree with many of the things that he said—I shall refer to them later—but his experience will be of great value here.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) recounted his personal experience of life in Indonesia. Again, my experiences in Rhodesia differed a little from his, but nevertheless he is welcome here, as is the hon. Member for Beeston (Mr. Lester).
For some members, this debate may seem to be something of an anti-climax after yesterday's melodrama. It was a 979 bit of relief last night to stop drafting my election address and turn my mind to today's debate. It has been a serious and important debate and one which has been closely watched in many parts of the world because it has enabled a new Labour Government to spell out, at least in general terms, the basis of our foreign and Commonwealth policies. It will, I am sure, be a relief to most countries that the outcome of yesterday's debate has not led to a further period of uncertainty about who will be at the helm for the next few years, in the conduct of Britain's overseas relationships.
There are, in my view, too many people in Britain who believe that our current grave economic problems and the fact that our economic strength does not give us the status of a super-Power mean that our influence in the world is insignificant. That is just not so, though it is my conviction that many of the actions of the previous administration, and some of its inactions, have served to decrease our impact on world affairs. Our policies in Government will be based on those set out in our election manifesto and summarised in the Gracious Speech.
This brings me to the point made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir A. Douglas-Home) about the continuity of foreign policy. He speaks with tremendous experience on these matters, and I am a new boy. Of course, there is a case to be made for continuity, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman and the House that we shall never make changes simply for the sake of doing so. We are not wreckers. Our policies will be constructive, relevant and based both on our own principles and on the interests of peace and co-operation in the world.
We shall—and we are actively doing so now—look at every issue on its merits. We shall not be rushed into hasty decisions. Where our principles and our stated policies require it, we will pursue a different policy from the right hon. Gentleman. Immediate examples are the cancellation of the visit by ships of the Royal Navy to Greece and Chile. In view of our known views, it would have been sheer hypocrisy for us to have continued with the plans made by our predecessors, 980 and would have cast doubts on the sincerity of our deeply held and frequently expressed views.
Thus, I warmly support the views expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart) and I equally disagree with the views expressed by the hon. Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett).
§ Mr. Ennals
As far as Greece is concerned, we have shown our concern at the continuing failure of the Greek Government to restore democracy. Nevertheless, in considering how best we can promote the principle for which the NATO alliance stands, we shall seek to maintain a proper working relationship with the Greek Government.
As for Chile—[Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh, but there are deep principles here, and there are many people who are suffering for their principles in Greece today. These are not matters to be lightly laughed at. As for Chile, strong feelings have been aroused in this House, and indeed, throughout the country by the events which have taken place in Chile since the overthrow of President Allende in September 1973. The Government are now reviewing their relationship with Chile, which is a country with which we in Britain have had a long tradition of friendly co-operation and flourishing trade.
A central issue clearly in this debate has been the Government's decision to seek a fundamental renegotiation of the terms of entry to the European Economic Community. The right hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) was quite wrong when he suggested that my right hon. Friend, because of his typical conciliatory tone, was not carrying out the aims set out in the election manifesto on which my right hon. Friend, myself and others, fought the election. We referred toa profound political mistake by the Heath Government in accepting the terms of entry to the Common Market and taking us in without the consent of the British people.He went on to say that this is why a Labour Government will immediately seek a fundamental renegotiation of the terms of entry. That is what we are doing.
981 But, as my right hon. Friend has said very clearly today, we shall embark upon these negotiations with the hope of achieving success. To do otherwise might be to determine that those attempts would not succeed. The House must recognise that, whatever the result, we shall stand by our commitment to put the outcome of these negotiations to the British people. I noticed that when the right hon. Gentleman was challenged about how he would vote on the question of a referendum and putting the question to the British public, he hesitated. Then he said "No", he would not support putting it before the British public. I have never understood why the Conservatives, when in office, refused to let the people of Britain have a say in a decision so vital to the future of this country and the authority of this Parliament.
