HC Deb 03 August 1965 vol 717 cc1650-66

10.32 a.m.

Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)

I am sorry that the Chief Patronage Secretary is not in his place. He is, or tries to be, a courteous man, but I wanted to tell him that I was absolutely shocked by his moving the Closure at nine o'clock. In retrospect, I am glad that he did, but I was shocked at the time. I was shocked because one of the reasons why we are here now at half-past ten is that some hon. Members, particularly Front Bench Members, speak at inordinate length—and too many of them. We had a debate on roads. It started late, and went on for ages because there were four Front Bench speakers, who spoke at inordinate length for a short debate.

Consequently, back-benchers have reason to be dissatisfied, particularly in major debates, because we just cannot get called. It is not the fault of Mr. Speaker or the management of the Chamber. It is simply that some hon. Members of the House speak so long. Therefore, it was monstrous for the Chief Patronage Secretary to try to adjourn the House, and even more monstrous that he should try to adjourn the House and then lose his Motion because there were four hon. Members who refused to let it be adjourned. This is the first time that I have been one of four hon. Members—six, counting the Tellers—who have defeated the Government.

I cannot promise that I shall make a short constituency point. I cannot promise that I shall keep the House only for a very short time. I apologise for this, but I want to make a speech which I have been trying to make for a very long time in foreign affairs and other debates, but have not been called because of the enormous verbosity of so many Members, particularly Front Benchers and Privy Councillors. I have an opportunity now until such time as the Chief Patronage Secretary comes back again and decides that back-benchers ought not to have an opportunity to speak and that all the time should be carved up among Front Benchers. When he does move the Closure, I trust that we shall defeat him again.

Having said that, I am most grateful for this opportunity to say something about one of the most major topics facing the country today, a topic all the more important because we may find ourselves in a General Election—I am not electioneering—within the next two or three months. It is doubtful whether hon. Members who are going away for a long holiday will not be recalled. Therefore, I want to raise the issue of the Common Market. I should be grateful to know whether the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has kindly appeared to reply to this debate, or whether the Foreign Office will be sending along a representative.

Mr. Alan Fitch (Wigan)

indicated assent.

Mr. Fell

More than two years ago I had a little tiff with the then Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Macmillan, and I said some very hard things. I explained my reason for saying hard things in this way: I would ask the Prime Minister to believe … that there are those British people who believe that it is impossible under the Treaty of Rome, except an entirely new Treaty of Rome … to protect British sovereignty, British agriculture, the British Commonwealth and the E.F.T.A. countries."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st July, 1961; Vol. 645, c. 935.] Looking back on that, I suppose it was a large claim to make. I suppose that it was wrong of me to stand up against so many wise people who believe that the destiny of Britain may be beyond the English Channel. I suppose I was wrong to be so categoric in my criticism of the then Prime Minister. I suppose that it would have been better had I had regard to my political future and not said the things that I did to the then Prime Minister, knowing full well that the result of what I said to him would be that my political future—that is, ministerially, but I do not consider that the only political future—would be dead from that moment onwards.

Nevertheless, I said it in the full knowledge of all this because I believed one thing, and that was that the very fact of our going into negotiation at that time would do nothing but harm to the British Commonwealth and to our E.F.T.A. association, and would decrease our trade with various parts of the world. I could see the busy Ministers of the Cabinet from that moment onwards being busier still and concentrating upon negotiations to get us into the Common Market and, therefore, ignoring one of the prime necessities of that time, which was to get more trade with the Commonwealth rather than less. Was I right or wrong?

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

The hon. Gentleman won.

Mr. Fell

I did not win. President de Gaulle won.

I come now to the 30th July, 1962, again quoting myself, though with little respect: My hon. Friend said that the Commonwealth was at a crossroads. He always uses moderate language. I believe that the Commonwealth is not at a crossroads, but is on the edge of a precipice, and if it falls over it will never recover in a form recognisable to us. If we think of the Commonwealth, as far too many people do, as not including Britain, it will take Britain with it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1962; Vol. 664, c. 346.] I said many other things at that time, and I think it not unfair to point out now that Commonwealth trade has fallen appreciably since the negotiations opened to get into the European Economic Community. If anyone should say, "But the negotiations have had nothing to do with the diminution of Commonwealth trade", my only reply is that he ought to think a little more about what has happened. All the energies of the major Cabinet Ministers at that time were taken up with a desperate attempt to square things with the Commonwealth, to square things with E.F.T.A., to square things with British agriculture, to square things with British industry and to square things with financial interests. Had this energy been put into one of the many suggestions which had been made by my right hon. and hon. Friends for trying to "get something cracking" in the Commonwealth, it could have had an enormous effect in increasing Commonwealth trade.

