Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Amendment to Question [8th May]:
That this House approves the statement contained in the Command Paper, Membership of the European Communities (Command Paper No. 3269).—[The Prime Minister.]
Which Amendment was, to leave out from 'House' to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
'regrets that Her Majesty's Government, having failed to inform the country of the estimated results of Great Britain's entry into the European Economic Community, have nevertheless declared their intention of applying immediately for entry, leaving substantial matters to be negotiated thereafter, and thereby causing anxiety to our partners in the Commonwealth and the European Free Trade Association and creating the probability of injurious repercussions on British sovereignty and the rule of law, on the price of food, on the balance of payments and on the rôle of sterling in the world'.—[Mr. Turton.]
§ Question again proposed, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. George Brown)
The House will not need to be told that I feel special pride in being privileged to make this speech on this day. We are about to set out on a course which, if it succeeds, will shape the affairs of our country and the lives of our people for generations to come. This is a responsibility which nobody can shoulder lightly. And I understand the mood which leads some of my right hon. and hon. Friends and some hon. Members on the other side of the House to counsel extreme caution.
The issues involved are of the greatest importance. What happens over any one of them could affect profoundly the lives and pockets not only of each one of us, but of our children and our grandchildren. For that reason the Government have done their utmost to assess the economic consequences before making this decision.
For this reason the debate so far has concentrated largely on these details. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has described both the care we have 1505 take in the decision-making process and the balance of advantage and disadvantage as the Government see it. Subsequently in the debate there have been detailed analyses of the main problems with which we are faced in joining the Community. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs has talked about Commonwealth trade, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has dwelt on the problems for our balance of payments and the consequences for capital movements, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has spoken of the agricultural problems.
In their speeches hon. Members in all parts of the House have taken up various points of detail and asked questions on them. My right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State will be replying in his winding-up speech tonight, but in opening this last day of this great debate I would like to stand back, as it were, and explain to the House how I see the broad issues which this decision involves us in.
Inevitably we have talked a good deal about the economic problems that would arise from going in, because these seem —I underline the word "seem"—to be quantifiable. But in all of these it is extremely important not to let the big issues get lost in a mass of technical, detail, and I submit to the House that this must be the keynote of our discussions this day.
The Community is not called the European Economic Community for nothing. Those who founded it—Schumann, Monnet, Spaak; and happily one of those is physically with us today—quite deliberately called it this, and quite deliberately directed its early efforts to economic considerations. But this was because they correctly saw that this was the way of attacking the political issues of a very divided Western Europe, not to speak of a very divided Europe. In making the decision today that Britain should join the European Economic Community, we an; also recognising that this is not only a question of a balance of economic advantage and disadvantage, but, above all, a step providing a greater political purpose for our Continent.
Many of the founders of the Community had, as their own personal driving force, the view of a federal 1506 Europe. This idea has not progressed, and we are not ourselves asked to endorse it. The idea of political unity in Europe does not, I repeat, mean endorsing a federalist view of Europe.
Ever since the war, the European argument, if I may call it that, has always been near the centre of our political life. There has been in this country—we have all felt it—a steady and growing awareness that our future is closely linked with that of our neighbours on the continent of Europe.
To a great extent, of course, this has come about because of a sense of our changed position in the world. The development of the world means that there is no longer a place for imperial Powers. But we, a European country, still have a crucial and influential role to play in the world. And how we are to play it is really what we are considering today.
The opportunity we can now seize is to play our part in reasserting Europe's role in the world and with Europe, to reassert our own rô1e. After the cataclysm of the last war, it was inevitable that there had to be a period of recovery, of building up. Today Europe, if she wishes, is in a position to make herself strong enough to play her full part again.
Our first concern politically must be with the security of this country. Historically our security was centred on Western Europe. Today, if we join the Community, the rivalries within Western Europe which led to two world wars would finally be silenced. A seal will be put upon the reconciliation of deeply felt antagonisms by including as partners in a single entity the principal Western European combatants of those two wars.
But we have all in Europe realised since the last war that the security of our Continent is bound up with the security of a wider area; and needs the involvement of other countries and a wider North Atlantic Alliance. It has always been our view that Europe should be in a position to make its views on defence heard as effectively as possible within the Alliance. The way of doing this is something which we shall have to consider with all our European partners when the time comes. But I am bound to say, with reference to the remarks 1507 of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, in particular his references to a European nuclear force, and, incidentally, the consequences for this of a non-proliferation treaty, that they were in my view dangerous, unwise and—if he meant what he seemed to be saying—not very well informed.
Within the world, and within Europe, there is another division, the one which separates East from West. There is already a flexibility in East/West relations. Attitudes are changing. And the building of unity in the West brings with it opportunities for healing the East/ West division which we must use to the full. The process has already started. In trade and commerce, culture, and in our diplomatic links at the highest level, we are coming closer together.
Of course, these first steps in improving relations between the two halves of our continent have only been made possible by the balance of power between the United States and the Soviet Union, and by the growing realisation in both those countries that mutual co-operation and understanding is not only possible but essential. But there is an inter-action here of cause and effect; for an increasing détente between East and West Europe will bring more confidence in its turn to the United States and the Soviet Union in their dealings with each other.
Together with the Western Alliance as a whole, it is our object to resolve the divisions of Europe in a just and equitable way and, on that basis, to enable Western Europe to live in harmony to our mutual benefit with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. And I am convinced that if Britain is a member of a united European Economic Community, the prospects of success of this whole movement towards détente will be immeasurably greater.
I believe that the same is true if the problems of the developing world are to be met. We in Europe carry responsibility——
§ Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)
As my right hon. Friend is the spokesman for foreign affairs and, therefore, to some extent of defence, will he not enlarge before the conclusion of this debate on what was said by the Leader of the Opposition? Is there any way in which 1508 the Government would agree, as the price of entry, to a joint nuclear command within E.E.C.? Surely we should have a statement from the Government about this.
§ Mr. Brown
I have said what I felt at this moment needed to be said about what the Leader of the Opposition said. I have many other things to say, if my hon. Friend will allow me to continue.
As I was saying, the same is true if the problems of the developing world are to be met. We in Europe have a responsibility to seek to improve the lot of men and women elsewhere in countries that are far behind our own in terms of economic development.
The countries of Western Europe are already doing much, and it ought to be recorded that the Six's own record in this is admirable. In 1965—the latest year for which complete figures are available—the total flow of their official aid to the developing countries, expressed in terms of capital outgoings, both bilateral and by means of the Community's Development Fund, was worth approximately £520 million. I am leaving entirely out of account private investment and credit and dealing only with official aid. Here, therefore—I say this because of what is sometimes said—there already exists a positive and outward looking approach to this formidable problem of bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
We can be proud, too, of our own record. Again taking 1965 figures, Britain's official aid to the developing world amounted to some £180 million, rather over one-third of the Community's aid. But none of us can sit back and say that we have done enough. Yet, the hard fact is that the magnitude of the task is being intensified all the time by the rapidly rising level of world population. The problem can only be met by the co-ordination efforts of countries working in this field. And our own ability to go on providing this vital aid and to increase this level depends on our economic health.
So there are two compelling reasons for recognising that the best way for European countries to help solve this particular problem lies in the co-ordination and pooling of our efforts. The result might then be not just a sum of what 1509 we are each doing, but ultimately very much more than that.
It may be asked, as, indeed, it has been, whether the political objectives which I have set out cannot be achieved in other ways than by using the framework which is provided by the E.E.C. Certainly a number of ways have been tried already, and there are various organisations in Europe as evidence of this. But none of them is enough. We all recognise that. It is clear, I believe, to most of us now that the best solution lies in the European Economic Community—the Community as it has developed after these ten formative years and enlarged to embrace as many other European countries as can and wish to join. By creating a customs and economic union among its members, the E.E.C. binds them firmly together at the roots: and at the same time it provides a framework for effective political cooperation which, we can be sure, will become more and more powerful as the individual members of the Community grow closer together.
To us in Britain this approach surely is particularly attractive. It is pragmatic. It does not set out to try to do everything at once—like laying down the forms and details of political co-operation in advance. It does not involve us in federalist experiments which most of us feel do not arise in the foreseeable future.
But we have already made clear to our prospective partners in the Community that we would wish to be associated with any discussions on political unity at the earliest possible moment so that we can make our contribution to that straight away instead of waiting until the formal negotiations for joining are complete. We will certainly play our part fully in the political institutions that emerge from such discussions.
We have always recognised and have repeatedly said that joining the E.E.C. was not the only course open to us. As I said in our debate last year, for example, we could, among other things, look to some as yet unformulated Atlantic grouping, or we could "go it alone". These are possibilities, and of course, should we not succeed in our present endeavours, one or the other or a combination of them would have to follow. In my opinion, however, neither carries 1510 with it the benefits that would flow from joining the Community.
Let us look at them a little more closely. "Going it alone" sounds very well. It has a good British ring to it: and, at first sight, it appears to have much to commend it. We could, it is said, retain our E.F.T.A. partnership and our Commonwealth trade; and we would not have to face any of the changes or balance of payments problems which joining the Community might entail.
I submit, however, that the reality would be very different. E.F.T.A. has been a great success. But its members have always had in mind that it was only one step along the road to the larger European market which all its members want. That aim is stated explicitly in the Stockholm Convention which set it up. If we turned our backs on the E.E.C. now, other members would not follow suit just to oblige us. Already Austria is negotiating association with the Community, and others, particularly Denmark, have made it clear that they want to join the E. E.C. as soon as possible. And so, too, has the Irish Republic.
