§ 4.1 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ernest Davies)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the deliberations of the Council of Europe.Despite the preliminary exchanges which have occurred in this House as to whose time this Debate should take place in, I am sure that we all welcome the fact that an opportunity has been provided for assessing the actual and potential contributions that the Council of Europe can make towards co-operation in Europe. Now that the Government have considered that a Debate should take place in their own time and that so neutral a Motion has been put on the Order Paper, it is to be hoped that we can have an objective and constructive discussion on the Council itself and that the Opposition will not in this Debate transfer the Consultative Assembly attack on the Committee of Ministers to an attack on the Ministers on the Front Bench here. The issues before us are far larger than that.
During the two sessions of the Council of Europe much useful work has been done, despite the fact that this is a new and experimental organisation and is unique among international organisations. As Members are aware, the original concept of the Council of Europe was that this body should afford, in the first place, a forum of European opinion and that it should be a forcing house for ideas which could be taken into account by Governments through the Committee of Foreign Ministers which formed part of the organisation. It was generally hoped that this exchange of ideas would create a European opinion and would contribute to the development of a sense of European unity which all Governments, I think, in Western Europe desire to establish in their own interests. The Committee of Ministers itself was intended to be an organ of inter-governmental co-operation which would cover fields and would also include countries which were not dealt with by other organisations.
As to the Consultative Assembly, it was never considered that it should be a parliament, that it should have in any sense legislative powers. None the less, perhaps it is regrettable that from the outset certain sections of the delegations which went to 1393 Strasbourg were inclined to use the Assembly as a platform on which to attack their own home Governments. They took the opportunity of exporting their home squabbles to the Continent, and by so doing I think it is fair to say that there was some retardation of European co-operation and unity rather than its advancement.
It is perfectly true that the Assembly became a meeting place of leading parliamentarians, but many of the members who went to Strasbourg from all countries there represented seem to have been drawn together not so much by ideological ties or by common ideals, but because they were friends in political adversity. It seems that at Strasbourg opposition makes strange bedfellows. It is somewhat difficult to believe that a common belief in similar policies leads Belgian Socialists and British Tories to unite in forming an opposition to the Committee of Ministers. They may be united there against the Committee of Ministers, but we can hardly see them being in unison if they were in power instead of being in opposition.
Other representatives who went to Strasbourg were inclined to concentrate more on procedural and constitutional issues than they were on the matters which it was hoped would be discussed at the Consultative Assembly with a view to formulating European opinion. We have to face the fact that there did develop a gulf between the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers. In other words, it seems that instead of using the Consultative Assembly as a means of educating the European community in the ideas of unity, they tried to jump a stage and create disunity between the two sections of the Council of Europe. None the less, in spite of this initial difficulty, the Council has much to its credit; it has played and has an important part to play in the pattern of European co-operation.
His Majesty's Government are often accused of being unenthusiastic towards the Council of Europe. We are accused of being unenthusiastic simply, I believe, because we make a realistic approach. We approach the matter with a view to trying to fit the Council of Europe into the pattern of European co-operation so that it can play its appropriate part and will not encroach upon activities which are already being successfully carried out 1394 by other organisations, whether European or extra-European.
I think it is necessary to appreciate that the Council of Europe holds no monopoly and can hold no monopoly for European co-operation. Nor, for that matter, do Members opposite have a monopoly for embracing the ideal of European unity. As I said, the Council has a most useful function to play, but the non-governmental composition of the Assembly and its relationship to the Committee of Ministers limits its range of activities and prevents it in the present stage of European political opinion from monopolising political, social and economic co-operation among European governments.
We are often accused of "dragging our feet" as far as European co-operation is concerned, but I think it is necessary for us to keep the Council of Europe in its right perspective, and to assist it to advance co-operation where it will be most effective in so doing; that is, to encourage it to make its most appropriate contribution to European co-operation. Our post-war record in this country shows that Britain has played a very prominent role in bringing about an increasingly large measure of European co-operation.
It is only necessary to look at the developments which have taken place since the war to appreciate how we in this country have taken the initiative and have held the lead as regards European co-operation in the economic field and in the field of defence. Certainly, even before the war was over, we were taking the lead in co-operation with the United States in establishing preliminary committees for the re-construction of Europe—committees such as the European Coal Organisation, E.C.I.T.O. and other bodies. We were establishing machinery for reconstituting the European community, restoring its broken economy and binding it together so that it could rebuild and preserve its democratic way of life.
Immediately the war was over steps were taken to enter into economic agreements with a very large number of European countries; one has only to recall the Anglo-Italian and the Anglo-French Economic Committees, which are outstanding examples of continuous cooperation for mutual economic assistance. At the same time that we were extending our economic contacts with the Western 1395 European countries, we resumed our trade with the Eastern European countries which had been our war-time Allies—Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and, of course, the Soviet Union itself. We got trade going again with them as far as their devastated economies and transport difficulties made it possible, and later, when the peace treaties were concluded, we entered into trading agreements and other agreements with Hungary, Roumania and Bulgaria.
In these early post-war years it was the hope of His Majesty's Government that an expansion of trade and good commercial relations would help to develop friendly political relations. As far as Eastern Europe was concerned, we have been disappointed, but that was no fault of ours. I refer to these early postwar efforts towards economic and political co-operation simply to show that our original intention was not to confine co-operation to Western Europe alone but was to co-operate with all Europe, as far as political and defensive conditions made it possible. Our policy remains the same, and attachment to the Council of Europe must not lead us to lose sight of the necessity to re-unite the whole of Europe and to keep that before us as our ultimate endeavour. I think hon. Members will agree with that.
The firm belief of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was that, in the early post-war years, priority had to be given to the re-building of the economic strength of Europe and that co-operation to that end would ultimately facilitate political co-operation and the building up of a system of defensive alliances. It was considered that the latter could only be of value once Europe was regaining its economic health. Here I think there is a difference of approach between my right hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, because I think the latter has always tended to stress the defensive and the political aspects of European co-operation rather than to concentrate on the economic aspects. The first aim of the Foreign Secretary was to establish economic cooperation and, in this respect, it is significant that the most prominent part played by the Leader of the Opposition in the deliberations of the 1396 last Assembly at Strasbourg was concerned with the proposal for the establishment of a European Army and the creation of a European Minister of Defence.
Following the economic arrangements, and in some cases going side by side with them, the further stage in European cooperation was the building up of this series of defensive alliances. A 50-year treaty with France which, it will be recalled, was formulated following the visit of that great Socialist, Leon Blum, to this country in 1946, and followed through by M. Bidault, now playing so prominent a part in the opposition to the Ministers at Strasbourg. There then followed the Brussels Treaty, under which we undertook an automatic obligation to go to war if France, Holland and Benelux were attacked, and we proceeded to build up from that the first continous machinery of military co-operation and planning between like-minded countries since the war.
I think it is important to keep in mind that in all these defensive alliances, defence is only one of the aspects and that the concept of economic, social, political and cultural co-operation is written into them. In the case of the Brussels Treaty, the title is:Treaty of economic, social and cultural collaboration and collective self-defence.Underlying its purpose is to consolidate ties, which are already close, between the five signatories and to strengthen their democratic institutions, and in this field a great deal has been done by the Brussels Treaty Powers. It is not impossible that the work which is being done by the Brussels Treaty Powers in these fields outside defence can ultimately be extended to those countries which are members of the Council of Europe and that, in some particulars, the Council of Europe can play its part and perhaps take over some of those functions. Thus, the work can be extended to this larger group of members.
I do not think there is any need to recall to the House the further story of economic collaboration which developed from Marshall Aid and from the setting up of the O.E.E.C., but here is effective European co-operation at governmental level. By mutual agreement a very large measure of economic co-operation has been achieved. It has necessitated the 1397 re-adjustment of our own economic policies and the economic policies of the countries concerned to the general interests of the European community. Again, I think it is necessary to keep that before us when we are discussing the work which the Council of Europe can do. Here, at the governmental level, we are willing, to as far as our own economic policies are concerned, to make some sacrifices for the common European good. But we say, and we have always maintained, that where we do so it has to be done by the mutual consent of governments it cannot be imposed upon any one Government by another. As is well known, the decisions of O.E.E.C. are reached by mutual agreement without voting.
I think that here is the evidence that Britain has not in any way dissociated herself from the European economy, as we are so frequently accused of doing, that we have taken the lead and that we have shown our willingness to achieve the maximum measure of European co-operation, so far largely at the Governmental level. But there we take this stand: that it is impossible to take an exclusively European view and that we cannot look at our economic, political, cultural, social or defence co-operation simply from the point of view of Europe. We have to take into account our position not only as the centre of the Sterling Area but as the leading partner in the Commonwealth and, in doing so, I do not think there is any lack of consideration whatsoever for the interests of Europe. Our position is dictated by the plain facts and it is to the advantage of Europe herself that we should be the centre of this largest trading group of nations in the world and the banker to the Sterling Area.
But we must look beyond Europe, and Europe must look beyond itself also. It is a mistake for any European country, and particularly for the United Kingdom certainly, to look exclusively at the European picture. The suggestion that, because the United Kingdom cannot accept rapid progress towards union or towards federation in Europe, she is therefore ceasing to be interested in Europe, or is withdrawing from Europe in any sense of the word, is utterly fallacious. Yet that is the accusation that is frequently thrown at us. The policy of this Government, and the peculiar function of 1398 the United Kingdom, is to reconcile purely European interests with the wider interests and connections upon which European survival is dependent.
As regards defence, we are, of course, perfectly aware that in the modern world the defence of the United Kingdom is intimately bound up with the defence of Western Europe, and our recognition of this plain fact has been demonstrated perfectly clearly by the categorical assurances that we have given to the Brussels Treaty Powers and to our allies in the Atlantic Pact. We have given to them categorical assurances that we will have forces on the Continent from the very beginning of any aggression; and, of course, we have already forces on the Continent in Germany.
This in itself, I think, rules out any possibility that we are disinteresting ourselves in the fate of Europe. We are serving the general good of Europe, the general interests of Europe, in these arrangements that we have made, though they are not of an exclusively European nature. We are convinced that in the North Atlantic Treaty the best interests of Europe and of the Western world—of the free world—are being served. This group of countries have between them the resources and war potential adequate to resist aggression, but that is not true of the European countries. Europe emerged from the war broken and in a sorry state. It is only now recovering its pre-war economic strength, and it is not strong enough in these days of modern warfare, faced by a large military machine, to stand up to its own defence without external assistance.
So it is for no selfish reasons that we insist that these defensive matters, because they go beyond the sphere of Europe itself, should be kept out of the discussions of the Council of Europe. We are absolutely convinced that the only salvation for Europe and the West lies in this arrangement. I do not think it should be ever forgotten that the Europe which emerged from the war was a very different Europe from the pre-war Europe, and that the attitude which has to be taken towards it, not only as regards defence but as regards economic cooperation and other forms of co-operation, must be different from that we took before the war.
1399 Defence questions, as I have stated, were, of course, kept out of the Statute of the Council of Europe.
§ Mr. Davies
They were not kept out of the debate of the Consultative Assembly where a debate took place. It was considered by many of the Ministers there, who were represented at the meeting of the Committee of Ministers, that it was ultra vires of the Assembly to discuss defence matters.
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
Would my hon. Friend permit me to interrupt him on a point of order? We are in some confusion about the subject of defence. We are discussing a report on the Council of Europe today, and the basis of this Council is set out in the Statute of the Council of Europe, in the White Paper we have in our possession, which states:Matters relating to national defence do not fall within the scope of the Council of Europe.The hon. Gentleman is telling us a great deal about the defence of Europe. For our guidance—at any rate, for my guidance—would you, Mr. Speaker, tell me whether in this Debate it is permitted to discuss the whole subject of defence? Because the hon. Gentleman is complaining that the matter was raised at Strasbourg and that it was ultra vires, and then an hon. Gentleman interrupts to say that, nevertheless, a debate went on. I should like to know where we are exactly in this Debate today.
§ Mr. Boothby
Further to that point of order. May I point out that one of the recommendations of the Assembly printed in this Paper, is that a European army should be created? Therefore, I submit to you, Sir, that it is quite in order to discuss that subject.
§ Mr. Speaker
I understood beforehand that the defence situation and the subject of a European army would be discussed. I do not think it would be out of order myself.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
The Motion which is before us states that we take note "of the deliberations of the Council of Europe." They deliberated, whether 1400 within or out of order, defence, and that was part of the deliberations.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)
I hope the hon. Gentleman will not cling to this argument whether they deliberated in or out of order. That question of order was raised, and was decided by the President of the Assembly. I feel sure the hon. Gentleman would not wish to go behind his ruling. He gave a ruling that, although the Statute said, as the hon. Gentleman opposite has rightly pointed out, the question of national defence was out of order, since the debate took place in respect of a message from the Ministers which raised the whole question, not only for Europe but for the world, of the attack in Korea, therefore, the debate was in order. Therefore, a debate was held, a motion was passed, and a reply to the Ministers was debated. The Committee of Ministers held a meeting to discuss the matter, and since we had a message from the Ministers, that discussion was not out of order.
§ Mr. Mitchison (Kettering)
The right hon. Gentleman is wrong in his recollection. The matter was not decided by the President of the Assembly, but by the Assembly itself, and, with great respect, I fail entirely to see how a body which is proceeding out of order can put itself into order by saying it is in order.
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies
It is most important that we should know what we can debate in this Debate today. I am not concerned so much with what happened at Strasbourg, which is past history. What I am concerned with is to know what will be in order today. Here we are, told that national defence falls outside the Assembly——
§ Mr. Davies
In the Statute. We are receiving a report today. The hon. Gentleman is giving us an account of how they could not accept a certain point of view. Is this to be proceeded with in today's Debate, or is there some line to be drawn between national defence and the general subject of defence?
§ Mr. Speaker
I have found it a little difficult to follow all these points, but I should have said that anything which was discussed at Strasbourg would have been in order in this debate today.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
I am inclined to think that, if this is an example of European unity, then it may be that some of the criticisms we make about the Council of Europe are not altogether out of order.
We think the Council of Europe must be seen in this wider context. It was conceived as a body for the formulation of European opinion; it was not designed as an executive authority which imposes its will upon Governments. I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) agrees with me. I do not think all his colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench take entirely that same point of view. From the outset this original conception, of it merely being a forum for discussion, was not accepted by a number of representatives, and they were not content to try to make the Statute work, though the Statute had been drawn up after most careful deliberations by the Permanent Conference of Ambassadors in London—a Conference which evolved a Statute designed to bring European Foreign Ministers and parliamentarians of European Parliaments together to work in harmony.
Unfortunately, there has not always been harmony in the deliberations of the Consultative Assembly and in the relationship between the Assembly and the Ministers. It may be that the presence of so many Opposition leaders at the Consultative Assembly does not make for harmony. It may also be due to the fact that the European movement has from the outset, I think it is fair to say, pressed vigorously for the extension of the functions and powers of the Council, particularly of course of the Consultative Assembly, towards federation, which was not envisaged by the Statute, and it was never intended that the Council of Europe should develop in that direction.
The Assembly has pressed from the outset for an extension of those powers, to turn itself into a European Parliament of which the Committee of Ministers, in their view, should be the executive and should be responsible to the Consultative Assembly. Now this federal concept has never been acceptable to His Majesty's Government, nor to a large number of hon. Members opposite, though some of the Opposition have expressed their desire to see it develop in that direction. I cannot understand what attraction the European federation idea has for them. We get hon. Members of the Opposition in the House 1402 protesting when we ask to be given permissive powers for the purpose of instituting permanent controls, yet some hon. Gentlemen opposite are willing to give powers to foreign Governments to exercise far greater or similar controls over industry here in this country.
It is difficult to understand this inconsistency, and I do not know what is the explanation, unless it be that in their new-found comrades in opposition at Strasbourg they have accepted the fact that they will be in permanent opposition, and that their hope lies in controlling affairs at home through a reactionary federated Europe. I should like to imagine the position if it were in reverse, if hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power in this country and the majority of members of Governments represented in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe were representatives of Socialist Governments, and whether they would then be willing to accept the dictate of a Committee of Ministers so organised.
I say this because federation can only mean the creation of a supra-national authority for Europe, and no British Government could possibly commit themselves in advance ever to accept the majority recommendation of such a body. There cannot be any delegation of general powers to an outside body, to an outside authority which might not necessarily share the view of His Majesty's Government, or with which compromise was impossible, and which might even deprive His Majesty's Government of powers without which they could not carry out the wishes of the electorate.
It is noticeable, therefore, that there has been a diminution in the enthusiasm for federation, not only among hon. Members opposite but among representatives at the Consultative Assembly, and there has developed a preference for what is known as the functional approach. There have been proposals that there should be a series of functional federations in the political, economic, social, legal and cultural fields. These authorities, it is suggested, should be open to all Member States of the Council of Europe, but accession should not be obligatory; that is, it is suggested that there should be federations for coal, steel, transport, agricultural marketing, and so on.
I think that our attitude towards this functional approach, towards functional 1403 organisation on federal lines, has been made clear in respect of the Schuman Plan, and what applies there applies equally to any similar suggestions put forward. The Government refuse to adhere in advance to an indefinite functional organisation which is subject to a supra-national authority whose composition and powers and the control of which are unknown. It emerged from the Debate that we had on the Schuman Plan that some hon. Members opposite were willing to hand over to such a body the British iron and steel industry.
§ Mr. Henry Hopkinson (Taunton)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but is it not a fact that in the Assembly of the United Nations we are doing exactly what the hon. Gentleman has just been saying, namely, that when a majority in the Assembly of the United Nations have decided something we ourselves would feel bound to accept that decision? Is that not what we did in regard to the withdrawal of ambassadors from Spain?
§ Mr. Davies
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that there is some difference between the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, which is composed of non-representative members not responsible to Governments, and the United Nations, whose delegations are made up of representatives of the Governments. Nor am I aware of the United Nations having set up any supra-national authority.
On this, I should like to make the position of the Government quite clear. We, of course, do surrender a measure of sovereignty every time we enter into an international treaty; and we may surrender a measure of sovereignty when we enter into certain types of treaty. We are not standing out all the time against the creation of any supra-national authority. All we are saying is that we must know the extent to which we are being committed before we agree to surrender any of our sovereignty to a supra-national authority.
As I say, it may well be that if such functional federations are established for one or other of the industries or services of Europe, it will be possible for His Majesty's Government to be associated with such a federation; but we say that it will be necessary to examine each proposal on its merits and then to see in what 1404 way His Majesty's Government can be associated with that federation. In no case can any commitment be made in advance until the extent of the commitment is known. We cannot risk the delegation of sovereignty which might entail interference with our freedom to plan our economy in accordance with the wishes of Parliament. By mutual consent we may well adjust our economy to the interests of Europe—and we do so through O.E.E.C. and in other ways—but it must be by mutual consent and not be imposed upon us.
I think there is some misunderstanding concerning the functional approach. The federation of the functionalists—if one may call them such—at Strasbourg was interpreted as enabling those opposed to constitutional federation to participate in these organisations on a functional basis. But it is still federation; it retains the principle of the supra-national authority. As long as it does that, it is still federation, and so the reservations have to be made whether the approach is a functional one or along constitutional lines.
We made our position clear at the recent meeting at Rome, and His Majesty's Government then stated that we had no wish whatsoever to stand in the way of those who were willing to enter into any such commitments. We accept the fact that in certain states there is an opinion favouring constitutional federation and that in others there is a desire to federate along functional lines. We have no desire to hinder any such federation, whether it be constitutional or functional. If any group of states wish to federate on whatever lines, whether by organisation of their industries or politically, then they are, of course, free to do so, and, if they do, His Majesty's Government will consider their relationship thereto in due course. These federations may well come under the general umbrella of the Council of Europe, but the Council should not carry any budgetary burden—the administration and so forth should be shared by those countries which actually participate.
I think it is interesting to find that there is less enthusiasm for federation now that the United Kingdom has made its position clear. One wonders whether there was not some desire on the part of some persons to "use" us—as it were, to "shoot us down"—whereas they 1405 themselves were not really as enthusiastic as they were inclined to make out. Once His Majesty's Government made their position clear in this respect, there has been a withdrawal of proposals for federation, and we have not seen any progress towards it. I repeat that if there is, we will certainly do nothing to hinder it and those associated with it, if it is possible to do so.
At the Rome meeting, the Committee of Ministers showed its desire to meet the Assembly as far as possible. In no case did it turn down a single one of the recommendations which came from the Consultative Assembly. The recommendations were for the most part remitted for further study, so that if it were possible to revise the Statute in any way acceptable to both the Assembly and the Ministers, that revision should take place. It did accept in principle the two main reommendations which came forward: the creation of specialised authorities—that is, partial federation on functional lines—and the recommendation for partial federation on constitutional lines. These two recommendations were accepted in principle, and are being studied with the other recommendations of a constitutional nature which were made by the Assembly.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Carlton)
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us which are the numbers of these recommendations in the Papers as issued?
§ Mr. Davies
I should have thought that if the hon. Gentleman were interested in the Council of Europe, he would have been well aware of these two recommendations, which are the two main ones of a constitutional nature.
§ Mr. Davies
There are 51 recommendations, and I do not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite or anyone else can carry in his head each of those 51 recommendations, any more than I am able to do.
§ Mr. Peter Smithers (Winchester)
I have carefully studied all the 51 recommendations, and they are not all accounted for in the White Paper which describes the proceedings of the Ministers.
