HC Deb 25 February 1969 vol 778 cc1287-350

3.42 p.m.

Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)

I beg to move, That this House do now adjourn.

First, I want to express my appreciation to the Foreign Secretary for sparing time in the middle of what must be an extremely busy day—the only full day on which President Nixon is in London—to come here and answer this debate. It is also evidence of the importance which he attaches—rightly, in my view, and as Mr. Speaker did yesterday—to this matter.

The House of Commons on this occasion has not only a right but a duty to seek an inquiry and to try to uncover the events and facts behind the negotiations which the right hon. Gentleman told us about yesterday. In my perhaps limited experience, I have found that diplomatic channels are sometimes clogged; frequently leak; and are nearly always shrouded. Therefore, from time to time, it is no bad thing for Parliament to have the opportunity to take off a manhole cover and see what is going on underneath.

I preface my remarks by expressing on my behalf, and on behalf, I think, of many right hon. and hon. Members, sympathy with our Ambassador in Paris. Many of us know him as a dedicated European and I was personally most gratified by the unqualified support which he received yesterday from the Foreign Secretary during his statement. What has happened must be a bitter disappointment to all his hopes.

Secondly, I should like to explain my own experience, such as it is, of liaison with the French. I had some experience of it during the war, between the British and Free French squadrons of the S.A.S. for months in the desert. I later had the luck to spend four years at our embassy in Paris. I say this simply to indicate that I am in some position to appreciate the great difficulties there are in liaison between the two countries.

I have from time to time been ruefully impressed by the fact that, even when both sides are seeking the same objective and with the best will in the world, their interpretations of words, which they both well know, to be entirely different. This is, I am afraid, a sad fact. So, if I seem to lean towards what could, I suppose, be construed as a French interpretation—and I assure the Foreign Secretary that it comes from no inside knowledge of any kind—it stems from no malice on my part towards Her Majesty's Government, but simply from the fact that I should like to attempt to help the House in this inquiry and to mitigate the damage done in so far as it lies within the power of an ordinary back bencher to do so.

This morning, I read the Foreign Secretary's statement of yesterday with great care and I agree that, in many respects, it is convincing. But it is easy to rationalise after the event; and there is nothing really gained by rationalising failure—and this was a failure of diplomacy. If it was not, if the Government believe that it was a success, it will be for the right hon. Gentleman to explain how that can be.

What, then, was the true objective? There have been many opinions and suggestions about this. Last Sunday, the Observer asked: Is the new flare-up between Britain and de Gaulle a new stage in the Anglo-French war? Or was it a genuine attempt at dialogue which failed? Was it, as has been suggested elsewhere, the second objective initially, and which suffered a change mid-way, so to speak? I am assuming that it was, indeed, the second objective—a genuine attempt at a dialogue. I think that this is the only reasonable assumption to make at the beginning of the story. That it failed, there can be no question, and that the failure was due to a mixture of misunderstanding and misjudgment, few will deny. I shall seek to deal with both aspects, for they are closely linked.

First, the House should note that this meeting or luncheon between Mr. Soames and President de Gaulle was a téte à téte. They were alone. No one else was present and, of course, to anyone who has been acquainted with what the French call the métier, it is a nightmare to professional diplomats when this occurs. Most of us remember the story of Rambouillet and doubtless there have been many previous examples of misunderstandings.

I do not criticise the Ambassador for this. There are pros and cons. If a third person is present, this reduces the risk of misunderstanding. But, on the other hand, the two principals are less likely to talk as frankly as they would if alone. But it is a fact in this situation.

I am not saying or hinting that the Ambassador misunderstood what was said. The matter is not as simple as that; indeed, it is very complicated. The House will recognise that President de Gaulle is notorious for his oracular and abstract style of speech. There were two subsequent accounts after the meeting, as I understand—one written and checked subsequently by the Ambassador with one of the officials at the Elysée, and one by the General himself.

But even the Ambassador's notes are surely capable, as are any other notes in such a situation, of being interpreted with different emphases—even an emphasis that was not necessarily intended by the Ambassador when he wrote that. What I want to know from the Foreign Secretary is: was the General really talking in such precise and specific terms as has been reported so widely in the Press, and as the right hon. Gentleman seemed to make clear in his statement to the House yesterday? For the right hon. Gentleman was very precise in what he said.

I want to take four passages from his statement which seem to indicate possible sources of misunderstanding. The first was the phrase he used that the General wanted "a Europe completely independent of the United States", a serious proposition. These were exploratory talks. The General was talking not about Europe as we know it now, of the Six, that is, but of something very much larger, including the whole of E.F.T.A., and possibly Spain. This is a different thing altogether. Was it so wildly improper of the General, in those circumstances to envisage a time when this much greater Europe would be in a position to defend herself, as any other mighty conglomeration of States or super States would do? Was it really so very serious to suggest that, and is it not to some extent what President Nixon appears to be advocating: that Europe should move towards such a time in any case?

Secondly, there is the phrase "the disappearance of N.A.T.O.", used by the Foreign Secretary. Was this really what the General insisted on in the interview? Was it not that the Ambassador asked him at a certain moment, interjected into the conversation perhaps, the question, "Does this mean that you wish us, the British, to get out of N.A.T.O.?" and was has reply not: "No, that is not what I mean."? I may well be wrong, but I would be grateful for clarification.

Thirdly, I would like to take the phrase that the E.E.C., the Communities, would change into "a looser form of free trade area". Here again, I submit to the House that the General's economic pronouncements, as we have known them down the years, have been fairly loose themselves. I wonder whether this is to be treated with exactly the weight and seriousness which the Foreign Secretary indicated yesterday.

Fourthly, there is the matter of the inner Council of four, within his new idea of Europe. Again, he was talking of a different Europe, not the Europe as we know it in E.E.C. today. Is this not, to some extent at least, a familiar idea? I cannot pin down precisely when he said this previously, although I have sought to, but a number of people have suggested to me that the General has talked in these terms before.

Is it not at least something which the Ambassador, the Government, the Foreign Office, should have regarded as normal, in the circumstances, for him to say, or at least as not an unexpected thing for him to say? This was the first time, this luncheon, for many sad and bitter months, that there had been a frank personal exchange between a British Ambassador and the President of France. A great deal hung on it, and my submission is that the account of the talks afterwards by the Ambassador should have been interpreted in the widest sense.

There should have been an attempt to seek clarification if things were not entirely clear, or if it were thought necessary by the Foreign Secretary to qualify, then our qualifications should have been presented in suitable language. That should have been the sequence after the document was received.

I turn to the trap which it has been alleged could have been behind the General's offer. The fact that he invited the British Government to initiate talks could, I grant, be made to look as if there were some kind of trap. But we all of us by this time have some idea of the General and his manner of presentation. It is not likely that he would regard it as necessary and serious if he invited the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to talk with him personally. As Head of State, presumably he could not have come here. Is it not likely that he would have said to the Ambassador, in his somewhat lofty manner, "If your Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary wish to discuss these matters I should be delighted."? A phrase of this kind could be interpreted as an invitation to the British Government to initiate talks. At the same time, it is not really the same thing as saying, "You have got to start it." It is a matter of emphasis.

I come now to the main point I seek to make, and this is about the matter of confidentiality.

Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)

If what happened was that President de Gaulle actually requested that the British Government should initiate a proposal for talks, in other words, if there was no misunderstanding and the request came from him, that we should put a request for talks, what would the hon. Gentleman say then?

Mr. Hastings

I am seeking clarification on this point. I am simply suggesting that the sort of phrase which could quite plausibly have been used by the General might not have had the same sinister implication as what I think the hon. Gentleman is now hinting at. I hope that we shall hear later from the Foreign Secretary whether I am right.

I turn to confidentiality. The Foreign Secretary referred yesterday to "confidentiality from the public at large." He said that the Government were well aware that the French regarded the talks as within that category, but that the British Government never gave any assurance about the allies. Subsequently, the British Government decided to tell all the Chancellories in the E.E.C. Now, the Foreign Office was not born yesterday. It knows perfectly well that if it initiates statements of this importance in something like six capitals all over Europe, a leak is a virtual certainty. There can be no two ways about it. Moreover, there were 10 or eight days—depending on whether one judges it from the moment the Ambassador's telegram must have arrived in the Foreign Office, or the moment that he cleared the text with the official from the Elysée—in which to think this over—10 days in which nothing occurred.

The Foreign Secretary said yesterday that he could not put himself in the position, and these words are critical to the argument, of "appearing to ask permission to inform our allies of something they had a right to know". I would ask him this: on what basis are the French or anyone else to assess precisely how we, the British, will exempt from confidential exchanges passages or propositions which we unilaterally consider other Governments have "a right to know"?

Is it not possible that the other members of E.E.C., and, for all I know, the Americans, rather than contemplating the haloes with which the British Government may believe they are adorned, are wondering how far they can go the next time they conduct confidential talks with the British Government, and at what point the British Government will decide that what they have been told is necessary knowledge for our allies elsewhere? How much of the current talks, for instance, with President Nixon, shall we divulge? Surely N.A.T.O. will be discussed, probably has been already. There are many members of N.A.T.O. and on the precedent as presented yesterday by the Foreign Secretary we would consider it perfectly proper to impart that information to members of N.A.T.O. without telling the Americans.

This is not worthy of the Foreign Secretary and it is the principal point I wish to make this afternoon. At the very least the right hon. Gentleman could have insisted in the interval to the French Government that the allies must be told and then sought an agreed communiqué. This is normal diplomatic practice. Why was it not done? In my opinion, if we had done that, it would have been the end of the talks and the attempt to heal the breach would have been over, without question; but something of existing relations could have been safeguarded, instead of destroying them, as is the case in the present circumstances.

I believe that there is real evidence, which I accept, of the intention of the French President to restrict this exchange to Heads of State level in so far as it was possible. This is reflected by the extremely restricted number of people, officials, politicians or Ministers, who knew anything about it at all. How many people knew here by comparison? Is the Foreign Secretary able to give us these comparative figures, and would he not agree that the very small number of people involved in Paris at the Quai d'Orsay and the Elysée indicated an intention to keep it not only confidential but on a Heads of State basis and no more?

Is it not the case, furthermore, that the General agreed during the course of the conversation that the allies should be told if and when discussions started? If that is so, what did the Ambassador say? I see no reason why he should necessarily have commented at all, but did he or anyone else say to the French that the proposition was unacceptable, then or subsequently? It would be helpful to know. And is it really conceivable that the Quai d'Orsay and the Foreign Office who were called yesterday, in one newspaper, the two most experienced Foreign Offices in the world, could have got into such a muddle?

On any objective assessment of the facts I submit that a major breach of diplomatic confidence appears to have been committed, so much so that we have to seek for the motive in our inquiries here this afternoon. Was it the result simply of suspicion? Really, this was a most important initiative, there is no question of that, a most discreet and high-level one. Is it conceivable that having got reactions to this vital meeting between the Ambassador and the President and without probing further we should have condemned the whole thing on the basis of suspicion alone? I really doubt it.

Or, secondly, was it another attempt, as has been widely suggested—as the Foreign Secretary knows—to drive a wedge in Europe, to isolate the French; to have our will with France? I am not suggesting that this was necessarily a conscious decision of the Cabinet, but I am asking the Foreign Secretary was it not a fact that perhaps in the existing circumstances it suddenly seemed to be a good idea for some reason or another?

I would, moreover, ask the right hon. Gentleman whether there are not those in the Foreign Office or in high places who, particularly since the economic troubles and the riots in France last year, have seriously held the view that moves of this kind could pay off. It is perhaps arguable, but I was speaking earlier about objectives. Was this ever the objective? The evidence tends to point that it may have been. We in this House need to know.

If it ever was the objective, I suggest that the Government will be gravely disappointed, for our European allies in the Six are not fools, nor are they totally ignorant of history. They know there will be no meaningful cohesion in Europe until this country and France are on a basis of understanding again and they will regard this as a most disappointing and damaging gaffe; and whatever they may think of the merits or demerits of the General's ideas—which I am not discussing—I believe, nevertheless, that they will place the blame elsewhere.

