§ Mr. Speaker
Before I come to the Motion on the Order Paper, perhaps I ought to say, for the convenience of the House, that I have considered carefully the Amendments on the Paper standing in the names of the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas)—to leave out from "of" to the end of the Question and to add:co-operation between European and North American countries and expresses the hope that the Council of Europe will study as a matter of urgency the possibility of working with the Conference of Members of Parliament from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries with a view to amalgamating with it to form a Council of the Atlantic with a Committee of Ministers and a Consultative Assembly on the lines of those of the Council of Europe.and the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman)—to leave out from "Europe" to the end of the Question and to add:reorganised so as to include the existing agencies of European co-operation and physically transferred from Strasbourg to Paris where parliamentarians could meet conveniently to discuss any aspect of Western co-operation.The conclusion at which I have arrived is that to call either of these Amendments would unduly restrict the debate within the terms of the notice given by the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty). Therefore, I do not propose to call either of the Amendments. At the same time, however, I should like to say that the considerations to which they draw attention would be quite in order as a matter of discussion on the Motion.
§ 11.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey. East)
I beg to move,That this House recognises the important role international parliamentary assemblies have to play in the development of European co-operation, and considers that this can be most effectively fulfilled in the Council of Europe where parliamentarians could meet to discuss any aspect of western co-operation and union.A few days ago it fell to my lot in the Ballot to bring forward this Motion today. Perhaps the word "lot" is a particularly apt one in the circumstances. It spay perhaps be surprising to some people 776 that I have chosen this Motion, because I have always realised the position of Great Britain as the centre of a large and most important Commonwealth and Empire. I personally have done everything at all times that I possibly could to further and strengthen the Commonwealth and Empire. I am quite satisfied that the matters set out in the Motion further those interests and do not detract from them in any way.
A strong Britain as part of a strong and United Europe is essential to the Commonwealth and Empire, just as it is to the rest of the world. If we are weak, our Empire is weak. If Europe is divided and quarrelling, it reflects upon us and all the other countries here in Western Europe and those feelings of disunion and weakness radiate throughout the world. Therefore, it is most essential that Western Europe should be united and strong.
When we look at the map and see what a small area today is represented by Western Europe, what a small area is left on this side of the Iron Curtain, we must at times, perhaps, tremble a little. It is, however, a small but extremely vital part of the world, and it must unite and co-operate to the maximum extent. It has some of the oldest traditions and some of the oldest populations of the world. It is more densely populated than any other part of the world, except, perhaps, some parts of China, and it is the centre of a large part of the world's civilisation.
Physically, we are much closer to each other in Western Europe than we ever have been before, because of the rapid improvement in transport, both by air and by land, in the last few years. Only twenty miles separate us from the Continent and it may well be that, before the world is much older, those twenty miles of sea may even be tunnelled under by some form of railway or roadway through a tunnel so that we are, in fact, one Continent joined together. As to the possibilities of that, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State may be able to tell us when he replies, but it is a matter certainly that we in Europe must consider.
Since the war, there has been in the world undoubtedly a growing feeling of nationalism. Countries big and small, particularly small, feel that they must be 777 independent, entirely self-contained and self-supporting. That is, in fact, one of the difficulties and troubles of the postwar years. I do not believe that that feeling has made for the co-operation or strength of the nations of the world. Against that feeling there has grown up in Western Europe the idea that the countries of Western Europe must co-operate more closely. To put it in perhaps rather crude terms, we must either hang together or hang separately. I am quite certain that it is much better in those circumstances to hang together. Those countries who put their trust in neutralism or in some Third Force are only hiding their heads in the sand, and that at the expense of others.
As a result of this post-war West European movement many organisations in furtherance of it have been evolved. I start by mentioning the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe. The executive power of that Assembly rests with the Committee of Ministers, but the Assembly serves the most useful purpose. The countries which belong to it are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, the Federal German Republic, Greece, Iceland, Southern Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. We can see that as it has grown already it is representative of a very large, if not the most important, part of Western Europe.
There must be, in my view, a body in which Parliamentarians can meet and discuss and settle all European internal questions. I shall come back to that idea before I conclude. I shall hope to show that there are at present separate Western European bodies in existence all exercising separate functions which overlap. I do not wish it to be supposed for a moment that I am criticising any of those bodies or the work which they do. They are very conscientious bodies, carrying out their duties to the best of their abilities, and those duties are important ones. What I am trying to show is the necessity of coalescing and centralising their work in one body. If this House were divided into five or six different assemblies sitting in different places at different times they would individually be bodies with little strength or purpose. As it is, in this assembly all matters can be discussed, internal and external, and it is in that that our strength and unity reside. 778 It is with the object of establishing a European body of comparable strength and unity that I am advocating for West—or free—Europe one comprehensive council.
I suggest that the body best fitted for that, best able to carry out those functions, is the Council of Europe. If anybody has an alternative suggestion of any better body I shall be most interested to hear it, provided that the principle of what I am saying, that it is mistaken to have too many separate bodies, is accepted. I hope that we shall all agree upon that. I do not wish to tie myself to my suggestion that the one body should be the Council of Europe if anybody has a better idea. However, I do not think there is any good in criticising a set-up unless one has alternative ideas and views of one's own to express, and this is mine. If anyone has any other suggestion to make of how these bodies should be combined, I am willing to adapt my views to that.
Another of the bodies set up was the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation. The members of that body are the same as the members of the Council of Europe with the addition of Portugal and Switzerland. It was set up originally to stimulate and direct European economic recovery after the war, particularly on the basis of Marshall Aid, which was at that time available but is not now available, but O.E.E.C. continues to serve a most useful purpose in dealing with the trade and commercial ends of the countries of Europe. I am very glad that this country is an active member of that body, and attends its meetings, which are held regularly about every month.
It has close relations with another body, the European Payments Union, which deals particularly with finance and the balance of payments between the various European countries.
Then there is the Brussels Treaty Organisation which was set up in March, 1948, and at that time consisted, as it does today, of Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. That body, of course, deals primarily with military questions, but also with social, cultural and economic questions. Thus we begin to see how overlapping begins, overlapping between the 779 work of that body and the Council of Europe and O.E.E.C.
Then there is the European Coal and Steel Community, sometimes referred to as the Schuman Plan. That is, in effect, an offshoot of the Council of Europe. The United Kingdom is not a member of that but has a representative upon it. It deals with co-operation between the coal and steel industries of European countries, excluding the United Kingdom. In that we see the start of the new idea of economic integration, the idea that industries like the coal and steel industries cannot be confined within national borders, for the coal of one country may be required for the steel industry of another, and ought not to be confined behind artificial frontier lines. I shall refer later to the importance of extending the idea of economic integration by whatever may be the best means available for that purpose.
Then there is the Assembly of Western European Union, which was set up in 1955 within the framework of the London and Paris Agreements. The secretariat of that body is in London. We see there another attempt to found a body to encourage co-operation in Western Europe.
Thus we see these ideas taking shape and bodies being formed all with the same idea and the same principle activating them, that the European countries should work more closely together, and co-operate in social, cultural, trade and economic matters. The days have gone by when a nation could sit behind its own frontiers trying to protect itself by tariff barriers from what it mistakenly thought to be economic dangers from other countries only a short distance away.
Lastly, we have the new Euratom body, which deals with the application of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. The United Kingdom is not a member, but it is most certainly vitally concerned with its work. We are here pushing ahead as fast as we can with developing atomic energy for peaceful purposes.
I do not think that list of these European, international, Governmental bodies which exist today is exhaustive. I have referred to some of the most important. There are others to which I have not 780 referred relating to N.A.T.O. or the United Nations Agencies. These have trans-Atlantic and worldwide interests. My remarks are confined entirely to Europe. That is not because I am anti-American or anti-world. Indeed, I have always said openly, inside and outside the House, that I believe that co-operation between this country and Western Europe and the United States and, of course, the rest of the world, is vital to us and to them, vital to our mutual advantage. I believe that a stronger and more united Europe is to the interests of the United States.
The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) has an Amendment to my Motion. You, Mr. Speaker, have already said that it will not be called. The purpose of the Amendment is to extend the scope of my Motion. Whereas I suggest a comprehensive body for European co-operation, the Amendment suggests a comprehensive body linking the European bodies with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Had that Amendment been called, I should have opposed it for the reason that if we try to do too much we may succeed in doing nothing.
I feel certain that what is felt in Western Europe is that the countries must get closer together in co-operation. When we do that we are able to deal with our European problems, which are difficult enough, in a European way. Those who live thousands of miles away do not understand them as well as we do who have them on our doorsteps every day. I want to see us in Western Europe combine more closely. Our bodies which discuss these matters should not have upon them those who are not Europeans and who do not understand European problems as well as we do and the difficulties which we have had to face for centuries.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
Would it not be a very good way of getting North American Members of Parliament to understand Europe's difficulties to have them take part with European Members of Parliament in joint debates of Europe's problems?
§ Mr. Doughty
I know that that is the hon. Member's view, because he has told me before in the Amendment he put down, but I do not agree with him. We do not want an educational body to 781 educate people beyond the confines of Europe. Whether or not those few people, members of Congress or senators, who attended might learn more of our problems I do not know, but I do not propose that this body should have educational work to do. I suggest that it should confine itself to European problems. I wish this body to coalesce and co-ordinate the work of European countries.
The vitally important matter of a common market is now being discussed in Western Europe. France, Western Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are the countries referred to as the Messina Powers, perhaps for the not very satisfactory reason that they met at that place in Sicily about two years ago. Why they chose that place I cannot say, but having chosen it they have become known as the Messina Powers.
§ Mr. Doughty
Other countries will undoubtedly join those countries, because I am sure that this idea of freer trade in Europe will extend and indeed must extend. The intention of those countries is to have a full Customs union and the sweeping away of the barriers to free movements of goods, services, labour and capital between those countries. One feels that at last the countries of Europe are creeping out of the hard shell of frontiers which for so long each country has built round itself. So many of them are artificial, so many are unduly rigid and so many are lines drawn on the map and enforced sometimes with cruel strength. I appreciate and realise that the United Kingdom cannot join the Customs union completely. We could damage Commonwealth trade if we joined it in that form; and if we were forced to choose between European and Commonwealth trade I am sure that everybody in the country and every hon. Member would plump for the Commonwealth.
The solution is a free trade area in Western Europe, and I am very pleased to hear that in the White Paper on a European Free Trade Area, published yesterday, that is just the solution which Her Majesty's Government propose. If we are able to have a free trade area, with the necessary exceptions because of 782 Commonwealth relations in matters of trade in food, tobacco and alcohol, we should have virtually on our doorsteps a market of about 250 million people. It would be larger than the home domestic market of the United States and larger than the market within the boundaries of the U.S.S.R.
I am certain that in this market we shall be fully able to hold our own. Some people are frightened that we shall be swamped with cheap goods. I have not noticed in travelling in Western Europe that any of the goods there are particularly cheap. Some people are frightened that the great industries of Germany will invade our markets. In some cases they will, but we shall also invade theirs. I am certain that the industry of our people, the brains of our technicians and our sources of raw materials from overseas will enable us fully to compete and take full advantage of this market.
What is the alternative? Suppose we say, "We will have nothing to do with it." The Messina Powers, as they are entitled to do and, in my opinion, should do in that event, would enter into a common market from which we would be excluded by high tariff walls with which they would surround themselves while having free trade inside those walls. As a quarter of our trade is done with Europe, that would place us in a disadvantageous position. It would cause serious trouble and unemployment in the country.
I am not in favour of federation, that is, a kind of United States of Europe with one central Parliament passing laws for the whole of Europe. I do not think that our history, our diversity of languages and our various interests are sufficiently broken down to make that sort of idea a practical proposition today. Again, if we tried to go too far too fast we would be liable to achieve nothing. But whilst it is unnecessary to go as far as that, I am sure that all hon. Members would view with favour an advance on the road of closer relations with Western Europe. Our relations with France have never been closer or better than they are at the moment. Western Germany is now an honoured member of the Western European family and is assisting with its progress, and now, when all Western European nations 783 are showing signs of active co-operation, is the time to make a big stride ahead.
In making that big stride, do not let a multiplicity of bodies split the efforts that we are making. I am pleading for one body in which Parliamentarians of all countries and of all parties can get together to discuss European affairs. I am not appealing for a supra-national body with executive powers. It is just that type of supra-national body, which claims to have powers of enforcing its will on other countries, that has caused so much trouble in the past and has the seeds of its own weakness inside it.
I believe that a body such as I have described can be found. It would be a body in which Parliamentarians of every kind who are responsible in their own countries for evolving policies can get together and thrash out the problems and difficulties which face us in Western Europe today—military, economic, social and cultural problems, to mention only a few. The Council of Europe already exists. I believe that its functions and duties could be extended. Europe would then become a better and more united place. Whether the Amendment which has been put down to move it to another town in Europe is a good one or a bad one I leave entirely to my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby) and to the House. Personally, I believe that the town that it sits in at the moment—Strasbourg—which at present is French and is on the border between the two greatest European Powers this side of the Iron Curtain, is a good one. If my hon. Friend can advance adequate reasons why its place of meeting should be moved, I am sure that we shall all listen to his argument with interest.
If any hon. Member can suggest a better body than the Council of Europe for co-ordinating the work in which we are all so vitally interested, we shall be glad to hear his suggestions. I hope, however, that we will not allow our efforts in Western Europe to be split up and divided by this multiplicity of agencies, committees and places in which they meet. Although they are all doing their best in those various places, we want to pull together in one place and with one body. I am sure that Western European union and co-operation is best advanced by those means.
§ 11.41 a.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
I beg to second the Motion.
I did not mean to intrude into the debate at this point, but, as a delegate to the Council of Europe, I am very proud to have the honour of seconding this important Motion. I congratulate my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) upon having chosen this subject when he was successful in the Ballot, because it is a subject which, although not very much discussed among the generality of our people, is of the most vital importance to us, not only as a European, but as a world, Power.
This is an interesting and formative period. It is a fascinating thought that throughout history movements of world opinion have been alternately centripetal and centrifugal, and we now have a situation in which half of the world is splitting up into units and another part, notably Europe, is tending to draw together towards one body of thought, if not one unit. This is not only an exceedingly important development in world history, but one which is fraught with great dangers, mainly practical.
We have passed the stage when we need generalisations and need to whip up popular enthusiasm for the idea of European unity. We have now reached the moment when we have to hammer out the practical details. So far as I can make out, after a year's experience at the Council of Europe, the main danger is that which has been stressed by my hon. and learned Friend—the danger of proliferation. If any message goes out from this House today to Europe—and I trust that it will—it should be the message that we see in the proliferation and diversification of assemblies and international bodies the greatest menace to this movement.
The difficulty is the very simple one of finding members for so many bodies. There are three European bodies at the moment—the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe; Western European Union, and the Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community—and we have not stopped. Already a fourth assembly has got beyond the stage of being merely envisaged, and is almost in being, namely, some form of Parliamentary assembly for 785 Euratom. It is difficult to see how we can join in Euratom because it would be such a one-sided partnership. As a speaker for the British delegation said, it would be like the old story of the soldier telling the old lady that he had a button and asking her if she could give him a shirt to sew it on to.
We have a preponderance of technical achievement and wealth of equipment in the atomic field. It would be a very one-sided partnership if we went into Euratom.
§ Sir Robert Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
Does not my hon. Friend think that the very fact that we have that preponderance is an additional reason for making our technical knowledge available to Europe and sharing it with her? If we are not prepared to give we shall not get anything back.
§ Mr. Nicholson
I am not in favour of our going into Euratom.
I have allowed myself to be diverted. I am saying that the real difficulty facing the European movement is the fact that we cannot get any Parliamentarians—certainly none of any eminence—to spend most of their time on the Continent, going about from one assembly to another. It is desirable that we should have a certain commonalty of membership for these different assemblies, otherwise we should find that a large proportion of our members would spend most of their time away from the House, and the same state of affairs would be found in the relation to every other European Parliament.
The danger does not stop even at a fourth assembly. The common market is liable to provoke yet another assembly, and O.E.E.C. may well demand one. N.A.T.O. is already doing so. This is a very practical danger. I hope we shall insist that by the proliferation of assemblies we may bring about the death of the European movement, owing to over-complexity. There must be one main assembly.
I may well be asked if that assembly should have different membership, in the 786 sense that some countries may belong to the common market, some to Euratom, some to Western European Union, and so on. That is an awkward question, but it is not unanswerable. There is nothing to prevent the assembly from wearing a different hat at a different time. On one day it would be the common market assembly, on another the Common Assembly of the Coal and Steel Community, on another the Council of Europe, and so on. In other words, the one assembly would have a varying membership, with respective members attending at the time when their countries were members of the body dealing with the subject to be discussed.
I cannot overstress the danger of proliferation. I have already said that we have passed the time when there is a need for generalisations and exhortation. We have reached the time when these matters have to be thrashed out upon a severely practical basis. It is not good enough merely to allow matters to develop by themselves. Already we have reached the point where there is a dissipation of effort. I think that a conference should be called at the highest level. I suggest that its membership should start with the major Powers of Europe, who should try to agree upon the proper development of a common European policy directed towards the bringing together of these various European assemblies. There is great danger ahead if we go on drifting. It may already be too late to stop the creation of a fourth assembly, and once we have a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, a seventh and an eighth are all the easier to envisage. That way lies madness.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
The hon. Member has made a very interesting proposition about this conference. Can he tell us whom he envisages as the major Powers in Europe for this purpose? Does he mean Britain, France and Germany? Does he want to bring in Germany to the exclusion of the Scandinavian Powers? What does he mean?
§ Mr. Nicholson
It is open to all to have their own ideas.
I should have thought that if one tried to get every European country represented at such a conference, it would be all the more difficult to reach agreement on a suggested policy. I should have 787 thought that if the Western European Union Powers—France, Germany, Italy, Benelux and ourselves—could agree upon a common policy for the development of European organisations, that at any rate would be a suggestion which could be put forward with great authority behind it and would stand a good chance of being adopted by the rest of Europe. I expect the hon. Member would agree with me that that would be a good start. I do not think there would be anything arrogant or patronising about it in the sense of attempting to force it upon the smaller countries of Europe, but someone has to start formulating ideas in this connection.
The point of what I have been saying is that if we go on drifting we shall find that this great river of good intent, this stream of uniting rather than diverging sentiments, will become lost in the sand. I urge Her Majesty's Government to take a lead in recognising the dangers that face the European movement and in calling a high-level conference to try to arrest the tendencies which already threaten the movement itself. It is a great sign of triumph that matters should have developed to such a stage that this danger exists, and there is nothing to be despondent or pessimistic about, but the dangers are there. This thing will not come by itself; it needs direction and leadership, and I believe that Her Majesty's Government are the people to provide the leadership.
If I have learned anything at Strasbourg, it is that, although we are not Continental Europe, we are of Europe. We are the greatest single influence in Europe. If the United Kingdom pulled out of the Council of Europe and out of membership of the other European bodies, I am sure that they would cease to exist.
