§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD BRAND
My Lords, I should like to make a few general observations on the Schuman Plan. First, I have to say that in general I support the view expressed by the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor as to the terms of the White Paper. Therefore I do not entirely agree with the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, as to the course which the Government should have taken. I think it is easy to discern the guiding motives of the French Government in insisting on their rather unusual plan. In the first place, our French friends always proceed from principles to details, whereas we are inclined to proceed from details to principles. In the second place, particularly having recently spent a week in Paris, I recognise how different must be the sentiments of those nations that are not protected by the English Channel—by this I mean particularly French sentiment—with the Germans as their next-door neighbours and, even more, with the Russian armies just behind them.
1177 It is of first-rate importance for all of us to bind Western Germany to Western Europe; but for France it is a matter of life and death. I am sure the French feel that if they drift in their relations with Germany it may be fatal. France's dilemma is that she fears the Germans too much to wish to arm them against their possible common enemy, but she knows that it is vital to bind them to Western Europe. And what could be of greater importance than to settle the great question of the Ruhr? The French view, I take it, is that that question must be settled as between France and Germany on as firm, unbreakable, and concrete a foundation as possible; and this, it seems to me, was the reason for the "high authority" and all the paraphernalia of control. I should say that the French were mere concerned to maintain their principle of the high authority in relation to Germany than to see the British taking part in the negotiations. They hay: the object, I am sure, of making the partnership with Germany very difficult to break. One can only hope that they will succeed in their plan.
The French seem to me to be trying a new method of international co-operation, particularly because they have rather lost faith in other alternatives. If it were practicable, they would certainly prefer European federation and to bind Germany with themselves by federation; but they recognise that that step is impracticable now, whatever it may be in the future. The only other alternative is some method of co-operation, such as we are trying in O.E.E.C., in European defence, in the Brussels Pact, in the Atlantic Council and in other directions. But to the French these methods, I believe, seem, as at present practised, too loose, too ineffective and leading too little to decision. Therefore, in this great question of the Ruhr I believe that they wanted to try a new method. Thus, if I am right, the character of the Plan was dictated by political considerations first of all; and perhaps to maintain this character was more important than to get our immediate support. Their main objective is maybe somewhat different from ours In these circumstances, though we are vitally concerned politically in the success of the Plan., and industrially and economically greatly concerned in co-operating ourselves, I do not myself blame His Majesty's Govern- 1178 ment too much for their action or inaction; and I believe the opportunity will still be open to us to take part, perhaps, later on.
Much more harm was done by the manifesto issued by the Government, but so much has been said about that that I will not say more than that I think we shall not hear the last of it, on the other side of the Atlantic at any rate, for a long time. It seemed to me a strange mixture of sense and nonsense. To a great deal in it I heartily subscribe; I thought much of it was sound and courageous; but in certain parts it showed, as other noble Lords have said, an insufferable complacency—and also, in my opinion, a great deal of illusion. I want now to draw your Lordships' attention to some wider aspects of the French proposal. There is little doubt that the French Government hope that the Plan may lead in time to some sort of European federation. This would be, at any rate, a start. I need not read again the sentence that has been read once or twice from the French document about this proposal's being a "concrete foundation" for European federation. But the French document gees on also to say that federation is essential to the preservation of peace. This is a large claim, and I want to consider it for a moment.
I had intended to say something about the question of this country's going into a federation with Europe, but since Mt. Churchill has now said in another place that in his view it is not possible for us to do this within any measurable time, I do not intend to try your Lordships' patience with many words on that matter. The principles that guided Mr. Churchill are, I think, perfectly plain. It seems to me impossible for this country, with all its Commonwealth relations, to be in a European federation. In view of its position as the centre of a great Commonwealth, the United Kingdom would become in relation to the Federal Government of Europe simply like the State of Virginia in the United States or the Province of Ontario in the Dominion of Canada. I see many statements that a federation need not affect our relations with the Dominions. If that means that we shall have no relations with the Dominions, I entirely agree, because we could not, as a then State in a European Federation, have any relations with any other sovereign State at all. We should 1179 have no Foreign Minister, no Foreign Office, no foreign affairs—our foreign affairs would be conducted by the European Government. I myself believe, therefore, that such a step could not be taken by the British people. I used to discuss this matter in Washington with many people, including an eminent French friend of mine. He always said to me, "If you do not join the Federation of Europe, you British will commit suicide." I always replied to him: "Then I am afraid we shall commit suicide." It undoubtedly would be a serious step not to join in a Federation of Europe, and to have a united Europe close to us with ourselves outside it. That is what will happen in the future if Europe federates.
If what Europe has now to do is to maintain peace, not in fifty years' time, thirty years' time, twenty years' time or ten years' time, but in the next five years or the next two years, and if the objective is that Europe should develop enough strength now to deter an aggressor or win a war against an aggressor, I do not think that the creation of a Federal Government in Europe now or soon would be either wise or indeed feasible. When we talk about making a Federal Government of Europe we are talking about making a Government strong enough to wage total war successfully. It would be fatal to take such a step, if that Government were weak. It must have not some but all the powers needed to fight a war. We know what they are: complete power over foreign policy, finance, taxation and monetary affairs, conscription, rationing and controls of all kinds. Indeed, I need hardly further enumerate the powers needed. All those powers would need to be taken from the existing Governments and Parliaments—French, German, Italian and Dutch. I do not think we can at present rely on the existence of that deep and profound loyalty towards such a Government which would be absolutely necessary for it, if it was to be able to stand the enormous strain of a total war. In my opinion, it would be a vast experiment of "swopping horses while crossing the stream." That deep loyalty —an essential basis—is there for existing Governments already. In my opinion, it is wiser at present, even for Continental Europe without the United Kingdom, to 1180 build any superstructure of defence upon existing loyalties.
Nevertheless, if we are not going to take part, it is a matter not for us but for European Governments to decide, and if the Germans and the French decided tomorrow to pool all their sovereignty, the whole world would give them a welcome. Mr. Churchill said yesterday in another place that we in this country must rely not on European Federation but on the United Nations. We all support the United Nations but something else is needed, and I have no doubt it was through inadvertence that Mr. Churchill omitted at this point what I think he would have wished to make clear—namely, that for our immediate defence we must surely place our main reliance on the Atlantic community and its development. To this we must look for defence, not only for ourselves, France and other Allied nations but, in my opinion, for the solution of the Western Germany problem also. It is by the development of the Atlantic Pact and the Atlantic community, and by every free nation spending all its forces to strengthen that community, that all our problems, including the German problem, will be best settled. Within one year of the Brussels Treaty for the defence of Europe, we found it necessary to draw up the Atlantic Treaty. In my opinion, everything depends on the development of that community. But here, too, no federation is possible. Anybody who knows the United States and the United States Congress will realise how impracticable it would be to suggest to them what one might call a three-tier Government for the United States: first of all, the forty-eight States of the Union with their own powers, then at the top a Federal Government with all the powers necessary to tight a war, and finally, in between them, the present Congress shorn of nearly all the powers it values. We should simply waste time by discussing such a suggestion and such a development.
It is at this point, to my mind, that the real crux of our problem arises. All history shows the weakness of Leagues dependent merely on the co-operation of Governments. Professor Toynbee, in a letter to The Times a day or two ago, recommended what he calls the "single joint management" of the pooled resources of 1181 all the free nations. But what is "single joint management?" How are the necessary decisions taken upon which every thing depends? This is the real crux of the problem. Discussing it recently in Paris with an eminent Frenchman, I argued with him that we had very successful co-operation during the war with the Americans, the Australians, the Canadians and other countries, and I asked, Why could we not have successful co-operation in peace? His answer, which I thought was a complete answer, was: "Because during the war there were two men who could and did take decisions—President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill." Who takes the decisions now? How are the decisions taken in the enormous difficulties that face us now in times of peace? We have councils, committees, boards, Ministers, deputies, and they meet at certain intervals; but it is so much easier to do nothing than to do something in face of very great difficulties. Perhaps not many things are done, in actual fact. That may even be the case in respect of defence.
Let us look at one of the real difficulties which no doubt applies to other nations as well. We ourselves might have to spend much more upon defence. The Russians no doubt beat down the standard of life of their people in order to be able to develop enormous armaments. How are we going to find the revenues, if we have to spend more on defence? We all know that taxation is at the highest possible level. Suppose all Finance Ministers meet to discuss defence and all say that they cannot impose any more taxes. What sort of a decision about defence matters is taken then? Much the greatest danger to the Western world is that, if we do not and cannot have federation, the necessary decisions taken in war time will not be taken in peace time and the necessary sacrifices will be neither asked for from the people nor made. An enormous obligation rests upon Governments in the most critical times in which we live, and particularly on the strongest Governments, to prevent this evil.
I can make only one suggestion. I myself believe that as regards defence we ought to take a leaf out of the book of the United States. The United States tries to follow a bi-partisan policy in all matters of foreign affairs. I think it 1182 would be a good thing if we followed that principle, particularly on the question of defence. I.believe that all Parties should be consulted on matters of defence, so that all may know whether decisions are or are not being taken, or what else could be done. In fact, so critical is the state of the world that it seems to me—I am not arguing for a National Government because I have never believed it possible—that as regards defence we should have what amounts almost to a Committee of National Safety. I believe that, in the sort of peace which we have at present, both here and in other countries definite formal arrangements for applying in this sphere the bi-partisan methods that we should certainly use in war are needed.
§ 5.51 p.m.
My Lords, I think we should be grateful to the absent Lord Salisbury for confining this debate so far as possible to the interesting and important issues of the Schuman proposal. It is certainly not the fault of the Government that the debate has been interrupted by statements of policy and news by my noble friend the Leader of the House on the extraordinary happenings in Korea. As those statements were commented upon by one or two noble Lords, I should like, if I may, to ask a question of my noble friend the Leader of the mouse. I am not going to make any comment at all on the momentous events in Korea because this is not the time; but I think it would he found to be of !Teat advantage if, as soon as possible, we could have a Government statement or White Paper, or something like that, detailing the events that have led up to this outbreak of fighting on the Peninsula of Korea.
Those people who specialise in Far Eastern affairs were no doubt informed, but I think not one man in a thousand of the men of military age in this country knows anything about the facts except what he has seen in the papers during the last two or three days. I think a brief history of what led up to these acts of violence would be of great help to the public. If the Government want complete national support the people must be informed, and I am sure my noble friend would agree that if the British people are informed they will always rally to a just cause. Therefore I hope my noble friend 1183 the Leader of the House will forgive me for putting this question to him without notice, and I must take the opportunity to put the question to him as this is a debate on foreign affairs.
The noble Lord, Lord Brand, and other noble Lords made great play with the statement of the National Executive on foreign affairs. The noble Lord will forgive me for saying that it was not a statement by the Government, but a statement by the National Executive. I know what he meant, but the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton and others did not make that mistake. It was a statement by the National Executive. It is not without interest to note that that powerful and very capable body does not contain any member of your Lordships' House. There are one or two ex-officio members; I believe the Prime Minister is ex-officio and one or two others, like the General Secretary of the Party, but all the other members are elected year by year by the conference delegates. Yet, despite our growing strength in your Lordships' House, we have never been represented on this body. I believe I am right in saying that I am the only Peer who has ever stood for election to the National Executive, and I was well beaten. I twice stood for election but was unsuccessful. But I do know that it is an extremely independent body, and the idea that the National Executive is under the behest of the Cabinet, or that it is controlled or unduly influenced by the Cabinet is in fact unfounded. Noble Lords opposite who have not the same opportunities of observing the work of this body would not know that it is a most independent body. Whilst it may have been unfortunate perhaps to issue such a paper at that time, that is the only criticism that can legitimately be made, because this is an elected body which is not responsible to the Cabinet, and it is only by the workings of our curious constitution in the Labour Party that Cabinet Ministers are members of it at all. Apart from the Prime Minister, as Party Leader, membership of the Executive is by means of election. I very much regret that my noble friend the Leader of the House has never thought fit to stand for election. I am sure he would be elected and would be a great pillar of strength there.