Who can deny that a Europe of 12, 13 or 14 States is an entirely different entity from the Six as we know it today? Who does not think it a pity in some sense that the E.E.C. has, I would say, degenerated into no more than an introspective customs union. What has happened to the high ideals from which it started? From Messina it has descended to a shopkeepers' charter. Pigmeat, tariffs and minimum prices. That is the language of Europe. What happened to the song of Roland—sunk beneath a surplus of sugar beet? If the General, in his own way, from time to time indulges in his grand imaginative pictures, is it so much to be deplored and should we really resent and refuse even to discuss or contemplate his romantic visions, particularly situated as we are, excluded and outside? I doubt it myself.

This is no new story. It was old when Henry II carried off Eleanor of Acquitania. Down through history France and this country have often been divided and whenever we have been there has been no real peace in Europe. But we have both "the defaults of our qualities", to use a French phrase, and they are strangely complementary. When we are united we are as formidable a nucleus as exists in the civilised world. To seek partnership with France should be a permanent aim of British policy, yet I doubt whether after these lamentable events any meaningful discussions will any more be possible between the French and the present British Government. That is a serious reflection in itself. It is even more serious in the light of what appear to have been the manner and conduct of the negotiations.

I hope that the Foreign Secretary can explain to the House of Commons how all this happened in rather more detail than he was able to do yesterday. I hope even more fervently that he will set about trying to do something to mend this tragic breach.

Mr. Speaker

I remind the House that this is a three-hour debate. It will finish at 6.43 p.m. So far, 20 hon. and right hon. Gentlemen wish to speak. Reasonably brief speeches will help.

4.7 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Gordon Walker (Leyton)

The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) said that he had no malice towards the Government, but a large part of his speech was dripping with malice. He even sunk so low as to suggest that the talks with President Nixon would be leaked by the British Government. He said that it was impossible to know the General's mind even when one was talking to him.

Mr. Hastings

My understanding of what the Foreign Secretary said yesterday is that if the precedent is followed then apparently the Government will find nothing inconsistent in doing what I said.

Mr. Gordon Walker

In the light of those comments I do not see any cause to alter a single word of what I said.

The hon. Gentleman said that it was impossible to know the General's mind even when talking to him, but seemed himself to be well-informed about the General's mind. I wonder where his detailed information came from. Certainly, it had a very pronounced French bias and it struck me, listening to him, that he had been pretty well briefed. He talked about evidence which none of us know about that led him to this and that conclusion. Where did such evidence come from? It was very apparent to me that this was a statement of the French case which no one has yet heard as clearly as he put it.

I agree with the hon. Member on only one point, that we are dealing with a very serious situation. I believe that on the major merits of the issue the Government were clearly right in what they did, though I have, I must say. some doubts about some aspects of the handling of a very difficult situation.

The hon. Member said that he thought the General was making at attempt at a genuine dialogue, but it seemed to me that one thing he overlooked was that the General made an extremely awkward proposal to us at an extremely awkward moment. It may have been unintentional. He may be an obtuse diplomat who did not realise what he was doing, though I doubt it. He proposed that we should initiate talks behind the backs of our allies about the destruction of N.A.T.O. and E.E.C., and he made that proposal eight days before the Prime Minister was due to go to Bonn and three weeks before President Nixon was due in Europe.

That was really the whole and sole cause of the fundamental trouble we are facing, because if the Government had refused such talks they would have laid themselves open to a charge of rebuffing France, while if they had accepted the talks they would have been in an indefensible position; and the Foreign Secretary had to reckon that either way the French might well use leaks to other Governments to exploit the situation. We have certainly had unhappy experiences of this kind of rather ruthless diplomacy in the past and it strikes me that one factor affecting the General's irritation, is that, rightly or wrongly, we used first a device which he himself was preparing to use.

It seems to me that the basic issue is that the General put us in a position in which we had to take some action one way or the other and that all the alternatives facing the Foreign Secretary were extremely difficult. This is what really matters, not irrelevancies as to whether the proposals contain something old or new, or whether, as the hon. Member has suggested, the President was philosophising in the subjunctive tense. What really matters is that he sketched proposals precise enough for him to suggest that we should initiate talks on the basis of those proposals to form the foundation of an agenda.

The Foreign Secretary had no choice. He was absolutely right to inform our allies in W.E.U. and N.A.T.O. of matters concerning them closely, but I must express one or two doubts. If the reports are true that Washington was told only very late indeed, this seems to me to have been wrong. This may well be untrue——

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)

I must explain that those reports are quite incorrect. Washington was informed on the same day, 12th February.

Mr. Gordon Walker

I am gratified to hear that. I said that I had only read reports in the Press.

But the second point is more serious. The decision to tell Dr. Kiesinger before informing the French of our intention to do so was entirely mistaken. The timetable was extremely difficult, as, perhaps, General de Gaulle intended. After the Ambassador cleared his report with the French Foreign Office, that left only four days before the Prime Minister's visit to Bonn. There was time enough, but, in any case, my right hon. Friend yesterday did not rest his argument on the shortage of time. He said that we could not give France this information before telling Dr. Kiesinger, because we did not want to appear to be asking for permission to inform our allies.

But there was no question of asking permission. It was a question of giving notice of intention, as he did in the case of our other allies. We did not regard notice to France that we would inform the other allies as asking permission. Acting as we did, we gave France a debating point, which does not seem to me very important one way or another, but, much more important, we gave rise—I think quite wrongly—to the impression that we might be trying to drive a wedge between Germany and France.

I can understand, and I share, the feelings of frustration about the General, but frustration is not a good basis for foreign policy. It may condemn one to try to do things which cannot be done. One thing which cannot be done is to outflank the French veto of our entry of the E.E.C. by trying to line up the other five members or create special relations with them. The reason is that, in the last resort, Germany will always side with France. The Federal Republic honestly believes that the E.E.C. is incomplete without the United Kingdom, but it knows that the E.E.C., without France, would be non-existent. When it is faced with that kind of choice, it has no doubt where it must go.

In consequence, in all preliminary moves of any policy which we are advocating, Germany will be on our side, but, when it comes to a showdown forced by France, it has no choice but to take the French side. It has always done this and it always will do this as long as France blocks our entry of the Common Market. We cannot blame Germany in any way: this is both a natural and worthy policy. It means that Germany does not want to be isolated and unattached in Europe and that it regards as the most important of its policy objectives the burying of Franco-German hostility for ever. But we should understand what German policy is and we should never pursue any policy based in any form on trying to drive a wedge between Germany and France. We will always lose and will always be outplayed in that respect.

The truth is that there is no dramatic action which we can take in relation to improving the prospects for our entry of the E.E.C. All that we can do, as we have been doing, is keep up constant pressure by Government statements and resolutions in all the European assemblies and conferences. We must not let the issue lie down, as it lay down last time and as the General would like to see it lie down again.

I deeply regret the worsening of relations with France. This is a very grave situation. I never thought that the day would come when our two Governments would be openly and publicly accusing one another of lying. The danger, it seems to me, of this, if this state of affairs continues, is that France might itself, even after the withdrawal of General de Gaulle from office, continue to block our entry of the Common Market. We must assume that there is strong French public and political feeling on this issue. If France continued, after the departure of General de Gaulle, to block our entry, we might then have radically to reconsider our European policy.

I agree with the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire at least that the first essential is that we must try to restore reasonable relations with France. This will take time—it cannot be done quickly—but, in saying this, unlike the hon. Member, I do not in the slightest condone the actions in this issue of General de Gaulle. On the contrary, what he did was the basic and fundamental cause of these difficulties. The most that can be said against the Government is that they mishandled something, but what they mishandled was created by the General, and, as far as one can see, deliberately created by him.

Only time can obliterate these very bad relations. We should certainly start to repair fences as quickly as possible. It is, unfortunately, not possible in this debate to avoid altogether saying things which will worsen the situation, but, as far as possible, we should say as little as we can to worsen the situation. Directly the debate is over, I hope that we have a period of silence both in London and in Paris.

4.17 p.m.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)

I find it difficult to be here in the later stages of the debate, when the Foreign Secretary will intervene, for reasons which I hope that he appreciates, so, with the permission of the House, I will intervene briefly now.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) and the right hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Gordon Walker) have made it clear what the debate is about. It is not about the general relationship of the various countries in Europe—or at least only indirectly. It really concerns, and is a short debate about, a specific episode of diplomacy and foreign policy conducted and directed personally and primarily by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary with the President of France.

In his general approach to the problems of Europe's future, the right hon. Gentleman can rightly claim much support on both sides of the House and elsewhere, but, in this particular case, there are certain points which must be made, if only for the sake of the conduct of British foreign policy in future.

The relevant facts which could be ascertained from the tangle of speculation after the Foreign Secretary's statement yesterday were these—that the President of France and the British Ambassador in Paris regarded the exchanges which they had as confidential to the two Governments, at any rate for the present. The second fact is that the Prime Minister disclosed the content of those talks to the German Chancellor without obtaining General de Gaulle's consent or that of the French Government. There is no dispute, therefore, about these facts of the case.

I do not want to labour this point, but it is essential to establish, and at once, that this is not the practice of British diplomacy, and for a very obvious reason—that, if foreign statesmen were to believe for a moment that confidences could and would be related to others, no one would ever say anything worth while to us again. So this must be said at once, and unequivocally, and I hope that it will go out from this House that this is not our practice: otherwise, our usefulness in the international councils of the world would be at an end.

The more one hears of this affair the more it is clear that the Foreign Secretary is pleading that this was a special situation in which special treatment was necessary. He says, first, that the substance of the matters discussed by General de Gaulle and the British Ambassador was so important to our friends that they had to be told of it; secondly, and I think that the House recognises that this is the feeling behind the right hon. Gentleman's mind, that the General is considered capable of setting a trap which would, unless one were careful, discredit Britain in the minds of the other five members of the Community, and that for those two reasons—maybe for others, too, but for those in particular—the Prime Minister's action in telling the German Chancellor without General de Gaulle's consent was justified.

In this, if I may say so with respect, I think that the Foreign Secretary has under estimated the resources of diplomacy, and because he underestimated them he did not use them. Our friends and allies in the European alliance and in the European Economic Community are adult members of international society. They are as anxious as anyone, because they suffer acutely from the hostility that has developed between Britain and France, to see the deadlock between France and Britain ended.

At least two options were open to the right hon. Gentleman in conducting this affair. He could have told General de Gaulle that the British Government thought that they must inform the German Government—and they before other Governments—and invited the cooperation of the General either to explain his own ideas to his partners or agree that we should do so. If the General had said, "Yes"—which I must admit is extremely unlikely—at least the British Government would have been in the clear and given the all clear to go ahead. Had the General said "No", it would have been fairly certain that this was one of the General's long-term incursions into the future of Europe and of N.A.T.O.—something which has been heard often before—and that the initiative was of no real value and had no real future. That was one course which at any rate would have left everyone in the clear, and particularly the British Government.

But there was another course which I should have thought would have commended itself to the right hon. Gentleman. That course was to tell the five other members of the Community that the British Ambassador had had a first conversation with the French President; that the result seemed to be the old mixture as before but that there were certain things that we would like to pursue further in the interests of the unity of Europe in case there should be any substance in them; that we therefore intended to have further conversations to clarify these points that might be of substance, and that if at any time in these conversations matters of real substance arose which showed possibilities for negotiation we would seek the General's agreement—insist, indeed, that there must be agreement—to create the necessary allied machinery so that all the members of the Community and Britain could meet together to consider them. I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister did not adopt one of those two courses. It would completely have safeguarded the position of the British Government.

The impression is that the Government felt that they were about to fall into a trap. I think that they were afraid of this. But surely one of the functions of diplomacy is to spring traps in order to render them harmless, so that the innocent do not fall into them and even those who set them are not necessarily caught. Perhaps the sporting image of this analogy helps me, but this is one of the purposes of diplomacy. One must conclude on the evidence so far that the reaction of the British Government to this initiative of the President of France was too hasty and precipitate and, being precipitate, led them into real trouble.

I cannot quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leyton in his interpretation, because I do not think that the General—and some of us have had experience of this sort of conversation with him—was asking the British Government to break with N.A.T.O. What I think he was asking the British Government to do was to talk with him about the differences between France and Britain on the political economic and military future of Europe. If that was so, there was a very strong case for accepting the invitation, and I would say that our allies and friends in Europe and the other five members of the Community would also have felt that we would have been safe to undertake those talks.

