Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [26th June]:
That this House requests His Majesty's Government, in the interests of peace and full employment, to accept the invitation to take part in the discussions on the Schuman Plan, subject to the same condition as that made by the Netherlands Government, namely, that if the discussions show the plan not to be practicable, freedom of action is reserved."—[Mr. Eden.]
Which Amendment was to leave out from "House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
welcomes the initiative of the French Foreign Minister of 9th May and, while recognising that it was not possible for His Majesty's Government to take part in the international consideration of his proposals on terms which committed them in advance of such consideration to pool the production of coal and steel and to institute a new high authority whose decisions would bind the Governments concerned, approves the declared readiness of His Majesty's Government to take a constructive part in the conversations with the hope that they may be able to join in, or associate themselves with, this common effort."—[Sir S. Cripps.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
On a point of order. Before the Debate is resumed, Mr. Speaker, may I ask you two questions in order to have the benefit of your advice to the House. You will remember that last week some of us pressed for an extension of time for the Debate yesterday and today. In view of your experience, do you not think that more time should have been given upon the big question that we are considering?
Secondly, may I ask your advice upon these facts. In yesterday's Debate leading right hon. Members took two hours and five minutes, and other right hon. Gentlemen took one hour. Five other Members took two hours and 36 minutes. On this side of the House four right hon. Gentleman and several hon. Members including three lawyers spoke, but not one miner, not one engineer and not one steelworker. In view of the effect of these proposals upon large-scale industry, should not more time have been given? 2105 Can you say, based upon your experience in this Debate, whether more time should not be given to such questions in the future?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am afraid that I can only say now that I trust that in the short time that is available today, hon. Members who happen to catch my eye will be as brief as possible so that I can get in as many as possible. We did very well yesterday up to a point, and then we rather broke down. I hope that today we shall keep it up. As to the number of speakers, I did my best. One cannot call everybody, but I did what I could.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
May I make it clear, Sir, that I know that at one time you had at least 78 names, and that others were coming afterwards, so we all have a great deal of sympathy with your difficulty.
§ Lord John Hope (Edinburgh, Pentlands)
May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether a great deal of what the hon. Member has said was not a direct reflection on the Chair?
§ Mr. Speaker
It depends upon how a thing is said. I am certain that the hon. Member meant no reflection on the Chair. We all realise, as I realise, that it is very difficult, with so many people wanting to speak, to call every interest. We got through a fair number yesterday. We have already lost five minutes. Let us get on with the business.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Edelman (Coventry, North)
The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), in a fervent speech last night, made it clear that he was prepared under certain safeguards to surrender British sovereignty to a higher authority. That statement was frank and unambiguous, but the hon. Gentleman did not make it clear to what length he carried his own party with him in that statement. One of the problems of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, ever since the Leader of the Opposition first associated himself with the idea of a united Europe, has been to find out exactly to what extent the Opposition are prepared to concur in the surrender of British sovereignty.
Indeed, last year at Strasbourg, when the proceedings opened, it was widely thought among journalists, not only on the Continent but in America, that the Conservative Party were prepared, in 2106 their adherence to the idea of a United Europe, to support the idea of a federal Europe straight away. Because that view was so widely held, the Labour representatives, who urged that European unity should be brought about by cooperation in specific agencies for specific purposes, were charged with dragging their feet. Depite the fact that the British Labour Government had made for so long a period and at so great a cost to the people of this country, a practical contribution to the welfare of the Continent, and despite the fact that Britain had made many sacrifices in order to bring about its revival, the Labour representatives were considered to be opposed to European unity.
When the Leader of the Opposition first came to speak at Strasbourg, he was thought by many of those present to be about to launch an all-out attack on the Lord President of the Council, for which newspaper correspondents had prepared the public. But when the Leader of the Opposition rose to speak, so far from attacking the Lord President, he went out of his way to associate himself with the approach which the Lord President had made to the unification of Europe. The Leader of the Opposition said:It is not for us to make decisions which would require executive authority. We must not attempt on our present electoral basis to challenge the powers of the duly constituted national Parliaments founded directly upon universal suffrage.Then the Leader of the Opposition went on to say in connection with the future political structure of Europe:To take a homely and familiar text, we may just as well see what a girl looks like before we marry her.That is the course of action which the Government have taken in connection with the Schuman Plan; and if the Leader of the Opposition considers that the Government have acted unwisely in asking for a preliminary inspection, he has only his own advice to blame for the action which the Government have taken.
The fact is that a Labour Government which had made this unequivocal statement on the question of the surrender of sovereignty and which had stated quite clearly that it was not prepared to commit itself to the principle of such a surrender without prior consultation with Parliament and the people could not have acted other than it has done in connection with 2107 the invitation which was put forward by the French Government. Indeed, I can well believe that if the Leader of the Opposition had been in office, he, too, had he been consistent, would not have acted differently from the way in which the Prime Minister has acted.
One thing must strike everyone as remarkable, not so much in the nature of the Schuman proposal but in the manner of the proposal. I have referred to it already as an invitation. In point of fact, it might seem to many of us rather more like an ultimatum. No responsible Government could have committed itself to a principle which would have bound Britain to a surrender of sovereignty unless that Government had first made the most exhaustive examination of the proposal and then submitted it to the consideration of Parliament and of Britain as a whole. If we examine the Schuman documents and look at the project as outlined in the first communiqué, one thing which strikes us is that, although the plan as a whole is merely a sketch, it contains certain very specific proposals whose acceptance was inherent in the conditions which the French Government put forward for the conference.
One of the things which is made absolutely clear is that the structure of the body should consist of so-called "independent members." We are entitled to ask who the independent members are who would be put forward to direct the coal and steel industry of Europe. Who are these independent people, so free from national associations, so free from economic prejudice, such paragons of wisdom that they would be qualified to direct without any form of democratic responsibility a great European industry, which, after all, affects the lives of every one of us? These independent representatives would be answerable to no-one at all. They would be an oligarchy imposed on Europe, an oligarchy which, with arbitrary power and with enormous influence, would be able to affect the lives of every person in this country.
It is true that several Members of the Opposition have suggested that certain safeguards might be included in the plan which would prevent an abuse of power by the control board. What are the safeguards proposed by the French? The independence mentioned in the first com- 2108 muniqué is a spurious one because the individuals who composed the body would be bound to have personal, national, perhaps even commercial, affiliations, although they would not be responsible to any elected body. They would be an arbitrary association, an undemocratic association of individuals, over whom there would be no public control whatsoever.
What other safeguards are included in the proposals put forward by M. Schuman? There is one suggestion which, in the context of what is happening in Korea today, seems almost laughable. That proposal is that there should be a United Nations inspector sitting on the board who would be able to report to the United Nations and make sure that the purposes of the board were pacific and in line with the public interest. Who would this United Nations inspector be? Would he be a delegate from Guatemala—somebody perhaps who had no connection whatever with the steel industry of Europe? It is impossible to believe that a proposal of that kind would be a safeguard adequate to prevent an abuse of power by the body if it were set up in the terms originally proposed by M. Schuman.
Even now, while the Paris Conference is going on, we read of improvised suggestions for some kind of democratic control for this body. We are told that M. Monnet has suggested that there should be an ad hoc Parliament of Europe which would have the responsibility of examining, presumably, the accounts and the proceedings of the coal and steel board; but is it possible to believe that such a Parliamentary assembly, scraped up for the specific purpose of examining in a very brief period the proceedings of this body over a whole year would be either technically or politically capable of providing sufficient supervision to prevent an arbitrary abuse of power?
I have drawn attention to certain weaknesses in the proposals, and yet for my own part I welcome the initiative which has been made by M. Schuman, because of the general purposes contained in the proposals. We, as Socialists, have always believed that one of the root causes of war, not only in Europe but throughout the world, has been a conflict for raw materials. If it were possible to unify 2109 the Ruhr-Lorraine system of coal and steel production in such a way as to prevent the present political division—which on the one side prevents the iron ore of Lorraine from having its natural and organic relationship with the coal of the Ruhr and on the other side produces such abnormalities in the European political system as the present control of the Saar—if we could do away with that, if we could re-create the organic unity of Europe which the Schuman Plan proposes, then we should do two things at the same time.
Not only should we make the coal and steel industry of Europe more efficient, but, in addition to that, we should succeed in bringing Germany and France, and indeed ourselves, together in order to avoid the conflicts which before 1939 produced a succession of wars; or, when there was agreement a series of cartels. It is clear that, so far from being a cartel pledged to restriction, the Schuman Plan proposes that there should be a vast expansion of the coal and steel industry of Europe. Now the question is, in what form should that expansion take place? What guarantees can we find to make sure that, when that expansion takes place, we do not get back to the pre-war days when expansion was always associated with so-called over-production, which brought in its wake the disaster of mass unemployment?
The iron and steel industry of Europe was completely unplanned when it was left to the chaos of private enterprise. The result was that whenever there was over-production the less efficient firms were forced out of production through bankruptcy, but their own personal loss involved serious damage to the standard of life and the conditions of employment of vast numbers of workmen.
Later, to sort out the chaos and to try to bring some plan into the iron and steel industry of Europe great industrialists got together and planned cartels, not to absorb the production of the iron and steel industry of Europe but rather to close down plants, to rationalise, to drive certain firms out of production. The result was high prices and mass unemployment. In other words, whether there was a cartel or whether there was free enterprise, the results were always the same: there was mass unemployment in the iron and steel industry of Europe as long as that industry was either in the hands of 2110 private enterprise or was planned exclusively by private enterprise.
The singular merit of the Schuman Plan is that for the first time there is a proposal that the planning of the industry should not be left simply to the industrialists who are primarily concerned with the profit which they are extracting from the industry, but that the industry as a whole should be planned with the cooperation of Governments. Therefore, although the present structure proposed by M. Schuman may require modification, the purpose behind the plan is one which we as Socialists should welcome. Although I have been talking about overproduction, and although that word was mentioned frequently in yesterdays' Debate, we do not have to look to Africa to mop up this so-called over-production. As long as there is a single house to be built in Britain, as long as there are railways and rolling stock and vehicles to be built in this country, it is foolish and wrong to talk of over-production of basic raw materials.
We have to devise a means by which we shall be able to have an organisation which is neither the arbitrary high authority proposed by the French nor an organisation of governmental representatives like O.E.E.C., whose limitations are caused to some extent by the fact that it is run almost exclusively by civil servants, able and eminent civil servants but nevertheless civil servants who have no direct electoral responsibility.
If we could evolve some kind of intermediate organisation which would be able to co-ordinate the industry of Europe, which would be able to bring the interests of Europe together which would be able to join in consultation not just a collection of international civil servants, not just a collection of govern-mentally-appointed independent people, but which would really be representative of employers, of trade unions, of consumers as well as of governments—if we had a body of this kind, then we would indeed have an international organisation which would be able to compose the differences existing between the different interests of Europe, which would harmonise them, and which would be a working body to which I am sure my own hon. Friends would have no objection. This would provide a common ground to which those hon. Members 2111 opposite who are perhaps most vitally concerned with the interests of the employers could have no objection. A British nationalised board as employer could work side by side with the industrialists of France or the controlling employing organisations of Germany. That is the synthesis we must seek to find; and that is the common ground on which we must try to meet.
