HL Deb 17 March 1948 vol 154 cc926-8

5.37 p.m.


My Lords, might I crave your permission to intervene for a moment? I am sure we should all like to congratulate the noble Earl on a very clear and emphatic maiden speech.

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister is now making the following statement in another place, and I will, with your Lordships' permission, repeat that announcement in his own words. This is what the Prime Minister says:

"I have asked for he momentary adjournment of the House so that we may mark a great occasion. At this moment, in Brussels, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has just signed a Treaty which provides for economic, social, cultural and defensive collaboration between the five Western European Powers—namely Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France and the United Kingdom. This is indeed no ordinary Treaty. It is not an alliance based on self-interest and fear; it is, rather, an association of like-minded neighbours who, engaged jointly in shaping their way towards some closer social and, indeed, spiritual integration, base themselves on the essential similarity of their civilisations, and solemnly pledge on paper their common obligations and their common intentions alike.

The text of the Treaty is now available in the Library, and I am arranging for it to be published as a White Paper. I will not, therefore, attempt to describe it in detail here. It is consistent with our policy to build up good neighbourly relations, based on the widest co-operation in all fields. Let me make it clear that it is directed against none. The recent negotiations, which have taken place since my right honourable friend made his statement on January 22, have been conducted with understanding and cordiality and with the determination to face the real facts. This is not only a Treaty, but a basis for activity in the economic, social, cultural, and security fields. This instrument provides the opportunity for the consultation and collaboration which will enable all of us to secure such conditions as will contribute to a higher standard of life for all our peoples."

5.40 p.m.


My Lords, I know that I shall be speaking on behalf of all who sit on these Benches when I welcome warmly the statement that has just been made by the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House. This, as he has said, is a great and, it may be, an historic occasion. It marks the recognition of the identity of friendly interest between those nations who to-day constitute the core of Western civilisation. They have the same history and the same traditions, and their future welfare and prosperity, both in Europe and outside, is, inevitably, closely linked. I hope that this is only the first step, the prelude to a wider combination which may include such nations as Italy, should wisdom prevail, as I hope it may, in that country. This is not an offensive combination but, as the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has said, a coming together of friends and neighbours. It is based entirely on mutual interest and is in complete accordance with the principles of the Charter, which is, after all, the basis of British foreign policy. If I may say so, as an old supporter of the Western Pact, I should like to congratulate the Government and, in particular, the Foreign Secretary, upon the success which has been achieved by him and the other Statesmen concerned.

5.42 p.m.


My Lords, may I add a sincere word of welcome to the Treaty which has just been announced, and also a word of congratulation to the Government and the Foreign Secretary, and, over and above the Government and the Foreign Secretary, to the ordinary men and women of the five countries who are affected by this Treaty and who, with their eyes on the future, must be congratulating themselves that at least some step has been taken towards the establishment of a more stable and pacific world.

Back to
Forward to