§ Mr. Davies
I have made the position of His Majesty's Government clear in respect of federation, but we must make certain reservations. It follows from what I have said that we cannot accept that the decisions of the Committee of Ministers shall be mandatory upon Governments. In other words, the unanimity rule of the Committee of Ministers must stay, with the important exception that those who wish to act on any of its recommendations independently of the Ministers' decision can do so by agreement among themselves; but they cannot force others to come in. It follows further that we cannot agree at this stage to the extension of the powers of the Assembly from its present purely consultative role to that of a legislative assembly or European Parliament. Finally, we cannot accept any alteration of the Statute to allow defence to be discussed. The Council of Europe has its own particular rôle and there is no need for it to usurp the functions of other bodies which can be better carried out at a governmental level or which embrace a wider group of countries than are within the Council of Europe.
Despite the limitations which the present Statute imposes on the Council, we consider that much has been achieved. The Convention of Human Rights, which was signed by 13 out of 15 Members at Rome on 4th November, was no mean achievement. It might not go so far as the Assembly wish in certain particulars. Of the amendments put forward not one was rejected, and to enable the Convention to be signed there and then at Rome, and as unanimity would not be reached in the Committee of Ministers these Amendments were remitted for further study by Governments, and a protocol can be drawn up when an agreement has been reached.
Also, at Rome, the Ministers themselves took the initiative in asking the Assembly to consider the declaration of peace which the United Kingdom laid before them. This declaration condemned all false "peace" proposals and called on the Soviet Government and its satellites to show their support for peace by deeds as well as by words. The object of this was to expose the hypocrisy of such Communist propaganda as the Stockholm and Sheffield Peace Conferences.
I think I have made it clear where His Majesty's Government stand in relation 1407 to the Council of Europe and to the more important of the matters raised by the Consultative Assembly. It might, however, be helpful if I summed up the position. Close examination of and mature reflection not only upon the principles of federation but also on the specific proposals based on federal ideas have only confirmed His Majesty's Government in their conclusion that they cannot enter into any constitutional federation of Europe. Their policy is to obtain the maximum measure of co-operation in the economic, political, social and cultural fields through the appropriate organisations, including, of course, the Council of Europe.
This does not mean, however, that they are unwilling, or will always be unable, to collaborate with federal bodies of a functional nature which others are able to establish. In each case, we will make a most careful examination of our relationship to such functional organisation, but before entering into any such association the extent of our commitments must be fully known and it must be approved by Parliament. This, of course, means that we adhere to the unanimity rule in the Committee of Ministers. Where decisions are unanimous, we are willing to carry them out, but there must be unanimity.
Therefore, His Majesty's Government adhere to their original conception of the Council of Europe; that is, that the Committee of Ministers should be an organ of inter-governmental co-operation, covering fields and including countries not dealt with by other organisations. For its part, the Consultative Assembly should be an opinion-making body where attention can be focused on matters of European concern, and from which recommendations can emanate for the consideration of Ministers. The Assembly should be a forum of discussion from which suggestions can emerge, but it cannot become a Parliamentary body which can impose its decisions upon Governments. His Majesty's Government desire to assist in its development in this direction, but must continue to oppose any attempt to convert the Assembly into a Parliamentary body and the Committee of Ministers into an executive responsible to it.
Finally, as regards defence, the discussion of which is barred—and, in our 1408 opinion, should remain barred—by the Statute, we are unable to accept the proposals put forward for a European Army and a European Minister of Defence. His Majesty's Government have solemnly entered into undertakings for contributing forces on a wider basis within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. This covers a wider field of defence than Europe alone. Moreover, the defence arrangements envisaged are essential for European defence. Therefore, the greater includes the less. The integrated Atlantic Force, which is also responsible for European defence, will include contributions from the armed forces of the European countries. There would be duplication, confusion and divided responsibility if the proposals of the Assembly for a European Army were implemented. It is equally impossible to envisage how any degree of responsibility for the defence of Europe could be given to a non-responsible, non-representative and non-governmental body such as the Consultative Assembly.
With those reservations, His Majesty's Government are willing now to look at the Statute again, to consider the Assembly's recommendations given to the Committee of Ministers, and to consider whether, in the light of the experience we have had during these last two Sessions, the Statute could or should be amended in any way to make the Council of Europe a more effective body and to enable it to play a part in achieving the largest measure of co-operation in Europe, and thereby contribute to the peace of Europe and the lasting welfare of the European community.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Duncan Sandys (Streatham)
The Government have decided, on further reflection, to give time for this Debate. I think that was a wise decision. It certainly would have created a most deplorable impression all over Europe if the Government had thought it not possible to find time to debate these questions. Whether that impression would have been more deplorable than the impression which will be made by the speech of the Under-Secretary of State, I really cannot say. It will be read, literally with consternation from one end of free Europe to the other.
1409 The Under-Secretary started by saying that he thought this was an opportunity, for the House to debate this question in a calm atmosphere and in a spirit of objectivity. He went on to say that he hoped the Opposition would not take this opportunity to attack the Government. He then proceeded with one long catalogue of attacks on, and misrepresentations of, the attitude of the Opposition. I intend, so far as I can, to stick to the spirit in which I came to the House, the spirit in which the Under-Secretary of State suggested that we should conduct this Debate, that is, to put forward, as far as we can, constructive points of view on these questions. Nevertheless, I must reply to some of the points that the Under-Secretary has made.
He stated, among other things, that the Assembly at Strasbourg was becoming a sort of club for Opposition leaders. I do not know whether he realises that the great majority, as is natural in an Assembly which reflects Parliamentary majorities, are not Opposition leaders, but representatives of the Government parties of these countries. He speaks of there being a lot of strange bed-fellows. He mentioned the Belgian Socialists and the British Tories getting together. What upsets him and his colleagues is that step by step, through the actions they have taken and the attitude they have adopted in these European matters, the Government have progressively lost the sympathy and friendship of the Continental Socialist parties. He says that the Opposition has no monopoly of European co-operation. We claim no monopoly of European co-operation, but, very soon, we shall find that the Government have gained the position where they have a monopoly of European obstruction, because that is the position we are gradually getting into. The speech we have just heard was a long series of excuses and alibis. There is a very well-known French saying:Qui s'excuse, s'accuse.That is the gist of the speech we have heard today.
In his speech, the Under-Secretary explained the position of the Government in regard to the Council of Europe. He has made perfectly clear that the Government dislike the Council of Europe, which has come into being despite their efforts to prevent it, and that they dislike all its works. He went on to say that complaints 1410 had been made by the Opposition that the Government were resisting federation in Europe. It is terribly easy to set up ninepins and knock them down. No one on this side has seriously recommended that a federal system should be instituted in Europe and that we should joint it, except, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. Macmillan) has just reminded me, the Prime Minister, who in that speech we all remember so well said that "Europe must federate or perish."
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that when M. Spaak announced in the Consultative Assembly at Strasbourg this year that Mr. MacBride would address the Assembly, that the right hon. Gentleman got up and welcomed it and said that this was the first step whereby the Ministers were becoming responsible to the Assembly, and said that the Ministers would become the executive and that this would become a Parliament?
§ Mr. Sandys
That has absolutely nothing to do with federation. It is a fact that almost all the political parties on the Continent, and most of their Governments, have declared themselves in favour of some kind of European federal system. As far as I know, with the exception of the hon. Member for Reading, North (Mr. R. MacKay), whose views are perhaps influenced by his experience of Australian federal institutions, none of the British delegates of any party advocated federation at Strasbourg.
What we have done is to recommend an alternative method, the functional approach. This involves no federal constitution and no irrevocable transfer of sovereign powers. But, as the Under-Secretary has said, when we enter into any sort of agreement, it involves, of course, some restraint on the exercise of sovereignty. What is involved is the conclusion of ad hoc agreements between the States which wish to work together in certain specific spheres. Some of these exist already, such as O.E.E.C. and the European Payments Union. Others will, no doubt, be set up.
The Assembly now proposes that these institutions should be linked in a loose way with the Council of Europe, not in order that the Council of Europe shall impose its will on them or dictate to governments, as the Under-Secretary 1411 suggested, but in order that the Assembly may debate the progress and activities of these various inter-governmental bodies, make criticisms and recommendations to the Committee of European Ministers, and in appropriate cases to the Parliaments of the countries concerned. I believe that this task of reviewing the activities of inter-governmental organisations is perhaps one of the most important functions which the European Assembly of Strasbourg can perform. It naturally must remain free, and it will insist on doing so, to put forward if necessary detailed plans and proposals on its own. There will be occasions when that may be necessary, but on the whole I think that it is the business of government to put forward plans and proposals. The business of the Assembly is to discuss what the governments are doing and what they are not doing in the sphere of European co-operation.
As regards the remark of the Under-Secretary about the attendance of Ministers in the Assembly, my own feeling is—and this is what I tried to emphasise at Strasbourg—that these debates upon the actions of governments lose very much of their value if, when criticisms have been made in the Assembly, there are no Ministers representing the Committee of Ministers who can reply and explain what has been done and why it has thus been done and so making the debates intelligible and useful. I have not suggested that the Assembly or the Council of Europe should be given legislative or executive powers. The decisions and recommendations of the Assembly are advisory. It is a consultative body and nobody on this side of the House has disputed that position.
There is no question either of the Assembly being a supra-national Parliament. We have never suggested that. We consider that it should aim not at being a supra-national Parliament but rather a joint consultative committee of the national parliaments, through which the parliaments of Europe can exchange ideas and discuss problems of common concern and which can provide a focus for European opinion. If the European Assembly concentrates upon that role, it will I believe be able to play a valuable and perhaps decisive part in promoting the security and well-being of the European peoples.
1412 Perhaps the most constructive and successful task so far accomplished by the Assembly of the Council of Europe is the Convention of Human Rights, which owes so much to the work of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe). Two years ago the United Nations issued a Declaration of Human Rights, which contained a long and comprehensive list of the rights and liberties which the citizens of every civilised nation should enjoy. It had, of course, no binding force, and I am afraid that it is unlikely to have any practical effect so long as the United Nations continues to include amongst its members both democracies and the totalitarian States, we have such completely different ideas of what human rights and liberties mean.
It was felt at Strasbourg that what at present would not be feasible on a worldwide scale is none the less possible and necessary within the circle of the Western European democracies. The European Convention of Human Rights, which was signed in Rome the other day by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on behalf of this country, is a very different thing from the United Nations declaration. In the first place, it is confined to a very small number of vital and fundamental rights, which are the foundation of our Western way of life. Nor is it not just a declaration. It is a binding treaty which imposes the obligation on all the signatory States, to assure to their citizens the rights which it contains. What perhaps is the most novel and important feature of this Convention is the provision for the setting up of a European Court of Human Rights, to which cases of alleged infringement of the Convention can be referred for adjudication.
This Convention provides that the Court will come into operation when 10 States have declared that they recognise its jurisdiction. I hope very much that His Majesty's Government will be in a position to make a statement, if possible tonight or at any rate before this matter is debated in a week's time at Strasbourg, that they intend to accord their recognition to this Court. The Government may, of course, say that human rights in this country are so safe in their hands that no outside protection is needed. We need not argue about that today. The fact 1413 remains there are certain countries in Western Europe with large Communist elements, which attach the greatest possible importance to the support which this Court can give them in certain circumstances.
It is rare for a democracy to be overthrown in one single sweep. There is almost always a twilight period, during which human rights and civil liberties are being progressively curtailed and undermined. It is in this critical stage that the publication of the proceedings and the judgments of the Court might very well have a decisive influence. Therefore, I submit to the House that it is of the greatest importance that the signatures of the 10 States required should be obtained as quickly as possible in order that the Court may be set up without delay. I therefore ask His Majesty's Government to consider this as a very urgent matter. I hope we may have a statement upon it from the Minister replying to this debate tonight.
There is another matter on the Convention of Human Rights about which I should like to have an explanation. The Assembly recommended to the Committee of Ministers that certain additional rights should be added to the list of rights contained in the Convention. By far the most important of these is the right of citizens to choose their own Government by the process of free democratic elections. Considering that the whole purpose and object of this Convention is the protection of liberty, one would have thought that this proposal could have been accepted without very much difficulty. However, I understand that it came up against the opposition of the Foreign Secretary and his representative. The Foreign Secretary did not go to Rome, but I understand that he instructed the Under-Secretary who represented him not to agree to any extension of the rights in the Convention at this stage. If the Under-Secretary feels that I have misrepresented him, perhaps he would like to interrupt me.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
I did not intend to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but as he invited me to do so I should say that the actual details of the recommendations were not discussed in substance, because it was seen that unanimity could not be reached, and it was better to give them further study.
§ Mr. Sandys
It was seen that unanimity could not be reached? What does that mean? It means that some Ministers must have made it clear that they were not prepared to agree. I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he made it clear, since he is beginning to reveal the proceedings of the Committee, which are supposed to be private. Did he make it known that so far as he was concerned he would not be prepared to agree?
§ Mr. Davies
Since the hon. Gentleman asks me to make the position quite clear, let me say that it was known to the Ministers that we considered we wanted to give further time to consider those amendments. We did not wish to tie ourselves at this stage. We did not reject them. We decided that we required further time.
§ Mr. Sandys
As I understand it, this matter was referred back to experts at the request of the hon. Gentleman as representing His Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. Sandys
I do not know what experts are. The report says that this was done, if hon. Gentlemen will read it. I submit that the Government have already had all the expert opinion they could possibly need on this question. This is not a new proposal. This proposal for the inclusion of a right to choose your government by free election was first sent to the Ministers by the Assembly in September, 1949. The experts of all the European Governments had had over a year to study this question. In addition to that, it had already been before two international committees, one of them a committee of jurists and the other a committee of government officials set up by the governments themselves, to examine this very thing.
To refer it back now after 14 months for further study by experts can, I submit, have one object only, and that is to delay progress. I say frankly that these tactics, which are not new at all, in which His Majesty's Government are taking such a prominent part, are bringing great discredit upon Great Britain and are doing much harm to the country as a whole.
§ The Minister of Town and Country Planning (Mr. Dalton)
§ Mr. Sandys
I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would be good enough to explain to us why it is necessary, after a year's expert study, to send this matter back for further study by experts. Now I come to deal with this forbidden fruit, the European Army.
§ Mr. Mitchison
May I interrupt the right hon. Member for one moment, to remind him, before he leaves that subject, that previous experts had found time for this proposal?
§ Mr. Sandys
I have no difficulty with that. If His Majesty's Government, after expert study, feel that they do not wish to see included in the Convention on Human Rights the right to free elections, it is far better, far more honest, and franker if they would say so. There may be some very good—[Interruption.] It is just a device, to send it back now after a year's study to be re-studied by experts, probably the same experts, all over again.
Now I turn to this question of the European Army. I was extremely sorry to hear that the Under-Secretary of State, on behalf of the Government, announced that they had considered and rejected this proposal. In my opinion this proposal for the creation of a unified European Army was undoubtedly the most important recommendation which the European Assembly has made since it came into being. Since August, when this recommendation was made, the most momentous decisions have been taken by the Atlantic Powers in New York and Washington. Those decisions, which are welcomed by the whole free world have in certain respects, gone even further than the Assembly at Strasbourg would have dared to hope in August. The plans for a European Army have now been widened to embrace all the nations of the Atlantic area. What is more important, American help is no longer to come to Europe merely in the event of Europe being attacked. Now the American Government have decided actually to contribute troops to an international force and, what is more remarkable, to send those troops and station them in Europe in peace-time.
§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
Would the right hon. Gentleman explain what I have 1416 never been able to understand, the definition of "European Army"?
§ Mr. Sandys
I propose to deal fairly fully with this question, the more so since the Under-Secretary has made that categorical statement on behalf of the Government.
§ Mr. Sandys
It is a tremendous decision by the United States Government and I believe it will rank with the Marshall Plan as one of the really great acts of American statesmanship. If the debates of Strasbourg in any way and to the slightest degree encouraged and assisted the United States Government in coming to this remarkable decision, then the Assembly has already more than justified itself in the eyes of history. In Rome, in a Press conference, the Under-Secretary of State made the extraordinary statement that the Assembly had wasted its time in discussing the European Army at Strasbourg.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
Would the right hon. Gentleman excuse me? I should like to take the opportunity of correcting that statement. It appeared in the "Manchester Guardian." I saw that, and I immediately ascertained that a representative of the "Manchester Guardian" was not present at my Press conference. Since then I have had a discussion with the editor. It is a fact that I never made a statement. It was misreporting by a correspondent who was not at the Press conference.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
I certainly do not agree that it was a waste of time to discuss the matter. I never made such a statement.
§ Mr. Sandys
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman feels that it was a useful thing for the Assembly to spend time on it. [An HON. MEMBER: "A twist."] It would be fitting for the Government to try all the time—[Interruption.] I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has withdrawn that particular statement.
The question now really arises, after the decisions that have been taken in New York and Washington, whether, in view 1417 of the decision to create an Atlantic Defence Force, the proposal for a European Army has become superfluous. It certainly has not, and for this reason: the proposal for a European Army was designed to meet not only the immediate threat from Soviet Russia but equally the less immediate, but none the less real, danger of revival of German militarism. We must recognise that the great mass of the people on the Continent look with as much or almost as much apprehension upon the second danger as they do upon the first. Not only the French but all the democratic elements in Germany are determined that at all costs they shall prevent the re-creation of a German military machine which might in certain circumstances fall into the hands of a new Hitler. To them the memories of the past are quite as vivid as the fears of the future.
There is, of course, one way out of all these difficulties and that would be to leave the Germans outside the scheme. That was the policy of His Majesty's Government until very recently indeed. When my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition proposed about six months ago that consideration should be given to the participation of Germany in the defence of Western Europe, the Prime Minister described his proposal as irresponsible and injudicious. When he arrived on the "Queen Mary" in New York only the other day, the Foreign Secretary was still declaring to the Press reporters on board how much he was against the re-arming of the Germans in any shape or form.
But all that has now changed. It changed three days afterwards. What was irresponsible and injudicious has now become the respectable official policy of His Majesty's Government. The Prime Minister summed it up in a speech which he made at the Guildhall only last week. This is what he said:Our policy is clear. We are in favour of setting up a supreme command and an effective integrated force for the defence of Western Europe with as little delay as possible.He went on to say:We have also accepted that, under adequate safeguards, there should be a contribution by Germany to this force.I am very glad indeed that that statement has been made in those clear terms, but, of course, it should have been obvious 1418 long ago that, with the immense numerical superiority of the Soviet forces, we just could not afford to deprive ourselves of the help which the Germans could give us and, what is more, it would be utterly unjust to leave the whole burden of defending German hearths and homes to the other nations while the Germans themselves looked on as spectators.
If it is decided, as it has now been decided, that Western Germany shall be asked to provide troops for European defence, we all agree with the Prime Minister that there must be adequate safeguards. Clearly the first of those safeguards is that the troops which may be raised in Germany must be confined and limited to the troops which she contributes to the international force. Other countries will, of course, continue, so far as they want to do so, to maintain national armies outside the international force, but there can be no question whatsoever of allowing the recreation of a new German national army and a new German general staff. The French would not tolerate it and, as the German delegates at Strasbourg made clear in very remarkable speeches, even if they were offered a national army the Germans would not accept it. I am glad to say that these statements made at Strasbourg have since been confirmed in categorical speeches by the German Chancellor. Dr. Adenauer has, however, insisted that within the framework of the European International Force, the German contingents should be on a footing of equality with the contingents of the other nations. I think that is a fair and a reasonable request, and I am very glad to see that the French Government have accepted it, for on no other basis would it have been possible to get German participation in European defence.
Clearly, the next safeguard is to mix the nationalities inside this international force, and this raises straight away the question of size of units within the force which should be allowed. On grounds of political safety the French Government, under the Pleven plan, have proposed that the troops in the contingents shall not be organised above the level of battalions.
§ Mr. Sandys
It is gradually moving up, but that was the Pleven Plan, as it is known. On the other hand, military 1419 experience is conclusive that it would be extremely difficult to organise rapidly an international force with units smaller than divisions. To try to mix the nationalities below the divisional level enormously increases all the problems of language and organisation. However, as the right hon. Gentleman says, there seems to be strong hope that some compromise may be reached somewhere between battalions and divisions.
All I would say is that, whatever negotiations may take place on the question of the size of units, I think we shall agree that some decision of some, kind on the question must be reached very quickly. It is an urgent matter. At the present moment this controversy over the size of units is delaying the organisation of the Atlantic Alliance and is actually holding up the appointment of the Supreme Commander, all of which is very serious.
Whatever decision may be reached about the size of units, one thing is absolutely certain and that is that the French Government, Parliament and people will never agree to allow Germans to be rearmed and German troops to be raised unless they are incorporated in some kind of a permanently integrated European force. To include the German troops in the Atlantic Force is not a sufficient safeguard for the simple reason that nobody knows how long the Atlantic Force will exist. It has been brought into being for one reason and one reason only, and that is to meet the Soviet menace. We hope that the Soviet menace may one day pass away. In these circumstances the American troops would almost certainly be withdrawn and with them the Supreme command, and the Atlantic Pact organisation would no doubt cease also.
The European troops would remain, but if there is no European military framework to hold them together they would automatically revert to separate national control and the German troops would inevitably become the powerful nucleus of a new German national army; and at once all the old fears and feuds between Germany and France would revive and the peace of Europe would once again be endangered. The only way, therefore, is to organise all the European troops in mixed formations within the permanent structure of a European Army. 1420 If hon. Members opposite do not like the term "European Army" because they did not think of it first, let them find any other title they like, but it must be a European defence force of some kind or other.
Alongside the European Army there would presumably be an all-American expeditionary force under an American command, and these two elements, the European force and the American force, under a supreme command, would form the combined Atlantic Pact Defence Force.
If, then, in those circumstances the American troops at some later stage are withdrawn, the European army would remain not only as a defence against outside aggression but also as a guarantee for the internal peace of Europe. I have gone into some detail on this question because it is important, especially in view of the statement of the hon. Member, to show how it is possible and how necessary it is to fit the conception of a European army into the broader framework of the plan for an Atlantic force.