When I try to explain to my constituents what I have been doing at Strasbourg they are most interested, but it is all brand new ground to them. If we took a poll of the electors of this country, we should find that a very small proportion of them would have heard of the Council of Europe. If we asked how many of them had heard of Western European Union, we could almost gather them together into this Chamber.
788 Nevertheless, our rôle is not only a vital one but the most vital one of the lot. I believe that Britain is the appropriate country to take the lead in bringing about a streamlining and rationalisation of, and making more real, the various strands that compose this great movement, which may in itself—I hope I am not exaggerating—be the greatest hope for world peace.
§ 11.54 a.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)
The House will be grateful to the hon. and learned Member for Surrey. East (Mr. Doughty) for raising the very important question of the Council of Europe. I was interested to see that the Prime Minister, who was one of the most important contributors to the theory of a united Europe, was present in the early part of the debate, because it will be up to him in great measure to translate the theory into reality.
It would be mealy-mouthed if I were to say that the high hopes which those of us who were present at the foundation of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg in 1949 have been fulfilled. They have not; the Council of Europe has proved to be a great disappointment. In those days, when Strasbourg was beflagged, when the whole population was en fête because they believed that the Assembly had come together in order, as they put it, to create Europe, there was a great feeling of optimism. There was the hope that something practical was going to emerge from those deliberations.
I know that the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby) will recall, as I do, how moving it was when the German students crossed the Kehl bridge in order to demonstrate outside the Assembly, urging that the ministers and politicians there assembled should take prompt action in order to translate the dream of an integrated, united Europe into something practical affecting their daily lives.
However, the fact remains that those hopes have been disappointed, and today, eight or nine years after the foundation of the Council of Europe, I must record that in practice the idea of a united Europe represented in the Council itself has made little or no progress. It remains a talking shop. It remains an occasion for politicians, Members of Parliament and statesmen from all over Europe to come together and meet, and that is 789 certainly to the good, but, as far as practical work is concerned, the Consultative Assembly remains a debating chamber in which no effective motions are moved or carried.
The reason is that there is an inherent weakness in the structure of the Council. I suggest that that weakness is a deliberate one. When the conception of a united Europe first emerged, it emerged organically and gradually. It is undoubted that the Foreign Secretary of the day, Mr. Ernest Bevin, with the best of intentions, did not want to remove effective executive or legislative power relating to Britain's affairs from this country to some, as he regarded it, irresponsible continental assembly. Equally naturally, the Opposition of the day, precisely because they were, legislatively and executively speaking, irresponsible, were able to urge at Strasbourg that effective and executive power should be handed over to the Assembly. That is why the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) and the present Prime Minister were most urgent in accusing the Labour Government of the time of dragging its feet and of not getting on with the job.
Today we see how, once again—despite what I believe to be his good intentions in respect of European unity—the Prime Minister cannot, because of certain inherent weaknesses within its structure, use the Council of Europe for the purpose of European unity, in which many of us believe.
The first weakness is that the main chamber of the Council of Europe is simply a Consultative Assembly. It cannot proceed to effective action. Equally, the Committee of Ministers, although it has a certain executive action when it works by consent, has not met on such occasions as would lead the resolutions of the Consultative Assembly to be translated into effective action. The net result has been that the interest of Europe has remained sterile.
I want to dispose, to begin with, of one or two matters relating to the purely physical location of the Council of Europe raised in the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East and myself. There is no doubt that Strasbourg is a very awkward place to get to. It may have become easier of access, but in the past it 790 has certainly been a most difficult place to reach. I do not think my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) will accuse me of betraying a secret if I say that in the early days of 1949, 1950 and 1951 when he had to go to Strasbourg he always insisted on travelling with the present Prime Minister. The reason was not simply that he enjoyed the company of the present Prime Minister. My right hon. Friend always said that if he had to fly in a cockleshell aircraft he would take a Tory with him. That was not said out of malice. It simply underlined the fact that there were great difficulties in getting to Strasbourg.
As one hon. Member has already remarked, Members of Parliament have a certain genuine reluctance, after the first flush of traminer and poulet de Wantzenau has disappeared, to go to Strasbourg, because it takes them away from their duties, and they also feel that they are isolating themselves, sometimes for long periods—it used to be for a month at a time—in an undesirable climate.
Therefore, I urge quite simply that the physical transfer of the Council of Europe from its present site in Strasbourg to Paris would be a cheap and economic operation of convenience to the Members of Parliament of Western Europe. It would facilitate the work of committees, and I have been interested to note that in the last few years whenever a committee of Strasbourg has had to meet it has always chosen Paris deliberately as the place to meet simply because of the convenience of access.
§ Mr. Julian Ridsdale (Harwich)
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that it would be better not to have one place such as Paris in which to meet but to move around, and would he not consider Vienna, where a most successful European Conference met last year?
§ Mr. A. G. Bottomley (Rochester and Chatham)
In view of the fact that W.E.U. is already in London, would it not be more appropriate to bring the Council to London itself?
§ Mr. Edelman
I am merely thinking of the geographically central position of Paris. I personally think that it would be desirable to have one central site for 791 the Council of Europe, and I can think of no better or more convenient place than Paris.
I want to turn from the question of the purely physical location of the Council of Europe to its physical composition. I agree with the mover and seconder of the Motion that there has been this multiplication of consultative assemblies. I think that the idea behind it is that if we are to have functional agencies inside Europe applying themselves by consent to certain executive tasks—for example, the Coal and Steel Community—then in order to give the whole thing the semblance of democratic control there should be a consultative assembly associated with it. These functional agencies have not been congruent in membership. Some countries have not wished to adhere to certain agencies. The result is that in order to dispose of the problem of having these assemblies which do not correspond exactly with the countries concerned, the idea has emerged that for each of these agencies we have to have a very wasteful and unproductive consultative assembly.
If we accepted the basic principle that the Council of Europe should have one central situation and one overall collective membership—in other words, anyone who adheres to any special agency should automatically be an ordinary member, so to speak, of the whole Council—that need not necessarily entitle that member to vote on all occasions on all matters connected with every agency.
It seems to me that if every one of the present members of the present consultative assemblies were automatically to be incorporated as ordinary members of the Council of Europe the functions of the particular agencies, so far as the consultative membership is concerned, could then be delegated to what I might describe as the standing committees of the Assembly. There might be a standing committee dealing with coal and steel and one dealing with Euratom and another dealing with various other functional agencies which are inevitably merged. Then we could really achieve a synthesis of membership and the idea of unifying the present proliferating consultative assemblies which we can see in Europe.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicolson
Is it the hon. Gentleman's idea that there should be a central House of Commons, as it were, containing members from every country involved in any of these agencies, with standing committees, a sort of planetary system with satellite standing committees dealing in specialised jobs around it? Is not that just as much a proliferation as having completely separate assemblies? Is he not trying to have it both ways?
§ Mr. Edelman
I am not suggesting that these standing committees should be on the periphery of the Assembly, but that they should consist of actual members of the Assembly and thus be incorporated within the Assembly. In other words, we would be able to have the same membership responsible both for the overall work of the Council of Europe and, within that framework, we could use specialised groups of members to deal with particular agencies such as, for example, the Coal and Steel Community. This would be rather more economical and, from the point of view of nomenclature, an easier way of handling it than the idea of the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) of giving them different titles on different occasions. If we want a united Europe we must begin by unifying our institutions, and if we want an integrated Europe we must begin by integrating diverse agencies.
I have been talking about what is common ground between those of us on both sides of the House who believe ardently in the unity of Europe, but that does not mean that there are not considerable divergencies between us as to how that unity can be achieved. I believe that it is possible to have a united Europe, partly Socialist and partly capitalist, provided that we co-operate and have a technical basis for co-operating within the specific agencies. I am not going to talk about the common market or other developments which have taken place in Europe during the last ten years or so. I think that there is great ground for optimism because we are being driven by what the French call the force of things to create precisely these agencies of functional co-operation.
I think that there are two approaches to the whole question of European cooperation. We can either believe, in the first place, that we should have a united 793 Europe based on intense free competition in which the ultimate goal is to enlarge the ring within which the members who constitute that united Europe may be able to compete. That is the liberal or laissez faire attitude which many members, perhaps the majority of the Council of Europe, do in fact hold. I do not believe in that. I believe that it is possible to have a united Europe based on planning by consent. I agree with the mover of the Motion who said that we must not have some great constitutional system by which authority will be delegated to some supra-national body. I am wholeheartedly opposed to that because I believe that at the present stage the sovereign States of Europe are not ready for that particular development.
But I believe that within that scope there is a great opportunity of planning by consent between Socialist and non-Socialist countries. I believe that is the best way to do it. I think that the laissez faire conception is pernicious. I think that the idea of a laissez faire common market without any kind of planning of the kind that I have mentioned will be seriously damaging to our own country. I merely mention that in passing.
§ Mr. Doughty
When one talks of Socialist and non-Socialist countries one is getting on very dangerous ground, because the words have so many different meanings in different countries. Some countries—I do not wish to refer to them by name—have radical Socialist governments but their policies and ideas are a long way to the right of a Conservative Government in this country. If we use the same words to describe different Governments, we get hopelessly different descriptions. Some so-called Socialist Governments are what in this country would be called Communist. If we refer to Socialist and non-Socialist Governments we are using those words in much too narrow a way to describe the very wide differences in other countries.
§ Mr. Edelman
I will be specific in one sentence. I said that the division in Europe today is not between Socialists and non-Socialists but between those who believe in economic planning and those who are opposed to it. There is room for co-operation between those elements provided that we have planning by consent. That is the hope of Europe today.
794 I hope that this debate will have the effect of informing the public a little more of the idea behind the Council of Europe, and that both parties will combine, at some time, in order to make the Council of Europe a really effective instrument of European unity.
§ 12.10 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will be deeply grateful to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) for raising this extremely important debate. We can all congratulate ourselves on having certainly the largest attendance in the House I ever remember to discuss the Council of Europe. That shows that there is a gradual rise of interest in the subject. I speak as a member of the original 1949 delegation in which. I believe, the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) participated, and which was very distinguished. The Conservatives included the right hon. Member for Woodford, (Sir W. Churchill), the present Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor, the Minister of Defence, the President of the Board of Trade, and myself. I do not expect ever to reach such a plateau again, but it was extremely enjoyable while it lasted.
What the hon. Member for Coventry, North says is quite true. The high hopes with which we all assembled in Strasbourg in August, 1949, have not been fulfilled. On the whole, the record of the Council of Europe during the past eight years has been disappointing to everybody. There are many reasons for this, and I shall examine one or two of them in a few minutes. At the moment there is a revival of interest; and it is because recent events have demonstrated once again the political impotence and the economic inadequacy of the individual countries of Europe, acting separately, in the modern world.
I shall not touch upon those events today; but the fact remains that, divided by the Iron Curtain and sub-divided into a number of nation-States no longer on the modern scale of great Powers, this Continent of Europe, which was the cradle of our civilisation and until recently the political centre of the world, has proved unable to affirm or to defend, either by diplomacy or by force, its vital interests. That is the great lesson of the 795 last three months which we have to take to heart. Whatever views we may hold about what actually took place, this is a fact which cannot be denied.
Nearly ten years ago, on 5th May, 1948, I said:The (Wilsonian) doctrine of self-determination led, in practice, … to secession; and to isolation …and that that in turn led—… to yet another attempt to impose integration upon the Continent of Europe by force.I went on:It happened, first, because the League of Nations was nothing more than a piece of diplomatic machinery; a manoeuvring ground for the separate sovereign States in an anarchic world, without real power, and with war and the threat of war as its only instrument of policy. Secondly, because no single European country was, in isolation, even before the outbreak of the last war, an effective political or economic unit. What we have to face tonight is the fact, the dire fact, that both these conditions still prevail …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th May, 1948; Vol. 450, c. 1374–5.]I said this on 5th May, 1948, and, alas, I can say it again today. All those conditions still prevail. The United Nations is not easily to be distinguished from, and is in some ways worse than, the defunct League of Nations from the point of view I have been describing. It also remains true, as recent events have proved, that in isolation the individual separate States of Europe are quite incapable of standing on their own feet from a political or economic point of view; and, as I said just now, incapable even of protecting their own vital interests.
The encouraging thing which emerges from all this is that it has led to a revived and genuine demand for political and economic unity in Europe. We cannot have the one without the other. That was the point made by the hon. Member for Coventry, North and it is extremely important. One cannot go in for free trade areas, common markets, Euratom and coal and steel authorities, without having some kind of political cohesion at the same time.
Indeed, as Lord Montgomery has always insisted, the task before the nations of Western Europe is primarily political. Seven years ago he said:Economic fusion and military strength will not be obtained until the political association between the group of nations concerned has first been defined.796 That is profoundly true. Lord Montgomery often says profoundly true things, and it is an unfortunate fact that the political relationship has never yet been clearly defined.
All the speakers in the debate so far have dwelt at greater or lesser length upon the causes of the comparative failure of the Council of Europe to date, and the disappointment we must all feel about it. Quite frankly, I think that the chief cause of our failure is the failure of this country to give the necessary lead. The Council of Europe was to a large extent the creation of the right hon. Member for Woodford, of our Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence. It was largely a British conception. It arose from the Congress of the Hague, which, some hon. Members will remember, was held as a result of the British initiative; and Europe thereafter looked to us for a lead which was not forthcoming.
Looking back, it was an enormous mistake not to join in the discussions which led to the formation of the Coal and Steel Authority, and still more in the discussions which led to the heartrending quarrel over the European Defence Community—which I shall always maintain was never a tenable proposition in the absence of British participation. It was solely the absence of British participation which led to the wrangle, the bitterness and the inevitable collapse of E.D.C.
Secondly, the failure can be traced to the failure of the Committee of Ministers to function as it was intended to function. It never really produced any concrete and positive policies into which the Consultative Assembly could get its teeth. It was guilty—and I have mentioned this phrase in the House before, but it is so expressive that it can stand repetition—of what the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) called "inert futility". And it was guilty of that inert futility not now and again, but continuously over the years.
The third reason—and here I agree completely with my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson)—is the amount of confusion and overlapping caused by the proliferation of all these organisations and authorities which have sprung up since the war like mushrooms—undirected, unco-ordinated, separate and competing international organisa- 797 tions. We have emerged into a nightmare world of initials. The other day I wrote down some of the initials of the various international organisms in the U.N. and outside. The list ran into pages. One simply cannot remember what they mean, and one gets dizzy with them all.
The other day I was reading a fascinating book by Herbert Lüthy, "The State of France". He gave an analysis, arising out of this, of the Council of Europe which I think is very penetrating. He said that the Strasbourg Assembly found itself in a vacuum between, on the one hand, the N.A.T.O. alliance, which really meant something, and the independent national sovereignties of Europe on the other. I must now quote. He went on:'Europe' henceforward followed many paths, but she got bogged down in them all. The Foreign Ministers of Western Europe, like actors on a revolving stage which had got out of control, kept reappearing every few days against a different backcloth, always playing a never-completed first act. True, their numbers, grouping and function changed; they appeared as representative of the sixteen or eighteen Powers of O.E.E.C., or of the five Powers of the Brussels Pact, or of the ten, twelve, and eventually fifteen Powers of the Council of Europe, or, with their American partners, as the select inner group of three Powers of N.A.T.O., or as the twelve Powers representing all the members of N.A.T.O. Each of these organisations set up its own permanent organisation, exchanged delegations and accredited representatives with the others, and co-ordinating committees were set up, the number of which grew in geometrical progression with the foundation of each new organisation. Their functions overlapped to such an extent that a special bureaucracy was set up for the sole purpose of exchanging and filing their statistics, plans and resolutions; a sham world of 'supra-national' organisations tirelessly organising their own activity in the void.That is strong language, but there is an element of truth in it, especially about the bureaucracy set up for the purpose of exchanging resolutions. We know too well how that goes on, and we know what happens to the resolutions when they are exchanged. They go into pigeon-holes. The picture, on the whole, is not exaggerated.
My fourth and last reason for the failure is one in which I agree absolutely with the hon. Member for Coventry, North: I think that Strasbourg is not, or certainly is no longer, the best place for a Council of Europe which is to be effective and to mean something in the 798 world. As the hon. Member for Coventry, North said, Strasbourg is too far out of the way. It is extremely difficult to get to. Busy Parliamentarians, who can always spare a day or two to attend a committee or an important conference and then return to their Parliaments, find it very difficult to get to Strasbourg for a short period. Think of the Scandinavians. It takes them days and nights to get there, especially if they do not fly; and one or two of them do not like flying.
It is a backwater. Moreover—and I think it is best to say this—it is associated, certainly in my mind, with a certain sense of frustration. Too often one has tramped those streets in the evening after a particularly abortive day in the Assembly in a state of grey despair and depression beyond even the reach of pâté de foie gras to assuage; and for that to be the case I, at any rate, must be in a state of pretty black depression.
Originally it was a romantic conception. The idea was that it was the meeting place on the Rhine between France and Germany, the centre of all the struggles of the past and now the centre of reconciliation. But we must go a little beyond romanticism. I agree with the hon. Member for Coventry, North that Paris is undoubtedly the most convenient place from every point of view. I should not mind if it were Versailles, if accommodation were difficult in Paris—although I do not think it would be difficult. I think Paris is the place for the Council, if it is to mean something in the future. It is almost certainly the best and most convenient place, and it would give the Council the greatest prestige.
I agree, again, with my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham that the Western European Union has already outlived its usefulness. I would remind hon. Members that it was set up in frantic haste, following the collapse of E.D.C., to deal with two problems—the problem of the European Army and the problem of the Saar. The problem of the Saar has been settled, and the only reality in defence is surely N.A.T.O. If, therefore, the Western European Union continues as a separate entity, with its own Assembly, no longer dealing with the Saar—because that is out of the way—but dealing alongside 799 N.A.T.O. with defence, further confusion and overlapping are absolutely inevitable.
I turn to the economic aspect. It is now generally agreed that in an age of mass production and automation only a market of continental size can sustain long-term economic growth. Hence the importance of the free trade area. But here I agree with the hon. Member for Coventry, North in his diagnosis. I am a planner and so is the Prime Minister—provided it is the right kind of planning. I agree with him that there is a division of opinion here. If the object of this economic adventure in the Continent of Europe is to promote industrial expansion and increase productivity through specialisation and greater investment, it will have to have a positive side as well as the purely negative although important side of the further liberalisation of trade and progressively lower tariffs.
The kind of thing I have in mind is an Investment Board, for which many of us on both sides have pressed since the very beginning, when the Council of Europe was originally formed; and possibly a Central Bank as an instrument of policy for the E.P.U. There is also the Coal and Steel Authority, with all its powers of investment; and now we have the projected Euratom. All this points to the urgent need of further streamlining under O.E.E.C. and to the need to try to get all these authorities under one hat, as it were, both in the political and economic fields.
The constructive proposals which I want to put forward this morning are therefore these: first, merge the existing political organisations, including all the assemblies, into one comprehensive Council of Europe with one Assembly.