So far, we have not even had an agreed major review of all Commonwealth resources. How is it possible that, in this assembly of overseas nations, we have not even taken a step which would have resulted in our finding out what we possessed so that we might decide how what we possessed could be developed? We have been trying for years to find out with Europe what Europe possesses. What have we done about the Commonwealth? I could say much more about that, but I leave it there.

I come now to the reason why I am taking up the time of the House. I am concerned about the revival of the prospect of our entering the Common Market.

Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)

My hon. Friend is putting forward an interesting argument, but is he not tending to regard the Commonwealth from a trading and economic point of view as a homogeneous body the constituent members of which all have the same trading interests? Will he not acknowledge that, unhappily, Canada, for example, is very mixed up with the dollar trading area, and that Australia's interests as a developing secondary industry country are not always synonymous with ours?

Mr. Fell

I have the greatest respect and affection for my hon. Friend, but if he really thinks that I do not realise that he must be extremely dim, or he must think that I am extremely dim, one or the other. Of course I realise it. I realise something else, as well. Since the announcement in 1961 of our negotiations to go into the Common Market and to try to adhere to the Treaty of Rome, Australia and New Zealand have moved closer and closer to America. Why?—because they were terrified that they would be deserted by us.

Mr. Gower

Absolute nonsense.

Mr. Fell

If my hon. Friend thinks that, perhaps he will recall the international Commonwealth "hook-up" broadcast which took place at a time of high ardour on the subject of Britain's entry into the Common Market. He will recall the enormous worry expressed in that broadcast by New Zealand, Australia, Canada and other Commonwealth countries about what would be the effect on their position vis-à-vis Britain if we went in without giving the necessary safeguards. Everyone knows, of course, that it was never "on" to give the necessary safeguards; everyone knows that it would have meant running out of the Commonwealth.

To return to what I was saying before I was so gently interrupted by my hon. Friend, I remind the House, for the benefit for those who may have forgotten, what the Treaty of Rome is really about and what Professor Hallstein says it is all about. He made a speech to the University of Kiel on 19th February last, and I recommend hon. Members on both sides who have not read it and who are interested in the future of Britain to read this speech. It was a long and comprehensive survey, and I shall take one or two extracts from it.

In his opening remarks, Professor Hallstein said that "they were, of course, attempting to change human nature". Something may have fallen down in the translation there. I know of good men and true who have been trying, without significant success, to change human nature for 2,000 years, and before them others had tried to do the same. So, although that may be a laudable and plausible aim, it does not seem very sensible.

On page 16 of the report of his speech, Professor Hallstein deals with the question of union or unity. I take General de Gaulle's view that, if there is to be any political association in Europe, it should be a political association in a unity, not a union; in other words, we must not lose our sovereignty altogether. Professor Hallstein said—[Interruption.] I wonder whether my hon. Friends would care either to listen to this or to help me in some other way. I should be most grateful, because I do not wish to take up too much of their time.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

I hope that my hon. Friend will understand that we were not ignoring what he was saying. We were alarmed at some of the consequences of his statement.

Mr. Fell

That may be so. If my hon. Friend had been here a little longer—[HON. MEMBERS: "Be fair."] All right. I withdraw that. If my hon. Friend had read the stand I have taken on this matter, he might be a little more understanding.

Professor Hallstein said: Naturally, the higher the platform or the viewpoint of the actor or the spectator, the more visibly and distinctly will the ultimate aim stand out, the more aware he must be of the final goal to be achieved"— this is the master mind of the European Economic Community— namely, the complete political union of Europe. That is what has caused the trouble. It is the argument between complete political union, which can mean domination, and political unity, which means collaboration so far as it is possible to collaborate.