The hon. Member asked about a Minister of Defence. I wish to make it clear to the House that the original resolution moved by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition asked simply for the creation of a European army. However, as a result of several amendments proposed by the French delegates, including Monsieur Reynaud and Monsieur Bidault, it was agreed to include a recommendation for the appointment of a European Minister of Defence. Since then the French Government in the Pleven Plan have officially adopted this proposal but, so far, have issued no details of the functions or the responsibilities which they would propose to accord to this Minister.
The first question which arises is, is there work of a Ministerial character to be done on the European plane? It may be thought, in view of the developments which have taken place, that all ministerial decisions in regard to defence should be taken either on the national level or on the Atlantic level, and that there are no ministerial decisions to be taken anywhere in between. I do not believe that to be correct, for this reason, that the European members of the Atlantic Alliance are in a special position with special responsibility.
1421 To the Americans, Europe is an overseas theatre of operations, an outer bastion which it is strategically vital to hold. To the European nations it is a question of defending their homelands, and the battle, if it takes place at all, will be fought out over their own territories. It is in their territories that the international combined force will have to be garrisoned. They will have to provide the barracks, the supply bases, the military communications, the aerodromes, and they will be responsible for the hundred and one logistical and other problems which in modern military jargon are grouped under the head of "infra-structure."
It is quite clear that there is need for effective ministerial supervision over this wide range of European responsibilities. To some extent the machinery for this ministerial supervision exists already in the Committee of Defence Ministers of the Brussels Pact. I would suggest that, as a first step in the direction of the French proposal, one of the Defence Ministers in that committee should be appointed as its permanent chairman and given the task of co-ordinating and stimulating action over this field, perhaps even of reporting progress on behalf of the committee to the Atlantic Pact Council.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
Would those powers include also that of calling on separate States for their quota of the armed forces of one kind and another, including finance?
§ Mr. Sandys
I have put forward as a personal suggestion what might be a small first step in the direction suggested by the French Government. I shall not detail the responsibilities of a Minister of European Defence, and the House would be ill-advised to do so until we have seen the precise proposals of the French Government. The situation has changed very much since Strasbourg. In the first place, there have been the Atlantic Council decisions. We now have there a Committee of Ministers of Defence at the Atlantic level and also a decision by one of the European Governments to sponsor officially this proposal. I presume they have studied the matter with their economic and other experts, and that they will shortly be publishing particulars of 1422 their proposal. In any case, I sincerely hope that this proposal for a Minister of European Defence will not hold up the decision in regard to the European army.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
Does the right hon. Gentleman propose a European army and a Minister of Defence totally distinct and separate from, but interacting in some way with America?
§ Mr. Sandys
I thought I had made the position clear. What I said, and it has been the idea of this plan all along, is that there would be a European force within the framework and as part of the North Atlantic force under the Supreme Commander appointed by the North Atlantic Council. We are in the position now that the leading Ministers of the Governments of France, Germany and Italy have made statements in support of this plan for a European Army. They see in it the one method of defending themselves together against outside attack and of preventing future wars between one another.
I ask His Majesty's Government to reconsider the announcement made by the Under-Secretary today. I hope sincerely that this is not their last word on the question, for if the Government oppose this plan for a European Army it will probably come to nothing, German participation will be made impossible, and an essential element in our Western Defence will be lost, with serious repercussions on the other side of the Atlantic. If, on the other hand, His Majesty's Government should decide to support this plan, there is no doubt that it will go through and a European Army will come into being with all that that may mean for the unity and safety of the Western world.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
Like other Members, I welcome the fact that the Government have given a day to debate the proceedings at Strasbourg last August. I think it very necessary that both this House and those outside should know what happened there during the summer. Unfortunately, the proceedings at Strasbourg occurred during the holiday period and very little in the way of full reports of our proceedings got into the British Press.
1423 I listened with some astonishment to the speech of the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). It appears to me that he has gone back completely on almost everything he said at Strasbourg. I was under the impression until this afternoon that he was a keen federalist. He now informs us that he never was one and that he, in common with other Members on the benches opposite, believes in the functional approach.
§ Mr. Sandys
The right hon. Member says that I have gone back on everything I did and said at Strasbourg and that I was a keen federalist. I made it perfectly clear in my speech that I have never been a keen federalist, or a federalist. From the remarks I have made again and again, that will be perfectly clear.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall
I accept, of course, what the right hon. Gentleman says and I am delighted to hear that he is at one with us. I hope that when he goes to Strasbourg again, at the end of this week, he will make it crystal clear, as the right hon. Gentleman who is his leader had to do last August, that he, at any rate, is not an adherent of Federal Union.
It is true, as the right hon. Member said, and as emerged quite clearly in the speech of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, that there was, more often than I for one liked, a divergence of view between the representatives of the Labour Party at Strasbourg and those who were there representing the Opposition. The reason for that divergence of view was that we on our side tried to keep our feet on the ground. We tried to remember what the people at home desired and we were not anxious, purely for the sake of pleasing representatives who were there from other countries, to give our assent to resolutions in which really we could not believe.
An excellent case in proof of this is the resolution dealing with the European army. The right hon. Gentleman said that we on this side were sorry we had not thought of it first. I assure him that nothing could be further from the truth. Let me remind the House how that resolution came to be on the Order Paper and was eventually voted on. The first that most of us heard of it was when we saw the motion on the Order Paper on the day when it was discussed. We had been 1424 given no prior notice that the motion was going down. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), in a long and extremely interesting speech, referred in general terms to the resolution, which, in fact, he moved just before he sat down.
Other speakers during that day referred to it, casually and in general terms, but at no time during that Debate did anyone indicate just what was meant by the suggestion that a European army should be created. At the close of the Debate that day it was agreed that those immediately interested in the resolutions to be voted on, including this one, should go outside into another room and consider them, bringing them back either in the form in which they had been on the Order Paper, or in some other form. The only change which was made to this particular motion was to add to the proposal for the creation of a European army that a Minister of Defence should also be set up. So far as I could see, it never occurred to anyone who supported the motion that we could not have a Minister of Defence unless we had also some form of federalism.
It was quite clear to those of us who represented this side of the House at Strasbourg that the motion would be quite unacceptable to this House and country in its then form. The Committee of Ministers have since taken the same view. We realised that much of what was behind the motion had already been put into effect. The Atlantic Pact was actually in being and for over a year those immediately concerned had been engaged on plans for the joint defence of the Western democracies, including those who lived in Europe.
It appeared to us quite wrong that without any consultation with the United States and with the knowledge that the Atlantic Pact was already in being we should commit ourselves to the creation of a European army under a separate Minister of Defence. We felt—and on reflection I am positive that the view we took was the right one—that this was not a matter which should be thrust through in the course of a single day in this fashion, and that if we were to have, as, perhaps, we should have, a European army, that at any rate was not the way to bring it into being. If that debate demonstrated one thing more than another, it demonstrated to me—and, I am sure, to others who were 1425 there—how utterly irresponsible some of the representatives who go to Strasbourg can be.
I was on that occasion thankful that there was a Committee of Ministers who could say, when the resolution reached them, that this was a matter outside the scope of the Consultative Assembly, that it was outside the Statute and therefore, although we ourselves were anxious to see Europe protected to the utmost, we could not take into consideration the setting up of, or assist in setting up, a European army in the way that had been suggested. In other directions the Consultative Assembly, at its second Session did, I believe, excellent work. It is true that throughout, like a Greek chorus, we had complaints against the Committee of Ministers. I was sorry to see that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite who were there, with certain exceptions, shared in those criticisms. Of course, if there was any substance in such complaints it was against the Statute. For the Committee of Ministers had not only acted within the Statute but had at times gone beyond it to assist the Consultative Assembly when it desired to discuss things which were strictly out of order.
All through the Committee has done its utmost to make the Consultative Assembly a success. One proof of that is the White Paper which has just been issued. Resolution after resolution, passed by the Assembly, has been accepted by the Committee of Ministers. It is only when we come, as in the motion on the European army, to a matter which is quite beyond the scope of the Consultative Assembly that the Committee of Ministers take a contrary view and point out, as it has every right to do, that this really has nothing to do with the Council of Europe. I share the view that the Strasbourg Assembly should fulfil a great place in the life of Europe. If it ceases to exist it will cease because its friends have killed it.
It is astonishing how few of those at Strasbourg representing other countries realised the limitations which must inevitably be imposed upon an Assembly of this kind. The Consultative Assembly has been born a little late in the day for it to assume many of the powers that some representatives appear anxious to see it take over. We already have the United Nations, we also have the I.L.O., 1426 U.N.E.S.C.O., F.A.O. and O.E.E.C. These and other organisations are already in existence. It seems to me to be a fatal mistake for some European countries to try to force the pace and attempt to take over, as some of them obviously desire to do, many of the technical and other functions which are already being well performed by other agencies.
At the Assembly this year, within the scope of the Statute, I think we did exceedingly good work. The right hon. Member for Streatham has called attention to the Convention on Human Rights. If the Assembly had done nothing more than agree to that Convention its setting-up would have been well worth while. The Committee of Ministers, as we all know, has accepted that Convention. On a smaller canvas, the agreement come to with regard to fishing in the North Sea was an excellent job. The hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby) supported some hon. Friends of mine and that Convention will now go through, I am sure. Had it not been for the fact that the matter was ventilated at the Council of Europe we might have waited many years for Iceland and other countries to adhere to its provisions. The work done at Strasbourg during this summer was well worth while, and I share with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham, the hope that as the years go by the Consultative Assembly will growth in strength and that through its agency we shall draw the peoples of Europe more closely together than we have been able to do up to now.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
I have a rather difficult speech to make, because I am afraid that when I sit down I shall not be very popular in any quarter of the House. However, I am fortified by the reflection that I have often done this before; and that under the guidance and leadership of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition during the years before the war I learnt that speeches which are not at the time altogether acceptable to this House are not, on that account, necessarily wrong. I wish to make clear, first of all, that I speak for no one except myself. I do not think my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) need feel so upset and distressed that he has not had a chance of digesting these documents 1427 fully, because on the whole they tell a tale of frustration, irritation and futility. I think that is true.
It is a good idea to have a glance at the background against which this Debate is taking place. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs seemed quite pleased about everything, but I really do not know why. I have a profound admiration for the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs as a man; but as a Foreign Secretary I am afraid I do not think he is anything but a disaster, or ever has been anything but a disaster. His heart is in the right place; but, in the main, I have never found that his policies have been conspicuously successful.
Look what has happened in the last five years; we have been steadily losing the struggle for world power against Communism. In the aftermath of total victory, we have sustained a series of gigantic political and social defeats; while the Kremlin has achieved a corresponding series of victories without ever committing a single battalion of the Red Army to action anywhere. Since 1945, in Europe alone, we have been pushed from the Vistula to the Oder and from the Oder to the Elbe. Ten States have been lost to the Communist Power. Berlin and Vienna are marooned outposts of the Western world. Millions of peasants have been killed, millions more have been driven from their homes over the face of Europe in herds like cattle, and millions more are in concentration camps at this moment. And still the slave trains clank to Siberia, and still the terror does its ghastly work in Bucharest, Budapest and Prague. I do not think these are quite the results some of us hoped for when total victory was announced in 1945.
§ Mr. Paton (Norwich, North) rose——
§ Mr. Boothby
No, I have quite a speech to make, and anyway what I am saying is the truth. The balance of world power, hon. Members know quite well, has, since 1945, been allowed once again to be totally upset by the total destruction of Germany and Japan and our own disarmament in the face of massive Russian rearmament. The United Nations Organisation, the Marshall Plan and the "Big Four" Conferences bear a terrifying resemblance to the League of Nations, 1428 the Dawes Plan and the Disarmament Conferences of the inter-war period. Always and everywhere we have been on the defensive, against attack by every method in every quarter of the globe; and even the Berlin airlift, upon which we justifiably pride ourselves as a great technical achievement, was in essence a decision not to take a decision. The defensive tactic may be necessary, may even be desirable, in a given situation; but the defensive tactic never wins a battle or a war.
I sometimes wonder how this House has put up with it for so long, and even applauded it. In the last Parliament the present Minister of Works and myself on several occasions took the opportunity—usually on the Adjournment—to raise the problems presented by the plight of refugees driven in herds, and by millions, into Western Germany; by the endless process of de-nazification; by the continued dismantling of German factories, and blowing up of their shipyards, year after year. I sustained the impression on many of those occasions, and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman will disagree with me, that there was a kind of resentment in this House when we brought these things to the notice of hon. Members. The House seemed to stir uneasily, and then pass by on the other side.
What is the Communist objective? It is no secret, it is quite clear—the conquest of the world. What is their strategy? A sleepless offensive, a world conspiracy, having as its immediate objective the creation of satellite States. These are then welded into a homogeneous whole. The truth of the matter is that the Cominform today is a reality, and the Council of Europe is not. That is the measure of our failure.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) pointed out in his speech, the Communist tactic is a brilliantly devised technique of infiltration, treason and ultimate violence, and the destruction of the non-Communist world by the fomentation of disputes. Against this technique, which exploits all the methods of democracy, there is only one answer—the Charter of Human Rights. That is the single achievement of the Council of Europe. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply will explain the objections of His Majesty's 1429 Government to the clause about free elections, which I think is important. But even if that were left out, I would still say that the Charter of Human Rights is at least one great achievement of the Assembly, and I think that we should be profoundly relieved that it has been signed.
As for us, we have neither objectives, strategy nor tactic. We veer about all the time, in confusion. Now it is a Third Force, now an Atlantic Union that we are after. The hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) acts as a kind of decoy duck for the Government. He is always about three or four months ahead, and then they come along behind. He talked first about the Third Force, and they came along behind him. Then he changed to Atlantic Union, and they came after him again. Unfortunately he is not here, so I do not know what he is now plugging, except in relation to France, to which topic I shall later come.
The contradictions of our policy are limitless; but inherent in them all is the psychology of the Maginot Line. That is no use in the long run. We do not even conduct a counter-propaganda in Europe, which we are discussing this evening. The Council of Europe is all there is of Europe at the moment. But Europe remains the focal point of the terrific struggle for world power in which we are engaged. The Communists stand actively for the death of Europe.
For the time being we have lost Central and Eastern Europe I hope only for the time being. I hope that whatever we, as cautious and prudent politicians, decide to do, we shall never allow ourselves to abandon the hope that these countries in Central and Eastern Europe may one day be liberated, because I am quite certain that we shall never get a happy or easy peace or agreement with the Soviet Union, even on the basis of live-and-let-live, unless and until those countries are liberated. I do not think that we in this House have any right to take away from the people of these satellite countries—who, even if they are Communists, wish above all that Russian power may be removed and never come back—the one hope that keeps them going in a very dark time.
Meanwhile, Western Europe remains. If the 200 million extremely intelligent and civilised people who inhabit Western 1430 Europe are also absorbed into the Communist empire, with all their knowledge, skill, machinery and historic experience, then the balance of world power will indeed be irretrievably upset. Moreover, the position of this island, in the event of a Communist occupation of the Channel coast, would, to say the least, be unenviable. We are, after all, an anchored target for guided missiles, should anyone decide to use them against us. And the Channel is not so wide as a great many people in this country still seem to think. The Elbe is not our first but our last line of defence. It is the vital frontier of the Atlantic world, and the vital strategic frontier of free democracy everywhere. Whatever the Minister or Ministers may say, Western Europe remains for the time being a power vacuum; and in politics, as in life generally, vacuums are filled.
What is the cause? We all know it. It is that not one of the existing nation-States in Western Europe is by itself an effective or viable political, military or economic unit in the modern world. They have neither the requisite sources of supply, the markets, nor the armed forces; and, with the exception of Sweden and this country—this is a point which we are often apt to forget—every one of them has been conquered and occupied within the last 10 years. That has had a considerable effect on their national outlook and psychology. The truth is, as an American commentator has said, that it is the size, strength and capacity of the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union which set the standard of magnitude necessary for independent existence in the world today. That is a rough fact for us to face, but I believe it to be true. When Marshall Aid comes to an end, which it will quite soon, Western Europe will not have recovered; and, given a continuation of existing conditions, it will never recover.
There will have to be a radical change. The choice is not whether Western Europe will unite or not; it is what kind of union will take place, and how soon. Integration, involving structural changes of some kind, is inevitable. We have to ask ourselves whether it will be a voluntary union on democratic lines, or a compulsory union on totalitarian lines. I have said before that some kind of union must come in Europe either by voluntary agreement or by compulsion. It very nearly came by compulsion, under Hitler's empire, as it nearly did under Napoleon's empire, and 1431 as it may yet come under Stalin's empire. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] I am asked "Why?" The answer is because Europe is an impossible proposition from any point of view, if it continues as an aggregation of little independent sovereign States, under a suffocating welter of frontiers, douanes, passports, visas, currencies, restrictions, tariffs, quotas, stamps, controls and regulations. They are all going strong at present.
From a practical point of view the Council of Europe has achieved precisely nothing, with the single exception of the Charter of Human Rights. The Committee of Ministers is powerless, and the Assembly is an academic and disillusioned debating society. That is all it is at the moment. It may or may not get better.
I agree absolutely with the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham, in his admirable opening speech, that Germany is the crux of this situation. Unless and until the Kremlin succeeds in uniting Germany under a Communist régime controlled from Moscow, they cannot be masters of continental Europe. That is what they are now trying to do, and what they must be prevented from doing. Unification of Germany is at present out of the question. Both sides know that one or the other would be eliminated. Germany has lost her long war against the Slavs, and for the time being the road to the East for her is cut. The road to the West still remains open.
I turn now to the question of a European Army. If the line of the Elbe is to be defended, Germany must obviously play her part. That does not mean a feeble military establishment, disguised as police, to act, as Dr. Adenauer put it, as cannon-fodder to cover our retreat. Nor does it mean a multilingual army, at squad level. It means full participation on equal terms, in the defence of Western Europe, with the other Powers of Western Europe; and I am delighted that that has been accepted in principle by the French Government.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) two days ago gave me a very interesting little book called "Defence in the Cold War," prepared by a Chatham House group, of which he was a member. I read in it: 1432The Western nations cannot put off their plans for integrated balanced forces and joint financing of war production until they have decided what form of political association they will accept.With all respect, I find myself not in agreement with that view. I should like the House to compare it with a recent statement by Field Marshal Lord Montgomery, who in my experience of his readings and actions is apt to get to the heart of the matter. Lord Montgomery said:The strategic centre of the battle for world peace today is Western Europe. We must be able to hold the position there. The task before the nations of the West is primarily political. Economic fusion and military strength will not be obtained until the political association between the group of nations concerned has first been defined.I believe Lord Montgomery is right; and, in considering Germany from a political point of view, I would remind hon. Members that German opinion can now no longer be disregarded. I would also remind them that it is, at the moment, overwhelmingly pacifist. We cannot force any nation to arm unless we are a totalitarian State ourselves. Eastern Germany is being Sovietised by the usual methods, according to the usual pattern, in order to take her place as a satellite State of the Soviet Union. There a Germany Army is being created, and baptised in advance as an army of liberation. We cannot do that in Western Europe. We can arm a willing ally if they ask for arms; but we cannot arm an unwilling enemy.
I submit to the House that our first objective must therefore be to make of Western Germany an ally and a friend. Until that is done the Germans will bear no part of the burden of Western defence, and they will be right. I think the time has come—and I know that some hon. Members deeply disagree with me—to make peace with Western Germany, and to assure her of an honourable place, if she wishes to take it, in the Western world; to restore her national status and responsibility; and to accept her as a full partner both in Western European Union and in the Atlantic Pact. Then, and only then, will she find for herself, if she wishes, the necessary means to resist the Communist technique of disruption and aggression. I am in entire agreement with the right hon. Member for Streatham that these means should take the form of participation in a European Army on equal terms.
1433 I now wish to say a word about France. Together with all Western Europeans outside Scandinavia on the Continent of Europe, the French have ceased to believe in nationalism. Some people seem to see in this a sign of weakness. At Strasbourg, our Ministers saw it only as a sign of weakness. But I see in it a sign of strength. Nationalism and national government have brought neither security, prosperity nor peace to the peoples of Continental Europe. In a sense the tragedy of Benes is the tragedy of them all. He was the arch-nationalist; the man primarily responsible for the destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire; the man who lived to see the little nation-State he did so much to create destroyed, first by Hitler's Germany and then by Stalin's Russia.
For France, nationalism, like patriotism, is no longer enough; and Europe is, in my belief, the only framework within which either France or Germany, or Holland, or Belgium, or Italy can fulfil their destinies, and make any serious attempt to master the formidable tasks confronting them. People of this country who have not been to Strasbourg will not realise this, though it is true, and they had better make up their minds about it.
Europe does not exist. The French have asked us for federation. We have refused it, rightly as I think; and that they have accepted. But do not forget that since then they have asked for a functional approach towards organic union. His Majesty's Government have agreed in principle; but it is not unfair to say that in practice they have done everything in their power for the last 18 months to prevent it. I do not think that that is an unfair criticism. In these circumstances, conceive the effrontery of the hon. Member for Coventry, East, who got up the other day in this House and said:Anyone who went to Strasbourg … heard … that the Germans would fight better than the French. The French are aware of these whispers, and it does not exactly help the French to recover their morale …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd November, 1950; Vol. 480, c. 368.]But what did he himself say on 26th June last? He said there wasa certain inner defeatism which makes Frenchmen passionately believe in federal union. The amount of enthusiasm for federal union in any country is a measure of its defeatism and of its feeling of inability to 1434 measure up to its own problems … Look at the nations which are defeated morally, the democratic Germans and the French … I would say to the Opposition that it would be a very great mistake for this country to accept what a Frenchman feels as a defeatist, is the basis for defeating Communism."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th June, 1950; Vol. 476, c. 2,039.]