That is the direction of the present movement. We are certainly big enough to move the other way, but we must not expect that all our E.F.T.A. partners would necessarily want to do the same.
In the case of the Commonwealth our trade in that grouping is, of course, highly important to us. Whatever happens we shall, of course, make every effort to preserve it, both in our interests and in the interests of other Commonwealth countries. But here also there are changes taking place. We cannot alone meet the needs of the Commonwealth. That is the reason why for some time the patterns of trade have been changing. Since 1958, when the Community was founded, our exports to Community countries have doubled in value, from nearly £500 million to rather more than £1,000 million, and they now account for 20 per cent. of our total world exports, and this despite the tariff barrier. Similarly, our exports to E.F.T.A. have doubled in the same period, from £360 million to £760 million. Our sales to E.E.C. and E.F.T.A. countries together have gone up from 25 per cent. of our exports in 1958 to 34 per cent in 1966.
1511 In contrast our exports to Commonwealth countries—here I am leaving out South Africa and the Irish Republic, who are still part of the Commonwealth preference area—remain almost static in monetary terms, £1,257 million in 1958; £1,328 million in 1966–7; as a percentage of all our exports they went down from 37 per cent to 25 per cent.
Therefore, we can certainly give ourselves no comfortable assurance that were we to abandon our approach to the Community, the pattern of trade would then start changing in the other direction. We might in those circumstances even find ourselves with the worst of both worlds, our trade with the Commonwealth decreasing and the opportunities in Europe reduced. The other countries of the Commonwealth, no less than ourselves, are already adapting to this changing pattern. Australia looks more and more to her markets in the East, to Japan and to America. Canada's trade has also become progressively more bound up with the United States. In Africa, Commonwealth countries are turning to the E.E.C. Nigeria has already reached an association agreement with the Community, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania are in the process of negotiating one. And in the field of aid, it is worth remembering, India, the largest member of the Commonwealth, now receives more aid from Germany than she does from us.
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr (Rochester and Chatham)
Is it true that India was not consulted about our application to join the European Community?
§ Mr. Brown
Consultation with the Commonwealth, as, of course, with our E.F.T.A. partners, has been continuous and full all the way through.
The world does not stand still. If we try to go it alone, we cannot count on our traditional trade just going on along its present lines.
But that is not all. I have left to the last what I believe many of us believe is one of the most compelling arguments against going it alone, the question of technological development. We are an industrial country living by our brains and selling what we invent and what we make. But brains, "know-how" and technological skills are not enough. It is a scale and specialisation that we need 1512 if the prizes in this field are not increasingly to go to the United States and the Soviet Union. Both these countries have a large domestic market to which their technologically-based industries have immediate access. This in turn allows for a high-gearing of industrial development.
If we really are to tackle the technological gap between Europe and the United States, we have got to get together with other European countries and pool our technological knowledge and inventiveness. We are co-operating technologically to some extent with other European countries at the moment. We are doing this with Concord, in E.L.D.O. and in other projects. That I know, but if technological co-operation is to be really effective I believe that we must pool this knowledge and create new technological projects on a joint basis within one market, when we have a great contribution to make in this field.
And I should at this point like to mention something about another contribution, seldom mentioned but important, that Britain can make if we join the Community. We have in this country a particularly strong, responsible and democratic trade union organisation. One of the advantages that would flow from our membership of the Community is the intensified co-operation of the trade unions of the Six and our own trade unions. Some of those who fear the consequences of our membership can take reassurance from this fact, and from the fact that in the Community it will be our purpose to seek to ensure that trade unions have an important role to play both within the Community and in its institutions.
As I said earlier, there is a second alternative, that of what is called the Atlantic grouping but sometimes referred to as the North Atlantic Free Trade Area. This, too, the Government have considered. Leaving aside, if I may, the very pertinent question of whether our prospective partners in this kind of grouping want such an arrangement, let me say this.
We should, were it to come about, in any circumstances be a small country in a group which inevitably would be dominated by its one super-power member. Our ability to influence, not only world affairs but the very organisation of our own economy, would in these 1513 circumstances compare unfavourably with what we might expect to be the case were we in an enlarged European Community.
Then there is the further possibility, sometimes mentioned, that of association status with the Community under Article 238 of the Treaty. It has been argued that in this way we might avoid some of the difficulties which face us if we apply for full membership under Article 237.
I do not accept this at all. In the first place, such a solution would be very half-hearted and defeatist. We should be forgoing a large number of political benefits which a united Europe would bring. But even more important, such a solution would mean that we would be joining a group in the development and organisation of which we should have no influence. We would be passengers on the train; but the driving would be done by someone else, and we should not even be able to decide where we wanted to go. We have never accepted an arrangement of that nature for this country, and I am pretty sure we would not want to do so now.
On this subject I would like to make two further points. We expect to get in: we would never have gone this far or got this far if we did not. I have just made it clear that in my view the alternatives to membership are second best. But at the same time, let me repeat, if we do not get in the world would not stand still. An alternative would have to be found, with all the widening of divisions that this would mean, and all who have to deal with this issue here and elsewhere now should, I suggest, take that into account.
Second, if we are in or if we are out, as my right hon. Friend said and as the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday said, our own success in life from here on must depend on our own endeavours. For all these considerations, the Government therefore have taken their decision. We feel sure of the way we ought now to proceed. Therefore, we call today upon this House to approve our decision so that we may apply straight away to join the Communities. We shall make our application short, clear, positive and to the point. In the application there will be no "ifs" and "buts", no conditions 1514 or stipulations. We shall apply to join. [Interruption.] I anticipated that, if I may say so to my hon. Friends. What I have written out here is that some Members of the House may be concerned about what I have just said. It turned out to be an understatement. I think, therefore, it may help my hon. Friends if I ask them to recall Article 237 of the Treaty. It reads:Any European State may apply to become a member of the Community. It shall address its application to the Council which, after obtaining the opinion of the Commission, shall give a unanimous decision thereon.The conditions of admission and the adjustments to this Treaty necessitated by it shall be the subject of an agreement between the Member States and the applicant State. Such agreement shall be submitted for ratification by all the contracting States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.What I think is too often forgotten is that this clearly means that although the application should be unconditional, entry will be on the terms established during negotiations leading up to an agreement.
In deciding on this particular approach we have had very much in mind the terms of the previous applications which was submitted in 1961. But I think it is generally recognised on all sides that we laid ourselves open to criticism—and indeed were so criticised later on—for not being sufficiently wholehearted about our application.
It is always a good thing to read the record—for both sides of the House. The negotiation, in the terms of the Resolution of the House at that time provided for an application to initiate negotiations to see if satisfactory arrangements could be made. Our own probe, which we have already conducted and concluded, was directed to the same purpose. Now we intend to put in a clear, clean, and uncluttered application.
We have given much thought to the actual timing of our application. The strong arguments were against delay. Once we had reached our decision—once this House reached its decision—we wanted it to be clearly recognised for what it was. We want to join, so let us apply without any further prevarication. This was one argument.
Another was the need to put an end to the uncertainties of our position Of 1515 course, uncertainties of another kind remain and will be there until the negotiations are successfully concluded. But our friends in the Community now know where we stand.
Delay would hold disadvantages for all of us. Both we and the existing members of the Community, for the reasons which I have just given, need to press on with the creation of a strong European technology; delay will only put us at still greater disadvantage with United States competition. But the advance in the technological field, which has now become a real possibility for Europe, requires commercial and economic decisions which inevitably depend on general confidence, both here and in the Community, that our application will succeed.
But the harmful significances of inaction or delay do not rest only within Europe. In those wider issues about which I have talked, removing tension between East and West, and tackling the problems of the developing world, time is against us. Every consideration points to the need to begin negotiations soon, to keep the process short, and to focus on the few major issues. We simply cannot afford to hang about.
For our part, we have done all that we can to meet these requirements. We expect that our application will be accepted and that the negotiations will be begun before the summer holidays. I expect to be able to make formal contact, clear the ground and agree on procedures so that, at the very least, we can get down to business in earnest and without any further delay when work resumes in the autumn.
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
Can the right hon. Gentleman explain what are the lesser issues which he intends to negotiate after entry?
§ Mr. Brown
To a very large extent, these are matters which will emerge during the negotiations. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister stated—and I do not propose to repeat—the four major issues which emerged as we went round Europe. There are many others which we shall find during our negotiations and which we must settle before we can commend an actual joining to the House There are others which we 1516 could leave over until afterwards. It is impossible to lay those down. What my right hon. Friend meant—and I am sure that those who went through some of the agonies before will recognise this—was that we should not get cluttered up and bogged down in a mass of technical detail which, even if we reached agreement, is of no value if the application does not go forward anyway. Those are matters on which we shall be reporting to the House in due course, and we shall ourselves bear them in mind in our negotiations.
Great decisions such as those which we are being asked to make today involve a sense of history: they are more than a commercial calculation, and require both boldness and an instinct for political realities. In the last analysis, our decision to negotiate our entry into the European Communities is basically a political one; and, for the reasons I have given, I believe that it is the right decision. As my right hon. Friend said, it is a decision which will determine the future of Britain, and may well determine the future of Europe and even the peace of the world, for decades to come.
