§ Motion made and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Fortescue.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Before the right hon. Gentleman begins, I should say that I have had 60 requests from right hon. and hon. Members to make speeches, including a number of Privy Councillors and maiden speakers. I hope that the House will follow the example of the Adjournment debate yesterday, when we got through about 15 speeches in rather over two hours. I hope that speeches will be short so that I shall be able to call everyone.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it be in order to move an Amendment to the Motion, That this House do now adjourn, in the terms of Motion No. 217 in my name, on the subject of a referendum on the Common Market?
[That this House, while sympathetically disposed to any non-socialist scheme for international co-operation, and particularly so in the face of overt opposition from the British Left in and outside Parliament, and while recognising that the anxieties about Great Britain's joining the European Economic Community expressed by others are largely based upon misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the Treaty of Rome and its effects, and while retaining scepticism about the practicability and desirability of the expectations of the extreme European enthusiasts, believes that on balance there could well be scope for a fruitful association with the European communities on the basis of the Treaty of Rome; but none the less views with abhorrence the prospect of Her Majesty's Government's signing the Treaty on any terms even with the approval of Parliament without giving the electorate as a whole an opportunity of registering a view by referendum organised for that purpose; and believes that a majority against, if so ascertained, should decisively prevent Her Majesty's Government signing the Treaty.]
§ Mr. Rippon
I am sure that the House will agree that this is a good moment in the life of the new Parliament to review the progress of the negotiations for our membership of the European Community. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I have reported to the House on five occasions since the negotiations began. There has been a great deal of useful discussion in the House and in the country at large. Negotiations have made good headway and the negotiating partners are now well prepared to tackle the central issues. This is a time for drawing the threads together: for reviewing what has been achieved, for considering what lies ahead in the negotiations and, if they are successful, beyond.
For 10 years now successive British Governments have believed that membership of the Community is in the interest of this country—and of Europe as a whole—provided fair terms could be obtained. By fair terms I think we have meant terms that would take account of the particular interests and situation of this country and the Commonwealth, and the impact upon existing trading arrangements, particularly in the period of transition.
The present negotiations began with the previous Government's application, announced by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, then Prime Minister, in his statement to the House on 2nd May 1967. That statement, subsequently published as a White Paper, Cmnd. 3269, was approved by an overwhelming majority of Members of the last Parliament after three days of debate. In that statement the last Administration not only indicated the major issues to be resolved during the negotiations but also affirmed the broader economic and political considerations which determined the decision to apply for full membership of the European Economic Community.
As the then Prime Minister said:… whatever the economic arguments, the House will realise that … the Government's purpose derives above all, from our recognition that Europe is now faced with the opportunity of a great move forward in political unity and that we can—and indeed must—play our full part in it".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May 1967; Vol. 746, c. 313–314.]1081 The then Foreign Secretary went on to set out the Government's negotiating objectives in a statement at The Hague on 4th July, 1967. That statement explained how an enlarged Community would benefit Britain, Europe and the world at large. It also defined the matters which needed to be raised in the negotiations. Subject to changes which time has made inevitable, this statement remains broadly valid, and it was reprinted last year as Cmnd. 3345. For reasons beyond this country's control, the 1967 application could not make immediate headway. Matters remained at a virtual standstill until 1969, when a number of factors gave the movement towards European unity a fresh breath of life. The first major result was the summit meeting of the Six at The Hague at the end of that year. Since then they have worked steadily to complete the original tasks of the Community, to promote its further development and to make possible its enlargement. After the long years of frustration this new opportunity for progress was welcomed by the four countries who had applied for membership.
So it was that the Conservative Government did not shrink from the prospect of beginning negotiations only a few days after the General Election. There is here a broad continuity of theme and purpose.
I have said that the statement made by the previous Government in July, 1967, was one to which we could give general assent. This did not absolve us from the responsibility of examining very carefully all the issues at stake before my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered the terms of our opening negotiating statement on behalf of the Government at Luxembourg on 30th June last year.
At the outset we set in train with the Six and the other applicants a fact-finding exercise which was completed in the autumn. This served two essential purposes: it ensured that both sides were thinking in broadly the same terms; and it established the dimensions of the problems involved. Without it the progress which has subsequently been made by both Ministers and their Deputies would scarcely have been possible.
I have regularly informed the House of the progress of these negotiations. Some have felt, I know, that the results 1082 have occasionally been presented in too detailed and statistical a fashion. I sympathise with this feeling. I understand how difficult it is for hon. Members, as for the general public, to have an overall view of what is happening simply by the process of making statements from time to time, often on rather detailed points, when hon. Members have no more than the opportunity for asking questions. So I shall now try to give an overall view as briefly as I can.
Setting aside our various agreements on points of detail, to which I shall return later, the Six and ourselves have narrowed the essential issues in the negotiations down to three. The most important of these to Britain is Community finance. We have already expressed our willingness to accept the Community's direct income system. There is no argument about it. I hope that is fully understood. What we now have to do is to determine how to deal with the transitional period.
The proposals we put forward on this point on 16th December were designed to adapt this country to the Community system on a fair and realistic basis. Through them we hope to achieve a mutual balance of advantages with our partners throughout the transitional period so that what are described as the impact effects in some fields are balanced by the dynamic effects in others. If the impact were—to use the jargon—greater than the dynamic in the early stages, we should all be in for trouble, the existing members of the Community as well as the new ones. The arrangements we propose follow closely what present members arranged for themselves. But our intention is not to obtain an exact mathematical balance.
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
The in-word seems to be "dynamic". I should like to have it defined in the context of how it can fit into our future development as an industrial country.
§ Mr. Rippon
It is very important that my hon. Friend should read the various statements and White Papers to which I have referred, in which the words are used very freely and explained in detail.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, speaking as Prime Minister of the terms of entry in Strasbourg on the 23rd January, 1967, said:I hope the negotiations will be on a minimum number of particular issues and not 1083 on an infinity of details. Many of the details, many of the consequential decisions—important though they may be—can best be settled on a continuing basis from within the Community. Nor can the ultimate decision be based on a computerised analysis of finely balanced economic calculations".As befits a member of a poetic family, he quoted Wordsworth, who once wrote:… high Heaven rejects the loreOf nicely-calculated less or more".What we have tried to do is to make such forecasts as are possible in order to show the scale of the problems involved. As I have explained to the House before, no one can know what the size and shape of the Community budget will be in five or eight years' time, nor the precise scale of our contribution to it and receipts from it. But one assumption most people are prepared to make is that agriculture will form a proportionately less important part of the budget—as regards both income and expenditure—than it does today. It is to be expected that more resources will be devoted to regional, social and industrial policies and programmes. And as agriculture diminishes in relative importance so our own situation in relation to the Community budget may be expected to improve. Those who see us carrying a perpetual burden of high contributions and low receipts in this respect have got the issues out of perspective.
Perhaps I might now clear up another misunderstanding. Some people in the Community have taken fright at what they describe as our demand for a review clause. We have not in fact asked for a specific safeguard, ceiling review or guarantee but simply, and we think that this is reasonable, some agreement to reflect the Community's own idea that if an unacceptable situation were to arise the Community's survival would demand equitable solutions.
We are not, therefore, seeking a mathematical limit to our budget contribution in the period after correctives no longer exist, nor do we have in mind a device intended to enable us further to prolong the period of adaptation. We are asking for reasonable means of reassurance that, if we join, we shall be part of a genuine Community where our vital interests will be part of the common interest.
1084 The two other main questions are dairy products from New Zealand and sugar from the developing Commonwealth countries—
§ Mr. Joel Barnett (Heywood and Royton)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the subject of reassurance, can he make it clear that the reassurance he seeks is for the post-transitional period as well as the pre-transitional period?
§ Mr. Rippon
It is something that would apply to the whole period, and to other members of the Community as well as to ourselves.
Our negotiating partners realise, I think, that dairy products from New Zealand and sugar from the developing Commonwealth countries are grave and special issues to which satisfactory solutions must be found on behalf of the entire enlarged Community. In both of these cases we have made proposals for arrangements on a continuing basis, subject to review. I myself went to New Zealand last year to acquaint myself with the facts on the spot. I am likewise about to make quick visits to five of the main sugar producing countries in the Caribbean.
I will now turn to what has been achieved. First, I should like to pay tribute to the co-operative and helpful attitude that the Community has taken, all the more so because of the difficulty which the six Governments naturally have in co-ordinating their national positions in a matter touching so many of their vital interests. So far as we are concerned, a remarkable amount of ground has been covered on many complex issues. I will not weary the House with details of what I think I have already covered fairly fully in statements, but we satisfied ourselves, for example, at an early stage that the arrangements for the supplies of pig meat, eggs and liquid milk were such as would suit the British farmer and consumer.
We also reached agreement on an annual review of agriculture at Community level which will provide for adequate contacts with producers. The House will also remember that the Community has noted with satisfaction our proposals that here should be a five-year transitional period for adaptation in both the industrial and the agricultural fields, but it still remains to work out the actual 1085 mechanics of transition. Moreover, the principles on admission to the European Investment Bank have been agreed.
On the Commonwealth questions progress has also been made. As hon. Members know, we are seeking, for much of the developing Commonwealth, the option of association agreements of one kind or another. The enlarged Community would have major responsibilities for the developing world, including Commonwealth countries. I think the House will recognise that special provision for access to the enlarged Community would bring great benefit to many Commonwealth countries. Association agreements have a useful part to play here, and as hon. Members will be aware some Commonwealth countries have already made preferential agreements with the Community. Others have made approaches. This will go on whether or not we join.
The Community has also already agreed that such options should be offered to most of the dependent Commonwealth and to nine independent African Commonwealth countries. We have also made good progress in working out satisfactory arrangements for Gibraltar and Hong Kong.
Both the previous Government and the present Government have always maintained that there is no incompatibility between our Commonwealth responsibilities and membership of an enlarged Community, and in this connection I would ask hon. Members to take note of a statement made by the New Zealand Prime Minister, Sir Keith Holyoake on 11th January. Sir Keith then said:There have already been regular bilateral and collective exchanges over the last few months to keep Commonwealth Governments informed of progress. The meeting in Singapore will no doubt be given an up-to-date statement by the British Prime Minister of the stage negotiations have now reached. Although British entry into the E.E.C. would inevitably alter the traditional pattern of Commonwealth trade in some degree, we should all be able to agree that our trade links will remain an important part of the association. I would hope also that the meeting will reaffirm political support for what Britain is undertaking. It may seem paradoxical, but I believe that a successful outcome of the Brussels talks would create a balance of advantage for the Commonwealth in the longer term.All I can say is that I entirely agree with that statement by the New Zealand Prime Minister.
1086 I am very conscious, as the House would wish me to be, of the need to consult our Commonwealth and E.F.T.A. partners, and take every opportunity to do so. I have already mentioned my visit to New Zealand; and that I plan to visit the Caribbean. Apart from discussions that I have had with Commonwealth Ministers and High Commissioners in London I have also visited Hong Kong and Australia, and look forward to visiting Canada in a few weeks' time.
So far as E.F.T.A. is concerned, I have had valuable talks with Ministerial visitors to London, and I attended a most successful E.F.T.A. Ministerial meeting in November. Earlier this month I had extremely useful talks with the Danish Government in Copenhagen.
We must not forget that three other European nations share with us the aim of Community membership, and our other E.F.T.A. partners want to come to terms with the Community in various ways which they think suitable for their purposes. So success in the enlargement negotiations would heal at long last the economic divisions of Western Europe and that, it may be recalled, was the aim to which we and the other E.F.T.A. founder members consciously look forward when we signed the Treaty of Stockholm. The ultimate success of E.F.T.A. would be its integration in a wider grouping.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
Can my right hon. Friend comment on the situation which is developing now in Norway where, in a coalition of four parties, three parties are apparently against entry into the Common Market, and if the negotiations are pursued the coalition may well break up, in which case it might withdraw its application. What would then happen?
§ Mr. Rippon
It would, of course, be most improper for me to comment on what is happening in Norway. What the House must take note of is that Norway has an application which she is pursuing, and I can go no further than to say that the Norwegian Government hope the application will be successful, otherwise they would not have made it.
Success would bring for all of us in the negotiations a domestic market five times that of the British market and three times that of the E.F.T.A. market. The elimination of inter-European tariffs would be a great relief, even though these may be 1087 less serious than in former times. It would remove a major impediment to the development of trade, and would also remove a psychological barrier to the development of industry across national frontiers.
But the economic advantages go further and deeper than that. Within an enlarged Community we should be in a better position to attract investment, to find suitable industrial partners, to achieve economies of scale and to take advantage of the vast trading opportunities.
Despite some of the mutually contradictory theses that have been advanced, the European Community has given its members substantial economic opportunities, and these have been exploited successfully. It has given them a climate of confidence in which economic activity has thrived. The Six themselves—and our own Confederation of British Industry—have no doubt that much of the remarkable increase in their growth rates and standards of living is due to the creation of the Community. I do not doubt that similar opportunities are available to us as are available to the Six so long as the terms of entry are such as to allow us to exploit them.
There is one feature of Community growth which is particularly significant for us. The Six have expanded trade between themselves more than five times since the Community was established. But they have also maintained a creditable expansion of trade with the rest of the world. Although the Community is one of our largest and fastest growing markets, our exports to the Six have increased at only just over half the rate of their trade between themselves. There is tremendous scope for improvement, particularly if the Community is enlarged to cover virtually the whole of Western Europe in trading terms.
Western Europe now takes nearly half of our total exports, twice as much as goes to the Commonwealth. There has been a remarkable change in the pattern of trade between us over the last ten years. Perhaps one of the most significant features of the post-war world has been the growth of trade between industrial countries.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
My right hon. Friend said that Western Europe now takes twice as much 1088 of our trade as the Commonwealth. Would he confirm that, when he used the phrase "Western Europe" in that context, he was of course aggregating the E.F.T.A. and the Common Market countries?
§ Mr. Rippon
That is so—less Malta. The figures are 43.7 per cent. for Western Europe, including Eire, and 22 per cent. for the Commonwealth. This compares with the position in 1959 when we sent 32 per cent. of our exports to Western Europe, including Eire, and 35 per cent. to the Commonwealth.
§ Mr. Edward Milne (Blyth)
In addition to giving the percentage figures, will the right hon. Gentleman also give the figures of trade with the Commonwealth, with E.F.T.A. and with the E.E.C.?
§ Mr. Rippon
These figures are available and could be provided. What I have tried to indicate by giving a few more figures to the House—it is difficult to give them all—is the way in which the pattern of trade has changed in the last decade.
It is no longer true that we make a living by exchanging industrial against primary products. Our ability to trade with and to help the developing world depends on our having a thriving trade with the developed world. A more dynamic Britain inside the Community would be at least as well placed as she is today for doing business with other developed areas such as America and Japan.
There is no question of our abandoning the Commonwealth or the developing world. At present, we devote a smaller percentage of our total national resources to aid than the members of the present Community. This is a position which has changed dramatically over the last few years. Apart from their substantial bilateral aid programmes, they operate the multilateral European Development Fund. Under this a thousand million dollars are being disbursed over the five years of the present Yaoundé Convention to the 18 African countries associated with the Community under its terms. When Commonwealth countries become associated with the Community, they would also benefit under any future arrangements to which we should of course be contributors.
1089 In saying all this about the Commonwealth and of the general trading position, I do not overlook the problems at home. I have said that economic opportunities are dependent on fair negotiating terms.
§ Mr. Bert Oram (East Ham, South)
Just now, the right hon. Gentleman listed a number of developing countries for which he said that he had reached satisfactory arrangements for association. Can he say whether representatives of those developing countries were associated with the British team in conducting those negotiations and reaching the settlements?
§ Mr. Rippon
I thought that I had already explained that I have very close and frequent consultations with the countries concerned, through their High Comissioners. I see them both here and in Brussels. They are being offered various options which it will be open to them to accept or reject as they please. Neither we nor the previous Government have denied the prospects of a gradual increase in many, though not all, food prices over the transitional period, though I must emphasise that this will be very gradual, and much more gradual than what has happened over the last 12 months.
I do not deny that this prospect and anxieties on other scores inevitably make our public opinion hesitant. In the circumstances this is entirely natural. In my judgment, it is not so much that people reject the idea of British membership of the Community as such. It is rather that they have legitimate worries about the impact effect of entry. The Government are aware of these fears and will do everything possible, as negotiations develop, to remove misapprehensions and anxieties. On food prices, we have already given undertakings to take whatever measures are necessary to help pensioners and cushion the impact on those least able to bear it.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
The right hon. Gentleman is saying that he will remove misapprehensions. The people are not worried about misapprehensions. It is agreed between the two Front Benches that there will be very substantial increases in food prices. On the financial contribution, he said that he believes that agriculture will become less important in the Community but that he still 1090 wants long-term assurances. Why cannot he come clean and tell the people that they are right in thinking that the Government are talking about substantial increases and not merely misapprehensions?
§ Mr. Rippon
That shows the necessity for a debate of this kind, because the hon. Gentleman is helping to create those misapprehensions and anxieties. It is my purpose to remove them. Sometimes one hears people saying that the price of meat will go up if we join the Community.
§ Mr. Rippon
They do not add that the report says that we shall be eating more beef because, at the end of the day, our standard of living will have risen, as it has in the Community.
If we can achieve through opportunities conferred by membership an additional growth of only ½ per cent. in our G.N.P., that would give us an extra £1,100 million per annum over a period of 5 years. It is only in this way that we can ensure a real increase in the standard of living of all, and that is what should be our purpose at the end of the day.
§ Mr. Neil McBride (Swansea, East)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves food prices, are these additional increases to be added to those which were hinted at by the Minister of Agriculture? Secondly, can he controvert or corroborate the New Zealand assertion that British entry into E.E.C. will mean, on the basis of the present quantity of imported sheep meat and sheep meat products, a further £100 million on the nation's food bill?
§ Mr. Rippon
I cannot substantiate either of those points further than I have already. I have indicated the position about food prices and the effect of British entry on New Zealand in a number of statements. I know that large numbers of hon. Members wish to speak in this debate. It is probably more helpful if right hon. and hon. Members are given the opportunity to make their speeches. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture will be opening the debate tomorrow and, at the end, I hope to have an opportunity of answering more detailed points.
I have said that the enlargement of the Community would end the economic 1091 division of Europe. In fact, it would do far more. The Community is potentially much more than a Common Market or customs union, which is its greatest achievement to date. Its potential is limited unless it can develop further, and it cannot speak for Western Europe as a whole unless the enlargement negotiations succeed. These two developments are ultimately inter-dependent.
It is very important that hon. Members and the public realise what is at stake. No one should accuse us of trying to shroud the issues or pretend that they are other than they are. Above all, what must concern us most is the political future of Western Europe.
As the Leader of the Opposition's statement as Prime Minister in May, 1967, summed it up—this is the document which the House approved—Together we can ensure that Europe plays in world affairs the part which the Europe of today is not at present playing. For a Europe that fails to put forward its full economic strength will never have the political influence which I believe it could and should exert within the United Nations, within the Western Alliance, and as a means for effecting a lasting detente between East and West; and equally contributing in ever fuller measure to the solution of the world's North-South problems, to the needs of the developing world".Had the Community existed 40 years ago with Britain as a member, who can doubt that the tragedy of world war would have been averted? Growing together would have prevented the conditions arising which allowed us to tear ourselves apart with such grievious consequences for us all.
Growing together is not an image of which I am ashamed. I know that many right hon. and hon. Members have fears about loss of sovereignty if we join the Community. Indeed, the critics charge us with inconsistency, for accepting the implications of the Community, on the one hand—which we do—and, on the other, refusing to accept that this will lead us, as they say, inevitably and involuntarily into federalism.
§ Mr. Rippon
My hon. Friend indicates that that is what worries him. But this betrays a failure to understand what the Community is about—[HON. MEMBERS: 1092 "Hear, hear."]—or what has been happening to our own country in this generation.
§ Mr. Marten
In spite of his chorus placed behind him to cheer him on, I should like to ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether it is not he who has got it wrong. It is Europe which will go federal. He is not coming clean with the House, if I may say so.
§ Mr. Rippon
If my hon. Friend had not interrupted, he would have heard what I was about to say and could then have an opportunity of commenting in his own speech. I am trying to explain to him that I think that he is under a misapprehension about the whole position. Britain has been involved in the business of integrated alliances, of collective economic and monetary management between nations, for more than 20 years. The preservation of British interests has long depended on sharing control with others, and that is already, in practical terms, an irreversible trend.
The founders of the Economic Community faced up to this reality. They decided that their purpose would be best served if the member countries could steadily grow together by sharing certain specific interests in the common enterprise. They did not lose national control over this process, and they do not intend to. The vital decisions remain with the Council of Ministers. But within the fields and limits laid down by national Governments, the life of the Community has developed. So talk of dramatic options between national sovereignty and federalism is simply not relevant.
As President Pompidou said at Strasbourg on 28th June last year:Of what Europe can it then be a question, if not of a Europe grouping together sovereign States that freely agree to lower the barriers which separate them and gradually harmonise their policies, agricultural, monetary, industrial and social, in order to advance with realism, that is, cautiously and step by step, towards a union which, when it has sufficiently become so, both in fact and in the minds of the peoples—and only then—will be able to have its own policy, its own independence, it own rôle in the world.Everyone acknowledges that Europe must be built upon respect for the individuality of the States which form part of it.
Thus, the Community is now being to work gradually towards an economic and monetary union. They have not yet 1093 agreed on the first stage, let alone the second and the third. We on this side of the House share the views expressed by successive Governments and successive Chancellors of the Exchequer that there is no need for us to have anxiety about this matter. Indeed, joining would give us the opportunity to participate, like the others, in their decisions.
Our belief is that further developments in this and other fields are highly desirable. Nothing would be done against the wishes or vital interests of each member State. We should be joining the Community not just as shareholders but as directors. We could have a major influence at every stage on both control and direction, and inevitably—I think that we must note this—we should have far more control inside than if we remained outside.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has not so far mentioned the important aspect of control relating to regional policy. It is vital that we have an assurance, before he concludes, about the advisability and possibility of operating the type of regional policy which we have operated in this country virtually since 1945.
§ Mr. Rippon
Further developments in regional policy as a result of joining the Community are one of the purposes, and I spoke about that in relation to the budget. Whatever happens in Community Europe in any case will profoundly affect our interests and our future. I have said that the development and enlargement of the Communities are closely interdependent. If we join, there will be a number of fields in which, I hope, our influence will have a significant effect.
I refer, first, to the democratic content of the Community. The previous Government were right to take advantage of the State visit of President Saragat of Italy in 1969 to sign the joint declaration that Community Europe should be firmly based on democratic institutions. The Council of Ministers contains the democratically elected representatives of democratic countries, but in those spheres in which the Community has a legitimate interest, then, I think, the European Parliament also has a vital rôle to play. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said: 1094I frankly cannot imagine the Community developing beyond a certain point without a corresponding advance in democratic functions.Another development on which enlargement would have a decisive effect is the harmonisation of foreign policy. This work is essential if European nations are to have an effective say in any of the great world issues. The start we have made here with the Six in Western European Union has been most useful. The Foreign Ministers of the Six and the Ten, working in the spirit of The Hague communiqué, have also made a good beginning. My right honourable Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary left his colleagues of the Ten in no doubt at their meeting in December that our contribution would be a vital one. But, unless our underlying economic interests are consolidated in an enlarged Community, it is difficult to see how steady and substantial progress could be achieved in this wider field.
Yet another area of European action in which progress is attendant on enlargement is defence. Of course, we and the Six are already committed to each other in Western European Union. Of course, we are all members of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance which must remain the basis of our security. But we must remember that the military potential of the Warsaw Pact Powers—despite détente—is even more formidable than it was 10 years ago. We must remember also that political pressures and trends in the United States seem certain to require that Europe should be more self-reliant and should accept greater responsibilities in defence.
Failure on the part of Western Europe to understand these two developments, and prepare for them in time, could be very serious. We must realise in the House and the country that our defence and our survival will depend increasingly on our realisation of how much we depend on each other in Western Europe and on our readiness to stand on our own feet.
In defence as in foreign policy, the determined effort and new methods of working together which the situation requires cannot easily be undertaken, if they can be undertaken at all, until our essential interests are combined in the Community.
1095 These are great and serious matters, greater, certainly, than the matters which we are tackling directly in negotiations. But the greater is dependent on the lesser. As President Pompidou rightly said earlier this month:For the negotiations to succeed, there must be a reconciliation between the interests of the Community and national interests.The word "reconciliation" is a good one. The negotiations are a collective endeavour, not a game of poker or beggar-my-neighbour. The critical period lies ahead. We are approaching the moment for which the previous Government and the present Government have worked hard. Nevertheless, I agree fully with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition that there can be no question of joining the Community in any rush through economic weakness.
For us, as for our negotiating partners, it is a moment for steeling our will, for-re-affirming our determination to achieve terms fair for all, terms which, in due course, we can justifiably bring before this House for its approval.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Lever (Manchester, Cheetham)
I do not know whether some hon. Gentlemen opposite resented the support which the Minister got from those seated behind him and whether it would be right to suggest that that support was organised. I gather from the interventions that have been made so far in the debate that no such organised support will be behind me to fortify me in my argument.
That we are having this debate today derives from a decision of the Labour Government. I mention this at the outset not to intimidate, by some supposed authority, any of my hon. Friends from their viewpoints but to try to bring to mind the notion that entry into the Community, if the right terms could be obtained, was considered to be in our fundamental interest. This notion was not arrived at hastily by some impetuous group of reactionaries but only after deep, minute consideration by that Labour Government.
I appreciate, of course, that that may not carry much weight with, for example, the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten). Nor is it intended, as I have 1096 said, to seek to deflect any of my hon. Friends, by some rather worthless debating point, from giving their views should they be against our entry on any terms which are likely to be negotiated.
I say at once that I do not resent it at all that on this very large issue, with its complications and anxieties, there should be some hon. Members on both sides of the House—though I am more particularly concerned with my hon. Friends—who feel that they should oppose the original notion that we should go into Europe if the right terms can be obtained and who oppose entry on virtually, if one is candid about this, any terms.
I do not reproach them for that. On the contrary, I would think that it would be not in accordance with their dignity and duty to this House if for any reason—holding the view that they are opposed to a major policy decision of this kind—they withheld that view or disguised it from their colleagues. There would be something very seriously lacking if they felt that some sort of personal embarrassment or possibly verbal argument should restrain them on a matter of such fundamental importance.
I hope, equally, that those who are opposed to our entry on virtually any terms will realise that it is wholly inconsistent with the dignity and duty of any of my hon. Friends who hold an opposing view to mince their words in bringing the reasons for that view to the notice of the House.
I support the decision of the Labour Government and, accordingly, my position is that I will welcome the success of the negotiations if they provide terms on which entry would be justified in the interests of the country.
