Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [21st October]:
That this House approves Her Majesty's Government's decision of principle to join the European Communities on the basis of the arrangements which have been negotiated.
§ Question again proposed.
§ 11.31 a.m.
§ Mr. David Clark (Colne Valley)
Last night I warned the Government of the great danger in which they were putting our democratic system by the way in which they were constantly debating this issue and the way in which they were treating public opinion. I specifically singled out the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Agriculture and said that his allegation about the attitude of the N.F.U. was misleading. The right hon. Gentleman said that he had been careful to read out the statement issued by the N.F.U.—it was not apparent to me—but I said that we would see what HANSARD recorded. By one of those quirks of fate I am able to read the HANSARD report of the debate, and I can tell the House what the right hon. Gentleman said. He told the House:One of the most encouraging features of the public debate this summer has been the overwhelming support of the agricultural community for entry on the terms negotiated. The National Farmers Unions in England, Scotland and Wales, as well as the Country Landowners' Association"—at which point there was some laughter on which the right hon. Gentleman commented and then said:These bodies have come out firmly in favour, following countrywide debates, on the terms of entry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st October, 1971; Vol. 823 c. 1025–6.]That is the type of statement to which I take exception, because it misrepresents the facts.
The statement issued by the N.F.U. says specifically:The Union has wisely refrained from taking up a pro- or anti-position on the general principle of Common Market membership".and that view was reiterated only a day or two ago in a letter to hon. Members. I single that out as an example of the way in which the Government are misleading the country on this issue.
1095 I said last night, and I repeat, that there are advantages in going into the Common Market. I should not deny that, but to try to sell the Common Market as if it were a soap powder or a cure-all will do no good to anyone and will have serious repercussions.
I referred last night to the danger of creating trade blocks. I realise that many hon. Members wish to take part in the debate, and I shall therefore not develop the point at length, but I must pursue the matter a little further.
I think that from trade blocs there will follow political blocs. Many right hon. and hon. Members have said that they are in favour of entry into the E.E.C. because they see it as a way of securing world peace. It has been said time and again that we have faced tremendous difficulties, that we have faced disasters because of warring European nations, but there is a school of thought, and it is one to which I subscribe, that the danger of a world war now comes not from warring national factions but from the major blocs, be it the United States, the U.S.S.R., China, or any other bloc that there may be. I think it is true to say that throughout the uneasy 'fifties and 'sixties the great giants learned to live with each other, and what worries me is that we are now trying to create another super Power. To go into the Common Market is to talk not about internationalism but about supra-nationalism, and that is far more dangerous in terms of world peace than the national blocs which exist now.
Like many other hon. Members, I, too, had the chance of going to Brussels and talking to the Commissioners and senior officials. I had a frightening experience there, and it was shared by some of my colleagues. They have given me permission to make the point that they were frightened by the anti-American attitude of the bureaucrats at Brussels. I think that we can take this anti-American attitude further, because it is anti-foreign and fanatically pro-European, and when I read in The Guardian yesterday that one of the conditions of entry was likely to be that Britain would have to give up her nuclear secrets to France my fears were further fanned. It is for reasons such as that that I reject entry into the Common Market.
1096 My rejection of entry is shared by many younger people. In a public opinion poll in my area, only 21 per cent. of people under 25 were in favour of entry. I believe that many young people take the view that Europe has gone wrong. The ambitions of the 'fifties have become bogged down in internal politics. There is now this mania for harmonisation, and every piece of evidence, be it about the C.A.P., V.A.T., or anything else, leads to the conclusion that Europe has lost its drive and the international outlook that it might have had and is in great danger of becoming an introspective body. For those reasons, also, I reject going into the Community.
In August of this year Professor Dahrendorf, the Commissioner for External Affairs, writing about the dangers facing Europe, said:The illogical route towards Europe which many wanted to follow has led us into a dead end.I am sure that many people would accept that in its entirety.
§ Sir George Sinclair (Dorking)
The hon. Gentleman referred to Europe being introspective. Do not some of the facts show exactly the opposite? Are not both the individual countries of the Six, and Europe collectively, making the major pitch in providing aid to the developing countries and in being outward-looking? Is not one member of the E.E.C. making the main pitch in progress towards a dètente with the Communist bloc, with the backing of the rest of Europe?
§ Mr. Clark
I do not want to develop the point at length. My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) last night forcefully and accurately answered a similar point made by the hon. Gentleman. I take the point that he is trying to make, but the developing world is larger than Africa, and it is larger than just trade aid. I repeat that I do not want to develop the point further, but I recommend to the hon. Gentleman that he should read my hon. Friend's speech.
§ 11.38 a.m.
§ Mr. Fred Peart (Workington)
I last spoke from this Box during the previous debate on this issue, on 23rd July. I said then that although I was speaking from the Front Bench I was speaking for myself, and, without being arrogant, I 1097 said that my views represented those of an important section of my party and of the general public. I can go further today, because I am now speaking officially for the Opposition. I believe that the broad views contained in the Opposition's approach to the E.E.C., as shown in the Amendment on the Order Paper, have the support of the majority of the British people.
There has been an extremely interesting campaign for going into the Common Market. The Establishment, by various means—Press, radio, television, and even Government-sponsored propaganda—has been attempting to convey to the British people that we shall get tremendous benefits by joining the Community and signing the Treaty of Rome. I find it rather distressing that the media are so far apart from the feelings, wishes and will of the British people. I am glad that in this debate hon. Members are being more sensitive about the way in which they should reflect the broad aspirations of our people.
There has been too much intellectual arrogance and elitist thinking on this matter, and individuals who have advocated their case have displayed a remarkable arrogance to those who have disagreed with the Establishment. Those individuals have dismissed the views of ordinary men and women. I could quote some most insulting editorials from various responsible newspapers in this matter. They forget that history has shown that in times of crisis the good sense of the British people has provided better judgment of the needs, aspirations and ideals of our nation.
A massive propaganda campaign has been conducted outside this House—not forgetting even official White Papers sponsoring the party campaign. The mature democratic instincts of our people have rejected the greatest propaganda bonanza of the century. If there was a "lame duck", here it is. I believe that the British people are opposed to entry.
I would like to deal with matters already raised in this debate—matters touched on by the Minister of Agriculture last night. I am glad to see him here; I thought that he had a previous engagement.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
A very valid point has been made, which is of importance. Has it been drawn to 1098 my right hon. Friend's attention that the Minister of State, Department of Employment said at the Conservative Party Conference that the Government could do nothing about explaining the Industrial Relations Act because that would have been unconstitutional until it had actually been passed, but the Government have spent thousands of pounds of the people's money advocating entry into the Common Market quite unconstitutionally. Therefore, will he draw the attention of the 1Government to the fact that, in their own Minister's words, they have been acting unconstitutionally?
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon) rose—
§ Mr. Peart
I shall give way for debating points later on, but in view of the delay—I am not complaining: privilege is an important matter in this House—perhaps I should press on. I would say in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heifer) that when we were in Government we had that sensible rule, and I agree with what he has said.
Turning to agriculture, I do not propose to go over all the ground covered in the previous debate. The Minister spent some time, quite rightly, on this. One of his main arguments was that in the transitional period British farm interests would be safeguarded. He went on to make great play of the fact that the National Farmers Union had blessed the Common Market. I have read carefully the documents sent to us by the National Farmers Union on 21st September and 5th October. The latter document says that the union's attitude remains as set out in its booklet published in July of this year—a document which gave a detailed survey of some of the difficulties which will be inevitable if we enter the Common Market—and pointed out how certain conditions of our agricultural community will be affected.
In no way does the document gloss over some of the difficulties which will affect large sections of the industry. It is wrong for the Minister—and any defenders of entry into the Community—to be complacent about the concern expressed by large sections of the farming community. No doubt other hon. Members representing rural constituencies will 1099 give their views. I have addressed many farmers' meetings, outside and inside my own constituency, over the last year. I have found great anxiety among certain sections of the farming community. This anxiety is expressed in the document which came to us on 23rd September.
The farming community has said, through its official leaders, that if we go into the Community it will insist that the Government do certain things; that there shall be adequate resources, that there shall be increased investment on the farm and expansion of processing capacity, the withdrawal of constraints, and the development of more positive production and marketing policies. But these matters have nothing to do with the Common Market as such.
Let me deal with horticulture, which represents one-fifth of the industry, covering important elements of agriculture in England, Scotland and Wales. The horticultural leaders believe that it will be disastrous for large sections of their industry and have expressed their concern not only to the Minister directly but in the propaganda coming from the official National Farmers' Union.
There is uncertainty about matters like the Price Review. There is no guarantee that we shall have meaningful consultation in Europe when we go in. Under the 1947 Act procedure, which has been subsequently endorsed by legislation, we have a Price Review which has been an example to the world and which has been admired by members of the farming community in Europe. This has been said to every agriculturist who has visited Europe. French and German farmers, and many others, have said that they admire our system of consultation.
It is said by the Ministry and by the Community that if we go into Europe we shall have discussions at Community level. How can they be meaningful? With whom will these discussions be conducted? Will it be the Commission—that vast bureaucracy which has been condemned even by the German representative on the Commission, Dr. Dahrendorf? In the vast bureaucracy where are the opinions of our farmers to be heard—by a European agency? That is where the decisions are to be taken. That is the purpose of going into the Community. That is the purpose of accepting the common agricultural policy.
1100 The farming community is worried that long-tried practices will end and that there will be no meaningful discussion with those in authority and those who have to make the decisions about our own national policies.
It is wrong for any spokesman of the Government, or anyone who fanatically advocates entry into the Community, to ignore this, because we have built up this procedure over a long period. I have never suggested that it should be sacrosanct, but our system is far better than we see emerging on the Continent.
There are other matters with which I have dealt on previous occasions—the rôle of marketing authorities and the question whether some of our statutory authorities could have monopoly powers. This particularly affects the Milk Marketing Board. We have had assurances about hill farming and the regions. Here again there is still uncertainty and anxiety.
It is said that if we go into the Community certain sections of the industry will benefit. Perhaps some of our cereal farmers will benefit from higher prices, but they may also have to face higher costs. As I have said before, higher prices in the Community is not the way to the promised land for our farming community.
They are worrying about such a policy in relation to cropping and farming, fears which we saw reflected in a report issued by the Ministry following the findings of the Strutt Committee, which was set up by the Minister's predecessor in office. That report pointed out how, through overcropping, dangers were emerging in parts of our farm system. In the Community there is no real control or policy governing this matter. This could have a serious effect on the environment. For all these reasons there are worries.
In addition to the position of the farmer, we must consider the consumer, and it is over this that the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) clashed with his right hon. Friend. I agree that some of the details are spelled out in the White Paper. For example, paragraph 88 says:It is estimated that membership will affect food prices gradually over a period of about six years with an increase of about 2½ per cent. each year in retail prices".1101 That is what it says about the transitional period, and later it goes on:It will vary from commodity to commodity. Some, such as butter, cheese and beef, are likely to rise by significantly more than the average; others, such as bread, flour and eggs, by about the average.The Minister must not be dogmatic about this. After all, the V.A.T. factor must be taken into account, and this tax is bound to be introduced if we enter the E.E.C. We shall have no proper control over taxation policy once we sign on the dotted line. Even now Italy is trying to delay the operation of V.A.T. for six months, but V.A.T. is Community policy. This form of taxation will have to be introduced and administered, and we shall have no alternative but to adopt it.
I suggest that V.A.T., added to some of the burdens which will inevitably fall on the consumer by our inability to bring in food from some of the cheapest markets in the world, could impose even higher prices than those laid down in the White Paper.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Prior)
I rise simply to reassure the right hon. Gentleman that the figures for increases in the price of food due to Common Market entry are based on exactly the same criteria as those that he recommended to the House in his 1967 and 1970 White Papers.
§ Mr. Peart
The right hon. Gentleman will accept that 1967 is going back a few years—[Interruption.]—and that many changes have occurred since then; for example, I have been referring to V.A.T. I am merely saying that to the percentage increases mentioned in the White Paper must be added the fact that some basic commodities will be much higher. Indeed, this is stated in the document.
It is only because the Member for Worcestershire, South made this charge that I am pointing out that we cannot judge this issue accurately. We are considering only an estimate. I agree that the experts who advise the Government, and the criteria, are much the same, but we live in a changing world and there have been changes in world prices, a subject to which I will come later.
I am merely arguing that the right hon. Gentleman could be wrong about 1102 world prices. After all, a Green revolution, as it is called, is going on. The right hon. Gentleman must have read recent reports on this subject from the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations. All the evidence of the experts seems to be contrary to the view expressed by the Minister in our last debate. This is happening now in relation to cereals, and I am simply urging the right hon. Gentleman not to be dogmatic and arrogant, because he could be wrong.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) has in the past questioned the right hon. Gentleman about fishing limits. Are these to be settled before we sign the treaty or necessary protocol? Alternatively, will this issue be left until after entry? Those who are concerned with this issue believe that the Minister is on record as having said that they should have no fear about this because it would all be sorted out before entry.
I would like a clear answer from the right hon. Gentleman today about this, in view of the impression that he gave in a previous speech. Are we to complete the negotiations on this issue before going in, or will the status quo remain, with the subject yet to be negotiated—leaving us no alternative but to use the veto if the negotiations do not succeed? This is an important point affecting many people, particularly those in fishing constituencies. May we have a straight answer from the right hon. Gentleman?
§ Mr. Peart
But the Minister did not answer this question. I again ask: are we to leave this until after entry? He must answer in view of his remarks on a previous occasion. Perhaps he has changed his mind. If so, I do not object. [Interruption.] It is no good hon. Gentlemen opposite trying to dismiss this. It is a vital issue and we want to know if there are to be full negotiations about it Before entry. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer"]
It is clear that the right hon. Gentleman does not intend to reply, and I am sorry about that. His attitude is bound to create uncertainty. [Interruption.] I 1103 think I heard the right hon. Gentleman say that I was too lazy to read his speech. I assure him that I have read it carefully, having listened intently as he made it last night. As an ex-Fisheries Minister, I have been following this matter with care. I again ask the right hon. Gentleman not to be silly and make remarks about my being too lazy to read. He should recognise the importance of this issue.
§ Mr. Prior
I said last night:I believe that, on this basis, we can, after further discussion and negotiation, achieve a satisfactory settlement. But it will take time and it was with this in mind that we have suggested that if, in the event, it did not prove possible to reach a mutually satisfactory substantive solution in time to embody it in the Treaty of Accession, we should all agree to maintain the juridical status quo."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st October, 1971; Vol. 823 c. 1033.]I would have thought that that made the position abundantly clear.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West) rose—
§ Mr. Peart
I hope my hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not give way. I do not want to delay the House for too long.
Let us consider the common agricultural policy, to which hon. Gentlemen opposite say my hon. Friends are committed. That argument was repeated last night. I think it important to place on record some remarks made by one of my colleagues, now Lord George-Brown, at a conference in 1969, before his transfer to another place. It should be on the record because of its importance and because it has been said so often:Now our firm position—and for once I seem to have succeeded in being able as a non-member of the Government to speak for the Government and the Executive at one and the same time—the firm position of both of us, is that no request for a final decision to join will be made or will be asked from anybody until negotiations have taken place and we know what has been done.Later, explaining the British Government's case that he had made at a meet- 1104 ing of Western European Union at the Hague on 4th July, 1967, he said:I put the application on the table. If anybody reads it he will see I did in fact reserve all the major issues that the delegates have come to the rostrum to make today. I reserved them specifically for negotiations. I reserved agriculture. I reserved the CAP, the common agricultural policy, and the levies. I reserved the sugar producers, specifically and in terms. I reserved these positions for negotiation and I said specifically and in terms that we would decide whether to go in at the end of the day in the light of the negotiations on these issues".I thought it right to put that on the record.
I tried to convey this in a letter to the New Statesman, but there are still hon. Members on both sides who believe that the C.A.P. was not reserved in our negotiations. The C.A.P. is the crux of our argument about the Community's policy. After all, there is no Community policy for the regions, for example, or for defence. There is no Community monetary policy or a Community policy in the sphere of foreign affairs. In reality, there is in existence only a common agricultural policy, and that is what we are arguing about when we are considering agriculture. On the whole question of the transitional period, we are arguing how we can safeguard our farmers if we enter into the system of the managed market which is protected by a levy system under which there is support by arrangements within it. This is the guts and the crux of the argument.
I have always taken the view that the common agricultural policy is neither common nor is it a policy. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) put it in better words just over a year ago when he said that the Community has undoubtedly one ugly aspect to its face—the working of some aspects of the common agricultural policy. They certainly should not be proud of it. Indeed, a bit of plastic surgery would not come amiss.
I will not continue to argue about views on this matter. Even Dr. Mansholt, a head of the Community and a distinguished ex-Minister of Agriculture, known to many hon. Members of this House, has argued that the Six may need a British-style farm aid scheme. He was reported in The Times 1105 on 27th March this year as having said that the Six may have to introduce a system of aid to farmers involving direct grants and something similar to Britain's current system of deficiency payments. Again, as reported in the Financial Times on 22nd July, the German Minister of Agriculture, Josef Ertl, speaking on the radio network of his home State, said that the common agricultural market have created the present miserable farm situation. Then he said that he had always had doubts about the effectiveness and political practicality of the agricultural part of the Treaty of Rome. He is a senior Minister in the Community. He is not an ex-Minister or a spokesman for agriculture for the farming community here. He is not a critic here but a Minister of the largest country within the Community. I think that that is accepted.
