HC Deb 17 November 1966 vol 736 cc690-774

Question again proposed, That this House do now adjourn.

Mr. Shinwell

It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, with great respect, that if anything has justified the abolition of the House of Lords it was that interruption.

Of course, there is just a possibility that if there were a supranational government with a European Parliament, that would put an end to it. But even that does not afford any attraction for me. Right in the middle of the speech we have had half time, and no one even offered us a drink. I am very much tempted to start right from the beginning again, but the trouble is that I have no notes—I always find them an encumbrance—and I might get a little confused.

There are two other matters to which I must refer. The first is the main subject of the debate. While I fundamentally disagreed with the first part of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition about going in hook, line and sinker and lock, stock and barrel, I agreed very much with the latter part when he pointed out all the difficulties and particularly the difficulties about defence.

I have some experience of this subject and particularly of negotiating with the French. I had to negotiate with the French when I was Minister of Defence, with Pleven, when he was Prime Minister, with Jules Moch, when he was Minister of Defence, and with Réné Meyer, when he was Minister of Defence and the whole of the N.A.T.O. infrastructure was arrived at in consequence of the discussions which I had with Réné Meyer several years ago. Incidentally, the French agreed to the infrastructure, but have now abandoned N.A.T.O. I do not know whether we should have any compensation as a result, but that topic is incidental to the debate and I shall not pursue it.

As I have said in the House in defence debates, right from the end of the war the French have never made a worthwhile contribution, in forces or in finance, to N.A.T.O. They have always put obstacles in the way and I suggest that there will be further obstacles. Of course, my right hon. Friend must have more discussions with de Gaulle, who is really the villain of the piece. It was de Gaulle who placed an impediment in the path of the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath). Had it not been for the de Gaulle veto, the right hon. Gentleman might have succeeded.

Now it is a question of defence. Entry might have been easier during the régime of the right hon. Member for Bexley, because France was then associated with N.A.T.O., at any rate in theory and on paper. I shall not go into all the complications associated with defence in Europe and our association with the United States, and with the complications which arise because Germany is divided, although I will say, in passing, that if there is any question of creating a defence community emerging as the result of the Economic Community in Europe, the fact that Germany is divided—unless there is reunification—will leave a festering sore which could easily create conflict. In those circumstances, the Economic Community would be of little value.

I therefore agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the Prime Minister must address himself to the subject of defence in association with the French. I am an anxious as my pacifist hon. Friends on this side of the House, and no doubt others elsewhere, who, I am convinced, have genuine convictions and who want to put an end to war and who want no more conflict, to see an arrangement among the nations of the world, or at any rate a group of nations, to prevent conflict. But I am convinced that, without the military aid in weapons and in manpower and in finance which the United States can provide, this country has no security.

I regret it and I wish that it were otherwise, but we have gone through two great devastating wars and in both we have depended in the long run, although not at the beginning, when we had the courage and the conviction to enter into war, largely unprepared but with the courage which one expects from the British, on the aid provided by the United States. All the defence organisations which can be created and all the mechanism associated with defence in Europe would be of little avail unless we could rely in large measure on the assistance provided by the United States, and the Prime Minister must tell de Gaulle that.

Whether de Gaulle will change his mind in time I am unable to say. I very much doubt it. When people get old it is very difficult for them to change their minds. [Laughter.] I beg hon. Members to understand that I am very far from being obstinate or perverse. I have a chameleon's capacity for adaptation. I have been accused of changing my mind frequently. I have not changed my mind on this subject. It therefore seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman was right and that de Gaulle is the obstacle, but I very much doubt whether we can achieve success.

When de Gaulle goes, we may have Pompidou. I never care very much for French politicians. I knew them all in the old days—Briand, Daladier, Jean Longuet and all the rest of them. Recently, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) described himself as an internationalist, but I attended conferences with these gentlemen before the First World War and before my hon. Friend saw the light of day. Now I sometimes wonder whether he can see daylight.

I want now to deal with my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Ginsburg), who said yesterday that we need not bother about our economic position because the situation on the Continent was far worse. He gave us the statistics. I heard him yesterday and I had a refresher course this morning in HANSARD. He said that there were many difficulties on the Continent where exports were not as great as they were here and where there were labour difficulties.

Mr. David Ginsburg (Dewsbury) indicated assent.

Mr. Shinwell

My hon. Friend is nodding assent. I suggest to him that if that is the case, then, obviously, the right thing to do is not for us to join E.E.C., but for E.E.C. to join us.

I do not like denigration of this country. I do not believe in crying stinking fish. There is much wrong in this country. There are the slums; we have insufficient hospitals; transport facilities are antiquated. We know all this. Our purpose is to try to put these matters right. Incidentally, that is what I thought this Government was for. That is what I expected this Government to do, not to waste its time on a will o' the wisp. Of course, there is much which requires to be done in the social services, but for goodness sake let us stop denigrating our own country. It is still a good country. If we never get into the Common Market, we can pull ourselves up by our boot straps. This is a challenge to the people. Tell the country the truth. Demand from the people that they should render adequate service. What is wrong with that?

It is not treason to praise one's own country. Perhaps I should be careful about this. Although I was born in this country 82 years ago—it is quite a long time ago—and not very far from here, within the sound of Bow Bells, my ancestors came from elsewhere. But I love this country. I know of no better country, and I have travelled the world. I beg hon. Members not to treat this as hyperbole; I mean what I say.

I am an unrepentant, determined, resolute opponent of our going into the Common Market. I have no reservations. I am not half-hearted or chicken-hearted about it. I do not say, "If we can get this or that we might go in. Perhaps it will work out this way or that way and then everything in the garden will be lovely". Not at all, Mr. Speaker. I have not heard a single argument in this debate, nor do I expect to hear one at the end of the debate, which convinces me that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, for whom I have the utmost regard and respect, will succeed in converting de Gaulle or taking us into Europe.

May I indulge in a last word since I understand that there has been some private criticism of my attitude in the past? It has been suggested that in the past I supported entry into a European community. Therefore, yesterday, I went to the Library. If anybody imagines that the Library cannot provide adequate facilities for research he is mistaken. The staff there found for me an early-day Motion dated 26th November, 1951, and an early-day Motion dated 18th December, 1952.

An alternative to going into the Common Market has been demanded. I do not doubt that we can find one. After all, it might be said that this country, on its economic feet, is the alternative. But, when we are asked for an alternative, I read out these early day Motions, none of which I signed, but which were signed by some hon. Members on this side of the House; I will not mention their names. I should like to read them for the benefit of hon. Members. I ask the House and the public to note them.

The first Motion reads: Commonwealth and European Union: That this House, anxious for the future peace and prosperity of the world, calls upon His Majesty's Government to make an immediate declaration of its intention to work for a more closely co-ordinated development of the Commonwealth and Empire, while fully supporting the early creation of a Union of European States; to strive for a close and cordial partnership between these two groups of freely united nations; and to undertake that in any discussions or negotiations with friendly or unfriendly foreign Powers it will clearly state its firm intention of using the diplomatic, political, economic and cultural resources of this new association for the promotion of peace and understanding in the world to the economic advancement of all peoples. That was signed by a body of Labour Members. It is consistent with the statement made by the Prime Minister at the Guildhall banquet, when he said, "We do not want a little England." Who wants a little England? He also said, "We do not want a little Europe; we want something wider." My right hon. Friend is looking further afield. That is what he wants—not something circumscribed, too tight, too rigid, too claustrophobic. He wants to bring in other countries.

The other Motion, which is much shorter, reads: European Political Authority: That this House welcomes the decision of the six Western European nations to consider the framing of a European Political Authority and hopes that this will develop into a European federation; believes that the Council of Europe"— to which my comrades and I perambulate now and again— … should then be enlarged so that the European Federation, the Commonwealth of Nations and the United States of America shall each be there corporately represented; and further hopes that out of such, a new council may ultimately develop a supranational political authority with limited but real legislative powers. That is better. That is what I hope for. If we cannot have world government, let us have regional government. But do not let us confine ourselves to the few countries in Europe.

Because I hold these views, because I do not want a little England or a little Europe, and because I want peace and prosperity for all the countries of the world, I say to my right hon. Friends that I am afraid that this approach will be unsuccessful, and that I regard it as an error of judgment.

6.27 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Cheltenham)

I have been for many years a great admirer of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). He was a patriotic and effective Minister of Defence. Before that he was a good and discriminating Secretary of State for War; he demobilised me. There is only one point on which I would take strong exception to his views, and that is when he says that we should not aim at a wider movement of labour in Europe, because, as the right hon. Gentleman said, without such a movement in the past we might well have been deprived of his company in this country for the last 82 years.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not mind my recalling a speech which he made in 1959 at an Inter-Parliamentary Union meeting in Warsaw. We have listened to hundreds of his speeches, but the speech which he made on that occasion made a very great impact on that meeting as well as on me. In fact, those present still talk about it. As I remember it, he spoke as a good Briton and a good European. I think that he made an impact oh the representatives of those countries of Eastern Europe as a European born and brought up in this country. I hoped and believed that that would make him on an occasion like this come out on our side in advocating a closer association with Europe.

I do not believe, as time goes on, that the objectives of the Early Day Motions which the right hon. Gentleman read are eliminated by the discussion we are having today. Because we want an immediate or early step to be made to associate Europe more closely together, that does not mean that we do not want to go beyond, to the two pillars which President Kennedy and others have supported—of North America and Europe. I am not going to take up much of the time of the House. All I want to do is to pick up and underline one or two points after the comprehensive speeches from the Front Benches during the last two days.

There is one point which I should like to follow in the full and comprehensive speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath). The speeches from the Opposition benches today are full of the experience of the negotiations of five or six years ago. Right hon. Gentlemen speaking from the Front Bench opposite are, rightly, somewhat diffident about going too far at the moment. They will be charged with the negotiations, and, quite properly in my view, they must not go too far at this moment.

One thing my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley achieved in his comprehensive negotiations six years ago—probably the most massive negotiations which have ever been carried on—was an educational process far beyond Europe and the Commonwealth. It started many people thinking of where we were going. The process which started then has continued during the last four or five years, and has produced a quite different climate of opinion, not only in Western Europe, but in the United States, in the Commonwealth, and in other countries beyond.

I hope that when the Prime Minister winds up this debate he will find himself able to be as enthusiastic in his approach to the European ideal as I believe the Foreign Secretary was in his speech yesterday, and as he has shown in other speeches outside the House, and as my right hon. Friends the Members for Bexley and Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) are known to be.

If one is to join a club, one must appear to be, and be known to be, keen on joining it, and it is this psychological approach which we want to stress today. All those who have worked for closer European association during the last ten, twenty, or thirty years, realise that this is an important debate, because the temper of the House, and the speeches which are made, will be read all over Europe and far beyond. I hope that those who study our debates will realise that this is not a party issue. It is an issue which goes beyond party.

When I listened to the Prime Minister last Thursday, and studied his words afterwards, I came to the conclusion that he accepts the Treaty of Rome as the basis for our negotiations, and, always allowing for the fact that he has to enter into negotiations, I hope that he can be more specific on that vitally important point than he speaks this evening.

All those who have been to Europe since 1963 in particular realise how much affairs have changed, particularly during the last couple of years. I believe that both E.F.T.A. and the Community have succeeded far beyond the expectations of those who established them five or more years ago; and I believe that with the ending of industrial tariffs by E.F.T.A. at the end of this year the moment has come to consolidate the two. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) said, we must keep the momentum and the pace of the consolidation of Europe going.

It is worth recalling to the House the resolution proposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham at Strasbourg last January, and voted for by 84 frustrated members of European legislatures, against 11—these 11 including the majority of the French present, but not all the French, and four or five Swiss and Swedish neutrals, which is an altitude of mind one understands.

I think that that vote showed an overwhelming determination by the elected representatives of most of the Western European countries to go ahead with closer association and to call on their Governments to get on with the job. I do not think that the significance of this resolution has been sufficiently recognised in this country or outside Strasbourg, but the Commission regard it as an important document, and as a signpost to the way that the overwhelming majority of the elected representatives of Europe wish to go. Anybody who has studied that resolution and been to the meetings of E.F.T.A. Parliamentarians, which take place at regular intervals, realises that they wish the United Kingdom to lead them into the Community. This is certainly the impression which I have received from the elected representatives of our E.F.T.A. partners, always of course with adequate transitional periods for necessary adjustments.

Bridge building about which we used to hear so much in the past is obviously no longer a consideration. What most of them want, I believe, is full membership of the Community, accepting the policies of the Community as they now stand. I think that this must include agriculture, and I should like briefly to make two points on that.

First, with the coming world food shortage, which has been inadequately recognised outside certain areas such as the Presidency of the U.S.A. and O.E.C.D., Europe must prepare itself to produce the maximum amount of food. She cannot count on drawing on stocks of low cost food from other parts of the world.

Secondly, the importance of the New Zealand problem has lessened to the extent that New Zealand is making inroads commercially in Western European markets. The coming food shortage will have an important effect and I believe that our agriculture—having once represented an agricultural constituency—is second to none in the world, and given proper encouragement can produce considerably more food without, as some people allege, a great increase in cost to the community.

I have referred to "the Community as it now stands". Obviously it will evolve. Senator Fulbright at Strasbourg last year said that if anybody thinks that the problem will come to an end with the uniting of Europe, he should go to Washington and see what goes on there. This must be an evolving community after we get E.F.T.A. and the Six together.

Many hon. Members on both sides of the House have had the advantage of visiting the Community in Brussels and Luxembourg in recent months. I think that one has learnt a great deal from there. The officials are outward-looking, and they are studying many problems—for instance of oligopoly (which is a new word as far as I am concerned)—in a very open-minded way. I follow in aim, if not in method, the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) in looking beyond Western Europe to the countries of Eastern Europe with which I have had a close association for many years, and which I visit whenever I can. These great historic countries of Eastern Europe must come into the association with Western Europe before our task is fully accomplished. I hope and pray that it will happen in my lifetime, but, if it does not, the step that we are discussing today is a step towards an association with them in freedom and in friendship, and I, too, include in this an association with Spain—I think that the present regrettable difficulties over Gibraltar must one day pale into insignificance—when we see what Spain as a country and Britain and Europe have to give one another.

I, too, look beyond the immediate economic advantages, in which I do not seek to add up exactly whether we are going to gain or to give most, to a greater ideal beyond the economic. I have always looked beyond the economic to a political association of the countries of Western Europe, if for one reason alone. I believe that if the Community had existed as it does today, and even more as the one at which we are aiming, we would have avoided the Second World War and might have avoided the First. For this political reason alone I believe that it is vitally important that we should press on and associate ourselves more closely with it.

Mr. John Lee (Reading)

Are there any irreducible minima of British interests which the hon. Gentleman feels ought not to be bargained away, even allowing for the full weight of his enthusiasm for our joining the Community?

Mr. Dodds-Parker

I would not like to define those. I am trying to keep my speech as brief as I can. I believe that the interests which we may regard as irreducible are probably the same as those which other countries maintain and take into account when co-operating with us, as I hope they will in future.

As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said, the nub of this question is political will, and whether it exists in favour of Britain joining. That means France. It is a question whether her attitude is any more favourable today than it was in 1962–63. I do not know whether the Prime Minister can tell us whether he has any information on this. I hoped that when, in his statement on Thursday last, he said that he was going to make these advances to Europe, he had information which would lead us to believe that there was a greater likelihood of British membership being acceptable to the French authorities than it was four or five years ago.

I hope that at the end of this debate the impression will go out that the great majority of hon. Members are enthusiastically in favour of a closer association between the E.F.T.A. countries and the Community, by our joining the Community and accepting full membership and the basic policies as agreed, and working together within the Community for the benefit not only of Western Europe and the Commonwealth but of the whole free world beyond.

