§ 3.8 p.m.
§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Tuesday last by Lord Taylor of Mansfield—namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:
§ Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR DEFENCE FOR THE ARMY (LORD BRAYLEY)
My Lords, it is not so very long since I made my maiden speech, and now, one week after becoming Under-Secretary of State for the Army, I rise to open for the Government as we resume our debate on the loyal Address. Your Lordships have always shown kindness to those speaking from the Government Benches for the first time, and I humbly trust that your Lordships will make no exception with me to-day. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will be speaking after me in the debate. I cannot pretend that it gives me anything but pleasure to find him on the Benches opposite, and I hope that he will have a long and well-deserved rest there. But I feel sure that your Lordships would wish to join me on this occasion in paying tribute to the great service which he gives to this House. I know that he was proud to be Secretary of State for Defence, and we both share a personal pride in the British Forces.
My Lords, my right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will be making a substantive speech on Foreign Affairs in another place next Tuesday. Your Lordships will, I am sure, understand that neither I nor my noble friend the Chief Whip, in concluding this debate, will cover matters of detailed policy. There will of course be other opportunities for noble Lords to discuss matters of foreign affairs at greater depth than circumstances permit to-day. I shall confine myself to outlining the principles on which this Government will approach 133 this country's relations with the rest of the world. I would add that foreign affairs have always assumed a vital importance for our national wellbeing. This is particularly true of this moment in our history, and this underlines the need for caution.
This Government's theme, as stated in the Manifesto we have presented to the electorate, is, "Peace and justice in a safer world". These are our guidelines, not only for reasons of common humanity but because our prosperity demands international co-operation in a world undisturbed by conflict. Accordingly, we are committed to strengthening those international organisations dedicated to the promotion of human rights, the rule of law and the peaceful settlement of disputes. In particular, we promised to re-dedicate Britain to the ideals of the United Nations and the Commonwealth.
Next month the United Nations will convene a Special Session of the General Assembly to discuss the problems of raw materials and development, a vital issue to producers and consumers alike. This meeting illustrates the essential role played by the United Nations in providing a world forum for seeking solutions to problems which are worldwide in character. It is true that some problems are best tackled on a regional basis. The Organisation of African Unity and the Organisation of American States, for example, have remarkable achievements to their credit in solving differences between members of those regions. But no regional organisation can adequately tackle problems of the relationship between North and South, between the rich countries and the poor. No purely regional body can develop international law of universal application on such subjects as the Law of the Sea and the Seabed, or can put the authority of the international community behind the search for the peaceful settlement of disputes, or the organisation of peacekeeping operations or arms control and disarmament. The United Nations is not a perfect instrument, but it is the only existing organisation which can provide the essential global framework for international co-operation in these fields on a world-wide basis. As such the United Nations deserves Britain's full support; and we intend to give it.
We attach particular importance to Commonwealth co-operation. The 134 modern Commonwealth is an asset which no one should underrate. It is a global institution. It comprises 34 nations representing every continent and nearly every race. When Commonwealth countries meet they pool a wide range of experience, both political and economic, and one can hear the views of developed and developing countries, and the views of the producers and the consumers of raw materials. The Commonwealth, being a large group of independent nations with widely differing interests, cannot be expected to act as a monolithic force in world affairs. It was never intended for that purpose. Had it been so, it would have failed long ago. But the Commonwealth thrives because it is a consultative body, not a machine for stamping out decisions, and because its leaders meet in an atmosphere of collaboration, not confrontation. Let no one underestimate the value of this. The discussions that Commonwealth leaders have can exert a real influence on the decisions which their Governments take in other places. The Commonwealth is valuable to Britain. But we are also an outward-looking Government and we recognise that we have a contribution to make to Commonwealth co-operation. We intend to work with the Commonwealth and to give it our fullest support.
Among the serious and difficult problems which have much preoccupied the Commonwealth and the United Nations in recent years are those of Southern Africa. We intend to play our parts within the international community in efforts to bring about an end to the injustice and discrimination in Southern Africa. In particular we want to see a settlement in Rhodesia, for which we have a particular responsibility. It must be one that is fully supported by the African majority there.
Our belief in the global, outward-looking approach to world affairs is among the reasons why we shall seek to renegotiate the terms of entry into the European Community accepted by the Conservative Administration. At this stage I shall say no more than that we approach a renegotiation in good faith and not in a spirit of confrontation.
My right honourable friend will also be giving very careful thought to the problem of the Middle East. We shall concentrate our efforts on the achievement of a just and lasting settlement, based on Security 135 Council Resolution 242. I should like at this point to pay a tribute to the tireless efforts of Dr. Kissinger in seeking to achieve the negotiated settlement we all so much desire. But it is not only in the Middle East that the United States has a key role to play. An even more important example is the continued American participation in the defence of Europe. We shall seek to encourage the spirit of consultation and of mutual co-operation which should govern not only our own relations with the United States but also those between Europe as a whole and the United States. Good transAtlantic relations are the cornerstone of our security. The Government believe that the North Atlantic Alliance is an important instrument for détente as well as of defence. In pursuit of that policy we shall play our full part in the two great multilateral East/West negotiations now under way.
The work of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe is now entering a crucial phase. It is not easy to forecast what the outcome of the Conference will be. We for our part hope, as we have always hoped, that it will help to bring about a more civilised relationship between the people of Europe, based on growing trust rather than ingrained suspicion. Mere declarations, my Lords, are not enough. If the Conference is to yield results there must be progress in all areas of the agenda, but particularly those of freer movement of people and wider dissemination of information across the boundaries which still divide us. This Conference is about lowering barriers or it is about very little at all. As the President of Finland put it when he opened the Conference in Helsinki last July, we believe in opening doors, not closing them. Professions about détente must be put to the test in a way that ordinary people can understand. Together with our partners and allies with whom we have worked closely throughout, we shall make every effort to achieve progress worthy of the great opportunity that the Conference represents.
The negotiations on the mutual reductions of forces and armaments in Central Europe (more familiarly known as M.B.F.R.) are of vital importance for our security and that of our allies. In the words of the communiqué agreed by 136 all participants before the negotiations began, the aim is to create,a more stable relationship and … the strengthening of peace in Europe".The objective of Her Majesty's Government is the same as that of our Allies: to bring about a reduction in the level of Armed Forces in Central Europe, while preserving undiminished security for all.
In conformity with this objective, and with the agreed aims of the negotiations, Allied delegations in Vienna have proposed approximate parity between the two sides in the form of a common ceiling for ground force manpower in the area with which the negotiations are concerned. We have also proposed that the first step towards this common ceiling should be reductions of United States and Soviet ground forces in the area. Because of their immense military resources, these two countries occupy a special position in Europe which we believe should be thus recognised. The Allied approach is, in our view, logical, realistic and equitable. The two sides are still far apart and it would be unrealistic to expect early progress. The issues are complex and will not be easy to resolve. But we believe that a mutually satisfactory outcome can be found through patience and determination on all sides.
In the meantime, the Government will work to achieve the undertakings on Defence in the Labour Party's programme. NATO remains the linchpin of our security and will be the first charge on the resources made available for defence. But the defence burden should be equitably shared between the members of the Alliance. This applies not only to the respective shares borne by the United States and the European allies, but also to the spreading of the load within the European fold.
All countries of the Alliance face problems, financial and psychological, in maintaining a proper defence effort. We believe that it is right, in full consultation with our allies, that we should endeavour to make what economies we can without endangering our overriding interest, and jointly work out better and more efficient ways of using scarce resources in the common effort. Our aim will be that the burden which we bear in support of the common interest should not be out of line with that of our major 137 European allies. We will not rush our fences. There will be full consultation with our allies in all cases where their interests are involved. I might add that bearing our share of the burden will still mean the maintenance of highly professional and properly equipped forces, whose efficiency and well-being will continue to be a matter of major concern, I believe, to all of us.
§ 3.24 p.m.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I should like to join with others who have congratulated noble Lords opposite upon their new appointments. I think a new batch has been announced this morning, and I congratulate them. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and his flock can be assured of our good wishes to them as individuals, but we must pray that collectively they will not last too long. In the meantime, we must hope that they will quietly graze. I should like to single out the noble Lord, Lord Brayley, who has made his excellent maiden speech from the Dispatch Box this afternoon. He is particularly well qualified for the office to which he has been appointed, and the Army Department will be gratified that somebody with so distinguished a military career should be their political chief. Equally, Lord Brayley will discover that he is most fortunate. He is a Minister in the most agreeable and most efficient Department in Whitehall. We must hope that at the end of this Government's period of office that Department, though it will undoubtedly be no less agreeable, will also be no less efficient. For I detect in the gracious Speech, and indeed in what the noble Lord had to say, some cause for anxiety about the maintenance of a proper Defence posture, though I am glad that in the gracious Speech there is nothing about the proposal to remove United States' Polaris bases from this country.
But having made the customary genuflection in support of NATO, for which we are duly grateful, the Government say:In consultation with their allies they will pursue a policy directed to maintaining a modern and effective defence system while reducing its cost as a proportion of our national resources.Of course that is what all Governments try to do, but we have noted that the 138 present Administration seek to save some hundreds of millions of pounds on Defence. Indeed, I believe that at the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool last October it was firmly agreed that there should be a saving of £1,000 million annually. Though I well understand that the noble Lord has been in his office for only a little time and must obviously speak in generalities, it will not be enough to say that you want to do two mutually contradictory things and hope that you can achieve them, the two mutually contradictory things being to keep up the defence of this country and save a lot of money.