I take next the attitude of France. I intend to skip this, but I shall mention it as I might be jeered if I skip it: In France there was a very real danger that, owing to the traditional protectionist policy which was being followed, the economy would 'miss the bus' into the 20th century. Only a challenge of the scale of a domestic market for Europe could help. Furthermore, the social unrest among the French farm population, a fifth of the total population, which bordered on revolution, could be contained only by expanding the market for French agricultural products". If it was to be the saving of France, why is France walking out on this very point now?

The next quotation—[Interruption.]

I do not know whether my hon. Friend, again a very old friend, wants to interrupt. I should be delighted if he does.

Sir Rolf Dudley Williams (Torquay)

The cause of the friction between France and the rest of Europe is that France wants everything her own way.

Mr. Fell

That is true. I do not want to disagree with my hon. Friend, but that is another way of saying that France will not have a political union in Europe in which she gives up all political sovereignty. It is as simple as that.

Mr. Gower


Mr. Fell

I am sorry; I cannot give way again now. I will give way later.

The next quotation I want to make from this great speech of Professor Dr. Hallstein's is on the subject of economic union. He said this: The opening of the frontiers forces them to … a unified market and a unified direction of economic policy. He explains this in further detail later. I shall make another quotation because I think that it is the most frightening sentence in the whole speech—

Mr. Gower

Before my hon. Friend—

Mr. Fell

No. I am sorry, but I will not give way. I see that the Patronage Secretary has just arrived. I hope that nothing will happen too soon. I want to try to get on.

Professor Hallstein said this: In short: to free trade in industrial and agricultural products, it is by no means enough simply to open the frontiers, as so many conceptions of market economy, as simple as they are unrealistic, would have us believe. This is a very important point.

He went on to say: On the contrary, extensive action will have to be taken by the Community, embracing vital parts of fiscal, budgetary, economic and monetary policy. I want to know whether those Members of Parliament who glibly follow the lead into Europe under the present terms of the Treaty of Rome realise that it will take from us our power in all these matters, eventually.

The final quotation I want to make, which, I think, is the most serious of all, is this. This is the final summing up, I am glad to say: Finally, it also means that, in the E.E.C., no Member State can pursue its own separate commercial policy in dealings with non-member states. Do those who have made up their minds that we must go in first and argue afterwards about the provisions of the Common Market realise that we shall lose totally our control over our own economy and our control over our commercial life, if we go in under the present terms?

I intend to quote statements made by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House, to be fair. I want to quote a letter written by one of my right hon. Friends, the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), published in The Times on 17th July. I will quote the last part of the letter: Let us announce that, without too many ifs and buts,"— in other words, if I read it aright, it means, "Let us announce without qualifications, without too many ifs and buts". Am I being unkind? I think not— when the way is open, we shall be ready to accede to the Treaty of Rome, in the confidence that we shall be able to safeguard our interests better from within that from the outside.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Fell

I am interested to have the Common Market lobby behind me. They do me a great honour by coming in. I only put the subject down last night, so it was not on the Notice Paper until about eight o'clock this morning. My right hon. Friend goes on in this way: Let us declare our intentions, by declaring our willingness to work not only for economic integration, but also for the progressive political union of Europe"— with us in it!

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Fell

With the greatest respect, I am grateful to hon. Members, but—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Dr. Horace King)

Order. Intervention and noise prolong speeches. There are other hon. Members who wish to speak in this debate.

Mr. Fell

He continues: I believe that this positive attitude is now shared by the great majority of the thinking men and women in Britain. I do not know whether the last part of the letter has been the subject of an opinion poll, but I know that the last time that there were public opinion polls on the subject of Britain joining the Common Market, the opinion polls were about 70 per cent. against. No doubt the writer of the letter would not agree that most of them were serious-minded people, but I believe that they were. Therefore, it seems to be over-stating the case, to say the least, to claim that the vast majority of thinking people are for us joining Europe, particularly under these terms.

May I refer now to the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, who gained great prominence with his right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) the day before yesterday when he somewhat weakened on the five great points. The Minister of State said this: There are some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, as I said last week, who do not remember that the Prime Minister said that the question of Britain's relationship with Europe was not one of theology but a matter of practice. The five conditions are not the Ten Commandments. It was a happy turn of phrase and I felt that the hon. Gentleman might have been congratulated by the right hon. Member for Easington. They relate to the vital interests of Britain and the Commonwealth. They will be interpreted in practical terms in the light of practical affairs as they exist between Britain and Europe."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd August, 1965; Vol. 717, c. 1043.] I suppose that is certainly a drift from the former position. I do not want to make too much of it. I see some small signs of disagreement, but it could at least be interpreted as a drift from the former position.

