§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Debate further resumed.
§ LORD GORE-BOOTH
My Lords, in rising at this moment, I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I feel a little as though I were trespassing on two battlefields of a friendly kind, where the smoke is still swirling around, not to mention the earth-moving equipment, the submarines and so on. But I will try to collect my thoughts as quickly as possible and present to your Lordships something coherent, even if it is not particularly novel. May 1 just add one word to the many expressions of sympathy to France at this moment in the loss of M. Pompidou. Not only will M. Pompidou have an honourable place in French history but he will also have one in British history, because whatever one may think about our membership of the European Community, it was M. Pompidou who gave us the possibility of joining it.
If I may, I should like to begin with a look at the map and then go on to a few points about the European Atlantic relationship and, unavoidably, to a point or two concerning the events of the last few days in regard to the unity of Europe. First, I should like to thank my colleague on the Cross-Benches, the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, for bringing up this subject at so topical and opportune a time. If the sentiments I express appear to be very similar to his, I can assure the House that we have not broken the good Cross-Bench convention of non-collusion.
If we look at a map of the world, perhaps we might begin with the Eurasion heartland, with the two Communist empires. We start with China, at the moment pursuing a quiet, consolidatory policy so far as the outside world is concerned, and also strengthening its nuclear capacity at a great rate. This has a certain effect on the policy of the other Communist empire, that of the Soviet Union, because it has a certain effect on Soviet attitudes towards Western Europe—attitudes which are both positive and negative, which I shall come to in a moment. In the meantime, the Soviet Communist empire continues its existence as a Power in which the constituent members of the empire have no independence of their own because all the 952 orders come from Moscow. Therefore, although, as the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts has so rightly pointed out. we are in a better détente situation than we were at the time of the Cold War, this is largely because the late Mr. Khrushchev had at least assured the world that in the ideological conflict the use of force was in fact useless. As against this, we are still in the presence of a country which continues to increase its armaments at great speed, to station its armed forces in different places round the world; and that still confirms what so many noble Lords have already said, that the North Atlantic Alliance must remain for the time being a cornerstone of the West's foreign policy.
We then come, when we have looked at those two parts of our world, to look at Africa and Latin America, non-committed in the aggregate. We find ourselves left with the peripheral countries of great importance like Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and we find ourselves with a central bloc—if you regard the Atlantic at the moment as a lake rather than an ocean—of the United States and Western Europe. If we then separate that aggregation into the United States on the one hand and Western Europe on the other, we have to come to the conclusion that Western Europe is going to need the United States' presence as well as support in a potential defence for a considerable time to come. Therefore all of us must welcome the assurances which the present Government have given to the importance they attach to the connection with the United States and, conversely, as Mr. Callaghan put it, the impossibility of imagining a Europe exclusive of United States' co-operation.
May I now continue on the matter of why things seem to have gone somewhat wrong lately, and whether there is anything we can do about it. I mean by that, of course, the transatlantic dialogue. In order to instruct myself a little on the difficulties of this, just after the Election I paid a week's listening visit to Brussels and Paris. If the House will allow me, I will put in a footnote to that point: that having done part of this tour by plane and part by rail. I cannot wait for a fast train which will take me from the middle of London to the middle of Paris—the quicker the better, and the better it will be for the environment, too, in terms of aircraft noise.
953 The difficulty, as we all know, of this position is the attitude of France. I took very special steps to try to get to the bottom of why in this matter we always seem to have the French in a minority of one. It emerged most clearly in this way. First, there is no doubt that our French friends have obsessed themselves with a kind of nightmare view of the United States. The famous book by J. J. ServanSchreiber, Le défi A méricain, The American Challenge, and other things have built up a psychosis in France that France is bound to be hurt by any intimate contact with the United States. That has developed itself further into what has become in many French eyes a philosophy; and the philosophy is that we must build up Europe as it were behind shuttered windows, and in due course when all of us have agreed among ourselves on what Europe is to be, then we can open the shutters and say, "Here we are" and we start talking to the United States. This is all in the intellectual name in France of Cartesian logic, in honour of the famous French classical philosopher, Descartes. Perhaps the best comment on that is the crisp remark which I had from another Latin friend who said, "I am just as Latin as my French friends, just as good a Cartesian, but I do not agree with a word of it."
In this context I can only say that the Government should continue the laborious job of trying to convince our French friends that in this they are wrong. This is difficult (I have tried it myself, without the slightest success, in my professional capacity) and it is also a difficult matter of French internal policy into which I need not go at this time. But there is a very obdurate sense behind this and there is no alternative but to go on patiently being thankful that the French remain within the Alliance, and try to convince them that at least some of their fears are groundless, and that others in Europe can maintain a perfectly good independence without shutting their doors against the United States.
One of the difficulties of this has been—and it has been mentioned—that Dr. Kissinger for once displayed faulty timing in trying to launch a doctrinal appeal to Europe in April, 1973, on the Atlantic front. It should have been understood that whereas a quarter of a century ago an appeal of that kind from Washington 954 would have had great and immediate effect on us, that time has passed. This is not necessarily to the credit of the Europeans, but it is a fact. If there is going to be this universal faith in NATO and a continuous improvement in NATO in one way or another, it has to be done by the more laborious process of quiet consultation.
This brings me to the point on which I was glad to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, said. If he had not said it, I was going to suggest it as my own idea. There should be research into the matter of machinery of consultation. Consultation is not easy; even between two Powers who agree, things get forgotten, misdirected or blurred, and there is a great deal of hard feeling over what may be purely a mechanical mistake. The machinery of eight countries consulting one, or vice versa, is going to be a very intricate one and is going to involve a great deal of mutual trust. If it is to be prompt and satisfactory it may involve among the eight or nine countries a certain delegation of authority, whether to the Secretary-General of NATO (who is also chairman of the NATO Council) or to a small group. It is easy to say that in future we will consult, but it must be done right, and I welcomed what the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, said about the thought which is being given to this matter.
If the transatlantic understanding is to remain firm, of course the question of what we ourselves do in the matter of Defence should be satisfactorily regulated and decided. Anyone who watched the Panorama "programme" on television last Monday evening will be grateful to the B.B.C. for letting us have a little longer of President Nixon without the benefit of Watergate, because he explained the point which the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, has mentioned in the American political context. It is not that if Europeans do not play their part the United States Government will say, "We have had enough of you". What he said was—and in American political terms this is a fact—"If I do not get support in a sufficient degree from Europe, I cannot present a Bill to Congress to which they will agree in continued support of European Defence." That is a political fact in American Constitutional terms.
955 Therefore, to that I must append a slight warning to the Government that they will have to be very careful about any ideas of reductions in the Defence budget. It may be possible to explain that whatever reductions they make will have no effect on the essentials of our contribution to European Defence. This does not necessarily mean, in geographical terms, confinement to European waters, but it will be important, after the emphasis which the Government have placed on their relations with the United States, that there should not be immediately a reduction in some part of the Defence budget which seems to contradict what they have been advocating on the political side.
One must inevitably turn to the events of the past few days, if only because it is no good talking about a European-American community of purpose if we are unable to participate in a real unity in Europe. I purposely shirk the question of what "unity" in that context means. I mean it in the general sense that if there is disunity in Western Europe, then there is not much sense in talking about concord between America and Western Europe. The Americans would not thank us in the very least, even in their present-day sober mood, if we could be held responsible for "busting" the Community. That is absolutely clear.
Before I make a couple of criticisms, I should certainly like to pay one compliment. I think all of us must have been impressed, and I should like to mention it here, at the very successful mission performed in Brussels by Fred Peart, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Mr. Peart conducted this mission with great expertness and discretion, and undoubtedly great pertinacity. He came back with an extremely good result. I think that that particular negotiation, apart from being a tribute to the Minister himself, also showed that when approached in the right way there is quite a lot of give among our Community partners when they are convinced that there is some real British interest at stake over which they must help. I am quite sure that they will continue to feel that way.
I come to the more difficult part of what has happened; namely, whether 956 anything that was done this week could have been done somewhat differently. When I last intervened in your Lordships' House on the Queen's Speech, I modestly suggested that the great trap in the way of what the Government might be going to do was to forget that we are dealing with the Community from within the Community at present. We are not talking to "them"; we are talking to "us" from our position as a member. I had hoped perhaps that notice might be taken of that suggestion. But I regret to say that if one reads carefully the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary's speech in another place about foreign affairs, in the very first paragraph he speaks about, "our relations with the Community".
I am also sorry—but I have to agree with the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, in this matter—that again when you listened on the air possibly owing to the tenseness of the situation, there was a tendency all through to talk about the Community as "them". The Community, as I say again, are not, "them", they are our friends and partners to whom we owe some warmth, some friendship which we should express even in the middle of bargaining with the utmost polite ferocity. That is the tone in which these things should be done. I have every sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, but the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary said that he is not negotiating with Nottinghamshire, he is negotiating with France, Germany and the rest. There should be a particular spirit about this negotiation because after all, and this was questioned on the programme, too, the Community have accomplished great things; to mention only one, the Common External Tariff which is a most remarkable accomplishment.
Further, if I may go on to my last points which concern the White Paper. First, perhaps in a slightly less serious vein, I found page 2 of the White Paper a little bizarre. I should just like to suggest to the Conservative and Liberal Leadership that they make sure that their Election Manifestos are communicated to the same addresses, and perhaps through the usual or unusual channels there could be an exchange of addresses. But apart from whether there is a propriety about this, I find that the White Paper is a little devalued by a load of words from the Cliché Secretariat like, 957 "root and branch", and, "draconian", and so on. Let us dispense with that. There seemed to me to be two major faults which I hope that in any further expression of British opinion may be avoided. One is that there does seem from the White Paper to be no recognition—I may have missed it—that possibly other people have problems with the workings and the economics of the Community—because they do. If on some particular point we have a problem about prices, they may have a problem about employment. We really must expressly recognise this all the time if in the process of negotiation we are going to get give and take on both sides, and not simply claim privilege on our side.
One other point. Much play is made in the White Paper of our lower rate of growth than that of some Continental countries. I wonder whether Ministers are aware what that implies? It implies that not only have we a lower growth rate now, but that we shall go on having a lower growth rate than France and Germany and others in the future. I just refuse to make that admission. I am sure we can do better than that. Our arguments should not be founded on a proposition of that kind. Particularly do I find this embarrassing when the day after the Statement we are saying to ourselves not only have we got a lot more coal, which the continentals have not got, but we are going to have a lot more oil than even we thought before. The two propositions are not, as the French say, conciliable.
I therefore plead very strongly with the Government for a more give-and-take attitude towards this matter of expressions which does not—and I repeat it again with all emphasis—preclude the hardest of bargaining when the bargaining begins. There are all sorts of difficulties about this. Perhaps I may make one very serious remark about the duty in a situation like this of whoever is the spokesman for this country, be it the Foreign Secretary or one of his deputy Ministers—and I do not think the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, will disagree with me on this. The post of Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has very great privileges and a certain flexibility of operation which his colleagues do not enjoy. As against this he has one terrible cross to bear; that is that on occasion he may be convinced that the long- 958 term and real interests of his country are such to contradict in some measure the urgent short-term feelings of a number of the people. That is his cross. It is important to bear in mind that this may happen to anyone who is speaking for this country in a context of this kind.
Perhaps my final point is fortified in saying these words of muted criticism, if your Lordships wish. It is without reference to any Party, any individual, but I just worry very much about a tendency we seem to be developing in this country of speaking rather loud and thinking rather little. I was hoping very much that we would have a little more of an affirmative reply about the Channel Tunnel. I am happy that the reply is not negative. But we really must, in our small cares which are very real, not lose the ability to think big. We probably shall have to cut down on this or that big project, probably Maplin, in the present financial situation. But we must not look at projects and say that because they are big we cannot undertake them, because that is not the spirit of our people and it is not the way we are going to get out of our present depressions. So, I hope, finally, that we may look at our relations with the United States, our relations with Europe, and our relations among ourselves, with a certain, not disproportionate, but genuine bigness of thought and ambition.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ LORD ARDWICK
My Lords, the death in office of an executive President is always an event of great historical importance in the life of a nation; for a nation with such a system loses at once its Sovereign citizen and its chief political leader. The grief is not increased thereby, of course, but the shock to the nation is twofold. So to-day we must stand apart for a moment from our unhappy relations with France and express our sympathies in the death of President Pompidou. Those of us who believe it was right for Britain to join the European Community must recall (as the noble Lord who has just spoken recalled) that it was he, as President of France, who pronounced the final, Yes. Yet his death, which he so bravely faced, and which came at too early an age, may have a constructive effect; for there is now likely to be a halt in European development over several months. That 959 will give time for the new Government here to become more familiar with the day-to-day practice of the Community; perhaps to become more sensitive about its prejudices, and to think out in greater and realistic detail the reforms proposed by Mr. Callaghan two days ago. It will also give time for the more ardent Europeans to get over the anger they were expressing yesterday.