It may well be that at present there is no suitable name for such an organisation. It may well be that those who are much tied to terminology may object that this is not a supra-national body or, alternatively, that it is not an international body as we know it today. It may well be—as has been said in a different connection—that the word for this type of organisation has not yet been discovered, but if we approach the matter pragmatically, if we consider the actual merits of the situation, I believe we shall be able to put forward an alternative to the Schuman Plan which will have the effect of co-ordinating the basic industry of Europe in the interests of Europe as a whole.
Let us not imagine that the Schuman Plan, whatever form its organisation takes, can exist in a vacuum. One of the fundamental purposes of the Schuman Plan is to stimulate not merely production but also consumption. Consequently, if we want to stimulate consumption there will have to be an engineering organisation for Europe, there will have to be an agricultural organisation for Europe. This brings me to a question I should like to put hon. Gentlemen opposite: if there were a Schuman Plan for agriculture which envisaged a high authority for the agriculture of Europe, would they be prepared to go to the farmers of Britain and say, "We have surrendered our sovereignty to this high authority which henceforward will be able to tell the farmers of Britain exactly what they have to do?" I cannot help feeling that if a Conservative spokesman, having made that statement, were to go to the farmers and inform them of it, he would displace my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) from his place in the scale of the affections of the farmers.
There must be a complete series of interdependent organisations which will 2112 flow from the application of the Schuman Plan. Therefore, I want to ask the Government not to wait till the discussions in Paris peter out in disappointment and in recrimination. If they do, I believe that our own Socialist idea of the planning of the basic industries of Europe by consent may be deferred for many years to come. I sincerely hope that, neither in the interests of prestige nor for any other comparable consideration, will we hesitate to put forward our ideas to the French as soon as possible.
I have made a suggestion for a quadripartite organisation of employers, trade unionists, consumers and governments which would have the effect of synthesising the views of the French and of ourselves, and if we put forward something of that kind—
§ Mr. John McKay (Wallsend)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understand that a tremendous number of hon. Members wish to speak. The hon. Member at present speaking has been up 20 minutes already—
§ Mr. Edelman
I do not want to take up the time of the House unduly, but I was putting forward a suggestion which might be a bridge between the point of view of the French and our own point of view in industry.
I hope that the Government will consider my suggestion and will not wait until the Paris Conference is finally concluded before putting forward either that or any other constructive proposal. Britain has in the past proved her attachment to the idea of European unity. We have made great financial and material contributions to the revival of Europe. We must now show that despite sneers and incomprehension, from whichever direction they may come, we intend to persevere side by side with the Commonwealth in our practical support of a unified Europe, a Europe united in good will and by consent. I believe that we may thus discover not merely the means of creating a united Europe but also of laying the foundations for a united world.
§ 4.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
I should like to thank the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) for a very helpful and constructive speech. I cannot say that I disagree with a word of it, and I hope that the Government 2113 will listen to his advice. I would say to the hon. Member for Wallsend (Mr. McKay) that it is extremely unfortunate that not many people can take part in the Debate. It is a pity that it is not a two-or even a three-day Debate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] In a matter of this magnitude, it is not merely a matter of getting up to say a few chirpy sentences; anyone who succeeds in catching Mr. Speaker's eye might just as well make a case, lest he does not speak again for several months.
I hope to answer some of the questions which the hon. Member for Coventry, North, put to this side of the House. I say at the outset that one of the advantages of becoming old—almost the only advantage, I think—is that one can remember what happened quite a long time ago, because one was there. Everybody agreed yesterday that what happened in the 1920's was very important and that we can today draw some lessons from what happened in those years. I remember the 1920's very well indeed. I was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I remember very well the coal stoppage of 1926 and its aftermath of cut-throat international competition in the basic industries, when every ton of coal which was cut in Europe was sold below the cost of production and the figures of unemployment in our basic industries went up and up.
At the beginning of 1928 I went to Germany. I went to the Ruhr and I met the leaders of the German coal and iron and steel industries. I am aware that the German industrialists of the 1920's are not regarded with much favour today, but they contained many men of great ability. Walther Rathenau, I think, was one of the most outstandingly clever men of our age. He was dead by the time I got there. Do not forget that these were the men who carried through the rationalisation of German industry which restored German industrial power. Do not forget that these were the men who founded the modern working parties in industry, who arranged for the scientific concentration of firms within an industry for the execution of common functions by means of a central executive. And do not forget that there is little doubt that their prototypes still exist in Germany today.
2114 These industrialists, including Fritz Thyssen, expounded to me a plan for a European coal, iron and steel consortium, under British leadership. They said that in the modern world this would have to be under political control, and that the problem would, therefore, have to be approached at the political level. They also said that it was the only hope of avoiding a Second World War. Well, we got the Second World War. They complained that they could not talk to the representatives of the British coal industry because they said that at that time the representatives of the British coal industry would not talk to each other, and so there was not much chance of their talking to them.
So they asked me to make the first move at a political level. I came down to this House, and on 10th February, 1928—I cannot resist making a brief quotation—I said:Our coal industry is engaged, so far as I can see … in a vast disorganised scamper for markets in Europe at any cost, at any price. … What is the effect? The effect is that the Germans are now preparing a retaliatory campaign …It is a most senseless business. … For between them this country and Germany could control practically the whole of the coal markets of the world, outside the United States. At the moment both industries are running at a loss. … There is no conceivable doubt that the policy that we are pursuing with regard to coal is going to force the Germans to lengthen their hours and to lower wages in the coalmines.And that is what happened. I went on:I would say this to the President of the Board of Trade: the German coalowners, and the iron and steel industrialists also, are not only willing but most anxious to come to an agreement with this country with regard to markets and prices. … They say it would be a generous agreement on their part. …What is the alternative to this policy? The alternative seems to be a sort of ghastly combination of dumping and tariffs on all sides. … I believe in Protection, both economic and political, against unfair attack from any quarter. But I also believe that treaties of arbitration and agreements are better than armaments, if you can get them.I am certain, as a result of my visit to Germany, that an economic Locarno is possible in Europe today … If we can get that … then I believe we shall see in this country and in Europe … a period of unparalleled economic prosperity and development in the course of this century."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th February, 1928; Vol. 213, c. 445–449.]I am naturally a very modest sort of chap, but as I re-read this speech, I must 2115 confess that it occurred to me that it certainly looked as if I had anticipated the Schuman Plan by 22 years; and that is not bad.
§ Mr. Boothby
It is all in HANSARD. There was an amusing, and to me a very gratifying, sequel. A few days after the Debate, I got a letter dated 16th February, 1928:I write to congratulate you on your speech in the House. I have asked the 'Daily Express' to give you plenty of support. Don't be afraid of your independent line. You are making a good and great name for yourself. Yours ever, Beaverbrook.In the event, nothing came of it. What happened was that Europe was in no condition to meet the impact of the American slump when it came in 1930. Riven by competitive nationalism, and continuing to apply the once valid but now disruptive ideals of undiluted national sovereignty and laissez faire, she accompanied the United States headlong into the abyss. And Hitler climbed to power on the backs of six million unemployed. That was the answer of the 1920's, and I do not think that we ought to forget it. So much by way of approach.
I do not think we can over-estimate the gravity of the issue which we are discussing. It is really the issue of peace or war. We are now faced with the greatest challenge that has ever been made to our Western democratic civilisation. How are we meeting it? I am afraid, not very well. We are at present losing this titanic struggle for world power. The Communists have their own ideas about international, political and economic integration, and they certainly put them into practice. During the last five years they have collected half Europe and the whole of China, with the exception of South Korea, and now they are collecting that. We have asked, through the United Nations, for a "cease-fire," and I think it quite likely that our request will very shortly be gratified, but only after Southern Korea has been added to the Communist empire.
I believe that there is only one answer to this Communist challenge—I have always believed it—and that is a comprehensive democratic union, based on a charter of human rights, strong enough to 2116 resist aggression from without or from within. It can only be strong enough if it comprises the United States, the British Commonwealth and a united Europe—all three. I genuinely believe that one of the obstacles to the creation of such a union has been His Majesty's Government. Let me explain why.
In his speech at Fulton the Leader of the Opposition proclaimed the ultimate objective of wide Western Union under the acknowledged leadership of the United States. The Government said they preferred a European leadership. At Zurich later the Leader of the Opposition asked for a united Europe as an integral part of the wider Western Union and invited France to stretch out the hand of friendship to Germany in order to achieve this. The Government then said: "We prefer an Atlantic union." At The Hague Conference resolutions were passed which led directly to the Council of Europe and from that Congress the Socialist Party held conspicuously aloof and from that time they have put one obstacle after another in the way of European union.
Listening to the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday I could not help feeling he was living in a world of illusion and I think that many hon. Members opposite share that illusion. He said:at no time in our history has the understanding between this country and France been greater than it is today."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th June, 1950; Vol. 476, c. 1939.]And I think he believed it. I should like to ask if he received a telegram of thanks and congratulations from the French Government for the brilliant way in which he handled the devaluation crisis last year? It was, in fact, the biggest slap in the face ever given by this country to Europe. As I was listening to him, I began to feel quite sorry for the French of whom he said he had been seeing so much, because I think he genuinely believes they are devoted to him. They are very polite, but I do not think that is their real view.
I suppose I have been at pretty well every meeting of the European Movement in the last two and a half years, that movement to which the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) referred in rather contemptuous terms yesterday. Let me tell him that it is not run nor financed by the federalists. I can give him an assurance on that point. I have 2117 never for one moment at any meeting of the Council or Executive disguised from them the fact that this country as the centre of the Commonwealth cannot enter a European political federation and that our approach to the problem of European unity must always be functional rather than constitutional. That attitude has been perfectly well understood on the Continent of Europe, and on this understanding we might have led the movement for European unity during the last two years. The whole Continent of Europe wanted our leadership and waited for it. They waited in vain.
Let me turn for a moment to what I will call the Schuman initiative because, as an hon. Member said yesterday, it is not a plan—it is an initiative. I think that to some extent it was born of despair with the lack of British leadership and the negations of British policy. It could and should have been our initiative long ago. From an economic point of view, there is nothing very original or startling about it. Why, then, has it so stirred the imagination of an increasingly hopeless Western world? That is because it is the first real effort to break the icy fear which now grips a distracted and divided Continent and to re-animate the movement for European union and, above all, solve the eternal German problem. That is why it has given rise to such hopes and why it should have given rise to great hopes here.
I think that, after their experience of the last two or three years, we cannot blame the French Government for regarding this as a test of our sincerity, and I say that we have failed miserably to meet that test. There is nothing in these documents to prevent us from welcoming that initiative. There is nothing which need have prevented us from joining in the discussions from the outset on terms completely understood by the French Government—indeed on the terms accepted by the Dutch Government. There is nothing except legal quibbles, of which we heard enough yesterday.