There are only three ways in which it is possible to save substantial sums of money on Defence. You can save money on men, you can save money on equipment and you can save money by reducing your commitments. I do not know what commitments the Government could dispense with. It is true that they could withdraw from the Five-Power Pact and remove the small British presence in Singapore and Malaysia, but that would not save them more than £10 million—if that. In the context of what they are seeking it is barely relevant. And not only is it irrelevant; I think it would be wrong. But we shall come back to that at another time if the Government seek to do it.
Other than Hong Kong—a garrison which is clearly necessary for internal security reasons—the only large-scale savings which could be effected on commitments are by a cut in the British Army of the Rhine and in the front line of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. That would be a blow to NATO at a time when the Alliance is struggling to maintain its conventional strength because, as the noble Lord himself said, other Governments are seeking to save money by cutting their forces. The United States, for its part, does not believe that Europe is doing its share in its own defence and is asking for greater effort on the part of its European allies, not less. And all the time the military capability of the Warsaw Pact grows, while that of the NATO allies barely holds its own. I do not believe that a solution which meant a cut in our contribution to the NATO Alliance could be acceptable, or indeed should be accepted.
139 As for savings on manpower, I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Bray-ley has yet been long enough in his Office to realise that there will have to be a very considerable pay increase for the Armed Services. As a result of the timing of the previous Government's incomes policy, the Forces had slipped behind in their relative pay position—a fact which, when I was Secretary of State, was causing me considerable concern. And although they got their increase under Stage 2 they were not due for another increase, under Stage 3, until next month. Even with all the provisions written into the then Pay Code and using unsociable hours, and so on, it would not have been possible for the Services to have had their relative position restored in full. Indeed, there was a good case, which certainly if I had been there I was proposing to argue, and I know that Mr. Gilmour would have argued that the Services should be treated in exactly the same way as were the Civil Service, who had also been badly hit because of the necessary timing of the incomes policy. I say this only to point out to the Government that if they are to maintain the strength of the Forces and their commitments, and if possible to improve on recruiting, which recently has not been going very well, they will need to propose and implement a considerable pay increase for the Forces; and, so far from saving money, this will cost many tens of millions of pounds in addition to the existing Defence Budget.
The third way of saving money is by cancelling orders for new equipment and work done on research and development. If this course is pursued the result will be that the British Forces will be less well armed than those with whom they are allied, and, more importantly, less well equipped than the enemy they must be prepared to fight. In order to save money on the scale envisaged in the speeches and in the Manifesto of the Party opposite, large-scale cancellations would be necessary. Quite apart from considerations of employment the harm done to British industry and to our capacity for producing our own defensive equipment would be enormous, and I do not like to think what would be the result to the increasing export income which this country has earned through its defence industry. It might spell the end of the whole guided 140 weapons industry of this country, and should the Government decide to cancel the M.R.C.A., (although I know there is at least one Minister on the Government Front Bench who would not be prepared to see that happen without a fight), not only would it have the most serious implications for Anglo-German relations, but it would be a severe blow to the British aircraft industry. These, of course, are the consequences on our national position, but we cannot overlook the effect that large scale economies of this kind would have upon our international standing and our international relationships.
My Lords, at this moment there are complicated negotiations, to which the noble Lord, Lord Brayley, referred, on the subject of mutual and balanced force reductions. I still prefer to call them "balanced" even though we now leave out that word. I think "balanced" is important. Unilateral decisions by one country engaged in those discussions could upset the whole Western position Why should the Russians negotiate on mutual withdrawals if one or other of the NATO countries decides on its own to reduce its contribution. Détente is a very laudable objective and one to which I wholly subscribe, but no sensible Government could conceivably propose that it should assume that détente has taken place and reduce its security before there is hard evidence that the other side will do, and is doing, the same. I do not imagine that noble Lords sitting opposite will disagree with that; but if they do not disagree they must understand that any significant reductions in our Defence capability lies well into the future and not in just one or two years.
The Atlantic Alliance, both in its military and economic manifestations, is in some difficulty. We must do nothing in this country to put at risk American involvement in Europe, for without that involvement there is no security for Western Europe. These are difficult problems. That I would be the first to admit. It may well be that the noble Lord, Lord Brayley, and his colleagues in the Ministry of Defence understand and agree with much of what I have been saying, but they have a fight on their hands with their colleagues.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, poacher turned gamekeeper—or, perhaps 141 more accurately, gamekeeper turned poacher—is on record as saying that he wishes to see our Defence effort greatly diminished. I do not think that Defence Ministers and, indeed, the national interest, will be helped by the Left Wing of the Labour Party. All I can do is to wish the noble Lord, Lord Brayley, well and to say this to him. In Party political terms Defence is not a vote winner. People do not put Governments in or out because of their Defence policy. It is only when disaster is about to strike that the people of this country realise how necessary are adequate defences, and how necessary is a Government prepared to maintain them. But by the time that becomes apparent it is too late and the damage has been done. Every Government has a duty, above all, to see that this country is properly defended. Let not Her Majesty's Government forget that. We on this side of the House will expect the Government in the Defence White Paper, which I hope will be little changed from the one that I had written at the end of last year, to spell out in detail and with precision what Government plans are, because uncertainty and vagueness in this context will not do.
Although next week it is proposed that we should have a general discussion in which the availability and price of oil will be included, I should just like to say this about the sentence in the Queen's Speech:The Government will co-operate with consumer and producer countries in seeking to establish arrangements which will be in the interests of all.I very much welcome this sentence. Almost the last thing that I did as Secretary of State for Energy was to attend the Washington conference, convened by the United States Government. There were, I know, hesitations on the part of some European countries about the conference, but with the exception of France I believe that the proposals made by the United States, and the manner in which they were made, dispelled all the suspicions. There can be no doubt that the United States is much more capable of looking after its own interests in the present energy situation than any other industrial and developed Power. Not only does it not depend to anything like the same extent as other countries on imported oil, at any rate at the present 142 time, but it has the financial resources to pay for the imports which it needs. Indeed, if one looks at the events of the last six months it is rather ironic that when the Middle East countries placed their embargo on the export of oil to the United States because of the American attitude to the Middle East war, the result was the considerable improvement of the dollar at the expense of the yen and of European currencies.
It was very significant that the United States should propose the energy conference and be prepared to subordinate its national interests in an effort to promote with producer and consumer a more orderly system of production and price. I think that it was greatly to be regretted that the French refused to join in the work which is being done in the aftermath of that conference. But the other 8 members of the Community agreed to do so, as did Japan, and I have no doubt whatever that that is the right way to proceed. I hope that the Government will give a fair wind, as I think they will, to the follow-up action which is necessary to that Washington conference, for although bilateral deals may well be an inescapable result of the greater amount of participation oil available to producer countries, there must be some international system both for producer and consumer which promotes great stability. If not, I think that the outlook for ourselves and the developing countries is bleak indeed.
My Lords, as we collaborate, I hope, with the Americans and our European Allies on matters of energy, so I hope we shall on matters affecting the relationship between the E.E.C. and the United States—and there are at this moment strains and misunderstandings. I think that we in this country are very well placed to help sort these out. At this early stage in the enlargement of the Common Market, there are bound to be difficulties in the Atlantic relationship. I do not think, for example, that the Americans, anxious though they were, and I think still are, for a united Europe, quite realised that a Europe of nine countries would inevitably seek to have a view of its own about matters affecting Europe rather than simply bilateral discussions between each of the Nine and the United States. But because there is a European view, or we seek a European view, that 143 does not mean that there is what is known as an adversary relationship. Far from it, for our interests are largely the same and there is an imperative need for close and continuing association between the E.E.C. and America. Certainly the Foreign Secretary wil have our wholehearted support in any effort he may make to reconcile the differences which we know exist.
My Lords, I do not know, in spite of what has been said, what the attitude of the new Government is going to be towards the Common Market. We are told that theywill seek a fundamental renegotiation of the terms of entry to the European Economic Community".It may be, as I hope and suspect, that that sentence has more to do with relations between the Government and the Tribune Group than it does with relations between the Government and the E.E.C. But if it really means what it says, I think it is destined to fail, for I cannot for one moment conceive how or why the other members of the E.E.C. should, or indeed can, be prepared to do any such thing. Of course, as we on this side of the House have made plain on a number of occasions, there is room for renegotiation in the Common Market on several issues, not least on the Common Agricultural Policy, and a number of other issues about which we feel there should be a change. But this could be done and argued about within the existing Treaty. If the phrase "fundamental renegotiation" in the Speech really does mean that, I am at a loss to see how the Government will then proceed; and this is certainly one of the occasions on which noble Lords opposite will, if necessary, be reminded that they are a minority Government which in the nature of things must be careful in proposing and carrying through measures which are highly controversial.
Nobody could honestly say that everything has gone right in this, the first year of our membership of the Community. Of course it has not. But do not let us pretend that some of the problems and difficulties which have befallen us have anything to do with the Common Market. For example, the rise in food prices is almost wholly unconnected with our membership. Let us remember, too, the 144 vision that those of us who have always been in favour of a united Europe have seen and still see: a Europe undivided, as in the past, by narrow nationalism, often the cause of wars and bitterness and poverty; a Europe united, powerful and an influence in the world, rich and prepared to share its riches with the less well off—an example to others of what an association between sovereign peoples can be. Let us not hastily throw this away without a proper trial, and let us not relapse into a kind of selfish indifference. Nobody is more anxious to get good terms for Britain than we are. If we can get better terms by negotiation, then so be it, and let us try. But I beg the Government not to put at risk the prospects of a united Europe in the vain hope of obtaining some unattainable objective.