6.42 p.m.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

I think that every hon. Member was fascinated by the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easing-ton (Mr. Shinwell). He said that he loved this country. I do not want to get too involved in that sort of discussion, but I must tell my right hon. Friend that my ancestors may have been marching with Wat Tyler. They fought in the Hundred Years' War and in every other war that this country has fought since. I can trace my ancestry right back—[An HON. MEMBER "To Adam."]—practically. At any rate, I can trace it to my great-great-great-grandmother, buried in a Cambridge churchyard, and well beyond that. Let us get this question of love of our country in its correct perspective. I hope that we all love our country. If we did not, we would not be representing our various constituents here. This has nothing to do with the important question that we are now discussing. What is important is not whether we love our country but whether we believe in the historical necessity of this country's entering a wider European group.

I have been just as consistent on this question as my right hon. Friend has. I remember sitting at the Labour Party conference listening, in the depths of gloom, to Hugh Gaitskell making a speech, because I opposed the policy of my party at that time. I thought that we were making a fundamental mistake in our attitude, and I am delighted that the party and the Government now recognise that we have to join a wider European group in order to solve not only our problems but the problems of Europe and, ultimately, to help solve the problems of the under-developed countries.

This debate is of fundamental and historic importance, and the eyes not only of our people but of the people of the entire world are on us to see precisely where we are going and what we intend to do. There are many Ancient Britons in this House, on both sides. We have to get away from the Ancient Briton concept. We live in an era of continents and subcontinents, and the quicker we understand that the moment we got rid of our colonies and the moment other countries got rid of their colonies and nationalism developed in various parts of the world—from that moment onwards there was a necessity for all countries to get together on a continental basis in order to solve their economic and political problems.

If it is important for the Africans to work together, the South Americans to work together and the Asians to work together, why is it not just as important for us in Europe to work together? Surely it is just as sensible, or even more sensible. We have been told that the Community is inward-looking. This was one of the great arguments that used to be put up. It was said that if we joined it we were joining a tightly-knit club that would concern itself only with itself, whereas we should be concerned with the Commonwealth and our E.F.T.A. partners. What happened in 1961 and 1963? Norway applied for full membership of the Community. Denmark applied for full membership. Even Sweden—a neutral country—wanted to enter into some sort of association with the Community. These are our E.F.T.A. partners. What about the Commonwealth? On 16th July, Nigeria signed an agreement of association with E.E.C. At present Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya are also engaged in discussions and negotiations with the Common Market countries. In the last two years 273 million dollars have been pumped into 18 African countries from the Common Market. Is it such an inward-looking organisation?

Let us consider the question of trade with the Eastern European countries. My hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short), who has always been absolutely sincere in her belief on this question, made the point that if we joined the Community we should no longer be in a position to trade with Eastern European countries, or at least that our trade with them might fall away. One would believe from that that the Common Market countries do not trade with Eastern Europe. I have the facts, and they are quite clear. Between 1960 and 1964 there was an annual increase in trade between the Common Market countries and the Eastern European bloc. The danger is that we are being left behind.

These arguments are not valid. There is the further question whether the supranational Commission is an authority which directs the Governments of the countries of the Community. The truth is that the Council of Ministers is basically responsible for determining overall policy in the Community.

Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton North-East)

It is not.

Mr. Heffer

It is no good my hon. Friend saying that it is not, because it is. Yesterday an hon. Member opposite said that nobody had read the Treaty of Rome. If that were so it would be a disgrace. Article 149 provides that When, pursuant to this Treaty, the Council acts on a proposal of the Commission, it shall, where the amendment of such proposal is involved, act only by means of a unanimous vote …". So, when the Commission makes proprosals to the Council for changes in the Treaty of Rome, it has to be done unanimously and any one nation involved in the European Economic Community can veto the whole business. What happened? We know that Professor Hallstein undoubtedly wanted to strengthen the powers of the Commission and strengthen his own position and was using the agricultural debates and discussions to do so. General de Gaulle sank Professor Hallstein almost without trace on the basis of the actual Rome Treaty.

The facts are that there is no great danger of a supranational authority directing everyone to do what the Commission wants. But we have a civil service. Do we not have a national civil service which comes up with propositions to our Government? I sometimes think that the Government accept them too readily and that there are times when they might, perhaps, kick them into touch, and no doubt this is the same position for the Commission.

It is not a very large international civil service, incidentally. It is rather a small one, though the potential for growth is there. Perhaps, when Britain joins the Common Market, it might get bigger—I do not know. The point is that we must be realistic and honest about this. The people who are opposing entry into the European Economic Community must argue on the basis of what the situation really is and not what they believe it to be.

We were told that if we joined the E.E.C. we could not extend public ownership. Yet in Italy, only a year or so ago, they nationalised the electricity supply industry and there are plans in that country for a further extension of public ownership. What are the possibilities for us at the moment? I agree with the Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) argued yesterday that we do not want merely to make it seven. I agree with him and with the views of the Government in this respect. It is not a question simply of making it seven. We want to extend the Economic Community so that it embraces all the E.F.T.A. countries and all the E.E.C. countries.

Ultimately, I would like to go further and see the countries of Eastern Europe involved in a wider European community. This is not so impossible, as the Rumanians and the Poles and others are already seeking ways of extending their trading relationship with the Western European Powers. This is the sort of internationalised concept which we must accept.

What are the alternatives? We have not heard any real alternatives. One is that we become increasingly—week by week and month by month—a satellite of the United States of America. That is already happening. The other alternative is that we become a satellite of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European bloc. There may be hon. Members who want either one or the other. I do not. I see the possibility of creating a European Community wide and big enough to keep back both the Soviet Union and the United States of America. If we are ever to achieve real independence in our foreign policy, the solution lies in join- ing a wider European Economic Community.

There is one aspect of this matter which frightens me somewhat and which, it seemed to me, the Foreign Secretary too flippantly pushed aside. That is the question of our relationship with France. When my right hon. Friend says that we will not change our position vis-à-vis America, that our relationship will be the same, I would say to him that if this is the position we might as well stop talking about it right now as it is "not on". The speeches which have been made by General de Gaulle and the articles in the French Press all say quite clearly that we obviously cannot go into the E.E.C. if they believe that we are a satellite of the United States. This must be faced and faced sharply by the Government.

I believe, therefore, and I say this to my hon. Friends on the Right Bench—[Laughter.]—the Front Bench. I did not mean that literally, although I often do. It was a Freudian slip. I would say to them that rather than going round the various Common Market capitals talking to all the leaders of the Common Market they should make one trip first. I would say to them, "Just take a plane from here and go over to Paris. Enter into discussions right now with General de Gaulle ".

I heard Claude Bourdet, a French Left-wing Socialist, speak at an anti-U.S. policy in Vietnam rally here this weekend. He said that he wanted to see us in the Common Market because he thought it would strengthen us and strengthen France and the rest of Europe against the Germans, but he also said that the key to entry into Europe is General de Gaulle. He said that if anyone believed that General de Gaulle was about to die of a heart attack he should forget it. The General is in the best of health: he will last some considerable time.

Fair enough. If that is so, we should obviously enter into discussions with General de Gaulle, because he is the key. The possibilities which have been opened up, the opportunities which are presented, are presented, basically, precisely because of the policy which General de Gaulle has been pursuing over the past period. That is why this is the decisive time for us to make an effort to build a wider European Community.

So let us have these discussions with de Gaulle and recognise the possibilities which exist and the fact that in Germany at the moment and in international Socialism one should not believe that all is lost in Europe. Herr Willi Brandt, with whom we do not particularly agree, might be the Chancellor of West Germany tomorrow. We also note that in Italy there has been a unification between the two great Socialist parties and that Pietro Nenni is now the Deputy Prime Minister. We know that the Socialists are powerful in Belgium and we know that even the French and Italian Communist trade unions are now involving themselves in the European Economic Community institutions.

These are the possibilities which are presented to us, and I believe that it would be a sad day if the Labour Party and the Labour Movement failed to understand the opportunity which was presented and failed to use this opportunity of going in and building, from that basis, a wider European unity, and ultimately creating a United Europe.

6.58 p.m.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

I found myself agreeing with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) in most of his objectives, but not with two of them. I am not in favour of going into Europe to create a Socialist union. I am not in favour of going into Europe to increase the degree of public ownership. However, I agreed with the others things which the hon. Member mentioned.

This is not a debate between the parties. It has intra-party characteristics, but it is fair to put on the record that on this side of the House roughly nine out of every ten hon. Members are quite clear that they want to go into Europe and go into Europe soon. I cannot say those proportions apply on the other side. Indeed, shortly before the Recess, about 70 Labour hon. Members signed a pro-Common Market Motion in the House, rather more than 80 Labour M.P.s signed an anti-Common Market Motion and one Labour hon. Member signed both. I have often wondered if that was the Prime Minister. Even if it was not, it certainly could have been. For after hearing his announcement and his speech at the Guildhall I am bound to say that I am still not certain whether his heart is really in it. The Guardian put the true position when it said that he is anti with his heart but he is pro with his head—or his feet. That may summarise very well the Prime Minister's position. When he replies tonight he can make it quite clear.

For myself I am as British as the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). But I am also proud to call myself an Anglo-European. I ask the Prime Minister when he gets up in the House tonight to say that he, too, is a European. If tonight he says, "I believe in Europe", he will go a long way to helping his negotiations when he starts to travel around the capitals of Europe.

I welcome the Government's decision in part as a constituency Member, because it will benefit East Anglia and the farmers in my constituency not least. I welcome it mainly, however, because E.E.C. is something very much more than a free trade area. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has said, the new Europe is much more even than an economic union. I believe it to be an evolving community with an organic life and a political will of its own.

I would like to mention some of the features that lead me to that conclusion. Beyond the economic union there is the common transport policy which, as of 22nd June last year, began the important process towards harmonising freight rates for the road, rail and canals among all member countries. There is the common agricultural policy, which already is achieving great things for European farmers. Something in which hon. Members opposite will be particularly interested is the fact that the increase in scale and competitiveness of pan-European industry has led in many cases to a reduction in real prices.

I quote from the 1966 Report of the E.E.C. It states that the reduction of Customs duties, the intensification of competition and the concentration of production units has led to economies in scale that have brought down the prices of electrical household appliances in particular. In Belgium the price of a certain type of refrigerator has dropped nearly 30 per cent. since 1960. Price reductions have also been noted for radio and television sets in France and for small tools imported into Italy from Germany. This is what is happening. It is important. Then there is the European Bank, which last year alone made loans worth £150 million for such things as the motorway of the Val d'Aosta, in Italy, and for irrigation of the Metaplano Plain. This, too, is happening. It is important.

In addition, there is the regional policy of Europe which the Foreign Secretary mentioned. What could be more significant than that the European Bank has started in the Bari area of Apulia a whole complex of engineering industries which could not have existed without the European Bank? There are 30 factories there which would not have been there but for the European Bank. Something similar is happening in the other underdeveloped areas of Europe in the Huns-ruck and in the Lorraine and Luxembourg area.

Those who oppose the Common Market sometimes tend to regard these things as technical details. But they are the bones and the sinews of the new Europe that is being created. Professor Hallstein put it rather well in one of his recent speeches when he said: Nothing would be more dangerous than to belittle and push aside these economic and social advances as purely 'technical'. No, the quality of this work is … the solid basis for the complete unification of Europe. In my submission, that is the key. Going into Europe is a political decision, and it is on the political credibility of the British application that our prospects are bound to depend.

One is, of course, aware of the political difficulties in Europe—in Germany, in France, and elsewhere. But from my experience this summer I believe that among the younger people of Europe in particular there is a tide that is running, and it is a tide towards Europeanism. One can see it in the prefix "Euro" that is added to almost every conceivable commodity in European shops. It is possible to buy a Euro-raincoat or a Euro-beer. One can buy almost every conceivable European feature. One finds among the young generation of Germans, French and Italians that they are laying aside their old national loyalties in favour of a devotion to Europe as a whole.

I spoke to a young X-ray technician in Aachen and asked her where she went for her holidays this summer. She said that she went to the beach. As I spoke with her it became apparent that when her father had spoken of the beach he had meant simply that little bit of North German shore which was all the beach that was available to the pre-war Germans. To her, however, the beach meant any point in the European Continent where the water came to the land. She thought of the beach as Italy, France or Spain because she thought as a European. This is extremely important. A new kind of European man is developing.

We have had some fun in this House recently about hyphens. But I believe that there is coming into existence a new kind of hyphenated man in Europe. There are Franco-Europeans and Belgo-Europeans, and I believe that Anglo-Europeans are coming into existence too. [Laughter.] Lest the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) bursts her sides, let me say to her that if she looks back to the United States in the late nineteenth century, she will recall how the hyphenated generation of Jewish-hyphen-Americans and Greek-hyphen- and Italian-hyphen-Americans gradually evolved over the last generation into complete Americans. This is an important process. It is happening to the new generation in Europe as it did in America, too.

I spoke to some of these people this summer, and I would like to quote some of their remarks to me. Monsieur Kohnstamm, for example, Vice-President of Monsieur Monnet's European Movement, said: I feel about Europe the way a man from Michigan feels about the United States. Then there was a young Belgian, who said: I am as excited about what happens in Italy as I am about what happens in my own country. I would find it very hard to become a pure Belgian again. Among the younger people of Europe, this attitude is second nature.

The under-thirties of Europe know nothing of the Second World War. They are travelling, trading and getting to know one another with little reference to the old frontiers. German car plants are sprinkled with young Italians and the universities of Italy are today filled with French and Dutchmen.

If the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East wishes to laugh again, she might go to St. Tropez. She might find that a new generation is being conceived there just as surely as a generation of Americans was conceived in the back of Ford's Model T. I interviewed some of these young people too and I want to quote one or two of their remarks.

Mr. Mendelson

We are not in the Common Market, but would not the hon. Member agree that we are making a useful contribution at St. Tropez without having signed the Treaty of Rome?

Mr. Griffiths

Yes, of course, and all power to them. It is happening at Brighton as well.

A young man called Lewin, living near Bonn, said to me: I do not feel particularly German any longer. I am a European. A man named Breschi, an Italian civil servant, said to me: I am a born Roman, but I honestly want to see Brussels or Paris become the capital of the new Europe. A man called Richard Mehrten, an Alsatian, said to me: I feel myself to be a European. The etiquette of nationality has worn off. I believe that when we hear young people saying that words like "Boche" and "Fritz" no longer mean very much in Europe they are speaking from the heart and they are speaking from their own postwar experience.

A young man from Dusseldorf, named Springer, said: Paris to my father was abroad. To me it is just eight hours drive. There are hundreds of similar youngsters graduating each year from the European schools. And just as this is happening in Europe, just as a new kind of European man is emerging there, so too a new generation of young English men and English women want to join in the process. They understand something, perhaps better than do many of us in this House.

They look ahead over the 35 years still remaining in this century, and they realise that the United States has added to its population the equivalent of one Britain since the Second World War. It has added 56 million people since 1945. It has also added the equivalent of four and a half Britains in its gross national product since the Second World War, and by the year 1990 the United States will have a population of something better than 340 million and a gross national product which will outmatch ours by something better than 20 to 1.

The Soviet Union, too, by that time, will be the equivalent of one and a half Americas today. And then there is China, growing at the rate of one Britain each seven or eight years, in its population.

In such a world, with such a massive America, such a Russia, and such a China, who are we kidding when we say that we can compete in the new science-based industries, computers, aircraft, and so on? We must recognise that if we want to play our part in the world that is ahead of us, to produce the things that will enable us to prosper in tomorrow's world, then we have to think on the same kind of economic scale and, I believe, in terms of the same sort of organic political unit, as the United States, the Soviet Union and the China of the future.

This is plain reality, and it is because, in my submission, the younger generation is aware of this, that it is aware of the adventure—and the Prime Minister used these words—of building a new Europe. I therefore ask the Government to accept that we are not here approaching just a free trade area, not just an economic union, but we are approaching an organic political entity evolving fast. We must make a political commitment in good faith, and we must say that we too are Europeans. Otherwise I fear we shall not be accepted and our future prospect is dim.

The Second Clerk Assistant at the Table informed the House of the unavoidable absence of Mr. SPEAKER from the remainder of this day's sitting.