§ Mr. Peart
Hon. Members may say that it is probably because he was involved in elections. But the Germans have said it more often than this and hon. Members must realise that. I am merely suggesting that even in the Community the C.A.P. has had a lukewarm reception from some of the farming leaders. That is why it is crazy that we in Britain should seek to destroy a system which has worked in the post-war period and one which has provided a large measure of security for large sections of our agricultural industry.
I am suggesting that it is wrong that we should embrace a restrictionist grouping. The C.A.P. has been criticised by farm and political leaders within the European Community. It provides no stability for farmers in the Community. We have seen recently expressions of dissent from farming leaders in various parts of the Community. Above all, the C.A.P. also imposes extra burdens upon the consumers. Because of the nature of the Community's system, in the long term the consumer will have to pay more for food. That cannot be denied. We ourselves will lose some of our great traditional partners who over the years have sent food to Britain and have played their part in times of crisis.
This is important because it goes to the very heart of the Commonwealth. The 1106 Commonwealth is still a real issue and an important matter in this debate. I thought that the Foreign Secretary recognised that. He argued fairly, from his point of view, that he thought that if special transitional arrangements were made for our foreign producers and for sections of the Commonwealth, and if special relationships were created, then there could be safeguards. I cannot accept that. I believe that inevitably the Commonwealth will be endangered once we go into this Community. I am certain that the Commonwealth will suffer. This is spelled out in the White Paper.
This is a problem for New Zealand. Her dairy products are to be cut. The amounts are given specifically in the White Paper. The New Zealanders, even though they have accepted the negotiations, know in their hearts and have expressed the opinion that great difficulties will emerge for large sections of the farming industry in New Zealand.
I read in The Guardian of 19th October:The Prime Minister, Sir Keith Holyoake, announced in Wellington on October 18th that he is to ask the British Government to remove the levy on New Zealand lamb.This is the whole argument. In order to gain entry into the Community, the present Administration have already prepared the way by introducing a levy system, a system which will inevitably harm the producer. If we finally go into the Community, even after the transitional period we are bound to give preference to the French producer as against the New Zealand producer. That is accepted and it is the whole purpose of entry into the Community. The matter was put very succinctly and tartly by M. Couve de Murville, the French political leader, when he said:If any peasant farmer was to be unemployed as a result of Britain's entry into the E.E.C. it would be a New Zealand peasant farmer, not a French one.That is the choice we are making. It is a choice which will affect us greatly.
I have here some recent views expressed by the Africa Bureau. I do not see why the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Cormack) should dismiss them. The Africa Bureau has come to a conclusion, and its views are important. It saysBritish entry into the E.E.C. on present terms poses a number of threats to the development of Commonwealth Africa. The most 1107 likely effect must be to polarize still further divisions between rich and poor. The developing countries of Africa need access to the E.E.C. market for their manufactured goods; long-term markets for their raw materials and foodstuffs, guaranteed prices and quotas. The minimal concessions obtained by Britain for Commonwealth sugar demonstrate how poor the prospects are for other trade opportunities. On present showing the most likely effects of British entry into Europe upon African Commonwealth countries will be to accelerate the transfer of resources out of them to Europe and to make even more difficult than is at present the case for development along lines suited to their needs.
§ Mr. Christopher Brocklebank-Fowler (King's Lynn)
Speaking as a member of the Executive of the Africa Bureau, I should like the right hon. Gentleman to know that that is a point of view with which I disagree entirely. I thought it only fair that the right hon. Gentleman should not read it out as though it is the Holy Writ. It is not.
§ Mr. Barney Hayhoe (Heston and Isleworth) rose—
§ Mr. Peart
I want to deal with the commodity to which I referred in our last debate; namely, sugar. I say to the Chancellor of the Duchy that nothing yet has been negotiated. There have been no negotiations about sugar in the sense that a conclusion has been reached, and the guarantee assurances which he stressed should be given. The House will remember how the right hon. and learned Gentleman thumped the table almost like the late Mr. Khrushchev at the United Nations, and shouted, "We must have bankable assurances". He called it the dialogue of the deaf.
The next day there was virtual capitulation. Nothing has been negotiated. Commonwealth producers have had no assurances, and no one can say that they have. There is great worry and uncertainty. The Minister of Agriculture should know this. He is partly responsible for this as the Minister. He knows that in the negotiations to come the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement must be renegotiated and that nothing has been 1108 decided in our talks with members of the Community. There has been only a take-note. No specific assurance has been given. The bankable assurances advocated by the Jamaica leader, Robert Lightbourne, which were stressed by the Chancellor of tile Duchy, have not been secured.
§ Mr. Rippon
They have been accepted by Mr. Lightbourne and by the other representatives of all the Commonwealth sugar producers. As regards the Commonwealth sugar producers, Lord Campbell made his position quite clear.
§ Mr. Peart
It is true that they expressed their point of view, especially when they met the Minister at Lancaster House. However, since Lancaster House there have been no negotiations with the Community. No bankable assurances have been given. Hon. Members know full well the reason for this. I believe that the French have given a promise to their own sugar-beet producing lobby, which is on record as calling time and time again for a cutback in sugar cane exports to the Community.
This matter affects not only the developing countries but all our partners to the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. The simple fact is the Six are committed to nothing. They have only taken note, neither formally accepting nor formally rejecting. Nothing has been decided.
Even worse, I believe that the interests of Queensland, which is a large section of the sugar-producing part of the Commonwealth, have been ignored. The Australian Prime Minister, the Australian Deputy Prime Minister, and spokesmen for Queensland have said this over and over again. They have been left out. They are worried and deeply disturbed about what is to happen. After all, this is an important part of Australian agriculture, accounting for almost one-fifth of Queensland's total sugar exports and two-fifths of her agricultural exports. Although the industry is very technically advanced, it is not a rich man's industry. I had the privilege of seeing it when I was a Minister. It is based on 9,000 small farmers with an average of less than 100 acres of cane land. They will be placed in a very difficult position, because they have had no assurances.
There is something even more disturbing. This could have a tremendous effect 1109 on the International Sugar Agreement, to which we are signatories. It could mean that Queensland sugar, which will not go into Britain or into the Community, will go on to the world market.
The members of the Community are not worried about this, because the supposedly progressive economic communities of the Six refused to sign the International Sugar Agreement and refused to play any part in solving some of the world problems in international commodity agreements. Therefore, the issue of Australia and Queensland is very important from the point of view of agricultural trade. The way we have treated some of our friends and some of those who stood by us in times of crisis is scandalous.
I regard the Common Agricultural Policy as one which will inevitably harm the new Commonwealth, the developing Commonwealth and the old Commonwealth. I believe, too, that the C.A.P. in itself, through its restrictionist approach, hurts international trade.
On Saturday, 31st July, I had the privilege of hearing Senator Humphrey speak in London about international trade. He referred specifically to the European Community's Common Agricultural Policy. I thought that the senator made an effective point. Although he is a Democrat, I believe he was then fundamentally speaking for the United States. He said this:The European Community's Common Agricultural Policy has become a major disruptive force in world agricultural markets.I could quote at length from the senator's speech, but I will not weary the House by doing so. I believe that it is available in the Library. The senator went on to say this:The European Community has been taking a series of steps which add up to a shift from multilateral trade, based on the most favoured nation principle, to regional and bilateral special arrangements for the formation of a preferential trading bloc. These activities are contrary to the principles agreed in the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade.The senator warned us.
In my humble way I tried in the previous debate to express a similar point of view. At a later stage we were faced with the American decision. Why did America decide to take the action that she did? I can only quote the editorial 1110 in The Times, which was headed "Action after the Shock":So the two problems are linked, although the longstanding heavy protection of Japanese industrial markets and of European agricultural markets have been further aggravations to the United States. All of this combined with the manifest need to take further action to revive the flagging American domestic economy has driven President Nixon to takethis drastic action. The editorial said that America was, as a result of this action, in a better bargaining position. It continued:The right course for Britain and for Europe is to acknowledge that here is a world problem requiring a world solution. In co-operation some realistic currency arrangements can be agreed and genuine negotiations started on trade liberalisation … and the Common Market conceding the so far non-negotiability of aspects of the Common Agricultural Policy.It is accepted, any impartial person must agree, that the C.A.P. has played its part in encouraging the drive towards protectionism in other parts of the world. If great traditional supplies of food are cut out from one's own markets, there will be reactions. That is what is happening. It is for these reasons that I strongly condemn the existence of the C.A.P.
Before concluding on the question of the C.A.P., because I must now come nearly to a close—
§ Mr. Peart
I will take my time now. In the negotiations over the enlargement of the European Community and in the wider context of multilateral trade discussions, the C.A.P. of the Six has often been presented to us as something which is immutable, which could not be questioned. It has been said that the Six would not stand for it and that it could not be a matter of negotiation.
I, for one, have never accepted this view because I believe that the policy has always been, as I have tried to prove, the subject of serious criticism within informed Common Market circles.
Today there can be encountered in the European Community a growing amount of criticism. Most of us are aware of this. But I have not yet seen any public comment on the disarray into which the common agricultural policy has fallen as a result of the world monetary crisis. One important consequence of 1111 the appreciation of the German mark is that prices paid to farmers in Germany at present are almost 10 per cent. higher than the prices paid to farmers in France for the same products. To prevent French produce entering the German market at lower prices a supplemental duty of nearly 10 per cent. must be levied by the German authorities. This is the crazy system which we see emerging in Europe. It is not even a common policy.
This is not just a Franco-German problem, either—now all the Community countries are out of line with one another as a result of the differing exchange rate adjustments which have been made since the economic crisis measures which were adopted by the United States on 15th August. All the Common Market countries, with the exception of France and Italy, are levying supplemental import charges equal to the amount of their currency appreciation. In other words, the Community does not now have common prices for farm produce. Nor does it have common levels of protection on farm imports. Nor free internal movement for farm produce.
This is the great liberal organisation in the Common Market which some of our Eurofanatics think that the farmers have to embrace. This is not just a technical problem, and it has major implications for Britain and other countries. In order to restore harmony it will be necessary for substantial adjustments to be made in the Community's pricing system.
In this House there are greater experts on currency matters than I am, but they cannot disprove what I have said. We shall have to suffer the penalty of even higher "common" prices accompanied by special national measures. With world grain prices moving downwards, back on their long-term course of the last few years, and with Community prices likely to rise, it would appear that the cost of British entry into the Common Market will increase without any real benefit to any single harmonised Community position.
I ask my hon. Friends to reject entry into the Community because I believe that it would be harmful to the British consumer, to the British farmer, and to world 1112 trade. Of course, there are other larger issues, which will be dealt with by many of my colleagues and others in the House—for instance, the great issue of foreign affairs, of whether or not there shall be a European defence organisation with a European nuclear deterrent, and the question whether or not we should enlarge the Community still further. All these are matters of speculation. But here, in this issue of agriculture, we can see more specifically how things will develop. We see the reality. We see how long-established relationships will be affected, and what the effect will be on countries which have stood by us in time of war and peace.
We have to make our choice. I believe that British opinion overwhelmingly and the views of the ordinary man and woman in the street are that we should reject entry. We cannot accept the terms negotiated by the Government, and the sooner the ordinary man and woman is enabled to make a decision the better it will be for our affairs.
§ 12.25 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Social Services (Sir Keith Joseph)
I am sorry to deny the House a dramatic confrontation over the farm gate. No one on either side believes that I would carry conviction as a farmer, although I am a very useful animal for farmers because, with my family, I am a large consumer, and consumers matter very much.
I think it is a shame that the Opposition chose, as is their entire right, to field the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) not last evening before my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture had been nominated by the Government to speak but today, when it was known to the Opposition that the Government proposed to put before the House through me some of the social service implications of joining the Common Market.
I shall not try to comment with my half-knowledge on a number of the points which the right hon. Gentleman has made. I know enough, however, to recognise that the picture which he presented was very partial. [Interruption.] I am not attempting to be an expert on agriculture, but the right hon. Gentleman was for a number of years a member of a Government which, despite the arguments which 1113 he now puts before the House, saw fit to recommend to this House and the country that we should enter the Common Market on the right terms.
The Government thought that the House would want some information about the social services as affected by the Common Market decision which is to be made. There are very few implications directly in the social services from the decision to be made next Thursday evening.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I hope to make a short speech, to restore the average.
The quality of the social services in any country depends upon three ingredients—the management of them, the resources available to the country and the distribution of those resources. It is the Government's view that one of the main reasons for joining the Common Market on the terms negotiated is that inside the Common Market our resources will grow faster than if we stayed outside the Common Market. Inasmuch as there will be greater resources, we believe that that will be for the benefit of the social services. However, I leave that large argument aside because it has been the background of most of the debate that has been taking place.
I think the House would prefer me to get on to the specifically social service topics. There are two main points that can be made briefly about the social service implications of joining the Common Market. The first is that the Treaty of Rome has very little to say in direct terms about social security and health care. There is a provision for close collaboration between member States in the social field. There is a requirement to adopt in the field of social security the measures necessary to provide freedom of movement to workers. But the treaty leaves each member State free to determine the pattern and extent of its own social security arrangements in accordance with its own national arrangements and order of priorities. That is the basic fact that the House needs to know. There is no legal requirement upon us to change in any way our social security system or health care system if we join the Common Market.
1114 The second main point which can be made equally briefly is of equal importance to the House and to the country. It is now evident that price increases due to entry into the Common Market are likely to be much smaller than anyone on either side of the House predicted. The Government are pledged, and I repeat the pledge today, to take whatever steps are necessary to protect our pensioners and other beneficiaries, including those on supplementary benefit, against erosion of the value of their benefits through entry into the Common Market. The effects of entry will not in any event be felt until the spring and summer of 1973, when the normal biennial review of national insurance benefits is due, and the E.E.C. factor will be fully taken into account, together with all the other factors which are relevant at the time.
I have therefore already dealt with the two most important matters which hon. Members and the country need to know about the social service implications of the pending decision.
§ Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)
Would my right hon. Friend till in a gap? A review of pensions and supplementary benefits is due only in the middle of 1973, and there is always a gap of several months before any increased benefits come into force. Can that gap be bridged?
§ Sir K. Joseph
There is the very difficult issue of compressing the time between decision and payment, but the Government are able, recognising the time involved, to make this decision in order to make the payment at the time of their choice.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for accepting another interruption. He said, "There is no obligation implicit on entry to alter our social services system"—"is", the present time. Would he indicate whether in his view it is implicit in the nature of the Community as it develops that in due course it might be a requisite for us to alter our social services system?
§ Sir K. Joseph
It will never be requisite upon us once we are in the Community to take any decision, or to join in any decision, against our national 1115 interest. We shall have the opportunity for consultation with other members to take unanimous decisions for the harmonisation upwards of the social services. It is within the purpose and spirit of the Common Market that there should be an attempt over the years to improve the social services all round. We shall expect to join in that upward harmonisation, but there will be no obligation upon us to change.
These are very complicated issues, and I do not want to try to mislead my right hon. Friend or the House. There is an area of extreme detail where we may well find obligations to change. There are areas of high strategy where we certainly cannot be required to change. There is a twilight hinterland that cannot be predicted now where something apparently very detailed may come close to making a change of substance. It is upon the definition of this twilight area that the Council of Ministers is able to decide whether a particular proposal shall be put before member Governments.
I do not want to deceive the House, but I am quite clear that there will be changes that we shall accept, and want to accept, and be required to accept, in matters of real detail, no doubt important detail with, for instance, safety precautions for pharmaceuticals, and medicines and marking and drug detail, very important, but highly technical; and there will be great strategic issues on which no obligation to change will rest upon us. I hope that no one will pretend that I am trying to oversimplify the highly complex set of decisions which lie ahead.
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams (Hitchin)
I apologise for intervening. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to deal with one point. He made an extremely important statement about the protection of pensioners and supplementary benefit recipients. He will be aware that in a situation of fairly rapid inflation an increase is often eroded long before the next review is due. Could the Government take this into account in framing the increase; in other words, give a margin enabling that situation to be put off as long as possible?
§ Sir K. Joseph
As the hon. Lady knows, Governments dearly want to give pensioners a margin if the implications 1116 of doing so are practicable. She knows that in her Government's time there were three upratings, one giving a substantial margin and the other two giving virtually no margin. Both parties would like, general circumstances permitting, to provide a margin.
§ Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
I apologise for a further intervention, but I wonder whether before my right hon. Friend leaves this very important topic he would answer a question which was asked, but not answered, during the July debate. He repeated today the assurance given then and in paragraph 90 of the White Paper about recipients of national insurance and supplementary benefits. What about those for whom the Government are directly responsible—public service pensioners—who may be affected, and what about the position of those living on small fixed incomes or on their savings—and this is more difficult to overcome—who could be helped, I think, only through the tax machine? Could he say something about those matters which, as he will appreciate more than anybody else, give rise to much concern?
§ Sir K. Joseph
The pledge in the White Paper covers pensioners as a whole and those on social security benefits. There is coupled with that the recent legislation on public service pensioners. The combination of those seems clearly to protect that large and important group. It is not so easy to give my right hon. Friend a totally satisfying reply to his second question. If one could find, and I think that they must be very few, the people who were above the level of help through the social security system but below the level of taxation, there is no easily seen way of helping them. I believe that this group depends primarily on the Government's success in abating the rate of inflation, and that remains above all the main purpose of the Government and the main instrument for protecting all our people.
I have therefore covered the two most important topics in what I have to say, but there is much more that the House will wish to know. If Parliament so decides, we shall be joining countries with which we have much in common, but there are substantial differences in the stage of development which we have each reached.