I want to make a brief reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Coventry, East, yesterday. It was characteristic, always interesting, sometimes mischievous, and he had pretty well to box the compass before we got the real point he wanted to make. I do not think it is very helpful at this juncture 2118 to talk about taming the Germans by means of a power relationship, or to refer to the inner defeatism of the French. At one point the hon. Member was saying that if we cannot have a complete federal union now, we cannot have anything in Europe. If anything is defeatism, that is. But, of course, he did not stop there. He often comes round to the right thing in the end. I never know why he has to go round so many circles to get there. If he would go straight to the point instead of round to it, it would be simpler to our minds. At the end of his speech, he saw not only the light, but the red light, and saw what could happen if there was a treaty between Germany and France from which we were finally excluded. He said that it is not too late to devise a compromise and his wishes, were echoed by the hon. Member for Coventry, North. I agree it is not too-late to devise a compromise and put forward proposals, nor too late to ask the Government to go into those discussions now.
I want to ask these questions of the right hon. Gentleman. Do we really want to be isolated? I can think of no country in the world less fitted for political or economic isolation. Do we really want to find ourselves confronted by a hostile United States and a hostile united Europe under German leadership, each with a capacity of steel production greater than ours? I cannot believe it and yet, if one reads this famous, or infamous, pamphlet published by Transport House, it would seem to be so. I must confess that it came as no great surprise to me, nor, I dare say, did it come as a great surprise to the hon. Members for Oldham. West (Mr. Leslie Hale), Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Lang) and Reading North (Mr. R. Mackay). They know as well as I do what we have been up against for the past three years In the Debate on Western Union on 5th May, 1948, the hon. Member for Reading. North, said:Will the Prime Minister let us know-exactly where we are in regard to the question of sovereignty?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th May, 1948; Vol. 450, c. 1284.]Well, he has got his answer.
This document is redolent of the narrow, insular nationalism and isolationism of which the late Lord Snowden was, so formidable an exponent and which 2119 still has deep roots in this country. It breathes the genuine spirit of Little Englandism, which lost us our American Colonies and finally landed us in two world wars with inadequate armaments. George III himself was scarcely less vehement a champion of rigid, uncompromising national sovereignty than the present Minister of Town and Country Planning. Superimposed is the doctrinaire national Socialism to which we have become accustomed:No Socialist policy could accept a system by which important fields of national policy were surrendered to a permanent anti-Socialist majority.There we have it, nationalisation and nationalism marching hand in hand. They think that they and they alone have discovered in planned national Socialism the secret of full employment and I, with a terribly long experience, am quite convinced they have not. They make a great mistake. Full employment in the last six years in this country has been due to the continuance, against expectation, of the sellers' market, Marshall Aid and the sustained prosperity of the United States. We now have to face the certainty of a surplus production of steel in Europe and the probability of some subsidence in the present level of postwar demand. What then happens? There are two alternatives—a war of economic attrition such as we had in the 1920's, or international economic cooperation designed to regulate production and expand demand. There is nothing between the two.There is no bottom to uncontrolled competitive international trade but the rice diet.That is a remark which the Minister of Health may remember, because I am quoting him. There is no surer method of stifling demand in the long run than economic nationalism.
In an effort to find excuses for rejecting European union, because that is what this pamphlet amounts to, the pamphlet falls back upon two things—Atlantic union and the Commonwealth. I wish to say a few words on that. Maybe the authors of the pamphlet forgot the Preamble to the Marshall Plan passed by the Congress, which states:It is further declared to be the policy of the people of the United States to encourage the unification of Europe.2120 I do not think we ought to forget that. In any event, we are unlikely to further the cause of Atlantic Union by what the "Manchester Guardian" quite justly calls "self-righteous insular boasting," and that is what this pamphlet was—self-righteous insular boasting.
As for the Commonwealth, there was no responsible European statesman at Strasbourg who did not believe and declare that the Commonwealth must be closely associated with European union at every stage. They know perfectly well that without the Commonwealth and without their own oversea associated territories, Western Europe can never hope to be viable either politically or economically. Hence the reference in the Economic Report to an extension of the preferential system. Far from being contradictory, I believe that the conception of a united Europe and a united Commonwealth is in essence complementary.
Many of these European countries would like nothing better than to join, on our terms, the sterling area. If we had from the beginning acted in close co-operation with the Dominions, as we should have done, if we had, with them, given the necessary leadership, those countries might be in the sterling area today. As usual we gave no leadership. And now, I suppose, the Commonwealth itself is to be ruled out on account of having become anti-Socialist.
I hate the expression "supra-national" but I am quite willing to face up to the question of national sovereignty. When all is said and done, unbridled national sovereignty remains the prime cause of the hideous disasters that have befallen us in this nightmare century. It is inconceivable to me, as it was to Philip Lothian, that we can continue much longer in Europe as an anarchy of separate sovereign nation-States. Some form of integration, both economic and political, is bound to come. If it does not come by voluntary union, it will come by way of empire. It nearly came by way of Hitler's empire. It may still come by way of Stalin's empire. We now have to break down national sovereignty by practical action in defined spheres of activity, and to use modern technical progress to build up a coordinated, complementary and expansionist Western economy. That is a 2121 revolutionary project, at least comparable to the industrial revolution of the 19th century; and, as then, the approach must be functional and empirical.
I do not believe in putting this country in economic bondage to anyone. Nor do I believe in giving undertakings which we cannot fulfil. After all, I am on the record about the first American Loan. But I do believe that there must be not so much a surrender as a merger or pooling of national sovereignty for specific purposes if we are to survive. I also believe that we ought to have taken part in the discussions on this vital topic from the very beginning. Indeed we ought to have led them. We could have guided them had we been there.
What are the implications? In the economic field it certainly involves the co-ordination of national monetary and fiscal policies and the acceptance of the principle of planned international investment, production and trade, and the abandonment of the principle of nondiscrimination. The truth is that the only alternative to international economic planning in the modern world is rigid national autarchy, and that is the path which the Government have apparently elected to follow.
The fundamental choice confronting us in this country today, both in the political and economic fields, is between the rule of law and the rule of the jungle. The Communists are relying on the present anarchy of State sovereignties, accompanied by cut-throat international economic competition, to bring about the collapse of our Western democratic world. At the moment they have pretty good grounds for confidence. There is still time, but only just, to prove the Communists wrong.
Yesterday the hon. Member for Wandsworth, Central (Mr. R. Adams) thought fit to make an attack on my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. He attacked his political record and even went so far as to make a disparaging reference to "blood, sweat, toil and tears." I would only say that in 1940 we saved Europe and Western civilisation, under my right hon. Friend's leadership, by our exertions, even though they did involve blood, sweat, toil and tears. In 1950 we can save Europe and Western civilisation again by our example, 2122 but it looks to me as if it will again have to be done under the same leadership.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Mackay (Reading, North)
I should like to offer my congratulation to the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby). It is not that I agree with all that he said in regard to European union, but obviously with much of what he said I agree completely. I trust he will not blame me if I do not follow him in all the remarks he has made. We have had in this Debate discussion of two matters, the Motion which has been put down, and the Amendment to it, and also the pamphlet which was issued some time ago. I have already said elsewhere what I have to say about that pamphlet, and there is no need for me to weary hon. Members again with it this afternoon.
I wish to look, as few Members have looked, at the Amendment which has been put down, and, in the time available to me, examine in a constructive way what steps can be taken now. It is no use going over the past. If mistakes were made, then they were made, but I have grave doubts whether a Conservative Government would have taken a line different from that which the Labour Government have taken in regard to the Schuman negotiations. The problem which confronts us all—and it is a problem which the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East did not really face, and which the House of Commons itself has never faced—is to what extent are we prepared to go into Europe? This issue has not been faced to date at all—and that is true of all parties and of all hon. Members as well.
It would be a pity if this Debate were to pass without some positive and definite constructive proposals being made as to the way in which we in this country can take part in the integration of Europe. Before coming to that, however, which will be the main point of my remarks, I wish to make two preliminary observations as a background to it. The first is a reference to the economic position of this country and the second is to the Commonwealth.
My angle of approach is from the point of view that there is really no great hope of an improved standard of living for the people of this country except in so far as 2123 we take part in an economic integration of Europe. With a world boom for the last five years, with no competitors such as Germany and Japan, which we have previously had, with customers whose pockets are filled with sterling to buy our goods, we are not exporting today more than we exported in 1913. That must be borne in mind. I would remind hon. Members that the population of the United States is 10 per cent. higher than it was in 1938 but their imports are 7 per cent. less because they are today more able to satisfy their own markets and their own demands by the manufacturing capacity of their own country. I would also remind hon. Members that our share of imports into the United States, which was 7 per cent. in 1938, is 4 per cent. today. I do not intend to complain about the export drive which the Government have made over the last five years. Obviously every one of us should take part in it. The more we can export the better, but if anyone seriously thinks that there is any evidence to show that we can balance the dollar gap by an increase of our exports or improve our general economic position by those methods, they are really not facing the facts in a sensible way.
I was reading the third volume of the war history of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) when coming back from America a few days ago, and I noticed that there was a great dispute between Government Departments as to what was the strength of the German Air Force in, I think it was, 1940, or it may have been 1941. A High Court judge was appointed in order to ascertain the facts. He was given all the documents and access to everything and told to report to the Prime Minister what the facts really were. I think the time has come when we in this country should have the fullest examination ourselves to secure the answer to the question, can a country of 50 million people in the second half of the 20th century survive on their own without their full economic integration with the other countries of Western Europe? I have spent about 10 years studying the problem and I think that the answer is that we cannot. Because of that view, I have urged strongly in this House and elsewhere the need for the closer economic integration of Western Europe with Great Britain.
2124 It will, of course, be said that the Commonwealth stands in the way. I have spent two-thirds of my life in the Commonwealth and only one-third in Great Britain, and I have often to shake my head and wonder whether the people in this country (a) know nothing about the Commonwealth, and (b) are really interested in it. I remember the American Loan and the complaints about the harsh terms on which the Americans were lending to Great Britain. Nowhere in the history of the great British Commonwealth is there any evidence of Great Britain having made a loan to any one of its Dominions on terms half as favourable.
The complaint about this document recently issued are equally true of the attitude of this country to the Commonwealth as a whole. But there is no inconsistency. In the first place, Great Britain has more investments outside the Commonwealth than she has inside the Commonwealth. She has a greater trade outside the Commonwealth than inside. The Commonwealth as a whole cannot sell its raw materials inside the Commonwealth. Australia cannot sell its wool, for example, and there are many others.
Therefore, the Commonwealth as an entity is not self-sufficient, but there is no real conflict in the interests of the United Kingdom and the other members of the British Commonwealth and Western Europe. We are told that we must preserve the sterling area and that Western Union is incompatible with it. Take Great Britain away from the Commonwealth countries and put it in Europe, and in 1938 Europe has 52 per cent. of the world trade. Even in 1948 if Great Britain is put in with Europe then Commonwealth trade is 7 per ent. of the total and that of Great Britain and Europe 45 per cent. The fact is that Britain is the largest single trading area in the world. Put it with the Commonwealth, or with Europe, or with America or with the Soviet Union and the resulting area will become the largest trading area in the world.
