HL Deb 11 February 1964 vol 255 cc474-5

2.48 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the Statement by the Foreign Secretary in another place that: "We do not believe in any federal form of political European Union or the cession of national sovereignty" means that, in their view, the already existing Western European Union should suffice to meet the political requirements of the United Kingdom and her immediate European neighbours.]


My Lords, Her Majesty's Government support the development of close political consultation and co-ordination of policy in Western European Union. But my right honourable friend's remarks did not mean that Her Majesty's Government are hostile to the idea of a European Political Union. If there are talks about a future political union of Europe we should naturally hope to take part in them. But there are no specific proposals for a European Union under discussion at present.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that reply, may I ask the Government whether they would not agree that, in this age of the thermo-nuclear bomb, too meticulous insistence on national sovereignty might be considered to be a little out-of-date, and could they not, on reflection, at least consider the possibility of accepting one day the system of European political unity which, though not federal in the American sense, would at any rate represent something more than a simple, old-fashioned alliance?


My Lords, as I said, there are at the moment no proposals before the Government. If there were proposals, no doubt Her Majesty's Government would take into account what my noble friend has said, in exactly the same way as they would take into account what I know the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition will now say.


My Lords, would my noble friend not agree that our aim in the political field should be a development in our co-operation with Europe towards a common will by thoughts and acts which are in harmony with those of Europe? Would he also not agree that Her Majesty's Government can work towards this goal without detriment to our fundamental interests?


My Lords, I think Her Majesty's Government made it plain on a number of occasions that they continue to believe that British participation in the political and economic development of Europe is in the best interests of the country. But how this can be achieved will be for Parliament to decide in the light of changing circumstances.


My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that specious and apparent unions which fall apart under the smallest stress are far more dangerous than frank and honest divisions?


My Lords, these are the sort of facts which have to be taken into account.


My Lords, some of us do welcome the recent statement by the Prime Minister on what used to be called "entry into the Common Market".