1117 For instance, our agricultural revolution had its most dramatic impact on the country last century, when people poured from the country into the towns. Some of the countries of the Six are still going through a dramatic stage of their agricultural revolution. As a result partly of our earlier phase in the shift from country to town, I would guess that some of the countries of the Six have retained more than we have of the three-generation household structure, and this in populations with an increasing proportion of the elderly has grave implications for household care of the elderly and the dependent. I fear that it will be shifting rapidly towards the two generation structure which we both enjoy and suffer, for there are plainly advantages and disadvantages.
Their demographic structure, like ours, is heavily weighted towards the elderly. Germany and Belgium have even higher proportions of elderly than we have; France the same; Italy and Holland much lower proportions for the moment, but, of course, the prospect of surviving to a greater age grows with improving health care.
It is hard to be dogmatic on these issues, but in some countries of the Six family cohesion and family care of the elderly are probably a shade stronger, despite the immense merits and strength of our own family structure, than exist here, because of the household structure and the relations between the agricultural and the industrial base. Perhaps in some of those countries families have not been split asunder by the bulldozer as much as has happened here with the best will in the world.
There are other points which vary between us and the Six which I ought briefly to mention. It is a sober fact that most of the countries of the Six have social services which have been influenced far more than those in this country by the work of the trade unions. I say with regret that our trade unions have not seen fit to make improvement of the fringe benefits one of their main bargaining purposes. We see in some of the countries of the Six the benefits to the worker that can occur when fringe benefits are at the heart of negotiations. I state that as a fact and I much regret that it has not happened here. I point to the advantages in Europe, and hope that the trade unions will catch the idea from Europe.
1118 There is another issue in which it is hard to be sure where the balance lies. We are blessed with very active churches and voluntary services. Some of the countries of the Six have equally or even more active voluntary services and churches, which are powerful reinforcements to any social service structure. On the figures, it is impossible to make an overall comparison of social service costs in terms of proportion of gross national product.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)
Hon. Members on both sides of the House have heard anxieties expressed from ex-Servicemen's organisations which have been studying financial benefits for the war disabled here and in the countries of the Six. I understand that the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association has been in touch with the right hon. Gentleman. Can he say anything to allay fears on this important matter?
§ Sir K. Joseph
It is difficult to be dogmatic about the comparative benefits because we have to consider cash and care and compare the free Health Service in this country with health services on the Continent, which have a patient's fraction. I will study the B.L.E.S.M.A. case carefully, but I cannot give a dogmatic reply today. I am going to explain why it is so difficult to measure the differential between services precisely
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor)
There is genuine anxiety that we may have to change our National Health Service regulations to prevent the health services being over-stretched by people from the Continent using them. I do not believe that that will happen, but the anxiety has been expressed both by the general public and by the medical profession.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I am coming to that point.
Figures are sometimes quoted suggesting the proportion of gross national product that each of the Six and the candidate countries spends on the social services. Those figures should be treated with care, because we are not sure that they are based on comparable assumptions. For example, I believe that in the Common Market countries the payments under occupational pensions and occupational sickness schemes are often included 1119 in social service costs, whereas they are not included in ours. On the other hand, supplementary benefit and war pensions are included in our social statistics, whereas the equivalents are not necessarily included in theirs. Therefore, until they are harmonised the statistics will not tell us which is better in total service to the public.
In any case, there is a great variety of systems and standards in social services in the Common Market countries. One common feature is that most Common Market countries have health services organised as components of social insurance systems. Health care and sickness benefit are available to contributors and their dependants from the appropriate social security institute. Their social security systems are not centralised national systems as ours are.
In most E.E.C. countries there are scores or hundreds of insurance funds serving industries or groups of individuals and managed by employers and trade union representatives under Government supervision. There is no national safety net, but a series of local, varying provisions.
§ Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that in Italy, for example, the result is that there are holes in the safety net for certain categories of people who do not fit into any appropriate insurance scheme?
§ Sir K. Joseph
That is so, but it is a fact which has no relation to us, because we do not have to adopt the Italian system.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I thought that the House would like to know. I am going very quickly through the subject.
The social security systems of the Six are not as universal as ours. They apply to the self-employed only to a limited extent and do not cater for the non-employed at all.
Another difference which distinguishes our present social security system from that of the Community is in the raising of the necessary money to pay for the benefits. We traditionally finance at least half our social security system from Government funds, leaving employers and employees to provide the rest in about equal proportions. In the E.E.C. 1120 countries the situation is different. The employer has to find a much higher proportion of the total cost. In Italy his contribution may amount to over 50 per cent. of his payroll, and the State in general has correspondingly less to find from taxation.
Perhaps the House would like to be reminded that despite all those differences a number of the E.E.C. countries have provision for their elderly which either is or will be better than ours. Holland is the only country which, like us, has a flat-rate State pension system. The other countries have earnings-related pensions. They are mature in France and Germany—that is to say, they have reached their full maturity—but they are not yet mature in Belgium and Italy. Where they are mature, as in France and Germany, they provide for the better-off—for those who have had reasonably good earnings in their working life—a better standard of living in retirement than is provided for those of our people who have only the State retirement pension, or who have been in an occupational pension scheme either at a low level or for a relatively short time.
It seems to me that Europe has done relatively better than we have in dealing with the civilian disabled. That is why I have told the Disablement Income Group that I have sent a departmental study team to visit a number of countries of the Six to see exactly how they do things, and the extent to which they do things which we have always thought it would not be possible to do fairly and sensitively. We shall learn from that team when it returns.
I mention those facts not with the aim of suggesting that social security provisions are any better or worse as a whole on the Continent but merely to show that they are different. The countries of the Six do things differently from us, and in many cases differently from each other. The effect of our entry into the E.E.C. will be to leave that situation precisely as it is.
I come now to the point touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Dr. Glyn). There is one quite complicated area of reciprocal extension of social security systems which accession will bring. The E.E.C. countries recognise that movement of labour cannot be 1121 free unless social security rights are both aggregated and portable. The basis of the treaty, therefore, is that contributions paid while working in one country shall be given credit when the worker moves to work in another country, and that the contributions shall be aggregated and the benefits shall be portable, both for the worker and his family. So there are regulations which will benefit our workers going there and their workers coming here, providing that the country in which the worker is employed is made responsible for the social security provisions for both the worker and his family, taking into account previous insurance in other member States.
But those regulations will not change things much, because we already have reciprocal, bi-lateral agreements on social security with each of the Six countries providing much, though not quite, the same.
On the health side European workers coming here will get the benefit of the Health Service as of right instead of, as now, on a Good Samaritan basis. On the other hand, our workers going to the Common Market countries will get exactly the same health care and treatment there as do their own nationals. In some cases their own nationals have to pay what is called a patient's fraction which they do not get reimbursed. Our workers there will be treated exactly as are the local nationals.
§ Mr. Powell
The Secretary of State said that at present foreign workers in this country have access to the National Health Service on a Good Samaritan basis. I wonder whether that is quite accurate. Of course, in emergency a visitor has access to the Service on a Good Samaritan basis, but is it not the case that under the National Health Service a person working in this country is regarded as part of the people of this country under the National Health Service Act?
§ Sir K. Joseph
I must be careful about the exact legal position. Once we join the Common Market we shall have a legal obligation to provide for workers from the Common Market countries in this country exactly the same health treatment as our own nationals receive. The present position is marginally different from that because we treat all workers 1122 from whatever country they come in the same way. We are going to get a special position, under what will be mutually reciprocal arrangements, for National health care to be provided for their workers as they will provide for ours.
We are constantly being urged at present to make a charge for foreign nationals having health care in our own hospitals. So far I believe my predecessors in both parties have rejected this on grounds of administrative disproportion.
I am not answering my right hon. Friend on the difficult question he raised about the exact legal rights of an established worker in this country, because I am talking about workers from Common Market countries who will have legal rights to exactly the same health care here as our own nationals get.
I shall now deal with a quite different but very important area of social overlap. The Community has published a number of draft directives dealing with the freedom of professional people to practise their professions in all parts of the Community and with certain related matters such as recognition of qualification and harmonisation of training programmes. Many of these draft directives relate to the healing professions such as doctors, dentists, nurses, opticians, pharmacists and so on. We are considering these draft directives very carefully in consultation with the professional organisations concerned, and I am fortified in the knowledge that the representatives of the professions have an opportunity of keeping in close touch with developments in the Community through the E.E.C. professional liaison group, on which they have an observer sitting. As far as can be foreseen, no serious difficulties are expected, and it has been agreed that in the period between the conclusion of negotiations and the coming into force of the Treaty of Accession joint procedures will be established to ensure that we are consulted before any decisions are taken.
§ Mr. Laurie Pavitt (Willesden, West)
The right hon. Gentleman has now reached important matters of detail which will have particular effects. As he knows, at the moment the whole of the optical profession is opposed to directives which will be ratified at the end 1123 of this year. Has he any power to prevent those directives being ratified, and what kind of opportunity will there be after ratification to make changes? In other words, what opportunity for change will there be if ever we get into the Common Market?
§ Sir K. Joseph
I am told that the attempts to make directives on this subject, including those affecting the opticians, have been going on for many years and that there are differences of opinion on most of the professional fronts inside Europe. I am told that it is highly unlikely that the directives will be agreed before what is called the cutoff date. It is only directives agreed before the cut-off date that cannot be influenced by us. I am told it is highly unlikely that this will happen, and, therefore, we shall be consulted before the directives are agreed.
There can be no doubt both that the Common Market countries seek through the Treaty of Rome to improve their living conditions and the social services of their own nationals and that they should make progress in so doing. Article 117 of the Treaty of Rome enjoins them to seek better conditions of living, working and employment and to harmonise their national conditions upwards. Their social expenditure has been rising as a proportion of G.N.P. since the Common Market was formed. Although care must be exercised, as I have warned, in making international comparisons, it is undeniable that all Common Market countries have increased their expenditure on social welfare very substantially since the Common Market was formed. It is probable that in some of those countries expenditure per head is now appreciably higher than it is in the United Kingdom. In the wider sphere of social policy nothing but good can come from closer association and collaboration with our neighbours. We share the same problems and the same purposes.
The Common Market seeks to increase the prosperity of its members and thereby to increase the resources from which living conditions and the standard of life and the social services can themselves be improved. I genuinely believe that participation in the Common Market has enabled the member States of the Community to expand their provision for 1124 social services at a greater rate than we have been able to do and, I believe, than they would have been able to do had the Common Market not been formed. I look forward with confidence to our being able to enjoy a similarly accelerated rate of growth in our own schemes of social policy as a result of entry into the Common Market.
§ Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Hon. Members were asked by Mr. Speaker to be brief. The two Front Bench speeches have lasted nearly two hours. Heaven only knows how long they would have lasted if the Speaker had not asked for brevity. Is it possible to ask Members to limit their speeches to 15 minutes?
§ Sir K. Joseph
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My speech took only 32 minutes, and during that time I answered eight questions by hon. Members.
§ The Deputy Speaker (Sir R. Grant-Ferris)
I do not think there is any undue cause for complaint so far this morning, but I am quite sure that what the hon. Gentleman has said will do nothing but good.
§ 12.57 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mackie (Enfield, East)
I find myself in a little difficulty about the order of speaking since we started on agriculture and then moved to the social services, and I am sorry to say that with my speech we shall for a little bit of the time move back to the subject of agriculture.
I was most interested in the Secretary of State's summary of the situation. I have been interested in the health services for many years and for the first three years of the National Health Service I was chairman of a health executive committee in the north of Scotland. I believe that in respect of health services we do not have very much to fear from entry into the Common Market.
After some 12 years in this House, I still have to declare my interest. I do not know whether it is necessary to say that, as most people know, I am a farmer and wish first and foremost to speak about agriculture.
I should like to mention the very long speech which was made this morning by my right hon. Friend the Member 1125 for Workington (Mr. Peart). He and I worked for a long time together in the Ministry of Agriculture, and we agree to differ on this subject. The Secretary of State said that my right hon. Friend was slightly partial on this subject. I would put it a little higher than that. Not only is he arguing against the terms, which I understand is the Labour Party's approach, but he is arguing against entering the Common Market at all.
§ Mr. Peart rose—
§ Mr. Mackie
If I am to keep my remarks fairly brief, I do not think that I ought to get into an argument with my right hon. Friend.
Let me make it plain, first, that I do not think that, in terms of production and so on, British agriculture will be changed radically by our going into the Common Market. An argument is going on about what the N.F.U. has said. I shall not enter into that, except to say that I am certain that the Scottish N.F.U. took a poll all over the country which came out in favour of entry, and that it said so.
There will be a change of emphasis, of course. Meat, protein and cereal producers will be better off, and egg and milk producers and horticulturists may have to look to their laurels. There is the transitional period, and in my view it will be long enough to give this change of emphasis time to operate in agriculture. As a result, I do not think that we have much to fear. Horticulture will have to make the biggest change of emphasis. But, after all, both parties have poured in money by way of grants and other forms of help to horticulture, and those growers who take an interest in their job have made full use of it. They should be able to compete on equal terms with anyone in the Common Market area.
There is no doubt that agriculture will increase production, but it will not be a very spectacular increase. At present, British agriculture is fairly efficient. 1126 However, we have a dwindling supply of land, and unless there is a break through in cereal breeding or something like that, it will not be a spectacular increase. I think that the Minister of Agriculture is a little optimistic in his forecast. But, however large it is, it will help in terms of the amount of levy that we have to pay.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) always emphasises how M. Pompidou is dying to get us in so that the French can take advantage of our market. That is quite natural. We shall be a community, and he will have a share of the Community's markets. I cannot understand why my right hon. Friend makes that point. After all, we have been buying French wheat and French wine for many years. It surprises me to hear it suggested that there is something wrong in M. Pompidou looking forward to a share of our market.
The levy gives rise to a great deal of feeling. It will be high at the beginning. I shall not attempt to estimate how much it will be. We have heard that it may be anything between £800 million and £250 million. The reason why it will be high to begin with is that we are large importers of food. We buy half our food and, naturally, we shall have to pay. But, again, we shall get great benefits from entering the Common Market in terms of our industry, and those benefits will make up for the levy that we shall have to pay—[Interruption.] Apparently my right hon. Friend does not agree. He is entitled to his view, of course. But, in my fairly long experience of life. I have never known a case where one has benefited without paying for it. We are paying for very great benefits, and it will be a small price.
In the course of the debate so far I have pushed into my notes a number of points on which I wanted to reply, to my right hon. Friend especially. However, if I attempt to do so, I shall be here all day.
I have just returned from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference in Kuala Lumpur, where a New Zealander opened the debate on the Common Market. He made a statesmanlike speech. He seemed relatively happy with the situation, though, of 1127 course, he said that he would prefer New Zealand to continue to have free access to our market. On the whole, he was happy, as were the Australians and Canadians. Perhaps my right hon. Friend should try to arrange another tour round the Commonwealth in order to discover exactly what are the current views of Commonwealth Governments.
When I was a member of the previous Administration, during the 1967 application and the 1970 re-application, I thought that we accepted the common agricultural policy in return for the many benefits that would flow from membership of an enlarged Community. I am surprised now by some of the remarks made about that policy. Some of my hon. Friends, even those in favour of going in, use such expressions asthe ugly aspect of the Community, the C.A.P., the obscene policy of food production",and so on. Let them consider what the Community had to face in the middle-1950s. In the Community there were 22 million farms, extending from the tip of Normandy to the toe of Italy, diverse in size, shape, climate, crops, and so on. The Community had to try to give all those decent peasant people a living. It was a very difficult task. It was just a matter of giving them a living—not bringing them up to industrial standards of life. It is ridiculous to criticise the common agricultural policy when one bears in mind the difficulties that the Community face.
Would anyone in this House say that those people should be subjected to the competition of cheap food from places like the U.S.A. and Canada? I started farming in 1926, when that was the policy of the British Government. I, too, was at the dinner at which Senator Humphrey spoke. My attitude was rather different from his. I thought that I had never heard a better squeal wrapped up in diplomatic language in my life. He was complaining about a distortion of world trade as a result of surpluses which were basically created by the weather. The mountain of butter, for example, has now disappeared.
I am not anti-American by any stretch of the imagination, but there is no doubt that the Americans distorted world trade for many years with their huge surpluses of wheat and barley. I lived through that 1128 policy from 1926 onwards and I know that it took more than 20 years for this country to evolve a support policy for agriculture while continuing to give people cheap food.
Our problem is different. To begin with, there are fewer than 300,000 viable farms in this country. We produce about half our food. It is easy to be critical of countries in a different situation. The Common Market countries produce nearly 80 per cent. of their food, and when the Market was formed they had 22 million farms. Today, it is said that the common agricultural policy is a rigid one and that we are to be saddled with this dear food policy for all time. Nothing is further from the truth. The situation has changed radically. Today, instead of 22 million farms, the countries of the Community have only 10 million, and the policy was never more flexible.
I have just returned from Europe, where I discussed these matters with Common Market officials. I cannot agree with one of my hon. Friends, who said that he was shocked by the anti-American feeling among Common Market officials. Certainly I saw no sign of anti-Americanism, and I was surprised to hear it suggested.
In the course of my discussions it became clear that there is no doubt that the Common Market countries are looking for a means whereby they can reward their farmers adequately while still keeping food prices at a reasonable level. I have instanced the difficulties. It is bound to take time. However, they hope to get down to 5 million farms and to remove a good deal of land from agriculture in this decade. In the meantime, this movement should help to stabilise prices. It will be difficult to get prices down, but it will help to stabilise them.