Whereupon Sir ERIC FLETCHER, the CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS, took the Chair as DEPUTY SPEAKER, pursuant to the Standing Order.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)

It has been my good fortune before now to follow the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) in a major debate, and I have heard—always pleasantly, at the beginning—a number of things he has contributed to the debate with which nobody could disagree. Many of the things he said in favour of growing together, of becoming more internationally minded, and the many touching examples which he quoted, I welcome as much as any other hon. Member in the House. I can assure him that if that were all that was involved in this particular operation on which Her Majesty's Government are embarking, I would not have many anxieties, and I would not have many sleepless nights as a result of agreeing with him across the Floor of the House.

I must hurriedly return, because other Members wish to speak, to what I consider to be the core of this debate. It deals not with the general principles, either of internationalism or of international Socialism, but—if I may say so, with great respect, to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer)—it deals with the precise operation which our Government are facing, and the people involved in it are not all of Europe, but represent only a small corner of Europe.

Six countries are involved, and the whole debate is terminologically misguided if we continue to use the term "Europe". Europe is not involved, nor was it ever in the minds of many of the people who had a lot to do with creating the European Common Market. Something which has not yet been mentioned in the debate is that some of those who were responsible for creating this particular European Economic Community wanted it to be a barrier against the countries of Eastern Europe and against the political system which these countries have evolved. That has not been mentioned in this debate, but it is part of the evidence.

There were also many sincere, idealistic Europeans in the original European movement, but there are many others particularly orientated against the Eastern countries, and many with a very definite and deliberately anti-Socialist record.

I mention this point because I think that one of the useful points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Walton was his insistence that we should state the facts. I do not know whether I will achieve my objective, but I propose to spend my entire speech on contributing some of the facts which have not yet been mentioned.

The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was absolutely correct when he stated his opinion that there is no question at this stage of Britain entering the European Economic Community without, in advance, agreeing to the Treaty of Rome as it stands today. I find myself in factual agreement with the right hon. Gentleman on that point, and I believe that it would be a misfortune if we did not tell the people of the country at the outset that that is what is involved in this particular approach.

It is a matter of great political importance that whatever might be the final decision of the British people, they ought to be told from the beginning that this operation is meant, by many Members on both sides of the House, to be based on the acceptance of the Treaty of Rome as it stands.

The right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition went on to say that there were other things that were not negotiable. The same terminology was used by the noble Lord the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel), in winding up the debate last night. The same language was used by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), who led for the Opposition yesterday, for whose observations on these matters, and for the realism that inspires them, I have always a very high regard. They said that certain things that had happened, based upon the Treaty of Rome, were also not negotiable. And they said that prominently, and not at all negotiable, is the present agricultural arrangement arrived at by the Six countries. What we have not heard, in the lavish propaganda during recent months and years, in the number of articles that have been published by the large number of journalists who have been invited to Brussels, and the large number of propagandists, who have gone back and forth once a month, who have written reams about the development of the agricultural side of the Community, is a detailed and critical examination of what actually happens in the agricultural field.

I wish, in a modest way, to contribute a little towards eradicating that serious deficiency. I submit that one of the best ways is not to look in from the outside, but to learn from the experiences and the views of those already involved. I do not think that there will be any dissent from that, it will be common ground.

I have in front of me a copy of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which is perhaps the best paper published in the Federal Republic of Germany today—and I am glad to see that I carry with me a reputable journalist of long standing like the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds. On Monday, 14th November, there appeared a long article under the headline: The agricultural policy of the European Economic Community is new, but is it, in fact, a better one? So as not to delay the House for too long I have taken just three items from this report by this journalist, whose name is Jose Strick. The article is datelined Brussels, 13th November, so it comes right from the horse's mouth. One just could not be closer to the way things are going there. The three items refer to milk, to, equally important, butter, and to the price of bread. British consumers have not been mentioned very much so far in this debate, but they are entitled to know what is happening in Brussels and in the Common Market.

Referring, first, to milk—and I will paraphrase in part as, otherwise, I would take too long—the writer states that considering the decision to agree on a common price for milk within the European Economic Community, there was need to create a synthesis between the rather low French price with the very high Italian price. After many weeks of intense discussion of whether 39 pfennigs per litre would be a suitable price for most member-States of the Community, that price was fixed—after due consideration of how it might affect the selling price of cheese and other commodities derived from milk, including butter.

What happened next should interest my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, who has to deal with some aspects of these matters—though I regret the absence of the Minister of Agriculture and Food, because it would have been of even more interest to him. It was found in Germany that at the very moment when this rather high price had been fixed, the price of butter went up. This happened when the German equivalent of our Ministry of Agriculture and Food found that hundreds of thousands of tons of butter were beginning to go bad, and wanted, as a result, to sell it at a low price. Instead, it had to insist on a wholly, unrealistic high price, although the butter needed to be sold quickly. This was of equal significance to farmers in making their decisions for the following year.

That is the first piece of nonsense— and it is serious nonsense—in connection with the policy which, according to the noble Lord the Member for Hertford, we cannot examine. He said that it is not negotiable; that we must accept it lock, stock and barrel—

Lord Balniel (Hertford)

The hon. Gentleman really must be fair to me. I specifically pointed out that while I felt that we should accept the structure of the agricultural policy, we should negotiate individual projects, target prices, transitional arrangements and special measures for certain Commonwealth goods. The hon. Gentleman is slightly misinterpreting what I said.

Mr. Mendelson

I am not slightly misinterpreting anything. When we look at the OFFICIAL REPORT, we will find that the noble Lord made the blanket statement that this policy is not negotiable.

My second example is the price of bread. Here we have something of the utmost interest to the British consumer. This reporter says that the price of bread had been fixed in 1952, and was going up every year until it was to be reviewed in 1967. In spite of that fixing of the price at a certain datum line, the price has since been going up every year. In this year, it has gone up by 6 pfennigs per kilo.

The writer states: Although the price of bread has been going up every year whether the price of flour has been going down or up, nobody has been able to do anything about it. Somehow or other the price of bread goes up. The article goes on: It is the intermediate arrangements that are responsible for this continuous rising line in the price of bread, no matter what happens to the actual basic commodity from which bread is made. That is because under this rather unreasonable arrangement there is no possibility for anyone in one of the six countries to take remedial action each year, either by an agricultural price review, or by deliberate intervention or by taking due regard of the market.

We are in this fantastic situation. The proponents of free enterprise and the advocates of the play of the market pay no regard to the market. I see opposite many hon. Members with whom I sometimes go on delegations abroad. Whenever the subject is the play of the market they look on it as a sacred cow, and those of us on this side of the Chamber who do not have the same devotion to the play of the market are out in the cold. Here we have them advocating the acceptance of a system which is not negotiable, that we cannot even amend. If we go in we must accept that system, finding, once we are in, that the price of bread goes up, and that neither the President of the Board of Trade nor the Minister of Agriculture will be able to do anything about it.

Consumers in this country should know these facts. I warn my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that in no circumstances should he allow the pressure that is being put upon him now by the Leader of the Opposition, by the leaders of some industries—and even by Mr. Cecil King, the owner of the Daily Mirror and the Sunday Mirror—to drive him into accepting a policy which makes the agricultural arrangements of the Community unnegotiable. This matter must be looked at most carefully, and there must in every respect be an insistence that these arrangements are most critically examined. The six countries of the Community spent four and a half years carefully negotiating and discussing each other's interests. Before I give my approval to a decision to make application to go into the European Economic Community, I want the same conditions to apply to this country.

The attitude of the Commonwealth countries has not yet been mentioned. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—and I would not say that this was the case to the same degree with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary—in all our debates when the Leader of the Opposition was engaged in the previous negotiations, used to give us a considerable number of quotations from the speeches and statements of Commonwealth statesmen. There should not be any deficiency in that respect now, so I would like to read into the record—moving now from strict agricultural policy to the importance of the Commonwealth countries—what was said by Mr. McEwan earlier this week about Britain and the European Economic Community.

Mr. McEwan is reported in The Times of 16th November 1966 as saying: Australia had plenty to fear from Britain's proposed entry into the European Economic Community. He also said: Important Australian trade items, particularly wheat, meat, dairy products and dried fruits, were threatened by the outcome of the Kennedy Round talks and Britain's negotiations … British authorities had promised to keep Australia closely informed about their negotiations to enter the Common Market. 'I shall be expecting the United Kingdom to live up to that,' Mr. McEwan added. I am advisedly and deliberately thinking not about New Zealand but about Australia because the tendency has grown up since the new initiative of the Prime Minister was taken—and this applies not only to hon. Members but to members of the Government, too—to believe that the only problem that remains is New Zealand and that all other countries, including Australia, are not worried about the possible solution to this problem. This is a profoundly incorrect assumption and nobody is more entitled to make this point than Mr. McEwan.

Will the Community be inward or outward looking? It has been wrong for so many hon. Members to have taken merely one statement made yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short), about future relations with Eastern European countries, and to have used that as a peg on which to hang certain assumptions about our entry into the Community and to say that there will be no change in our policy and attitude in wider international affairs.

To put the point more moderately, I suggest that the implications here are somewhat different. My hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Ennals), who is now a junior Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army, some time ago founded a group of hon. Members which became known as the Wider Europe Group. That group had the support of many senior members of the Government. The purpose and policy of the group was to argue that the way in which Britain could play the best possible rôle in bridging the barriers between East and West Europe was not by becoming confined in the E.E.C. group, but by working together in wider spheres with the countries of East and West Europe. However, that policy will be abandoned if we decide to make application to become a full member of the Community.

As many hon. Members have pointed out, there are bound to be changes in the general attitude of the Community once we become a full member of it. I am not referring to federalism. Some hon. Members have created the Aunt Sally of federalism as an excuse for denying the importance of the political problems that are involved. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the political and defence problems are at the very heart of any negotiations that might take place.

Already, we have had the suggestion from the Leader of the Opposition that the Prime Minister should agree, even before a formal application is made, that nuclear weapons should, perhaps, be pooled in a new arrangement with France. It has been the stated policy of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for many years that he is opposed to the creation of an additional European nuclear command. He stated that in the early stages of the last Parliament, soon after becoming Prime Minister, and he produced an outline for a policy of non-proliferation; and I understand that this is still Government policy.

That being so, I again appeal to the Prime Minister not, under any circumstances, to agree to the pressure that is being put on him to change course and commit Her Majesty's Government to a policy of creating a new nuclear command based on the Community. Such a policy would lead to tough and uncompromising opposition from the Soviet Union, who would see in such a suggestion—and the Soviet Union has made this clear many times—the beginning of a new division and a new nuclear command from which, in the longer term, the Federal Republic of Germany could not be excluded.

Not least important in the policy outlined by the Prime Minister over the last two and a half years has been his policy of non-proliferation. My right hon. Friend, by that policy, made it more difficult for the Federal Republic of Germany to become associated with the control and strategy of nuclear weapons. This has been the basis for the rapprochement between Her Majesty's Government and the Soviet Union during the last 18 months. Despite the tragedy of the Vietnam war, the Sovieit Union and Britain have maintained this rapprochement, and this has been mainly due to the Soviet Union having the knowledge that, on the problem of West Germany and nuclear weapons, the Soviet Government and Her Majesty's Government were at one.

I must refer to the sovereignty of Parliament and our political arrangements in this country because whenever this subject is mentioned some hon. Members begin to talk about reactionaries and those who seem to live in the eighteenth century refusing to bring their thinking up to date. It is amusing to find some hon. Gentlemen opposite supporting every type of reactionary policy in Parliament. Since we have been referring to the Community, they have been accusing some of my hon. Friends of being reactionaries. That is strange, but stranger things have happened before.

What is involved in this issue is not a symbol of sovereignty; for example, about whether or not Black Rod should interrupt our proceedings. Something much more important is at stake. Some of my hon. Friends and I have always disagreed with those in the House who have said, "Let us join the Community by signing the Treaty of Rome and then, once we are in, we can try to influence the Community's political thinking in a way that will satisfy us". My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), in the first debate when the previous attempt to join the E.E.C. was made by the present Leader of the Opposition, created a memorable phrase when he said, in effect, "This is rather fraudulent. We cannot go into a community which is devoted to rugby and demand that they all play soccer". That sums it up. We could not possibly say" "We will come in, but see to it, by using our tremendous influence, that the future political developments go our way". To say so would be fraudulent.

Honesty compels anyone involved in this argument to agree that, within the Community, there are people like General de Gaulle who want l'Europe des patries and many others who want the Community to develop into a system which is not federalism, but is what Dr. Adenauer once described to us, when he was Chancellor, that what he wanted to see was a joint foreign and defence policy decided jointly by the Community. He added, in effect, "Unless that is so, I am not interested in it".

It is misleading and wrong to say that only Professor Hallstein wants to develop the Community in that direction. It is equally wrong to say that he has been put in his place by General de Gaulle. Hon. Members know that the facts of life are not as simple as that. Professor Hallstein, the President of the Commission, is not the only person who thinks that way. Her Majesty's Government have no right to commit Britain by signing the Treaty of Rome in advance of political developments taking place over which we will have little control—that is, unless we have made such arrangements in advance as will enable us to say with reasonable certainty what future developments will take place.

So-called alternatives are often mentioned. My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said that it was not essential than anybody who has doubts and criticisms of what is proposed must produce a plan of alternatives. My right hon. Friend is correct, because it is equally clear that those who are proposing this policy are talking in terms of great uncertainty and often about matters on which they are uncertain themselves. I am convinced that if there is to be the sort of future for Britain that was envisaged by the Wider European Group, the best alternative we have is that of developing trade as well as economic and political relations with a larger number of countries than is contained at present in the Community.

It is said that we have been developing trade with the E.E.C. countries, but that is far too limited. There is no real basis for the future economic development of the United Kingdom unless we have much wider trade with Latin America, the United States, the Soviet Union, China and many other countries in Eastern and Central Europe. The key argument employed by the Prime Minister against those who wanted to support the right hon. Member for Bexley last time was that the tariff wall we shall have to agree to create around the European Economic Community will not be a help in the development of that wider trade.

This is a difficult limited operation on which the Government have so far only said that they want to probe and to negotiate, and make an application to enter the E.E.C. if they think the replies to those probings and negotiations are right. The Government are now being pressed by the leaders of the Opposition and powerful forces outside to throw their own attitude overboard and to sign the Treaty of Rome, declaring that the most important aspects of the Community are not negotiable. If they accept that pressure and those courses and if, at the end of the probings and negotiations, they find that the answers have not been satisfactory from their point of view and the point of view of most hon. Members on this side of the House, they have no right to make an application. If they still do so they will not carry all hon. Members on this side with them.

7.41 p.m.

Mr. Peter Mills (Torrington)

I must, first, declare an interest. That may sound very stupid when we are all bound to be involved in this exercise, but I declare an interest because I am a Member of a Parliament and a practical farmer. Therefore, in the years which lie ahead it may well be that my pocket will be affected in one way or another. I believe that with patient negotiations my pocket will be affected the right way in the long run.

I find it rather strange to be following the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson). I did not know that he was an agriculturist. I thought him far more convincing in his arguments at the end than at the beginning of his speech when he was seeking to be an agriculturist.

Mr. Mendelson

I said that while the agricultural industry had been mentioned there had not been much mention of consumers. In representing consumers, I am at least as much an expert as is the hon. Member.

Mr. Mills

I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I thought that he was seeking to represent agriculturists.

I must straight away make my position quite clear. I am very much for entering the Common Market—certainly economically, although I have some fears politically. Perhaps this is due to ignorance, and perhaps at the end of the debate I may be informed a little better. I think that already some of my fears are disappearing. I have no hesitation in confining my remarks to agriculture. I know that this is a narrow section of the debate, but it is important that I should do so for British agriculture and entry into the Common Market has been a stumbling block in the past, and may well be in the future.