Now the Labour Party is as divided on this issue as is the Tory Party. Indeed, the whole matter is in many ways well above party and partisan politics. The Labour Party is divided on this issue. We know full well that many Labour Members would like to go in on the Streatham terms, if I may call them that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I do not mean to be offensive. I mean the terms outlined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham. I thought it was quicker to say what I said.

It is obvious that many hon. Members opposite would like to go in on those terms; that is—cut the cackle, let us get in, and let us argue afterwards.

Mr. Gower

Will my hon. Friend please give way?

Mr. Fell


It is equally obvious that many of my hon. Friends, I regret to say, have the same view. It is also true that most of my right hon. Friends do not share that view. They believe, I hope—I pray they still believe—that it is necessary to negotiate first and to get the necessary safeguards before signing the Treaty of Rome, if we can ever sign it. We have an election very possibly coming up within the next two or three months. Both parties will have to make up their minds and to give a lead to the country.

I wonder how many people realise what a reversal we are trying to bring about in twentieth century politics. The twentieth century has been notable for one, among many others, major political trend, namely, the trend towards greater independence and statehood. The trend has been for nations to look outwards while maintaining their individuality and sovereignty. This is the meaning, if it has any meaning, of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is the only body in the world, the only organisation or association of States, in which members can be completely free and sovereign. This is the great thing which was worked out by us in the nineteenth century and which has come to fruition in the twentieth century.

Some Members are talking about our signing the Treaty of Rome, which is the reverse of the system for which countries have been striving in the Commonwealth through all these long years. Why do hon. Members on both sides of the House want us to go into the Common Market? The answer is because they are frightened and are looking for an easy way out of their troubles. They want to get in without regard for the fact that the Common Market is essentially an inward-looking protected area which is surrounded by a new steel wall made out of tariffs against the world. This is the essence and basis of the Common Market.

Those who try to argue with that must explain how they reconcile our supposed leadership of the Commonwealth of Nations—goodness knows, it has been weak and many of our troubles arise from it—now and over the past generations. It is impossible to reconcile the two. People wonder why Australia and New Zealand went closer to the United States, with the threat of China and Indonesia to the north of them and with their lack of faith in British Governments of any colour to help and develop the Commonwealth—in other words, with their lack of faith in us.

The French fear simply is this, that if Professor Hallstein, the master of the Commission, has his way, France will lose all her economic, financial and political independence in the years to come. This is why she is having trouble with the Common Market. Do not get me wrong. I hope sincerely that the Common Market will succeed for those countries which are in it, but I hope something else as well, namely, that before Britain ever thinks about signing on the dotted line she will so have her agreements tied up with the Commission that the Treaty of Rome will have been changed and Professor Hallstein will have changed his tune from saying, "We are not in business; we are in politics" and that no member State of the Community can have commercial dealings with any State outside the Community without going to the Commission.

Until those terms are changed, it would be absolute nonsense and criminal for Britain to join on the extraordinary basis that we should sign the Treaty and then afterwards try to alter it. We do not want to be put in the position which France is now in. Are we really asking that we shold join the Common Market and then try to change the basis of the Treaty and then, not having succeeded in changing it, to wreck the whole joint? This would be more than the Community could stand, and we well know it. So let us be honest in this as well.

I have spoken for a considerable time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."] I gave my reasons for speaking when I started my speech. I am delighted to see the Patronage Secretary with us, because this gives me the chance to restate very shortly—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—my reasons for making this speech.

I was shocked at the right hon. Gentleman's attempt to move the Closure earlier because he did not realise why we are sitting so late this morning. We are sitting so late partly because of the debate on roads last night, a full-scale debate which took away our time, with four Front Bench speakers; partly because Front Bench speeches and many backbench speeches are far too long—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] For those hon. Members who do not like that, let me say that I warned the House before I spoke that I could not say what I had to say shortly.