My Lords, on home affairs, where the Party differences are much more acute and the political situation is uncertain and tense, the Government will have many trials in front of them. In Defence, we on these Benches will watch and see to the best of our ability that they maintain Britain's defence capability. In foreign affairs, where there is much more unity and agreement, we shall seek to support them in the national interest, and will wish the new Foreign Secretary a very successful term of office.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, may I perhaps start by saying how pleased we all are to see among us to-day the noble Earl, Lord Avon, who I understand is going to take part in this debate. I well remember how in this very Chamber—I have not checked the reference, but it was, I think, in the autumn of 1942—he made a splendid speech in which he said, substantially, "Never again shall we turn our backs on Europe". I am sure that that is a sentiment which will inspire the wise words that he will pronounce this afternoon.
As your Lordships know, we Liberals start from the assumption that a minority Government, representing not much more than one-third of the electorate, can scarcely maintain themselves in power if they try to give effect to policies diametrically different from, or even in sharp contradiction to, those of the other near two-thirds of the population. If they do, 145 it means that they hope at a General Election to get them accepted by a majority of the people, no doubt, as a result of the popularity created by the signing of blank cheques and before the effect of their bouncing is evident to all. So it is in the light of the estimate of the possible intentions of the Government, the possible long-term intentions of the Government, that we should examine the proposals in the Queen's Speech so far as they relate to foreign policy, Europe and Defence.
My Lords, I suggest that the foundation of our foreign and Defence policies has for many years been a North Atlantic Alliance in which, failing disarmament or its equivalent, the United States will maintain substantial forces in Germany and extend its nuclear umbrella over the small and medium-sized European democracies on one implied and not unreasonable condition; namely, that these democracies come together in one way or another so as to form what you might call an associate of America, responsible for organising, and hence for harmonising, its own conventional defence. For only by so doing can we be fairly sure that Congress will not insist on large-scale withdrawals, or even the complete withdrawal, of American forces. Some may criticise Dr. Henry Kissinger, but it is undoubtedly this fell possibility which results in his being rather rude to us from time to time.
It is quite true that this general conception has for some time been challenged by France, which, while acknowledging that Europe cannot be defended without United States nuclear and conventional support, seems, paradoxically enough, to be wedded to the contrary conception of a totally independent, even if a non-integrated, Europe which need pay no attention to American desires and interests. It is quite possible that the French will not be able to maintain this attitude, anyhow in its full rigour, for very much longer—some people even say that they are now in a kind of pre-electoral period—but even if they do it only means that the other members of the Community will just have to pursue it without them.
Now it may be—I would bet against it, but it may be—that owing to a nationalist opposition in France, and I 146 fear also in this country, the whole conception of European unity may prove over the years to be impracticable. It is possible; but if it is so, then the Atlantic Alliance will certainly be in danger with consequences really too unpleasant to contemplate. Incidentally, I note that the noble Lord, Lord Balogh (I warned him I was going to criticise him, but unfortunately he cannot be here this afternoon)—
§ BARONESS LLEWELYN-DAVIES OF HASTOE
My Lords, perhaps I may tell the noble Lord that my noble friend is ill.
§ LORD GLADWYN
I know he is, my Lords. I only said I regretted that he could not be here. But that does not prevent me from criticising what he said. I note, I say, that the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, presumably now speaking with Government authority, has said that, following the example of France, Her Majesty's Government should now adopt a very tough attitude towards the European Economic Community. The traditional tough French line, practised notably by General de Gaulle, consisted in saying that in no circumstances would France agree to anything unless everybody agreed with France. It may have had a certain success in the Community of Six, because then West Germany, though gradually becoming the strongest member economically, was unwilling to have a direct clash with the French. But it cannot possibly be successful in the Community of Nine, partly because the Germans, having settled their Ost politik, are now in a much better position to pursue an independent West politik, and partly because, if any progress is to be made, it must now be by common negotiated agreement between at least the three major Members of the Community. At the very moment, therefore, at which this fact is becoming plain—or seems to be becoming plain, more especially in the context of France's behaviour in the recent energy conference in Washington—we are advised by the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, to behave like General de Gaulle. I must say I fear that in his presumptive pursuit of a large American loan Mr. Callaghan may have some little difficulty in selling the noble Lord to Dr. Kissinger. Be that as it may, it looks as if the unfortunate Secretary of State for 147 Foreign Affairs has already been cast in the role of a British Jobert.
But, my Lords, France or no France, it is clear that if it is not to be endangered the Alliance postulates the emergence before very much longer of some kind of democratic entity in Western Europe which, as the stock phrase has it, will enable our various countries increasingly "to speak with one voice". If, however, the Government do accept this basic philosophy—and frankly we do not know whether the Government accept it or not—then the crucial passage in the Queen's Speech will clearly have to be interpreted in a certain way. The proposal is, as we know, to "seek a fundamental" (and I emphasise the word "fundamental") "renegotiation of the terms of entry into the European Economic Community" and thereafter to put the results of the negotiation to the British people.
Therefore, either the Government in a few months' time come back and announce to Parliament that they have secured a very welcome modification of the terms of entry, in which case both Houses will only be able to congratulate them and obviously there will be no need of a referendum; or they will say that they have not been able to negotiate acceptable terms and therefore propose to denounce the Treaty. In the latter case they would presumably fall because I much doubt whether they would have a majority. There would then be a new Election, and were they to be returned with an overall majority on the issue posed they would certainly have a national mandate for withdrawal from the Community. Again, my Lords, no need for a referendum. What is highly important, however, is that the electorate should know in good time what the real issues are. So we might spend a moment or two in considering these this afternoon.
No one will dispute that it would be a good thing if some of the terms of entry were modified. The present rules are, in principle, unfair to large food importers such as the United Kingdom or indeed the Federal Republic, and uncontrolled expenditure on the farm policy of the Community is quite unreasonable. But it should be noted that the rules were part of a bargain on agriculture, as 148 a result of which the huge Continental market was to be opened to our industrial exports. It was a bargain. The second weakness is now being corrected, I am glad to say, thanks, to a notable degree to the exertions of the British members of the European Parliament which the Labour Party tends to regard as an insignificant assembly of self-advertising money-grubbers—if I correctly read what they say.
What everybody with any knowledge of the present situation must admit, however, is that the original terms have already been vastly modified by the staggering rise in the world price of most foodstuffs which is now, broadly speaking, higher, and in some cases much higher, than the Community price. Indeed, as Mr. George Thomson remarked the other day, the present position is that in practice France is actually giving us a bread subsidy. I certainly hope that the Government will not be successful in renegotiating that.
It is also obvious that if we want to change the terms legally and to any considerable extent we shall have to get the consent of all our eight partners, and that if they involve treaty alterations, as they might well do the changes will have to be ratified by nine Parliaments. That will be difficult enough. So what precisely is it that the Labour Party sets such great store on changing or modifying? We all vividly recall the uproar created by the anti-Marketeers in 1972 about the alleged abandonment of our kith and kin in New Zealand and elsewhere. But in fact our kith and kin are doing very well, and the New Zealanders do not even fill the butter and cheese quotas which we negotiated for them so successfully, preferring to a large extent to sell their goods in markets where they can get more money for them. Small blame to them. No great change is needed in the terms of reference here.
Similar concern was expressed about the alleged scurvy treatment of the inhabitants of our tropical ex-dependencies. That has turned out to be equally unjustified. The Community is duly importing 1.4 million tons of cane sugar; the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement is still in operation; and incidentally the world price of sugar is now about three times 149 what we pay the islanders for their product. They want more, it is true, but we are paying them now only about £81 per ton. It is perfectly true that the terms of trade may change and that we may once again be in a period of surplus, though there are no present signs of that tendency. But if we are, then will be the time to get tough and plead the cause of the primary producer—not now when they are in clover and there is no need to change the terms of entry, as such, at all.
Even our net contribution to central Community funds—which your Lordships will remember was going to bankrupt us totally—turned out to be a mere £50 million or so for last year. And if the last Government had not fallen they would most probably by now have sensibly reduced even this by net gains from the social and proposed regional funds. If the present Government therefore can get agreement on a certain reduction in our planned contribution over the years to the central Agricultural Fund, good luck to them! As the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said, we would certainly wish good luck to them. But we shall not be bankrupted if they cannot. My Lords, it is not Mr. Pompidou or Willy Brandt who is going to bankrupt us, it is the Oil Sheikhs—quite a different thing.
Possibly your Lordships are unaware of the extent—and I think this is a point well worth making—over and above all these developments to which the Common Agricultural Policy itself is likely to be modified by common agreement over the years. The current proposals of the Commission, my Lords, contemplate many structural improvements; a marked reduction in the intervention price of various products; and a reduction, after a period, of no less than 580 million units of account in the guarantee section of the farming fund.