It is true that there has been considerable opposition from agriculture and farmers in the past. I can truthfully say that I am glad to tell the House that I believe that that opposition is disappearing. It is disappearing fast, and it will continue to do so so long as we are kept informed. It is true that the National Farmers' Union has had reservations. One can understand this when one remembers the position the union has taken in the past. It is not easy for the union to turn round very quickly. It is certainly no good dismissing the fears of the National Farmers' Union or the reservations it has. It will be our job to convince the members of the union and to alleviate their fears. We must try to persuade them of the importance of taking this step and of the long-term gains which can accrue from entry to the Common Market.

How do I see the Common Market as it affects agriculture? What are the objects of the Common Market agricultural policy? I suggest that the first is to increase agricultural productivity by promoting technical progress. Is not this just what farmers have wanted for a very long time? The second is to ensure a fair standard of living for the agricultural community. Is not this just what all farmers have been wanting for many years? The next is the stabilising of markets and improvement and then the guarantee of supplies of food to ensure delivery of supplies at reasonable prices. Is not this just what the housewife wants as well?

I believe that the aims are right. The Common Market policy is designed to encourage maximum home production. We as a country should be well placed to carry this out. Those sections which will find it difficult to adjust themselves will be given a transitional period to do so. This we must guarantee, for otherwise they will be hurt. I believe that most British farmers would get this. We are more efficient and we have a greater record of productivity. Because the E.E.C. countries import food we could as it were, out of the Common Market become exporters, thus offering this country an expansion in agriculture. I am sure that this is just what farmers have been wanting and—to use a typical farmers' phrase—belly-aching about for years.

One thing I am certain of as I look into the future is that agriculture and its support system will have to be changed. This will be so whether we go into the Common Market or not. Now is the time for radical re-thinking. We should be getting our support system right now and geared for a change. Now is the time to prepare for entry into the Common Market. This Government have failed to do that. They have not taken the important step of starting to adjust British agriculture to meet this challenge. What research and exploration have they carried out? I think none. It is no use delaying these moves. This should be given top priority for British agriculture.

For the first time this year farmers are beginning to see the results of not being in Europe. The crippling effect of the E.E.C. tariff wall is going up. What a difference that has made to our exports of meat to the Continent! What a difference it has made to the prices of our primary products! Agriculture will be forced to take the question of entry seriously or it will find that it is out in the cold with seriously reduced income. Unless we are inside we may become the dumping ground for many primary products directed away because of the tariff wall of the E.E.C. countries.

I am not suggesting that we shall not have difficulty. Some sections of agriculture may be embarrassed or forced to alter the types of food they have been producing. No one likes change, but I believe that it would be far more perilous to stay outside. Staying out of Europe may call for greater internal changes than joining Europe.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

Perhaps in describing these changes the hon. Member might deal with the hill and upland farming industry, which at present is in such difficulties, and suggest means by which it can adjust and change its ways. He might also say if he agrees that the production grants should be eliminated as a first step towards aligning our agricultural system with that of the Common Market.

Mr. Mills

I think this is a problem. I shall not be side-tracked, because there are other things I want to say, but this is the sort of thing on which we shall have to negotiate. After all, other countries in the Common Market have the same trouble and problems of hill farmers. After a time they can be dealt with as—I agree with the hon. Member—they must be. We must certainly encourage a phasing of these changes. That is why it is important for the Government to start now to change agricultural policy to meet these future needs.

I wish to say something about agricultural exports to the E.E.C. in future years. I believe that we have a great future here and that we can export into the Common Market, particularly in grain. The Common Market countries produce only about 82 per cent. of their barley needs. This gives us great scope for export. The Six have only just started to realise the importance of barley in feeding to their cattle.

Beef, too. The Six take the type of cattle and bullocks that we do not want. By that I mean the heavy beast—12 cwt., 12½ cwt. and 13 cwt. cattle. This is a very useful export. Now that we have been denied it, we are seeing a big fall in price in our beef.

On the Continent they have not started to use lamb to any great extent. Our early lamb which can be exported to the Continent is a most profitable business. This goes for eggs, too. The Six are nothing like as geared to egg production as we are, or as cheaply. There is a market for us here, too. Then there are chickens for eating—roasting or broiling. The Six have nothing of our broiler industry. So there is scope for export here. There may be difficulties as to milk, pigs and horticulture. This will affect me as a producer of milk and pig meat, but these difficulties, too, can be overcome.

I shall cut short what I had intended to say because many other hon. Members want to speak. What will the effect of this be on Commonwealth countries? We have heard a great deal about this topic this afternoon. I want to put the agricultural point of view of its effect on Commonwealth countries. I do not believe that it will be anything like so disastrous as some hon. Members have alleged.

I have recently returned from New Zealand and Australia. I talked with the Minister of Agriculture in New Zealand and with the Minister of Primary Products in Australia. Admittedly, they are worried, but to nothing like the extent which has been expressed in the House. This is because they have started to prepare already.

New Zealand has started exporting its lamb to Japan, Malaysia and Pakistan. I saw how thoroughly the operation was being conducted. There was a Pakistan killer on line production so as to meet the needs of the Pakistanis. The new Zealanders are getting a better price for their lambs there than they would have got if they had sent them over here. Australia has done as well. In preparation for this event, Australia has been sending vast quantities of its rather lean beef to America and elsewhere.

It is agreed that New Zealand should have special dispensation or agreements. I said to the New Zealand Minister of Agriculture, "You cannot go on producing something that the world does not need all that amount of—in other words, butter". Butter is the easy way of producing money from grass. There is the alternative of producing beef, which the world desperately needs. I suggested this, but New Zealand was not prepared to make these changes. Circumstances may force New Zealanders to change from the rather easy way of making a living by producing butter from grass to the other way of producing beef, which the world needs. New Zealand farmers will have to make changes, as British farmers will have to.

I believe that time is running out for agriculture in relation to the Common Market. The time is fast approaching when we shall eventually go in and play our part in the future of agriculture in Europe. British agriculture has much to offer Europeans. In spite of the difficulties and problems which will arise, agriculture will play its part. I have no doubt that it will rise to the occasion, meet its difficulties and adapt itself, because British agriculture knows that it is very closely tied to the prosperity of the United Kingdom. If Great Britain is prosperous as a nation, farmers are doing better. Unemployment is no good to British farmers. I believe that farmers realise this and wish to see a prosperous United Kingdom. I believe that one of the steps we shall have to take to make the United Kingdom prosperous is that of entering Europe.

7.55 p.m.

Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)

I hope that the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the intricacies of agriculture. Barley is not a commodity which is produced very much in the back streets of Hammersmith. Therefore, I will not follow him, for the best of reasons, namely, my almost total ignorance of the details of what he was talking about.

The initiative which the Government have taken in declaring their intention now of joining the European Economic Community is wholly to be welcomed and wholly to be admired. It is important that the momentum of our approach to Europe should be maintained and this is clearly the way to do it. The Government have made a solemn declaration of their intention to join the Community as soon as possible. I reject as absurd and somewhat ludicrous the concept one or two hon. Members seem to have bruited about—indeed, I have seen it in some columns of the Press—that what the Prime Minister has in mind is merely to explore difficulties and uncover a sufficient number of them to enable him to withdraw from any approach to Europe. I do not believe this to be the position.

I want to make two preliminary points, having sat through yesterday's debate, and almost the whole of today's, on what has been said so far. First, it is terribly important that the nature and extent of the opposition within the House of Commons to Britain's joining the Community should be made absolutely clear. It would be wrong were either the Press or, perhaps even more importantly, Europe itself to gain the impression from the speeches which have been made in this debate, that the House is fairly evenly divided upon the matter.

Were a free vote to be taken now on the general principle of whether Britain should enter the Community, there would be a large majority of the House in favour of the principle of entering and a small minority against it. Indeed, I doubt if the minority could muster more than 75 Members on a free vote in opposition to the principle of entry. It is important that this fact should be realised by those in Europe who are looking for demonstrations of Britain's sincerity in her approach to the Community. I do not think that Europe will be misled by the stridency of the opposition, but were it possible to count the number of heads on the other side it would in my view be desirable.

My second preliminary point is this. We have heard a great deal in this debate, and I have no doubt that we shall hear more in the coming months, about the political implications of the Treaty of Rome. At the moment, this seems to me to be probably the grossest non-argument which could be used. My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said that he was completely against the Treaty of Rome; he was against it totally; and considered that its political implications could not be accepted by this country. Last night one hon. Member spoke much about sovereignty and said that he would not see British sovereignty subordinated in any way.

But at the moment we are not being asked to join a Federal States of Europe. I personally am an unrepentant federalist. I would welcome an eventual United States of Europe. However, the one thing that stands so firmly in the way of a United States of Europe is General de Gaulle and the attitude of the French Government. It is no good for those who are in opposition to what the Government are trying to do to look at political implications, which are clearly at the moment unattainable, to say that they disagree with such an extension of supranationalism and then use that as an argument, in some way or other, against the Government's present approach. It is a non-argument, but it is a non-argument which, it having been put up, should be firmly dealt with at the earliest possible moment. We are not at the moment considering the possible political implications of the treaty. A fairly definite Community is in existence and we are considering whether it would be desirable for Britain to join it.

Of course there are difficulties in the way of Britain's joining Europe, but these difficulties are not insuperable. They are difficulties, which can be overcome, given good will on both sides. One should always remember that what happened at the time of the last negotiation was not that the practical difficulties in the way of Britain's entry could not be overcome but that, those practical difficulties having almost been surmounted, a political decision was taken by the French Government not to allow us to enter.

In the last negotiation, the economics were right, but the politics, regrettably, were wrong. It is, therefore, extremely important that this Government make sure that the politics are right before we start getting bogged down in the "nuts and bolts" arguments.

Mr. John Lee

May I put to my hon. Friend the question which I put to an hon. Member opposite a little earlier, though not necessarily in any spirit of hostility? Will he stipulate what must be the minimum British interests which should not be bargained away however urgent or desirable entry into the Community might be?

Mr. Richard

This seems a thoroughly wrong way to approach the whole topic. Here we are, a nation of about 55 million people, 22 miles off the coast of Europe where great economic and political events are happening. Clearly, there are certain basic interests which Britain has which we want to safeguard in negotiation, but the one thing which I think would do almost irreparable damage to our prospect of ever getting into the Community would be an attempt to define those interests with the clarity which my hon. Friend demands.

I was saying that it is important to look at the political difficulties which were in our way last time and try to analyse whether those political difficulties are as great this time and what our approach to them should be. For this purpose, I go back to what is probably the fons et origo, namely, General de Gaulle's Press conference of January 1963. Reading the report, one finds that there were three main grounds of opposition to Britain's becoming a member of the Community. The first was more implied than actually stated. A few days before the General's Press conference, the Nassau Agreement had been made, an agreement which, if I may say so with respect to the Opposition, was somewhat tactless in its timing and somewhat artless in its execution, having regard to the delicacy of the Brussels negotiations at that time. Clearly, the General thought that France was in the position of a slighted suitor and that Britain had somehow or other stolen a march on her in her relations with the United States.

The second main ground upon which, it seems, General de Gaulle was against our joining the E.E.C. was that Britain was not European enough. If is worth reading again the report of this Press conference because it sets out the difficulties and illustrates the intransigence of France which, somehow or other, we must overcome. He stated as his second main ground of opposition that: England is, in effect, insular, maritime, linked through its trade, markets and food supply to very diverse and often very distant countries. Its activities are essentially industrial and commercial, and only slightly agricultural. It has, throughout its work, very marked and original customs and traditions. In short, the nature, structure and economic context of England differ profoundly from those of the other States of the Continent. His third main ground of opposition was a somewhat more generalised and undefined one. He said that if the Community were to become enlarged, in the end there would appear a colossal Atlantic Community under American dependence and leadership which would soon completely swallow up the European community. Those then were the three main grounds of political opposition by France last time: Nassau and the effect of it, Britain's not being a European nation in the particular Gallic context in which the General used the phrase, and thirdly the danger of over-domination by the United States. It is worth while considering for a moment whether those three political considerations are still as valid today as they were in 1962 and 1963. In the conduct of international affairs, one must start at least by assuming that people mean what they say. One may discover afterwards, in the course of negotiation, that it is necessary to change this view, but initially this seems to me the only way to approach the matter, and it is time that I approached the stated French position.

First, the Nassau Agreement. I do not consider that the question of British possession of nuclear weapons and the agreement which was reached in 1963 are as valid now as a ground of opposition as they were then. In the last three or four years, the French have succeeded in developing their own nuclear force. Therefore, to a certain extent, the nuclear pretensions of the French Government and of the General in particular have probably been satisfied. I do not for a moment deny that, in the course of negotiations in Paris, defence will loom large, but it does not seem to me now to be quite such an insuperable difficulty as it might have been in 1962 or 1963.

Second, was the ground that Britain was not a European nation, that the nature, structure and economic context of England differ profoundly from those of the the other States of the Continent". This may have been true 20 years ago, but it was less true a decade ago than it was then, and it is infinitely less true in 1966 than it was in 1962. More and more, within the last few years, it seems to me, that a realisation has dawned in this country that basically we are in our "nature, structure and economic context" European rather than anything else.

I do not believe that it will be possible for Britain to go on pursuing the sort of world economic rôle that it has sought to pursue in the 20 years since the end of the Second World War. More and more, with the inevitable economic shrinkage which is taking place, and the resultant change in Britain's position in the world, will we be driven in upon Europe and come to realise more and more our European heritage and our European opportunities.

Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)

Let us be quite clear that we mean Europe when we speak of Europe. This debate has been almost ruined by so many people, when referring to the E.E.C., equating it with Europe. This is an erroneous assumption of massive proportions. I know that my hon. Friend will probably develop this argument a little further to embrace the idea, the much large idea, of bringing about a community which is really Europe.

Mr. Richard

I probably differ from my hon. Friend as to what we mean by "really European", though I entirely agree that the European Economic Community does not represent the whole continent. But the point I make is still true, that within the last five years we have as a nation more and more come to realise that our connection is with the Continent. We do not so much rely upon our markets in the farthest parts of the globe. We have realised at long last—it has taken a long time, and the development of E.F.T.A. has certainly aided the realisation probably more than anything else—that our obviously best and most available markets are those which are nearest, that is, those which are 22 miles across the English Channel on the Continent of Europe itself.

The third ground of opposition which the French then put up was American domination. I suppose that it would be true to say that the attitude of General de Gaulle at the time was that Britain somehow or other through her special relationship with the United States of America would allow that country to dominate a much looser federation of states in Europe, if the E.C.C. were to become much wider.

This raises some rather delicate questions as to our future relationship with the United States. I heard my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary say yesterday: It is sometimes suggested that if Britain is to join the European Economic Community we must change our relationship with the United States, particularly in defence, and abandon the rôle which we play in the outside world. To this the Government are resolutely opposed. Those who believe that if we state our position other people will not negotiate with us are taking up a wholly indefensible stand ".—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 16th November. 1966; Vol. 736, c. 455.] It was with some regret that I heard my right hon. Friend say that, not because I am against Britain's taking a global rôle but simply because I have come to believe that Britain's capabilities are such that, with the best will in the world, our global rôle must continue to shrink. Consider, for example, how in our relationship with the United States, until recently, it was felt that Britain could look after the defence of Africa and America could, in very broad terms, look after the defence of other parts of the world. I do not think that we can guarantee that now. I do not think that we can now even really fulfil that part of our old special relationship with the United States.

Of course, Britain and the United States have always had enormously close ties—in language, outlook and in political and historical traditions. The one great thing that we can bring to the Anglo-American Alliance is the ability to understand their problems and be receptive to their ideas. The one thing that we cannot bring to the alliance is the power to help divide the world into spheres of influence in which we, outside Europe, could play a crucial part. We may in future be able to play an important part, but a crucial one no longer, though I say that with some regret.

Therefore, the political implications of the third ground of opposition which President de Gaulle put up in his Press conference—namely, that, somehow or other, through our special relationship with the United States, we would allow America to dominate Europe—seems of less importance today because the nature and extent of that special relationship has changed, and is still changing.