§ Mr. Boothby
Is any Member prepared to tell me that that little speech is calculated to raise French morale to any marked extent? The right hon. Gentleman says it is true. I do not believe it. I do not believe that France is done.
Military security requires military union. Economic recovery requires economic union. Military security and economic recovery require a measure of political union; and His Majesty's Government have, through the mouth of their Under-Secretary this afternoon, rejected all three. They have chosen rigid national autarchy as an alternative to international economic co-operation, because they believe that under Socialism Britain is master of her own political and economic faith. I think they will find that that is an illusion. The Secretary of State has spoken about the Atlantic brotherhood. He said recently:Democracy is no longer a series of isolated links. It has become a cohesive organism.That is precisely what it has not become. The brotherhood is neither cohesive nor organic.
Why? Because, with the formidable assistance of Sir Stafford Cripps, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has spun a spider's web of committees all over Western Europe, and indeed, so far as he can, all over the Western world. I hate committees. The committee system is uninspiring, uncreative, undemocratic, irresponsible and impotent. I said at Strasbourg that, in a straight fight between committees and tanks, the tanks were almost bound to win. We have the committees and the Communists have the tanks, and that is the position we have got into at the present time. Committees are just about all we have got. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs spoke of Atlantic defence as if it were a fait accompli; as if it were a wonderful mechanism of security. It has not even started. If it were a question of committees we would 1435 be all right. We have plenty of those, but that is all we have; and anyway, who wants to fight for O.E.E.C.? Or for Uniscan, or Benelux, or even Fritalux? It raises no great enthusiasm in my breast. Mr. Bidault said the other day:Europe is in danger of being smothered by the multiplicity of organisms set up to keep her alive.That is what the Government have done. And now Mr. Schuman is trying to set up yet another. That is no way out.
In 1945 we had the leadership of Europe for the asking. Never was our prestige so high. Within reason, they would have done anything we suggested. We could have re-created Europe. We threw that leadership away; and now today, in the words of the "Economist"—which I do not often quote, and with which I seldom agree, but this is true—The method and manner of American defence and diplomacy are now decisive in every capital in the free world.I agree with my right hon. Friend that the Council of Europe must be strengthened instead of sabotaged. The functional organisms must be brought within its ambit, and under the direction of the Committee of Ministers. But if the United States of Europe are to come into existence, as I passionately and fervently hope that in some form they will come into existence, I believe it can only be as an integral part of an Atlantic Union with which the United States of America is closely associated in political, military and economic terms. A European Union by itself we might have had. I think that the time for that has gone. I think that we must now go straight for the larger goal, because we have not very much time to spare.
I was very interested in a document written not very long ago by Mr. Edward Dickinson, junior, of the State Department in Washington, in which he concluded:We will have to re-define our relationship to Western Europe"—he was speaking of the United States—in terms which make us no longer an 'outsider.' This can probably best be done by a clear statement of the longer-term objective, emphasising that a West European Union within a looser Atlantic Union are, in our eyes, two parts of the same policy, and that we do not ask for the first without a wholehearted commitment to the second.1436 I feel this to be doubly necessary in view of what I think was the deplorable and discouraging speech of the Under-Secretary this afternoon. He made it clear that the leadership which the whole Continent of Europe has been looking to us for, and asking us for, is not to be forthcoming from His Majesty's Government. If the necessary action is to be taken in time, then I think the leadership must come from the United States of America.
In the military field, the re-establishment of S.H.A.E.F., in place of the Fontainebleau committees, is an urgent necessity. There is a sentence in "Defence in the Cold War" with which I find myself in wholehearted agreement. It says:To get the Continental countries to defend themselves it is necessary that the Americans and British appear quickly in strength on the Continent—and on the ground.That is profoundly true.
In the political field—and I believe that this comment will not be so unfavourably received by His Majesty's Government as any suggestion connected with the Council of Europe—the time has come when we must have a Supreme Council to direct the political policy, the military strategy and the economic co-ordination of Western Union as a whole, including the Atlantic Union and the European Union. In a pamphlet which I wrote some months ago, I said,The various military and economic committees which have been set up to co-ordinate policy in Western Europe will not succeed unless and until they are given effective power. Such power can only be given to them by a permanent supranational political authority, because somebody has to give the orders.I think that that authority must now be a Supreme Council for Western Union as a whole. Hon. Members may say, "But all this will take time to work out." It must not take much time. We are not given the time. There is now loose in the world a mighty force dedicated to the proposition that we shall never enjoy peace or prosperity again. That is what they are up to, and that is what we are up against.
The next two years will be critical not only for Western Europe, but for the Western world. I still believe, unrepentantly, with Philip Lothian, that:Insistence on State sovereignty is the principal cause of the evils of our modern world.1437 Not capitalism, nor Communism, but narrow virulent nationalism has brought upon us the fearful disasters by which we are beset in this nightmare century. In unity and strength—the one through the other—lies the only hope of saving our civilisation from total destruction.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
When I heard the opening remarks of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby), I thought that he was about to speak as a voice crying in the wilderness, unaccepted by any party or person yet he has done his utmost to try to bring to the House a sense of reality in many parts of his speech with which I think many hon. Members on both sides will agree. I suspect that his opening remarks were merely a camouflage for some obscure tactics which were intended to raise the morale of the Opposition by depressing the morale of the Foreign Secretary.
When the hon. Gentleman talks about the policy of the Foreign Secretary having been a failure since 1945, he forgets what preceded 1945. There was "unconditional surrender" which, if not inaugurated by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, was produced in conjunction with the President of the United States, and that constitutes probably the biggest element of the unfortunate position which we are in today. Who was it who arranged the Berlin corridor—a situation which no military man in his right senses could have tolerated?
This was done before the Labour Government came into power in 1945. The seeds of the present situation were sown before we came into power, or before the Foreign Secretary took over.
§ Mr. Bellenger
There were many who kicked against the pricks. It is difficult to dislodge the Russians once they are in a strong strategic position. They were put in that position by the Government which preceded the 1945 Government, and by the unconditional surrender which several Members now on this side of the House, who sat in Opposition in those days, railed against when they had the opportunity. They were then looked upon almost as traitors for attempting to 1438 criticise the policy of the present Leader of the Opposition, who was then Prime Minister.
§ Sir H. Williams
The present Prime Minister was Deputy Prime Minister when all these things happened. He is just as much responsible as anybody else.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Yes, I agree. There was a Coalition Government and, in so far as one accepts Cabinet responsibility for the act of any one Minister, undoubtedly all were responsible to a degree. However, the fact remains that many of the great decisions in those days were taken by the then Prime Minister, and his colleagues were consulted afterwards. Whoever was responsible, the fact remains that it is not mainly the fault of the present Foreign Secretary, as the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East, attempted to point out.
I wish to join issue on one matter only in this Debate, and that concerns the subject of a European Army. I do not know how far the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) was speaking today for his leader. I should like to hear the views of the Leader of the Opposition on the question of a European Army as it was presented to us today by the right hon. Member for Streatham. When the House discusses matters of realism and not of idealism, hon. Members should stick to the point. I wish they could grasp the nettle of German rearmament and not talk about some airy-fairy idea which does not really exist.
Perhaps some of those hon. Gentlemen with military experience who sit on the back benches opposite will tell us whether they believe that Moscow thinks in the terms in which some hon. Gentlemen, and right hon. Gentlemen, too, are talking. Do they stop to consider whether a German army, a bereitschaften of some-thing like 30,000 or 40,000 trained men, should be used as battalion units only? Does Moscow ignore the field marshals who exercised command under the Nazi régime? What has happened, for example, to Field Marshal Paulus, with whom the Russians took a great deal of trouble after Stalingrad fell?
The fact is that the Russians think in military terms. That is the reason why they do not hesitate to organise large bodies of Eastern Germans in the best 1439 possible way to fight a war when they think it might be necessary to fight one. That is the issue, and not the issue as presented by the right hon. Member for Streatham, who talks about battalions as if we should only allow the Germans to come in at battalion strength.
§ Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)
Surely the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to do my right hon. Friend an injustice. He was quoting the original proposal, which was for Germans organised on the battalion level. My right hon. Friend said that he thought there must be a solution at a higher level, and he mentioned either divisions or brigade groups. It is quite wrong to say that he was in favour of the battalion level.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Perhaps the House will be informed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself, when he comes to speak, what is the real definition of a European Army. After all, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham was talking about it being a Conservative idea in its inception, and he rather chided the Government because the Opposition had thought of it first.
I do not wish to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman's views, but I took note of what he said. He talked about battalions being integrated in a unified European command with a large United States Army under a United States commander. That was his conception of a European Army—working parallel with a large American command. I interjected a remark at that time, when the right hon. Gentleman was talking about battalion unit level, to the effect that, according to the newspapers this morning, it was now a question of brigade groups. The French Government have come round to the view that any German contribution might be organised in brigade groups, and right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will know what a brigade group is; it does not mean, as in the case of a battalion, being equipped with small arms, machine guns and those weapons that go with a battalion, but equipment with the larger and more powerful weapons that go with a brigade group.
§ Mr. Boothby
My right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham said he hoped that it would be on a divisional level.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I quite agree that the right hon. Gentleman did agree with my interruption and said he was not committed entirely to battalion level.
§ Mr. Bellenger
But that has been the whole policy of the Conservative Party, so far as I understand it. Perhaps it is because, in the words of the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby), there has been some confusion on more than one side of the House. We may hear a little later what is really meant by a European Army.
I am going to attack that conception right from the start. I do not believe in all this tomfoolery and claptrap of a European Army, with a few battalions recruited from Germany. If we want only battalions, or only a few brigade groups, we can get them from Germany today by voluntary recruitment. We can get them without Dr. Adenauer's permission. The strange thing about Germans is that they are a mighty military nation, and even defeat does not put them right down into the earth. I quite agree with those who say that there is that danger, and that we must prevent German rearmament being a danger to Europe. Of course, there is that danger, but will that danger be lessened if we reduce German participation for the time being to battalions or brigade groups?
Let us go further into the military structure. The Opposition, apparently, are committed to divisions. [HON. MEMBERS: "No. We are not in power."] I am inclined to think that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was not far wrong when he talked about the Leader of the Opposition speaking in an irresponsible fashion. After all, if we are to deal with a military question in a military way, let us get down to the military explanation. How many divisions do we want to protect Western Europe? Will any hon. Gentleman opposite say? It is for the Opposition to speak with authority on this point, or rather to try to speak with authority. They put up their Leader at Strasbourg, and it is for the Opposition to say how many divisions they think there should be in the European Army. Will any hon. Member say?
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
On a point of order. May I draw your attention, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to the fact that 1441 there is no representative of the Foreign Office on the Government Front Bench?
§ Mr. Bellenger
This may be a very inconvenient subject for hon. Members of the Opposition to listen to, but they have got to face the issue, as indeed the whole country and the whole of the Western world has to face it.
I come back to the point of how many divisions are to be brought into being to make a defence force against a possible aggressor. How many? My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence has posed that question in another way. He told us, before the House rose for the Summer Recess, that in Eastern Europe there are—I think lie said—at least 30 fully mobilised Russian divisions which could be put on the march at a moment's notice. I think he said that there were 30 divisions or thereabouts in Eastern Germany; of course, there are many more in echelon further back.
If my right hon. Friend is right, and he has access to more information on these matters than any of us in the House, what does it mean? It means that we must have some comparable force to stop them from marching, as the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East, said, to the Channel ports, and the hon. Gentleman made great play of that point in part of his speech. How many divisions do the Opposition want, or do they not want any divisions at all? I will try to answer, if my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) will allow me. I am asking the Opposition, and it is part of my speech to attack the irresponsibility of the Opposition.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
If my right hon. Friend will allow me, may I say that I will enthusiastically join with him at any time in attacking the irresponsibility of the Opposition, but I do not want to see any irresponsibility on my own side of the House. I do not expect the Opposition to answer my right hon. Friend's question, but I do expect that my right hon. Friend himself will answer it.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I was asking the Opposition, who are now advocating a European Army, of how many divisions they think it should consist. I would say myself, and this is backed up by military authority, that we should need more than those 30 divisions which are mobilized 1442 and standing ready in Eastern Germany. I would have put it at round about 40 divisions, merely to hold an attack. Those who have some military knowledge can perhaps argue that point further, as to whether that is enough or too much, but what I say is that, if they are going to advocate a European Army, they must give some explanation of how many divisions it should consist, because they have already admitted that divisions are fighting formations. I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen opposite will disagree with that, or whether they find anything funny in that assertion. I merely say that when it comes to discussing military matters, all Governments take the advice of their chiefs of staff, who, at least, are supposed to know something about military strategy and military organisation.
§ Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)
The right hon. Gentleman has talked about a European Army composed of 40 divisions. Will he tell us whether they would be American and British troops, or the troops of the European nations?
§ Mr. Bellenger
I do not believe in a European Army in the same terms as hon. Members opposite, and that is what I am trying to show. Neither do hon. Members opposite. They are merely using it as a façade to hide their real thoughts; they will not express their real thoughts, as I am trying to do at the moment.
I am posing the issue which hon. Members opposite, as well as the Government, have to face. If 30 or 40 divisions are too many, let us suppose that there are 20. Where are those 20 divisions coming from? As I understand the speech of the right hon. Member for Streatham, the suggestion of hon. Members opposite is that they should come from America. It is very nice indeed to pass the buck to America. Where are the divisions to come from? Will hon. Members opposite apply their minds to that? Are they to come from Britain, the Benelux countries, France, or America?
§ Mr. Bellenger
All of them. Now we are getting down to brass tacks. What is 1443 the contribution of each of these constituent parts of a European Army to be? Five British divisions, or six or 10 British divisions? The fact is that hon. Members opposite talk very glibly about a European Army, but they have not thought out such an army in terms which soldiers can understand. Now let some of the hon. and gallant brigadiers try to explain that one away.
When we come to Germany's contribution, I say quite bluntly that I do not believe we shall get Germany to contribute to any force in numbers which will be useful to those military commanders, one of whom, Field Marshal Lord Montgomery, the hon. Gentleman for Aberdeenshire, East, has quoted. I do not believe that we shall get Germany to contribute in large numbers. With whom would the German battalions and brigades be brigaded? With American brigades? If one may go into technicalities for a moment, is that how we fought the last war? What about all the signal communications from divisional level down to units? Are these matters for humour or ridicule, or are they matters which will have to be settled sooner or later in the proper quarters?
We could, of course, have a system such as we had in the Indian Army—of one Indian brigade being brigaded with two British. But what is to happen, for example, where we have a strong German brigade brigaded with two weak ones, which is not impossible in the present state of European armies? It is not unlikely that the Germans, being the good fighters that they are, would show up better than the other two brigades, and it stands to reason that the commander would seek to look to the soldiers who could fight best.
The question of the French Army has been raised, and I pay great tribute to General de Lattre de Tassigny who for many years has been trying to re-create the French Army. I had something to do with him when I was in office. He tried to re-create the French Army after it had been utterly and totally defeated. Does any military man today suggest that the French Army could produce five or six real fighting divisions which could stand up to an onrush from the East? I do not believe it. With all due respect to 1444 the French nation—and I agree that there are many in France who repudiate the defeatist tendencies of their leaders before the war, during the war, and some since the war—the human material which France has at her command today is not what it was in 1914–18 or even in 1939 at the beginning of the last war. Therefore, I ask the House in all seriousness not to dismiss this matter with laughter. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East, to talk about a Federal Europe, although I agree with him that everybody with a desire for peace must look to that end.
§ Mr. Bellenger
All hon. Gentlemen who sincerely desire peace must look to some organisation, whether it be a Federal Europe or not, but the fact remains, and the speech of the hon. Member has brought it out, that Strasbourg is not the instrument for it. Neither is the Schuman Plan. They are both based on a fallacy. The point is that the Scots, the English, the Welsh and all the nations believe, first of all, in themselves and in their nationality. I have always found that soldiers fight best of all when they are fighting under their national leaders and when they understand the national cause.
We have had the League of Nations, with all the money and time which was spent upon it, and, before the last war we had an attempt to get peace by a Chamberlain Government, who were prepared to go to lengths to which no other Government would go to get peace with Hitler. They failed utterly. I believe that if Britain would now think nationally and work within an international assembly as Britain, holding and advocating the objects which are dear to Britain—there is no need to enumerate them; we know what they are—then our power would be greater than it is by roaming about attending committees all over the world trying to achieve the impossible.
I ask hon. Members, although they may dismiss with laughter these tangible points, to believe that there is something that can be offered by the British people—not necessarily at an international congress—which will conduce more to peace than some of the tightrope tactics to which we listened this afternoon in the speech of the right hon. Member for Streatham.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir (Aberdeen, South)
The tenor of the speech of the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) was essentially a nationalistic one. He told this House quite plainly that he did not believe in the Council of Europe. He felt that Britain should act only on her own, and as an example he gave the Scots, and said they were essentially people who believed in themselves. As a Scot, I would say to him that wherever one goes, all over the world, one finds Scotsmen running other peoples' affairs for them. Indeed, if I may say so, there is a story of a schoolboy who was asked who inhabited Britain in early days. He replied, "Britain was inhabited by Angles. The acute ones went north and the obtuse ones went south."
I believe I understand what lay behind the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about Germany. He and everyone in this country must be searching in their hearts as to what is the right policy to pursue. We all realise the very great dangers that are attendant upon any German rearmament, but in the position of the world today, if we look at Europe realistically, we have to choose between two evils. If we follow the logical sequence of events and let Germany have control over her own affairs, we have to decide whether Germany shall take part in the defence of Europe. I feel that Germany should play a real part in a European Army.
The right hon. Gentleman missed the essential political significance of that resolution at Strasbourg, and he missed the background to the debate at Strasbourg, because those who are now the menace in the East were watching to see whether the Council of Europe was going to pin-point the need of the hour—that Europe should unite in her own defence. What was valuable in that resolution was that there should be a European Army working with Canada and America. I admit that the French amendment about European defence did bring the discussion into a realm of technicalities which the Council of Europe is not competent or constitutionally qualified to debate. But, of course, the technical constitution of the European Army is to be discussed with various Chiefs-of-Staff, and the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) of a debate on defence in secret session would be 1446 a much more suitable occasion to discuss these matters in detail.
We should consider what, in fact, the Council of Europe has achieved in the two years of its life. It certainly gave a message to the East that Europe was determined to unite in her own defence. It was also a very great achievement in two years, that the Council of Europe should voluntarily invite Germany to be closely associated with it. That, again, was due to my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford. It is no mean achievement that the conquered and overrun peoples of Europe should stretch out their hands to Germany, and it is absolutely vital for European survival that Germany should throw in her lot with the West rather than with the East.
Another achievement at Strasbourg was that the debate on the Schuman Plan certainly cleared the air very considerably. It showed quite clearly that British Conservatives were desirous that this country should take part in the discussions. Another achievement came in a resolution that was adopted by the Assembly that the Member Governments of the Council of Europe should approach the Governments of the Dominions on ways and means by which they should be closely associated with the Council of Europe. That resolution gave a much clearer indication on the continent as to what was Britain's position. It showed how she has a threefold position, as head of the Commonwealth, as a European and as part of the Anglo-Saxon or Atlantic community.
In the practical field, too, there was the very great achievement of the Convention on Human Rights. But, above all, we should have clear in our minds what was the purpose of the Council of Europe and why it was first conceived. It was conceived after this last war, when Europe was physically shattered and spiritually weakened, and it was the foresight of the Leader of the Opposition, in speeches in Zurich, Fulton and at The Hague which met an upsurge of popular opinion that there should be some forum created which would unite Europe in a common purpose. Therefore, we must think of the Council of Europe as a forum of European opinion and as a body of responsible statesmen who will give moral and intellectual leadership to both the captive and the free peoples of Europe. 1447 Although much has been done, there is still a very great vacuum of accepted and acceptable leadership. Britain's chance is still there and I believe that a number of those in the Council of Europe still want Britain to take the lead, provided she is prepared to shoulder the responsibilities involved. I do not want to enter too much into controversy as to why I think His Majesty's Government have given the impression that they do not believe in the Council of Europe and are not really serious about it, but I must just mention a few examples.
It is a long history. First, the ban on Members of the Labour Party going to the Congress at The Hague. Again, there was that extraordinary publication called "European Unity," which had behind it the authority of the Minister of Town and Country Planning. Yet that Minister was sent as leader of the British delegation to Europe. Then there was the extraordinary behaviour of a Socialist member of the delegation at Strasbourg where he first supported something in Committee and then voted against it in the Assembly.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I would neither do nor say anything at Strasbourg which I would not do or say in the House of Commons. If we consider the Council of Europe to be the forum of European opinion, we must also believe that if political federation is not possible we must achieve things on a functional basis.
I should like to draw the attention of the House to one of the things which has been achieved to a certain extent and which can be extended in the future. It lies in paragraph 7 of the Report on the Proceedings of the Sixth Session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in Rome (Cmd. 8083). It deals with the question of refugees. We should be quite clear in our own minds exactly what is the scope of this problem. Because when people talk about refugees, they think it means only those who come under the authority of the International Refugee Organisation. That organisation is to end at the end of September of next year. But the problem is very much greater than that.