I think that some noble Lords opposite were taking the speech, and the criticisms of the speech from Europe, rather too simply. The last thing the Europeans were expecting from us was a humble address beseeching the nations of the Community to make life easier for Britain. They expected something rough indeed. M. Jobert, more like a journalist than a politician, wrote his answer on Saturday to the speech Mr. Callaghan was going to make on the Monday. I myself, reading the speech, thought it was firm but extremely courteous in its whole approach. Some of the criticism in the Press to-day is absolutely fantastic. One French newspaper calls Mr. Callaghan, Tartuffe. It is the first time I have heard a man who is accused of being too candid called a hypocrite. Then there is Le Monde, usually so well disposed to us and so balanced in its judgment, which regards my right honourable friend the Minister for Trade, Mr. Peter Shore, as being like Marshal Malinovsky, sitting dominating Mr. Khrushchev. I do not think that or that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary felt that he was being dominated in this way.
However, one must admit that the Europeans, even if they were just reacting in the expected way with the expected rhetoric, were rather upset in the way that many members of my Party in the past were upset when we made an attempt to revise Clause IV of the Labour Party constitution: a clause which, I may remind noble Lords opposite, embodied the dream of the complete Socialist Utopia. It was an attack on a sacred myth and, looking back on it, many of us now see that we made a great political error in pressing for a pragmatic revision. Better to let myths, whether they are Socialist myths or European myths about federal union, die a natural death, or he strengthened and made into a reality by the course of events.
960 Much of what my right honourable friend said at Luxembourg was of course exemplary, especially his insistence that he wants the negotiations to succeed. And he showed some care about semantics, too. He knew that the word "renegotiation" was bitterly disliked, so he tempered it by saying, "what we in Britain have come to call renegotiation'." Of course, I have some minor criticisms. I think that on reflection he will wonder whether it was wise to include those chunks of the Election Manifesto. If I may adapt Aneurin Bevan, the language of the Manifesto is hardly the religion of Europeanism. But what has pleased me, as an ardent European, has been Mr. Callaghan's recognition of the premier importance of the Atlantic Alliance. It was this that I pleaded for in the speech I made to your Lordships in the debate on the Address. It was a prominent feature of Mr. Callaghan's maiden speech as Foreign Secretary, of his speech at Luxembourg, and again yesterday when the question of United States/Common Market relations was raised there in an immediate and practical form.
There is, of course, a limit to British Atlanticism. If anybody believes that a withdrawal from Europe by Britain could be followed by a restoration of the old special relationship, he is believing the impossible. America's interests lie not in a special relationship with Britain but with the whole of Western Europe. Mr. Kissinger's recent accusations, recriminations and lamentations, followed by his healing recantations, must be seen as evidence of the importance he puts on the European connection. A détente with the Soviet Union would have little meaning if Western Europe isolated herself from the United States—little meaning for the United States or for Western Europe, either. My own belief is that, no matter how far Western Europe is able to go in the creation of a joint foreign policy, what neither we in Western Europe nor they in the United States can afford is for us to pursue rival, divergent foreign policies. One cannot have an alliance sheltering under a nuclear deterrent and with an integrated defence structure pursuing conflicting aims. The Alliance must have a broad political strategy, and of course it must be an agreed one.
961 This does not mean, however, that Western Europe must become the client, the satellite, the acquiescent junior partner of the United States. NATO is not the Warsaw Pact, and never can be. But the United States must in turn be sensitive to the mood and the psychological needs of Europe, just as we must understand that Dr. Kissinger must always be thinking of public opinion, particularly as that public opinion is expressed in Congress and in the Senate. It is all very well for people to say, as the French are saying at the moment, that the United States is with us in Europe only because it suits her vital needs. This is a political truism which has become a banality. Nations sometimes mistake what their vital needs are. Who can say that Britain, France, the United States and the Soviet Union were properly aware of their vital needs in 1938 and 1939?
Yet the French view repays deep study by the United States and by the rest of us in Western Europe. For what they think and fear is an extreme version of what we may all occasionally think, and sometimes fear. The French view—and there is a French view, not just a Gaullist view—was eloquently put by M. Michel Debré, only about eight or nine days ago. He fears—this is the nightmare—that what the United States wants is French policy to be dominated by a European policy, which must be an Atlantic policy; and that this Atlantic policy must be a United States policy. He believes that across the United States there is a desire that there should be no French policy towards the Arab States or the Soviet Union; that France's defence should again be placed under American responsibility, and that the European States should renounce all autonomous policies on energy, agriculture and commerce. This is the state of mind in France with which Mr. Callaghan, Mr. Brandt and the other European leaders and Mr. Kissinger have to deal. Nor should anybody imagine that the situation will be eased for us if M. Mitterand becomes President of France. The Parties of the Left have no greater love for the United States than M. Jobert himself has; perhaps they have even less.
Yet the French, by their logic, are already in danger of losing an important objective. Eight of the Nine nations in the Common Market are agreed that 962 there should be advance consultations with the United States on major foreign policy initiatives. M. Jobert's view seems to be that as the E.E.C. is not a sovereign State, and as its policies cover only certain, limited areas, it cannot be given an automatic mandate to consult with the other nations. What one suspects is that France is unwilling to make such a concession in favour of the United States lest it should impair what it pleases her to think is her special relationship with the Soviet Union. So, as a consequence of all this, France's proposals for a Euro-Arab conference on cultural, technical and economic co-operation cannot go ahead. I thought that the British Foreign Secretary was quite right to point to the danger of cutting across Mr. Kissinger's Middle East peace initiatives and the decisions of the Washington Energy Conference; and everybody in Europe except the French agreed with him. That is the position to-day. That is the position of the American and European leaders who will meet in a few days' time across the bier of President Pompidou. It is a sad and needless confrontation that we have had in recent weeks. Leaders in most countries have spoken words which it would be wise for us all to forget. Perhaps in the pause while France seeks a new President we can think out a new beginning of the United States European relationships.
§ 5 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CROMER
My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to those already expressed to the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, for giving us the opportunity to debate this important subject today. I think it is rather symbolic of the times in which we live that he drafted the Motion in these words:To call attention to relations between Western Europe and the U.S.A., and the implications for the United Kingdom;".Not so many years since, the debate would almost certainly have been on Anglo-American relations, and this shows the degree of change which has already taken place in our world.
I am sure the noble Lord the Leader of the House will forgive me if I say that I was most interested in the expressions of Atlanticism uttered by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, which I find myself wholly sharing. In point of fact, in my notes I put down exactly the same words as he used. I can assure 963 your Lordships there was no collusion on this. One element slightly surprised me and that was the tendency to wrap up defence, finance, monetary and trade into what the Americans call "one ball of wax", which is an approach to these matters that hitherto we have been trying to avoid, because although they obviously inter-relate and inter-react, to try to negotiate them all in one bundle, so to speak, which is what the Americans proposed at one point of time, would be very difficult for all of us from the purely administrative point of view to know what team of Ministers and officials should be mounted for such an occasion.
Recently there has been a tendency for the wringing of hands about transatlantic relations and the like, and I think it is worth trying to identify one or two of the causes. To go on wringing hands and saying "It is all terrible" is not going to produce the cures. One of the reasons for the differences that have arisen has been the rate of change in so many fields. There has been the rate of change in the economic side, attempts to find a new international payments system, the M.B.F.R. discussions, SALT, the trade discussions in the GATT, and the like. All these areas have been particularly active in the last year and the very activity has tended to bring to the fore the differences of approach which, perfectly understandably and naturally, exist between us.
On top of this we had the Year of Europe and the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, rightly said that Dr. Kissinger's timing was unhappy in this respéct, particularly as it happened to coincide with the first year of the enlargement of the Community. I think his timing was unfortunate from the European point of view, and the results and the reactions were disappointing from his point of view. On the other hand, I think the motives were wholly laudable. He felt that people of my generation (if I may say so) were getting older, and that we who were brought up with the Atlantic community concept were finding our places filled by younger men who were not brought up with the same automatic identity of interest, and if one could create some appeal which would capture the imagination of the younger generation this would be to the advantage of the future of the 964 Atlantic Alliance. I think the motives there are difficult to criticise, although whether ringing calls of this kind are any substitute for concrete action, I should doubt. However I think the motives were reasonable.
The effect on the year of the enlargement of the Community was quite interesting in that I think it brought about greater speed on the part of the members of the European Community to react politically with one voice, which was symbolised at the meeting in Copenhagen in September. But there were bad sides to it as well, notably the way in which it showed up the inadequacy of the machinery, both for formulating policy within the Community itself and for consultation with our most important ally and trading partner. I think a lot can be learnt from this, and I have been interested in the various views expressed in your Lordships' House this afternoon on this topic. At one stage the difficulty was that the Americans could not understand why we could not sit down, so to speak, 10 at the table, which would really imply that they were full members. This naturally and automatically produced a strong reaction from the French, but it would have produced more or less the same reaction from anybody else to whom it had been put.
So there is a great difficulty here. Whether the W.E.U., as has been suggested this afternoon, offers a possibility, I have my doubts. There is one suggestion I should like to make as a possible means of improving communications, namely, that the various European institutions and gatherings might issue more pressing invitations (if I may use that expression) to the Americans, to ensure that American diplomatic representation at these gatherings was on a level and an authority that (a) could report effectively to Washington and (b) conversely could express in these gatherings what the American interests might be.
A number of other noble Lords have expressed a view which I wholly share, that the key interest of the United States in the integration of Europe is for the future of NATO, and as they see it, only by such integration is it likely that the European members of NATO will play their full part, both in the military sense and in the financial contribution. I was very glad to hear the noble Baroness, 965 Lady Tweedsmuir, quoting the figures of the contribution that is already made by the Europeans, including ourselves—figures to which those to whom we are really addressing them seem extraordinarily deaf; they do not want to hear them because they do not give them any joy.
But across the board there have been a number of areas of contention. In trade, and the GATT xxiv (6) negotiations, I think it is probably fair to say there has been a lack of flexibility on both sides of the Atlantic and that rather rigid positions have been taken, to the extent that at one stage in time Ministers were having to discuss into the small hours the subject of pineapple chunks, which one would have thought might have been delegated slightly further down; apparently the machinery did not allow it. Of course also in this area the Americans are very ready—as I suppose we all are—to see the faults of the other people, and the fact that they may have discriminatory trade practices themselves tends to be conveniently forgotten. For instance, the credit that should be given to Europe for the fact that the Common External Tariff is the lowest industrial tariff in any major trading bloc in the world is not something which gets across to the Americans.
Against these various areas of difference it is extremely difficult to know what is the best policy for Her Majesty's Government to follow at the present time. I certainly share the view which has been expressed by many noble Lords that to weaken the progress of European unification would be wholly unwelcome to the Americans. The course of history is such that none of the individual nation States of Europe, including ourselves, can offer to the Atlantic Alliance individually what is possible collectively. This provokes the rather unattractive phrase one sometimes hears in America, "Is Europe likely to move towards Balkanisation?" It is a real fear on the part of some Americans that we will be unable to stand together in the way they would wish.
My Lords, I hope to end briefly. Within what the Government style as renegotiation, but what I prefer to refer to as the continuing evolution of the European Community, we should work hard at improving the existing machinery. I think we would all share the view that 966 within the Commission's relations with both our allies and the Third World generally, the machinery leaves a lot to be desired. I am convinced however that it is not possible to attempt to better Anglo-American relations at the price of worsening Anglo-European relations.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, may I begin by adding my expression of sorrow to that of other noble Lords on the sad loss to France of her President. There is much one could say about this tragic occasion, but others wish to speak this evening, and I am sure that the House, the people of France and the family of the President will recognise that all of us here extend our deep sympathy to them.
May I also add my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, for giving us the opportunity to debate this most important area of defence and foreign policy. In the light of the fact that I follow him immediately in the order of speaking, may I extend a welcome to the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, on his return from his mission in Washington, where he has represented Her Majesty with such distinction and success.
I should like to concentrate on one special area of this debate; that is, defence policy. It seems to me that the whole framework and philosophy of Western defence is summed up in the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, to-day: relations between Western Europe, the United States of America and the implications for the United Kingdom. If we take those in reverse order, it is possible to say that the security of this country is inseparably bound up with that of Western Europe, and the security of Western Europe is in turn linked inseparably with that of the United States of America. In my view, there can be no question of Western Europe, and of this country in Western Europe, ever attempting to form anything like a third force, some kind of neutralised bloc standing between the United States of America and the Soviet Union. We stand alongside the United States, and in the Free World there should never be any room for doubt about that.
My Lords, on that particular issue I found the gracious Speech, which outlined the policy of the present Government, most encouraging. It seemed to 967 me that the gracious Speech indicated a clear commitment to the Western Alliance and to NATO. That commitment has been underlined and emphasised again in the debate in this House to-day by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts. Although he is not for the moment in his scat, I think that when he reads the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, the noble Lord will accept my welcome to him to this House. This is my first opportunity to do so, and I greet him, congratulate him, and express my condolences to him that the result of the election in his constituency followed so soon after the speech which I made on the eve of poll.