Although there are enormous difficulties in the way of joining the E.E.C. it is false to talk about Britain being asked to join a federalist Europe. Would that we were, but we are not. Before Britain allowed its sovereignty to be submerged into a larger entity, there would have to take place great, detailed and, I suppose, divisive debate across this Chamber and throughout the nation. But that is not the position we are faced with now.

We are being asked to join a community which is in existence. We are being asked to take part in a Europe which is being created. It is my firm view that it would be grossly wrong of this country to remain outside what is going on at present on the Continent. For that reason, I wholeheartedly welcome the Government's initiative.

Mr. Norman Miscampbell (Blackpool, North)

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard), especially as I agreed with every word he said. If I do not follow him in his arguments it is simply because, on this at least, we are both on exactly the same side.

This is part of a continuing debate which has gone on in this country, in Parliament, in the Press and in all informed circles, since the inception, and before, of the European Economic Community in 1957. The great change that has come in the debate during the last few weeks is that the Labour Party has changed its mind and now the overwhelming majority of the House of Commons is agreed that another attempt should be made to enter the Community. This was a point made by the hon. Member clearly.

It is important to recognise that we in this House have changed—not necessarily on this side, but overwhelmingly in the House as a whole. We have changed our minds. We are prepared to have another go. It is important to recognise this, because I do not think that the objections to our going in have changed. I sensed yesterday, and in the Prime Minister's earlier announcement, an attempt to say to the country that the difficulties which we face are less now than they were in the past. I do not think that that is true. I think that what has changed is our willingness to face up to the price of going in.

If one looks briefly at some of the difficulties, one can say that if one takes up a certain attitude to the Community, and if it is an attitude that one has held over the years, and feels that we must not go in because it will prevent one creating the type of society one wants in this country, then the difficulties present in 1961 are still present.

The problem of New Zealand's agriculture is still there. The whole question of sovereignty is still a vital and difficult problem. It is one which will become increasingly important because, although it seems to be broadly accepted by many in this House that we are going into a Europe of sovereign States, I do not believe that Britain would very long be prepared to stay in a Europe in which, not in the largest issues but at least in the minor issues of the Commission and the Council, the decisions were taken by civil servants without any controls. I do not believe that for very long we would be prepared to accept that. I do not think that sovereignty can be eliminated.

We have heard eloquent speeches from the benches opposite from hon. Members who believe that Britain should go in a certain direction towards Socialism, but I do not think that the difficulties are any the less. One only has to look at the problems that would be created by the new situation for the steel industry, whether nationalised or not. It would go into far bigger units; the 8 million ton unit may be common. The European coal industry used to produce 240 million tons, which was about what we were producing a few years ago. But now it has come down to 100 million tons, with the main requirement for coking coal. In such a situation it would not be possible for us to keep mines going for social reasons.

I take another random example, the position of sterling. Once we have gone into the Community it will no longer be possible to control the value of our money so far as devaluation is concerned in practical terms, because, once we are in, we will have agreed to agricultural costs being worked out in units of European currency which are related to a dollar base. Consequently, having tied the economy into a Community that had agreed what the prices of agricultural products were to be, it would be crucifying to try to change the exchange rate.

I mention these matters to show that the difficulties are still there. But what has changed, what I welcome particularly, is that, despite the fact that the difficulties are there, the political will in this House seems to have changed. That is of vast importance, because I am sure that, get in or not on this occasion, this will be a problem which will nag at the British conscience until it is finally solved. I believe that every change in Europe—every change in statesmen, the disappearance of General de Gaulle, change among the attitude of the Five—will lead, if we fail on this occasion, every two or three years to further attempts by this House and the country to join the Community.

I do not believe that it is something that we can get out of. But one of the tragedies might be that, as each successive attempt was made, the price would become more difficult and higher and, yet more tragic, as each step was taken we would be prepared to pay a higher price. I believe that we shall probably have to pay a higher price this time than we would have done in 1961. The price in 1961 was infinitely higher than the price would have been if we had gone in as a founder member.

If we are to face that difficulty, would it not be better now to make up our minds clearly that we really are going to pay a firm and high price and will not be put off by what in many cases will simply be transitory difficulties? I do not apologise for this view. It is why I made—and I do not apologise—what perhaps sounded like a flippant intervention in the speech last night of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

I feel that, if this is to be a serious attempt—and I am sure that it is—we would do best to make up our mind as a House that there are things which are not negotiable and that it would be better to say, "Yes" to them at once. I appreciate the Government's difficulties in saying, "Yes" in broad terms, but I do not think that acceptance of the present agricultural set-up would really undermine our negotiating position. We have to accept that sterling will have to be discussed. It is not possible to go in and expect the Europeans to take sterling as it stands at the moment and carry us. We have to discuss the defence position, and it is not possible to go in without doing so. Our whole economy depends on what our defence decisions are.

For those reasons, I would like to see on the Government's behalf a willingness to discuss everything, and I hope that on my right hon. Friends' part there will be no desire to drive the Government at this moment, so long as they are seriously negotiating, to give answers which they might find it difficult to give. Although we might tease them occasionally in debate they should not be forced now to take up positions which could cause difficulties in the negotiations, so long as they are seriously negotiating.

Clearly, I am facing the fact that a high price will have to be paid, and it is quite right that people should ask why we should pay this price. It can be put in a very simple way. I believe that the European Community offers this country an inspiration and something to work for which we will not find anywhere else. I believe that this more than anything else for this country is the chance now to move into an organisation which has that inspiration on a wider stage. I am sure that part of the malaise of this country over the last 10 years has been our retreat from a past which was great to the difficulty of finding a future which made clear sense to us.

We all know the difficulties—production does not seem to increase when the economists take the right steps, and so on. Why is it? It is for the very reason that many people are now coming to recognise that production and the whole élan of a nation doing well economically have not themselves to do with taxes, but how a nation feels about where it is going to get in the world.

Although they have been hardly mentioned, the alternatives to this decision to go in are uncomfortable. They may be economically comfortable. After all, to become the 51st or 52nd State of the United States would not be unsatisfactory economically, but I do not think that the House or the country would find that a very dignified or happy situation. In any case, despite our ties with America, it would be very unnatural.

The comments of many newspapers about this attempt to get into Europe have been very irresponsible. Some newspapers have said that the Prime Minister has got it both ways. If he fails, it is said, he can say to the Leader of the Opposition, Who has been a firm protagonist of going in, "These are the reasons why we cannot go in", and he can then go to the country and "dish" the Conservative Party at the next election on that basis.

That is absolute nonsense. If we do not get in, the Government will find that the country begins to look into itself, to become introspective, and nothing will be more difficult to govern than this country if it really becomes little Englander and turns towards a form of Poujardism. That is why it is vital to move out into a wider situation, and I am sure that for the political health of both our parties we shall be in a far better position if we can go in than if there is a failure again and the country still does not find its way in the world.

It is often said that the reasons for our wanting to go into Europe are economic. I made my maiden speech just after Hugh Gaitskell made a famous speech in the House, when he said that we were evenly divided. I accept that in some ways the argument may be evenly divided when it is simply money in the pocket. But people mistake economics if they think that size as it is yet known in the world is in itself sufficient to make one richer than the next man. It is noticeable, for instance, that Holland, before the Common Market, had, and Sweden today has, a high standard of living, comparable to our own.

Looking further back, the United States, for instance, in about 1870, with a market at the time noticeably smaller than ours of that time, was very much more highly productive than we were. Lack of size in itself does not mean that one cannot be rich, but it does mean in the modern world that one excludes oneself from most of the new technologies, because it is not possible in the smaller market to run the highly important computer and other technological advances which are coming along.

Our wanting to go into the Common Market is not just a matter of economics. We could be reasonably well off outside, but if we cut ourselves off in this century from technological change we largely cut ourselves off from the main stream of this century. What distinguishes this century from all others is the tremendous rate of technological change. On the American Continent at present are 30,000 of all the 36,000 computers in the world.

If we go on as at present, and do not get into a larger community which will make this type of technology viable, we will find that a totally new form of civilisation is created on the American Continent which will be different in form and in type and in texture from the civilisation on the European Continent. The use of computers and the fall-out and spin-off from space research are now beginning to make us a have-not nation, as has been said time and again. It is not just a matter of money in our pockets, but of finding ourselves dominated by a United States which has become technologically so far advanced that we shall never be able to catch up. But, of course, there are political overtones to that and it would mean that we would simply become a client State of a vastly greater economy.

I want more than anything else in political life that we should make this decision to go in. The Prime Minister says that he means business, and I am prepared to give him credit and believe that he does. He goes in with my good wishes and I am sure that at least we can come out of this attempt, if we do not go in on this occasion, in such a position that in the next few years the decision can be made that we can join Europe and cure once and for all the division between ourselves and the rest of Western Europe which has now become far more important and far more serious and far more divisive than the distinction between Western Europe and Russia.

8.28 p.m.

Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

I am happy to say that I agree almost entirely with what the hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell) said. I was particularly glad to hear him bring up a point which has not been made very firmly, namely, that when we talk about membership of the European Economic Community and at the same time rule out any question of supranational or Parliamentary control of that Community we do ourselves not only an injustice but very great harm to our reputation as democratic Parliamentarians. I should like to return to that point later.

One thing has rather spoiled the atmosphere of this debate. The Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) and many of their followers have been guilty of this, in my view. While supporting the Government's application they have sought, by implication, to suggest that the Government do not intend to make a serious attempt to join the Common Market. There have been insinuations of various kinds that there is no sincerity behind the application. If it is the Opposition's intention to try to get this country into the Common Market, this is one of the best ways in which they can best prevent it. If this spread abroad as the general opinion here, it is not likely to assist the negotiations.

One thing about today's debate about which I am glad compared with yesterday's debate and what preceded it is that we have heard much less today about British conditions. I have never liked this talk about British conditions for entry into the Common Market, still less Labour Party conditions. I can hardly agree when the Government say that they still adhere to the Labour Party conditions but that the present situation has made some of them easier. On the first of these conditions—an independent foreign policy and defence policy—there has been no change. In any case, the issue is irrelevant because there is no common defence policy or foreign policy, or the power to apply one, in the Rome Treaty. This is a non-starter.

A great deal has been said about defence, particularly by the Leader of the Opposition, and the implications in which this country as a member of the Community, enlarged by the Scandinavian countries and probably others, would inevitably be involved for the defence of the Community area. Whether one accepts the de Gaullist conception of a single European defence community, with its own atomic weapons, or a European Community as one leg in a common defence policy with the United States as the other leg, or in whatever form one accepts it, surely those who are afraid of their being involved in defence and foreign policy matters in the Community, even indirectly, mot within the treaty but as partners in the Community, must pause to think what are the implications if these matters are to be discussed with the Community and we are not members.

One of two things will happen in the long run. In the Community of the Six, without Great Britain and other countries, either Germany will predominate, in which case there will be an independent German Army withdrawing from N.A.T.O., supported or not supported by France, or we shall have the ultimate de Gaullist policy of a French-dominated European defence community, with its own atomic weapons, which would ultimately mean that Germany would have to leave NA.T.O. if she wished to be a full member of the Community. Matters would develop in this European sector in which we should have no say until they might well have reached the kind of situation which has in the past forced this country into the European scene with the most disastrous conditions because we had no opportunity of influencing them before.

I therefore suggest to those of my colleagues who have this preoccupation that they had better think very clearly about what might develop in the Community of the Six in defence matters unless Britain and the Scandinavian countries are members in order to try to influence developments beforehand.

I say nothing about the other so-called conditions of the Labour Party, which I never took very seriously—the planned economy question which has been sufficiently answered in the debate and the question of our E.F.T.A. partnership, which has also been sufficiently answered, except for one point. It has not been stated what was meant by our E.F.T.A. partners having to agree with the other members of E.F.T.A. before entering the Community and whether that implied giving Dr. Salazar a veto on our entry.

I doubt very much whether, even if we gain entry and some of our E.F.T.A. partners enter the Community, Portugal qualifies for membership of the Community, because Portugal is not a democratic country. By the same token, if Spain and the Communist countries were geographically parts of Europe, as France and the other E.E.C. countries are, it is constitutionally not possible to include totalitarian elements in a democratic community. Therefore, Spain, Portugal and the Communist countries will have to modify their practices and accept the principles and practices of a democratic community.

One point which a right hon. Gentleman opposite put to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister seemed to be rather pointless. He said that he wanted my right hon. Friend to make a positive statement that he would try to seek some protection for the interests of Australia and New Zealand. I thought that the position had been made crystal clear by everyone who had spoken from the Front Bench, and even from the Opposition Front Bench, namely, that our European colleagues made these concessions in the Brussels negotiations of 1962. They are fully aware of the special difficulty attaching to New Zealand in particular, and I am sure that this has been discussed many times during the tentative talks which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has had on the Continent. I should have thought that everyone would have taken it for granted that New Zealand would receive special attention.

One point has not been mentioned in this context of the Commonwealth. I am thinking of some of the smaller territories, particularly those which are entirely dependent on their sugar crops, whose position will be particularly difficult if we go into the Community. One of our purposes should be to diversify Jamaica's economy once we are members, but the smaller islands have no possibility of diversifying their economies.

One of the things for which we should press is for them to be dealt with by protocols to the Treaty of Rome, in the same way as protocols to the treaty have provided for continued free imports, or preferential imports, as the case may be, to particular countries of the Community of particular commodities. When referring to countries, I am thinking of Germany, France, Italy and Belgium, and when referring to commodities I am thinking of coffee, bananas and so on. These arrangements have been made for the present members of the Community, and from the discussions which I have had—and I have had many—with representatives of members of the Community I do not think that there will be a great deal of difficulty in dealing with this problem.

That leads me to the question of agriculture. A great deal has been said about this, and I shall not, therefore, go into it in detail. I am, however, rather concerned that a great deal has been made about the assumed increase in the price of food which will follow our entry into the Community and the assumed effect which it will have on our balance of payments. I hope that the figures which have been given will not be thrown about as propaganda to try to frighten people about the effects of our joining.

In both cases the figures are subject to qualification. The figures which have been mentioned are based on an impossible concept. It is that we shall sign the Treaty of Rome, and the whole of the agricultural policy contained therein will descend on us the following day, together with the total levy as it now exists, without any change in the price structure or anything else. There is no question of this happening.

In a very interesting and useful report by P.E.P. some time ago the position was analysed, and the results were not very different from those given by the Prime Minister during the last two or three days. Whatever one may say about a 12 per cent. to 15 per cent. increase in food prices, P.E.P. assumed a 20 per cent. rise in wholesale prices, which would result in a 2½ per cent. increase in food prices spread over a number of years. P.E.P. suggested five, whereas in fact we are likely to get something like six to seven. The total effect on the cost of living would amount to an increase of a fraction of 1 per cent. or about 1 per cent.

The problem is not quite so monstrous as it can be painted, but against that there is one factor which has not been mentioned, and it should be in this context. Under the present agricultural pricing system, we pay subsidies, which are raised by taxes, amounting to, I think, more than £3 million a year.

Mr. Terence L. Higgins (Worthing)

The figure is £264 million, which would represent about 1s. 2d. off the standard rate of Income Tax.

Mr. Hynd

Another figure is £234 million, and there are others. It all depends on the aspect to which one is referring. Let us say that it is between £250 million and £300 million. The P.E.P. report referred to the possibility of an increase of 1s. per head in pensions and 1s. in family allowances. If we were to increase the rate of pensions and family allowances by 5s. per head, which would have a considerable offsetting effect against all these increased food prices, it would amount to about £150 million per annum, as against the £250 million that we at present pay in subsidies. Again, there is no insuperable problem over the lower-paid worker, provided the Government can give us some hint that they will have this kind of solution in mind should the problem ever arise There would still be £150 million or more saved from taxation to be applied in other ways.

The same consideration applies to the question of our balance of payments. Figures between £200 million and £250 million have been quoted, but again, this depends upon the entry of Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden and Ireland—food-producing countries in one case and the biggest market for food in the other—having no impact on the standard target of food prices. The prices with which we are concerning ourselves at the moment are those calculated on the average throughout the Community, based on Duisburg as the centre, but the influx of these new food-producing countries and this great new food-importing market will have an immediate effect on prices, which would mean that prices would soon be different from those that we are thinking of at present.

