HL Deb 29 June 1966 vol 275 cc664-90

2.30 p.m.

LORD BOOTHBY rose to call attention to the relations between the United Kingdom and Europe; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have troubled your Lordships on this subject on several occasions in the past, and therefore this afternoon I propose to be as brief as possible and to try not to repeat myself. I am happy to know that the next speaker is to be my noble friend Lord Gladwyn, because his knowledge of this subject is extensive, and I am sure he will make a most convincing speech.

I do not want to go back on the past more than I can possibly help, but Sir Winston Churchill once remarked that the purpose of recrimination about the past was to ensure better action in the future. I think there is something in that. Our great chance to form a United States of Europe under our own leadership was between 1945 and 1950, when I suppose that we, as a nation, had a higher prestige than we had ever had before. We were the saviour of Europe. We could have done anything we liked. They longed for us to take the lead, and we could have had it on our own terms. I do not want to make any Party political point of this, because there was another ten years when we still could have had it, from 1950 to 1960.

So it is not untrue to say, I think, that we had fifteen years when we could have created a United States of Europe on our own terms, and led it. Yet throughout that period we firmly refused to do so. Let us face it: we have missed, for the time being, the European boat. I do not think there is now much point in swimming, because we shall not catch up with it. What we must find is another craft, and rather a fast one, to take us out to it. It seems to me that the only people who can find that craft for us are the French, and I think that they may do it.

It would be untrue to say that I hate quoting my own speeches—in fact, I rather enjoy it, because they are so frightfully good. But I must give a brief quotation from a speech which I made eighteen years ago in another place, on May 5, 1948, in which I said: It seems to me that the supreme object of our policy should surely be to build a democratic world order so strong that no State or combination of States will dare to challenge it.…Such a democratic world order can only be built up by the creation of a United States of Western Europe, in some form or other, in close association with the British Commonwealth, and with the United States of America upon whose material strength the entire structure must in the first phase depend.…The process must be one of spiritual growth, as well as material progress; and the end must be a series of organic acts of union. I see no other way. The choice that confronts hon. Members…is fundamental. I do not think it is obscure. It is the choice between international anarchy and the rule of law; between the rebirth or the doom of out Western civilisation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 450, col. 1382] I think that holds to-day just as much as it did then, and I further think that we still have time. I still hold the view that the only solution of this problem lies in some merging or pooling of national sovereignty, not so much the surrender as the chance to exercise by common consent certain defined sovereign powers which we sought for many years at Strasbourg, and which was resisted by successive British Governments.

I want now to make a brief quotation from the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein. All these quotations are from a very long time ago, and we have done nothing about any of them. But he said, when he was still in NATO: The task before the nations of the West is primarily political. Economic fusion and military strength will not be obtained until the political association between the group of nations concerned has first been defined. It has never been defined; and I am sure that the noble Viscount, not for the first time in his life, was absolutely right. My speech was nearly twenty years ago, and his was ten years ago. More recently, about five years ago, President de Gaulle said: The nations which are becoming associated in Europe must not cease to be themselves, and the path to be followed must be that of organised co-operation between States, while waiting to achieve, perhaps, an imposing confederation. I see nothing to be frightened about in that. Confederation is defined in the dictionary as: A permanent union of sovereign States for common external action. That is precisely what we want.

Now I want to say something that may not be too popular, but I hope that your Lordships will not mind. I think that President de Gaulle is a great man, one of the great men of our time. I think he was enormously underestimated during the war, both by President Roosevelt and by Sir Winston Churchill. I worked indirectly for him, under General Legentilhomme, for three years; and the more I saw of him the more deeply impressed I became. I remember an occasion when he had an angry argument with the Prime Minister, then at the zenith of his power. Sir Winston said to him, "Am I to understand, General, that you are prepared to make no concessions of any kind?" Without a flicker of hesitation, he replied "Prime Minister, at the moment I am too weak to make any concessions of any kind." I saw a flicker of admiration in Sir Winston's eye, as if he were saying to himself "Well, that was a pretty good one "—and it was. President de Gaulle is a most remarkable man. It seems to me that he is now going in the right direction.

Incidentally, I think at this point I may say that the only major row I ever had with Sir Winston was when I obtained the permission of Mr. Speaker in another place—which is rarely given—to move the Adjournment of the House on a definite matter of urgent public importance, on account of the refusal of His Majesty's Government (as it then was) to allow General de Gaulle to land in France after the successful invasion. Sir Winston came down to the House in a towering rage, and for the first time in my life I was really frightened of him. He was extremely angry, and David I Kirkwood came up to me afterwards and said "Bob, that man doesn't like you any more". But that was not true. It was de Gaulle he did not like; and Roosevelt liked him even less. I think that de Gaulle is quite magnanimous, because he knew how much they disliked him. What did they not inflict on him?—Giraud, Darlan, and Heaven knows what else! At one point I believe there was an idea that he should be put under house arrest, but the telegram was put in the wastepaper basket by Mr. Harold Macmillan. Anyhow, de Gaulle has got a good deal to feel aggrieved about what he calls the "Anglo-Saxons"; and I really do think that he is pretty magnanimous.