I ventured to ask the Lord Chancellor a question which the acting Leader of the 1184 Opposition, the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, I think misunderstood. He seemed to think there was something rather funny about it; that I was trying to extricate the Lord Chancellor from some difficulty. I was doing nothing of the kind. The Lord Chancellor needed no help from me. I thought he made the most capable, able and informative speech that we have had in this whole controversy. I have read all the statements in another place, and I thought the statement given from the Woolsack was admirable and extremely helpful—certainly it was to me. But I do ask your Lordships to consider this point. I do not see how this French scheme of M. Schuman can work unless there is a more or less independent, authoritative, expert and technical body to control it.
Many of your Lordships know the formation of the Ruhr and its close integration with the heavy industries of France. That is a fact of geography and cannot be helped. My noble friend Lord Lawson knows these facts far better than I, and I know that he will bear me out. There is a natural economic marriage between the iron ore of France and the coke and coal of the Ruhr, and they also link up with the Luxembourg heavy industries and with those of Belgium as well. How the Italians and Dutch come into this I do not understand; but Belgium, France, Germany and Luxembourg are a natural combination economically. Yet, 'because of the drawing of frontiers through past wars and the development of the German railways for strategic purposes, as was largely the case, the transport system between these different parts of the vitally important heavy industrial districts, criss-crosses across frontiers, with the natural result that the development of these North-West European coal, iron and steel industrial districts has been hampered by the very sovereignties which the French are now proposing to set aside.
The choice which seemed to face my noble friend and his colleagues in the Cabinet was this: however much we want to help on this marriage of these natural, interlocking, economic interests in North-West Europe in the interests of peace (because if we do future German aggression against France will be made impossible, which is a tremendous advance towards the peace of the world) if this tremendous conception can be 1185 carried through it must be under some expert technical semi-independent body. It is impossible otherwise to marry and manage and control these intricate, difficult and complicated industries. I do not see how it can be done, for example, by some committee appointed ad hoc by Governments from year to year. There will have to be a body something like our Railway Board or our Coal Board. Can we risk going in with such a body? That is the real dilemma, and the Government have come down on the side of the negative—they have said: "No." And they have on their side certain very powerful arguments, those founded on geographical factors being perhaps the most powerful. There is no geographical reason at all why our coal Viand steel industries should marry with the Ruhr and the Northern French heavy industries. There are good economic and political reasons but no geographical ones, it would be just as logical to make a great system of interlocking controls with the Americans, the Canadians and even the South Africans with their growing steel industry, as to marry these industries in North-West Europe with our own.
I hope that the wider merger is going to be one the subjects which will be studied in the future. I think there is a strong case to be made for integration of the steel producing industries of the principal industrial nations. Otherwise, you may have over-production of steel, which leads to trouble of all kinds. With a properly co-ordinated, integrated and controlled world heavy industry you can use your vast resources not only to cheapen steel but to raise the standard of living of the great bodies of workers in that world industry. Moreover, you can use your products for their natural purposes and not for war materials. As I say, I think there is a great case to be made out for the Schuman Scheme. It is, at any rate, a beginning. Quite clearly, our choice was a difficult one. We had to decide whether we could go into this super-national authority or not. That there has to be a super-national authority I am convinced from my own knowledge of the districts in question and also from my knowledge, though I admit it is limited, of the British steel industry as well. That was the choice, and the Government, with all the facts at their disposal, came down on the side of 1186 caution. I cannot complain, but at the same time I must express some disquiet. It seems.to me that there was here an opportunity of helping forward a great proposal and if, at the same time, it mean sacrificing some of our perogatives of sovereignty, we should not immediately hesitate to make some sacrifice. If we are to help in the integration and unification of Europe and, through that, of the world, we have to be prepared to abrogate part of our sovereignty. I do not see how we can escape from that necessity.
I feel a little uneasy that there has been apparently sonic departure, at any rate, from the old Socialist faith, which I have believed in now for a matter of a quarter of a century, that the future of mankind lies in internationalism. That word "internationalism" is a word we do not hear nearly often enough to-day. Real internationalism properly applied would have avoided the terrible catastrophes of the world wars of this century and have raised the standard of life of the whole of humanity. The noble Lord, Lord Brand, has spoken of the need for planning more defence, and says, quite rightly in my view, that the limit of taxation has been reached. He asked what the Finance Ministers would do when faced with the necessity of raising further scores of mile lions for defence, knowing that they coule, not get any more money by means of taxation. What a commentary this is or, the state of the world! If only we: would bring the peoples of the world together to help each other, to work for common ends, instead of maintaining these national rivalries and suspicions, how very different would the outlook be for the whole of humanity! I make that protest in the most friendly way. I think that we have to turn again to our old international Socialist -faith, and I take great encouragement from the fact that a French statesman should have directed the attention of the world once more to the old truth that if people co-operate they can thrive, expand and progress, but if they refuse to co-operate, and maintain their rivalries, suspicions and fears, they will perish.
I have only one other matter to bring to the notice of your Lordships, if you will allow me to do so. I believe that the ultimate unity of Europe is inevitable. Whether it will be federal or a United States of Europe, or an economic union, I 1187 do not know; that one day the Continent of Europe will be unified and the frontiers more or less abolished I am convinced. As was very well said by my old friend the late H. G. Wells, the States of Europe grew up and the frontiers were defined in the days of horse-drawn traffic. From Paris or Berlin, or London or Vienna, you could carry on the machinery of government by means of horses, post chaises and coaches. Then came the railway age and with it far greater national units. The United States of America is a perfect example of the new, vast, almost Continental nation founded on railway traffic, because from Washington, by the use of the railways, they have been able to control a much larger area than would have been possible before. The old Russia in Europe and Asia which was developed through the building of great railway systems is yet another example of a modern vast State dependent for its administration on the railway system.
Now, of course, the means of transport which are available are much swifter and easier. Apart from the internal combustion engine as applied to land vehicles, we now have the aeroplane. It would be possible for the noble Viscount, Lord Hall, if he wanted to go to Korea to see for himself what is happening, to get there within three days. This points to the possibility of a much greater co-ordination and bringing together of the systems of government of the different countries. That this unified Europe will come one day, I feel certain, and I share that belief with literally millions of people, among them some of the greatest thinkers of the world. Whether it should be part of a much wider organisation and whether it will come to that, I do not know. But that there is a demand for it and that it is overdue is, I am afraid, only too true.
Where do we go from here? We have had a very trenchant statement by the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor expressing the Government's point of view with great clarity and force. The case which he has put forward is immensely powerful. But what happens now? I can tell my noble friend and his colleagues in the Government here that the British steel experts are a little alarmed at the possibility that the Schuman scheme may succeed and that they will be out of it; that there will be allocation of markets, fixing of prices, 1188 and all that sort of thing, and that we shall find ourselves in rather a dangerous position. That may be the natural reaction of businessmen, and perhaps their fears may be exaggerated. But I hope a time will come when we can participate in some way in such a scheme, if only for the sake of our own heavy industries.
I remember and tried to help forward the great scheme which was evolved at the end of the First World War for marrying the British coal industry with the Upper Silesian coal mines. My noble friend, Lord Lawson, will be interested in this. The idea was that these coal mines should he saved from what the Germans called the appalling government of the Poles. As a matter of fact, the Poles managed the mines very well, but this was the German feeling towards them. On our side the idea was that we could prevent price cutting. The scheme did not go through, because there were no people big enough in the City of London, not even Lord Brand, to put it through. But if it had succeeded, we should have avoided the price cutting and depression in the coal trade which led to the great miners' lock-out of 1926 and the General Strike. All the suffering and misery of that time could have been avoided.
I am not sure but that from the trade union point of view and from the point of view of preserving our standards of living, wages and hours of work it would not have been worth while at some stage to try to come into this scheme. I speak with great diffidence because I am only an honorary member of various trade unions and do not pretend to have practical knowledge of their working. If we succeeded in raising the standard of living and shortening the hours of the miners in the Ruhr and in the other heavy industries in Europe, that would be well worth while. Naturally we should fight in the defence of our own standards and wage scales to the very end, and we cannot have too many safeguards to prevent their being lowered. But the possibility of raising the wage scales of European workers in heavy industry by our participation in such a scheme is so enticing, it can be so important and of such benefit generally, that if there is any chance at all, at any rate on the trade union and organised labour side, I hope we shall find some means of participating in the scheme. In any case, all is not 1189 lost. It may be that other Governments may prevail on the French to introduce certain safeguards which will allow us to go in wholeheartedly. I hope and pray that that will be the case. Politically this is a tremendous conception and I should be prepared to take a great deal of risk and even to sacrifice some of our precious sovereignty for the sake of once and for all removing this terrible enmity between France and Germany which has played such havoc in the world.
§ 6.14 p.m.
My Lords, I have listened in this House to a great number of speeches on foreign affairs, but never before have I taken part in a foreign affairs debate. I am impelled to do so on this occasion partly by the events which have happened in the last few days and partly by the fact that I see great danger in the present set-up of the United Nations. The United Nations have been in existence for five years, and it is therefore perhaps not inappropriate to take stock of the present international position and the doings and inactions of the United Nations. I confess that I am an unashamed internationalist. I have nothing to apologise for that, but I must of course take the consequences of holding that view. I have no hesitation in saying of.the United Nations that the present organisation has been a failure. Why? First, because it is subject to a veto. Secondly, because it is incomplete: it does not include some of the foremost nations of the world and, in my view, any international body which leaves out such nations as Sweden and Switzerland cannot succeed. Thirdly, and most important of all, it has no force, It has no international police force. Fourthly, it is a mere collection of nationals and it is not international. It may be co-national, if there is such a word, but international it is certainly not. Fifthly, it is, I suppose, a confederation, but it is certainly not a federation.
What is the remedy? In my submission, the remedy is to form a completely new organisation and for the present members of the United Nations to withdraw from that body in order to de so. First, the new organisation must have no veto. Secondly, it must be open to all self-governing nations who wish to join it. Thirdly, it must have a strong international police force, which must be 1190 stronger than any national force. Fourthly, it must be a federation of nations and able to provide security for all its members, which the present organisation certainly cannot do. Fifthly, on whatever council it has there must be no permanent members having any advantages over any other member. In my view, when we get that we shall have peace in the world, and until we get something like that we shall not have peace in the world. When a country is the position of South Korea knows that if it is attacked by an aggressor, no matter who it is, the United Nations will step in on the same day and, if necessary, drop a hydrogen bon-b on that aggressor, then we shall have peace in the world, and not until then.
I welcome whole-heartedly the news that the United States are leading a joint operation in the defence of South Korea, but I cannot escape the reflection that that ought to be done by the United Nations and not by one nation or collection of nations. If it were done by the United Nations, it would cause less suspicion and irritation throughout the world than is bound to be now the case. I am pleased to find that in the last few days we are beginning to realise that sending protests to totalitarian countries is worse than useless. It was only three days ago that a protest was sent and we are now realising that sanctions are useless. When a man commits a murder, the proper thing to do, if you can, is to arrest him. The wrong thing to do is to prevent hilt from buying his tobacco at a shop, which to my mind is exactly what we are doing when we impose sanctions. I should like to be told by the noble Viscount who is to speak for the Government what has happened to the Military Staff Committee of the United Nations. In the Charter there is set down in black and white the establishment of a Military Staff Committee, and several sections of the Charter are devoted to its organisation, its duties and its uses; but we hear nothing of it. I may be told, rightly, that it is not oar fault that it has done nothing. That only fortifies my suggestion that, because something must be done, the whole United Nations must be radically changed in order that it can be done.