It is confusing to talk about the sterling area in this way unless we acknowledge that if we take Great Britain out of the sterling area then Europe plus Great Britain would become the greatest economic power in the world. I would ask 2125 hon. Members to think about this problem; for there really is no conflict. We have heard so much about the fact that there is a conflict between the Commonwealth and Great Britain going into Western Europe. That is untrue. No one has ever suggested any Western Europe integration which should develop otherwise than with the Commonwealth coming in. Every suggestion at Strasbourg and every other place has always been upon the question of bringing in the Commonwealth. What I would like to see, and I hope it can be done, is that the Government, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, should set out to draft a treaty between the Commonwealth countries and the Council of Europe, transferring to the Council of Europe—just to see how it works out—the rights those countries have in Great Britain at the present time.
I speak with some practical experience. I am an Australian subject, or I was; I am now a United Kingdom subject under the new Act. But it would be very easy to give to all the members of the British Commonwealth outside the United Kingdom the same rights in Western Europe as they have in Great Britain. It would be equally easy to give to members of the British Commonwealth the same rights in trade preferences and the like in Europe as they get in Britain under the Ottawa Agreement. There is nothing at all to stop that development taking place.
But, as I have already said, there is no real inconsistency in this matter. May I remind hon. Members that in the General Affairs Committee in Strasbourg last December a resolution was passed:That the Committee on General Affairs expresses its unanimous wish that the President of the Assembly should establish contact with the British Government to request that it arrange for informal talks to take place between representatives of the countries in the British Commonwealth and representatives of the Council of Europe, with a view to seeing how the Commonwealth can co-operate in the political or economic field with the Council of Europe.In view of that Resolution, why should we be arguing that, there is an inconsistency? Take the letter written by the Foreign Secretary to the President of the Consultative Assembly in March of this year. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning knows about this because he was as much responsible 2126 for this Resolution being passed and for its success as anyone—and it is only right that hon. Members should know that. The letter from the Foreign Secretary states—I am not reading all of it, but the last sentence is:The representatives of the other Commonwealth Governments expressed the view that there need be no inconsistencies between, the policy followed by the United Kingdom Government in relation to Western Europe and the maintenance of the traditional links between the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.I think it only fair to say that at the Press conference which took place at that time a gentleman raised the question whether there could not be a proper meeting between representatives of the Council of Europe and the British Commonwealth. The Minister of Town and Country Planning replied that if that was required he saw no reason why it should not take place.
I would ask hon. Members to put aside this bogey, to lay it to rest once and for all. There is no one in the Commonwealth, no responsible statesman in any one Commonwealth country today, who will not join with the United Kingdom in any steps which it takes to bring about a better economic and political unity of Great Britain and the European States. There is no reason why we should not have observers at the Strasbourg Assembly to go on developing this relationship.
If we need not worry about the Commonwealth, may I devote the little time remaining to me to the question raised? We are asked to approve in the Government's Amendment its readiness totake a constructive part in the conversations with the hope that they may be able to join in or associate themselves with, this common effort.It is the constructive part about which I wish to make a few remarks.
Yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer—though I may not agree with all he said—raised quite frankly and definitely the issue. He said, "Do you wish to go into European unity in an organisation on the inter-governmental level, of which O.E.E.C. is an example, or by some kind of supra-national authority?" That is the issue which every hon. Member must face, and which many have not faced in the past. If the issue had to be decided by a vote—and it would be 2127 an infinitely better Motion than the one put down by the Opposition—most Members would decide that they wanted to come in on an inter-governmental level. Of course, there are a few extremists of the Right who would not go anywhere at all and who would be willing to allow the country to suffer because they are not prepared to co-operate with their comrades in Europe. This, however, is the real issue of this Debate.
There are people, of course, who say, "You who have been advocating federalism always wanted a supra-national authority." I have learned in politics that one has to put up with the least bad, the second best, or even a choice further down the line. It is no good going on saying, "Federalism, federalism, federalism" forever when one knows one cannot get it. What we must do today is to have a look at the Council of Europe and ask the question, "Can this develop into a political authority in Europe, and if so what steps should be taken to bring about that development?" The essence of the Schuman Plan is to create such an outside authority. I would suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Council of Europe provides a proper authority to which the board for the coal or steel industries of Europe under the Schuman Plan could be responsible. It is good for this reason. There are two bodies on the Council of Europe, the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers. I know that there are weaknesses but they could be greatly improved. In the Council we have an assembly which is the proper place for the Schuman proposals to be brought up—I hope. I hope that, if the proposals, which we understand are being prepared by the British Government, are prepared, they will be brought before the next Assembly for discussion and thereafter be considered by the Committee of Ministers.
I do not suggest that the Assembly is in any sense a representative House in the same way that this Parliament is the representative House of Great Britain, but I suggest that steps should be taken to make it that in the next five or 10 years. The Committee of Ministers is a body on which the Governments have the say. We are, therefore, combining in one political organisation the supra-national authority with the inter-Government level. 2128 We are saying that we should let the Assembly which, after all, does represent a number of people, take the initiative in these matters. We should let them formulate proposals for European organisation which may be seriously considered and dealt with by the Committee of Ministers representing the Government.
If we adopt this proposal we are not giving away the control of the standard of living of the people or of our industries. We are not giving away in any sense the ultimate control of whether our plant is to be closed or not, because on the Committee of Ministers there must be unanimous decision, and we have our representative on that body. Let us be constructive. If we genuinely believe that European unity means something which is vital to all of us, but if we are afraid of going into a European Parliament because of conditions operating in other parts of Europe about which we cannot see eye to eye, and if we are not at present—as most English people are not—prepared to go blindly into a federal union of Europe, then here is a very interesting and simple solution for the development of a European political authority which meets all our needs.
In three or four years the Assembly can become a representative Assembly and a Lower House. The Committee of Ministers can become an Upper House, but instead of being elected by the people as many Upper Houses are, it would be an Upper House representative of Governments. The member States of the Council of Europe are great Powers, or they have been. They are powerful national entities and they have a whole lot of prestige behind them. They are not prepared to give away their sovereignty as other States like those in the American Union were willing to do.
I suggest to the Government that they give a little thought to the whole problem of the way in which the Council of Europe can be developed as an appropriate political authority for Europe. I am a little frightened that they are more concerned to develop the machinery of O.E.E.C. than to develop the political authority of the Council of Europe. I read with interest a letter from Sir Oliver Franks to Mr. Paul Hoffman, a few days ago. One of the illustrations he gave of the way in which Great Britain is playing its part in the movement for European 2129 unity was "the political venture of the Council of Europe."
The Minister of Town and Country Planning, in a speech at Strasbourg which many people appreciated at the time, pointed out that as the Council of Europe developed it could take over the functions and the Committees of O.E.E.C. It is on those lines that I hope that events will develop. It is for that reason that I say to the Government, and to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he says that the issue which is posed today is an issue of whether we have to have an authority at the level of Governments or a supra-national authority, that while what he says is quite up-to-date it need not be so in the future. There is no reason why, if we develop the Council of Europe by creating out of the Assembly an Executive and by giving the Assembly itself a much more representative character than it has, and by treating the Committee of Ministers as an Upper House with a unanimous vote, we cannot keep the political institutions that we want for the protection of the Government of this country and, at the same time, develop in Europe a political authority which, in five or 10 years' time, may give us the political and economic integration that we require.
Professor R. H. Tawney, who has been a great exponent of the ideas of the Labour Party and who has probably expressed in his writings more about the thoughts of the party than any other living person, in a recent lecture, ended by saying:The gravest issues confronting us, therefore, if complex in detail, are, in principle, simple. The first is to reconcile the … liberalism, which is a property, not of any group or party, but the history of the Western Europe, and whose fruits are civil liberty, tolerance, and political democracy, with the tasks imposed by the emergence of a mass technology and the obligations of the welfare State.I think that we have been doing this in this country for the last five years with some success. He went on:The second is to win general recognition for the truth that departments of life which, in a not distant past, could reasonably be regarded as the exclusive province of a score of separate Governments have been converted by the the changes of the last two generations into matters which, to be handled with effect, must be treated as affairs of common concern. It is to do on a grand scale for a Europe cabined and confined in a maze of restrictive nationalisms what was done, on a narrower 2130 stage, when economies crippled by the obsolete fetters of provincial particularisms municipal liberties and seigneurial franchises were submitted to the unifying control of authorities with wider horizons and a more inclusive grasp.The currency, the basic industries and the trade of Western Europe can no longer be cabined and confined within the narrow framework of 15 or 16 national States. We in this country, who have more to lose so long as we continue to play with this present form of economic nationalism, must face the necessity for change and take our proper place in the development of the Council of Europe so as to create ultimately an effective political authority for this great area of Western Europe.
§ 4.46 p.m.
Mr. Garner-Evans (Denbigh)
The hon. Member for Reading, North, (Mr. R. Mackay) said that he was frightened, and so am I. I am making a maiden speech. I am terrified about many events, and I am particularly distressed about this Debate. It discloses a fundamental difference between the Government of this country and the Government of France. That is a most distressing feature. It discloses, too, that we have now come to a parting of the ways on the bi-partisan foreign policy pursued by this country since 1945. Hitherto, we have been able to agree on fundamental issues. Now, for the first time since 1945, we find the Government and the Opposition defi-itely opposed.
I am also distressed that this Debate has disclosed, not only in this House but in the country, a falling in the standard of internationalism on the part of supporters of the Government. I speak with all sincerity when I say that I have always respected hon. Members opposite for their international idealism. I fought side by side with them in many battles between the two wars. I remember the great idealism of the Prime Minister when he fought for the Geneva Protocol. I remember the attitude the Labour Party took in the Disarmament Conferences. I remember the attitude of the present Minister of Fuel and Power.
I wish to goodness that the party opposite could recapture some of the idealism of George Barnes and Arthur Henderson. I wish that they could turn back on this new nationalistic socialism which has been discovered by the Chancellor of the 2131 Exchequer. I wonder what George Barnes would have said if he had read that new document entitled "European Unity"? I wonder what Arthur Henderson would have said if he had read that statement which suggested that we can get along only with Socialists. It is this new conception which unfortunately divides us at the present time.
May I make this appeal? I beg hon. Members opposite to get back to the idealism and internationalism of George Barnes and Arthur Henderson, and to get away from this narrow, selfish, isolationist and smugly complacent attitude of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, to get away from this economic nationalism which was so well expressed in his speech last night, and to get back to some sort of expansionist policy. I am sure that one of the things that distressed us most was the idea, which he mentioned when he spoke yesterday, that any international plan would weaken our coal and steel industry. Not a bit of it. If only the right hon. and learned Gentleman would get back to his old ideas, he would see that there is at present no expansionism in Europe and that that is just what Europe wants.