Membership of the Community will neither diminish us nor the Community. It will provide a wider field for our talents and a greater force for the common policies which we shall evolve together. Together the countries of Western Europe can play a part far greater than the sum of their individual efforts, and thus exert a beneficial influence on all the great issues of our time.
We aim to join the European Economic Community without delay. We make this application on the basis of mutual advantage. We hope to gain from membership, but we are equally aware and conscious of what we can contribute to the other members. The opportunity is with us all to combine to build a Europe worthy of her peoples. I pray that this opportunity will not be missed.
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ Mr. J. B. Godber (Grantham)
We have just listened to a typical speech from the right hon. Gentleman in which he said a lot of things with which many of us on this side of the House would agree. We recognise his genuine approach to this matter and his sense of history in the speech which he has made today.
1517 However, we have had two consecutive speeches from that Dispatch Box—the one to which we have just listened and the speech in winding up last night— directed to the same Motion. They were made by members of the same Cabinet, pledged to the same objective, but utterly different in attitude, in atmosphere and, I fear, also in aim.
I gather from his speech today that the Foreign Secretary is anxious to find ways of getting in. He made that very clear. He said that we expect to get in and that our application will be short, clear, positive and to the point. The impression which was left on me last night by the Minister of Agriculture was that he was desperately seeking reasons to stay out. That was the impression which he left on the House——
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Fred Peart)
If the right hon. Gentleman were Minister, would he not seek adequately to safeguard the interests of British farmers and consumers? That is all that I suggested, and I gave an objective survey, which is in my White Paper.
§ Mr. Godber
If the right hon. Gentleman had waited a moment, he would have had an effective reply to that without having to intervene, because I shall he dealing with those specific issues and with his White Paper.
The impression which I had and which many of my right hon. and hon. Friends had was as I have just said. Indeed, hon. Members on his own side who are not keen to get in said afterwards what a good speech he had made. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman enjoyed the commentary from those hon. Gentlemen who do not feel the same way as he does. The impression was quite clear, and I thought that it was deplorable.
The question arises, then, whether these two members of the Cabinet can continue together on the same course, and the question arises for the Prime Minister, too. If he means what he said to the House on Monday in his long speech, can he afford to make his approach with what I can only describe as a dead weight in one of the key positions in the discussions?
That is the way I see it. It is not that the Minister of Agriculture talked of the high prices of certain key foods He did, 1518 and he was right to do so. Many of us have referred to them already on a number of occasions. What gave us concern was his completely negative approach right across the board and so different from the approach which we have just heard. I want to deal with some of his arguments in some detail.
I would have liked and am sorely tempted to follow some of the interesting comments made by the Foreign Secretary, but if I were to do that I would weary the House too long because I must deal with some of the very big question marks left by the Minister of Agriculture last night. So it is no discourtesy to the Foreign Secretary that I do not propose to follow him closely today.
I want to make my attitude clear. Coming, as I do, from an agricultural background—and a horticultural background—and thus from the background of an industry most closely affected by the proposal to enter the E.E.C., I have long since embraced the cause of British membership of the Community.
I have not done so on agricultural grounds, or on the question of food supplies. I have done so on political grounds and the wider economic grounds to which the Foreign Secretary referred. Those are the grounds which first convinced me. Certainly, there may be an adequate future for Britain outside the Community, as the right hon. Gentleman said, but it certainly would be a better future inside the Community, and this is the overriding factor.
The Foreign Secretary referred to our grandchildren. Clearly, he was thinking in the long term, and rightly so. I agree that our grandchildren would sleep much more soundly in their beds if we were able to help create a larger European community—and I believe that they would have better beds to sleep in as well when the economic advantages showed themselves.
I believe that the advantages of our going in are real, but if they are to be achieved then we have also got to accept the common agricultural policy and the higher food prices that this entails. This is a necessary corollary, and it is some advance on the road to reality that the Government now agree that this is so, for it is not so long since they were claiming that the common agricultural policy 1519 could be amended to meet the requirements of this country to a very much larger degree than they now pretend.
Last November, the Prime Minister himself was still maintaining that some wide changes could be made. I will go further back, as some hon. Members have already done, in considering the Prime Minister's views about the common agricultural policy. In 1962, he said that it was an "autarkic monstrosity". But he is willing to accept it now for the wider benefits which will flow in other aspects of our life. We have long recognised what the right hon. Gentleman now acknowledges, that we have to accept the common agricultural policy. But we also recognise what the Government apparently do not yet recognise—that if we are not able to go in, then we shall have to adopt new measures of agricultural support.
I say this by reason of the effect of the common agricultural policy on a country like ours, situated on the borders of the Community. At the last election we put forward our proposals to that effect, and I do not propose to go into them now. But I remind the Minister of Agriculture that at the time he was quoting very freely what he assessed as the total cost of the Tory policy on food supplies. He quoted it at £400 million. Nowadays, in relation to the higher costs, he talks largely in percentage terms and not in terms of the £550 million to £800 million, according to whichever figure one takes. I notice that difference of approach, as have others.
Because we recognise that it is necessary to come to terms with the common agricultural policy, we have for some time been pressing the Government to give us their clear assessment of what this would mean. We were given a few figures last November. The Prime Minister gave, in his first announcement, the broad effects as he saw them. We have had little since then until the last few days. But the new Select Committee on Agriculture did force some further estimates from the Minister of Agriculture a week or two ago and now we have the White Paper to which the Minister referred and which I want to analyse in some detail in one or two aspects. I apologise for this but, in view of the Minister's speech last night, I must put on record our feeling in the 1520 Opposition on some of the points he made.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
My right hon. Friend has referred to the speech of the Minister of Agriculture on three occasions. On an issue as important as this, with effects so widespread as they could be, would my right hon. Friend expect a Minister of the Crown to come to the Dispatch Box and do any other than say frankly and in detail what he and his Department think?
§ Mr. Godber
My hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) feels, I think, that that is what the Minister did. I am going to say that I feel that the right hon. Gentleman's assessments are wrong, and it is my duty to analyse them as I see them and get on the record what I and others think. [Interruption.] The suspicion is not entirely on one side of the House.
§ Mr. Roy Roebuck (Harrow, East) rose——
§ Mr. Godber
No. I must get on.
The Minister of Agriculture was extremely defensive last night. I got the impression, both from the White Paper and his speech, that he is ill-informed at present about what is happening in Brussels. Maybe he did not want to know or did not want to get involved in discussion of certain of the matters.
Our delegation in Brussels is a good one, but it is very small. The Select Committee on Agriculture has been probing the staffing of the delegation, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. In fact, it has pointed out that our Ambassador in Brussels has been asking for further agricultural help ever since last October, and only yesterday one of my hon. Friends was told that the question is still under review. This is six months later. Yet there is need to keep in the closest contact with Brussels and to know precisely how the common agricultural policy is developing the whole time.
It does not seem good enough that the Government are not making the attempt to keep in this close contact, which is so essential in regard to knowing just how the new aspects of the policy are developing. This, I believe, is the key to some of the attitudes which the Minister of Agriculture has taken up in this regard. Last night, I interrupted his speech to 1521 ask about developments in regard to an Annual Price Review, because he was paying considerable attention to this. I asked him to tell us more about how the Community is developing its own arrangements. He gave no effective reply. Yet there is an important story to tell. Why did he not tell it to the House? Does he know it or not?
The developments have been rapid ever the last few months. Although they have not the formalised arrangements that we have, they have agreed that they shall fix their prices annually, all at the same time, that this shall be done on the basis of reports by the Commission and that there shall be a two months' period during which producers' organisations can make representations. The decisions will then be taken by the Council of Ministers. Why did he not tell us this? I: would have helped materially to get a view in relation to how far they are going in following the system to which our farmers attach so much importance.
I find the White Paper an extremely disappointing document. Originally, I was a little puzzled about its authorship. But I think that this was made clear by the Minister himself last night. On at least three occasions he said that it was his White Paper. Usually, White Papers are produced on behalf of the Government, but he emphasised that it was his own. To be fair, he said that he and the Secretary of State for Scotland had produced it He said:There may be arguments about my White Paper, but we have tried honestly and objectively to present the facts … We have tried to present objectively the facts as we see them … I hope that my White Paper has been carefully read and studied by all hon. Members … There will be those who accuse me of being negative in my approach … "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th May, 1967; Vol. 746 c. 1403–4.]The right hon. Gentleman was clearly on the defensive about the White Paper, and I am not surprised when I look at its contents.
First, I do not dissent from the general conclusion which the right hon. Gentleman reaches in paragraph 73 of the White Paper—[Interruption.]—I shall have some other comments to make—that the aggregate net income of the industry could be expected to be about the same level as if we were outside the Community at present. There is no reason why that 1522 agricultural net income should not be expanded by expanding production in this country.
I listened in vain last night for some talk of an expansion of home production from the Minister. On Monday the Prime Minister talked about this both in the House and on television, but the Minister of Agriculture did not. Perhaps he has forgotten that he still pays lip-service to the target in the National Plan for an increase in agricultural production of £200 million by 1970. Yet last night, in relation to the possibilities here, we never had a word as to what could be done about stepping up production.
In the earlier part of the White Paper, there is a very strange distinction in that whereas paragraph 13 refers to that part of Article 92 of the Treaty of Rome which talks of State aids which distort or threaten to distort competition and points out that this is a very restricting factor, there is nowhere in that paragraph a reference to the other provisions of Article 92, which are very important. The interesting thing is that while the White Paper is so selective in its reference to part of Article 92 the Minister quoted the other part in his speech yesterday. That seemed to be a very odd way of handling the matter. It added to the confusion.