I say at once that that formula is sometimes perhaps demeaned or debased by being indicative of some lack of enthusiasm for the success of the negotiations, or it is held to be a neutral position. I will make my own position unmistakably clear. When I say that if the right terms could be achieved I would advise us to go in, I mean exactly that. I do not mean it to indicate any desire to quibble or any desire to create a formula for justifying a reversal of the decision to go in.
Why are the terms important? They are important not only because of the 1097 effect on our economy—the "impact effect", as the jargon has it—but because if this country were to go into the Common Market on terms which harshly constrained the economic prospects for us for a period of years, it would be little consolation to those who, during that period, had to endure the consequences if, in the eyes of some historian next century, the enduring and overall benefits far outweighed the costs in that period.
It would be damaging to the relationship between this country and our future partners if we did not get the terms right. We do no want there to be wrangling and grievous injury to the people of Britain, not only in our selfish interests but because we are aiming at the successful and smooth running of the partnership.
I know that, to a certain extent, we should leave matters to be reviewed, and certainly to some extent we shall have to do that. On the other hand, I do not think we should unnecessarily do so on major points. Paupers make bad partners and I do not want Britain to be put in the position of having, because of some neglect in the course of the negotiations now, to ask for easements later, since that would not result in a position which would tend to produce that ongoing relationship which we should have if we go in. Another reason why the terms are important is because Commonwealth interests must be safeguarded by those terms.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his poetic intervention. In reminding us that… high Heaven rejects the loreOf nicely-calculated less or morehe was identifying another respect in which paradise differs from the House of Commons. There are others too numerous to mention.
Here in this House we cannot allow that formula to justify any slackness in the organisation of healthy terms which will permit a healthy on-going relationship when we get in. [HON. MEMBERS: "If."] If and when. I have made the position clear. I would not go in if we could not get the right terms, but I would go in if we could get the right terms. Thus, when I say "when" I mean "if" and when I say "if" I mean "when". Hon. Members may assume that the use of both words together really means their use separately.
1098 I have been careful not to assume a responsibility which is not proper for an Opposition spokesman. The right hon. Gentleman is negotiating and not I. I take no responsibility for any offers that he makes or terms he suggests. I neither approve nor disapprove them. Still less would I like to put myself in the position of a half-informed back-seat negotiator, prodding him at one point and jogging him at another. However, I am prepared to remind him of particular areas where his attention is required. But I do not think that I would serve any useful purpose if I simply engaged in a series of abstract questions without being able to commit myself to any opinion.
When the right hon. Gentleman comes with a packet agreement, if he is able to get one, that is the time when I will be obliged to judge, and judge the packet as a whole. That is the time when the Opposition will judge whether the packet as a whole is in the interests of the nation. In the meantime, I cannot take any sort of responsibility for details. Like hon. Members, I will be helped if the right hon. Gentleman will continue to identify the areas where the issues remain to be negotiated and of the progress that is made in the negotiations.
Sometimes there has been a kind of carelessness of language. I was going to refer to the occasion when the right hon. Gentleman said "when we enter", but I would be ill-advised to do that. There have been occasions when the right hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends have, in one way or another, given the impression that the Government are prepared to go into Europe on any terms at all, without being too particular about them.
I do not think it fair to say that the right hon. and learned Gentleman in anything he has said has given that impression. But I make it clear that the enthusiasts on this side—not the opponents—for the success of the negotiations on the right terms could not possibly judge other than harshly any such action were the Government to display it in the negotiations or in the evidence of the package deal which they brought back. To take such an attitude is to invite not the most constructive spirit of our friends in Europe but the worst sort of spirit. If they believed that we ourselves were indifferent to the terms of entry, one 1099 could hardly expect to inspire in them the same desire to meet our needs.
§ Mr. Lever
The hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) seems to imagine that I need a line of retreat to his position. I am not sure why he thinks that there are any attractions for me at any rate in joining him in his position.
I am making it clear—and the right hon. and learned Gentleman has taken the point—that none of this is to detract in any way from the general proposition I have laid down or to question the sincerity of the position which the leaders of my party have taken up—that of wanting the negotiations to succeed. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will go on seeing that the public is fully informed and will make all the relevant calculations that he can in the course of negotiations, without breach of confidentiality, to see that discussion in the country is open and honest. Much as I myself want to go into Europe, it is of the greatest importance on such an issue that there should not be sleight of hand, that there should not be any kind of action that detracts from the right and necessary open public debate on all the great issues involved.
§ Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)
Referring to the point the right hon. Gentleman raised about enthusiasm, is there not a fair difference of position between those who are enthusiastic for the negotiations to succeed on reasonable terms and those who want to go in at any price? They are different positions and should not be confused.
§ Mr. Lever
I think that the hon. Gentleman made a perfectly sound point and spoilt it with a rather lightweight comment.
I want to explain briefly why I advocate our entry into the Common Market. First, I see it in broadly the historical setting which the right hon. and learned 1100 Gentleman hinted at. I believe that the 20th century threw out a challenge to the world either to organise itself in the recognition that no one State could enjoy safety and welfare without co-operative inter-dependence with other States, and that the two great world wars and the poverty and hideous political events which preceded the Second World War were due to a failure by the world to respond to the needs of that challenge—that of setting aside national egotisms sufficiently to ensure not only the common safety but the common well being.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall)
Does my right hon. Friend accept that the more this matter is discussed the more the British people will become informed, and that there is a growing climate of opposition to Britain's entry as the facts grow? Would not he agree that it seems that the economic argument is wide open but that the reason why so many people range from hesitancy to implacable opposition is the considerable degree of derogation of national sovereignty which would be involved to an extent we have never entered into before?
§ Mr. Lever
My hon. Friend must not confuse the difference between argument and opinion. I am not going to be overborne by opinion polls. I am ready to be moved by solid argument. I will deal with the particular point he has raised. So far, I have not been persuaded that it is right to separate into artificial compartments the economics and the politics of it. This does not make sense in the modern world. If the polities of co-operation are awry, one cannot have economic co-operation. If one's economics is a failure, all the political goodwill disappears—and we have seen the hideous hand of Nazism and war wreaking havoc amongst the peoples of Europe. I cannot make that separation.
I believe that this century has said to the peoples of the world, "So far you could survive on the rate race principle of national egotism which was adequate in previous centuries. With the development of technology and science, you are mutilating yourselves and damaging your standard of life and welfare if you do not learn to mitigate the national egotisms which were treated as habitual and as matters of pride in those previous centuries." We failed to learn that lesson in time to avert the First and Second 1101 World Wars. Now the lesson not merely is that we are threatened with danger and loss and ruin. If we do not heed it in time in this period of history, we are warned that our total extermination may be the result of our failure to set aside traditional national egotisms which are so much to the fore in the kind of argument unfortunately so much put forward.
§ Mr. Lever
I must pursue my argument.
After the Second World War, the world moved into a period of an unprecedented economic prosperity, and did so because it had started to learn the lessons of interdependence more rapidly than in previous periods of history. For this reason we have had our remarkable on-going prosperity. What troubles and surprises me, but seems to trouble so few people, is that most people seem to think that the structure set up after the Second World War to achieve the benefits of economic and political interdependence can be permanent. I am surprised that it has not been earlier realised that the structure is already obsolete or at least obsolescent. The whole structure—economic, financial and political—urgently needs to be reconsidered and revised.
The idea that we can coast along for another 25 years using the I.M.F. and the other political and economic structures, such as the G.A.T.T., which were brought into being in 1945 to cover the post-war period, and that they can continue to serve us without serious and fairly rapid amendment, is a grave mistake.
If the world is to avert the dangers of pre-war recurring once again in economic and consequently in political terms, it will have to advance its structures. It will have to make stronger and more widespread the institutions which make the workings of interdependence effective if we are not to run the risk of serious recurrence of the grave problems which afflicted us before the Second World War. This point is fundamental to my argument. That is why, when people talk to me of changes and mitigations in the areas of sovereignty, and so on, I feel that it must have escaped them that, in the last 25 years, vast changes have occurred in the relative power of different groups in the world.
1102 The whole structure of the post-war world's prosperity and interdependence was organised on the assumption that Europe was flat on its back, as it was, and that the United States and, to a lesser extent, Britain, could, by economic and defence efforts, provide the structure of co-operation for the world's onward progress. That served for a time but the basis on which it was done and the assumption on which it was based have been long falsified by events.
Power, wealth and monetary power have moved to Europe to a most extraordinary extent, and we are dependent upon institutions which did not arrange that Europe should be playing its full part, either in the world's political affairs or in the world's economic and monetary affairs. We may not agree with the Common Market, and may think that it is the wrong structure, but there is no doubt that, unless we find the structures which will reflect these changes in relationships and bring Europe the monetary and economic power to fulfil its proper rôle in the world, we shall be in grave danger of a break down in the arrangements which hitherto have served us tolerably well.
§ Mr. Lever
I wish to finish this part of my argument. It is a theme that I want to put over. It is the theme that now we are bent upon the task of bringing Europe to play its full part, which does not mean attempting to throw its weight about. It means getting Europe to exercise its powers and take its responsibilities in the world that has come into being as a result of the original essays and efforts and interdependence of the United States and, to a lesser extent, Britain in the immediate post-war world. I believe that there are certain grave problems which need to be solved and can only be solved if Europe does so.
I believe that a Europe which excludes Britain cannot be the Europe which will be likely to play that full part, and play it effectively. I want to point to two areas 1103 of real danger, one in monetary affairs and the other in trade, which require bringing into being a united Europe able co-operatively to play its rôle in the world of preserving the world's on-going prosperity.
Dealing with monetary aspects means dealing with the sterling area, about which I shall say something later. The other means playing a rôle in adjusting the world's trade policy so as to reverse the darkening dangers and trends towards protectionism in the world which started to come into being. If Europe does not play a proper part in these two efforts, I am convinced that both the monetary system and the world's open trading system will move into a very different position from that which we have seen before or which we see today. I also believe that a united Europe has great power and responsibility in relation to overseas aid and should be organised to play a leading part in that, not only because of its history but because of its present financial and economic power.
I shall not cover the sterling question in detail because I understand that my right hon. Friend will speak on that tomorrow. The question of the rôle of sterling is not part of the negotiations but it is what I would call "factor X" in them. In other words, whatever the negotiations are, we will not succeed in entering Europe unless we take up a position in relation to the reserve rôle of sterling at any rate which is consistent, in the view of our future partners, with a sense of European outlook and responsibility. I do not want to go into details now but I believe that this necessarily involves a clear declaration by the Government of their intention to bring to an end the reserve rôle of sterling. But I hasten to say that this does not mean bringing it to an end by some unilateral act on our part, still less by any default in our obligations to the sterling reserve holders. It must be brought to an end by being replaced by an international reserve asset which must be created.
I want to hear from the right hon. Gentleman—he did not mention it in his speech, but it is crucial for these negotiations—his intentions about dealing with the reserve rôle of sterling. Does he agree that these negotiations cannot succeed unless we satisfy our future partners 1104 on this matter? Whether or not we enter the Common Market, I wish to see the reserve rôle of sterling replaced by another international asset. Because of these negotiations this has become a matter of great urgency.
It is important that the right hon. Gentleman should tell us not only his views about ending this rôle, but how it is to be ended. It is crucial that it should be ended in the right way and not deprive the world of liquidity or of a reserve asset by repayment or long-term funding or anything of that sort. It is vital that the long-term rôle of sterling must be replaced by something of an alternative character. It is important that the right hon. Gentleman should discuss with the Europeans, not merely his intentions in a blanket way, but the way in which they think it should be done.
The logic of the European position which wants to see this rôle ended must, in my view, be to take responsibility—not directly in taking over the rôle, but by playing a full part in the international responsibility which will be called for to organise the replacement of sterling reserve by some other international asset. It is important that this should be discussed now before we go into the Market and that we should make clear to our future partners what we intend. We should hear from them, not merely what they would wish us to do, but the way in which it has to be done and the part which they themselves are prepared to play internationally in assisting this valuable operation, which is advantageous to ourselves.
§ Mr. Iremonger
Is not the real trouble between the right hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends that what he is expounding is the free world's answer to international Socialism?
§ Mr. Lever
We waited a long time for what most people would think of as something of not very striking value from the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger).
I wish now to say a word about trading policy and the danger of protectionism. If Europe does not play a part in helping to bring up to date the open trade policy of the world, there is a serious danger of a reversion to protectionism. The truth is that freedom of trade, like freedom of speech, can be exercised without limit only if it is exercised with responsibility. 1105 No country will stand by and watch a great industry being destroyed by a flood of imports from another country without any accommodation via restrictions or the like.
We are witnessing in the United States a reaction to its own posture of freedom of trade, a freedom which is not always fully reciprocated elsewhere, without seeing any movement from Europe so as to encourage the Americans to retain their support for, and interest in, the open trading policy, which hitherto they have supported and which has been of such vast benefit to the world. If Europe is to react to any of the United States' actions in a destructive or negative way, it is quite clear that, instead of a continuation of the liberalisation of world trade and world prosperity that has gone with it, we are liable to move into an era of protectionist tit-for-tat, not only in Asia, but in Europe and in America itself.
This is another reason that I want to see a united Europe playing a much fuller part in organising the trade policy of the world in accordance with present-day requirements. We cannot just sit back happily and believe that the existing arrangements will take care of the situation.
I should like to deal with the problem which poses real anxieties for many hon. Members in this House, particularly, it would appear, for hon. Members my own side of the House. We are told that there is a danger that this sort of Europe might be an autarchy, which is inward-looking and a rich men's club.
§ Mr. Lever
I can only say this to those who hold the view that it is a rich men's club. If they believe that Europe is bent on a course that would be involved if that statement were true, it is a poor look-out for Britain. Our own future, our safety and our welfare are dependent on the kind of Europe which exists in the years ahead. If they are worried about it, I wonder why they are so anxious to stand by and let this danger rear its head. It would be crucially damaging to us if Europe were to plunge into this kind of attitude of autarchy and inwardness, neglecting the responsibilities which I think we have for the rest of the world. I do not go along with the idea that, if that danger exists, 1106 the remedy is to shut ourselves away, turn up our overcoat collars and hope to get along on our own.
§ Mr. Lever
The Soviet Union has not invited us so far to a federal and democratic merger with them. The House must not misunderstand me. I regard interdependence and its cost as being based on a view of the interdependence of all human beings on earth. It includes the people of the Soviet Union and of China. I am not responsible for the views that they hold—[Interruption.]—And I am glad to say that I am not responsible for every view that is held among my hon. Friends. I am thinking of the interdependence of all human beings on this planet in this day and age, including the people in the Soviet Union and elsewhere who live under systems which are not my systems and which are not attractive to me. I do not want to see the annihilation of the world, nor do I want to see poverty among any of the peoples of the world. I feel my interdependence with them.
I may be wrong in the way in which I seek to achieve the protection of the world from self-annihilation, and I see this more as a way of achieving greater accommodation with the dangerous areas of the Soviet Union, the Far East and the like. I may be wrong, but my purposes are clear. [Interruption.] I may be wrong in feeling that this is the way to advance the general prosperity of the world, but this is my intention.
§ Mr. Speaker
The House would do well to let the right hon. Gentleman make his own speech, which is very interesting, and I am sure that he can do so without the help of the House.
§ Mr. Lever
I do not want it to be thought that I submit to the doctrines of guilt by association, but there are those opposite who cannot be counted or who have dissembled any ardent enthusiasm for the Common Market. I am talking of the safety and prosperity of the whole world rather than of a part of the world. Just as in the United Nations we strengthen collective security by appropriate regional pacts where there is a natural 1107 interdependence, so economically Europe is a natural area for the furtherance of that interdependence.
What also has troubled my right hon. and hon. Friends has been the cost of this operation. It is interesting to see who are the people in Europe who most ardently want us in. One discovers that every Socialist democratic trade union and party in Europe is passionately eager for us to go in. We must recognise that parliamentary democracy is not just keeping to one's own way. The whole point is that one tries to persuade people to come on to one's own side.
I quite understand that the right hon. Gentleman, in entering Europe, will not have before him the aim of achieving the ideals and purposes of the Labour Party in Europe. He is perfectly entitled to think that it will be a more Conservative Europe than I should like to see. I see a Europe of social advance and the forwarding of social justice. I see a Europe which shares the ideals of the Social Democratic parties and trade unions of Europe. The question of which of us shall win will be a matter for history which will be decided if and when we go into Europe.
I have a good deal more self-confidence about this matter than have some of my hon. Friends. I believe that the peoples of Europe will move forward, not backward. The British people would never think of going backward, apart from the events at the last General Election which were a temporary aberration. [Interruption.] Some of my hon. Friends seem to believe that in Europe the working people, the trade unions and the progressive people, will go backward into a dark age of autarchy—a Europe which is inward-looking and indifferent to international responsibilities; whereas per contra internationally-minded members of the Labour Party will ensure that, wherever else the torch of freedom and progress may be dim, here in England we shall be able somehow to keep it burning.
I want to deal with the serious point about loss of sovereignty, and I shall try to be brief. I understand the reluctance to lay down one's sovereignty, but hon. Members must realise that they either believe in international co-operation or they do not. If they believe in it, every act of international co-operation is a pooling of sovereignty. The I.M.F., the 1108 G.A.T.T. treaties, and the Common Market itself, are all acts of international collaboration. They are vital to the peace and prosperity of the world and must involve some surrender or, as I would prefer to call it, pooling of sovereignty.
Where are we asked to surrender sovereignty? I am not dealing with fanciful ideas of turning Westminster into a parish council.
§ Mr. Norman Pentland (Chester-le-Street)
Is it not a fact that at the moment this country has at its disposal the constitutional means of withdrawing from these organisations at any time it desires, whereas, once we sign the Treaty of Rome and fully commit ourselves to its articles we will have no constitutional means at our disposal to pull out?
§ Mr. Lever
If my hon. Friend is dealing with the narrow constitutional point, it is a fundamental proposition of our constitution that no House of Commons can find its successors. But I was not dealing with that aspect. I was talking about the loss of sovereignty which it is the whole purpose of this exercise to organise—that is to say, harmonisation of economic policies and agreement on various matters of a financial and economic kind.
If this loss of sovereignty by harmonising economic policy is objected to, I am bound to ask those who are troubled by it—I understand their anxieties—what they do want? Do they want the disharmony of the economic policies of Europe? It is not the danger of an excessive, effective harmonisation of policy in Europe which threatens our prosperity; it is the lack of ability to co-ordinate, to co-operate, and to harmonise.
Some of my most thoughtful and sincere hon. Friends are genuinely troubled about sovereignty. However, I ask them to reflect, in historic terms: has the world been damaged by an excessive propensity to mitigate its national egoisms, to hand over its sovereignty, in a co-operative and collective endeavour based on the concept that it is the welfare of all which we are seeking, not a rat race in which we seek individually to achieve our political economic purposes? I ask those who are troubled by it to reflect on the last half century and to ask themselves whether it is this excessive willingness to 1109 co-operate economically, to subordinate national egoisms to a collective, on-going well-being, which has done damage.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
Will my right hon. Friend give to some of those behind him some guidance on the relationship between the maintenance of sovereignty, on the one hand, and the achieving of the brotherhood of man, on the other?
§ Mr. Lever
I am flattered that my hon. Friend should believe that I am capable of trespassing into this area of spiritual guidance. Unhappily, there has never been any convincing evidence of my ability to discharge the rôle which my hon. Friend so flatteringly thinks might be mine. Nevertheless, I do not despise the point made by my hon. Friend, because behind it there is real truth.
I do not want to go on too long on this subject. The whole point about the argument on sovereignty is to find the right means of mitigating national egoisms in which we see our prosperity and safety not in pursuing selfishly our own ends indifferent to the consequences of others. In the modern world, there is no success available by that particular method of egoism. The only success available is to take into account the human, the economic, and the political needs of everybody else in seeking to get one's own direction. I am not, therefore, prepared to worry too much about the loss of sovereignty, since that is inevitable in any co-operative international undertaking—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It is clear that the right hon. Gentleman is not giving way. In the circumstances, I think that he should be allowed to conclude his speech.
§ Mr. Price
My right hon. Friend is in a buoyant mood today and we are enjoying his performance. When talking about loss of sovereignty, my right hon. Friend gave the impression that it was of minor account. Does not my right hon. Friend realise that the power of decision on major matters affecting our economic welfare can be made less efficiently in Brussels than in London? This House is already under heavy attack for too much power being devolved here. We are talking about devolving and decentralising the functions of Government. My right hon. Friend talks about decisions being made in Brussels rather than in London. That is a serious matter for everyone to ponder upon.
§ Mr. Lever
My hon. Friend ought to reflect on the areas in which we shall pool our sovereignty. It will be in areas of economics where we have sovereignty to the full acting alone, but which is merely nominal sovereignty, not very real, for example, in some aspects of money, trade, tariffs and the like. How free does my hon. Friend think that we are to control our destiny alone in these matters, except nominally?
§ Mr. Lever
In taxation there will be immense freedom. It is in certain areas only where we have to harmonise that. Those are areas relevant to trading between the members of the Community. There would be nothing to stop us raising surtax to 19s. 11d. in the pound. All the political fiscal enjoyments which we now have will be available to us after entry into the Common Market, provided that we can persuade the British electorate to elect us once again, which I fervently hope that it will. We should beware of clinging to a nominal sovereignty—that is, control over our own destiny—at the cost of losing a real and effective control over our destiny which we might have co-operatively if we pooled it. We would then move from the area of the nominal and apparently grandiose freedom to act indifferently to world affairs and what was happening in other countries to the real area of controlling our destiny by co-operation with others to make it effective.
People have been worried about the Werner Plan. I will not go into the 1111 details of the Werner Plan, because my right hon. Friend will deal with that tomorrow. However, I must try to call a halt to the parading of bogymen before the people of this country. Even if it were true—which it is not—that Britain could conceivably assent to a premature rendering rigid of all the parities of the different countries in Europe without appropriate regional policies and other mechanisms to deal with these matters, we should pause to think when we read some of the scare articles about Werner and the control of our money and parity.
Every Englishman knows that the control of his parity is one of the fundamental freedoms which, under no circumstances, must be taken from him. I hope that no words of mine will deride or belittle the affection and passion with which the average English man and woman cherishes that right.
It is useful to know that nearly 30 years ago the United States voluntarily, and in the interests of world co-operation, abandoned control of their parity—that is, the rate at which they exchanged with the currency of the rest of the world—and left it at the discretion of every country in the world. The United States agreed—it was necessary so to agree at that time—to set up a world monetary system which would carry us through the dark days after the war and thereafter and enable the world to flourish. One pre-condition was that the United States should surrender control over their own parity to each European and non-European country. The United States have done so, and they remain in that situation to this day. It is not a very agreeable situation, because the United States have not at every point had grounds for encouragement that the sovereignty which they ceded to a world pool, as it were—to individual nations—has been adequately taken into account in the decisions of those countries.
It seems odd that we are expected to be scared at the paper proposals, which are obviously in their infancy, for some stabilising of parities at some distant date with suitable precautions which people have recommended.
I do not want to go on longer. I have made my position clear. I understand that one newspaper suggests that I have modified my position and enthusiasm. I 1112 have not. I have not derided people's objections or anxieties. I am not questioning their sincerity in reaching a different position. Necessarily even in this overlong speech, I cannot cover every detail of their anxiety because there is much here which gives cause for worry. It is true that there are these dangers of a Europe which could develop wrongly, with or without us, but the danger is much greater without us, than with us in Europe. I do not say that patronisingly. I do not say that our rôle is to go into Europe and tell everybody how to behave. Our rôle is to make a contribution worthy of our traditions and experience, precisely to prevent that from happening.
Although I have made lighthearted remarks to make less tedious this lengthy speech, I do not pretend that one can brush aside the anxieties which have troubled so many people. I believe that in this situation there are opportunities and dangers, but my view is that if we stay out of Europe the dangers will be greater, and the opportunities will be less. If we go in, we shall be setting our feet on a path of constructive prosperity, based upon the unifying of the peoples of Europe, not on the basis of entire self-interest though there must of course be some of that. We must go in on the basis of Europe's concept that its power, its achievements and its history demand that it should play an ever more noble and constructive rôle in the world—both in the under-developed world and in the rest of it.
It is for that reason that I have no doubt whatever that if terms can be negotiated to make it reasonable then, in the economic and political interests of the people of this country, of Europe and of the world, we should take this great step in the unifying of the Continent.
§ Mr. Russell Kerr (Feltham)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is a matter of common knowledge that all eight nominated Front Bench spokesmen in this two-day debate are committed, in greater or lesser degree, to Britain's entry into Europe; in other words, they are marketeers. I ask you to take into account the fact that on this side of the House about three-quarters of the back benchers take a contrary view.
§ Mr. Speaker
I assure the hon. Gentleman that that is a matter which I shall carefully take into account. I hope to get a properly balanced debate.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you know, perhaps better than anybody else, it is customary in all debates for successive speakers to express differing points of view. We are now to hear number three of those who express the same view. This is not a balanced debate.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member must rely upon me. Raising this point of order is taking up time. I shall try to get in all the hon. Members who want to speak, and there are many who I have no doubt, share the hon. Member's view. I want to try to call as many hon. Members as I can. The more time that we spend on points of order, the less chance they will have of being called. Mr. Sandys.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Sandys (Streatham)
Perhaps the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) will allow me to make my speech before he comments upon it, though I doubt whether he will get many surprises.
The right hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever) said that he hoped the negotiations would succeed and would secure fair and acceptable terms which would enable Britain to join the European Economic Community. I believe that that hope is shared by the great majority of hon. Members in all parts of the House.
§ Mr. Sandys
My hon. Friend says that I have got that wrong. I think that, when the time comes to count heads, he will find that it is he who is wrong.
This debate gives us a welcome opportunity to review the state of the negotiations and to discuss the wider issues 1114 which they raise. My right hon. and learned Friend has given us an encouraging progress report. He is to be congratulated on his handling of a difficult and delicate assignment, and also on the excellent relations which he has established with his opposite numbers on the Continent. My right hon. and learned Friend has also done much to reassure our Commonwealth partners that their interests are not going to be ignored.
In the last few months, some crucial questions have been tackled frankly, and a good deal of headway has been made. But, as the right hon. Member for Cheetham emphasised, it is still too early to attempt an assessment of the final outcome. In a negotiation like this neither side can expect to get all that it asks for. There must be a good deal of give and take, and it is only when we see the whole package that we can decide whether the terms are fair and reasonable. Personally, I am confident that mutually acceptable arrangements can be negotiated, and will be. The reason for my optimism is that it is quite clear that all the Six, without exception, are now convinced that it is in everyone's interests that Britain should come in. I cannot therefore believe that they will insist on imposing conditions which would oblige us to stay out.