But much more important than the past is the present. Now, it seems to me, he is going in the right direction. As Churchill once said of Lloyd George: he is in the next field but one. First of all, he wants to end the dangerous partition of Germany, and sees how it can ultimately be done: by military disengagement, by seeing that there are no nuclear weapons in Germany in any circumstances, by recognition of the Oder-Neisse frontier, and by a confederation between West and East Germany. If the present dangerous partition of Germany is ever to be ended, that is the way it can be done—and the only way it can be done; and I think that de Gaulle realises it.

Secondly, he has for some years wanted to revise the command structure of NATO, and I believe that he is absolutely right. The Americans have consistently resisted this, forgetting that we are now living in the year 1966 and no longer in the year 1950. Thirdly, he wants to bring about a genuine détente and an expansion of trade between the countries of Eastern and Western Europe. Again he is right. Finally, he deplores—and again I agree with him—the senseless and useless war in Vietnam. The truth is that the Americans are still living in 1950, and a great part of the General—perhaps not the whole of him—is living in 1970, and there is much difference between the two attitudes.

What I am therefore asking for is a resumed dialogue between the United Kingdom and France: no more but no less. It can well begin next week, when the Prime Minister of France visits this country. It may also take quite a long time, and the time factor is now of great importance to us because, to begin with, we are at the moment economically very weak. By comparison, we were very strong in 1945–50, and even after that for some years. But to-day our rate of productivity, compared with that of Germany, France and Northern Italy, is quite deplorable. We are in an economic jam, we are in desperate debt, we are living on tick; and, as my old friend "Cassandra" wrote in the Daily Mirror the other day, The people of this country are in deep disarray. I think they are in disarray mainly on account of the fact that, for some extraordinary reason, a large number of them have decided not to work ever again. I have often reached that decision myself and I think it is an admirable one. But you cannot really do it. You have got to box on. The main concern of a lot of people in this country is to do as little work as possible. We all know industry after industry in which three men in this country are doing the job which one man is doing in the United States and Germany, and there is no use blinking that fact.

To go on with, the Commonwealth has now become something of a myth. It is no longer capable of acting as a political or an economic unit. If your Lordships' think these are very radical comments, I would commend your attention to some recent remarks made by Mr. Enoch Powell, who is not notably on the extreme left of the Tory Party. The problem of agriculture and the problem of butter and mutton from New Zealand can easily be solved. I have for a long time been of the opinion that we cannot continue indefinitely to maintain the system of support prices for agriculture in this country. Prices must be raised, at least a little, for the present system is too expensive. I know that that view is shared by Mr. Christopher Soames, the former Minister of Agriculture.

The problem of sterling is more difficult, because the Europeans may insist on setting up a European central bank and making a European currency the reserve currency of the world in addition to the dollar, so that we cannot maintain sterling alone as a reserve currency. Having regard to the difficulties we are having at the moment, this might well be another answer to our problems, and increase international liquidity.

Never mind about the economic details: what really matters now is the political solution. And the first thing we should do is to accept, without equivocation, the provisions of the Treaty of Rome. I think it is more important than anything else. It should be a general declaration of intent and, as such, will be understood by the Continent. I beg Her Majesty's Government to bend all their energies to this great task, because I have not the slightest doubt in my mind that the future of this country lies within Europe, and not outside it. I beg to move for Papers.

2.45 p.m.

LORD GLADWYN had given Notice of a Motion "To draw the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the desirability of making it clear that their objective is to enter the European Economic Community and, once having become a member, to work towards the gradual construction of a democratic Political Community where decisions will increasingly be taken in common by qualified majority vote in a Council of Ministers with the advice of a European Parliament and the assistance of an independent European Political Commission, such a Community to become a partner with United States of America within the framework of a sound and developing Western Alliance; and to move for Papers." The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am delighted to follow my old friend Lord Boothby. We have been hunting in couples for a long time, ever since 1921 when he succeeded me as Secretary of the celebrated Canning Club at Oxford. I am also very pleased to follow him when it comes to the subject of France. Nobody could desire more passionately than this ex-Ambassador a good, happy, close relationship with France—the closer the better. Nobody believes more than I do that unless we get some kind of close association there is not much hope for any of us in Western Europe. That is a fact which we should all appreciate.

As regards the character and attributes of that admittedly great man, General de Gaulle, I am not sure that I approve of his policies so much and so entirely as it seems my friend Lord Boothby does. My criticisms have been published and are generally known. But I must say that I am passionately looking forward to the moment—and it may not be too far removed: perhaps even next year—when the General, after his spectacular journeys all over the world, makes the shortest, and I think the most significant and most useful visit he could possibly make, which is to London to address the crowd in Trafalgar Square on the day when this country joins the Common Market. I hope and believe that that day may not be too far removed.

The trouble arises when it comes to the possibility, as some people make out—this was alluded to in the Press last Sunday, and elsewhere—of some separate deal between this country and France. It is apparently thought that, having got agreement in principle with France, all would be quite easy, because everybody else would accept it, and that if we two once came together the whole thing would go through, the economic difficulties would all be smoothed out, and that therefore within a few months we could be in the Common Market. I think that that view is optimistic and a little dangerous. You cannot resolve this great European equation solely on the basis of some deal between our two great countries, Britain and France.