§ Mr. Marten
I agree with the right hon. Member because it is curious that, about a week after that refusal, a referendum was announced for Ireland. The matter is to be put to a referendum, or, as the Prime Minister has said, possibly a General Election—I think he just left the door open for that. Would the Government consider the proposition, if the choice were a General Election, that there should be a second ballot paper which clearly distinguished the question of the Common Market from the party candidates so that, what the British people think about this one issue, undefiled by the other party political issues, could never again be in doubt?
§ Mr. Ennals
I am sure the tremendous wisdom of the hon. Gentleman will be born in mind when the issue is put before the British public. It is my personal view—I think that the Leader of the Opposition has also discovered it now—that one cannot determine that a General Election can be about one issue alone. Neither I, nor my right hon. Friend, can forecast the outcome of the negotiations upon which we are embarking. The Government are not setting out to wreck the European Community. Nor is there any truth in the rumours, which the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) raised, that orders have gone out to stop the fulfilment of Community obligations. It is not true. No such orders have been put out or would be put out. It is unfortunate that such rumours should be 982 spread and I am glad to have the opportunity of ending the uncertainty.
We are determined to get changes in the terms of entry which were accepted by the last Government. Those terms imposed an unfair financial burden on this country. We shall go into the negotiations constructively, but with determination. I am sure none of the other members of the Community are in any doubt about our resolve and we shall not be without friends within the EEC in some of the changes which we shall be proposing.
The Council of Foreign Ministers of the Community is meeting on 1st and 2nd April. It is then that my right hon. Friend will be telling his colleagues in the Community the broad changes we are seeking. This will be the beginning of the process of renegotiation. In the meantime, my right hon. Friend has been having preliminary exchanges. The Netherlands Foreign Minister came to London on 9th March. On Thursday, my right hon. Friend will be in Bonn to talk to Chancellor Brandt and to the German Foreign Minister who, as current President of the Council of Ministers, will have a key rôle to play in the negotiations over the next few months.
On agricultural questions, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture will be negotiating in Brussels on Thursday and Friday of this week. He will be approaching the negotiations there on the common agricultural policy prices in the light of our firm resolve to avoid further inflationary price increases in the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Ennals
I assume that that will not be a question which will be discussed by my right hon. Friend in the course of his discussions on the common agricultural policy in Brussels.
My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Mabon) raised a number of issues. I agree that the regional fund is an important question, and I confirm that it is receiving serious consideration by my right hon. Friend. He will, no doubt, have something to say to the House at the right stage in the negotiations. My hon. 983 Friend referred also to the Foster Report. The House will wish to commend the speed with which the Government have turned their attention to that report, and the importance they attach to enabling Parliament to play a full rôle in the consideration of EEC matters. My right hon. Friend the Lord President has promised to give further detailed proposals on this subject as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
The right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to respond to my question about on-going negotiations. I have a letter from an unknown source, but the right hon. Gentleman may have it, which states:Mr. Peter Shore has asked the attention of all staff in the Department to be drawn to the present Government's commitment, as set out in the Labour Party Manifesto, to stop further processes of integration whilst the renegotiations are in course and until the renegotiated terms have been submitted for the express approval of the electorate.I think that that contradicts what the right hon. Gentleman has said.
§ Mr. Ennals
I do not think so at all. I have no knowledge of the source from which that letter was obtained, but that is an entirely different question from that which the hon. Gentleman raised.
There are two matters here. First, are we not to fulfil obligations that have been undertaken to the EEC? The answer is that we shall fulfil our obligations. The second question was: Are we to enter into new commitments? That is a separate issue, and the hon. Gentleman ought not to have confused it and in so doing confused the House.
§ Mr. John Davies
Does this imply that the Government would not wish to pursue the question of regional policy in their discussions in Europe?
§ Mr. Ennals
That is one of the issues which have to be considered. There are many issues which have to be considered in the course of these negotiations.
§ Dr. Mabon
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. A quotation has been given from a paper which is not available to the House. I understand that all papers should be tabled. Surely, we should have the source of that paper and knowledge of from whom and to whom it was 984 addressed, so that we may understand. This letter is new to many of us.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member raises that point as one of order, but the question of laying papers is a matter only for Ministers.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston
Further to that point of order. The hon. Gentleman raised a fair point. I raised the issue which arose from the paper which I have and which I would gladly give to the hon. Gentleman—
§ Mr. Ennals
That paper does not exist until its authenticity is established. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the matter.