Now, my Lords, may I come to the position in Europe and in particular the Schuman Plan? It 's quite clear in my 1191 mind that, particularly in Europe but also in the whole world, it is inescapable that we must give up a substantial part of our national sovereignty. To my mind, no matter which way you think round this problem, that point always arises. I am sorry to say that it appears that His Majesty's present Government are not willing to do that. I listened with great care to the speech of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack this afternoon, though perhaps I should add that I was not able to hear some of the subsequent speeches. It is clear from the noble and learned Viscount's speech that the Government are not willing to do what, in my view, is essential—that is, to give up some of their authority, and until that is done, my Lords, we shall not have peace.
The Lord Chancellor asked your Lordships in a rhetorical question whether you would agree to the establishment of a European authority which, against our will, transferred a steel works from Dowlais to Dusseldorf. I for one would agree to that. The present Government of this country have set up a national authority in this country which has the power of transferring steel production from Dowlais to Margam—which in fact has been done. What difference does it make to a steelworker who loses his job in consequence of the transfer of the works from Dowlais whether that works goes to Margam or Dusseldorf? In my submission it makes no difference whatever and, if the Government have accepted the principle—as they have—that it is perfectly right to transfer a steelworks or a coalmine from one place to another, why should it not be transferred from this country to the Continent?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (VISCOUNT HALL)
May I correct my noble friend? The present Government did not transfer the steel works from Dowlais to Margam. The steel works were transferred from Dowlais or Merthyr to Margam twenty-five years ago. It is a development of the existing steel works at Margam that is taking place at the present time.
I entirely accept what the noble Viscount has said, but I do not think it really detracts from my argument. The present Government make 1192 possible what has happened; they passed an Act of Parliament for the nationalisation of steel which, of course, makes it very easy in the future to do just that very thing. That is done under the nationalisation of coalmines. The Government have the power (I think rightly so) to close down a mine in Lanarkshire and to open up a new pit in East Fife. One speaker asked, "How did the Opposition swallow both those things?" I confess that I think it perfectly right that the Government of the day should have that power, but if that is right it is also right in my view that a super-national Government should have the power to do the same thing.
Again with regard to Europe, the noble Lord who has just sat down said that it was inevitable that one day Europe would be united. That of course, if I may say so, whilst I entirely agree with him, is a mere platitude. Of course that is so, and anybody who lives at a sufficient distance away from Europe sees it clearly. For instance, the Americans can clearly see that obviously what ought to happen in Europe is for federation to take place. Why is it that Europe suffers so many economic disabilities that the United States, a country of about the same size, does not suffer? The reason is obvious. It is that whereas the United States has within its own borders no customs barriers, and therefore has complete free trade, Europe is saddled and riddled with customs barriers, with tariffs, with impediments of all kinds to the movement of people and Roods from one part of Europe to another. Those customs and passports and permits and other completely unnecessary things are not an act of God, they are an act of man, and we are the people who either put them there or allow them to continue: in either event we are responsible for their being there.
The question is: Will His Majesty's Government do something to undo this great evil in Europe? They have been invited to participate in the Schuman Plan, which is a most remarkable effort to do the right thing, and in spite of all that the Lord Chancellor said I deeply regret that they are unwilling to enter into that arrangement. As the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has just said, the Labour Party used to be the party who sang the Internationale and talked about international agreements and inter- 1193 national co-operation and effort—and they were right. But, my Lords, they have departed from that attitude. In my respectful submission they are now what the Republicans in America were in 1920: they are now the isolationist party. It is said: How can we enter into a United Europe and still maintain our friendly relations with the Commonwealth? I see no difficulty. If it is possible, as I think it is, to have a united world, then it is clearly possible to have a combination of the British Commonwealth and Europe in one. And if other countries outside would like to join I say: Let them all come in. Lord Strabolgi said: "Can we risk going into this federation?" Until we do risk these things I am absolutely convinced that we shall have war in this world. I think the last war occurred because the Governments of the world were not willing to take these risks and similar risks. The risk which we are asked to take now is in any event nothing compared with the risks that we are taking in Korea.
I should like now to say one word about the Labour Party document. It is alleged that that document says that the present Government, formed of the Labour Party in this country, will not co- operate with the anti-Socialist Governments in Europe. I do beg the noble Viscount who is to speak later in this debate to tell your Lordships' House whether His Majesty's Government adopt that document or deny it. Surely we are entitled to have a statement one way or the other. It is rightly pointed out that the Labour Party document is not a Government manifesto. We entirely accept that, but surely we are entitled to know whether the Government agree with that document or denounce it. It will be most helpful if the noble Viscount can tell us that. The deplorable thing about this part oaf the document—I agree that some of it is perfectly innocuous and even admirable—is that it has so much worsened our relations with the United States. It was bound to do so. What would the present Government have said if the United States authorities had told them "We will not give you Marshall Aid because you are a Socialist Government."? Are not we doing something very much like that? It seems to me that we are. If we are not, will the -noble Viscount explain how and why we are not doing 1194 so'? Or will he, on the other hand, remove the impression which must be in the minds of millions of people in this country, that that is what the Government have done? If he can remove that impression, I shall be only too pleased.
Finally, I end as I began by saying this. Until whatever Government are in power in this country are prepared to renounce national sovereignty, not completely but in substantial part, in order to secure federation in the world, there will be war. When we have done that, in my view, there will be peace.
§ [The Silting was suspended at twenty-eight minutes before seven o'clock and resumed at half-past eight.]
§ VISCOUNT HALL
My Lords, I intervene for a short period, not to deal with the major points which have been raised in the debate but to refer to a few specific matters, notably the industrial and economic issues arising out of the Schuman Plan. Before doing so. I should like to say that the two-day debate in another place has certainly not dimmed the interest of your Lordships in this very important matter, for full examination has been given to the important issues which arise; and, of course, we have in your Lordships' House—as in another place—a cross-section of opinion from all Benches.
The justification for the Government's action was fully and very ably dealt with by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, but there have been other notable speeches—namely, that of the noble Lord, Lord Brand, and the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, to which my noble friend the Leader of the House will reply. I should like to join in the congratulations to my noble friend Lord Douglas of Barloch upon his able maiden speech. I thought it was very thoughtful and, indeed, a well-delivered speech dealing with some of the main issues of the questions before your Lordships' House. He was followed by my noble friend Lord Lawson, who effectively put the human side of the possible result of some of the actions of this high authority if it came into operation and controlled the two principal industries in this country. I shall deal more fully with the points which my noble friend raised during the course of my speech.
My noble friend Lord Strabolgi expressed his views in relation to the 1195 Schuman Plan, but he also raised one question dealing with another aspect of Foreign Affairs—namely, whether it was possible for His Majesty's Government to issue a White Paper setting out the events leading up to the present situation in Korea. He will, of course, understand that I cannot give him a reply to his question to-night, but I will certainly make representation to His Majesty's Government and see whether his request can be met.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
I liked the international enthusiasm of my noble friend Lord Merthyr. I could not quite understand the reasoning in his proposal for the abolition of one United Nations organisation and the setting up of another. I doubt very much whether, in the present world situation, an organisation of that kind would have any greater prospect of success than the United Nations has at the present time. I think it can be said—at least we are hoping—that as a result of action by the United Nations in the present situation, the United Nations, even in his opinion, will fully justify itself. The noble Lord asked a question about the Military Staff Committee under the Charter, and asked whether it was still in existence. As is known, the Military Staff Committee was created when the Security Council was formed. It had remained in existence, and had made reports to the Security Council; but on January 19 of this year the Soviet Union delegate withdrew from the Committee on the grounds that the Chinese national delegate should be excluded. I am afraid that, as a result of that action, the Military Staff Committee has been inoperative from that date. That is the position as far as that matter is concerned.
The question of the Labour Party pamphlet has played a very important part in the debate to-day. The noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, referred to it and asked me for an answer, Yes or No, whether this pamphlet represented the policy of His Majesty's Government. I think I ought, with your Lordships' permission, to refer to a reply to a Question which was put to the Prime Minister by 1196 the Leader of the Opposition in another place on June 13. The reply is rather long, but I think that as this matter is of some importance it would be just as well if I were to read it. This is what the Prime Minister said:The Labour Party Document to which the right honourable gentleman refers is a general statement of party policy, and it sets out, in the section on the problem of the basic industries, what the party considers to be the ultimate necessities of a fully developed scheme of European co-operation in this field. But the Government have always made clear both at the O.E.E.C. and elsewhere that they are fully prepared to co-operate in the closer integration of the European economy with other countries which hold different economic views. The Labour Party document is not, of course, a statement of Government policy in this matter. Government policy is as I have just now stated.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, this is very important because it is a direct repudiation of the statement I quoted from the Tribune that policy is a matter decided by the National Executive of the Party. That is not so, I understand—there is a new dispensation.
§ VISCOUNT HALL
I am repeating a statement which was made by the Prime Minister. Whatever the noble Viscount reads in the Tribune, I hope he is not going to compare its accuracy with a definite statement which was made by the Prime Minister in another place, in reply to a Question.
I am much obliged. That is most satisfactory. I take it, then, that that is a direct repudiation by the Government of what has hitherto been the authorised statement circulated: that policy is decided by the Executive of the Party. Policy is now decided by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet—is that so?
§ VISCOUNT HALL
I am rather surprised that the noble Viscount has put that question. I should have thought that the deliberate statement by the Prime Minister is sufficient to make the matter quite clear, and I have nothing to add to the statement which has been made. I think noble Lords ought to know a good deal more about the relationship between the Labour Party Executive and the Labour Government.
As I said in my opening remarks, I propose dealing mainly with the economic position and the difficulties which we had in mind when the decision was taken by 1197 His Majesty's Government not to refrain from entering into discussions under the Schuman Plan but to ask for conditions which in all the circumstances His Majesty's Government thought were really necessary.
My noble friend Lord Lawson emphasised the importance of the United Kingdom's coal and steel industries. They are absolutely fundamental to our national economy. The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor referred to our coal output and said that it is almost equal to that of all the other countries who have been asked to join in the scheme. Indeed, of the 446,000,000 tons, the combined output last year of all the Schuman Plan countries, the United Kingdom produced nearly 220,000,000 tons, almost one half. Western Germany produced one quarter, and France, including the Saar, one-seventh. In steel production, the United Kingdom produced about one-third of the total of 45,000,000 tons, whilst France and Germany each contributed about one fifth. Incidentally, these steel figures are very different from those in 1938, for the output in 1938 in the United Kingdom and France was much lower and in Germany much higher; it was then about 17,000,000 tons. Not even these impressive figures give a true measure of the importance of these two industries in our national economy. Coal is the chief source of the energy on which a modern industrial economy depends. No less than 85 per cent. of the total power used in the United Kingdom is derived from coal, the remainder coming from petroleum and hydro-electricity. In Western Germany and Belgium the proportion of power derived from coal is somewhat higher. N France it is about three-quarters, while Italy produces about one-half of its power from coal.