The pressure will be great if we go in, because of the size of the Community. I disagree with some of my right hon. and hon. Friends about world prices. I think that prices of cereals, in particular, will fall. The economists in the Commission are working on plans to solve problems in the common agricultural policy. It is a pity that the Government lost a bargaining point by going over to the levy system before it was necessary. I am inclined to believe that this was nothing to do with going into the Common Market. This was a policy directed to 1129 shifting the burden of food prices on to the consumer and off the taxpayer, which is a policy that they have been following irrespective of the Common Market.
Many aspects have influenced me to support our joining the Community. Many have already been put, so I will not take up too much time. However, I should like to mention the question of sovereignty. We shall have to give up some sovereignty. We cannot become internationalists without doing so. I am not suggesting that this is true internationalism, by any manner of means, but it is a start in the right direction.
I am intrigued about the use of the expression "We" and "They" even after we go in. When we go in we shall all be "We". It is a curious attitude to adopt—that We shall still be "We" and they will be "They" after we go in.
§ Mr. Mackie
I hope that my hon. Friend catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so that he can put the point himself. I am convinced that we shall be equal members of the Community and that that will have a great effect.
There is much talk about our still being an English-speaking member of the Commonwealth, linked with America, and so on. It would help internationalism much more if we joined Europe, which has five or six different languages. I believe that an English-speaking nation joining the Community would help the international situation more than by trying to stick to an English-speaking union. That point weighs heavily with me in favour of going in.
I represent Enfield, which is an industrial community in North London. It is a huge industrial conurbation. It has almost everything. It has non-ferrous rolling mills, aluminium extruder mills, Thorn Electric, the Royal Small Arms factory, Goray Skirts, Johnson, Mathey—which produces the metal for the Mint—Golden Wonder Crisps, Scripto Pens, Reeves Paint, and Belling Electrical. None of these industries is on my right hon. Friend's list for nationalisation, as far as I know. So all those firms, for the next decade at least, will be privately owned and will provide work and wages for my constituents.
1130 Almost to a man, if that is the right expression, these firms want in. They feel that there will be greater opportunity for investment and expansion, whatever Government are in power. I should have preferred a Labour Government, because they may have done marginally better in the negotiations. However, I do not know. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. Cunningham) will not mind if I mention a private discussion which we had last night, in which he said that the attitude of these firms is a secondary effect of tariff reduction. That is a theoretical, economic, research, statistical, or what-have-you attitude to take. These firms realise in a practical way that joining the Community—a large one—for a long lations to make competition as fair as time with free trading within it and regu-possible, is more than just a tariff change.
I remember that in 1963 or 1964 Canada, without warning, slapped a tariff on British cars because of her balance of payments situation. That upset firms more than anything else. A few years ago New Zealand did very much the same thing. I think that they put a straight ban on imports for a few months. Joining the Community is a different thing. This is not a tariff change; it is a complete change, and I must disagree with my hon. Friend on that point.
I am not voting for or with a Tory Government. I am voting, when I do, simply to take Britain into her rightful place in Europe. I shall think about the subsequent legislation later. I am very sorry that it is not the Labour Party that is doing this, but there it is. I have told the House why I support going into Europe. It is my duty to my constituents to do this—not onl the people who voted for me, but all my constituents. I do not think that I can take any other course.
§ 1.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Marples (Wallasey)
It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie). He makes robust speeches full of common sense. He always did so when in Government, and he does so in Opposition, too. I congratulate him on his speech.
But Enfield has not got everything. It does not make wine. [AN HON. 1131 MEMBER: "It consumes it."] I was tempted to say that I would give a bottle of my own 1970 French wine to any hon. Gentlemen who go into the Division Lobby and vote for the Common Market. As that would be bribery, I am not allowed to make the offer, so I will drink it myself.
I agree with the hon. Member for Enfield, East that the French and the Germans have been extremely generous to their agricultural workers. They have looked after them very well. The Common Market countries are now trying to get people off the land. They are considering paying £600 for every job created for a farmer aged 55 or his children who will leave the land and go to another job. They are, therefore, making these changes in a very humane fashion.
I want to speak a little about the past, a very small amount about the present, and a great deal about the future. My main theme is that in the next 10 years there will be changes in Europe, as well as in the world, which so far have not been recognised, and that we must consider whether it will be more advantageous to go it alone or to join the Common Market.
Now I have a house in France and carry on business there. So I know that country from experience over practically 20 years. In the last 10 years the exports of the Six to each other have been up by 700 per cent.; from the United Kingdom to the Six exports have been up by 230 per cent. and to the Commonwealth by only 49 per cent. Therefore, on the growth of exports the Common Market countries have got us beaten stone cold. In the past 10 years the standard of living in the Common Market has risen by 114 per cent., whereas in Britain it has risen by only 49 per cent.
Those are just statistics, but, having worked in France, I know the weaknesses and the strengths of the French. I do not like some things about their legal system, which dates back to before the Napoleonic age. How a person is accepted in France only if he resides there. He is accepted only after he has a little house there. With that experience I assure the House that during the last 10 years the standard of living in the rural and provincial areas of France 1132 has gone up at a far greater rate than it has in this country. There is no gainsaying that.
§ Mr. Mackie
Many people have said that while driving through France one does not notice the famous £7 a week increase in the standard of living to which so much reference has been made. I have tried to say that one does not notice the increase because the French spend their money differently. Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that one does not notice the increase unless one lives amongst the French? They spend their money differently, and the increase is not immediately visible.
§ Mr. Marples
That is so. The last thing a Frenchman wants to do is to repair his house. He takes the view that he lives in it for eternity, and that it never needs repairing. His first consideration is good food. He has a good standard of living. But they are very hygienic in many ways. Many of the appliances there are not in common use in this country. I agree with the hon. Gentleman when he says that the standard of living there is higher, but that one does not notice how they spend the money. The time to see how they live is when the family goes out on a Sunday afternoon, because then everyone has an extremely good time.
I always believe that we should have joined the Common Market at its beginning. I was always for us doing so. The Daily Telegraph put it rather well when it said that a nation which had no truck with the Iron and Steel Community, or the proposed European defence, or the Messina negotiations, was in a pretty poor position if it wanted to get into the Common Market. Therefore, I believe that if we do not get in now, we shall never do so.
When I was Minister of Transport I had experience of negotiating with the French, the Germans, the Italians—in fact, with all the E.E.C. countries, and with the E.F.T.A. countries, too. The Federal Maritime Commission in America imposed penal penalties upon all the shipowners in Europe. I drafted a Motion and proposed it to all the European countries. It took me two years to get their agreement, but once they decided to proceed together their civil servants do a splendid job and provide all the help that they can. On this 1133 occasion I am sure they have all agreed that they want us in the Common Market.
The question raised is whether the terms are all right. I believe that they are. I say that because the Six took the initial risk. They took all the risk-bearing. They may have failed; they may have succeeded. If they had failed, we should not have wanted to go in, but as they have succeeded, we do. Therefore, 10 years after the original proposals we have to take that factor into account. We sat on the sidelines watching how they progressed, and, therefore, the price of entry is not the same as it would have been had we gone in at the beginning and shared the risk with them. That is why I say that the terms are good.
I hope that the Government will take care of alterations in pensioners' pay. I do not like the delay that occurs, and the way in which people's pensions are eroded before they get their next increase. As long as the Government look after pensions, I do not mind. But they ought also to look after the lower-paid worker much better than happens now. I do not think that the Government need bother about the members of Scanlon's union. He will look after them. They have the power, and they can get almost what they want.
On my past experience of Europe, and of how well they have done, I am in favour of going in on the present terms, but it is the future that interests me more than anything else.
As the House knows, I have, all over the world, been studying deeply the question of technology and what will happen in future to the world as a whole, because what happens to the world as a whole will happen to the Common Market countries and to England. I have therefore analysed the shape of things to come, and if we analyse one or two of the things that will inevitably happen we begin to realise the conditions with which any future organisation will have to cope. We are considering two alternatives: first, going it alone, and, second, joining the Six. If we go it alone, we shall be a small unit. If we join the Six, we shall be part of a large unit.
The dominating fact is that civilised and industrialised society will have to face more changes in the next 10 years 1134 than it has in the last 30. The rate and pace of change is getting so great that it will become difficult for human beings to adjust themselves to it. I shall try to prove that by dividing my speech on change into two parts: first, the technical side, and then the human side.
The technical side is fairly simple. There are three points that I want to make. First, one cannot stop change, nor can one stop innovation or invention. Second, one cannot predict what that change will bring; nor can one predict with safety, or with any reasonable chance of being right, what the end product will be. Third, the increase in the rate of change will be savage and stupendous during the next 10 years.
First, one cannot stop change, because a small minority of people are always prepared to innovate or invent. An illustration of that is the man who wants to climb the north face of the Eiger, and he will do it whether or not it is stupid to try. One cannot stop him. The son of Ridgway, my partner in my old building firm of Marples Ridgway, wanted to row across the Atlantic. We all said that he was a nut case, but it did not make any difference. He was going to row the Atlantic, and that was all that anyone could say about it. One finds a streak of the alsatian in some human beings. They sometimes try to do things which anybody else would regard as stupid.
One other reason why we cannot stop change is that 90 per cent. of the scientists that the world has ever known are alive today. That is a remarkable figure.
Yet another factor to be considered is that we are presented with a fait accompli. The ordinary person never knows when a new invention is coming on the market. For example, the motor car was invented, but nobody believed that it would work. But all that the general public could do after it worked was to make sure that a man with a red flag walked in front of it in order to make it go a little slower. People could not stop the car because it was there. It just is not possible to stop change.
Secondly, one cannot predict the result of any invention, and this is a disturbing feature. One cannot predict where it will end. One illustration of that is shown by the fact that Ernest Rutherford 1135 discovered the atom. In 1933 he announced that the energy in the atom nucleus would never be released. In 1942, nine years later, there was the first chain reaction, after which came Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But the expert did not expect that end.
Now I come to the increase in the rate of change, and this is the frightening aspect of change. In a very good book, Toffler says that if the last 50,000 years of man's existence are divided into lifetimes of about 62 years each one gets 800 lifetimes. For 650 of those 800 lifetimes human beings lived in caves. Only in the last six lifetimes did masses of men see the printed word. Only in the last four lifetimes could time be measured. Only in the last two lifetimes did we have experience of the electric motor. The majority of material goods that we use have been provided only in the last lifetime that we have experienced; that is in the 800th lifetime. In future, change will occur at a rate of knots, and again that can be proved by American experience, because they change very quickly. They are a new nation of many races, many of which were persecuted. Many of them were thrown out of Europe, while others left voluntarily. So America sees more changes than occur in most countries.
Let us look at their agriculture. At present, only 6 per cent. of the whole working population of America is to be found on the farms, yet they provide food for 200 million Americans, and 160 million foreigners. That is because their method of agriculture has been organised differently from that handed down by generation after generation in the older countries of Europe. For that reason—one of the main reasons—the same trend is going on in the American industrial force; more than 50 per cent. of the nation's farm labour force have ceased to be manual workers. The while collar workers are coming in. My conclusion is that it is a technical revolution. One cannot stop the rate and pace of change. We are stuck with it and must learn to live with it.
Turning to the human side, here is a problem which this House will have to face in the next 10 years. Hon. Members who have known me in the past know that I always try to look ahead. I may 1136 have done the wrong thing but I have always tried to look ahead and have always accepted change. I remember as Minister of Transport that a lot of people thought I had changed too many things too soon. But they took credit for the results when it was all over. But when that lot opposite got into office the new sticker on cars was "Come back. Marples; all is forgiven".
Now let us look at the human side of change. The minority like change and create it. The majority nearly always dislike change. All animals dislike change. Dogs often do not even like the chap next door. Cats are the same, and they get frightened. Human beings, the highest form of animal life, do not like change even if it is in their interest.
If a man has a coronary he will go to his doctor and will receive advice to take off weight. He will be told to drink no more whisky and take very little food for three days. At the end of the third day back he goes to the whisky bottle and drinks more on the fourth day than he would have drunk in the first three days. The only time that such men will discipline themselves is when they have a coronary. But they have not decided that. God has decided it for them. This is what happens in many cases.
It is the same with countries. They change violently only when the chips are down. Germany and Japan had no alternative but to pull themselves together after the Second World War. They were stuck with it. The problem of Europe—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who is here, knows this, because he is facing similar changes, for a different reason, in Upper Clydeside—is a human problem. Governments must persuade people to accept change. They will have to cushion the shock and calm the bewilderment of people. But they must be fair to the people. That is the point the hon. Gentleman made about peasants in Europe. If one does not treat people fairly one will not get change accepted.
The problem therefore is not a technological one but a human one, which will escalate into enormous dimensions in the next 10 years. We must plan, whether for unemployment or employment. Remember, when we talk about growth and the necessity for growth, that every successive surge of growth needs fewer 1137 workers. People are now producing more. We shall have in the foreseeable future as many resources as we want under certain conditions. There is going to be this unemployment, which we are trying to create because we want people to produce more. Therefore we must plan for their leisure, retirement and hobbies.
Where there is unemployment, people must be retired earlier. There must be a large-scale inquiry into what is to be done with these people. We want people to produce more goods, and so we must look after them. We cannot do what was done in the 1930s, when there was high unemployment with squalour and poverty. Now we are experiencing unemployment for a different reason, and we must look after the unemployed. This cannot be done unless we remain at the top of the ladder, and so possess the resources which will allow us to do it. In the next 10 years will this country have those resources if it goes it alone, or more resources if we join the Community? I am certain that we shall have more resources if we join the Community.
This is for the reason that the hon. Member gave, about this constituency. In my constituency is the firm of Gandy Belts, which sells brake linings to the Continent, with a 17½ per cent. tariff barrier against them. It cannot now expand with safety—because that 17½ per cent. could go to 35 per cent. overnight. But with the present barrier of 17½ per cent., we are still stealing their markets. How much better might that firm be able to do if there was no barrier at all. That would mean 17½ per cent.
Given those resources, and sympathetic handling of people, we can move into an entirely new age. But there will be enormous responsibility on this House of Commons if it does not itself adapt to this change. We do not change a great deal in this House. We still have a lot of nice people up there with pencils and bits of paper writing out our speeches. The only electronic device we have had in the last 15 years was the Division bell. When the Labour Party was in power it lost a Division on a Finance Bill. That was because we Tories were on the Division bell and they were not. The Labour Party, the party of change, put down a Motion on the Order Paper asking that the only electronic thing we had should be abolished. That is why the 1138 Opposition are in a muddle now over the three line Whip.
Therefore, I personally will give my wholehearted support to entry into the Common Market. I hope that both sides of the House will remember that there will be this human problem and it can only be solved from this Chamber. It is a very important human problem, and I hope that we can solve it satisfactorily. I shall vote with my colleagues on the Common Market.
§ 1.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Emelyn Hooson (Montgomery)
The right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) has given the House an interesting and discursive review of his own view on this matter. I agree that the problem is a human one. He is saying that this is a political decision, because that is what political decisions are all about. It is a political decision with the greatest possible economic and social implications. Many of the generalities in which he indulged about technological changes in our times are matters with which no one could disagree.
I am in a unique position because I am the only member of my party who takes a view opposed to the present proposal to join the Common Market. It was not always so. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he said that we should have joined the Common Market on the ground floor, that if we had done so it would have been a different Community than that which exists today. When the historians come to write about this period they will point to this failure to join on the ground floor as the greatest failure of modern times. But we must treat the Common Market as it is and not as we would like it to be. Many people delude themselves that the Common Market is different from what it is in reality.
In reality, it is a club of rich nations with a very protective policy—a highly protective one—which has distorted the food trade in the world for one thing. When the Common Market was first formed, I was in favour of it. Over the years however I have had many more doubts, and those doubts have been accentuated by frequent visits to Paris and Brussels, in particular. I know and my colleagues know that four years ago I formed the view that this country would be better to wait for a considerable time 1139 before embarking on joining the Common Market, if it were to do so.
I have found in my professional life—perhaps you have found the same, Mr. Speaker—that one can be bold if one has nothing to lose or is sure of winning. It is then relatively easy to embark on a bold policy. Many of the arguments adduced by my hon. Friends and others who are in favour of entry are based on the concept that we should be bold. "Only by getting in shall we be able to change the Common Market. We must be inside to do that", they say. It is here that I part company with them.
It is interesting to note that after years of debate and tremendous expenditure of propaganda, political opinion in this country is still firmly against the Common Market. There are, of course, limits to how far one should be guided by public opinion. Consider Munich, for example. Had there been public opinion polls at that time, the majority of people would probably have been in favour of the Munich Agreement.
But that was a sudden decision. It was something that had to be decided quickly. This matter has been debated for years, and in the end, when we add up all the economic and social sums, we find that it comes to a matter of political instinct, and the people are saying that, on reflection, they are not prepared to go in.
The coming together of Europe after the war was a natural consequence of the technological developments of which hon. Members have spoken. Einstein said after the first atomic bomb had been dropped that the atomic bomb had changed everything but our modes of thought. That was a reflection on one aspect of technological development.
We are, I believe, in the process of seeing the emergence of Europe in this way, but it will not happen in one or two decades. It will have successes and failures, with success on some issues and failures on others. Bearing all this in mind, I suggest that the basic instinct in this country today is that we should not join Europe in its present form. As I say, this is basically a political matter.
I represent an agricultural constituency, and, in my view, the majority of the agricultural community are for 1140 going in. The agricultural policy, framed, understandably, to protect the interests of many millions of peasant farmers, is a bonanza for the highly efficient farmers of this country, and I concede that in the short- and medium-term our farming community will do well.
There are disquieting features—for example, the fears expressed by milk farmers about the failure to agree or even to negotiate Milk Marketing Board prices and so on—but, by and large, the farmers, including those in my constituency, are for it.