One of our principal objectives in the current negotiations must be to ensure that the transfers which we have to make across the exchanges to the Community do not endanger our balance of payments. What matters, of course, is the size of our net contribution; that is to say, the amount that we pay to the Community, less the amount we receive from it. It may not be possible—and I think we must face this—to secure radical changes in the financial arrangements which the Six have so painfully negotiated with one another. On the other hand, it may not be quite so difficult to persuade them to agree to a more equitable distribution of the benefits which flow from the Community's expenditure.
At present the Community's financial assistance is concentrated almost entirely on aid to agriculture, of which Britain, with her highly advanced farming industry, is likely to receive very little. It would, I believe, make all the difference to us if this aid could be spread over 1115 a wider field. We might, for example, suggest that a larger part of the Community's income should be used to provide financial support for purposes such as regional development and social programmes, from which Britain would benefit equally with the other member countries. This would reduce the net amount payable by us across the exchanges, and would thus relieve some of the strain on our balance of payments.
It is, of course, impossible to calculate with precision how any formula which may be agreed will actually work out in practice. We should therefore seek some general assurance that, if the bill which Britain is called upon to pay turns out to be unexpectedly and intolerably large, our partners in the Community will examine the position with us and consider what should be done to restore a fair balance. I gather from my right hon. and learned Friend's speech that he himself is thinking on those lines.
One argument which is being advanced against joining the Common Market is that the decision would be irreversible. Like the mariage vows, the Treaty of Rome contains no provision for divorce. But, as the pages of history show, treaties are not immutable. In recent years Britain has allowed other countries to withdraw from treaties which they found irksome. On one occasion I gave consent to this myself. Those who join the E.E.C. do so in good faith, with a sincere intention of making the union permanent. But the successful working of the Community depends entirely upon the active support and positive co-operation of its members. If therefore, for some reason which it is difficult to visualise, one of their number were to find continued membership intolerable, I have no doubt whatsoever that the other members would decide to release their unwilling partner. However, I do not see that situation arising.
Those who warn us of the irrevocable nature of the decision to go into the Common Market should recognise that a decision to stay out would be equally irrevocable. If, after applying three times for membership we were now to break off negotiations on the grounds that, on rereading the Treaty, we had belatedly discovered that it contained no provision for resignation, the Six would never again 1116 take us seriously, and they would be most unlikely to agree to reopen negotiations, should we subsequently change our minds. If, after asking a girl to marry him, a man abruptly withdraws his proposal, it is unlikely that she will give him another chance.
It is not surprising that, on a matter of such importance, there should be doubts and fears and some reluctance to make a decision. But this is not an issue on which one can play for time or sit on the fence. There is no safe middle course. When the negotiations are complete and the terms are known, we shall have to make up our minds one way or the other. Either we go in and accept the obligations as well as the benefits, or we stay out and deny ourselves all the opportunities and influence which membership of this powerful association offers to us. That is the choice we shall have to make, and we shall have to make it during the course of the present year.
Like the right hon. Member for Cheetham I too would like to say a word about sovereignty. Some who oppose Britain's entry into the European Economic Community do so not on economic but on political grounds. They say that economic union would lead to political union, and that this would entail the loss of our sovereign independence. Those who talk like that seem to think that sovereignty and independence are one and the same thing. But sovereignty does not by itself confer independence. We may enjoy the legal status of a sovereign Power, but we have precious little independence. Except in marginal spheres, Britain is no longer big enough, strong enough or rich enough to steer an independent national course; and all the time our influence continues to dwindle further.
I do not enjoy saying this. But we must wake up to the fact that we are now living in an age of giants. Amalgamations, combines, big units of all kinds are the order of the day; and this applies to the political as well as to the industrial field. The great international decisions, which determine issues of peace and war and shape our destiny, are today in the hands of two super-Powers, America and Russia, and they will soon be joined by others, not only China but also a united Europe, with or without Britain. For we must not imagine that, 1117 if Britain stays out, Europe will stand still. Without us the six nations of the Community have a population approaching that of the United States and immense economic and intellectual resources. Quite understandably, they are not prepared indefinitely to play the secondary rôle of spectators in world affairs. They are determined to become not only an economic but also a political force, and to secure the influence to which they feel entitled. They see in political union the opportunity to exchange the illusion of independence under separate national sovereignty for the reality of strength and influence which they would jointly derive from the greater sovereignty of a united Europe.
We can of course close our eyes to what is happening around us and go on paddling our own canoe. We can sit still and watch the emergence across the Channel of a new giant, whose policies will profoundly affect our lives and fortunes, but in whose decisions we would have no say. We have the choice—to unite with others and share in their growing strength, or stand alone and be increasingly ignored.
Leaders on both sides of the House have made it clear that, in advocating Britain's entry into the Economic Community, they fully recognise that this carries with it wider political implications, and they have not been afraid to face the issue of sovereignty. In the debate on the Common Market last February, the Leader of the Opposition, speaking as Prime Minister, said:… the whole history of political progress is a history of gradual abandonment of national sovereignty."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1970; Vol. 796, c. 1326.]In the same debate, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition, also emphasised the political nature of this issue. He said:… underlying our discussion of the economic aspects are deeper matters of international politics and, indeed, of international sovereignty …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1970; Vol. 796, c. 1216.]My right hon. Friend thus made it clear that we are talking about nothing less than the creation of a wider international sovereignty, corresponding to the needs and realities of the world today.
Political union is not an immediate issue, although it is just as well to face the ultimate problem which will arise. 1118 The Economic Community is concerned exclusively with economic matters; and membership does not involve any commitment about future political integration. The Six themselves have given no such undertaking to each other and could not therefore ask it of us as a condition of entry. Any decision to extend the scope of the Community to the political sphere would of course require the unanimous agreement of all members; and I think that we may be sure that our European partners, whose national pride and sense of responsibility are just as great as ours, would not be any more ready than we are to give up any part of their separate sovereignties, unless they were convinced that this was in the true interests of their own peoples.
In any case, political union could not be brought about overnight. It must be a gradual process. Unity must develop. It must evolve from a growing European consciousness, based upon common interests, common moral values and a sense of common purpose. This will not happen from one day to the next. We must advance by stages—first consultation, then co-ordination, and finally integration. No one can yet say how far or how fast we shall be able to proceed along that road. But there should be no anxiety about taking the first simple step, which consists in organising regular consultation between European Governments on current issues of external affairs and defence. This is already beginning to take shape, and I hope that it will be further developed.
Although the question of sovereignty is outside the scope of the present negotiations, I thought it right to speak about it today, since this issue is being raised in some quarters as a bogy to frighten people away from the European idea. Personally, I welcome this widening of the area of public debate, for I am convinced that the more this question is discussed the more it will be recognised that the political union of Europe, with the added strength and influence which will flow from it, is the biggest prize of all. It is the final reward which will, I hope, eventually crown our efforts.
No one is more jealous than I of Britain's greatness, or more proud of her achievements through the centuries. But I do not believe that, with new power groups of continental dimensions arising 1119 around us, we can fulfil our rôle in isolation. In the changed circumstances of today, we must be prepared to join with our neighbours and work in partnership with them. As a leading member of a united Europe—and in no other way—can Britain effectively discharge her duty to her own people and once again play her part in shaping the course of history.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Shore (Stepney)
I think that I have understood the point of view of the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), which I think was very seriously and eloquently stated. If I interpret him aright, what he is saying is that what attracts him most about the prospect of membership of Europe is not what it is now but the fact that in the end it might become a new force, a new power, a new super-power, able to match other super-powers—and that this country, in this new guise, would be able to shape the course of history in a way that it can no longer do, but which it did in the past.
I shall comment a little later on how I see the future, but I wanted to take up this point straight away, because what the right hon. Gentleman has said, not to mention the vast area covered by the two opening speakers, illustrates the extraordinary difficulty of coming to grips with this question of membership, not only for hon. Members but, of course, far more for people in the country as a whole.
I have always found in these debates that one thinks one has at last got to grips with the opposing argument, only to find that one is wrong, because the level of the argument has shifted. The thing goes on and on like this and it inevitably takes a great deal of time, as well as tenacity and effort, finally to pin down what it is that one is debating about. With Mr. Speaker's admonition to us at the beginning in mind, one has clearly to select the points which one intends to cover in order to give one's own—necessarily inadequate—view of our history and the future of our country and Western Europe and the rest of the world.
That, in a sense, was the coverage of my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold 1120 Lever) in his very interesting and, as usual, characteristically optimistic speech, in the fifty-odd minutes which were at his disposal. I think that he effectively dealt with the Chancellor of the Duchy—I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is not far away—who started by saying that he thought that he had managed to narrow down the negotiations to three issues—the financial regulations, New Zealand and, I think, Mauritius and the sugar islands.
I am certainly not saying that those three issues are not extremely important, but after hearing what my right hon. Friend said, the House could have had no doubt that other and even greater issues—or at least as great—were involved. What my right hon. Friend brought out, for the first time in all the long series of discussions which the House has had about the Common Market, is the relationship between Britain's decision to go in and the future of the reserve currency system—not only of sterling, our own currency, but of the possible replacements of it, and, of course, associated with it this time and for the first time, the question of sterling balances. We know perfectly well that, now that the Basle Agreement has to be re-negotiated—the earlier agreement was only for two years—this question will also form part of the periphery of the negotiations.
The results of negotiations about the future of sterling and the renegotiation of Basle, although they could be considered crucial to our prosperity, will not be brought before the House as part of the package deal which we shall be able to judge. I should be very surprised if they were, but if we could have these included in the massive report at the end of the day, it would clearly be helpful.
Equally, the other points which my right hon. Friend mentioned are important. He mentioned economic and monetary union, which I thought he dealt with a little lightly; this also is a major new area of the negotiations which very much affects Britain's interests.
The third point which I would make right at the start is that this round of negotiations, quite apart from the enlargement of issues which has gone on since the last negotiations in 1967, has of course had this ill-fated prelude of the agreement among the Six; at the insistence of France they agreed to conclude their financial regulations. The whole 1121 financing and budgetary system of the Common Market was sewn up deliberately and timetabled before the negotiations with Britain began.
As all hon. Members know who have followed these negotiations in the past, a number of people found that the Common Market agricultural system and the impositions which this would place upon us were, in the last resort, not totally unacceptable, because they thought that, if they could get in before the transitional period ended, they could shape it and change it and reduce the burden which it would impose upon us. It cannot be done today and this is the heart of the problem. It is the reason why the right hon. Gentleman is wriggling and squirming over the terms for which he has asked.
Everybody has been talking about the terms for which the right hon. Gentleman is asking in relation to Britain's contribution to the European club in the transitional period. In his 16th December statement, the right hon. Gentleman gave his own costings of the terms for us in the transitional period. He said that there would be a direct contribution of between £140 million and £180 million plus a contribution of between £200 million and £300 million in indirect costs on the balance of payments.
Those were his own figures and obviously they are what he considers he is asking for only in relation to the transitional period. He cannot do better than that because he has had to accept the full rigours of the financial regulation—and that, which represents the Community's own resources, will come into effect at the end of the British transitional period.
This is a burden on Britain's economy of a kind which I find it difficult to contemplate. Virtually all of us have lived for our adult lives in a period when the great economic struggle for this country has been to overcome an adverse balance in our trade. Apart from last year—when we had a surplus of more than £300 million—I cannot recall a year, certainly in post-war times when this has not been our struggle. It has been our own special economic fight and if anybody thinks that it does not matter and never has, I remind him that our standard of living, our level of growth and our level of employment depend on the success we have in the struggle.
1122 Now apparently—I say "apparently"—we are contemplating, according to the right hon. Gentleman's minimum figures, taking on a balance-of-payments burden for the transitional period of at least £350 million and then, at the end of that period—as the right hon. Gentleman knows and as everybody in the Community knows—the burden will be far greater because of the permanent régime of the financial regulation.
The right hon. Gentleman must therefore hunt for a scrap of paper, a guarantee, and that scrap of paper represents the terms which were presented to us by him. The right hon. Gentleman will come back from Brussels with that scrap of paper because they will not be giving anything away. They will agree to write in words to the effect that if Britain runs into conditions of appalling deficit, it would be a crisis for the Community—but they will be committed to no action now or then. But we must consider the effects not only in the transitional period, when we know the burden will be heavy, but in the period beyond that, when it is likely to be even more severe.
I do not want on this occasion to go at length into the economic effects argument because there are other aspects that have been raised and on which I wish to comment. All hon. Members who have spoken so far have referred to sovereignty, and there is a lot to be said about it.
The right hon. Member for Streatham talked much more of political sovereignty and I wish to begin by referring to economic sovereignty because it seems to me that this is the area of decision, of self-government, which is of the greatest concern to a number of hon. Members and the public.
The question being asked—I will come to the political question later—is how we shall be affected in our efforts to run our own economy and affairs by joining the Community. I will not discuss growth and the balance-of-payments effects. I have already said that these will be serious.
Go beyond that and think in terms of what, by joining the Community, we would be renouncing as part of the terms of entry. Three or four of our major industries would be taken into Community control and out of national control. I refer to such as coal, steel, atomic energy, transport and agriculture. We would never again, without the permis- 1123 sion of the Commission, be able to sign a trade treaty with another land.
Unique in our history we would have the imposition on ourselves of new taxes which we would never otherwise have so imposed. Further, as a condition of entry we would have to be prepared to hand over the yield of those taxes to institutions which are certainly not our own and which are not responsible to the British democracy and British taxpayer.
§ Mr. Shore
Interventions will only prolong my speech.
We would also renounce control over the movement of capital, labour and goods from Britain to Europe and from Europe to Britain. If anybody tells me that this would not be a significant down payment of sovereignty which is relevant to economic decision-making, I shall be surprised.
Remember, too, that it would be only the first instalment because, despite my right hon. Friend's levity on the subject of economic and monetary union, it is a fact that they have agreed in principle to establish a union, at heads of government level. This was stated in the Hague Communiqué of 1969, and the main conclusions of the Werner Report, the fact that it covers a ten-year period, the irrevocably fixed-exchange rates and other matters were formally endorsed at the Council of Ministers meeting in June. While there is a mass of information to be spelled out and examined, let us not deceive ourselves over this. There is plenty of time yet for these things to develop into the fight—
§ Mr. Shore
No. I will not give way.
Do not let us pretend that this is not a major issue or that it will not affect the lives and prosperity of our people. My right hon. Friend makes fun of devaluation. If we could not have used devaluation in 1967 this would have been a very unhappy land—far unhappier than with the consequences of devaluation. There comes a point, given differences in the relative growth rates of various countries, when if one cannot devalue when one's rate of growth is lower than that of other nations, one loses work and 1124 people and investment go elsewhere. Do not let us pretend, therefore, that this is not a relevant factor.
§ Mr. Harold Lever
I hope that my right hon. Friend, whose views on this and all other matters I greatly respect, does not think, as a result of what I said on this subject, that I do not regard it as of vital importance. I was saying that until arrangements of a satisfactory character covering any fixed parity factors among the Community are achieved, it cannot be considered that the terms are satisfactory.
§ Mr. Shore
We can argue about parity arrangements on another occasion, and the Community will be going into the first phase on this question before the end of the year.
The illustrations which I have given show that what I said about economic sovereignty applies. This is particularly so when we think of exchange rate policy, interest rates and taxation. That the Community would determine growth rates which should be aimed at is something which many of us find very hard to understand.
These economic factors are the weapons or tools with which Parliaments make decisions about the use of the nations' resources, and when I refer to the economy I am, of course, referring to something which has a great direct meaning for and effect on the lives of ordinary people. And these decisions are to be transferred—not immediately; some at once, others later—to agencies outside of this country.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
All this may be true, but surely it was true four years ago, when the right hon. Gentleman was a member of the Cabinet which agreed that these things should happen. How does he square that with his conscience?
§ Mr. Shore
I have replied to that question on, I think, two occasions, and I am quite prepared to answer again, but this is obviously not the level at which we want to argue—[Interruption.] I really think so. We have a very serious argument to conduct, though I can answer the question if hon. Members want to waste time. I was not in the Cabinet in 1967. The main thing is the issues that have been raised.
1125 The economic picture, when one considers it in the short term or the medium term, is not very attractive. The Government Front Bench hope that the dynamic effect, as right hon. Gentlemen see it in the medium term or long term, will benefit us, but I have no doubt that we shall go through a period of immense difficulty. If that is not their view I do not think that they have considered the matter seriously enough. It would be a difficult and painful adjustment indeed if we were to go in. Given the fact that this very substantial shift of economic decision making is to take place, partly at the point of entry and later through an economic and monetary union, one has to ask oneself why, in the face of what is a most unattractive picture indeed, people so resolutely push ahead. What is there that attracts them?
The right hon. Member for Streatham was very honest with us. He gave us his picture of the future. It is a federal picture, and the right hon. Gentleman knows it. It has to be, because to mobilise that power we cannot co-ordinate national policies as in the Davignon Committee. What is the Davignon Committee? It is no different from the W.E.U. and we do not have to enter the Common Market in order to enter the W.E.U. We have been members of the W.E.U. for 22 years. The W.E.U. co-ordinates policies and agrees on defence. We do not have to join the Common Market in order to do what the Chancellor of the Duchy wants us to do.
But to do as the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Streatham wants us to do, we have to go further than joining the Common Market. We have to create a government, because only a government will have the power to command resources to match those of the super Powers. That idea attracts the right hon. Gentleman, but I find a lower key on the Opposition Front Bench. It is not so much that attraction as fear of being left out, of being excluded. That comes out again and again. The right hon. Gentleman is not the only Market supporter who uses that phrase about a world of giants. A lot of people are afraid of this, and they are afraid not for good reasons.
I want to say two things about a rather different point of view, and I direct these remarks, if I may, particularly at my right 1126 hon. Friend. In a very thoughful speech he somehow managed to confuse what I would call regional supranationalism with international supranationalism. In other words, he was claiming for his convictions about Europe what I would claim as an internationalist. His vision of the reserve currency is based on Europe. My main attraction to the idea of developing world reserves is through the I.M.F. He thinks largely of developing a big trade area in Western Europe. I am a Kennedy Round man, an U.N.C.T.A.D. man, unashamedly—
§ Mr. Lever
I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for giving way. He reflects a very serious inadequacy in his own reading, because if he had read this month's Banker he would see that I am expressly on record as sharing his views as to how the new international reserve assets should go, and that they should not go to a European currency but to an international currency. I see the rôle of Europe as bringing its strength to the support of that international operation to an extent which, so far at any rate, Europe has not understood as its responsibility.
§ Mr. Shore
I understand my right hon. Friend, but I was leading up to refute his picture of people who reject the Common Market as being narrow nationalists, and his view of those who wish to go in as being basically people who have learned the lessons of history and, above all, who remember the tragedies of two world wars.
I see that my right hon. Friend agrees. That is exactly the point that M. Deniau made on television when he was asked how we could persuade British people that it was in their interests to join the Common Market. M. Deniau replied, "Look at World War I and World War II," but the interviewer said, "This is about the future, not about the past. Do you think, M. Deniau, when you look round the world today, that the sources of trouble, of possible trouble spots that would ignite a war, would be conflicts between France, Germany and Britain?" It is true to say that that is a problem of the past, not of the future and so much thinking about Western Europe and 1127 about the context of world power in which they see it relates to the past, and not to the future.
I challenge that view of the future. The country would have found it more convincing 25 years ago. It is the Orwell vision—"1984"—and we are Airstrip 1—with four or five great super Powers dominating the world. That is how these people see it. They think that we must rush into the shelter of the nearest super Power. I do not see the future like that. I see a future of men living in their own nations and proud of their own nations, and co-operating internationally to solve the problems they cannot solve by themselves. It is the kind of world we have developed through the I.M.F. and through the whole family of post-war international institutions which we are creating and developing all the time.
This debate is very important. There are many major issues to be discussed and we need time to do it. Indeed, I think that we need three days for discussion, and I tell both Front Benches that they have a very great obligation to the nation. They must remember, and the Opposition certainly must remember, that they cannot be spectators of this great national decision. They will have to make up their minds, and I hope that they will do so very soon. They will also have to make up their minds about whether the people of this country are to be consulted about their own future, because the economic and political sovereignty of which I was speaking earlier is theirs; and that is the issue which, in the end, they themselves must decide.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Hicks (Bodmin)
First, may I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to catch your eye. May I also thank hon. Members in anticipation of the normal indulgence, which, as I have witnessed, they inevitably show to a maiden speaker and will I trust show to me on this occasion.
I have the honour to represent Bodmin which, in covering an area of some 600 square miles, includes a great variety of landscape; ranging from the bleak rugged area of Bodmin Moor itself, to the beautiful Rame Peninsula, with its superb coastline and picturesque villages. We 1128 are fortunate in having the Tamar Valley, a district of considerable beauty, as well as the well-known coastal settlements of Looe and Polperro and Fowey. It is a constituency whose great scenic attraction has led to an important and ever-growing tourist industry. This, together with agriculture and horticulture, comprises two of the main economic activities of the area.
In addition, we possess a wide range of light industry scattered unevenly throughout the constituency and, particularly since the opening of the Tamar Bridge, a large number of commuters who work in Plymouth have with admirable good sense decided to live west of the River Tamar; as well as people from all parts of the country who seek a peaceful retirement in the constituency.
Bodmin was very ably represented in the last Parliament by Mr. Peter Bessell, an extremely active and popular Member locally. There are many people in the constituency who have good cause to be grateful to him for the efforts which he made on their behalf. I can only hope to do at least as well as he did in that respect. I should like to take this opportunity to pay my personal tribute to him for the kindness and assistance he gave me following my election, particularly with regard to constituency cases outstanding which I inherited from him in June.
It is somewhat ironic that my predecessor, who was a member of the minority opposition party and was not in favour of the United Kingdom entering the European Economic Community, should have been succeeded by an hon. Member on this side of the House to whom the concept of the Common Market and, following on from that, a united Europe, has considerable appeal. It is not my intention this evening to develop the reasons for my taking this position, except to say that I believe relevant the evolutionary argument—the idea of a city State progressing through a national identity to some form of international grouping today; and the opportunities inherent in a domestic economic market of some 240 million to 250 million people have much to commend them.
There is no doubt that as a nation we are at a crossroads in the context of our world rôle. As one of the leaders of a strong and rejuvenated Europe, we 1129 could contribute much in a political context. These are but some of the attractions. Many others have already been outlined during the debate.
But, of course, it all depends on the kind of terms that our negotiating team can obtain for us. I wish to take advantage of this opportunity to focus the attention of the House on just three aspects, all of which are represented in my constituency. All, when viewed in the context of the national economy, could not be described as being major facets, yet all are significant, particularly in local economies, and taken together do add up, and must be given serious consideration.
The first concerns the position of the hill farmer. He plays a unique rôle in the overall pattern of domestic agriculture. It is estimated that he is responsible for some 7 to 8 per cent. of the total output of the national farm; chiefly through his contribution of some 500,000 cattle which annually leave the hills, either for slaughter or for fattening. The hill farmer provides about 10 per cent. of home beef output and keeps almost one-third of our output of sheep.
I readily appreciate that not all hill farmers are in receipt of the hill sheep subsidy and the hill cow subsidy, but for those who are I am worried that the loss of this specific form of assistance would not only have serious implications for their financial viability but would also seriously disrupt the pattern of United Kingdom livestock farming. We are all aware of the Community agricultural budget, but, as I understand it, the present level of the aggregate sum of the purely national budgets for agriculture exceeds the total Community agricultural budget. This is the measure of the support given to agriculture on an individual national basis within the Community. I would hope for the safeguard that our own special kind of assistance for the hill farmer will be maintained.
I turn now to horticulture. The House will be familiar with the problem facing the grower. Throughout the last decade, his costs have risen enormously while the price which he has received for his produce has virtually stood still. In this period, he has maximised his yields, and thus there is very little further which he 1130 can do to absorb any additional costs which he may have to face.
The effects of this situation can be clearly seen in our own Tamar Valley. Today, there are just over 300 full-time growers with an average age in excess of 50 years. Just five years ago, there were 500 growers. I would ask our negotiating team to give further consideration to the desirability of a special transitional period for horticulture, say, for eight years rather than the agreed five years. Secondly, I request an effective import limitation policy during the time that our own home produce is coming on to our own domestic market.
I want, finally, to refer to the position of inshore fishermen if we decide to enter the Common Market. As hon. Members will know, the Cornish inshore fishing industry is long-established and still employs, both directly and in ancillary trades, a considerable proportion of the population in coastal localities. In Looe there has been a rejuvenation in this economic activity. Whereas five years ago only six boats were operating, today there are 26. This, in part, has been prompted by certain favourable measures introduced by successive Governments. It would seem a retrograde step to allow to decline an industry into which much public money has been spent, and as a result of which many local people have entered into large personal financial commitments.
The Common Market fisheries policy as recently announced would have a disastrous effect on the Cornish inshore fishing industry. As these coastal waters have been carefully conserved, they would immediately attract the fleets from other member countries. One learns that the Norwegian negotiators have been taking a very strong line, and I hope that our own Ministers will join them in order to fight to retain the existing territorial limits.
The economic future, indeed the very existence, of all three of the sectional interests which I have mentioned depends on the type of agreement which we can obtain in Brussels. I ask my right hon. Friends to be fully aware of the adverse social and economic aspects that could result for these three categories of the rural community if we fail to get satisfactory entry terms for them.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Judd (Portsmouth, West)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) on his maiden speech. All who heard it will agree that it augurs well for his future contributions in the House. It shows a sensitive understanding of the different sections of the community which make up the constituency. I congratulate him also for having had the opportunity to make a maiden speech in such a significant debate. Whether or not we enter the Common Market will have profound implications for all our constituents throughout Britain. It was interesting to hear the hon. Member for Bodmin endeavouring to relate his understanding of his constituents' problems to this important issue.
A fervent European academic, Professer Villey, described the Treaty of Rome on one occasion as:Interminable, complicated, inextricably muddled. A mixture of eloquent declarations of principle, of tiny and sometimes ridiculously detailed rules, platonic protestations of good intentions. Pious hopes, principles, exceptions to principles, and exceptions to exceptions.If one accepts that as a valid description of the Treaty, it is understandable that any Minister negotiating on behalf of Great Britain must insist forcefully on our right as a new and important potential Member to see adaptations to existing arrangements and a suitable period within which adjustments in our own system can be completed if we decide to enter.
The Minister responsible referred this afternoon to certain misapprehensions, as he described them, amongst the British electorate. It is my experience that there is a good deal of very sophisticated and articulate concern in Britain now about the consequences of entering, and that it is not limited to a concern as to what the price of food will be should we enter. Not at all. There is a basic suspicion of the extraordinary turn-round in the overall context within which arguments are now being advanced from the time at which we previously attempted to enter. The British electorate was then told in no uncertain language that the economic advantages of entry far outweighed the political disadvantages. The electorate is now being told over and over again that, if we are not certain that there are economic advantages, and even if 1132 there are marginal economic disadvantages, the political advantages far outweigh any economic disadvantages. That is an awful lot for the British electorate to swallow in a period of less than a decade.