1448 We have seen a very different situation in Europe since the I.R.O. was constituted in 1946. There has been a Russian invasion of Europe which has caused the migration to the West of over 15 million people. Two million of these never completed their journey. They died on the way. But there are about nine million people in the Western zones of Germany today. Paragraph 7, on the Rome meeting, says that:The Committee of Ministers … recognise the extreme urgency of this problem … after hearing the statement by the Representative of the German Federal Republic …In connection with this problem, may I draw the attention of the House to Germany in particular? She is now coping with 70 per cent. of her pre-war population of 80 million in only 42 per cent. of her pre-war lands. Russia, of course, is getting the advantage of this and encourages the problem. She is getting the best workers and sending the others over the border. They are only too glad to seek asylum in the West from what is nothing more than the horror of the East. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, East (Mr. Bothby) said we must try and make of Germany a friend and ally. Without any sentiment at all, I would say to this House that the problem of these surplus people on her economy is far too great for Germany to solve alone. I believe that we want European and international co-operation if we are to solve what is a very grave problem in the heart of Europe, at the hub of Europe, which many consider holds to a large extent the key to the peace of the world.
If we believe that co-operation is vital on this subject, there are certain questions which I would like to ask the Under-Secretary; and, if I may say so, I hope he will answer them, because there is a feeling very prevalent in this House that hon. Members ask questions of Ministers in all good faith and Ministers completely ignore them when they reply. The first question is in relation to the constitution of the High Commission working under U.N.O. which is to take over from I.R.O. His Majesty's Government's representatives considered at the time that the definition of a refugee did not go wide enough and they said that they would take it up again. I understand that this matter has now been revised and is due to come before the General Assembly of the 1449 United Nations this month. I should like to ask whether the Secretary of State considers that the new legal definition of a refugee really goes wide enough, because in my submission it does not, if one takes into account all those who have been expelled from the Eastern zone of Germany.
My second question is this. I presume that His Majesty's Government have by now instructed the various departments concerned to give the necessary information as requested in this White Paper to the Government so that it may be communicated to Strasbourg. I should like to ask what are the Government's intentions regarding what are described in the White Paper as the financial implications. Last week, in the Debate on the Address, the Prime Minister said that the Treasury had voted half a million pounds to the assistance of refugees in Korea. The House will appreciate that there are many refugees now at the heart of Europe who are very much in need of material assistance. I should like to know the intentions of the Government in this respect, particularly as the Under-Secretary, in his opening remarks, said that he was prepared, or that we were prepared, to make some sacrifices for the common European good. This White Paper particularly asks us to examine these points in relation to two very important problems. One is migration and the other is population. As to population, I merely ask the Government this: I wonder when this House will be afforded an opportunity of debating the very interesting report of the Royal Commission on Population.
The subject of migration, of course, is one which needs a whole day's debate to itself, but there are certain problems concerning it on which I would like to ask what are the Government's intentions. For centuries Great Britain has welcomed refugees from oppression, and they in their turn have brought very great benefits to us. First, I think our action has brought us a moral leadership in the world, and secondly, of course, there are many practical benefits which these refugees have brought us in the way of skills and industries which they have taught us. What are the Government's intentions regarding the further recruitment of foreign workers? I notice that the National Joint Advisory Council, of which the Minister of Labour is chairman, say that they are considering the 1450 further recruitment of foreign labour for our defence programme. If they are considering this, I suggest that they not only bring in the skilled workers but that they help the social problem of Europe by bringing in the families as well, particularly if we say in this country that we believe the family is the strong foundation of society.
There has just been passed in Congress a Bill for displaced persons, and Mr. Truman, in taking the lead in this, has made the provision that the number of displaced persons who are allowed to make their homes in the United States should be raised from 205,000 to 341,000. When he signed this Bill on 16th June, he said:The Bill brings the American principles of fair play and generosity to our D.P.'s programme. The countrymen of these D.P.'s have brought to us in the past the best of their labour, their hatred of tyranny and their love of freedom.That is one way of doing it, but there is something very important which I would like to put to the Government, if the Under-Secretary would give one ear to what I am about to say. I refer to the question of migration within the Commonwealth. We all know the great cry throughout the Commonwealth, "Populate or perish." If we have a great number of people in Central Europe who are willing to emigrate and make their homes in any country which is willing to receive them, and at the same time we impose strict laws on our people so that they cannot go out of this country, we are following a very shortsighted policy. Surely we cannot think of Britain just as Britain. Britain is part of the Commonwealth, and one of our major points of policy should be to allow a greater number of emigrants to spread our ideas and spread our British stock throughout the world. Therefore, I should like to know whether the Government are considering revising some of their strict financial regulations, and I should also like to know what they are doing in an active way to encourage shipping for emigrants.
I will not go further into this question which, as I say, deserves a debate on its own. I would only say that in this vast question of refugees there is something practical and real which the Council of Europe can achieve on a functional basis. Quite apart from economic and social 1451 implications, surely the European conscience should not allow such a situation. Of what use to pour out our propaganda behind the Iron Curtain unless we match our words with deeds?
Lastly, I would say about the Council of Europe generally that there has been a good deal of criticism today, and criticism also about the various attitudes on both sides of the British delegation. I think that in making these criticisms we are acting as if we had a great deal of time in which to achieve a united Europe. Our great fear today is that we have not got time to achieve our purpose. Therefore, anything which we can do, however small, is surely some way towards bringing the countries of Europe together. Above all, let us not forget that it is a forum of European opinion, a European conscience, and that it was founded because of a great human movement of peoples earnestly searching for some effective means to counter the fearful problems of our age.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Blyton (Houghton-le-Spring)
I attended Strasbourg, but while I was listening to hon. Members opposite depicting themselves as angels and the Socialists as villains, I wondered whether I had been there or not. If ever anyone created dismay in the Council of Europe it was the Conservatives on the Schuman Plan. If ever any amendments were mutilated, it was the Tory amendments on this issue.
Cannot the Tories remember someone saying that it was a dirty trick because the Tory was not summoned to attend a committee? Did not someone say that because M. Reynaud was not invited to the week-end party in Switzerland, he called the meeting when the Tory was away? Did not M. Reynaud attack a member of the Conservative Party, saying that it was not a dirty trick? Did not the Member of the Conservative Party fail to attend the meeting to handle the baby of the Schuman Plan which the Conservatives had sent to the committee? It is not good enough for the Conservative delegation to try to tell the country that they are the paragons of virtue and that the Socialists are wicked people. The right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), who was European defence expert, produced 20 points. A carrier 1452 pigeon arrived one day with some instructions for him and the points were withdrawn.
But the facts of the Council of Europe ought to be faced by this country. There is a great clash of opinion in the Council of Europe and it is not because of the wicked Socialists. There are, in the Council, people who are fighting on the ground that they ought to be federated without Britain and Scandinavia. There are other people arguing that there ought to be no federation in Europe unless Britain and Scandinavia take part in it. There are others arguing that there ought to be partial federation and that we ought to build on it in order to achieve total federation in the future. Then there are some who argue the functional approach. On top of that we have those people who believe that all agreements should be based on inter-governmental arrangements between the countries.
That is the terrifying battle which is taking place in the Council of Europe, and the trouble is not because of the wicked Socialists, as the Opposition are trying to suggest. Hon. Members opposite must make up their minds which side they take in these five clashes of opinion. They have played with federalism and then have run away from it. I can almost see the hon. Member for Aberdeen, East (Mr. Boothby)—and I am sorry he is not here—standing in the other Chamber, brushing his hair aside, during the Schuman Debate, attacking the "Daily Express" and saying, "One would almost have thought that I foresaw the Schuman Plan in 1928." But what was he doing, and what were the Opposition doing, no matter how they try to extricate themselves now, in the Schuman Debate in the House?
They were asking that we should accept the Schuman Plan on the basis accepted by the Dutch. What had the Dutch accepted? A supra-national organisation. Hon. Members opposite seem to disagree, but that is the basis which the Dutch accepted—they agreed to accept a supra-national organisation for coal and steel provided that, if they did not like it, they could come out of the plan. The Amendment was on the Order Paper and is there for us to see.
What was the Conservative charge? The hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) charged us with not trying to work 1453 for full employment. But in all the Schuman countries there are millions of unemployed. Then we were charged by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, East, with being isolationists. That night they divided the House in asking us to accept the supra-national organisation. Yet hardly had we dispersed for our summer Recess than we all went to Strasbourg and found a resolution known as the Macmillan-Eccles plan. What did this plan say? It said that there had to be no supra-national organisation and that the Council of Ministers had to have the right of veto. When they got to Strasbourg they turned a somersault on the very issue upon which they had divided this House.
§ Mr. H. Macmillan indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Macmillan
When the Motion was before this House, there was no question of this party supporting the supra-national organisation under the Schuman Plan.
§ Mr. Blyton rose——
§ Mr. Macmillan
The hon. Member said he would sit down, but he is standing up. There was no question of supporting the supra-national organisation under M. Monnet's proposals to implement the Schuman Plan. The Division was on whether we should enter into negotiations with a view to working out an arrangement which could be satisfactory to ourselves. We are here trying to discuss, at a rather solemn moment, the future of Europe and I still say that if the Schuman Plan or proposals to implement the Schuman Plan do collapse, then it will be very sad for Europe and may lead to grave disasters in which we and all our children will share.
§ Mr. Blyton
I still stick to my statement, and it is on record, that the Opposition asked us to accept the Schuman Plan on the basis agreed by the Dutch. The Dutch are taking part in the Schuman discussions today, on the basis of the acceptance of the supra-national organisation, with the proviso that they may leave if they wish to do so. We can all remember the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) saying during the debate on the Schuman Plan, that he was not prepared to hand 1454 the coal and steel industries of this country over to continental people, and he abstained from voting in the Division.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I think it is only right to make it clear that my reason for not voting with my party on that occasion was that in the note from the French Government, of 9th May, they said that the objective of the proposals was the eventual federation of Europe, to which I am heartily opposed.
§ Mr. Blyton
I agree that the hon. and gallant Member feels as we feel about what happened that night. What did happen that night? A lot of Tories would not vote. They said they would not go into the Lobby to hand over our coal and steel industries to Europe, and I believe that the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), was one. He thought as we think on this issue. How can the Conservative Front Bench reconcile their position with that of the hon. Member for Croydon, East?
When we got to Strasbourg, the Macmillan-Eccles resolution was attacked from every quarter of the Council. They were afraid to put it to the vote and asked instead that it should be sent to the committee to be looked at. It was sent to the committee, but when it reached the committee no member of the Conservative Party turned up to handle the baby they had sent there. Then the Tories put down another amendment, which the French called sabotage. The French Socialists told us that they considered this amendment to be sabotage of all the work that had been done in Paris by the Schuman Plan countries. That resolution was so mutilated that it was left with one sentence—to leave the door open for the British to come into the plan. Yet these Tories are the people who are telling the public that we were the villains and they were the heroes.
I will leave the problem of the Schuman Plan for the Tories to decide among themselves what they would do if they ever got into power. Those who were present and who remember the discussions will realise that, when it comes to the question of sovereignty and the handling of our basic industries, there is a very serious side to the problem. In France there are 4,170,000 trade unionists affiliated to the Communist International. There are 1,200,000 trade unionists 1455 affiliated to the Free Trade Unions in France. All Britain's trade unionists provide the greatest number in the Free Trade Union International. When we turn to Italy, we find that, of the six million trade unionists, 4½ million are affiliated to the Communist International and one million are with us. In Luxembourg there are 18,000 in the Free Trade Unions and 11,000 with the Communist International.
When we discuss vital economic problems like coal and steel in relation to the Schuman Plan, we have to look at that background before we hand over our sovereignty and the control of the internal economic position of this country. I believe that we ought to support the economic aims of the Schuman Plan, but we cannot agree with its political approach. That is where we differ. We could not agree that the fate of our coal and steel industries should be decided by a body outside this country—often even against the will of the people. In all these questions we have at all times to consider the men who are working inside the industries, and whose views are represented on these matters through their trade unions. I believe that the internal economic structure of our country should be determined by the Government of the day, and that the Government should be responsible to the British people who send them here.
On the other hand, I fully understand that other countries regard the creation of a supra-national authority as one of the most prominent features of the Schuman Plan. I understand their political reasons for this view. I, too, regard it as vital that France and Germany should forget their ancient quarrels in the pursuit of common ends. In these circumstances the only honest thing to do was to tell the French that we agreed to differ—that we could not share the views of our French and German friends in that matter, that we knew that the matter was so important to them, that we had no right to force them to accept our views. So we decided we could not honestly take part in the Schuman Plan.
We have already experienced in the Assembly the friction and frustration which result when people who agree in principle are prevented from pursuing their common aims by those who disagree 1456 with them. In such a situation some way must be found to allow those who agree to pursue their aims together. European unity will be possible only so long as it is based on tolerance and flexibility. By seeking to force uniformity of method on all alike, we risk dividing Europe, and not uniting it. I think that we in the Assembly realised this fact from our experiences last session. We must give scope for partial agreements when total unanimity is impossible. I believe that the Schuman Plan is the test case in this matter.
We hope that the discussions in Paris will be successful, and I hope that the countries supporting the Schuman Plan will soon produce a supra-national organisation for their own iron and steel industries. Then, when that is set up, we in Britain will seek the fullest possible cooperation with it. As I have said before, we fully support its economic aids: our only objection to the Schuman Plan is political; but we are as anxious as our Continental colleagues to fulfil the economic aims of the Schuman Plan. Therefore, we assure our friends in Europe that when they have produced an organisation that will satisfy their political aims, we should then seek agreement with them in every sphere.
On capital investment we ought to plan our own development programmes in relation with theirs. No one wishes to waste Europe's capital resources. We are vitally interested in fixing prices. I am particularly interested as an ex-miner, because I remember the scramble for markets in the inter-war years, which drove our wages down to such a low level. The Continental miners followed suit. We want to see fixed for coal prices that will embody a decent standard of life for those who earn their livelihood by winning coal from the depths of the earth. We believe we ought to fix agreements on marketing, on import quotas, and on the abolition of discriminatory practices, and that we should get international agreements once our Continental friends have set up their supra-national organisation.
Therefore, believing this issue will loom very much to the fore in the forthcoming months, I hope I have at least attempted to clarify the position in which we stood at Strasbourg, and the way in which the 1457 Opposition wandered in their meanderings in the Council of Europe.
I have one last word, and that is on the rearmament of Germany. Whenever we discuss the rearmament of Germany, we have to take into consideration the Socialist viewpoint that the Germans are putting out in Germany. What the German Socialists say—and they have a very big voice in the West German Government—is that they will be prepared to come into an integrated European Army only if Germany is made a free and full member of the Atlantic Pact and the Occupation Statute is abolished. It is only upon those two bases that the German Socialists will come anywhere near supporting an integrated army. So do not let us believe that this problem is going to be as easy as some hon. Members here today have depicted it as being. The facts are that the working people of Germany are now demanding a higher price for their cooperation in the defence of Europe. We shall find before many days have passed that Germany's price for supporting an integrated army of Europe will be that there must be an abolition of the Occupation Statute and that Germany must be made a free and full member of the. Atlantic Pact.
Therefore, we go to Strasbourg this week with no easy minds upon this problem, because France, after having been invaded three times in the last century, is adamant in saying that she does not want another military machine in Germany; and, on the other hand, we have the West German Socialists—and even Dr. Adenauer, to obtain the Socialists' support—demanding the ending of the Occupation Statute, and a level partnership for Germany in the Atlantic Pact as the price to be paid before they come into an integrated European Army.
I close by saying I will do my best to try to see that our friends in Germany help us in this terrific Communist problem that faces us—even in the trade union movement on the Continent. It is a problem that is eating into the very vitals of the unions, and which will determine whether or not the Schuman Plan in Europe is a success or not. There are trade unionists affiliated to the Communists who have declared that they are against the Schuman Plan and will do everything to destroy it. That is not in the spirit of the European unity we are 1458 trying to seek. For the sake of that unity, we have to meet all those arguments. I am hopeful that the Council of Europe will not be divided, and that, even if it is divided on the political aspects of the Schuman Plan, on this problem, at least, of building a force to protect ourselves against Communist aggression we shall come to an amicable solution.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)
I find myself in a good deal of agreement with what the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton) has said. I should not shed any tears if the Council of Europe never met again. I think that the Schuman Plan is a deplorable proposition if we are to join in, and I do not believe in a European Army—at least not with any kind of definition of it I have yet heard.
However, before I develop my thoughts on these subjects I really want to know to whom the people who went to Strasbourg have, in any sense, responsibility. On 3rd May the Prime Minister announced who was going. The delegates were not appointed in the way in which we appoint a Select Committee, when a Notice of Motion is put down by the Leader of the House after consultation with the various parties, the Members are named and, if we wish, we can move Amendments. This body is in no sense responsible to the House of Commons. It was not appointed by the House of Commons, and two-thirds of them represent an outside organisation—some union or other which has a lot of money and throws expensive parties; I have forgotten its title, but its supporters ranged from Victor Gollancz to the Leader of the Opposition when it started, and I cannot think of a wider variety than that. I am one of a very large number of people who have never approved of this organisation.
The appointment of these people was announced by the Prime Minister on 3rd May. I can only assume that he appointed them, and that they are therefore responsible to him and not to this House. It is no good these people, when they meet at Strasbourg, saying, "The Socialist plan is this" and "The Conservative plan is the other." When these gentlemen get there they represent nobody but themselves, and they do not bind the rest of their parties in the faintest degree.
1459 I think it is most unfortunate that we should be having this debate when virtually none of us has been given an opportunity of studying these documents. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I made a protest to you at half-past three today about that. Here we have a document with 51 recommendations, many of them complex and many of them debatable, and also 19 resolutions with none of the argument that took place about them. It follows the pompous way in which the League of Nations always used to draft these things: a long preamble and then certain things, sometimes in ambiguous language, and we as a serious body of persons are expected to devote proper consideration to those documents at such short notice. I see that the Committee of Ministers met at Rome at the beginning of this month——
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
Perhaps I might interrupt for a moment. I should like to point out that although these documents were only printed and put in the Vote Office on Friday, copies have been available in the Library since the end of the Session in Strasbourg. This is simply a reprint of the recommendations. Any hon. Member interested in the Council of Europe could have seen the documents in the Library or obtained copies from Strasbourg.
§ Sir H. Williams
I do not see why I should run off to the Library either. As a Member of this House I think I am entitled to have a copy at home or in my office where I can study it. What is the use of saying, "There is one copy of an important document in the Library"? As everyone knows, the House adjourned very early on Friday——
§ Sir H. Williams
I could have stayed, but like most other people I did not. I was not very far away though. I came back shortly after the House rose—much earlier than the normal time of rising—and found the Vote Office shut. The papers were not delivered with the Parliamentary Papers we receive on Saturday 1460 mornings. Of course, if the hon. Gentleman is not interested in defending the rights of Private Members——
§ Mr. S. Silverman
The hon. Gentleman must not say that. Although I had not intended, and do not intend, to speak in this debate, I equipped myself without difficulty with a copy of this document on Friday afternoon and read it over the week-end. Any other hon. Member could have done the same.
§ Sir H. Williams
We all know that on Fridays, when it is known that the business is. non-controversial, a very large number of Members are properly absent in their own constituencies.
§ Sir H. Williams
Some hon. Members have the desire to perform public service in their constituencies instead of sitting here listening to a very thinly attended debate.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies
On Thursday the Lord President of the Council announced that these papers would be in the Vote Office on Friday. If the hon. Gentleman knew that he could not be here because he had more important engagements than attending this House on Friday, he could have arranged for the Vote Office to send them to him, and he would have received them on Saturday morning.
§ Sir H. Williams
If all of us read everything we ought to read we would know everything. I took the trouble to check up what the Lord President said. He announced the Business, and his reference to papers being in the Vote Office—he said there were two but there were, in fact, three—was an almost casual remark made in the middle of a supplementary answer, so it was not a formal statement with regard to business, and the ordinary Member might not have noticed it. There are a great many things we do not know. I think it was the duty of the Foreign Office to see that the papers arrived in time so that no hon. Member would be in difficulty, as I and most others are, over this Debate. I am indicting the Foreign Office, and they naturally want to defend themselves.
1461 We have been told today that nationalism is an evil thing. I do not see anybody going to war for some vague indefinite thing. We pretend that the people in Korea are fighting for the United Nations. The people fighting in Korea are, in fact, the people of the United States and the British Empire. I believe India offered an ambulance although I have no record that it has yet arrived. People will fight pour la patrie for Fatherland, for King and Country——
§ Sir H. Williams
—for the legitimate interests of the United States and of ourselves. What was happening in Korea was a menace to the whole of our interests in that part of the world. That is why we are fighting, and let us be realists about it.
With regard to the Schuman Plan, if anyone will examine the geological map of Northern France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, they will see that there are obvious advantages in the iron and steel manufacturers and coal proprietors of that part of the world getting together. I can see that. But remember when we were exposed to grave competition and serious unemployment in 1929 to 1931, in particular. Whence came the competition in iron and steel and engineering production? From Western Europe. It would be absolutely monstrous for us to strip ourselves of our right to defend our employment and trade against the competition that comes, in the main, from that part of Europe. It does not come from the United States, except for specialities.
Competition in engineering and iron and steel comes from that part of Europe, and for us to join in an enterprise which would deprive us of our right of self-defence would be the most stupid thing imaginable. But that did not stop me voting in a certain Division. I see no objection to our looking in to see what other people are up to. Certainly that is a very sensible thing. To observe without obligation was all that was proposed in the Motion for which I voted.
§ Mr. Silverman
As I understand it, if His Majesty's Government could have taken part in the Schuman Plan negotiations without obligation, they would have been very willing to go.