Second, let all the functional organisations, including O.E.E.C., be subject to the ultimate authority of this single Council, sitting for specific purposes in restricted sessions, or in standing committees as the hon. Member for Coventry, North suggested, and sitting at least twice a year in plenary session as a Council. Let the various European Powers come to the Assembly when any of the matters with which they are concerned is under discussion. If there are certain members of the Assembly of the Council of Europe whose Governments are not taking part in a particular project, for 800 example Euratom, they would not attend the Assembly for that debate; but it would remain a single Assembly, and it would merely mean that on occassion the meetings would be plenary and on occasion restricted. There would be no competing authorities.
Finally, I suggest that we move the Council of Europe to Paris. I believe that it can still be made the laboratory in which a great experiment in confederation—and I use the word "confederation" deliberately—without historical precedent can be carried out. I further believe that an organic union, with an effective international executive in the form of the Committee of Ministers, and an effective forum of European opinion in the Consultative Assembly, can be built, if the will to do so exists.
Indeed, it is not without significance that the present Prime Minister of Britain, the present Prime Minister of France and the Foreign Secretaries of both Germany and Belgium have all been members of the Consultative Assembly and have all taken an active part in its discussions; and two of them have been its President. It will not do just to dismiss the Council as of no consequence. It has been of great value. For example, its value as a meeting place, as the hon. Member for Coventry, North said, not only between statesmen but between humble politicians like ourselves can hardly be over-estimated.
In conclusion, one great advantage of transferring defence from the Council of Europe to N.A.T.O. where it properly belongs is that it would bring into view the possibility of an ultimate settlement with Eastern Europe. One thing, I think, is certain; no political stability in Western Europe will be possible until the German question is settled. We have therefore to be prepared, and to be thinking about the possibility of a negotiated solution of the German problem which may involve the phased withdrawal of Soviet and N.A.T.O. forces from Central Europe. If the Council of Europe is no longer directly concerned with defence, how very much easier it will be for a reunited Germany to remain a member of the Council of Europe and to play its full part in future political and economic development. Might we not even envisage the possibility that one day Poland might 801 become a member of the Council of Europe? And, later on, other countries behind the Iron Curtain? If we take defence away from the Council and put it under N.A.T.O., which is where it should be, all that will be made easier.
Walter Lippmann wrote an article last week in which he said:It is not mere fantasy to imagine that Britain, which is withdrawing and reducing its global commitments, may find a new field for the exercise of its political genius in the unification of Europe through a settlement with Eastern Europe. If that were to happen, something great and good for all the world will come out of the self-examination through which Great Britain is now passing.I do not think that it is fantasy. I think that it is a real possibility. I know that it is a theme which lies close to the heart of the Prime Minister, who has played a great part in the development of the Eastern side of the European movement in recent years. I think that we have one more chance to take the initiative and leadership in Europe, but I am pretty sure that it is the last. That is why I am so very grateful to my hon. and learned Friend, who moved this Motion today.
§ 12.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
I accept the statement of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) that British intiative is all-important in this matter, but I do not share his optimism. I did not share his great expectations. Perhaps it is for that reason that I am impressed by the progress that has been made over the last few years towards European integration.
We have made good progress, but I think that we are on the eve of making greater progress. We certainly have the great possibility of making progress now, and for two reasons. The first is, as the hon. Gentleman has said, that developments such as Euratom and the common market are putting before Europe specific problems which Europe must tackle. The second is, and I share the hon. Gentleman's view, that one of the results of the Suez affair is that we realise that we have to consider this matter very urgently.
The impact of Suez has three major aspects. The first is its effect on our relations within the Commonwealth. We can no longer expect the Commonwealth 802 to follow us, right or wrong. The merits of what we do are all-important if we are to maintain, as I think is absolutely essential, the cohesion of the Commonwealth. That the Commonwealth should be able to speak as one voice is one of the most important factors in world affairs.
The second aspect is this. As a member of the Assembly of the Western European Union, what struck me was the isolation of the action of Britain and France from that Union. The blame for that lies not only on the shoulders of Britain and France. It lies equally on the shoulders of all the Powers members of the Western European Union. I think, however, that the reaction to the Suez affair was that there was an immediate feeling that W.E.U. was very unreal, in that it had made no response at all to that Suez affair.
Thirdly, of course, the Suez affair was a very real shock to the American alliance. As a result of that, we can adopt one of two attitudes; either to repair the damage that has been done, or to seek an escape. I am gratified that today every speaker has adopted the view that we must repair the damage. For that reason, and I make no apology for making this my major point, the first thing for us to do is to repair and consolidate the American alliance.
As I say, I am not so optimistic as is the hon. Gentleman. I believe that military matters, matters of defence, are still of primary importance. The first thing we have to do, therefore, is to strengthen the Western alliance, to strengthen N.A.T.O. To do that, we have to be concerned, not only with military affairs, but we have to pay regard to Article 2, and see what we can do to strengthen the political aspect of N.A.T.O. I did not take part in the meeting of the Members of Parliament of the N.A.T.O. Powers, but I am encouraged by the reports which I have received of it. I hope that there will be a rapid development of the Standing Committee, and I hope also that we shall today have some statement from Her Majesty's Government about the developments which have taken place.
I accept at once that when we are talking about N.A.T.O. we cannot divorce ourselves from the German question—the question of East-West relations—but I 803 would still emphasise that the first thing to do today is to repair, consolidate and strengthen N.A.T.O. When we have done that, we can consider the other matters which arise, but that ought to be the order of priorities. If we do that, I concede that we have to do what we can—and contemporaneously, because these are urgent matters—to speed up the integration of Western Europe.
During the past few months one or two statements have been made which are of considerable importance, and I wish to take this occasion to ask Her Majesty's Government to explain what course they are taking. I call the attention of the Minister to two statements which have been made, following the Paris meetings. Our own Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made a very important statement at the meeting of the N.A.T.O. Council. He emphasised, and I am wholeheartedly with him, the importance of the Atlantic community, and went on to say—and again I am wholeheartedly behind him—that if we emphasise the importance of the Atlantic community we have also to strengthen the European community.
He said that to do that involved three essential elements. In the first place, there should be a high political and military direction given by the Atlantic Pact, with the seven-nation Western European Union functioning within N.A.T.O. Secondly, there should be economic co-operation under and in association with the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation—O.E.E.C.—with such bodies as the European Payments Union, the Western European Coal and Steel Community, a common market and a free trade area. Thirdly, there should be one assembly on Parliamentary lines, with powers and functions to be assigned to it, which would complete the Atlantic community.
The first point to which I particularly call the attention of the Minister of State is that in that statement there is no reference at all to the Council of Europe. I should like to know whether that is a deliberate omission, because there are different ways in which one can tackle the essential problem of closer European integration. Here we have emphasis upon the high military and political direction to be given by N.A.T.O. and Western European Union. We have, as a third 804 point, an emphasis upon on assembly on Parliamentary lines.
Was the Foreign Secretary indicating that what Her Majesty's Government feel is, as I have said, that the first priority is N.A.T.O. and the development of the Atlantic community and that, to implement that, the second priority, contrary to the suggestions made by the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire, is Western European Union? In other words, are we saying that the second priority is to associate ourselves more closely with the six Messina Powers? I do not wish to argue the merits of either approach, but it is a matter on which we are entitled to know the views of Her Majesty's Government.
The second statement to which I call the attention of the House—and I will not quote it, though I shall refer to it—is a very significant statement made by Mr. Martino, the Italian Foreign Minister. That statement appeared to be made on behalf of the Council of the Western European Union. He emphasised, again, the importance of Western European Union, and made a suggestion—indeed, implied that it was a proposal being considered—that the Assembly of the Western European Union might well be elected directly. If we were to get one of the assemblies in Europe elected directly, then obviously it would attain an importance greater than that of any of the other assemblies. I would ask the Minister whether that is in fact being seriously considered.
Arising from that development, I would also ask the Government to indicate which line of approach they are emphasising. Are they emphasising that the important consideration is to provide a more real opportunity for effective cooperation with the six Powers, in which case Western European Union would be a body to strengthen and develop? Are they looking towards N.A.T.O. as providing the scope for a developing Parliamentary body, or are they doing what has been assumed so far, trying to reinvigorate the Council of Europe as not only being the forum for discussion, which it is at present, but the organ for effective action, which at the present moment it is not? This seems to me to be very much the choice of ways before the Government.
805 I think it is too early to discuss the problems of the common market and the free trade area, but if we look at the statement made by the Foreign Secretary at the N.A.T.O. meeting, and if we look at the White Paper which has been issued with regard to the free trade area, it seems as though it is the path of closer association with the Six that is being followed, because the White Paper is in line with the second aspect of European unity which was emphasised by the Secretary of State at the Council meeting of the N.A.T.O. Powers.
It is because I share the view of the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire that British initiative is vitally important —I agree with him that British initiative very largely led to the formation of the Council of Europe in the first place, and, whatever faults there may be at our door with regard to E.D.C., it was the initiative and decisive action which Sir Anthony Eden took that led to the formation of Western European Union—that I believe that today we cannot evade our responsibilities to play an equally decisive part. To do that, we have to keep our minds on the essential problem, and I hope that we can have a clear and explicit statement from the Government about it, so that we can consider it and not waste valuable time.
I concede that there is a very good argument against a fourth assembly and the avoidance of further assemblies and such-like matters, but the essential problem facing us is, what are the priorities? Are we going to put as first priority the development' of N.A.T.O. as not only a military defensive organisation but a political organisation too, and look for the rapid development of N.A.T.O. in that sense?
Are we going to support the development of closely associating ourselves with the six Messina Powers and provide methods for closer co-operation, or are we to take the path, which has been commonly assumed so far in this debate, of accepting the fact that the Council of Europe is a forum for discussion generally in Europe, and that the integration of Europe can best be organised through that forum?
Whichever view is taken, I think it is the bounden duty of the Government to decide quickly, and, having decided, to 806 make their utmost contribution to the furtherance of that unity and integration in the next few months.
§ 12.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)
I should like to begin by congratulating my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) for having brought the subject of the Council of Europe to the Floor of this House, because I have often had an uneasy feeling, as a one-time delegate to the Council of Europe, that delegates have not very often fulfilled their obligation to do that. I understand that it is one of their obligations to do it, but all too rarely have we discussed the Council of Europe here.
I should also like to thank the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) for having given me the opportunity of adding my name to his Amendment, because I agree so much with the remarks which have just been made by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey).
I should like to say a few words to begin with about the United Nations, because there are some people who ask whether these regional groupings are really necessary, considering that we have the United Nations organisation. There are others, and I think they are mounting in numbers daily, who ask whether it is worth while our remaining members of the United Nations at all and say, "Let us concentrate rather upon the Commonwealth and the Continent."
It is true that what one might almost call a silent metamorphosis has overcome the United Nations in the recent past by the fact of its membership having been increased to eighty. There was a very interesting article in The Economist not long ago which divided that eighty into two exactly equal groups. There are forty members comprising North and South America, Western Europe and Australasia, and another forty belonging more or less to the Afro-Asian and Soviet bloc. It is most unfair to describe Afro-Asians as a bloc, as some people do, who talk about the "Bandoeng bloc." Very many of them are our friends, and have proved their friendship several times.
This article in The Economist divided them into two nuclei, A and B, and a 807 "floating vote." Nucleus A comprises the S.E.A.T.O. and Bagdad Pact Powers, and Nucleus B is, rather significantly, described by The Economist as being "Headed by Egypt and India." But it is very unlikely that we shall be able to depend upon either a unanimous vote in the Security Council or on a two-thirds majority in the General Assembly; and it is worth remembering that a resolution of the General Assembly, even with a two-thirds majority, has no binding force. There is no binding force on anyone, although it may have moral force, because there is no sanction behind it.
A few months ago, President Eisenhower said:There can be no peace without law. And there can be no law if we were to invoke one code of international conduct for those who oppose us and another for our friends.But that is precisely what the United Nations very often seems to do, and it largely accounts for that upsurge of discontent against the United Nations gathering momentum. For myself, I am prepared to suspend judgment on that issue until we see what is done by the United Nations in the Middle East. Whatever may be thought—and I am not going to revive old controversies now—of the Anglo-French intervention in the Suez area last October, it did achieve two things. First, it stopped a war, which is one of the intentions of the United Nations; and, secondly, it compelled the United Nations to intervene with an armed force.
The Manchester Guardian at the time said this:Today, perhaps fortuitously, the United Nations has one of the greatest creative opportunities it has ever had."Perhaps fortuitously," said the Manchester Guardian, with that pathological inability to see our actions in their true perspective. There was nothing fortuitous about it. It is the result of the deliberate policy of Her Majesty's Government that United Nations now has a force out there, and the object of that force, in the words of the former Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, should be to maintain peace in the area. If we are to maintain peace in that vital area of the world, it means healing the suppurating sores which have caused such endless anguish since the State of Israel was planted there by the United Nations nearly ten years ago. It means 808 that the Arab States have got to be persuaded to recognise that Israel has come to stay within redefined and sensible guaranteed boundaries. It means the internationalisation of Jerusalem and of the Sinai strip—there was a very excellent letter in The Times today by the hon. Member for Yardley (Mr. Usborne) and some of his hon. Friends—and perhaps of the Gaza strip.
§ Mr. Doughty
I do not wish to interrupt any hon. Member but, as I carefully explained in my opening remarks, the Motion is strictly confined to Western Europe. In answer to the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), I said that I did not wish to extend it to the United States. I think we are getting a little far from the Motion if we are going to deal with the Gaza strip.
§ Mr. Speaker
I was wondering how the argument addressed to us by the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) was connected with the Motion which is before the House. I thought I could see the germ of a connection, but it has not been developed sufficiently. Perhaps the hon. Member will undertake to put us right on that. As regards the North American countries, when I considered the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), I thought that it could come within the terms of the Motion.
§ Mr. Longden
I am much obliged for your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. May I try to explain? I had nearly finished my remarks on the United Nations, and I hope the House will bear with me while I do so.
The object of these regional arrangements is to maintain peace with justice, and they exist because the United Nations is incapable of doing that. I am trying to answer some of the people, not in this House but certainly in the country, who argue that we should get out of the United Nations and rely only on these regional arrangements. Personally, I am prepared to withhold my judgment until we see what they can do with the task which has been given to them by this country and by France. If they are going to be hypnotised by an aggressor—and there has seldom been a more obvious aggressor than President Nasser, who maintains his position solely by clever propaganda, and whose forces would have 809 been wiped off the map in a matter of days if Israel had not been stopped doing it—then I think that we may have to say "goodbye" to the United Nations. Meanwhile, the United Nations Charter does permit these regional arrangements, and I am only anxious that they should be effective.
With great respect to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East, I think all the reasons which he gave in favour of the centralisation or, if one likes, de-proliferation of these assemblies apply also to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Lincoln. The only reality in defence, said the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby), is N.A.T.O., and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East said that he did not know what effect the N.A.T.O. conferences had on Congress representatives. I can tell him, because I was a member. I think it is true to say—and anybody who was there will agree with me—that it had a very good effect. I cannot follow my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East when he says that it does not matter much whether representatives from the other side of the Atlantic understand the European point of view. I think it is as vitally important that they should understand our point of view as that we should understand theirs.
§ Mr. Doughty
I did not say that it does not matter. I said nothing of the kind. What I said was that the Western European organisations were not educational bodies whose object was to teach Congressmen and Senators the policies and the troubles of Europe.
§ Mr. Longden
But it is one of their values that they do have that educational result, and it would be true to say that we learn a great deal from them too. It is an excellent thing that these Parliamentarians should meet, and that is why I supported the Amendment of the hon. Member for Lincoln.
Today it seems to me, for reasons which have been given by hon. Members in all quarters of the House, that we are making things ten times more difficult for ourselves than they need be. Surely it is not beyond the wit of man, for example, to apportion the contribution which each partner makes to defence according to the means of each partner, and, having done so, to spend the result- 810 ing pool of money as economically as possible in the general interest. We are making a very feeble effort to do that today, and I do not think we should tolerate the position any more. If the mover of the Motion will not accept our Amendment, our suggested enlargement, I none the less warmly support his Motion, for let us at least begin.
§ 12.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas (Lincoln)
I too share the view of the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) that this Motion which has been moved by the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) would be acceptable even if he did not go so far as to accept the Amendment which the hon. Member and I sought to make and which has not been called.
I wish to thank the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East for having used his success in the Ballot to raise this subject. I cannot remember a debate confined to the Council of Europe since the autumn of 1953, when Government time was given on a Friday for such a debate. Then, as usual on Fridays, there was a thin House, but what was significant was that of the hon. Members who took part in the debate, all but four or five of them were under the age of 45. The lesson that we can draw is that it is the younger Members of the House, rather than the older Members, who are concerned with these new political developments on the Continent of Europe. One of the great changes which have occurred in the lifetimes of those of us who are in our forties is in our relation to the Continent of Europe.
It is fair to say that so far two points have emerged from the debate on which there has been general agreement. The first is that we need one main assembly to prevent proliferation and to prevent Members of Parliament turning themselves into itinerant internationalists chasing from one assembly to another. The other fact which has emerged—although not so generally accepted—is that the Council of Europe today is primarily a debating assembly and a talking shop. I see nothing wrong in that last point. I have always thought that the real strength of the Council of Europe was that it was a talking shop providing a forum of debate for European Members of Parliament. I have always thought that its 811 most important rôle was education, the rôle of allowing an opportunity for Members of Parliament from 14 or 15 countries from time to time to go to Strasbourg and debate common problems, so that they could learn different national and political approaches.
There are over 100 Members of this House and of another place who have at one time or another represented this country at Strasbourg, and although other countries tend not to change their delegations as frequently as we do, there has been created over these years an educational force building up in Europe a knowledge of her problems.
At Strasbourg it seemed to me that there was an unreal and dangerous attitude of mind developing. It was a tendency to think that Europe in this decade of the twentieth century was more important in world affairs than it really is—a tendency to think that we could "go it" alone and ignore Canada and the United States. From my first visit as a tourist looking down from the gallery in 1950 and then as a Representative in 1951, I was struck by the fact that there seemed to be that attitude, and I always felt that the debates would have been improved if there had been representatives from Canada and the United States sitting there mixed up with Europeans according to the alphabetical order of their names. Once, in 1951, there was a visit by some American Senators—
§ Mr. de Freitas
—but that I regarded as a failure because it ranged the Senators against Europe. They were not mixed together in a common debate considering common problems.
May I summarise the point in this way? I felt that the need for having North American members debating with European members was, again, educational. First, it would educate the North Americans in the importance of Europe itself and in the complexities of dealing with mature States which had not yet realised that they had ceased to be great Powers. The Americans have not the experience which we have had of long maturity of national States in Europe, and they are so powerful that they are inclined not only to underestimate our power but not to understand how difficult it is for 812 European countries which have been great Powers to adjust themselves to their rôle today. Secondly, education is necessary for Europeans, I felt, because the European Members of Parliament should be made to realise that power and the problems connected with the possession of power are to a great extent outside Europe today.