I want to deal with some of the arguments put to me in dicussions with my constituents and others on this issue. People are normally concerned about the impact on the cost of living. Their concern takes two forms. First, they accept that the Government may introduce measures to look after and protect special groups of the community, but they ask how the Government can embrace a policy which may be directly inflationary when we are living in an increasingly competitive world and when the increase in the basic cost of living will directly affect our competitive power as a trading nation. That is a problem receiving a good deal of attention now.
The second point concerns social justice. People have said to me, "We are told when we raise the subject of the cost of living that we must not confuse the cost of living with the standard of living, and that although the cost of living may rise as a result of entry, the standard of living may also rise". But they go on to say, "What we fear is that after entry, well-organised sections of the community in important key industries might adjust more rapidly to the new situation and be able to enjoy an enhanced standard of living, but there are many people in a less strong bargaining position who might be left far behind and suffer in a very adverse sense the consequences of entry". We need to know a good deal more about the Government's strategy on this front before we can make an intelligent decision.
The third point concerns the economic principles on which the Community is based. People often ask me whether it is not a fact that the Treaty of Rome, in effect, enshrines the principles of laissez-faire, and they ask whether the trends already well established in the present Government's economic policy at home are not naturally attractive to existing Members of the Community, who see these as more suitably geared for British entry. People ask me whether, as a result of entry, we shall not see increasing trends towards take-overs and mergers, despite theoretical safeguards 1133 against cartels, and they ask about the concentration of economic power which this represents. They make the point, which I endorse, that one of the weaknesses of Western democracy at present is that we see, on the one hand, the increasing accumulation of economic power on an international basis, and, on the other hand, the gravest difficulties of the so-called democratic political structures in trying to control and make accountable this economic power.
If the Government regard themselves as committed to the spirit of democracy, within the context of an approach to the Community, we must ask them to give us some detailed information—the sooner the better—about how they will effect accountability of this greatly enhanced economic power which is likely to result from entry.
Another point put to me is concerned particularly with the principle of free movement of capital. A good number of people ask how, if the free movement of capital is to be applied, we shall avoid a situation in which, in the long run, a large part of the British Isles, outside the South-East and the industrial Midlands, rapidly acquires the same degree of social and economic difficulty which confronts the people of Calabria and Southern Italy.
Another point put to me concerns our relationship to the Commonwealth, and how this will be affected by entry. We have heard something in the debate already about the implications for New Zealand and for member countries of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. We heard from the Minister that he has narrowed down his negotiations to these two points amongst his total of three points, but we have heard nothing whatsoever from him about the precise terms he will secure. For a number of the member countries of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, we must remember that this is a matter of life or death and that this country owes a debt of gratitude and has a responsibility to those member countries who have assured on a planned basis our sugar supply over so many years. Again, we obviously cannot make final decisions until we know the details of terms to be applied.
Something is always said in this kind of debate about the associate status which 1134 is available, for example, to independent African countries which are members of the Commonwealth. We are told, understandably, that a number of these countries already have sought associate status and, therefore, we need not be concerned. There is just one doubt remaining in my mind. How far are countries which seek associate status doing it because they believe that it is an ideal step for them? How far are they doing it because they have no alternative but to do it? To what extent shall we find that the associate status which may be granted to them underlines an existing first-class/second-class economic relationship, with Europe as the sophisticated, advanced industrial market and their rôle always to be that of the suppliers of primary products on terms to be determined by the sophisticated market?
When we talk about overseas development, we are thinking too much about the flow of capital and technical resources. Our bluff is called when representatives of the developing world ask what we are prepared to do about restructuring world trade so that they can develop balanced economies and secondary industries themselves. We have heard nothing today about the way in which British entry into the Community as distinct from progress at U.N.C.T.A.D. will help fulfil that objective.
The fourth point put to me concerns the constitutional issue. I was speaking only yesterday to sixth formers of a school in my constituency. I was asked what was the constitutional significance of British entry. Those sixth formers said that they had been told that we have an unwritten constitution which is pragmatic and has evolved over centuries. They wanted to know whether, in the event of our going into the Common Market and becoming signatories to the Treaty of Rome, we should in fact be making an enormous switch to a written, inflexible constitution which would then govern a great deal of our social and economic life. Clearly, there should be more open debate between us about the wider constitutional implications before we expect the British people to follow us into the Market.
The fifth point concerns the political structure, and again this has been touched on in the debate. I find that there is a 1135 great deal of worry about the relationship between the power of the bureaucrats in the Commission, who are in constant session in the same building, working side by side, day after day, and the limited power of the Ministers who come together more occasionally. Even some of those who are in favour of entry put it to me that this is not a good system, since the efficiency of the Commission is held up by the inefficiency of the Ministers meeting only occasionally. Either way it is possible to argue that it is not an ideal arrangement.
We have had declarations of intention about the strengthening of parliamentary institutions within the Community as rapidly as possible. But we have had no precise detail about how that is to be achieved or about how the Commission or the Ministers can be made accountable within a democratic system.
§ Mr. Laurie Pavitt (Willesden, West)
May I remind my hon. Friend that the Ministers discuss only the agenda which has been prepared by the Commission? They cannot create their own agenda.
§ Mr. Judd
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's emphasis of the problems. As it was put in an earlier speech, at a time when so many politicians on all sides express their concern about the growth of impersonal and remote bureaucracy in Britain and the need for effective devolution and finding new ways of democratic participation, it is odd that we should be so ready to move into an international group which has a still more powerful bureaucracy over which it will be even more difficult to exercise control.
People have also raised with me a range of issues concerned with the implications of going in with a positive spirit to make the best of the Community. They want to know why we do not hear more detail about how we are to adapt our social legislation so that it becomes more like that of the Common Market, and how we shall change our balance of taxation—between direct and indirect—so that that becomes more like that of the Common Market. They also want to know what is to happen to our system of law as we try to harmonise it with that of the E.E.C. Such points are put to me by people at meetings held to discuss these matters, and it demonstrates 1136 the growing concern which exists in Britain.
§ Mr. John Brewis (Galloway)
All these matters affect the other six countries in the Community. None of them has tried to get out on any of these grounds. Should not we be in the Market, in order to help ourselves deal with these problems?
§ Mr. Judd
That is an interesting point. When the original signatories signed the Treaty of Rome, they did so after lengthy and prolonged negotiations in which each of them bargained for their special positions. We have been told that the right hon. Gentleman who is responsible for our negotiations has boiled the issues down to three. I suggest that that is a rather narrow approach to a matter of such great and all-pervasive significance, and that we should be concerned to know the Government's views on this whole range of economic and social issues.
I come finally to the point that was developed with such feeling and sensitivity by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever) on the issue of interdependence. I regard myself as being very much part of that international tradition in our party which endorses the general philosophy of interdependence and the readiness to sacrifice sovereignty at the right time. However, that does not mean that we should be prepared to sacrifice sovereignty to any institution. We have to make informed decisions about what are the appropriate institutions to advance a genuine international community.
It is no coincidence that, at a time when we are hoping to enter the E.E.C., our Prime Minister is deadlocked in confrontation with a representative cross-section of the so-called third world in Singapore. If we accept that the real threat to world peace does not lie in a repetition of the traditional conflicts of Europe or in a direct confrontation between the super powers of East and West but in some escalating conflict in the third world, we must ask, and the Government must tell us, how politically, by entry into the E.E.C., we shall reach greater harmonisation and understanding with the peoples of the so-called third world who are now coming forward to take their rightful place in the world, in the front line rather than in an inferior rôle. That point has not been established.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
Has my hon. Friend ever reflected on the interesting fact that, at a time when our Government seem to be antagonising the African members of the Commonwealth, all of them are applying for associate status inside the Common Market, whereas a few years ago many of them doubted whether that would be compatible with their economic and political interests? Now, apparently, they no longer have those doubts. I ask my hon. Friend to consider that fact. I think that he will find that it is pregnant with many important considerations that he should keep in mind.
§ Mr. Judd
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that observation. I thought that I had dealt with it a few moments ago when I said that one of the reasons why many of those countries sought associate status was not that they wanted associate status but that they had no alternative in the political reality which now exists, and that associate status in many ways underlines the first-class/second-class relationship, they being the suppliers of primary products for the sophisticated market of which we shall be members.
I realise that this is a contentious issue, but I must emphasise this point. Some of my hon. Friends say—it is a telling point—that we ought to go in so as to change the Community, making it outward-looking and introducing a spirit attuned to the realities of the present day, with the new nations coming forward. But we cannot at this juncture ignore that the men who are responsible for the negotiations, the men who are taking us in, are patently not aware of those issues and are not in tune with the new problems of the world community. We must ask ourselves seriously on this side how we shall be able to be more influential within the Economic Community on these important issues if, in the immediate future when the stage is being set we are to be represented politically by people who do not share our objectives and who have a great deal in common with other political leaders of the Right in the Community at present.
It has been said that we should now have a lively and open debate, and I agree that that is what people want. But if it is argued that people ought to be informed on all the details of the conse- 1138 quences of what we are now preparing to do, it is, surely, a bit meaningless to have a debate of this kind if we are then to say that we refuse to find a meaningful way of taking into account the views of the British people. The views, beliefs and convictions of the British people should count in this matter.
I am not one to favour Government by referendum. I believe that to be the quickest road to political stagnation. But there are always exceptions to principles, and I regard this question as so significant—on the constitutional issue alone, if on no other, though I believe that a whole range of other issues come into it—that we ought to be prepared to consider meaningful ways by which the British people, who in the end are sovereign in our society, may have an opportunity to make their views known before we finally reach our decision in the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
Before calling the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser), I must reiterate what Mr. Speaker said earlier. The Chair has a list of the names of about 50 hon. Members who are eminently qualified to speak in the debate. It will greatly help us all if hon. Members will keep their speeches as short as possible.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
I take that as personal message, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I promise to observe it. I shall no do as the two Front Bench speakers did and take 90 minutes, and then occupy another 15 with interventions.
My first duty is to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) on his admirable maiden speech. He showed great skill both in talking about his constituency and in talking with a fairly open mind about the attitude of the present Government and the Opposition Front Bench. On the cliffs of Bodmin he must cliff-hang and make up his mind when matters are clearer on issues such as sea fishing and hill cattle. From the cliffs of Bodmin, he can view all these matters with great clarity, I am sure.
One speech which we were looking forward to, but which we have not had, was a speech from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It staggers me that we have had no speech from our Front Bench on 1139 the various matters which are his concern, and it fell to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever), who made a most interesting discourse, to discuss the question of the Euro-dollar and the question of reserve currencies. These important matters were swept aside by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy in his review, and he really did not touch on them. They were not touched upon in the House of Lords yesterday either, in a very long and, it struck me, rather tedious debate, when their Lordships showed themselves middle-class, middle-minded and middle-aged—all the old hacks being trotted out on a subject so important as the Common Market.
Sometimes, I think that the Patronage Secretary, so as to give encouragement, ought to issue prizes for keenness on the Common Market. There is, I know, the Charlemagne prize, but that goes only to top people. What about a Julian the Apostate prize? He did great things to unify Europe in the fourth century. There seems to be something of a claque among Conservatives now. What about my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish)? Everyone seems so keen on the Common Market, but I can remember that it was a dead duck four years ago. Today, it has become a sort of canard enchainé—to use a rather jolly French phrase now so fashionable.
I shall not speak for long, but there are three questions on which the Government and the Opposition Front Bench must be more precise in the House of Commons. When my right hon. and learned Friend did his review of 10 years of the Common Market approach, he failed to mention the great White Paper issued by the previous Government, An Economic Assessment, Cmnd 4289. That is an important Paper for the ordinary people of this country. We want to know much more about what the two Front Benches calculate to be the cost of entry.
I see no change for the better since that White Paper was published. In fact, there has been a deterioration, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) pointed out a few minutes ago, in so far as the tax system of the Six has become much more committed than it was when negotiations began in 1967. That should not be forgotten.
1140 Second, there must be far more clarity on the question of sovereignty. I know that this bores the House and that hon. Members on both the Front Benches and the back benches say that it does not really matter, we can just go forward gently, and so on. I remind the House, since French seems to be so fashionable, of another French saying—"C'est le premier pas qui couste". A young lady had been telling Voltaire about St. Denis, the patron saint of Paris, and about how he had walked around Paris with his head off and under his arm. Voltaire replied "Ah, il n'y a que le premier pas qui coute" to paraphrase a little, once one is in that sort of miraculous situation, one will not get out of it.
It is all very well for my right hon. and learned Friend to say that the question of giving away sovereignty does not matter, that the whole history of Europe has been a history of gradually giving away sovereignty to bigger and better units—which, incidentally, according to him, we shall control. The fact is that, once we start on that path, there is no giving up. There can be no question about that.
Last, the question of the Werner plan, which also was dismissed by the right hon. Member for Cheetham as an irresponsible, tiresome and unimportant question. The Werner plan has been designed by the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, and I am told that the head of the Rutland County Council is in full agreement with it. It is a very interesting plan, a plan for eventual unification in one European currency.
If that plan is not to be just a series of steps which do not matter, if it is to mean—as it must—a common budget, a common tax structure and a common employment policy, and if the Government think that it is going through, will they, assuming that we have entered the Community, use their veto? We must have that assurance. That is the only question I ask. In winding up the debate, let the Government give an assurance that, if the Werner plan is likely to go through, they will veto it. That is what national sovereignty is about.
I shall take only eight minutes, as I promised, and I come finally to the question of consultation. On 5th May, 1970, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, at a great gathering on British soil in 1141 Paris, I think at the British Chamber of Commerce, declared that the people of this country would be fully consulted. They are not being fully consulted. I know that the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn), the former Minister of Technology, invents a new way of measuring the barometer of political pressures and passions every evening. One day he will unveil a Bill showing how the wonderful machine works, and we shall all be interested to see it. One thing that we need is more than just a count of Members here, who are tied to political parties and have advantages from political parties, and so on, or of Members of the House of Lords, who are not representative of the people. We must see that there is proper consultation on this vital matter. There are many ways in which there could be proper consultation, and I assure the Government that for the next month, until they devise such a method, we shall be constantly pressing them for its introduction.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
May I first associate myself with the remarks of the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) and the hon. Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) about the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks). I compliment him on the clarity and force with which he expressed his opinions, and thank him for his kind remarks about my former colleague, Mr. Peter Bessell.
It has been said in the Press that this debate will be largely a going over of old ground—as we would say in Scotland, cauld kail het. I hope that it will be more than that. I should like to think that two constructive things can come out of the debate and can be considered by the British public. Despite what has been said by, for example, the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone, the British public are not really short of information, but they seem rather less than keen to examine it than perhaps they should be. There is no shortage of information about the Common Market. This Chamber could be filled with documents on the subject. It is a question of the energy to read them, and I think that the British public are lacking in that at present. I do not think that they fully appreciate that the decision that will be made will be more important than any other in this decade.
1142 First, what do we want? Second, can what we want be achieved? Those are two very basic questions. The official views of all three parties are the same. I am proud that the Liberal Party has held this view consistently since the war. The Conservative Party has held it since 1962, and the Labour Party since 1966 or thereabouts—officially. We have felt that there is a right and a need to involve ourselves in the question of European integration. It must be crystal clear that the wish to be involved in European integration, which I think the majority of right hon. and hon. Members share, is opposed by a minority, not simply on economic grounds—those are the ones that are most often articulated; not even principally on political grounds, which are probably more important, but are less sellable to the public; but basically on emotional grounds. When I say that the basic opposition to the E.E.C. is emotional I am not saying that those grounds are any the less important for being irrational—all emotion is irrational—because emotion is perhaps the great determinant in all forms of human behaviour. There are people in the House—and those of us who are in favour of the idea of Europe must face this—who, no matter what economic and political arguments we produce will still say, "No".
§ Sir Harmar Nicholls
What evidence has the hon. Gentleman that the anti-Common Marketeers in the country approach the matter more emotionaly than do the pro-Common Marketeers? Both approach it emotionally. I would say that the emotional approach is equally divided.
§ Mr. Johnston
I do not want to go over the whole argument, but the accumulated evidence of the direction of associations in Europe is in one definite direction. For example, there are Socialists in the House who admire Willy Brandt and extol his Ostpolitik. They say he is a good person, but would not want to be associated with his Government or his country in shared decisions.
§ Mr. Johnston
What I have said is true. It is equally true that there are Conservatives in the House who agree in the main with the political attitude of M. Pompidou but do not want to enter 1143 into any arrangement whereby his country and our country share common decisions and common responsibility for those decisions. The objection to that is much more emotional than logical.
§ Mr. Mendelson
I cannot speak for Conservatives, but I can speak as a typical Socialist who admires the policy of Willy Brandt and who would be very happy to be associated with the West German Chancellor in many political enterprises. But we are not asked that this country should join Willy Brandt. We are asked to join the Economic Community, with certain very important consequences for the future of the people of this country. The hon. Gentleman's whole point is irrelevant.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
Order. It is better not to have two interruptions together.
§ Mr. Johnston
I am simply saying what I feel—and the interjections have tended to prove my point. When the hon. Member for Bodmin spoke about the problems of Cornish fishing, the hon. Member for Penistone shouted "Hear, hear" in a loud, bold voice. I doubt very much whether he has ever previously considered the matter.
The whole question was well summed up some months ago when Dan McGarvey, of the boilermakers' union, said that if he were faced with an option between the benefit of British boilermakers and French peasants he knew which side he was on. That is exactly what is wrong with opposition to the E.E.C. It is not a question of the benefit of the boilermakers or the peasants but the fact that we in Europe in all classes and occupations must sit down together and devise methods whereby we are all equally and fairly treated.
§ Mr. Marten
May I put a nicer veneer on the question being discussed and quote from the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at the Guildhall on 29th July, 1969. Dealing with this very point, he said this about people's fears:It would be a great mistake for us to scoff at or belittle these worries, for they stem from a sense of patriotism which provides the foundation for most of what is sound and energetic in Britain today.I think that that is the right way in which we should treat this discussion.
§ Mr. Johnston
I hope that it is not being suggested that I am scoffing. What I am saying is that the opposition to integration, to people getting together in Europe or in a wider sphere, is a negative thing.
The hon. Member for Penistone is muttering behind me. I would say this to him, and it is a serious point. For three years before the last General Election I was honoured to serve on the Royal Commission on Local Government in Scotland, and found it vastly interesting. In those three years I found parallels which could well be drawn between the attitudes adopted by local areas within Scotland—and the same was true of Maud—and the attitudes which are being adopted within Europe to some sort of common operation of our affairs. It is perfectly comparable and the remarks made by the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone when he compared Rutland to Luxembourg showed this to be so, even in his mind.
Having given way to interruptions, I have perhaps gone on too long, and I want to turn briefly to the problems of the negotiations now being conducted and in which it is right that those of us who want the right hon. and learned Gentleman to succeed should ourselves be involved. Liberals have never said at any time that we would sign a blank cheque. Neither has the right hon. Gentleman nor his predecessors. In the past, we have been accused by both Front Benches of doing so, however, but we have not. Within the negotiations, we must look at particular problems. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has brought this out from time to time during questioning, and sometimes it is lost on hon. Members who oppose entry, perfectly reasonably, that any negotiation is a question of give and take and adjustment.
I, for example, am a Scotsman. I am Chairman of the Scottish Liberal Party. I therefore am inevitably interested and involved in the vital problems of regional development in Scotland, which are not unique in Britain because they apply also to the South-West of England, Wales, and the North of England. They also exist in the E.E.C. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, the meeting held not long ago at Brest bore out 1145 that the E.E.C. itself is fully concerned with the problems of the peripheries and the under-developed areas. Therefore, we have here a common problem and we should not perhaps lay so much stress on the difficulties but on the fact that they are recognised within the E.E.C.
In stressing that, as I hope he will, the right hon. and learned Gentleman will aid the countries within Europe themselves, to which this is a serious problem. There are questions of regional taxation differentials; there are questions of agriculture, with which the Minister of Agriculture will be primarily concerned; there are questions of fishing, which I have had the opportunity of speaking to him about; there are questions of transport. Transport is going to be a major problem for the ends of Britain in terms of the Treaty of Rome. The Liberal Party has argued for tapered freight rates, which are ruled out under the Treaty. This is going to be a real problem now which we have to face and which one can make adjustments about.
I am equally concerned that, in creating a large unit of this sort, we shall have the means of democratically controlling it, not only at the centre but within it. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that, the larger the unit, the greater the degree of necessary democratic decentralisation within it.
I have no doubt in my mind that I want the right hon. and learned Gentleman to succeed. I have no doubt that, outside Europe, our economic and political potential will be diminished, and progressively diminished. I notice that the opponents of entry dwell far more on the economic and political objections to entry than on the alternatives. We do not get great speeches on a North Atlantic Free Trade Association or on the other things that Britain could do which would be exciting and stimulating and would raise the whole nation. We get negative speeches on why we are not concerned about this, that and the other.
I have no doubt that our capacity to lead and stimulate the Commonwealth will depend on the strength we can derive from Europe. When we vote tomorrow night, if we do vote, I hope that that is what we will have in our minds, because the vote will not be about whether we 1146 go in but whether we want to go in. I want to go in but I am very concerned about many things and many problems which will be involved if we do. I wish the right hon. and learned Gentleman well in pressing these difficulties as hard and effectively as he can.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
The right hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever) disclaimed in his speech any desire to give spiritual guidance and yet I thought that, in the 50 minutes or so for which he spoke, that was exactly what he was doing. I think that this is the way in which the two Front Benches want the debate to be conducted—upon very wide general principles about the goodness of virtue and the badness of sin, and when one is asked to choose between the two, it is not easy to say that one prefers sin.
When the right hon. Gentleman discussed these matters, he was not particularly, it seemed to me, discussing them in relation to Europe at all, but when he was discussing them in relation to Europe he was doing so in relation to an association between Britain and Europe. I have never been opposed, in all the years of my interest in this matter, to an association of some kind between Britain and Europe. It depends what kind, after all. What I have been and still am opposed to is Britain signing the unamended Treaty of Rome.
The crucial fact we shall have to come back to at the end of all these debates is that the negotiations, the end of which we await, have been conducted upon the unwavering principle of not asking for any amendment of the Treaty of Rome. When I last spoke on this subject in 1967 in this House, I described my own development of opinion from a cautious favouring of association with the Treaty of Rome, through doubt to eventual confident opposition to it. Therefore, I am in no position, even if I were inclined, to complain about other people shifting their ground.
What I object to is the manner in which the ground has been shifted. In 1961 and the years following, we used to be told, as the hon. Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) said, that we had to go in on economic grounds, that we could not afford to stay out, that we should be an off-shore island of the Con- 1147 tinent. We shall, of course, be an offshore island of the Continent whatever we decide in these matters, but that is one of those pregnant phrases which is supposed to do our thinking for us. The political implications were something that, as a matter of realism, we had to accept.
Now, of course, it is mainly put the other way round. That is fair enough if it represents a genuine conversion, such as befell the Apostle Paul. But the presentation arouses my suspicions always. When argument is joined upon the economic pluses and minuses, the enthusiasts for signing implore us not to treat this great and fateful step in this mundane way but to see it as a great vision, the forging of a new political future, bright with hope of new world power and influence. We have heard it all from my right hon. Friend again today.
But begin to scrutinise the political implications of joining and the accumulation of detriments which one then begins to detect is swept aside by references to the C.B.I.—the last refuge of intellectual bankruptcy—and exciting, although unparticularised, hints are made of a great surge that can be confidently expected to turn up at any moment if we will only join. It makes debate difficult when one's opponents will never stand their ground but I will do my best—briefly, because we have had some very long speeches.
The argument on economic grounds is as follows. What one thought crystal clear up until now, amid all the versions, was that, in the short term—say, the first five to 10 years anyway—the economic impact would be thoroughly adverse. Indeed, this was quantified by the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson) in saying that, in the first year after joining, there would be an adverse payment across the exchanges of £100 million, rising by £100 million a year to £500 million in the fifth year. Thereafter it was not specified. Then again, in the 1970 White Paper—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) said, we have had no reference to it today—it was put as being of the order of £700 million a year.
It would be wrong to think of that deficit, that detriment, as due solely, directly or indirectly, to the common 1148 agricultural policy, although that played a major part. It is also due to the loss of the preferential areas in E.F.T.A. and the Commonwealth. In 1969 and 1970, we were asked to set off against that longer term advantages that could not be defined but ought to be hoped for or expected. That was clear enough. Whatever one thought of it, there was the picture set out before our eyes. Apparently, it was too clear for the "signers at all costs". The picture is being blurred in two ways. First, we are insistently reminded that this is only the result before negotiation. Secondly, we are reminded that a great surge—the same one—will float the whole thing off—one knows the argument—only ½ per cent. growth in our production so that calculation is really rather a waste of time anyway.
Both these arguments are hard to understand. First, how can the negotiations in train affect the detriment except marginally? No amendment of the Treaty is even being asked for. What the negotiation is about is, "When and by what steps will the detriment be imposed?" When do we start, in fact? The 1967 estimate by the right hon. Member for Huyton was based on a five-year escalation, which is exactly what we are now told to expect. Not much change there.
We are told, for example, what we knew—that one may shade in the agricultural lunacy, but in the end we shall get it. The right hon. Member for Huyton was at least honest about that. He told the House in 1967:… must be realistic in recognising that C.A.P. is an intergral part of the Community. This recognition must form part of our position. We have to decide whether or not to apply for entry to a Community which is characterised by this particular agricultural system. It is useless to think that we can wish it away, and I shall be totally misleading the House if I suggest that this policy is negotiable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1967; Vol. 746, c. 1066.]That is what we were told, and that is the truth. Anything else is misleading the House and is mere humbug.
I turn now to the great surge. For the short term, this is a late thought. Public opinion being so strongly against our accession to the Treaty, a new obfuscation was desperately needed and "dynamism" is the answer.
§ Mr. Rippon
My hon. and learned Friend said that no reference had been made to the White Paper of 1967. These 1149 concepts of the impact effects and the dynamic effects are set out fully in that White Paper. As far as the figure of £670 million, to which he referred, is concerned. I remind him that that was a gross figure. As I explained in my statement of 16th December, there is a difference between this gross figure and the net figure, which matters across the exchanges. There have been no new concepts introduced and no attempts by anybody to mislead the House about the acceptance of the agricultural policy.
§ Mr. Bell
I am obliged for what my right hon. Friend has said. Our purpose in these debates is to get these things set out with clarity. We now know that the agricultural policy is not negotiable. Therefore, it is no good saying that we will change it before or after we go in. It is an integral part of the Community and everybody knows that it is a foundation block of the balanced bargain made between the original members who set up the Treaty. When I spoke of dynamism as being a late thought, I was referring to the 1970 White Paper in which it had its first public birth. Until then we had not heard about it.