All this, my Lords, establishes the fact (and it is indeed a fact) that the famous "terms" of 1972—in themselves, as we all know, much the same as the then Labour Government would certainly have accepted—not only have been, but even now are in the process of being, renegotiated in Brussels, with considerable assistance from the despised Parliamentary delegation in Strasbourg. As in all negotiations, we may sometimes have to 150 give something in return for valuable concessions, but that is perfectly normal. What we cannot do, without grave consequences, is to bang the table and say, "Either you give us what we want or we repudiate our signature to the Treaty". We cannot do it. Yet this calamitous gesture is by no means excluded by the very moderate language of the gracious Speech. Let us therefore reflect for a moment on what would happen if we ever did something so monumentally foolish, or what would happen if the Government asked the British people to approve such action and the latter, in a fit of xenophobia, either voted for it in a referendum or returned a Government pledged to withdrawal for frankly ideological reasons.
The first thing that would happen, of course, would be that our ex-partners—and that would include the former members of EFTA who have made very satisfactory arrangements with the Common Market and do not want to change them—would retaliate against our industrial exports. Since our trade with the Community now accounts for almost a third of our total trade—having risen from just under a quarter in the last 12 months: an astonishing increase—our industry would obviously suffer grave loss from such discrimination. This would result in large-scale unemployment, adding vastly to the unemployment no doubt resulting from the Government's inflationary wage policies. Small wonder, my Lords, that 84 per cent. of our traders even now put their faith in our continuing membership of the European Economic Community! There was a poll taken among them the other day. Of course, there is now a heavy adverse balance in our trade with the Community, but this is due partly to technical reasons (the volume of the trade both ways is in balance) and partly to our recent attempts to commit industrial suicide. As a second consequence we should be forced to buy expensive food on the world market—if we could get it—and the cost of our food, far from dropping, would therefore go up. The housewife should really be warned as soon as possible of the effect of unwise Labour policies on her shopping basket.
More generally, even if the European Economic Community itself did not break 151 up as a result of our exit, the forces of neutralism in Western Germany would be greatly strengthened by the withdrawal of B.A.O.R.—the British Army of the Rhine—which would presumably accompany our withdrawal from the European Economic Community. Why would it accompany our withdrawal? Because we should not be able to afford to keep it there. And the effect of such a development on the whole Alliance would be dire indeed. My Lords, this is not mere alarmism. Ask any objective friend of this country in Western Europe—and I go about it a great deal—what he thinks would be the effect of our withdrawal from the European Economic Community. All these things would be the likely and almost inevitable consequences of any such gesture.
I repeat, if this Government, by developing a process of negotiation within the system—which is even now in progress—can secure any profitable modifications of the Common Agricultural Policy, which is far from perfect, good luck to them! We shall all applaud. But to say, with Mr. Callaghan—and I think he said this the other day—that the "prime" object of the exercise is not to permit the Community, in a climate of world inflation, in any circumstances to raise the price of anything does not make any sense. And if we were to break with the European Economic Community and to seek the verdict of the British electorate on such an issue we ought to have our heads examined.
To sum up this part of the argument, it must be evident that the whole European policy of the Labour Party, not as set out in the gracious Speech but as is set out in the Manifesto, for which the Prime Minister himself I understand is the "custodian"—"fundamental renegotiation of the terms"; solemn rejection of the Common Agricultural Policy; consultation of "the British people"; possible ultimate repudiation of our Treaty obligations—is a nonsense which could be carried out literally only with disastrous consequences. We can only hope that it is a kind of smoke screen to justify the slogans with which the Government during the Election campaign successfully deluded a large section of the nation.
152 In my more optimistic moments, I like to think that, so far as Europe is concerned, the ideas of the Labour Party, now that they have come into some sort of power, will gradually change—they have often changed before in similar circumstances—and that before long they will appreciate that if they are indeed going to try to renegotiate the Treaty within the present system, they have a powerful ally in the European Parliament which is prepared to put out flags to welcome them if they will come along and insist, among other things, on, for instance, direct elections and on the necessity for a reform of the absurd decision-making procedures in the Council of Ministers which can only be described as unanimity through exhaustion. They have to fall under the table before they can arrive at any decision at all. It is quite ridiculous. Unfortunately, such a change of heart, however welcome to the more reflective Members of the Labour Party, could not be calculated to make the same instant appeal to popular emotions as a dramatic announcement that the terms negotiated by the wicked Mr. Heath have proved incapable of amendment and that the British people would be asked to repudiate the Treaty and pursue the attractive policy of splendid isolation. It is high time, therefore, that the British people began to realise what the real issues are.
The other ground for a certain unease is of course defence. We can indeed note with pleasure and relief that the proposals of the gracious Speech in this field are far apart from those of the Labour manifesto, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, pointed out, and it is clear that the Government will not, for the time being at any rate, do anything which could prejudice the Alliance on which our whole security depends—thank God! What they would do if they came into power with an absolute majority is anybody's guess. At any rate, it is obvious that for such time as they may be seeking a large American loan they can hardly suggest to Dr. Henry Kissinger that he should at once evacuate the Holy Loch, which, according to the Manifesto, was the very first step the Government were going to take.
An interesting and perhaps encouraging passage in the gracious Speech is 153 that which speaks of the intention of the Government topursue a policy directed to maintaining a modern and effective defence systemon which, under a certain interpretation, no less will be spent than at present, even though it may be less in proportion to our national resources, however that phrase may be defined. My Lords, the best way to achieve a modern and effective defence—and I am speaking of Europe—would be to make a drastic reorganisation of our so-called "conventional" defence along with our European allies and in co-operation with the Americans. There is machinery for so doing in the Western European Union, though I believe that a large majority of our friends and partners in Europe would prefer to concentrate more on the Euro-Group. But, that is a technical question we can debate later on. The point is that, whatever the machinery, production in common by the members of the European Economic Community, or most of them, of highly sophisticated and purely defensive weapons, such as SAMS and various anti-tank devices—which should not necessarily involve us in any enormous expenditure, if we did that in common—would do more than almost anything else to ensure a valid defence. And if the Government could somehow induce the French to co-operate in such a venture they would certainly deserve the gratitude of the nation. Let us hope that they will.
My Lords, it really all comes down to this. In foreign affairs and defence we should, for the time being, give the Labour Government the benefit of the doubt. But we should be constantly on guard against any sign that the extreme anti-Marketeers, the pacifists and the neutralists, who constitute such a large section of the Parliamentary Labour Party, are getting the upper hand. If that does happen, then the sooner the present Government go the better; after which we shall, for our safety, have to rely on the inherent common sense of the British people and, as I should personally like to think, on their willingness, in a time of great crisis, to produce and support some kind of Government of national union.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ LORD ARDWICK
My Lords, I rise with a certain amount of diffidence as the importunate, irrepressible, imperti- 154 nent journalist betwen the great servant of State in external affairs, the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and the great elder statesman, the noble Earl, Lord Avon. I have said before in this House that in matters European I am the disciple of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. But just as he is the hero of my later life, so the noble Earl, Lord Avon, was the hero of my younger life and, indeed, I think of a number of us on this side of the House. May I say how glad we are to see him here to-day. I have often thought that our elder statesmen are too modest about giving their wisdom to us in our current difficulties. We should hear their voices more often.
May I say a word to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, about my noble friend Lord Balogh. I have had the privilege of reading only what my noble friend said in French translated from the German magazine. Although it is perfectly true that he suggested, much to my horror, that we should emulate the agressivité of the French, he also said, which I think would be nearer to Lord Gladwyn's heart, that he thought we should remain in Europe for political reasons although he had no doubt that vast economic changes should and must be made.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, I recognise that and I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, for having said it.
§ LORD ARDWICK
My Lords, there is a strong feeling in my Party that the terms on which we were admitted to the European Economic Community were punitively harsh and must be greatly improved if in time we are to recommend to the British people that they should approve our retention of membership of the Community. To-day I shall not contest that point of view. All I would point out is that the context in which we as a nation assumed the obligations of membership in the Community is capable of much sharper shifts than we ever dreamed of. For example, we no longer live, as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said, in a world of abundant cheap food, surrounding a Western European enclave of high cost farmers. Food is expensive everywhere, and it may be that world prices are at this moment even higher than West European ones. But there is never finality about prices. Expensive food 155 may bring forth higher production which could in time reduce world food prices.
I refer to the problem only to leave it. For what I am concerned about to-day is not the European Economic Community but its political counterpart. Officially, of course, the European political entity has not been formally created. Nevertheless it is a reality even if the proof of its existence is a negative one. Western Europe, it is commonly said, is in disarray over its relations with the United States and the oil-producing Powers and, of course, it could not be in disarray if there was not at least a notional European political entity; that is, if all the countries of the Community were regarded as national States without further mutual obligations than those spelled out in the various quasi political and economic international bodies.
I am profoundly worried by this disarray. In our debate on the Arab/Israeli war I spoke of my concern about the gulf between the European Powers and the United States of America in their Middle East policies. I said then that I could not see how the people joined together in the North Atlantic Alliance could live together with a profound divergence of outlook upon the Middle East, an area of conflict which though outside the scale of NATO lies on its very doorstep. I think that mine was the only voice to make these fears of a North Atlantic rupture into a major theme. But I am not claiming any special gift of percipience. The problem at that moment could be brushed aside because there were more urgent ones facing us. But to-day it is assuming much greater urgency as the acrimonies sharpen between M. Jobert and Mr. Kissinger. I am beginning to fear that we are in need of a kind of European Kissinger in reverse to negotiate a peace between the American Secretary of State and the French Minister of External Affairs.
