HC Deb 17 March 1948 vol 448 cc2137-8

5.24 p.m.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)

I have asked for the momentary interruption of Business so that we may mark a great occasion. At this moment, in Brussels, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has just signed a treaty which provides for economic, social, cultural and defensive collaboration between the five Western European Powers, namely Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France and the United Kingdom.

This is indeed no ordinary treaty. It is not an alliance based on self-interest and fear; it is rather an association of likeminded neighbours who, engaged jointly in shaping their way towards some closer social, and indeed spiritual, integration, base themselves on the essential similarity of their civilisations and solemnly pledge on paper their common obligations and their common intentions alike.

The text of the treaty is now available in the Library, and I am arranging for it to be published as a White Paper. I will not, therefore, attempt to describe it in detail here. It is consistent with our policy to build up good neighbourly relations, based on the widest co-operation in all fields. Let me make it clear that it is directed against none. These recent negotiations, which have taken place since my right hon. Friend made his statement on 22nd January, have been conducted with understanding, with cordiality and with the determination to face the real facts. This is not only a treaty but a basis for activity in the economic, social, cultural and security fields. This instrument provides the opportunity for the consultation and collaboration which will enable all of us to secure such conditions as will contribute to a higher standard of life for all our peoples.

Mr. Churchill (Woodford)

The Prime Minister is fully justified in declaring that this is a momentous statement which he has made. We on this side of the House should not wish to express final opinion on details, naturally, until we have had an opportunity of seeing and considering the text of the Treaty and of assuring ourselves that the position of our fellow Dominions is in full harmony with what has been arranged, and that the difficulties, if such there be, can be patiently and satisfactorily adjusted; hut, having made those reserves, I should like to assure the Prime Minister on behalf of His Majesty's Opposition that we have a great feeling that the decisions which have been taken at Brussels will be found after examination to be in accord with the general sense of the House of Commons and will constitute a step in harmony with the needs of the times and with the hopes of the future.

Mr. Whiteley

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Ordered: "That this House immediately resolve itself into Committee on the Representation of the People Bill."—[Mr. Whiteley.]