I was asking why should dynamism break out when we sign the Treaty of Rome. It certainly has not broken out in the countries which did sign the Treaty. There has been nothing great, but a slight levelling off of their growth since they signed the Treaty.
§ Mr. Blaker
Has my hon. and learned Friend studied the records of the two slowest growing economies before 1958, namely, Belgium and the Netherlands? If he does so, he will find that what he has just said is not true.
§ Mr. Bell
I do not think my hon. Friend should pick his bits of evidence like that. What I said was that the growth of the Community has levelled off a little since they signed the Treaty. The order of magnitude is small. I merely say that it has slowed down a bit; they are not doing quite as well as before. There are certain things that may account for it. I merely mention this because one cannot argue that just by signing a Treaty and joining the others there will be a surge of dynamism.
§ Mr. Bell
I have given way more than once. I have given way twice. As the hon. Gentleman will know twice is 100 per cent. more than once. One might as well argue that if one signs a Treaty with Japan a bit of dynamism might rub off from them. The answer one tends to get is that if we sign two results will follow. The first is the stimulating effect of the chill wind of competition. The other is the famous concept of the bigger home market.
As for the first matter, the chill may become less stimulating when one has to take restrictive credit action to offset the early detriment to the balance of payments. Credit action is the only kind available in the Community system. It is a strange argument that the economic effects of a policy will be initially so adverse that they will face people with bankruptcy or violent reaction and so turn out to be beneficial. That is an odd reason for doing something which will be detrimental to oneself.
The "bigger market" argument is always cropping up and is basically fallacious. What do people mean by it? They mean only one thing, and that is the common external tariff of the Community. Apart from tariffs the world is one's market. It is only the tariffs that are the fences. This is simply saying that once inside the common external tariff, there will be a great surge of production. But the moment we step inside, we step outside Commonwealth preference and lose our preferential position in the E.F.T.A. Community.
When we first heard all the fallacious talk about bigger home markets, the average common external tariff on the goods Britain might have wanted to send to the Community was 11¼ per cent. That is not my figure; it is the official figure. Since then we have had the Kennedy Round, which will finally reduce those tariffs by 37½ per cent. on 1st January next, some 11 months away. I do not know what 37½ per cent. off 11¼ per cent. amounts to, but I believe it is something in the region of 7 to 7½ per cent. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] All right, call it 7½ per cent. The House can work it out as I speak. Whatever it means, getting 1151 inside that tariff is hardly a rich prize. I observe that at present continental motor manufacturers appear to be doing rather well in our market over a very much bigger tariff.
§ Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)
If I may reinforce ray hon. Friend's argument, not only is getting over the tariff fence a small prize, but officials in many of the Common Market countries maintain their own private local barriers against various products. This will be detrimental to a certain number of agricultural and horticultural products from Britain.
§ Mr. Bell
It could be that when one is inside the tariff one is not over the fence, but even taking the matter prima facie it is a ridiculous argument.
I turn to the political angle on which there is a strong ambivalence. Sometimes people are attracted as is my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) by the glittering picture of the prizes of unification. My right hon. Friend does not mince his words about this or anything else for that matter. He calls it integration. He is quite frank and we know where he wants to go. He wants to go to a single Government and single institutions. Integration is stronger even than federation. Then my right hon. Friend said, "I am glad to talk about this but let us remember that it is not actually in the Treaty. It is separate and might come later." Several of those who want to sign have taken the same line namely that it is somewhat of an irrelevance and that one would come to this situation gently and could make up one's mind as one went along.
I prefer the view which was expressed by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and I only regret that he has not repeated those remarks more recently than 1959. My right hon. Friend then said:It is wrong to look at European economic problems solely from the point of view of their economic implication. In what we have been considering the political are even more important than the economic implications.and he went onWe must not advocate courses or make suggestions that we are not prepared to follow through to their ultimate consequences. If we do that we shall be right to earn the title of Perfide Albion.1152 Then a little later he said:We must recognise that the aim of the proponents in the Community is political integration and that there was no support for that.Let us get clear in our minds that the step by step approach is inappropriate. It is not only a matter of le premier pas qui coute.… It is dishonest and dishonourable to embark on entry into a Community knowing that this is what is intended, knowing that it is in the preamble, and always keeping one's options open.
When the country is asked to decide on accession or non-accession it must do as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has said and it must decide for the whole thing at once, namely political integration or one does not go in. Anything else would be a cheat to our friends in the Common Market. It means one Government one Parliament, one law and harmonisation. I have been long enough at the Council of Europe in the past to know what is meant by harmonisation. Sometimes it is called "unification" and sometimes "harmonisation", but it always means the same thing.
Two things follow from what I have said. The first is that the people of this country must be told frankly and without equivocation so that they know precisely what they are being asked to do. The second is to ask the question: would this work? We cannot make comparisons between this situation and the United States or some other place. There are differences of language, of history and of culture. There are significant differences in parties and political organisations. In Europe religion enters into politics to a degree that is almost unthinkable here. These are all practical difficulties, tellingly referred to by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in 1959, as to why one could not make the thing work. A period of eleven years has not changed the picture. Such a move would not work. It is an escapist's dream. Our Empire has contracted, our rôle in the world has grown less.
Therefore, some people say let us have a little legerdemain, a little conjuring, and we shall get it back. If we go in we will be a great power again or we can at least share in being a great power. But the world does not work like that. One 1153 cannot take up a sort of Adriatic Republic attitude on the world stage.
§ Mr. Bell
I am asked for an alternative. I have not time to develop one. I do not see anything new in the world growing up around us as does my right hon. Friend. Britain has always been small. We have always been a David among the Goliaths. But those who spoke for the nation in the past were not so defeatist and broken-winded, as some of those who speak for us now. We were great-hearted. We were invincible because we could not be beaten. And we were always totally and completely outnumbered. I do not see the need to propose an alternative course.
I will conclude by suggesting that if we can get out of this habit of applying for membership of some community, which is in itself an escapist operation we shall be able to turn our full attention to the solution of our problems. We might find that we need no props from outside and that the lack of confidence which underlies the whole business would disappear. In my experience it is not the public that wants this. It is not even backbench Members of Parliament. Euromania is typically a disease of leading politicians, for whom the thought of moving awkward economic decisions away from universal adult suffrage to institutions in Brussels, which are well insulated from democratic pressures, is understandably attractive.
The proponents of joining are the technocrats of politics, who have lost faith and, perhaps, interest in the possibility of persuading a mass electorate not to eat the seed corn. Because I have not lost faith or interest I cannot support this policy. However, in final explanation, I should say that if there is a vote tomorrow—I hope that there will not be one—I shall not take part in it, because it would give the wrong reflection of the strength of opposition in this House to the policy of signing the Treaty of Rome. To avoid that misleading impression, I shall absent myself from that vote.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)
The hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) has, not for the first time, expressed his views 1154 about the proposal that we should join the Community, but he has not added anything new to what we knew of his views before.
The hon. and learned Gentleman quoted his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in 1959, implying that he had changed his views.
§ Mr. Albu
It was about that time that I changed mine, after reading an extremely interesting book on the Community by M. Deniau, then an official of the Community and now its chief negotiator, dealing with the question to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred, namely, whether the Community would advance towards greater unity step by step. When I realised the extremely pragmatic nature, whatever the constitutional form of the Treaty, the step-by-step nature of the Treaty, by which no major step could be taken without the agreement of the Council of Ministers, I realised that my anxieties and fears about Continental constitutionalism were unfounded, and I became a strong advocate of our entry.
There have been a number of speeches on the general argument for and against entry. I do not propose to make another. I have spoken those arguments before and my views are quite well known.
Since we last debated the subject there have been, in my opinion, two new features, but both very important: first, the start of the new and more hopeful round of negotiations; and, secondly, the publication of the Werner Report.
I thought that the Werner Report would be the great bogyman of the anti-Marketeers in this debate. But, strangely, it has hardly been used. The Report has been mentioned, but the great attack on the Report, or at least on our proposal to enter the Community, because of the Report, which has been launched in some sections of the Press, has not been launched tonight, not even by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore). It is to the Werner Report, which is important, that I shall devote most of my speech.
On the whole, I find acceptable the way that the Government are going about the negotiations and also the way, after a somewhat shaky start, that the right hon. 1155 and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) has been dealing with the House.
There is a large body—not in this House, because most opinions here are already made up—outside which is unconvinced. I do not think that there is a majority necessarily opposed to entry; on the contrary, I believe that the nation is coming round again more in favour of entry. I suspect that those opposed to entry, particularly in this House, are on the defensive; but either way, in favour or against, Members in this House are mostly committed.
Those against are against on principle. They are absolutely and firmly committed against entry and will, therefore, find any argument, economic or political, with which to attack the proposal. I hope that all who are in favour of entry can still reserve their judgment until the final terms are known.—[Interruption.] Nobody has taken a different position. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to make anything of it, I can tell him that this is the attitude which I took in the election and put into my own election manfesto. All my constituents know that I am strongly in favour in principle of entry into the Common Market.
Most economic arguments are influenced by political considerations. I know few economists are who not more passionate politicians than politicians themselves. Otherwise, it would be difficult to understand how two research workers at the National Institute of Economic and Social Affairs could come to the opposite conclusions to that to which one would expect their figures to lead on the effect of the formation of the Community on the economic growth of its members. They have had a very bad Press, because every economic commentator, whatever his view, has pointed out how wrong their conclusions were. No sensible person has suggested that our entry would be the cure to all our economic ills. Nevertheless, some of us are justified in believing that it provides a chance for faster economic growth.
I turn now to the Werner Report, because it is on that which I wish to concentrate. I am in favour of more flexible exchange rates. If in the near future—before we obtain entry—the Community were to abolish the possibility of intra-Community changes in exchange 1156 rates, entry would be impossible. But there is no sign that this will happen. I think that it is extremely unlikely, after a year in which two of the major member countries have changed their rates—one up and one down. Although the Council of Ministers has accepted the Werner Report in principle, there is no sign of it being carried out in practice in the immediate future. If it were, if that were to be a condition of entry, I should have to say "No". But it seems very unlikely—in fact impossible—that any decision will be attempted before our entry, and then the conditions and timing of movement towards common economic policies and a common currency will be within our control. Some opponents of our entry speak as if there were some entity called "The Community". The hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South referred to "The Community." But "The Community" is only the conglomerate voice of its members and it will remain so for many years. The idea that if we were inside the Community we might be imprisoned in Community policy is the most absolute nonsense.
§ Mr. Albu
The hon. Gentleman has interrupted every hon. Member who has spoken, not once with an intelligent interruption.
I support Signor Carli's proposals of slowly moving parities during the transitional period. On the last occasion on which I spoke on this subject, I suggested that this was possibly a way by which we could deal with some of our balance-of-payments problems on entry.
One of the main arguments against fixed parities—I emphasise again that I am not in favour of fixed parities—by which the Werner Report is used as a bogey is that it would reduce countries with slow growth to the level of the poorer regions of the European countries. Professor Pearce in The Times Business News argues that if these regions could set their own exchange rates—for instance, Wales, Southern Italy or Scotland—they could attract investment and raise employment.
My experience, and all the evidence I have seen, is that much more active and positive Government action is required to achieve a reversal of the flow of employment than merely an adjustment of 1157 exchange rates. I will not go into the details. The previous Government made some attempts to deal with that problem by similar methods, but they were not entirely successful. In any case, the results were minimal compared with some of the other policies which we adopted at that time to deal with regions of high unemployment in this country.
Moreover, the idea that we can keep our economy growing by successive major devaluations is nonsense. This is not the same as a floating exchange rate or necessary changes from time to time. Unless we increase our productivity to match that of our competitors the effect of frequent major changes would be temporary and, under present conditions, would be bound to be inflationary.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney referred to the loss of economic sovereignty. The word "sovereignty", whether economic or political, always rouses emotion. There is nothing wrong with that. But what is the purpose of economic sovereignty? Surely its purpose is to achieve greater economic strength and growth. Is anybody going to argue that the policies pursued by this country during the last 10 or 15 years have been better than the policies pursued by the countries of the Community? The answer is certainly not if we judge by results, because the fact is that they have had a much higher rate of growth than we have. Why should we be frightened of joining a Community which has succeeded in having higher rates of growth than we have had?
But, in any case, we do not lose our sovereignty. We contribute our economic soevereignty to theirs in making policies of joint action and co-operation which, as my right hon. Friend said, will help us to get greater wealth and a higher standard of living. The truth is that today—and it is the same in almost every country—the problem of growth is not one for economists but for psychologists, and those who argue that the psychological effect of entry will help growth are just as likely to be right as those economists who, with their unproven hypotheses, say the opposite.
It would be silly to adopt a negative attitude to the Werner proposals. We have long complained of the restraints on our economy because of the rôle of sterling as a reserve currency under 1158 modern conditions. Although there would be great difficulty in giving up this rôle, it would be foolish and unduly nostalgic—I am sure that the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South will feel this nostalgia, but it does not affect me—not to look at any proposal which enabled the pound to be subsumed in a currency covering a much larger economic unit.
I suspect that the real reason for the opposition to the Werner proposals from the hard-line opponents to our entry is that they will inevitably lead to greater political unification, and certainly a more federal system. I agree that they will, when they come, but this idea does not frighten me. It will take many years, which is another reason why the Werner proposals are unlikely to be adopted in the near future. I believe that they cannot be adopted without moving towards the formation of something like a federal system at a much faster rate than there is any sign that members of the Community are willing to go at the present time. So it is not likely that we shall rapidly find ourselves in a federal system although both those things will happen eventually. The Werner proposals will be adopted in the end, and we shall be forced—I hope willingly forced—to go into a system which is more federal and in which there is greater democratic control.
I believe that public opinion is now moving back again in support of our entry. I am against the idea of a referendum, but it would be impossible for the Government to take us into the Common Market if our constituents were overwhelmingly and strongly opposed to what was being done. It seems to me that it is for the Government to make clear the balance of advantages, and perhaps here I might give them another word of advice. The Government would be well-advised not to adopt too divisive policies, particularly economic ones, during the next year if they want to get the willing support of the people of all parties to our entry.
I suggest, too, that our friends in the Community can help. They can make reasonable concessions to us. They can accept our reasonable proposals, and they can put their acceptance in a reasonable and friendly way. The British people would like to know—what I believe is the fact, although it could be more openly 1159 and publicly expressed in Europe than has been the case so far—not only that Britain is wanted in the Community but that the people of the Community believe that Britain has a real rôle to play in Europe.
The British people do not want to be loved, but they do want to feel that we are going in not on an application which is necessary because we are in some difficulty—which is not true—but because of the part that we shall play in building a Europe which will give all our people greater wealth and greater happiness in the future.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)
I should first like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) on his excellent maiden speech and on the skill with which he related his constituency affairs to the general issue. Very often hon. Members tend to take off on flights of rather stratospheric oratory and forget the grass roots, but my hon. Friend reminded us of the regional factors involved, particularly the situation facing the fishing ndustry, and I am sure that he voiced the anxieties of my hon. Members on that score.
The right hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever) was slightly annoyed with me because I said that he spoke with modified rapture. I take back the "modified". When I uttered it I had not heard his peroration. Having heard it, I can say that his raptures are quite unimpaired. Furthermore, I had not heard some of the speeches from the benches behind the right hon. Gentleman, and I realise now why he had to tread carefully in his opening remarks.
The right hon. Gentleman brought down on his head the wrath of his right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore). The right hon. Member for Cheetham first offended because he made a joke about the parity of sterling. I thought that it was a very good joke, but he was, nevertheless, rebuked for it. It is dangerous to make jokes in politics.
Nowadays, it is safer to be a corespondent than a wit.
The other matter about which he was rather taken for a ride by his right hon. Friend was the rôle of sterling as a reserve currency. As I understood the right hon. 1160 Member for Cheetham, he was not suggesting as his right hon. Friend was, that it should be made a matter for negotiation. All he was saying was that this should be a matter on which the Government should have some view as a background to the negotiations—and I think that that is sensible and sane. On the other hand, to inject the question of sterling into the negotiations would be an act of sabotage which would not be helpful to anyone who wanted the negotiations to succeed.
This is an important debate although, in a sense, it is a curtain-raiser. It is a dress-rehearsal for the final performance which is likely to take place before the end of the parliamentary year, when Parliament will be called upon to take an historic decision which will affect the lives of everyone in the country and the lives of generations yet to come. It is as grave a decision as any that has been taken in the course of our long history, and it is right, therefore, to have this debate and to have other debates in the House on this momentous topic.
After all, we in Britain enjoy the benefits of Government by discussion, and the public mind needs to be clarified on this issue. The public have a right to be consulted on it. The question arises, how are they to be consulted? Not, I think, by snap answers to loaded questions, nor by the over-simplification of a referendum, nor even by a Government opinion poll, which is what has been suggested by the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). Free enterprise polls are bad enough. A nationalised poll would be even worse.
What we need—and what I think the debate is contributing to—is a patient and honest sifting-out of the arguments for and against and of all the issues involved. This must be done both inside and outside this House. It has to be done through all the media of communications—newspapers, television, the wireless and, above all, in Parliament. It is in Parliament where the ultimate decision will be taken, and it is upon Parliament that the duty to take the decision lies. Under our constitution it cannot be taken by anyone else. It must be taken here. This House is still the centre of our national life.
I wish briefly to make my position clear. I give full and unreserved support to the Government's application to join 1161 the Community, just as I have supported the previous applications. Right or wrong, my position has at any rate been consistent. I have been a member of the European Movement since 1947, and my faith in it and in the future of the union of Europe has never wavered. Others have moved, and I do not blame them for that. The Leader of the Opposition has moved on this issue. He came late to Europeanism, but I think that his European attitude is genuine and lasting. People do a disservice to the right hon. Gentleman when they suggest that for tactical, political reasons he will shift his position. There is no sign in anything that he has said that he will do so. The right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) has moved the other way, which I regret, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) has, unfortunately, moved his position. They are entitled to do so, but we are entitled to recall that it is less than three years ago that we went with them through the same Lobby in support of this application to join the European Economic Community, an application which now, apparently, they feel will prove disastrous to the whole future of the nation.
The issues involved are complicated and profound. They are issues not only of politics and finance but also questions of defence. We are discussing no less than the union of Europe and whether the whole project will move forward or founder. The fate of the Community as well as ourselves is bound up with these negotiations. Are we to give the project a new impetus of life, or will it founder, as these schemes have in the past, going right back to the time of the grand design of King Henry IV of France, and his Minister Sully. It would be unforgivable to fall below the level of events and to substitute rhetoric for argument, or polemic for reason.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, in a speech at the weekend which has been widely reported, suggested that there is perhaps a conspiracy abroad to keep the facts from the British people and that the argument is being kept at a trivial level, the level of food prices and the balance of payments. I hope he will forgive me if I say that I feel that he has confused triviality with technicality. These 1162 are technical, not trivial, issues of vital importance to our future. The subject of the negotiations at Brussels is the economic consequences for Britain of joining the Community. The contribution to the Common Fund, for example—
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
With respect, I put it to my hon. Friend that what is being negotiated is the transition to membership of the Community. Negotiation is not taking place about the content of the Community or consequentially about the consequences of belonging to it.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
I will accept that statement of my right hon. Friend for the purpose of the argument but, even if it is true, the negotiations are not about something trivial. What happens in the transitional period is of the most vital importance to us because our whole economic prosperity could be at risk if the wrong decisions are made. I do not count as trivial the discussions about the relationship of New Zealand to the Community and the safeguards which will be taken to protect New Zealand's interests. I certainly do not consider the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, over which negotiation is going on, as a triviality. On that agreement depends the future prosperity of many millions of poor people within the Commonwealth. Trivial to some, perhaps, but, as the hon. Member for Portsmouth, West (Mr. Judd) said, life or death to others. That is why the British Government are negotiating so painstakingly, thoroughly and carefully at Brussels.
I congratulate the chief negotiator, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, on the skill with which he is conducting the negotiations. They are most difficult negotiations, and he has shown himself to be both a fervent and dedicated European and a tenacious defender of British interests. As a result, he enjoys the confidence of many people on the Continent, in France and Germany, who are engaged in or following the negotiations, and has retained the confidence of his fellow-countrymen at home.
I do not wish to go into the details of the arguments about the negotiations. All I say to members of the Commission at Brussels and the negotiators is that we 1163 are not in these negotiations asking for any special privileges, much less are we attacking the institutions that have been so carefully built up. What we ask for, and what we must have, is a fair deal, and that concept of fairness was stressed by my right hon. Friend in his opening remarks. We ask no more and no less than others have had before us; a reasonable and adequate transitional period, and a guarantee that our contributions to the Common Fund and our withdrawals from it shall be equitable.
We cannot forecast the future. After all, the Treasury, to whom I mean no disrespect, has difficulty in forecasting six months ahead. How can we expect our negotiators to forecast for six, eight or ten years ahead? If the most pessimistic forecasts are fulfilled—and I do not believe that they will be—it is reasonable to require that there should be a safeguard. There should be provision for a review, and I understand from the remarks of my right hon. Friend that that is what he is asking for in Brussels. He was supported on this by my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). Article 108 of the Treaty of Rome provides precisely for this situation. My right hon. Friend is asking that it should be particularised.
I turn from the economic to the political issue, which is of vital importance. I accept straight away that, while the letter of the Treaty of Rome is economic, its spirit is political. That is the simple truth. There is no plot to conceal that from anyone and, if there were, it would not succeed. The Prime Minister has been quite clear on this all along. If people have been deceived about his attitude, they have only themselves to blame. He made that attitude quite clear in the Godkin Lectures at Harvard in 1967. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was equally clear in his speech in Blackpool and in the House today. But to say that the issues are political is not to say that we have to make a choice between independence and federation. That simply is not true.
In this context, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South West has spelled out his view with his customary logic and clarity. His thesis, I understand is that there can be no European economy, no European world power, 1164 save at the cost of the European countries ceasing to exist as nations. The price paid for this rôle must be a loss of national identity and a merging into the European federation, so we have to choose between a national identity and a European one.
I do not deny, that at some time in the future, that may be—one cannot possibly rule it out—the choice with which we are presented, but I am equally clear that there is not the slightest sign that this is the choice with which we are being presented today. If we are looking at the facts, as opposed to the theory, we get a completely different picture.
The European nations, unfortunately, are not much nearer political union to-day than they were 20 years ago. The economic success of the Common Market has been matched by a political failure, or a political stalemate. So the choice cannot be one of going into a federation, because a federation does not exist.
However, there is a choice here of momentous importance—but a rather different one. The choice is this: are we going to take part in the shaping of an as yet inchoate form of political union and influence the form that that is going to take in future, or are we going to stand aside and let it take shape without our influence? That is the choice, and it is an extremely important one for the future of ourselves and the Community.
If we believe in Great Britain—by that I mean not an attitude of mind which wants to lord it over people but one which wants to influence world society towards certain goals—there can be no doubt that we must make the first choice. On the other hand, if we believe in "Little England", the tight isolationist island, then I think that we should make the second choice.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
My hon. Friend may not agree with me; I am only giving my views and my analysis of the situation.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West in his recent speech in Northern Ireland made some rather astringent remarks on the subject. He referred to "subsidising Continental peasants" through the common agricultural policy. I would ask him tonight, does he not see why we are being called 1165 upon to do so? It is because the peasants of the Six, through their representatives, got together a decade ago to solve their problems in a certain way, and the yeomen of England simply were not there to make their voices heard.
We are now faced with an exactly parallel position in the political field. If we do not join the Community now and attempt to tailor the political policy in accordance with our views and our interests, in a few years we shall be faced with an exactly similar position politically. There is a parallel between those two situations.
Today we have to accept the Common agricultural policy. That is a condition of the negotiations. There is nothing startling about that. If we tried to tamper with the agricultural structure, the negotiations would founder at once. But it is not something which will be unchanged for ever. It is, in fact, changing at this moment.
In the speech to which I referred, my right hon. Friend mentioned the "diminishing peasant element in the countries of the Six." I must say, that is a pretty awful phrase. It is bad enough to be an element, let alone a peasant element, let alone a diminishing element. But the point of the phrase is the word "diminishing"—dwindling. As I know, my right hon. Friend chooses every word carefully. He himself has indicated what my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy spelled out this afternoon—that the contributions from the Central Fund to agriculture are likely in future to diminish rather than to increase and certainly will not remain the same.
The other argument which has been used—it is a separate but connected argument—is that we shall somehow lose our national identity within the Common Market. Yet that is patently false also. It is contrary to facts. One is entitled to ask, are the French any less French because they are members of the Common Market? I do not wish to prejudice the result of the negotiations, but it seems to me that they are more French than ever. This is true of the other members of the Community.
The Werner Plan has flitted into our discussions like the ghost in the machine, but what has happened to it is extremely 1166 important for those discussions, since the fate of the plan demolishes the view of those who say that there will be a group of anonymous bureaucrats imposing their will on nation States. The Community simply does not operate like that. It operates by consensus, by agreement, and if there is any plan which goes against the national interest of one of the parties, that party has a power of veto, either in theory or in practice. Accordingly the plan has to be modified or it vanishes—and that is what has happened to the Werner Plan. This is of great significance because it is looking at what happens and not at what people say will happen.
Again, there is a false deduction from a faulty premise—an identification of national character with certain political and Government arrangements. Those arrangements change, but the national character abides. It is perhaps the most durable thing in a political scene which is always changing. Have the Scots, for example, lost their national identity after nearly 300 years of the closest union with the English? Have the Irish, who have been associated with us for even longer, or the Welsh, who have been associated longest of all?
Is it not, therefore, absurd to suggest, given the rather shaky and provisional nature of the union of Europe, that, if we enter, our national identity will suddenly dissolve? To allege that is not to clarify the argument or the issues; it is rather to cloud them with the forces of passion and prejudice.
My belief is that the antithesis between patriotism and Europeanism is false and that it is our task to synthesise the two. It was the Prime Minister himself who said in those lectures at Harvard thatmany today are feeling and thinking not only, 'I am British or French or German,' but also, 'I am a European.'".That is the truth of the situation. We are both British and Europeans, and we betray some part of our heritage if we attempt to deny one or other of them.
It is true, of course, that we are privileged citizens of the best country in the world. No one is debating that. But we are also part of a wider civilisation, which, with all its faults and shortcomings, is the finest, the most precious, that the world has yet seen.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
I have always accepted the attachment of the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) to the idea of the United Kingdom joining the E.E.C. He has frequently advanced cultural, political and economic reasons why, in his view, we should join.
I join him in welcoming this opportunity to discuss this important subject and to express an opinion while there is still time, for this is probably the last occasion on which this House will have a chance to influence the course of the negotiations.
The main burden on the Government is the provision of more information to the House before this debate concludes. I regret the absence not only of the Minister but of my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever), who had a number of highly controversial remarks to make. It would have been advantageous had they stayed for the whole debate. As I have a number of things to say against them, I have no choice but to attack them in their absence. I hope that they will both forgive me.