My Lords, tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. For that reason, I think we should be regarding its future with a good deal more interest than its past. It is true that the Alliance and the relations between the United States end of the Alliance and the European end have been under considerable strain recently. For one reason and another there has been a failure of communications. I do not think that that great peripatetic Secretary of State from the United States, Dr. Kissinger, can be entirely exonerated from blame in this matter. We have heard a little about the timing of his initiative on a new Atlantic Charter. I would offer this mild criticism to him in the friendliest terms: that perhaps he finds it more difficult to understand Europeans than almost anyone else in the world. He seems to be thoroughly at home with the Arabs, the Israelis, the Chinese and with the Russians, but as soon as he sets foot in Western Europe the friction seems to begin. I cannot understand why this should be, but it does seem to be true. It is summed up in the remark which he is alleged to have made, perhaps apocryphally, to a Western European statesman who was expressing some doubts and fears about the forthcoming crisis in a certain area of the world, to which Dr. Kissinger replied, "There will be no crisis next week; my diary is already full."
Whether or not this is true and symptomatic of his approach, I believe the real need now is to restore the confidence that used to exist between Europe and the United States of America, to set 968 the Alliance back on its feet and to keep it in good repair. My submission is that this country has a very great part to play in this operation. Although we should regard ourselves now as being a part of Europe, we have a very special responsibility in keeping in good repair the relationship between Western Europe and the United States.
My Lords, I now come to the part of my speech which deals specifically with defence policies. It is terribly important that this country, of all countries, should not be seen to be cavalier or in any way thoughtless or irresponsible about the military defence of Western Europe. There is a persistent threat to the integrity and survival of the Free World. There is the continuing nuclear arms race between the super-Powers. Those of us who have followed the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks will know that at a recent meeting between Dr. Kissinger and the Soviet leadership, the future of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks came in for a good deal of questioning, and must now be regarded as a matter of some doubt. The two super-Powers are still engaged in a nuclear arms race.
If we take the simple example of the recent announcement of the American Defence Secretary that certain American missiles have now been retargetted so as to aim at Soviet missiles and not at Soviet cities, we can see the seeds sown of what might be a dangerous development if the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks should fail, because although I do not wish at this stage or in this debate to go into the whole theology of the nuclear confrontation, one of the possible results of it is that the Soviet Union might regard this as the first step in an American attempt to gain what is called a first strike capability; that is, the ability to knock out your opponent's missiles before he can retaliate. I do not suggest for a moment that this is the American aim, but there are two Powers at work here. If that is what the Russians think the Americans are doing, their next step could be a dangerous one indeed. It would be particularly dangerous for Western Europe.
I believe we should all bear this in mind and set it alongside the very real fact that outside the nuclear sphere, the armed strength of the Soviet Union is 969 growing monthly and daily. It is growing especially in its power in Central Europe. It is growing, too, in the Mediterranean, in the Indian Ocean, and wherever the Soviet Navy now patrols. But most of all it is growing in central Europe, where the balance of forces between NATO and the Warsaw Pact is not moving in favour of the Free World. This is one of the main areas upon which the military security of the Free World depends.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to interrupt him for one moment? I agree very much with what he is saying. Could he give us some figures of the disparity in weapons between the Atlantic bloc and the Soviet bloc? I think it very important that it should be brought home as loudly as possible.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I do not keep the figures in my head. I can only say that it is not so much a question of disparity in numbers, although the disparity in numbers is sufficiently disturbing: the real difference lies in the quality and quantity, and type, of the weapons deployed. The areas in which the Soviet Union are now so much stronger than the West are the areas of armoured regiments, tanks, which are the basic weapons of aggressive or attacking warfare; in ground attack aircraft, which are similar; in artillery, and, of course, in the fact that their lines of communication, which cover a land area from Eastern Germany back into the Soviet Union, are shorter and more effective than the lines of communication of the West. It is not simply a question of disparity in numbers but also a question of disparity in certain vital types of equipment. The figures have been published recently by the International Institute for Strategic Studies and I commend the appropriate document to the noble Earl's attention.
It is I think essential, in the light of this confrontation and this imbalance, that the defences of the West should be kept always in good repair, and in this the British contribution is vital: of this none of us should be in any doubt. Most military experts on the Continent, whether they be German or French, American or of any other nationality, will subscribe 970 to the view that, taken all round, the British Army of the Rhine, which is the British contribution to the Northern Army Group and the British contribution to the defence of Western Europe, is the best Army in Europe. Not only is it highly trained, not only is its morale at a very high level (it has no problems of drugs or the other manifestations of modern Western society which afflict other Armies in Europe), but its leadership is first-class; its equipment modern. It is a tightly knit, highly professional Army. All our Allies in Europe recognise it as such and recognise it as an absolutely essential link in the defence of Western Europe.
It has been said in the arguments that are adduced for making cuts in our own defence spending that we make a larger contribution, in terms of percentage of our gross national product, than other Western European countries. Statistically, that is true, but I believe it to be also basically misleading. It is misleading in the first place because, although we supply, in terms of gross national product, a larger percentage towards Western European defence, our gross national product is growing much more slowly than that of other Western European countries, as the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, has mentioned.
The other fact is that the whole business of calculating the strengths on percentages of G.N.P. can give an entirely false impression. The total strength of the ground forces in the defence of Western Europe is 770,000. Of that, the British contribution is less than 60,000. I make that point simply to show that although the British Army of the Rhine is in my view the best Army in Europe, it cannot be said with any degree of seriousness that we are contributing a disproportionate amount to the defence of Western Europe, upon which in the long run the security of this country depends. In any case, if there is a disparity between our percentage of G.N.P. and theirs, is it not equally arguable that they should be raising theirs and not we lowering ours?
My Lords, this business of the amount of money we spend on ensuring safety against attack is not an absolute matter; it is a matter of what the threat is and how much we want to guard ourselves against that threat. But I think the real 971 point here is that, whatever the arguments about levels of forces in Europe, any defence decisions made in this country, now more than ever before, must be on the basis of the closest consultation with our Allies, both our North American Allies and our Western European Allies, in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
We have already had some cuts made in our Defence Budget by the previous Government, and they are to be carried on—or a promise has been made that they will be carried on—by the present Government. I believe, and my advice is, that those cuts can be sustained within the present establishment of our Armed Forces. It will probably mean delay in certain equipment programmes, but the cuts at present proposed, provided they are intelligently applied, need not affect our defence capacity or our capacity to contribute to the defence of Western Europe. But we are promised another Defence Review quite soon. If this Defence Review should mean further cuts, if this should be the beginning of a progressive reduction of our Defence Budget, the percentage of the G.N.P. we spend on defence, then I believe that the very effectiveness of our defence forces would be put at risk, and with it, inevitably, the security of Western Europe. I recognise that here we have to speak "the language of priorities", if I also may quote from Aneurin Bevan (it seems to be the statutory thing to do on this side of the House): the language of priorities must be listened to; and of course we cannot spend all we should like to on our Armed Forces. But it seems to me that before we do anything which affects the military safety of Western Europe, we must consult fully with our Allies in the Alliance, with our European Allies and our North American Allies.
It has been said that we need some kind of new machinery for consultation. I am not sure that we do. I believe that the machinery for consultation already exists. It is the will to consult which perhaps does not. In Europe, for example, we have only to choose between a number of possible instruments of consultation. There is the Eurogroup, which has been mentioned this afternoon. The Eurogroup is an extremely useful, valuable instrument of consultation. It has 972 of course the major defect that it does not include France; and this is a critical defect. We have the Western European Union, which does include France but not the Scandinavian members of the Alliance. We have indeed the European Economic Community. There is no reason why that should not be used as a forum for political consultation. It is true that it includes one country, the Republic of Ireland, which is not a member of NATO, but I have never believed that the presence of Ireland in the Common Market should be allowed to militate against adequate consultation about political and miltary defence in Western Europe.
Then, outside Europe, for consultation with the United States of America, there is the North Atlantic Council, and that is exactly what it is there for: to enable the countries of Western Europe, perhaps having first discussed matters among themselves, to enter a process of consultation with the United States. All these instruments already exist. It seems to me only a matter of deciding how to use them and of having the will to use them.
The main thing is that there must in my view be no unilateral reduction of our ability to defend Western Europe. I say that not only from the point of view of Europe but from the point of view of this country, too. If we decide that we must make cuts which will affect our contribution to Western Europe, then we must consult with our Allies. If our Allies, in consultation with us, decide that there is to be a lowering of the level of military forces in Europe, then we must consult with the Americans; and in consultation with them we must exact concessions from the Soviet Union in the consultations on mutual and balanced force reductions. I believe that if we make unilateral reductions in the already critically low level of conventional defensive capability in Western Europe we shall be running into a period of very grave danger indeed.
I believe that this subject which the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, has brought before us is one of vital importance. I share the view that has already been expressed this afternoon: that in the relations between Western Europe and the United States of America a high degree of integration, economic and military, is essential in Western Europe. This has 973 always been my view and I have never sought to conceal it. I also believe that the future relationship with the United States, as the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, has said, will be a relationship between the United States of America and Western Europe. That is the new "special relationship". But I repeat, in that relationship this country has a very special role to play. We must play that role intelligently, powerfully and imaginatively. We must not be led into that ancient belief that the only language which foreigners understand is English spoken very loudly. That is not so. It may have been so at one time, but this is a new world.
We must show in our defence and foreign policy four things. We must show that we recognise fully the dangers to the integrity and the survival of the free world. Secondly, we must show that we are prepared to co-operate fully with our partners in Western Europe in meeting those dangers. Thirdly, we must demonstrate that we will have no truck with neutralism or ideas about third forces; we are of the Free World, and therefore, fourthly, we must demonstrate that we are four-square within the Western Alliance alongside our Allies, the United States of America. As I have said, I was encouraged by what was written in the gracious Speech and spoken about it, which set out the policies of the present Government. I have been further encouraged by the words of my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts this afternoon. I believe that so long as the present Government pursue the policies that were set out in the gracious Speech, and in his speech this afternoon, they deserve the support of all Members of your Lordships' House.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ LORD LYELL
My Lords, I would first of all seek to associate myself with the messages of sympathy and condolence that noble Lords are sending to the people of France in their sad and tragic loss. Secondly, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, for giving us the opportunity of discussing what is an extremely important subject, one which over the next 20 or 25 years will become increasingly important. I have a minimal interest in the subject under discussion in that I am lucky enough to sit as a member of the North Atlantic Assembly which, as your Lordships will 974 know, is an association of Parliamentarians of the North Atlantic Alliance. The list of speakers we have this afternoon is so impressive that I am relieved to find that there is a juvenile element in it—the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, possibly the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and myself—and I think that it is incumbent on us to maintain the progress that has been made in the first 25 years of the North Atlantic Alliance, and incumbent on us to keep this progress going for the next 25 years.
I ask myself what is inconsistent with membership of the European Economic Community and a good and working relationship with the United States, because I believe that certainly for the last ten years at least there seems to have been an element of doubt in our good faith towards Europe. I do not necessarily believe that this doubt is the feeling of a strong, confident, and united Europe at all. It is sad that proof of good faith in a strong European Community seems to entail a reduction in good relations with the United States. I should be very sorry to see relations with the United States in any way diminished, or even remaining on the present level; I would hope to see them improved in every way possible. We heard a clear and excellent speech from the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, who stated that in his opinion there was no need at all to choose between Europe and the United States, and I am grateful and relieved to hear that this will be the policy of the Government in the years to come. I believe that relationships that have been forged over two world wars are not easily broken off; they are far more easily maintained through any temporary or minor difficulties that might appear.
I wonder why France, as one member of the European Economic Community, should seek in any way to dictate standards of behaviour of other members of the European Community, either newly joined or who have been part of the Community since the Treaty of Rome was first signed in 1957. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, was clear, concise and very coherent, and he emphasised all of this very well indeed. We in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe do not see any reason for turning anti-Americanism into some form of virility symbol showing our fitness to 975 become good Europeans even in the broader sense as was envisaged by General de Gaulle. I just cannot see that this is relevant to any improvement of relations either across the Atlantic or indeed around the world. I wonder why it is that France, of all nations, who should appreciate the help given in and after the Second World War, should seek to believe that the United States, and any help and influence coming from the United States, is in any way harmful. I have not found this at all easy to understand, in spite of the great logic that we always find in all French thought.
