HC Deb 18 June 1952 vol 502 cc1184-5
29. Mr. S. Silverman

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that the Government of the Federal German Republic has been advised that it had no legal power to sign in the Republic's name the recent Contractural Agreements at Bonn; when a final judicial determination of that question is expected; and if he will give an assurance that in the event of an adverse decision Her Majesty's Government will not hold itself bound by the agreement.

Mr. Eden

Before signature of the Agreements the German Federal Constitutional Court considered and refused an application for an interim injunction to prevent the Federal Chancellor from signing them. The Federal President has now asked the Court for an advisory opinion on the question whether the ratification of the agreements would require amendment of the Constitution. It is not known when the Court's opinion on this matter will be given.

The validity of the Federal Government's signature of the agreements is not being contested before the Court. The last part of the Question does not, therefore, arise.

Mr. Silverman

Is it not true that the refusal of the interim injunction was on a purely procedural point and not on the merits of the argument? Is it not also true that the Federal German Government has since been advised by two prominent legal experts in its own country, whose opinion it sought, that it had no power under the constitution to sign the Agreements in the name of the Federal German Republic? In those circumstances, ought we not to be very careful indeed to see that we do not hold ourselves bound by an agreement by which the opposite party is not bound at all?

Mr. Eden

The position is a complicated one. It is a fact that the President has now asked the Court for certain findings as to whether or not he can sign the ratification, but that really is a matter for the Germans themselves under their constitutional law. As regards our international position, it is quite clear, because both these documents, as their texts show, are interdependent, and their coming into force depends upon their ratification by all the Powers who are signatory to them.

Mr. Bellenger

Is it not a well known fact that legal experts, not only in Germany, sometimes hold different opinions and do not always interpret the law as the courts do?

Mr. Eden

I have heard of that happening in one or two countries.

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