There is, however, a much deeper implication. Over the years I have found at meetings in Brussels a persistent core of European opinion which is very different from the kind of liberal Europe of which people like my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston) speak. There is in Europe a strong school of thought which sees in Europe a new kind of nationalist bloc. They have, as it were, transferred their nationalist allegiance from, say, Germany or France to Europe.
One need only count heads to see this trend. Consider, for example, the power of Herr Strauss in Germany. Those who have read "The Grand Design" will know his thoughts on this subject. The Gaullist Party in France is another example of this, as are the arguments advanced in this House to the effect that basically the political argument for Europe is a question of guns and money.
In his speech yesterday the Foreign Secretary mentioned the agreement between the British Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of France to leave defence negotiations for the future. This was, clearly, a matter which excited the interest of the Government, with the possibility in the end of a European nuclear force. I regard this as the most reprehensible kind of thinking. If that is internationalism, heaven help us!
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)
As for the Community being protectionist, is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that it has, on average, a common external tariff 2 per cent. lower than we have? It cannot, therefore, be called protectionist, particularly as it is the world's largest importer.
The same can be said about it being the focus of world power. Indeed, in 1141 "The Grand Design" Herr Strauss speaks of Europe beinga framework for Germany, no longer a potential aggressorand on page 19 he writes:Such a Europe should remain in close alliance with the United States".Thus, the Community can be called neither aggressive nor protectionist.
§ Mr. Hooson
I am expressing my personal opinion, having started off being perhaps even more enthusiastic for entry than the hon. Gentleman. I say that, whether or not we go in, this is a trend which we must watch with the greatest possible care because it is possible for people to transfer their nationalistic fervour from their own country to a larger unit. If we are to have two blocs placed against each other, then this might be a highly retrograde step for Europe, and the trend is there.
The real argument is whether this country is more likely to influence that situation from within than from without the Community. People who acknowledged that this danger exists say that we should, nevertheless, get in, otherwise we will not be able to influence Europe at all. I have concluded that we would be less likely to obtain the kind of liberal Europe which my hon. Friends have very much in mind than a reactionary one. This is, in the end, a matter of political instinct, but I have come to that firm conclusion and, in my view, it is what the majority of British people think.
Most people feel that, in the long-term the economic benefits of joining the Community, overstated as they have been, are nevertheless greater than the economic costs. I am prepared to accept that the balance of economic argument is in favour of going in in the long-term. Nevertheless, most ordinary people in Britain believe that, while that may be so, we should not enter, and their feelings are based on political uncertainty.
Consider the recent developments in the economic sphere. There is no doubt that people have felt resentful of the Common Market protectionist agricultural policy. We have seen people in North America objecting to it, along with people in other parts of the world. At present we have in the United States 1142 several trends that must be carefully watched, in addition to the 10 per cent. surcharge, which many people are confident may soon be removed. But what if it is not removed?
I have recently returned from a N.A.T.O. meeting in Ottawa. While there, I was astonished at the strength of feeling about the possible German view of what the European attitude towards the United States should be. There was, in my judgment, a considerable element which felt that Germany might feel strong enough to say to America, "You can stew in it for a time".
Then there are the possible makings of a trade war between the Common Market countries and the United States. If we were to indulge in such a trade war, we would be the losers. There can be no doubt about that. One hopes that the good sense of the leaders of the people will prevail and that this will be avoided. But this is yet another element of the basic strength of the movement in Europe for the creation of a new power bloc.
I have no doubt that many hon. Members of the Conservative Party—by no means all; I do not even say they are the majority—are attracted by the idea that this will be a new power bloc which Britain will be able to lead and that Britain could regain the kind of power she had in the halcyon days of Empire through leadership of Europe. They are wrong. We shall not be able to lead Europe. There has been a gross over-estimate of our ability to do so. The leadership is likely to pass to different hands. Matched as they are in France and Germany, the union of these views would be a very bad thing for Europe.
In my judgment, ultimately the balance of economic argument is in favour of entry, but politically I am not convinced. My whole instinct tells me that I should vote against entry. I am sorry to disagree with my right hon. and hon. Friends on this matter, but I would be untrue to myself if I were to put my hand on my heart and say that at this juncture Britain should enter the Common Market. I do not think that we should. We should do better to wait and see what other developments occur. I would not for a moment accept that it is the only alternative for this country.
1143 Some have put forward economic arguments that there are advantages in scale. But look at the development of the Common Market countries and at their rate of growth. Their rate of growth has not yet matched that of Sweden. Let us consider the United States, for example. She has had all the benefits of the advantages of scale in her development, but look at her social and human problems that have partially resulted from the exploitation of the economics of scale.
Putting all these matters together, I have not the slightest doubt about which way I shall vote next Thursday.
§ 1.52 p.m.
§ Sir Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)
I oppose the Motion for the reasons expressed so cogently yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir R. Turton).
Before I talk mainly about the effects of the White Paper on the Commonwealth and on Commonwealth trade, may I support briefly the plea made last night by the hon. Member for Willesden, West (Mr. Pavitt) about the draft directives for opticians? I was relieved at the reply given today by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. I mention this matter because I am a lay member of the General Optical Council. I can vouch for the anxiety in the optical profession. If these regulations are adopted before the applicant countries accede—if they do—I hope that my right hon. Friend will protest vigorously.
During the Recess I attended the C.P.A. Conference in Kuala Lumpur, like the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie). As chairman of a Commonwealth producers' organisation I visited members of the organisation in Australia, New Zealand, Mauritius and South Africa. We must remember that South Africa is still a member of the Commonwealth preference area. I discussed with them the effect upon them of our joining the E.E.C. and on Commonwealth trade in general.
First, I want to criticise the White Paper from our point of view. It seems that it makes nothing but economic nonsense for us to cut down in any way imports of low-cost dairy produce from Australia and New Zealand. The arrange- 1144 ments for New Zealand butter continue until 1977, but her cheese exports to Britain are being greatly reduced.
No arrangements whatever have been made for the continuation of the import of Australian dairy produce after the transitional period, yet the price of Australian and New Zealand butter when it enters Britain is not much more than half that of E.E.C. butter, despite the fact that it has to travel 10,000–12,000 miles.
I am no agriculturist, but one reason is given on page 4 of a booklet entitled "The Australian Dairy Industry in Brief". It contains an interesting piece of information which some hon. Members may not know. It says that Australian cows… graze out of doors throughout the year mainly on sown annual or perennial pastures. The high output per farm and freedom from cattle-housing favour low-cost and efficient milk production.I gather that much the same applies in New Zealand. This is probably the main reason why their dairy produce is so cheap compared with that of Europe.
The E.E.C. cannot possibly compete with that natural advantage. Therefore, it is complete lunacy for us not to have the fullest possible benefit of this national advantage possessed by those two countries. This is one of the most powerful reasons for opposing the terms in the White Paper, especially as Australia and New Zealand give us the preference in their markets in return—despite many misinformed statements to the contrary, not necessarily by hon. Members. I have heard many statements to the effect that preferences hardly exist and do not mean anything. They still mean a great deal to those who benefit from them.
At the C.P.A. Conference several members expressed unease about the effect on their countries, although I agree with the hon. Member for Enfield, East that they generally took the line that it is our decision to make. An Indian delegate was almost as vigorous in opposition as I was. But far greater anxiety is felt about the White Paper's terms by most primary producers in the countries that I have mentioned. They made it clear, of course, that they accept the assurances and intentions expressed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of 1145 Lancaster as far as they go, but few of them trust the intentions of the Six, and they fear that in the final outcome Britain will be prevented from carrying out the undertakings given in the White Paper.
As we all know, sugar is the lifeblood of Mauritius as well as of several other Commonwealth countries. The Mauritius sugar growers are convinced that the Six, especially the French, care very little about the needs of developing countries. If that view is not correct, why is the E.E.C. producing a surplus of sugar at present and exporting it under subsidy? Why were not the quotas guaranteed under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement written into the agreements made by the Chancellor of the Duchy with the Six? Nor is there any mention in the White Paper of phasing out Australia's quota of 335,000 tons which she now sells to Britain, plus another 100,000 tons, not under guarantee price, after that.
The Queensland growers and millers are bitterly disappointed that no attempt has been made to secure any continuation of their quota after the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement expires in 1974. There is no mention of phasing out. Does the E.E.C. accept this as a commitment or does it intend that the enlarged Community will cut out Australia altogether after 1974? We should have an answer to that question. In Queensland about 250,000 people depend, directly or indirectly, upon sugar for their livelihood. The right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) mentioned 9,000 cane farmers but that figure expands into a population of about 250,000 people.
What will be the effect on the International Sugar Agreement of Australia's quota of 335,000 tons being unloaded on to the free market? Will Britain be forced to resign from the International Sugar Agreement or shall we be able to persuade an enlarged E.E.C. to join?
There is equal doubt facing the Commonwealth, South African and Malaysian canned fruit industries about the terms of the White Paper. Their produce now enters Britain free except for sugar duty, whereas the duty on foreign canned fruit varies from 8 to 15 per cent., and those countries provide 80 per cent. of our needs of canned fruit.
1146 Under the common external tariff of the Treaty of Rome, after the transitional period Commonwealth and South African canners will face a duty of 24 per cent., plus sugar duty, plus value-added tax, whereas their competitors in the E.E.C. will enjoy free entry. Therefore, there are only the gloomiest of prospects for the Commonwealth's canning industries.
Nor is there much comfort for the growers who send us fresh and dried fruit, except for seasonal differences. Seventy per cent. of Australian apples and pears come to Britain. In the Cape Province of South Africa, the livelihood, directly and indirectly of nearly 500,000 people—mostly Cape coloureds and Africans—depends on the survival of the deciduous fruit industry. Yet those growers will face duties varying from 25 per cent. on apricots to 8 per cent. on apples, compared with free entry on Commonwealth preference which they at present enjoy.
What they all need is exemption from the compensatory levies arranged during negotiations to cover the transitional period. Those levies are regarded as completely irrelevant, because southern hemisphere fresh fruit arrives here between March and July and does not compete in any way with growers here or in the E.E.C. That exemption which southern hemisphere growers want is supported by our own growers.
There are no alternative markets in prospect for dried fruits, despite the many attempts to find them. Therefore, the outlook is nothing but gloomy if the common agricultural policy is applied to dried fruit growers and they lose the advantages they now enjoy in the United Kingdom market over Greece and Turkey, which are associate members of the E.E.C. and have tariff quotas.
I return to the question of dairy produce. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said yesterday that the New Zealand Dairy Board was satisfied with the arrangements made. I do not for one moment dispute that statement, but there is definite uneasiness among the farmers in New Zealand as to their future after 1977 and as to what the attitude of the present Six will be when the review mentioned in paragraph 106 of the White Paper takes place. There is a great fear that paragraphs 107 to 109 of the White 1147 Paper are mere words which may not be fulfilled, owing to pressure from farmers in the Six, and especially from the French farmers.
No concessions were asked for on behalf of Australia's dairy industry, though Australia is only to a degree less dependent on our market for its exports than is New Zealand. In 1968–69, 68 per cent. of Australia's butter exports came to Britain. Australian dairy producers are naturally even more disturbed than are dairy producers in New Zealand.
I found only two organisations of producers which expressed no anxiety about the future. One was the South African Citrus Exchange, in Pretoria and the other the South Africa Sugar Association, in Durban. The citrus growers have succeeded in diversifying their exports. Whereas 60 per cent. came to Britain in 1960, only 34 per cent. came last year. However, they resent the unnecessary and irrelevant high duty on citrus in the E.E.C., such as 15 per cent. on oranges. The South Africa Sugar Association's chief markets are in Japan, Canada and the U.S.A. Therefore, it has diversified since it was taken out of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement ten years ago and it has not much to worry about.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said yesterday that the percentage of our trade with the Commonwealth had declined. That is not surprising, in view of the policy, pursued by Governments of both complexions for the last 10 years, of asking the Commonwealth to diversify. Therefore, it is not really an admissible argument to advance now that the percentage has declined. The point is not the percentage but the volume and the total value. That has continued to rise all the time even in real terms. In any case, we should think not of the mere Commonwealth but of the Commonwealth preference area, which includes South Africa and Eire and takes 30 per cent. of our trade.
§ Sir R. Russell
And Burma, as my right hon. and learned Friend says. There is the danger of our losing exports in return. It is difficult to make a concrete estimate. How- 1148 ever, the Commonwealth Producers Organisation got a very talented journalist to make his best estimate of this last year. His estimate was that about one-third of our export trade with Canada and Australia, and half of that with New Zealand, would disappear if the Commonwealth preference system were abrogated. That would give an estimated loss, over the whole field, of between £250 million and £300 million worth of exports, taking invisible trade as well.
For those reasons and for many others which have been expressed by my right hon. and hon. Friends and by hon. Members opposite, I oppose the Motion.
§ 2.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)
I should like to follow every speaker who has spoken in the debate, except that I should end up by finding it very difficult to make a speech on the questions of social policy and agriculture, which is how this debate opened today. Nevertheless. I was fascinated by the performance of the Secretary of State for Social Services, who managed to give us a very comprehensive and clear speech on social policy in relation to the Common Market but who never mentioned for reasons no doubt of his well known skill as a politician, that the results of paying for social benefits in the Common Market are a higher proportion of direct taxation in E.E.C. countries than there is here. We understand why the right hon. Gentleman did not mention this. It is something that the average Conservative politician would find a little difficult to reconcile with some of the promises that he made at the last General Election.
It is the fact that, including social benefit payments, which are a direct tax, with income tax and other taxes, the total of direct taxation in the economic sense in the Common Market countries is higher than it is here as a proportion of total taxation. I hope that hon. Members opposite will also add that in when they talk about the implications of harmonisation.
However, I cannot follow everybody who has spoken so far.
Before touching on the main issue, I want to express my genuine sympathy for those who belong to the minorities of each party. I say this genuinely because in 1967 I belonged to such a minority. 1149 When I entered the House in 1964 I was secretary of what was then a minority group—the anti-Marketeers of the Labour Party. Subsequently I was P.P.S. to my right hon. Friend, who is literally a friend, the hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), who I am glad to see is restored to the Front Bench on this occasion. As a result of abstaining I ceased to be his P.P.S. Therefore, my sympathy is perfectly genuine for members of the minority on both sides.
I realise that hon. Members opposite have a theoretical free vote, but I also realise that they have constituency party chairmen and others who have no doubt had conversations with them from time to time.
The difficulty we face is part of the nature of our democracy. It is the nature of our democracy and the nature of the lack of democracy in the European Community that I want to talk about. We are faced with this difficulty because the British people have a pronounced majority view which has been quite unaffected by a colossal public relations campaign.
The reason why it has been unaffected is that we have a very educated democracy which is not affected by a public relations campaign directed primarily to élites, Élites of all sorts—lawyers, business men, politicians—may be taken to Brussels, but they are not the democracy of Britain, although they are important within it. Very generous grants may be made to university academics to make studies which assist one's point of view, but university academics are not the democracy of Britain. An educated democracy is sufficiently educated to realise that it has to work out for itself implications, and not always take views from elitists who may conceivably be chatted to by a public relations organisation.
The real problem facing the minorities in both parties is that the people of this country have never had an opportunity, in terms of the normal political process, of making their will felt. I doubt very much whether there would be a person in either of the major parties who would not be expressing the general view of those major parties if there had ever been a General Election upon this issue. I am not blaming any particular party. We all realise that this issue is highly 1150 complex and across party. Not everybody in either party has been totally consistent. But the fact remains that there is no way in which the majority of people in this country can express what is their undoubted view, which has become more and more decisive every time the issue has been discussed.
When nobody was interested, there was perhaps a slight margin in favour of entry into the Common Market. As soon as it comes to be discussed—in 1962, 1967 and now—the number of people who express, in opinion polls and elsewhere, a declared view rises and the number of people against substantially rises, notwithstanding great campaigns to the contrary.
I think they have a basic simple reason for this. I think they realise that they would be transferring some of their own electoral powers to a body which is not elected at all. If I said in this House that the powers of the Cabinet should be handed over to a committee of Permanent Secretaries chaired by Sir William Armstrong, and that the powers of this House should be transferred to the Cabinet, which should be the Legislature in future, I think I would be regarded as a political crank of the first order. Yet that is exactly, within a limited field, the nearest possible analogy within the British Constitution to what we are proposing today. Admittedly, the field at the moment is limited, but we have already got a Commissioner, a very impressive one—he is the man who is largely responsible for the negotiations on our entry—saying that the Community must go in for defence. At the moment the field is limited, but one has no idea how wide it will become.
The Legislature—it is a legislature, albeit in a limited field; in some fields it has more power than the Legislature of the United States—is, in effect, the Council of Ministers or, if they find themselves too busy, the Committee of Permanent Representatives. The Commission is a permanent body, not elected by anybody but appointed by the Council of Ministers, not removable by anybody except in the nearly impossible circumstances of a two-thirds' majority of the Assembly. These are the Executive and Legislature of the Common Market.
It is no use saying "This is a good thing perhaps. We have got a right of veto". Sometimes I find my mind boggles 1151 at the extraordinary way in which people will try to ride two horses at once. We hear great pleas from the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary saying how necessary it is that we should go into Europe to make sure of the unity of Europe. At the same time we are told that we have the right of veto. If every member of the Cabinet had a right of veto, there would be no Cabinet decisions. We know there is theoretically unanimity in the Cabinet, but members of a Cabinet do not agree with each other irrespective of the party which they happen to be in. They accept majority decisions, like other people in democratically-ordered countries.