§ Sir H. Williams
The proposal made by our party was fundamentally the right to be there as observers. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, that is how I interpreted it, and that is how the Motion was interpreted by a very large meeting of Private Members gathered together to consider it—true, all belonged to our party. We are just as capable of reading English as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), and we came to that conclusion. I know it has been the game of the Socialist Party to represent it as having a different meaning. That is what has been poured out from the Socialists ever since, but it has been the grossest misrepresentation of the attitude of the bulk of those who voted that day. It is common form for the Socialist Party to say "Black is white" in the hope that if they say it often enough a lot of people will begin to believe it is true.
§ Mr. Silverman
It was made quite plain in the course of the debate, that in the negotiations which took place between His Majesty's Government and the French Government, the French Government were saying: "You must accept first the supra-national authority and then come and discuss ways and means of implementing it." To which the Government replied, "We cannot do that if we can come without accepting this supra-national authority in advance we will go." In that state of the facts, the Opposition put down a Motion inviting the House to censure the Government for not going on the only conditions open to them, and now the Tory Party is trying to wriggle out of it.
§ Sir H. Williams
I am not trying to wriggle out of it. Our attitude was perfectly clear. We have only to re-read the terms of the Motion. Our Motion was not describing what the Government of France were saying. The hon. Gentleman is dragging in a red herring. The Dutch intended to go there on specific terms. Those terms did not 1463 include a supra-national authority—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] That is not my recollection, and my memory is quite as good as the memory of most hon. Members opposite and better than that of some. That interpretation is in complete conflict with anything that I understand or that was understood by the right hon. and hon. Members of my party.
I am completely opposed to our participation in the Schuman Plan. I do not believe in what is described as a European Army. I do not know what it means. Neither do I know what a European Minister of Defence can mean. He must be responsible to somebody. But obviously he cannot be responsible to an individual government; therefore is he to be responsible to the Strasbourg Union Debating Society, as I am inclined to call them. Let us have the principles clearly before us—I do not mind very much from which side they come—before we are asked to tie ourselves to purposes which I regard as wholly undesirable.
When I read the Hague Resolutions in 1948, they seemed a complete destruction of all those purposes for which many of us had been working for years. The whole conception of Western European customs union would involve the destruction of the system of protecting our own industries from foreign competition, and the destruction of all Imperial preference. Having worked for these things all my life, I saw no reason why a self-appointed body of people should go to the Hague and reverse what I regarded as some of the fundamental principles of the Conservative Party to which I have always belonged.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Roberts (Merioneth)
I shall not follow the tremendous indictment of the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) of his own party tonight. I shall first of all refer to the speech of the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs. He said that, despite several difficulties, the Council of Europe has much to its credit, and that we must fit the Council into the pattern of European organisation, where it has its own peculiar role. He did not say what the Government considered to be the peculiar role or the particular part of the Council of Europe into 1464 which it should fit. I think that much of the difficulty and vagueness in discussing the Council of Europe arises from the fact that they have never made clear what exactly they intend the Council of Europe to do in European organisation.
I think that the hon. Gentleman did the Council of Europe less than justice. It has several positive achievements, and that it has taken some very valuable steps in co-operation between European countries. First, let me mention the full-employment plan, which was approved by the Assembly on the initiative of the British Labour delegation. The Committee of Ministers approved that plan in principle and instructed the International Labour Office to go ahead and call a conference to discuss the full employment plan. That is a movement of immense value, in my opinion. I wish that the Under-Secretary had mentioned it.
Secondly, there was a resolution on a European Code of Social Security, in which we agreed the principles of such a code. The Committee of Ministers accepted the idea of a European Code of Social Security and that, I understand, is to be studied. There is, thirdly, the question of the European refugees, in which the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir), has taken a special interest. The Committee of Ministers agreed to accept this human question as one of "extreme urgency"; that is the phrase used in the report of the Committee of Ministers, and the matter is to be dealt with as quickly as possible. Fourth, the Committee of Ministers agreed with the principles of the Assembly's recommendations on the creation of "specialised agencies" and the conclusion of "partial agreements"—recommendations 1 and 4. These are, in one sense, the key recommendations of the Assembly, and the Committee of Minister have agreed to them.
Lastly is the fact that, at last, the Convention on Human Rights has been signed by 13 states, and I believe that is an immense advance in the history of human freedom. I want to say a few words about this Convention. Many people, even at this stage, are not clear about the distinction between the Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations' Declaration on Human Rights made on 10th December, 1948. They say, "Why should there he a Convention on Human 1465 Rights, if the United Nations have already adopted a universal declaration on human rights?" The answer is this: The United Nations' Declaration was a statement of 30 principles, many not capable of exact definition, and, therefore, not intended ever to be enforced by a court. It mentioned the right to work, the right to a decent standard of living, the right to leisure—all very important social rights, but not capable of exact legal definition and not capable of being enforced by a court of law.
Moreover, the United Nations' Declaration was purely a recommendation and did not have the force of a binding treaty on the United Nations. It is therefore necessary to have a binding treaty, and we can only have that between states who think alike on these matters. This treaty has to define a limited number of fundamental rights, which are capable of being submitted to judicial procedure, and which can be enforced by collective guarantee. They must be the minimum necessary to constitute the cardinal principles for the functioning of political democracy. I think that is generally agreed that there are three fundamental rights. There is, first, freedom from arbitrary arrest; second, freedom of speech, religion and association; and, third, the right to have free elections and to form an opposition.
If, in the 1930s, there had been some machinery in Europe by which we could have collectively guaranteed the preservation of all these rights in all the States of Europe, how different history would have been. It might have prevented Italy going Fascist; Austria, too, and Germany from going Nazi. The war might not have come, and I do not think that Franco would have ruled in Spain. If I may adopt the words of the hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe), to whom I should like to pay a special tribute for his work on the Convention on Human Rights: In that vital period of oncoming totalitarianism when the lamps of liberty are lowered but far from out, there would have been a chance for international inquiry and report. In the words of Mr. Teitgen,There would have been something to ring an alarm bell in Europe.The Committee of Ministers have signed the Convention on Human Rights, but they have left out the clause, approved by the Assembly in 1949, and re-affirmed in 1950, dealing with free 1466 elections and the right to form an opposition. In my opinion, this is the most important of all the clauses in a convention on human rights, because, in the end, it is a free Parliament that is the real safeguard of all the other freedoms, Freedom of The Press, The right of public meeting, freedom from arrest and freedom to impose, all these freedoms obviously depend on there being a free Parliament with its members free to criticise the executive.
I know that this matter is to be studied further, but I should like to know whether the Government have any real objection to the insertion of this clause. It has been said that it is not capable of definition. I cannot see that. It has also been said that it is not capable of being enforced. I cannot see why an International Court of Justice cannot issue injunction. It has been said that a court is not the proper body to deal with this matter, but surely if so there is no reason why it should not be made a matter for the Committee of Ministers.
The Convention on Human Rights has also been watered down in another important respect. Under the draft convention, the jurisdiction of the European Court was to be compulsory on all States. It is now to be compulsory on a State, only if it has signed the optional clause. That is a pity, but there is some compensation as the Committee of Ministers have agreed to give jurisdiction where a State does not accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court, to the Committee of Ministers, which can act by a two-thirds majority. The acceptance of a two-thirds majority is a very real advance because it means a departure from the veto, which was implied in the unanimity rule.
The Convention has been weakened in a still further respect. In the original draft, individuals could petition the International Court of Justice. That right has been taken away. An individual is to have the right to petition, only if the State to which he belongs has agreed to accept that right of petition. I see no reason why we should not take the lead in accepting the right of individuals to petition the international tribunal direct.
These three omissions, the omission of the clause giving the right to free election, the omission of the compulsory jurisdiction of the court and the omission of 1467 the right of an individual to petition, are all serious omissions, indicating on the part of some government, or governments, a reluctance to sponsor fully the collective guarantee on human rights. We do not know which government is responsible, because the voting in the Committee of Ministers is secret, which is a great pity. I wish that the voting could be made public, although it is desirable that the deliberations should remain in private. Common report has it that the British Government are opposed to the clause on free elections. I was glad to hear some indication, although it was not a very strong one, from the Under-Secretary of State that the British Government have no real opposition to the insertion of such a clause in the Convention.
I do not think the impression is correct that the British Government are not interested in European unity. The British Government have taken some very practical steps towards European unity, but they have themselves to blame for having created this impression. I think that the speech of the Under-Secretary of State would confirm that impression. Although the King's Speech is a sore subject on these benches, perhaps I might point out, if I am not treading on too dangerous ground, that there was no mention of the Council of Europe in it. If there had been mention of it, it would have shown that the Government were really interested in it. I am sorry, now that the Convention on Human Rights has been signed, that the name of the British Foreign Secretary is not on this important document. It is also a pity on the other hand, that this debate was not opened from the Opposition Front Bench by the Leader of the Opposition, whose speeches on European unity are the best that he makes in the House.
Perhaps I might now indicate the next steps which should be taken. First of all, I should like the Government to ratify the Convention on Human Rights as soon as possible. Secondly, I hope that they will sign the two optional clauses, particularly the clause accepting the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court. When we remember the international record of previous Labour Governments and Labour Oppositions, in common with the Liberal Party, and how they pressed for the acceptance of com- 1468 pulsory jurisdiction of the Permanent Court of International Justice, it will be incomprehensible if the present Labour Government refuse to sign, or delay signing, the optional clauses.
I cannot believe that the late Mr. Arthur Henderson, whom I regard as one of the greatest Foreign Secretaries of this century, would have delayed signing the optional clauses. I hope that very soon we shall see an additional protocol inserting the right to have free elections. If and when all this is done, this Convention on Human Rights would be the basic rule of the European community, with each State accepting the collective rights of other States to interfere in their domestic affairs for the protection of human rights. That is a very real surrender of sovereignty.
This Convention on Human Rights can be the test, for example, whether Spain should be allowed to enter the European community, and the basis on which Yugoslavia and other Eastern European countries might be invited. Every State that refuses to sign the Convention on Human Rights will stand condemned in the eyes of the public of Europe. On this basis, a wide area of free Europe could be really united.
The hon. Member for Croydon, East, mentioned one of the two other points to which I wish to refer. One of them is that the Conservative Party must make up its mind on the question of Imperial preferences. They cannot, on the one hand, cry for the creation of a large-scale European market, and at the same time urge Imperial preferences.
§ Mr. Dalton indicated assent.
§ Mr. Roberts
I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman assenting for the Government. I hope the Government will carry that assent into practical action. If a community in Europe is to be created, it is essential that low tariff arrangements on a common level should cover the whole West of Europe as well as the British Commonwealth.
Secondly, on the question of a European Army, if we have a Council of Europe in the present state of the world I do not think we can debar its members assembled at Strasbourg from debating arrangements for defence. But I did not think that the Leader of the Opposition, 1469 who is an experienced tactitian, handled this question of a European Army well in the Strasbourg debate. It was only put forward after many days of debate and there were not many hours in which to discuss it. And although I agree with the principle of a European Army, it is a great mistake to do what the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) has been trying to do, both in the Assembly and here, to settle in the Council Europe all the detailed arrangements of a European Army. Now we have affirmed the principle, events have marched forward, and it is better to leave those detailed defence arrangements to other international bodies, such as those of the Brussels Treaty and the Atlantic Treaty.
Having said that, I ask His Majesty's Government to make up their minds about the rôle they wish the Council of Europe to fill in the mass of international agencies. The one unique thing about the Council of Europe is the presence there of so many Members of Parliament from so many countries. At present it is the only single forum for European parliamentary opinion, and if we have the vision to go ahead, it will be the chief instrument for building up a real community in Europe.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Edelman (Coventry, North)
Before I deal with the valuable speech of the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Emrys Roberts), I should like to revert to the speech of the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), who, I regret to see, has left the Chamber. His speech was remarkable in two respects. First, he reserved most of his recriminations for his own party, and secondly, he committed a gross inaccuracy when referring to the Schuman Plan.
The hon. Member suggested that in the invitation to this country to attend the Paris talks, it was not stated that the existence of a supra-national body for the coal and steel industry was an essential condition of participation in the Paris talks. In this, of course, the hon. Member was completely inaccurate. The essence of the invitation to participate in those talks was that we should accept from the outset the principle that a supra-national authority should be created for this organisation. Indeed, when M. Schuman himself, the author of the plan, came to 1470 Strasbourg, he used the very term "supranational authority."
§ Mr. Hopkinson
May I point out that in that exchange of notes between ourselves and the French Government, the words "supra-national authority" were never even mentioned. The expression "high authority" was used, which at that time had not been defined in the wide terms of the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Edelman
The term "high authority" was rapidly defined as a supranational authority by the author of the plan, and one could look to no higher or more responsible person to define what was meant by the invitation. Indeed, to make assurance doubly sure, I went in my private capacity to Paris to see M. Monnet, who was the formulator of the plan. He made it clear—and I am not betraying any confidence because he stated at the time that I could publish what he said—that the essence of the Schuman Plan was that there should be a supra-national authority capable, if necessary, of altering the national plans of the countries who participated in it.
I therefore cannot help feeling that, with that definition, it is outrageous of the hon. Member for Croydon, East, and those who in the past have said what he has said today, to keep saying in the face of the facts that the acceptance of a supranational authority was not an essential condition of the acceptance of the invitation to the Paris talks. I cannot help feeling that the charge made by hon. Gentlemen opposite and echoed by certain of their continental associates, that we were dragging our feet—a charge based on our reluctance to go to Paris in the hypocritical mood in which certain hon. Members opposite would have us go—has been responsible for many of the unwarranted charges against us that we are not in favour of European unity.
Indeed, it ill becomes many hon. Gentlemen opposite to circulate charges against us in Europe which, when echoed by those who may in no sense be well-wishers of this country, tend to do not only the Labour Government but the country harm. For example, only last year a Belgian delegate to the Council of Europe—one, indeed, who had been a—Minister in this country of the Belgium Government in exile during the war—ventured to accuse the Labour Government of national egoism. That charge 1471 was made at a time when the British Government, on behalf of the British people, had just finished making a contribution of over £900 million to European recovery.
The great achievement of the Council of Europe is that it exists. Yesterday's fantasy has become today's reality; yesterday's dream has become today's institution, with its own tradition and its own precedents. Whatever one thinks about the Council of Europe, one must concede that here is something unique in European history, here is a forum where traditional enemies, like the French and Germans, can meet together and discuss their common problems. Today, a year after its foundation, the Council of Europe is stronger than it was a year ago. If it is suggested that the Labour Government have been dragging their feet, the very existence of the Council of Europe today, largely due to the efforts made by the British Government, is the reply to that unmerited charge.
The first year was spent largely in theoretical debate, but it was theoretical debate which was well justified. At first, owing to the fact that the chief proponents of European unity were federalists, it was thought that we would be able to proceed forthwith to some constitutional settlement for the whole of Europe which would have implied the creation of a federal government. But it was the Labour representatives to the Council of Europe in the first year of its existence who made it quite clear that we were not prepared to go along the federal road to a European settlement. Indeed, we were the first to use in the Council of Europe the expression "the functional approach."
The Conservative representatives were full in those days of ambiguous reticencies. So much so that in the early days, when we said that we were only prepared to approach the question of European cooperation through specific organisations, the Press which supported hon. Gentlemen opposite charged us with being unwilling to promote European unity, simply because we were not prepared to accept a federal constitution for Europe. But did hon. Gentlemen opposite get up and say that was the very approach of which they were in favour? Nothing of the kind. They sat silent. They allowed continental representatives to cherish the view, which 1472 they held for over a year, that hon. Gentlemen opposite were in favour of the federal settlement which they were sponsoring.
It may be that the changed political situation in this country since last February has also changed the outlook of hon. Gentlemen opposite. It may well be that whereas a year ago national power seemed so remote from them that they grasped at the hope of international power, this year, fallaciously believing that they are within sight of national power, they are prepared to abandon all their federalist colleagues, all their associates, all those who were connected with them in trying to obtain international power through a federal solution.
From time to time we hear the charge that the Labour Government have been the prime cause of the countries of the Continent not being able to get together in order to achieve federal European unity. When we consider the facts, what do we find? Only a week or two ago, M. Schuman stated at a Press conference in Rome that one of the reasons the French and Italians were unable to conclude a customs union was the existence of special interests in their own countries that were opposed to it. This question of the formation of a customs union has been going on for nearly three years, and those countries are as far from achieving the establishment of a customs union as they were three years ago. How can the French and Italian federalists get up in the Council of Europe, with the support very often of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and charge us with being the stumbling block to a federal settlement?
Last August in Strasbourg there was a debate, initiated by the Continental federalists, which had as its goal the establishment of a "little federation" of the countries of the Continent, excluding Britain. The attitude of the Labour representatives was one of benevolent neutrality. What happened when those countries—who are the most eminent in the number of federalists that they produced—had the motion before them, and could have decided for themselves whether they wanted to go ahead to create a federal association on the Continent by themselves? When the matter was put to a vote, the motion was defeated. I hope that after today's debate we shall have an end of the charge that 1473 it is the Labour Government in Britain which is standing in the way of the federation of Europe and preventing countries from associating in the way they want to.
I have spoken about the attitude of the Labour Government in the matter of European unity. I want to turn from that point to specific instances of the ways in which His Majesty's Government have helped the Consultative Assembly to be a worthwhile instrument of European unity. I was very glad that at the meeting of the Committee of Ministers in Rome a short time ago His Majesty's Government were one of the first to support the adoption of the resolution that the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, referred to by the hon. Member for Merioneth, which owes so much to the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe), with the support indeed of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and also of the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Ungoed-Thomas). I believe that to be one of the most constructive and important achievements of the Consultative Assembly. I believe that it is so important that even if the Consultative Assembly were to be wound up tomorrow, leaving only the Convention of Human Rights as its memorial, the Consultative Assembly would have justified its existence.
What is this Convention of Human Rights? It is the moral basis of Western Europe. If we accept that, we know what we have to defend. It is useless for hon. Gentlemen like my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) to talk in a confused way, as he did, about the question of the defence of Europe. The most important thing is to know what we are to defend. I submit that what we wish to defend are the human rights which are affirmed by the Convention. I would support the hon. Gentleman opposite who said that he hoped that before today's debate ends our own Government will have signified their intention of ratifying the Convention at the earliest possible date.
I believe that that is the wise way of giving moral leadership to Europe. If we ratify the Convention, then those who look to us for inspiration and guidance 1474 throughout Europe, not only in the West but in the East as well, will feel that Britain is holding her place as the moral leader of the world. When we next meet at Strasbourg, among the entertainments which the Council of Europe might organise would be an outing to Struthof, only about 20 miles away. It is situated in what used at one time to be a ski-station in the winter and a pleasure resort in the summer. There, the French Government have preserved the relics of a concentration camp. Among the activities which the delegates at Strasbourg engage in, a visit to that relic, to indicate to them and to the whole world what we must all avoid, would be a salutary experience for all.
It is not enough merely to talk about the defence of Europe, vital, though that may be. Last August, in Strasbourg, the Socialists sponsored what came to be known as the Declaration of Strasbourg. It was an affirmation that while we give our full support to the United Nations for its action in Korea and are prepared to resist force, yet we believe that the outstanding differences between all the countries of the world could be settled by peaceful means. I was very sorry that when this Declaration of Strasbourg was put before the Assembly, an hon. Gentleman opposite attempted to stifle the discussion. In the end the Declaration was approved almost unanimously. It must be our task in the Council of Europe not only to promote those agencies which will make Western Europe strong but also to pursue those policies which will have the result that the threatened war which none of us wants will not in fact come about.
For that reason I want to turn to a proposal which was initiated by the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) at the last Session, and which should be resisted by my own party and by His Majesty's Government. It was a proposal to set up an East Europe committee, the idea being that we would invite émigrés from countries beyond the Iron Curtain to take part in the committee and give us their advice—as the resolution puts it—to make sure that the interests of the countries of East Europe are considered in all the decisions taken by the Council of Europe.
I yield to no one in my sympathy with those who are refugees from the other side of the Iron Curtain and I believe that 1475 the noble Lady opposite, in her speech about the Refugee Organisation, commanded the support of all parties not only in Strasbourg but in this House as well; but the reason I oppose the setting up of an East Europe Committee in Strasbourg is that experience before the war teaches us that such a committee of emigrés always becomes an unhealthy focus of irredentism.
No one can say that these emigrés are representative and no one can say that they are delegated to speak in the Assembly, and consequently I feel that it would be a most dangerous precedent, inviting the most deplorable consequences, if we were to set up such a committee which would give access to our deliberations to all manner of people of dubious qualification in many cases. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will himself oppose the setting up of such a committee. I would only add that if the Convention of Human Rights is to be the context of our deliberations, then indeed the interests of those people beyond the Iron Curtain cannot fail to be considered in all our deliberations.
To turn for a moment to the question of defence, it is quite true that the matter of defence is ultra vires as far as the Statute is concerned, but nevertheless there is nothing in the Statute which says that we must not discuss defence. Indeed, it would make the Council of Europe the academic debating society which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) mentioned if we were to exclude from our discussions those matters which affect all of us most deeply. While I talk of defence, I am thinking not simply of armed defence but of the economic defence of Western Europe, and I must say that, despite all the promise of our opening discussions, we have failed in the Council of Europe to make that progress towards a real combination of our resources which many of us had expected.
For example, we recognise that if Western Europe has a collective interest in defence, the situation requires that there should be harmonised economic action. There should be standardisation, there should be specialisation in production, there should be a combined allocation of resources, and there should be 1476 combined purchasing; and yet all those activities and consideration of what should be done to make those activities effective is now dispersed through three agencies. There are the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the Brussels Pact Organisation and the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation. Each of these has the valuable help of officials, but they lack the support of parliamentary opinion behind them, which they should have.