We must pay considerable attention to what has so far emerged from the negotiations—I will come to the question of foreign policy later—because we have an obligation to make that our starting point. There are neither surprises nor secrets left in the negotiations and it is now a completely artificial stance for any leader of any party to suggest that we cannot know the outcome of the negotiations.
We are now in a position to make up our minds as a result of the negotiations so far, and I am glad that most hon. Members who have contributed to this debate have referred to what is now already firmly established. This was pointed out in the earlier debate when the negotiations began. At that time a number of hon. Members said that while they approved the attempt to negotiate, they expected the Government to try to obtain changes in the actual arrangements which had so far been reached by the Six.
Bearing that in mind, we see that this is the first point of disadvantage from which Her Majesty's Government began 1168 to negotiate because the Six which now form not Europe—because that terminology is wholly misleading—but one corner of the Continent of Europe, or one particular grouping of Powers leaving out the majority of the people of Europe, went to a great deal of trouble and spent four-and-a-half years carefully adjusting to each other's interests. They are not prepared to do that for us. The hon. Member for Chelmsford has no right to appear in the mantle of the great European when he is referring to only one small part of Europe.
There may be historical reasons why the Six have reached this position. I appreciate that people like the hon. Member for Chelmsford who have always favoured our entry into the E.E.C. will say that the attitude of the Six has arisen partly because of our fault and partly because we missed an earlier opportunity. Although I understand that view. I do not adhere to it. It is simply realistic to accept that the Six are not prepared to spend another four-and-a-half years carefully adjusting to the interests of the people of the United Kingdom, and they have made that clear.
The Six have said not only that the common agricultural policy is sacred and must be accepted in toto—this is the common front which the Minister is facing in the negotiations—but that the United Kingdom must equally accept all the subsequent decisions that have been taken by them since they signed the Treaty of Rome.
In view of the situation that has emerged for this country, I cannot understand why people here should talk about the generality of the isues involved in our entry rather than concentrate entirely on the realities which the Government face. Because I wish to dwell on the realities of the situation, I will not spend time discussing the vast schemes of cultural relations and future arrangements which have been mentioned, or the new glittering rôle which the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) sees Britain playing in foreign and international affairs after many years membership of the Community.
There will, no doubt, be occasions on which those matters can be discussed. Our duty now is to concentrate on the hard facts of the negotiations and on the realities of the situation. We must accept, 1169 for example, that the common agricultural policy is sacred, that the Treaty of Rome is sacred and that we shall have to adhere to the subsequent decisions that the Six have taken in that connection. I wish to drive home the fact that the Six formalised this in the discussions which they had prior to the negotiations opening.
What are the consequences of all this for us? To begin with, the fact that the people of Britain will have to make certain financial contributions is now established. The only possible point of argument can arise on two points: first, how long will the transitional period be until the full rigours of these conditions must be met by this country, and, secondly, what hopes are there—I say "hopes" and not "rights"—that in future the Six will themselves wish to pay less attention to agriculture and particularly to the way in which agriculture is now being financed within the Community?
This can be only a hope, because the Minister was careful to point out that he is now arguing for a special reassurance. This undoubtedly means that the Government are convinced that it is highly likely that the policy which they would regard as desirable for Britain will not be followed. If that were not the case they would not be so keen to get this special reassurance.
Hon. Members who have been urging this fact on the House are doing a service because, whatever view one takes about the desirability or otherwise of our joining the Community, we in the House of Commons have a duty, particularly at this stage, to press the interests of the British people in these negotiations. For this reason I cannot understand why any hon. Member should be keen to gloss over the hard facts of the situation.
The Minister's anxieties are understandable. This is particularly so when one considers the way in which the Community is spending the large sums of money it is collecting; and we shall be asked to be one of the chief contributors to the common agricultural policy.
In November last the Commission in Brussels published an official report in which it said that in the 12 months from November, 1969 to November, 1970 it had spent 300 million dollars for the 1170 single purpose of destroying perfectly good butter because of a glut of that commodity in the European Economic Community. It gave the reasons, and added, in effect: "We are now announcing that in the next 12 months, from November, 1970 to November, 1971, we shall spend a further 300 million dollars for exactly the same purpose". That means two periods of expenditure of 300 million dollars. Moreover, the Commission did not add that it intended to abandon that policy.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster knows this full well. That is why he wants a reassurance. Any hon. Member who has been travelling around Europe taking an interest in these matters knows that this is not something which the Commission has invented because it wants to pursue a baroque and bizarre economic policy. It is a policy on which, certainly, the French insisted. And the supporters of Herr Strauss in Bavaria insist on a policy which may take as much from the Community.
It is not only French interests that are involved. It has been quite unfair to make France the only bogyman in these negotiations. When the present Prime Minister was in charge of negotiations, as Lord Privy Seal, M. Pisani, the French negotiator, used to tell journalists: "I am always made the bogyman, but when I am to meet Mr. Heath on a Friday morning I have four agriculture Ministers from other countries of the Six telling me privately in my hotel the night before, "Make sure tomorrow morning that you are tough with the British'". It is a myth, and always has been a myth, to regard France as the only bogyman.
All this means that there will be certainly between £300 million and £500 million a year as a contribution for a good long time. I do not here accept the extreme figures at the other end of the scale in the White Paper published by my right hon. Friend when he was Prime Minister.
We are asked to agree that the Government should not make any attempt to change the Community's basic economic scheme—and this is the crux of the matter; that we have no right to say, first of all, to the Six, "We do not believe that you are adjusting to the interests of the British people as you have 1171 adjusted the economic interests of the original Six to each other if you refuse to reopen discussions on the original Treaty and on your subsequent decisions." I would apply that as the very first test.
Here, unfortunately, we come to the conspiracy of the two Front Benches; to the "Mafia" of the two—one the Government in office and the other the Government in exile. They work closely together, as we see on many occasions. Wherever they are, they always remain in Government on this matter.
I say advisedly that if ever an evasive speech, brilliantly delivered, were made in this House it was made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cheetham this afternoon. He is a master, when he wants to be, of not dealing with any of the hard problems. He gave us brilliant aphorisms, and the more he was interrupted by some of my hon. Friends below the Gangway the more he enjoyed himself, because the more he could make brilliant remarks and evade the real issue. That is one of our difficulties.
I want to warn those who are so keenly in favour of recommending that we should join the Community that nothing could be more dangerous, and I say this in all seriousness, than that a decision should somehow be brought about that the people of the United Kingdom, people of great independence of mind and attitude, are taken into the Community, and then for hundreds of thousands to believe that they have been tricked into it without knowing what they were being invited to do. That would be no service to the working of the Community, and on that we shall probably be able to reach general agreement.
The answer is to be much more open with the people about what they are asked to do. There is no reason why all this should not be spelt out now. There is no diplomatic advantage. The limits are drawn. It is quite clear what the Government can achieve from now on. That is the view of 110 Labour Members, who have therefore this week for this debate put down the following Motion:That this House believes that entry into the European Common Market on the terms so far envisaged would be against the interests of this country.It is the simple truth.
1172 As the negotiations have proceeded, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has found, as he has already admitted, that he has no hope of reopening the essential arrangements. He says that that is simple realism. In order to justify himself and to avoid arguments for justifying his position, as if it were self-evident why the Government do not make any attempt to reopen the discussions on the original Treaty of Rome, so that the Community does for Britain what was done for the original Six, he quotes a statement by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson), or by someone else who was in office in the past.
It is not self-evident that that justifies his attitude. It may prove that both the right hon. and learned Gentleman and my right hon. Friend have been equally wrong in adopting this attitude. They have to give arguments if they want to justify it. Quoting each other does no good. Among professionals it is easy to quote from each other, thereby avoiding having to deploy arguments. That is the crux of the debate to which the Government must address themselves.
I turn briefly to the subject of foreign affairs. A great deal concerning foreign policy is involved. The hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston) is the sole and lonely representative of the great Liberal Party which is so keen on our entry into Europe. He has been sitting in his miserable loneliness all this afternoon with nobody to talk to. That is why I muttered to him occasionally—I did not want him to feel lonely and at least he should have someone muttering to him, even though it was not a fellow member of the Liberal Party. He should have appreciated it. He did not pay me back very well for my kindliness and from now on I shall sit behind him in silence. He introduced, although not very effectively, the problem of foreign policy.
There are grave problems. It is extraordinary that, in what one would have expected to be a probing speech by the opening batsman for the Labour Party, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cheetham made no searching references to what is in many ways the main foreign defence policy plan of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, whose absence on important business elsewhere 1173 we understand, an absence we none the less regret on this occasion, namely, the proposal for a new joint Anglo-French nuclear command.
The Prime Minister is on record as having said in the Godkin lectures in the United States when he was Leader of the Opposition that he thought that a development in that direction was desirable. There are serious implications in what the right hon. Member for Streatham said, and in a debate of this kind it would have been appropriate for the spokesman of the Labour Party to ask probing questions, even though he did not have, as I have, the relative freedom of the back benches to make as many assertions as I intend to make.
This is a serious aspect of the matter. Many of my hon. Friends and I are afraid that many people who wish for closer political union and for a new defence organisation based on the Common Market countries do not want to add to wider unity in Europe but want to create further divisions in Europe. What is behind the argument for a third great Power? What is the point of having this third great Power which the right hon. Member for Streatham is always honest enough to admit has no meaning and no existence unless it is based on joint defence policy? He has regularly argued this openly at the Council of Europe, as many of my colleagues have reported to me over a number of years. He goes much further there than anything he says here, because there he is not under the pressure of time, as he is in the House of Commons.
This policy of the third nuclear command is a policy which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, to his honour, has always consistently opposed. He has warned the country against it. He did so, prominently, immediately after the present Prime Minister made his speeches in the United States of America. There was no reference to that in the opening speech of my right hon. Friend.
These are matters, surely, of the greatest importance. The people of this country are entitled to be told about them before they agree to enter the Common Market. The right hon. Member for Streatham and the Prime Minister are right when they say that in the longer term there must be such a joint defence 1174 organisation or the whole political argument for joining the Common Market falls to the ground. If we are to join merely to have another Council of Europe, from what I hear from some of my hon. Friends, we do not have to join the Common Market to have that sort of experience of joint discussions. We can meet in a more attractive city, perhaps, than even Strasbourg. We might meet in Paris, for instance. There is a lot to be said for that. But that is neither what the Prime Minister nor the right hon. Member for Streatham has in mind.
There are grave dangers involved, and if one wants to approve of those dangers one ought to say so. The danger is that at a time when the influence of the United Kingdom, which is still considerable, ought to be used for all schemes of détente and in every possible way for working in and with the United Nations to create less division and more unity, understanding and agreement, we might be taking quite the wrong step in encouraging the view of those among the Six who want a third nuclear command.
That brings me to internationalism. Surely we have heard enough of these shoddy, silly, schoolboy attacks on those of my hon. Friends who are opposed to this precise proposal. To my great surprise, my right hon. Friend, whose intellectual calibre I have always rated to be high, indulged in some of that this afternoon. It was wholly unworthy of him. There was all this talk about the fact that he could not understand how people who are interested in internationalism are so worried about giving up parity, which is the pride of every Englishman. If that were not sneering at their attitude, I do not know what is.
§ Mr. Harold Lever
My hon. Friend must not say that. I specifically made the point that I recognised the sincerity and the basis for anxiety on the part of my hon. and right hon. Friends, who, in the main, share the same world and social outlook that I have.
§ Mr. Mendelson
My right hon. Friend must read his speech tomorrow and see what he said on the point he made about sincerity. A contemporary of Voltaire used to describe in one of his letters how Voltaire punctured the pride of a cardinal by telling three stories against the Church and then saying that he believed that the 1175 Cardinal was a sincere Christian. That was the attitude adopted by my right hon. Friend this afternoon. He sneered at us for many minutes, and then told us that we were sincere.
These are shoddy, silly attacks on the international credo of people who have, for many years, stood in the Socialist movement and have done much more than some of the new-found adherents of my right hon. Friend, some of the new internationalists on the other side who are now the adherents of the European idea.
My hon. Friends have a good record on this, going back many years, and they do not need to be told what true internationalism is. Let us have done with this nonsense. What is involved is quite different. We are not discussing world government or general principles of internationalism, or the United Nations. We are discussing the European Economic Community composed of the Six countries. I have just described the consequences of its economic policy for the people of this country.
It would be completely avoiding the duty of Members of this House if we were to embrace everybody and everything because we have international ideals, but not to concentrate on the hard facts of life concerning the proposals. Moreover, there are great fears among some of those who oppose our entry into the Common Market about foreign affairs and defence. We see the role of this country at present as one in which it is perfectly entitled to say, "We are looking at the possible results of these negotiations." We cannot recommend to the people acceptance of the heavy burdens on our balance of payments and the increased cost of living which are inevitable and which the Chancellor of the Duchy tried to evade today when he replied to an intervention of mine. We are entitled to tell the E.E.C. countries that, if they feel that they cannot pay the same attention to the economic interests of our people as they pay to each other's, we cannot go into the Market on those terms.
This country has many opportunities to play its part in advancing international relations. Indeed, the United Kingdom has been much more helpful to the Ostpolitik pursued by the West German 1176 Chancellor than any member of the Common Market. That was especially so when we were in office, though I am glad to say that we have also been helpful under the new Administration. It is not necessary to be a member of the E.E.C. in order to support the foreign policy of détente with the Eastern European countries.
Both Front Benches have the bounden duty to tell us the facts and to find ways and means of discovering how the people feel about them. In the end, if the Government decide that they can somehow manufacture a majority in this House which is not clearly backed by a large majority of the people, they will have made a disastrous mistake which generations to come will have cause to regret.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Mr. William Shelton (Clapham)
I am fortunate to be called to make my maiden speech in this debate. It is a debate of very great importance, not only in this House but in the country.
I want first to refer to my predecessor, who represented the constituency for some six years, Mrs. Margaret McKay. All who knew her in that time, as I did, recognised the sincerity and integrity of her views about the Middle East, though many did not agree with them. I should also mention her predecessor, a very good friend of mine, who I am delighted to see back in this House as my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Dr. Glyn). He represented the Clapham constituency for five years, and his name is still remembered with affection and respect among my constituents.
I began by saying how glad I was to have the opportunity to intervene in this debate. My reason for saying it is that, over the last few months, I have found to my great interest an increasing awareness of the Common Market issue. I have had a steadily growing postbag about it. In fact, I received one letter the other day from which I want to read a couple of lines. It was the last letter to arrive by normal means, and the writer says:There is one major point on which I have considerable reservations and that is joining the Common Market. At the Election, I asked one of your canvassers about this and he said that your attitude would depend on the terms of the negotiation. The year 1971 has now 1177 dawned and negotiations about the terms are under way. This is likely to be a crunch year.I was fortunate in the canvasser who replied to that question, because he gave the correct answer.
Like most hon. Members, I am waiting on the terms of the negotiation. But I should add that I hope that they will be successful. I am, however, rather less perturbed about the terms or the results of the negotiation than about a feeling of which I am becoming aware in my constituency, and I think that I should be failing in my duty if I did not mention it tonight.
Undoubtedly, there is great anxiety. I have no way of knowing whether that anxiety is shared by a minority, by the majority or, so to speak, half and half among the constituents whom I have the honour to represent. Perhaps the number is small, but it is nevertheless an anxious number and, in my case, fairly vocal.
I take it that the issues here fall broadly into three groups, and I attach labels to them in this way. First, there is the question of stability in terms of war or peace over a long period. Second, there is the question of prosperity for the people of this country. Third, there is the question of sovereignty.
The issue of stability should perhaps, be easy. As many hon. Members have said, we have seen two world wars spring from Europe, and, obviously, a strong and stable Europe must be a force for peace and be of benefit to the people of this country. I believe that Europe would be more likely still to be strong and stable were Great Britain a member of the Economic Community. Nevertheless, as has been said, the European Economic Community has nothing to do with defence, or with foreign policy. It may have in the future, but it has not now. So one is asked whether it might not be better to look towards N.A.T.O. rather than the E.E.C. if we are thinking in terms of long-term stability. I do not know the answer, but that is an objection which has been put to me, and it is an objection with which I had not found it easy to deal.
Now, the question of prosperity, the second hold-all issue, if I may use that term. Again, it seems simple at first sight. The growth rate of the countries of the E.E.C. is greater than that of Great Britain. Therefore, if we join the E.E.C., 1178 we, too, shall have a greater growth rate. But, it has been pointed out, some of the member countries of the E.E.C. had a slightly larger growth rate, perhaps, before it was formed. I regard that as a special circumstances, and I do not accept that argument. It was, I believe, due to an unusual period of post-war reconstruction.
But there is another argument under this head. Over a decade or so, this country doubled its home market from about 55 million to about 95 million people through the creation of the E.F.T.A., yet through that decade our growth rate actually fell. So I suspect that the growth rate of this country, and, indeed, the growth rate of most countries in the world, has less to do with the size of the home market and far more to do with one's domestic housekeeping, one's industrial relations, one's tax policies, and, perhaps, even the nature of the Government running the country. I am sure that a larger home market must contribute to a larger growth rate, but, perhaps, only marginally, and it is one's domestic housekeeping which is the overriding factor. I am sure that the argument on that matter will be answered in the next few months, if it has not been answered today when, perhaps, I was out of the Chamber.
I come now to the third hold-all factor, the question of sovereignty. I believe that this is the one which perplexes and causes most anxiety to the people of my constituency. It worries them, I think, even more than any prospective rise in prices. After talking with and listening to very many of them, I must say in their defence, in a sense, that I believe that it does my constituents a disservice—I imagine that this must apply to others, too—to say that their opposition is based only on the question of prices. It is not, though this is perhaps a factor in it.
I can only speak tonight for myself and those who live in my constituency. Their deep uneasiness springs from the question of sovereignty, which many hon. Members have already explained. I think that my constituents are probably misguided and have least to worry about here. Of course, we cannot withdraw from the Treaty of Rome once we have signed it. That is the bogy which is trotted out when the issue of sovereignty is raised, but as the right hon. Member for Manchester, 1179 Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever) has said, we, in this next year or so, cannot bind the will of future Parliaments.
I am convinced that if, for instance, the European Economic Community starts along the road to federalism, towards a United States of Europe—and I am not arguing whether it would be good or bad—it must take the British Parliament with it, otherwise the vital interests of this country will be overridden, and there is no question that, at some stage, either the progress would stop or this country would withdraw. I do not believe that anyone can envisage a war of secession, with this country being invaded by an army from the Continent to stop us seceding from the Treaty of Rome. I believe that the argument about our being unable to withdraw from the Treaty is unnecessarily worrying to those whom I have the privilege and honour to represent.
In seven or eight minutes I have touched very lightly on some of the matters involved. I have a deep anxiety about the issue, though I have every confidence in my right hon. and learned Friend who is conducting the negotiations. My anxiety concerns the views expressed today, yesterday and last month by those who have talked to me in my constituency. I doubt whether I am unique in this. I very much hope that over the next few months or years, or whatever period may be required before this country signs the Treaty of Rome, I shall be able to carry with me all those whom I represent.
I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and the House, for having listened to me with such courtesy and patience.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Bert Oram (East Ham, South)
It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. William Shelton) and to extend to him the congratulations of all who heard him on the excellent way in which he put behind him one of the most important hurdles of a Parliamentary career. He spoke with great effectivenes and fluency, and the House will look forward to hearing his contributions in the future.
The hon. Gentleman will see this debate on Britain and Europe as a single, 1180 self-contained debate, but those of us who have been privileged to serve for a considerably longer period than he has see it as one in a long series of debates on the issue of whether Britain should join the Common Market of Western Europe. One of the most attractive features of these highly important debates is that on this subject vigorous opinion runs right across party lines. We have had plenty of evidence in the debate so far.
The House has been engaged in this long discussion for 10 years or more, and in that time there have been many changes in the personnel of the House and in the Government and in the attitudes of the major parties. There have also been developments in Europe itself. Through all these changes, it is nevertheless possible to trace at least one continuous thread of truth. This, in my view, is that at no point has it ever been a clear black and white issue. At all stages of its development, it has been a question of weighing up the pros and cons, of weighing the political and economic advantages of joining against the undoubted political and economic disadvantages and trying to assess the result.
There will come a point, of course, and not far off, no doubt, when the final weighing up will have to be done. But at all points in the long discussion, both before the Rome Treaty was signed and since, it has been possible to find very strong arguments in favour of signing and very strong arguments against. There have been fervent advocates of both points of view, but I have always listened with most attention to those who, however fervent their advocacy, have nevertheless admitted that this was a mixed question—a question of swings and roundabouts, of the necessity to weigh up what was likely to be lost on the swings against the gains to be made on the roundabouts. This weighing up is a difficult proposition at any point of time, but when it is a question of weighing it up through time, with changing factors in a vastly complex subject, it makes the exercise still more difficult.
As other hon. Members have done, I quote the case of Germany as an illustration. An argument which weighed heavily with me in times gone by when Dr. Adenauer was the Federal Chanceller and the cold war was at its worst, 1181 was that it was possible to say—many people believed it, and believe it still—that it was a large part of the function of the Common Market to be a major instrument in the cold war. Now, West Germany has a Chancellor who is very different from Dr. Adenauer. Mr. Brandt's Government are pursuing policies which we on this side most certainly greatly welcome and which are very different from those of Dr. Adenauer's Government. It is no longer true to say that the association of States in Western Europe has opposition to the Soviet world as one of its main purposes.
I make this point not because I want now to develop the foreign policy aspects of the argument but to stress the point that the circumstances and factors in this matter change over time. Moreover, they are capable of being changed. This is why the nature of the negotiations is of great importance. It is why we anxiously seek from the right hon. and learned Gentleman as frequently as possible reports of how the negotiations are going and why we are anxious to know how tough he is with his colleagues in the negotiations.
It is highly important in the situation that Britain occupies at present in relation to the E.E.C. that we should not play easy-to-get, that we should not show an undue fervour for getting in, because by that means we might weaken our bargaining position. By all means negotiate genuinely; by all means negotiate with a view to getting in if the terms are right. But do not show an over-eagerness to get in because, by that means, we weaken our negotiating position.
I suggest three examples of the way in which decisions by the present Conservative Government and Conservative attitudes have placed Britain in a weaker bargaining position in Brussels than she would have been if the negotiations had been conducted by a Labour Government. I refer to the policies on import levies in agriculture, taxation, through the value-added tax, and in relation to the nationalised industries.
It is widely recognised that acceptance of the common agricultural policy and the Community's system of import levies is one of the major changes Britain has to agree to in order to join the Community. It is an important change from 1182 the system of price support that we have known since the war. But within the general acceptance of the common agricultural policy, there is a great deal of room for manoeuvre, bargaining and negotiation. Therefore, it seems to me to be a weakness in Britain's position that she is now led by a party which, as long ago as 1964, began to legislate in order to abandon the British system of price support in favour of the import levy system. It is a weakness that the negotiations are being conducted by Conservatives in whose election programme the change to import levies was one of the most advertised planks. It was also included in the Queen's Speech.
The system to which we are turning, as is well known, is disadvantageous to the British consumer and to the housewife. I agree that it may be necessary to accept that system to gain a package deal in which there are countervailing advantages in membership of the Common Market in other spheres of policy. But if that is so, we should not advertise our intentions well beforehand to saddle the British consumer with a disadvantageous system, irrespective of whether there is anything to be gained as a result of a suitably negotiated entry agreement.
Secondly, I turn to the question of taxation where a similar story is to be told. Conformity with the value-added tax may no doubt be necessary if Britain is to go along with the harmonisation policy in taxation which has been taking place in the Common Market. Again from the point of view of the increased cost of living which faces the British housewife and the adverse effects on the British consumer, there can be no doubt that the V.A.T. is unwelcome. But the Conservative Party have already made it clear in their manifesto that they favour the tax—and, for all I know, we are due to have it next April. But it is not to be done as part of a bargain in which we shall gain other advantages. We are to go voluntarily for this tax, which will have such adverse effects on the British housewife. This again seems to place the British negotiators in an unnecessarily weak position because they have already shown they will give way on something which might have been capable of being bargained about.
My third illustration relates to the nationalised industries. It is clear that 1183 the Government intend to sell off to private enterprise all those parts of nationalised industries—for example, in respect of certain civil aviation matters, items in the Coal Bill, and including Thomas Cook and Son and probably the Post Office Giro system—which are not an essential part of the central core of the industry which is nationalised.
I believe that the Government have two motives in this respect. In the first place it is in conformity with Conservative philosophy, but I believe there is a second motive. The Government are hiving these things off because they believe that it will make the path to the Common Market simpler and easier. Paragraph 90 of the Treaty of Rome when read in association with the other relevant clauses makes clear that although nationalisation is possible within the Common Market it cannot be used to distort competition. If we were to join I can imagine it being argued that profit-making airlines, manufacturing undertakings by the Coal Board, and a profitable travel agency run by British Rail would offend against that article of the Treaty.
My point is that there is no need to rush into acceptance of that point of view. Here are assets in Britain's hands which can be negotiated and argued about. Yet the Government are here also, as in their agricultural policy and their taxation approach adopting a posture of acquiescence to these unwelcome features of the Treaty of Rome rather than adopting an attitude of resistance and tough negotiation.
I believe that it is possible to negotiate toughly and that it is possible to get the right kinds of conditions on which Britain can enter the Market. But the margin within which this negotiation has to be done is narrow. We shall need all our strength and our assets of negotiation if we are to succeed. We must negotiate in good faith, willing to go in if the conditions are right, but we can only get those conditions right if we can do so with all the strength that we can possibly muster.
I am much less enthusiastic a European than my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever) but I am a more willing European than my hon. Friend the Mem- 1184 ber for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) though I appreciated his vigorous speech. That being my position, I am anxiously watching every report coming from Brussels, because I believe that we have already thrown away cards which we ought to hold close to our chests and play at the right time.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Simeons (Luton)
I am grateful for this opportunity of addressing the House for the first time.
I should like to remind the House of the good work done by my predecessor, Will Howie, during the seven years that he was the Member for Luton. When the history books come to be written, he may figure in a way which few appreciate at the moment. I suspect that he is the only man to be elected to this House on the same day that a Prime Minister entered it. That is probably unique.
Luton is famous for a number of things. The hat industry is one of the oldest crafts for which it is known. If the quantity of hats has become reduced in recent years, the quality certainly has not. Luton is famous for men's straw boaters. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster at the moment has the ears of the world in Brussels. If my right hon. and learned Friend returns to Brussels with a Luton straw boater, he will have the eyes of the world as well. No one would be more famous since Maurice Chevalier, who is over 80 and still going strong.
Luton has a first-class football team bobbing about at the top of the Second Division. It may be felt to be contentious, but I say, without fear of contradiction, that while certain right hon. or hon. Members next year are burying their sorrows watching Second Division football, I shall be watching First Division football. I shall, of course, be delighted to invite them to see how football should be played.