In regard to the Schuman Plan itself, I find the most extraordinary remarks in the White Paper and in some of the Government communiqués. I find that, when they came to discuss this principle of whether we shall pool our coal and steel resources with those of Europe and come under a supra-national authority, the Government could not make up their minds. It may be that they are for it, and it may be that they are against it, but the duty of a Government is to be able to decide on an issue of principle.
What are the principles concerning the pooling of steel and coal? If we read the documents, we find that, all along the line, there are expansionist ideas. It is a case of more production, the modernisation of production, freer trade and greater free trade areas with regard to these commodities, the raising of the standards of living—these are the basic ideas and principles upon which, apparently, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Chancellor cannot make up his mind. I can say quite honestly, that, as far as I am concerned, and, I think also as far as the majority of the people of 2132 this country are concerned, they are prepared to accept a supra-national authority to decide matters of this sort.
Why this fear on the Government benches? They themselves have advocated this particular type of organisation. There are some lengthy extracts from speeches made by the Prime Minister which I could quote, not only from the years 1939 and 1940, but going further back than that. We already have a supranational authority in a wider sphere, on which we are represented, and, at certain points, where it is necessary that our national sovereignty should be abated, we can accept that situation so long as that supra-national authority is working on those principles which we have agreed. The principles, of course, include the idea that it shall operate on an expansionist policy.
What terrifies me at this moment is this. At a time when we are entering into new commitments, when the idea of national sovereignty is going by the board, and especially under the North Atlantic Treaty—and I believe that, in the words of Dean Acheson, that that was one of the most revolutionary results of the London Conference—at a time when we accepted the abatement of sovereignty at a London Conference, only six weeks ago—an abatement far greater than anything we have ever accepted before, since we have accepted the idea of a common foreign policy with 11 other Governments—we have this extraordinary situation. We actually agreed to a communiqué setting up, in addition to the North Atlantic Treaty Council, a Council of Deputies, and what terrifies me about it is this: if the Government are not prepared to abandon sovereignty in the case of the Schuman Plan, neither will they abandon sovereignty in the much more important field of the North Atlantic Treaty Council. When we read in the Press the other day of the appointment as deputy of a certain gentleman who, admirable though he may be, is a diplomat of the second rank, I am afraid that it rather indicated that the Government does not mean business.
More important even than the coordination of foreign policy and the question whether the North Atlantic Treaty Council should decide policy for the whole Atlantic community is this revolutionary idea of balanced collective forces. 2133 Our sovereignty has gone here, because we have a North Atlantic Council which can say to us, "You do not have to bother about artillery; you get on with the job of building houses;" or which can say to the Dutch or to the French, "You get on with building small boats." Behind all this, apparently, there is to be—at least, I hope there is, if the scheme is to become a reality—a collective defence budget for the whole of the Atlantic community, and our share is to be worked out according to some kind of formula. If we drag our feet at this moment and reduce the great design of an Atlantic community with a common economic organisation, a common defence organisation and a common foreign policy, the whole thing will collapse.
The news from Korea is bad. It is through the North Atlantic Pact and the organisation of a world community that we can really organise ourselves so as to abate our sovereignty where necessary, and in that way get on with the job of preserving the peace of the world.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
The House always listens very patiently and with very great interest to anyone addressing it for the first time, and I think that all of us will have listened to the hon. Member for Denbigh (Mr. Garner-Evans) with an even greater degree of sympathy than is usual because he has chosen an occasion of very great difficulty on which to make his maiden speech to the House. I think we all agree that the hon. Gentleman has impressed the House with the carefulness of his studies of this question, and the clarity with which he has conveyed to the House the views which he has formed. We shall all be glad to hear him again on other occasions.
It is, of course, a tradition that an hon. Member addressing the House for the first time should not be controversial and that whoever speaks next should not be controversial about that hon. Member either. I think that the hon. Member for Denbigh was a little led away from that, but I believe that the importance of the occasion justified it, and that he was perfectly right to be controversial about controversial matters if that is how he felt about it. May I say, without wishing to be too argumentative, that while we listened with great interest to what he 2134 had to say about the idealism of the Labour Party in the past, we would like to disillusion him about any anxieties he may have about this idealism in the present? What we are trying to do is to carry out, in a very difficult world, and in the face of the hard reality of the practical facts, the ideals upon which this party was built.
This has been a fascinating, not to say an astonishing, Debate, and it is a privilege to have the opportunity of taking part in it. I think it would be fair to say that, for the most part, the Debate has not been about either the Motion which the Opposition have put upon the Order Paper or about the Amendment which the Government have put down to it. I am afraid that that is largely the fault of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I say to him in all humility that, in the interests of Parliamentary debate, he-ought really to impose upon himself a self-denying ordinance never again either to open a Debate in the House or to speak early in it, because the inevitable result is that when he has finished, the Debate is over. He might as well make a speech ending the Debate instead of at the beginning of it because when he makes a speech at the beginning, it becomes inevitable that everybody who speaks after him shall speak about something else, or repeat over and over again fallacies and inaccuracies already demonstrated.
I wish to come back to the Motion which asks the House to say that the Government were wrong in what they did with regard to the Schuman proposals or Schuman initiative—I do not call it the Schuman Plan. Is there really anybody who has spoken in the Debate who thinks that the Government were wrong? The Opposition have not said, so far, that the Government were wrong in the sense that they would have acted differently—or have they? The Government were not asked, on the Schuman proposals, to enter into a general discussion, with nothing barred, as to how we might co-ordinate or, possibly, integrate the coal and iron and steel industries of Europe. Had they been asked to do that, it is abundantly clear in this document that they were then, and are now, ready to go into any such discussions with anybody and to consider the whole subject in the broadest way.
2135 The point of the Schuman proposals was that they did not leave it to the Government in that unlimited, unhampered way. They made it perfectly clear that all they were prepared to discuss was not the general question of whether and if so, how European coal and steel could be unified, but how it could be unified on the basis of handing over the control of all the national coal and iron and steel industries to some authority whose decisions would be binding, without reference to anybody else, upon all the Governments who came into the scheme.
It is perfectly clear from the speech of the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), who opened the Debate, as well as from the terms of the Motion, that they would not have done that themselves. If it is the case that they would have done it, then I think that the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), when he replies, ought to make it perfectly clear. The suggestion that we ought to have gone in conditionally is not a new one. Conditionally, the Government were always prepared to go in. It is true that the Motion says that the conditions ought not to be those which the Government laid down, but those upon which the Dutch went in. But, from the point of view that we have been discussing, the Dutch did not go in on any conditions at all. The condition that if the result showed that federation of industries upon this basis proved to be impracticable, they would then be allowed to withdraw from it, means absolutely nothing whatsoever, because, if the resulting plan was impracticable, it could not be practised, and, therefore, there would be nothing from which to withdraw.
Surely the point is that it might well turn out in such discussions that federation upon the basis of a supra-national authority was only too practicable and undesirable. What we wanted to do, as I understand the Government case, was to go in and discuss the unification, or, at any rate, the co-ordination of these industries, without being called upon in advance to accept without further question that it should be done only in this way. What has become clear in the Debate—and that is why I called it an astonishing Debate—is that nearly every speaker on the Opposition side has 2136 declared himself in favour of having some authority which shall control the production of steel in Europe, which shall control its distribution, which shall control its price, and which shall coordinate it in such a way as to remove from it cut-throat competition or, indeed, competition of any kind.
I suppose, therefore, that we may now expect a complete cessation of opposition from the other side of the House to the proposals to nationalise the British steel industry. It really will not do for right hon. and hon. Members opposite to go up and down the country foaming at the mouth because the Government wish to nationalise our steel industry, and then to become frantic with indignation in the House because the Government are reluctant to internationalise it. Once it is conceded that it would be a good thing—and we on this side all concede it—that in a basic industry of this kind the public interest should come first and that it can only be economical and profitable in the best sense of the word if it is a controlled, planned and directed industry, it makes nonsense of the five years opposition which the party opposite have conducted to the policies of this Government ever since the General Election of 1945, the whole purpose of which has been to make sure that we in this country do, at any rate, plan and control our basic industries in the common interest.
If the Opposition really have reached the position that it is right to do that now, not merely on the national, but on the international scale, then, at any rate, we can look forward to greater political peace in this country, and I should have thought that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister might be anxious to take the opportunity of pointing out the facts to the electorate as early as possible. But if it is true that the Opposition have abandoned their belief in private enterprise in the steel industry, and if it is true that they are now prepared to hand over the control of this industry even internationally to some authority which shall be able to direct its activities in all countries in Western Europe, ought they not to address themselves to the further question of whether, in that event—that is to say, in the event of a great international monopoly—we can really have a great international monopoly of that 2137 kind except under public ownership and public control?
Are the Opposition really in favour, not merely of abandoning all competition in the industry, not merely of handing it over to some authority responsible to no one, but of the authority being an authority not responsible to the public in any way? In that case, we may see the abandonment of a further line of opposition in this House. Members opposite have conducted a considerable degree of activity against the National Coal Board, the Railway Executive, or some other authority administering a nationalised basic industry, because questions cannot be asked in the House. They cannot maintain that opposition and at the same time say that they are prepared to hand over international control of iron and steel to an international authority which cannot be questioned, or be called upon to be answerable to anyone anywhere at any time for anything it does, more particularly when the industry which it is proposed to treat in this way is an industry that is the very foundation of the economic power of this country.
I think we are not asking too much in asking the Opposition to make their position a good deal clearer than it is at present on these points. The question they have never yet answered, except evasively, is whether they would have accepted the invitation to go into these discussions on the only terms on which the Government were invited to do so.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am sure that the hon. Member is speaking almost for himself, because the answer all along has been "Yes—if." The argument between the two Front Benches has been as to the nature of the conditions. It is only the hon. Member who answers "Yes" unconditionally. He may be right, but he will have to reconsider the support he has been lending to the Opposition all these years in their endeavour to prevent us from doing at home what he would like us to do abroad.
It seems to me to be quite clear that, with one or two exceptions, the House is unanimously of the opinion that we could not go in unconditionally, and that the kind of conditions the Government laid down were not, on the whole, unreasonable 2138 conditions. What has been behind all this is not that question at all, and that is why the Debate has not been about the Motion or the Amendment, but about the general question of the Government's action and initiative in regard to the whole question of European unity.
I listened with very great sympathy to a great deal of what was said by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby). I think it is true that the Government have shown less initiative in this matter than we should have liked them to show. I believe that if we had taken a strong initiative in this direction as early as 1945 or 1946, we might have gone very much further along the road to a reasonable and sensible federation of Europe. If they had done that before the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition made his speech at Fulton, it might even have had very much more important effects than even the Federation of Western Europe.
Hon. Members opposite must realise that in this criticism of the Government they have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. They are accusing the Government of having failed to take this initiative at the right time because of too narrow a devotion to the doctrinaire ideas of the Labour Party. The truth is the exact opposite. The reason they were inhibited from taking an initiative about the public ownership and control of basic industries in Europe is precisely because they felt, quite reasonably in my opinion, that they were not entitled to take a party view of this kind and were continually attuning themselves to the necessity of bi-partisan policies.