Defence in Western Europe against any possible aggression, from wherever it might come, is immensely aided by the United States. Without the United States I believe there would be no coherent and credible defence capacity in Europe as such. I do not believe that the United States carry out their defence treaty obligations in Europe just for their own pleasure or edification, but very much more because they believe it to be a political necessity. Many institutions and politicians within Western Europe desire to maintain these close links that already exist with the United States, and I think that they look to us, and to other members of the Community, to continue these links, whatever the cost, and to continue for the next 20 years as various Governments have for the last 20 or 25 years. I do not think that these institutions or politicians have any fear of us becoming a Trojan horse, as infiltrators of the United States money and influence into Europe. I believe that that is not the truth at all. Indeed, the United States Congress looks at Western Europe and to the United Kingdom, and holds out the hand of friendship to us. It is foolish and unconstructive to spurn these expressions of friendship and the help that we have obtained from the United States.
The United States Congress, and everybody in the United States and Canada, wish to see a strong and, so far as is possible, united Europe able to put its case politically anywhere in the world where it can be of influence. Yet somehow we still feel self-conscious in strengthening our relations with the United States and Canada, and with any other nations with which we choose to maintain links. I believe that this is 976 rubbish. We must maintain these links with the United States, and I believe that this will grow ever more important. I cannot see why there is any reason why Atlantic relations should not be strengthened. As the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, has pointed out, we can do so much as a team within the Alliance. That team spirit is not, and never will be, destroyed by one member, or more than one member, dictating to the other nine, ten or eleven members what should be the policy. That is the main point that I believe we should seek to prove and this is why I am so pleased that the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, has given us the chance to discuss it this afternoon.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
My Lords, the only reason why I am venturing to intervene very briefly is that I happened to be in Brussels yesterday attending a subcommittee meeting of the North Atlantic Assembly, that body to which the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, has referred. I thought that I might pick up from my colleagues there some ideas that would be of interest to your Lordships, but I have to confess that everybody was, if I may use a neutral term, so much affected by the Foreign Secretary's speech at Luxembourg the previous day that it was a little difficult to get clear ideas that were not mixed up with some reference to that situation.
My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie said, it is very necessary to keep our friendships in repair. This is specially necessary in times such as the present which are so difficult for all of us, for them as well as for us, although indeed we should keep our friendships in repair at all times. One of our great and most important friendships must always be our friendship with the people of the United States of America. The Motion speaks of the relations between the United States and Western Europe, and this is quite right because even if Western Europe was not collectively organised—and we must confess that at the moment the organisation is not perfect—the United States relationship would have to be of a collective nature.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont (or was it the noble Earl, Lord Cromer) in his very interesting speech, referred to the fears in America of Balkanisation. This 977 is a very real fear. If Europe were to get into disarray there would be nobody with whom they could have relations. That may sound rather a foolish statement but I believe it to be so. They could not now have special relations with us or special relations with France or with the Federal Republic of Germany. They need to have a European focus with whom their relations can be carried on. And so it must be of a very great concern to us that there has been a schism in these relations, that points of tension have grown up.
I was much impressed by what the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, said about the importance of finding a method of meeting our American friends which does not involve a confrontation. I brought back from Brussels something which I thought was rather interesting. It was a contribution by one of our colleagues referring to the difficulties because we were discussing this very subject of transatlantic relations. He said, "The escalation in public statements scarcely contributes to easing the situation." That splendid under-statement ought to have been made by an Englishman, but in fact was made by a Frenchman (in French, of course). I think this is one of the great troubles that faces us to-day in international relations. I suppose secret diplomacy was buried 30 or 40 years ago, but I must say that open diplomacy has terrible pitfalls.
I do not know whether the Secretary of State's speech at Luxembourg was blunt or whether it was frank, but it certainly was taken as an aggressive speech. Of course one can only take up impressions about the reaction. I read two newspapers in Europe and I thought that they were perhaps rather overstating their objections, but I read newspapers in England when I got home and they seemed to take very much the same view. Certainly among ordinary people whom I met and Parliamentarians from the different countries there was a feeling that this was not the way to set about it. The noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, in his very interesting speech said that the Secretary of State believed that our proposals were in the interests of the Community. I believe so too, but why on earth did he not say so? Why did he not present these suggestions not as demands from outside but as suggestions from within that this would improve the 978 Community? It seems to me that the manner in which these proposals are put forward makes all the difference. Of course he had to make a statement which expressed the views of the Government, but I would have thought it much wiser if he had made precisely the same statement in private to the various Foreign Ministers. It was not necessary to make a public statement unless—and this is one of the great things which I believe of what our French friend called, "this escalation in public statements"—they are not made for the purpose of trying to reach agreement but for the purpose of satisfying people at home.
I was interested in another thing I picked up in Brussels. There was a visit recently by a group of American Congressmen and in the course of private conversation they said that we should not take too much notice of the sort of remarks that were made by Dr. Kissinger and by the President, because they also have to consider what the public at home wants to hear. So I must say that I would very much favour the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, that we should go back to what he beautifully described as, "the laborious process of quiet consultation". I believe we should get much further in improving our relations if we could do that. I recognise how difficult it is in the social climate in which we live to-day where the newspapers, radio and television want to get instant reactions when anybody says anything at all. I deplore that because I think it creates confusion and leads to confrontation when the aim of all of us must be to try to find some common ground. The reaction of people to blunt or frank statements is very often an over-reaction. I suspect that to be the case with the reaction of Europe to the Foreign Secretary's speech in Luxembourg. But this I am afraid is what human beings do. Even in your Lordships' House we sometimes react rather violently to provocative statements from the other side of the House.
I am going to make only one other point and it arises also out of my visit. In his splendid speech the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, ended with a peroration which I greatly enjoyed when he talked about our working things out alongside our European allies and the United States. My Lords, do not let us forget that 979 another member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is Canada; and I do not think I have heard Canada mentioned in this debate at all. Our relations with the United States, the subject of the Motion, are very much linked with our relations with Canada. We tend sometimes to forget them in the various forums suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, on the Continent. Some of the forums include some nations, some include others, and it is difficult to make a choice as to which is the right forum for discussion of these problems. Western European Union has been proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran. Again there are others not represented there. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is the only one which includes the United States and Canada, and it also includes Norway which is not in the Nine.
So that in many ways, because it is almost impossible to separate the strictly military issues from the economic issues that lie behind them—and no military alliance is of any use unless it has the economic power to support it—it is difficult to find a place where we can discuss all these matters; and we do not want to discuss them in too many different places. That leads me to wonder whether we should seek for this purpose—I shall not suggest a take-over bid or anything like that—an amalgamation of some of the rather numerous bodies which take up the time of their members, including noble Lords in this House, which might well be streamlined if there were a single organisation within which these problems and the tensions that arise could be discussed.
I do not think I have anything more to say that would be of interest to your Lordships, except that I should like to quote from the French source to which I have already referred. That Frenchman said that no one—and that means no one nation—… can save himself alone. The essential aim for our countries must be to seek at every opportunity the necessary consensus. If leadership is intolerable"—and I had some difficulty in extracting his meaning, but he meant that if the concept of the United States leaving the group is intolerable, if partnership is difficult to achieve precisely because of 980 the tensions which develop, we must seek the necessary concensus. Then he concluded, very sensibly:This is far easier to write than to achieve but, above all, it is a question of will.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, this debate into which the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, has so excellently thrown us is one of singular timeliness. It is about what might be called the dilemma of Europe and what we do about America. The fact is that at the present time Europe is not in a happy or a united state. References are continuously made to "Europe", as though the European Economic Community were the same thing as Europe. But it does not amount to one-half of even Western Europe and is certainly much less than one-half of Europe as a whole. It would be wrong and unwise for us to talk of Europe without realising that Europe is something bigger and wider than is thought of in the narrow terms of the Economic Community. But that does not mean to say that the Economic Community is not something that has to be taken into consideration and discussed, because it obviously must be.
The fundamental problem with which we are faced is that we are unable in Europe, even in a narrow part of Europe, to reach on almost any matter at all any policy which is consistent and coherent. We cannot reach agreement among ourselves on a monetary policy, we cannot reach agreement on an energy policy, we cannot reach agreement on most matters of economic policy, and it is therefore not surprising if we find that we ape unable as a European Community to reach any agreement with America. I do not propose to go into the whole question of how Europe can be organised, because I do not believe that one ever reaches the organisation of a continent by sitting down and drawing up pretty schemes for it; that is something which necessarily works itself out and it can be done only by extremely hard struggling and work. It may be that we shall not reach it. It may be that some other solution will be attained. But in the meantime we have problems which we have to tackle concerning the relationship across the Atlantic, which I regard as a matter of very great importance. 981 Unless we have some sort of agreement across the Atlantic, it is no good at all talking about the unity of the Western world.
The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, who has just referred to Canada and the United States as members of the North Atlantic Assembly, has well illustrated the point I want to make, as did the noble Lord, Lord Lyell; that is, the significance and importance of the North Atlantic Assembly. In Parliament in this country, as well as in the country as a whole, little serious thought is given to the North Atlantic Assembly. If you ask most people in the community as a whole what they thought of the North Atlantic Assembly, they would ask, "What is it?" You would then have to be inaccurate and say that it was NATO, although it is not the same as NATO but is its Parliamentary side. Most people have never heard of the Assembly; but if you asked them about NATO they would say, "Yes, that is a military organisation to fight the Russians", and that is as far as they would go.
But that is not the point of the North Atlantic Treaty. It is true that the North Atlantic Treaty was formulated, first of all, in order to ensure that the North Americans—let us call them that, so as to include the Canadians—remained active in the defence of Europe. But the Treaty goes far beyond that and specially refers to all those things which can build up a Western community, an Atlantic community, which is worth defending. Because of that we have within the North Atlantic Assembly a military committee, a political committee, an economic committee, a cultural committee and a committee on science and technology. That means that almost the complete range of our activities as human beings, as political beings, is covered.
Therefore one would have thought that the North Atlantic Assembly, which represents a far greater number of people and a far wider community than does the Common Market—after all, it represents Scandinavia, excluding Sweden and Finland, and also represents this country, Turkey, Canada and the United States—could do a great deal more. But there has so far been no successful attempt at institutionalising the North Atlantic Assembly and, consequently, it lives from hand to mouth. It does good work; it 982 carries out splendid activities. But it is not institutionalised, and this is because the various countries which form part of it do not take a sufficiently active interest in what it does.
I will make an exception of two countries, the United States and Canada, which do take a great interest in it. Since I have been attending meetings of the North Atlantic Assembly, I have been jotting down the well-known American Congressmen who have been fairly regular attenders. There is Wayne Hays of the House of Representatives; Javits, a Republican senator from Now York, who has been chairman of the political committee; Senator Percy, from Illinois; Edward Kennedy, the senator for Massachusetts; Peter Rodino who is now chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; and we have also one much younger who is well known by name, being the son of the famous boxer Gene Tunney, Senator Tunney from California, an extremely active, keen person who is chairman of the Committee of which the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, is a member in his rapporteur capacity. These American Congressmen take an active part; they take the trouble to turn up. The American delegation is always bigger than any other delegation present at the North Atlantic Assembly.
I have no doubt that if we had the wisdom to use the North Atlantic Assembly we could get a lot done there in the way of co-operation with the Americans. They are anxious that this should be so and they play an admirable part in the Assembly; but we will not. I believe, get any effective co-operation with America by setting up a body in Europe which pretends to represent Europe and which lays down certain rules and then throws them across the Atlantic telling the Americans that they have to take them or leave them. We will never get any sort of agreement in that way; we will get it only if we are prepared to meet them somewhere where full, free discussion exists. I regret that I do not entirely agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, about keeping discussions secret. I agree that the preliminary stages may have to be secret, but one must have free and open discussions.
My Lords, we come to the very important matters which were raised by my 983 noble friend Lord Chalfont. He made a speech which I am sure we all found most interesting, on the problem of defence. He realises better than most people that the defence of Western Europe is absolutely and entirely bound up with NATO, that without NATO there is no defence in Western Europe. I think that my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts made it clear in his speech at the start—I made a note of what he said and I think I have it right—that therequirements of NATO will be a first call on our defence expenditure".This, I think, must clearly be the case. It is impossible for us to talk sense in the matter of defence if we think that each country is to have its own defence force and has to be able to look at the rest of the world and take it on. We last were anywhere near that position back in the 1920s, when we still had a navy that was the biggest in the world; but when the Americans started building ships they rapidly overtook us, much to our annoyance at the time. Since then there has not been a hope of our having anything effective on our own and our only way of having an effective force is in combination with other countries.
Here we come to something which is rather sad in European terms. In spite of our talk about Europe we absolutely fail to get any form of common procurement of materials. The matter has been raised several times; nothing is done about it. Even when it comes to the point of wanting to build a new advanced aircraft, the M.R.C.A., a highly costly weapon, France would not join in the project; she would have nothing to do with it. The result was that that aircraft is being built jointly by Germany, Italy, this country, and I think Belgium has also joined the project. France will not come in. Therefore when it is built, this highly expensive, highly elaborate aircraft, apparently capable of doing remarkable things—it is a retractable wing aircraft capable of low flight as well as long range flight and at high speeds—probably will never get sales which are adequate to pay for its whole production. Yet it is something that is wanted.