The figure of the balance of payments takes no account of the fact that the levy is not calculated per head of population or according to national industrial importance; it is a loaded levy, or a modified levy, calculated according to conditions in individual countries. That, presumably, would also be adjusted in view of the fact that we would be the biggest food importing member of the Community. I hope that the Government will have this point very much in mind when they are negotiating on the levy. It is clear that figures concerning the cost of living or balance of payments will be very different from those that we are thinking of at present.

Although the hon. Member for Blackpool, North said quite a bit about it, little has been said by other hon. Members about the fact that this is not an agricultural Community; it is an economic Community. No one has tried to analyse the effect of our entry upon the industrial sector of the Community. I want to take up a point made by the hon. Member for Blackpool, North on the effect on some of our more modern industries, in present circumstances. I want to give an illustration of this as it concerns a very important electronics company. The chairman and managing director of one of our leading exporters of industrial electronic control equipment, with between 80 per cent. and 85 per cent. of its products going to export, wrote to me saying: we developed a few years ago an equipment called the Scanatron; the research and development cost was £145,000, our total sales in the United Kingdom to date have amounted to just on £100,000, and our export sales mainly to Europe have amounted to £860,000. He pointed out clearly that if we are excluded from the Common Market developments of this kind will become quite impossible for his type of firm. That is merely one little straw in the wind.

We should therefore reject entirely any further talk about British conditions for entry. Article 237 of the treaty does not say that a new applicant for membership shall state its conditions for entering the club, but that, on a new State applying for membership, its application will be considered by the Community and the Community will lay down the conditions for acceptance. It is not, therefore, a question of our making conditions, but of our seeking the same kind of consideration and adjustments through the protocols and décalage which have been given to other members and which we recognised in the previous negotiations in Brussels.

Therefore, the invitation by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire yesterday to the Prime Minister to state categorically that we are prepared to sign the Rome Treaty as it stands was quite unnecessary. It struck me as rather a niggling one. I would prefer the formulation of the Prime Minister yesterday, when he said that the Government would be prepared to accept the treaty if our problems can be dealt with satisfactorily. The Government are prepared to accept the treaty. This is what the treaty says, this is what it offers, so let us stop this niggling talk about whether we will sign on a dotted line which does not exist or whether we will make any conditions.

I should like to mention a speech which has not so far been mentioned, that of the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), who expressed much concern about the effects of our joining on our domestic laws and court procedures. If he has not already done so, I suggest that he should study carefully the analysis of this matter given by Lord Stow Hill, better known to most of us as Sir Frank Soskice, in the debate in another place a few months ago.

After examining the treaty very carefully and apply it to the position in this country, Lord Stow Hill came to the conclusion that it would not in the least alter our internal law, that our criminal and civil processes would be left entirely untouched. The only small qualification, he said, would be that, under the Treaty of Rome, British companies and individuals would be entitled to appeal to the European Court on purely economic matters. So the right hon. and learned Member may be reassured on that point, which is important and has not been mentioned before, if he studies that very fine analysis by Lord Stow Hill.

I thought that it was desirable to reply to those one or two points which have been left as loose ends in the debate, as most of the other main points have been adequately covered by other hon. Members. Like the hon. Member for Blackpool, North and my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) yesterday, whose speech I read, although I did not hear it, with great satisfaction, I have been appalled at some of the arguments from this side of the House against our joining the Common Market precisely on the basis of arguments directly contrary to the Socialist conception of these matters, which I have understood so well over the last 50 years or more of my membership of the party.

I am appalled that so many of my colleagues take that this new development towards what, after all, is one of the great ideals of the old Socialist thinkers and pioneers. It was the old Socialist conception of the breaking down of national barriers and the bringing of peoples closer together. We enshrined this idea in our policy statements, and, I believe, in our manifesto at the last General Election, when we accepted the idea of world government, knowing that we cannot achieve a world government suddenly, but only by the progressive elimination of national barriers and bringing together wider and wider groups of peoples with similar interests and aspirations.

That the opposition should come from Labour benches on a matter of this kind runs directly contrary to the policy which our party has always adumbrated. I was particularly concerned at one thing about the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who, incidentally, demanded that we should tell the people the facts and proceeded to refer to a Gallup poll in the Daily Telegraph but refused to let us know the figures which he had before him. Those figures showed, incidentally, a 65 per cent. vote in favour of our joining the Common Market, which was exactly the same percentage as was achieved in the same poll 12 months ago. My right hon. Friend informed the House that he had never changed his stand on this issue and proceeded to quote two early-day Motions in 1951 and 1952 which he had not signed before the Common Market came into operation. He forgot to tell the House, however—I am sorry that he is not now present—that he did sign a Motion in 1956, which was signed by 82 other hon. Members, demanding that the Government should immediately open negotiations for entry to the Common Market. Therefore, when my right hon. Friend talks about telling the people the facts, he had better get the facts right.

What worried me about my right hon. Friend's speech, which we all enjoyed very much, was a point he made, and which we have not heard a great deal about lately, when he warned us about the terrible effect that membership of the Common Market would have on the free movement of workers. I do not know what my right hon. Friend was suggesting we should be afraid of, but it seemed to him to be most sinister.

Again, my right hon. Friend did not say what the treaty states about this. It states in Article 48 that there shall be the abolition of any discrimination based on nationality between workers of the Member States as regards employment, remuneration, and other working conditions. It goes on to state: It shall include the right … (a) to accept offers of employment actually made; (b) to move about freely for this purpose within the territory of Member States ". The treaty stipulates that in particular the member States shall under this arrangement, with a common programme, encourage the exchange of young workers. That is what the treaty proposes. If we are to tell the people the facts, do not let us frighten them that we will be flooded by a lot of immature and unemployed Italian workers, Spaniards and others coming into this country to create more unemployment here. What Article 48 does is to safeguard the position of foreign workers in jobs which are actually offered to them and to ensure that they shall enjoy the full standards of employment, social insurance and the rest in the country in which they work.

One of the interesting results of this policy has been the reaction of the hundreds of thousands of Italians, Spaniards, Turks, Greeks and others who have gone to Germany, for example, under this provision and who are working in the German docks and factories, enjoying German rates of wages, including four weeks' holiday with pay, which is one of the standards operating in the Common Market but which we have not yet reached in this country, who are enjoying the principle of equal pay, which we do not have in this country but which is obligatory in the Common Market, and who are enjoying all the rights and protections of German workers. This has had an enormous impact upon their home countries when they return or send back their money and tell the other workers in those countries about their conditions. This has been one of the most important contributing factors to raising the standards of working conditions in some of the more backward areas of Europe, because these men are not going back to some of their former old conditions. I hope, therefore, that the position will be properly reported when this kind of thing is discussed and that we will not be left with a lot of insinuations based upon fiction.

My final comment Is merely an endorsement of what was said yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West and this afternoon by the hon. Member for Blackpool, North. Even if this step does not involve us—and here I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard)—in the acceptance of an immediate political Community, even if the decisions that have to be taken are at present limited to purely economic and social matters, none the less those economic and social matters include not only a common policy for agriculture, transport and energy, not only common commercial policies, not only the free movement of capital and labour, the abolition of all tariff barriers and of Customs duties, the harmonisation of social benefits with all that that implies in taxation and a whole range of matters of this kind. These are politics. This is what politics are about. These are the things we discuss in this House. These are the things that affect the lives of every single citizen in the country—in this case, the European Community.

An unhappy situation we are facing at the present time is that the European Parliament has no powers. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Easing-ton says that if we have to join this Community let us not have any supranational institution or European Parliament or any nonsense like that, I remind him that the supranational institution exists. The Council of Ministers is a supranational institution, and the European Parliament exists; it is there already and it is written into the treaty.

The tragedy is that this European Parliament as a Parliament is unacceptable in its present form to British democrats because it has no power. The only power it has is to remove the whole of the Council, though it has never done that. It cannot even discuss the budget of the Community, which runs into hundreds of millions of pounds, which are got by levies or other means by the citizens of those countries, and yet the so-called Parliament does not even have the power to discuss the budget.

Is this country, with all its background, its history and tradition of Parliamentary government and democracy, as the Mother of Parliaments, as the guiding light to the rest of the world in these matters, to say that it is prepared to enter the European Economic Community, but only as an economic community, that we are to have nothing to do with its Parliament? Or, if we send a token delegation to the Parliament, we are not going to see that the Parliament does have proper democratic powers and does have some control over the executive, and that the citizens of the Community have more representation, direct or indirect, through the Members of the Parliament?

I can assure the House and the country that it is the feeling of most of the Parliamentarians and others, at least of the five countries, and of many of the French Parliamentarians as well, that British membership to them brings the hope that, along with the Scandinavian countries, with their equal Parliamentary traditions, we will bring a new breath of democracy into the Community; that we will insist in the future on some democratic control; that we will not leave all control of the Community's destinies to the Commission under Dr. Hallstein—I have the deepest respect for them—or the Council of Ministers, concerned with their national interests; that Britain and the Scandinavian countries will give a lead towards a more democratic political Community run by a democratic Parliament having power over the executive.

Without those conditions my enthusiasm would be less, but even more important in my view is that this Community should survive, because the failure of this Community, whether because of its own efforts or for any other reason, can plunge Europe back into the conditions of 1914 and 1939, and we will have been at least partly responsible for that.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)

The issues which we have been considering in these two days are, of course, of high national importance. I think it can be fairly said that the debate has measured up to the seriousness of the problems. Many Members have spoken, and many more, I regret to say, for one reason or another have been unable to speak; but I believe, in the number of Members who have caught your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we have seen a wide range of representative opinion, and we have also heard the many diverse and important issues of economics, of trade, of politics, of defence, discussed from both sides of the House in an atmosphere of seriousness which, I think, is possibly unusual for some of our debates.

Certainly the divisions of opinion which have been shown have cut across party on more than one occasion. Unusual alliances have been formed, possibly only temporarily. Unusual divisions of opinion, some of them most engaging, have taken place, and we have listened to them.

My own impression, from the speeches I have heard and from those that I have read, is that despite the eloquent oratory of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), and despite the ebullience and vigour of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), which we enjoyed so much this afternoon, the balance of the arguments has clearly been on the side of those who believed that it is right for this country to try to join the European Economic Community. The balance of the arguments has clearly gone that way. Certainly, when we look at the economic factors, I believe the arguments are really conclusive.

The basic argument, of course, is membership of a large economic unit, with the mass market it provides for British industry, and for modern industry—modern science-based industry is the phrase used in modern jargon—a large market is essential for full efficiency, particularly for research and development, on a scale which we really require.

Mind you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we must not exaggerate the issues. I have never believed that the choice is one between prosperity and disaster. If we were to fail in this endeavour; if once again we were to be rebuffed; if we do not join the Economic Community, I think it would be a tragedy, but it would not mean disaster. It would not mean poverty or deprivation, because Britain would continue to survive and, indeed, to grow and to prosper, but not to the extent or at the pace at which, in this modern age, we should aim.

Certainly, I am convinced, and have been for a number of years now, that a market on the 250 million to 300 million scale would offer the sort of opportunities required by modern, technologically strong, British industries, manufacturing industries, and agricultural industry.

I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) earlier this afternoon stress the importance of agriculture and the opportunities for British agricultural exports, for as has been so rightly said, on more than one occasion, British agriculture is an extremely efficient industry in comparison with any of our neighbours or competitors.

Nor should we omit reference to the commercial strength of Britain. Our invisible exports are a very important feature indeed in our total balance of payments. I do not think reference has been made in the course of this debate to the strength of British insurance, British banking, British merchanting. All these factors or features of our economy are strong and highly competitive, and I have no doubt that within the European Economic Community there will be great new opportunities to bring prosperity to this country.

Of course, it is perfectly true, as many hon. Members have so rightly pointed out, that certain parts of our economy, certain parts of agriculture and industry will have to face up to considerable difficulties, such as in E.F.T.A. our pulp and paper people have had considerably increased competition from the Scandinavian industry. It is perfectly true, and this must be weighed in the balance. Equally, there is the real problem, referred to by both the Foreign Secretary and the First Secretary, of the additional burden on our balance of payments that would be imposed by this system of levies on imports. I agree that this figure is terribly difficult to give with any certainty. The First Secretary gave it as between £175 million to £200 million. It might be less in practice, in the changing currents of world trade, the movement of world prices and the comparative levels both internally and externally of the Community and E.F.T.A. prices. This is a very big factor itself, and it is quite right that it should be weighed in the balance.

I believe, taking the disadvantages and advantages, that the advantages clearly are the greater, but to follow, once again, the First Secretary, it is important to pose the question: what would happen if we stayed out? One must always consider the alternatives. It seems to me that for us to face across the Channel the development of a single economic unit on the scale of the United States, but with levels of wages more akin to ours than to American levels, would be a very formidable competitive factor, and would affect our entire trading position, not only in Europe but throughout the world and throughout the Commonwealth. So I believe that the economic advantages of membership of the Community are quite clearly established.

The political advantages, surely, in the long term are great also. My hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Dodds-Parker) rightly referred to the extent to which Britain in the past decades has suffered from political division and dissent and strife within Western Europe, and it is very much to our interest that we should live in a united Europe. Therefore, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said this afternoon, we shall from these benches fully support the Prime Minister in a genuine attempt to bring together Western Europe into one, single, coherent unity. I was glad that the First Secretary stressed again that this is not solely a question of Britain and the Six but a question of E.F.T.A. and the Six, because we have obligations to our E.F.T.A. companions which are of a solemn character and which we cannot possibly disregard.

But while we support, and will continue to support, the Prime Minister in a genuine attempt to solve this problem, it is right for us as an Opposition to look at the circumstances of this new initiative and try to assess whether it is taken at the right moment and in the right circumstances. I hope that the Prime Minister, in concluding this debate tonight, will deal with some of these problems.

Why has he chosen this particular moment for his new initiative, and what is his position now on the major matters of policy involved? We must recognise that we in this country have already had two rebuffs—in 1958 and in 1963—to attempts to join the European Economic system; I do not think that we can lightly court the possible danger of a third rebuff. When the Prime Minister says, as I believe he said the other night, that the wind is right and the tide is right, I wonder why? What changes have taken place to make this the right moment? What changes have taken place in our economic situation or in the economic situation of Europe? What changes may have taken place in the political outlook of France, or others of the Six, or in the political relations of the United States and Western Europe? Why is this the moment when the tide is right and the wind is right? I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will explain that, because I believe it to be of very great importance.

Secondly, what does the Prime Minister mean by his reference to the "essential interests" of this country and of the Commonwealth, and what is his attitude to the Treaty of Rome? It is very important to get this issue clarified now. Does he mean to accept the Treaty of Rome, or does he intend to try to negotiate for amendments to it? If the latter is his intention, I must say that it is going back several years in history. In 1957 and 1958, when were negotiating the Free Trade Area, we were negotiating even then on the basis of the Treaty of Rome and trying to find what amendments to it would meet what we then thought to be the essential interests of Britain and the Commonwealth. The subsequent negotiations in Brussels, again, were based on joining the Treaty of Rome.

The Prime Minister must recognise that there is little chance of success of any negotiations that go back to the concept of amending the Treaty of Rome. As my right hon. Friend pointed out with such force this afternoon, the Treaty of Rome, as it stands, is for the countries of the Community the fundamental substratum of their political and economic existence. I urge the Prime Minister to tell us just what are the essential interests to which he referred. He should make that quite clear before this debate ends.

There are two particular points to which I call the right hon. Gentleman's attention. Both were referred to by the First Secretary. The first is the question of economic planning and the second is the question of the common agricultural policy. Where do the Government now stand on their condition No. 4, as it used to be known; the right to plan our own economy? The First Secretary argued this afternoon that nothing in the Treaty of Rome would prevent us from planning our own economy. He said that it would not prevent nationalisation and he certainly said, and I think that he was again right, that it would not prevent us from taking the sort of measures in the development districts to which the House as a whole attaches great importance.