It is true that both Britain and France are in a rather special position because, after all, we have both been nations longer than the other nations on the Continent. If we entered the Common Market, we and the French would not have any special position legally, but we should have a certain influence and a certain authority, because both of us have links with the outside world through the facts of history and the fact that we are old nations and have a certain prestige in the world. Both of us also are in the same boat in that we have no longer any empires left; we are, in a sense, much more on our own, and, therefore, despite the fact that we are old and ancient nations, we must adapt ourselves to the needs of the modern world. As I say, once we are in the Common Market, we may well have some special kind of influence, and I hope that we shall. But one thing is certain, and that is that the Common Market cannot be run on the basis of the leadership of one State, however ancient and important; namely, France. For the others just will not take it. One sees what happened when the French went back the other day from Luxembourg to Brussels. The other five, in other words, are not going to stand for what is known as a Europe of States, a complete veto on the part of one State, and therefore necessarily hegemony of one of the partners.

Just as that is not possible and not practical politics—and I think it is becoming more and more evident that that is not practical politics—so it will be evident, I think, that you cannot run a thing like this on the basis of a sort of dual hegemony—a kind of Anglo-French accord—where, once the French and British have reached agreement, everything goes through and the Germans have to salute and say, "That is O.K. We will do what you say." Some people think that is practical politics, but I just do not agree. I think it is very important, therefore, before we more nearly approach this great entity on our doorstep, that we should—as I note that the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, very properly said not so long ago—define collectively our political objectives. What do we want as a political end if we are successful, perhaps with French support, in coming into the European Economic Community? It is very important to know this. It is a question of principle which one cannot ignore. If you ignore it, you do so at your peril.

The simple point, as I see it, is that if the European Economic Community is to prosper and eventually be a power in the world, it can be only by the application, in some form or other, of the principle, not of nationalism but of supranationalism. That is a point which was admitted by my noble friend Lord Boothby in his speech. (He nods his agreement.) The very broad lines of such a system are given in the Motion which stands in my name on the Order Paper, and I should like to explain very briefly what I and those of your Lordships (whom I thank very much) and, indeed, over 150 Members of the House of Commons of all Parties who signed the declara- tion, the text of which your Lordships may have read in some organs of the Press this morning, believe.

We all believe that the acceptance by all concerned of some such concept as that outlined in my Motion is the only way to make genuine progress towards a united Europe. The real point is that, formed on any other basis, the Community will, as I have tried to explain, inevitably be dominated by one Power or another. The French may think that they still have a chance to dominate it, but I do not think there is any chance of that being possible, nor do I believe that any joint hegemony is possible. Unless we come in there is indeed every chance that it will he dominated by Germany, as the French are beginning to realise, unless, of course, it breaks up altogether, when we are all likely, in the long run, to come under the influence of the Soviet Union. If, therefore, we do go in, it must be on the understanding that nobody dominates. And if nobody dominates, what is the only alternative? It means that decisions must be taken increasingly in common, and that is what is meant by the term "supranationalism".

At this stage of the argument, the point is invariably made, when one talks to people, that supranationalism equals federalism, which equals the suppression of the Queen and the reduction of the status of this great Parliament to that of the State Legislature of Idaho. This is, no doubt, the reason why the Government as a whole (in contradistinction, I suspect, to some of its members) is extremely coy when it comes to discussing the probable political consequences of our joining the European Economic Community, and why there is constant allusion—more especially, perhaps, by the Prime Minister—to the absolute necessity of preserving inviolate our foreign policy and our national right to plan our economy, and so on.

These fears are groundless. The Queen will not be abolished if we enter the European Economic Community. Who knows, she might even one day be the Queen Bee of the new Community. Nor will this great Parliament be suppressed; nor its power materially limited. The point is that a British Government duly representing the majority of Parliament will, under the system I have described, as your Lordships have read in the Order Paper, be, as it were, in a continuous process of negotiation with its fellow members of the Community, aided by a new and, as I think, admirable device known as the Commission; and by a set of proved procedures designed to result not in the ultimate triumph of the will of one, but in the discovery of the will of all.

It is perfectly true that for such a system to work no member should possess the absolute right of veto. That is inherent in the thesis. In other words, after all the discussions have taken place; after all the conferences have been held between the Commission and the various delegations; after all the meetings between the national delegations and so on, and after the matter has been threshed out, there must in case of absolute necessity be a decision by what is called a qualified majority vote—namely one which might result in any member, including ourselves, finding itself in a minority of one and therefore being over-ruled.

In such an event, most unlikely though it would be if the system functioned in the way it should, and in the way I have tried to describe, the majority decision would just have to be accepted by the member concerned, whether it was France, Germany, Italy or us. And why not? If it really was considered that such acceptance of a majority decision would have absolutely intolerable consequences on this country, then this Sovereign Parliament could, if it so insisted—there is no doubt about that—take the country out of the Community. But, of course, it would not do anything of the kind. The advantages of membership of the Community would, over a period, be so enormous that there would be no question of any member wanting to secede. These things have happened in the past, but that they should happen in the future is almost inconceivable. This is the lesson of the "nationalistic" challenge made by France to the Community in June, 1965, on the question of the agricultural budget. There was what was called a compromise in Luxembourg, but the challenge was effectively withdrawn when France came back to Brussels six months later, in January of the present year.