I will not touch upon the human aspect of the people who are living in the areas in which these industries are situated because I certainly could not improve upon the eloquent speech of my noble friend Lord Lawson. But I should like to point out that it is not only the coal and steel industries that are concerned. Indeed, the United Kingdom engineering industry produces over 40 per cent. of the total engineering production of the six countries. Then shipbuilding, another very large user of steel, has during the four or five post-war years produced more than one-half of the total new shipbuilding in 1198 the world. These figures are an indication of the importance of our coal and steel production, but they do more than just emphasise the vital part played by the coal and steel industries in our economy. They show that any talk of our fearing a "ganging up" by France and Germany on the supra-national authority is nonsense. Indeed I do not think such a fear exists, for it is clear that our position is a very strong one.
Moreover, our hesitation is not due to any fear of comparison of the efficiency of our coal and steel industries with those of our Continental friends. On the contrary, we have every reason to suppose that an approach to freer market conditions in the European coal and steel trades, under fair conditions of competition and under the supervision of an international authority, would be to our advantage. Eventually there is sure to be a surplus of coal and steel production in Western Europe, and then the inefficient producers will, we hope, be eliminated. But our total costs in coal production at present are lower than those of the Continental countries and, except in Germany, which is a special case, wages form a very similar Proportion of total costs. Indeed, it may be said that we have the highest output per man-shift of all the countries which come under this Plan with the exception of the Netherlands, and are the only country' of the group which has surpassed its pre-war figure. Our internal price levels are lower and, provided we get the necessary increase in output, that would place us in a very strong position. Very much the same can be said in the case of steel.
I hope I have said enough to show that the reason for our non-participation in the Schuman talks is in no way fear that we should come out badly from the inevitable rationalisation which it is hoped would be one of the main advantages to he derived from the setting up of an international authority for the coal and steel industries. Nothing could be further from the case. What we do fear, however, is that an authority with no responsibility to Governments will nevertheless have the power to give decisions or recommendations which are binding both on Governments and business enterprises over a very wide range of important matters, without its having any political, social, or financial responsibility for the 1199 consequences of its actions. As my noble friend Lord Lawson pointed out, there is one very important aspect of this matter which must be kept well to the fore—namely, the interests of the large working populations which are employed in these industries. It is stated in the scheme that the high authority is to concern itself with the rationalisation of the industries, with export trade—admittedly only export trade in coal and steel, but if they control export trade and fix prices of inland sales of these two industries it is going to mean that other industries will be dependent. They will also have the decision in regard to investment programmes, equalisation of living conditions of the workers and other matters which are of the greatest importance to the workpeople employed in those industries. The miners of this country earn the highest wages of those in the six countries and work the shortest weekly hours, while, as I have already said, the output per man-shift is higher than in any other country except the Netherlands, and we are the first Western European country to exceed the pre-war figures on this basis.
Sir William Lawther, the British representative on a sub-committee at the Miners International, spent some time in Paris last week investigating the possible effect of the Schuman proposals upon the workpeople employed in the mining industry of this country. On his return he said that no one so far seems to know what the idea I s, and the trade union representatives will be called into consultation only when their advice is needed. He not unnaturally maintains that this does not satisfy the workers' representatives, for there is no guarantee that the advice which they give upon the questions affecting them will be accepted. One of the main aims of the Schuman proposals is stated to be the improvement and equalisation of living conditions in these industries. Presumably, this means levelling up, rather than averaging. But how can one expect the miners of this country to accept any binding decision in principle before they have received full assurances that there will be no lowering of the standards which it has taken a lifetime to build up?
Perhaps the most surprising result of the Schuman Plan has been the sudden 1200 conversion of the Opposition to State planning. The remarkable statement has been made in another place thatthe more free an economy is, the more necessary it is for it to make international arrangements to maintain world demand for its products.This is nothing less than a complete confession of the weakness of free enterprise, for we are told that the freer the various national economies are the more necessary it is by international planning to avoid the inevitable depression which will follow—as it followed between the wars. We welcome the Opposition as the latest converts to the vital necessity for planning and control of our basic industries.
The main theme of the Opposition criticism has been similar to that in another place during the last two days. They claim that we could have entered into the Schuman Plan discussions on the same terms as the Dutch. I should have hoped that if the noble Lords had read the speeches of my right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, indeed, had listened to that of the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor to-day, they would have realised that this fallacy had been finally disposed of. The issue is quite clear. We are not prepared to accept the principle that the coal and steel industries on which our national economy depends should be surrendered to an authority which stands outside and above Parliament. The Dutch accepted this principle, with the reservation that if they found later that they did not like it, they would back out. Apparently that is what the Opposition would wish us to do—a truly astonishing suggestion, for we believe that had we accepted the French conditions, and then later been forced to withdraw, the damage to European unity would have been irreparable. The Government took the only course open to them: they welcomed the French initiative and offered to discuss proposals in detail, refusing, however, to commit themselves until they had some idea as to how the plan might work out in practice. That is truly the British way of doing business, and we want to follow a practice which has been so well known and for so long carried out by the people of this country.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, the ground has certainly been very well 1201 quartered. I will therefore endeavour to speak as briefly as possible and to confine myself as far as I can to ground which has not already been covered by previous speakers. I should like to consider the Schuman Plan under three headings: there is the French point of view, there is the action taken by our Government, and then there is the document issued by the Labour Party Executive. The French point of view, is, of course, political and not mainly economic. In considering their point of view we should remember that for centuries the soil of Europe was drenched with blood and the Continent kept in a constant turmoil by Anglo-French conflict. That period happily passed, but unfortunately after the Anglo-French conflict had become a thing of history it was replaced by a Franco-German conflict which has in our lifetime produced two murderous wars, leaving us most unhappily with the possibility of a third yet more murderous war. The Schuman Plan offers the chance of laying the spectre of Franco-German hostility. There is a new spirit among the young generation of both France and Germany which opens out this possibility to us. May I remind your Lordships of the remarkable speech made recently by General de Gaulle, in which he said that he looked forward to the day when the Rhine would be a broad boulevard along which the nations of Europe would promenade, and would cease to be a barrier across which two nations gaze at each other with hostility in their eyes? I think that speech is a remarkable testimony of the new spirit arising in France.
This is a great prize which is offered to Europe and to civilisation. And if France acted quickly, as I have seen it said, and if she wanted to act on a firm basis of certain prior agreements, I, for one, should find it impossible to blame France much in that respect. I should think they were acting upon the well tried adage:Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him.If Germany is in the mood to come to this accommodation with France, who can blame France for wanting to act quickly and on a firm basis of prior agreement? While I appreciate that French point of view, I am of firm conviction that our own Government have acted rightly in 1202 taking the action which they have done. As the debate proceeded in another place over the past two days, I think a slightly uneasy conviction began to spread among the Opposition that the Government were right after all. The Government may have in some ways acted rather clumsily. They may have committed some blunders in carrying out what they have done. Some offence has been given to the French and some misunderstanding has been aroused in America. But never mind about that: what matters is the essential;, and in the essentials I believe the Government's action was wise and right. If some faults of procedure were committed, that was possibly due to the regrettable and prolonged absence of Mr. Bevin from the Foreign Office. Ha is a man of such stature that he tends to dwarf those who work under him. The Foreign Office without Mr. Bevin is Hamlet without the Prince and with the grave-digger playing rather too prominent a part in the performance.
May I examine for a few minutes the Opposition case in this matter? I think we may fairly take the Opposition case as being that put forw.a.c1 by their leading spokesman in another place, Mr. Eden. My Lords, I have read that speech twice. Like every speech made by Mr. Eden it is a speech of marked ability, of remarkable knowledge, a most fascinating speech to read. But I can assure your Lordships that far and away the greater part of that speech was taken up with matters quite separate from the Schuman Plan. When you really analyse it, as I have tried to analyse it—as I say, having read it twice—and try to dig out the arguments which Mr. Eden brought forward against the Government action, you find that they form a very small part indeed of the speech.
His speech was made in support of a Motion which asked the Government to accept the invitation while reserving freedom of action if.it was found that no plan was practicable. But if it is found that no plan is practicable why is it necessary to reserve freedom of action'? There is nothing about which to reserve freedom of action if it is found that no plan is practicable. Mr. Eden quoted the proceedings at S.H.A.E.F. under General Eisenhower as an example of 1203 the merging of sovereignty and he used these words:It is illogical to make concessions to win a war, but to hesitate to make them to prevent a war.That is a very neat phrase, and one which at first rather catches the ear. But if you begin to think about it there is really not very much in it, because it is a remark which completely leaves out human nature. What you will do in the face of overwhelming danger is something very different indeed from what you can propose that people should do in times of peace. I remember that at an early stage in the last war Mr. Churchill made an offer of common citizenship to the French. That was an offer made, as I say, under the shadow of an overwhelming danger. Can you imagine such an offer being made in times of peace? To talk about what was done in time of war and to make it a precedent for what you can do in time of peace is misleading.
Mr. Eden spoke about the possibility of a reduction of Britain to the status of observer in Franco-German relations. I find it very difficult to believe that such a thing could ever happen. Although we are going through difficult times, this country is still the catalyst upon which secure and stable European relations must be based. But here is where I come to the main point of Mr. Eden's argument. He agreed that the French used the words "a common high authority" and that the decisions of this common high authority would be binding on the member Governments. He agreed (and again I am quoting his words) thatthe French requested acceptance of the principle of a high authority as an essential preliminary to the discussion of any ensuing plan.But Mr. Eden complained (I feel that I am representing him fairly) that our Government "took a literal view of this condition" and subordinated their consideration of all that is good in the Plan to this literal view. But, my Lords, the language of a State document must be taken literally. You cannot go into negotiations of this importance and say "We are going to pull out" when you find that you disagree, and then, when you are told "But you signed you agreed," say "But we really did not think you meant us to take that literally." My 1204 Lords, how can you possibly advance an argument of that sort and complain that the Government took too literal a view of these words, most carefully thought out by the French Government and reiterated by the French Government on more than one occasion, although they knew the objections that we were raising to them?
Mr. Eden said thatthe risks of having to withdraw from the negotiations are less serious than those of failing to attend the negotiations at all.I should be sorry to see this country following the Russian technique of walking out of negotiations into which they have entered in pursuit of what I would call their signature to a binding agreement. The point, surely, is that on the question of a common high authority, whose decisions were to be binding, there were to be no negotiations at all. It is no good talking about going into and walking out of negotiations on those all important points about which there were to be no negotiations of any sort: acceptance of those points was a condition of attending the conference, and we could have walked out only by repudiating our signature to the basic condition on which the conference took place. I am bound to think that the Government chose the honest way. It is quite true, as Mr. Eden quoted, that M. Schuman has said:We shall pool our ideas, confront them and choose between them.But that does not mean ideas about having a high authority whose decisions are to be binding. That would have been settled by our agreement to go to a conference, and the discussions about ideas of which M. Schuman has spoken would simply have been discussions on such matters as whether there was to be a right of appeal, whether there was to be any form of voting, whether there was to be proportionate production, and so forth. On the all-important matters, however, there could have been no discussions, because they would have been entered into by signature before the conference took place.
Mr. Eden said that he would have gone to the conference provided we were satisfied with the conditions and safeguards. In effect, that is what the Government have done. The matter is sometimes represented as if we refused completely to 1205 have anything whatever to do with the Schuman Plan. On the contrary, we have spoken in most encouraging and warm terms about it, and have said that if this conference resulted in something which is practicable and which squares with our other binding commitments, then having the interests of Europe at heart in this matter, we will do everything we can. It has been made perfectly clear that we will go into any useful plan which results from the conference, if it is possible with our other and prior commitments.