However, he gave no convincing explanation at all of why he disagreed with what his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister so forcibly said in June, 1963 about the whole concept of the Treaty of Rome; being anti-planning or, at any rate, anti-national planning. The right hon. Gentleman went on to point out, I believe rightly, that the sort of planning envisaged in the Treaty of Rome was designed to achieve the maximum amount of competition in industry. On this point it is important for us to receive a clear statement from the Government about where they stand, to what extent they now consider that the Treaty of Rome is wholly anti-planning and whether they believe that their concepts of planning can be fitted into the terms and regulations of the Treaty of Rome.

On the second point, the common agricultural policy, the First Secretary implied, from the remarks of M. Couve de Murville, that the French would consider adaptations in the regulations of the common agricultural policy. That may or may not be so. It is difficult to be certain. But the fundamental basis of the common agricultural policy is the system of levies, and it was the whole system of levies which the Prime Minister condemned in his famous Bristol speech. This, therefore, is not a matter of adaptation but a fundamental argument, and the Prime Minister must make the Government's position clear tonight.

The phrase "essential interests" is a misleading one, because it either means nothing or too much. Of course, any Government are concerned to protect the essential interests of the country they represent. To that extent, if that is what is meant, it means nothing. What is the alternative meant by "essential interests"—or perhaps the right hon. Gentleman means it to be a platitude and considers that platitudes mean something. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary should know. Either it is a platitude or it implies a very rigid position in bargaining. I suggest that a rigid position in bargaining is not what we should have now if we wish to achieve success.

What is essential—remembering that all interests are always relative and not absolute—is the total result. It is essential to obtain a solution which, in sum and in total, is in the interests of this country. I therefore suggest to the Prime Minister that when he talks about the danger of revealing our hand before the negotiations he should not think at this time too much in terms of detailed negotiations.

Experience in recent years has shown that the details of these matters are not decisive. What will matter above all is the political will throughout Europe to achieve a solution. If one wants to find the answers and if one has the political will to find them, one can find the answer to every problem that is involved. However, experience has also shown that if one does not have the political will to agree one can easily find a problem for every answer.

So I say—and this has been repeatedly emphasised during the debate—that the broad political factors are more important than the details of economic negotiation. The first attempt to form a free trade area with the agreement of all the member countries of the then O.E.C. failed not on any technical, economic difficulty about certificates of origin or agriculture but, ultimately, because of the French political veto and, possibly, also because at that time the Community did not feel sufficiently self-confident to negotiate on a wider European grouping.

Secondly, in the Brussels negotiations under my right hon. Friend the present Leader of the Opposition it was not failure to get agreement on any economic problem that caused the breakdown, but once again the French political decision that in their view the time was not right for British membership of the European Community. So I ask the Prime Minister, what are the new factors which lead him to suppose that the time has now come to reopen this question?

One factor, of course, is the changing position of the British balance of payments and the difficulties often referred to of the position of sterling as a reserve currency and the indebtedness of the United Kingdom. I do not believe that the position of sterling or its rôle as a reserve currency presents any genuine barrier to our membership of the European Community. It is not an obstacle or menace in any way to the Six.

I agree with the Prime Minister that before we enter the Community our economy must be strong and the position of sterling must be sufficiently sure, but the British economy is immensely strong. In recent years the balance of payments by commercial terms has been positive and substantially positive. We have vast overseas investment and a vast technological base and capacity for scientific management and research which is the envy of Europe. If I wished to be political, I might say that our economy is strong enough to stand up even to two years of the present Government.

Nor is the position of sterling as a reserve currency any real barrier to membership of the Common Market. This should be understood. Sometimes other countries in Europe seem to think that a reserve currency is something which we keep for ourselves as a great asset, but it is not. We are a reserve currency because the situation has developed because people have put money on deposit with us and it has operated in those conditions. There are some advantages in a reserve currency but some disadvantages. The strength of British invisible exports lies not so much in the reserve currency as in the skill and expertise of those in commerce, banking and finance in this country.

The problem is not so much that we are a reserve currency country as that we have a currency of exchange because in recent critical circumstances the main holders of sterling as a reserve currency have been strong holders and they have stood by us. It is clear that there would be an advantage in some funding of sterling balances. This has been talked about in the past. I hope it will be thought of again. Perhaps some beginning might be made in this context with a funding of our indebtedness to the International Monetary Fund. I doubt whether it would be in the interest of the world trading community as a whole if we were to endeavour to run an adequate surplus in the next few years in order to repay that indebtedness out of our current trading balances. This is an opportunity to reorganise the international position of sterling to the benefit of this country and of other monetary authorities of the world as a whole.

The whole problem of sterling and reserve currencies is one which has to be solved anyway. It is not part and parcel of our relationships with the European Economic Community. There must be found some means of supplementing dollar and sterling as reserve currencies. I do not believe that a return to the gold standard would be any solution. To try to tie the volume of money available to finance world trade to the accident of the amount of gold produced at any period cannot make sense, but some solution must be found to this problem of international liquidity and the position of world currencies. This is something which must be solved anyway and it should not inhibit our intention to join the Community.

The other problem which emerges is the political development of the Community and in particular, as my right hon. Friend said this afternoon, the relationship politically and in defence terms between Europe and the North American continent. We have seen in the last couple of years big developments in the Community. It has grown stronger and therefore, I think, more willing to negotiate, but the final pattern of the Community as between federalism or Europe des états has not been settled. It is of the greatest importance that Britain should be within the Community in order to participate in this process of settling its final shape.

I believe that the answer will lie, as it often does, between the two extremes. I do not accept the federal argument with respect to the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard). I think that the proponents of federalism are premature in their views by a very long time; and they have not established the need for federal decision in any of the great issues in which we are talking.

On the other hand, I think that those who support the concept of a Europe des états under-estimate the extent to which an economic union demands common political decisions. I hope that the Prime Minister in answering the debate will deal a little with this point. It seems to me to be of fundamental importance, because we cannot regard membership of the Community as a purely economic problem.

More and more problems of a political character, as the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. John Hynd) pointed out, will arise as a result of economic union. The free movement of goods and the free movement of capital throughout a single economic unit brings up such questions as a common currency, a common reserve system, and common policies on the pressure of demand. I do not believe that in the long term there can be a completely effective single economic union without in effect having common policies on these major economic matters.

But these are economic matters of political significance, and decision on these matters have a deep political significance. Therefore, we must recognise, and we must be realistic on this, that in joining the European Economic Community we are committing ourselves to a central decision, not necessarily by a supranational parliament, but a central decision by some machinery and in some form on many basic economic questions of considerable political significance.

The other main point I want to deal with is the question of defence, and in particular the relationship between Europe and the United States, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) referred this afternoon. I believe that this is perhaps the most important question of all. I remember very well in the earlier negotiations, particularly for the Free Trade Area, how it used to be said that Britain must choose between Europe and the Commonwealth. This was fundamentally wrong, as has been shown, I believe, in recent years. There is a school of thought now which says that Britain must choose between Europe and the United States. This, too, I believe to be fundamentally wrong. I do not entirely agree with the way the Foreign Secretary put it yesterday. I do not think that the phrases he used were exactly attuned to the facts.

What I see is a changing relationship between Europe and North America, within which the participation of the United Kingdom in a European system would play a major part. I think we must all look at a united Europe within the context of an Atlantic community. Surely the time has clearly come to recognise the need for a change in the respective roles of the North American powers and of Europe within the Atlantic Alliance, because of the shifting balance of power, particularly economic power, and because of the changing nature of the threat—moving away from Europe towards the countries east of Suez.

Therefore, I agree that it is important to build up the strength of Europe, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said, to redress the balance between the Atlantic countries and the European countries. We are a partnership. Partners do not have to be absolutely equal in order to be effective partners. It clearly would be a mistake—no one would propose it, I think—to try to build up a European deterrent to duplicate the deterrent of the United States, but within the Alliance surely more emphasis must be placed on the political position of Europe, the economic position of Europe, and the building up of the full economic strength of Europe, because it cannot be right or healthy—I am sure the United States themselves would recognise this—for one particular partner to dominate another, whether in military, political or technological terms.

So we must look at the political issues involved in these talks and these negotiations as an attempt, by achieving British membership of the European Community, to strengthen the Atlantic Alliance and to create a partnership less lopsided than it is at present, a partnership which will endure, a partnership which alone can under-pin security of the West in the years to come.

I have tried to cover what seem to me to be the main issues before the House in this debate. I do not believe that the economic problems are insoluble. We have seen in two sets of negotiations that economic problems can really be solved, but they will never be solved unless there is the will to solve them. The will to solve them will not exist unless the broad basic political and strategic factors have already been discussed and general agreement reached. I hope, therefore, that in the talks he will conduct the Prime Minister will bring in these broad factors from the very beginning.

I hope that, in answering this debate the right hon. Gentleman will make absolutely clear his answer to the two major questions which I put to him at the beginning. First, why does he believe that the time is right and the tide is right? Why has he chosen this moment? Second, what is his definition of the essential interests which must be safeguarded and cannot be given away? Only by embarking upon negotiations on this candid, open and practical basis can he achieve the success we all hope he will achieve.

9.25 p.m.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

The whole House will agree with a great deal of what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) has said and will feel that he has again tonight made a very balanced and constructive speech, as he always has done on this subject throughout the years. In some of the points with which he dealt—I am thinking particularly of his observations on sterling, which I felt was an extremely constructive part of his speech—I could note a significant difference in emphasis from what was said by his right hon. Friend the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) this afternoon, and even more, perhaps, on some of the defence questions about which he spoke.

I do not think that anyone will complain about that because on this subject, on each side of the House, on front and back benches alike, those who share the same objective will emphasise different aspects of how we are to go in and what the problems that we meet will be.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me a number of questions and I shall try to deal with them in my speech. The one to which he seemed to attach importance was why we felt that the tide was right at this time. This is what we feel. We believe that it is urgent, and we think that it is right now to embark on the policies which we have announced. I was not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman was casting doubt on the timing. For a moment, he seemed to do so. He will recall that his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, in a most significant speech on the Saturday, before my announcement, stressed the great urgency of the matter and there was not a day to be lost. I think that what we said last week emphasised our agreement with what the right hon. Gentleman said about that at least in his speech at Harrogate.

The tone and temper of the right hon. Gentleman's speech and, indeed, of all the speeches today has been the tone and temper of the debate as a whole. Although I should be the last to be in any doubt about the depth of emotions raised by this issue, I believe that the debate has never descended into acrimony.

We have been traversing familiar ground, ground beaten flat by the way we trod and retrod the well-worn path in debates three, four and five years ago. To this extent, whatever our different points of view in the House, there are many facts and many arguments about the facts which all of us now take for granted and, therefore, there are many arguments which do not need to be restated in detail as we stated them a few years ago.

The very fact that we have been over this ground so much in the past, however, creates the danger that we might be tempted to feel that not only the arguments relevant to those days, but the facts themselves relevant to those days remain unchanged. There have been a lot of changes during the last three or four years, particularly of facts.

The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition dealt in an important way with some of the changes of fact which had occurred, some making it easier and some making it more difficult than three or four years ago. Incidentally, I thank the right hon. Gentleman particularly for what he said at the beginning and the end of his speech in wishing us well. He may recall that, in the opening debate of the previous series, on 3rd August, I ended my speech by wishing him well in the negotiations on which he had started.

I thought that the subjects which the Leader of the Opposition covered in his speech in part, but only in part, following the content of the speech of the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) yesterday, summarised, as did the speech of the right hon. Member for Barnet, the big issues about which we must be concerned in this debate. I shall take the general line of the Leader of the Opposition's speech this afternoon as providing a convenient framework within which the concluding stages of the debate ought to be conducted.

It is true that the right hon. Gentleman began by accusing us of what he called a lack of reality, and suggested that my right hon. Friends failed yesterday to discuss the policy issues with which the French Government and the President of France are principally concerned. I would have thought that this was very wise. It is, of course, useful and entirely helpful for the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in particular, with his experience of these matters, and also for other right hon. and hon. Members, to give to the House and the Government their views and interpretations of what are the fundamental issues we have to face, whether dealing with France or with other members of the Community. But I think that it would be unwise of those who have to carry out these discussions to speculate now about these issues in advance of the discussions themselves.

I shall return later to some of the questions raised by the right hon. Gentleman, including the question of recent developments in French policy. The right hon. Gentleman quoted for a moment, as did the right hon. Members for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) and Barnet, some of the things my right hon. Friends or I said in the earlier discussions. It was perfectly fair of them to do so, but I shall try to resist the temptation myself to turn back on the benches opposite the things they said not only in 1961 and subsequently, but also in 1959, when they gave reasons why the then Government could not contemplate negotiations for entry into the Community.

This is, however, relevant to one important question raised on this side of the House—the question of an election mandate. Following the 1959 General Election, we maintained that the Conservatives did not have a mandate, for they had given the electorate their reasons for not going in. We claim that there is a mandate for us today—indeed, right hon. Gentlemen opposite also have such a mandate—to do what we are doing. I quoted last week, as did my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary yesterday, the passage in our manifesto on this question.

Let us take, therefore, another important question—that of the Treaty of Rome which, as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition emphasised, and as we equally made clear last week, is absolutely fundamental to any negotiations we may be undertaking if the preliminary exchanges during the next two or three months suggest that the terms are right. There may well be in the treaty—indeed, I think that there are—a number of provisions which, on strict legal interpretation, would, as many right hon and hon. Members feel, cause problems for Britain just as they must cause problems for existing members of the Community. Some of us were concerned four or five years ago about these problems, and none more eloquently or with greater authority than the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), who outlined many specific references in the treaty.

This, I think, in a sense, is one of the changes that has taken place. In judging a written constitution, it is more important to examine the way in which it works and operates when it becomes a living constitution—to examine the practices which have grown up under it and the manner in which those who have to operate it do operate it, to examine the common law, as it were, rather than the statute law—than to be obsessed by perhaps literal interpretations of the original constitution and its wording.

As far as the Treaty of Rome is concerned, it is a question of convention and the way in which it has worked or looks like working, and this is of great importance for us. Four years ago, we had much less experience of these things and perhaps we could not—certainly not all of us—have foreseen that it would develop in this way.

Then again of importance—and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition quite fairly referred to this—there was the Luxembourg compromise, which was reached early this year. That is highly relevant to any assessment of how the constitution really works rather than, as I have said, basing oneself on the literal interpretation of the wording. The Luxembourg compromise is not part of the treaty, but it is of the greatest importance to anyone who seeks to examine the way in which the Community, with or without Britain, is likely to operate in future.

Then again, some of us expressed anxieties—I did myself—in the closing weeks of the earlier negotiations on voting provisions. This was a matter on which I do not think the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition had reached final agreement. It worried many of us because, on a strict reading of the treaty, the relevant clauses could be very difficult for Britain or any other member of the Community even where vital national interests were concerned. Here again, it is relevant to take account of the Luxembourg compromise.

Of course, it is right for the House to draw a distinction between what we might have had in those years, the Six plus Britain, or perhaps plus one or two other countries as well, and what now appears to be a possibility of great value to Britain and also of great value to E.E.C., namely, the fact that a considerably larger Community might emerge as a result of the possible willingness of E.F.T.A. countries to seek to negotiate round about the same time. How many E.F.T.A. countries will feel willing to enter into these negotiations is a matter upon which we may be clearer after the E.F.T.A. conference which is due to be held early next month.

Certainly, and I am here referring to the right hon. Gentleman's question, if Britain is to find conditions which will justify our entering into negotiations, we for our part would very much hope that as many as possible of the E.F.T.A. countries would also find it possible to enter preliminary negotiations as well, whether for full membership or association under Article 238.