It is quite true that since the early days of the European movement—and I am sure that my noble friend Lord Boothby will be the first to recognise this—many Europeans have sought to suggest that the transition from nationalism to supra-nationalism can be accomplished only if all concerned agree to form part of a directly elected European Parliament in Strasbourg, on which some kind of Executive would be made to depend. It is only by so doing, say these Europeans, that we can arrive at a really democratic system and avoid some kind of dictatorship of technicians and super-civil servants running the whole show without any real democratic control over them. Therefore, they want to initiate something which from the start would be very like the Constitution of the United States—namely, a directly elected House of Representatives; the equivalent of a sort of Senate, I suppose, formed by the Ministers; and an Executive of technicians or civil servants, presumably, presided over by a President of Europe who had also been elected by direct suffrage.

Such a system would, indeed, reduce this Parliament to the level of the State Legislature of Idaho, and there would be no obvious role in it for the Queen, who, of course, would presumably give place to some kind of elected Governor of England. But it must be recognised that if we entered the Community—and I hope we shall—such a system as this could, under the Treaty of Rome, be instituted only with our consent, and there would not, I suggest, be the faintest possibility of such consent being forthcoming. Even the conceivable arrival of a Front Populaire in Paris, after the departure of the General, which would no doubt be wedded to this idea of direct elections, could not possibly mean that it would be acceptable in point of fact to the French nation. Nor, in practice, would there be any enthusiasm for it, I believe, on the part of any of the other European Governments, no matter what might be said by pressure groups around them. Even direct elections to the Parliament of Europe, I think, would be highly unlikely to be approved by the various national Parliaments when it came to the point. One can imagine the effects on Parliament here if it were accepted.

Of course, there should be a Parliament, as there is now. It might even profitably be given, I think, greater powers than it has at present. Why not? And our own Parliamentarians would have an essential role to play in Strasbourg if we came in. But even if this Parliament were chiefly advisory, as I think it would be, there is no reason why the whole system should be thought of as undemocratic. Why should it be? After all, the Commissioners, who are held in such fear by General de Gaulle, would be chosen by the Governments for a period, and only for a period; they could, if necessary, under the Treaty of Rome, be dismissed by a given procedure; and the Ministers themselves would, of course, be chosen by the people. So the set-up simply cannot be said to be undemocratic.

The essential thing, though, on which I think everything else depends, is for those Governments to agree to be bound by a formal system for taking decisions in common, not only in the economic sphere but also, gradually of course, in the spheres of foreign policy and defence. When this happens, my Lords, a sort of mutation will have taken place. Out of a number of things one thing will have emerged. Admittedly, it may take a long time to develop, but this new thing will at least have been born, and that ancient promoter of wars, the nation State, conceived in Europe after the Reformation, nearly 500 years ago, will then have been tamed, not by conquest, as has so far been thought the only way in the troubled history of Europe, but by the exercise of human reason.

As I see it, this is what any Government in this country worthy of its salt ought to be fighting for. It is here, as I see it, that any Government ought to step in and take the lead. It may not hope to succeed immediately, but at least the object will have been clearly fixed, our general policy will have been made clear, as the noble and gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, apparently wishes, and the famous "rôle"for these islands will at last have been discovered. What is more, nothing could be better calculated to promote enthusiasm for our entry into the Community on the Continent of Europe and, my Lords, even in France, where the European idea has many more adherents than now appears so on the surface—manymore adherents, I assure your Lordships.

All the more so, I think, since it could be no longer pretended in France that Britain was not genuinely seeking membership, was remaining an island (as I think was said three years ago), or was in any event not prepared to abide by the Treaty of Rome. In Britain, too, a genuine and widespread enthusiasm for a European policy could be engendered, I am sure, if the essential political objectives—that is to say, the pursuit of peace by a limitation of the absolute power of the nation States—were clearly explained. This is what I hope the Government will one day explain alongside the economic advantages to be obtained by membership of the Economic Community.

My Lords, I have only a few more minutes, but perhaps I can make one or two more points. It is commonly said that this country is allergic to ideas; that in any case it is now wallowing in affluence and is quite unconscious of the hideous dangers which surround it, to which the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, so rightly drew attention; and that it is becoming increasingly parochial and bored with the great affairs of State. It may be so, but I must say I rather doubt it. Those who did any electioneering last March were usually impressed—and I heart his from all Parties—by the number of questions, at least, they heard about Europe. There is certainly a vague feeling that the Commonwealth is finished as a political conception—I repeat, as a political conception—and that we are now therefore very much on our own. I suggest that it needs only an inspired leader to produce a national conviction that really will change the face of international politics and lead us away from our present ridiculous nationalist bickerings and towards genuine co-operation for the construction of a new society in the West of Europe which, once established, will enable the Americans to go back to America and the Russians to Russia, and thus contribute, as nothing else, to world peace, to the reduction of tension and to the solution of all the major political problems of our time.