In his intervention the hon. Member for Inverness accused my right hon. Friend of excessive nationalism in his approach to the question; the opposite is the case. The problems of Europe must be and are being looked at in their world context. We shall do our best to counteract the inward-looking tendencies that have grown up in some quarters while Europe has been preoccupied with its own internal affairs. The Government are committed to seeing that the economic interests of the Commonwealth, and of the developing countries in general, are safeguarded. We shall also be working for success in the international negotiations on the reduction of world trade barriers and on monetary problems. We believe that such problems can best be tackled in a world-wide framework.
Reference has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Edelman), in a typically thoughtful speech, to the statement made by President Nixon a few days ago. It is true that sharp comments have been made on both sides of the Atlantic. I do not intend to be drawn into any detailed comments on President Nixon's statement. The aim of British diplomacy is clear, namely, to do everything in our power to cool the present atmosphere, which can only be damaging to transatlantic relations.
President Nixon is right when he says that the NATO Alliance is very dependent on effective United States participation. It is no less true that it is dependent on an effective contribution from our allies and our friends in Europe. I echo 985 the words of M. Jobert, the French Foreign Minister, when he said:The Alliance has two pillars, the United States and Europe. I think it is preferable to be two rather than one-legged. My desire is that no one, in Europe or the United States, should go in for excessive argument which can only be prejudicial to us all.What has clearly gone wrong, and seriously wrong, is the process of consultation between the Nine and the United States. The present Government cannot be held responsible for that. We are anxious to ensure the maximum degree of consultation between the Community and the United States, and between the separate Members of the EEC and the United States and, for that matter, with other countries outside the EEC.
As my right hon. Friend said, we are willing to intensify the system of political consultation and co-operation, but the Nine must not do that in such a way as to create divisions within the alliance. To search for a Community approach to every political issue is a will-o'-the-wisp. If we create conflict such as has been in evidence recently we are not serving and the Nine are not serving the cause of wider harmonious relations. Moreover, a split within the nations on both sides of the Atlantic makes it more difficult for us to achieve détente, to which we attach great importance. The Gracious Speech made it clear that we regard NATO as an instrument of détente no less than of defence. Both aims will be undermined if the countries of Western Europe and the United States are seen to be involved in internal dissension.
§ Mr. Ennals
I shall not give way. Several other matters were raised during the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-West and the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire emphasised the importance of the principle of undiminished security, which, it was said, could come about only through multilateral agreement. There is no difference between us on that score. It is for that reason that we are anxious about the future of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe. It is as important to achieve a breakthrough in terms of the movement of ideas and of peoples as it is to achieve a greater degree of military security.
§ Mr. Ennals
No. I have given way on a number of occasions. The hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Joplin) has not taken an active part in the debate and I must reply to those who have.
Our aim will be to use our influence both within the EEC and with the United States to ensure maximum consultation and cordiality of relationships. That should not be beyond the wit of diplomacy. We are especially anxious that no action should be taken to endanger the delicate negotiations in which Dr. Kissinger is involved to bring about a peaceful settlement of the conflict in the Middle East.
Several right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have spoken of this conflict and of the importance of achieving a just and lasting settlement. They have paid their tribute to the work of Dr. Kissinger. The Government's attitude and our support for the full implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 have been spelled out by my right hon. Friend and I do not need to add to what he said.
§ Mr. Fidler
Will the Minister repudiate the misrepresentation made by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) when he referred to the racial character of the only democracy in the Middle East, namely, Israel?
§ Mr. Ennals
I should like to see in HANSARD the words expressed by my hon. Friend before I comment on them.
I am glad to tell the House that we and the United States have responded positively to a request by the Egyptian Government for assistance in clearing mines and other war debris from the Suez Canal. A small Royal Navy reconnaissance team is in Cairo at present. The exact nature of our contribution will depend on the team's report and on the co-ordination of arrangements with the United States, but this is a thoroughly helpful development, which symbolises the strongly-held desire of many in the area to put an end to the 987 long and tragic legacy of the war in the Middle East.