984 When my noble friend Lord Chalfont talks of keeping our defence in a state of repair I do not think that he is really telling us the real facts of the case. It is not possible with our present methods within Western Europe to keep our defences in a state of repair. It is no good saying that one wants to do it, that one would like to do it. It is no good saying that by holding our expenditure where it is we can do it. I do not believe we can. I do not think it is possible. If we are asking ourselves how much effort we have to make to build the weapons of defence and in having the manpower to use and to maintain them, we must ask ourselves, "Defence against what?". If the expenditure somewhere else is on a vastly greater scale, it is no good thinking that by polishing up our peashooter we will be able to keep up our defences.
I believe that we are faced with a much greater problem than any of us is really admitting; that is that we cannot maintain an effective defensive posture unless we are prepared to do what I do not believe any country in Western Europe is prepared to do: spend a very much greater portion of its total resources upon defence. Therefore I think that we are in a dilemma. That is why I said at the start that the debate into which we have been thrown is the dilemma of Western Europe, and I think this dilemma is one that is going to cause us a great deal of heart searching. We either say that we are going to sacrifice an enormous amount for defence, or we say that we do not really go any further along these lines, that we cannot pursue the matter in this way, and so we can gradually—I do not say unilaterally—reduce our defence expenditure. I do not think we ever stay on a plateau. We either go up or we go down. I believe it is inevitable that we go down.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
My Lords, we have had an extremely interesting debate this afternoon and I have listened to every speech so far with very great interest. I think that all noble Lords have in their own way made a contribution to the debate, which makes it of very great importance. We are very much indebted to the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, for introducing the subject and I have listened with great 985 interest to what he had to say. I appreciated what the noble Lord who has just sat down had to say. We have been colleagues at the North Atlantic Assembly for many years. I hope I am not wrong, but I think that he is being unnecessarily gloomy about the cooperation there can be in Western Europe and which can be achieved through the E.E.C. I agree that it is not at all easy and does not appear to be going very smoothly; nevertheless, so long as it does not break down, so long as the nations of the Western European continent are working together, surely that is a big step forward for those of us who have, as I have and as the noble Lord has also, lived through two world wars. God knows! that is the last thing we want to see ever happening again in Western Europe. This combination, this work, done through the E.E.C., done through NATO, is a very big step forward from the happenings in the last fifty years, happenings which we all pray will never occur again. The greatest insurance against such a happening is the formation of both the Community and NATO. Those are the two great combinations which must, certainly in our lifetime and I hope in the lifetime of people as young as the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, and the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, also prevent wars. For that reason, if for no other, I shall support every effort to make the E.E.C. and the North Atlantic Alliance work closely together.
Those of your Lordships who heard the noble Earl, Lord Avon, the other day in the first speech that he has made for many months in this House, on the Address, must have been enormously impressed by the feeling that here was someone who had in his lifetime actively taken part in two wars and had been himself Foreign Secretary in the last war. He said that the frontiers of the North Atlantic Assembly, of the North Atlantic Group, the Americans and the Canadians, were in Europe just as much as the interests of Europe must be allied to the United States. Coming from the noble Earl, that seemed to me to echo something of real depth and importance, because although people of other generations may talk like that, the man who was actually leading our foreign affairs in all those events is someone who, in saying that, seems to me to give a stamp 986 of great importance to the efforts which we in this generation are trying to make in order to bring about a permanent state of peace in the world—if the word "permanent" can be used.
I strongly support what has been said by both the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, and by the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, on the importance of the North Atlantic Assembly. This group which brings together Members of Parliament—both Senators and Congressmen, Members of the House of Commons and Members of the House of Lords—once a year, and sometimes more often, to meet in the European capitals and to discuss the relationships between countries on the other side of the Atlantic and the countries in Western Europe, is an extremely important group. I was glad that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, made reference to Canada, because although your Lordships may possibly know this—though some perhaps may not—the start of this group, which used to be called The NATO Parliamentarians, was in fact made by Senator Robertson, who was then the Speaker of the Canadian Parliament. and my husband who was then still a Member of the House of Commons and who, very shortly after the formation and the signing of the NATO Alliance, thought that it was extremely important that Members of Parliament should realise what this meant in the world. So they started together this very small group—as it then was—which has grown into the North Atlantic Assembly. It is a matter of enormous importance that we should have an Assembly in which the Americans play an active part because in all the other groups we are talking about—the W.E.U., the E.E.C., and all the others that have been mentioned—the Americans are not present. They may be listening, they may be reading what is being said, but they are not actively taking part; and that, I am sure, makes the North Atlantic Assembly extremely important.
Another curious and perhaps significant aspect, because France is such a very difficult country, is that the French, although they have now contracted out of NATO, have remained members of the North Atlantic Assembly. You will meet the members of the French Parliament—both the Senate and the House of Representatives—taking an active part 987 in the discussions in the North Atlantic Assembly, although France has contracted out of NATO. It is one of those curious, illogical facts which make the French nation so difficult to work with. My Lords, let us face it, the French are, and always have been, very difficult to work with. On this occasion they want to have their cake and eat it, which is something many of us have wanted but have never been able to achieve. That does not mean that we should not let the French take part in the North Atlantic Assembly. It is quite right that they should. But it makes it even more regrettable that they should have contracted out of their NATO obligations. Perhaps the fact that they still want to stay in the political Assembly, the political arm of NATO as it were, means that they may want to become involved again in the defence commitments of NATO.
We are also fortunate in the present leadership in Germany and that Herr Willy Brandt continues to try to obtain a détente with the East Germans and with the Russians. It is a very brave attempt, my Lords, and it is going very slowly, as we know, but from the accounts that we read in the Press it still exists and they are trying very hard to bring about this détente. The need for the European alliance and the alliance with the United States is just as great to-day as it has been at any time, because in spite of Willy Brandt's efforts the Warsaw Pact countries are not making any very generous moves towards the détente that they are seeking.
But to-day a new problem is arising with the change of Government here and the change of policy of the Government towards the E.E.C. Although the United States is not involved with the Community I do not think that they will be impressed if the European nations, in-instead of speaking with one voice and coming together, should start arguing and quarrelling once again with each other. The Statement issued by the Government on the renegotiations has, I know, created a considerable amount of alarm and despondency among the European nations. It was interesting that we should have heard a contribution from the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, who only yesterday was in Brussels, where he was talking 988 to these very people whom we have been endeavouring to work with all the time.
I was very much impressed by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth (there is, I suppose, no greater expert on foreign affairs in this House than the noble Lord), when he stressed the importance of realising that we are at this moment part of the E.E.C. and that, although it may be the present Government's idea to renegotiate and to try to change the Treaty (and the words which have been read out from this Paper are fairly disruptive, I think, of the E.E.C.), we are already inside it. We ought not to behave as though we were talking at these people, when in fact we are part of that Assembly. This point was put by the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, in, I thought, very tactful language. I am sure that many members of the public do not realise the damage that can be done by taking the opposite course and by speaking, as the noble Lord said, very loudly in English when they should be speaking rather quietly—certainly in English, if that is the language in which they want to speak, but not in an aggressive and attacking manner—if the Government want to get people to work with them.
My Lords, we have many friends in the E.E.C., as we know. They are people whom we do not want to hurt, people whom we do not want to depress—the West Germans, in particular; the Belgians the Dutch. These are all our friends and Allies. They are struggling just as much as anybody else to make this thing a success. As the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, has said, they have had many successes, although their failures have probably been more emphasised than their successes because, as we all know, bad news is always carried faster and is always more newsworthy than good news. But I am quite sure that if we want to make the Common Market a success, if we want to build up the influence of the European Parliament, the right way to go about it is certainly not to start off by antagonising people.
Of course, the European Parliament is only a beginning, but I believe that it is a great conception. I am not a member of it and I have never been to it, but from reading the accounts of what takes place at the European Parliament it seems 989 to me that the contribution British Parliamentarians have made has been of considerable importance, and I only wish that the present Government would send their delegates to the Parliament so that they can take part. There is no reason why they should not. This kind of attitude of "I am holier than thou" is to me quite inconceivable in a democratic society. We want people of all political Parties to go to the European Parliament; and I beg the noble Lords, Lord Shepherd and Lord Goronwy-Roberts, who in many ways seem to me very anxious to co-operate, to urge upon their colleagues that at least they could send delegates from the Government to the European Parliament.
I was so shocked, as I think many Members of this House were, by the reactions of the E.E.C. to the Foreign Secretary's speech that I thought I must make a rather violent protest, but the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, has rightly said that sometimes one protests too loudly about these things and one does not get anywhere. As someone who has worked in one or two Assemblies—I have certainly been a long time in the North Atlantic Assembly, where I have worked with many Parliamentarians; and I was three years, I think it was, at the United Nations working under different Foreign Secretaries and with different Ambassadors—I can only say that I have never read anything which shocked me so much as the account of the way in which our present Foreign Secretary went over on Monday, of what he said and of the impression he gave. That really will take a lot of living down, and it will not make it any easier for the Government, who want to renegotiate. If you want to renegotiate, you do not make enemies in the first five minutes of the people you are trying to renegotiate with, because that makes the situation really impossible.
I read a report in The Times of the words of one of the other Ministers who was over there, Mr. Hattersley. He said:Anyone who expected us to return to London with the cheers of Europe ringing in our ears must have based that optimism on the belief that we did not intend to begin a serious process of negotiation".My Lords, I never expected anybody holding the views of those people to return with the cheers of Europe, but last weekend I was a delegate to a quite 990 unofficial conference which took place in Edinburgh. It was the Köniwinter Conference, an Anglo-German Conference, which generally takes place each year in Bonn or in Königsberg, opposite Bonn, across the Rhine. There we met a group of very distinguished delegates—Parliamentarians, journalists and businessmen—and on our side we had a similar very distinguished number of delegates at this conference, including, I may say, Mr. Hattersley, who made a speech.
They were all desperately anxious about Monday: Monday was the great day. Would this be the moment at which they would get some encouragement from the present Government to carry on and work with them? Because, my Lords, many of those people are Social Democrats. They are not Conservatives; they are the Social Democrats. They are the supporters of Willy Brandt, all anxious to work with the Government that is now in power. They will be absolutely shattered by what happened on Monday. I cannot think of anything that can have disappointed them more; and to me it is a great sorrow and a great mistake. I only hope to goodness that it is the last time the present Foreign Secretary, whom I admire—he is a very able man; I know him, and he is a very able person—behaves as he did last Monday. It really was a terrible let-down for the whole way in which we conduct our diplomatic affairs.
My Lords, this debate is not of course about the E.E.C. alone, but is about Western Europe and the United States. I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, when he said, "Do not let us think that there is only the E.E.C. in Europe." Of course there are other countries: Western Europe is more than the E.E.C. But I am quite certain that if we can get the E.E.C. countries to work together the rest of Western Europe will also co-operate. There is no reason why the co-operation between the E.E.C. and the rest of Europe, with the influence of the United States, should not be very powerful indeed in building up the Free World—the world that we really want to defend.
After all, the Congressmen and Senators who have the foreign policy of the United States to administer depend, just as our Members of Parliament depend in the administration of our foreign 991 policy, on getting support from the voters in their own country—voters on the Pacific Coast, in the Middle West and on the Eastern seaboard. If those voters see the European situation deteriorating, or if they see nations quarrelling, they can very easily say, as they have said many times in the United States of America, "Let them get on with it; it is nothing to do with us. Let us withdraw our troops and let us have America for the Americans". An isolationist policy is not something we do not know the Americans to have had in past years, and it would be a tragedy if such a thing were to happen and if American foreign policy were to be changed because of it; that is to say, because those responsible for foreign policy, finding that they could not get support from the American people, began to think they must withdraw from Europe. That would be a real tragedy. It is up to the European nations to show the American public and people that they can work together, that they do not want to quarrel and that the United Kingdom does not want to throw spanners into the works at the present time. It is up to us to help the European nations to work out a united policy in peace time. Twice in my lifetime we have had to make tragic sacrifices in war. Surely we can make sacrifices in peace to prevent such things ever happening again.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, has put down his Motion with a macabre sense of timing which could hardly be equalled. I should like to join several other noble Lords in saying how much we regret the death of a great Frenchman, President Pompidou. According to my right honourable friend, Mr. Heath, speaking on the wireless this morning, and to my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, speaking earlier to-day, he was a great friend and admirer of this country. May I, who has loved France since my days as a callow youth at the Sorbonne, add my personal condolences to France and to the late President's family.
Europe and America have got themselves into the most appalling muddle. The United States President is fighting 992 for his political life, surrounded by scandals which would have brought down in dishonour and disgrace most democratic Governments. Even if the President himself is soap-powder white, which necessitates a view of human nature requiring a saintlike charity, or, as some would say, naivety, most of his closest advisers have been indicted for high crimes or resigned in disgust. Luckily for us and for the United States, he still has his newly married Doctor Kissinger as Secretary of State, who has been compared to Metternich. Personally, I think a comparison to Talleyrand is more apposite. Unfortunately, the stubborn arrogance of M. Jobert has produced a counter-irritation in Doctor Kissinger, which has exacerbated European/United States relations further than was absolutely necessary.
