HC Deb 05 May 1955 vol 540 cc1905-9
Mr. H. Macmillan

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I should like to make a statement on the occasion of the formal entry into force of the Paris Agreements. Her Majesty's Ambassador at Bonn—and I am happy to say that today we again have an Ambassador in Germany—is today depositing the Instruments of Ratification of the documents on the Termination of the Occupation Regime in the Federal Republic of Germany and of the Convention on the Presence of Foreign Forces in the Federal Republic. Her Majesty's Ambassadors at Brussels and Washington are also depositing today the Instruments of Ratification of the Seven Power Agreements on the Western European Union and the Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty.

As the House knows, it has long been our purpose to see German sovereignty restored and Germany welcomed again as an equal member in the fellowship of the Western democracies. This policy has had its set-backs from time to time, notably when the French Assembly last summer found itself unable to accept the European Defence Community Treaty. Nevertheless, due to the inspiration and determination of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister a fresh basis was found at the London Conference of last October, and full agreement was reached shortly afterwards in Paris. My right hon. Friend gave the House a full account of the effects of these Agreements on 25th October last year.

I only wish to mark the historic character of today's events in Bonn, Brussels and Washington. The entry into force of the Paris Agreement allows Germany to reassume the functions of a sovereign State and allows her to take her place as a full member of Western European Union and of N.A.T.O. Future generations will, I believe, look back on this day as a landmark in the history of Europe. The successful and formal conclusion of these negotiations will be greeted with relief and satisfaction by the whole free world. This is the firm base from which we can proceed to the next step. We shall now seek, together with our Allies, early discussions with the Soviet Union on the many outstanding problems which confront us all. We earnestly pray that these discussions may prove fruitful.

Mr. H. Morrison

We welcome the statement which has been made by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and we are glad that these Agreements have now been reached. Certainly a proper share of the credit is due to the Prime Minister for having assisted, in his former office, in rescuing the situation after the rejection of E.D.C. by the French Parliament. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] If I may say so, credit belongs to this side of the House, too. My friend the late Ernest Bevin initiated the policy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I myself took an active part in this matter in Washington in September, 1951. I am glad that it has now been settled.

Let us hope, Sir, that the result of this will be that Germany, whom we welcome among the sovereign States of Europe, will make a success of her democracy and will be an active and valuable partner and co-operator with the Western democracies, not for war but for the peace of the world, and that we will be able to co-operate to that end. Let us hope that there will soon be a united Germany.

I would just add the hope that now that this point is reached, which has been the subject of some controversy in the country and among politicians, Her Majesty's Government will continue to make efforts—will indeed now redouble their efforts—to get high-level talks with the Soviet Union and with other appropriate Governments with a view to effecting the unification of Germany and promoting policies that will help the peace of Europe and of the world.

Mr. Smithers

When the Council of Europe debated the situation after the collapse of the E.D.C. Treaty it was felt by members of the Council, of all parties and in all nations, that Europe itself might be on the point of collapse. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the gratitude and relief felt for the extraordinary success of the vigorous initiative of the Prime Minister which at that time made the Paris Agreements possible must extend to people of all parties throughout Europe?

Mr. Younger

I welcome the restoration of sovereignty to the Federal Republic, but will the Foreign Secretary agree that none of the arrangements so far made for the future of Germany can be regarded as anything other than provisional, if only because that is the way in which they are regarded by so many Germans? Does he agree that they are bound to have this provisional character until we can get the unification at least of the former zones of occupation? Will he, therefore, take a very early initiative setting out the sort of terms on which we think four-Power agreement for that purpose might be achieved?

Mr. Macmillan

I thank the right hon. Gentleman. Of course this marks a stage in a long journey—only a stage, but nevertheless a very important stage—upon which we hope further progress can be made. In answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), we will certainly pursue and—I think his words were—redouble our efforts in the attempt to reach conversations and discussions on a four-Power basis, among heads of Governments if possible, to achieve at any rate the foundation upon which further progress can be made.

Mr. Bellenger

The Foreign Secretary has said that on 25th October the Prime Minister stated what the effect of the Paris Agreements would be. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that no peace treaty has yet been entered into. Is it possible for him in some way or other—perhaps by the issue of a White Paper— to state precisely what are the constitutional effects of the Paris Agreements now that they have come into force, and at the same time show what remains over for the peace treaty?

Mr. Macmillan

I will certainly consider that. If the right hon. Gentleman will get in touch with me as to the precise kind of information wanted, we will see if we can get a useful document prepared.

Mr. Paget

Has the right hon. Gentleman noted, not in the German Government but in some organs of German opinion, a rather alarming inclination to accept the advantages of the Paris Agreements but to query their obligations? Would it not be as well to point out to that aspect of German opinion that the Paris Agreements stand as one and that if the burdens were rejected the sovereignty would not last for long?

Mr. Macmillan

Yes, Sir. But the tendency to accept benefits and reject obligations is not a characteristic solely of the Germans, and I should prefer to rest upon the sure loyalty of the Chancellor and the German Government.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

Could the Foreign Secretary say what are our commitments under the Paris Agreements in respect of keeping British troops on the Continent of Europe, how long those British troops will continue there, and what he expects the country's financial liability will be in that respect?

Mr. Macmillan

We debated that at very great length and very clearly. I am not sure whether we reached any fixed conclusion on all sides of the House, but at any rate there was, I think, no opposition recorded, except a very small one, to the general feeling that these results were satisfactory.

Mr. E. Fletcher

Whether or not there was opposition, does the Foreign Secretary mean that he has not yet worked out what will be the cost to the British Government of the restoration of German sovereignty for the maintenance of our troops abroad?

Mr. Macmillan

No, Sir, because negotiations are still going on about that matter.

Mr. Harold Davies

Does the Foreign Secretary realise that those of us who sincerely believe that this may have been an historic error nevertheless feel that perhaps it is not the moment to make party jibes about this decision? Will he therefore believe me, and those of us on this side, when I say that we sincerely desire that, whatever Government is returned to power after the decision of the British people has been democratically made, a wholehearted effort will be made to try to come to an understanding with the U.S.S.R., so that those great colossi, the U.S.S.R., the U.S.A. and also the British Commonwealth, may learn to live together in peace?

Mr. Macmillan indicated assent.