This is a very important point to our farmers, because on it hinges a great deal of what we can continue to do through what are generally known as the production grants for our farmers. The main support for our farmers comes, on the one hand, from deficiency payments, and, on the other, from production grants. Production grants must be generally within the rules of Article 92 if they are to continue once we have got in.
A number of them will no doubt be able to continue and I hope that the Government will concentrate on this aspect in their negotiation as an important matter affecting many of our producers in areas which need more help than others. I hope that we shall have a clear assurance that this will be done, and that the full effect of Article 92—both the part quoted in the White Paper and the part referred to by the Minister—will be borne in mind in this regard, because a large sum of money is involved. It is clear that while we should be able to 1523 continue some we ought also to be seeking back from the Guarantee and Guidance Fund of the Community such sums as we can reasonably claim to help in regard to production grants, too.
It is also important to remember that the guidance section of the Fund is being limited to a ceiling of about £100 milion. Therefore, as a country, we will not be able to get a large slice out of it. It would be wrong to seek to quantify a figure, but if the sum has to be separated out between a number of countries there is an obvious limit. Therefore, we must look to being able to continue a considerable number of our existing production grants if farmers in more difficult areas are to continue to farm effectively and get a better return.
Problems will arise in connection with creating a system whereby hill cattle subsidies can come within the terms of Article 92. Another very important subsidy for these difficult areas is the hill sheep subsidy. In this case there is no common agricultural arrangement. Therefore, the provision that those commodities which are not covered need not necessarily come under the effect of Article 93—whereby controls are imposed—ought to make it possible to retain the present position in respect of sheep farming, if need be. I see no reference in the White Paper to this subject.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Is not the answer that the price of mutton will rise so much that sheep farmers will need no assistance? The producers of sheep, beef and wheat will make a fortune, and the other producers will go bankrupt.
§ Mr. Godber
That may apply in the case of lowland sheep, but some hill farmers will have problems. If need be, it will be possible to provide assistance for them. I accept wholly the hon. and learned Member's point about lowland sheep farmers, but many hill farmers would express a very different view if he spoke to them on the subject.
There are many other paragraphs in the White Paper that I could pick up, but I want to concentrate on paragraph 26, which states the position in respect of cereal prices. Anyone who has studied this problem knows that the big diffi 1524 culty will be the sharp rise in cereal prices which, while very pleasant to the arable farmer, will put up the cost of feeding-stuffs heavily for many livestock producers.
Paragraph 26 seems to give an entirely wrong assessment as to what the prices should be. I ask the Minister to have the whole matter looked at again, because these figures cannot be effectively substantiated in relation to the farm gate price. In paragraph 26 the White Paper refers to the comparable E.E.C. producer price, which I take to mean the farm gate price. If it is the producer price it could only be the equivalent of the farm gate price in this country.
The paragraph gives a price of £35 10s. a ton for wheat and £30 10s. a ton for barley. I have arrived at estimates substantially lower than those, but I have also seen other estimates. I do not seek to justify my own figures; I call the attention of the Minister to what appeared in a publication issued by one of our large industrial concerns—I.C.I. It has taken the target and intervention prices and applied them to different areas. It shows that in the zone where the lowest prices are affected it would bring the farm gate price down to £31 15s. for wheat and £27 4s. for barley—very much lower prices than the Minister has given.
Other estimates which I have obtained from Brussels, although not so low as the I.C.I. figures are lower than the Minister's. If his figures are wrong it invalidates the whole of his argument about the livestock position.
§ Mr. Peart
My figures are not wrong. In an article in the Daily Telegraph on 2nd May the right hon. Gentleman repeated the argument that he is now using. He then gave an incorrect intervention price in Duisburg. He has taken no account of the seasonal price scale. He has been wrong in print and he is wrong now.
§ Mr. Godber
I have checked these figures from the Community—about £33 for wheat and between £28 and £29 for barley. The Minister has to substantiate them. He has not got the true farm gate price and it is the farm gate price that 1525 matters, and not just the intervention price, because the intervention price is the wholesale price.
§ Mr. Godber
It is no good the Minister's waving this away. On this whole question he has a wrong basis, and this affects the estimates that he makes in the succeeding paragraph, about profit on livestock, in which he tries to paint a much blacker picture than need be painted, relying on figures which I have told him are not acceptable. I demand that he looks at this again and justifies his figures as those paid to the farmer at the farm gate, which is quite different to a general intervention price at wholesale level. This invalidates most of the rest of I he estimates in his White Paper; I believe that the picture for livestock will not be as black as he tried to paint it.
The right hon. Gentleman referred also last night to milk and appeared to be predicting grave difficulties, though he qualified this to some extent later. But he made no mention of the changing pattern of production, for instance, in regard to summer milk supplies. He must know, as anyone in the business does, that if stimulus were given to greater summer production, this would be much more profitable than the price level which he spoke about. He concentrated on the winter milk, which is clearly the unprofitable aspect, and did not mention the summer prices which would be given. His general assessment was unnecessarily pessimistic, as were all his remarks in this regard.
The Minister spent a long time on the White Paper and I feel obliged to do the same. He gave the figures which we have heard many times of a½½ per cent. increase in the price of food, but why has he not estimated this so as to give the housewife a clearer picture of what she would have to pay? He gave some food prices which would go up sharply, but did not give a clear estimate, arising from the White Paper's global figure, of what this means as a weekly addition to the cost of food for the average housewife. This is what matters to her.
Working on the basis of the figures which the Government have produced 1526 and checking them against a number of other estimates which produce roughly the same total, over an average of five years, it may be shown that the increase in cost of food to the housewife will be about 5s. a head per week. If it were five years, this would mean an increase of 1s. a week each year for five years on the weekly household food bill. This is far more realistic than the Minister's odd figures last night, when he talked of those which would be sharply affected, like butter and meat. If his own figure of 10–14 per cent. in the White Paper is correct, this is what it means for the housewife and this is what she should be told in order to get the fair picture.
This, then, is the position in regard to food supplies generally. Of course, there would be money available from reduction of deficiency payments which could be used to help those receiving grants from the social services and there should be some available from the Government to help the housewife who does not get social security payments. This would mean that it would reduce her cost of goods in other ways while the cost of food was going up. It is a pity that the Minister did not give a more balanced picture. This stems from his antipathy to the whole question.
A final important aspect is the balance of payments. It is true that 90 per cent. of the levies must be paid over to the Fund and, as we shall be importing more food than any other country, we shall be paying more, but the levies equate at present only to about half the total payment into the Guarantee and Guidance Fund. If we pay a large percentage of the levy, surely we could contrive that our percentage of payments on the direct payments are very low. We should thus be able to balance off the harsh impact of our having to pay an unfair share because we are high importers.
This is not a matter of the greatest difficulty. Of course, we must consider with the gravest concern any addition to the balance of payments, but if the Minister's own proposals for increased agricultural production, which has been talked about but which has not been achieved— an increase, he claimed, of £200 million-worth of food by 1970; I cannot see how that will be done now, but it is certainly 1527 possible—it will mean a further substantial saving on the balance of payments which should be offset against these payments for food.
The saving would be not merely on the levy but on the total cost of food, if it is produced at home. There may be some offsets, but the bulk should be saved. This seems to be the sensible way of tackling this and it is regrettable that there has been stagnation in agricultural production recently.
I agree with what the Minister said about fishing, that we must get agreement about fishery limits and access to fishing grounds. There should be no difficulty, because the problems are mutual. No decisions have yet been taken and we can start here at least with a clean slate. I hope that this will be dealt with adequately.
Horticulture's special problems have always been recognised. Not only do our horticultural producers rely on tariff protection for most commodities, as opposed to the normal agricultural support system —there are quotas for one or two, like apples and pears, but in the main it is tariffs—but their main competitors are in the existing countries of the Community. At the end of the transitional stage, therefore, our producers will be exposed to unrestricted imports from their main competitors. This problem may be common to many industries which will accept this new challenge, but there is a special factor for horticulture which puts it in a category of its own.
The climatic advantage of a considerable part of the Common Market enables them to produce horticultural crops earlier and much more cheaply than we can. Horticulture covers a wide range of production, not all of which will suffer. For instance, many green vegetable crops grown in the open here are unlikely to suffer heavy increased competition. They are mainly bulky and of relatively low value, which would make their transport from the Mediterranean an expensive addition to production costs.
Some types of our greenhouse production could compete on level terms, if— it is a big "if"—substantially more money were invested in capital improvements to take advantage of the latest knowledge gained from research. There 1528 will, however, be a large number of horticultural producers who will have to compete in impossible conditions. It may be possible to help, through negotiating longer transitional arrangements for certain specified crops, and there is also, in addition, already a Horticultural Improvements Scheme, through which a good deal more Government assistance could be channelled to help our horticulturists meet this new competition.
Whatever is done, it is likely that a substantial number of growers, many operating on small units, will be unable to face competition with products from the shores of the Mediterranean. The Government must face this special responsibility. These people cannot compete on level terms and must not be sacrificed in the wider national interest. The Government's responsibility should be met wherever necessary by appropriate compensation for those who have to give up which should clearly be paid for defined types of production, and as a lump sum, either to enable the individual to sell out and take up some other form of livelihood, or, if he wished, to adapt his holding to some other production where he could compete.