What was it that prevented them at an early stage from helping the French, the Belgians and the Germans, as well as others who were only too anxious to get a lead from Socialist Britain in those days towards the public ownership and control of their basic industries, except the feeling that we were following a bi-partisan policy and that it would be taking an unfair advantage of their position in the Government? Let hon. Members opposite not preen themselves too much about their initiation of support for the Idea of European unity. The Leader of the Opposition regards himself as the great apostle of this idea—the unifier of Europe. The right hon. Gentleman has 2139 a distinguished and assured place in history as a saviour of Europe, first from the Tory Party, and then from Hitler. He will not, in my opinion, be known in history as the unifier of Europe. He is really the divider of Europe.
In his speech at Fulton, followed by his speech at Zurich, he claims to have foretold the policy and the system of Western international alliances in Atlantic Union, which we now have and which are, I suppose, how inevitable. The mistake he makes is to suppose that they were inevitable then. The course of conduct which has distressed all of us so much and which has brought about the present tragic division of the world into two hostile blocs, all that series of events, did not occur when the right hon. Gentleman was making his speech at Fulton, and for anything he or I know, they might not have occurred.
What the right hon. Gentleman was doing at Zurich and Fulton was not laying down the lines of a future inevitable policy, but a course of conduct which made that ultimate necessity inevitable. In other words, he was firing the first shots in the cold war. The first operative act and the declaration of the cold war came from the right hon. Gentleman in his speech at Fulton. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I believe that to be true.
§ Mr. Silverman
I did not say that. [Interruption.] Anyone who does not wish to listen to me is free to do so. I hope the hon. Member will agree that while he is not compelled to listen he has no right to silence me.
I repeat that I did not say for one moment that Stalin had had nothing to do with it. Ultimately, the major share of responsibility undoubtedly lies upon the Soviet Union and its leaders in pursuing a course of conduct which has made a division of Europe, and then of the world, inevitable. What I said was that none of these things had occurred at the time when the right hon. Gentleman, in his Fulton speech, chose to regard that division of the world as inevitable before acts which made it inevitable actually took place. No one is entitled to assume that what he said and what he did, and what the rest of the world did in support and in 2140 consequence of those speeches, had no bearing upon the history of Europe and the world which has taken place since.
The reply to Communist federation of Europe or the world, the real defence of the world against unemployment and against war, does not depend upon a federation of Europe without reference to the economic necessities of the case. The salvation of the world really depends upon its being able to establish and to practise a synthesis between the collective ownership and direction of its economic affairs and the preservation of political and civil liberty. That is precisely the synthesis we have established in this country; it is precisely the synthesis and the example, which if we had made it strongly enough and early enough and forcefully enough, Western Europe would have followed.
It is not possible to federate Europe without the collective control of our economic resources and, until we get it, we shall have to do what we can with the looser co-ordination to which the Government have committed themselves. But it seems to me that we have no need, and no right, to apologise for standing up and saying that the salvation of civilisation in our day and generation depends, and must depend, upon the triumph of the democratic Socialism we have preached for half a century.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) said that he would recall the Debate from its more discursive aspects to the Motion and the Amendment which, after all, are matters which we have got to settle tonight, and I was very glad to hear him say so. When he strays into these biographical spheres, I will only venture to say that it appeared to me that he seemed to lay too much upon my burdened shoulders. I did hope that I might get away with nothing more serious than a charge of foresight; but apparently I actually set matters in train so that they occurred in accordance with my predictions. If it be so, that I have in my words such mysterious and latent power, I hope he will pay the utmost attention to what I am about to say.
Those who accept responsibility for the Motion on the Order Paper represent, according to the figures of the recent General Election, a majority of 1¾ million 2141 of voters over those who support His Majesty's Government; and I might say that my feeling is that, on the whole, the balance of arguments have shown at least an equal superiority on our side. At the end of this Debate, I still retain the impression that the fundamental issues which have been raised have sprung largely from the mismanagement of our affairs, and that a competent administration would never have needed to thrust them upon us at this time.
The peculiar feature of this Debate is that it turns on a very small practical point, or a group of very small practical points, and at the same time raises in our minds many of the fundamental issues with which the future of a peaceful world is interwoven. When we study the White Paper of the Government's parleys with France, and consider it together with the apologia or explanation which our Ambassador at Washington has been instructed to tender to the American public, one really wonders why all this trouble has arisen between friendly Governments, and whether it could not have been avoided if there had been a Foreign Secretary fit to do his work or a Prime Minister able, amid graver preoccupations, to keep a grip on what was going on.
I did not like the attitude of the French Government in springing this large question upon us so suddenly, or in making pedantic stipulations before sitting in council with their wartime comrades. I admit I was nettled by it. I am quite sure that France would never have acted in this manner towards any British Government but the present one. But there is an explanation which I will give. It is an explanation, even if it is not an excuse, and it should be stated. As for the suddenness; the French Ministers no doubt felt that after we had upset the whole of their economy and finance by devaluation without even a word of warning, they were under no special obligations to study our convenience where other large issues were concerned. I do not say they were entitled to retaliate in this way. It is a feature of friendship to rise above and overlook such treatment on both sides.
There is also an explanation which the French may offer upon the merits of the question itself. They evidently wished the British Socialist Government to give a general affirmation in principle to the policy of a merger of the European heavy 2142 industries, and of British goodwill towards the ending of the quarrel of the centuries between France and Germany, which in our lifetime has cost us all so dear. Why did they do this? I will tell the House. It is because they suspected that the British Socialist Government were no friends to the process of the unification of Western Europe, or to what we call the European Movement, and they had good ground for their apprehensions.
We have the record in our minds. We all remember, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) reminded us yesterday, how the Socialist Executive and Government used all their influence to prevent any members of their party attending the Conference of the European Movement at The Hague in the summer of 1948, and how many of their pledge-bound supporters went there in spite of them. Everyone will recall the attitude of the Lord President of the Council and his colleague, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, at Strasbourg last year. These matters are public.
What has not been made public, though it is well known and many of us have been continually informed upon it, has been the constant efforts to hamper, obstruct, restrict and diminish the powers and development of the European Assembly by the Foreign Secretary and his representatives in the meetings of the Council of Europe which they had been forced by public opinion and their own party to accept. I have been told from time to time by some who were present at these meetings that the British were consistently using their influence to delay progress and to minimise decisions. Our Foreign Secretary was on almost every occasion regarded, rightly or wrongly, as the obstacle which must be overcome. I am not concerned today with his personal motives. We all regret his illness, but the prolonged illness of a Minister and his unfortunate absence from our Debates cannot arrest the march of events or relieve us from our duty to deal with them. I am sorry that this should be so, but none of us can help it.
So I say, without hesitation, that the French Government had the feeling rooted in them by long or hard experience that the British Socialist Government and the British Socialist Foreign 2143 Secretary were hostile to the movement towards European unity and might, therefore, attend a meeting on the Schuman Plan only for the purpose of bringing it to naught. It was on these grounds that they were led to dwell, I think unduly and with a pedantic insistence, upon agreement in a broad and general expression of accord with the great international objectives which were in view and are now before us.
But this was no excuse for the British Government piling their own prejudices on the top of French pedantry. If we had had an effective Foreign Secretary able to get through his work and a reasonable measure of goodwill between friends, comrades and allies exposed to common and increasing dangers, this curious deadlock on matters not so much of principle as of procedure and etiquette would never have occurred, and if it had occurred could easily have been smoothed away.
When the House compares the words and the sentiments of the Conservative and Liberal Motion with those of the Government Amendment, upon both of which we shall vote tonight—because we certainly cannot accept the terms of the Government Amendment even if we are not able to establish our own point of view—hon. Members will find it hard to understand, when they compare these two, how the present breakdown and deadlock have occurred. We are, however, confronted with the situation as it now lies and with the larger issues which have now been raised. These have, of course, been carefully considered on both sides and the results are embodied in the Motion and the Amendment which, I agree with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, are the main direct topics before us. It is upon these that we have to pronounce this evening.
If the French needed proof that the British Socialist Party and Government are hostile to the idea of a united Europe and would try to restrict and retard any international conference of which they were members, they could not find more conclusive evidence than the extraordinary pamphlet—and I have it here—issued by the National Executive of the British Labour Party and timed in such a curious manner with, I can only call it, the soiled fingers of coincidence. In this document it is stated that the British Socialists are 2144 opposed to joining any European system which is not dominated by people of their own kidney, by other Socialists. This is what I may call the Dalton theme, plainly declared to the Labour Party Conference three years ago. The right hon. Gentleman then said:If the United States of Europe is indeed to succeed and is to benefit its peoples, it can only fully succeed if all the countries of Western Europe commit themselves, as our electors committed themselves in 1945, to the belief that Socialism is the hope of us all.It is this idea which the document expresses and reiterates. It amounts to a declaration that if Europe is to unite and Britain is to play any part in such a union, it can only be on a one-party basis—and that party the Socialists.
This is a squalid attitude at a time of present stress and I should like to remind the House that this attitude is adopted at a time when Socialism is losing ground all over the free world outside the Iron Curtain, at a time when one cannot find any other Socialist Government in the British Commonwealth or in the English-speaking world or in Western Europe, apart from Scandinavia, which has a tale of its own to tell and is subject to many special factors. For instance, the first thing the Socialist Prime Minister of Norway did, on being returned to power with a majority—with an effective majority—was to say that there would be no more nationalisation. We have had something like the same language used here, but there is the great difference that an effective majority does not lie behind the Government.
We are invited by the Government to bind ourselves to what the "Manchester Guardian" has well called "insular Socialism" and to make a party distinction between us and the countries which do not take our view. There is, of course, one exception—the outstanding, mighty, capitalist, free enterprise United States. That is the exception. But then, of course, they are paying us the heavy subsidies upon which the Socialists' claim that they are able to maintain full employment is founded. But, apart from this important exception, it would be a lonely pilgrimage upon which we are to be led. The Socialist Party, which assumes this self-opinionated position—I might almost say this arrogant position—has just been shown to be in a minority in Great Britain. It has had to modify 2145 or suspend its whole policy of nationalisation and is now looking about for a new version of the Socialist theme—I see the Lord President is out of the House, perhaps even engaged in this very task—upon which to found their class warfare. At home the Socialists are in full retreat. Abroad they claim to impose their ideology on nations and societies whom, after bitter experience, have cast it off.
What plainer proof could the Government give of their hostility to European union than the appointment of the former Chancellor of the Exchequer—I like to keep the former Chancellor and the present both in view at once: both have rendered their contributions to the state of our national finances; both aspire now to lay their skilful hands upon our foreign affairs—but what plainer proof could the Government give than to appoint the right hon. Gentleman to lead their half of the delegation to Strasbourg, in full view of the declaration which he has made, and to send him as their representative? I say that that is a grimace. I had thought of using the word "outrage," but, on subsequent consideration, I thought that the more moderate word would cover the point in its correct proportions. I ask even now that this step should not be taken. If the Government persist, it is they who will suffer in the decline of their influence in Europe; but we shall all suffer, too.
