HC Deb 24 March 1952 vol 498 cc32-4
Mr. Eden

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and by leave of the House, I should like to make a brief statement on last week's meetings in Paris.

I travelled last week to Paris to attend a meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. This was the first occasion on which I had taken part in the work of this Organisation. We all realise that the Council of Europe has an important part to play in furthering co-operation between the countries of Western Europe.

It has, I think, been clear for some time, both in this country and elsewhere, that some changes were needed in its structure and functions to bring it up-to-date with what has happened in Europe since its inception in 1949. Since that time, there have been certain developments of major importance which bid fair to change the shape of Western Europe.

First, the European Defence Community and the Schuman Plan. Her Majesty's Government have made it plain on several occasions that they intend to associate themselves as closely as possible with these European organisations at all stages.

While these plans have been proceeding, another line of development has been taking place in the shape of the Atlantic association of States, who are achieving increasing unity of purpose and action through the machinery of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

We have been considering how the Council of Europe can best fulfil the important part which it has to play in these developments inside and outside Europe. It would clearly be a misfortune if the Council of Europe were to become, so to speak, a rival of the European Defence Community or of the Schuman Plan, or of any future European bodies of that kind.

There seemed, then, a strong need to re-examine the position of the Council of Europe and to see how it can be adopted to this new situation. I therefore put forward in the name of Her Majesty's Government certain proposals of our own.

In brief, they are that the Council of Europe should be remodelled so that it can provide the institutions called for by the Schuman Plan and the European Defence Community or any future organisation of similar structure. Of course, the Council of Europe would also continue to serve as an organisation for inter-Governmental co-operation in Western Europe. In particular, we think it valuable that the Council of Europe should continue to receive and debate periodical reports from the O.E.E.C.

As I made plain to my colleagues in the Committee of Ministers, I put forward these proposals not as a hard and fast plan but as a possible basis for our future work together. I have been greatly heartened by the sympathetic welcome which they received from the members of the Committee. They have now been accepted for detailed consideration and will be re-examined by the Committee of Ministers in May.

Mr. C. R. Attlee

Am I right in assuming that the right hon. Gentleman's statement on the Council of Europe implies that it is the intention that that Council shall continue to be purely advisory and is not on the way to becoming some kind of supra-national authority?

Mr. Eden

Our proposals were to associate the Council of Europe practically with the work of these two particular plans—the Schuman Plan and the European Defence Community. They will now consider our proposals and report back to us in May what their findings are. There will then be further discussions before the Assembly meets.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us clearly whether or not it is the intention of the Government that the Consultative Assembly should remain advisory and not get the powers of a State council?

Mr. Eden

My proposals contained no modifications of the powers of the Assembly as a whole. They are only proposals as to how these particular plans may be fitted in to some of the work of the Council.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

May we know when we are to have the proposals put before the House? Is a White Paper to be issued, and do the proposals differ from those already discussed in the Council of Europe?

Mr. Eden

I am bound to say that people said they were the first constructive proposals they had had in the Council.

Mr. E. Fletcher

Are the very important proposals which the right hon. Gentleman has announced in any way inconsistent with the wish often expressed at Strasbourg that the United States should be more closely associated with the work of the Council of Europe?

Mr. Eden

No, I do not think they are at all. My purpose was to provide useful work for the Council to do. I thought these proposals were accepted in that spirit, and I hope they will do it.

Mr. Hall

The right hon. Gentleman did not answer the first part of my question. Are we going to be told what the proposals are before they are discussed in May?

Mr. Eden

Perhaps it would be convenient if I laid them as a White Paper.

Mr. Maurice Edelman

To make the future structure of the Council clear, is it not the case that it is going to have executive powers in relation to the two institutions—the European Defence Community and the Schuman Plan—and that it is also going to be consultative in regard to the plenary session? Does not that mean that we, by our association with the reform of the Council of Europe, will, therefore, be associated with a body which now has executive powers?

Mr. Eden

The first part of the hon. Gentleman's analysis seemed admirably clear and correct, but I am not sure that I follow him entirely in his conclusion. May I suggest that I will submit these proposals for examination, when they can, of course, be discussed. There is no commitment of any kind at the present stage as they are to be examined by all the Foreign Secretaries and discussed afterwards.

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