I have one final reflection. Our joint purpose must now be to undo this damage, if that can be done. In a very special sense the W.E.U. is a trustee for the peace and unity of Europe—and in these two senses in particular: it is through the W.E.U. that German rearmament is controlled—and, in particular, German nuclear rearmament. It is through the Brussels Treaty, for example, and not through N.A.T.O., that France is brought automatically to the aid of Germany if Germany is attacked. So it is within the context of the W.E.U. that the peace and security of Europe in a peculiar way lies, and if W.E.U. were to break up we could not replace those ingredients which are vital to the peace, security and unity of Europe.

There is no doubt, and many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen feel this, that French policy during the last few years has been divisive of Western Europe. One must in honesty say this. It has been exasperating to those who have pursued in a devoted way the unity of Europe. But, equally, we have to remember that there can be no unity in Europe without the rapprochement of France and Germany. If there is to be real unity in Europe Britain must come into the partnership not with one or the other, but with both. Unless that is recognised, we may do very serious damage to the whole conception of European unity and contribute to the division of Europe rather than to healing the differences.

I hope that this bitter experience of the last week or so will mean that the French—and in particular the French—will take a very hard and clear look at their policy in Europe and will realise now how dangerous are the symptoms of disunity which we have seen. I hope, too, that the British Government will take the lead in reconciliation.

I have not concealed from the right hon. Gentleman that I think that the resources of diplomacy have not been used and that they could have been used with far greater skill, but I hope that we will now take every possible step we can to reconcile these two points of view, keeping central to our mind all the time the thought that there is no unity in Europe, there maybe something less, if we deal with France, on the one hand, or with Germany, on the other: that there may be something less, but it will not be the unity of Europe, and it is to the unity of Europe that we all want to subscribe.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. S. C. Silkin (Dulwich)

The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) has founded his criticism of the Government upon the disclosure by the Government of the contents of the discussion between the General and our Ambassador without having received the permission of the General. The right hon. Gentleman has taken as his thesis for that criticism two points; first, that the General, it is conceded, probably regarded the conversation as a confidential one; and, secondly, that permission was not first obtained before the disclosure took place.

If the matter rested there, no one in the House would disagree that it would be the normal diplomatic practice to obtain permission before passing on information which was understood to be of a confidential nature. But the right hon. Gentleman failed to draw attention to one of the cardinal points of these remarkable negotiations, and that is, as my right hon. Friend told the House yesterday in his statement, that the General said to us that he would welcome talks between Britain and France and that he would like Her Majesty's Government to suggest that such talks should take place.

I do not know whether it would be suggested that that is a normal practice in diplomatic relations; that, having made certain proposals, the proposer should then say, "But I would like you to take the initiative in suggesting talks." I suggest to the House and to the right hon. Gentleman that the fact that that was said, and that it was an abnormal suggestion, put the British Government in a position in which they had to consider carefully whether the normal diplomatic processes should obtain. If the British Government were to initiate talks on the basis of the four points put forward by the General during the course of these discussions, nobody would suggest that such an initiative, which would clearly strongly affect our friends and allies in the Western European Union and which was likely to include proposals which might even take Benelux out of the inner European council from the point of view of decision-making, should be undertaken without prior consultation with our friends and allies.

I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman suggests that we ought, in those circumstances, to have done. At least he did not suggest, and I am very glad that he did not, that we ought simply to have gone ahead with the discussions and made the request which the General suggested that we might make, without having first asked whether we might inform our friends and allies in the W.E.U. I hope that nobody in the House would suggest that we would have been right to invite the General, as he asked us to do, to embark upon those discussions without even mentioning the fact to our friends and allies of W.E.U.

Sir John Rodgers (Sevenoaks)

Surely it was open to the Foreign Secretary, in acknowledging the despatch from our Ambassador, to express the view that we would not look favourably on the disappearance of N.A.T.O. and the breaking-up of the Atlantic Alliance, and that we had reservations about other points with which the Foreign Secretary did not agree, and then to have said that, bearing in mind our objections, we still would be prepared to continue the confidential talks. Surely that course was open to the Foreign Secretary before he divulged the contents of the talks without the permission of the French Government?

Mr. Silkin

What I have said, and I think it will be agreed by the right hon. Gentleman, is that the one thing we would not have done is to invite the French to embark on these negotiations without first having informed our friends and allies, as they were likely to be materially affected by these discussions.

The question, therefore, is solely whether we ought to have said to the General that we were not prepared to embark upon these discussions unless he gave permission first for us to talk to our friends. I do not know whether it is suggested that we should have said, "If you do not give us permission we will not talk at all." The right hon. Gentleman seemed to be suggesting that at one point in his speech, but is that a realistic way of looking at it? The right hon. Gentleman thought that if that question had been put probably the General would have said "No, you cannot tell them. I do not want you to tell them."

If he had said that, what then? Is the whole matter to come to an end? Are these proposals which, as my right hon. Friend said in his reply to the French Government, are significant and far-reaching, to come to an end for that reason? What would happen if they did? What would be likely to be the result? Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that if we had said that, nothing would have leaked and nothing would have come to the notice of our friends and allies in Europe?

Of course it would, and, of course, the worst possible construction would have been put upon it. We would have been told that we had ignored an excellent opportunity for entering into discussions with France at the very time when our relations with France demanded that such an opportunity should be taken. We would thus have been put in a serious and difficult dilemma, a dilemma which we might not have been in but for the form in which the offer was put to us by the French General. Had he not suggested, for reasons best known to himself and which have not been explained—and I hope that my right hon. Friend will give a possible explanation of the reasons—that we should initiate the conversation, then the situation would have been much easier to deal with.

It is right that the House should bear in mind in this context that, whatever the criticism the right hon. Gentleman is making about our disclosure to our friends and allies, so far as I have been able to discover that criticism was not made by the French themselves until only yesterday. From 12th till 24th February, nearly a fortnight, during which they knew, because we told them, that we were discussing and had discussed these matters, not a word of criticism came from the French Government. It was only after the leak by Figaro that this point was picked up by the French Government and they made their protest.

It is interesting to observe that The Guardian, in its report from Paris this morning, speaking of what is now coming out from French sources, said that the General is supposed to have said that it was Mr. Soames who suggested secret Franco-British conversations. The report continues: General de Gaulle observed that he would have nothing to say on this matter until the British Government presented concrete proposals, but if that were done the other European capitals must be informed. That is what is coming out from France now as an explanation of their attitude and as a condemnation of what has been reported to the British Government as being the substance of the conversation. If they are saying that the General's attitude would have been that European capitals must be informed before concrete proposals were put before them, how can the British Government be criticised by right hon. and hon. Members opposite for doing that very thing?

Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)

Surely the question at issue is not whether the French have behaved with duplicity, of which they are capable, but that the charge against the Government is that, the French having behaved with possible duplicity, the Government have reacted, at best, with incompetence and, at worst, with some duplicity of their own?

Mr. Silkin

The hon. Gentleman completely misunderstands what I have been saying. I have not accused anybody of behaving in this matter with duplicity. Indeed, I am prepared to assume that there was no question of a trap and that the General fully intended to open negotiations.

What I say is that the General did it in an abnormal and peculiar way, and that I can understand why he may have adopted that course. It may have been to save his own face with the French public, or some reason of that kind. None the less, he did so. Faced with the way in which the General had conducted these negotiations, the British Government were put in a very difficult diplomatic position and their decision, in those circumstances, to inform their allies before initiating conversations, as requested by the General was perfectly proper. I hope that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will accept that that is a reasonable way of looking at the situation.

I entirely agree, now that this incident has taken place, that it is of paramount importance that everything possible should be done to repair the damage, no matter from where the damage was sparked off.

I should like to refer to what the President of the Assembly of the Western European Union said on Thursday, 20th February, when opening the second part of the Fourteenth Session. I do so with more consciousness of its importance, because later that day the Assembly, by an overwhelming majority, despite the abstention of some British Conservative members—and I regret that the Conservative delegation was split on this issue—accepted the British initiative in trying to get talks in W.E.U. on matters of common importance and calling upon the French to respond to that initiative.

The President said that … the bitterness of the protests and differences sparked off by this incident"— he was referring to the meeting in London of the Western European Union Council— is due only to the degree of mistrust which prevails among our Governments. Because of our concern over this crisis, we address an appeal to France. Recalling the decisive role it has played in the European cause, we ask it not to pursue the expression of its discontent to the point of endangering the building of Europe. … It is therefore our wish that no time be lost in starting a direct, frank and detailed discussion between two partners who, at the present juncture, are only too inclined to consider each other as opponents, whereas everything should draw them together. We consider that the need for this reconciliation is the greater since good understanding between all members of the Council is essential to the operation of this body. Those words could be applied in toto to the present situation. It is not only to the functioning of the Western European Union and, indeed, all the existing European organisations, all of which I believe we should use for this purpose, that this reconciliation is essential. It is essential to the whole progress of European unity.

I should like to draw the attention of the House and of my right hon. Friend, in particular, to one last point. Whatever we may think about some aspects of the General's proposals—and some of them are clearly not possible in the short term, however desirable they may be in the long term—it is abundantly clear that they are founded upon a fundamental concept with which we entirely agree, namely, that we and France and the nations of Europe as a whole should be working to the time when an independent, strong Europe is able to stand upon its own feet.

I believe that in that sense we should respond to the General's initiative. I hope that these unfortunate diplomatic events will not stand in the way of the Government pursuing that initiative as far as it can be pursued in present times.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. Sandys (Streatham)

Like the hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin), I feel that it is important that those taking part in this debate should say nothing which will make it more difficult to heal the unhappy rift with France. Nevertheless, we must examine the situation which has developed.

First, I think that we must try to form an opinion about the significance of what the President of France said to the British Ambassador. It seems to be agreed that the President outlined his thoughts about the future of N.A.T.O. and Europe. There is no doubt that General de Gaulle had said most of this before. Though we have not yet got any very precise information, it seems that in certain respects his remarks went further and were more precise than his earlier public statements. I hope that when the Foreign Secretary replies he will be able to give us more information on this point, because we have been left rather in the dark.

It is also agreed—and this is important—that General de Gaulle did not put forward any formal proposals for talks with the British Government. He seems to have confined himself to saying that if the British Government were interested in his ideas, and wished to discuss them with the French Government, this would be very welcome in Paris. Thus, he clearly put the ball into the British Government's court and left them to decide whether or not to ask for talks.

This was hardly a warm or pressing invitation. Nevertheless, in view of the prolonged deadlock between the two countries over European affairs, it is understandable that the British Government should wish to respond to any invitation, however vague and indirect, to talk things over with the French Government. It is to the credit of our Ambassador that he secured this slight move in the right direction.

Even if the propositions put forward by General de Gaulle appeared unacceptable, there was obvious advantage in seizing any opportunity which offered itself to reopen a dialogue. On the other hand, there was an obvious danger that the opening of secret talks, as they would have been called, between London and Paris would raise suspicions in other European capitals. This was undoubtedly a difficult and delicate situation. But the British Government could certainly have handled it more cleverly.

It has been suggested that the President was not seriously interested in having talks with the British Government and that his reference to this possibility was merely a polite way of ending the conversation with the British Ambassador. That is clearly not the impression gained by the Ambassador.

It is unfortunate that important talks of this kind should take place with only two people present, one of whom is rather sphinx-like and usually never expresses his opinion except through third parties. That is one of the difficulties in checking the accuracy of the reports and counter-reports which are being issued.

Assuming that General de Gaulle genuinely wanted talks with Britain, it is a little hard to believe that he seriously hoped to persuade the British Government to come round to his point of view on N.A.T.O. and on European union which would undoubtedly involve a complete reversal of our policy.

Alternatively, it has been suggested by less charitable commentators that the President's purpose was deliberately to compromise Britain's relations with the other members of the European community by giving the impression that we were negotiating with France behind their backs. I do not claim to know what was in the General's mind, but I entirely reject the imputation of bad faith. Whatever one may think of his policies he is, if nothing else, a man of honour.

But, of course, all this has now been submerged in the row over the diplomatic propriety or otherwise of telling other Governments what the President said in a confidential talk with the British Ambassador. There is no doubt in my mind—and I say this with regret—that the Foreign Secretary slipped up most seriously. It is always easy to be wise after the event. But it is quite clear that, immediately on receipt of the Ambassador's report, a written communication should have been sent by the British Government to the French Government in order to get something on the record.