I have been trying to say it for a very long time and have not been called, obviously not through any fault of the occupant of the Chair, but because of the length of speeches made by leaders on both sides, by Privy Councillors and others. The average length of the speeches which I have made since becoming a Member has been 15 minutes, certainly not more. I will help in any move for shorter speeches in the House I want to end on this note. The day before yesterday a very considerable speech was made in the House by the hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Walden). It is always refreshing to hear an honest speech made in the House. His speech was of the greatest integrity and honesty. I believe that hon. Members, on whatever side of the House they may sit, should not be slow—[HON. MEMBERS: "Get on."] I believe this to be true. Hon. Members ask me to get on. I have heard some Members speak at much greater length than I have spoken today. At one stage in his speech, the hon. Member for All Saints called for more honesty in politics.

A few years ago I said: Can one appeal to the Government to understand that the British people are not so backward, so poor in spirit and so lacking in courage that they have reached a position where they are entirely unable to face difficulties?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1962; Vol. 664, c. 347.] I could quote more, but I will not do so. I was then appealing to the Government and, indeed, to the House of Commons to start having faith in the British people.

Make no mistake: at the next election, no party will be able to go to the country with promises of good times ahead. Perhaps at last we shall be forced to tell the people the truth and to give them some leadership and faith in what they are capable of doing. If anybody believes that it is an impossible task to galvanise the British people, I would say this. When de Gaulle became President of France nobody would have believed that France, in the short time of three or four years, would command the attention of the world, when before she had been a minor defeated tragic nation. [Interruption.] May I appeal to my hon. Friends, so-called, behind me, one of whom said, "There! The Common Market." I have heard nothing more ridiculous and stupid in this Chamber for a very long time. De Gaulle has had little merit but a lot of tears out of the Common Market. Let us face that fact.

De Gaulle has worked his miracle for France by being truthful and having faith in the French people. Oh, for the time when we in this country have a leader who will be truthful to the British people and have faith in them. On that day we shall begin to have the sort of integrity not only in Parliament, but throughout the world, that I believe this country fundamentally deserves.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I am in some difficulty. I must consult hon. Members. The hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) requires the leave of the House to speak again. May I ask the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) whether he desires to speak on this topic?

11.11 a.m.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)

Yes, Mr. Speaker.

I should like to support my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) in his plea for shorter speeches, and I certainly hope that what I say will be short and to the point. I would not like him to go away from this debate in the belief that there was no sympathy for his point of view, on this side of the House or the other, because I am sure we all appreciate that he stated his point with great sincerity. At least, the hon. Member has been consistent.

However, I think the other side of the story must be stated, and I should like briefly to say how the situation affects an industry in which I have a particular interest, namely, shipbuilding. I hope that it will be demonstrated to my hon. Friend that this is not simply a question of this country or any other country deciding what it wants to do within a small area. We have to think of what circumstances in this country will force us to do, and of what we might be forced to do because of the economic circumstances of other nations.

Take, for example, the shipbuilding industry in this country. This is a vital industry that employs more than 76,000 people directly, and probably another 150,000 indirectly. Because of the activities of the previous Government and, to some extent, of this Government also, we are looking forward to more favourable times but because of the mere existence of the Common Market we are faced with a situation in which the whole future of the industry is endangered.

Only three months ago the Common Market Executive decided to recommend to the Commission that a tariff barrier should be erected for shipbuilding, that a subsidy of a minimum of 10 per cent. and a maximum of 15 per cent. should be paid on all ships built within the Common Market. Irrespective of whether or not we want to have anything to do with the Common Market, irrespective of whether we want to extend our Commonwealth trade, this is a hard fact which we have to face. We must appreciate the consequences.

At present, Germany, Holland and Belgium have no protection for their shipbuilding industries, but if this proposal is put into effect this month by the Common Market Commission our prospects of obtaining work will be seriously affected. Our prospects of obtaining export orders and orders from our own shipowners could be very seriously affected. At present, we have difficulty in competing with Europe. We find difficulty in competing with Germany in certain fields and with Holland in connection with the smaller type of vessel. These proposals could have a very serious effect.

What are we to do in the circumstances? We can make representations to the Common Market, but will the member countries listen? What precisely do those who refuse to have anything to do with the Common Market suggest that we should do? We have little alternative, as a country which depends so much on exports. The least that we can do is to adopt a flexible attitude. I would not suggest that we should rush into the Common Market, but I would not suggest either that we should slam the door in their faces, because we must face practicalities. What will happen to our shipbuilding industry if this proposal goes ahead and we take no action at all?