There is an airport at Luton. No doubt many hon. Members have used it. Alongside the airport is the corporation rubbish dump. As I live at the end of the runway, perhaps it will not be felt that I am being unfair to my constituency if I mention that right hon. and hon. Members from surrounding constituencies have suggested that if any expansion 1185 takes place in the area it should be the rubbish dump, not the runway. I confess certain fellow feelings with them.
Luton is a town with light industry, and it also makes motor cars. Like most motor car towns, it has had rough handling from successive Chancellors.
I believe that the way to discover what is best for one's constituency is to go out and discuss things with people. If I were to go out and obtain a consensus of opinion, whether we should go into the Common Market or not, I have little doubt that my constituents would say, "No". If I asked why, they would probably say, "Because it is too expensive", and they would probably cite the cost of food. So I would suggest that we draw up an equation to see what it would cost to go in and what it would cost to stay out. As the representative for Luton, obviously I must look after the interests of the people there, though I have a national responsibility, too. But when we have balanced these factors, we can come to a conclusion on what is right for individual constituencies and an equation can be drawn up for the country as a whole.
If one thinks of those things which would be too expensive to do without, then I would draw attention to telecommunications and to most forms of advanced research, including the aircraft industry. These matters should not be forgotten. When I wrote to industry in Luton a little while ago asking "What are your views? Do you believe that if we went into the Common Market the people you employ would be better off in terms of earnings than if we stayed out?", they were almost unanimous that we would do much better if we went in.
I draw the attention of the House to Laportes, which has links with Belgium in the chemical industry, and I remind hon. Members that most of the engineering companies, or the larger ones at any rate, have subsidiaries within the Common Market, and that what we have to consider is that when the tariffs are reduced there will be a realignment of sales. The view of the motor car industry is that in the ultimate all countries take in 25 per cent. of somebody else's production. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) mentioned the high percentage of foreign motor cars, and 1186 of course the percentage is rising, but the month which he may have had in mind—and I cannot ask him because he is not here—was one in which Vauxhalls had very little production at all because they were not working very rapidly at that stage. It is unfair to argue that we have a high rate of imports of foreign cars in one month at a time when the total production in this country, or in Luton anyway, is very low.
I suggest a figure which may surprise my hon. and learned Friend, although I mentioned it to him outside, and it is that the motor car industry in Luton believes that one captures 25 per cent. of another country's trade. If the British motor car industry loses a percentage which is equivalent to 25 per cent. of the British market, but captures a market in Europe which is equivalent to 25 per cent. of that market, it will come out of the bargain very well, and this is the view which the industry is taking, because it has set up retailers and distribution centres all over the Common Market in anticipation of this coming about.
There is another factor in Luton. We have a number of international companies such as Vauxhall, General Motors, Chrysler, Electrolux, Skefco, and, including members in the Chamber of Commerce, companies like Kodak, and if we think of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), we have the great CIBA, which has photographic interests in this country. Once these companies can rationalise their production in different countries then, instead of making a range of products at each of their factories, they can make one size of ball bearing, or have a run of Vivas, or a run of a particular type of refrigerator in one country, and because tariffs have been reduced the cost of transport far and away offsets this and they can easily ship to another country.
For the first part of my equation, industry in Luton, from what it has told me, is in favour of entry, but before we can complete the equation we have to discover the answer to the other unknown factors.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Mr. John P. Mackintosh (Berwick and East Lothian)
It is a privilege to follow the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Simeons) and to congratulate him on his witty maiden speech. He dealt very fairly with many aspects of the Common Market 1187 problem, particularly the costs of not entering, which are not often considered in this discussion. Our pleasure in listening to the hon. Gentleman was tempered by the genuine affection which many of us feel for his predecessor, but now that the hon. Gentleman is here we welcome him and look forward to equally helpful and constructive contributions in the future.
I was somewhat surprised by the remarks of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) in the Press, when he said that he was appalled at the trivial level of the debate on the Common Market. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has been present for most of the debate because, whatever one says about other debates, the deliberations of the House this afternoon have not been trivial. We have heard many interesting, informative and powerful speeches which have contributed a great deal to the discussion of this problem, none more powerful than that of my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson), who put his case with singular lucidity and power. He began by discussing the common agricultural policy and what he regarded as its unsatisfactory nature. In saying that we were having to take the common agricultural policy as it stood, I thought he was being a little unfair. The position is that we have to accept the policy prior to entry. We cannot renegotiate this prior to getting into the Common Market, but, once we are a member, the market problems of agriculture are open to pressure and adaption, as they have been up till now by member countries.
The key point to remember is that the Community said that if the present Community or an enlarged Community found unacceptable situations arising, the very life of the Community would require the institutions to find just solutions. The Community does not exist to penalise or destroy any member. It exists to see that each flourishes. If the existing situation does not meet the needs of its members, it can be adapted, but after rather than prior to entry. This is an entirely reasonable position for any organisation to maintain.
The agricultural policy is by no means fixed. It is a policy of protection, and I agree that to many people in this country, 1188 unaccustomed to self-sufficiency, the idea of an agricultural policy that produces surpluses which have to be destroyed seems to be fantastic, particularly to those who were brought up during the war when waste of food was regarded as immoral and wrong. But this country also has a system of protecting agriculture. The guaranteed price system is a protective system, but it does not waste, because we do not produce more than the country can consume. If, as the result of that system we produce more, it can be sold.
The system in Europe is not fundamentally different in economic terms from a system of protecting, say, a declining industry like coal and producing more coal at a higher cost than the country can absorb. We can and do subsidise the sale of the coal by taxes on oil imports or stock it till the market is more favourable. We do not, as is done with butter in Europe, actually destroy it. The demand for food products is so inelastic that they cannot be dealt with in the same way as raw materials such as coal.
Once we are in Europe and are a member of the Common Market we shall influence the total agricultural policy. As I think my hon. Friend knows, the policy in Europe is to reduce the area under production. The Mansholt plan is a gradual programme to take areas out of production. I remember pointing out to farmers in my constituency that the Mansholt plan intended to take out of production an area the size of Belgium. A farmer at the back of the hall shouted, "That's damned bad luck for Belgium, isn't it?" We appreciate that a cut in the area under production is made necessary by the improved productivity of farming and the inelastic demand for agricultural produce and that the situation will change as the Common Market develops, once we are members of the larger organisation.
What interests me is that, after the mid-1970s when the Common Market becomes self-sufficient in temperate food products, the present agricultural policy simply will not work because there cannot be an import levy if there are no imports. The common agricultural policy will have to be totally re-thought and readapted to a self-sufficient pattern, and in this the British vote and pressure along with that of other members will play a 1189 normal part. If we study this problem in more detail we shall see that we need not think that it is such a major obstacle to entry as my hon. Friend suggested.
I turn to the other major problems that have been raised. I accept that they have to be dealt with in pretty tough practical terms and not in the general fashion we shall adopt in our broader considerations to which I will turn at the end of my speech.
The first of these problems obviously, is the economic point, the question which has been put so often, and which has been put more recently by the National Institute Economic Review—of whether this country can afford entry.
Here, I think, the position is clarified. The position is that the Minister negotiating for this country has made an opening bid of 3 per cent. per annum rising to 13 to 15 per cent. of the total contribution over five years followed by three years of corrections. I understand that the Six have made a counter-bid of a higher starting position of 15 to 20 per cent., rising to 20 to 25 per cent. after five years which would involve less of a correction at the end of the eight-year period. But what interests us in this House, I think, is that, calculated either way, together with the burden on the balance of payments, the cost varies between a minimum of £285 million and a maximum of £480 million—though, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that is net and not gross.
This cost level seems to me to fit in very well with the sort of appreciation that my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) made on 25th February last year, when he pointed out that if, as a result of entry, the British growth rate increased by 0.5 per cent. more than it would have been, this would more than cover that cost. I was interested to see, despite the arguments over this controversial report by the National Institute, that even that article said:At the minimum, the formation of the Community has resulted in greater movement of labour. It is likely that the confidence which it has generated has led also to a greater willingness to invest, to employ resources in research and development, than would otherwise have been the case.It makes these points, and goes on to deal with the question of growth 1190 [Interruption.] I hear the mutterings of my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) whose constant comments I always enjoy. The article states that—the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) refused to give way to me when he made this point—the growth rate in the Common Market tapered off slightly after the Common Market was formed.
Yes, this is true, it did taper off on average from 5.6 per cent. to 5.4 per cent.—and would that we had had a growth rate of 5.4 per cent. over the 10 years that the Common Market has been in existence. The amazing thing is that they kept up this growth rate over that decade, not that they went down by 0.2 per cent. after the formation of the Market.
In many other ways, one can see how tendentious these National Institute figures are. For instance, they ignore trade within the Community countries, which rose five-fold in the period. They complain that the Common Market's share of world exports declined, not noticing that none of them had a serious balance of payments deficit, and that, under the circumstances, there was no need for them to export more.
The preponderant point is that, when the Common Market was formed, only Luxembourg—which someone was jokingly comparing to Rutland—had a higher g.n.p. on average per head than Britain, and that, at the end of the decade, only Italy had a lower, and it was fast catching up on this country.
All the empirical evidence seems to suggest that, by joining the Common Market, there is every likelihood that we will get 0.5 per cent. greater growth, and if we do this we will more than cover the cost, at maximum, of the negotiating position offered by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
If that is the situation, we can leave the economic argument for entry aside, and say that it is now clear that this can be managed easily within the potentiality of this country, and turn to the political arguments, which I have always thought the more important. It has emerged in this debate that they are the points that are of most concern to Members and to the interests of this country.
1191 On this, of course, the argument has gone quickly to the question of sovereignty; the key problem of the independence and future of this country. I am very interested that certain political arguments have been dropped. Particularly the argument that the Common Market is a divisive factor in Europe has been abandoned.
We have now seen the most important efforts to bridge the gap in Europe coming from within the Common Market and many of my hon. Friends and, I suspect, most of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, would support the efforts that have been made by the German Chancellor to bridge it. It is interesting to see these efforts being made by a Common Market country.
In addition, we can now see the insularity of French policies declining. The Common Market is much more the sort of political entity which we could enter. What, therefore, is the argument about our losing sovereignty if we were to enter. I suggest that the argument becomes a semantic confusion.
When we say that we will lose sovereignty, we really mean that we will be prevented from doing things which we would otherwise want to do. But we do not have complete sovereignty outside the Market. The main weakness of the speech of the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) was his suggestion that it was either total independence or a surrender of sovereignty. It is not that sort of choice.
As I say, we cannot do exactly what we want to do even now. If anybody wants to see a lack of sovereignty let him consider the Macmillan Memoirs and the way in which the United States vetoed our ill-fated invasion of Suez. The Americans said, "Stop it" and they would not back us with a loan and this pressure brought the venture to an end. If one wants to look at the limitations on the so-called independence of Powers, one must study the foreign policies and activities of those countries and consider what they are free to do on their own.
Bearing this in mind, one must go on to ask: are we more capable of pursuing the interests of this country inside or outside a grouping such as the Common Market with the limitations that are 1192 imposed on us by membership? One need only look at Europe and compare what has been done by us in the last 10 years, as a so-called independent country outside the Community, with what has been done by countries in the E.E.C.
I did not like the foreign policy of General de Gaulle. However, one cannot say that in the 10 years since France joined the Market it has lacked sovereignty and independence. Indeed, I was always amazed at the way in which de Gaulle was able to pursue exactly the foreign policy which some of my hon. Friends below the Gangway would have liked to have seen this country pursuing, with separation from the United States, withdrawal from N.A.T.O. and an opening towards the East with the Soviet Union. That is what France tried to pursue and nobody can say that its membership of the Community prevented it from doing so. Indeed, its membership of the Community gave it a better economic base from which to attempt those policies.
We are an allegedly independent country capable of signing various treaties and so on. Consider our relationship with the I.M.F. and the other measures that we have taken because of our balance of payments difficulties. Our attitude towards Vietnam is a good example. Was this not affected by our weak financial position and partial dependence on the United States? If so, it cannot be said that Britain would lose its independence and sovereignty by becoming part of a more powerful independent Europe.
§ Mr. Marten
The analogy which the hon. Gentleman has been drawing is about the past. Nobody has suggested that sovereignty has been lost up to this stage. We, unlike the hon. Gentleman, are looking forward and it is our fear of a loss of sovereignty in the future to which we have been referring, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) pointed this out.
§ Mr. Mackintosh
I am delighted to look into the future in the same way, though to measure the situation one must look at what has happened up to this stage and at the present situation.
At this time, what other country is taking the lead in Europe? Anybody with the least bit of fairness will admit 1193 that it is West Germany under Chancellor Brandt. Again, this is a country inside the Common Market working from a secure power base. Because of this, it is in a position to play a leading rôle in European and in world affairs.
The point about the future is that if we are members of the Common Market—of a wider Europe—we will have the same opportunity of giving a lead. In my view, the interests of Britain in the Middle East, with our hope for a peaceful settlement there, would be enhanced, as would our interests in Africa and in other developing countries by joint action in Europe.
Our interests in these areas are synonymous with those of the other European countries. There is now no great divergence of interest between France, Britain and Germany in the defence of Europe, the Mediterranean or the North Sea and, given proper leadership, we can play a leading rôle on these questions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone attacked the defence aspect of joining the Common Market. He said how scandalous it was to think that we might join America, as a third nuclear power in a Europe which might involve sharing nuclear and other weapons; that in this way we might in Europe have a common defence policy. What puzzled me about that is the suggestion that if we remain on our own we can defend ourselves. In N.A.T.O., we are under the American umbrella. When my hon. Friend says, "Don't join because this means more responsibility and power in Europe for your own defence," he says in effect that if we are faced with threats from the East, let America deal with them and we will remain the minor partner in N.A.T.O.
§ Mr. Mendelson
I know that my hon. Friend would not wish to misrepresent what I said. I referred specifically to a third nuclear command within the Community of the Six, which is a policy to which the Labour Party and its leader have been consistently opposed, and have always attacked. It is to that aspect that I was addressing myself.
§ Mr. Mackintosh
I must point out two things to my hon. Friend. The first is that I gave way to him when he did not give way to me. I always give way to other hon. Members. Secondly, I 1194 certainly got him right on this matter. I am pointing out that a realistic policy of independence is an alternative to membership of the N.A.T.O. Alliance under American control. I am not anti-American in these matters but, to be realistic, we must consider all the options that are open to us, and one option is not to be independent as either a nuclear or non-nuclear power. It is to be part of N.A.T.O., or to share the greater part of the burden as part of a European entity. I thought that in many ways the latter question would give this country more independence than leaving the major burden to the United States as we do now, but I suspect that my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), the previous Minister of Defence, will elaborate on this tomorrow.
I have tried to discuss sovereignty, defence and economic questions. I feel very deeply that those of us who are in favour of going into Europe must not be regarded, as some hon. Members have suggested, as trying to sell the country down the river or of walking out in regard to our normal attitudes of patriotism and loyalty. Many of us, and I include myself, born and brought up in the Commonwealth and Empire who have lived and worked there, appreciate its value, and whatever happens at the Singapore Conference going on at the moment, we cannot regard this as an economic or political power which can confer freedom of activity and scope on this country.
I believe in joining the Common Market, extending it, using it to build bridges with Eastern Europe, and developing its potentiality so that we can find for our country a direction and purpose which has been sadly lacking since 1945. I accept Dean Acheson's remark that we have lost an empire and have failed to find a rôle. We have to find a rôle, and we shall do so in a wider and, I hope, democratically constructed Europe. That is a lofty idea for this country, and I wish the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster success in his negotiations.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ Mr. John Brewis (Galloway)
At this stage of the debate most subjects have already been mentioned. We have heard 1195 about the high contributions we may have to make to the Community's financing. I was glad that the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) mentioned the increase of 0.5 per cent. a year, and said how that would, in a five-year period, bring in £1,100 million per annum cumulative, and no less than £2,700 million over 10 years.
Those who are opposed to our going into the Market say that we shall be crushed by these very heavy contributions to the E.E.C. funds and also by the higher prices of food. It is rather curious to recall that exactly the same arguments were put forward in the countries of the Six at the time of the signing of the Treaty of Rome. Belgium, for example, at that time had an antiquated industrial system, rather resembling our own at the end of the war. She was already tending to lose out to Holland inside Benelux. Her rate of growth was sluggish. A very small proportion of her population was in agriculture so she was forced to make a heavy contribution under the common agricultural policy. Yet after the signing of the Treaty of Rome her growth rate went up from 2.6 per cent. previously to 3.8 per cent. between 1958 and 1969.
At the time of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, Italy had the highest tariff barriers of any of the Six. Who would have thought that Italian industry would have been able to stand up to competition from Germany? At that time, Italy exported only about 10 per cent. of her g.n.p., but now Italy has a motor car industry of the highest quality selling in Europe. She is leading in items of electrical equipment, such as refrigerators, and the proportion of her gross national product which is exported has risen to 27 per cent.
Whether or not we accept the terms of entry which are negotiated by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the world will not stay just the same, fixed in either the Victorian mould or its existing mould. We shall face fierce competition if we are outside the E.E.C. from the United States, from Japan and from the vitalised industries of the E.E.C., such as the Italian motor car industry. We may also find that there are some defections from E.F.T.A.
1196 The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) said that the Treaty of Rome was now settled and that room for manoeuvre in the negotiations was not very great. I was reminded of the mythological story of the sibyl who offered the founder of the City of Rome nine books at a certain price. When he refused to buy the nine, she burnt three and offered him six at the same price. If we had joined the Treaty of Rome at the time when it was signed, we should have had a say in negotiations and probably the leading say. If we had joined in 1962 or 1963, we might well have been in a position of taking the six books. But there are still three books of national advantage to be had by our country joining the Common Market.
Whether I am right or wrong about the economic circumstances, there are excellent reasons in defence and foreign policy why we must join. Europe of the Ten would have a population of 252 million and opposed to us would be Russia, which has a population of about 220 million. However, the commanding officer of N.A.T.O. has said that the influence of Russia is gradually and steadily growing. We can see it in many places, in the Middle East, in the Mediterranean and even in the Indian Ocean.
At the moment there is no great tension, but there was considerable tension two and a half years ago when Russia invaded Czechoslovakia. Tension is rather like a yo-yo—it goes up and down; it may be Berlin tomorrow; it was Hungary yesterday; it may be Czechoslovakia. We cannot say that we do not need to be united in defence against threats from Eastern Europe. But the experience of the last 20 years shows that we cannot have any effective joint defence policy without having the economic union of the Common Market first.
The S.A.L.T. negotiations now going on between Russia and America in Helsinki—incidentally, the first formal negotiations between super-Powers in which France and Britain have not been sitting at the same table—are for the limitation of strategic armaments. If an agreement is reached between America and Russia, however much they keep us in the picture about what is going on, it increases the disparity in conventional arms between Eastern Europe and 1197 Western Europe. At present there are probably four times as many tanks in Eastern Europe as there are in Western Europe. The Royal Navy is the largest Navy in Western Europe, but the Russian Navy is five times as great in manpower, and certainly in submarines.
We need the political will to co-operate and unite in Europe. The history of European co-operation is littered with wrecked barques of organisations like E.S.R.O., E.L.D.O., Euratom and many others. Five years ago Britain produced a very good aeroplane, the TSR 2, but we could not afford to go it alone in that. We need a common policy of co-operation in the procurement of arms and in cost sharing in Europe.
In conclusion, the debate now taking place in Britain is probably, in historical terms, very similar to a debate which occurred when Scotland was considering whether to sign the Treaty of Union with England in 1707. It was very unpopular at the time, and I have no doubt that, if a referendum had been taken, the decision would have gone against that union. But over the last 250 years, most Scotsmen and Englishmen would agree that it has been a very profitable union to the two countries. Some 10 or 12 years before that union the Scots sent an expedition to Darien to try to form a colony on the Isthmus of Panama. The failure of that expedition shows that Scotland in those days was not able to bat in the big league in the business of forming colonies.
In the last 10 years or so, in places like Algeria, Suez and Aden, Britain and France have learned similar lessons. Most thinking Britons, Frenchmen and Europeans realise that we must get together for the future of Europe.
§ 9.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald King Murray, (Edinburgh, Leith)
I have listened to the debate with a growing sense of oppression engendered by a sense of lack of reality which is coming upon me with considerable force.
This sense of unreality is due to two factors. First, we are to a considerable extent debating in a state of essential ignorance. We do not know and, in a sense, cannot know, the key facts which alone can determine whether it will pay us to enter the Common Market. Second, partly for that reason and partly for others, I feel that the debate is essen- 1198 tially between good will, on the one hand, and apprehension and suspicion, on the other. I do not see how these can be weighed against one another in considering how we must direct our intentions in regard to the Common Market.
Two factors which are readily confused are, first, the political factor, and, second, the economic one. I have heard some probing and brilliant speeches directed to the political side, the advantages of integration and the dangers of some sacrifice of sovereignty. There is not a great deal of disagreement on this aspect. At the end of the day, practically all hon. Members will accept the view that some degree of international integration must be the ultimate destiny of this country. The only question is whether the step that we are now discussing is the correct one to take in that direction.
When one comes down to cases, there is not a great deal of discussion about the choices open to us. There is no other genuine possibility by way of political integration. The offer is one of integration with Western Europe. It is a comparatively parochial group, but it is one which could be a growth point for the future. The prospects are integration there or none at all.
In considering whether we enter, there must be a burden of proof. Debates which take place without regard to that are useless. Clearly the burden of proof must be upon those who favour entry. In terms of the political aspect, it is clear that the burden of proof can be discharged. It is when we come to the economic aspect that I begin to have serious doubts.
I have always hoped that we could enter a wider community in Europe. As the months have dragged on and we have had little definite information about the range of talks in Brussels, I have become increasingly worried about the difficulty of getting firm information on which to judge the cost.
My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) referred to a figure taken from a comparatively abstruse publication which showed that the probable net contribution of this country to the Common Market budget would be between £280 million and £480 million per annum. That 1199 is a very substantial sum. However, a publication to which I attach more importance, the T.U.C's report on the prospects and probable effects of British entry, makes a cogent and well-argued assessment that if the net cost to this country is more than a low number of hundreds of millions of £s per annum, we cannot afford it. We must have a more accurate account from our negotiators and those who are in a position to inform the public of the way to assess figures of this kind and the economic impact of them before we can be in a position to judge whether we should enter.
It will not do to say that a key of something between 15 and 25 per cent. is one which will do. There are ample statements from sources quite as authoritative as my hon. Friend's to the effect that a key of something between 10 and 12 per cent. is the maximum that we could sustain and that something a good deal lower than that should be sought.
That is one aspect which worries me. I turn now to a second and more worrying one. As I have said, the burden of proof is on those who favour entry. They have to prove that we can afford it. I hope that it can be established that we can afford it. If it can be established that the country can afford to pay a cost which appears prohibitively high, a second problem then arises.
It may be that that very high cost will marginally be for the benefit of the British people as a whole. We must with courage and optimism try to create a dynamic future for this country, so, if it be marginal, to that extent I, for one, would favour dynamism. But I cannot avoid realising that the consequences of entry, although favourable to the population of the South and East of this country, might be catastrophic for the population of the far North, the North-West, the West and the South-West.
Successive Governments of both parties have, through the years, continually had to struggle with the problems of regional development. I find it astonishing that nothing specific seems to have come out of the negotiations so far to indicate any definite guarantee regarding regional development policies in this country. Yet entry into the Common Market, though marginally to the advantage of the British 1200 people, could, as I say, be catastrophic to Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the North and South-West of England.
I take that last problem, which assails me most deeply, one stage further. When the original Common Market negotiations were being conducted, Italy, one of the original negotiators, had a somewhat similar problem in relation to its under-developed regions in the South, Sicily and the southern toe of Italy. At that time, Italy was able to agree a protocol to the Treaty which enabled its special regional arrangements to be continued.
It seems to me that, unless we can secure something of that sort for our regional development problems, which are at least as acute as the problems assailing Italy—
§ Mr. Murray
In my view, they are. I consider that our problems are at least as acute, particularly in the long term, and, therefore, I should wish to see something at least as definite in our case.
There is this further consideration. One of the applicants for entry along with the United Kingdom at this time is Norway. Norway has problems closely similar in many respects to the problems of Scotland. It would seem to me a situation which no democratic assembly could contemplate that Norway should in its independent negotiations achieve arrangements for entry which were substantially more beneficial to her than any arrangements which the United Kingdom could negotiate.
§ Mr. Douglas
My hon. and learned Friend has spoken of two nations in this connection, Italy and Norway. He ought not to say that the problems of Italy are in any way comparable with those of Scotland. It does not do justice to Scotland's case here to paint our picture blacker than it need appear. The problems of Italy, with its very high unemployment, are not comparable to those of Scotland even today, with unemployment at 4 per cent.
As regards Norway, the Norwegian Social Democratic Party sent delegates to all the Six countries, and they found that the people most favourable towards continuance of the E.E.C. were the Social Democratic parties of the Six. If we are 1201 social democrats, our reaction should be, "All these people want us to join, and we want Scotland to join as well".
§ Mr. Murray
I do not want to spoil a case which, I believe, can be put with simplicity and clarity. For the purpose of my argument, I need not draw any close parallel between the problems of Southern Italy in relation to Italy as a whole and the problems of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and so on in relation to the rest of the United Kingdom. All I say is that our problems of regional development are at least as important to the British people and require at least as good a guarantee for this country as did the problems which the Italian Government were able to meet by such a protocol.
For those reasons, it being my desire to attain a closer integration with Europe, I fervently hope that the burden of proof can be discharged by the Government, establishing to my satisfaction not only that the political objective can be achieved but that the cost of entry is not prohibitive and that we can go in.
§ 10.5 p.m.
§ Sir Anthony Meyer (Flint, West)
If the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Murray) invites sympathy, my heart bleeds for him in the agonising doubts in which he finds himself. He paraded them in such a way as to invite me to massacre Wordsworth, but Wordsworth has already been massacred twice today and so I resist the temptation.
I am emboldened by the presence just in front of me of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) to answer a challenge he has frequently uttered, which is that we should come clean on where we stand on the issue. Let me come absolutely clean. It has been said by many hon. Members in the debate that everything depends on the terms. Frankly, I do not think that it depends on the terms at all. I believe that it would be in the interests of this country to join the E.E.C. whatever the terms. That is not quite such a bold statement as it sounds, because no Government could in fact accept very bad terms and then survive, because the effect of bad terms would be that it would be a very long time before we reaped any benefit from membership.
1202 I believe that in the long-term interest of this country we should join the Common Market whatever terms we get, but I do not think that there is much risk of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster following my advice upon that matter. I pay tribute to the way in which he has handled the negotiations, being concerned not with defining the differences between the two parties in negotiation but rather in seeing that the problems which will become common problems once, or if, the negotiations are successful can be resolved in the interests of all the members of an enlarged Community. It is only if the problem is approached in that way that there can possibly be hope of its being solved.