That would have served three purposes. First, to restate the Ambassador's understanding of the ideas put forward by the President and to ask for formal confirmation of them. Secondly, to make it clear that, while the British Government would be happy to have talks with the French Government, they must point out that their views on N.A.T.O. and the Common Market had not changed. Thirdly, to inform the French Government that, since the issues raised were ones which were of general concern, they felt it their duty to inform other allied Governments.

There could, of course, be no question of the Prime Minister going to Bonn without saying anything about this to the German Chancellor who would, when he heard about it later, inevitably have felt that the British Government had been less than frank with him. But there was plenty of time between the Ambassador's meeting with President de Gaulle and the visit of the Prime Minister to Bonn. It is a mystery why there was no communication by the British to the French Government during that period. The French Government cannot, therefore, reasonably reproach the Prime Minister for informing Dr. Kiesinger of what had taken place in Paris. But they undoubtedly can claim that the British Government had a duty to tell them of their intention in advance.

If the Foreign Secretary had written to the French Government, as I have suggested, they might have reacted in one of two ways.

Either they might have asserted, as they are now doing, that the President's remarks contained virtually nothing new and that, therefore, no undue significance should be attached to the meeting. In that case we would have heard nothing more about this whole affair. Alternatively, they might have confirmed the Ambassador's account of what the President had said, possibly with some modifications, which would have established what had been said. At present, we are without any officially agreed record.

However, there is no doubt that whether the French Government had been warned in advance or, as it happened, had been told afterwards, they would have objected strongly to the decision of the British Government to tell other Governments about what the President had said. But Britain—and here I must agree with the Government—was bound to keep her allies informed. Therefore, even if diplomatic conventions had been properly observed—and they could hardly have been worse observed—there is no reason to believe that an explosion in Paris would have been avoided.

This unhappy affair has inevitably become linked with the disagreement between France and the six other members of Western European Union. The British Government and the Governments of our five partners are in my opinion rightly trying, within the framework of W.E.U. to establish the practice of regular consultation on international affairs and in this way to bring Britain into closer relationship with the other nations of Western Europe.

After General de Gaulle's first veto on Britain's entry into the Common Market in 1963, the then British Government endeavoured to develop contacts with the other five through W.E.U. Largely owing to French pressure in Bonn, this came to nothing. After the second veto, the present British Government reverted to the same idea. For a while some of the other Governments concerned were hesitant. But their impatience has gradually been mounting. This was made clear at the Parliamentary Congress at The Hague last November. There, one Foreign Minister after another emphasised that, while nobody wished to isolate France, it was not tolerable that one country which wished to stand still, should hold back six others which wished to go forward.

The then Italian Foreign Minister was particularly insistent on this; and it was his successor Signor Nenni who, the other day, put forward the plan which was adopted by six out of the seven W.E.U. Governments at the recent meeting in Luxembourg. As has been said by the hon. and learned Member for Dulwich, the Parliamentary Assembly of W.E.U. in Paris last week, with the exception of the Gaullist members, expressed its wholehearted approval of the Luxembourg decision.

As we know, General de Gaulle is again putting pressure on Chancellor Kiesinger, in an effort to persuade him to withdraw from these consultations. We cannot say what the outcome will be. But we can at least assure Her Majesty's Government and the Governments of the other five countries of our firm support for the efforts that they are making to promote by every means possible the unity of Europe and the strength of N.A.T.O.

4.58 p.m.

Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)

No one can doubt that this is an unhappy occasion, and I think that everyone will welcome the measured tones in which those who have contributed to the debate so far have spoken. No one will seek to pour oil on the flames, and everyone will hope that at the end of the debate it will be possible to resume the old Anglo-French friendship which has been the cornerstone of civilised European co-operation in the 20th century.

It is true that this friendship has from time to time been submitted to various strains, but I think it is true to say that since the old imperial tensions between the two countries they have been able to work together with sympathy and with understanding. I hope that the current row, which has a somewhat old-fashioned air which recalls Fashoda rather than the post-war reconstruction period when Frenchmen helped to build the new Europe, will soon be past, and that we will resume the kind of cooperation which has marked Anglo-French relations in the past 23 years.

What is the origin of the present dispute? It is important to be frank on this. I believe that it is basically General de Gaulle's resentment at Britain's insistence on participating in Europe. Two hundred years have passed since Napoleon's birth, but President de Gaulle still insists on maintaining the Emperor's dictum that Britain is the enemy of Europe. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has very properly affirmed that we not only have the right to participate in Europe's affairs but that we intend to exercise it.

The right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) has properly pointed out that this is not a single crisis but a double crisis which has been going on at different levels. The first crisis, the one which was overt and which those of us who are members of the Assembly of the W.E.U. observed last week, was the dispute about Britain's right to use Western European Union as forum for political consultations, and to develop it as a centre where matters of political concern to Europe could be discussed and a European voice could be concerted.

After the Foreign Secretary had convened the London meeting of the W.E.U. Council, his proposal was promptly attacked by the French, ostensibly on juridical grounds but basically, I believe, on political grounds. The juridical grounds were that under the Statute of the Council, particularly Clause 8, paragraph 2, which provides for a continuing discussion within the Council of European affairs in matters affecting W.E.U., it was not constitutionally possible for an extraordinary meeting to be held.

Then there was the insistence that if it was not possible to hold the meeting under Clause 8, paragraph 2, it was possible under the emergency rôle attributed to the Council through Clause 8, paragraph 3. When that argument was put forward, it was again urged that Britain had acted ultra vires in seeking to convene the Council. Indeed, M. Krieg, the Gaullist Deputy who represented France at the Assembly of W.E.U., maintained that it was illegal for Britain to convene the Council under Clause 8, paragraph 3, because at the Luxembourg meeting the question of the Middle East, which had been the occasion for the London meeting, had been discussed. Then he added that it had been discussed for three-quarters of an hour. It was obvious then that the French concern was at any price to prevent W.E.U. becoming a forum for the discussion of political questions, and being an alternative centre where these matters could be discussed.

The real fear of President de Gaulle was that Britain was attempting to take an initiative in what he regarded as his Europe, from which his veto had already successfully excluded Britain. The attempt to prevent the meeting of W.E.U. in London was an attempt to exercise an arbitrary, and I believe inadmissible, veto on Britain's participation in Europe. That is the heart of the two crises which have blown up. I hope that not even those who are sympathetic to the idea of N.A.F.T.A. and signed the Motion on the Order Paper will deny to Britain the right to take part in Europe's affairs.

It is significant in connection with the suggestion that Britain had leaked some secret to her partners that although the British Ambassador made it clear to M. Hervé Alphand, the Secretary-General of the Quai d'Orsay, on 12th February, that Britain did not accept General de Gaulle's proposals, it was not until 20th February that the first public leak appeared in Figaro. This leak was declared by Figaro to have been picked up in the corridors of W.E.U. But it was notorious that the information had been leaked by the Quai d'Orsay, implying that the Foreign Office had engaged in some kind of skullduggery.

It was very curious that although the meeting between Mr. Soames and M. Debré, when Mr. Soames sought confirmation of the minute which had already been cleared by M. Tricot, the Secretary-General of the Elysée, took place on 8th February, it was not until 20th February that this report was leaked by the Quai d'Orsay to the Press.

The reason was that by 20th February there was a motion before the Assembly of W.E.U. which clearly commanded general support among the Five and Britain, although the Gaullists opposed it. It was clear by 20th February that there would be a majority in the Assembly of W.E.U. in favour of the motion which congratulated those who had convened the London meeting, invited France to return to the W.E.U. Council, and suggested that the Council was a proper focus for the discussion of Europe's political affairs.

Mr. J. Bruce-Gardyne (South Angus)

The hon. Gentleman has twice said that the Quai d'Orsay was responsible for leaking the information which appeared in Figaro. How can he substantiate that? My understanding is that in Paris the belief is that Figaro obtained this information in Bonn.

Mr. Edelman

I can only say that according to my information the detailed publication in Figaro was of a kind which could have come only from French sources.

I want briefly to turn to the question of the British Ambassador's conversation with President de Gaulle. Nobody can doubt the honour or the capacity of our Ambassador, who is dedicated to the cause of Anglo-French co-operation. But there are many who are familiar with President de Gaulle's style of exposition—the cloudy utterances, the sibylline proclamations, the ambivalent emphasis, all ending with the cry, "Vous m'avez compris?" All that is enough to confuse the most experienced. No one could blame the Ambassador for seeking further elucidation, which is exactly what he did. He went immediately to see M. Tricot to present to him the minute he had noted immediately after the conversation and to ask for it to be confirmed.

If this was not enough, he went on 8th February to see M. Debré to obtain further confirmation of the minute. Although French sources allege that M. Debré tried to elucidate, explain and remove confusions from the Ambassador's mind, it is certain that there was no formal objection to the minute which Mr. Soames presented to the French Foreign Secretary. I am firmly convinced that Mr. Soames made an accurate report to Her Majesty's Government.

I will conclude by stating my view that it is time to end this unhappy quarrel, from which only the enemies of France and Britain can benefit. At the same time, I do not believe that we should retreat from our position that W.E.U. is a proper place to discuss a whole variety of matters which are not covered by the Treaty of Rome. We should persevere in the attitude we have taken up following the plan put forward by M. Harmel of insisting that we have the right to be in Europe and to concert with our friends in Europe on all matters which affect us all, which we can legitimately discuss and which are not covered by existing treaties.

I hope that the Prime Minister—remembering that it is only possible for our differences to be composed at the highest level—together with the Foreign Secretary, will take the opportunity of personally renewing contact with General de Gaulle. I hope that, supported by our admirable Ambassador, they will continue their work for European unity and Franco-British friendship which has been so unhappily interrupted.

5.10 p.m.

Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)

The speech of the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) has widened the debate to cover the whole general picture of W.E.U. and our relations with France. I believe that the issue before us is a narrow one. It was touched on by the right hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Gordon Walker), who said that the Prime Minister had, on the whole, made a mistake. In failing to warn the President of France that he intended to use the confidential conversation with the British Ambassador, I believe that the Prime Minister, in making that confidential information available not only to the German Chancellor but to the Heads of other Governments, made an error which no other Prime Minister in my political experience would have committed. It is inconceivable that Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, Mr. Baldwin, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden or Mr. Attlee would have acted as the Prime Minister did on that occasion.

I find the excuse which the Foreign Secretary made yesterday in defence of the Prime Minister inexplicable, particularly when he described this as a difficult matter. He said that the issue had to be got across and that, therefore, some people heard about it after the French Government had been informed while others had been told before. Dr. Kiesinger was informed, it is clear, well before.

Will the Foreign Secretary tell us more about the history of the luncheon party between the British Ambassador and the President of France? It is widely reported that when the British Ambassador took up his appointment he was asked by Her Majesty's Government to get on personal terms with the President and find out his views on the future of Europe. Is that report true or false?

If it is true, and if the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary felt so strongly about the need to inform our allies, then surely that was the moment when the information should have passed to our allies in W.E.U., E.F.T.A. and N.A.T.O. But that was not done. As that warning had not been given to our allies and as those confidential exchanges were not revealed, I suggest that in this case—I speak from experience of having spent a short time at the Foreign Office—we should have sought the consent of the other party and not merely given a warning that we intended to use the information that had been received. I hope that this point will be cleared up by the Foreign Secretary.

I may differ from some about our posture in Europe, but I share the views of the hon. Member for Coventry, North about the essential need for Britain to be as close as possible to France. It is regrettable that after eight years of trying to enter the E.E.C. there is such an apparent lack of trust between Britain and France—between Britain's Prime Minister and the Head of State of France. We should, therefore, use this opportunity to try to put this right.

The right way to proceed now is for the Prime Minister, who has not just made a mistake "on the whole" but has made a very grave diplomatic blunder, to apologise to the President of France—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and then say that we would like the talks to proceed; and when the talks have concluded we may then inform our allies in N.A.T.O., E.E.C. and E.F.T.A. about them. That would be the right and honourable course to take. I hope that it will be taken.

5.16 p.m.

Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)

The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) began his speech by saying that he did not intend to deal with the sub-Stance of the conversation between our Ambassador and the President of France. I suggest that it is impossible to do justice to the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister—this must be said in view of what was said by the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) about the Prime Minister—if one leaves out of consideration the Prince of Denmark and discusses only the minor scenes and small exchanges in diplomatic currency.