I would feel that one of the most difficult problems of all as it seemed three or four years ago, the problem which was one of the famous five conditions, namely, the position of E.F.T.A. neutral countries, looks to be very much changed compared with three or four years ago, while not discounting the importance of the point made by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon about E.F.T.A. neutrals. What this would mean if other E.F.T.A. countries came in—and there has been a very big change in the attitudes of individual countries of E.F.T.A. to E.E.C.—is that there would have to be changes in the Treaty of Rome and consequential amendments, to put it that way; what I called last week the necessary adjustments consequent on the accession of a new member.

But this has a high degree of relevance to the problem to which I referred, the problem of majority voting and the question of the two-thirds majority. I am not here suggesting—it is the last thing that I want to suggest—that there should be any question of E.F.T.A. countries entering the Common Market as a bloc always expected to vote the same way, providing one another with what has become familiar in another context as the blocking third. That is not the way in which we would look at it, and I do not think that it would be productive of benefit for either the Community, or ourselves if we become a member, or for our E.F.T.A. partners if they do.

But what might easily develop—and this would be very healthy—if we moved into a phase of majority voting would be a regular practice of cross-voting, as it might be called, between the original E.F.T.A. members and the original E.E.C. members, the partners changing on particular issues. This, I am sure, would be to strengthen and not weaken the Community and, therefore, some of my anxieties about voting of three or four years ago seem very much less now than they did then.

It is considerations such as this which enabled me last week, on behalf of my right hon. Friends—and I think that this has been recognised by most commentators both inside and outside the House as basic to what I said last week—to say: … the Treaty of Rome is not in itself or necessarily an impediment. … It need not be an obstacle if our problems can be dealt with satisfactorily, whether through adaptations of the arrangements made under the treaty or in any other acceptable manner."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1966; Vol. 735, c. 1546.] The Leader of the Opposition said today that we must be prepared to make it clear that we accepted the treaty and that we accepted arrangements, made since the treaty was signed, under the treaty, particularly for the agricultural programme—and he stressed this and very fairly said, showing more realism than his right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire, that it might be right to wait until the exchanges of the next three or four months were completed. What I have said, and what right hon. and hon. Members have said, about the Treaty of Rome was right, and I think that it was right for us to say what we have said at this stage. But I think that many hon. Members will feel, when they consider this further, that another of the basic points raised, for example, by the right hon. Member for Barnet and many other speakers, is that about matters affecting agriculture, which are of the very essence, the very warp and woof of the discussions which we shall be entering into. But it is much too early for us in the House or elsewhere to enter into any categorical declarations.

The right hon. Gentleman himself said that while, during the negotiations in which he was engaged three or four years ago, the structural basis of the agricultural programme was not called in question by him at the time—even though it scarcely existed and was only an embryo—he felt it right then to propose a number of supplementary provisions, for example, those which we often debated in those days, about the agricultural position of the Community as a whole and of member countries of the Community.

Of course, these questions could at the end of the day be expected to have a big effect on prices, levies and trade. But, at any rate, the right hon. Gentleman made one valuable point, that there is room for discussion. That is what he said. But he must not expect us necessarily to accept that where he has drawn the line as to what is negotiable or not negotiable must be accepted for the future as he thought it right to accept three or four years ago, although I do not for a moment underrate the enormous importance attached by E.E.C. members to the structure of the agricultural programme of the Community.

As I made clear in an Answer last week, and as my right hon. Friend made clear again this afternoon, it would be wrong for us to underrate the implications for us of the agricultural policy, at any rate at present prices. I have given the best estimates we can give about them, although I made clear, and my right hon. Friend underlined today, that any such estimates must be qualified by future movement in the prices fixed by the Community as well as future movements in world prices.

I hope that the House will agree that it would be most unwise and inimical to the common purpose which so many of us have expressed in this debate if I were to be drawn further or pressed into conducting pre-negotiations in the House with hon. Members, none of whom, however authoritative and experienced, claims to be speaking on behalf of those with whom we shall be having the exchanges. I believe, as I have said, that their interpretation of the points to which importance will be attached by the countries which we shall be visiting was extremely illuminating and helpful, particularly what the right hon. Gentleman said today.

If I were to state in detail our position on all the important issues, and what those issues are—and some of them were fairly outlined by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary yesterday—I think that one thing would be certain. Suppose that I were to respond to the question which I have been asked, "Exactly what is your sticking point on agriculture? What are you prepared to negotiate?" I think that our friends with whom we shall be shortly negotiating would inevitably say, "Thank you very much. You have been carried so far by the House of Commons. Now we will start the real negotiations and see how much further you can go". I should not have a lot of respect for them if I did not think that this was likely. The right hon. Gentleman said today that they would be concerned with their interests as we must be concerned with ours.

During the previous negotiations, the Leader of the Opposition made this very plain. We remember that he used to come to the House and give us helpful information every time he came back from a fresh round of negotiations in Brussels. He told us as much as he thought it right to tell us having regard to the progress of the negotiations. Time and again he refused to make available to the House what he had already said to the Community, particularly his opening statement. We pressed him very hard on this, and he said, "No". Finally, it leaked abroad, certainly through no fault or responsibility of his, and he had to give it to the House.

The right hon. Gentleman took the view up to then that something he had already said in Brussels should not be published. How much more, therefore, would he have taken the view before he had said something in negotiation that it would be wrong to be drawn on it and to say exactly in the House where he might go, where he might give a little and where he might have a sticking point. Although he made these statements, he was always very careful about how much he said and would not be drawn.

In 1962, my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) asked the right hon. Gentleman a detailed point about Commonwealth trade. He replied: No negotiator can be expected to announce in public his minimum terms for agreement on any particular subject. I thought that that was right. It is a fair answer for me to give the right hon. Gentleman.

In answer to a supplementary question by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington he said: In his time the right hon. Gentleman has carried out a good many negotiations. I cannot believe that he ever announced in public what his minimum terms would be. and, answering the latter part of my right hon. Friend's question, he said: … We have every confidence that we shall not be outmanoeuvred in the negotiations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th April, 1962; Vol. 658, c. 479.] The right hon. Gentleman was right to give those answers, and for that reason he, I know, understands why it would be foolish and against the interests of all of us to answer some of the questions put to me by his right hon. Friend yesterday and, indeed, by the right hon. Member for Barnet.

Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)

In carrying out these negotiations, will the right hon. Gentleman bear particularly in mind the very harsh effects in an area of high unemployment like Northern Ireland which a rise of 10 to 15 per cent. in the price of food can have?

The Prime Minister

I really think that it would have been enough if the hon. Gentleman had just nodded—we knew that that was what he was going to say—and I would have nodded back my full agreement with the point made by him.

I now turn to another major issue raised by the right hon. Gentleman. He put it in terms of what he thought would be a central issue in the mind of the President of France. I do not know whether this is so, but it is an issue of central importance, namely, Britain's industrial, economic and monetary position. I do not think that I can improve on what the right hon. Member for Barnet said tonight. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition referred to the money that we owe to the I.M.F. The answer to all this is part of the wider problem which we all recognise, that, as I said a week ago, our decision about timing must depend on the speed with which we can develop a strong and healthy economy, including, particularly, a balance of payments surplus sufficient to meet our obligations abroad.

There may be arguments in this House, of course, about economic measures—and so there should be—but I believe that abroad there is no doubt whatsover about the determination of Her Majesty's Government to put the country right and to get into a balance of payments surplus—and not only about our determination but about our ability. Both the right hon. Gentleman and I, as former Presidents of the Board of Trade, would be unlikely to draw excessive conclusions from a single month's trading figures. But the drive of the past month or two in exports, and after all the qualifications which have been made by the Board of Trade in issuing the figures, imports, too, show that we are moving in the right direction. They show, too, that we cannot afford to let up until our viability is ensured. This is the best answer to the point which the right hon. Gentleman raised.

The right hon. Gentleman raised the question of our position within the sterling area, and the question of sterling balances. I entirely agree with the answer given by his right hon. Friend in the speech which we have just heard. I particularly agree with what he said. These are vitally important questions, certainly to the discussions and to the ultimate negotiations, but they are not themselves mainly matters for negotiation in Brussels. What has been said by the right hon. Gentleman in pressing the importance of this really lends additional emphasis to the importance of the discussions within the I.M.F. and the Group of Ten, and, as the House knows, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has played a leading part in working towards a solution of the world's liquidity problem.

I think that these are not all necessarily questions for negotiation in Brussels, but progress on liquidity and on these questions is highly relevant to these negotiations. I believe that our friends in Europe could make a great contribution in reaching a speedy settlement of the difficulties, and I hope that any discussions which we have on Common Market questions will help to bring home to them the wider importance of a forward move in world monetary affairs.

I cannot think of many statements more helpful in these matters than the statement which we have just heard from the right hon. Member for Barnet, and I should like to ask his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to associate himself fully with what his right hon. Friend said. The right hon. Gentleman can be helpful sometimes. He is not always so. A few days ago he was reported—he will know this—as forecasting an early weakening of sterling, which he seemed to consider inevitable.

The right hon. Gentleman must stop doing this. I suggest to him that he really should listen to his right hon. Friend, who takes a much more national and less of a party view on these things. I think that I have a right to ask this of the right hon. Gentleman, and I am all the more perturbed because his chief adviser, sitting near to him, does not agree. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will listen to his deputy, and not to his much more inexperienced adviser.

I think that there is one text which we could all agree for these speeches—and the point was made by the right hon. Member for Barnet—the fact that this would carry great conviction in Europe and elsewhere if it was said a bit more loudly by us all that our assets in these countries overseas far exceed our total liabilities, £ for £, indeed exceed them by thousands of millions. I now come to the third—[Interruption.] I said that in September, 1964, when we fought on a deficit that we believed was only £400 million and not £800 million.

I now come to the third of the right hon. Gentleman's points, which he summarised under the heading of defence and political arrangements. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Peter Walker) can follow his usual practice of issuing three statements from his home tonight. If he had wanted to say anything he should have sought to catch Mr. Speaker's eye.

I come to the third point, concerning defence and political arrangements. I hope that my intervention in the right hon. Gentleman's speech this afternoon made clear what I was meaning and what I was not meaning in the answer I gave to my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) last week. My right hon. Friend and many of us were never clear, four years ago, whether the then Government, in their negotiations, accepted what was a strongly held view within the Community in those days, that acceptance of the Treaty of Rome meant an automatic acceptance of movement to a political community covering all aspects of foreign affairs and, finally, a European defence community as a separate entity from N.A.T.O.

I remember telling the House, four years ago this week, that I had heard Professor Hallstein telling the N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians that the Economic Community was only the first stage of a three-stage rocket, the second being a political and the third a defence community.

What I was trying to say to my right hon. Friend a week ago was that the approach on which we have now embarked carries with it no implication about an ultimate federal system in Europe, or a defence system, and contains and involves no commitments of a supranational character beyond those required within the Treaty of Rome for the purposes of the European Economic Community itself.

But as I told the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon—because this has been misunderstood and it may have been my fault—this does not mean that defence is not of the greatest importance in the individual talks that we shall be having with each of the Six countries. All of us here have a common interest in European defence, and all in Europe have, even if there are still fundamental differences in Europe about certain questions, including some of those that we have been recently discussing in N.A.T.O. Our view is that Europe must play its full part within our collective alliance without hiving itself off into a separate defence community. I think that that it what the right hon. Gentleman meant.

It would be a great mistake to go into details now about everything that we shall be discussing in the separate European capitals. I listened intently to the right hon. Gentleman today to hear what he was really suggesting about this. He began by saying that in his time—in the negotiations four years ago—two views were held about the political and defence issues. They were what he called the view of the Five plus ourselves and the view of France.

I was not too sure from what the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon how far he had shifted his position to a point where he would now feel closer to the French position than that of the Five. I was not sure whether he was suggesting that on all these defence matters we should accept—or get very much closer to—the French view, so as to avoid what he must have felt as the very great tragedy of January, 1963. He said then, and he said again this afternoon, that the French Government's decision at that time was political in character. I was not clear this afternoon whether he felt that to avoid a repetition we should get very much closer to established French views on defence and state our position before we go to Paris.

Suggestions seem to have been coming in the past week from, I feel, Conservative quarters, that a major change in international nuclear policy will be required. It is even being suggested in some quarters that it is becoming Conservative policy that we should move from our existing nuclear relationship with the United States—the nuclear dependence that we inherited from right hon. Gentlemen opposite—to a position of closer nuclear relationship with France.

There has even been talk—and we should like to hear the right hon. Gentleman's position on this—of an Anglo-French nuclear deterrent. I agree with what the right hon. Member for Barnet said about the question of a separate nuclear deterrent in Europe, which we believe would be a fundamental danger to any hope of understanding with the East and a divisive and weakening factor within N.A.T.O.

There was one other thing about which I was not clear, but in which most of us were extremely interested. His own profession of European faith and the reasons which he had for it, towards the end of the speech, I thought, was very moving. We could almost hear the wind whistling through those hectares of high-priced wheat when he mentioned them. It was interesting, too, that he was talking about the need for high wheat prices in Europe as compared to what he thought were the exceptionally low prices in Canada and Australia. He talked of these things not as one of the prices which we might have to pay for the other undoubted advantages of going into the Community, but, as my right hon. Friend said, he seemed to regard them almost as right in themselves, that we need high prices in European agriculture as an essential element in building an economic balance between Europe and America.

One thing I must emphasise as we start—as we are obviously starting—with the good will of the greater part of the House on what we have proposed. The vitally necessary condition of advance is that entry into Europe, if our soundings show that this is possible, will be of great benefit to this country and to Europe as a whole—we can contribute as well as gain—if, and only if, by our own efforts, we succeed in building a strong economy in Britain.

I think that we have all agreed that the very necessary monetary and fiscal restraints to deal with the serious balance of payments with which we have been contending do not of themselves provide the answer, that the answer must lie in structural and physical changes in British industry, in modernisation and innovation and changes in industrial attitudes. That is true—I cannot agree more with the right hon. Member for Barnet—whether we go in or whether, finding ourselves unable to secure a basis for negotiations, we have to seek another type of grouping or whether we have to accept, with all that it would mean, a policy of "going it alone".

I have been much less impressed by the natural argument for entry based on the so-called "cold wind of competition". I have never thought that there was much in the natural argument, but many do. I have been much more impressed by the much more exciting concept of a market large enough for our great technological industries to be able to expand and develop. But even here, we cannot approach it in a spirit of complacency. It does not just happen.

If we go into the E.E.C., this in itself will not solve our problems. The British people alone will hold the key to success and even the vastly greater market opportunities for our technological industries will not accrue to us without very special effort and industrial reorganisation. If we are talking about a large market in Europe, we may not be able to afford the present degree of fragmentation of our own industrial structure, which might have been inevitable in conditions of our own much smaller market, but which may be detrimental to the efficiency which we will need to compete effectively in Europe. If we are thinking of gearing ourselves to a market of 300 million people—more than the American scale—we must recognise that there are far too few firms of that scale. In chemicals, there is only a proportion of the total in America, and in steel—I could give the figures—and the same applies to motor cars.

I referred at the Guildhall—this was quoted this afternoon—to this point, that we do not as our object seek entry into a "rich man's club", regardless of the opinions of others. As I said the other evening, at a time when we are having to count every penny of aid to the Commonwealth and elsewhere, it is right to point to what the E.E.C. has done in the provision of aid so far. Total aid, bilaterally and through the Community, has been running for the last two years at only a little below 1,500 million dollars, over £500 million, a year. My right hon. Friends and others have referred to the deep interest of many African Commonwealth countries in the possibility of association with the E.E.C., which is shared by other Commonwealth countries outside Africa.

These are some of the reasons why the Government have decided to embark on this adventure—a perilous one, according to my right hon. Friend, exciting, as other hon. Members would feel, but, as we all agree, an adventure. I said last week that we mean business, and while reserving, as we must, to the Government and to the House the ultimate decision, when, after our forthcoming exchanges, we are better able to judge the position, I interpret the two-day debate which has now ended as an indication that not only the Government but the British Parliament mean business.

Mr. Neil McBride (Swansea, East)

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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