But that does not meet the French conditions. Would the French have agreed if we had approached them on those terms? I agree that the Dutch are there on the lines along which Mr. Eden spoke. But, surely, the positions of this country and of the Netherlands are very different. I speak with the greatest respect for that remarkable country, and all the more so as a sailor, because on more than one occasion they have knocked seven bells out of us at sea; therefore I should be the last to speak in any way slightingly of that country. But our influence is rather greater than that of the Netherlands. I doubt very much if the French would have been pleased to have us at the conference on those terms If the Netherlands find that what is proposed is something which they cannot accept, they 'may decide to leave the conference, but our withdrawal from such a conference on similar lines would be a very different matter; it would be a resounding blow struck at the prospects of security and stability in Europe. The noble Lord, Lord Lawson, is here, and he will correct me if I am wrong in this statement. I am under the impression that the Dutch have only two mines, and I believe we have pits in this country which employ more miners than are employed by the whole of the mining industry in the Netherlands.
§ LORD LAWSON
There is one large colliery town in the North—Ashington—which employs more colliers and produces more tons than the whole of Holland.
§ LORD WINSTER
I am glad I mentioned the point, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lawson. Those facts put into perspective the great difference between the Dutch and ourselves going into these negotiations on certain terms.
1206 There is only one other criticism by Mr. Eden which I will mention. He has said:These events have deeply injured our authority in Europe.He quoted a Dutch journalist in support of that statement. I think that the prestige of this country is very like Punch —apparently it is never as good as it was. Year after year one is always hearing the story that our prestige has fallen, that our status is not what it was; but somehow—just as Punch maintains its circulation—we seem to get along in spite of that, and no European country is very anxious to embark upon any momentous step without attempting to secure our support and backing. But if to act perfectly honestly—I agree clumsily, in some respects—if to interpret documents literally, and if to go into negotiations without ambiguous reservations in one's mind is to cause loss of prestige, then I am afraid prestige must be lost, for I would not wish to see my country enter into international conversations upon any other basis. On one point I do indeed agree with Mr. Eden. That is when he said that we ought to have recognised the implications of the Ruhr Statute and given a lead in going on from there to the production of some such Plan as M. Schuman has now put before us.
I now come to the third part of my remarks, with regard to the Labour Party Executive document. Strictly speaking, I think the Prime Minister is quite correct in drawing a distinction between such a document and official Government policy. I agree that a great deal may be said upon either side. I agree that perhaps the distinction is a little finely drawn, and it is probably difficult for the "Mr. Attlee" of Downing Street completely to dissociate himself from the "Clem" of the Executive. There should be some effort to keep in step in t lese matters, and I am bound to say that, as we are living in a world when planning is the fashion, I do not think it was a very good example of planning to issue a White Paper with an all-important sentence omitted from it, and simultaneously to issue a document which to a very large extent "made a monkey" of the White Paper.
But I am of this opinion. Even if it were the case—and I do not agree that it is—that our prestige had sunk in Europe as Mr. Eden said, and if feeling 1207 has been roused in France and America it is far more the fault of the Executive's document than of the Government's White Paper. I think it is that which has done the damage. I did not like that document issued by the Executive. There is much with which I would agree, and there are some things with which I would not agree; but I cannot quarrel with those people who said they did find a little taint of the "holier than thou" attitude about that document. If Mr. Morgan Phillips is going to claim an affinity between Socialism and Methodism, I can say only that a "holier than thou" attitude is no part of the religion of John Wesley. I believe that the Executive's document was a maladroit production which has certainly done us harm in Europe. One of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes was the adventure of The League of the Red-headed Men. I do not wish to see our foreign policy based upon the idea of red-headed Governments in Europe.
§ LORD WINSTER
I hope the gallant Admiral of the Fleet will accept my apology. I did not see him sitting there.
In conclusion I would say that Germany must inevitably regain her national rights. East Germany is becoming another of the satellite States, so West Germany becomes an essential part of Western defence. Therefore, good Franco-German relations are essential and, in my opinion, they are the only way to prevent the resurgence of a dominant Germany in Europe. As time goes on, I think we shall see the Government justified in the action they have taken. We have to think in three dimensions; so our position is much more difficult than that of the European nations who are going to the Conference and who have to think in only one dimension. We have to think in three: we are part of a European system, part of the Atlantic system, and part of the Commonwealth system. We have an infinitely more difficult task than have the nations who are part of the European system and of no others. But if some good and workable plan arises out of this Conference, it is inconceivable that anyone should wish to leave us out of that plan; and I believe that it would be inconceivable that any 1208 Government in this country should wish to stay out of the plan, provided they were convinced that it did not conflict with prior commitments to which we are bound.
As I have listened to Conservative speeches in this House on this matter, and as I have read the debate on the subject which took place in another place, I have thought that Conservatives based their views in this matter upon an old nursery rhyme which runs like this:There was a man of our townAnd he was wondrous wise,He jumped into a bramble bush,And scratched out both his eyes,And when he found his eyes were gone.With all his might and main,He jumped into another bush,And scratched them back again.I do not believe that jumping headlong is the way to act in international affairs; and if you try, and you scratch out your eyes I know of no way in which you can scratch them back again. I think the country will have reason to be grateful to this Government for having acted on two other adages:Look before you leapandDon't buy a pig in a poke.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ LORD LAYTON
My Lords, five weeks ago I ventured to address your Lordships on the Schuman Plan and to give reasons why, in my opinion, the United Kingdom should participate in the scheme. To-day the Conference of six nations for establishing the Plan is sitting in Paris—but Great Britain is not there. In the meantime Great Britain has once again contrived to create an unhappy impression abroad of hesitation and of dragging our feet. I am not concerned to discuss whether this impression is justified or not; and after a two-day debate in another place and to-day's debate here I do not propose, either, to follow the discussion raised on the White Paper, because it seems to me that the question to which we have now to address ourselves is whether anything can be done to repair the damage. And we must admit that some damage has, in fact, been done, and there has been something of a setback to a movement which we all ardently desire to press forward. We should try to do that particularly, for the unhappy situation which has arisen is not only deplorable in itself but is most 1209 untimely. The news from Korea—I gather that the latest news is certainly not better than that which was given to the House an hour or so ago—must make us all realize that we may at any moment have to face the severest attack, and that the solidarity of the free world really will have to show itself. So far as I am concerned, it sent a shiver down my spine to hear that dreadful phrase from a Korean spokesman two days ago, I think, when he said:Too little and too late.But, coming nearer home, it has been mentioned several times to-day that Germany is about to take her place among the democratic nations of Europe—a decision which was greatly aided by the Schuman Plan. But Germany is also deeply conscious of her defenceless position, and she will take that place next August in the Assembly with less confidence in the democratic side if we present a picture of being divided and unorganised. The combined effect of the division between France and Britain on the Schuman Plan and the publication of the Labour Party "Brown Paper" has been to irritate American opinion, cause hesitation in Germany and disappoint our immediate neighbours in Europe. Judging from such contacts as I personally was able to male last week at Strasbourg, it was evident to me that the most disappointed of all were the Socialist members from the Continental countries.
I do not deprecate the prolonged discussion on the form that the organisation of Europe and of the very world should take. On the contrary, such discussion is most desirable, for every step of the way must be fortified by a united public opinion. My complaint is that this discussion has been so long delayed and, now that it is taking place, it is. I would say, taking place on unduly academic ground and tinged with a certain amount of partisanship. In this connection, may I also say—I hope it will not be misunderstood by my friends on the Government Bench— that it is most unfortunate that the Labour Party have held aloof from the discussions that have been taking place within the European Movement during the last three years.
§ LORD LAYTON
Yes. Surely it is the international grouping of the voluntary associations in the different countries of Western Europe which have been discussing and making propaganda for the unification of Western Europe. In that organisation there have been members of all Parties. The experience of that Movement and subsequently the experience of the Council of Europe at Strasbourg has shown that, when you come to grips with the problem of co-operation, the common ground between all Parties is much greater than when they discuss this matter in their separate tabernacles. For example, some eighteen months ago there was an all-Party declaration drawn up at Brussels by a conference of the Movement, in which the European Socialists in effect committed themselves to the view—and I am quite sure that this would be shared on the Government Benches and, indeed, as I believe, largely by the Labour Party in this country—that the principles of European civilisation are much more fundamental than any social institutions, which are merely a means to an end, and that European unity must in tact be built upon a mixed economy.
Similarly, the Political Committee of the Strasbourg Assembly which has been sitting since last September has also been working on the future constitution of Europe, and while its results have not yet been disclosed or published I think there is good reason to believe that progress is being made towards a concept, at all events, of the target for the next five years or so which will be acceptable to federalists and non-federalists alike. Viewed from that earning approach together of the different Parties' attitudes, the Labour Party's brown book is definitely a setback. Let me say that I am not linking this comment with His Majesty's Government at all. I accept absolutely for, the purposes of my comments here that it is the Labour Party's declaration. As many of us have agreed, it says some very wise things. On the other hand, it contains many points which, to put it tentatively, are not helpful to the cause of international co-operation.
Though I do not want to detain the House at this stage on these points, I wish to mention just three. The first has already been referred to by the noble 1211 Viscount, Lord Swinton. It is the implication, of course, that a Labour Government can work effectively for the integration of European economy only with a Socialist Government. I do not wish to repeat the phrase, but that is certainly the implication. It is true that a great deal is said about the desire, indeed, the keenness of the Labour Party, to cooperate with Governments of other complexions. But the emphasis has been on planning and, in particular, planning for full employment. My Lords, all Governments plan, all Governments have planned, certainly for decades past, in the sense of controlling the course of the economy of the country. Sometimes it is done haphazardly, sometimes it is done in a co-ordinated way; but taxation, subsidies and all the interventions of Government are very definitely forms of the direction of the growth, in the sense of the planting, the pruning and the growing of the tree of the nation's economy.
May I take one point? Far away the most important plan of our time, and possibly even of history, has been started and carried out largely by a country which is a believer in free enterprise—I refer, of course, to the Marshall Plan, which has played its rôle in moulding the life of all the countries of Europe and, indeed, has also reacted on the actual state of the economy of the United States itself.
§ LORD LAYTON
Indeed, yes. My next point concerns the reference in the pamphlet to the liberalisation of commerce, and the doubt there cast that there is anything to be gained from the enlargement of the market in Europe. There are in that pamphlet-I will not refer to them specifically—the most astonishing statements about the liberalisation of commerce, including one that it would be undesirable to increase the liberalisation of commerce because it would create difficulties in connection with devaluation. As I read those passages, I wondered what the chief missionary of liberalisation of commerce in Paris would think of them—I refer, of course, to Sir Stafford Cripps.
Finally, there are references to the Commonwealth and the deduction which must inevitably be drawn on the Continent that there is some conflict between 1212 Britain's ties with the Commonwealth and her links with Europe. I think I have already drawn the attention of your Lordships' House to the fact that eight months ago M. Spaak, speaking in one of the committee rooms of Parliament here and referring to this question, said quite categorically that Europe recognised that if Britain were ever faced with the issue of a choice between her association with the Commonwealth and her association with Europe she would, quite rightly, choose the Commonwealth. And he went on to say that, from Europe's point of view, obviously, they wished those associations to remain. Britain, the country to which Europe has looked through so many crises, he said, is the head of this great Commonwealth; why should one want to go into partnership with a partner who is stripped of his chief asset? And the corollary of that is this: that as the evolution of the new relationship of Britain to Europe develops, the countries of Europe will desire to adjust those relationships to British needs in relation to her overseas possessions and indeed to the needs of other countries in relation to their overseas possessions. The climate, that subtle climate of the psychology between countries, has undoubtedly been affected by what has happened in the last month. When we are considering how that sort of thing may be avoided, I should like to support very strongly the plea which has been made in one or two of the speeches in this House to-day that we should borrow from the experience of the United States and seek in a more definite manner than ever before to adopt a bi-partisan policy in the foreign field.