The supporters of our application to join the Common Market are in a difficult position today. It is, therefore, difficult for us to debate this matter without at the same time considering the whole substance of the argument, for the real reason why Her Majesty's Government have found themselves in this difficult position is because of the constant pressure that is exercised, in and out of season, by hon. Members who support our application to join the E.E.C. Many, not least on the benches opposite, have been urging my right hon. Friends to try to get Britain in, if not through the front door, then through some side door. We see this pressure being applied virtually every Tuesday and Thursday. Today, however, those very hon. Members who have applied this pressure set themselves up as judges on the mistakes which they allege the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have made. Thus, without discussing the background to the issue, no assessment of the Government's attitude in this matter is possible.

What is the real situation? The House was divided when the original application to join was made. Bearing in mind the views of the President of the French Republic about the future of the Common Market expressed at that time, British historians will probably record that it was a lucky event that hon. Members did not troop into the Lobby on the six-line Whip and that at least some of us used our judgment to record a dissenting vote.

History will show that there was a considerable amount of argument about the matter at the time. I have always regretted the fact that the six-line Whip tried to make it appear as though there was unanimity in Parliament and throughout the country about our application to join. This was completely untrue. It is important to realise that this concentration on the diplomatic niceties of the situation masks a lack of candour on the part of those who are largely responsible for having exercised that pressure on Her Majesty's Government.

The fact is that the Government had decided to use all sorts of means, of which I and other hon. Members disapprove, to try to get into the Common Market against the opposition of the French Government, which I believe to be a wholly impossible task. However, given that that is the desire of so many right hon. and hon. Members, in the concrete position in which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary found himself I do not believe that he could have acted in any other way. I do not take kindly to the suggestion which was implied in the, as always, very measured speech of the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) that somehow or other there could have been some rather more intelligent reaction which was completely overlooked by my right hon. Friend. A careful reading of yesterday's exchanges does not justify that implication.

The main anxiety amongst all the Ministers involved in this arose because they had decided some time ago to try to push their way into the Common Market by allying themselves more closely with some of the members of the Common Market Community other than France. This was the first mistaken decision, and everything else has flown from that. Unless we understand and accept that, we cannot make a proper assessment of the extreme difficulties facing my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary when he received this report from our Ambassador in Paris.

This was the fatally false decision which we should revoke. It should be an accepted dogma in all these discussions that it cannot be possible to push our way into a Community which is led by France if the French Government and France are opposed to us. This is the kind of admission that we should have from the Government as a result of and as a lesson of this crisis. Such an admission would be far more important than a detailed investigation as to whether the Ambassador should have gone to the Secretary at the Ouai d'Orsay or to the Director-General of the Elysée or to some other French official. All that is of no importance and will be of no significance when the history of this incident is written.

I turn to another point where I think it was also imperative for the Government to reject the President's proposals immediately. Included in what the President said to our Ambassador is the proposal for a West European directorate for foreign policy and for defence. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am open to correction on that. Although the terms were not used, and although my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was most punctilious yesterday afternoon to point out in reply to a supplementary question that that term had not been used, in order to be fair to the President of France, I none the less want to quote a representative French opinion which I think will carry at least as much weight as perhaps the opinion of those who contradicted me just now.

I quote from the leading article on this matter in yesterday's issue of Le Monde. Referring to the idea of the directorate, the paper says: And then there is the project of the Directorate. I point out that Le Monde uses the word "directorate" deliberately. It continues: And this has in the past already provoked a great deal of feeling. It is said that this time the term 'directorate' was not actually employed, but having said that, one must admit that it is in the style of the President of the French Republic. President de Gaulle has been talking about such a directorate on past occasions, and this establishes the truth of the contention that we established yesterday afternoon, that he was thinking in terms of a four-Power directorate. I can understand the sympathy of a few hon. Members opposite for this point of view, because some of them have always believed that we should establish a new nuclear alliance with France and perhaps extend it later on to one or two other Western European countries such as Italy and Western Germany.

The fact is that there are only very few pro-de Gaullists in this Assembly and that the Government and the majority of hon. Members have always opposed the setting-up of a third nuclear command and have regarded it as a highly dangerous proceeding. However, that is what is behind this view.

I call in aid a publicly-expressed statement by Herr Strauss, who is perhaps the most senior member of the West German Cabinet. He, too, is aiming at a directorate of three or four Western European Powers. He has said publicly that his main purpose is that Germany could be fully associated as one of those controlling and deciding the strategic use of nuclear arms. That is his aim and purpose. The British Government has always opposed this. They are right to maintain the firmest possible opposition towards any move in that direction.

Mr. Peter Kirk (Saffron Walden)

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there are those who want to see a supranational nuclear deterrent in Europe. I am one of them. Why does the hon. Gentleman say that it is a de Gaullist point of view? It is not. The de Gaullists fundamentally reject any supranational command of that kind.

Mr. Mendelson

I hear opinions advanced by the French Government that they do not want a supranational political authority, but a Europe of the nations. This proposal means, if only Western Germany, Italy, France and Britain are in a directorate designed, as the General said, first for the discussion of foreign policy, that very little progress would be made on deciding on a joint foreign policy without having to decide on a joint nuclear policy as well. I think that I carry many hon. Members with me on this, because the one cannot be divorced from the other. I therefore commend and support the Government, as will many other hon. Members, for their firm rejection of this idea, although I understand that some hon. Members have much sympathy for it.

My next point concerns our anxiety to be in such close and friendly touch with the Federal Republic of Germany even though it may endanger our relations with France This is one of the most dangerous ideas that the Government could pursue. I warn the Government that there can be no substitution here. It is not a tenable argument that we are doing this to induce the Chancellor of the Federal Government or the Foreign Secretary in the Federal Government of Germany to do more to make discussions about entry into the Common Market easier for us At the end of the day this operation will never succeed, because there are many conditions that the West German Government will attach to their moving a little.

For instance, I think that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, when he was in these discussions, went much too far in his declaration about the holding of the West German Presidential elections in West Berlin. That was an occasion to utter words of caution. I was particularly alarmed at the langauge my right hon. Friend used, because my information is that last November—I am open to correction; I say this in the presence of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary—the Government of the United Kingdom had warned the Federal Government of West Germany not to be too hasty in making their decision to hold the elections in West Berlin. Something must have happened since then. I say that it was the overanxious desire of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to get the Federal Chancellor on his side in his attempt to push us into the Common Market against fresh opposition that made him use what I think was exaggerated language in this dangerous situation. I hope and trust that the Government are now associated with other Governments in trying to ensure that this crisis is not pushed too far. There are good reasons for thinking that this is so.

The lessons to be drawn from this event are not niggling, small criticisms of the day-to-day conduct of our diplomatic affairs by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who I think is well up to the problems which face him every week and every day. The lesson to be learned is the condemnation of a policy which forces any British Government, as long as it is pursued, to try to use all sorts of means that will not be successful against the desire of the French Government and against the hesitation of the West German Government to enter a Community in whose future it is doubtful whether some of its permanent members at present see so much value.

I say this next piece with caution, because I know that my right hon. Friend accepts for the future the idea of an overall European security system. Whilst he is anxiously engaged 24 hours a day in trying to push us into the Economic Community he has not either the time or the opportunity to do all that we should be doing in making proposals to the Soviet Union, to the Eastern European countries and to the Scandinavian countries, for the calling of an all-European security conference, and for the setting up of a European security system. It is not enough to say in reply that one cannot see an immediate prospect of that. If we do not start now, the same answer can be given in 12 months or in two years. Our answer should be that, while we maintain our present position in our alliance, as the Warsaw Pact countries do in theirs, the only real answer to Britain's and Europe's security problem is to replace these pacts and establish a European security conference which will guarantee the peace of Europe and the world.

5.31 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)

I cannot follow the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) in his tour d'horison in which bombs were dropped all along the front but sometimes far from the precise subject of this debate.

I hope that I shall have the support of the Foreign Secretary on one point at least. That is, the need to diminish the pursuit of diplomacy by leaks, which has been far too prevalent in Europe over the last few months. No one has suffered more than this Government from the calculated leaks from Bonn at the time of the mark crisis. If that is anathematic to the right hon. Gentleman, we are in agreement.

Hon. Members have all said that they hope that this matter can be forgotten and that all will be well. I must take a more serious view of the errors perpetrated in the last few days. It is difficult to think of the Foreign Secretary in the same category as Bismarck but I assure him that in France today the action of his Department is regarded as being as disastrous for relations abroad as the Ems Telegram. Bismarck's telegram was, of course, a forgery and designed to lead to war. The right hon. Gentleman's objects in his telegrams still remain obscure, and perhaps they will be cleared up today.

This action of the British Government has undoubtedly caused an abiding upset in Anglo-French relations for a long time to come. It is enough to quote from the Gaullist papers today to show that any talk of further tasks will not in any circumstances, while certain people remain in power and pursue the same policies of the last few days, ever be pursued.

It is clear from what has been published in Le Monde and other papers and from the interpretation put on it by those right hon. and hon. Members who have the privilege of knowing the General that this was a proposal for "talks about talks", to use a British phrase. When we had talks about talks with Mr. Smith—doubtless, in the view of some Government supporters, Mr. Smith and the General are equally antipathetic—did we think it necessary to consult all our Commonwealth partners on exactly what we were doing? Despite the hon. Member for Penistone's claim that these were precise and detailed talks, it is clear from what has been published that they were general propositions on the future of Europe which have been damaged in their handling.

The second point which the right hon. Gentleman must answer is why between 4th and 12th February no effort was made to inform the French Government of the Prime Minister's proposal to reveal these facts to the Government in Bonn. What is far more alarming than the detail of these matters is the growth of a British foreign policy which is totally unrealistic and which is made manifest and symptomatic by the sort of treatment which we have accorded our French allies. It is not just a farce, although a great deal of it is farce—I feel sorry for our British Ambassador—but it is symptomatic or something which is far more serious—first, of a policy which believes that it is possible to get into Europe by isolating France. This is possibly the most serious thing which has emerged.

It is a ridiculous policy, as the simplest schoolboy must know, and pursuing it à l'outrance, as it has been pursued by the present Government, must lead to disaster for Europe and ourselves. There is an attitude in certain sections of the Foreign Office which is positively paranoid. We need not a Select Committee of Members of Parliament to investigate this but a Select Committee of psychiatrists.

The policy of trying to drive a wedge between France and the Six is the height of folly. To try to make the W.E.U. an instrument—remembering that it is a very delicate and important instrument in the safeguarding of nuclear armaments on the Continent and for the defence of Europe—for trying to do down the French is the policy of a lunatic, and that is the policy which right hon. Gentlemen seem to be pursuing. The same applies to their efforts to try to turn the E.E.C. against the French.

This is the distressing symptom behind these events. Europe can exist only with France and with the strengthening of the German-French alliance. It is with France that we must talk and make friends. But one thing which I ask the right hon. Gentleman to do is to look again at this Francophobia which exists in his Department and purge his Department of it. That is the most serious contribution which he could make, to get rid of those paper knights in the Treasury and the Foreign Office who, having been defeated in Brussels, dream idly of another Waterloo.

They have thrown away a great chance to talk to France and the General, perhaps the only remarkable and historical figure in Europe today, about where the future of Europe lies, to talk in general terms, to look forward, to hold these discussions which could have been revealed later, when they became technical, to our allies. This has been thrown away by the Francophobia which dominates the Foreign Office.

5.40 p.m.

Mr. Stanley Henig (Lancaster)

I begin by challenging the bona fides of hon. Members opposite on this matter. I doubt their sincerity in launching this debate. For some months, many of us—some of us on this side of the House and some outside—have suggested that, at a technical level, the Government's method of approach to getting into Europe was wrong. No voices were raised about this from the Benches opposite and no interest was taken in the problem by them until now.

I start from the point that our desire is to enter the European communities, and fundamentally for political reasons. This implies that we have chosen our role in world affairs as being within Europe. The reasons for the French veto were fundamentally the same in 1967 as in 1963—their attitude towards the so-called "Atlantic question". In 1963, this was manifested in the defence issue; in 1967, 1968 and 1969 it is manifested much more in the issue of international finance.

However, there is what might be called the Gaullist schizophrenia. They are against Britain in so far as she is a rival to France for the leadership of Western Europe but know that, without her, the dream of a Europe independent of and equal to the United States is not to be realised. This gives us a potential trump card in our negotiations with Europe but it is one which we have so far failed to use.