The sum allocated might help to put him on his feet again, but the Government should accept this special responsibility and discuss with the industry's leaders how such help could be given so as to be fair both to the grower and to the taxpayer. The horticulture industry deserves this special recognition.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of farming, he will recall that last night he challenged the Minister and asked him what length of time he thought would be needed for the transitional period. My right hon. Friend replied, in effect, "As long as possible". What length of time does the right hon. Gentleman consider should occupy the transitional period? Earlier he mentioned five years. Does he consider that to be about right?
§ Mr. Godber
The Minister was extremely coy about this last night. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] Ministers have the job of negotiating this matter——
§ Mr. Godber
—and they have claimed that it would be an embarrassment to say how long. I would not wish to embarrass them any more than they wish to embarrass themselves. Thus, while I gave an estimate of the time that I thought would be required in regard to food price increases—and I suggest that that might be a reasonable figure—I would not like to tie the Minister's hand. If he can get longer than that, all the better. I thought that the time I gave was a reasonable period, considering food price increases in this country.
§ Mr. Johnson rose——
§ Mr. Godber
I will not give way again to the hon. Gentleman. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I have dealt with his question fairly. I have made the position perfectly clear, and I suggest that we now leave it there.
§ Mr. Godber
I regret having taken so long to detail this point, but in view of what the Minister said last night and in view of the White Paper which he published, I thought it essential to make these various points clear straight away. The right hon. Gentleman's speech last night did a great deal of harm and unnecessarily disturbed people on the production side, as well as consumers. He must accept responsibility for that. Why did he do it? Others will, no doubt, be contemplating that question. I am not going into the inter-scene problems on the benches opposite, except to say that it seemed a strange way for a Minister to behave on an important matter like this. I prefer to approach it in the manner in which the Foreign Secretary approached it.
My assessment is that if we go into the E.E.C.—apart from the transitional points involved—we should work towards solving these problems, but also towards a Price Review system which, in any case, is well on the way to achievement. I hope, too, that our growers will make closer links with C.O.P.A., the organisation in Brussels which draws together different producer organisations of the Community, and we should start to work out the practical problems from the growers' point of view. I look upon these as essential preliminary matters.
1530 There are a variety of other matters, some of which I have mentioned. I have indicated the way in which the balance of payments problem should be tackled. As for the cost of food to the consumer, I have given my analysis, and I stand by it. Indeed, I suggest that it is more realistic than that of the Minister. As to the problems that arise in addition to these problems, there are many detailed matters, many of which can be taken up through the negotiations in the way in which the Foreign Secretary described. I hope that the negotiations will not be too long drawn out. Nobody welcomes the sharp increase that could take place in certain food prices, but if there is a reasonable transitional period, I believe that this can be dealt with.
If the benefits, if we go in, are substantial—as many, including the Foreign Secretary, have claimed—I would say that there is nothing on the agricultural side and nothing on the food side that need prevent our entry; that is, given those factors to which I have referred. The hardships on consumers can be mitigated and the problems concerning our balance of payments can be eased by higher production at home; and for the farmers, there will be opportunities as well as problems.
The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food concluded his speech last night by saying:I hope that what I have said will be sufficient to convince the House that we have overlooked none of these problems."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th May, 1967; Vol. 746, c. 1414.]If we are to seek to go into the Community, I suggest that we need look not only at the problems but at the opportunities as well. This necessity was so notably lacking in the Minister's speech last night. I prefer, while looking at the problems, to look at the opportunities as well. I believe that this is the feeling not only of the majority of Ministers in the Government but of the majority of hon. Members in the House and of the majority of people in the country.
I hope that the Motion will be supported to the full. I do not often choose to go into the Lobby with the Government. I do so tonight gladly.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
The right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) 1531 will hardly expect me to follow him into the complexities of the agricultural policy. I have sometimes regarded myself as an expert on many topics and have ventilated my views in the House. I recall one occasion when, from the Opposition Front Bench, I made a remarkable speech on white fish, which has some bearing on the topic which the right hon. Gentleman has been discussing.
I gather from the right hon. Gentleman's observations that he does not trust the present Government. Why he is going into the Lobby with them tonight, I cannot say. I have some doubts about the Government myself, but as regards their general overall policy, I am one of their most loyal and devoted supporters.
I note also that the right hon. Gentleman has thrown the farming community overboard. It is not very long since the Opposition threw the Commonwealth overboard. The Tory cargo has been slowly and gradually jettisoned; and now there is hardly anything left—that is, except to support the Labour Government.
Before the right hon. Member for Grantham addressed the House we had a remarkable spate of oratory. There were many eloquent, cogent and logical speeches made by hon. Members on both sides of the House. Many speeches for which many of my hon. Friends were responsible contained reservations about Government policy in this matter. In my view—and it is only my opinion, for what it is worth—they had the best of the argument. After all, they had no reservations. All the reservations were on the side of those who support the Government. There was much more certainty on the side of those who object to the Government's line of country. I, of course, recognise that they must be grateful to several Ministers who addressed the House, none more so than my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. We recognise that when he addressed us last night he was performing a most difficult and embarrassing operation, but he did it with remarkable courage.
It has sometimes been suggested by the newspapers, even the newspaper which I understand is exclusive to the top people—I shall not give it a gratuitous advertisement—and demands have 1532 been made—strident demands, blatant demands, firm demands, strenuous demands, that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture should resign. I beg him to do nothing of the sort.
On the other hand, if some right hon. Gentlemen, almost the hierarchy of the Labour Government, were to resign, I could bear it with my customary fortitude. If time permitted, I should like to occupy the time of hon. and right hon. Members by running over—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—I am not speaking physically but intellectually, and in an assembly now cluttered up with intellectuals it is surely permissible to run over in that sense.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, in that remarkable speech last night, made it clear beyond a peradven-ture that problems of the most intricate, grave and profound character have to be considered, and eventually negotiated, before we decide to associate ourselves with the countries of the Six. Better to have this frankness than concealment— the House is entitled to frankness, and so is the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs spoke. I have the highest regard and respect for my right hon. Friend. He and I had the fortune to co-operate when I happened to be Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party. It was, I assure the House, a most harmonious co-operation. I should have preferred it to have continued, but occasionally one is the victim of circumstances over which one has no control whatever. But that is another story, to be unfolded perhaps, in my next volume of autobiography, or, who can tell, perhaps by my biographer some day when I have shuffled off this mortal coil.
But my right hon. Friend made one observation to which I must take exception. He said that there was no incompatibility between associating with the Si.x and our devotion to the Commonwealth and the continuation of the Commonwealth. I am bound to say that, whatever may be the view of Her Majesty's Government, that is not the view of some members of the Six. It is doubtful whether it is the view of General de Gaulle. It is certainly not the view of M. Pompidou, the present French Prime Minister. And I have before me the 1533 opinion expressed by M. Pisani, who was at one time the French agricultural Minster. He has been a Minister in the Gaulist Government, but recently resigned. He said:Britain could not enter the Common Market without abandoning the Common-Wealth if she respected the Treaty of Rome.It may be easy to dismiss that as a casual observation, but these are the people with whom the Government have to treat. I therefore beg my right hon. Friend to pay a little more attention to what is being said on the other side—on the Continent.
Then there is my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I listened to him yesterday with almost rapt attention. I was absorbed in his glowing account of the remarkable economic and financial improvement that is taking place in our affairs. We are paying off our external debts. Day by day we are hurrying to pay off the debts. It might all have been said in the recent Budget, but it was left over for this occasion. Had it something to do with our application for membership of the Common Market? Was it the prelude, the overture, the paving of the way? "Look at our financial position. Look at our strength. Why keep us out?"
But when my right hon. Friend spoke about paying off the external debt I could not help reflecting at the time, and have asked myself since: why not pay off some of the internal debt? For example, if there is so much money floating about, what about paying off the post-war credits? Or why not pay some of the back pay to which a large number of workpeople are entitled as a result of negotiation? I dismiss the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a moment—or, perhaps, for the whole of this proceeding——
§ Mr. Shinwell
No, not for good. We have to put up with him, whether we like it or not.
Having made those few observations, I should like to remind the House of the criticism to which some of us have been subjected. We have been called all sorts of names. I have been accustomed to that for many years, and have survived, but some of the things that have been 1534 said about some of my hon. Friends and, in particular, about myself, deserve a reply.
We have been described as "Little Englanders", as anti-Europeans, as being obtuse, obdurate, obstinate, perverse— and, worst of all, as ancient Britons. I am proud to be a Briton—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and I mean what I say. As for being ancient, it is not my fault. It just happened.
I have received since the beginning of the discussion—it began a few weeks ago—more than 1,000 letters, all individual letters. I have almost thought of asking the Postmaster-General to allow me to buy a sub-post office. This has become something of a burden. I have received many letters from people in the country who describe themselves as "Ancient Britons". Some of them have suggested that we might form a club. I do not want to frighten hon. Members, but some have suggested that we might form an Ancient Britons Party—remember, there are more than 6 million of them, all ancient Britons—a formidable, powerful organisation that we might create. In a period of time when there is disquiet about the decline of Parliamentary democracy and the decline of Parliament itself and when many people say that neither this Government nor the previous Government, neither the Labour Party nor the Tory Party are capable of dealing with our problems, there is an opportunity. I might even become president of this Ancient Britons Party.