The noble Lord, Lord Brand, has spoken of this matter particularly in reference to defence, but it really covers the whole foreign field. That is, in a way, the main moral which I draw from this situation, and I am sure that there is a good deal of feeling in support of it. I wish to commend the suggestion to His Majesty's Government, with the request that they should consider very seriously indeed whether it is not possible to avoid the sort of frictions that have occurred within this country and between sections of opinion in this country and foreign countries by that policy. After all, no one who has looked at the history of the last ten or fifteen years would question the assertion 1213 that the United States could not have achieved its dominating position in the world or acted with such decision as she, in fact, did act in critical moments of human history in recent years, had it not been for the conscious and deliberate association of both Parties in foreign affairs. The unity which the United States achieves by this bi-partisan method is, of course, obtained in Russia by totalitarian methods. It is deplorable that Great Britain should, by contrast, ever present a picture of bickering. In connection with that proposal I should like to suggest that all-Party discussions should be fostered under Government auspices to consider precisely the questions which we have been debating to-day in this House and which have been debated in another place during the past three days.
The problems of future developments in the international world fall under two heads—the relation of the various international bodies to one another and the form each of these bodies should take. The first matter includes the relationship between regional organisations like the O.E.E.C. and the Council of Europe with the Atlantic community and the United Nations. Not so long ago I was in America, and I was struck with the confusion of mind being created by the organisations which are backing Atlantic Union, World Government and so on. In our own country there is a great danger of the public mind being confused when emphasis is laid first on one and then on another organisation with each phase of events. It is not a difficult problem and I shall not follow the noble Lord, Lord Brand on that issue. I will say merely that what is wanted is a precise definition of the functions of the various regional groupings. We must lay down where the line should be drawn between matters that come within the purview of the European organisation and those which fall under the Atlantic organisation. It is not a choice between one conception and another, just as it is not a choice between a Commonwealth and a European conception, but simply one of where the line comes. A serious study on these lines with Government sponsorship would do a great deal to clear public opinion here and would be extremely helpful in relation to other countries.
In regard to the form of international organisation, whether, for example, in 1214 Europe there should be federation or confederation or some other form, I would say only that neither a federation on the lines of the United States of America nor international co-operation between Governments of the type now carried out in E.C.A. and O.E.E.C., gives entirely the right answer. I think I shall carry the House with me on this point If we look for effective co-operation we have to work out something which is more adapted to present complex conditions The first of these two forms is not yet practicable—I think we must admit this, whatever may be the ultimate answer. The other method in practice is too slow and often ineffective. But by the delegation of specific powers it should be possible to avoid both the futility of organisations in which each country has a veto, and where, in practice, all major decisions have to be unanimous, and the sweeping consolidation of a sovereignty which would certainly present impossible dilemmas to this country. A body acting by delegated authority must derive its authority from the people. That is an esential condition which in present circumstances must come via Governments, and not through a sovereign Federal Parliament. It must be given definite power which will permit of corporate action, the extent of which will vary from case to case.
I notice that in the discussions of the Schuman Plan the French have been seeking to find a method of giving expression to a corporate wi11. Many of the phrases used in the documents circulated point to that search. But the power of corporate action must be in a clearly defined area of activity. The powers must be subject to recall by the authority from which they emanate. And finally the operations carried on by these authorities must be subject to public criticism. I had in mind, of course, the concept of the Assembly of the Council of Europe. Such a concept may take a variety of forms. The immediate task, as I see it, is to bring into being organs in the sphere of defence, economics and politics which will be quick in action and as effective as possible within the limits I have indicated. It is open to discussion, and a great issue which needs to be studied carefully is whether it is possible by carefully protected delegation of responsibility to secure really effective international organs of action.
1215 Interestingly enough, the problem involved are illustrated by the document which has been drawn up by the French experts and which was circulated yesterday from the French Embassy in London. It has already been quoted by the Lord Chancellor. A reading of this document suggests not only that the Schuman Plan itself is as yet far from being clearly defined, but that the Anglo-French argument set out in the White Paper really turns out to have been something of a sham fight. For example, the high authority is not itself a super-State (or a supra-State as we now speak of it), but would be "responsible to a common Assembly." The powers assigned to it would not be dictatorial, but subject to controls in various forms, and there is provision for setting up an arbitral body. Its directing personnel would in effect be subject to dismissal—it is rather a complicated formula for dismissing them, but they would be subject to dismissal. Its planning powers in relation to investment would apparently not he complete, but would be supplemented by funds supplied by the authority. That formula is extremely striking and interesting.
This document, of course, is not the official scheme but the experts' proposal submitted to the Conference. According to it,… the programme of production and modernisation drawn up by the high authority with the assistance of the enterprises "—that is, the firms—and regional associations"—that is, of course, of private or nationalised firms—would give guidance to the enterprises in the establishment of their own programmes. The enterprises would keep the responsibility for their investments and financing. The high authority would have the right to express its views and make them public, to set up the framework within which Governments could participate in financing investments and to give assistance from its own resources to such operations as would qualify for it.There has been a sort of impression that this high authority would run the iron and steel and coal industries of Europe. Of course it would do nothing of the kind. The noble Lord, Lord Lawson, spoke quite rightly and feelingly about the man in the pit feeling how remote was the chap who was "running the show" in London, and how much worse it would be if he were in Dussel- 1216 dorf. But of course the plan does not suggest anything of that kind. The authority will not manage anything; it will not own anything. It will have some powers of control and direction and guidance.
§ LORD LAWSON
The authority would fix the prices of the coal and steel and thereby affect the wages of the men who were working in the industries; and further, the authority could close down the collieries or steelworks.
§ LORD LAYTON
The noble Lord may be right but, with respect, I do not think he is. The phrase about prices is obscure and is obviously one of the things that would have to be cleared up. Apparently the function of the high authority in relation to prices would be to make general rules of a type presumably indicated in its mandate or charter, the purpose of which would be to protect the consumers by prohibiting discrimination, unfair practices and so forth. There is a reference to minimum and maximum prices, but it is not clearly stated whether the fixing is the function of the authority; and it is clearly stated that the general price structure and policy—which is a different thing—should be such as to allow the price system to operate freely. As to the question of whether the authority would close down mines or not, I feel that to anyone who studies this document the answer would be that it could not. The reference here is to programmes which are established. I read the phrase because it indicates that the programmes are formulated by the organisations, whether they are private or public. Indeed, the whole of the draft relating to the closing of works implies that the scheme to ensure that there is modernisation of plant depends partly on encouragement and guidance to form programmes of investment, but mainly on the prior agreement of the countries to remove barriers to trade and the price agreements arranged.
The final clause in this document to which I have been referring, which was also referred to by the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor (it is by no means completely clear) relates to withdrawal. So far as I can see, that is an afterthought of the experts. I may be wrong about that, but I have not seen anything in the White Paper which says 1217 that in no circumstances could there be the power of withdrawal.
Tim LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting. I do not know why he says that. Is not that inherent in the idea of a higher authority whose orders you have to obey? If you can get out of obeying those orders by withdrawing, there is no substance in it at all.
§ LORD LAYTON
Unfortunately the Lord Chancellor was out of the House when I referred to the statement about the powers of the higher authority. The higher authority is certainly, on two-thirds of the document, subject to dismissal. There are several clauses as to what are and are not the powers of the higher authority. But I must say that I can find nothing in the White Paper relating to the power of withdrawal. I do not wish to go further into this question, except to say that tie scheme is linked with the conception of federation in the minds of the promoters. Much has been said vaguely about the scheme being a basis for federation, but federation is not inherent in the scheme and this last reference, I should say, is an afterthought. In practice, however, it is of significance, because in the event of political relations between France and Germany getting worse, the control of the iron and steel industries alone could not hold France and Germany together. Though we have heard the phrase about "making war impossible", and though I personally attach enormous importance to that, I think it would be a pity if that particular aspect of it were mixed up with the technical provisions of this scheme. The position would be exactly the same whether you had a controlling authority which, as I have suggested, is implied, or not. As we have always found in war time, it is the physical position of plant which determines on which side the product of those works is used. How it will affect the issue of peace or war is the extent to which there is actual integration so that the two areas are in fact interdependent. That would certainly tend to greater security.
This document, which is only beginning to throw a little more light on the scheme, presents many points for criticism and discussion, and in certain respects may lead to further confusion rather than simplification in the international field. 1218 In a sense the Schuman Plan is a scheme of that intermediate field, between the two extremes which I have mentioned, and the importance of the detail is bow far it leads to one side or the other. Whatever the form of the scheme, there is clearly little to be said for creating a fresh group of parliamentarians with ultimate control over a single field such as the two industries of iron and steel and coal. After all, the whole of Western Europe, and not merely the six purchaser countries, is an interested party. Neighbouring on these six countries are users of iron and steel with differing rates. The function of public discussion should clearly he performed under the ægis of the Assembly of the Council of Europe. If it is thought that the composition of that body is not right, then it should be modified. But it cannot possibly he right to set up another organ of that type and contemplate yet another organ to deal with some other function.
These criticisms are not, however, an argument for rejecting the project altogether, but for taking part in its organisation. I apologise for detaining your Lordships so long at this time of night, but this field is an enormous one. My thesis is that the clarification of our purposes internationally, and the creation of the means to fulfil them, are the most important tasks in the international field. And that is why I have not suggested merely that we should drop the bipartisan plan but that we should make a conscious effort now to consider those two major problems of the relationship of the different organs and our place in them, and the character of those organs. The United Nations is at present rendered—I almost said impotent, but very nearly impotent, by division. The experience through which we are passing at this moment may indeed make it vital for us to revise the constitution and methods of that body. But no world organisation can cover the whole field of international joint action. We have seen composite bodies springing up in every direction, and nations have discovered the need for mutual aid and the necessity to break down the national frontiers between them—not merely frontiers in the geographical sense but in the political and economic sense as well. I appeal to His Majesty's Government to set their mind to the task of clarifying ideas and intentions in this field—in which, alas! 1219 up to the present, there is too much overlapping and chaos.
§ 9.57 p.m.
§ LORD CHERWELL
My Lords, at this late hour I will not weary you with any discussion of the difficulties we are meeting all over the world or the grave position in which we find ourselves. I think we all agree, however, that these difficulties all arise and stem from Communist imperialism which is now rampant in Moscow. To-day we are concerned mainly with Europe. I think it is common ground that the great prize in Europe which the Communists are trying to gain is Germany. It has been said that who holds Germany holds Europe, and I think the Russians have that very much in mind. What method they will adopt we do not know; the ordinary technique has already begun; infiltration has started. The question is whether invasion will follow.
The great question for the world is, How can Germany, and with Germany the rest of Europe, be defended? It is absolutely vital for the Atlantic Powers that this should succeed. Unless Russia can be held on the Elbe or, better still, on the Oder, we cannot expect Germany to take a strong line against Communist infiltration and finally Communist domination. Who is going to hold back Russia or push back the Russian army to the Oder? The French Army is certainly not as strong as it was in 1940, and it is doubtful whether, even with the help of the United Kingdom, adequate guarantees can be offered. United States forces, as we know, would take months to build up to anything like the strength they had in 1944. As the noble Lord, Lord Brand, said, France has been invaded three times by Germany within a single lifetime. Naturally, the French view with horror any proposal that the German army should be reconstituted. They are therefore faced with the dilemma that if the German army is reconstituted they will be at the mercy of the Germans; if it is not reconstituted they will be at the mercy of the Russians.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Brand, I personally believe that the Schuman Plan was primarily invented with the intention of resolving this dilemma. Everyone knows that modern war requires a vast apparatus of weapons and munitions which have to be brought forward and 1220 which are used up, year in and year out, and that these are mainly composed of steel. If the steel industries of two countries could be merged, it would be impossible for either country to make war on the other. It would not be a question of keeping Germany disarmed, which is a humiliating and difficult position to maintain indefinitely; but they could not make war on France. That would be the natural result of the intermingling of their steel industries. For the same reasons that it would be impossible for Birmingham, say, to make war on Sheffield. Birmingham would find that half of the things they needed for war would be made in Sheffield, and Sheffield would find that half of the things they needed were made in Birmingham. Therefore if the steel industries of France and Germany can be merged under some high non-national authority which will arrange production and markets and so on, the danger of war between those two countries will be eliminated.