Our riposte in 1968, as in 1963, has been to concentrate on Western European Union, which has thus again been suddenly pulled out of the obscurity in which it normally languishes. Our policy has been one of trying to bludgeon our way into the Community through associating with the Five, or alternatively establishing with them some other foci for cooperation in Europe. Either way, this might have been possible if the five had been genuinely united, but they were no more united than the Six and the most important country amongst them was lukewarm on the whole matter. Whenever there is a choice for Germany between her alignment with France and doing something to help Britain, she will always choose the Franco-German rapprochement and alliance first. Since the second French veto, therefore, we have had no chance of making any progress by concentrating on the other five.

I want to pose the alternative which some of us have been advocating consistently in recent months—whether there is not a chance of doing some kind of deal with France, or at any rate preparing the ground. Would the five have objected if we had tried this? This question has not been gone into sufficiently thoroughly. It was taken for granted that the other five would object. I submit that this was not so. People I have spoken to in Italy, the Netherlands and elsewhere have felt that the only way for Britain to get into Europe was by talking to France.

I move now to the question of the initiative taken by your Ambassador in Paris. I first put forward the hypothesis that I think that he genuinely and sincerely wanted to improve British relations with France and therefore he proceeded along the kind of lines I have indicated. I invite my right hon. Friend to deny that when the Ambassador handed back his memorandum of the meeting, the Foreign Office was appalled. It was a poisoned chalice for it. It thought of all the implications and did not know what to do.

Perhaps there was a Gaullist trap. If there was, could we not have avoided it by the simple expedient some time ago of asking the other five, "Supposing France suggests bilateral talks. Do you agree in principle that we should go in for them?" Let us remember that for many months there have been hints that this was what the French were about to suggest; in that respect the President's suggestions did not break new ground. We should have been prepared.

I come now to the question of the Press statement. I am not certain that this was handled in the wisest possible way. We could well now try to de-escalate the Press war that is going on. What has happened has hindered our efforts, both in our relations with France and in our relations with other members of the E.E.C. There is also E.F.T.A. to be considered, because some at least of the suggestions attributed to President de Gaulle would not be anathema to some members of that organisation, be it the winding up of N.A.T.O. or the transformation of the E.E.C. into a wider European free trade zone. I do not think that I personally am prepared to accept these ideas but they should at least be looked at.

Should we talk to France? Can we? The French have a fundamentally different approach to problems of international relations from ours. They tend to talk about concepts—often grandiloquently, it is true. We tend to be more pragmatic, building up from details to concepts. I think that, very often, we never arrive at concepts at all in the end. When, however, President de Gaulle throws out ideas like winding up N.A.T.O., ending the E.E.C. and having a free trade zone in Europe, I do not think that he is intending in any way to be tied down to detail but is thinking in broad concepts.

My fear is that, because the British Government and Foreign Office think in different terms, we have nothing to place before President de Gaulle in dealing with his concepts. Why not talk to France about a free trade zone, about the reform of N.A.T.O.? These things need not necessarily be against our interests. Between Britain and France surely there is a very great community of interest indeed. It is no coincidence that, in the two great wars of this century, they have fought on the same side. When one sees the rising economic and political power of West Germany, one has to consider what is to be the counterweight in Western Europe, and the only counterweight that I can see is that of Britain and France together. I am certain that, if Britain does not ultimately get into the E.E.C., that community will be dominated by Western Germany and this, I think, involves some implications which none of us would very much like, particularly some of my hon. Friends who are most adverse to Britain going in. I put that with the greatest respect to all of them.

There is surely only one way in which Britain will get into the E.E.C.—that is, if somehow we can approach the chief obstacle and say, "Is there any way in which we can do this?" The only way in which we can begin to do it is by talking. It may well be that, on 4lh February, President de Gaulle sprang a trap and that, to some extent, he has been thwarted. But, in avoiding superficial aspects of the trap, in not talking to the French behind someone else's back, have we not fallen into a worse trap—that is, a trap in which we are no longer even on talking terms with the one country, and the only country, which could make possible our entry into Europe?

We have escalated this war now as far as we can—and war is virtually what it has become, even if only a war of words, in the last few days. My right hon. Friend's statement at the end of the debate will be read abroad and studied carefully. I plead with him to offer the olive branch. Only by doing that to the French Government is there any chance of Her Majesty's Government achieving the aim of their policy which is our entry into Europe. If my right hon. Friend does not intend to offer the olive branch, he must say that there is no chance whatever of going into Europe. This would be a tragedy. I urge on my right hon. Friend conciliation as the one means of securing his policy.

5.49 p.m.

Mr. John Peel (Leicester, South-East)

There is one point put by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) that I should like to take up. I am certainly not uncritical of the Government's diplomatic handling of this crisis. On the face of it, it gives scope for a great deal of worry because it seems that it was badly timed and badly handled. But I must excuse the Government from making deliberate attempts to isolate France. This I do not believe from what I have seen over a number of years in the Assemblies of Western European Union and the Council of Europe.

I would remind those two hon. Members of the recent diplomatic initiative by M. Harmel, the Foreign Minister of Belgium, who put forward a way in which Europe might begin to try to get closer together, outside the Treaty of Rome, because of the absolute blank wall with which we have been faced for at least 10 years. There was no secret about this, it was perfectly open and M. Harmel and the rest of the W.E.U. countries made it abundantly clear that they wanted France in on these conversations, but that any absence of France from anything that flowed from this initiative was entirely a French decision and that there was no attempt by the Six, secretly, to try to get talks without France. Let us be clear that we have all always made it abundantly clear that there can be no Europe without France and no Europe without Britain.

I speak as a loyal member of the Assembly of W.E.U. and a member of the British delegation. I feel that I have that right because I was in the chair of the General Affairs Committee of W.E.U. last week when the crisis at Luxemburg was discussed and I am the British Vice-President of the W.E.U. Assembly. I would go a little further than the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton). This is not quite as narrow as he likes to make out. This latest crisis was not the beginning of the story. The beginning of it was the meeting at Luxemburg on 6th to 7th February, of the Council of Ministers of W.E.U.

I have found it very difficult to discover what the truth about that meeting was. There are two different stories, both from highly-placed sources. The British and other source tell us that there was a general discussion as to how precisely meetings could be held with the Seven to discuss international relations, whether on the basis of ad hoc meetings, which was rather the French view, or at regular intervals, which was the view of the other Six, including us. That was not resolved. Then there was a discussion on the Middle East. Our story is that the Foreign Secretary was quite prepared to discuss the Middle East as far as possible at that time and did so, but that he wanted deeper and more expert discussions in London the following week, before the meeting of the big Four.

Put that way it seems to me a very reasonable proposition, but I have heard another story that the Foreign Secretary was not very willing to discuss the Middle East at that meeting, and said he had not got his papers, and so on. I do not know the fully story. Maybe the Foreign Secretary will tell us. It may be something between the two. Inevitably this crisis, which was the beginning of the worsening of Anglo-French relations, came up in an emergency debate in the Assembly of W.E.U., and this was perfectly right and proper. This is exactly what the Assembly of Parliamentarians of W.E.U. exists to do—to take note of crises which may arise in the Council of Ministers and the seven countries, to discuss them and let them know what the parliamentarians think about them.

It was perfectly natural—and I have been on this for nine years—for this to arise as an emergency debate. The resolution eventually agreed and approved by a very large majority, both in the Committee, over which I presided, and in the Assembly was a very reasonable one. It simply stated that we much regretted that this crisis had arisen; we congratulated the Ministers that they were holding conversations of importance on foreign affairs. We said that we hoped that France would return to take part in the discussions. We recalled Article VIII of the revised Brussels Treaty, and we thought it was arguable whether it provided for such discussion. This did not seem to me a hostile resolution to France or anyone else.

Unfortunately, once again we see signs and hear rumblings that when France throws a tantrum we are isolating France. We must resist this. This has been going on for years. I ask quietly: what about Britain? We have been trying to make it clear, under both Governments here for the last 12 years, that we are good Europeans and want to come along and work with them, and we have failed to get anywhere. Over 10 years I have watched from the vantage point of the Assembly of the Council of Europe and W.E.U. all attempts—some of them well-founded, perhaps some of them not so well-founded—to obtain closer political co-operation, foiled and stultified all along the line. Some in Europe have paid lip-service to the need for Britain to be in the Community, but when we have asked and successive Governments have done this, under what circumstances and in what conditions, specific and practical answer comes there none—ever.

Each time we ask, some new reason is trotted out as to why we are not yet fit for membership. I have heard comments about this at reasonable and fairly mild meetings of the Assembly of W.E.U. It is said we must not be rude to the French, we must not try to isolate France. This is an assembly of Parliamentarians, where we are used to the cut and thrust of debate, and over the years I have taken part in debates in that Assembly where the exchanges were far rougher than last week.

I can remember members of the French delegation pulling no punches and we doing the same with them. I have good friends in France still, and I hope that they will long continue to be so. But in these circumstances we really would need the patience of Job just to sit down and do nothing. I can remember, when hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House were in government, going to W.E.U. and having discussions with the French about these things and disagreeing with them profoundly. We were not mealy-mouthed and did not take each other the wrong way.

Because all attempts to get closer to Europe have been blocked, and sometimes not always with good temper, are we really just to sit back and do nothing for fear of annoying some of our friends in Europe If that is so, then we will be called weak-kneed, spineless and lacking in a desire to come closer to Europe—with some reason. Although the Brussels Treaty appears to be in political disarray, I do not believe that it is in disarray in other directions. It is very interesting that, although after the meeting at Luxemburg, France made some very hostile noises about boycotting the Assembly of W.E.U., all her representatives turned up; it was the strongest French delegation that we have ever had. In the General Affairs Committee all the French delegates were there and contributed to the debate which was harmonious, intelligent and sensible.

I do not believe that France wants to torpedo the vital parts of the Brussels Treaty. We have to show some resolution some time if we want to get where many of us in this House think we should get. Unless I can be reassured by the Foreign Secretary, I do not at all like the Prime Minister's tactics in Bonn. I cannot help feeling that, in diplomatic language, he might even have told Dr. Kiesinger to keep his trap shut until the right moment. I very much dislike the way things are going with these constant leaks. I am a great believer in secret diplomacy until the right moment, but I do not believe that the British people want successive British Governments to refuse for ever to say "boo" to the goose or the British fly to flop blindly into the spider's web when invited into the parlour by some other route.

Whether the forces hostile to freedom will give us in Western Europe time to draw forward inch by painful inch to unity is problematical; but on our present divided path Western Europe will have little effective say in the great crises which are arising at the moment and will arise inevitably in the coming years. Western Europe's voice is almost mute and totally ineffective in the great world problems of today and so it will remain until we manage to forge unity. I believe any British Government is to that extent to be applauded if it makes some attempt to try to get some movement towards this greater unity.

Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)

Before the hon. Gentleman sits down——

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

Order. The hon. Gentleman has resumed his seat. I was on the point of calling Mr. Cronin.

6.0 p.m.

Mr. John Cronin (Loughborough)

I am most strongly in favour of the closest possible associations between Great Britain and Europe and the strengthening of N.A.T.O. to the greatest possible extent. I wish to make my position clear because it may not be the same as that of some of my hon. Friends. It seems to me that we are totally lacking in reality as regards entering E.E.C. if we cannot establish some kind of understanding with France. The events of the last 10 days have been extremely unfortunate and could be a source of pleasure to nobody except the Communist countries of the world.

There can be no dispute on the fact that a breach of confidence has been committed by Her Majesty's Government. On the other hand, there are occasions when a breach of confidence is justifiable and others when it may be less so. It is worth looking into this. First of all, there is no doubt that the Foreign Office has been under a constant and severe strain as far as dealings with the French Government have been concerned. The Head of the French Government has been completely obstructive to our very reasonable and proper attempts to get into Europe and has presented us with numerous difficulties. There is therefore no question that there has been considerable provocation leading to our present situation.

When the President made his proposals to our Ambassador in Paris he could not have made them at a worse or more embarrassing time for us, so again I sympathise with the Foreign Secretary's difficulties. In that connection it is worth mentioning that although the Foreign Secretary must take full responsibility for it, it was not he who committed the actual breach of confidence that took place. It seems to me nevertheless that in spite of the provocations and difficulties it was neither necessary nor desirable that this breach of confidence should have taken place in the way it did.