In a word, I think it is only if Britain joins the Common Market that this great conception, this new conception of the Community, can avoid a slow decline and eventual failure. People talk despondently about the collapse of ELDO and the constant danger to the Concord project owing to the strain on the finances of this country and, no doubt, other countries as well. What can you expect if Britain continues to be isolated, and nationalism remains the only foundation for the European Community? ELDO cannot function in practice unless we come into the Community, because at the moment there is no head to it. The thing goes haywire; a lot of people spend money for which there is no particular authority; they go on spending money, and there is nobody to appeal to. If we came into the Community there would be a definite political authority to take the matter in hand and to do it in the way in which it should be done. I repeat, without our coming into Europe ELDO cannot function properly. None of these things can come about in practice; no end to the cold war and the confrontation of the two super-Powers on the Elbe is conceivable; no fruitful partnership with America can form the basis of some new Western Alliance, unless Britain and some other European States sign the Treaty of Rome and agree to abide by its provisions.

For this to happen there must admittedly be some change of heart and, indeed, I think some change of policy in France; but there must also be a firm commitment to the Community idea in Britain. Once this happens; once it is apparent that this country, by a large majority, accepts, not federation, as I have described it, but the idea of taking all major external decisions in common in the Community way; and once octogenarian mutterings to the contrary in another place have been shown to be of no real political account, then it will be evident to all that the entry of Britain into Europe can no longer be delayed, and then—and, I fear, only then—shall we be able to start off on a new path which will lead us out of our present doubts and towards the golden opportunities of the twentieth century.

3.8 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships may perhaps have noticed in The Times of last Thursday that an amiable Japanese gentleman bought four whole pages in the centre of the newspaper, for which he paid between £5,000 and £6,000, in order that he might des- cribe at suitable length a plan for creating a Paradise on earth which had occurred to him while he was fishing. I thought this plan was rather more entertaining than the Government's National Plan and not much less likely to be achieved. It included the abolition of unnecessary family obligations, the ending of the war in Vietnam, the separation of young men and women under 21 so as to protect them against the danger of falling in love with each other too soon, and the conversion of all vacant spaces in every city into car parks. It did not, however, include—


My Lords, if the noble Earl will forgive my interrupting, it seemed to me an excellent plan.


My Lords, it may be better than the Government's National Plan, but it did not include the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community. I could not help thinking that if only the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, instead of the Japanese fisherman, had bought those four pages in The Times he would not have omitted the Common Market from his earthly Paradise.


I cannot get your point.


Never mind. I do not think he would have left it out. Also he would have had enough space at his disposal to tell us how the affairs of the world in general ought to be arranged at even greater length than he has done in his Motion on the Order Paper. I always support the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, when he condemns the Prime Minister for the reiteration (as many of us think, the unnecessary reiteration) of the Labour Party's five conditions about the Common Market because that may very likely have the effect of making the existing six members of the Community think that we are trying to undermine the principles of the Treaty of Rome so that no negotiations are ever likely to begin. But I think that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, must be careful not to make a similar mistake himself; for it seemed to me that all these supplementary points that he has raised in his Motion, and upon which he has elaborated, although they are very interesting, and some of them, no doubt, very good, are not the kind of questions which ought to be decided on in advance or made a pre-condition of our entry. They might conceivably have the effect, if we try to use them in that manner, of putting off rather than encouraging collaboration from those with whom we want to negotiate.

But I am much more anxious to agree than to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. When he said that he and the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, always hunt in couples he reminded your Lordships that Lord Boothby had succeeded him as Secretary of the Canning Club at Oxford. I thought he might have gone on to mention that it was I who succeeded Lord Boothby. Now here we all are, speaking one after the other; but as for hunting in couples, I am the only one of the three who has continued to be a Tory—which was, after all, the purpose of the Canning Club.

The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, referred to the growing support for the Common Market in this country, to the number of people who had signed a declaration. I think he is right: it is true that support in Britain is growing. I know that some of your Lordships—and, indeed, some of our friends in all Parties—do not share the view that I hold: that our entry into Europe would bring immeasurable benefits to humanity and particularly to human freedom from want and from fear in all parts of the world. I know there are some who do not agree with that in particular; but it is the main and basic reason why I am anxious that we should join the Common Market at the earliest possible moment. There have always been some Conservatives (though I think the number is diminishing) who fear that a united Europe, with us in it, might mean the end of the Commonwealth. That feeling was most eloquently expressed by the late Leader of the Labour Party, Hugh Gaitskell, in October, 1962, although he had taken a less unfavourable view not very long before. I think it possible that if he had lived he might have done so again.

The Commonwealth formed the main subject of those long eighteen months of negotiations when the present Leader of our Party, Ted Heath, conducted the talks at Brussels with so much patience, perseverence and courage. For the African, Asian and Caribbean members of the Federation he got the most favourable agreements from the other members who were negotiating with him. Indeed, some of them, like Nigeria, have since the negotiations came to an end been trying to make their own terms to get in on their own accord. The tough problems are, of course, always those of the white Commonwealth. To put it in the shortest possible phrase, I would say that the two main points of difficulty were New Zealand butter and Canadian wheat. He did get an agreement on principle on these things, and it is my firm belief that he would have won a final agreement upon them in the course of the next month or two if the negotiations had not been ruthlessly broken off. Therefore, I do not think it is necessary for anyone to claim that the Commonwealth is likely to be let down or abandoned if we try once more to get in. We all know what problems there are; and we know, as the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, said, that they can be solved.