Before I conclude. I want to make one positive suggestion which I feel will help the Council of Europe most effectively to support the general defence arrangements of Western Europe. I should like to see the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation transformed into a specialised agency of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, even if it means the detachment from it of those Powers which at the present time are not members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. This new organisation, absorbing the various North Atlantic Treaty Organisation economic committees, could then be affiliated to the Consultative Assembly. The Ministers could then submit for debate in the Assembly matters of fundamental importance to the economic defence of Europe, such as the location of industry, the allocation of manpower and setting up—as was proposed by some Socialists and one enlightened Conservative—a European manpower board. Put before the Assembly by the Committee of Ministers, these subjects could win the support of parliamentary opinion and could then be handed over to the transformed O.E.E.C. for action. It is only in that way that we can rationalise the multitude of committees.
I conclude by saying that what the Council of Europe needs is not more ideas but more effective ideas. We have had innumerable resolutions before us. One of the problems of the Council has been—if I may repeat a word used on the other side of the House—to "screen" the resolutions, to try to reduce them to those which are immediately useful and those which can be put into practical effect immediately. I believe that in due course we shall achieve a definite and valuable harmony between the Committee of Ministers and the Council of Europe.
In 1949 the Consultative Assembly, thinking itself destined to be a legislative 1477 body, suffered from a form of megalomania which resulted in the Committee of Ministers putting it into a political strait-jacket, but I am glad to say that from being a warder the Committee of Ministers has in time become what Mr. MacBride last August in Strasbourg called "a kind of nanny." I hope that with time that role will undergo a further modification and that we shall then be able to talk of co-operation between the Consultative Assembly and the Committee of Ministers in which their relations will be those of harmonious consorts.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
We have had one of the most astonishing debates that I, certainly, and I think a good many other hon. Members, have ever listened to. If nothing else, this debate has shown the immense value of party politics. There have been very few speeches on either side of the House made in accordance with party political principles for which hon. Members are supposed to stand. I do not in those remarks include my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) who opened the Debate, but in listening to the opening speech from the Under-Secretary I wondered where he stood; because surely, if Socialism ceases to be international, it can only become one other thing and that is national Socialism.
The whole of the Speech of the Under-Secretary of State seemed to me to be based essentially on a national Socialist policy. If one remembers the famous Dalton "Brown Paper" on the future of Europe, there is no question about it that in that document Socialism was to be the desirable form of political organisation in Europe and other countries. In fact Socialism is still being preached as the official policy of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Yet when it comes to trying to apply that they take the line of national Socialism. The difficulty in which I find myself is that I am, before anything else, a nationalist. I believe in trying to put my own country first and therefore I feel myself in sympathy with many of the actual steps recommended by right hon. Gentlemen for the Council of Europe. But I am certainly not in sympathy with any form of Socialism, and therefore I am in a slight difficulty.
The extraordinary part about this debate seems to me to be the purpose of it. 1478 According to the Order Paper, the purpose is to take note of the proceedings at Strasbourg. Inside this House the definition of "take note" is rather different from the definition outside. When the Government ask the House to take note of something it is presumably to try to draw the attention of the House to something which they feel worthy of consideration; not necessarily endorsing every aspect of it, but at least showing some kindly disposition towards it. But the speech of the Under-Secretary of State can, to my mind, only have one object, and that is to try to discourage anybody from taking any notice of any resolution in the document.
The performance from the other side of the House today has been truly astonishing. The hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), took a very different line from that of the Under-Secretary. When he said that the Labour Party has not been any obstruction to the idea of federation, surely he cannot have been listening to the speech of his hon. Friend, for his hon. Friend said that federation was out so far as the British Government were concerned. I agree that the hon. Member admitted that if someone else liked to federate inside Europe that was another matter, but no one can say, as a result of what was said by the Under-Secretary, that the Labour Government have come out strongly in favour of federation.
§ Mr. Edelman
I said that the Labour representatives at the Council of Europe were in favour of a functional approach and opposed to federation. But if countries on the Continent wished themselves to achieve federation by themselves we should not oppose it, but would look on them with benevolent neutrality.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
That is the opinion of the hon. Member for Coventry, North as to the policy of his own party. I hope that the Government spokesman who is to wind up the debate will endorse or deny that that is the policy, because at the present moment the Government certainly do not know; and if this debate does nothing else I hope it will clear up that matter.
This White Paper appears to be a unique document, in that it is printed on 1479 no Command, the printer is not mentioned and the name of His Majesty's Stationery Office does not appear on it. It seems to me that if this ever became a public document, it would be an illegal one. As to my attitude towards it, I want to make it clear that I am in favour of the Council of Europe. If we are either to praise or to blame the Council of Europe we ought to be careful to give credit to the right people who brought it about. The opening speech for the Government seemed to me to claim credit for things they did not do and to throw the blame for the things that went wrong, and of which they were directly the cause, on somebody else. In fact, the whole idea of the Council of Europe was soft pedalled. There were, indeed, in the opening speech of the hon. Gentleman signs of considerable embarrassment that the Council of Europe existed at all.
I am in favour of the Council of Europe, but I am in favour of it only on one set of terms, and that is that it remains as a council and does not become an international pressure group. There seems to be very real danger of it becoming an international pressure group. I am very disturbed by one particular phrase which appears both in the preamble and in Recommendation 1. In the preamble they reaffirm and in the recommendation the Council states that it has reaffirmedits desire for the institution of a European Political Authority with limited functions hut real powers ….I am one of the hon. Members who have spoken so far who is not a member of the Assembly. Therefore I can only assume that when the recommendations and resolutions are passed they are passed on the basis of a majority opinion; that all hon. Members who are members of the Council automatically accept that as the majority view and are prepared to support it. If that is not so, it really makes the whole business a complete farce. I can only assume that all delegates to the General Assembly who are also Members of this House are automatically committed to the terms of the resolutions as they are printed here.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I note that the hon. Gentleman denies that. Again, I hope that we shall have some clarification. I am certain that in the minds of many people it is the view that everybody stands committed to the terms of these resolutions.
What we have listened to today has been a prolongation of many of the debates at Strasbourg when these resolutions were discussed. I suggest very humbly, without any criticism of the Chair, that if we are to debate these recommendations in this House there ought to be sufficient time for a true cross-section of hon. Members who did not go to Strasbourg to air their views. I consider that a one-day debate in which to cover all the many subjects over which these resolutions and recommendations rove seems entirely inadequate, especially when one considers that we debated the King's Speech for four days. We have to cram into one short debate all these many topics when the one mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) would be sufficient to occupy us for the whole of the clay. I hope that in future sufficient time will be allowed for other hon. Members who are interested in what happens at Strasbourg but who did not go there, to have their full say.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I should like to make it clear to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that an attempt was made at Strasbourg to commit everybody who was present to support in his own national assembly the resolutions that were passed. We on this side of the House specifically got it on the record that we did not accept that interpretation of the decisions at Strasbourg, and we were not committed to them.
§ Mr. Sandys
I do not think the Minister put the position quite correctly. What was suggested and passed at Strasbourg was that delegates to the Assembly were asked to undertake to support in their own parliaments the resolution for which they themselves had voted at Strasbourg. That is a different thing from saying that they undertook to support resolutions which had been passed possibly against their vote.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Clearly, one would not expect them to be committed to resolutions against which they had voted.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for clearing up that matter. Let us suppose that every Member who attended the Assembly debate on the first recommendation considers that it ought to be implemented. That recommendation re-affirms the desire for the institution of a European political authority. In future this will raise a vital problem for every hon. Member who is, or desires to be a delegate to the Assembly. If a political authority is established, there is not much purpose in setting it up unless one expects all those who submit to the authority to owe allegiance to it.
When we become hon. Members of this House we swear an Oath of Allegiance to His Majesty. I should like to remind hon. Members what they say when they take that oath. I know that all do not take it in the same form, but the majority take this oath:I …whoever he is—do swear that I will he faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King George, his heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.If we are going to establish a European political authority, if hon. Members are to go to the Council of Europe when that political authority is set up—if the Council of Europe is to become a political authority, and I do not know what is in the minds of hon. Members, although I do not think it matters very much—how can they possibly have these two close allegiances?
It is inevitable that there will be an allegiance to the political authority, and yet hon. Members who may go from this House to that authority, or work under that authority, are, themselves already pledged to allegiance to His Majesty. Is the idea in the minds of hon. Members who supported this particular recommendation, which involves the setting up of a European political authority, that allegiance to the Crown should be secondary to allegiance to that authority, and, if so, does not that automatically make the allegiance to the British Crown of all hon. Members who go from this House subservient to that other allegiance? If, on the other hand, they do not think that 1482 allegiance to the Crown should be subservient to their allegiance to the Europeon political authority, is it not inevitable that hon. Members of this House will have a divided allegiance? I hope that hon. Members who are greatly in favour of the Council of Europe and of the setting up of a European political authority will bear in mind this very serious question.
§ Mr. Hoy (Leith)
I am grateful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for giving way. Is he aware that that was the position proposed by hon. Members from this side of the House, and that it was the position accepted at Strasbourg on behalf of the Conservative Party by the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys)? I am quite certain that the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) would not disagree with that statement.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
If my hon. and gallant Friend will allow me, the hon. Member for Reading, North (Mr. R. Mackay) proposed the resolution stating that the Assembly was in favour of that political authority with limited functions but real powers, and that resolution was accepted unanimously. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] My recollection is that it was certainly accepted nemine contradicente.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas (Leicester, North-East)
That was not quite the position. There were people who voted against, knowing what these resolutions were. The right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) got up and gave an explanation which seemed to me quite contrary to what my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, North (Mr. R. Mackay) meant by the resolution
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I think this little interchange will at least bear out the point which I made earlier, that we have had very little time in which to debate all the proceedings at Strasbourg.
I do not want to delay the House in this particular debate, but it may, perhaps, have crossed the minds of some hon. Members that this matter does not really arise in regard to the Council of Europe because it does not arise in the case of U.N.O. I think there is this very great difference between the two. In U.N.O., there is no political authority. The United Nations organisation is a coordinating organisation which permits 1483 the representatives of governments to discuss various matters of common interest and come to decisions jointly. But U.N.O. has no specific political powers, whereas a political authority would have. Therefore, I think the question does arise, and I hope we shall bear in mind that every power which a political authority has or is to have must automatically take from the King in Parliament—the supreme political authority in Britain—the supreme part of his powers. Therefore, I hope we shall have a clarification of what exactly the position is there.
Having been interrupted so often in the course of my speech. I simply cannot include all the points I wished to raise, but I want to say one or two words on the matter of European defence. It seems to me that in these resolutions and recommendations there is a looseness of phraseology which has caused a great deal of confusion in this Debate and outside as well. So far as the actual recommendation is concerned in which a desire for a European Army is expressed, the phrase used there is "a unified European Army." That is in Recommendation 5. But, to my mind, there is a world of difference between a unified army and a combined army. I must frankly confess that I am not in favour of a unified army, but I am in favour of a combined army or the combined forces of the representatives in that army.
If we are to have a Minister of Defence for Europe, then he has to be responsible to somebody. To whom can he be responsible save a political authority? Because I oppose a political authority, I must oppose the setting up of a European Minister of Defence. I believe we want a combined army, a united army perhaps, but certainly a combined army, truly representative of all the countries of Western Europe, and I include Germany in those countries.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South, said that it was sometimes a question of choosing the lesser of two evils. I would say that, in this particular case, it was a question of choosing between hope and certainty, the certainty being that unless we do bring Germany into the Western defences she will go into the Eastern if ever Russia comes West. Therefore, we must bring Germany in somehow. I believe we can 1484 best do that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South, recommended, by re-establishing S.H.A.E.F., standing this time for Atlantic and European Forces. Do not let us have a Minister of Defence responsible to a political authority which is going to involve duplication or an alteration of sworn allegiances.
I still reaffirm what I said in the previous Debate which we had on the Schuman Plan, that there is a very real danger to this country and to the Commonwealth in that plan as it is developing. There was a very interesting and important article in "The Times" on 2nd October, from which I wish to quote. It said:All member countries must at once abolish any tariffs against each other in respect of coal and steel products; and it is understood that the definition of these products for the purposes of the treaty is extremely wide, an important advance since the last report." —that is a matter of opinion—The six countries must forthwith negotiate with countries with whom they have favoured-nation clauses, so that an exception can be made in respect of the 'complex.'A little later it said:The tariffs of the 'complex' must he based on those of the members with the lowest tariffs—namely, the Benelux countries.Later still, it said:But all members are to enjoy in the dependent territories of any of their number the same preference as is enjoyed by that member.I should require nothing else to prove my case that the Schuman proposals are very dangerous indeed for the British Commonwealth and, personally, I think that we are well out of that.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Mitchison (Kettering)
Time is short but I wish to make one protest. I do not think a single day is enough for the proper discussion of these subjects, particularly when such a discussion can range as wide as it has, quite rightly and properly, ranged today. I think my side of the usual channels have made a very bad bargain, because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) guaranteed that:All resolutions of the Assembly will be brought before the House of Commons for discussion on their merits … and for that purpose we shall use the facilities at the disposal of the official opposition.If I had to buy a pig, I would make a better bargain than that.
1485 I want to say one or two words about the Convention on Human Rights. I should like also to join sincerely, and without reservation, in the tributes paid to the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe), not only for what he said and the work he did in the Assembly, but for the way in which he conducted the work of the committee of which he and I were members and of which he was chairman. He showed complete impartiality, a great deal of tact and, perhaps most important of all, a deep devotion to the common objects so many of us had in mind in that matter.
I hope that when what is substantially the version that was prepared by the Ministers, on advice, and submitted to the Assembly at the beginning of its session this year, comes back to the Assembly again, those who have considered it will remember two things. One is that it is described in the preamble—the only part of this Convention which got through the whole of the Council of Europe with hardly a single dissentient voice—as a first step. The other is that the points of difference have not been decided by the Ministers but, quite rightly, they have been put aside for further consideration, because complete and immediate agreement did not appear possible.
I hope, too—and I share the hope that has been expressed from other quarters of the House—that His Majesty's Government will go as far as they possibly can, not merely by acceding to the Convention and, therefore, accepting the jurisdiction of the Committee of Ministers, which is to act, in substance, as a non-legal court for consideration and conciliation, but also, if they can find it possible, by submitting to the jurisdiction of the International Court, bearing in mind that what they have now to consider does not include individual petitions but is simply the assertion and enforcement of certain elementary and obvious rights between one Government and another.
That is all I have to say on that matter, but, before I sit down, I should like to make one or two observations about the Assembly itself. It is a young body and, in my opinion, it has not found its feet in any way yet. Its procedure is lamentable and those who are interested in further details might read an extremely interesting article on that subject by Lord Campion in "The Times" this morning.
1486 The discussion is tar too wide. It has all sorts of other disadvantages. Perhaps the most obvious one is that it is composed of Member of Parliament who have Parliamentary duties elsewhere and can only attend for one month in a year. Therefore, it never can be either an executive authority in any sense of the word or, in my opinion, anything remotely resembling a Parliament of Europe.
The second obvious point, which has not been mentioned today, is that many countries which are members of the Council of Europe contain a large proportion of Communist voters, both Communist trade unionists and other Communists, within their frontiers. There is not a single Communist in the Assembly, and to that extent it is not a representative assembly. Next, it has no money to spend, and I noticed while I was there that during the whole of its discussions ranging over the widest possible fields, money was only mentioned once, and that was by my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton) who said a few forceful things about miners' earnings in the 'thirties. Therefore, this body can exercise only the very limited functions which have been given to it. It is not competent to discuss matters of national defence. But it represents a great deal of feeling in many countries, not excluding our own—a feeling that is very strong in European countries and which showed itself very obviously in that Assembly. Feeling like that cannot be ignored.
What I suggest respectfully, both to the Consultative Assembly and to His Majesty's Government in their dealing with it, is this. Encourage it, more perhaps than it has been encouraged in the past. The best encouragement we can give it is to adopt Mr. Sean MacBride's metaphor: "If you have got to deal with a rather unruly child, give it some work to do." Instead of letting it roam all over the place from one resolution to another, give it enough to do, and let it do it. When the Assembly has been given something to do, the results have been really useful. The Convention on Human Rights was one of those things, and I am not going to take up the time of the House by going through the others.
If hon. Members will look at what was put by the Ministers before the Consultative Assembly, and at the action which 1487 was taken on it, they will find that they had in fact selected by far the most useful and practical things that the Consultative Assembly did, including, for instance, some of the action which was mentioned tonight in connection with refugees. Therefore, I urge the Government, and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in particular, to use their enormous influence in the Council of Europe to see that this body is not neglected but is given definite work to do of the type it can do. If it shows itself worthy of that task, then let its functions be increased.
One last point before I conclude. I hope that the Consultative Assembly and some right hon. and hon. Members opposite will remember that there is all the difference in the world between Europe, on the one hand, and the Western world, on the other. We look, as it were, in three directions, not only to Europe but also across the Atlantic and towards our own Dominions in many parts of the world. We can never be wholly European. We ought to remind the Assembly that there are such things as the Atlantic Treaty, an Atlantic organisation, Dominion rights and Dominion preferences—I am not merely talking about money preferences—and it is our responsibility to link up this body with our own obligations and duties towards the rest of the like-minded world.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)
May I first thank the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) for the kind references which he has made, and which other hon. Members have also made, to some work of mine? I want to turn from that acknowledgement on my part to what I consider to be the important aspect of this Debate. Today we are discussing in the British House of Commons what has taken place at Strasbourg. Tomorrow they start a debate on the same subject in the French Chamber. On Wednesday it will be discussed in another place, and in the Bundestag of the German Federal Republic. This week, therefore, the observer, wherever he may be standing, whether he be friendly or hostile, will have the chance of seeing and collating the views of the representatives of nearly 150 million Europeans on these steps in co-operation.
1488 I hope hon. Members will believe that it is in no spirit of one speaking from the inside to the outside that I say I think it is one of the most difficult aspects of modern Parliamentary life to keep abreast with the flood of material which comes in on every side. It has been clear from the debate today that hon. Members keenly interested in this matter are learning for the first time, certainly the nuances, and in many cases the general lines, of what has taken place. I think it is a very good beginning, and I hope that hon. Members generally who have not been at the meetings of the Council of Europe will get out of their heads the idea that those of us who go are cranks or have preconceptions of one kind or another. One is keen on European cooperation—but nobody in this Debate has declared the contrary. I believe, and I have tried to follow it—and whether I have succeeded or not is a different matter—that it is essential that one should not support in the Assembly anything which one is not prepared to put before, and support in, this House, and also to put before one's constituents. As I say, that is my aim. How near I approach my aim, I do not pretend for a moment to judge.
May I indicate how this Debate has come about? As has been said, a vast number of recommendations are made and resolutions are passed, but we have invented the procedure by which the Standing Committee and the officers of the Assembly make a selection of the most important resolutions, and these go for discussion in the Committee of Foreign Ministers and the Assembly. The Foreign Ministers then give their views upon them. I very much hope that these debates will more and more become debates on the resolutions, instead of either on the general view of the Council or on the view of what various personalities have done in regard to the resolutions; that, after all, is the important matter.
I should like to say a few words on the difficult question of the federal and the functional approach. It is undoubtedly true that there are these two schools of thought. There are those who believe that some sort of federal union or constitutional union should be the first step. I have always disagreed with this. On the other hand there are those, to whom I have given my unqualified support, who 1489 believe that the way to greater union is the common attack on varied problems and the function of co-operation inherent in their solution. The interesting point is that our continental friends who started as convinced federalists have all been prepared to give the functional method its chance.
I believe that that calls from us, in reply, the necessity of stating that the duty of the supporters of the functional approach is not over when he says he disapproves of federation. That is merely negative. He has got to seek out the common tasks which can be tackled together, and, having sought them out, to put his whole heart and soul into finding a solution. Nothing can be worse than a functionalist without a function. He is not even a sounding brass or a tinkling symbal. He is a brass and a cymbal without either sound or tinkle. That is one of the dangers—I put it frankly to the right hon. Gentleman—of European opinion with regard to us, when they say, "All right, we agree to your functional approach; but come on—show us the functions you are going to deal with, and show us what steps you are going to take."
The other point I wish to make is that technocracy is not enough. European gatherings of officials, with a Minister occasionally coming, taking place behind closed doors, are not enough to demonstrate to the parliamentary and public opinion of Europe what is necessary, and therefore I do not think that we must be ready to place too much importance on that if our true desire is to mobilise public opinion in favour of co-operation. These are the points which I put forward in criticism of the Government: first, that they have not been clear and instant in choosing their functions and pressing the solution of these problems home; and secondly, that they have relied too much on the technocratic gatherings in order to demonstrate what they have done.
I want to say only a word about the functioning of the Council of Europe itself. The original attitude, of course, was clear. The Ministers, on the one side, wished the Assembly to be limited to the most harmless subjects of discussion; the Assembly, on the other side, wanted to discuss everything in the world and beyond; and there was what I consider to have been a perfectly healthy clash on that point. I have been a Minister myself, but I always remember what 1490 I heard, when I was a Government back bencher, from a Minister in a moment of expansion and frankness. Somebody had suggested that the Government back benchers could help the Government with constructive criticism. The Minister said, "David, Ministers do not want constructive criticism. They want support."
There was quite a considerable element of that feeling. We did try to meet it by establishing a joint committee, on which the right hon. Gentleman and his deputy sat for the Committee of Ministers, and on which I have had the honour to sit for the Assembly since its conception. That joint committee has tried to discuss the matter and arrive at a modus vivendi in the difficulties between the two bodies. May I make one suggestion about that committee? When the right hon. Gentleman or his deputy come to the joint committee with a feeling that some line has got to be maintained, that should be put to the committee and discussed there. What is rather inimical to the smooth working of the committee is if the Assembly put forward suggestions which are received in comparative silence and later turned down by the Committee of Ministers. We should try to cultivate greater and freer discussion at that time, because I believe that would be very helpful. Of course, it is conceivable, though highly improbable, that the representatives of the Assembly might even change the views with which the Ministers have come.