In this Debate we have had the usual jargon about "the infra-structure of a supra-national authority." The original authorship is obscure; but it may well be that these words "infra" and "supra" have been introduced into our current political parlance by the band of intellectual highbrows who are naturally anxious to impress British labour with the fact that they learned Latin at Winchester. Although we may not relish the words, no one will wish to deny this old-school-tie contingent their modest indulgence in class self-consciousness.
As I listened to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday, I could not help feeling very sorry that our relations with France have been reduced to this long legalistic argument, taking point after point with professional skill in order to reach and justify a deadlock. I reject the Chancellor's claim that at no time in our history the understanding 2146 between this country and France has been greater than it is today. It would hardly be possible to state that reverse of the truth with more precision.
But what was really astonishing was the manner in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman based the breakdown upon the Documents 12, 13 and 14 of the White Paper, and omitted all similar mention of Document 10. The brilliant rejoinder of the hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay), exposed this glaring oversight—as we must hope it was—for in their Memorandum of 30th May (that is, Document 10) the French Government stated specifically the words which have been read out to the House, but which are so important that I must read them again.The special position"—say the French—in these negotiations which the British Government wishes to preserve is justified in their Memorandum by the intention, said to be held by the French Government, of asking, as a prior condition, for full participation in the discussions, for an undertakng to pool coal and steel resources, and to set up an authority with certain sovereign powers.4. As their representatives have informed the British representatives orally, the French Govrnment wish particularly to confirm once more that these are not their intentions. As has already been made clear in the French Memorandum of 9th May, there will be no commitment except by the signature of a treaty between the States concerned and its parliamentary ratification.Here certainly was the point when the British Government might have safely agreed to enter the conference.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Chancellor has put to us the question. What would you have done? We reply that once we had the assurance conveyed in Document 10, that there would beno commitment except by the signature of a treaty between the States concerned and its parliamentary ratificationwe should not have hesitated to attend the conference, and we should have replied in the same sort of manner as the Dutch, and in terms similar to those which are embodied in the Motion on which we are going to vote tonight.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman later proceeded to draw an alarming picture of what might happen to us if we accepted the principle of a supra-national high authority which 2147… could cause a whole coalfield or steel centre to go out of production without any social or political responsibility for their action. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT: 26th June, 1950; Vol. 476, c. 1942.]Surely, this is one of the points we could have raised at the conference in a decisive manner? To win the war we agreed to put our armies under S.H.A.E.F., a great Anglo-American organisation that was for the tactical and limited purposes prescribed. No one would ever have suggested that General Eisenhower should have had the power to say what units of the British Army should be suppressed or disbanded, or how they should be raised or remodelled, or anything like it. All these remained questions within the control of the autonomous sovereign States which were willing to agree to a larger unity for certain well defined functional—I use the "functional" because it is coming into use—functional purposes. Surely, this is one of the points we could have urged, and even have made conditional upon our agreement to any final scheme.
It is simply darkening counsel to pretend, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman did, that by participating in the discussion, under the safeguards and reservations I have read, we could have been committed against our will to anything of this nature. I would add, to make my answer quite clear to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that if he asked me, "Would you agree to a supranational authority which has the power to tell Great Britain not to cut any more coal or make any more steel, but to grow tomatoes instead?" I should say, without hesitation, the answer is "No." But why not be there to give the answer?
Nothing is said about the method of voting. We know nothing about the method by which voting power will be allotted to the different members of any supra-national authority which may be set up. But it is quite certain we should not agree to become members of it—and that we should have every right to disagree—if our great preponderance in coal and steel production did not receive full recognition. Then there is the question of the right to terminate such an agreement. That is surely a matter we could have looked at after discussion. Finally, there is the question of whether there could be two grades of members of such a body—full members and associate 2148 members. That is a matter also which should be borne in mind. I cannot conceive how such issues would not have benefited by any conference if we were there to shape and guide it. If they did not, if we did not succeed, our safeguards are overwhelming; we should not be bound in honour or good faith to accept adverse decisions on matters which we regarded as impracticable, but we would be the judges.
But that is not all. Even if the Ministers or representatives taking part in the conference were too weak or too facile to stand up for our vital interests and rights, even if they reached agreement round a conference table nothing would be settled until Parliament had ratified the resultant conclusions. This is what the French say in their Document 10 of 30th May. By becoming a member of this conference on the conditions imposed by the French Government we should in no way abrogate the full rights of power of the House of Commons to judge the final result—to judge as a whole and not as a party or as supporters or opponents of a Government. The power of this House would be absolutely undiminished.
If we attend the conference we can use all our influence and all our arguments, and if these are not accepted we are not committed in any way to agreement, and there would be no agreement so far as we are concerned. If, however, our delegates agree, as I have said, Parliament has still the full power to judge and to decide when the case is laid before it after it has all been thrashed out. There is the question: "To be there or not to be there," that is the question on which we shall vote tonight. It seems to me that we run no risk by being there, but let me examine some of the risks of our not being there.
The Prime Minister is soon to reply, when his own political creed and record are, if I may say so, in a sad plight. We all remember how before the war he said that national patriotism and national armaments were wrong. His words are upon record, but I will not trouble the House with them unless he wishes me to do so. In this faith, however misguided, in the years before the war the Prime Minister led the Socialist Party into the Lobby against every Estimate to strengthen, or even maintain our Armed 2149 Forces; and only four months before the explosion he urged his followers to oppose National Service. When in later years—a year ago in fact—the Prime Minister was taxed with this, be offered the defence that he would gladly have voted for armaments and conscription on an international basis, a collective basis, under the League of Nations, but he would not associate himself with any form of national armaments or re-armament in any way. This is what he said on 16th March last in this House:This party"—that is, his party—never opposed the proper re-armament of this country. No, my speeches are on record in this matter. We were always prepared to support a system of collective security."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th March, 1950; Vol. 472, c. 1391.]But no system of collective security existed, as he knew well, and as we learned only too soon.
This is the same leader of the Socialist Party who now, as Prime Minister, comes forward, or is persuaded to come forward, as the champion of the extreme insular view, which is inconsistent with the trend of what is going on, and also inconsistent with much that he himself has done. He seeks to win for himself and his party popular applause by strutting around as a Palmerstonian jingo. This diversity, in relation to the same story and the same issues, will not win for him or those who follow him any measure of public esteem.
Let me ask him a specific question, and I direct his attention to this document which I hold in my hand. He may have seen it. Has he read what may be called the "Dalton Brown Paper"? It was issued before he made his first statement in the House on the Schuman Plan. Had he read it, or had he not? I quite understand his embarrassment. If he says he had read it, his first statement in Parliament was inconsistent with it. If he says he had not read it, he might well be accused of throwing an unfair burden upon his colleague. There is also a third aspect which I am sure he will not consider irrelevant, namely: What is the truth? What is the fact?
It is no use for the right hon. Gentleman to tell us that these are purely domestic party matters, and that the House of Commons has no right to ask questions about a declaration by the Labour Party Executive, or the Prime Minister's attitude 2150 towards it. So powerful a body as the Labour Party Executive, of which the Prime Minister and all his principal colleagues are active members, a body which has a recognised part in the constitution of the Labour Party, cannot be held to be outside the purview of the House of Commons; it is a living part of the way we are governed, and of the means by which we are governed. The Prime Minister cannot dissociate himself from it. We do not know now what his position is, but I ask him this simple question: Did he read this document before he made his statement on the Schuman Plan to the House of Commons, or did he not? If the right hon. Gentleman does not answer, or dare not answer, then he will be the sufferer in reputation. Apart from being a Prime Minister he is a public man, and I doubt if there is any Member in this House who, if asked a question of this kind, would shrink from giving a plain and simple answer.
I venture, from long experience, to offer some advice to the House, which is naturally perturbed by the far-reaching issues which have been aroused in our minds, and which we have to discuss in the inevitably unpleasant atmosphere surrounding or between two fierce General Elections. It is not within our power, nor is it our task this evening, to settle all those vast questions of world destiny and Britain's part in it. We must keep them in our minds so far as we can perceive them, but we have not got to pronounce judgment upon them all. We have to deal with the definite practical issues put before us in the Motion on the Order Paper. This can only be a step, and a carefully-guarded step, forward in what the great majority on both sides of the House believe to be the right direction.
We ought under all effective safeguards to take our part and use our influence in this forthcoming discussion, provided, first, that we wish it good success, and secondly, though no less important, that we reserve our full freedom to judge the final results. We cannot do that now. We do not know any of the details, or how they will emerge from a careful examination. We have only a general outline of what is proposed as a basis for discussion. Every Member should ask himself two simple practical questions: "Do I wish to see the unity of Western 2151 Europe advanced?" and anyhow, apart from that, "Had we not better take part in the conference subject to the reservations which the Dutch have made?" These are the issues before us tonight.
More than a month ago when I addressed the Scottish Unionist Conference at Edinburgh we knew even less than we do now. Nevertheless, the course I should advise the Conservative Party to follow seemed clear. I will venture to read to the House what I said, because at that time I had no idea that this would become a controversial party issue. I hope that the House will forgive me reading this, but I think that it is relevant:While the Schuman proposal is right in principle, we must nevertheless consider carefully the way in which Great Britain can participate most effectively in such a larger grouping of European industry. We must be careful that it does not carry with it a lowering of British wages and standards of life and labour. We must, I feel, assert the principle of levelling up and not of levelling down. We are all surely proud of the British steel industry which plays so large a part in our export trade. The terms on which we could combine with Continental nations must be carefully studied. If we were to destroy or even impair the efficiency of our steel industry by nationalisation, we might find ourselves at a serious disadvantage compared with Continental countries which are free from Socialist abuses. We must be reassured on these and other points while welcoming cordially the whole principle and spirit of what is proposed.That is what I said, and that is what, broadly speaking, I stand by now, and it is what I ask that we shall vote unitedly upon this evening.
We are asked: How can the Conservative Party reconcile its opposition to the nationalisation of steel and yet give any countenance to the principle of internationalisation in a European system? It is a fair question. The answer is that we oppose the nationalisation of British steel because we wish to see it remain in the competent hands of those who under free enterprise have raised it to its present magnificent position among our industries. In our opposition to nationalisation we have never objected to a proper degree of Government supervision; indeed we have always insisted upon it. What we have opposed, and shall continue to oppose, is State ownership and management—or mismanagement as it has proved so far—of the industry.
2152 Under the Schuman proposals, ownership remains unaffected. We cannot see any objection in principle to a wider measure of international co-ordination if that proves practicable and in accordance with our essential interests. We see no reason why the problems of the British steel industry should not be discussed in common with the problems of the other European steel industries, and we have good hope that if this is done, an association mutually advantageous and acceptable may be created. But at any rate it will be far better for us to take part in the disussions than to stand outside and let events drift without us. That is the view of the present leaders of the British steel industry, and I am sure that it is a sensible and practical one.