The Italian Government is either non-existent or scandal-ridden. There are scandals of oil companies bribing political Parties—not one of them but all of them. There is the scandal of the money voted to save Venice, which seems to have vanished. Denmark has recently been through a period of political instability. We in this country have a minority Government, whose approach to foreign affairs has the finesse of a lame carthorse—possibility that of a Percheron as well.
Mr. Callaghan makes reasonably sensible remarks in another place, and then charges into the Council of Ministers, demanding this and demanding that as if he were Palmerston threatening the Greeks over Dom Pacifico—only, unlike Palmerston he stops sending a gunboat to Greece and practically everywhere else that he disapproves of. Here I must reiterate what I said yesterday. The barbarity of the present Greek Government is apparent to all. The Chilean Junta is also a form of government which cannot possibly commend itself to any lover of liberty, but before Her Majesty's Government get too upheaved about that Junta, I think they ought to remember and not shut their eyes (as some of their more myopic supporters have) to the contemptible disregard for liberty, for the rule of law and of property which was shown by the late Allende Government.
These examples of instant "twitch" reaction and selective disapproval can in no way be in Great Britain's interest. I say this not as a carping criticism but 993 in an effort to help Her Majesty's Ministers and also to try to explain to them that diplomacy and foreign affairs are best done when carried out softly, quietly and with the minimum of gestures. Castlereagh, Talleyrand, Metternich, Kissinger, my right honourable friend Sir Alec Douglas-Home—and Ernest Bevin, above all—understood this with great clarity. Of course, gestures are sometimes essential but they must be well thought out and used very sparingly. They must be used only when they will work and when they are going to be effective.
On behalf of Her Majesty's Government, the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, and the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies—and I hope I have pronounced her name correctly—reiterated what was said in the Queen's Speech about support for the Atlantic Alliance. How can this coincide with the pledge contained in the Labour Party Manifesto—and we all know that the right honourable Mr. Harold Wilson, as Prime Minister, is the custodian of the Labour Party Manifesto—to remove the Holy Loch bases? This question has been asked in your Lordships' House by me at least once, and also by my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir, and there has been an ugly rush to cover by noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite, because they have not really wanted to answer the question.
President Kennedy had a noble dream: that the defence of liberty and democracy rested on the twin pillars of the United States and a United Europe. If we in Europe continue to show the bad-tempered selfishness based on individual weakness that seems to be personified by M. Jobert, and also if France, through the tragic events of yesterday, worsens the factor of disunity by not really having a working Government until late May, at the earliest, together with chaos in Italy and the "barging" tactics of Her Majesty's present advisers, the outlook for this great ideal is grim indeed.
Let us, my Lords, remember that at the time of Queen Elizabeth I. Russia was a small Grand Duchy subject to the great Khans. Let us remember also that in the time of the Napoleonic Wars her population was smaller than that of France and that in the 300 years since 994 Elizabeth I, right up to Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, Russia has pursued a persistently aggressive policy. The Russians, either as Romanov Czars or Leninist Czars, have annexed and grabbed either Westwards or Eastwards. Admittedly, there was a pause brought on by the Treaty of Brest Litovsk and the Peace Treaties of 1918, but 20 years later they annexed Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. They then tried to re-annexe Finland and partition, for the fourth time, Poland. These were post-war annexations of Imperial Russia—and I used that word advisedly and leave no comment.
In Western Europe there is this terrible disunity of purpose. The Americans are making troop withdrawal noises, amid demoralisation at home. The morale of some NATO Armies appears not to be too good. The British have cut their Defence Budget, but luckily it is still possible to agree with Marshall Foy and say that the British Infantry are the finest in the world—he then added "Thank God there are so few of them." I say it is unfortunate that there are not enough of them. But if I were Czar Brezhnev I would be sitting in the Kremlin licking my lips, seeing America demoralised and Western Europe behaving like a collection of spoilt children.
In spite of our childish behaviour and our economic troubles, in spite of some of the pettiness of some of the actions of this Government—in spite of all these things, this country is still by far and away the best country in the world to live in. This must be preserved. Our liberties and institutions can only be safeguarded by the surrender of some of our sovereignty to our partners in Europe, and they will in turn retro-cede some of theirs to us. We must not let this precious heritage of English liberties and European civilisation fall into the maw of selfish, tyrannical, brutish Russia, or possibly by our own internal failures let it fall to an internal Maoist, Trotskyist or Fascist tyranny—call it what you will. England has several times saved herself by her own exertions and will, I hope, pull herself together again and save Europe by her own example.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, deserves our thanks and congratulations on three 995 counts. First, the subject that he has chosen for this debate, which manifestly is at any time a highly important one; secondly, as has already been stated, the timing of the debate, which could not have been more apt; and thirdly, for his admirable speech which initiated the debate. At the same time, I should like to offer my congratulations and welcome to my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts. It is very good to know that he is back again in the Foreign Office, and even better that he is among us instead of in another place.
I do not know how many of your Lordships watched the television programme, "Panorama" on Monday night, but those who did will remember that when the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary was asked what ambitions he had as Foreign Secretary he replied that he would like to achieve, or help to achieve, three things: the first was to bring Europe and the United States closer together; the second was to bring the countries of Europe closer together—and he made the point that that included not only the countries of the Community, not only the countries of Western Europe, but all those which made up the Continent of Europe—and thirdly, to develop the ties between the Commonwealth, the developing countries and Europe. Those were his three major ambitions. I am sure we all agree wholeheartedly with them and hope that he will achieve them, or go a long way towards achieving them.
The question is: how can this be done? It is one thing to say what you want; it is quite a different thing to know how best to set about achieving it. Of one thing I am quite certain: these admirable and laudable ambitions cannot be achieved by this country alone, in spite of the fine sentiments of the noble Earl who has just sat down. We are still a great country, it is true, but we are not a great country in the sense that we were fifty or one hundred years ago, or perhaps even twenty years ago. We cannot impose our will upon other people; we do not have the military strength, we do not have the economic strength, to achieve these things single-handed. But we still have our greatness; we still have our beliefs; we still have our experience; and we still have our 996 ideals. Those must not be lost to the world. It is my very firm conviction that all these qualities can only bear fruit if we meld them in with other countries of Europe which, although they may have differences to some extent of history and outlook, are essentially of the same civilisation as we are.
It is only through the Community, the enlarged Community and the yet to be enlarged Community, that these things for which Europe stands—and which we, above all, in our somewhat chauvinistic manner believe we pre-eminently stand—can be achieved and the Community can make their mark upon the rest of the world. It is the greatest and most dangerous self-deception if we believe that we can go it alone and have this influence simply as one country, however great its history, however high its ideals. Surely the experience of Suez will have taught us where the limits of our influence is at the present time.
The Community is the means which is ready to hand for achieving this. I think we all accept that. Most of us would not for a moment say that the Community as it is constituted to-day is perfect and needs no alteration. All of us know it can be improved, and that it must be improved. Its faults have been shown only too clearly in the past few months. At one time I thought that it was harsh and unfair that the great test for the new Community should come so soon in the shape of a common policy for energy and how we should react against the Arab threat. We reacted badly to it as Europe and as a Community; and as an Atlantic Alliance we reacted badly.
But I am not sure this was a bad thing, because it has concentrated our minds on sonic of the greatest weaknesses of the Community and the Atlantic Alliance. While at the moment we are in the throes of self-analysis about what happened and how it can be changed, I believe that if we are wise—and there is no reason to think we shall not be—we can learn a very valuable lesson from this. It is not only in energy—that is the most recent and vital crisis which has arisen. There is the equally vital, somewhat lower crisis—if we can have such a thing—of the world food situation. Here we must have a concerted European policy, not just a Common Agricultural Policy for the Nine 997 in Europe, but a much wider world food programme in which the enlarged Community can play a very vital part indeed. And there are many other things: trade and help to the developing countries, and so on. In all these matters Europe must work and improve itself and become a vital and effective power.
It is good to know that the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs recognises this and has views which I am sure command the support of almost everybody in this House. We have heard to-day many criticisms of what happened on Monday. But those criticisms tend to mask some of the actual words used by the Foreign Secretary. Let me remind your Lordships of some of them. He says in the White Paper:We shall negotiate in good faith.He says later:I would stress that I do not hope for a negotiation about withdrawal, I would prefer successful renegotiation.He quotes from the Labour Party Manifesto:Britain is a European nation, and a Labour Britain would always seek a wider co-operation between the European peoples.Later, he says:My country wishes to remain a member of an effective Atlantic Alliance.These are all things with which very few of us—even those who just now evinced some doubt about what I was going to say—would disagree. As the Foreign Secretary so rightly said in his "Panorama" interview, words are not enough in these matters. There can often be, with the greatest respect to the noble Baroness, too many words in diplomatic dealings—so many words that they can mean anything to anybody. We want words which are clear and unequivocal, and which are followed by action.
My noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts said that the Foreign Secretary spoke frankly—some people suggested it was bluntly, but I do not think that matters. I think that frank speech and blunt speech, particularly in diplomatic affairs, is valuable, and I am glad we have a Foreign Secretary who uses frank and blunt words. But that being so, I am sure he will not object if some of us use frank and blunt words, too. I suggest frankly and bluntly that while in some forms of negotiation it is good tactics to 998 start tough and to appear intransigent so that any subsequent softening is regarded as a great victory by one's opponents, in this particular case we are not negotiating with opponents; we are dealing with colleagues and with partners.
Some of our colleagues and partners are already suspicious of us; some of them are difficult people to deal with; others—and I would say especially the Germans and the Dutch—are very anxious to be friendly and helpful and to go along with us and support us in many of the reforms that we wish to bring about. They are close friends politically, and many of them are close friends personally with many of us. I believe that my right honourable friend runs a real risk of losing their help if he pursues the sort of approach which he adopted on Monday. With a different approach he could ensure that they work with us; and in that way he could take a great step towards the achievement of his ambitions as outlined in his "Panorama" interview. But if he fails in his renegotiations, if we fail in our renegotiations, if we fail to get the good will and the support of our friends and our colleagues in the European Community, then, my Lords, it is idle to think that this country on its own can bring Europe and the United States closer together any more than without its partners in the Community it can help to unify the whole of Europe, or even to strengthen the ties of the Commonwealth and the developing countries. It is only a strong Europe, with us as a full and powerful member, that can bring about all these good things.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ LORD HANKEY
My Lords, I should like to start by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, on the extremely well documented and interesting speech with which he started this debate. He gave us the best possible start. I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, upon the way in which he dealt with this now somewhat controversial question. I warmly agreed with most of what he said. I do not want to add a great deal to what has been said of the great importance of relations with the United States, though I am sorry that not more has been said about the Commonwealth. I should like to say that 999 politically we have the same ethos and outlook as the United States in so many matters which are of great importance to both our countries in world affairs. In defence we are really totally dependent on the United States, although we make the best possible contribution we can to collective defence. I agree very much with the interesting speech which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, made on that subject.
Economically the situation is equally striking. My Lords, if you take the world economy and divide it down the middle, about half consists of the Communist countries and the rest of the world; the other half consists of O.E.C.D. It is a fact that if you take all the countries of O.E.C.D. together—that is, the whole of free Europe, Canada, the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand—and add up their Gross Domestic Products, the United States comes to 44 per cent. of the whole. It is a very remarkable fact. That is at current prices and current exchange rates.
This is something we must never forget, because in the future, relations with the developing world are going to be vitally important. My Lords, people talk as if the developing world consisted only of extremely poor nations. That is a gross distortion. Japan was in the developing world not so long ago, and for years now they have been giving aid. Similarly, Italy gives aid. There are many States, like Lebanon, Mexico, Formosa, and a number of others, who are in a stage of economic take-off. But the prosperity of all these countries, and their livelihood, depends on the trade which they have with the developed world; and if we in the developed world are going to fall out as between America (with 44 per cent. of the gross domestic product), and Europe and the others, it can only spell disaster not just for ourselves but for a great many countries for whom we should feel a continuing sense of responsibility.
I am one of those who is a very great believer in a better and a closer relation with the United States on all economic, commercial, monetary and financial subjects. I think that O.E.C.D. has a continuing value; and that the relationship between the European Economic Community and America is of continuing 1000 and vital importance inside that framework.
My Lords, I do not agree in the least with the Gaullist attitude towards America. I think it has done infinite harm to Europe. I had very much the same experience as the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth. I have had many arguments with my many French friends about this. But when I was in France, about two weeks ago, I detected a new wind beginning to blow. There are thinking people in France who are beginning to say. "Yes, that was all very well in de Gaulle's time, but it has now become clear that we cannot make Europe without America". My Lords, this, I believe, is the beginning of a glimmering of a real truth. I think that this is something that we should try to bring home to our French friends and our European partners. In my view, it is the prime duty of Britain, inside the E.E.C., to oil the wheels and facilitate Atlantic understanding on the broadest possible front. We cannot do this if we quarrel with our friends in Europe and offend them.