If we say that we have a right of veto, and if that right of veto were exercised, the organisation could not work with six States, never mind 10, if everybody exercised his right of veto on everything which he regarded as his own national interest. In practice people do not do this. They arrive at political compromises and deals, in private, so that the public do not know except through the leaks which are perpetually being given to their national Press. They arrive at their compromises and deals.
I believe hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite when they say that they do not want to go into a defence community. But what would they say if France said, "In return for your nuclear secrets, what do you want altered in the common agricultural policy? If you tell us, we will do that for you."? I should be interested to know what the Government's answer would be, particularly if we were suffering from rising food prices. The country might well say that it was worth giving away our nuclear secrets in order to bring food prices down—and the Government might at some time be facing a General Election.
We know how this works. It is not a question of veto. It is a question of deal and compromise in private. There is no democratic body to control it. Of course, there is an Assembly which calls itself a Parliament but is not. France does not permit the second party in the State to be represented because it is the Communist Party. Until four years ago Italy did not permit the second party in the State to be represented.
§ Mr. English
I said that until four years ago the Italians did not permit the second party in the State to be represented. I accept that they do now.
This is the Assembly, appointed as u is in a way which does not necessarily represent the beliefs of the electorates of the countries concerned. In practice it is powerless. I may well be told by any pro-European that there is provision for it to become democratic in the sense of its being elected. What they do not say is that there was a law passed by it to turn it into a democratic Assembly, and it is an interesting illustration of the processes of the E.E.C. to see what happened to it. To start with, it said that the Assembly should be like the French Assembly. No Minister could ever sit in it. The proposal was that it should be elected under a system which would produce a highly multi-party system to which no Ministers could ever become responsible. This has disappeared into the Council of Ministers where it is still on the agenda. It has not been rejected, neither has it yet been approved. Of course, the Council of Ministers met in private, and I am willing to give to any Member who asks me a complete list of quotations of Ministers who have gone back to their countries and said "I was in favour of it but the others were against it." It seems odd that it was never agreed.
This is the sort of thing which can happen if the Legislature meets in private. In this country at least Ministers have to come to the House and justify their views before Press and public. The thing which is interesting large numbers of people in Europe is why, when we applied for entry to the Community, we have made no suggestions or comments upon its structure. Here we are, the oldest democracy in Europe, with traditions of democracy which the major powers of Europe have not got and have not had for less than one man's lifetime, and we have said "We want to join this Community." Having said that, we have said nothing about the fact that by doing so we are ceding the highly unusual right that our electorate possesses to choose which party will govern it in all respects—a right which in part they will lose because part of the government will be 1153 from Brussels. We are ceding all the powers of this House not to another European House, not to a European democratic Assembly. There would be some argument for doing that. I understand the type of pro-Marketeer who argues for democracy in Europe. But the average Conservative Member and the average Labour Member in support of joining says that it is good that it is not a democracy—"Look at some of the awful people, Communists and Fascists, you have in Europe", is their view.
That is not the sort of argument which I understand. My basic belief is in democracy, and I think that the basic belief of the majority of people in this country is in democracy. That is why they are against joining this institution organised as it is. As someone in a famous speech at another party's conference recently said, "I cannot and I will not," I would say for myself that I cannot and I will not vote on any occasion to deprive the people of this country of the rights they have.
§ 2.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
I should like to comment on just one passage in the speech of the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English), that when he mentioned testing public opinion. It is strange indeed that when I put a Private Member's Bill before the House to permit a referendum, no hon. Member wanted to know about it, let alone support it. It is remarkable how since this debate started some years ago so many seem to have come to support the idea of a referendum.
§ Mr. English
I assure the hon. Gentleman that the only reason why I did not support him was that I wanted to propose the same sort of Bill myself.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
I was opposed to a referendum before and I am now, and so are many of nay hon. Friends. It is not the method that we use, and it would have dangers. What we need is a traditional General Election to put the issues to the British people.
§ Mr. Gurden
I know what activates the hon. Gentleman's mind on that.
I will not apologise for reducing my contribution to the debate to the level 1154 of constituency comment, because Birmingham is an important place to represent. It has 12 Members, and most of them, on both sides of the House, support entry into the Common Market, perhaps all; certainly most if rumour has it right.
If my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had accepted the invitation of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Carter) to visit his constituency in Birmingham, the Prime Minister might have heard of the meeting when the Northfield Labour Party voted for Britain's joining the Common Market. It will be interesting to see what the hon. Member for Northfield does in the Division next week.
Birmingham contributes enormously to the country's exports. Almost all the employers in Birmingham in the 1,700 trades are wholly in favour of Britain joining. What is good for the employers is certainly good for the employees, for the employers hope to expand business and take up the 15 or 20 per cent. spare capacity in manufacturing industry in the Midlands. That would solve the unemployment problem for the Midlands, and that would have an effect on the problem throughout the country.
Birmingham has a large share of the export markets of the world, not just those of Europe, and its industry believes that exports will be increased as a result of joining the E.E.C. Both sides of industry believe that joining would be good for Britain. I am pleased to be able to support the two local newspapers, the Birmingham Mail and the Birmingham Post, which have done a grand job on this issue, quoting not only one side but the arguments of both.
If we were to have a referendum in the Midlands, it would certainly favour going into the Common Market, but I accept that it is a guess and that no one can be sure what public opinion is. It is true that there are risks in Britain joining, but there are risks in not joining. I am one of those who believe that the risks of not joining are greater. But I realise that it is an argument about the possibilities and probabilities for Britain in the future, and so it comes back to being a matter of judgment.
I have a great regard for the minorities on both sides of the House, as has the 1155 hon. Member for Nottingham, West. For that reason I was not prepared to make my decision on which way to vote until a few months ago. Like many others, I have had reservations. One has been the Commonwealth and its connections with this country. Many of the so-called developing countries are not developed at all, or only slightly. They are greatly dependent on charity, but joining the Common Market would not be detrimental to that charity. Any help which Britain is able to give the under-developed countries can come only from economic strength.
I have had reservations about the common agricultural policy, but on balance I believe that we should take the long-term view, which is that there is considerable hope that the difficulties in that policy will be ironed out as time goes by.
What worries me more than anything else is the policing of the policy decisions in some countries which are not as straightforward and honest as others. One wonders whether all the policies likely to emerge can be adequately policed to ensure that they are properly enforced throughout the Six or the Ten.
Time does not permit me to go into great detail but there is one reservation which occurs to me. We cannot pay too much attention to it, as it is a long-term matter. I refer to the problems in Northern Ireland. Although Eire is not an enemy State, there are many people there who are in a shooting war with Britain, with British citizens. Under the E.E.C. arrangements, all those people will have the right to come and go in our country as they think fit. Yet the time may come when we have to police the border between Eire and Britain and say that those who are at war with Britain shall not enter. Certainly, Eire should put her house in order before she is admitted to the Common Market.
Finally, I must mention those people living on fixed incomes. It has been said that pensioners will not suffer as a result of Britain's joining the Common Market, as their incomes will be made up, but there is no guarantee for others above the breadline, living on other forms of income which are not dependent on the State. I am a little concerned about some of them. It is a good thing that they can exist on the savings of themselves and their families. It is a great 1156 help to the nation, and they should not suffer either. I am not sure how we can overcome the problem that such people face if there is a considerable rise in the cost of living. We realise that there is likely to be an increase in the cost of living anyway as a result of ordinary inflation. We must turn our minds to those people. We do not want them to become a charge on the State, and they do not want it either.
I have mentioned those reservations because I have tried throughout to see both sides of the case. On balance I am convinced that our duty is to see that Britain goes into the Common Market when it comes to the crunch next week.
§ 2.33 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamling (Woolwich, West)
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) is a little worried about the best way of dealing with his reservations. The best way to do that is to come into the Lobby with us and defeat the Government.
The speech of the Secretary of State for Social Services this morning was most interesting and illuminating, but I wondered how relevant it was to the Motion. There was nothing in it to suggest that it had any relevance to the basis of the arrangements which have been negotiated. The main burden of his speech was concerned with how to protect pensioners and people on social security benefits from the consequence of his own Government's action—a major increase in the cost of living. He wanted to reassure people that his Department will take steps to protect them. But there are still some doubts about that, as we have just heard from the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak.
The other interesting revelation from the right hon. Gentleman was that a great deal of the propaganda in the campaign for Britain to join the Market is false. He said that joining the Market will make no difference to the structure of our National Health Service or social security systems. That is contrary to some of the propaganda that we have heard. For example, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers), discussing the subject with my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) on a radio programme earlier this week, said that prices, and so on, 1157 might go up but social security would be much better; there were wage-related social benefits in Europe, and we should follow suit. I had to read the White Paper on strategy for pensions, which says nothing about that. Indeed, it says entirely the opposite.
The right hon. Gentleman said this morning that what his hon. Friend has just implied is absolute nonsense. "It will make no difference", he said. He went even further, saying that it was impossible to make an overall comparison of benefits between Common Market countries and ourselves. I was reminded of an article in the New Statesman some months ago by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle), who said exactly the same thing. That was in reply to the campaign, notably by the Labour Committee for Europe, saying that if we go into Europe our social security benefits will be so much better. The right hon. Gentleman gave the lie to that campaign. I hope that the Labour Committee for Europe will read his speech and take out all its advertisements, which are false. That is the real relevance of the right hon. Gentleman's speech.
The Motion says that… this House approves Her Majesty's Government's decision of principle to join the European Communities on the basis of the arrangements which have been negotiated.We are not debating the principle of joining the Market; we are debating the terms acceptable to a Tory Government. As a Socialist, I cannot go into the Lobby in support of that Motion. Terms acceptable to a Tory Government? Not for me, and I hope not for any member of the Labour Party. Are they the terms which would have been acceptable to a Labour Government? They are not. A value-added tax? I remember what my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham. Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) said about that at the time of the last General Election. Are we going back on that? Would a Labour Government have completely accepted the common agricultural policy, as the present Government have done, with all the implications for our balance of payments. We spent six years in Government dealing with the problems of the balance of payments left to us by our predecessors. We are not going through that again.
§ Mr. Hamling
I would rather not.
We do not want a permanent battle over the balance of payments as we shall have if the House accepts these terms, with the contribution to the budget, the burden on our Exchequer of the common agricultural policy, and the common external tariff, with all that it implies to us as a trading nation importing raw materials and food. When they came into full operation there would be a permanent burden on our balance of payments of about £400 million a year. This country cannot stand it, except on the basis of a severe reduction in the standard of living of the very people of Birmingham about whom the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak has just been speaking. It implies devaluation and deflation. The burden of the Common Market will be borne not by the comfortable middle class but by the ordinary people who send us here to represent them.
The higher cost of living will be offset by higher wages, we are told by the Labour Council for Europe. Under the present Government? Who is kidding whom? The clear implication of the whole concept is that competition in the markets of Europe will prevent our own working-class from getting higher wages.
These terms are all in line with the Government's general policies on taxation and wages, and the redistribution of wealth. How can any Socialist support them? We are told: "Do not worry—we shall have better social security arrangements." The Secretary of State this morning, with his usual honesty, told us the truth about that: the Government do not think so.
We, as a Labour Party in Opposition, must clearly understand what our job is. We were sent here by the people of our constituencies to represent them and to speak for them, and I believe that in this debate, in its determination to vote against these terms, my party is speaking for the vast majority of people. If we fail to vote against these terms we fail in our democratic duty. People will say, "What is the point of having a Parliament which does not do what the people want?" Democratic Government is likely to fall 1159 into contempt. It will be said of us: "They do not speak for us; they speak for the international companies, and for big business. They do not speak for the common people of Britain."
In its declared policy at the last General Election the Labour Party committed itself to seeking entry on the best possible terms: there was no commitment to enter on the terms which the present Government are prepared to accept. We have come to our decision on a much more democratic basis than has the party opposite. We had a special conference early in the year at which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was very careful to persuade delegates not to come to a decision then. He was successful in his purpose. He said, "Let us have a debate." This is the only party that had a debate. The other party did not have a debate; father got up and said that this was so, and they all put up their hands and said that father was quite right. That is not democracy. The party opposite has not debated the matter at all.
The Labour Party debated the question and at the end of the summer came to its conclusion. The party conference voted overwhelmingly against acceptance of these terms. The Parliamentary Labour Party has done exactly the same thing, and if the Government, next week, were to have the same sort of majority that we had against entering the Market the Treasury Bench would be quite happy. Within the Parliamentary Labour Party the voting was two to one against—not a bad majority. If the Prime Minister were to have such a majority next Thursday night he would feel vindicated. He would feel that he then had the right to say, "Parliament has decided. This is the policy." We, as a party, have taken a vote. We have decided, and we therefore have the right to say that this is the policy of the Labour Party, whatever reservations others may have.
If we were to accept these terms we would be accepting economic policies which, as a party—in and out of Government—we have always rejected. Not only growth is important; the redistribution of wealth is also important, and it is clear that the terms which the Government have accepted are illiberal and regressive. As a party, we are entitled 1160 to say that these terms are not acceptable to us or to the people, and ought not to be acceptable to the British Parliament.
§ 2.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Blaker (Blackpool South)
I hope that the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling will forgive me if I do not follow him down the paths he trod. I want to go back, initially, to the reference made by the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) to the situation of the Commonwealth countries in Africa.
I must admit that while the right hon Gentleman was talking about that problem the horrid suspicion crossed my mind that perhaps he did not clearly understand what the effect on those countries of our entry to the Common Market would be.
The right hon. Gentleman quoted from the document issued by the Africa Bureau which we have all received. I was so surprised by the contents of that document that yesterday I telephoned the Director of the Africa Bureau and asked for some clarification. The Director told me that the Bureau had intended not to indicate that it was against Britain going into the Common Market but simply to draw attention to a few facts it felt should be considered.
In response to my question he added these points: that, contrary to the impression given by the document, one advantage of British entry would be that the English-speaking countries in Africa would have the opportunity of merging their interests with the French-speaking countries there, which they have not hitherto had; that there would be no prohibition on free trade between developing African countries, and that there is no Article in the Yaoundé Convention which limits the developing African countries from selling on a wider market. I hope that that puts the record straight.
§ Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler
An exchange I had with the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) this morning ended by his suggesting that those of us who serve on the executive committee of the Africa Bureau had been out-voted in establishing policy and in the decision to publish this document and send it to Members of Parliament. As I had not myself attended the last meeting of the 1161 executive committee I was not able to disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. I did, however, then leave the Chamber and telephone the offices of the Africa Bureau, and confirmed my suspicion that this document is the work of the Director of the Bureau supported by a research assistant, was at no time examined by the executive committee—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame"]—and has been published without full discussion in the executive committee. It is this kind of behaviour that has led some of us who have been members of the executive committee for some time to become increasingly alarmed at the purpose of the Bureau.
§ Mr. Blaker
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. I suggest that the document should be taken back and rewritten. But I want to say more about the Commonwealth because in this debate we have heard a great deal about the Commonwealth and about the open seas.
The Leader of the Opposition said a few days ago that he criticised the Prime Minister on the grounds that he had… renounced for Britain the open sea and with it our Commonwealth beyond the seas.I have an interest to declare in the Commonwealth, having been born in Hong Kong of a New Zealand mother, and having been educated partly in Canada. I therefore have the interests of the Commonwealth very much at heart. On this subject I prefer the views of the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth to those of the Leader of the Opposition.
The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Mr. Arnold Smith, is a Canadian. Those of us who know him, as many do, will recognise that he is devoted wholeheartedly to the interests of all the Commonwealth, and particularly to those of the developing members. He said that British entry would be… good for Europe, Britain the Commonwealth countries and the English-speaking world.There was never a truer word spoken.
What will be the effect on the Commonwealth economically? We should not exaggerate the effect of the tariff changes. The Trade Minister of Canada said two days ago that 55 per cent. of Canadian exports to Britain would be unaffected by British entry. Some 28 of the other Commonwealth countries will have the 1162 opportunity of association or direct trade agreements with the enlarged Community.
But what matters most is how prosperous we are going to be if we are inside the Community. If we prosper, as the Six have prospered since 1958, that will be very much more in the interests of the Commonwealth, whether developing or developed, than if we continue with the poor level of growth that we have managed to achieve since the War.
It can be seen from the figures how Commonwealth exports to the Six, compared with Commonwealth exports to this country, have grown since 1958. In fact, the situation is truly dramatic. The exports of Australia, New Zealand and Canada to the Six from 1958 to 1969 increased in every case many times faster than the exports of those countries to the United Kingdom, despite the fact that those exports had to surmount the common external tariff. The same thing is true of the developing Commonwealth. I asked the Library a few days ago to give me comparable figures for five developing countries, selected entirely at random. I had no idea what the result would be. They gave me figures for India, Nigeria, Kenya, Trinidad and Tobago and Hong Kong. In every case except one, namely Kenya, the exports from the developing Commonwealth country to the Six had increased much faster than they had increased to this country in the same period. This confirms the point that it is in the interests of every Commonwealth country that we should prosper.
What about our exports to the Commonwealth? We are already losing our preferences. Professor Williamson of the University of Warwick, who has made a profound study of this subject, estimates that there will be very little preference left for us by 1980 even if we stay outside the Community. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Dame Patricia Hornsby-Smith) in a powerful speech in this House on 21st July pointed out that so far as Canada is concerned some 97 nations now enjoy with us the most-favoured nation tariff; and in the case of man-made fibres those 97 nations have not simply equality with us but a more preferential situation in the Canadian market than we have.
