HC Deb 14 June 1961 vol 642 cc595-606

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. E. Wakefield.]

11.47 p.m.

Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)

I apologise for raising the issue of the Common Market once again at this late hour, but to Britain this is probably one of the most important questions with which we shall be confronted in this generation. When I first heard it bruited in the House by the Prime Minister I said that I believed it to be of such vital importance to the British people that the electorate should have the opportunity to decide on the question at a General Election. The matter was never discussed during the last General Election campaign. No party put forward a policy. Therefore, I deprecate the possibility of any final decision being made in this Parliament before a General Election.

A few months ago, when writing a pamphlet, I took the trouble to refer to the question of the Six and the Seven. I said that there was no real unity of purpose in Europe, and that we should like to see such unity. I said: Germany, growing strong, pushed Dr. Schacht's plan for an economic union of Germany with Western European countries. Germany was to be the industrial centre ex-changing machinery and heavy equipment for food and consumer goods. First there was the Schumann Steel and Coal Plan for the Six Countries—West Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Italy. Then, for the same Six, we saw that the development of the European atomic energy group, Euratom, and, with a lot of organisations in between, they developed this idea of the Common Market.

What is forgotten is the British Government found their alternative plan for a Free Trade Area for 17 countries of Western Europe turned down. If a plan for the 17 countries was turned down, how, logically, can the Board of Trade or the Foreign Office maintain that the plan for the Six will be better than the plan for the 17? That alone should make people who have not studied this problem suspicious that the grander plan for 17 nations was turned down. And yet, suddenly we find high officials in the Foreign Office and in other Ministries suggesting that our destiny will depend upon our joining the Six. That is complete bunkum.

When Dr. Adenauer visited Washington—this was some time ago—the then President openly supported the Hallstein plan. I cannot define the meaning of all these phrases, because I have not the time, but the House is well informed. He urged the speeding up of the Common Market. Our Prime Minister then indicated, when he visited the President at the end of March, 1960, that this exclusiveness would increase economic difficulty in Europe and injure free trade. Nevertheless, the United States of America went on supporting the Hallstein plan and Western Germany.

Now the suggestion is that this seems to be good for Britain. I wish that I had time tonight to quote the Treasury Bulletin for Industry, published in May, 1958, and to give the mass of statistics which show the economic competition between just Western Germany and Britain, but I cannot, because I want to come to the part which the Foreign Office has played in this matter.

We were told glibly then that if Germany had to rearm she would not be so competitive. We were told that as far back as 16th April, 1948, when 16 nations of Western Europe signed the convention for which there were eulogies in the House of Commons. My party was in power then. I was one of the critics on my side of the House. The Organisation for European Economic Co-operation—O.E.E.C., now O.E.C.D.—was set up. It was to be chiefly for inter-governmental consultation and concerted action It was to bring a new picture in the economy of Western Europe. But they have all tottered; they have all been shattered.

Now, suddenly, sometimes on both sides of the House, in the trains, in the "pubs", and in the market places, people are saying that we ought to go into the Common Market. For those mass media of propaganda, radio and television, very few people are "signed on" who really have a point of view to put is dynamically opposed to these things. There are half-baked debates which, three parts of the time, hope to pitch Britain into the Common Market.

Some people say, "A man like yourself, supposed to have a Left-wing point of view"—whatever that means—"where do you stand?" People made fun of my right hon. Friend when he said that he supported the unity of the Commonwealth, but in old Socialist opinion it was not so much Socialist theory to have only a Commonwealth under Britain, but ultimately a Socialist commonwealth in the world. But we have always had in our concepts in the Labour Party that the English-speaking peoples of the old Empire should build up the Commonwealth. That was part of Lord Attlee's act as Prime Minister in giving India freedom, without making the mistakes of France in Indo-China and of the Dutch in Indonesia. To be fair, it must be said that, in the main, that policy was supported by the Conservative Party.

Now there is the Common Market. What is the Common Market? How does it differ from a Customs union, and why was it that the Lord Privy Seal's argument in the House on 17th May showed that in the main, he had made up his mind in support of the Common Market? If any hon. Member wants to be fully informed, he cannot even obtain a copy of the Treaty of Rome. There are only five copies of the Treaty in the Library. I had to obtain a French copy. Fortunately, I could hammer along with that. I understand that there are 200 copies to come from the Stationery Office. A miserable amount is spent by the House on research for hon. Members and the Estimates Committee talks of cutting even that sum.