If we regard this educational rôle—I make no apology for it—as one of the most important, then it was natural for me, feeling as I did, to move motions at nearly every Session, attempting to get the Council of Europe to adapt itself and to invite to regular sessions Members of Congress and of the Canadian Parliament. I was often persuaded to withdraw a motion, being told that the Bureau was just about to do something on those lines. At other times my motions were agreed to, and then they were buried in committee. I came to the conclusion that the difficulty really was that members of the Council of Europe, being Continentals, were frightened of dealing too closely with the 200 million North Americans, especially because—and this ought to be recognised—to so many Continental countries they are seen not only as 200 million North Americans but 200 million people who are predominantly Protestant. That is a factor in the political attitude of Continentals which should not be underestimated.
There was at the same time, inside some of the N.A.T.O. countries, particularly Canada, a feeling beginning that there should be some place for Members of Parliaments to discuss the common problems of N.A.T.O. I opposed that idea for what little my opposition was worth. I disliked the idea of developing a N.A.T.O. Parliamentary assembly because I thought that it was important to keep objects clear and that N.A.T.O. was a military organisation and should be kept as such. But subsequently, when I found that there was no chance of the Council of Europe adopting what I believed to be the good idea of adapting itself in the way that I have explained, I joined with those, in Canada especially, who sought to have a N.A.T.O. Parliamentary assembly set up.
It would have got nowhere, because of opposition by all the N.A.T.O. Governments, except for the change in the attitude of the Government of Norway and 813 the fact that the Speaker of the Canadian Senate was keen on the idea. Eventually, in spite of the opposition, particularly of our Foreign Office both inside and outside this Chamber, in July, 1955, there met in Paris the first conference of N.A.T.O. countries. It met in the same week as the "summit" conference in Geneva, so that there was almost no Press publicity at all about it. It was a ragged conference. The Canadian delegation was three or four times the size of the American delegation, which certainly bore no relation to the population or power of the two countries.
The conference achieved two things only, but they were both matters of significance. The first was that it carried a resolution that the conference should meet again in 1956. The second was that it resolved that there should be a secretariat set up, though a modest one, Mr. Douglas Robinson being chosen as secretary and provided with a very small staff.
In November last year, the conference met again. The change was dramatic. The American delegation consisted of eight Senators and nine Congressmen. When I say that the Senators included Mr. Lyndon Johnson, leader of the majority party, and Senator Green, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate, the importance of it will be appreciated. I have not even mentioned other distinguished men like Senator Fulbright and Senator Thye. It was, indeed a distinguished delegation. An American representative, Mr. Wayne Hayes, was elected chairman of the conference.
There were, in that one week, extremely important debates, more important, in my opinion, than anything I had heard in the Council of Europe in the three years I was a representative there. There was a debate on consultation, which was, naturally, in everyone's mind because of the lack of consultation before our Government and the French attacked Egypt.
There was in the same week a debate on oil supplies, the shortage of oil, and the way in which Europe was suffering. It happened to be a cold week and, by way of emphasising Europe's needs, there was no heating at all in the Palais de Chaillot, and the Senator from Texas had to sit in his topcoat to conduct his busi- 814 ness. I do not know what effect it had in the long run, but it certainly was dramatic at that moment.
There was a debate on the training of technicians and scientists in Western countries. It was initiated by Senator Jackson, who had been in Russia.
That conference is going to meet again this year. It exists. Whether it is a good thing or not that it should have grown up is irrelevant; it exists. If we agree, as so many hon. Members have done, that we should work for one main assembly, surely we must consider that conference and its relations with the Council of Europe. I repeat that I am sorry that the Council of Europe did not adapt itself in the years when it had the chance to perform those functions, but the fact is that that conference now exists.
I am wondering whether it has not already had some effect on the Government. Just before Christmas, on 21st December, 1956, I put down a Question, addressed to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, about the possibilities of an Atlantic consultative assembly and the development of it. The Under-Secretary gave this reply:At the recent North Atlantic Council meeting my right hon. and learned Friend"—that is to say, the Foreign Secretary—suggested working towards a single Assembly which might concern itself with all forms of European and Atlantic co-operation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st December, 1956; Vol 375, c. 235.]The suggestion contained in that Answer is not tied to N.A.T.O. The words are,working towards a single Assembly which might concern itself with all forms of European and Atlantic co-operation.I am hoping that the Minister of State will be able to develop that suggestion today.
Meanwhile, I should like the House to consider the wording of the Amendment which I put down. This is how it is intended, by the Amendment, to make the original Motion read:To call attention to the work of the Council of Europe and Western European Union; and to move, That this House recognises the important role international parliamentary assemblies have to play in the development of co-operation between European and North American countries and expresses the 815 hope that the Council of Europe will study as a matter of urgency the possibility of working with the Conference of Members of Parliament from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries with a view to amalgamating with it to form a Council of the Atlantic with a Committee of Ministers and a Consultative Assembly on the lines of those of the Council of Europe.Meanwhile, while the Government are giving thought, as I hope they have done since 21st December, to the idea of a single assembly, I want the Council of Europe too to start considering. The conference of Parliamentarians which met in Paris and is to meet again, certainly needs the experience and facilities of the Council of Europe. For instance, it needs, but it does not at present possess, the kind of excellent secretariat that the Council of Europe has. The secretariat of the Conference comprises one man, Mr. Robinson, and two secretaries. It certainly needs the Council of Europe's excellent services, including interpreters, and it needs the technical equipment and facilities for sitting with microphones and headphones, which is essential where more than one language is being spoken. That arrangement simply did not exist at the Paris meeting. There was only one microphone per delegation and we sat in national groups, which destroyed much of the effectiveness of the conference.
There are many difficulties in the way of amalgamation, some of which are obvious. If we think still in terms of the old Council of Europe and the N.A.T.O. assembly, there are difficulties arising from the differences in membership between the two. For example, Austria, Sweden and Ireland, who are not members of N.A.T.O., might find it difficult to come into a new organisation. On the other hand, there is the complication for an international Parliamentary assembly that a country like Portugal which has a benevolent dictatorship is unlikely to send abroad representatives who are critical of the Government.
However, those difficulties, great as they are, are small compared with the results that could be achieved if there were amalgamation. The Government's attitude is important. It has been hostile in all the years that I have been in opposition. When those few of us who have been interested in the matter have talked about an Atlantic Assembly, we have always been turned down, both inside and 816 outside the Chamber. However the Answer of 21st December indicates a sudden change. I welcome it, and I hope that the Minister of State will have something encouraging to say to us when he replies to the debate.
§ 1.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Kirk (Gravesend)
I think there is general agreement in the House today on two things: first, that the Council of Europe and Western European Union so far have not been by any means as successful as most of us hoped they would be when they were founded; and secondly, that we now have a chance—as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) said, possibly the last chance—of making something of them. There also seems to be general agreement that probably the best way of doing that is by some form of amalgamation, rationalisation or integration of the various proliferating bodies.
The first thing that one has to decide before discussing amalgamation is what exactly these bodies are supposed to do—that is to say, the reason why the Council of Europe, Western European Union, etc., were established. In the case of all of them, I think, except the Council of Europe, their objects are self-evident. Western European Union was an ad hoc arrangement to cover the failure of E.D.C. The objects of the O.E.E.C., the Coal and Steel Community, and of Euratom and the common market, if they all come about, are obvious.
The work and objects of the Council of Europe, however, have never been clearly defined and it is that organisation which has suffered most during the eight years. Having set up the Assembly, the Ministers then, as it were, sat back as though they felt that they had done a good day's work, and omitted to give the Council anything to do. It has really had to create its own organisation throughout the last eight years. In that connection it has, of course, done some useful if unobtrusive, work. Among this is included the Convention on Innkeepers' Liability, for which the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas), I believe, was responsible.
§ Mr. Kirk
Another example is the Convention on Motor Insurance. All that is useful, solid work. There was also the Convention on Human Rights, and there was a rather abortive attempt to create a European social charter.
Surely, however, that sort of small homework was not the original intention of the Council of Europe, and it is a pity that it has degenerated into a kind of half talking shop and half a place where small conventions of that kind are hammered out. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, when he replies, will give an indication of what the Government have in mind for any new assembly, or for the Council of Europe if no new assembly is created. Clearly, it cannot be a responsible assembly. On the other hand, it would be a pity and a waste of effort if it went on being quite as irresponsible, in the real sense of the word, as the Council of Europe Assembly has been in the last eight years.
One of the things that could usefully be done by the Council of Europe—I suggested this during the last session at Strasbourg—is, for instance, to work out a concerted plan to control the news broadcasts to Eastern Europe. At the moment, every country puts out its own propaganda and goes ahead regardless of what other countries may be saying. Indeed, there are occasions when both France and Britain, for example, are broadcasting to Hungary at the same time. That is not the logical way of going about it. If we believe that Western Europe is the ideal, in which we want the people of Eastern Europe to join in one great Council of Europe, surely we should co-ordinate the message which we are sending out towards the people of Eastern Europe.
I do not think that this status, which most of us want to see realised, will ever be achieved until the relations between the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly have been cleared up. That applies strongly to Western European Union, in which the relations have not been good. There have been silly little things that annoy both sides, such as the prolonged wrangle which has gone on between the Council of Ministers and the Assembly of Western European Union about whether there should be one Press officer or half a Press officer, 818 whether money can be provided to produce a booklet, and that kind of thing. It does not help in any way when an assembly constantly feels, as both Assemblies have felt, that the Committee of Ministers is frustrating it in small things that do not matter very much.
In the short time that I have been a delegate at Strasbourg, I have had the feeling that we are reaching a stage when the Ministers are being regarded with such suspicion by the Assembly that it is poisoning the whole drive towards European unity in which both the Committee and the Assembly believe. For example, at the joint meetings between the representatives of the Assembly and representatives of the Council, as often as not the Ministers' Deputies attend without any instructions and the whole thing has to be put off once again.
I raised a question at the time of the Hungarian incident, when the Assembly committee dealing with population and refugees suggested that the budget surplus of the Council of Europe should be transferred to Hungarian relief. When the Committee of Minister's Deputies met, they had no instructions. The matter was put off for a month and the whole point of the gesture—it was no more than a gesture; the money itself was not very much—was lost. We have got to iron out these difficulties and create a much better relationship between the Committee and the Assembly before there will be any good solid basis on which to work
Another defect which needs to be remedied is the duplication of work and the overlapping which is constantly occurring between the various bodies. In that connection, we on the Assembly side have every reason for complaint. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will have something to say about this. It is no new problem. As long ago as 7th July, 1955, the Assembly passed a recommendation pointing out that the relationships between European organisations required to be considered as a whole with a view, on the one hand, to preventing wasted effort and, on the other hand, to providing a Parliamentary forum for those organisations.
The Assembly recommended the appointment of a select committee consisting of certain national civil servants 819 to deal with the problem. The Committee of Ministers can hardly be said to have worked on it with great speed, for it was not until eighteen months later, on 15th December, 1956, that the Committee passed its resolution, which said that a comprehensive study should, not immediately, but in due course, be made of the institutional structure of European collaboration. All that has happened is that the acting Secretary-General to the Council of Europe has written to the Secretary-General of O.E.E.C. with a view to the preparation of a report on the two organisations.
That is not good enough. If we proceed at that pace we shall stop altogether. If we do no better than that the whole organisation will fall apart. Something has to be done urgently to streamline the organisation. That is generally agreed between hon. Members here today. Starting with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty), who, I think, has used his luck in the Ballot most wisely, and who first brought up the question, every other Member who has spoken has mentioned the need to streamline the efforts being made.
I am not sure, however, that in streamlining these efforts and in setting up a council which would have general supervision over O.E.E.C., over E.P.U., and so on, it would be wise to bring in, at this stage at any rate, America and Canada, partly because N.A.T.O. has always been an arm of the West against the Russians. It is not wholly that, but that is a commonly accepted view of it.
§ Mr. de Freitas
That is true, and, of course, N.A.T.O. is a military alliance, but my Amendment makes no reference to N.A.T.O. That is the significance of it. It is also significant that the Foreign Secretary's reply to me on 21st December did not refer to N.A.T.O. or to any other existing organisation. My Amendment proposes something new.
§ Mr. Kirk
—gives the impression that it is to be a N.A.T.O. assembly, whether it is or not, and gives also the impression, as a logical consequence, that it is to be an element in the cold war. I do not believe that myself. Moreover, that would mean that countries like Austria and Sweden which are not members of N.A.T.O. could not join the council. Nor could the Swiss, whom we hope to associate with the O.E.E.C. assembly. First we have to rationalise the existing organisations and then, perhaps, extend their scope across the Atlantic. To set up an Atlantic council now would create more difficulties than it would solve.
A suggestion which has been under discussion for some time, which was embodied in a recommendation of the Assembly in 1954, is that the Council of Europe countries should work together at the United Nations and in other international bodies, and possibly form a bloc. I am not myself much enamoured of that idea because I think that there are too many blocs at the United Nations already. On the other hand, it would certainly have been useful during the recent troubles in Suez if we had been working together as a bloc. I should like my right hon. Friend to tell us whether the Council of Europe countries at the United Nations do meet together regularly, do have consultations between themselves, as I think they should on matters of purely European concern.
Part of the reason for the disappointment which we have all felt with the work of the Council of Europe is that the original plan was too ambitious. We tried to create out of nothing, four or five years after an extremely bitterly fought war, the complete structure of a kind of super-State on a political basis. It did not work because it was too sudden and because it had nothing to do. The success of the Coal and Steel Community and of some other bodies has been due to their having been formed on a functional basis. They had something definite to do. The Coal and Steel Community has been working to organise Europe's coal and steel industries. The common market will presumably work on a strictly functional basis, and presumably the free trade area will proceed likewise.
We shall eventually come to some political union, but only via functional union. O.E.E.C. has probably been the 821 most successful of all the European bodies largely because it has devoted itself solely to What it was set up to do, and has not sought to do more than that.
I welcome the initiative which the Government have taken in the free trade area idea, which I think is of immense importance, and I hope that they will look once again at the problem of Euratom. I should like to see Britain a member of Euratom. I think we have been a little hasty in turning the idea down.
I believe that in considering the general problem of streamlining all these efforts we should proceed not so much on a political basis as on an economic and functional basis. A good example of that was the conference of the Ministers of Transport to rationalise the transport systems of Europe; and if we could rationalise them it would make the business of getting to Strasbourg easier than it is, and that would be an advantage.
There is a great deal more that could be said on this matter, but I do not intend to detain the House any further, because I know that other Members want to take part in the debate. We are at the crossroads. If Britain now chooses to take the leadership of Europe, as she could have done at any time in the last eight years, she could contribute greatly to the cause of peace. If once again, as we did in 1949, as we did in 1951, as we did in 1953, we refuse to take what is offered to us, I see no hope for the future of European co-operation. I am certain that this is our last chance. If we do not take it now we shall never take it, and we and Europe and the world will be the poorer.
§ 1.27 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I fully endorse the final words of the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk). For years Europe has been begging this country to join with her and to take the lead, and we have consistently refused. We have played about on the edge of the European organisation which has been built up. I agree with the hon. Member that we are facing our last chance and that it will be a tragedy for this country if we lose it, and a great tragedy for Europe, too.
822 We are all grateful to the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) for having introduced this Motion today, but it is rather surprising to find that, whereas during the comparatively short history of the Council of Europe some 200 past and present Members of this House have gone to Strasbourg as delegates, there is here today such a small representation of those Members of the House. It can be assumed, I suppose, that those Members present today can be regarded as those who are probably the most interested of all in the development of European unity.
Yet the tone of the debate, held by the cream of Europeans in this House of Commons, suggests that the situation is desperate and that we must do something about it but dare not.
When one considers the actual, physical situation of Europe and that of Britain vis-à-vis Europe and the rest of the world today, it is depressing that this should be the case. When one considers that at the beginning of the century we were responsible for about 90 per cent. of the world's exported manufactured goods and that now that percentage is down to between 20 per cent. and 25 per cent., one does not need to argue any further about the necessity of our getting into a wider community, particularly when that wider community is on our doorstep and begging us to join it.
One or two practical suggestions have been made in the debate. Not all have said that we dare not do anything. Some have suggested we should try to do something. The suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), so far as one can see, in no way solves the problem of the proliferation of organisations and the wasting of the time of Members of Parliament by their meeting at different places at different times. He suggested solving that problem by having those bodies sitting as committees of the Council of Europe in the same place at the same time. I frankly do not see how that saves their time, because it means that the Council as such cannot meet while they are meeting, and when the Council subsequently meets, not having powers over these bodies, because it is a separate entity, it can do nothing about them.
823 Then we have the plan of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby), which is a much more ambitious or more practicable one. He suggests one assembly, responsible for all these organisations, which should have authority over such bodies as O.E.E.C. He said that we cannot have anything to do with this wild idea of supra-national organisations, but how can a council of Parliamentarians possibly have authority over ministerial bodies like O.E.E.C. unless these people have Parliamentary powers? Whilst I am encouraged to find the hon. Member prepared to face the position and suggest that they should have powers, I should like him to reconcile that idea with his rejection of a supra-national authority.
The hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Godfrey Nicholson) suggested that there should be a high-power conference of Western European countries confined to the greater Powers in that area. When I asked him whether by that he meant Britain, France and Germany, to the exclusion of Belgium and the Scandinavian countries, he said that he did not, and that he had in view a meeting of France, Italy, the Benelux countries and Western Germany. But that is the Messina conference. They have already met and have decided to go ahead, and they are asking that Britain and the Scandinavian countries should come in with them.
The difficulty that we are in is that, with the Scandinavian countries, we have not been in the preliminary discussions and, therefore, I do not think that the hon. Member's proposition is practicable. It does not get us anywhere. We want a meeting of all the Powers concerned—the Messina Powers and those not in on the discussions, that is, Britain and the Scandinavian Powers—to see how we can thrash this matter out.
As to this multifariousness, this duplication, this waste of time and multiplication of bureaucracy, that is primarily the fault of this country more than of any other. The only way in which this proliferation can be solved is to bring these bodies together under one roof and have all the members of the Parliamentary council members of all the bodies, otherwise the Council cannot have authority over the separate bodies. We cannot expect that we or the Scandinavian 824 countries, or Poland if she comes in, should have authority in a Council of Europe to control, direct or instruct the Coal and Steel Community or Euratom unless we are all members. This is the only way that we can do it effectively, and we might as well face the fact.
Why should we burke at the extension of democratic principle in these matters? We face the fact that in this and other democratic countries the organisation of social, financial and even economic affairs of the community must be under the control of a democratic body representative of the people, yet we in this country are in particular the ones who refuse all the time to have any acceptance of that principle in the case of organisations within the wider community of Europe. There is no solution to this problem until we face the need for that democratic community.