To everybody's delight, Germany accepted the proposition unequivocably. If a workable plan, therefore, can be hammered out, it will be the greatest step towards European peace since the ill-starred Treaty of Verdun. Europe would certainly be secured against Communist invasion. After all, Germany nearly beat Russia in 1940–41 single-handed—in fact, with one hand tied behind her back. It would therefore certainly not be difficult to hold the Communist forces in check if France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States were working together to resist their invasion. Admittedly, the difficulties of working out such a plan are immense but, as the noble Lord, Lord Winster, said, the prize is gigantic. It would secure peace for Western Europe for more than a generation.
I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester when he says that the Government's approach to these great issues has not been on the level of events. Their attitude has been lukewarm and of little help. It may be that they are animated by good intentions, but it does seem to me that the "Keep Left" signs with which the road to Hell seems to be signposted have bedevilled the handling of this immense matter. Whether the Government wanted to or not, they have undoubtedly given the impression that 1221 they are seeking reasons and arguments for keeping aloof rather than finding methods for coming in on these discussions. This is the more remarkable when we remember that Socialists always pose as the good Europeans and condemn Conservatives as being isolationists. Nothing will persuade me that it would not have been possible to find a formula which would have enabled us to come in, just as the Netherlands found a formula to enable them to come in without being tied. The noble Lord, Lord Winster, blamed the grave-digger. That may be, but it is rather unfortunate in matters of such great importance that all the principal members of the Government should be abroad, and that these negotiations should be in such hands.
If the merger of coal and steel is important politically, it is also immensely important economically. It has been said several times in the course of this debate that the Continental Powers of Europe make two-thirds of the steel of the whole of Europe and produce about one-half of the coal. Surely it is urgent for us to take a share in concerting arrangements as to the production and development and marketing of these materials. It is surely very much better to sit at the conference table rather than to sulk at the keyhole. Anyhow, our presence at the conference table could not nave made things worse—at least, I assume that there are some members of the Government who can take part in an international discussion without making things worse than they would otherwise be. After all, there is no need to send the Minister of Town and Country Planning. There must be some members who are able to negotiate and perhaps even achieve, some of the desired objectives. But I am not concerned to say whether or not the plan is feasible. I hope it is. I think we all hope it is. What we complain about is that we are not taking part in an attempt to work out some feasible plan.
The Government have given several reasons (I should almost like to call them excuses) for not coming in on these discussions. One is that we should be handing ourselves ever to a supra-national authority. Indeed, the Lord Chancellor said that such action would not be right, and would not be democratic. But I must point out that it is 1222 not the French who started this phrase "supra-national authority." It is a Socialist invention. It was brought up and passed as a Labour Party resolution in 1948, in these words:to co-operate with the European Socialist Parties in taking practical steps to achieve the unity of Socialist States of Europe, including the establishment of supra-national agencies to take over from each nation powers to allocate and distribute coal, steel, timber, locomotives, rolling-stock, and imports from hard-currency countries, in complete military and political independence of the United States of America and the U.S.S.R.It appears to be all right to submit to a supra-national authority if all the other nations are Socialist. If they are not Socialist, apparently it is all wrong and, indeed, not even democratic.
Surely, to refuse to abate one jot or tittle of sovereignty is an indication that the Government have not thought out what they are doing. Every treaty involves the giving up of certain elements of national sovereignty. The United Nations Charter condemns us to accept orders from a supra-rational authority. The Atomic Energy Plan was extremely severe in laying down conditions which we had to obey. To all of those conditions the Government made no objection. Of course the Prime Minister has said that these were authorities whose members were responsible to Governments. The high authority contemplated in the Schuman Plan is an irresponsible body, I think he said, responsible to nobody. How can we hand over our steel industry to such a body? That was the gist of his argument. But who has ever said that they are going to be irresponsible people? Whoever has suggested that we are going to hard over the whole of our steel industry to this high authority? It is precisely questions of that sort that are to be discussed. Presumably, the meeting will discuss the mode of appointments of the members of this high authority, what their powers will be, and what the voting arrangements will be. There might even be a veto of certain powers. All this is left to be determined, and if the noble Viscount, Lord Hall is right, with our enormous output we might easily be given a position of great power, if not dominance on this authority. Now, instead of our sitting in and trying to arrange things in a way that would suit us, everything will be 1223 settled in our absence and, as Mr. Churchill said yesterday: "Les absents ont toujours tort. "
Of course, the Government cannot let the occasion pass without muttering their usual incantation (like the blessed word "Mesopotamia"), that it might conflict with "our policy of full employment." As the noble Earl, Lord Perth said, that is most inept. All Governments have a policy of full employment, and all Governments are anxious to secure full employment. We all know—and it has been stated here to-day on very good authority—that Europe's steel capacity is considerably above the demand for steel in normal times. If, from time to time, the supply exceeds the demand what will happen? We cannot make people swallow steel, unless they are sword swallowers, and then the amount consumed will not be much. When the post-war demand for steel is satisfied, are the United Kingdom and the European steel cartel—for that is what it will boil down to—to have a price war? Are the European miners to dump their coal in Italy? Are the terms of trade to be worsened once more? Surely it would be much better to agree on a fair price for a fair day's work, and to distribute the orders for steel in a reasonable and orderly manner. Otherwise we are much more likely to see unemployment and low wages from not joining in these talks than from going in.
A further Government excuse is: "We could not bind ourselves in advance." As has been said already, no one ever suggested that they should. In their Memorandum of May 30, the French Government said that they wished particularly to confirm once more that it was not their intention to ask as a prior condition to full participation in the discussions for an undertaking to pool coal and steel resources and to set up an authority with certain sovereign powers. There will be no commitment except by the signature of a treaty between States concerned, and its Parliamentary ratification. The authority, of course, will act within the limits of its mandate. No one is being bound in advance. We have not settled what the mandate will be. The document says in paragraph 8 that the authority will act:within the limits of its mandate and subject to possible appeal by Governments—by virtue of a Statute which will have been considered by sovereign States and ratified in Parliaments.1224 If we do not like the proposals we do not ratify in Parliament. We are not being asked to bind ourselves in advance. Nothing could be further from the facts. Great play has been made with M. Monnet's Press Conference and document. This is at best ex post facto justification, because the Government had refused to take part in negotiations before the document appeared.
I need not go into any details here because Lord Layton has dealt with all this in full. But I must point out that these proposals by M. Monnet were merely his own idea, and he himself announced that he anticipated making numerous modifications. Negotiators do not come forward and put their last word first. They put forward what they think might be considered and what they would like to have, and they are always ready to compromise with opponents in a reasonable spirit. The Lord Chancellor, rather unfortunately I thought, suggested that it was rather dishonourable of the Dutch to enter the Conference with reservations. He said we could have gone into it "with our tongue in our cheek." Surely that is entirely beside the point. We made it clear what our difficulties are and what our reservations are—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Will the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting him? I said no such thing about the Dutch. I was careful to say nothing in criticism of the Dutch. If the noble Lord had listened to what I said he would have known that.
§ LORD CHERWELL
The Lord Chancellor did so by inference, if not directly. He said that it would be dishonourable for us to do it and he also said the Dutch had done it. I think the Dutch could draw an inference from that. We have made clear what our difficulties are, and what our reservations have to be, and therefore, I do not think there is any reason why we should not sit in on these discussions if the French will now agree to our doing so.
The next excuse is that these discussions might conflict with our duties to the Empire. I really cannot see any reason why that should do so; but even if it turned out that the commitments we were asked to make did conflict with our duties to the Empire, or tended to do so, we could object and refuse to agree. I wish we were equally careful in all our 1225 other dealings with the Empire. When the United Kingdom derationed petrol without telling New Zealand, which had been especially asked to keep petrol on the ration, I think we showed a lack of that meticulous consideration of which we now appear to make a fetish. We see a Chancellor who announced in 1936 that it was fundamental to Socialism that we should liquidate the British Empire as soon as we can, and who boasted in 1948 that that is what we have done; and it is rather repulsive to see him using his regard for the British Empire as an excuse for not taking part in these discussions.
At this late hour I will not discuss "Dr. Dalton's Brown Book." The Socialists stiffer much from the indiscretions of their colleagues. Their true feelings about the farmers was recently revealed by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food. And their true feelings towards Europe are fairly adequately expressed I think in the Party Executive's brown book. The complacency which it exudes has already been pilloried. The harm done abroad, especially in the United States, has been described by the noble Earl, Lord Halifax. Nor is there any need for me to comment on the timing of its publication. It is all part of the principle of not letting the Right wing know what the Left wing is doing. Anyhow, it has let the cat out of the bag. Apparently only Socialists can co-operate with Socialists. There is a sort of red colour bar. Anyone who is not red cannot be brought into the family. We have heard before that Left can deal with left, but I am not sure that that claim has been substantiated by events. The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor indicated that possibly there may be votes on this question. I appeal to the Government to try to rise above this consideration. I know that it seems ridiculous to Socialists that it might be possible to rise above the vote-catching level, but I appeal to them for once to make an effort to consider the good of the country, to take a patriotic view, to look facts in the face, and not merely to think of the ballot box. Anyone who keeps his ear to the ground persistently will have a very narrow horizon.
I beg the Government, even at this late hour, to join in the Schuman talks. Let them try to hammer out a workable plan 1226 even if it does involve dealing with non-Socialists. After all, Socialists co-operated with the Conservatives during the war. Let them try to co-operate for once with European Conservatives. Conditions are not so very unlike war at the present moment, and I do not think the Government should try to stand aloof merely because they are suspicious of the politics of the Governments abroad. If it is impossible to work out the plan in practice, so much the worse; but they should at any rate try to do it. This is the greatest opportunity to create peace in Western Europe that we have had for generations. I appeal to the Government to put peace before Party. If they refuse to help they will stand condemned in the eyes of history.
§ 10.21 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
My Lords, in view of the hour I will refrain from making a considered reply to the last two speeches that we have heard, though I should very much have liked to do so. I am sure that we were all entertained by, and will duly remember, the admonitions of the noble Lord who has just spoken about the necessity for refraining from considerations of the ballot box and his warning that we may sometimes suffer for the sins of some of our friends in times past. If we do, we are not the only Party that has at times been afflicted with that indisposition. I would recommend the noble Lord, if he is interested in these researches, to look at some of the opinions of the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons on the Conservative Party which were published some years ago. I think he has changed his mind and I am not blaming him; but they illustrate the point of the observations of the noble Lord—neither of which, however, has any relation to the subject we are discussing, and to which I should now like to turn.
I was interested in what Lord Layton told us as to his experiences in regard to the multiplicity of various organisations which deal with Governmental matters, and the extent of the overlapping which they display. He said that during his recent visit to the United States he had met a number of people who were afflicted with confusion of mind over the multiplicity of organisations of this character. I tried to follow the noble Lord's meditation on this subject in the first half of his 1227 speech, and quite frankly, so far as I could make out, he was proposing a host more. I am sure that his views are worth the most careful consideration, but again they were not related to the subject before us this evening.