The House of Commons gets less and less information from more and more people who try to bewilder it. We should have copies of the Treaty of Rome and full opportunities for discussion so that debate can be constructive and real. Even if it is contradictory it will be at least an honest effort to arrive at the truth, not getting there by suggestion.

We know that United Kingdom trade with the sterling area is declining. We hold now only about 29 per cent. of the market where, pre-war, we had 35 per cent. What the Common Market will do for us is suggested in the United Nations Report on the Economy of Europe. I ask hon. Members to take it from me that that Report suggested that if we have an organisation on the lines of the Common Market as now conceived there will be a few huge oligopolies—and oligopolies were talked about in American economics in 1939. An oligopoly is bigger in a way than the old concept of a monopoly. There will be six or seven in Europe dominating completely European life from Greece to the Welsh counties and the mountains of Scotland. The Common Market will be a bonanza for capitalism more intense than any we have seen in our lifetime. The richer areas, says the United Nations Report, will tend to become richer and there will be a tendency for the poorer areas to become poorer.

There should be only one Common Market in Europe and one viability. As I suggested in a speech this week, that would mean bringing in Poland, Hungary, and Southern and Eastern Europe irrespective of politics. But the Foreign Office is more concerned with the cold war, and Britain will play second string in steel and coal production and in the agricultural industry. People talk about Socialist planning. That will have as much chance as the proverbial snowball in hell.

Europe is not only divided between the Six and the Seven, but also between East and West. English men and women, whatever their politics, should be trying to remove that division in Europe and trying to bring Europeans together instead of adding to the division by supporting this so-called Common Market. As far as the Foreign Office is concerned, the Common Market will make the solution of the German question almost impossible. I should like hon. Members to note the mysterious Article 227 (4) of the Treaty of Rome which says that The provisions of this Treaty shall apply to European territories for whose external relations a Member State is responsible. To what can that apply?

Dr. Adenauer spoke on the television from Hamburg this week about his Polish ambitions and about Eastern Germany. Does the House remember that there is no Customs union between East and West Germany, so that East Germany is not in the Common Market? What attitude will Adenauer take towards East Germany? There were 350 West Germans at the Leipzig Fair. Thirty-five per cent. of West Germany's trade is with the Soviet bloc, yet we are told not to trade with the Soviet bloc. This is a piece of subterfuge to expand the policies of the cold war. The Common Market is the fruit of big business and a Labour Government would have no power to plan as it now stands. A Conservative Party pamphlet of two or three years ago almost acknowledged that.

The United Nations Economic Commission revealed some of these facts about the acceleration and the over-industrialisation and centralisation which would result from the Common Market in its Annual Survey, 1956. The strategic weakness of Europe would be increased and would be absolutely appalling, because there would be about six main industrial centres which would be the bulls'-eyes for atomic attack, which we would not be able to resist.

In 1959, the United States Under-Secretary of State, Mr. Douglas Dillon, was in London, Brussels, Bonn and Paris between 7th and 14th December, running around the European cities. It reminded me of some of the questions I asked during the Geneva Conference in 1954, when Mr. Dulles was running round every capital in Europe trying to undermine the work of the then Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, at the Geneva Conference. It is revealed in Sir Anthony Eden's book, "Full Circle", what a struggle he had because of the attitude of the Americans and Mr. Dulles at Geneva to get some kind of peace in Asia. What was Mr. Dillon doing here? He was a "commercial traveller" to push through the Common Market because the dollar was in danger.

The Times, on 1st December, 1960, carried a report that the United States Government suggested the co-operation of 18 nations with Canada. The last time I was in Canada intense activity was taking place to drag Canada into the American net. If we go into the Common Market, Canada is bang into the American net. This week, New Zealand has said that if the Common Market comes, she will be forced to trade with the Soviet bloc and that there will be much greater trade with China.

The Pacific Charter and the five Pacific pacts which were to be a wonderful defence of the free world will collapse because of the economic strife which will arise as a result of Britain pushing out the Commonwealth of Nations and no longer contributing to the building up of a force in the world which would have profound political common sense and be a great force for peace.