Is it for economic or political reasons that I say that it is in the interests of this country to join whatever the terms? The answer is, both. The economic case does not depend, and I do not think that it can be argued to appear to depend, purely on calculating whether we gain more than we lose, whether the effect on our balance of payments will be such as to arrest our growth. The economic argument is the psychological argument, the possibility of restoring to British industry that sense of expansion-mindedness and adventure which was the foundation of this country's economic greatness in the past. The economic argument is the sudden expansion of our domestic guaranteed market from 90 million to over 200 million. That will have an immediate psychological effect which must surely be the basis of the economic argument.
There is another half of that argument that is valid, the argument based on modern technology. This is where the economic argument ties up with the political argument. It is quite simply that we as a nation are not large enough to maintain the advanced industry essential to the survival of any industrial nation in this and succeeding decades. We have only to look at what is happening in the aircraft industry or the motor industry to see this process at work. We are bit by bit losing our sovereignty without having taken any decision whatever. The result of not taking a decision is that our sovereignty is draining away from us, and nearly all in one direction, towards the United States.
1203 This brings me to the political arguments. All that I want to say on them is that we should be very clear about what we want to achieve. If we want to achieve certain aims, we must consent to certain pooling of sovereignty. We shall have to consent to institutions to make that sovereignty effective. It is pointless to argue about federalism, confederalism and all the rest.
It seemed to me that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary put this well, and has done on numerous occasions, in saying that the first thing to do is to define the objectives and thereafter to work out what are the minimum institutional requirements in order to make it possible to achieve them. How one can do that, I do not know, but it probably is nothing like federalism.
I finish by saying what it is that we are hoping to achieve. It seems to me that there are certain ideas which are central to our whole way of life, and they are common to both parties. They are the idea of government by consent in the interests of the majority—yes—but taking account of what the minority is prepared to tolerate; the idea of a very wide freedom of action for the minority to seek to alter the decisions of the majority; the idea, accepted by most hon. Members, of the total rejection of force as a means of influencing political events in this community; the idea, relatively new in this country, of social responsibility—that those who are comparatively well off accept a measure of responsibility for those who are less well off.
These are the basic ideas of our civilisation which now can be ensured of survival only if there is a political base on which they can rest. I believe that that political base no longer exists without fear of destruction on the other side of the Atlantic. I believe that the United States is so close to being overwhelmed by its social, racial and urban problems that we can no longer be certain that there will be in the United States an agency for upholding these values, which are essential to the continuance of our civilisation. It is useless to look eastwards either to the Soviet Union or to Asia, for the maintenance of these values. Only Europe can maintain these ideas which seem to be essential if the twenty-first century is to be less odious 1204 than the twentieth century has been. Only a united Europe can provide a large enough base to enable these values to survive.
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
It is my first and pleasant task to congratulate the three hon. Members who have made their maiden speeches in this debate. The first of the three, the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) is a native of the area he represents. I thought that I detected the burr of the South-West in his speech. He dealt with the problems which affect his constituency and I hope to follow him on one or two of the agricultural points he made. I am sure that the Minister will take careful note of what he said about the fishing industry, because there is a great deal of concern in the fishing industry about the protection of our territorial waters if we enter the E.E.C.
The hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. William Shelton) spoke with great vigour and showed a considerable knowledge of the implications of joining the Common Market. The hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Simeons) made a witty and amusing speech, although the picture he drew of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster approaching Brussels in a straw boater was rather a terrifying one. The hon. Member for Luton obviously knows how to appeal to an important section of his electorate, because he referred with enthusiasm to the Luton Football Club, in the hope that the football fans will take note of what he said.
All three hon. Members have made an excellent start. There was no trace of nervousness at all in their speeches. I am sure that they felt nervous as most of us did. I remember the late Megan Lloyd George telling me that her father, David Lloyd George, who sat in this House for 55 years, never got on to his feet to make a speech in the House without feeling butterflies in his stomach. That should be a comfort to all of us. We look forward to hearing all three hon. Members speaking again in our debates.
We are now half way through our debate on the E.E.C., and although we are not taking any decision we are given the opportunity to examine the progress which has been made up to now in the negotiations being conducted, in the main, 1205 by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. One thing seems to me to have emerged clearly in today's speeches—that many hon. Members on both sides of the House, including those who tend towards the Common Market have reservations about the course of the negotiations. Hon. Members are still asking questions and I think that this is a healthy thing at this stage. It is right that these apprehensions should be expressed in the debate and that Ministers should clarify and explain as fully as they can the agreements which have been reached and the areas of disagreement and doubt which remain. I have sat through a large part of the debate and it seems to me that hon. Members who have spoken have taken the view that this is the purpose of the debate and that we should exercise this right to scrutinise and ask for clarification.
The one exception was the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer). He has been in Wales only a few months and when he has had the experience, as we have, of living next door to a large neighbour, he will realise the importance of negotiating the terms very carefully. No doubt we shall be able to educate him as his stay in the Principality lengthens—up to the next election, anyway.
When he made his opening speech in Brussels on 30th June, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was then in charge of the negotiations, said that there were five main problems for this country and three of these related, first, to agricultural policy, secondly, to Commonwealth sugar and, thirdly, to New Zealand. I am sure that the House will understand that it is appropriate for me to address myself in the main to the first of these, agricultural policy, because all of us recognise the vital importance of agriculture in the negotiations.
The present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has made some statements in the House which have included references to agriculture, and he enlarged on them in his speech this afternoon. But so far his remarks have been in general terms. From the information at my disposal, I have discovered that his statements have not allayed the apprehensions of many farmers that they will be worse off if we join the European Economic Community.
1206 My right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) was right when he said that one important difference between the present negotiations and those which took place in 1967 were that, had we got in 1967, we could have played a part in the final formulation of the common agricultural policy. Perhaps the Minister of Agriculture, who I understand will be opening the debate tomorrow, will comment on this point. I do not think anybody could claim that the common agricultural policy has worked out even to the satisfaction of the Six. All of us recognise this and we might as well say so in this debate.
There have been enormous agricultural problems in the E.E.C. beside which our own problems in this country pale into insignificance. This is recognised both in this country and by agricultural experts in the E.E.C. The Mansholt plan was a recognition of those great problems. That plan has not made very much progress to date. This is where the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) was a little misleading. Nobody exactly suggests that if we go in we can change the framework of the common agricultural policy as laid down in the Treaty. That is what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was clearly referring to when he made his speech. Nevertheless, substantial changes are possible within that framework, and it is towards these that we must aim.
The question at this moment of time is whether we have to wait, as was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) in a very powerful speech, until we join before we can hope to see these changes come about. This is the point to which both right hon. Gentlemen should address their minds in the debate tomorrow. In addition to the Mansholt plan, Directives were submitted by the Commission to the Council in April last. Could it be confirmed that these are still subject to argument within the Six?
What hope does the right hon. Gentleman see of some progress on these Directives? The farming community in this country will wish to know. The question is whether British agriculture is to merge into the common agricultural policy without any desirable changes in the system in the meantime. The cost of 1207 market support, the fact that unwanted surplus production is still being encouraged in the Community are all matters which must concern us at this stage of the negotiations.
We frequently talk about the problems of small farmers in this country. The hon. Member for Bodmin referred to this problem in his constituency. It must be remembered that the average size of farms in this country is some 67 acres. In the E.E.C., it is 27 acres. Therefore, their structural problem is far greater than ours. I do not want to make too much of this because the countries of the Six are very concerned about this question of structure. They have policies for them and are working hard to try to solve the problem. But we ourselves must not overlook it.
Does the Minister see a possibility of a real effort being made to resolve these major problems of agriculture in the Community during the next two or three years? This was one of my chief preoccupations some seven months ago, when I was sitting in the Minister's seat.
A further point that needs clarification concerns the Annual Review which both the Chancellor of the Duchy and the Minister of Agriculture have said will still be held if we join the Community. In fairness to both right hon. Gentlemen, they have tried to explain this matter, but it is important to clarify it and reassert it so that our farmers will know exactly what will happen if we join. Let everybody be clear in their minds that it will not be the same kind of review. It will be a horse of a different colour.
Major decisions would be taken in Brussels. There would be no determination of the regulation of guaranteed allowances for us in this country following a thorough consultation with farmers' representatives. The prices for farm products in the Community will be decided at Community level following an annual review. I do not argue against this because it is a quite respectable system if it works properly. It would certainly make the work of the British Minister of Agriculture very much easier, as the right hon. Gentleman will learn during the next few weeks! But the farm Price Review as we have known 1208 it in this country for nearly a quarter of a century will no longer exist.
I understand that the N.F.U., with which the Minister has been having close liaison, is concerned about the nature of its consultation in the Community. At present, the consultations between the Commission and the farming organisations are purely voluntary. Do the Government regard this as satisfactory, or will they be asking for something more positive for farmers' representatives?
One of the realities which farmers and others will have to face if we go into the Community is that the set-up will inevitably be more remote because we shall be members of a far bigger community than we are now. The old cosy relationship between farmers and the Minister of Agriculture will have gone forever. In these circumstances, I am not sure that the Minister was right to abolish the Agricultural Executive Committees on the threshold of entering the E.E.C., because they provided a framework which kept the Minister in close touch with farmers.
It is not possible to have a satisfactory debate on the commodities until we know the situation in greater detail. But I hope that the House will forgive me if I deal with one or two of the practical realities. If we do not ask the questions and get the answers now, it might be too late. This is perhaps the last occasion when there is still fluidity in the position. That is why I avail myself of the opportunity of putting these important questions to the Minister.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said that an understanding had been reached with the Six concerning liquid milk, eggs and pig meat and that it had been agreed that no further points need be raised on these items except in the general context of the transitional arrangements. Even at this stage I should say that that statement was a bit slender. I think that we should be told much more about it now.
Liquid milk is of vital importance to the British farming community. We need to know what will happen to the Milk Marketing Board—and, indeed, to the other Marketing Boards. The Minister has said that the Marketing Boards will remain if we enter the Community. We understand that. But will they be the 1209 same kinds of boards? Efficient marketing will be absolutely vital if we enter the Community. It will be more crucial for us than it is now, because our peripheral areas will become even more peripheral.
I understand that in the Community these boards would be non-governmental organisations. But what would their responsibilities be? Would they, for example, be responsible for the direction of supplies, for the pooling of returns, for seasonal pricing, and so on? Will the Minister tell us what the functions of the boards will be and whether they will be exercised on behalf of all producers?
Milk producers in this country enjoy equality of treatment in price. The House will remember the Padfield case, the difficulties which ensued, and the decision which I took at the time, which I still think was right. Can the Minister assure us that there will be the same equality in the Community and no regional variations?
I do not want to go into detail concerning the other marketing boards, but the future of the Potato Marketing Board, the Wool Board and the Hops Board also needs clarifying. The information which we have on all these boards is, putting it bluntly, far too vague at the moment.
On pig meat, I think that some form of bacon sharing agreement will be necessary if we go into the Community. Perhaps the Minister will comment on that. In the last few years we have avoided the kind of cyclical changes which we used to have which were unfortunate for the industry and which they still have in the Community. Therefore, a sharing agreement of some kind is called for.
In recent years we have had a good deal of discussion in the House on butter, cheese, and other milk Products. When I was the Minister I was the subject of savage criticism by hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they were on this side of the House, who, week after week, castigated me about my policies on milk products. I think that with quotas on butter and restraint on cheese imports we did rather well in a difficult international situation. I believe the Minister has begun to realise that prices have remained relatively stable—butter at 3s. 6d. a lb., and cheese at 3s. 10d. a lb.—and, as we know, prices are very much higher in the Community.
1210 Will the Minister say how much more cheese and butter he envisages coming in to the United Kingdom from the Community if we go in? It is likely that the Republic of Ireland and Denmark will be joining, too. They are big producers of milk products, and we want to know what the situation will be.
This is not an easy question to deal with. The question of milk products is one of the most complicated agricultural problems with which Ministers will have to deal, and it will be helpful if the Minister can explain tomorrow how he sees this developing. I do not want to be alarmist, but now is the time to take a good look at this aspect of agriculture, in the interests of the producer and of the consumer.
I now turn to the important question of the transitional period for agriculture. The five-year period which has been agreed to is obviously a compromise, and it is probably the best that could be hoped for in all the circumstances. Because I want to curtail my speech I shall deal with one subject only in relation to that transition, and that is the subject mentioned by the hon. Member for Bodmin; namely, horticulture.
For some years we have all recognised that entry into the Community would pose some severe problems for this sector of the industry in Britain. We should, if possible, have a longer transitional period for horticulture, and I hope that the Minister and his colleagues will find it possible to reopen discussions on this matter with the Six, otherwise the consequences may be disastrous for a large number of horticulturists.
I know that the N.F.U. has made a number of suggestions to the Government, and we shall be interested to know what their response is to these. It would be very unfortunate if the industry collapsed because insufficient account had been taken of its problems before we entered the Community. It would be helpful if we could have some more information on this subject.
Last week I attended a meeting of farmers in North Wales, and many of the questions that I am asking were uppermost in their minds. They are particularly concerned about the position of the hill farmer if we enter the E.E.C. This is one aspect of regional policy to which many hon. Members have referred. The 1211 Minister has said that the question of aids to hill farmers remains to be negotiated. Perhaps he will tell us more about his objectives on this issue. It is a matter of the utmost importance that hill farmers are given some reassurance that their interests will be fully safeguarded, and I say that bearing in mind the Minister of Agriculture's constant reiteration that farmers must "stand on their own two feet".
Does the Minister consider that those areas of the United Kingdom now designated as hill areas fit into the provisions of Article 92 of the Treaty of Rome? This is the key question to the future of hill farmers if we enter the Community, for we have to bear in mind that those areas of the countries of the Six which derive benefits under Article 92 represent a level of poverty which is wholly uncharacteristic of this country. Does the Minister believe that our hill areas would qualify for assistance without unduly extending the principles under which those areas of the E.E.C. are assisted? In other words, to what extent are the hill sheep, the hill cow and winter keep subsidies at risk?
The Minister knows that our livestock economy depends upon the hill and lowland areas alike, and if the production grants are discontinued that economy could be disrupted, with serious consequences. I hope that the Minister will reply in full, because the hill farmers of Wales, Scotland and the North Pennines want more information than they have had up to now.
I noted carefully the undertakings which the Chancellor of the Duchy gave about New Zealand and the Commonwealth sugar-producing countries. I should have liked to dwell at length on these problems, but I have one Commonwealth point to make. The last Government gave an undertaking to Jamaica that, if we entered the Common Market, special arrangements would protect the Jamaican banana interests in the United Kingdom. There is no evidence yet of any special undertakings to honour this obligation. What is required is that Britain should ensure a treatment of Jamaica in this respect similar to that granted by the French and Italians in the Community to their own ex-colonial producers.
§ Sir Harwood Harrison (Eye)
It is not only the island of Jamaica which is involved: there are other Caribbean islands as well concerned in the Geest shipping arrangements.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am obliged; I was referring to Jamaica more in a representative capacity, and I know that the right hon. Gentleman understands this. As he has announced that he is going to the Caribbean shortly, perhaps he would look into this matter when he is there.
I said when I was Minister of Agriculture, and I say it now, that the British farmer can compete with any farmer in the world, given equal terms, but the terms must be negotiated and fought and they must be seen to be right. I have tried to summarise the main problems and have asked a number of questions, and I hope that the Minister will reply tomorrow with generous candour. I would not wish it that anything which I say tonight should make it more difficult for the right hon. Gentleman to obtain consensus agreement with the representatives of the Council of Ministers. I wish him very well.
He has been commissioned to draft an agreement and he has a duty to pursue that end, but that end can never over-ride the absolute duty of the Government to preserve the interests of all the people of this country, and that includes the farming community. They must never put it to us that a point of no return has been passed. It is essential that there must be the most unremitting appraisal both of the great benefits which will accrue if we join the Common Market and also of the problems which attend our entry.
The political implications, as so many have said, are very great. I found the arguments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever) on the political side and the question of sovereignty very compelling. What the Chancellor of the Duchy said on this was also impressive. This presents no great difficulty to me as a Welshman, because we surrendered much of our sovereignty centuries ago, as indeed have the English and the Scots. Therefore, I see no difficulty about yielding some sovereignty, provided we yield it to a democratic society with democratic institutions. On this again, the House 1213 must be absolutely certain. At this stage, therefore, let us be constructively critical and let the Government reply fully to the questions which have been put.
§ 10.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker (Cheltenham)
As the last back-bench speaker tonight from the Government side, may I congratulate the three maiden speakers on very useful, witty and constructive contributions? I am sure that if they speak as briefly as they did tonight, they will earn not only your praise, Mr. Speaker, but also the gratitude of their colleagues on both sides of the House. In all cases, they succeeded good and popular Members, who took a major part in the activities, party and all-party, of the House. Perhaps I might also mention, in regard to Bodmin, Sir Douglas Marshall, a colleague of ours for many years.
We have covered a vast range of topics this evening. The speeches made today have cut right across party lines but, on balance, I suggest that they have helped the case which was put by my right hon. and learned Friend. They will, of course, be studied by the Six and the Commission and I hope that when the apprehensions that have been expressed by hon. Members on both sides are studied by them, allowance will be made accordingly when they proceed to further negotiations.
I enjoyed and learned a lot from the speeches of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever), my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) and the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson), if it is not invidious for me to pick out individual speeches. Between them they covered just about the complete spectrum of views expressed in this interesting debate. The first three speeches I supported because they favoured entry on acceptable terms, a point of view which I have always held. Their speeches were constructive and forward-looking.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will reply tomorrow to the points raised particularly by the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes). I will not, therefore 1214 —although I once had the privilege of representing an agricultural constituency—venture into those turbulent waters.
I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on his presentation of the case at the opening of the debate and on his conduct of the negotiations so far. I sympathise with him in his difficulties in trying to negotiate an agreement under these conditions. Many of us believe in open agreements, secretly negotiated, but here, as the hon. Member for Penistone pointed out, every proposal and counter reply is discounted and chewed over in public before it is even delivered to the other side. I have never known negotiations to be carried on quite in this way.
My right hon. and learned Friend is on a tightrope. If he is too optimistic on behalf of our interests in this country, our friends in the Community expect an immediate signature without further discussion. If, on the other hand, he appears to be too pessimistic about our interests, the opponents of our entering the Community, whose views I often respect, reject any idea of association. This being the position, it is difficult for us in this two-day debate to discuss the situation as it stands.
My personal views have always remained the same since a conversation I had over dinner in the summer of 1941 with M. Spaak. I will not bore the House with the details, except to say that he made it clear to me that only a closer association from the political, defence and economic points of view would prevent a recurrence of the wars and disasters which Europe had suffered between 1914 and 1945. From that time I have always worked for an association to be created, on reasonable terms.
The word "Commonwealth" has been interjected in the debate at least once in my hearing. For a decade after the war I played a small part, with hon. Members on both sides of the House, in trying to build Commonwealth co-operation on these three points which might replace the association of the Empire. I regret how little success we had.
My right hon. and learned Friend is carrying out the instructions which were given by the House in the debate in July, 1967, when, by an overwhelming 1215 majority, hon. Members decided that the Government of the day should seek an association with the Community on acceptable terms. I am rather sad, looking at the debates of the last four years—since the previous Government renewed the application—at the decline in the enthusiasm and idealism which were found a decade or so ago, especially among younger people. That is perhaps inevitable, as negotiations have been suspended or have dragged on and have been concerned with what are thought to be somewhat trivial issues, though, as has been pointed out today, they are technical points of the greatest importance to the various communities in this country.
At no time in our history has our outlook been based on purely economic advantage. I believe that our history will show that we have looked beyond that. I hope, too, that we can soon look beyond the present economic negotiations to the aims and purposes—defence, cultural and political on which my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) touched, and beyond to the basis of effective economic co-operation, and when we can thereby lift this debate beyond these economic negotiations we can regain and restore the enthusiasm that existed in this country a decade ago, particularly among the young, for the great concept of a united Europe.
I turn next to defence and its allied problems. I do not wish to waste much time on the past, but the death of Dr. Brüning must have touched a chord in other memories than mine. Those brought up in this country in the years of inflation—the 'twenties—in Germany will remember the struggle by the Weimar Republic to establish democracy there in a decade which believed that the First World War had been fought to end all wars and was to be the last great war. In 1929, overcome by the economic difficulties of Germany, Dr. Brüning resigned because he was unaided effectively by others in Europe or North America, and four years later we had Hitler with his autarchy, and all the other autarchies in an autarchic period in Europe. I have always believed that had some such organisation as the Community then existed, all that happened in the subsequent 15 years could well have been avoided.
1216 Though it is argued by some that defence is an aim of the Community in its guise of Western European Union—the Six plus ourselves—others may say that there is no need for it because there will be no civil war again within Europe because of the balance of the super-Powers under whose protection one or other part of Europe is resting at present. To one brought up in the 'twenties that argument is unacceptable. I believe that we still have a long way to go before we can maintain that there is not likely to be another war in Western Europe.
To me, therefore, defence, with the political stability that goes with it, must be based on closer economic co-operation and larger units. For this country, the Commonwealth is not a starter; it must be Europe. That means an enlarged Community—not just the present Six, but the Six plus the four candidate countries. I believe that such a unit could hold its own in a world of larger units: North America, the Soviets, Japan—which by the end of the decade will be the third super Power—China, with a population of 1,000 million and a nuclear Power by the end of the century.
Beyond that I look to Europe as one of President Kennedy's ideal of the twin pillars of Europe and the North Atlantic in the North Atlantic Alliance; and beyond that possibly to N.A.F.T.A.—a free trade area out and beyond that concept. To my mind that can be based only on a close association of this country with Western Europe in the Community, and the trade that we shall build.
Trade, industry and defence have been referred to by a number of speakers in greater detail than I am able to do. It is worth pointing out that the Confederation of British Industry report said that on balance it was to our advantage to join the Community. Knowing some of the hard-headed men who must have written that report, I believe that that may be an understatement of our advantage. From certain commercial activities from which I earn my living, I have no doubt that we are moving into a world in which it can be to the great advantage of this country and Western Europe that we should work more closely together.
This is also true on the financial side of working towards agreed monetary policies, as adumbrated in some ways by 1217 the Werner Plan, always within existing international monetary and economic organisations, such as the I.M.F., O.E.C.D. and so on. This is a vast subject not immediately concerned with the present negotiations, but, as the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu), who is an expert, pointed out, and as I have often felt, this subject needs a psychologist rather than an economist or a politician.
I come to the three main points which my right hon. and learned Friend said constituted the negotiation as it now is. The first concerns Community finance and the size of the United Kingdom's contribution to the Community's budget. This is much to technical and exclusive a subject for me to venture into suggestions on the Floor of the House of Commons, and I leave it to my right hon. and learned Friend and the very able officials with him through the ordinary process of negotiation to produce an agreement satisfactory to all so far as we can see ahead. I find it difficult to look beyond 1972, and 1978 is another world to me, and I am not being morbid, I hope, when I say that.
Secondly, there is sugar. I should like to take the time of the House by saying that this is a particular interest of mine, because just after the war I was chairman of the British Empire Producers Organisation, as it was then called, a post which my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Sir R. Russell) has held with such distinction for the last decade with such advantage for our Commonwealth producers.
My Australian deputy, Mr. Watson, the representatives of South Africa, the West Indies and Mauritius, got together and worked out what became the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. We took it to the right hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Gordon Walker) and the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley). They worked on it and made it an inter-Governmental agreement and from that it became the International Sugar Agreement. That is nearly 25 years ago, and that agreement has served a useful purpose.
But much has changed since then. There are more economic methods of extracting sugar from beet. However, as a number of hon. Members have said, 1218 sugar is still an important item in the balance of payments of many developing countries. As has been said, the Six, and especially the French, have done much to help not only their former dependent territories but other developing countries by associated status. I am confident that they will see the importance of United Kingdom help to those territories for which this country was responsible in the past. At the risk of being called a neo-colonialist, I hope that they will see that we are asking for our dependent territories what has already been granted to those of the French.
Thirdly, there are New Zealand dairy products. This, too, is partly a matter of diversification from former markets. This is a vital interest to a small, if highly productive, country. I cannot believe, when there is such a world shortage of meat and proteins of all sorts, that, if time is given, markets for the products of New Zealand cannot be found. South-East Asia, which is near at hand with 350 million consumers, should be one area, but there is Europe, too. It was the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East, then Minister, who, three or four years ago, through commercial and Governmental channels, started plans to help our New Zealand Marketing Board friends to diversify the sale of meat products, particularly beef, into the European markets. Time is needed to develop these outlets, but I believe that time can be found if the members of the Community see that this, too, is an economy which depends on the one commodity, dairy produce.
I want now to say a brief word on these words "federal" and "federation". Although there are many apprehensions in the country and even in this House which need to be allayed, at the present stage this is a false issue. What is an unwarranted cause of apprehension is that some feel that there is a plan among members of the Six and even among some hon. Members of this House to establish a federation in Europe at an early date, and that there is some scheme for a blueprint of a federal constitution as established in the United States in 1785. It took those wise men 10 years in those days to think out their constitution. Criticism of it comes not from this side of the Atlantic but from the other. But the remarkable fact is not 1219 how badly that constitution works but how well, after the changes of the last 200 years. The difficulty about it is that it did not give enough room for change and flexibility.
At present, there are many of us in the enlarged Community who think of institutions which may be valuable to fill the needs of what we hope will be a 10-member Community in the years ahead. In the meantime, unanimity is still the rule. The Council of Ministers is still in charge, and all action is based on a respect for sovereignty of individual States, as set out in the Brussels Treaty. As a number of hon. Members have said already, will anyone dare say that France, even after General de Gaulle left the stage, is any less sovereign than when he was there or in the years before? Clearly, however, every treaty or international agreement takes a little away from the 19th century concept of independence.
I have not sufficient time to comment on our parliamentary associations, the Council of Europe and others, where so many Ministers, Members of this House and elsewhere, and officials of the House and of the Government have played such an important part in working our democratic institutions. All the proposals at 1220 present being pursued at these various assemblies assume that Europe will associate ever more closely one day.
The only question is who and on what exact terms are to be the new members. All expect it to be within the competence and wisdom of national Ministers of the Six, with their officials and my right hon. Friend and the Commission, to find reasonable terms acceptable to all for the four to join the enlarged Community.
In commercial terms, it must be a merger and not a takeover. It must not and will not be a takeover. We must have terms which are acceptable. The economic price can be too high. It is difficult always to evaluate defence and political advantages in economic terms.
I wish my right hon. Friend, the latest in a line of distinguished negotiators, the best of luck. I hope that, without much further delay, he will find acceptable solutions in these negotiations and allow us to look beyond the economic hurdles to freedom and peace which inspire the ideal of a united Europe.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.