My second point concerns the veto or, as the Under-Secretary put it, the Committee of Ministers acting by common consent. I do ask the Foreign Secretary to reconsider his attitude on that, because where, as has happened in many cases, there is a majority of 10 to five, or 11 to four, or 12 to three, those three are able, even on a secondary point, to hold up the wishes of the 12, and on an enormous range of subjects we are thus placing an unnecessary road block on the path of progress. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the Committee of Ministers will consider amendments to the Statute. I hope that the machinery for considering them will encounter no delay, and that we shall reach the period which is envisaged of discussion between the two parts of this body as to what amendments may be made.
1491 With regard to an interjection I made, when I had an interchange of views with the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Ungoed-Thomas), my recollection is quite clear. Obviously I shall not bicker with anyone on a matter of recollection which we can check. I thought the resolution was carried unanimously. However, as it was 14 months ago we will check it and I shall deal with it no more today.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
It was certainly carried, and if it was not unanimous there must have been an enormous majority.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
Then I will leave it in that way.
The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) asked me to deal with the question of the European Army, and I should first like to make the position clear on that resolution. The Assembly had been asked by the Committee of Ministers, not only to express its view on the aggression in Korea but to give the answer to that aggression in Korea, and it gave a ringing answer to that aggression by passing the resolution in favour of a European Army.
In doing so, it carried out one of its main functions, which is the focusing of public opinion on the important points of the hour. After all, it is almost universally accepted that one prerequisite of peace is to create such strength as will discourage the potential aggressor, and the resolution made it clear that it was the overwhelming opinion of democratic Europe that action should be taken. I do urge this: One cannot get divisions, tanks or aeroplances unless public opinion is behind their creation. It was that rallying and expression of public opinion which, in my view, constituted the importance of the resolution. It was understood, of course, by everyone, including the German delegates, that the European Army should contain German contingents. The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw questioned the practicability of the resolution.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I was questioning something entirely different. I questioned the idea of the European Army mooted by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and that was what I was really attacking.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
That seems to me, with great respect, to have a strange irrelevance. The question was whether it was a good idea, and I gathered from the right hon. Gentleman that he did not consider that it was a good idea. Let me remind him of the passage of events.
My right hon. Friend proposed a resolution on 11th August of this year. On 19th September—that is, rather less than six weeks after—the Three Power Conference of Foreign Ministers—the occupation Foreign Ministers—agreed to revise the terms of the occupation of Germany and said:While fully agreed that the creation of another Reichswehr would not serve the best interests of Germany or Europe, take note of the sentiments expressed in Germany and elsewhere in favour of including a German contingent in an integrated form for the defence of European freedom.On 20th September—the day after—the North Atlantic Council announced a five-point plan for setting up an integrated European defence force to which Germany should be able to contribute. On 31st October—some five weeks later—the defence Ministers of the Atlantic Treaty Powers re-affirmed the importance, subject to adequate safeguards, of a German contribution to the building up of the defence of Europe. They referred the matter to the Council's Deputies and the Military Committee for their study.
When the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw today talked in a disparaging way about both the French and the Germans, I think that he was wrong. I believe from my heart that he is wrong. I say that it is cheering to those who take my view that, within six weeks of my right hon. Friend moving that resolution, we had these executive bodies saying what I have read to the House with regard to the desirability of Germans being engaged in this defence.
I say to the right hon. Gentleman—and I have listened to debates on foreign affairs in this House for 16 years—that it is always easy to appear well-informed if a speaker adopts a cynical and denigrating approach to the problem. It 1493 always sounds as if he were surveying the pygmies from on high. I say that the odd thing about life, including foreign affairs, is that idealism is far more often right than cynicism. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that, if he takes another look at those who are endeavouring to restore France, and another look at the politicians who are trying to create democratic working in Germany, and who have said that they do not want a national army but they do want to contribute to European defence, it is not hopeless and that one can—and, after all, I have studied this fairly carefully—sublimate German feelings for things military in the service of European and Western freedom. I do not see any other way in which we can look forward hopefully to the improving and securing of our freedom today.
The right hon. Gentleman then attacked my right hon. Friend for not having provided the figures. Again, the right hon. Gentleman is singularly out of date. I will not say that he howled, because he speaks with a charming voice, but he repeatedly asked for the figures. The fact is that my right hon. Friend gave them on 12th September, and if he looks at column 988 of HANSARD, he will find that they are there. If he is going to attack people for not being sufficiently correct, it is a usual prerequisite to find out just what they have said.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman rather mistook my point. My attack was mainly directed at the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). I even went so far as to say that I wondered if he was expressing the same point of view as that held by the Leader of the Opposition.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I listened with the greatest care, as I always do, to what the right hon. Gentleman said. I think he will find, when he comes to read the cold print of HANSARD, that I have answered the points made. May I now say a word about the Convention on Human Rights?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I do not know whether the hon. and learned Member was in his place when my right hon. 1494 Friend dealt with that, but I have adopted, substantially, what he said in regard to infra-structure. The first thing that is necessary is that the Committee of Ministers should appoint, if I may be colloquial, a "managing director" to deal with this problem. That must be done, because we have to fit, whatever our view may be as to the ultimate structure—this is the problem staring us in the face—the nations that are not members of the North Atlantic Pact into the work that the others are doing. It would be a great pity to start a new machinery. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) has intimated one important negative consideration. He wants the House to understand that he is not a candidate for the office of European Minister of Defence.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas
That is not, of course, the objection to the point made. We want to know to what political body the Minister of Defence is to be responsible. We take the view that it implies federation. I want to know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman adopts that view.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I specifically do not, and I am very grateful to the hon. and learned Member for having raised that point. I wish to make it clear that what I was indicating was that the Minister ought, through the Committee of Ministers, to be responsible on an inter-governmental level. It is quite unnecessary to take the step of federation in order to get that sort of co-operation.
With regard to the Convention of Human rights we are anxious—and I do not think that this is limited to hon. Members on this side of the House—to know the reasons which caused the omission of the right of free elections from the Convention as it ultimately appeared. There was never the slightest difficulty in the Assembly. We had disturbances on many points but never any on that, and it is a right which could be easily enforced and which, of course, has its individual aspect.
Secondly, with regard to the right of individual complaints, about which there was not the same unanimity, we tried very hard to meet the position of the Ministers and we carried the Greek delegates with us on that point. We suggested that unfettered right of individual complaint 1495 should be limited to the rights which are maintained even in time of war—freedom from official murder, tortures, slavery and retroactive penal legislation.
I should like to give one aspect of the work of the Assembly which brings home its good qualities. We had great difficulty, as hon. Gentlemen will remember, with regard to the rights of property and the rights of parents with regard to the education of their children. As Chairman of the Legal Committee I appointed a subcommittee consisting of a Belgian Socialist, a French Catholic, a Free-thinking French Radical and a Dutch Protestant. That Committee achieved solutions of the problem—[Laughter.] I would ask the hon. and learned Member to take this seriously for a moment——
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas indicated assent.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
They achieved solutions of that difficult problem which were carried by large majorities consisting of all political parties and nationalities in the Committee and in the Assembly. Three of those whom I appointed were ex-Ministers of Justice. I put that to the House as a practical example of co-operation which leads to useful results.
There is only one other matter which I should like to emphasise, because I must not stand between the right hon. Gentleman and the House. There was a general feeling in the Assembly, strong among British delegates of all parties but also strong among our continental friends, that we should try to introduce the people from the overseas territories of all countries to observe the work of the Assembly. Invitations have been sent to Parliaments of all the British overseas territories, through the Colonial Office in the appropriate cases, and similar action will be taken with regard to those of other countries. This is important because the statesmen of all political parties in practically all of our Dominions have already expressed their support of the idea of the Council. I am sure that when we have established that closer contact, this support will become even stronger.
The success of the Council in the future depends, in my view, on three things: leadership, understanding and responsibility. Leadership, as I see it, is the answer to the challenge of our time. To tackle and, if possible, to solve the functional problems of the European 1496 world, we must show that defence, supply, heavy industry, human rights, refugees—to take the examples that are in these resolutions—can be solved by co-operative efforts. In attempting the solution, and all the more if we find the solution, we believe that we will increase the union of the peoples of Europe far more successfully than by abortive attempts at federation.
The second is understanding. I should like to stress the value to me personally, and I am sure to every delegate, of the intangible results of the meetings, discussions and friendships which we have all made at Strasbourg with people of practically every nationality.
The third is responsibility. As I have said, I believe that that consists in constantly remembering that we must only advocate at Strasbourg—that is the critical point of it—what we are prepared to support among our own political friends in this House and to our constituents. The exercise of those qualities, in my humble belief, will not only make Strasbourg a success but it will give the Continent of Europe the guidance and inspiration it so ardently desires.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Ernest Bevin)
Any Minister who has the task of dealing with a problem of this character cannot but be encouraged by the speech to which we have just listened, in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) brought to bear his usual thoughtful mind and adopted the objective approach for which we know him so well.
This question of the building of a Council of Europe has agitated many minds for a great many years. It has not only sprung up in the world of politics and statesmanship; it has also exercised the minds of many other people, trade unionists and social thinkers, who have been thrown at each other and have torn each other to pieces in the days that are gone. If I may say so in passing, I remember that at the end of the 1914–18 war three of us journeyed to Amsterdam to try to bring together the shattered wreck of the European trade union movement, which had proved a great unifying force in spite of many difficulties. We laboured away for nearly a fortnight and we made little progress.
1497 The British section proceeded to draft a constitution for the international transport workers, on the basis of grouping, that is to say, dockers, seamen, and so on, in their respective trades. We got all the people to go into separate rooms and to meet as trades and not as nations. Within a few hours agreement was achieved. That body has functioned ever since, and even war failed to break it up. I have found in my international work, which now extends over a long period, since 1913, that when we failed to get people to co-operate on racial or even on national lines, we could get them to agree if we brought them together on the job they were doing, on the actual day-to-day work in which they were engaged.
Somehow or another there was a different attitude if we could get them to discuss it on that footing. Whenever we got into difficulties of that kind in the movement with which I was proud to be associated, that was the approach we made. As Minister of Labour in the Coalition Government, when I was looking forward to what might happen at the end of the war, I got my colleagues in the International Labour Office to set up a series of industrial committees, and I am happy to say that I am told that they are doing good work at the present moment in bringing together those in textiles, mines and the various other industries. We are not sufficiently far from the end of the war for the economic strands to be woven together yet, but it is in process, and I am told that sooner or later this will produce very good results.
But there is no one method alone by which we can achieve this unity. Whether it is professions, whether it is Parliament or whoever it is with whom one is dealing, one has to study the psychological background and see what is the best method and by what means one can bring the people together with a likelihood of getting agreement. When I took this Office and approached the European problem, there was Europe—a wreckage. I had hopes—perhaps I was foolish—that, with the devastation of the whole of Europe staring us in the face, it might have been possible to find a basis of co-operation at least in the economic field. Such was the terrific destruction of the war and the suffering which the people were enduring, that it really 1498 shocked one that people would not gather to discuss economic matters, even if they could not agree politically, to try to save their people from any more suffering by turning our available resources to the best account.
Perhaps one of the greatest contributing factors to this end was the action of the United States, ourselves, the Dominions and some of the other more progressive countries in establishing U.N.R.R.A. I never let an occasion go by without paying my tribute to the healing effect of the U.N.R.R.A. distribution through that terrible period. Europe itself, and, indeed, a good deal of the East, might have been far worse off if it had not been for the pouring out of that money and the distributing of our available resources. As the war ended we tried to the best of our ability to bring together what resources we could get to help the different countries. Perhaps the first tentative step—it had to be tentative because none of us had lots of gifts to pour out—was the attempt to restore the joint economy of France and this country.
We tried to bind up the broken strands in the liberated countries and elsewhere in Europe. The object we had in mind was sooner or later to achieve co-ordinated action in Europe as a beginning, but we knew full well that unless we advanced along the road which ultimately brought the Atlantic countries and the North American countries together in close bonds we should not succeed in our effort. We proceeded on these economic lines up to the end of 1947, and then the task was made easier by the Marshall Plan. I beg this House not to do anything which will weaken, destroy or even confuse O.E.E.C. One cannot see yet what shape or form it would take, and I am against recklessly or thoughtlessly transferring its functions to any other body. No one can read the Gray Report without realising that the United States of America has fairly profound ideas about further aid for Europe.
We may get into a position—I do not say we shall, I hope we shall not—but we have to have in our minds that we may get into a position where we get disagreement—I do not know which subject to mention. If I mention defence I shall be accused of saying that on defence we disagree. But it may be that on some subjects we shall get disagreements. These organs are so intricately bound up together 1499 that there is danger of wrecking all the other good things because we are involved in a dispute about one particular part of the international organisation. There are different departments to deal with in different countries and if we are careful we can bring them all together in the end; though in one set of circumstances we probably have to exercise far more tolerance and patience than in another.
O.E.E.C. has built up a very magnificent instrument. I am sure that would be endorsed by anyone in this House who has been over it and seen the experts who have been called together and the economic work they have done, and the very valuable information they can give to any Government that requires it. It is a great thing to have brought together highly professionalised people of great expert knowledge and practice in an office as a corporation, all working together in the manner they have done in O.E.E.C. It tends to produce the type of people that international effort really wants.
Marshall Aid has been looked upon as if it was not unifying Europe, or at least, shall I say, it has not been given proper credit for the unification of Europe. I think that there is nothing that has produced a greater result in the unification of European activities than O.E.E.C. has done; and it should be given credit for that. It has been suggested that we are dragging our heels because we are not ready to turn that over to the European Council. But the European Council will not be ready for such a function for some time. We really have to be realists. Whether in time it will get to that situation I am not sure, but at least for the moment it cannot be done. On the other hand, the available information and resources of O.E.E.C. ought to be placed at the disposal either of the North Atlantic Organisation or the Council when the time is ripe for it to be done.
At this point the instruments we have -created may look a little chaotic. Take the Brussels Treaty. What could anyone do? Great Britain, seeing the world as it was, unable with its own economic situation to pull Europe together as a whole, had to proceed as best it could. We proceeded with our aim and we announced it to the House in January, 1948. I am not ashamed of the work of the Brussels Treaty Powers since 1948. 1500 I think that there again the other controversy which has gone on with the Council of Europe has rather put in the shade the practical work that the Brussels Powers have done. [An HON. MEMBER: "It has done nothing."] There we have evidence of a man who does not know anything who says, "You have done nothing." That is very unfortunate. I do not think the hon. Member has been over the Brussels Organisation; I do not think he has tested it; and I doubt very much whether he knows the work it has done. Yet he says that it has done nothing. That is not a good guide to European co-operation. The Brussels Treaty Organisation has done great work in the social and cultural services. It has laid a foundation which, if the Council of Europe takes over, will provide a nucleus, a ready machine which it can use on a much wider basis. It was my hope that it would successfully achieve that as it went on.
I never anticipated that there would be controversy over the Council of Europe. I frankly confess that to the House. I thought everybody was approaching this matter with the real object of trying to do his best for a war-torn Europe. I never expected either Conservatives or anybody else to carry on home disputes across the floor in the Council of Europe. The first proposal which I put to my colleagues in Europe was for a Council of Ministers. But I was told that that would not meet those who felt that there ought to be an Assembly. That is a question of opinion.
My first suggestion to my fellow Foreign Ministers was to have a Council of Ministers, because I thought that we could prepare the ground better for an Assembly to work. But I was not wedded to it. I went back to the Cabinet and said, "This does not appear to be welcome, but we must get on." So a suggestion was made that we might combine the two. That appealed, and it appealed because we saw in it as a Cabinet a way of having a direct liaison between the Governments of Europe and the Assembly.
We were hoping that comradeship between the two would have grown up; that there would have been a direct approach and that when the Assembly had finished its work the resolutions would come on to us and be examined 1501 by the Ministers who would try to get a consensus of opinion and see if the Governments could adopt universal legislation for Europe as a whole. That was our hope. The European Movement killed it.
§ Mr. Bevin
The European Movement killed that idea. Two or three gentlemen in Europe, who were so anxious to pillory the Ministers because they did not belong to their parties at that moment, wrecked that great opportunity. I say that advisedly. A grave responsibility rests on those who did it. I am not mentioning names. I say what I said and I stick to it. The conduct of the first meeting was such that I confess I was totally bewildered. I did not know what I had done what crime I had committed; what I had said; what I had opposed. I had opposed nothing.
§ Mr. Churchill
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will cast his mind back to the year before, to The Hague Congress. At that time he used his utmost influence to have it boycotted and forbade members of the Socialist Party to attend, although personally sincerely believe that this was a matter which was very dear to their hearts.
§ Mr. Bevin
The right hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong, but I shall not go into matters which affect one's party.
I say that the time to take the test is after the Council of Europe was established and in being, and to consider what people did then It is then that policy begins to work out. When the party and everybody decided on the Council of Europe, like every other loyal member of my party I worked as hard as anybody in the country to bring it into being. Not only that, I helped to draft the constitution and did most of the negotiations with my colleagues to carry it through.
The next question which has been put by the last speaker is the question of unanimity rule. For a long time, I was doubtful about unanimity rule; I was prepared to risk it, but I could not find anyone in Europe prepared to risk it. Therefore, unanimity rule was adopted. If unanimity rule is in the Statute, it is there, and I think it ought to be honourably carried out as agreed by the Parlia- 1502 ments of Europe. But I was told that immediately it was in, steps were to be taken to try to break it immediately the Council started. We have had some trouble from this so-called European Movement, not always in the open, I am afraid, and it has been extremely difficult to carry on negotiations with this kind of semi-sabotage going on behind.
§ Mr. Bevin
The third point raised was the question of the adoption of the Convention on Human Rights. I am asked to say why this amendment was not adopted. In the main, legal questions were raised, of which I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman is aware, and we were anxious not to stop the signature of the Convention in so far as it had been agreed. It was felt—I will not say on the motion of the British Government, but on that of another representative—that, if this were further studied, agreement might be reached, and we readily agreed to that course.
So far as we are concerned, we shall go into the matter with a view to trying to get a settlement of these outstanding matters which have been held up. On this question of human rights, we have had, as we had at the United Nations, our colonial troubles and our overseas territories and many other problems, which I do not think it is wise to go into in this debate tonight. What we are trying to do is to get over the problem by a supplementary protocol arranging for a completion of that discussion, and I think that will meet what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has in mind. We have the problem of the refugees, which has been raised. I cannot give the figures asked for tonight, but we will communicate as soon as possible——
§ Mr. Churchill
I am sorry to interrupt, but with regard to the point about the Human Rights Convention, I understood that this question of the right of freedom of elections was being included and was going to be dealt with rapidly, and that very soon there would be a further decision on that point. Is that so, or have the Government staved it off for a considerable period?
§ Mr. Bevin
It will be dealt with by the Committee of Ministers at their next meeting, and that is in March. We hope by that time to have had all the inquiries made and to be able to arrive at a conclusion. So far as I understand it, there was no intention of staving it off, but there were certain legal matters raised in connection with the question. It is a very difficult problem. The Convention has to be woven into our law, and I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it is no good proceeding unless we have had pretty conclusive advice from all our legal advisers on the problem. We have had a lot of other things to do in this year as well, and I do not think we have done badly, in spite of the hindrances put in our way.
§ Mr. Emrys Roberts
Is it the intention of the Government to sign the optional clause accepting the compulsory jurisdiction of the European Court?
§ Mr. Bevin
No, we have not undertaken to sign that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] We have not undertaken at this stage to sign the optional clause. We think that in this country, with our obligations not only at home but overseas, our procedure for appeals stands very high, and we are not prepared, without further thought, to hand over those appeal rights to another body. I believe that if we proceeded to do that there would be a very keen debate in this House by hon. Members of the legal profession. Therefore, we have not agreed to sign that clause, and that is where we stand at the moment.
We believe that with an Empire like ours, it could, in certain respects, be one of the most mischievous clauses to which it is possible to be a party. Another thing is that as soon as we sign it we are committed legally in the United Nations, and a different procedure operates. Once we have signed this Human Rights Convention—I was asked today whether there would be ratification—there are no further legal steps to be taken because the signature is the ratification. With regard to 1504 the Court, we have reserved our position, and we think it very important that we should do so. The position is, therefore, that although we have not for the moment accepted these recommendations, it is still possible for them to be reconsidered, and they will be reconsidered before the meeting of the Ministers which takes place in the early part of next year.
The next point raised was about the European Army. I cannot go into all the problems of defence and satisfy the House in a few minutes, but our aim as a Government has been to make the defence as wide as possible, and for the greater to include the less. Ever since we have been in office we have striven to bring together, not only Europe, but North America as well. In the realm of defence, the building of the Atlantic Pact is now regarded by some as having been quite a simple process. All I can say is that for all those who had to go there it was not so simple with all the prejudices, difficulties, isolationism, and all the rest of it which had to be overcome.
If I may give the historical development accurately, the actual discussion of the Atlantic forces took concrete form last May. I do not want to take the credit away from anybody who says that he thought of everything first, and I will not claim it either. We are a team; we are thinking together, and when ideas are floating about in the world somebody expresses them. With regard to the Atlantic Pact, however, I am going to claim that this country played a very big part both in its initiation and in the development of that very great effort. It was brought forward because of the problems and because of the situation we had to face. Therefore I say that on the subject of the European Army we cannot now turn our attention away. The greater must absorb the less.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the deliberations
of the Council of Europe.