HL Deb 05 May 1955 vol 192 cc814-8

3.33 p.m.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to make a statement on the occasion of the formal entry into force of the Paris Agreements. Her Majesty's Ambassador at Bonn—and I am happy to say that today we again have an Ambassador in Germany—is to-day depositing the Instruments of Ratification of the documents on the Termination of the Occupation Régime in the Federal Republic of Germany and of the Convention on the Presence of Foreign Forces in the Federal Republic of Germany. Her Majesty's Ambassadors at Brussels and Washington are also depositing to-day the Instruments of Ratification of the Seven-Power Agreements on the Western European Union and the Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty.

As the House knows, it has long been our purpose to see German sovereignty restored and Germany welcomed again as an equal member in the fellowship of the Western democracies. This policy has had its setbacks from time to time, notably when the French Assembly last summer found itself unable to accept the European Defence Community Treaty. Nevertheless, due to the inspiration and determination of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, a fresh basis was found at the London Conference of last October, and full agreement was reached shortly afterwards in Paris.

My right honourable friend gave in another place on October 25 last year a full account of the effects of these Agreements. I wish only to mark the historic character of to-day's events in Bonn, Brussels and Washington. The entry into force of the Paris Agreements allows Germany to reassume the functions of a sovereign State and allows her to take her place as a full member of Western European Union and of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Future generations will, I believe, look back upon this day as a landmark in the history of Europe. The successful and formal conclusion of these negotiations will be greeted with relief and satisfaction by the whole free world. This is the firm base from which we can proceed to the next step. We shall now seek, together with our Allies, early discussions with the Soviet Union on the many outstanding problems which confront us all. We earnestly pray that these discussions may prove fruitful.


My Lords, this is perhaps a good note on which the labours of this Parliament may come to an end. I most certainly welcome the statement which has just been made. It indicates, of course, the culmination of a policy which has been steadily pursued, not only by this Government but by the last Government, who were responsible for the introduction of the N.A.T.O. scheme. We are bringing a free Germany into democratic partnership and we are restoring freedom and independence to the German Federal Republic. The next step must be by equally peaceful means to try to bring about a reunification, so that the reunified Germany may take her place again with the same freedom and the same independence. I particularly welcome the statement of the noble Marquess that the Government are now taking the opportunity of seeking early discussions with the Soviet Union on the many outstanding problems which confront us all. There has been some discussion whether these proposals should proceed from the bottom—that is to say, starting with official talks; then perhaps reaching Foreign Minister level talks, and, finally, reaching talks at the summit—or whether they should proceed the other way round, starting off with the summit, in order to get the sort of spirit and tone which may lead to the working out of the details. I should like to ask whether Her Majesty's Government have in contemplation the one or the other. In short: do they contemplate and desire, in collaboration with their Allies, to bring about talks at the summit at the earliest possible moment?


My Lords, I desire to associate myself with the congratulations that this document deserves and has received. On the last day of this Parliament Germany enters into her sovereignty again. It is the end of one chapter, but it is also the beginning of a new one; and it is a new chapter in which we are trying the great experiment of getting Germany associated within the community of Western nations. For my part, I wish only to express the hope that the unity in this country, accompanied finally, but only after long travail, by unity in other countries which has now produced this result, will enable us to start on the next chapter with a similar united outlook, and that we shall not have to go through the long process of reaching agreement that we have had to go through during the last five years. We can take to ourselves great satisfaction that we have reached this point, though at one moment a year ago it seemed as if we should fail. We now need constructive effort both on the military and the economic planes. I hope that the force of this country will be exerted by general agreement and without these issues becoming Party issues.


My Lords, I am obliged for what the two noble Lords have said. I recognise the point made by the noble and learned Earl, that this was not exclusively the policy of Her Majesty's present Government. I think one of the most satisfactory things about it is that it has been the policy carried on by both Governments in this country over a period of years, and is now brought to a successful conclusion. As regards the question which the noble and learned Earl asked, about the form which these discussions would take, I think the position can most plainly be put in this way. As the noble and learned Earl knows, there are to be within the next few days meetings in Paris of the Foreign Secretaries. All that we are concerned about at this stage is that the discussions which take place with the Soviet Union shall be of the most effective kind. Whether, after consultations have taken place between ourselves and our friends in Paris, it is felt most advantageous to start with the Foreign Ministers' discussion, and then perhaps proceed to what is called a top-level discussion, or whether any of those steps can be omitted, must, I think, await a final decision after the discussions of the next immediate days have taken place. What we are concerned about is that the discussions, when they take place, shall be in the most effective and most promising form.


My Lords, I can well understand that, but may I press the noble Marquess a little further? Is it the policy of Her Majesty's Government to press for, and to try to get, top-level discussions at the earliest possible moment?


As I said, it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to get what we decide with our Allies is the most effective form of discussion.


Will the Government propose that form of discussion?


I think that must wait until my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and his friends have discussed it. What they decide will no doubt be carried out, but exactly what line my right honourable friend pursues in those discussions must, I think, be left for him to expound to his colleagues at those discussions and is not for me to do so in advance.

House adjourned at nineteen minutes before four o'clock.