We do not accept the admonitions of the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, or of any of his friends anywhere, that we have at any time failed to do everything we can to promote unity in Europe, or to recognise the immense importance of any suggestion which is likely to bring about harmony between France and Germany and to mitigate the perils to which the noble Lord has referred. May I say, in parenthesis, that I largely agree with the analysis of the situation which formed the beginning of his speech and is familiar to everyone of us. However, I do object to that considerable part of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Layton, which consisted of depreciation of the efforts of his own countrymen in promoting unity in Europe. Before I finish I will challenge him on this statement. I say that we have done more in the way of practical methods of promoting unity in Europe than anybody else, and he ought to give recognition to those solid facts. I regret that a man of his repute and fairness should fail to do so.
I deliberately omit much that I was going to say, but I would call your Lordships' attention to two statements to be found on pages 12 and 13 of the White Paper. In doing so, let me refer to what the noble Lord, Lord Layton, said about this document that was issued yesterday by M. Monnet, a draft of some of his proposals, which the noble Lord said were in some respects not very clear, in some respects would need amendment and in others were incomplete. I want to point out to your Lordships the realities of the case. That document appeared on June 27. It was on June 2 that we were confronted with the reality. We had not seen this document; the noble Lord, Lord Layton, had not seen this document; nor had the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, who condemns us for not entering into consultation.
§ LORD LAYTON
If I may interrupt the noble Viscount, I did not use this argument in discussing M. Monnet's document as a criticism of what the Government had done. I began my speech by saying that I was not proposing to discuss that aspect of it. Further, I hope that I did not give the impression that I believe this country has done nothing for European co-operation. The purpose of my remarks was to show the need for clarification, and to appeal to the Government for inter-Party discussion to clarify the situation, which certainly is confused. I did not use this argument against the Government or in relation to the White Paper.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
I want to bring the House back to the realities of the situation. On June 2 the Cabinet was called together to consider the proposal from the French Government. If your Lordships look at Document 12 on page 12 you will see that we were asked to give a reply by eight o'clock the same evening. We had to say then whether or not we would agree to this proposition:The Governments of … in their determination to pursue a common action for peace, European solidarity and economic and social progress have assigned to themselves as their immediate objective the pooling of coal and steel production and the institution of a new high authority whose decisions will bindthe Governments. We were asked on the morning of June 2 whether or not we would agree to that undertaking before we entered into any discussions at all. The animadversions of the noble Lord, Lord Layton, have no relation whatever to the grim reality. He said that he had no intention of blaming us. All I have to say is that from beginning to end his speech was a series of unfriendly references to the way we handled this business. Now look at our reply of June 2, on the next page. It is said that we shut the door and refused to negotiate, and all the rest of it, as embroidered by the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, a few minutes ago. What we said in the middle of the paragraph of the United Kingdom Memorandum of June 2 was:If His Majesty's Government accepted the revised wording"—that is the wording I have just read—they would feel committed in principle to pool their coal and steel resources and to set up a new high authority whose decisions would bind the Governments concerned,"—1229 I would call particular attention to the next words—possibilities which they do not exclude but could not accept without full knowledge of their political and economic implications.That is not a flat refusal. We said that we may even be prepared to accept these proposals, but we cannot accept them in advance before we have seen them, before we know their economic and political implications, which may strike at the root of our major industries. We said that we cannot give our promise before we know what it is that we are asked to do. I will not pursue that point. I have a great many notes here, and I could enlarge upon it, but the hour is too late.
I want to say just a word about what I think is in the mind of the noble Earl, Lord Halifax—that we are disposed to be isolationists. I took the trouble before this debate to get together some of the enterprises in which we have not only not been isolationists but have been good unionists, even in the sense of the noble Lords who have spoken. We have adopted a maxim which was admirably expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Brand, when he said, that the way to advance is by co-operation between existing Governments responsible to their respective Parliaments. We believe that; we accept that. Now let me tell the House of a few contributions to European union which this Government have been foremost in making. In the first place, to help the different countries in Europe we parted with £180,000,000 worth of stores and other goods. We have made loans to the extent of £450,000,000 to European countries to help them to recover. Under the recent European Payments Scheme—which is international co-operation of an exceedingly practical kind—we have made an advance of £80,000,000. And of course we all know that it was largely owing to the initiative of our Foreign Secretary that the Brussels Treaty was formulated.
I want now to refer to two recent contributions. Remember that it is a British representative who is Chairman of the Executive Committee for European Economic Co-operation. Quite recently, as your Lordships know—or I hope you know—we have helped to put into practical form the freer trade arrangements within Europe. The noble Lord, Lord Layton, seemed to deprecate this. Our 1230 total trade with those countries in 1947 was £600,000,000; in 1948, £815,000,000; in 1949, £974,000,000. And at the present rate of progress this year it will be more than £1,000,000,000. That is the result of our co-operating in the freeing of trade between the countries. The second contribution is the European Payments Union, which will come into operation within the next few weeks. There is a whole catalogue more, but it is too late for me to go into them this evening. They are practical schemes which we ourselves have taken the initiative in making in promoting greater European unity, and in our opinion this is the right way of approaching these problems. I suggest that there is nothing of isolationism in our attitude. On the contrary, we are good working partners. But that is quite a different thing from accepting in advance a proposition which is not yet formulated and which would commit us to consigning to its care the vital industries of the country.
I should like to add a word about what the Opposition say we ought to have done. They say that we ought to have gone into the Plan on the basis of the Dutch acceptance. I should like to support the protest made by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack. The one condition made by the Netherlands Government was the possibility of translating the proposal into practice—the practicability. We are not questioning that it may be practical.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I do not know whether the noble Viscount is answering me. If he is, may I say that I laid down quite specifically the points on which we should have to be satisfied before we agreed to a treaty, and I asked the Government to go in on those term and notify the French that we were willing to do so.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
I quite accept that. I was talking about the worth of the Opposition Motion in the other place, which makes our participation conditional on the Plan's being practicable. That is the only condition mentioned. I say that it would be perfectly practicable to make the international cartel about which the noble Lord has been speaking so frankly. It would be perfectly possible, and we knew that it would be. But that is no reason why we should commit ourselves in advance 1231 to put the whole of our coal and steel industry into the possession of some international cartel, entirely undefined and unformulated. It is not isolationism to want information on a matter of that kind.
§ LORD CHERWELL
It would not be practicable, surely, to bring forward a proposal which you could not get Parliament to accept. It is stated here that whatever proposals are made would have to be considered and ratified by Parliament. Therefore, a scheme which was undesirable and disadvantageous would not be practicable.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
If all those conditions had been put into the paper which we were asked to sign on June 2, we should have been in a different position, but they were neither suggested or implied. We were asked to go into the Conference on that one condition, and I have given the reasons—and they are overwhelming reasons—why we could not see our way to do it. And I am certain that if noble Lords on that side had been in office they would not have done so either. They would have wanted some further information if they were responsible, as we were, for our national industries.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
I have not the time now to go into this Paper, but we went out of our way to make it possible to get some elucidation of this essential condition which would enable us to participate, and that is why it was that we were confronted on June 2, and asked for our reply by 8 o'clock.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
In order to have the matter further elucidated, and to make it possible for us to come in, we asked whether there could not be a meeting of Ministers to thresh out the differences and to devise a formula on which we could agree. It is quite impossible for noble Lords, with all their ingenuity and their anxiety to place us in the wrong, to make out any sort of case whatever that we were reluctant—"slow-footed," I think is the expression that one noble Lord is fond of using—in coming into these nego- 1232 tiations. Not at all. And I suggest that it is entirely unfair, and is damaging to the best interests of European unity, for noble Lords to go out of their way to depreciate their own country, which has done more than any other to promote the welfare of European countries.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
I see that this document contains one point concerning the desire of the Government to liberalise European trade.
§ LORD DE L'ISLE AND DUDLEY
May I read the paragraph?There is moreover a real danger in proposals which aim primarily at increasing trade within Europe. Europe's main economic problem is the dollar gap. … Any further liberalisation of intra-European trade will tend to offset the benefits of devaluation by making it easier to sell in Europe.Does the noble Viscount agree with that?
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
It leaves me completely unmoved. It would be perfectly possible to quote against us many documents, including that which the noble Lord has produced. But I have put to the House this solid fact: that owing to our particular initiative and activity during the last three years, inter-European trade has increased from £600,000,000 to £1,000,000,000, this present year. That is the effective reply. That is what we have actually done. I suppose the noble Lord is taking some sentence or other from a document. It does not matter.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
I am not sure that that particular sentence has any relevance whatever to what we have done. The noble Lord has referred to a sentence. I have not the faintest idea where it comes from, and I am not going to accept it as having any relevance whatsoever to the subject of this discussion.
I have some observations to make upon the potentialities of the supranational authority, but I will refrain from making them. I would say that it would be perfectly practicable to fashion an international cartel which no member of this House, on either side, could possibly support. There is one thing that has 1233 caused me considerable astonishment Tight through. I have no doubt that noble Lords will hear about it, even at the hustings, before they have finished with it. They fought the whole of last year, as we all know, against the nationalisation of the steel industry. Yet it would not be possible to control the iron and steel industries of the Ruhr, France and Great Britain without some machinery. And that is what this authority would be for. What I do not understand—and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, in his midnight meditations for his next speech, will think it over—is this: What explanation is he going to invent for the Conservative Party's sudden enthusiasm for coming to a conference which would produce the kind of cartel he has described to us when he has been so very hostile to the bringing together of the steel industry under one corporation responsible through a Minister to Parliament—a Single industry in our own country? I think the noble Lord will find it difficult to explain that. However, I leave it to him.
§ Loin CHERWELL
I do not think I need wait till midnight to give the answer. It is perfectly possible to control an industry without nationalising it. The iron and steel trade has been running for very many years and, thank God, it is not nationalised yet.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
I can tell the noble Lord that we are anxious all the time for the welfare of the iron and steel and coal industries, and of the people who work in them. We want to meet what we hope will be the greatly increased demand for their products in lime to come, because we know that in the Commonwealth, and particularly in India and other countries, there is a potential demand for the products of iron and steel in particular which is almost immeasurable, if they can possibly pay for it. Finally, the noble Lord can take it from me that we resist the giving of these immense powers to any corporation or 1234 authority which would be independent of Governments. We differ from him fundamentally on that. I am quite sure that, when the noble Lord comes to think it over, if he had to agree in advance to commit the destiny of these immense industries to an unformulated authority, with the only condition attached that tae decision of that authority should bind Governments, he would refuse, as we have done.
§ 10.43 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, I certainly do not regret having initiated this debate. I think that nationally and internationally it has served to clear the situation. I am afraid that anybody anywhere reading carefully and impartially the speeches which have been made will come to the conclusion that the Government were not willing to enter into this conference. I would put to the noble Viscount, in a single sentence, this acid test. He said he did not want to go in blindfold and to be bound blindfold. Nor do I. But if he wanted to go in, instead of searching for difficulties in these various Memoranda, why did he never say to the French Government "I cannot go into this blindfold. I want to get a workable scheme, if I possibly can, which is fair to my country, to yours and to Europe; but it is only if I can get such a scheme in the negotiation that I can sign a treaty and join. On that understanding I will gladly come in." If they wanted to participate why did the Government never say that to the French Government?
My Motion is a Motion for Papers. If I were to receive some more papers, heaven knows what I might get! I might get another "Dalton document"; therefore I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.