I should be prepared to agree that in our refusal to be completely associated with the European common market, the free trade area, there is an argument about the Commonwealth and agricultural products, though I do not think that it is a very strong argument, because there would be reciprocal advantage to the Commonwealth in getting into a European market of 250 million people. But whilst I admit that it is a special point in relation to the common market, it does not apply to the Coal and Steel Community. There is no physical or political reason why this country should not be a complete member of that Community, and I understand that the T.U.C. regrets now that we did not go further at the beginning. The same applies to Euratom. There is no argument why we should not be full members of that, without affecting our relations with the Commonwealth. There is no physical obstacle, except maybe in the case of a common market, why we should not be full members of these bodies, and our joining would mean that the Scandinavian countries would join and we could be together under a central Parliamentary council.
It is not necessary to recall in detail the history of what has happened. Every hon. Member is familiar with it. During the war we had Mr. Winston Churchill, as he was then, proclaiming that Britain was prepared to join in union with France. After the war was over, that was dropped. Then immediately after 825 the war, we had Mr. Attlee, as he was then, declaring at a conference in the Central Hall that Europe must federate or perish and proclaiming the doctrine that Europe, including Britain, should be in one federation. The dangers which he pointed out have shown themselves to be far more exaggerated in the years since then. As the war receded and the drama of the situation began to subside, rather like political parties or trade unions while the hardships are not so keen and near and apparent, Governments of both sides of the House began to lose interest, and now apparently we have to wait again until there is a further tragedy before we have the inspiration to take the steps necessary to deal with these problems.
Then there was the proposal for a European Army, which Mr. Winston Churchill, as Leader of the Conservative Party, proclaimed at Strasbourg. He urged the need for a European Army in which Britain should be a full member. He was not Prime Minister then, but when he became Prime Minister that idea was dropped. He still pursued the idea of a European Army, but without Britain.
We are too inclined to blame France for the failure of E.D.C., the greatest blow to European development ever known and one which nearly proved fatal. It was not the fault of France but of this country, and particularly of the Prime Minister of the day. If we had been prepared to go forward with the original proposition we should not have had the difficulty in France. Without Britain, the fear in France was of Germany.
There is on the Order Paper a Motion protesting against General Speidel being given any appointment in N.A.T.O.
§ [That this House deplores the decision of Her Majesty's Government in giving their support to the appointment of General Spiedel as Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation land forces.]
§ Why? Not because he was a Nazi. He never was. Not because he was a well-known supporter of Hitler or of the war, but because he was a German who served in the German Army at the time of the war. We must make up our minds either that we are going to cast 826 Germany aside and say that she can act on her own and build arms, including atomic weapons and stocks, in competition with us and others, or we must welcome her into an alliance. If she willingly accepts restrictions on her manufacture of atomic weapons and on stocks on German territory, we cannot say that she must have none of the commands. If we do, that is not an alliance. An ally cannot be expected to tolerate conditions of that kind.
§ Indeed, when I see Motions of this type on the Order Paper I often feel inclined—although I do not know whether it would be in order—to put down Motions of my own suggesting that in regard to all these international organisations, including the Council of Europe and N.A.T.O., it would be logical for Her Majesty's Government to ask that no foreigners be allowed to hold any official position. That is the logic of the matter. If we are to object to sharing the responsibilities of these organisations with our partners, once having accepted them as partners, we must face the logical conclusion.
§ Why is there all this disappointment about the Council of Europe? As has been said over and over again in the debate, it is because its Assembly has no power, vis-à-vis the Committee of Ministers. It is no good blaming the Ministers entirely for that fact. Why should the Ministers, with all their preoccupations and responsibilities to their own Parliaments, be bothered about an assembly which has no powers?
§ It is true that the Committee of Ministers was originally at fault. When the first Statute of the Council was drafted, I and many others protested at the fact that the Committee of Ministers reserved all the powers to themselves, even to the extent of drafting the agenda—although that power has since been eliminated. When the Council was being set up I remember my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) stating that there were possibilities of the organisation developing quite rapidly. As he said, once several hundred members from democratic Parliaments gathered together in a Council of this kind, whatever the Ministers had to say they would have to face this democratic Assembly, composed of practised and experienced 827 Members of Parliament, and they would soon find their powers taken over by that Assembly.
§ In this case, however, that has not happened, and in so far as it has not we must blame ourselves. I am not blaming merely those who have been delegates to the Council, but all of us on both sides of the House, who have allowed our Governments to maintain that power and to refuse it to the democratic Assembly established at Strasbourg. We cannot blame the Committee of Ministers unless we are prepared to ensure that we are the ruling authority at Strasbourg as we are in our own Parliaments.
§ The question that has led to this ineffective position of the Assembly has been the question whether we should develop upon a federal or a functional basis. The federal basis having been rejected and, largely at the insistence of the British elements in the Council, irrespective of party, the balance of opinion having come down upon the functional side, in favour of a development of the British style, instead of the development of a federal constitution which would have handed over powers in respect of all kinds of matters to a new Parliament of Europe; once having decided to take one thing at a time—and I include myself in that collective "we" although I was no party to the argument—and to set up a functional organisation. Britain refused to take part.
§ What possible justification could we have for adopting that attitude, which we have taken all along? We funked functionalism, so the European Coal and Steel Community was set up by the Europeans, who are determined to go on with this effective European union. The Community is succeeding. One hon. Member said that one reason why the Council of Europe had been so ineffective was that it was too ambitious too soon after the war. He then complained that the Council had no powers and was ineffective because it was not bold enough. The Coal and Steel Community, which was ambitious, set up machinery to make itself an effective body; it did so not very much longer after the war, and it succeeded. It was not a lack of courage that caused the Council to become ineffective, but the failure to face the necessity for taking even bolder steps.828
§ Mr. Hynd
Precisely. If we had had the courage that the Six had and had given the Council powers to deal with practical questions, it would have been a more effective body. Because we lacked that courage it has failed.
The same considerations apply to the Euratom proposal, and that is an even more urgent matter than the common market. I do not know how it is developing at present. I am sorry that we did not go into the preliminary discussions. It has now gone too far for us to try to reopen discussions. We shall have to wait until the treaty is printed and then see what is in it. After that I hope that both the Government and the Opposition will see whether Britain can become a full member, but not upon the basis suggested by one hon. Member opposite, who suggested that we could not participate in such an organisation because it would mean that we should be giving everything and getting nothing back. He said that we have all the "know-how". We have the separator stations and the plant, and Europe has not.
That is surely only a temporary situation. Surely, as the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East said, if we are going to take part in these matters we cannot enter them upon a balance sheet basis, on the assumption that we have to make a profit. We have something to offer—something which will bring advantages to us because we have this separator plant, which the other countries are reluctant to build if they can find facilities elsewhere because of the immense cost and the fact that these developments are in a highly experimental stage at the moment.
This country would become the capital of Euratom. We should have this centre of power and would be able to export many of our products to these other countries. If we do not go into Euratom what will happen? The Six will say, "All right. Britain is not coming in. We shall go on without her. We shall 829 have to build our own separator plant. Where do we build it?" Will Germany be very happy about it being in France, with the possibility of a Communist or Fascist Government gaining control of that country? Will France be very happy if it is situated in Germany? Of course not. Where will it be? Who will run the show if Britain is not in? In the long term, the answer is fairly obvious.
We talk about having the "know-how" and being ahead of everyone else. That may be so, but we should remember that we were ahead with our railways and in several other matters. We have paid the price of being ahead, because we have been left with the results of the first experiments while other countries have gone on and developed newer projects based upon our experiments. Let us suppose that Scotland had not decided to give England her "know-how", and all the advantages conferred by the union of the clans. Where would England be today? This Parliament could not function without the Scots. For a long time they got nothing in return; in fact, I question whether they have had much in return even now, except the benefits of having contributed to the greatest community of nations that the world has ever known.
Only a few years ago I was in Ireland, talking to a very eminent Irish statesman, who was complaining to me about the terrible economic conditions in Eire. In the end, I said, "Surely all these economic difficulties and shortages about which you are complaining could fairly easily be resolved if you were once again tied up with the United Kingdom. There would then be a free flow of goods; the standard of living in Ireland would be built up, and you would share all the advantages that the Labour Government gave to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by the introduction of the great social services experiment." His reply was astonishing. He said, "I agree, but I cannot do it because I was one of those who started this break-away in Ireland. Someone else will have to do it." Would not it have been better if Ireland had remained with us? Has she gained anything, economically or otherwise, from her break with Britain, apart from sentimental advantages? One can pick examples of that kind from all over the world.
What is quite clear to all hon. Members present is that isolationism, even for 830 Britain, is fatal today. What is the solution? We cannot dodge this issue. We cannot have effective centralised control over all the activities carried on by W.E.U., Euratom, E.C.O.S.O.C., the common market and the rest unless we have a common membership and a common central authority with some power to direct policy and to restrain the powers of the Ministers.
I know that is getting towards federation, but there is no alternative if we are to deal with the job. It would not be the first time that federation had succeeded in this world. Even if we are afraid of federation on orthodox lines and standards, there have been many other ideas canvassed which, judging from the contributions to the debate, should not be unacceptable to hon. Members on both sides of the House or to the Government.
There was the proposition which was examined so intensively in Strasbourg under the leadership of a former Member of the House, Mr. Ronald Mackay. It was not federation, but it gave effective powers in certain instances over the Committee of Ministers and gave the Assembly an opportunity to do something effective.
When the Council of Europe was first proposed and a conference was being held in Paris to draw up a constitution. I put forward in this House a proposal which I understand was discussed in Paris but was rejected on a complete misapprehension. It was simply that we should begin by building up the Council of Europe somewhat on the lines of the International Labour Organisation, which has powers as an assembly over the central council, the assembly itself having powers to bring in conventions and recommendations on specific issues which then become, if the assembly approves them by a two-thirds majority, conventions which must be submitted to the national Parliaments within twelve months for acceptance or rejection. One has not surrendered any sovereignty in advance, but if one's Parliament accepts the results of the assembly's discussion, then one is bound by the convention, but it becomes a national decision. I suggested that that might be considered as an alternative short of complete federation.
At all events, we have possibilities which should satisfy the functionalist and 831 the federalist, but we have no excuse for having advocated the functional approach and then, having got functional organisations, having refused to join them.
I know that many hon. Members are very nervous about this. They say there are a lot of risks and dangers. They say that there is a lot of unemployment in Italy and that we shall be tied up with that. They say that the French Government have difficulty in collecting their taxes. They say that we have differences in our social insurance arrangements. They say that there is a lot of Communism on the Continent, such as in France and Italy, which we do not have here. They ask why we should risk our comfortable position in this country by tying up with all those problems.
They overlook that those problems are there anyhow and that they are a danger to this country whether we are able to influence them or not. By staying outside, we allow them to develop without being able to apply any influence upon them or without making our contribution to strengthening the democratic elements which are the only ramparts against the spread of Communism, Fascism or whatever else it may be. We either go in to assist the democratic elements to build up the democratic community within the European community, or we stand outside and, possibly, watch each of those countries going down separately under its own problem. If that happens, where shall we be then?
I support the idea behind the Amendment relating to the Atlantic Community, but if we complain that there are already too many talking shops, that even the Strasbourg Assembly is nothing more than a talking shop because it has no powers, what will an Atlantic conference be unless it is just another talking shop like the Strasbourg Assembly has been for too long? I do not object to it as a first step, as something to feel out the possibilities, but it is no good assuming that it will ever become anything more than a conference for mutual discussion and exchange of views unless we have, by our own acts and as a result of our own experience in Europe, been able to transform the Council of Europe from a talking shop to something practical. When we have done that, we can certainly go on to look at the possibilities of extending that experiment and ex- 832 tending the development which we have achieved into something wider which might cover an Atlantic Community.
However, I am very nervous of the suggestion that we can build an effective Atlantic Community which will be anything more than a consultative assembly and which will have any powers at all if we have failed to clean up the mess on our own doorstep. Therefore, I say that we should have an Atlantic Community assembly by all means, but let us first establish that we can run this kind of thing effectively in Europe on a democratic basis. Having got that, we shall then be in a much better position to go into an Atlantic Community with Europe as an equal partner rather than go in as a lot of small units vis-à-vis the great American community, when there might be grave dangers of our being nothing more than satellites.
§ 1.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Knox Cunningham (Antrim, South)
When one refers outside this House to the Council of Europe and its work at Strasbourg, one is always asked "What is its use?" and "What does it do?" Today a great number of hon. Members on both sides of the House have given answers to those questions, and have given them with a feeling of disappointment about the extent of the success which has so far been achieved by the Council of Europe.
I have had a very short experience of Strasbourg. The hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) has had a great deal more experience of it than I have, but I differ from his view that no effective motions are debated or carried in the Assembly. In one way, of course, that is true. When they have been debated in the Assembly, motions have to go forward to the Committee of Ministers, which decides the executive action. But where I differ is in the other sense, and in that sense it is not true that the debates are not effective.
I want to stress two points which have already been mentioned. First, there is a great deal of good secondary work done by the Council of Europe, work dealing with the various conventions that are passed. I said "secondary work." I should like to put it another way. It is not quite work carried out in the basement; it is more like work carried out 833 in the kitchen, where possibily the most important work in any home is done.
The conventions—one passed in October and going forward to the Committee of Ministers, relates to the unification throughout Western Europe of the Jaw concerning compulsory motor car insurance—are matters which affect the ordinary man in the street, or woman "in the Clapham omnibus," or their counterparts in Paris or Berlin or elsewhere, wherever they travel throughout other countries. Those are things which the Council of Europe can do well, and does do well.
The other point is that individual members of the Parliaments of the countries in Europe can meet at Strasbourg and discuss matters outside the formal Assembly or committees, and, to my mind, that is a very great achievement.
On those two grounds alone, I say that the Council of Europe is carrying out very good work for Europe, work which could not be carried on in any other way.
§ 1.58 p.m.
§ Mr. A. G. Bottomley (Rochester and Chatham)
I join other hon. Members in thanking the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) for introducing the Motion. I am sure he will be pleased to see how worthily the discussion is proceeding.
There is an impression given by some hon. Members that the United Kingdom is somewhat lukewarm towards the idea of European integration. I hope to show that that is not so. European integration is something which has been written and talked about for many decades. Victor Hugo and William Penn both wrote about the need for European integration. The characteristics of our people are such that we never rush headstrong or heedlessly into anything, nor do we tiptoe. History shows that we usually march fairly firmly and steadfastly along a given road to our objective.
We recall that during the dark days of the war when we were fighting for our lives it was the Prime Minister of the Coalition Government, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) who in 1943 said:It is my earnest hope, though I hardly expect to see it fulfilled in my lifetime, that we shall achieve the largest common measure of the integrated life of Europe that is possible 834 without destroying the individual characteristics and traditions of its many ancient and historic races.When the Labour Government were elected in 1945 they believed in that. Sometimes the fear is expressed that not enough was done immediately at the end of the war to bring about the integration of Europe.
At the end of the war everyone hoped that the alliance against the common enemy would develop into co-operation and that maximum co-operation would be achieved through the United Nations and its Agencies as the best way to ensure peace and promote security. Also hoping for that, the then Labour Government had in mind that there were very difficult and troubling problems in many parts of the world, particularly in Asia, and the Prime Minister of the day, Lord Attlee as he is now, saw the need for strengthening the Commonwealth by giving independence to India, Pakistan and Ceylon, and freedom to Burma. I think that the free world as a whole benefited by that action.
During all this time we had to face it that Europe was shaken and devastated, and the hopes which we all had of the wartime alliance developing into peaceful co-operation were not fulfilled. In due course that great Secretary of State in the United States made a speech at Harvard from which flowed the Marshall Plan. He made that speech on 5th June. 1947, when he said:If European nations would formulate a programme of joint action to promote their economic rehabilitation, the United States would see what they could do to help.Our Foreign Secretary of the day, Mr. Ernest Bevin, lost no time. He went fully into it and accepted the challenge, with the result that we had this great economic scheme to aid Europe and not Western Europe alone. It was to apply to all in Europe, East and West, including the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union for some reason declined to co-operate, and not only did it decline to co-operate but it also stopped other Eastern European countries from coming into the association.
At the time this was going on and we were getting aid from the United States, it is as well to recall that from our own slender resources we contributed £173 million to U.N.R.R.A. We contributed to countries within this organisation which was set up following the 835 Marshall Aid Plan, the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation. We gave to those countries £402 million. I admit that payments made under the Intra-European Payments Agreement and the European Payments Union were subject to aid from the United States but, if we ignore that aid, the total contribution from this country towards European recovery was £254 million.
The O.E.E.C. was a remarkable achievement on the part of the then Foreign Secretary. It was something entirely new for European countries to agree to submit their budget problems, their investment programmes and their balance of payment problems for examination by experts of other Governments. This was a remarkable agreement towards the integration of Europe. It was a practical way of bringing about this development. I would say that those of us who strongly favour European integration want it to be done effectively by administrative action because, although politics are the lifeblood of our democracy, words alone will not solve our problems.
The impression has been given that Britain has dragged behind because we have Commonwealth commitments. We have Commonwealth commitments, but the Commonwealth has never in any way hindered the close association of the United Kingdom with Europe. Indeed, at the end of the Commonwealth Conference held in this country in 1948, the Prime Ministers issued a communiqué which I think I am right in saying, I have not the exact words, reported agreement that the association of the United Kingdom with her Western European neighbours was in accordance with the interests of the Commonwealth and of the United Nations, and that the Commonwealth Governments should be kept in close touch. There were very good reasons that that should be so. I suppose that it can be said that we of all the European Powers, by our language and by our background, can interpret both the Commonwealth and the United States much more effectively and efficiently than any other European Power.
It was subsequently necessary for the Foreign Minister, Mr. Ernest Bevin, to recognise that all his hopes of bringing 836 the world together were not fulfilled as he would have wished, and he was compelled ultimately to come to this House and say—I think that it was in January, 1948—that there was a vital need for the free nations of Europe to draw closer together. It is from that speech which he delivered in this House that most of the existing European institutions came. They stem from that period. They include the Brussels Treaty Organisation, which dealt with economic, social and cultural co-operation and also made provision for defence and O.E.E.C., which I have mentioned. I prefer even today, as it was the policy of the Government of that time, inter-governmental action.
I believe that it is possible to get better results in that way, by getting civil servants and administrative staffs working together, understanding how each other's system works, and eventually, by that means, building up a machine to carry out the wishes of the politicians. But, as has already been said this morning, if we have the politicians first, without giving them any precise work to do, we tend to get frustrated. Inter-governmental cooperation, in my judgment, was best, but other European Powers were anxious to get the European Assembly, and so we have the Council of Europe.
We have now the Council of Europe, the Western European Union and we also have working very effectively the Coal and Steel Community, and yesterday the White Paper on the Common Market was introduced and we have quite rightly stressed our desire to be associated with that admirable body which will come into being. Then there is Euratom, which we shall have to consider. As my hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) has already said, we are too late to go into it completely, but there is the need for the closest association.