This idea of a Common Market is old-fashioned. In the crucial revolution of awakening expectations which is now on the anvil of history being hammered out in Asia, Latin America and Africa, the markets of those areas—what is the matter with the Conservative Party?—will grow in double geometric progression in the next twenty-five years, because those people will demand a higher standard of life. Here we are quibbling about a market which is in Europe when, with our trade and "know-how", there are these possibilities. We are quibbling about the European market while two-thirds of the world is waiting for our technology, our machinery and our goods.

By 1970, 50 per cent. or more of the industrial output of the world will be in the Soviet bloc. The places which will follow will be the positive neutralist States like India, the Colombo Powers, Africa and Latin-America, and yet we are to go into this arid and unimaginative plan—they only pretend that it is imaginative—of the Common Market at this juncture in European affairs. Why do we not use the United Nations, the Economic Commission for Asia, and other bodies that we have set up?

In 1960, our then Foreign Secretary, at a meeting of Western European Union, reiterated his offer to build a closer link towards a Common Market. On 27th September, 1960, the Lord Privy Seal was then against the signing of the Treaty of Rome. He said that to the Council of Europe, but he said that he would investigate the matter. In November, 1960, the Prime Minister met the Prime Minister of Italy and agreed to official talks on how to bridge the so-called division of Europe. We could not make the 16 work in O.E.E.C.

Why do we pretend that the Six are dynamic and new? The hand of America, more than anything else, is pushing Britain into the Six. We had to get the permission of France, and in January, 1960, the Prime Minister was in Paris for talks with General de Gaulle. He is a "tough nut". As the Observer reported on 22nd January, 1961: This is the first round towards a Common Market. Adenauer has met de Gaulle six times, and all the time we are finding that Britain is being edged into a position in which ten years' hence her voice in world affairs will be less powerful than that of Switzerland because she will not be able to hope for Commonwealth co-operation at the United Nations or elsewhere. This would be a step backwards and the great English people will lose what I consider to be their rightful influence on world affairs at the United Nations.

I do not accuse the Board of Trade. I accuse the Foreign Office for not having the courage to develop a British policy which would work towards a better understanding between all concerned, rather than a policy which is dominated, not by the American people—they are as peaceful as we are; I know them—but by the military elite and by people who are blinded by the great movement which is taking place in Asia and Africa at the present time.

12.7 a.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. J. B. Godber)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) for raising this extremely important topic on the Adjournment. I am also grateful to him for his usual courtesy in letting me know in advance some of the points that he intended to mention. I am sure that he would be the first to agree that this is far too big a subject to try to develop adequately during this half-hour debate, particularly in the few minutes left to me now. However, I will seek to make one or two comments on the points he raised.

I have listened with care to the points which the hon. Member developed, and it seems to me that his whole case is not so much against Britain's joining the Common Market as against there being a Common Market at all, which is a very different thing.

Before I answer some of his points, I should make it clear that our position remains as the Prime Minister set it out in the House only yesterday, that no decision has been taken by the Government on this matter. We are still engaged in discussions, including a number of discussions with the Six. We are now to have further discussions with members of the Commonwealth. My right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal has been engaged all along in discussions with the Six and with our E.F.T.A. colleagues and is keeping them fully in the picture. It is very important that we should do that.

Many views have been, and still are being, put forward in relation to Britain's position with regard to the Common Market. The one point on which everyone is agreed—and it is the only one on which there is complete unanimity—is that this is a major decision which must have far-reaching effects, whatever the final decision may be.

That being so, I suggest that no one should complain—indeed, the hon. Gentleman has not complained—if the Government consider every aspect of it with the greatest care before coming to a decision. There have been those who have suggested that it is just a matter of going in. It is not. It is a very big issue.

The hon. Gentleman argued that we could not go in. He advanced his argument on both political and economic grounds, though I think that his greatest emphasise was on the political aspect. I suggest that this is something of a minority view, even among those opposed to Britain's seeking to take this step. There are those who oppose our entry because they fear we should not be able to make satisfactory arrangements with the Commonwealth; others feel the same way about our own agriculture, and others are anxious about our position in relation to E.F.T.A.