The Socialist Government, as their Amendment sets forth, speak of their desire to follow closely the conversations from outside and they welcome the proposal which M. Schuman has made. The French Government have promised to keep us fully informed. But what is that compared with taking part in the discussions and influencing them in the powerful way which we could have done having regard to our preponderating individual stake. There is a great difference between being outside a conference and being perhaps a leading member of one. There may well be a certain resentment against the Government which is thought by the others to have wilfully refused under all safeguards even to sit at the table.
Here are the six Powers talking all these matters over among themselves with the United States beckoning encouragement to them from across the ocean—[Interruption.] Nothing has done more harm in the United States than the publication in this country of this document—and Britain, although absolutely safe from being committed, finding excuses, elaborate excuses, to keep out of the conference altogether and thus perhaps spoil the hopes of a general settlement. The French have a saying "Les absents ont toujours tort." I do not know whether they learn French at Winchester.
There is certainly a risk of all these matters of great consequence being discussed in our absence. We have no means of intervening from moment to moment. New difficulties may be springing up in 2153 our absence, as we sit here. All kinds of draft conclusions or draft proposals may be presented which would never have seen the light of day had we been able to use our influence on the spot beforehand. Perhaps resentment is too strong an expression. Let me call it "a fellow feeling" among those who are there against the one who is out.
Continental wages are lower than our own. If they were averaged out on the basis of those who were in, it might well increase in a marked degree the competitive undercutting power in the exports of all these countries. Whereas our influence at the table might well have been sufficient to turn the balance in favour of the British standard, it seems to me contrary to the interests of the British coalminers and steel workers that they should never have been allowed to put their case for a levelling-up on the Continent instead of a levelling-down.
There is another reason why the boycotting of the conference is to be regretted. The absence of Britain deranges the balance of Europe. I am all for a reconciliation between France and Germany, and for receiving Germany back into the European family, but this implies, as I have always insisted, that Britain and France should in the main act together so as to be able to deal on even terms with Germany, which is so much stronger than France alone. Without Britain, the coal and steel pool in Western Europe must naturally tend to be dominated by Germany, who will be the most powerful member. This point was made by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) last night.
I ask both sides of the House to consider whether it is really a wise policy for us to pursue at this particular moment of European recovery. It is difficult to imagine any course more inconsiderate to European interests in general, and to British interests in particular, than that into which the Government are forcing, not only the House as a whole, but their own party.
I have spoken of this document—this Brown Paper. There was, however, in the Socialist pamphlet one declaration with which I wholeheartedly agree. I mean the declaration against Europe becoming a Third Force between America 2154 and Russia and creating a "neutral geographical bloc." This was formerly the view of many of the Socialists in the days when they condemned my Fulton speech in 1946. I am glad to read this recantation. I trust the educational process may continue.
I should myself regard the neutralisation of Germany or Western Germany, still more of France and the rest of the six Powers now meeting together in Paris, as a disaster second only to actual war. It would simply mean that not only Western Germany but the European States in the neutral zone would be undermined and overcome one by one and bit by bit exactly as we have seen Czechoslovakia devoured before our eyes. The question which both the pamphleteers and we should ask ourselves tonight is whether British reluctance to assert herself within a movement towards European unity will not bring about just this very danger of a neutral geographical bloc, and whether we, by standing out, may not become responsible for bringing about the very situation the Socialist Executive in their pamphlet so rightly fear.
I was deeply moved by the decisive gesture which France made in the Schuman Plan for an effective reconciliation with Germany on the basis of such a measure of pooling heavy industries, which would, if developed, make impossible a renewal of war between these two nations. When I asked four years ago at Zurich that France should take Germany by the hand and lead her back into the European family, I could not hope that such an historic event would have come to pass so soon.
It would be quite fair to ask me whether I should have welcomed this event even if there were no such thing as this Russian menace, or the Soviet Government or the Communist movement in many lands. I should say, "Yes, certainly." The unity of France and Germany, whether direct or in a larger continental grouping is a merciful and glorious forward step towards the revival of Europe and the peace of the world. The fact that there is a grave Soviet and Communist menace only adds to its value and urgency. Here surely we can find agreement on all sides of the House.
2155 No one can say with justice that we are acting and feeling in this way in prejudice to the interests of the British Empire and Commonwealth. Everyone knows that that stands first in all our thoughts. First, there is the Empire and Commonwealth; secondly, the fraternal association of the English-speaking world; and thirdly, not in rank or status but in order, the revival of united Europe as a vast factor in the preserving of what is left of the civilisation and culture of the free world. When one hears Socialist orators claim that they are the champions of the British Empire and Commonwealth of Nations and remembers that they did not even take the trouble to tell the Commonwealth what was going on, it is impossible not to repress a feeling of scorn.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
To what is the right hon. Gentleman referring when he says we did not take the trouble to tell the Commonwealth what was going on?
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong. The nations of the Commonwealth were kept fully informed.
§ Mr. Churchill
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that they were consulted upon the Government's refusal to accede to the Schuman invitation?
§ The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman said that they were right outside altogether, and that we have informed nobody. Anyone with experience of Commonwealth affairs knows that in all these matters the Commonwealth countries are kept fully informed, and any point which they wish to raise they do raise with the other members of the Commonwealth. In a matter which primarily concerns one member of the Commonwealth they are kept fully informed and they may raise points on that if they wish.
§ Mr. Churchill
I must go into this a little bit, because I did not get the correct impression. I have only got in my mind what took place in the House. I understood that the Schuman Plan came as a surprise, and the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister at short notice made a statement in this House, in which he spoke of it in welcoming terms. I do 2156 not know, but I have no doubt that the Dominions wished to raise some points. Before the Prime Minister took up the position he has taken up, I doubt very much if they had had any opportunity expressing any opinion upon the course which events had taken.
When I was asked at the Atlantic Conference in 1941 by Mr. Roosevelt to agree that Imperial Preference should be eliminated, I said at once that we should never be able to take such a decision without consulting the Dominions themselves and this would take time. The argument was effective, among other reasons, because of the time factor in issuing a communiqué, about which the President was so eager. I cannot think of a better argument which the Government could have used to our French friends if they wished to have more time to consider their attitude than to say that they must consult on these matters with the Dominions by sending a telegram, affording them an opportunity to give a considered opinion. That it does not seem to have occurred to them is only another example of the extraordinary lack of efficiency with which our affairs are now conducted.
There are still one or two points which I must mention. The hon. Member for Coventry, East, last night asked the Tory Party whether they were in favour of the federal union of Western Europe. Such a tremendous step as the federal union of Europe as something like a United States of Europe is not a matter which rests with us to decide. It is primarily one for the peoples of Europe. In our European Movement we have worked with federalists, and we have always made it clear that, though they are moving along the same road, we are not committed to their conclusions. Personally, I have always deprecated in public our becoming involved at this stage in all the tangles and intricacies of rigid constitution-making, which appeals so strongly to a certain type of mind. I was sorry that the hon. Member for Coventry, East, should have marred an able speech, as he so often does, by a gross misstatement when he says that European unionis run and financed by federalists."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th June, 1950; Vol. 476. c. 2043.]That is quite untrue, and I am very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for 2157 Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby), who spoke earlier this afternoon, dealt effectively with that.
§ Mr. Churchill
Certainly, so far as the European Movement is concerned—and I took some trouble to make inquiries about it when I heard what the hon. Gentleman had said about it—they rely upon voluntary contributions from England and America and they have not had any difficulty in finding the necessary funds.
I am told that the difficulties of European federation are increasingly realised upon the Continent, and that it is one of the reasons why what I call "functional" associations, like this proposed merger of the heavy industries, are being sought. But the question that we have to decide for ourselves—and there is certainly plenty of time for mature consideration of it—is, what association should Britain have with the Federal Union of Europe if such a thing should come to pass in the course of time?
It has not got to be decided today, but I shall give, with all humility, a plain answer. I cannot conceive that Britain would be an ordinary member of a Federal Union limited to Europe in any period which can at present be foreseen. We should in my opinion favour and help forward all developments on the Continent which arise naturally from a removal of barriers, from the process of reconciliation, and blessed oblivion of the terrible past, and also from our common dangers in the future and present. Although a hard-and-fast concrete federal constitution for Europe is not within the scope of practical affairs, we should help, sponsor and aid in every possible way the movement towards European unity. We should seek steadfastly for means to become intimately associated with it.
In this, we are supported by many of the leading statesmen in all parties in all the Commonwealth countries: Mr. Menzies and Mr. Evatt in Australia, Mr. Fraser in New Zealand, General Smuts—for whose recovery we pray—and Mr. MacKenzie King and Mr. St. Laurent in Canada. All have warmly advocated a forward movement towards European unity and have not, so far as I am aware, assigned any rigid or fixed limits to it.
2158 With our position as the centre of the British Empire and Commonwealth and with our fraternal association with the United States in the English-speaking world, we could not accept full membership of a federal system of Europe. We must find our path to world unity through the United Nations organisation, which I hope will be re-founded one day upon three or four regional groups, of which a united Europe should certainly be one. By our unique position in the world, Great Britain has an opportunity, if she is worthy of it, to play an important and possibly a decisive part in all the three larger groupings of the Western democracies. Let us make sure that we are worthy of it.
The whole movement of the world is towards an inter-dependence of nations. We feel all around us the belief that it is our best hope. If independent, individual sovereignty is sacrosanot and inviolable, how is it that we are all wedded to a world organisation? It is an ideal to which we must subscribe. How is it that we have undertaken this immense obligation for the defence of Western Europe, involving ourselves as we have never done before in the fortunes of countries not protected by the waves and tides of the Channel? How is it that we accepted, and under the present Government eagerly sought, to live upon the bounty of the United States, thus becoming financially dependent upon them? It can only be justified and even tolerated because on either side of the Atlantic it is felt that inter-dependence is part of our faith and the means of our salvation.
No one can contend that sovereignty will be affected by our participation in the discussions in Paris which are the subject of our Motion and the Amendment tonight. They are well protected by the cumulative safeguards which I mentioned earlier. Nevertheless, there is a great moral and idealistic issue which, though irrelevant to our immediate purpose, has been stirred by the discussions which have taken place. We are asked in a challenging way: "Are you prepared to part with any degree of national sovereignty in any circumstances for the sake of a larger synthesis?" My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington, with his prolonged experience in foreign affairs, has faced the issue, hypothetical though it be, plainly 2159 and squarely. The Conservative and Liberal Parties say, without hesitation, that we are prepared to consider, and if convinced to accept, the abrogation of national sovereignty, provided that we are satisfied with the conditions and the safeguards.
Nay, I will go further and say that for the sake of world organisation we would even run risks and make sacrifices. We fought alone against tyranny for a whole year, not purely from national motives. It is true that our lives depended upon our doing so, but we fought the better because we felt with conviction that it was not only our own cause but a world cause for which the Union Jack was kept flying in 1940 and 1941. The soldier who laid down his life, the mother who wept for her son, and the wife who lost her husband, got inspiration or comfort, and felt a sense of being linked with the universal and the eternal by the fact that we fought for what was precious not only for ourselves but for mankind. The Conservative and Liberal Parties declare that national sovereignty is not inviolable, and that it may be resolutely diminished for the sake of all the men in all the lands finding their way home together.