My Lords, I should say that at the moment the two chief difficulties to be overcome are the attitude of the present Government and the attitude of France; and the two things which need to be done are that our own Government should clarify their mind on the subject and that France should have a sincere and genuine desire that we should join. I want, not to criticise the Government, but to help them to move in the right direction in this matter. We have often quizzed the noble Earl, Lord Long ford (whose own ideas on this subject, I think, are fairly satisfactory), because the emphasis with which he spoke was not always similar to the emphasis of the pronouncements made by some of his colleagues. I want to encourage the likelihood that they can all be reconciled, not scold him about the apparent divisions of opinion.

But the truth is this: it would be so much better and it would make our attitude so much clearer to the world if the Labour Party could now agree to drop those five conditions quietly—or, if not quietly, then noisily; but, anyhow, drop them. So far as these five conditions are good—and, of course, they contain a great deal of goodness and sense—they are platitudes; they are generally agreed. If you mean by those five conditions that we ought to try to mitigate the difficulties in changing from one agricultural system to another; that we ought to try to make arrangements which will not hurt the Commonwealth; that we ought to try not to tread on the toes of those nations who are sensitive about their sovereignty and so on, then these are all platitudes. They do not need to be said. It is unnecessary to say them. They are merely the grammar of negotiation.

However, if you mean, and they can sometimes be interpreted to mean, that you want to break the principle of the common external tariff or the agricultural policy as laid down by the Treaty of Rome (and they can be interpreted to mean that) then, even though you may not want them to mean that, they may have the effect of preventing those negotiations which you desire to bring about. Therefore, please let us drop them; or please let us try to say as little as we can about them.


My Lords, I am sure that the noble Earl is absolutely sincere in this; he wants to be helpful and not critical. But would he make no conditions at all in advance? Would he say to our friends with whom we have to negotiate that we are ready to come in without any conditions at all? Or, if that is not his position, would he indicate the sort of conditions that he himself has in mind?


My Lords, it is not necessary to say anything about conditions at all. We simply say that we want to come in. Everybody knows that you cannot come in without any negotiations, and in those negotiations you make conditions. But do not make a parade of it, as if you were a sort of special case, because then you will only excite suspicion that you want to under-mine the Treaty of Rome, even although in reality you may have no such intention.

I know that it may be purely a question of emphasis. I do not know whether any of your Lordships during the Whitsun Recess saw the B.B.C.2 television programme about this. I could not, because I happened to live in a place which does not receive B.B.C.2 television, but the programme lasted for two hours and all the stars performed. George Brown, Ted Heath, Jo Grimond—the whole lot came in. I have a transcript of it here and it is well worth reading, even if you did not see the programme. It rather surprised me that Mr. Grimond, the Leader of the Liberal Party, in the course of this television star performance, started off by saying that he did not think we could get in in five years, that it would take more than five years to do it. I thought that a little pessimistic. However, Mr. George Brown hoped we could get in (and it is a good thing, I think, that he said this) before the end of the present Parliament.

There is just one sentence from Mr. Brown's script that I should like to quote to your Lordships on this difficult question of agriculture which has been so much repeated by the Prime Minister, and I think it is possible to reconcile the two things—Mr. Brown's setting and the Prime Minister's setting. Mr. Brown said that we should find it exceedingly difficult to go wholly over in any short space of time to the sort of system which operates in some fields and to which the French are attached—I do not think that anybody will quarrel with that. "But", he said, I believe that over a period we could arrange for an assimilation of our system with the Common Market system, high prices and high levy system, and that it would not be impossible to make arrangements. I wish that the Prime Minister would say that, too, and that the Government would co-ordinate their manner of expression so as not to make it thought that we want to come in without accepting the agricultural policy which has now been agreed on by the Six.

In our debate a week ago my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford, in a very admirable maiden speech, pressed the Government to agree that they should change our agricultural policy to a levy subsidy system, because that would obviously make negotiations easier, and would save a vast amount of time when we came to discuss these matters with the Six. The reply of the noble Lord, Lord Champion (I think it was probably about as far as he would be permitted to go), was …I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford…that these points deserve, and are receiving, consideration by the Government. They must do. We cannot say that because we like the 1947 Act, because we are still working the 1957 Act, this is right for ever and ever, amen. What we must do is to be considering always whether there is a better way of doing this job of securing for the industry a reasonable degree of prosperity, at the same time, perhaps, bringing certain advantages to this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 275, (No. 24), col. 386; 22/6/66.] Well, that is pretty vague and non-committal, but perhaps it is better than a slap in the eye with a cold fish. I quite recognise that it is at least as much as the noble Lord, Lord Champion, would have been able to say. My Lords, I hope that the present Government will soon be able to make a more unequivocal, more firm and general declaration about their intentions.

I must say just a word, my Lords, about the French position. I agree with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in general about the desirability of co-operation with France. At the moment we have the disagreement with France about the military arrangements of NATO, and I think the Government have taken the right line and done what is right in this disagreement. But I think I should add that it does not follow, I do not think that it has followed or will follow, that because the French, as we believe, have made this mistake, or taken this course with which we disagree, they are trying to weaken or destroy the strength of the Western Alliance. I do not think that they are, and I do not think that the visit by General de Gaulle to Russia has given the slightest encouragement to any hopes which the Russians might perhaps have been entertaining that they might use this difference of opinion in order to break up NATO.