I remember that when I was serving in Canada 12 years ago Lord Thorneycroft, 1163 then Chancellor of the Exchequer, came over to Canada and offered the Canadian Government free trade. The Canadian Government were horrified. They said, "What effect do you think this will have on our growing and developing industrial companies'? We want to build up our industries behind a tariff barrier. We cannot possibly have free trade with Britain." This is happening in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It is a fact of life. We may not like it, it may be a pity, but it is going on. The Canadians have a free trade agreement with the United States on aulomative products, which they do not have with us. Three of the East African Commonwealth countries have preferential arrangements under the Arusha Convention with the Six at our expense.
On the economic front there are as good grounds for optimism about the Commonwealth relationship as there are for pessimism. The arguments of oppenents of entry, when they talk about the Commonwealth, are essentially economic. On the political and defence side of the matter there is nothing in the present arrangements with the Six which need weaken our links, and in any future development we would have our own say on the policies of the enlarged Community.
I believe that this is even more true when one looks at the other ties which link the Commonwealth—culture, sentiment, language and education. I believe that on all these fronts the Commonwealth link will be strengthened if we are prosperous and strong, as I believe we shall be if we go into the Community. I believe the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth was right to say that it is not a question of choosing between the Community and the Commonwealth, but a question of entry benefiting both.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition accused us of renouncing our links with the open sea. I find all this talk about the open sea pretty woolly, and I hope that somebody who believes in open seas will explain exactly what is meant. I assume that the Leader of the Opposition is referring to non-Commonwealth countries outside Western Europe, perhaps countries such a Japan, the United States, Siam and so on. But if we go into Europe our tariffs will be 1164 reduced in respect of those countries because the common external tariff of the Community is lower than our present one. Therefore, what is the right hon. Gentleman's point about our giving up our links with the open seas? I hope he will explain.
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that it would harm our links with the United States? We must take account of the fact that successive United States Governments have wanted us to go in. They believe it will be healthier if Western Europe is able to stand on its own feet. I believe that for too long Western Europe has treated the United States as mother—as somebody who ultimately will solve all our problems. We must now recognise that mother has her problems too. She has problems of urban renewal, race, Vietnam and the balance of payments. I believe the best thing for relations between ourselves and the United States will be if we go into the Common Market, since this will help Western Europe to grow to its full stature and share the family burdens.
I am puzzled by another aspect of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. I thought his position was that he believed in the principle that we should go into the Common Market but disagreed with the terms. Those remarks about renouncing the Commonwealth and the open seas do not seem to me to be very easy to square with that position. I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman comes to speak he will explain what he means. Is he now suggesting a new alternative? One or two hon. Members have attempted to suggest an alternative. Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting Commonwealth free trade? Is he suggesting a North Atlantic Free Trade Area?
The right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) said he wanted us to be loosely associated with continents outside Europe. My right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) and my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) made certain suggestions, the later calling for world free trade led by the United States. He relied rather too heavily on the Williams Commission Report which, he claimed called for free trade in 25 years' time. But he must know that the pigeon-holes of Administrations all over the world are stuffed with reports calling for this and 1165 that. When he has served on a few Select Committees, probably he will have a closer understanding of what very often happens to reports. I hope that we shall have moves towards freer trade, but my hon. Friend would be wiser to assume that the Williams Report possibly will give some power to President Nixon's elbow in resisting moves towards greater protection, which is the need at the moment, rather than leading to free trade in 25 years' time.
In response to all this woolly talk about the open sea and freer trade, what we need is a good cold douche of icy water, and who better to provide it than my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell)? In the course of a speech at Clacton in March, 1969, my right hon. Friend said:What is certain is that there is no prospect of getting free trade or anything like it with North America or with Australia or with former British territories in Asia and Africa. They are all resolutely determined to foster their own industries, to manufacture just the sort of things that we want to sell. It is all very well for us to talk about a North Atlantic Free Trade Area or Commonwealth Free Trade. If we do, we are talking to ourselves. Nobody else is listening.I do not go all the way with my right hon. Friend, but he provides a useful corrective to the woolly suggestions made from some quarters of the House.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
Apparently the hon. Gentleman is worried about the phrase "the open sea ". I suppose that it means something. It was a test question put by M. Pompidou to the Prime Minister. He asked whether we would moor ourselves to Europe or, on the other hand, return to the open sea as we had always done in the past. If the hon. Gentleman does not know what it means, he had better ask M. Pompidou, who put the question, and the Prime Minister, who apparently replied in the affirmative and said that we would moor ourselves to Europe and not return to the open sea.
§ Mr. Blaker
No other country in the Six regards what is said by the leader of another member country necessarily as gospel.
§ Mr. Blaker
The Prime Minister is a very courteous man. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members who are interested in this very fundamental question will explain what they are proposing when they call for links with the open sea. Are they proposing an alternative policy and, if so, what is it?
§ Mr. Callaghan
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this question has come up because in The Times of 25th June there was a report of these four test questions. I assume that M. Pompidou meant something when he asked whether we intended always to return to the open sea as we had done in the past. When the Prime Minister assured him that that was not our intention, negotiations began. It is for right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to explain what the words mean. It is not for us.
§ Mr. Blaker
I return to the point. I do not regard what M. Pompidou says or asks as gospel. He must explain himself. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman should address his question to M. Pompidou. It may be that he was simply making the point that entry into the Community involves adjustment of the tariff arrangements that we have had previously with the Commonwealth and acceptance of the common external tariff. We know that. I have just been talking about that. It is what my speech has been about so far.
§ Sir G. Sinclair
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is easy to say that we would not turn away again from Europe, because in the end there is no juxtaposition between those two false choices? They are perfectly reconcilable.
§ Mr. Blaker
My hon. Friend has put very well the point that I have been trying to make. It may be that the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) was not following my argument quite as closely as my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Blaker
—it had been my intention to discuss the remarks of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), who wrote in the Daily Mirror that if we were not a member of one of the main trading blocs Britain could be hammered into the ground. I noted that he did not answer the point made yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. I pass on because I have not time to develop that point.
I find that some members of the public—indeed some hon. Members—get confused by the statistics which are thrown at them from one side or the other. It is useful, if one is in that situation, to stand back and see what has happened to opinion in the Six countries themselves over the years. A few months ago a former Minister from one of the Six told me that before his country entered the Community, businessmen, trade unionists and housewives had been filled with dread, but that after entry the benefits were quicker and greater than they had expected. I think that the same thing happened in every one of the Six countries.
In 1957 the horticultural growers in Holland were worried about competition from Italy. The Belgians were terrified that the furnaces in their factories would be extinguished by the competition from Germany. The Italians were worried that their infant car industry—I suppose that they had in mind the Fiat organisation—would be murdered by competition from the Germans. The Germans were worried about the impossibility of preserving a balance of payments surplus in view of the agricultural policy. None of those fears has been justified.
It is not surprising that now that we are in the situation that they were in in 1957 the man-in-the-street and the housewife in the kitchen should be anxious. We are taking a big step. But I believe that if we go in the benefits, as in the other cases, will be greater and more rapid than we expect; that the optimists will be proved right and the pessimists wrong; that, as in the Six, those who are now most fearful will in future years be among the most vocal supporters; and that, a few years from now the country will find it impossible 1168 to understand how we could be disagreeing over the space of six days about a Motion which is so eminently sound
§ 3.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Carol Johnson (Lewisham, South)
I think it unlikely that, despite the length of the debate on which the House is engaged, any striking new arguments will be advanced to change the opinions of right hon. and hon. Members and their voting intentions on Thursday next week. However, it is desirable that we should have a six-day debate so that as many right hon. and hon. Members as possible may put on record their reasons for taking one line or another.
The main importance and significance of the debate is that for the first time it will lead to a meaningful decision that Great Britain will enter the Community and not merely sanction further negotiations about entry. The time for decision has clearly come. The talk has gone on long enough over many years and, as The Guardian pertinently inquired the other day, "Anyway, is anyone still listening?"
There is another reason why the matter is ripe for decision. Many public opinion polls over the years have been used by both sides, and the percentage of support and opposition has varied from time to time. But it is interesting to note that there has been one almost constant factor; that in all the opinion polls which I have seen the majority of people—over 80 per cent., whatever their personal views whether we should go in or stay out—believe that Great Britain will join. That is a very significant factor. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I will explain why. In a poll taken within the last few weeks in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) people were asked specifically:How likely do you think it is that Britain will join the Common Market?Although initially only 31 per cent. would be pleased at this, 93 per cent. expressed the view that Great Britain will join. That suggests that public opinion is now ripe for a decision to be taken.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
Does not my hon. Friend agree that that shows a deplorable state of affairs? It shows that members of the electorate have become convinced that their opinion is not to be 1169 taken seriously and that they are not to be properly consulted; indeed, that their opinions will be ignored. I therefore ask my hon. Friends to join the rest of us in demanding a General Election, so that these people can express their opinions.
§ Mr. Johnson
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point because it deals with the next matter to which I was going to refer, which specifically answers the first argument. The other question put to people was:Parliament will be debating the Common Market issue soon, and there will be a vote in the House. Should each party tell its M.P.s which way to vote, or should it be left to every M.P. to vote according to his individual opinion?The answer given by 80 per cent. of those who replied was that each Member should be allowed to vote according to his own opinion.
Those two percentages, taken together—if the figures can be accepted as representative, and I do not think that they can be challenged, since they were obtained by an independent research organisation—show that the mass of people are well content to leave the decision to hon. Members.
§ Mr. Johnson
My hon. Friend asked me a question, and I have given the reply.
This matter must be above what William Morris, who I think even my hon. Friend will agree was a good Socialist, would have called political shilly-shallying. All political parties must share some responsibility for having, in the policies which they have put before the people in recent years, made most citizens ask themselves, "What is in it for me?". It is because of that situation that many people have considered and discussed this vital question of joining the Community in only the narrowest and most personal terms. But I realise that there are sections of the community—reference has been made to pensioners, and those on small fixed incomes—who would be dependent on the State to make any necessary adjustments as a result of our joining the Community.
Most of the arguments advanced during the debate have related to the economic implications of our joining the Com- 1170 munity. It was once said that if all the economists in the country were laid end to end they would not come to a conclusion. That is not true about the Common Market, because the number of conclusions to which the economists of this country have come shows that there is no common opinion amongst them, and that the opinion of one cancels that of another.
I pass hurriedly from that, because it was drilled into me during the lifetime of the last Labour Government that the economic arguments were evenly based and that the real case for Joining Europe was a political one. It cannot be emphasised too much that what we are being asked to join is not only an enlarged but a developing and a changing Community, and all the indications are that during the next few years there will be major changes in organisation and structure. Even the C.A.P., which has been referred to, is under review and is liable and subject to change. Many of the changes being seriously considered should meet some of the objections which have been advanced in this House.
If that is so, are we to continue to stand apart, alone on our off-shore island, refusing to play our part in helping to make the Community's institutions more democratic and more representative? Successive Governments have recognised the desirability—indeed, the necessity—of Great Britain's playing her full part in any discussions about future political developments in Europe, and there is already a kind of temporary arrangement for us to have discussions within the Six but can it be seriously supposed that if, at this juncture, we refuse the offer of association within the Community, we can retain in full measure that free and frank interchange on other political matters? That is not so.
It is said that the only difference between the parties is in respect of the terms. That is the real issue. I must confess that I have heard very little from my right hon. Friend on the Front Bench about reopening negotiations at any time. Apart from that, it is certainly arguable—to put it no higher—that the present terms are as good as any negotiations could have obtained. Is it not risky to abandon the certainty of today for the uncertainty of a decade ahead? Substantial changes are looming in view. As 1171 my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) reminded us in a previous debate, the world's affairs do not stand still. Even if we should contemplate future negotiations is it not clear that then, as now, we should have to accept the existing rules of the Community? It might make our membership even more onerous. Those who argue thus should remind themselves of the story of the Sybilline Books.
We must vote now, "in" or "out". I propose to vote "in". It is argued that even if we stay out we can have a prosperous and influential role, going it alone. That is what it would mean. I need not spell out the difficulties which all successive British Governments have found since the end of the war in getting our economy on to a firm and permanent basis. The Market gives us new hope. Industry in this country is ready and willing to accept the challenge and the opportunities that membership will afford.
Entry will also attract that capital investment which is so necessary if our growth rate is to improve—a growth rate which we on this side of the House need for our future policies as much as does any other political party.
Having said that about industry, I regret that our trade union movement seems to be completely unaware of the possibilities open to it, in co-operation with its colleagues on the Continent, not merely for raising wages and improving the fringe benefits to which the right hon. Gentleman referred earlier, but for seizing those opportunities to make its voice heard in the processes leading up to the political decisions about which it has expressed its concern.
The movement on the Continent wants us in because the powerful voice of our trade unions would strengthen still more the standing of unions in the Community, and have a vital effect on improving their status and functions. There are many other points I could make but I yield to Mr. Speaker's invitation to Members to make short speeches.
Finally, I know that it comes hard to many of my right hon. and hon. Friends to hear their colleagues supporting action by a Conservative Government, but apart from the fact that many share my view 1172 that this matter is above party politics, we on these benches should remember that the Tories have been carrying on a process towards entry which the last Labour Government resumed and stimulated. It would be much more relevant for us, as a party, to claim part of the credit for achieving this instead of seeking to destroy or hinder the great step towards a united Europe.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
I intervene mainly to try to clear up some of the problems that seem to have arisen over the question of the E.E.C.'s fishery policy. Yesterday's edition of Fishing News, which reached me this morning, said in an editorial:A report in the Guardian last Saturday suggests that the fishing controversy is being kept under wraps until after the United Kingdom Parliament votes on E.E.C. entry at the end of this month".It added:No section of our fishing industry can afford to go along with the British—unofficial—request to the Six that any new thoughts on fisheries should wait until after the debate in Parliament.I do not believe that Her Majesty's Government are keeping this problem under wraps, though a certain amount of vagueness certainly exists.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food represents a fishing constituency, as I do, and I am certain that we share an identity of views on these matters. However, for reasons that we appreciate—for example, he must undertake negotiations with the Six in future—his remarks last night were rather vague.
I wish to say briefly what I understand to be the position, and I hope that when he speaks on Monday my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will clear up this situation once and for all so that we may know exactly where we stand before we vote next Thursday. This is a matter of considerable importance to hon. Members with fishery interests in their constituencies.
I understand that the original proposals made by the Commission were that each member should fish up to the shorelines of every other member, but that those proposals are now out. I gather that the Commission is agreed on that. I also 1173 understand that Her Majesty's Government attempted to get a settlement of this issue before the Vote takes place in this House and that, in an attempt to succeed, they made some what I believe to be unfortunate concessions.
The Government said, in effect, "We will agree to six miles exclusive and open up the six-twelve mile limit to all members of the Six." Do hon. Members appreciate what that would mean? At present certain members of the Six have historic fishing rights, though not for the whole six to twelve miles right round the coastline; these rights are only in certain areas at certain times of the year and for certain species of fish.
This proposal would have opened up an enormous amount of our waters—several thousand square miles—to foreign fishing vessels. This was strongly resisted by the inshore fishing industry. The Government did not succeed in their aim to settle this problem before the Vote, and I would have hoped that this proposal had been withdrawn though, I appreciate there may be reasons why this could not be done. That is the existing position as I see it, and I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will confirm this on Monday.
Other problems must be overcome in the future. There is the possibility of a transitional agreement. This may have to be entered into if we cannot get a final agreement before January of next year, the date when, if the House so wills, we shall sign the deed of accession. This transitional agreement would last for five years, after which there would be a final agreement. If we can negotiate a final agreement before signing the Treaty of Accession, all the better.
As for the transitional agreement itself, I hope that the Government will make it clear that their proposals now relate to six miles complete jurisdiction, and that beyond that limit all foreigners would be excluded from the next six miles, with the exception of those which have historic fishing rights. I trust that the Government will also make it clear that we will not accept any fishing limits narrower than any of the other applicant members of the Community, and I, of course, refer basically to Norway.
We must bear in mind that our fishing rights in Norway, which we enjoyed for 1174 as long as others enjoyed similar rights here, were phased out two years ago. It would not be practicable to try to reclaim them. Nevertheless, this fact must be borne in mind when entering the negotiations. After all, we have already given up some rights. Dealing with this matter yesterday, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said:a solution must not infringe further on our fishery limits than the proposal put forward in May, which was based on a six-mile limit, but with an extension of historic rights to all countries of the Community between six miles and twelve.He went on:We stated at that time, and our position remains the same today, that such a solution would have to apply to all countries of the enlarged Community, including those nations seeking along with us to join."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st October, 1971; Vol. 823, c. 1033–4.]That could mean several things. It presupposes, I suggest, that the remaining members of the Six could fish within the whole of the six to twelve mile band off our coast provided we had the same opportunities off their coasts. No one thinks that that is in any way feasible. We have only had those historical rights off Norway, Greenland and Iceland, and those have been phased out. It would presumably not be restored.
The Minister went on to say:I would expect that …"—the agreement—… to mean that we would continue to-have comparable treatment on fishing limits with other applicants."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st October, 1971; Vol. 823, c. 1034.]That is what we are asking for. But the statement last night could have been interpreted in more than one way and is, therefore, to some extent ambiguous. I believe that the Government were saying that in the transitional period our position is the status quo, with limits as they are today, and that is what we intend to maintain for five years and that in any case we would not make any agreement which would give us less than any of the other applicant countries. I should like confirmation of that view.