My Lords, the General Election has diverted our attention from these most important world events and only now are we becoming deeply aware of them. In another capacity—in my capacity as a journalist—I was present at a news conference in Smith Square at which the then Minister of Energy sat, weary, red-eyed but indomitable by the side of the then Prime Minister. He had been back 156 only an hour or two from the Washington Conference on Energy. I did not stay quite to the end of this meeting as I had business at the other side of Smith Square—to take my place at another assembly where I hoped to take my seat at the foot of my leader, and I wanted to make sure of having a seat there—but while I was there, which was almost to the end, no journalist of the English Press or the world Press, not even the omniscient interrogators of television, thought fit to put a question to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, about events which were a foremost concern in every paper in the world where they were not having a General Election. I would have gladly put a question myself but he will understand, I am sure, that in such a context modesty sternly forbade.
The outgoing British Government behaved wisely at Washington. Some of us had begun to believe that Mr. Heath and M. Pompidou were inseparables yet in the event the British, sadly perhaps, left the French isolated and sided with the other seven European nations and with the United States. So far, so good. But meanwhile, back at the ranch in Europe, the Common Market countries agreed on a joint new approach to the Arab Powers. Britain being conveniently without a Government at that moment was not a participant in this decision, though in time Britain will have to declare support or opposition. Mr. Kissinger is upset. He is furious; he is put out. The Germans say that he knew this move was pending. The most eminent of French commentators are examining in great depth the psychological and political reasons for Mr. Kissinger's outburst.
There is one factor which neither the learned M. Aron nor M. Fontaine has taken into account: the capacity of recent French Governments to provoke the anxieties even of their warmest friends. The other event of the week has been M. Pompidou's trip to the Black Sea to meet Mr. Brezhnev in the hope perhaps of repairing the special relationship between France and the Soviet Union. The results appear, however, to have been meagre.
But what kind of a world are we now living in when we have these three discordant meetings within a few days of 157 one another? I am one of those veteran Labour Europeans who gladly accepted the definition given to our cause by President Kennedy a dozen years ago. He visualised Western Europe and the United States as twin bastions of an Atlantic Bridge. Western Europe, he said, and the United States were interdependent.
As most of us saw it, we in Western Europe would in time develop a political entity that would speak with one voice to fortify wise American Presidents in their struggles against their own dangerously aggressive hawks. Yet this political entity would also present a counter-attraction to the isolationists in the United States. The Europe we saw, the Europe we wanted, was one that would be firm, steady, ready to defend its way of life whatever the risks and yet resolve to abandon all romantic and adventurous dreams of reclaiming Eastern Europe. In fact, we regarded a united Europe, firmly linked with the United States, as the essential requisite of the détente and the disarmament that we all longed for.
Since those days we have, I fear, done too little thinking about the basis of such views. We have not re-examined them in the light of great world events. China has re-entered the world, from its own outer space, via the United Nations. There has been a grand, though yet incomplete détente between the United States and China, and between the United States and the Soviet Union. There has been the petite-Gaullist détente between France and the Soviet Union; and there has been the determined prosecution of Mr. Brandt's Ostpolitik, made possible by the solid incorporation of Western Germany into a prosperous and economically united Western Europe.
So the world to-day is not as it was when we first took the simple Kennedy line of interdependence. The situation to-day is more fluid, more hopeful in some respects, and perhaps more dangerous than ever. The Soviet Union is still ambiguous. There are Gaullists in all countries who visualise Western Europe as an independent nuclear power—a vision of a united Europe that terrifies me.
There are some who rejoice at the prospect of the United States taking its troops 158 out of Europe. I am not among the rejoicers. I did not become a uniter of Europe as a substitute for the American alliance. Yet that alliance could be jeopardised unless it is carefully nurtured. I have great respect for French logic. I never turn down a French argument simply because it conflicts with Anglo-Saxon prejudices. Yet the French are playing a very odd game. Only yesterday they were defending France's qualified independence and its nuclear force, on the grounds that the Americans could not be expected to invite a nuclear holocaust upon themselves for the sake of Europe. Yet now, the French are justifying their current wayward political course on the grounds that the Americans are in Europe and will stay in Europe because this serves their own vital interest, and there is nothing that the French may do which will deter them from that course. France can behave as she wishes to behave with complete safety; she can have the independence and the "umbrella" as well. In this unhappy and complex situation to-day the role of Britain could be of highest importance: The reconciliation of Europe's need for independence with the still deeper need for Atlantic interdependence.
To-morrow the Foreign Secretary is meeting the emissaries of the President of the United States. Then he is to see our Ambassadors to the countries in the Common Market. Then he has a meeting in Bonn. I hope that in these gatherings our wider-term and longer-term needs will not be obscured by our very real short-term interests. The new Foreign Secretary has not an easy role, but he brings great experience and talents to his task. I have seen my right honourable friend deploy the highest diplomatic and negotiating skills in a variety of extremely tense situations.
What I hope is that Britain's reconciliatory role will not be impaired by the need to pursue strongly felt economic grievances of immediate yet transitory importance. I hope that Britain's partners in Europe will see that our economic grievances are genuine and are remediable, given the wider objectives, which we should all share, of a united Western Europe working in concert with the United States and capable of participating in the East/West détente and gathering 159 its first real fruits, which I would regard as a substantial measure of European disarmament.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF AVON
My Lords, I should like first to profess my gratitude to Lord Gladwyn and Lord Ardwick for the very generous welcome they have just given me. In my turn, as I suppose the most senior former Foreign Secretary around, I would express my best wishes to the new Foreign Secretary in taking on his numerous tasks. As we have heard this afternoon, those tasks are very arduous, but my own belief is that, despite their complexity, there are certain opportunities in the present situation. It is about those opportunities that I want to detain the House for a few moments.
My Lords, we hear a great deal these days about super-Powers, and the term is usually used in a derogatory sense. At the same time I think we have to be fair about this. I can think of at least one super-Power which has contributed considerably to an improvement in world relations in the last two years. For instance, I suppose nobody would now deny that President Nixon's action in sending his Mercury, Dr. Kissinger, to Peking was both a brave and, indeed, an unusual international action. Any noble Lord could easily imagine what the reactions would have been upon the United States Government if that had not come off. Fortunately it did come off, in the sense that contact was established after a wait of something like 20 years. For that the credit must go, in my judgment, to the United States Government. The diplomatic dialogue which has followed since between Washington and Peking has been all to the good.
I have only two regrets about the whole business. The first is that the move for contact was not made 20 years ago. Had that happened, perhaps a great deal of suffering and loss, and death, that the world has endured might have been avoided. In those days, as many noble Lords know, no contact of any kind was possible. The other regret is that in making the arrangements the United States Government, for whatever reason, did not consult the Japanese or inform the Japanese Government in advance of 160 the move which they were proposing to make. That was a pity. I think that to keep Japan in the picture in every development is very important. After all, Japan—a growing industrial Power—is just as much interested in what happens in the Middle East as we are; in fact, more so because she depends to an even greater extent on the oil supplies from the Middle East than we do. But, having said that about the Far East, I must add that in my judgment it remains true that that move by the United States Government has brought very good results so far for South-East Asia. I read in the Press only yesterday about poor Laos, which has suffered so long from being fought over and being fought about—though I have never known a people who were more natural neutrals. They did not want to have to do with any part of the conflict. But now at last I read that the half-brothers from the two different parties have got together, and it looks as though peace has come to that unhappy land. Let us hope that the same will happen before very long in Vietnam.
My Lords, I should like next to say something about Soviet-Chinese relations, because some noble Lords may remember that I have for a long time past believed that this was a very serious aspect of world developments. It is difficult for any of us to read the signs, but one thing is quite certain: that there is there a rivalry which may have very grave consequences. It is a rivalry based partly Ion the leadership of the Communist world, but I think probably even more, on territorial grievances of the past and the Chinese conviction that Russia should discuss with her some of the depredations—seizures of land, at any rate—carried out by Czarist Governments in the past. I mention this only because it is an aspect of the world situation which we should continue to bear in mind. Curiously enough, I think it played its part in helping the United States to re-establish its contact with China. So to that extent, it was all to the good.
However, I am a little more doubtful, I must say, having tried to praise super-Powers, about one move recently made by Washington towards Russia. I refer to the negotiations that took place in Washington and resulted in the large grain exports from the United States to 161 Russia. I fear there can be little doubt, however good the reasons were for making that particular bargain, that a consequence of it was inflationary for the price of grain, and has been something of a burden for the rest of the world to carry since. I mention the point only because our American friends must bear in mind that, while everything I am going to say is in support of their playing this role, an action of that kind can have consequences not only for us but, more seriously, for impoverished nations, of the gravest character. But, having said that, on the whole I would claim that the criticism of the super-Powers has been somewhat overdone.
That brings me to the question which the noble Lords, Lord Ardwick and Lord Gladwyn, and my noble friend Lord Carrington, mentioned, which is this question of the détente. I myself am not opposed to discussions across the Iron Curtain. On the contrary, I tried to bring some about as long ago as 1959 at a Summit Conference. I should like just to mention what happened there because it is perhaps of some interest in regard to the discussions that are now taking place. We tried at that time to get an arrangement accepted which would have included proposals for a supervised limitation of forces—we thought it important that they should be supervised, If confidence was to be created—and at the same time for a demilitarised zone.