I do not want to frighten hon. Members too much, but I received one letter to which I direct attention. Perhaps I had better read it. Someone wrote to me:You may be an ancient Briton …I say this to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). I did not make this point. This is the letter sent to me, I assure him. I do not wish him any harm, but this is what the writer said:You may be an ancient Briton, but a heifer usually finishes up as an old cow.In deference to my hon. Friend I shall not read the rest, but I am bound to say to him that, ancient though I am, I am no expert in medical diagnosis and I 1535 wish him no harm. He will be very fortunate if he becomes an ancient Briton.
It is about time I addressed myself to the subject of the debate. In doing so I am bound to make some reference to the probing activities of my two right hon. Friends, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. I have sometimes wondered whether in the course of the probing activities they actually discovered what the French objections were to our membership of the Common Market. I have also wondered whether it was not perhaps a trifle humiliating to go appealing to the French in the way that has been done. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister wrote an article in the Sunday Express in 1963—the Sunday Express, a Beaverbrook newspaper; hon. Members know what they are.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The article said:Next month Mr. Harold Macmillan goes to Rome, His purpose: to beg the Italian Government to do its best to help Britain into the Common Market. It is a humiliating trip for a British Prime Minister, and one that hardly bodes well for the strength of our position if we actually join the Six… Mr. Macmillan is making another attempt to buy support for his Common Market bid, which is not only humiliating but profoundly perilous.Then there is this extract from HANSARD:the impression created, not least by the Prime Minister …That was Harold Macmillan—this is a serious aspect of it—was of a Government falling over itself to get into Europe at almost any price."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th November, 1962; Vol. 666, c. 1273.]That is what I am afraid of, to get into Europe at almost any price. I am not going to follow the line taken by other hon. Members and to retail the process of conversion for which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is responsible. I understand the evolutionary process. There was a time when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister might almost have been described in this context as a reluctant debutante, an opponent, a definite, vigorous, active opponent of entry into the Common Market. Now my right hon. Friend appears as a supporter with reservations and doubts.
1536 I had better leave the narrative of what has happened in the past and the statements which have been made in the past. They are a bit embarrassing. But there is one which I think ought to be read. It is a statement made in Montreal in 1964. I shall not give the whole of it but a part referring to the conditions stipulated by the Labour Party. Apart from erosion here and there, it still exists, as indeed the Prime Minister himself and the Foreign Secretary have admitted, and that should be emphasised. The Prime Minister said:Those conditions were then, and are now, the only conditions on which we were, ….Please note this—or 'at any future time will be, prepared to consider entry into the European Economic Community."Or at any future time", that is now, next week and during the negotiations. Definite assurances, stipulated conditions, firm, pragmatic—we can use many adjectives about this, but that is clearly understood.
I come to what I regard as the crux of this problem. I should like in that context to refer to the remarkable speech made by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday. When the right hon. Gentleman was engaged in his negotiations a few years ago and I frequently questioned him and argued against him, as he well knows I always admitted his integrity. There is no question about that. He believed in what he was doing. Perhaps I should say this. It is something of a disgression but I think it ought to be said. I respect the sincerity of every hon. Member who takes part in this discussion. I understand it. Difference of opinion does not mean that one has no respect for the opinions of others. I recognise that.
I recall the situation in which Ramsay Macdonald found himself in 1931. Frequently I have been asked what I thought of his quality at the time and how he felt about it. My reply has always been that he believed that he was doing the right thing. I disputed it with him at the time. I told him to remain Leader of the Opposition. He was furious with me. I had been intimate with him for a long time. He believed he was right. I believe that is the case with the Prime Minister, but in the case of the Foreign Secretary he believes when he wishes to believe.
1537 Surely hon. Members who listened to his speech today must agree with that. He made no new contribution to the debate. It was a repetition of what is familiar to every hon. Member who has followed these discussions, but of course the Foreign Secretary has integrity. There is no question about that. I do not doubt that for a moment. He is a dedicated European and always has been. He is desperately anxious to get in. He is flushed with feverish anxiety to get in. The problem is: how far will he go in negotiations in order to get in?
That is why I propose, as I have intimated, to refer to the speech made yesterday by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. Before doing so, I want to refer to a statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in answer to myself, when I asked him some weeks ago whether he regarded entry into the Common Market as the road to political unity. He disputed that with me. I have his reply here. My right hon. Friend said that there is nothing in the Treaty of Rome which compels us to accept political unity; there is no political objective in our minds. He has changed his mind since. If that is disputed, I can read his answer.
I can understand that over a period of time, after reflection, meditation and consideration, and after trying to understand the problem, one changes one's view. But this is the kind of thing which, it might be said, is like the man on the flying trapeze. This is an acrobatic feat which we never expected to happen. Only a few weeks ago my right hon. Friend said that there was no question of political unity. Now it is the objective; and I have always believed that it was.
During the discussions which took place a few years ago I never objected to some kind of economic understanding—a reduction in tariffs, commercial arrangements, technological improvement, anything of the sort. We have to live with other people. Multilateral trade, bilateral arrangements—of course; we all understand that. But political unity of the type which some of those represented in the Six have in mind I have always strongly objected to.
I have before me a copy of "The Round Table" issued in January of this year, so it is comparatively recent, on this subject of political unity, which con- 1538 tains a statement made by one of the founders of the Economic Community, M. Spaak. I will read what he says. It ought to be understood, because it is of the utmost importance in trying to ensure a correct appreciation of what the objective is and what we are up against. M. Spaak says this:At this point, a very important question has to be raised. If Great Britain is one day to join the Treaty of Rome, is she ready to accept all the political implications? Is she prepared to pursue step by step the stages which would lead to a united political Europe? In 1963, Mr. Heath was categorically affirmative on this point".
§ Mr. Shinwell
That is perfectly true. M. Spaak continues:and his statement greatly facilitated the negotiations. What is the position now? I must confess that it does not appear clear to me; and yet it is essential that all misunderstandings and uncertainties should be dispelled. If Great Britain wanted to limit her adhesion to the economic clauses of the Treaty of Rome while rejecting its political objective, we would be placed in an extremely difficult situation.I hope that my hon. Friends who are prepared to accept some economic understanding with the countries of the Six, but who strongly object to a political objective such as M. Spaak refers to, and who do not want a European Parliament, a supranational government and the subordination of Westminster which would be bound to happen eventually, will take note of what has been said. This is the view I have always held. It is nothing new.
What is the implication of it all? It arose yesterday in the course of the debate when the Leader of the Opposition made a statement which I shall now read. There was a bit of an altercation between the two Front Benches over this. The Leader of the Opposition said that he thought that my two right hon. Friends were a bit shocked at what was said. This is what the Leader of the Opposition said:We have said that we will support the Government in their application. Having gone through these negotiations myself, I do not wish to see our present negotiators subjected to the sort of things that we were subjected to. I know what is means."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th May, 1967; Vol. 746, c. 1302.]I should like to ask the Leader of the Opposition: what was the obstacle in 1963? What was General de Gaulle 1539 objecting to? Was it some economic adjustment? Was it some matter of agricultural policy? Could it possibly have been something like this—I have it here—the Nassau Agreement? Could it have been? When I sought to intervene in the right hon. Gentleman's speech yesterday, he refused to yield. I am ready to yield. This is very important. We are entitled to know, and the country is entitled to know, whether at the end of the day there will be a deal with General de Gaulle on the subject of the abandonment or the renegotiation of the Nassau Agreement and whether General de Gaulle is going to be top dog so far as military affairs on the Continent of Europe are concerned. We want to know. What is the obstacle?
I will ask a question of my right hon. Friends who have to negotiate this question. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said quite honestly this afternoon that we have friends in Europe— Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and Italy. He left out France. Who is the obstacle? Is it General de Gaulle? What is to be the nature of the negotiations with General de Gaulle? What are they to be about? The Commonwealth? My right hon. Friends are prepared to make adjustments there. They have said so. The agricultural policy? They are prepared to make adjustments. The lesser issues which have been referred to? All these can be the subject of adjustments.
Then what is it that would placate General de Gaulle? Is it in the sphere of defence? For, if it is, we ought to know before the negotiations take place.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will say that these are matters of a confidential character and when we ask questions in the course of the next few months about the negotiations we shall get the same answer. That is the kind of answer which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition used to give to me very often when I asked questions. We shall be told, "These matters are confidential", until there is a fait accompli. We must try to prevent a fait accompli of that kind that ties us up not merely body and soul, hand and foot, in the economic sphere, but which ties us up to some military arrangement about which we are entitled to know and to which we are entitled, if 1540 we so decide, to object. We ought to have answers on that. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman who is to wind up tonight will give us some indication of it.
In any event, does the Nassau Agreement still remain? The Polaris submarine part—does it still remain? The Atlantic force—does it still remain? Where do we stand in the matter of defence? Is the subject of defence to be one of the topics that are to be negotiated? If so, we are entitled to know. I leave it there, although much more could be said.
I do not often commit anything to writing, except when I do so for the Press, and provided the fees are substantial. There is nothing wrong in that. I just follow the lead of many others. In any case, one has to earn a living. Besides, one must look ahead; one has to consider one's future. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] There is much more in that observation than may appear at first sight, because, if we should eventually be absorbed in a European Parliament——
§ Mr. Heffer rose——
§ Mr. Shinwell
No, I prefer not. I have great respect for my hon. Friend, but it would interrupt the thread of my discourse, and I am coming to a conclusion.