Taking the matter a little further, I want to discuss the question of the final agreement, which may come soon or which may come after the expiry of the five years. Several of our colleagues on both sides of the House have recently 1175 visited Brussels. I was not there myself, so this is hearsay. I am informed that the line taken by the Commission—I stress "the Commission", the civil servants—is that Britain has already had enough concessions in these E.E.C. negotiations, that their intention is to press for a 12-mile limit of jurisdiction for every country, that every country should have a charge over the seas off its shores up to 12 miles, but that any limit put on foreigners would also have to be put on their own fleet. In other words, everyone concerned would have the same rights extending right to the shoreline, though the riparian state would have jurisdiction and could make special rules which would apply to everybody.
That still is not on, because it would spell the ruination of our in-shore fishing industry if it applied. I am sorry to say that I am rather suspicious of the Commission because I understand that only last week it introduced new grading regulations. We have said in the House—and my right hon. and learned Friend has said this—that the proposals of the Six about grading and minimum prices are just absurd, and that they can be proved to be so, certainly for the enlarged Community. Yet the Commission is introducing similar proposals to those which we have said are absurd, with no consultation not only with the Six but with the countries applying to join them, no consultation with our industry and, as far as I know, no consultation with the British Government. Therefore, one is rather suspicious at the activities of the civil servants of the Commission in Brussels. I know that they do not make the eventual decisions. That is done by the Council of Ministers. But the House should be quite clear about this matter.
The fishing industry expects a clear answer that we will maintain the status quo and not accept anything less than the limits given to any other country. I am certain that if that assurance could be given, the fishing industry would be content and I should be prepared to go into the Government Lobbies and vote for entry into the Common Market. But before being asked to take this decision we want this assurance.
I conclude with a few rather broader remarks. I should like to think that my views on the Common Market have fol- 1176 lowed what I believe to be those of the thinking majority in Britain. I was never anti-Market; but I was never very pro-Market. I believed in the importance of ties between the Commonwealth and the English-speaking world. Therefore, I supported very strongly the concept known as the North Atlantic Free Trade Area. I shall not weary the House with the advantages of that concept. I accept that it is no longer possible, for a number of reasons. One reason is that I doubt if it would be very wise for Britain to get too close to our great ally on the other side of the Atlantic, whose society seems to be in danger at present almost of disintegration.
As a Commonwealth man, I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on the negotiations he has conducted on behalf of the Commonwealth. The questions of New Zealand and of sugar would have been sticking-points as far as I was concerned, but I believe that he has obtained concessions from the Six that will be of great benefit to the Commonwealth. I never thought that he would achieve as much as this. He has done extraordinarily well.
Some years ago I was a representative at the General Assembly of the United Nations, and the line then taken about the Six then was that it was a small, inward-looking, white, rich group. There was some truth in that view. There is less truth in it now, but there is still a substance of truth.
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said yesterday, the fact that when we join the Common Market we shall probably take with us 30 associated members of the Commonwealth from right round the world will force the Common Market to look outwards even if it does not want to.
I remember being very annoyed with Dean Acheson when he said that Great Britain had lost an empire and had not found a role. We cannot have N.A.F.T.A., and I believe that we cannot continue as we are. We have no role if we stay as we are. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) said, the main reason for our not having a role is that we will not have sufficient resources to develop the Commonwealth, or, indeed, our own economy, if we stay on our own.
1177 For these reasons, I support the proposal that we should sign the Treaty of Accession and join the Common Market.
I want to make two brief pleas to my right hon. and hon. Friends. The Government propaganda, or perhaps I should say the party propaganda, on the Common Market has been poor. It has tended to represent the Common Market as Utopia. It is not Utopia. Everybody knows that it will not be Utopia. It will cause us considerable short-term difficulties.
Yesterday my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) pointed to the increase in food prices—2½ per cent. per year on Government estimates. This is a short-term difficulty. This is what is worrying British housewives.
It may well be that they have not considered sufficiently the important long-term economic advantages to us and therefore the probably rise in our standard of living that lies some years ahead. That is why I am prepared to disregard the polls, because I believe that, though they show a majority against entry, this majority may not be the thinking majority. I think that it is to some extent the emotional reaction to increased food prices and can, therefore, to some extent be disregarded.
My constituency would benefit, as it is the hinterland of Hull, an East Coast port. Discussions I have had—no doubt other hon. Members have had similar discussions—lead me to believe that the majority of the British people are fairly apathetic about this matter, but the large majority are convinced that we are going in.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)
In saying that it is the thinking majority rather than the majority as a whole whose views he takes into account, is the hon. Gentlemay saying that it is his view that in parliamentary elections we should cast aside all votes which are not based upon deep thought and accept only those of what the hon. Gentleman calls the thinking majority?
§ Mr. Wall
The job of Members of Parliament is to make up their own minds. They consult their constituents. Having done so, they make up their minds about what is right for their con- 1178 stituency and right for Britain. I believe on this occasion that it is right to enter the Common Market.
I make one further appeal to those of my right hon. and hon. Friends whom the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) called Eurofanatics. I appeal to them not to push matters too hard once we get in. I do not believe that the British people want a united states of Europe. It may well be that the younger generation will move towards a united states of Europe. Let them decide this issue when the time comes. If we push matters too hard now, we shall cause many difficulties for the future.
I hope that I shall be able to get the assurances for which I and other hon. Gentlemen on both sides are asking and which will alone reassure the fishing industry. I assure my right hon. and learned Friend that if I receive those assurances I shall support him in the Lobby next week.
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South-West)
I hope that the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the technicalities of fishing, which I do not comprehend.
On two or three occasions the hon. Gentleman said that something or other would be just not on in terms of fish. I ask the hon. Gentleman to cast his mind back to any one of the 10 years during which this argument has now been proceeding. In any one of those years there were all sorts of things which would have been thought to be not on, not only by Members of Parliament, but by Ministers of the day, including the Prime Minister if we go back as far as 10 years. Those things are now on and they are part of the essential terms of our entering the Common Market.
I fear that what the hon. Gentleman regards as terms for fishery which are just not on will—or something very like them—turn out to be essential conditions once we are in.
§ Mr. Cunningham
I hope that turns out to be right, but I doubt it.
I am not opposed to joining a customs union. I am not opposed to teaming up with other countries. I am not opposed to joining a customs union with these particular countries. But I do not think sufficient consideration is given to the fact—it has not been mentioned in the debate—that the conditions of joining a customs union will operate to the advantage of some parts of the territory and to the the disadvantage of other parts. What will determine whether any particular part will benefit or lose will not be simply the terms—the best possible terms which may have been negotiated during the last decade as against the worst possible—but simply the basic ground rules of the Community—what the Community is.
There has not been a time during the last decade when there was a cat in hell's chance of getting into the Community by negotiating a fundamental change in the common agricultural policy. Unless there is a fundamental change in the C.A.P., and particularly in the method of financing it, there is very little doubt indeed that economic results of going in will operate to the harm of the part of the customs union which will be on this side of the Channel. That is not something which is fundamentally unlikely. In any customs union there will be bits that lose, and the signs are that the conditions applying to this bit of territory in the C.A.P. are such that we shall lose. One does not have to force oneself over a great barrier of logic in order to think that that is the case. When we are talking about the Market it is not enough to say that in any customs union there are great benefits to be obtained. There are benefits to be obtained, it is true, but who is to get them will depend very much on the ground rules of the Community.
I object to the fact that even in this debate, at the end of a decade of talking on the subject, it is still possible for some Members to state the case for entry in terms which are so woolly—to use the word of the hon. Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker)—as to prove nothing at all. It really is not good enough to say, "I have got in my constituency firms which manufacture this, that and the other and they say that it will be all right when we go in." We should now be at the stage when we argue the point from 1180 first principles, from the technical changes which entry into the market will mean, and show how we think, subject to a margin of error, we get from those technical changes the growth which we all want to see.
There is nothing magic about going into the Community. At the moment going into the Community means a small list of very technical changes. This is what my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) referred to when he mentioned that I had said that going into the Community constitutes a tariff change. In the industrial sector that is all it means. We like to express this in more ambitious terms by saying that we have an enlarged market of 200 million people. The market of 200 million people is there now. The only difference is that instead of having to surmount a fairly low tariff barrier, we would not have any barrier to surmount. But nor would the countries of the Six have to surmount our barrier to get into our market, and our barrier is a higher protection against them than theirs is against us at the moment.
It may be possible for some hon. Members to put their hands on their hearts and say that they are utterly confident that, taking industrial activity separately, the change would operate to our advantage, or that we would get a fair share of the advantages, some industries concentrating on the Continent and some in this country. I do not say that we would definitely lose out on the industrial sector, for one cannot be sure; I say only that we are as likely to lose out as to gain.
If that is true, it is significant, because it is the profit in the industrial sector which is invoked in order to explain how we are to manage to afford the loss in the agricultural sector, and the losses in the agricultural sector are undoubted and undenied. They arise first because of the system, forgetting altogether about the funding and the price of agricultural commodities, the variable levy system, because it must mean that there is a tendency to suck up prices at which fundamental foodstuffs are offered to the Community.
There is a limit to that because the Argentine and Australia are competing with each other to sell beef and they cannot go on offering it at higher and higher prices because they would end 1181 with no market at all, but there is a tendency to suck up outside prices and so the system is contrary to our interests. Adding higher prices to that is compounding the difficulties and to that has to be added the funding system, which has already been adequately described by others more able than I. So the loss to the country on the agricultural side is undoubted, un-denied and very large, and it may be offset to some unknown extent by gains on the industrial sector. But I argue that in the industrial sector there are as likely to be losses as gains.
I illustrate the woolly argument with a further example. Some people say that if we go in to the Community there will be a greater likelihood of American investment flowing into this country. That may be true. The psychological factor is so important in all these things that it is very hard to guess what will happen. But it is as likely not to happen as to happen.
Let us imagine the board of an American car company wondering whether to invest, and it has to make some investment in Britain or it could not sell here on an equal basis. If we entered the Community, it could manufacture in Germany and sell in Britain, adding on the extra transport cost, but having no extra tariff to bear. Does anyone imagine that the discussion of the subject on that board would go like this: "We will put our investment in Germany where they do not have these tiresome strikes and bothersome trade unions and we will sell the stuff in Britain just as easily from Germany"? That may or may not happen, but it is as likely to happen as not to happen.
We are gambling. One always has to gamble, but we are here gambling on several unknown factors and one known factor and that is the agricultural side where there will undoubtedly be a loss. With many others I agree that the terms which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been able to negotiate are better than anyone would have been able to get in the last few years and that if one proposes to enter the Community on the best possible terms obtainable at the time, he is to be congratulated on having got what he got and on getting some of the things which a few years ago nobody expected to be able to negotiate, and that is 1182 the truth of the matter, as most people know in their hearts.
But the fact that they are the best terms which could have been got in recent years does not mean that they are worth this country accepting. During the whole decade we have been subjected to a French attempt to persuade us that we must prove ourselves to be Europeans. I am a European. I am by birth a European, and nothing can take away from that. This country does not have to prove its European-ness to France or the other two main countries. Perhaps we had better not mention anything about their history in this century.
I raise that point particularly in relation to an article which appeared in The Times under the name of the French Ambassador in London, M. Massigli, on 17th July, the day of the Labour Party special conference on the Common Market. In that article, which was as notable for its candour as for what some people might regard as its insolence, the Ambassador—
§ Mr. Cunningham
At any rate, I think the point stands. He said:Is it demanding too much of our partners "—meaning us—to ask them to appreciate that French and Bavarian peasants have for Europe at least as much importance as, the farmers of New South Wales for the British Isles? ".The rest of the article suggested that because of that kind of consideration we should stop making such a fuss about New Zealand farmers, which was evidence of non-European-ness on our part, and should accept the common agricultural policy for what it is, something advantageous to the farmers of the Six.
That is an example of the use of the "You are not European. You must prove that you are" argument which has been going on for the past decade. What it does not bring out is that New Zealand farmers—and this is the only point I want to make on Commonwealth trade, although many others are relevant—are not asking us for anything that it is not in our interest to give. That is the difference between what New Zealand and Australian farmers are asking of us and 1183 what European farmers are asking of us. To buy cheap New Zealand butter is not an act of altruism on our part. It is in our interests to do it. It is good, plain, common-sense Adam Smith, and it always will be in our interests to do it. It is the French farmer and the Government representing him who are asking us for a favour.
We do not need to prove our European-ness by taking upon us the support of the French fanner. France has her problems, and we have ours. We do not ask the French to carry ours, and they must not ask us to carry theirs, as they are in the terms that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is accepting and in the whole nature of the common agricultural policy. That policy, which he could not change, is to sustain a system of agriculture which is not in the economic interests of this country.
What we must realise is that the package need not have been so bad. It is not impossible for us to join the Common Market on terms which get rid of all those doubts which I have expressed. If anyone were starting from scratch and trying to build a Western Europe with Britain in, taking the possible advantages and disadvantages and trying to share them out fairly, he would not do it in this way. He would have to find some way of allowing this country to go on importing reasonably cheap food from abroad, and if there were good will on the part of France, and a desire for a genuine fair partnership with this country, there would have been no technical difficulty about doing that. Every Minister who has negotiated with the Six in the last decade knows that in seeking solutions to our problems he has not been up against technical difficulties but against the insistence of the French on screwing out of us the maximum possible price—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh".] The conditions we have been asked to approve, prove this—why should anyone be surprised at that?
That is how the French operate. They are not Englishmen—[Interruption.] It was perhaps unfair of the Almighty to juxtapose so closely two peoples with such very different mental processes, but the Almighty did so, and we must face the fact that when it comes to diplomacy, which is the art of getting what one wants 1184 without paying for it, the French have forgotten more tricks than the Foreign Office will ever learn.
If we start on that basis, and if we are prepared to learn the tricks, we might win the odd hand, but if we start by accepting the blackmail of the French, and say: "This is a lousy deal; nevertheless we are prepared to accept it", I suggest that we shall go in with the bowed back, and that we shall never straighten it after we are in.
I will quote further from this article written by a former French Ambassador in The Times on 17th July of this year. He said that he sometimes had the feeling that the British would have no more pressing concern than to try to dismantle the agricultural clauses of the Treaty after we were in, which is what the Government are pledged to attempt. He went on:If this were really to be so, one should have no illusions: the very existence of the Common Market, in any case with France, would be brought into question.The readiness to say that is exactly what has got France into her predominant position in the Community from the beginning; the readiness to say: "You either play it our way or we are up and out." Until we are prepared to take a similar line, I suggest that we shall not secure the conditions which are needed for this country.
The principal case that could be put by a pro-Marketeer which would entirely knock down my argument so far would be if he said: "It is politically overwhelmingly important, and it is now or never." The "now or never" point has been a very large part of the case put for our going into the Market. It is said: "All right. It is dear, it is very bad for us, but it is now or never."
Few things are now or never. The Six will be there and we shall be here, 20 miles away. It will still be in their interests and in ours to have a customs union on a fair basis in five years' time, in 10 years' time, in 15 years' time and in 50 years' time, and I do not believe that the Community will change in such ways as to make it more difficult for us to get in. On the agricultural side it will change in ways which will make it easier for us to get in.
Either Europe starts right or it is not going to start at all. When we argue for 1185 a fair sharing out of the benefits, a fair basis for members, we are arguing not only the good of Britain; we are also arguing the good of Europe itself. One can be an enthusiastic pro-European by being an enthusiastic anti-Common Marketeer. If we manage to weaken the rigging of the Community in favour of France, we shall be creating a basis for a fairer, and therefore more permanent, way in which we can play a very important part.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Fowler (Nottingham, South)
I know that the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham) will forgive me if I do not follow him down all the paths he travelled, particularly some of the rather nationalistic ones.
One of the great advantages of the House of Commons is that all the experiences in it are of great value. Waiting for two days on the back benches for the opportunity to speak makes one realise what it must be like to take part in a students' sit-in. I intend to be brief in my remarks—indeed, the hon. Member for Islington, South-West has left me little option. I might even be brief in two parts.
Some political commentators now take the view that the public have become bored by the great debate on the Common Market. If they have, it is certainly not because of any fundamental lack of interest by the British people in their future. I suggest that if they have become bored it is because of the prevaling style in which the debate has been conducted, certainly outside the House. We, as politicians, have become almost obsessed with the detail of the Common Market. The trouble is that we have begun to forget some of the fundamentals.
A gulf has developed between politicians and public. While we are arguing about details the public is taking a far wider view. People are concerned about the overall prospect for them and their children—about what kind of Britain we shall have if we go into the Common Market and what kind of Britain we shall have if we stay out. I do not mean that the terms are unimportant, since they obviously are very important and it is 1186 obviously necessary to have the safeguards and the transition period which has been provided for entry. I believe that the terms are good, but I also believe that the arguments on the terms have been elevated to an unrealistic level by hon. Members opposition.
I find it difficult to see how opposition to the Common Market can be based on the terms alone. I respect those people who have been consistently opposed to the Common Market from the beginning, and who are opposed to the Common Market on any conditions whatever. In my view, although they may have the wrong case, at least they have a creditable case.
The hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) set out his fundamental opposition to the Common Market. I accept that as his view, but cannot accept that it could have been the view of the Labour Government which applied for membership. Certainly in the great city of Nottingham no such pessimistic view is taken about our future in Europe. Indeed, industry there and the various firms involved have a very optimistic expansionist view of what will happen.
Those who base their opposition on the terms of the Common Market are saying, in effect, "We would like to go in otherwise what is the point of having all this discussion on the terms, but the conditions themselves are unacceptable." It surely follows from this that one has to show some fundamental conditions or terms which can be changed. If, for example, the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), in his long rambling, 47-minute speech, had said at some stage that the common agricultural policy could have been scrapped, I could see some point in the argument that we are having upon the terms. He did not say that—
§ If being Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.