The other and more serious factor in connection with the need to maintain a flexible attitude lies in one of the major problems which the present Government have been facing since they have been in office. The one great problem which they are facing and which former Governments have had to face is that of the balance of payments. As a major trading nation, everything that happens in the economy of other countries has an immediate effect on this country.

One of the most interesting things which have happened in this House since I have been a Member was the Chancellor's announcement last Tuesday of his financial restrictions. It appears that many hon. Members opposite who took part in the election campaign sincerely believed that when the Tory Government went out of office the whole problem of stop-go would disappear. They must have believed this when they said that a Labour Government would bring in new measures and would get away from the policy of stop-go. However, as long as we are operating as one unit, with associations with the Commonwealth, as a small unit in a trading world which is intensely competitive, there is no prospect of us ever being able to get away from the consequences of stop-go measures. So long as we are one small unit we cannot hope to isolate ourselves from economic circumstances abroad. So long as we refuse to have anything to do with a larger unit we certainly cannot hope to solve this basic economic problem.

We should think of this particularly in view of yesterday's announcement that our gold and dollar reserves went down by £50 million, though the true figure, as we all know, will in fact, be much greater. How long must we face difficulties like that which can arise from time to time and upset all the economic policies which Governments might wish to pursue? We must at least adopt a flexible attitude to the question of association with the Common Market.

The other major problem which the Government have been facing—I do not agree with all their policies, but, nevertheless, they have been trying to deal with this problem—is the future of our aircraft industry. Unless we have a large export market on which we can depend and from which we can get orders by virtue of our prices and delivery dates, it is not possible to have a viable aircraft industry in this country. To that extent we have to look to markets on which we can depend. We have to look to markets from which we shall not be excluded by sudden tariff barriers or other measures.

Looking to the future of the aircraft industry in particular, we must associate ourselves with a larger market on which we can depend and in which there is not the danger of the sudden imposition of quotas and other restrictions. The last thing I wish to do is to loosen the bonds which join the countries of the Commonwealth, but when we consider the major industries on which the future prosperity of all nations must depend, we must have some means of associating ourselves with the Common Market or with some comparable group. Is there a comparable group? This is the question which my hon. Friend posed. Can we get the same advantages from an even closer relationship with the Commonwealth countries than we can get in Europe? I do not think I hat present circumstances will allow that.

My hon. Friend said that perhaps these difficulties would not have arisen if we had never tried to negotiate with Europe. He said that our trade with the Commonwealth had gone down since we entered into these negotiations, and that is true as a percentage of our total trade, but one thing that must be said on the other side is that before we entered into these negotiations our trade with Europe was about 32 per cent., and was growing. Before we started to negotiate in that way, and for two years before then, our trade with the Commonwealth as a percentage was declining. In other words, what was happening was due to natural movements that were taking place, and had nothing to do with our discussions for entering into the Common Market.

Mr. Arnold Gregory (Stockport, North)

The hon. Gentleman keeps on referring to Europe. Does he mean the Common Market Europe, E.F.T.A. Europe, or Eastern Europe?

Mr. Taylor

I am sorry if I have not made myself clear. I was talking essentially of the Common Market in, I would hope, association with the E.F.T.A. countries, because I am sure that no one would agree to our going into the Common Market if it meant adversely and seriously affecting our friends in E.F.T.A. who have been of such assistance to us. We hope that in any such relationship we can be associated with the Common Market and give comparable advantages to our E.F.T.A. friends and also bring great benefits to the countries of the Commonwealth. A strong Britain is the best friend of the Commonwealth. A strong Britain is a nation that is most able to give help and assistance to those countries in the Commonwealth which need it.

Apart from that, on the general question I think we have to appreciate that the future of the world never looked darker than when the nations of Europe were in conflict. There is, I believe, a real need for a third force in the world which can make a contribution politically, socially, and economically. A Europe united with Britain would have more in population, in wealth, and in technological resources than any of the other major blocs in the world. For these reasons, as Members of this House, with the facts that we have, it would be wrong to adopt an inflexible attitude to the question of European unity. There will be enormous difficulties in any negotiations for a major change of this sort, but I think that it would be dangerous and in some ways irresponsible to close our minds to what may be the solution to the nation's structural problems in trade and international affairs.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Edward Short)

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.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

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