§ Mr. J. Hynd
I did not say that it was too late for us to go into it completely. On the contrary, I was asking that we should closely examine the treaty when it comes out to see whether we cannot go in for it completely. I said that it had gone too far for us to get in on the preliminary discussions.
§ Mr. Bottomley
I saw a report in which the Belgian Foreign Minister said that within a few weeks this will be an accomplished fact and to that extent we will 837 not be included. I was going to say that in all these organisations we have the right to claim that it was from the original work of Mr. Ernest Bevin that this kind of development stemmed. I think that one of the reasons and justifications for today's debate is that many people, following the backwash of the disaster in the Middle East, are looking forward to European integration.
Western Europe as it is at the moment, divided and sub-divided, is unable, either by diplomacy or force, to defend its vital interests in the outside world, as at one time it could. I have my faith in the United Nations, as we all have, but I refuse to believe that the 250 million people in this area cannot exercise more influence in that body than they do at the moment. We have more people than the United States or the Soviet Union and certainly should have more power than the Latin Americans or the Arabs, but I regret to say that Western European influence in the United Nations is perhaps now weaker than it has been for a long time. That in itself stresses the need for closer European unity so that we can make ourselves stronger and more effective in our representations.
The inter-Government bodies I have mentioned are now in being, and once these become effective and efficient we do not want bureaucracy to rule. We have to have some means of controlling bureaucracy and the way is by Parliamentary control. So we have the Council of Europe and Western European Union (which act in that way. I want to refer to both, because, as has been said by several speakers this morning, there appears to be a good deal of overlapping. The members of both Assemblies are the same people and it is now time to see whether the administrative staffs ought not to be the same. I want to put some questions in the hope that the Minister of State himself or the Foreign Secretary at the meeting of Foreign Ministers will see whether these matters cannot be studied with a view to getting a better service by centralised administration.
For instance, it was some time before we were able to get promotion for members of the staff within the service at the Council of Europe. There was a tendency for people to come into it, but we did not know from where since the higher appointments were made by 838 selection from particular countries. Things are now much better in the Council of Europe but we have some doubt about how the staff for Western European Union is recruited. Within the Council of Europe there is an avenue of promotion to a certain standard, but I am not sure that we have yet achieved the best results for promotion to the higher posts. We tend to treat the Secretary-General and others as diplomatic appointments. To the extent that they are so treated, however zealous, keen and efficient they may be, there is a tendency for them to think of their own countries and perhaps of promotion within their own country's service. To that extent they cannot be said to be completely free as international civil servants to give of their best for the organisation as a whole.
However, it is an admirable civil service, and I do not wish to detract from what it has done, but there is a limitation. I should like to see established not only for the Council of Europe but for all international organisations the sort of thing we have in our own country where we have the Civil Service Commission. There should be an international civil service commission, and within that body recruits could be found. The best men in the world would know that within it was an avenue of promotion which would give them leading positions in international organisations. I asked about this matter on 21st February, 1955, when one of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessors said:… the Committee of Ministers has instructed the secretariat of the Council of Europe to undertake a comprehensive study … in conjunction with other European organisations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1955; Vol. 537, c. 1004.]Can the Minister tell us what has happened since then? Is there anything to report? If he can tell us, he may answer some of the queries which I have already made.
All these international organisations have to have money to run their machinery. A good many of us, as Parliamentarians, have at times wanted to know that their financial accountability was to elected Members of Parliament. It was some time before we were able to get suitable machinery at the Council of Europe, but statements of accounts are now submitted, examined and passed in the Parliamentary manner. I do not 839 think that the same is true of Western European Union. I should like the Minister of State to look into that to see if accounts can be presented and examined in the same way as those of the Council of Europe.
One of the things which has caused difficulty to Parliamentarians in their efforts to get closer understanding has been the fact that we have never had a set period for meetings—that is particularly true of the Council of Europe. I want to illustrate that. In 1954, there were meetings of the Council of Europe Consultative Assembly in May, September and December; in 1955, there were meetings in July and September; in 1956, there were three meetings, one of which ran into January of this year. At the end of that session, which ought to have been completed, the President of the Assembly said that in case anything else arose, we would not close the session, but keep it open.
That sort of thing is a disadvantage for Parliamentarians generally. Surely it is not impossible for a given time to be arranged—say twice a year—for meetings of the Council of Europe which would not clash with Parliamentary duties in various countries and when Parliamentarians in those countries would always be sure of being able to attend. I believe that by that method we would have better results than by having the spasmodic meetings which have been held over the past few years.
Hon. Members have already referred to the work of the Council of Europe Assembly and the Committee of Ministers. When I was Secretary of State for Overseas Trade and connected with tourism to help the export trade, I was aware of the many barriers which prevented tourists travelling to and from Europe. The Council of Europe has done a good job in that respect. It has broken down barriers, simplified frontier formalities and done away with visas; there is a uniformity of law regarding the liability of hotel keepers for the effects of travellers, and for third party insurance in the case of motorists. Things of that kind have facilitated movement and have been a worthwhile contribution. I cite those merely as illustrations, but of course there are other examples.
840 All of the various international organisations, particularly the United Nations Specialised Agencies, I.L.O., U.N.E.S.C.O., the World Health Organisation and the United Nations refugee organisation, by arrangement and agreement come to the Council of Europe and report. Those reports are carefully studied. I have heard it said that not enough time is given to their study, but that is not because the organisations themselves raised any difficulty. For some time I was the rapporteur of the economic committee of the Council of Europe Consultative Assembly and we used to receive the O.E.E.C. report. It was produced annually. The Minister introduced it, there was a debate and that was the end. I was associated with the chairman of the committee and I asked if it would be possible, before the Minister presented the report, for the committee to meet officials and the Minister and to have a frank talk in committee on the O.E.E.C. report. Our debates thereafter were very much more effective and businesslike. What could be done in that case could be done in other cases.
I agree that we have to cease thinking in an exclusively national way. We have to preserve our nationality, of course, but we have to reflect higher thoughts. We are members of this great European community and have to play our part. The Council of Europe is made up of two parts, the Committee of Ministers numbering 15, and the Consultative Assembly of 132 Members of Parliament who form committees of themselves, exchange opinions and pool ideas. That fact in turn must have its effect on public opinion throughout the whole of Western Europe and, indeed, beyond.
My hon. Friend said that initially the Committee of Ministers was required to control the Assembly's agenda. It is a good thing that we did away with that so that Members of Parliament are able freely to debate the broader issues of peace and security and to that extent are able to return to their Parliaments better informed to take part in debates. The Council of Europe should be the centre for all these new Parliamentary institutions which will develop as the agencies become more effective in their administration and their contributions to the work of Europe. But we must also have these 841 bureaucratic institutions so that Parliamentary control can develop gradually within the Consultative Assembly.
It is true that the United Kingdom was one who sowed these seeds. These Parliamentary roots are beginning to go down, perhaps not deeply, and the first shoots are beginning to show. They will produce their buds and we shall have Parliamentary democracy, not in our time but, as the right hon. Member for Woodford said, in the years to come. It is an evolutionary function, and that is a distinction between the Council of Europe Consultative Assembly and other international bodies. Other international organisations have a defined function and procedure, but the Council of Europe Consultative Assembly has no tradition. It is not the traditional tool of diplomacy, as is customarily the case with other international organisations which we know. We shall have to make our rules and precedents.
The Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe has fully justified itself and this debate today has been one way in which we have been able to use the experience which we have gained at its assemblies. I regret that the Government have not seen fit to provide an opportunity of debating this subject in the past; it is two years since we had our last debate on the Council of Europe.
One comment made this morning was that Strasbourg was not the best meeting place and that the Council might perhaps move to Paris. I ventured to interject the suggestion that it should meet in London. Ultimately, perhaps, the best meeting place would be Vienna, if we are to have a united Europe of both East and West, but I believe that at the present time the suggestion which I made a few moments ago is the most practical suggestion. Paris is not looked upon as favourably as it might be as a meeting place because of the conflict which has gone on for so long between two of the great Powers. It is by no means the most central place, and in this connection we have to think of Scandinavian delegates and others. If the Minister of State is seriously considering the suggestions made this morning about the venue, I should like him to consider the possibility of meeting in London.
842 Finally, when we consider publicising the work of the integration of Europe, one of the best reference books to tell us all about this is a United Kingdom publication—the Western Co-operation reference book which has been produced by the Central Office of Information.
§ Mr. Willey
Has my right hon. Friend read the recent publication by an Englishman, A. H. Robertson—his book "The Council of Europe"—which I commend to everyone interested in the Council?
§ Mr. Bottomley
I have seen it, but I have not yet had the opportunity of reading it. It reached the Library three or four days ago. I am fairly confident that it can be taken with the reference book which I named. I mentioned it to pay a tribute to the civil servants who are called upon in the administrative rôle. This is another example of the way in which they serve us.
It is for us Parliamentarians to show that we appreciate the work which has been done by inter-Governmental associations, for in that lies the best hope of building up these institutions, over which subsequently we shall be able to exercise Parliamentary control.
§ 2.25 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. David Ormsby-Gore)
I am intervening in the debate now because I think that that may be for the convenience of the House; but I do not wish to bring the debate to an end. I am sure that there are other hon. Members who wish to take part in it, but I thought I should rise now to reply to the right hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Bottomley).
I thought that in the earlier part of his speech he gave a most lucid history of European co-operation since the war and did not paint quite such a gloomy picture as has been painted by some previous speakers. It is not true that all that has gone before has been just a story of frustration and futility. A great deal has been done, but we recognise that the moment has come to look at the matter afresh.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked me a number of detailed questions to which I cannot give him very full answers at the moment. A committee consisting 843 of civil servants and experts is examining the question of recruitment to these international bodies, and the members of the W.E.U. Assembly have been informed that in the Council's Annual Report a Budget statement will appear, giving detailed accounts, which will thus be open to scrutiny.
I listened with the greatest interest to previous speakers. We had, as we expected, some extremely interesting and useful ideas from my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby), as well as from the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman). This is a subject on which many hon. Members can speak with much greater personal experience than I can myself, and I greatly welcome their views. It is evident from what has been said in the debate and from the news which we have had from Brussels in the last few days that a lot of thinking is being done on the future of international Parliamentary associations.
I am glad of that, because I share the view that it is time the whole position was re-examined. I can assure hon. Members that Her Majesty's Government are by no means lukewarm in the matter. I have no definite proposals to put before the House today, nor can I give my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) any definite information about the construction of a Channel tunnel. But hon. Members will perhaps realise that it would not be wise to be too definite at this stage, when so many of our friends and allies have to be consulted, and when we have to try to find some common measure of agreement on how we are to reorganise and streamline these organisations.
The hon. Member for Coventry, North referred to the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary at the North Atlantic Council. Broadly speaking, that set out the objectives which we hope to attain. It would be a pity to read into those remarks the idea that those final objectives were immediately in front of us, but nevertheless there are the objectives at which we aim.
§ Mr. Willey
I raised the point of the Secretary of State's speech. Can the right hon. Gentleman answer two essential points which I made? Are we now to concentrate on N.A.T.O. as pro- 844 viding the opportunity in relation to Parliamentary assemblies, and when we, consider such developments as the common market and Euratom, are we looking to the O.E.E.C.?
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I recall the hon. Member's remarks very well. He tried to emphasise that we must give priority to one form of approach or another: either we were to go ahead in the N.A.T.O. context or in the context of the Customs union with the community of Seven. I am bound to say that I do not find the idea of making progress at the same time in both those fields incompatible. Therefore, I do not think that the distinction that the hon. Gentleman was trying to make was a very real one. Perhaps if I continue with my remarks he will see how I hope the pattern will work out.
I think that we have all agreed that some form of Parliamentary assembly is certainly here to stay and has a very important rôle to play in the development of European and Atlantic co-operation. I have added the word "Atlantic", although it does not appear in the Motion before the House, as I do not believe that we should consider the question in a purely European context. I am convinced that the European community must develop as part of the Atlantic community.
We now have within the community four international Parliamentary assemblies. I gather that we may soon have, possibly, five—or, possibly, six; I also view that with some misgivings. First in seniority, we have the Council of Europe, where some 135 representatives gather together from 15 member countries to discuss all non-military aspects of European co-operation including, of course, the activities of the Committee of Ministers. There have been endless debates in Strasbourg on the rôle of that organisation and I do not propose to review them now. I think it more profitable to remember the political debates there, for many of them have done much to give Europe a voice.
Then we have the Common Assembly, where Parliamentary representatives of the Six meet to discuss the affairs of the European Coal and Steel Community. Thirdly, we have the Western European Union Assembly, where we have representatives from this House meeting with 845 those of the Six to debate European defence and the activities of the Western European Union. Hon. Members will remember that we had a debate on W.E.U. as recently as December of last year.
Fourthly, we have this gathering of N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians to which the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) referred. That is in some ways the most remarkable, because it has no written constitution, no charter and no executive responsible to it; nor even a committee of Ministers related to it. Yet it works quite well, and in November last attracted a strong team from the United States, as the hon. Member said.
What is the rôle of these assemblies? I do not think that anyone would pretend that each of them is functioning to his entire satisfaction. Yet, diverse as they are, they have an element of success in common, and I think that it is worth trying to find out what that element of success is. To my mind, and listening to previous speakers has confirmed me in this view—those assemblies are at their best when fulfilling one particular function.
Here I would quote the words of the Prime Minister when, as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, he spoke to the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe in July, 1955. These were his words:… the Assembly should primarily regard itself as a great convention of Private Members, a Parliamentary forum for free and uninhibited discussion to review great questions.When it did that, he continued, it held the attention of Europe far more than when it tried to involve itself in the complicated details.
I would merely add to that that I do not think we do these assemblies great service if we continually speak of them as just talking shops. I think that debating chambers have great use and value, although they may not have all the executive powers that perhaps the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) would like to see them possess. Further, the key to success cannot lie in the number of resolutions passed—although resolutions have to be put forward and debated—nor in the number of new conventions that are sponsored, however useful they may be. It must lie 846 in the standard of debate that is set, and in the standard of practical yet original thought expressed.
Experience is, I think, driving us back to this original concept; that the rôle of these assemblies is to act as a forum of opinion and a forcing-house of ideas, broadly representative of political tendencies in the countries concerned, but not so closely bound to Governmental policies or national outlooks as to be unable to discuss European and Atlantic problems from a reasonably detached point of view.
They have a threefold task. In the first place, we look to their members to bring the activities of the various European and Atlantic organisations to the attention of their peoples at home. It was, I think, Lord Ismay who, when speaking to the N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians, said that… nothing could better serve the interests of the Alliance than if Members of Parliament present each contributed personally in their constituencies towards a proper understanding by ordinary people of the aims and achievements of N.A.T.O.I endorse that, and would apply it also to the work of W.E.U., O.E.E.C., and other organisations. That task would, of course, be greatly simplified if we could present a more rational and less confusing picture of the machinery of inter-Governmental co-operation.
The second task of these assemblies, I would say, is to expose those inter-Governmental organisations to constructive Parliamentary criticism; and the third task is to stimulate member Governments of the Western alliance to be vigilant in the defence of the alliance, and in striving to strengthen and improve it.
I am not convinced that the time has yet come to make any of the inter-Governmental organisations that provide the institutional framework of the alliance directly responsible in any way to these assemblies. Of course, there must be the closest working relations, and the assemblies must regard themselves as partners in the development of the alliance. But member Governments must remain responsible to their own national Parliaments.
I am rather doubtful, too—but I know that there are many points of view on this—whether these assemblies function best when they have elaborate written 847 constitutions. At the risk of labouring the point, let me say that, in my view, what determines the effectiveness of the contribution any of these assemblies makes to the development of Western co-operation is, first and foremost, the respect which it evokes in the public, and in Governments, by the quality of its debates. Ministers, like Members, look to these assemblies to provide them not only with a useful meeting place with colleagues from allied countries but also with a responsible debating chamber commanding the respect of the outside public.
It would be invidious for me to attempt, after what I have said, to compare the extent to which each of the four assemblies fulfils its rôle in the alliance. They each have a different background. If there are faults to find, I would say the Council of Europe has become rather too introspective; it has, perhaps, tended at times to bring frustration upon itself by trying to lead European public opinion along too fast.
The W.E.U. Assembly arrived later, and has never had the same ambitions. Even so, it too seems to feel somewhat frustrated; for instance, in its search for information that its Council cannot give it. Perhaps the basic problem of that Assembly is that it is rather too specialised. So also, I imagine, is the Common Assembly, although of course we are not members of it. The gathering of N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians is still a very new venture, and I hope that it will not waste time arguing about whether or not it should be called "consultative".
If I seem to criticise these organisations, I would add that I believe that they all do good work, and together form an essential element of the alliance. The question is whether their contribution could not be even more effective if they were all brought together. Sir Anthony Eden foresaw that when he put forward his proposals—known as the Eden Plan—in Strasbourg in 1952. That plan was intended to make the Council of Europe the Parliamentary assembly for all the European organisations. Valuable as much of the work of the Council of Europe has been, it has never quite succeeded in fulfilling that rôle, and now, I think, we are faced with rather altered and different circumstances.
848 Whatever final solution we arrive at, it is really not satisfactory to debate particular subjects in isolation. A debate on defence, for instance, tends to become quite unreal unless it is related to economic considerations. Similarly, a debate on atomic energy will be sterile unless related to other sources of power. Therefore, the basic idea of a single assembly seems to me to be wise and logical.
Indeed, it may soon become a necessity. It would certainly be a convenience to Members and Ministers to have one assembly, serviced by one secretariat, where Parliamentarians could meet to discuss any aspect of Western co-operation, not simply the activities of this or that organisation, but any aspect of Western co-operation which they felt ought to be debated.
One way of arranging matters might be to have the work of the assembly divided on a functional basis between committees or commissions, rather along the lines which the hon. Member for Coventry, North has suggested, and in rather the same manner as is done by the United Nations General Assembly. Defence matters would be debated in the defence committee, and those countries which were not members of N.A.T.O. would probably not wish to be represented on that committee. Political matters would be debated in the political committee, as well as in plenary meetings of the full assembly, and economic affairs in another committee, and so on.
That, broadly speaking, is what happens at the present time in the United Nations. We have outside bodies like the I.L.O., the F.A.O. and the World Health Organisation, which have not got the same membership themselves, but the reports of which are presented to a committee of the United Nations General Assembly, and, very often, the officers from those individual organisations are present during the debates and themselves intervene.
§ Mr. J. Hynd
How can the right hon. Gentleman overcome the quandary posed by the fact that, for instance, the Coal and Steel Community members have direct jobs to do as Ministers, and could not be expected to subject themselves to the strictures and criticisms of Parliamentarians representing countries that are not members?
§ Mr. Ormsby-Gore
I think that the Coal and Steel Community poses a very special problem, because of course it has certain supra-national powers. That is an organisation—it is the only one—which it will be very difficult to bring within the framework of some other kind of assembly. I do not despair of doing even that, but it is a very special problem which applies to that particular Assembly.
