HC Deb 13 July 1953 vol 517 cc1711-2
41. Mr. Noel-Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will now state what proposals have been made by Her Majesty's Government to the French Government concerning United Kingdom support for the European Defence Community.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

No, Sir. Our proposals are still under discussion with the European Defence Community powers.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Since the proposals of Her Majesty's Government may well be decisive in the attitude adopted towards E.D.C. by Continental parliaments, and since they obviously affect the commitments of the United Kingdom in a very important way, would it not be of advantage if the House of Commons could be informed of them now?

Mr. Lloyd

I certainly agree that it would be an advantage if the House of Commons could be informed of these proposals, but there are six different governments concerned, with whom negotiations have to take place. As soon as those negotiations reach a stage at which publicity can be given, we certainly will inform the House.

Mr. Wyatt

Does the Minister realise that we are now reaching an intolerable situation in which the Government hide their lack of initiative and ability to make constructive proposals behind a screen of pretending that because other governments are involved they can do nothing about it, and that this has been going on for six months?

Mr. Lloyd

The supplementary question is completely inaccurate. The reason why information has not been given publicly is the one I have just explained. In good time the hon. Member will see precisely what proposals we have made and will see that there are very good reasons for the course we have pursued.

Mr. Shinwell

How can we tell if the proposals made are satisfactory unless we are told what they are? Are we to leave this matter entirely to the discretion of Her Majesty's Government? Has this assembly no right to express an opinion on these proposals?

Mr. Lloyd

I certainly agree that the House of Commons have a right to express an opinion on these proposals and in due course will be able to exercise that right, but at the moment this matter is at the discretion of Her Majesty's Government, who were charged with responsibility at the last election.

Mr. Shinwell

Does the Minister not realise that if the proposals—of which we are not yet aware—are negotiated and eventually accepted it becomes a fait accompli and we shall be asked to accept them without having opportunity to discuss them in advance?

Mr. Lloyd

That, of course, was precisely the course which was followed by the late Government in matters of international negotiation.