I believe that General de Gaulle went to Russia for essentially the same reasons as those for which every British Prime Minister for the last ten years or more has sought to go there: because we think it so important to break down the barriers between East and West, to encourage not only more cultural relations and exchange of visits, but the liberalisation of trade and a general economic and political rapprochement and coming together again between East and West Europe. I think that is de Gaulle's objective, which is similar to ours; and I think that one of the best and most significant things which has happened since the ideological and military division of Europe into two camps is that the President of the French Republic should publicly attend Mass in the Catholic Church at Leningrad. I think that is a very hopeful sign for peace and perhaps or the future of humanity.

My Lords, next week, I think, or very soon, the French Prime Minister is coming here, and I hope—and I am sure it is the intention of the Government—that every opportunity will he taken to improve our relations with France, although the Government have not always acted in that direction. They have made two of the most monumental errors in the last eighteen months in their behaviour, first over the Concord, and now, more lately, over ELDO; so tremendous, almost incredible, that I still can hardly believe that it happened, or that they made such mistakes. And the French, or the French newspapers, on both occasions seemed not really to believe it either. In a certain way they were right, because in both cases the Government retracted, or did their best to retract, their mistakes, and have tried, so far as they can, to make amends. But I beg them not to make a third "clanger" of this kind, because, even if they do decide to withdraw afterwards, it does not give the best impression about our reliability as a friend and collaborator

This morning there is a report of what happened at the W.E.U. meeting in Brussels yesterday. I tried to see if I could get an official transcript of it, but I could not, so I use the best report I can see, the one in the Guardian, which seems to be fuller than that of any other paper. I shall accept, of course, any correction at once, if this report is not accurate. It says: M. Jean de Broglie, the French Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, said that nothing could better crown the success of the E.E.C. than the inclusion of Britain and the other EFTA countries. He was quoted as saying: The stage for stating intentions is over. Negotiations at diplomatic level may now begin. I think that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who represented us at the meeting, made an entirely appropriate reply. The report in the Guardian says: Mr. Thomson, the Minister for European Affairs, said that the political will to join E.E.C. now existed in Britain. He went on to make what I think was an unexceptionable statement about our position in the matter, hoping that negotiations might ensue.

We all remember that at the last meeting of W.E.U., in March, the French delegate made a statement which caused a certain amount of excitement, but it turned out not to amount to very much. So we must be cautious and patient about this and not leap to conclusions too soon. But I think that we ought to try always to take these statements at their face value and act on them as well as we can. We cannot, of course, renew the formal discussions until there have been a great many diplomatic negotiations in order to make sure that we are not going to have a failure a second time.

We must discuss, first of all, what our difficulties are and get some assurance in advance that the French really want to to have us in. That, I think, is generally agreed. But what we should do now—and perhaps the visit of the French Prime Minister may be an occasion for doing it—is to make, not a number of disconnected ministerial statements, but one coherent statement on behalf of the Government, declaring that we desire at the earliest opportunity to enter the European Economic Community and sign the Treaty of Rome.

We must be patient. We must not expect that any declaration of this kind will immediately be followed by the kind of action we are ultimately hoping for, but I think that now is the time to make this declaration of our intentions. We should make it without stating in advance any conditions, because everybody knows what are the conditions, the kind of things we should have to discuss if serious negotiations begin. Everybody knows these already and by elaborating on them now we shall only cause misunderstanding. So let us make a plain unadorned declaration of our desire to do this and to meet other members of the Community as soon as they are ready to invite us to join and discuss details. Let us make that declaration, neither in the tone of a beggar nor in the tone of a bully, but as a reasonable man talking to his friends, believing that reason will persuade them that it is not only to our interests to join the Community, but also to the interests of France that we should do so, that it is also to the interests of Europe that we should do so and, most of all, to the interests—perhaps it might be vital to the survival—of the whole Free World.

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, I too have read the newspapers this morning and wondered, in regard to the report to which the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, has referred, whether the proposers of the Motion in front of us would call off the hunt, whether it be a hunt in couples or in threes. But as they have not decided to do so, perhaps I too may be allowed to say, as they have done, that I support the general objective of our going into the European Economic Community put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in his Motion—that is, that it would be to our national advantage to do so provided that we can secure the essential "platitudes"—as I think the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, would prefer to call them. Whether we call them conditions or platitudes does not seem to me to matter very much. But let that rest. I do, however, think they are important and I do not believe that we should disregard the Commonwealth and our associates in EFTA in quite the way in which my noble friend Lord Boothby appeared at one moment to suggest we now could do.

Where I differ, and differ regretfully but sharply, from some is in thinking that this sensible objective can be properly furthered by continually seeking to harry Her Majesty's Government, of whatever complexion, into making fresh statements and declarations of intent every few weeks. On the contrary, I hold the view that this is against the national interest and is in danger of becoming a sort of good custom which could corrupt the world. The French this morning, apparently, have said through their representative that the intentions phase has come to an end. Well, can we not accept that?