I believe it would have been possible to have given the French Government more warning in the time available or, alternatively, that it would have been possible to tell Dr. Kiesinger that certain proposals had been made by the French Government and to say, without going into details, that further discussions would take place with him about those French proposals when we were in a position to do so. I do not think that it was necessary to disclose these confidential discussions in the way they were disclosed. I agree that the Government were under severe difficulties when the leak commenced in the French Press, but even then that leak could have been counteracted by official means short of an actual communication between the Prime Minister and the German Chancellor, and dealt with at a much lower level.

There is no doubt that some advantages have accrued as a result of this disclosure.

Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)

It would seem from what has been so often repeated this afternoon that British foreign policy is to be dictated and guided by French newspapers. It is about time we gave up that idea.

Mr. Cronin

I sympathise with my hon. Friend's point, but I do not think it is relevant to the one I am making. There is no doubt that there has been some advantage from this disclosure in that the personal prestige of General de Gaulle, who without doubt has been the stumbling block to all our attempts to get into Europe, has been to some extent devalued in his own country and in Europe; but I do not believe that it has been devalued to an extent which will give us any great advantage. It can also be said that the countries of E.E.C. and E.F.T.A. probably realise now that we are even more strongly on the side of entering E.E.C. and on the side of N.A.T.O., but this could not be more than a marginal advantage, because our position was absolutely clear before.

Another point made by some hon. Gentlemen is that we have avoided being caught in a trap. I believe the trap is entirely hypothetical. There is no evidence at all that the French Government have set a trap on this occasion. I would suggest that there has been no occasion in the last few years when they have ever set a trap. On other occasions we have been faced by blank walls of refusal but never by dishonest behaviour; and even if one must admit that the head of the French Government is a difficult, stubborn and obstinate type of person to deal with——

Mr. Molloy

And ungrateful.

Mr. Cronin

—and ungrateful, maybe, it has never been suggested that he is in any way dishonourable, so the question of a trap is somewhat hypothetical. Obviously, the disadvantages of this disclosure are of a most serious nature. First of all, for the very first time for years, there has been an opportunity for conversations at the highest level between the British and French Governments to deal with our differences. That opportunity has been dissipated in a really hopeless manner and is not likely to be renewed for a very long time.

Secondly, one cannot visualise in the near or even the distant future any French Government attempting any kind of confidential discussions again. Any possibility of confidence between the British and French Governments must have very seriously receded into the distance. It is not irrelevant to say this may well have an effect on other countries. What other countries are going to take part in confidential discussions with Her Majesty's Government if they feel that those confidences will be breached whenever it is considered convenient or desirable to do so?

I am strongly in favour of the rather tough line which the Foreign Secretary has been taking with the French Government over the last few months. I believe that his insistence on making closer ties with W.E.U., his general diplomatic manoeuvre to outflank the French Government, has been desirable. It is probable, for that reason, that General de Gaulle offered to have talks with Britain. It is the British outflanking manoeuvre which has probably been effective in bringing about this attempt by the General to have a rapprochement. I believe that the Government would be well advised to continue the attempts to get 'a closer association with the W.E.U. It shows a lack of realism, however, to imagine that we can get into the European Economic Community or have effective close contacts with Europe, without a much fuller understanding with France.

What has taken place has been extremely unfortunate. I strongly suggest that the Government should at the earliest possible moment try once more to initiate bilateral talks with the French Government. Whether we like it or not, there is no doubt that France has an absolute veto on our entry into Europe and the Economic Community. However much we make ourselves agreeable to Western Germany or the other countries of Western Europe, France is the key to the situation. Entering Europe cannot be done without the consent of the French Government. I urge the Foreign Secretary to make every possible attempt to have bilateral talks as soon as possible to try to induce the French to forget this very unhappy episode in our relations and, once more, to restore ourselves to good terms with the French Government and so to get into the European Economic Community.

6.12 p.m.

Mr. James Davidson (Aberdeenshire, West)

There is very little doubt, I think, that a fundamental diplomatic mistake was made at some stage. I say that because there is a state of open disagreement between ourselves and France, with both countries flinging accusations at one another. This situation could not exist unless some party or other made a mistake at some stage. Whether it was a mistake in calculation by General de Gaulle or a mistake in reaction by the United Kingdom—both or either could be called tactical mistakes—is not terribly important. The damage has been done and we must bend our efforts to undo it and to see where we go from here.

There is no question that the General made some very interesting and far-reaching proposals. If he really meant what he said to the British Ambassador, his proposals were certainly worthy of serious study and further discussions. Some of us may not be particularly taken with his proposal for a four-Power directorate, but he had some interesting views to put forward about the future of European defence. We on the Liberal bench have been interested for a long time in the possibility of a non-nuclear European defence community and the eventual withdrawal by the United States and the U.S.S.R., with a joint nuclear guarantee of Europe. While we accept entirely that N.A.T.O. is essential for the time being, surely no hon. Member can refuse to see the possibility of development and the time when N.A.T.O. is no longer required.

We accept that full and frank discussions with our friends and allies are necessary before we enter into any new arrangements for Europe. But I ask the Foreign Secretary whether on this occasion the timing was correct and the approach right. Should not the agreement of the French have been obtained before Chancellor Kiesinger and others were informed? I know that there was some suspicion and a possible risk of a trap. There was the risk of the French being given the opportunity to place Britain in an invidious position vis-à-vis the other members of the European Economic Community. But should not they have been informed as a matter of diplomatic courtesy?

Alternatively, if that was not possible—and I do not believe that this specific proposal has been made, although in retrospect it is regrettable—could not we openly and warmly have accepted the invitation to talk? We could have initiated the invitation, as suggested by the General, without the preparation of a damaging agenda and a list of proposals. We could have informed our friends and allies that we had agreed to such talks but, at the same time, have assured them that we would not commit them or ourselves to a specific plan or course of action without first having full and frank discussions with them as well as with France. I ask the Foreign Secretary why this line of approach was not possible.

As I have said, like many hon. Members, I am less concerned about the damage which has been done than about the possibilities of increasing European co-operation and unity. That is the direction in which we must proceed. That is the direction in which the broad road leads, whatever the diversions on the way. We may have been thwarted in our efforts to enter Europe by way of the E.E.C., but that is by no means the only possible door. If that is shut, there is still Western European Union and the Harmel Plan. As it appears that the General believes that the European Economic Community has, for the time being anyway, reached stalemate, we could possibly work out a plan based on linking the E.E.C. with E.F.T.A., with the inclusion of France, even if it means a temporary step backwards from the Community in political and market integration.

It is surely apparent that there is a very dangerous vacuum to be filled between East and West, a gap which Britain alone or France alone has not the resources to fill. The only answer eventually is a united Europe, however hard it may be to achieve. We on this bench, and myself in particular, and many other hon. Members greatly regret the damage which has been done—I believe that it is only temporary damage—to British-French relations as a result of this incident. Could not we express our regret to France—I am not talking about apologies; I do not think that they are appropriate. Could not we reaffirm our willingness to talk? Could not we suggest an international conference on unity to which all members of the E.E.C. and E.F.T.A. and countries like Yugoslavia might be invited? This might do something to repair the damage which has been done.

6.17 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Michael Stewart)

Some hon. Members have sought to make this a narrow debate, concentrating on such criticisms as they could make of the Government's handling of the matter. Others have widened it into a general discussion of Europe. In justice to the Government, I must first deal with the narrower accusation, which seemed to change its form a good deal as one critic succeeded another. But I shall want also to say, for the issue is very important, something about the future of Europe and the Government's European policy.

May I deal with the criticisms, such as they are, of the Government's handling of the matter. As the debate proceeded, it became more and more clear that the criticism was narrowing down to a very slender point indeed, sometimes giving one the uncomfortable impression that some hon. Members were desperately looking for something for which they could blame the Government. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson) said, in effect, that this is a sad situation and it must be somebody's fault. No doubt that is an arguable and likely proposition, but neither the Government, nor, I hope, the House, would start out with the assumption that if there are difficulties in international affairs they must be the British Government's fault and we must go on hunting round until we have evidence for that proposition. Was it considered wrong for our Ambassador to take a record? I do not think that anyone suggests that. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) mentioned Rambouillet: with memories of Rambouillet, it was clearly wise of the Ambassador to take a record.

Next, there was the allegation that the Ambassador's record was inaccurate. I am glad to say that that accusation has not been echoed this afternoon, and I doubt whether we shall hear more of it either here or elsewhere. Third, it has been asked: did the Government send a misleading or distorted account of the Ambassador's record to our allies? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) yesterday made that allegation by implication, but did not repeat it, much less produce any evidence for it, today. I must plainly deny the implied allegation.

The nearest the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire got to putting forward the proposition that although the record was accurate we somehow distorted it was to say that we must remember that the General was speaking in a philosophical or oracular vein, that perhaps we did not give sufficient weight to this, and did not realise that the General was envisaging a Europe in the future. This allegation is a far cry from that made by the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone that we gave a misleading and distorted account.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

The point I made yesterday in an intervention was that in view of the extremely delicate nature of the whole affair, it would have seemed proper to have circulated to our embassies abroad a copy of the note made by the Ambassador, rather than an interpretation of it.

Mr. Stewart

The right hon. Gentleman's intervention yesterday consisted of two words. I had just told the House that our account was not misleading, and the right hon. Gentleman's comment was "Says you!" The implication was that I was not telling the truth.

I do not think, therefore, that this will seriously be argued, except in the very attenuated, emaciated sense in which the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire spoke, which was that we had not given sufficient weight to the fact that the General was speaking with an eye on the future.

I ask the House to notice again that in what I said yesterday in replying to a Question I had in mind at this point the instructions we gave to our ambassadors in the countries concerned. I made it very clear by the use of phrases like "the General wanted to see" and "the General would like to see" that these were prognostications into the future. I do not think, therefore, that it can be said that we failed to notice this point. But it is true, and it is no distortion at all to say it, that the General made very clear what his preferences—to put it at its mildest—for the future of Europe were. So in reporting that to our allies we were not distorting what the General had said.

It was quite clear——

Mr. Hastings

Before the Foreign Secretary leaves this section of his speech, would he reconsider his refusal to place in the Library copies of the Ambassador's account of the interview, and also of the communication sent to others?

Mr. Stewart

I was asked that question yesterday. I said that it would be an extremely unusual step, but that if the accuracy of our Ambassador's record was seriously challenged I would have to consider doing so. But I do not think that that challenge is seriously made. Further, if hon. Members are to say on no evidence at all that we have sent untruthful reports in our messages overseas and demand that we must publish every telegram in order to disprove allegations for which no evidence has been offered—well, no responsible person would suggest such a thing.

The allegation about the record, therefore, was wrong—the record was an accurate record. The allegation that we distorted the record is pared down to a tiny philosophical point, and then practically dropped altogether.

Then comes the objection that it was a breach of confidence for us to inform our allies. Not everyone made that objection, and in the end even that was narrowed down to saying that it was wrong to inform our allies before we had told the French that we intended to do so. That matter I will deal with in a moment, but let me first take the wider complaint made by some hon. Members that it was wrong to inform our allies at all.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) made a good deal of this point. He asked what would be the general feeling of any Government wanting to talk to Britain, and asked us to make it clear that this is not a general practice, and is not recognised or usual practice. That I certainly say. It is my case here that the circumstances were of such a special character that it was right for us to inform our allies of what had been said to us. But in this particular case we must notice, first of all, the nature of the proposal that the General made, and notice that his expressed wish about what he would like to see happen in Europe was linked with a definite proposal that we should have talks with him. So it cannot be regarded as mere philosophising.

The proposals were of a nature that gravely affected the interest of our allies: those with regard to N.A.T.O. clearly affected our relations with the United States; those with regard to the future of the Common Market clearly affected our allies in Europe. This proposal was made at a time—to take up a point raised yesterday afternoon—when it was public knowledge that President Nixon was0 about to visit Europe, at a time when it was known that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister would shortly be visiting Germany, and in a situation in which it had been known for some time that it has been the public posture of Her Majesty's Government to say that we want to enter the European economic communities.