Before those talks began, Chancellor Adenauer had been sympathetic in conversations with me about the idea; and of course the American and French Governments had accepted it. At that time the Russians did not. They would not discuss the proposals in detail. They listened; they asked questions. But they would not do anything about it. Curiously enough, 18 months later—this was after I had resigned—Bulganin sent a note, on Khrushchev's behalf and his own, saying that he was now prepared to consider the proposals which I had put forward and which they had turned down in 1955. President Eisenhower made a friendly reply, but a fortnight later his Secretary of State slammed the proposals down. That, so far as that matter was concerned, was the end of that chapter. I mentioned it only because some of the proposals are curiously similar to those of the present day, and also because out 162 of what happened then, I think, two lessons emerged, which I should like to put before the House. We should also remember that since that time, 20 years ago, as I think my noble friend Lord Carrington mentioned, Soviet military power has grown very much faster than our own, which has indeed hardly grown at all—and by "our own" I mean NATO'S power.
The points that seem to me to be worth bearing in mind from that experience are these. In any future discussions, in my judgment, that may take place on security across the Iron Curtain there are two essential conditions. The first is that we should be on our guard to equate like with like. For instance, there should not be any welcome for proposals to withdraw limited Soviet forces back into Russia in exchange for a return of American forces across the Atlantic. Those two things are neither geographically nor politically comparable. Nor can we afford to forget that the free nations concerned have to sit down with the countries behind the Iron Curtain among whom only one speaks—they may be numerous but only one speaks—which is the fundamental difference between their side of the Curtain and ours. The consequence I draw from that is that the Western nations must be in the closest agreement, not only in their purpose but in the details of their policy, before they conclude any arrangement with the Powers across the Iron Curtain.
I am equally convinced (I am glad that not a word has been said against this this afternoon) that NATO must be maintained. Its importance lies in the expression it gives to a political need. Legal obligations between countries are important, but they count far more if they are underlined by a continuing material interest; and this is the reality of NATO. Under NATO, British forces are not in Germany to defend the Germans; they are there to defend ourselves: American forces are not in Europe to defend the Europeans; they are there to defend the United States of America. And it seems to me a little naïve to suppose (I have seen it suggested once or twice) that the United States are in Europe for any other reason at all except the interest of the United States; and as that happens to coincide with our interest, I think that is a very good thing indeed.
163 NATO is not just a register of sentiment across the Atlantic: it expresses a political truth; and that political truth is that the capacity and resources of our Western Europe are such that they could be decisive in any trial of strength between the two super-Powers. That being so, it would be very dangerous if too large a cut were made in the American and Western contributions to joint defences, or if a sharp economic war were to develop across the Atlantic. We have to try to avoid those things. It may be that the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain will one day by agreement be dismantled. I devoutly hope so. But the process will only be retarded by the abolition of NATO. At least, that is my judgment.
Now, my Lords, I have just one suggestion to make about the future of Western Europe itself. We have heard many arguments about the possible reform of the Common Market. I do not want to go into those, but I would just say this. If progress between the Nine becomes difficult for a while, as almost certainly it will, in view of the discussions that are to take place, and particularly the agricultural difficulties, in which Mr. Godber struggled manfully, and in which we wish all success to Mr. Peart, his successor—if that is going to be the preoccupation, at any rate for a while, of the Common Market, then it might well be that progress could be made in another direction.
Could not we make more use of W.E.U? This comparatively modest organisation was intended at the time of its formation, some twenty years ago, to take its place as a leading influence in the new Europe. It has never quite worked out that way. I once made a plea to General de Gaulle about W.E.U's future. This was many years after I had ceased to take any active part in politics. The General was not unsympathetic, but all I was able to get out of him was a characteristic shrug of the shoulders and the comment, "Ca continue", which I suppose might be freely translated as, "It jogs along".
I think that perhaps for a while it should do a little more than jog along. One of the topics I suggest it might look at is one which was originally consigned to its attention a long time ago; that 164 is, that we should try to organise more progress with the standardisation of our armaments in the defence of Europe. It seems slightly fantastic, and also very expensive, that even at this date (so I am told), despite some progress, there is still a wide variety of arms and ammunition among the NATO forces and that so far any closer standardisation has not been found possible. I do not see why W.E.U., which was originally entrusted with this task, should not be told to get on with it while everybody else is wrangling about food and reform and all the other things that preoccupy them. At any rate, that is a suggestion for what it may be worth.
I must make some reference—a very brief one—to a topic that has already been referred to; namely, the situation in the Middle East in the recent war and the divergence of opinion and actions which, we must admit, existed at that time between the Western democracies. I would suggest that this was again an area in which United States' policy was beneficial and we now hope that the negotiations which have begun will make real progress. What the outcome of the war would have been it is hard to tell, but at a critical juncture, as we can remember, the United States Government improvised a formidable flying-in of material which helped to restore the balance against the highly sophisticated weaponry supplied by Soviet Russia for the surprise attack against Israel. It is my judgment that the United States, by their swift action, earned the chief credit for the ceasefire, because I think that action resulted in stabilising the situation to the extent that a ceasefire was acceptable. Further negotiations must obviously take time and there is no lack of difficulties ahead, but if Dr. Kissinger can continue to foster the confidence between the parties which he has so skilfully promoted, then the prospects of a settlement should be encouraging.
My Lords, I would conclude by referring to what I think is one of the most disturbing aspects of the international situation to-day, and that is the increasing impoverishment of the less wealthy nations, particularly since the Middle East war. If the rich are not going to get richer—as evidently they will not, at the insistence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in due course—the poor 165 across the world will certainly get poorer. That applies to many countries—Africa, Asia, South America—with oil four times the price it was a year ago. That is one of the reasons why I join with my noble friend most warmly in welcoming the United States' initiative in calling for discussion on energy problems by the principal consuming nations.
There are so many aspects of this problem. What can be done about increasing supplies? What can be done about finding alternative supplies? What new methods can be used for their discovery? The cost to less wealthy nations certainly needs examination and discussion, internationally and at once. I am not at all impressed by the argument which I occasionally read, that this would be "ganging up" against the oil producers. They have their organisation, as they are perfectly entitled to do, and so we are perfectly entitled as consumers to have our organisation to examine the situation as created for us. Therefore the work initiated in Washington should certainly go ahead, despite the refusal of the French to take part, and I am very glad that the Government are in a mood to do that. I am also glad that the first meeting has already taken place.
A few days ago I read a remarkable article in a newspaper which is certainly a responsible one—the Christian Science Monitor—about the position of world population and food, and I should like to give a brief quotation from it. The writer of the article said:The poorest fourth of the world could slip into a period of incredible chaos within the next twelve months. Normally restrained experts on energy, agriculture, population and the global economy are starting to predict bankruptcy, social breakdown and starvation for as many as one billion people by late this year or early 1975. Some 30 countries could be affected.A large part of this problem is of course created by the fact that the cost of energy for the poorer two-thirds of the world will increase, it has been reckoned, by 10 billion dollars over the total it was two years ago. These are figures given by the Overseas Development Council in Washington, and the additional cost of food and fertiliser imports will be at least 5 billion dollars more. These figures are so enormous that the mind can hardly comprehend them, but the results in terms of the population of the world could be grim indeed. Therefore it is an urgent 166 priority to decide what must be done if the world is to be saved from the worst of calamities, the suffering and starvation of a growing percentage of the world's population.
It is this state of affairs which makes the Energy Conference called in Washington recently so high in our priorities. It might transpire that action by that Conference could be comparable to that which some of us will remember the United States Government took with the Marshall Plan for Europe. That is the kind of spirit in which this Conference ought to be tackled if we are to avoid these calamities. The problem is not simply one of supply; it is also one of hard cash. Some of the smaller countries just cannot carry the cost. The nations for whom it is difficult but comparatively manageable are, of course, the United States of America and Canada. On the food side, the nations which can hold their own are Australia and New Zealand. I am told that the North American Continent can supply, in terms of grain and feeding stuffs, a higher percentage of the world's needs than the Arab supply of the world's oil. If that is so, there are resources on both sides; but the resources must be marshalled. There must be discussion, there must be agreement and there must be progress.
I suggest that if we are to meet this international shortage of food and the menace of inflation there are three things that we must do, and do quickly, on a global scale. First, we have to increase energy production—oil, coal and nuclear—by whatever safe means can be devised. Secondly, we have to increase food and grain production across the world; and in doing this we must not forget that the high cost of feedingstuffs is already beginning to militate against increased food production in this country and elsewhere. Thirdly, we have to increase the production of raw materials which are indispensable for industry to keep going.
Above all, my Lords, the world must not be greedy: it must try to co-operate. If it will do this, all will yet be well; but if we play beggar-my-neighbour all will suffer, and the poorest nations will suffer most. Much of this problem, as we have said, is concerned with the high cost of oil, and I noticed that not long ago the Shah of Iran made an offer of availability of large financial sums to help the poorer 167 countries. But even there the omens are not too favourable, as your Lordships will see, because his offer was dependent upon all the other countries, industrial and oil-producing, joining in; and that they have shown no signs of doing. Equally, the International Monetary Fund is trying to do something, with the support of the Shah. But there are others who must be brought in, and it therefore takes time. I repeat what I have been trying to impress on your Lordships so much, that the Oil Conference in Washington must be the beginning of really important steps forward in tackling this job.