My Lords, will the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting? I can assure him that there is no question of a hunt of any kind this afternoon, either on the part of myself or on the part of my noble friend Lord Gladwyn. We do not propose to divide the House and no hunting is being done at all.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Boothby speaks for me.


My Lords, I am glad to hear that. However, the word was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. It is one thing for individuals and associations to expound in this country the case for joining the Common Market. There can surely be nothing against that. There perhaps might be more doubt about the advocacy of a particular form of European political community which does not now exist, which is a matter of controversy amongst the Six themselves, but which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and others would like to come about. If you want to get in, perhaps there is more doubt about that, especially with the French Prime Minister in the offing—more doubt, though not necessarily any strong objection. But it is quite another thing to try to force Her Majesty's Government, as things are now, to tie themselves hand and foot, not only to joining the Market without any accompanying platitudes, but to what line they would take if once they got in.

For what is the position since our last discussion here a few weeks ago? Her Majesty's Government have appointed a Minister of State for European Affairs. If he will allow me, as an ex-official in his Department, to say so, Mr. Thomson has all those Scottish qualities of persistence and judgment to know what the Market will take, to know what is politically possible and what is not.

So much for deeds. Now, in words, since the noble Earl the Leader of the House made a statement to us on the position of Her Majesty's Government, both Mr. Thomson and Mr. George Brown have reinforced and reiterated what he said. They may not have gone quite so far as some noble Lords would like them to do, but for a Government who have responsibility, and so have to be careful of public commitments, these statements made the general intention of Her Majesty's Government clear; and, in advance of negotiation, I for one, would not have thought it possible to be more precise.

Now we have the first response from the French; that is, that the phase of intentions is passed. This being the case, what can be achieved by pressing for more and more statements from Her Majesty's Government? I can see no advantage; I can see even positive harm: harm to our self-respect in our own eyes, and harm to our standing in the eyes of others. I ask noble Lords to consider this most seriously. No one, I am sure, wants us to cheapen ourselves. Yet what is the spectacle that Her Majesty's Government are asked to provide? Is it of Britain—for constitutionally they must speak for us all—like some disconsolate and ageing spinster, repeatedly professing her passion, and at the same time giving notice in public of the way she is going to behave in private if ever her suit is accepted? This is not consonant with our need, our interest or our dignity.

And if the Government were to fall for this pressure, what would be the probable effect of such a showing on the Six? We should, of course, all rejoice that these ancient and new countries, relatively to Western Europe, have recovered their independence and prosperity. But in considering this aspect we might, not without justice, remind ourselves that not one of the Heads of State or Governments of these countries would be where they are now if it had not been for the exertions of Britain some 20 to 25 years ago. In the light of that history, I should myself surmise that the probable effect of such a spectacle on our friends among the Six would be sorrow that a one-time bulwark of Europe should so abase herself, and so unnecessarily. Among others, who are less truly our friends, there might well be amused contempt, and a contempt that we should have brought upon ourselves.

It is a commonplace in foreign affairs that we are apt to judge others by our own standards. By this same token, does anyone imagine that in similar circumstances General de Gaulle would act as it is now suggested that Her Majesty's Government should do? Would it be conceivable that the General would think this compatible with the dignity of France?

But I must not weary your Lordships. I have no idea what the noble Earl the Leader of the House will say in answer to this debate, except that he will say it with his usual courtesy and I must ask him to forgive me for my apparent discourtesy in that I cannot wait to hear what he has to say, because I have a personal pressing appointment which cannot be kept except this afternoon and outside the Palace of Westminster. In substance, I know very well the line that I hope the noble Earl will take. It is to tell us that, pending some negotiation, Her Majesty's Government have nothing more to say in public. The Six know quite enough about Her Majesty's Government's position to make progress possible as soon as they want this. I submit that it is as misleading to suggest that some further public statement will open any door any wider as it is to believe that the Five will kick France out in order to let us in.

If, my Lords, I have put these points too bluntly, I hope that your Lordships will excuse me. But what is at issue here this afternoon is not, I suggest, some kind of educational teach-in about the Common Market, nor yet a competition to prove who is "a better European", whatever that may mean. If it be geography, well, we are part of the European land mass. It it means what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, says it should mean, then General de Gaulle is not a good European. If we accept General de Gaulle's definition, it is whatever he says it should be. This way lies confusion and, I submit, a desert of the spirit. It can well be left for some television quiz. What we are here dealing with is the proper conduct of the national interest, and, besides that, the standing of Britain in the world. This must be my excuse, if excuse there should be, for the plainness of my speech.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I should like to say that my noble friends and I are not harrying or hunting the Government. We are not even asking the Government to make some political announcement. What we are doing is to ask the Government to take into consideration that there is a powerful body of opinion in this country which, though it wants to come into Europe, only wants to come into a certain kind of Europe, and which consequently hopes that the Government will not succumb to blandishments to accept the principles of a "Europe of States", whether this may be thought to be in the interests of France or anybody else.


My Lords, before the noble Lord replies to that, may I say that this is clearly one of the most important issues confronting this country and the world to-day, and if Parliament cannot discuss it, who the hell can?


May I say at once, in reply to both of those observations, that discussion is one thing, but the Government are being pressed—and I have heard it this afternoon—to make a further statement of their intent. This is what I suggest is not now in the national interest.