HL Deb 21 December 1954 vol 190 cc588-90

3.59 p.m.


My Lords, with the permission of the House, I should like to interrupt the debate to make a statement which I think your Lordships may wish to hear. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary is laying before both Houses to-day as a White Paper the text of an Agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Coal and Steel Community which was signed this morning between Her Majesty's Government, on the one hand, and the Governments of the States members of the Community and the High Authority of the Community on the other. This Agreement establishes a Standing Council of Association composed of four representatives of the United Kingdom Government of whom at least one will, whenever possible, be a member of the Government, and four representatives of the High Authority of whom at least three will, whenever possible, be members of the High Authority. In view of the powers and responsibilities which have been conferred by law upon the National Coal Board and the Iron and Steel Board, the representatives of the United Kingdom Government on the Council of Association will include one member of each of these Boards.

The function of the Council of Association will be to provide means for continuous consultation in regard to matters of mutual interest relating to coal and steel. It will also provide for appropriate consultation in regard to the co-ordination of action, to deal with these matters, consistent with the international obligations of the parties concerned. The Council of Association will also examine restrictions and other factors affecting normal trade in coal and steel between the two areas, with a view to making such proposals for their reduction or elimination as may be agreed for the mutual benefit of the United Kingdom and the Community. The Agreement also provides for special meetings in which the United Kingdom Government will meet with the Council of Ministers of the Community. The High Authority will participate fully in these meetings.

Due regard will be paid to the interests of consumers as well as of producers of coal and steel, to the interest of third countries and to the special relationship between the United Kingdom and the other members of the Commonwealth. The Agreement will remain in force for the duration of the Treaty setting up the Community. I trust that this new arrangement will help to promote a growing association between the United Kingdom and the European Coal and Steel Community which will contribute to our common prosperity and to the unity of Europe.


My Lord, I wish to thank the noble Marquess for the important statement which he has made and which I feel will be generally welcomed by all Members of the House. Of course, we have not yet got the White Paper before us to study, but the Agreement as summarised by the noble Marquess will, I think, give great satisfaction. I was particularly interested in the last paragraph, in which there is a reference to a contribution to our common prosperity and the unity of Europe. I feel that the Agreement will be particularly welcomed by member States of the Community, and that they will probably regard this as additional evidence of the determination of this country to play a full part in the development of European unity to which we all attach so much importance.