In the remaining time at my disposal I want to say something more about our rôle in the United Nations. It was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford), who raised several questions about Latin America to which I will reply on paper, and by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley). I speak as one who has been involved in the United Nations Association and was present as a member of the staff at the first United Nations Assembly session in London in 1946. My view is that successive Conservative Governments have played far too negative a rôle in this world-wide organisation. While my right hon. Friend and I recognise the weaknesses of the United Nations, we are determined to be far more vigorous not only in strengthening the United Nations but in using its institutions for the promotion of international co-operation, the raising of living standards and the promotion of human rights.
We shall also play a positive rôle in the disarmament talks at present taking place in Geneva. We are actively encouraging other nations to sign a nonproliferation treaty. We shall be taking a full part in the Law of the Sea Conference in Caracas later this year. We are all acutely aware that the world is facing serious economic problems, especially with raw material prices and the added burden which the energy crisis has put on both the developed and the developing world.
Given that background, I draw the House's attention to the special United Nations session to be held in New York next month. We hope that this session will mark an important stage in the development of economic co-operation among all the countries concerned, both developed and developing. I look forward to taking an active part in this special session of the General Assembly.
The special session provides an opportunity to join in a collective and co-operative endeavour to deal with the problems that face us all. For those countries which are hard hit by the rising price of oil we see this conference as a follow-up to the Washington energy conference in which we have been playing an active part. We shall be considering ways of 988 co-operating with other consumers to establish arrangements which will be in the interests of all. This coming special session offers to the United Nations a new chance to prove its relevance to the real problems of economic peace keeping. I trust that all those who participate in the session will seize the chance it offers and that it will lay the foundations for future work in the Assembly.
This year sees not only the special assembly on raw materials but also the world conferences organised by the United Nations on population, at Bucharest in August, and on food, at Rome, in November. These are fundamental problems of long-term as well as immediate importance. The United Nations provides one essential forum for their constructive resolution and Her Majesty's Government will certainly do everything possible to make these meetings a success.
I do not believe that the House will accept for one moment the comment made by the hon. Member for Mid-Oxon, in his maiden speech, regarding his criticism of Lord Caradon. Lord Caradon made a tremendous impact, speaking on behalf of Britain at the United Nations.
§ Mr. Hurd
The right hon. Gentleman would not wish to misrepresent what I said. I made no criticism of Lord Caradon. I criticised the idea first implemented in 1964, and now repeated in much less favourable circumstances—of thinking that the United Nations could be complemented, or its policy reinforced, by the making of a political appointment to the United Nations.
§ Mr Ennals
I have no doubt that the political appointment of Lord Caradon was overwhelmingly successful. It indicated the importance which we attached to our ambassador to the United Nations. He played an important rôle in Middle East affairs, economic affairs and other issues.
I believe that my former hon. and learned Friend the Member for Barons Court, Mr. Richard, who had a distinguished record in a previous administration—which a new hon. Member may not realise—has a very important rôle to play.
989 In the United Nations we shall be concerned also with problems of Southern Africa. We shall make clear our repudiation of apartheid and any other form of denial of human rights or freedoms, on grounds of race or colour, or on any other grounds. We have restated our policy on the banning of sales of arms to South Africa, in conformity with United Nations Resolutions.
The Government will also be concerned with the problems of Rhodesia. We shall, as hon. Members on the Government side have urged, bear in mind our commitments to the African population. We want to see a settlement and we welcome the fact that there have been talks between the races. It is because we wish to see success at these talks that we shall be taking action to strengthen the application of sanctions against Rhodesia, not to hurt any individual people, but to demonstrate, as my right hon. Friend said, the extent to which Rhodesia and its leaders are alone in the world and in the things for which they stand.
In conclusion I repeat the words in Labour's election manifesto, which shall be the basis of our foreign policy:the lesson of the last few years in foreign policy is that a narrow, selfish, inward-looking approach to international problems is doomed to failure.We are more than ever before one world and our response to the challenges of this decade must be global. Our whole foreign policy will be based on our desire to promote world peace, world security and world prosperity.
§ Mr. Joseph Harper (Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household)
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.