I want to emphasise that to proceed along this particular line which I have mentioned, and have functional committees to which different organisations can report, and in which the activities of those different organisations are debated, may be a way of getting over the different memberships of these various organisations for co-operation in Europe. We cannot tell yet to what extent these ideas will find favour, but I believe that one grand assembly of that nature will draw public attention to it, will make a far greater impact on the minds of people and Governments, and will at the same time eliminate much of the frustration and overlapping that afflicts the existing assemblies.
If the basic idea finds favour, there would no doubt be those who, on the one hand, would want a comprehensive statute, and those, on the other, who would want rather more flexible arrangements. I myself, being brought up to respect an unwritten Constitution, and indeed to believe it to be the best Constitution in the world, would rather prefer the more flexible arrangements. However, that is only one idea, the one which happens to appeal to me.
I would say in conclusion that I believe this may well be an historic and decisive year for Europe. Many people have talked about this being our last chance, and it may even be that. A combination of events has led us to a situation in which a widespread feeling has developed in many European countries that a new effort is required to bring us closer together, that a new effort is required to ensure that our combined resources of skill and inventiveness are used in the most effective manner.
We in Europe, as has been said already in the debate, share a great historic and cultural heritage. The nations of free Europe alone command an existing productive capacity in coal, steel and electric power far superior to that of the Soviet 850 Union. We form a group of people numbering over 250 million. History will not judge us leniently if this greatest of all human civilisations is allowed to decay and fall apart because we fail to make sufficient effort to co-operate and combine our talents and resources successfully.
That is why we attach such importance to the pending negotiations for setting up a massive free trade area in industrial goods. We are convinced that that will increase the economic strength of free Europe, but we should not rest content with such an initiative on the economic front alone. We must advance on the political front as well. That we intend to do, and a more sensible and more efficient arrangement whereby Parliamentarians can meet and discuss any aspect of Western co-operation is a vitally important part of that design. That is why I have so much valued this debate today. I think that it has thrown up a number of most interesting ideas, and I hope that hon. Members will continue to think deeply on this subject, as I most certainly intend to do.
§ 2.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Boyd (Bristol, North-West)
Earlier this morning, I could not help feeling that the Minister of State would have great difficulty in giving us very much encouragement in his contribution to this debate, and I am afraid that, if anything, I have been a little more disappointed than I had hoped would be necessary.
I quite understand that important announcements of Government policy in this field have to be made by Prime Ministers, Foreign Secretaries and Chancellors of the Exchequer, and that it is very difficult for the hon. Gentleman to give us any idea how Government policy is developing. Yet there is a widespread feeling, which I think exists on both sides of the House and even more widely in general, that the time has come, or is ripening, perhaps we should say, for a substantial British initiative in the direction of closer co-operation with Europe.
We have had the proposals in regard to the free trade area, and I welcome the White Paper which was issued this morning giving details of what is proposed in that direction. I do not think it is nearly enough, and I hope also that the Government do not rest content with 851 this particular device, in which we are, after all, still following, and at first somewhat reluctantly, it seams to me, a Continental lead on the ground that they had created something and we dare not be left out of it.
I hope that from now on successive Governments of this country will try to take the initiative and put forward British proposals, shaped in line with British ideas and traditions, showing how Europe can be most effectively drawn together so as to command very much more respect as a team of nations. I have noticed that quite a number of hon. Members have been talking about the interests of the Commonwealth, and two hon. Members in particular—the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Godfrey Nicholson) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Bottomley). I first met both ten years ago in India, where I spent some years. I was born in Canada and travel on a Canadian passport; and I do not mind to which Commonwealth country I belong, because I care more for the Commonwealth as a whole. The Commonwealth has a tremendously valuable rôle to play in the world today. It is very interesting to me to notice that those hon. Members who have been advocating the closer co-operation of Britain with other European countries are also Members who themselves hold Commonwealth interests very much at heart; and I think it is part of our contribution to strengthening the rôle and standing of the whole Commonwealth in world affairs that we associate ourselves more closely with European countries.
I think the fact that India plays such a leading rôle among the nations of Asia, that both India and Pakistan have so much influence in the Middle East, and that Canada has such a close association with the United States, all tend to benefit the Commonwealth as a whole. I believe that it would be the view of other Commonwealth countries, as it certainly is mine, that the Commonwealth as a whole would benefit from Britain taking a leading part in uniting Europe very much more thoroughly and in very many and various ways. Let us by all means put forward our ideas for uniting Europe in the British way. We are not keen on having elaborate written constitutions. 852 Let us put forward simple and clear proposals for getting together.
I like the suggestion that we should invite these European bodies to meet in London. I should like London to be chosen as the centre. I think it would be a great advantage for the practical realistic development of these European institutions if some or all of them were centred in London where they would imbibe something of our ideas and ways and where they would arouse greater interest among people in England. After all, it is necessary to consider how we can interest our people more in these European schemes of co-operation. I should like them to meet if possible somewhere in this building—perhaps in the House of Lords—where they could get something of the setting of our own Parliamentary debates and perhaps even follow more of our procedures.
I personally happen to be very much impressed with the importance of the single-Member constituency. I believe that these European assemblies should be directly elected as soon as possible. I should not, of course, say "assemblies" in the plural, except in so far as the boundaries vary for various functions. I agree with what has been said of the importance of the same members participating, whether it be the N.A.T.O. Assembly, the Council of Europe, the Coal and Steel Community, or any other organisations that may be created. Surely it will be much more effective and will get across to public opinion in a better way if in each of these bodies the same member representing the same area takes part in them all and reports back to his constituents direct—not to the local Parliament—what he is doing and interests them in what is going on.
I should like to see coming from Britain proposals for a European-cum-N.A.T.O. Parliament—one which would meet with the American representatives elected in the same way, to discuss questions of defence and other matters of interest to the N.A.T.O. community particularly, and also would meet with the other non-N.A.T.O. European countries when dealing with the sort of functions which the Council of Europe has dealt with hitherto.
I welcome the suggestion which has been made with regard to the possibility 853 of extending the membership of the Council of Europe further eastward. Austria came in fairly recently. Poland has been mentioned today, and why not? In fact, why not invite all the countries of geographical Europe to be represented? We can surely do that the more because we are not keen on handing over formal legislative powers to these bodies. We can therefore the more freely advocate the inclusion of countries with great ideological differences of outlook from our own, because we would not be in danger of being in any way ruled by them.
It would be a marvellous opportunity for our Parliamentarians to understand the Russian ways of thinking and to learn how to talk and argue with the Russians, just as it would be an excellent opportunity for the Russians and other Communist countries to send representatives who might begin to understand more of our ways. No doubt, they would in effect be chosen by the Governments of those countries, although some, such as those from Poland and perhaps Hungary and Yugoslavia, would not necessarily be automatic spokesmen of Moscow. Such participation in something like the Council of Europe could assist in the process of establishing an independence from Moscow in some of the satellite countries.
§ Mr. Nigel Nicolson (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
I do not think that what the hon. Gentleman is suggesting is possible, for two reasons. First, the Iron Curtain countries would not agree to come into the Council of Europe. Second, the present members of the Council of Europe would not have them because one of the bases of the work and principles of the Council, contained in certain fairly elaborate documents, is that there are certain definite obligations which the member nations undertake in respect of law and freedom of speech and so on.
§ Mr. Boyd
That is an interesting intervention, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for mentioning those points. If the other members of the Council of Europe should refuse to have them, that would settle the matter. We cannot invite them in on our own. If the Iron Curtain countries should refuse to participate, that also would settle the matter because we cannot compel them to come in, although I think we would 854 be putting them "on the spot" to some extent, for it would at least be one more example of Russia and the other Communist countries refusing invitations to co-operate with the Western countries.
I think that is what would happen. I think it is likely that the other countries in the Council of Europe would refuse to accept them, and it is still more likely that the Russians would refuse to participate and would try to prevent the satellites participating either. But I do not see any harm in inviting them. It would at least compel them—the Poles, at any rate—to discuss whether this further opportunity might be useful to them to enable them to detach themselves a little more from Russian control.
I do not put forward this eastward expansion idea as something which is likely to happen in the immediate future. Possibly it is a little more likely in the longer-range future, but it is not necessarily a likely possibility. It is merely something which should he kept open as a possibility.
Another suggestion that I want to offer, and which would be of a peculiarly British kind for the British Government to put forward, would be that there should be a conference of Prime Ministers of the European countries run on lines very similar to the proceedings of our Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conferences—an informal and frank interchange of ideas on current world problems between the actual heads of Governments of the European countries. I have a feeling that it might be very useful for the heads of countries to have that opportunity privately and frankly to discuss matters with their opposite numbers. If it became the custom every year or so, it might thereafter become a good deal easier for the European countries to conduct their policies in manners which were not mutually in conflict.
I am glad that one hon. Member mentioned the United Nations in this connection, and I am glad that the Amendment bringing N.A.T.O. into the picture has been put down. I do not regard the Commonwealth or N.A.T.O. or the United Nations as being in conflict with this idea of playing a greater part in Europe. In fact, it seems to me that a British foreign policy which is to be both realistic and at the same time idealistic has got to include a prominent 855 British rôle in all these groups of nations. Britain should express her nationalism not by isolationism but by going into international bodies, going into Europe, into N.A.T.O. and into the United Nations to try to lead in sensible and constructive directions rather than by trying to "go it" alone.
§ 2.58 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
The hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Boyd) expressed himself as disappointed with the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State. I feel that we should not underestimate the progress which has been made towards European unity. On the other hand, I suppose that a critic might say that we have been more successful in creating European organisations than in achieving European unity. What a plethora of organisations we have—O.E.E.C., E.C.S.C., the Ministerial Committee for Agriculture, the Conference of Transport Ministers, the Benelux Union, the Northern Council, quite apart from the Council of Europe and Western European Union which are the subject of the Motion moved so ably by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty).
Of these organisations, there are assemblies attached to the European Coal and Steel Community, the Council of Europe, and Western European Union; and now Parliamentary assemblies are proposed for Euratom and for the Six-Power Customs union which is at the centre of the proposal for a free trade area in Europe.
With each organisation and assembly has come a proliferation, as it has been called, or, perhaps one might call it, a burgeoning of bureaucracy. Every hon. Member who has spoken today has been of the opinion that we must try to concentrate the functions and combine the membership of this, one might al most say, "Babel" of assemblies if only because there are just not enough European statesmen and European officials of the calibre necessary to sustain the work.
I must express my disagreement with the point of view advanced in the Amendment which was not called, standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. G. Longden) and the hon. Member 856 for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas). I think it would be wrong to confuse the united Europe we are trying to build with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which was designed to meet a particular military threat. I believe that the European nations which seek through unity to safeguard their sovereignty and civilisation will lose their zeal for a new Europe if they feel that its destiny is merely to be merged in a new Atlantis.
Of course, we have to rebuild the alliance with the United States of America, which has been sadly shaken by United States neutralism in the Middle East. But it is surely the purpose of a united Europe not only to be more effective in resisting Soviet expansion and the spread of Communism but also to be a means of avoiding undue dependence upon help from across the Atlantic. National independence can be killed very nastily by Communism. It is possible also for national identity to be killed by too much American kindness. What we should be working for is a greater Europe, a united Europe, able to stand erect and look friend and foe in the eyes.
Therefore, I should have thought that the guiding principle of our efforts should be flexibility. When we think of Europe, we should think not only of a part of Europe, certainly not of six countries, but of the whole of Europe, as did the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West, who spoke not only of the countries of the West but also of the countries of the East. The hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) spoke of countries falling within the European brotherhood, which might be capitalist or Socialist. When we think of Europe, we must think too of the greater Europe beyond the seas, in the Commonwealth and the other overseas territories associated with European Powers.
I was glad that hon. Members defended the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, and that there was general agreement that it is not a condemnation of that Assembly to say that it is a "talking-shop." It is, and in my judgment should remain, the main Assembly of free Europe and the central forum of free European opinion.
The criticism of the Council of Europe is made that it is not effective, that it 857 can only make recommendations, and that it is for the national Governments to act. That criticism arises from what is, in my opinion—and I mean no disrespect to hon. Members who hold it—the federalist delusion. It is one of the sad features of European federalism that it tends to prevent the unifying of Europe. It happened in the case of the European Defence Community. The six Powers concerned tried to build too rigid a federal structure and it foundered on the rock of French nationalism and the devotion of France to its army, which since the Revolution has been the only object of common loyalty which has not divided the nation.
We must not build a united Europe on a Transatlantic model. I deprecate the use of the words "United States of Europe" for that reason. Twentieth century Europe is not eighteenth century America. Europe is a society but a society of nations with a memory of unity in the past and an awareness of the need for unity in these dangerous days.
I do not propose to enter into the controversy whether the seat of the Council of Europe, the central institution of the free Western European nations, should be in Paris, in Vienna—certainly, it is well to look eastward as well as westward—or in London. Perhaps it should be for a European from some other country to propose that its seat should be in London, if that is what is best. But wherever it is, we should seek to bring our European institutions within the orbit and scrutiny of the Council of Europe.
If I might disagree with one point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby)— and one hesitates to cross swords with him on a question of European unity—I thought that he undervalued Western European Union. I know that there is a tendency to say that Western European Union was a second best which only came into being because the European Defence Community failed; but it is more than that. Just as the late Ernest Bevin will be remembered for the Brussels Treaty of 1948, so, I believe, we shall be grateful in the future to Sir Anthony Eden for the diplomacy which brought about the London and Paris Agreements and extended the terms of the Brussels Treaty to Germany in the new Western European Union.
858 It is true that the functions of W.E.U. were strictly limited, so much so that some people said that it was merely a sub-group of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It was given the task of dealing with the Saar, a problem which has since been settled, and it was given the task of dealing with the control of armaments in order that Germany could be brought into Western European Union without the fear of new German aggression.
Defence, however, is a great subject, with far-reaching implications and consequences, and the Brussels Treaty, upon which Western European Union is based, provides that the member States shall strengthen the economic, social and cultural ties by which they are already united, co-operate loyally and co-ordinate their efforts to create in Western Europe a firm basis for European economic recovery.
Thus, though at present the rôle and possibilities of Western European Union are limited, the shape of things is changing, and we are moving into a new era, the era of the intercontinental ballistic missile. The time may come when, whether we like it or not, though we ought to welcome it, we shall have to stand, in Europe, on our own feet for defence, as in other matters, because the time may come when our American allies, weighing the risks, may say that the integrity of every country of Western Europe is not worth the risk of the devastation of their continental base by Soviet missiles.
Therefore, we should build on Western European Union, and we should, when we can, seek to extend its membership to other European countries and in particular to other members of the Council of Europe. My hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire spoke of this being our last chance. The Minister of State said that it might be our last chance. I feel that all now does depend on Britain; that the time is past when we can be content to damn European aspirations with faint praise: the time has come to act, to work, and to lead.
The Prime Minister was present at the beginning of this debate. When he addressed the nation on the broadcast after taking office, he said this:Think of the Commonwealth and all that this means. Think also of the peoples of 859 Europe. With those countries, with France perhaps particularly, we already have close ties. I firmly believe it is our destiny to work more and more closely with them.In that spirit I express my gratitude to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East for moving this Motion today.
§ 3.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Edwards (Bilston)
I have listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison), and I find myself in general agreement with his contentions. I was, however, greatly disappointed with the speech of the Minister of State. I expected, as did many of my hon. Friends, that with the new Prime Minister, who for many years has taken a very active part in non-Governmental movements dedicated to the unification of Europe, today, the first opportunity of discussing the problems of Europe since he took office, we should have had, as we were entitled to expect, some decisive leadership from the Government.
In the past we have been hanging to the coat-tails of European politicians, debating whether we should support, conditionally or otherwise, some of the proposals which they have been suggesting for building up functional organisations in Europe, but we have had no leadership at all from the Government today. I hope that in the future there will be some concentration on how best this country can move boldly into Europe and give the positive leadership to the Continent and the world that only this country can give.
I have never been to Strasbourg as a Member of Parliament, but I have taken an active interest in the development towards European integration from its earliest beginnings. I am surprised at the pessimism and the near-despair manifested in many of the speeches of hon. Members today. The Council of Europe is less than ten years old. I remember well the campaign starting with the Congress of Europe at The Hague, which was conducted throughout Europe to create the will for some kind of unity.
In those days Europe was in despair. Her industries were broken and her transport dislocated. People in many European countries were living on fewer than 1,000 calories a day. The tide of Communism from the East was sweeping right 860 through the Continent. To say that very little has been achieved is to overlook the tremendous moral leadership and new hope that was given to the people of Europe in those early days.
It was a hope that came out of the expectation that the countries of Europe would come together and build functional organisations and talk about their problems instead of fighting about them. We must never forget that nearly all the wars of the world started in Western Europe. There is much criticism about too many talkers and too many institutions, but it is better to talk than to fight. We have had in Western Europe terrible wars which have spread twice in a generation, and, right through a thousand years, hundreds of thousands of people have died in trying to maintain the frontiers of Europe or in grabbing the rivers or controlling the fertile plains.
All that has been swept aside. It has become part of the dust of history, because the lessons of the Second World War taught the Governments of Europe that they had to unite and create in Strasbourg a Parliament where the representatives of the various Governments could come together to talk. It is always better to talk. It prevents bombs being dropped. It is better to discuss these problems than to allow a situation to develop to the point of military campaigning.
The Council of Europe was formed in 1949. It had received the active support of our Government, but it was sabotaged by our Civil Service, which was never interested in Europe. We thought that we were still a great Power, with our great Commonwealth. We thought Europe was finished. The first appeal of the Council of Europe was that it should deal with European cartels, that it should create a European court of justice and build a coal and steel authority, with its centre in the Ruhr, and create an atmosphere for European citizenship, with a European passport, create a European bank, secure control over European investments and build a free trade area for Europe. All these were suggested in 1949, and these are the things that we are discussing now, quite a few years afterwards. It is my view that the Civil Service is always afraid of change. When any new institutions develop in the world the first task of the 861 Civil Service is to find all the arguments it can against them and oppose them, because it bases its policy upon continuity. I hope that the common market will not be sabotaged merely because it may create a few difficulties for us.
I do not agree with the Amendment which suggests that Europe should be linked with the Atlantic alliance. If we link European institutions too closely with N.A.T.O. and the Atlantic alliance there will be very little integration, either economically or politically, in Europe. The bigger idea will absorb what is apparently the smaller idea. We are living in a world dominated by two great Power blocs, and in between them there is a vacuum, which must be filled. If we do not fill it with Europe and the British Commonwealth, Europe and ourselves will be colonised, either politically or financially, by a stronger Power.
That is why I still believe that Europe, the cradle of the industrial revolution, which created the culture and the sciences of the world, still has the power to give leadership, if only Britain has the courage to move boldly into Europe, taking an active part in all the institutions and functional organisations and creating a few more of her own. By these means we can fill the vacuum which exists in the world, and create a bridge between East and West which can keep the peace.