My Lords, when my noble friend Lord Carrington came back from the Energy Conference in Washington, according to the Press he remarked that the attitude of France had saddened him. I agree with that observation. I have been a lifelong Francophile. In years gone by, my policies have been based on the closest co-operation with our French neighbours, but I confess that recently their attitudes have perplexed me. Although the French Government are not now formally part of NATO, the comments of their leading statesmen in the past have often shown that they understood this basic truth, that in the last resort Western Europe depends for its survival on the American military presence and the American nuclear shield. Yet other French statements and actions seem to belie their own conviction. The French seem to fear American domination of Europe; but I fear American isolation from Europe. We all know there is an active lobby in the United States which would be only too glad to reduce, or even totally remove, American forces from Europe. I would not suppose that that same lobby was particularly enthusiastic about keeping the nuclear cover, either. The United States Government is, I believe, deeply conscious of the immensely complicated problems of the modern world, and there-for desires that the great industrial Powers among the free nations should consult and act together. If that be so, personally I have much sympathy with that thought.
My Lords, I have spoken of the need for the continuing existence of NATO, but NATO is geographically limited. There could be advantage in some organisation, 168 without an elaborate machinery, which would promote consultation among the leading nations of the free world. This need not conflict with the United Nations, any more than the existence of NATO or the Warsaw Pact has done. In any event, faced with the grim world realities which I have tried to describe, the free nations must abandon outmoded concepts of national dignity, and forgo the enjoyment of squabbles which weaken their unity and their ability to help themselves or others. Toleration and co-operation is what the world needs if it is to survive; and it is what we need at home, too.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, said about elder statesmen coming back and giving us the benefit of their views. I am sure I speak for the whole House when I say that I hope the noble Earl, Lord Avon, will come back again and again—his speech has done us a lot of good.
My Lords, normally on such occasions I discuss a rather dangerous part of the world, from Vietnam to the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and so on, but on this occasion I shall stick to the arithmetic and point out the dangers of any future cuts. For this purpose I would refer at the outset to the Labour Party Manifesto, which contains four points; first, to bring our costs into line with those of the allies, by which was meant several hundred million pounds of cuts; secondly, to work for the success of the détente thirdly, to seek the removal of the United States Polaris base at Holy Loch; and fourthly, ultimately to phase out NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Presumably that was good from the Election point of view. I am glad to say that rather different proposals have appeared in the gracious Speech. Now we have three points. The first is full support for NATO; the second is that NATO is to be regarded as an instrument of détente no less than defence, and thirdly, to maintain a modern and effective defence system, which has been referred to, while reducing its costs as a proportion of our national resources.
I welcome these changes, especially the full support for NATO which we have just heard about from the noble Earl. 169 Lord Avon. The suggested removal of the United States Polaris base was presumably a sop to the Left and to catch votes. While this is possible of achievement, it is silly to make it more difficult for our most influential ally to be a good ally. Phasing out NATO and the Warsaw Pact depends on the success of the three conferences going on at present. The last 25 years of disarmament conferences did not augur particularly well; in other words, we have a long way to go. Let us never forget that NATO has kept the peace for more than 20 years, in spite of great disparities in the forces of NATO, which continue with a strong United States participation.
My Lords, turning now to the danger of further cuts, the Conservative Government were already cutting I think by between £100 million and £200 million—I cannot remember exactly the figure, but in my opinion more cannot be borne. We well remember the 27 per cent. cuts imposed in July, 1967, by the Labour Government. These had to be partially restored by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, when he was Secretary of State for Defence. The aircraft carriers were to go, and the R.A.F. were to be responsible for seaborne flying. The Army was to lose 17 major units, including eight infantry battalions of which four had been saved by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. The R.A.F., already quite small, was to have its front-line aircraft reduced. The effect of all this was really quite serious. First, it very nearly, but not quite, cancelled the British role in the Far East. It completely cancelled the British role in Aden, and the British presence in the Persian Gulf. It might be argued that if we were still in the Persian Gulf the price of oil would not have gone up; but it is no good jobbing backwards, and I may be wrong. In other words, all this has been done before, and that is why I am frightened of it.
There are two facts that I suggest we should keep in mind. First of all, the Army has for the last four years been unable to contribute even a brigade group for overseas without crippling B.A.O.R., and without obtaining the permission of our allies. Secondly, it has had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to keep going the 15,000-man garrison in 170 Northern Ireland, quite apart from the fact that the same young men are going back again and again. But to my mind, the worst features of the cuts now contemplated are those to the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. According to the last Defence White Paper, the proportions of the expenditure were: personnel, 47 per cent.—which is likely to go up; equipment, 37 per cent., and the other unavoidable overheads, such as accommodation, and so on, 16 per cent. The total strength of the forces was 353,000, plus 9,000 Gurkhas, made up as follows: Royal Navy, about 78,000; Army, 174,000, and the R.A.F., 101,000. More cuts will mean, I believe (although this remains to be seen in detail in the Defence White Paper when it comes out), that it will be more difficult than ever to fight the Soviet Fleet, which has a world-wide capacity; and in that connection we ought to remember that we nearly lost two world wars not through ground action but through losing our shipping at a very high rate in the lanes coming towards this country.
To come to the R.A.F., it is already very weak in front-line aircraft as a result of the previous cuts, and the only way of cutting the R.A.F., so far as I know, is to cut it again. I have always argued in favour of the R.A.F. having really modern aircraft to be able to compete with the really modern Soviet aircraft which it will meet. But it is no good having a wonderful machine if only about half a dozen are available. In other words, it is no good having the best modern aircraft if there are not enough of them. In short, far from being the best equipped and best trained forces in NATO, as we always say (goodness knows why!), the British contribution may be too small to be effective.
Lastly, I think it is unwise to rely on the détente. We talk about it as if it were a fact. It is not a fact: it is certainly not détente yet. The fact that three conferences are going on is dangerous. Unfortunately, the Warsaw Pact have a two-to-one, if not a three-to-one, superiority in aircraft and tanks, not to mention a much greater number of trained men and reserves. Therefore it will be a long time, I believe, before NATO can safely reduce forces. The right way, I suggest, if this proportional sum is to be done, is not to reduce our own 171 proportion but to persuade our allies to increase theirs; and if any nation—for example, the Germans—is managing a contribution of only 3 or 4 per cent. of its G.N.P., we ought to tell it that it is not up to the mark. Only in this way shall we convince the United States, who are our most powerful ally, that we mean business.
Lastly, the Queen's Speech contains several proposals for spending money but none, so far as I can see, for saving it, except on defence. Surely this cannot be right. I hope that I have drawn attention to the dangers.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ LORD RITCHIE-CALDER
My Lords, I welcome the measures proposed in the gracious Speech for treating the economic basket-case which the new Government have taken over. Your Lordships will know that a basket-case is a casualty so badly mangled that he cannot be carried on a stretcher or treated in a cot. I am also encouraged to find that the Government, confronted with desperate emergencies, have not forgotten the chronic cases of social neglect and will redress social injustices and redistribute wealth. Like my noble friends Lord Taylor of Mansfield and Lord Brockway in moving and seconding the humble Address, I feel that the gracious Speech has tempered stark realism with proper compassion. If, therefore, I stress what is not in the Queen's Speech, I am doing so in no grudging spirit but as a reminder to the Government that there are priorities with a different time-scale which, although apparently long-term, will, if neglected now, have very serious consequences.
Let me say at once how gratified I am that the Government have emphatically reaffirmed their support of the United Nations and its Agencies, and as political testimony of their intentions have appointed Mr. Ivor Richard as Ambassador to the United Nations. I say this without any disrespect to Sir Donald Maitland as a career diplomat—indeed in my frequent contacts with the United Nations headquarters I have heard only the warmest appreciation of his work there. But, as in the case of my noble friend Lord Caradon during his six arduous and inspiring years' service at the 172 U.N., it is important that a Labour Government should be personified in its commitment. The United Nations needs a shot in the arm. The time may soon come, very soon, when measures for its reform or updating will be necessary. I should like to see my country take the initiative.
As was to be expected from the author of War on World Poverty, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has reconstituted the Ministry of Overseas Development and entrusted it to the experienced hands of my right honourable friend Mrs. Judith Hart. I know that she and the Government will ignore the disparagements of aid in The Times the other day and will pursue the undertaking in the gracious Speech ofrecognising the economic problems concerning the developing countries.No one could have emphasised more vigorously or more movingly than did the noble Earl, Lord Avon, what in fact is indeed confronting the less developed countries to-day. I think that the Christian Science Monitor, which I also read, was not underestimating at least the risks of the situation. I think we shall see repeated over the next twelve months the conditions which were so shattering in the Sahel, the South of the Sahara countries, and involving, as Lord Avon pointed out, a billion people.
Nothing makes me more angry than the suggestion that aid is a form of charity. That is what has fouled up aid—when countries have used it to buy military bases or preferential good will. That sort of thing is bound to fail. My Lords, the beggar's thanks is the beggar's curse. People everywhere resent the sense of dependency. Those who expect gratitude will earn ingratitude. Similarly, and even more reprehensible, is the suggestion of using aid as political bribery or blackmail. Aid is enlightened self-interest. The prosperity of Britain depends on increasing prosperity throughout the world. Our first concern should be to prevent the catastrophic circumstances which we now see threatening the world—and that threat includes ourselves. I hope that the Government will see to it that more and more aid is directed through the multilateral channels of the United Nations Agencies. I should like to support the suggestion of Lord Avon that we should have in the immediate 173 future not just a survey of raw materials and so forth, which we are going to have, but that we should have a very urgent conference on what we can do to avoid a situation which may be so tragic, and I believe will be.