I want to express, in the most carefully chosen words, the deepest anxiety about the course the Government are following in talking of even the possibility of withdrawal from the E.E.C. Britain is obviously heading for a major round of cost inflation: the soaring price of oil, with V.A.T. now added; the soaring costs of imports of food and raw materials (with other raw materials producers about to imitate the oil sheikhs, so far as one can judge); the miners' settlement, with ASLEF, N.U.B.E., A.U.E.W., and others as runners-up; all these factors are going to work right through our economy, with higher domestic prices for coal, electric power, gas, transport and so on. It can only affect prices. There must be another wage round. It is bound to affect exports and the balance of payments. I think that, important as the Government's policy is in this respect, subsidies can be only a palliative. Yet, my Lords, already we have borrowed extensively abroad and are now borrowing much more.
I am not suggesting that these factors are all the fault of either the present or the last Government. But is this a time to get separated from the rich and 1001 successful countries with which we are now after ten years of negotiation, so closely allied in the E.E.C.? Last year, our first effective year in the E.E.C., our trade with Europe increased by 37 per cent. Surely we must give that some weight. I must say, having for years been United Kingdom delegate to O.E.C.D., and also Chairman of the Economic Policy Committee there, that my mind boggles at the possible consequences for this country, for our countrymen and for our economy, if we are now separated from the E.E.C. After all, EFTA has gone; our relations with the Commonwealth are not what they were; our own people show almost no concern for their firms' delivery dates and contract commitments. Mr. Joe Gormley is only the most recent example. What will happen if our creditors lose confidence in an isolated and friendless United Kingdom and demand their money back? What about the pound? How do we buy our food and raw materials? I am blessed if I know! The Government seem to me to show no adequate appreciation of these major considerations of policy in even talking of possible withdrawal.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, since the noble Lord is developing this point, could he inform the House what was the deficit between the United Kingdom and the E.E.C. for 1973?
§ LORD HANKEY
It was a pretty considerable one, my Lords, but I have not the figures with me. Perhaps the noble Lord could tell us.
§ LORD HANKEY
In current trade, my Lords. I think that is fairly considerable, but that is probably our fault rather than theirs. After all, I recall that in 1973 we lost 400,000 motor cars owing to strikes, and in the previous year we lost 23 million working days. How you can expect anything but a deficit of £1,000 million on that basis I just do not know.
I must say that I am profoundly shocked at some of the things that were said in Luxembourg. I do not disagree with the Government over all the things they want to alter. The Common Agricultural Policy obviously needs amend- 1002 ment: I thought Mr. Peart was well received on that. The butter nonsense is totally absurd. On economic and monetary union, it is admitted in Mr. Callaghan's speech that much new thinking is going on in Brussels. The budget could obviously be discussed. The Government, in my view, have acted in such a way as to impugn Britain's good faith by talking of renegotiating an agreement which was so recently signed and ratified—and that after an Election! They have deeply offended and wounded some of our closest friends, neighbours and associates. They have prejudiced the influence which we have so carefully built up with these friends and associates, and which we shall need in order to settle these very questions.
And then, not once but several times in his speech, our Foreign Secretary says he is engaged in a root-and-branch review of these issues and will be making proposals. My Lords, would it not have been far better to decide first exactly what we want? Some of the others are just as worried on some of these issues, and I think we would certainly have found allies who would help us obtain satisfaction, and we could then have organised major pressure on each on these issues inside the E.E.C. I am all for standing up for British interests—I have personally had to do so for years. But surely that would have been a wiser method than all this talk about renegotiation, and even negotiation for withdrawal, which probably has no proper legal basis anyway.
There is something very difficult that I want to say now. We have been speaking about bluntness. I have something that I really must say rather bluntly. I am the more disturbed about this because I feel that the major interests of the United Kingdom are being endangered, and may even be sacrificed, in order to cover up some of the more ridiculous political somersaults which the Labour Party have performed on these issues in recent years. I strongly suspect that the Labour Party are leaning over backwards in this, and perhaps in other important national matters, in order to oblige the extreme Left Wing elements who have been allowed to get into a number of key positions which are very important to the Party. Let no one say that our people approved their Party Manifesto. I am personally deeply offended that the 1003 Foreign Secretary should quote it to his foreign colleagues as if it were the national Bible. It most definitely is not; and the percentages of electoral votes proved that, if they proved nothing else. What more are the Left-Wing elements going to be allowed to impose on our country? And as for having a referendum on issues as profound and complicated as these. I fail to see any sense or responsibility in the idea. What on earth is Parliament for if it is not as an elected body to settle questions of these dimensions? Do the Labour Party really want to diminish its authority? I refuse to believe that. Yet I do not see any other possible result from this section of the Foreign Secretary's speech.
It is rare for a Cross-Bencher to say hard words; I do not like doing it. But I want to say that I speak as one with many Socialist friends, having served several Labour Governments with real loyalty, enthusiasm and energy; and I speak out of deep anxiety and real friendship. I should like to see Labour take their proper place at Strasbourg. It is only too apparent to any informed observer that they no longer understand their colleagues on the Continent or know what happens at Brussels. I am really sad about this. I have been personally delighted, even when serving a Conservative Government, to facilitate such contacts abroad between the members of the Labour Party and foreign Labour Parties in the past, and I have been impressed by Labour's wide knowledge and understanding. Their distinguished leaders have shown an enormous knowledge of Socialist Parties all over Europe, not only on this side of the Iron Curtain, and I hope the Labour Party will not fall into "Little Englandism". There is no future in "Little Englandism."
Look at the situation we are all in. The huge Soviet thundercloud overhangs central and Western Europe with East European satellites most strictly kept in order, and a most impressive, if at present not quite monolithic, discipline at home. Vast nuclear arms resources—whatever for? A vast Fleet—again, whatever for? One thinks of Kaiser Wilhelm; one thinks of Hitler. We discovered what their Fleets were for. It just makes me shiver a bit when I look at the number of Soviet nuclear submarines. They have an 1004 enormous Army, and we saw it move with a pantherlike spring on Czechoslovakia. And here we have a new situation in France—I agree of course that it has arisen since the Brussels Meeting. We have the German Government notably less sure of itself; weak political situations in Italy and several other E.E.C. countries; an American President who may not even see the year out; even a minority Government here. Is this really the good moment to go calling in question the European Economic Community's very existence? It is surely a gift offering on a plate to the enemies of Western Europe, and everybody knows who they are.
Yet, my Lords, look what needs to be done. Cannot we all together in Europe develop a good regional policy? Of course we can. Cannot we reorganise and improve the E.E.C.'s very unhelpful method of commercial negotiation? We ought to be able to do so. I agreed most warmly with the interesting observations of the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, on this problem of improving the methods of negotiation and information as between the members of the E.E.C. and the United States. Cannot we all together, and with our partners in O.E.C.D., find a solution to the obsessive monetary problems, exchange problems, inflation problems, which afflict our civilisation and undermine its stability? It is sure we cannot do it alone; nor can America. But surely these problems merit real diplomacy. Should not we preserve our influence with our friends in order to make a real approach to these vital questions on which the prosperity of the whole world depends?
There are the problems of oil and raw materials. There are aid problems—they must look quite different to the developing countries with the present raw material prices. Surely the Government, with their great understanding of these problems, will want to organise a joint approach to them. I liked very much what the Foreign Secretary said in his speech on these subjects. What about pollution problems, and what about a co-ordinated energy policy? Our friends are certainly ready to discuss all these questions with us in a progressive and constructive way. All I am concerned to say now is that we ought to be making an approach to these problems, instead of bringing forward these stupid questions 1005 of butter nonsenses, as if the whole world depended on them. I implore the Government to raise their sights to these much larger issues. There was only the slightest recognition of them in the Foreign Secretary's speech at Brussels, but I thought the references to them were good, so far as they went.
Finally, I want to sound a warning against to-ing and fro-ing in high places. I think this can be said only from these Benches. Lack of consistency and determination to see things through has done our country infinite harm for years. I think we have been under very poor management. I remember that when I went to O.E.E.C. in 1960 I had instructions to get myself and the United Kingdom out of the Chair of the Council. So after I had been there some time I very discreetly sounded my colleagues and I got universally the same slightly humorous reaction: "Oh no, you don't!", they said. "Shortly after the United Kingdom started O.E.E.C., for some reason we never could understand they turned sour on the whole enterprise, so we pushed the United Kingdom into the Chair in order that they should be shamed into making the running, and there you be and there you bide, my friend". So there I had to remain until we started O.E.C.D. with a Ministerial Chairman in the person of Mr. Kristensen, a former Danish Minister of Finance.
So history repeats itself. We spend years of effort getting into the Common Market and turn sour on it for what seem to me the most questionable motives, and in a very questionable way. We spend hundreds of millions of pounds on developing new aircraft, one after another, and appear to lose interest at the end. We spend countless millions on nuclear energy, in which we lead the world. We make a mess of industrial engineering. We lose interest at the highest levels, partly because our Government wanted to oblige the miners—and look how Mr. Gormley has rewarded us! We talk for years about a new airport and a Channel Tunnel and appear to reach conclusions; but no decision ever stands. We have over the years completely mucked up our steel industry and the industries which supply it with capital equipment by to-ing and fro-ing and political Party manœuvring. No wonder businessmen mistrust politicians! 1006 —and so, for that matter, do the trade unions. One could not run a village confectionery shop on that basis. So I implore our Government, and Governments of all Parties, when decisions are taken, to stick to them. See them through, for God's sake! The resources of this country are really quite large. We can do it if we choose well, but we must not waste a great deal of money building things up and then scrapping them.
So, my Lords, I conclude with the big issues. If Europe falls apart over questions like butter or the Community Budget, which can perfectly well be discussed quietly and sensibly, will the Americans still support and defend it? I do not believe they will. Without America Europe can be crushed like a cockroach. If the United Kingdom separates itself from its friends, with a real crisis of inflation straight ahead, can we expect to go on borrowing money, or even to keep the money we have borrowed? If we go on to-ing and fro-ing, putting Party bickering before national interests, or making ceremonial posturings to impress Party extremists, can we expect anyone to respect us? If ever there was a time for consensus policies, it is now. If only we will act together, nationally, the United Kingdom will survive very well; otherwise I cannot see the bottom of the pit.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I must not be provoked by the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, because I intended—and I still intend—to make a moderate and a constructive speech. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, will be well satisfied with a debate that has been always thoughtful—in fact it has been a model of what foreign affairs debates should be. I believe that to a certain extent this is due to the fact that we have sought to concentrate on one particular aspect of foreign affairs as opposed to having a wide-ranging debate over all aspects of international affairs.
It seemed to me that the debate centred on concern as to the future of the Alliance and the future of the European Economic Community, and the United Kingdom approach, particularly to renegotiation of terms. If I may say so, not only must I thank the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, for introducing this debate, but also all other noble Lords who 1007 have participated, and in particular the noble Earl. Lord Cromer, who has now given up his heavy duties in Washington and has returned to your Lordships' House. I am sure that we shall look forward to hearing from him on many other occasions.
Before proceeding, I wish, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government and myself personally, to join with all other noble Lords who have paid tribute on the occasion of the sad passing of President Pompidou. We may have had our differences—the United Kingdom and France—and no doubt President Pompidou had his own role there but, there can never be any question that President Pompidou was a great Frenchman and one must honour him for his attitude and his support for his country. We all send our message of sympathy to Madame Pompidou and to the son, and also to the people of France in this moment of sorrow.
I thought it right, too, that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and others, reminded us that this year is the 25th anniversary of NATO, and in the light of some of the speeches, particularly that of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, who always enlivens us, and also the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, it is well to remember that NATO was formed under a Labour Government, under a very great Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, and was a consequence of long-held beliefs of the Labour Movement that the peace of this country and the stability of Europe depended upon collective security. That is what we worked for, and when we seized the opportunity that the United States offered, it was possible for NATO to be formed; and I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, and to other noble Lords that the Atlantic Alliance and NATO remain four square in this Government's policy, both in the field of foreign affairs and defence. That is why throughout the Queen's Speech and in the speeches that were made in another place we have stressed the need for strengthening the Alliance.