On all those we must make satisfactory arrangements if we contemplate membership. Others are afraid of the derogation of sovereignty. I do not under-rate that feeling for a moment; I agree that it is a very important feeling, but I sometimes wish that those who say that would read the Treaty of Rome. If they had, they would see that the derogation of sovereignty is not nearly so great as is sometimes imagined.

The opposition of the hon. Member, however, is even more fundamental than on the four counts to which I have referred. His opposition is to the whole concept of the Common Market, whether or not Britain is in it. His remarks about Germany would seem to apply to the Common Market as it is, just as much as it would be if we were in it. That being so, I say that we must be realists. The Common Market is there whether the hon. Member likes it or not, and I suggest that it is better—if it is there—that Britain should be in it to seek to guide it in the way in which people in this country would wish.

If the hon. Member's fears are genuine, there is a great deal to be said—the Common Market having been set up, and looking at the situation purely from his point of view—for this country's taking part. If, in the dim future, we have a Labour Government again, that Government might be able to influence policies in the way the hon. Member would wish. My own view is that, there being a Common Market, we must consider the situation on that basis, and it was on that basis that the hon. Member seemed to rest a great deal of his argument. He said that the Common Market was a disruptive influence in Europe. I do not agree with that view, but even on that argument, if we were in, we might be able to help rather than hinder developments in the way he wants.

The settlement of the German question is a very large issue, but I would have thought that in the present situation, with West Germany absorbed economically within the Common Market, if there were to be a reunification of Germany—for which we all hope—there would be nothing to inhibit the enlarged Germany taking its place within the comity of the free nations of Europe. But as at this moment, with East Germany still cut off and unable to have free elections, there is obviously no possibility of that. I followed his point with interest when he said that there was no Customs barrier, and, therefore, East Germany might be brought in.

The hon. Member referred to Article 227 (4) of the Rome Treaty, which says: The provisions of this Treaty shall apply to European territories for whose external relations a Member State is responsible. It clearly does not mean that West Germany is responsible for East Germany, having regard to their external relations at present.

The precise purpose for which this provision was put in, I should imagine— and this is speculation—is to cover small States whose external relations are the responsibility of the States embracing them, such as Monaco, for which France accepts responsibility for external relations, San Marino, within Italy and—if we went in—Gibraltar.

I think that it is meant purely to cover that type of case, and not the wider aspects to which the hon. Gentleman referred. The hon. Member raised an interesting point, but not one that would apply to those particular States. I am grateful to him for drawing it to my attention, because I agree that it could lead to misunderstanding.

I would have liked to have made an hour's speech on this subject, because there is so much to be said on the whole aspect of the Common Market. We shall, however, be coming back to it, because I understand that one of his hon. Friends has been fortunate in the Ballot. As a result, we shall be able to debate it a little longer on another occasion. It is very right that hon. Members should debate the subject fully, just as it should be fully debated in the country. The Government will continue their efforts to get clear the basis on which it would be possible to join, and in those circumstances we would, of course, want to take the House and the country fully into our confidence. At present, as the Prime Minister has clearly stated, we are not in a position to do that, and that creates difficulties.

I would ask the hon. Member and the House to realise that this is such a tremendously big subject that the one thing we should not do is to think in terms of the immediate future. We have to think of what the position will be in relation to this country, and in relation to Europe and the Commonwealth as a whole, in twenty-five years'—possibly fifty years'—time. I am absolutely certain that, while every one of us is at least as determined as is the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) to safeguard the position of our Commonwealth, this country is of little value to the Commonwealth if it is economically weak. We have to strengthen our position. We must look with the utmost care at the long-term situation, at the future of Britain, at the future of our workers, and of the Commonwealth as a whole. All these matters we have to consider with the very greatest care.

If we can get proper safeguards under the three headings I have mentioned, we have to look very carefully at the possibility of this closer association to see whether it is not in the long-term interests that I have suggested. I am sorry that I have not had time to go into greater detail but have merely had a few minutes to deal sketchily with the subject. I look forward to debating again with the hon. Gentleman on another occasion.

The Question having been proposed after Ten o'clock on Wednesday evening and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at seventeen minutes past Twelve o'clock.