The great sub-Continent of America has no tariffs. It has one currency. There are no frontiers. Every known science can be exploited without any limitations, and all the national resources can be exploited. Automation can be applied to every field of industry to produce super-abundance in that vast Continent. It has achieved the highest living standard in the history of the world.
The hon. Member for Chigwell said that we could not automatically compare the conditions which created the United States of America with those existing in Europe today. I do not agree with that point of view. It is a question of economics. We are dependent upon our foreign trade and our productivity. We must have a great new consumer market if we are to move ahead, using new methods of production, exploiting our natural resources and improving the living standards of our people—and that market is in Continental Europe. If we 862 compare the tremendous consumption of the American people in regard to motor cars, foodstuffs, television sets and domestic appliances with the low consumption of the peoples of Continental Europe we can see the tremendous opportunities that Europe offers as a market for the products of our industries.
Therefore, I am still a firm believer in the economic and political integration of Europe. I am a good European. I believe that we can build up a prosperous and expanding European economy. But we can do so only if the country and the Government have the courage to give leadership, to move in boldly and to develop new ideas and, above all, to prevent the Foreign Office and the Civil Service from sabotaging the institutions which are developing in Continental Europe.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Hamilton Kerr (Cambridge)
At the outset of my few brief remarks, I should like to associate myself with two points made by hon. Members on both sides of the House. The first is that the time is propitious for a new initiative by Her Majesty's Government. The second is that those of us in the House who care most for Commonwealth ties are equally keen on increasing our association with Europe.
During the years that I have had the privilege of listening in this House to debates on the work of the Council of Europe, I have never been more impressed than by today's debate, for it has produced not only interest but new ideas. It fills me with some of the optimism which many of us felt in the early days. I like to recall the wonderful scene in the Hall of Knights at the Hague Conference in 1948 when everyone, including Prince Bernhard, automatically rose to their feet as my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) entered the hall, and the long, sustained applause which echoed from the ancient rafters. I like to think of my right hon. Friend's subsequent speech in the great market place at Amsterdam when, in words which derived their inspiration from the observations of a lifetime and the passion of a great artist, he outlined the future which lay before Europe if only Europe would unite. I think we felt at that time, as perhaps Europeans did in the days of the Holy 863 Roman Empire, that we had found, once again, not only a titular head but a leader.
Why is it that since those days the inspiration which founded the European movement has noticeably slackened? There was, first and foremost, the dispute between those who believed in a federal institution, modelled, perhaps, on the constitution of the United States of America, and those like ourselves and our Scandinavian friends who believed more firmly in a confederation derived from our political experience in the British Commonwealth of Nations. From that dispute arose the tendency of the federalists in Europe to concentrate on the idea of "the Little Six", and our tendency, perhaps rather like a suspicious watchdog, to sniff round the door of Europe, afraid to enter but at the same time afraid to go away.
I believe that the Consultative Assembly has failed to fulfil expectations for one main reason, and that not through its own fault. It has never at any time been able to convince world opinion that it expresses an effective agglomeration of political and economic power. As a number of hon. Members have emphasised today, the sad lesson of the lack of political and economic power was never more evident than in our recent experience with regard to Suez, when Europe and Britain found themselves unable to defend their vital interests.
What is to be done? What immediate steps can be taken to restore the fame and prestige of the continent of Europe? Reference has been made to the development of the American constitution in the eighteenth century. Our American friends like to tell us of the immense difficulties which the American founders encountered in trying to develop their institutions. There was a battle between Alexander Hamilton, who wished for a strong central government, and Jefferson, who championed the state rights. But more difficult and dangerous than this was the tariff wall between the original thirteen states of the Union and the others, when Rhode Island raised a tariff wall against Massachusetts and Pennsylvania raised one against New Jersey. But in the end America succeeded in overcoming these political 864 and economic difficulties. I think Europe can do the same today.
The political solution is surely, as other hon. Members have suggested, to concentrate in one assembly, the parent assembly of Europe, the activities which now divide and distract Europe. That should certainly be done as soon as possible. But I believe we must progress wherever we can, and the economic step is the more important one at the moment. Surely the economic story of the twentieth century has shown that it is the big unit which produces power.
Hon. Members have mentioned the U.S.A. I believe it is true to say that in the triangular territory between the Great Lakes, the Ohio and Chesapeake Bay we have production far greater than in the whole of Europe. In the Soviet Union Communism has in the short space of forty years been able to raise up tremendous new industries and activities. What will the story of China be in the next sixty years?—China with its 600 million population of tireless and industrious people. Surely we are wise indeed now to associate ourselves economically with Europe while protecting our own Commonwealth interests.
It seems to me that we shall strengthen our two immediate weaknesses which threaten us at the present moment. The first is that economically we have no defence in depth. If the terms of trade move against us, if world opinion loses confidence, if the Zurich bankers begin to withdraw their balances, we shall face in a few hours a critical economic situation. At the same time, unlike our Victorian ancestors, we are completely unable to lay by those vital savings which should now be going to the development of the Commonwealth and the Colonial Empire. We can only produce this wealth, these savings, by associating ourselves with the great market of Europe, 250 million strong. If from these political and economic advantages we derive added military security so much the better.
The hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) mentioned the fact that when the inter-continental ballistic missile came into use, then perhaps our United States allies might decide to withdraw their forces from Europe. At the present moment they maintain powerful forces in Europe to defend not only their advanced aerodromes but their strategic 865 bomber bases which provide the main security of the free world. When the moment comes, perhaps rockets launched on the coast of New England would land on the mines of the Donetz Basin and, on the other side, rockets launched from Lake Ladoga would land on the steel mills of Pittsburgh. Then, indeed, a strange revolution will have taken place. We should be prepared for it and able to stand on our own feet.
Therefore, in conclusion, I return to two points which I should like to emphasise. The first obvious political step is to concentrate the numerous activities of the Council of Europe now spread through other bodies, and the second is to associate ourselves effectively and soon with the economic life of Europe. If we do that we shall alone provide a durable and lasting leadership which will give this country a bold and fine place in the world of the twentieth century.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Rawlinson (Epsom)
Unlike some hon. Members who have spoken before me, I have not been disappointed or suffered any lack of encouragement from what I have heard this afternoon; certainly not from my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Hamilton Kerr), and certainly not from the Minister.
I must confess that I have never had the occasion nor the delicious temptation which was apparently experienced by my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby) who heightened his moods of depression at Strasbourg by denying himself pâté de foie gras. I have never been a delegate to any of the assemblies, and I have never taken part in any of these councils which go under these weird hieroglyphics. So I should like in my comments this afternoon merely to pay tribute to those hon. Members inside and outside this House whose efforts years ago, scratching at the ground as they have done—and that is all that has happened so far—have turned the earth to such an extent that we come near to the occasion on which the foundations of a really great system can be built. I appreciate all the technical difficulties. But for the men and women of my generation this is the most vital and, perhaps, the most crucial moment in our existence. We have now to look ahead and plan for the future, and this 866 is more to the interest of my generation than to the advantage of the older generation.
The older generation, I say with great respect, perhaps finds it more difficult in a changing world to get used to the prospects and projects which lie ahead, these people in the span of whose lifetime such vast changes have occurred. It must be remembered that Pitt and Julius Caesar took the same time to travel between London and Rome. Demosthenes and Gladstone could reach no greater audiences than they did reach.
Vast changes which have happened in the last 70 or 80 years. We are a country which has a great reverence for ancients, too many young men writing for old proprietors and perhaps sometimes too many battles of long ago fought out to this very day in this Chamber. With the changing world comes a vast change in political structure. We see the rise of the East and the return of power to the East, nationalisms being built up as they have been in the East and the Middle East. With them are a sense of reaction, a lack of self-confidence, but a sense of pride.
In this country there have arisen serious doubts about whether the Commonwealth in its present form can continue to exist, with the independence of India, Pakistan, shortly Ghana and with the entrance of the Caribbean and the West Indies countries into the Commonwealth. There appear also to be doubts in many of the younger generation about the position of the older Dominions and how the Commonwealth will develop. New industries will grow up and there must be an inevitable shift of power perhaps away from London to the other countries of the Commonwealth. With this inevitable change in the Commonwealth, can it continue for more than one generation with the United Kingdom as the leader?
That may be the reason for the rush of persons seeking inquiries about emigration. They, at any rate, have succumbed to the feeling that the Commonwealth, however much we may regret it and however grievous it may be to all of us, cannot survive in its present form for very much longer. I pay tribute to the gentlemen of vision who accompanied my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) in those early days 867 in his search for European unity, this association of the United Kingdom with Europe, with the Council of Europe. For the integration, whether a confederation or a federation, seems to give a new hope to the younger generation in this country that here can arise an alliance of two great ideals, the Commonwealth as it is at the moment, and that great cradle of all civilisation, Europe.
That is the ideal which has to be preached. It has to be preached in a nation which is inarticulate. That may be strange to say in this Chamber to you, Mr. Speaker, who listens to so much speech, but Westminster is not the world. It may be a betrayal of one's political greenness to advise the political parties to throw away their rubber political daggers and their cardboard political coshes and for once go out together throughout the whole country to preach this idea and this ideal as being the solution, the great solution for the peace, future and prosperity of all the peoples of the world. The time and the climate for it are right and the country would be encouraged to see the cessation for a time on this issue of cheap, political warmongering.
It gives me a sense of hope that the Prime Minister and this Government, I believe with the association of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, are determined that the Commonwealth shall integrate to a great extent with Europe. If that is so. I think it will be for the great happiness of all the peoples of this country.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Nicolson (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
I believe that I am the last hon. Member in the House to rise to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. If there are others who wish to speak, I will willingly give way and not occupy the whole of the remaining time for the debate, but if there are no others who wish to speak then I should like to occupy that time, because I have thought much on the subject of Western European Union and have some practical suggestions to make, even at this late stage of the debate.
I believe that the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State is important, that what he as told us will become a classic definition of the rôle of the Council of Europe and the Assembly 868 of Western European Union, and that his words will be most carefully studied at Strasbourg for an indication of the trend of thinking in Her Majesty's Government. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary recently expressed in Rome the feeling that Great Britain could now begin to move more vigorously within Western European institutions, and he expressed the personal belief that the number of organisations which at the moment purport to represent European interests should be fined down and streamlined in order not to confuse public opinion and give officials, Members of Parliament and Ministers unnecessary work. I could not agree more with that point of view.
It is a pity that the Council of Europe has not fully realised its earlier hopes. The right hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Bottomley) said quite rightly that we in this country had sown the seeds of Western European Union after the war, but it is also true that the picture on the seed packet was much more splendid than the reality when it grew. That is perhaps because we started in those early days with great ambitions and with tremendous enthusiasm which had themselves been created by the war. In those first days Strasbourg was a forum where we could recover old friends and reconcile enemies. It has become a place where the Germans are accepted without any question as full members of the European community.
Indeed, this was the era in which Germany re-entered respectable society. I was not there in the earlier days, but those who were there have often described the incredible impression made upon fellow Europeans when my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) strode into that magic hemicycle at Strasbourg, looked around him, as it has often been described to me, rather like a batsman looking at the field when he gets to the wicket, and said out loud, "I thought this was a Council of Europe. Where are the Germans?" The immediate effect of those words was to produce consternation. Here was the leader of the free world, the conqueror of Germany, and he was the first to ask, "Where are the Germans?" They were there the very next year.
In its present state, nearly ten years afterwards, the Council of Europe has 869 lost that first sense of purpose. It has been discouraged from becoming overactive by almost every Foreign Office in Western Europe. I am not speaking of the officials, because they do not carry the responsibilities, but of the foreign Ministers; and successive British Foreign Ministers of all parties have not been wholly guiltless in that respect.
I believe that Mr. Ernest Bevin never attempted to conceal his fear that this creature, this European Assembly which had been created during his period at the Foreign Office, might get out of hand, and that when Parliamentarians from 16 European countries got together they might attempt to create powers which they were never intended to exercise. I have been told also that one of the reasons why Strasbourg was selected was that the climate was so bad that, in the opinion of Mr. Bevin and his advisers, no one would ever feel well enough to do any harm.
When one arrives there as a member of a British delegation there is an immediate sense of excitement. It is rather like one of those shiny games that children are given at Christmas. Upon the box of this game are the words "Foreign Secretaries." It is an opportunity for the third-rank politician to indulge in those international negotiations and intrigues which are the lot of Foreign Secretaries at higher level.
I myself felt no sense of frustration in the fact that the Council has so few powers. I did not feel, as one of my hon. Friends has described it, as though I were speaking in this Chamber with no Minister on the Front Bench. I never thought that that organisation ought to have more powers than it has. It is a debating assembly, or consultative assembly. It is not intended to have powers, and those hon. Members on both sides of the House who, during the course of this debate, have advocated that it should be given powers, are surely thinking of some supra-national authority which we do not conceive of as possible within our own lifetimes.
The purpose of the Council of Europe, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of State said so well, is to deliberate upon subjects of common interest. It is not to have any executive power, and it should not have any. All the same, I do feel that if it is not given more prestige, 870 if more weight is not attached to its deliberations, it will so lose in reputation that we will find it very difficult to justify to this House and to our constituents the time and the money which we spend upon it.
I believe that it is for those reasons that the greater our enthusiasm for Strasbourg the greater does our despair become. I have now been there, I think, five times. Each time, I have seen my colleagues of all nationalities succumb to one of three possible reactions. They succumb either to the melancholia which Mr. Ernest Bevin prophesied, or to the sentimental attitude towards Europe expressed in the weary platitude "The common heritage of Europe".
The third reaction is, perhaps, the most common of all. It is one shared at the moment by the President of the Assembly, M. Dehousse—sheer anger with the Ministers; frustration caused by the lack of the powers which those who share that reaction think would add to the importance of the Assembly. I do not criticise that reaction. I do not say that those who share it are trying to turn the Council of Europe into something which it should not be. All I say is that it is an anger which can never produce any fruitful results.
I believe, however, that in three particular ways we might give this Assembly the prestige which it certainly deserves and requires if it is to survive. The first is that the Ministers themselves, of all the nations represented there, should attend much more frequently to give their point of view upon the subjects under discussion. I am speaking not only of Ministers of Foreign Affairs who naturally will be among the most frequent attenders, but also of Ministers of Education and Transport and of the various Social Services. They all have their opposite numbers in the different countries, and it is at Strasbourg that they can contribute so much in the form of debate and by giving their experiences in their own countries.
It was a pity that when Great Britain decided to enter the common market, she did not send one of her senior Ministers to Strasbourg last October in order to explain to the assembled nations exactly what difficulties we found in associating ourselves fully with the common market, and why we found it 871 necessary to limit the association to the free trade area. It was the main topic of debate at Strasbourg last October, and those of us who were there as private delegates sent back message after message to this country saying that if a British Minister of seniority could appear at that particular moment, it would sweep us into the leadership which had so long been at our disposal, but which we were in danger of losing.
Since then, we have played our part. We have not been ungenerous in associating ourselves with this new idea of the common market, but it was at Strasbourg that the initial gesture could have been made with enormous success, and which would have done us a lot of good afterwards.
Then we come, secondly, to the matter upon which so much time has been spent by delegates to the Council of Europe, and that is the elaboration of these small charters of social services, of culture and of human rights, and other topics upon which weeks of time and thousands of pounds of money are spent by Members of Parliament coming together. Sometimes one wonders, when one sees the results, what good purpose it is serving. I have myself sat a whole day in Paris discussing with representatives of 15 other nations one sentence in one charter. It was the first sentence of the Social Charter, and the phrase was—Every man has the right to work.Now, hon. Members may find it difficult to imagine how a complete day could be spent in a discussion of that philosophical concept, but it was easily spent, and we could have gone on all night. Whether the phrase was included in the final draft or not, what conceivable help could it be in terms of the happiness of those who have work or those who have not?
I believe that we ought to be more realistic about these various documents, and that we should not seek to define once again, after all the work that has been done by the United Nations, these rights of man, definitions which sound so splendid, but which in fact are of very little use.
Thirdly, there is the practical work of these organisations. Last October, I brought forward a motion in the Consultative Assembly which attempted to merge one facet of the practical work of 872 Western European Union with some work of a committee of the Consultative Assembly. I was doing no more than nibbling at a corner of this great nexus of European organisation, and was attempting to bring some sort of order and central control into it.
I suggested that the cultural activities of Western European Union and of the 16 nations in the Council of Europe should be merged into one central organisation. My suggestion produced consternation in the Assembly. It was almost as if I had been undressing in church. Opinion was mobilised to resist it, and I am afraid it is true that my closest colleagues upon the British Delegation felt that I was committing something like an outrage. It was debated in the sense that I made my speech in favour of it, and that was followed by five speeches from other members of Western European Powers heavily condemning it. The opportunity was given only to those inside the Council of Europe to say whether they approved of it or not.
If we are to make any progress at all along the lines suggested by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, we must begin to streamline these organisations. What is there in the cultural field, for example—the safest of all fields—that can be done by the seven in Western European. Union and not by the 16 in the Council of Europe? What is there which culturally unites the seven but which does not equally unite the 16? We all call ourselves Western Europeans. We all boast of this "common heritage" to which I have already made reference. If, in this tiny field alone, we cannot agree to co-operate, what hope is there for streamlining the organisations in the wider field?
Here it is a question largely of publicity. The public in Europe is utterly confused by the number of spawning initials, the number of organisations which grow up, each with their own secretariats, and since the public cannot attach any particular importance to any of them, they attach no importance to any one of them. If there is to be any central body which will cast its umbrella over all the others, it must surely be the Council of Europe. I wish there to be something specifically European, something that is different from the Atlantic 873 community, and that is why I do not agree with the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. de Freitas) who has proposed that the Atlantic community and the European community should be in some way merged.
I do agree, however, with the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) that it would be wise to move the seat of the Council of Europe away from Strasbourg. I do not agree that it should be Paris, and I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Sir R. Boothby) for this reason, that Paris is infinitely too attractive. What we want is something of the boredom of Strasbourg with the accessibility of Paris. I have a suggestion to make—Amsterdam. We do not want a capital city. We want a provincial city, with charm and tradition, and Amsterdam fulfils those virtues.
The leadership of Europe has been offered to us over and over again. It is still available to us now, and I think that at last we are going to seize it. But it does not mean that we have got to have a common European policy. No such thing exists. No such thing can ever exist. We only have to look at the history of the last three or four months 874 to see that. I believe, however, that if we are able to move now in the economic field and to streamline the political organisations, Europe will be as delighted as we are that Britain is now once more fully part of the Continent.
§ 3.59 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. N. Nicolson) has given us some extremely interesting data on the growth of the Western European idea of the Council of Europe—
§ Mr. DOUGHTY rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly and agreed to.
That this House recognises the important rôle international parliamentary assemblies have to play in the development of European co-operation, and considers that this can be most effectively fulfilled in the Council of Europe where parliamentarians could meet to discuss any aspect of western co-operation and union.