§ Mr. Heffer rose——
§ Mr. Shinwell
I ask my hon. Friend not to make the differences more acute than they need be. Let us not disturb our harmony.
§ Mr. Heffer
My right hon. Friend asked about the Nassau Agreement, and I want to say something about that.
§ Mr. Shinwell
My objection to going in is that I do not know all the facts. I do not know what is to be negotiated.
1541 I shall not be in the negotiations, and neither will my hon. Friend. I want to know. We are entitled to know. Even the Opposition, who will be going into the Lobby with the Government tonight, are entitled to know, and I am surprised that they have not asked more questions about it—but perhaps that would embarrass the Leader of the Opposition. We must avoid that at all costs, because we might put him in such an embarrassing situation that, at the end of the day, he might decide not to go into the Lobby with the Government.
I was dealing with a personal matter just now when I was interrupted, and I shall now come back to it. I have to consider my future and I should like to know whether, if we go in, our pensions will be safeguarded.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Are they? I do not know. I should like to have an assurance about it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw says that they are all right.
§ Mr. Bellenger
As one of the trustees of the Fund, I can tell my right hon. Friend that there are considerable sums of money provided by hon. Members themselves and by the Treasury, and these are all safely invested, many of them in Commonwealth securities.
§ Mr. Shinwell
In Commonwealth securities? I am more apprehensive than ever. I must go on writing for the newspapers.
I have ventured to put a final few words in writing. I hope that hon. Members will forgive me for this, but I do not want my views to be misrepresented, and this may happen when one speaks off the cuff. I wanted to put it on record. It will not take long.
I take note of the assurances by the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Commonwealth Secretary and the Minister of Agriculture. As regards the Prime Minister, there is a possibility, perhaps remote, that he will endeavour to extract the most favourable conditions 1542 during the negotiations. But in the case of the Foreign Secretary, who, as I have already remarked, is and always has been a dedicated European and has sincere convictions, I regret—I mean what I say—being unable to accept his assurances.
The principal obstacle, as we know, is General de Gaulle. The Foreign Secretary will do his utmost to persuade the Prime Minister in an effort to placate the General and to ensure British entry into the Common Market, and he may even be ready to sweep all the conditions under the carpet. That is my view.
I suspect that the reservations which have been stated by Ministers are intended for internal consumption in order to placate members of the party. It will be another story when negotiations begin. All the familiar arguments, the slogans, the assertions, the assumptions and the speculations, are being trotted out, but precious little evidence which would justify Britain's association with the Common Market. The people of this country are far from unanimous. Will that be denied? The Gallup Polls are a deception, loaded with loaded questions.
No Government have ever been entrusted with a mandate from the electors. In the Labour election manifesto in 1964 only a brief reference was made to this subject. It was then regarded as a "dead duck", and at the last election there was hardly a whisper. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, just a whisper. It is doubtful if any candidate referred to the subject or was asked a question. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]
§ Dr. Hugh Gray (Yarmouth)
Lots of us were asked questions and we referred to it. My right hon. Friend must know that.
§ Mr. Shinwell
My hon. Friend is so youthful in political affairs that he does not realise that people did not understand or know very much about it even in asking a question. Certainly, no questions were asked of me.
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley)
Will the right hon. Gentleman give way for a moment? I know that he always wishes to be fair. He may express his own views as to the attention devoted to this matter by his own party, but I can tell him that, for the Conservative Party, it was a clear obligation in the party manifesto, and in the great majority of Conservative candidates' election addresses it appeared as a specific pledge. I discussed it personally as leader of the party in every speech I made and in television broadcasts.
§ Mr. Shinwell
If the right hon. Gentleman says that, I accept it; but what was the result? I always try to be fair. If there is objection raised to what I have said, I can only say that in the North-East and the northern area there was never a word said about it. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the same in the South."] The candidate who fought me, who, by the way, was one of the officials of the Tory Party organisation, never mentioned it. But let that pass. Let the question be withdrawn. Is that satisfactory? Does that satisfy my hon. Friend?
§ Mr. Shinwell
Thank you very much.
It is notorious that those engaged in finance and a section of our industrial concerns—this aspect of the matter was dealt with yesterday by the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) in a remarkable and cogent speech—all concerned with special and, for the most part, selfish interest—and, of course, Mr. Cecil King of the Daily Mirror are unanimous. But they do not represent this country. They represent only themselves.
Despite all the extravagant propaganda and the comparative silence of the Press—and that is putting it mildly—the 1544 Labour Party is sharply divided. There is also a minority in the Tory Party and beyond doubt there is division not only in the Cabinet, but among junior members of the Government. I fully understand and respect the enforced silence of many of my colleagues. I take no objection and I merely state a fact.
If the public ignores these facts and fails to make the strongest protests before negotiations begin, we shall be faced by decisions in which the public has had no voice. In the short run we shall, as is admitted by Government spokesmen, suffer rising prices, the effect of severe competition, perhaps increased unemployment, and all on the assumption that in the years ahead, some say five—that was what the Leader of the Liberal Party said yesterday—some say ten—that is what the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers) said yesterday—some say even longer, benefits may accrue.
Long before then the Commonwealth will be disrupted, will probably vanish as the magnificent moral force it is. We shall be tied hand and foot, body and soul, to a bureaucracy in Brussels, or Paris, or even Bonn, shackled by regulations about which we have had no say and unable to raise issues in the Parliament at Westminster vital to our domestic, legal, financial and foreign interests. I must place on record that this represents my firm conviction.
After all the pros and cons have been argued in this debate, I remain a convinced and unrepentant opponent of the Government's policy. I am a supporter of the Government's general policy, but here we must part company. I shall not take advantage of the new liberalisation of the Parliamentary party and abstain. Those who abstain from voting do not support the Government. The only difference between the abstainers and those who, like myself, will vote deliberately against the Government is just this—and I state it firmly: I have strong convictions; so have those who abstain; I have the courage of my convictions. That is the difference.
I shall seek no favours whatever the consequences. Hon. Members—and I say this most sincerely and earnestly—will, I am sure, vote honestly in accord with their convictions. I respect them. I shall not be false to my convictions.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Sir Lionel Heald (Chertsey)
I have promised to be brief and it would not be in accordance with the custom of the House for me to comment on the "resignation" speech of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), made from the appropriate seat. Perhaps we ought to apologise to him if it was not heard in silence. I think everyone will agree that that was because it was one of the most entertaining and happiest resignation speeches ever heard in the House, delivered with that inimitable manner which all of us admire, even though we might disagree with the right hon. Gentleman.
I propose to address myself to the single issue of the legal aspect of entry, a matter about which a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House would like to hear more from the Government before the debate ends. To save lime, I say at once that I entirely agree with what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) said yesterday, which in effect was that he accepted the view, put forward by the Lord Chancellor in another place, that the legal considerations certainly did not justify rejection of the proposal to apply for membership.
It should be made plain, however, that a number of arguments have been put forward against entry which are quite unfounded and misleading. They merely darken counsel, because they detract attention from the issues which really matter. I want as shortly as I can to point out what these misleading arguments are and, secondly, briefly to mention two or three issues on which the House is entitled to definite assurances.
As for the bad points; many hon. Members have read with interest, and in many cases with surprise, an article in their favourite breakfast newspaper the other day with the striking headline:If you're not guilty—prove it.That article contained a number of assertions as to what would be the effect of going into the Common Market, and I ought to briefly mention them. The suggestion in the headline was definitely that the ordinary rules of criminal procedure and evidence would have to be altered if we went into the Common Market. That is nonsense. As the Lord Chan- 1546 cellor explained in another place and as the Prime Minister explained here, the criminal law of this country and the essentials of the whole law of this country are not touched in any way by the Treaty of Rome.
Then I read this:Even the nation's food will change … Your jam, for example, may have to taste like French 'confiture'",I thought that it was Beachcomber's article which I was reading, but apparently it was to be serious, because it went on to say that anyone who broke the Community's rules dealing, for instance, with restrictive practices in Community trade would be liable to have his premises searched and his books investigated by foreign inspectors, who would be entitled to drag him off to a Continental court to be punished without the intervention of any British court. Again, to put it mildly, that is just not the case. As the Prime Minister pointed out, an infraction of laws of that kind would be dealt with as a breach of our law by British courts and enforced by British authorities. Any inspection would take place under the direction of the court.
The writer even went on to suggest that in the Community "one smooth, bland, anonymous system of uniformed law" would have to be introduced, apparently overnight, and he drew attention in particular to Article 100.
§ Sir L. Heald
I mentioned Beachcomber and thought that that was sufficient identification for this purpose.
I was saying that the writer quoted Article 100. As sometimes happens in these articles he did not quote it completely. I will read the article, leaving out part of it, as was done in the newspaper. It says:The Council shall … issue directives for the approximation of such legislative and administrative provisions of Member States as directly affect the establishment or operation of the Common Market.The newspaper article left out the words "by a unanimous decision", so it will be seen that we have a complete and absolute power to prevent that being done. Any lawyer who has read the Treaty would know that this is what Dr. Johnson called "sad" nonsense. It is sad, because there 1547 are millions of people who read this and believe it. I have already had letters from people quoting it and asking me, as I am a lawyer, why I am supporting something which will turn the law of the land upside down. It is not true. I will not quote my reply to the letters, but I hope that I replied in a way which will be generally approved.