My Lords, if I may, I will detain the House by reading a few words taken out of the speech made by the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary to his col- 1008 Leagues at the Council of Ministers. He said:The image of the Community in the United Kingdom is not good. My country wishes to remain a member of an effective Atlantic Alliance; and there is therefore concern about the degree of disagreement between the Community and the United States. Surely this is not inevitable. If the British people thought it was, it would adversely influence their attitude towards the development of the Community.We shall not always be able to agree with the United States but the Community in devising its procedures and its common positions must always try to work with America wherever it can. Conversely America must try and work with us. Only if the Nine work harmoniously with the United States on both economic issues in the framework of the Community and on political issues in the framework of political co-operation, shall we surmount the difficulties to which President Nixon and Dr. Kissinger have recently drawn attention.We should all like to work with you to produce a stable, healthy and co-operative relationship with all those countries or groups of countries with whom Europe's life is intimately connected, for example with Japan, Canada and other industrialised countries; with the Commonwealth and the Community's Associates; and with the Arab countries; and with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.I should have thought those words would put the position of Her Majesty's Government beyond any form of question.
My Lords, my noble friend, Lord Chalfont, quite rightly drew attention to the threat to the West by the Soviet bloc countries. This is potentially a grave threat. But clearly there can be no question that we should seek a détente and that we should move cautiously but constructively. It was again the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary who was quite clear in his speech in another place as to the intentions of Her Majesty's Government in this matter. In defence matters, such as within NATO, there was concern for the degree of consultation which has developed. I think it was last November that the NATO countries resolved to see how this could be remedied. Steps have been taken, but clearly we shall need to watch the matter.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, said that the Government need to be careful that they do not adversely affect United Kingdom/United States relations by a reduction in the Defence budget. I have already spoken of the great importance we attach to the maintenance 1009 of the North Atlantic Alliance. The Reykjavik Declaration of 1968 recognised that the Alliance was aimed towards mutual trust and confidence, which must exist if there was to be lasting peace in Europe. But until a full détente is achieved, an effective alliance, defence will remain essential. We in Britain shall play our full part in consultation with the Alliance as a whole. However, we shall work to find better and more efficient ways of using scarce resources in a common effort, and to ensure that the burden which Britain bears is not out of line with that of our major European allies. I do not think there can be any question (whatever form of statistics or weight one gives to one figure or another) that Britain, of all the European countries, bears not only the heaviest burden, but the heaviest burden across the exchanges. At the present moment we have our own economic difficulties, particularly balance-of-payments difficulties which the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, would attribute to all politicians; he carefully avoided putting it at the feet of the previous Administration—
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, of course the noble Lord does not blame either Party for that because he does not want to blame his friends on that side. Incidentally, I do not want to be provocative, but we have considerable economic difficulties, and shall need to deal with those. I am sure we all agree that, unless Britain is economically strong, her military and political contributions to Europe must suffer as a consequence.
In defence co-operation there seems to me much misunderstanding of European attitudes to NATO and the United States. Here I can speak with some personal experience, because the week-end before last I had the honour of leading the British delegation to the Anglo/United States Parliamentary Conference, when one had an opportunity of discussing all these matters with leading members of the American Congress. I must say to the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, who quoted figures, that they were figures which I used to very great effect at one 1010 stage in our discussions. Those figures were not known to members of the American Congress. We must find ways and means by which we can get a wider recognition, not only in the political circles of Congress, but in a wider sphere amongst the electorate, of the contribution that Europe is making, not simply to the defence of Europe but to the defence of the Western World. That in itself could be a subject on its own for a debate.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, asked me whether I could say something about W.E.U., and whether this would not be a useful vehicle for consultation. I accept that this is an interesting idea. I have not had an opportunity fully to consult my colleagues on this, but I believe that this Government support contacts in all spheres between Governments and Parliaments on both sides of the Atlantic; and W.E.U. is included in this organisation.
My Lords, I think also of the NATO Parliamentary Conference which the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, attends. I used to attend with her. I know the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, also attends this Conference. I believe this may be the vehicle for a greater exchange of knowledge and experience. I must congratulate the noble Baroness, and the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, upon taking part in this debate and for using their experience of this Conference. One of the criticisms of recent years has been that those who have been members of these Parliamentary associations have not always participated in matters of foreign policy and defence.
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, will forgive me for adding to what he has said, but I would point out that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, and the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, are also representatives from this House.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, that just shows how quickly one gets out of date. I apologise to the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, and to the noble Lord, Lord Lyell. This is even better—four representatives from this House.
My Lords, there has been discussion to-night about misunderstandings between the United States and Europe on the question of consultation. We attach very 1011 great importance to this matter. These are early days. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, that what we are working towards is the achievement of the fullest and earliest possible consultation—and I stress "earliest possible" We hope to have the support of other members of the Community in this. We are determined that past failures in communication shall not be repeated.
On the question of co-operation, we cannot expect to deal successfully with the global trade and energy problems which we now face without the active co-operation of the United States. We cannot expect the continuation of a close defence relationship with the Americans unless we ensure there is adequate and timely consultation between the countries of Europe and North America on all the major problems with which we are faced. In reply to my noble friend Lord Ardwick, I do not think in our consultation we face the question of having to choose between what will be to the benefit of Europe and what will be to the benefit of America. We need to seek for approaches to problems which will help to serve the interests of the countries on both sides of the Atlantic.
The noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, drew attention to potential food shortages. This is a considerable risk, particularly in the developing countries, as a consequence of the shortage of oil. In my view, this is a matter for the United Nations. They are the only organisation, in association with the World Bank, which can cope with such a catastrophe. In the field of other trade, multilateral trade negotiations in GATT, all these must be proceeded with, and I would suggest, too, that we need to take a more sympathetic view of the position of the United States in these negotiations.
The noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, and the noble Earl, Lord Cromer, asked what was the attitude of the Government to the negotiations under Article XXIV(6) of GATT and to the principle of compensation for the United States. Do we agree with our European partners in this matter? The GATT requires third countries to be compensated for increases in tariffs. Naturally we support that. But the level of compensation is one which has to be reached by, to quote GATT, "a process 1012 of negotiation and agreement". The Community has instructed the European Commission to explore alternative means of settling these negotiations. We attach great importance to the negotiations being settled on a mutually satisfactory basis and as soon as possible.
My Lords, the only discordant feeling I had towards the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, was when he referred to discussions of relations with the Commonwealth in terms of "humbug". I have always attached the greatest possible importance to the Commonwealth.
§ LORD O'HAGAN
My Lords, I did not say the Commonwealth was humbug. I did not say I thought the Commonwealth was humbug. I said that I attached importance to the Commonwealth, and all I hoped was that there would be no humbug in our discussion of the Commonwealth to-day in this House. That is the only way in which I associated the word "humbug" with the Commonwealth.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, I am glad I provoked the noble Lord to his feet, because he has made the point I was hoping to make. Here we have a community of people that goes right across the whole broad structure of the world—all the races, all the religions, people of many different sorts in varying economic circumstances. They can make a very great contribution to stability. I am glad the noble Lord intervened, because I think it would be quite wrong for it to go out, or appear to go out, that we were questioning the value of the Commonwealth.
I come to the Labour Government's attitude to the E.E.C. The noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, made forceful criticism, echoed in more muted ways by others. I hope that this is not a sign that the noble Baroness intends to proceed in this way, because when I was standing opposite her I was always most conciliatory in my approach. She criticised the tone of the Foreign Secretary's speech. I have no doubt at all that its effect was what was intended. It was meant to be firm and it was meant to be frank, and I do not believe that the Ministers at the Council of Ministers, the other Eight, would have expected any different approach from Mr. Callaghan, whom they have known over 1013 very many years. Mr. Callaghan speaks his mind and he has been honoured as a consequence. I believe that had we sought a diplomatic approach, and I use the word "diplomatic" in quotation marks, it would not have had the constructive effect that I believe will be a consequence of that statement which was made on Monday.
I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Walston, who reminded your Lordships of what the Foreign Secretary said as to what his approach was in terms of these negotiations: that we were negotiating in good faith and that we were seeking conditions that would make it possible for the United Kingdom to remain a member within the European Economic Community. I can say to the noble Baroness that the Labour Government have no intention, and no sense of purpose to seek to destroy the integrity of the European Economic Community, even if circumstances made it necessary, and the British people were so to decide, that we had to leave that Community.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
My Lords, if I may clarify the very important statement that the noble Lord has made, may I ask him whether the Labour Government in principle are still in favour of membership of the European Community?
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, our position is set out in the Manifesto. We have made it clear, and my right honourable friend, I thought, made it clear in his approach:For our part we have made clear—in the Labour Party Manifesto for the recent election—that Britain is a European nation, and a Labour Britain would always seek a wider co-operation between the European peoples.I think in a speech in another place the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary was more specific. I can say to the noble Baroness that we are seeking terms that are satisfactory, that are fair and are acceptable to the people of this country, so that we can remain within the Community.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, if I have satisfied the noble Earl I must have dropped into a trap.
1014 My Lords, I will throw away the notes in relation to Lord Hankey. He spoke about the economic difficulties of this country into which politicians had led us; but I will deal with the noble Lord on another occasion. The noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, asked about the Labour Party sending members to the European Assembly. This is a matter to which the Labour Party itself will give consideration as we see how renegotiation is proceeding.
I come back to the question of renegotiation. I am sure we would all accept that if the European Community is to have any real meaning, any meaningful future, it must be that all the partners to it are satisfied with the terms. That is all we are seeking. Again because of time, I am not going to ask the noble Baroness to tell me what the Conservative Party have in mind for the political unification of Europe. One of these days I shall be very pleased to know. At present I do not know.
In conclusion, may I say that our aim is to intensify the system of political consultation and co-operation, and to ensure that Europe and the United States work as closely as possible together. As the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary said in another place, we emphatically reject the view that a united Europe can emerge only out of a process of struggle against America. The Government believe that the frictions and misunderstandings which have characterised transatlantic relations in recent months must become a thing of the past, and that Europe and North America must work together to support the common beliefs and ideals and the basic human freedoms and values which they share. Only by so doing can we hope to win the economic benefits and lasting peace for both sides of the Atlantic.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ LORD O'HAGAN
My Lords, I have learnt a great deal to-day, which is one way of showing that from this standpoint it has been a most useful and excellent debate. I should not dream of offering prizes to all the speakers in it, because with a few exceptions I should want to offer a prize to everyone who spoke. I make clear my own attitude to the way the debate has gone by saying that the speech I envied most, the one I should have liked most to make, was that of the 1015 noble Lord, Lord Walston. I say that deliberately to dissociate myself from some of the mockers and knockers on this side of the House. The way the noble Baroness used the term "disastrous" for the Council of Ministers' meeting, and some of the Callaghan baiting that went on, I felt was a little excessive. My own criticisms were entirely levelled at the tone and approach of his opening gambit, in what is always a very abusive meeting place. The Council of Ministers of the E.E.C. is really a horse-trading affair rather than a respectable international forum, with leak and counter leak, rumour and counter rumour, Ministers dashing out and feeding the Press with their own side of the story, and of course everybody is insulted at some point during a negotiation conducted in that way.
Your Lordships may have read in the Observer some rather petty-minded articles about this House. What the writer had to say about our work was really characterised by his insults to the food here, which I myself enjoy very much. If there is a message that goes out to him to-day, it is: "We shall not invite you to eat here again, because you do not appreciate what is good for you". More seriously, I believe that at this stage of the Government's dealings with the Community we may have done some good by drawing together all the various strands of expertise that exist in this House. Perhaps with a little acrimony from time to time, certainly with different points of view, we have coalesced what wisdom there is here. In so doing, I think we have shown one thing absolutely clearly. That is that the relationship of this country with the Community and with the United States is part of a complicated web of an interlocking network of international relationships which hinge one on the other. Anybody who has crude, thrusting notions of doing something unilaterally, without taking into account all the ripples and side-effects, will, I hope, if he bothers to read today's debate, think a little more cautiously. Perhaps I might suggest to the Govern- 1016 ment (and if they are not going to do it I will do it myself), that an account of to-day's debate might be a suitable gift to send to Acapulco for Dr. Kissinger to read on his honeymoon. On all sides, whatever we have disagreed about, we have all stressed the importance of strengthening the links of this country and the Community with the United States.
I should like to say one final word. I originally had down for to-day a Motion calling attention to the advantages and disadvantages of Community membership, but I withdrew it from the Order Paper because I felt that it was a little early for us to see what the Government were going to say and in fact, they have said nothing at all. Therefore, I thought that we had better wait before discussing that subject. When we do discuss it, either as a country or in this House, what we have been talking about to-day will not swing the balance. I do not think that there are many votes in what we have been talking about to-day. I suspect that it would not influence a referendum a great deal. All I am saying, in conclusion—and now I am using this as a platform—is that whatever our standpoint on membership of the Community, we have a right to expect that this Government will inform the people of the country, in a way that the last Government failed to do, about what membership of the Community means. Referenda are all right, but they are unreal and can be misused if there is not sufficiently widespread dissemination of information that is beyond question.
I hope that the relative harmony that has emerged from to-day's debate can be translated into a continuing process of dialogue between those who are for, those who are against and those who are doubtful, so that we can take account of each other's point of view, not become polarised, and if it does come to a referendum make sure that everybody in this country decides knowingly what choice he is making for Britain's future. I thank all noble Lords very much, and I now beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.