I can take the point of those hon. Members who say, "May there not be something in the General's ideas? Let us discuss them." What hon. Members have failed to comment on in this debate is that we did say to the French that we were ready to enter into conversations with them but that it must be clear in the light of the nature of the proposals they were making and their effect on our friends and allies that we must inform our friends and allies.

There was the further consideration—which I do not rate as highly as did some hon. Members but which I do not believe a Government with any sense of realism could overlook—of the risk that if we were not quick to tell our allies about this matter they might hear of it from other sources and in a less friendly way. I say no more than that this was not a consideration that could be totally overlooked. In the light of all those things, our position was that we should have been guilty of a breach of faith with our allies if we had not told them, and I believe only one or two hon. Members opposite pressed the criticism to the point of saying that we ought not to have told our allies at all.

In the end, therefore, the criticism in this search for something in order to prove the Government wrong has narrowed itself down to the point of the relative timing of when we told various Governments, the French on the one hand and our other allies on the other hand. I have already dealt with the point that we gave them an accurate account of what had passed between our Ambassador and the General.

What about the timing? The whole process of information began on 12th February, and, as I told the House yesterday, the actual moment at which the disclosure is made to a Government depends on the exact timing of the interview between our Ambassador and the person to whom he speaks. It was decided to give this information on 12th February. The information was given by my right hon. Friend, since he was in Germany at the time, to Chancellor Kiesinger at about 4.30 p.m. The information was given to the French Government at about 8 o'clock, to the American Government at about 11.30 p.m., British time, to others during the evening, and to two on the following morning.

The gravamen of the criticism is that we did not inform the French before we informed the Germans. I have already told the House that we felt we should be in breach of faith to our allies if we did not tell them at all. I have stressed why it was necessary that we should make it quite clear that we were not asking permission to do what we believed we were under a duty to our allies to do.

Finally on this point down to which the criticism has narrowed, it is interesting to notice that although a limited number of hon. Members have made that criticism, some with a good deal of bitterness, nobody else in Europe makes that criticism, not even the French. The French have objected to our telling our allies at all, but that does not find agreement with most hon. Gentlemen on the benches opposite. The benches opposite seem to be raising the narrow point of "when", a point which the French have not taken.

Moreover, it is also true that our action has been not criticised but welcomed by the other Five and generally among those who want to see the unity of Europe.

Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley)

I am grateful to the Foreign Secretary for giving way, but he is, as far as a large number of people on these benches are concerned, working on a false assumption. He himself said yesterday that he accepted that the President of France believed that these conversations with the Ambassador were confidential. We do not accept, in these circumstances, that the Foreign Secretary was able to deduce on his own, without any warning or discussions on how the matter should be handled, that he had the duty to give the information to others. If the Foreign Secretary is saying that he is under this obligation, either because we have applied to join the Common Market or because of the Luxemburg Agreement, then, of course, this denies his other argument that this is an exceptional case, because it means that he is under an obligation, as the result of Luxemburg or a general point, to inform everybody of every consultation, even though the other party believes that it is confidential.

Mr. Stewart

The second part of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks shows that he did not listen to what I was saying when I gave my reasons for regarding this as a special case. The obligation to tell them was not merely because they were our partners in W.E.U. but because these proposals were of a nature that seriously affected their prosperity and security, and it would have undermined our good faith if we had appeared at one time to be seeking entry into the Community and at another time, behind their backs, to be discussing the disappearance of the Community or its transformation into something quite different.

Mr. Heath rose——

Mr. Stewart

No. As to the first part part of his remarks where the right hon. Gentleman tried to clear up what previous speakers have not, whether the charge is that we ought not to have told our allies at all, or whether the charge is that we should not have told them first, I have given the reasons why I believe that we ought to have told them, but if there is to be criticism on either count, let us look at what alternative course of action has been urged upon us by our critics.

The right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire said that what we should have done was to have told our allies—and he was not specific about whether we should have done this with or without French consent—that we had had a first conversation with the French. We did tell them that. He said that we should have explained that in that conversation a number of the General's familiar ideas had come out, but presumably without specifying exactly what the General had said. Third, he said that we should have said that we were going to have further talks. We have done what the right hon. Gentleman advises us to do in every respect except one. We told our allies that we had had a first conversation. We told them that we had replied that we would be ready to have further talks. The right hon. Gentleman says that we ought to have said that some of the General's familiar ideas came out in the conversation, but we went a bit further and specified what had, in fact, come out.

If the Government are to be criticised for following the course which they did and not the one advocated by the right hon. Gentleman, this is a very feeble case. Had we done what he advised, we should have told our allies that in this conversation with the French a lot of familiar ideas came out and then left them to speculate on what was actually said. I cannot accept that that would have been a better handling of the matter.

In the event then, when the critics have finished they are not perfectly clear whether they are saying that we ought not to have told our allies without France's consent, or that we ought not to have told our allies without first telling the French. The only recipe of alternative action offered to us is one that seems to me and to most people who have considered it to be inferior both in wisdom and in frankness to what we did.

Very briefly, I must turn to the contributions of those hon. Members who sought to widen the debate and consider the position in Europe generally. I will take up first the references to Western European Union. It has been suggested that it was wrong for us to use W.E.U. for this purpose. Let us be clear on the purpose for which we are using it. Nobody has the illusion that by discussions with W.E.U. we can get into the Common Market; it is not a tenable proposition. We say that it is Her Majesty's Government's policy to enter the Common Market. While we are barred from entry to the Market we want to seek co-operation in Europe with all who will co-operate with us in those areas that are not barred by the Common Market. That is the right policy.

What would happen if we did not do that? Nearly all the efforts for European unity and consultation would get concentrated in the one focus of the Common Market, from which we should be excluded, and I do not believe that would be a right policy. That is why we have proceeded as we have in Western European Union.

Here again, I ask those who criticise the Government to notice in what a tiny minority they are. The step that we have taken has been welcomed by all the Western European Governments except France. At the recent conference of the W.E.U. Parliamentarians, the Resolution, which however tactfully worded, made it quite clear that they thought that what we and the others had done was right and hoped that France would join us, was passed by a decisive majority, among whom were to be found all those delegates who were members of the party opposite with a very few exceptions.

I cannot see, therefore, when most of our friends in Europe believe that we are acting wisely and in the best interests of Europe, that there should be Members desperately looking round to say, "Whatever the great issues, our immediate purpose is somehow or other to try to prove the Government were wrong."

There are great issues. If I have had to reply bluntly and plainly to what I think were quite unjustified criticisms, I hope, none the less, that right hon. and hon. Members will accept that many of us share in common the desire to bring Europe together—first, a united Western Europe; then better understanding between East and West. I know that this cannot be done by trying either to exclude France or Germany, or by any dodging between one and the other. Nobody can point to any action of the Government that has had that purpose. At every stage we have made it clear, as in the W.E.U. discussions, that the place for France was there and that she was welcome.

We cannot accept that there can be no progress in Europe without French consent. While we have no desire to seek to play one group off against another, since in the Common Market five countries are desperately anxious to see us come in, we cannot behave as if their good will were of no account. I believe that is the situation with which we are faced.

Since there is this difference between Britain and France, we must try to repair the damage. I accept none of the accusations that the damage is of our making, and I certainly should not apologise for something that is not our fault and that hardly anybody in Europe would dream of thinking was our fault.

We must now build up. I do not believe this to be impossible. In the end, I think there are forces and necessities which will bring Western Europe together. But we shall not get there unless the Government continue to make clear that their policy is to get into the Market, and meanwhile to seek every other available form of co-operation.

The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire began by asking what the objective

was. It was to continue to make clear our real policy. This we have done.

Mr. Hastings rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put: —

The House divided: Ayes 33, Noes 270.

Division No. 87.] AYES [6.43 p.m.
Biffen, John Hay, John Ridley, Hn Nicholas
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Hirst, Geoffrey Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Body, Richard Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Stainton, Keith
Bruce-Cardyne, J. Loveys, W. H. Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
du Cann Rt. Hn. Edward McAdden, Sir Stephen Waddington, David
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Marten, Neil Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Emery, Peter Maxwell, Robert Worsley, Marcus
Fortescue, Tim Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Wright, Esmond
Foster, Sir John Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Nott, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Goodhart, Philip Onslow, Cranley Mr. Stephen Hastings and
Gresham Cooke, R. Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Sir Henry d'Avigdor-Goldsmid.
Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.
Alldritt, Walter de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Hattersley, Roy
Anderson, Donald Dell, Edmund Hazell, Bert
Archer, Peter Dempsey, James Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis
Ashley, Jack Dewar, Donald Heffer, Eric S.
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Henig, Stanley
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Doig, Peter Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Dunn, James A. Hilton, W. S.
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Dunnett, Jack Hooley, Frank
Barnes, Michael Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Horner, John
Barnett, Joel Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Beaney, Alan Edelman, Maurice Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)
Bence, Cyril Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Howie, W.
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Edwards, William (Merioneth) Hoy, James
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton) Ellis, John Huckfield, Leslie
Binns, John English, Michael Hughes, Rt. Hn.Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Bishop, E. S. Ensor, David Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)
Blackburn, F. Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Faulds, Andrew Hunter, Adam
Booth, Albert Fernyhough, E. Hynd, John
Boyden, James Finch, Harold Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)
Bradley, Tom Fletcher, Rt.Hn.Sir Eric (lslington, E.) Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Jeger, George (Goole)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Foley, Maurice Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich) Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Ford, Ben Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Buchan, Norman Forrester, John Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Fowler, Gerry Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Fraser, John (Norwood) Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W.Ham, S.)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Freeson, Reginald Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Galpern, Sir Myer Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)
Carmichael, Neil Gardner, Tony Judd, Frank
Carter-Jones, Lewis Garrett, W. E. Kelley, Richard
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Ginsburg, David Kenyon, Clifford
Chapman, Donald Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)
Coe, Denis Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth) Kerr, Russell (Feltham)
Coleman, Donald Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Lawson, George
Concannon, J. D. Gregory, Arnold Leadbitter, Ted
Conian, Bernard Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Ledger, Ron
Crawshaw, Richard Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)
Cronin, John Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)
Cullen, Mrs, Alice Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Lee, John (Reading)
Dalyell, Tam Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Lestor, Miss Joan
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Hamling, William Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Harper, Joseph Lipton, Marcus
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Lomas, Kenneth
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Loughlin, Charles
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Haseldine, Norman Luard, Evan
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn) Skeffington, Arthur
McBride, Neil Owen, Will (Morpeth) Small, William
MacColl, James Padley, Walter Snow, Julian
MacDermot, Niall Paget, R. T. Spriggs, Leslie
Macdonald, A. H. Palmer, Arthur Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
McGuire, Michael Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
McKay, Mrs. Margaret Parker, John (Dagenham) Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Parkin Ben (Paddington, N.) Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Mackie, John Parkyn, Brian (Bedford) Taverne, Dick
Mackintosh, John P. Pavitt, Laurence Thomas, Rt. Hn. George
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
McNamara, J. Kevin Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Thornton, Ernest
MacPherson, Malcolm Pentland, Norman Tinn, James
Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.) Tomney, Frank
Tuck, Raphael
Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.) Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E Urwin, T. W.
Manuel, Archie Price, Thomas (Westhoughton) Varley, Eric G.
Mapp, Charles Probert, Arthur Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Marks, Kenneth Randall, Harry Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Marquand, David Rankin, John Wallace, George
Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard Rees, Merlyn Watkins, David (Consett)
Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Reynolds, Rt. Hn. G. W. Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Mayhew, Christopher Rhodes, Geoffrey Weitzman, David
Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Richard, Ivor Wellbeloved, James
Millan, Bruce Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Whitaker, Ben
Miller, Dr. M. S. Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy White, Mrs. Eirene
Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.) Wilkins, W. A.
Molloy, William Robertson, John (paisley) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St.P' c' as) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Roebuck Roy Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Morris, John (Aberavon) Rose, paul Williams, W.T. (Warrington)
Moyle, Roland Ross, Rt. Hn. William Willis, Ht. Hn. George
Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Rowlands, E. Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Murray, Albert Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.) Winnick, David
Neal, Harold Sheldon, Robert Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Oakes, Gordon Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E. Woof, Robert
O'Malley, Brian Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne) Wyatt, Woodrow
Oram, Albert E. Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.)
Orbach, Maurice Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Orme, Stanley Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich) Mr. Charles Grey and
Oswald, Thomas Silverman, Julius Mr. Alan Fitch.

It being after three hours after the commencement of Proceedings, Mr. SPEAKER interrupted the Proceedings, pursuant to paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration), and the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.