That newspaper article is about 80 per cent. bunk. This ought to be said. If anyone thinks that I am being gratuitously offensive about this, I would point out that the article begins by saying:If our 109 lawyer Members of Parliament honour the country above party there is one special issue they must raiseI am therefore speaking out, and I believe that we all will.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
I do not recall having read the newspaper article to which my right hon. and learned Friend refers, but to deal with Article 100, on the approximation of laws, there are directives already issued on a unanimous vote by the Community, obviously without the necessity of our consent. Those are directly binding on this country and in that we have no say.
§ Sir L. Heald
My right hon. and learned Friend has anticipated my next point. There are three matters on which I ask for further reassurance and elucidation. The first has to do with new regulations. We ought to have much more explanation about the safeguards which will exist. There is plenty of provision for discussion and consultation with bodies such as trade unions and employers and other organisations. There is discussion before the Commission, and eventually the Minister can take part in the discussion. No doubt we shall be able to have a discussion here before the Minister goes to the meeting at which the regulation will be introduced. I would like to know if further steps are to be taken, such as laying the Order before the House? That would not be a very revolutionary thing to do, because, as we know from experience, if the Government were in favour of it, they would be able to get it through quite easily.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) is quite right in saying that there are already existing regulations that could be very awkward for us. May 1548 we have an assurance that there will be negotiations providing, for example, for the possibility of an amendment? Amendment is possible, or it might be dealt with in that way, in some cases by transitional provisions. In some cases there are protocols. Can we have an assurance that that will be done?
There is another very important aspect of this. Already there is in force—whether it is a directive, I do not know—something unanimously agreed, which provides that all the members will adopt the added value taxation system in 1970. The Prime Minister made some remarks about this. I heard them at the time, and I have read them again, but with the greatest respect I think that they mean absolutely nothing at all, except that this is something to be considered. Are we to accept this? How will we function in a Community in which every one else except us has an added value taxation system? Do the Government accept that it is a good system? If they think that it is a bad one, what will they do about it?
It has been suggested that lawyers in this House are not taking an interest in this matter. This is not so. I believe that they are taking a great interest. I have the honour to be the chairman of a committee of Conservative lawyers which is considering these matters at present. The views that I have expressed are, in principle, the views held by the committee. I am sure that the same thing applies to hon. and learned and hon. Gentlemen opposite. We are all prepared to help in this matter. If one believes, as I do, that we ought to make every effort to get into the Community on a proper basis, then we ought to be prepared to assist in a practical and constructive way, not to find ingenious or imaginative reasons in order to say that, given a certain hypothetical reason, we should not go in. We should try to find some workable and reasonable way to deal with the legal problems which undoubtedly exist.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Sir Geoffrey de Freitas (Kettering)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) has rightly pointed out some of the problems about the law and the orders. I, too, would like to know more about the procedure to be followed in this House. Until 1549 he brought evidence on the point, I had not believed that Beachcomber had taken over the whole of that newspaper, but it must be so. As to the added value tax, I recently asked the Chancellor a Question which I should like to follow up by asking for further information.
I have heard most of the debate in the last two days, and all of today's debate, and to me the most powerful argument against going into the Lobby in support of the Government's Motion is the danger of us becoming part of a land-locked arganisation—land-locked in Brussels or Strasbourg. In other words, land-locked in an organisation in which we would be counting our motor cars and washing machines and trying to keep up with the Joneses, the Duponts and the Schmidts. That is an important argument, and if I did not believe that there was an answer to it, I would certainly not be supporting the Government's Motion tonight.
However, there is an answer to this. When we go into the Community the Council of Europe will continue. If we play our full part we will not be inward-looking. The Community deals almost entirely with economic matters—trade, industry, agriculture, finance and so on— but the Council of Europe concentrates on political, cultural, legal and social matters. This will continue, even if the Community is made bigger. The two organisations are complementary.
We can see this if we compare the agenda of the European Parliament with that of the Assembly of the Council of Europe. The task of the European Parliament is to implement the Treaty of Rome, and the Council of Europe Assembly discusses a far wider range of problems. When Britain is a member of the Community we, like France, Germany and Italy, will have 36 members in that expanded European Parliament. We will also still have our 18 Members in the Assembly of the Council of Europe and have our Foreign Secretary on the Committee of Ministers.
If we seek a wider Europe and refuse to become land-locked in Brussels and Strasbourg, the Council of Europe is the key because of the Statute of the Council of Europe. For example, the Statute allows the Assembly to discuss topical questions—that is, anything except military matters. During the last session ten days ago we discussed the coup d'état in 1550 Greece and the "Torrey Canyon". Furthermore, the Statute is flexible enough for us to allow a member State to choose the activities in which it participates and makes it possible for non-member States to take part in particular activities. For example, the Soviet Union at this moment is taking part in technical discussions on patents.
We in this country are, by our history, accustomed to looking outwards across the Continent and across the sea. When we are in the Community we can ensure that the Council of Europe plays its part in establishing better relations with Eastern Europe, and the place to begin is in technical co-operation. The Council of Europe's intergovernmental programme of work provides an ideal framework for 'technical co-operation in matters like public health.
If the Community is enlarged and this country, Ireland, Denmark and Norway, join, there will still be many Council of Europe countries left outside, such as Cyprus, Greece, Iceland, Malta and Turkey, as well as the neutral countries— Austria, Sweden and Switzerland. The Committee of Ministers and the Assembly of the Council of Europe will remain as the places in which these countries can have their say on European problems. As in the past, the Council of Europe will be the link between those countries which are in the Community and those countries which are outside it.
The Council of Europe looks not only across Europe but across the seas to the developing countries. In the Council of Europe we have welcomed speakers from all over the world. In the last year, we have had with us U Thant and speakers from Asia and Africa and North and South America. Our policy is to continue this practice. If I had my way, we would also have Ministers from Eastern Europe.
At the last meeting of the Assembly of the Council of Europe ten days ago, a resolution was adopted unanimously by the Political Committee. In one of the paragraphs it expresses the beliefthat the expansion of the European Communities by the inclusion of the United Kingdom and other countries is essential for the strengthening of Europe both politically and economically.That resolution was endorsed by the Assembly.
1551 Yet another reason why the Assembly, which, after all, is made up of Members of Parliament from 18 European countries, wants this country to be in the Community is our tradition of concern for developing countries.
§ Sir G. de Freitas
No. I was in the Chair at the time, and a few, but a very few, hands were raised against it. It was accepted unanimously in the Political Committee, which contained representatives of, for example, the majority party in France.
Our friends in the Assembly feel that another former colonial Power is of value in the Community to strengthen those who wish to press that the rich industrial countries should do more for the developing countries of Asia and Africa. It may sound strange to refer to the respect in which the former colonial Powers are held, but the fact is that, however one reads the figures, taking the gross national product, Belgium, Britain, France and the Netherlands come out as the countries contributing most help to the developing countries. I am not speculating on the reasons for that. I am merely stating the fact which came out in the debate ten days ago in which some hon. Members took part or heard.
We have in this country a particular obligation to the developing Commonwealth. Certainly I should not have left the House a few years ago and gone to Africa if I had not believed that this was of tremendous importance. But we must beware of the dangers of paternalism and of appearing to be patronising. I speak from first-hand knowledge only of the new African countries which feel themselves ready to run their own affairs.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary referred to Nigeria, which has become an associate member of the Common Market, and to the fact that Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and perhaps Ghana will possibly negotiate to become associate members. These new countries want to look after themselves. They believe first, that if we were in a larger market our economy would be strengthened, and, secondly, that inside the 1552 Community—this is another way of stating the point which I have just made— we shall remind the others with little or no colonial experience of the rich nations' duty to the poorer nations.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
I, too, have been a member of the Council of Europe for about three years. Our friends on the Continent even outside the Market, with whom we have excellent relations, have not made anything like the sacrifices which this country has made on behalf of the developing countries. This country is taking 35 per cent. of the textile products of the developing countries, whereas the Continental countries are taking no more than 4 per cent. I have protested about this at Strasbourg and the Council of Europe until I am blue in the face, but they pass "holier than thou" resolutions and do nothing about it. Therefore, I am not very impressed by that argument in support of our going into the Common Market.
§ Sir G. de Freitas
I hope my hon. Friend will accept my point that we have such a good record that, if they want us in, it is a measure of their belief in our sincerity and initiative. That is what has happened, not only in Strasbourg but in the European Left. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) referred to that a few days ago. The recent European Left resolution said that it was convinced that the entry of the United Kingdom into the E.E.C. will make a most valuable contribution in every field. This was passed after discussion at the conference of the Socialist Parties of Western Europe.
I have recently returned to the Council of Europe after a long gap. When I first went there 16 years ago, I believed, like most members of the British delegation, that a European nation of 50 million people had an important part to play in the modern world. All the other countries with populations the size of ours, 50 million—Germany, France and Italy—which sent delegations had been defeated and over-run and had lost faith in the nation State. But we had not. We had won; we had not been defeated.
However, during the last 16 years it has become obvious to many of us that there is not a very great future today for a country of 50 million people in a world dominated by huge countries like the United States, the U.S.S.R., and, very 1553 soon, China. Therefore, like most hon. Members—as, I am sure, the Division will show—I look to Europe knowing that we have much to offer our fellow Europeans.
One of the problems—and let us be frank—is that in the same way as I said that we had not been defeated, General de Gaulle was never defeated and he is— [Interruption]—this is uncanny, being so often interrupted by Black Rod.
§ Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)
The right hon. Gentleman would never get this at Strasbourg.