While I recognise the present preoccupations with the oil situation, I would remind your Lordships that energy is not just oil. Like my noble friend Lord Taylor of Mansfield, I would remind you how stupidly we have neglected coal in this country, not just as the lumps we burn raw, which to me is utterly deplorable, but as a storehouse of chemicals, including liquid fuel. Hydrogenation kept the German tanks rolling and aircraft flying after we had bombed the Rumanian oilfields at Ploesti and after Hitler had failed to reach the Caucasian oilfields. The Nazi machine ground to a halt only when we interrupted supplies from their chemical plant at Leuna which was producing from coal the petrol for their tanks. My noble friends Lord Wynne-Jones and Lord Energlyn could tell your Lordships more about the enormous potentials of the fuel, our greatest material asset in this country, which we have been squandering and, in terms of production, restricting. But, on a world scale, we should be not just coping with the present situation on oil, but should be looking at and supporting alternative sources of energy—nuclear energy, the winds, solar energy, the geothermal energy in the earth's rocks and volcanic systems, and the heat differentials in the oceans. I am confident—and in fact I know that I shall be supported by the scientists among your Lordships on this—that Britain can make a great contribution not only to the means but in the manufacture of the means, to the benefit of our industry.
The gracious Speech refers to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. I would remind the Government of a proposal which I believe can make a contribution to that just and lasting peace, and on which I addressed your Lordships on a previous occasion. I remember the circumstances. I followed the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, who had made his speech on the Middle East. That proposal—a world district in the Sinai—was embodied in an Early Day Motion in another place with the support of 70 Members of all 174 Parties including, I would remind my noble friends on the Front Bench, conspicuous Members of the present Government. This proposal, vigorously promoted by the Parliamentary Group for World Government (that all-Party group of which your Lordships are aware, and of which many of you are members) has, I learned in America, engaged the interest of Dr. Henry Kissinger. I gather he has been rather too busy to do anything about it, but at least he is seized of the idea and has put a task force on to it. I should hope that Britain would take the initiative.
The proposal, I would remind your Lordships, is that the Sinai Peninsula should be leased for, say, 40 years from the Egyptians, who have (and we should acknowledge it) the sovereign rights. It would be administered and developed by the world community. The machinery for creating it should be provided through the United Nations, but it would generate its own identity, and could become the prototype for other parts of the world. It could form the assembly point and first base for a United Nations' world constabulary. Here I would point out that such a constabulary should be directly recruited, and not dependent on borrowed forces from sovereign nations—and whimsical nations, which can withdraw their forces. It should have its own general staff. This would be the back-up of the policing of the demilitarised zones which would separate the conflicting nations and secure the frontiers of Israel.
But I believe that the Sinai can become much more than a base. Sinai has an area of 60,000 square miles—three times the area of the State of Israel. It has a population of less than 130,000, compared with Israel's 3 million. In terms of modern methods, it is certainly not a hopeless desert. I can personally testify to that. Most of it is less inhospitable than the Negev, which has been so effectively developed by the Israelis. If the Arabs are reluctant to look for the example of the desert blooming like the rose in the Negev, they might look to Bou Saada in Algeria, the scheme of desert development started by the remarkable Wendy Campbell Purdy and now adopted by the Algerian Government. There they would see grain and crops, fruits and forests, growing in what was once desert as bad as anything in the Sinai.
175 The Sinai is also rich in minerals. With the world to draw on for the necessary skills and material help, and with the science of ekistics, the study of human habitation, now advanced to a point where systematic and quite rapid development of rational urban and agricultural relationships, combined with appropriate industrialisation, could provide for a meaningful and rewarding life for tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of settlers, the Sinai could absorb all the Arab refugees. My own conclusions, which I put before your Lordships on a previous occasion, are now reinforced by a study made with the help of the Leverhulme Trust by Mr. John Stebbing, whose credentials as a level headed expert—not a starry-eyed idealist like myself—are beyond dispute. In his report, A New Deal for the Palestine Arabs, he has outlined a scheme for resettlement in the Gaza-Sinai region, using desalted water for irrigation. His substantiated proposals for settling at least 8,000 refugees immediately in the Northern Sinai are less ambitious than what I am proposing, but I believe could be extended to the whole peninsula. My Lords, let us have—and I hope that the Government will have, or help initiate it—the imagination which the human predicament in the Middle East demands.
Your Lordships who have heard me on the subject before will not be surprised if I revert to the ocean régime, which is one of my major preoccupations. I want to emphasize and commend to my noble friends on the Front Bench and to the Government that this is a time-dictated priority since the United Nations' Law of the Sea Conference is assembling in Caracas in less than three months' time. If we fumble this opportunity, we shall be putting the oceans in jeopardy. It is not just a lawyers' argument that is to go on in Caracas; it is much more. At the risk of being accused of extravagant hyperbole, I would say that we are putting the future of mankind in jeopardy. From the seas nine-tenths of the free oxygen that we and all living things breathe is generated. Our climate depends on the heat-engine of the oceans. It would seem inconceivable that man's activities could upset that. From the examples of crude mismanagement, of 176 greed and avarice and sheer stupidity at the present time, I would say that it it definitely possible that we could upset it.
In a fortnight's time I shall be speaking in Rome at a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union on the plight of the Mediterranean, that internal sea. This is not just the now familiar story of polluted beaches, oil slicks and industrial pollutants. There is evidence that we are interfering with the natural forces which keep the water and the creatures in it alive. That sea is sick, and the prognosis is very poor. What is true there applies elsewhere.
The first thing that I want to say to the Government is, "Get rid of the absurdity of the grid plan for sharing out the seabed"—400,000 stake-outs of seabed mineral claims to be distributed like confetti by lottery between nations. Your Lordships will recall that the former Lord Bishop of Norwich. Dr. Lancelot Fleming, described it as "Bingo". I compare it to that other game, "Monopoly". Anyone familiar with that game can see how easily those proposals would play into the hands of the great monopolies, including monopolistic States and multinational corporations. The proposal has made us a laughing stock, and should be disowned and withdrawn. I know that there is going to be a lot of horse-trading in Caracas, with all the great Powers and coastal States alerted to the wealth that they are greedily contesting and that we now know is available and accessible in the oceans. I hope that the Government, even while they are concerned with our own Continental Shelf in the North Sea and the Celtic Sea, will categorise and define the limits of the Continental Shelf—as has not been done adequately so far—so that the common heritage of mankind (and it has been so described) which lies beyond the limits of national sovereignty will be as extensive as possible. I know that there will be difficulties with coastal States which are claiming a 200-mile patrimonial sea, an exclusive economic zone or an adjacent sea. But this may prove to be just position-taking from which they will be prepared to negotiate. It is a further and serious restriction of the "common heritage" which should be resisted.
Another critical question is the right of scientific access to all parts of the oceans. 177 Deep suspicions of motives and possible exploitation on the part of many developing countries have restricted access, with serious effect on our scientific requirements. Our knowledge of the ocean bed, of the ecosystem and marine biology is still limited, and our ignorance is fraught with risks, as in the case of the opencast mining of the ocean floor in the recovery of metallic nodules. We do not know what such things will do to the ecosystem, and we have to find out.
Here, my Lords, I have a specific suggestion to make, which is in line with our own historical tradition as a great maritime nation, whose Admiralty first sent out the "Challenger" a century ago to survey the oceans and the ocean bed and, incidentally, to bring back the first manganese nodules. We have a great opportunity for international co-operation. In the redeployment of our naval forces, why do we not demilitarise ships and make their services available for survey work and ocean studies, for the benefit of the community of nations and for posterity?
Lastly, as always, I commend to the Government for their serious attention the proposals for an Ocean Régime produced by my colleague at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, Thomas Mann's daughter, Mrs. Elisabeth Mann Borgese, and help to promote such a system of ocean management which could become a model not only for the oceans, but for the world institutions which are bound to come.
§ LORD MAYBRAY-KING
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him, as an old friend who knows what he has done for the popularising of science, whether he can say a word about new forms of energy apart from those which he has talked about?
§ LORD RITCHIE-CALDER
My Lords, the great irony about this subject is that when we talk about new forms of energy we are really talking about old forms of energy. In 1963 in Rome we had the United Nations conference on new forms of energy and there was only one paper on nuclear energy. All the papers were on the oldest forms of energy which we have neglected for centuries, and are still neglecting now. There are other forms of energy. I believe that, apart from 178 the fuel cells, and the like, which we shall eventually develop, we have the possibility of direct conversion of solar energy by the very expensive methods that we now use on the space ships, in the form of solar batteries, silicone wafers and so on. When messages are sent back, the energy is derived from electricity directly generated by the sun.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ LORD GORE-BOOTH
My Lords, it has been my pleasure earlier, and it is again, to speak immediately after the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder. He always gives one the feeling that the human race, if it only tried, could do so much better and so much more than it actually does. It is rather disappointing, when one has been inside Government, to feel that the prosaic processes which we go through are unlikely to catch him up in so many ways, but it is a great inspiration to hear what he has to say. Perhaps I can be practical to the extent of welcoming the last question put to him because, in my small way, I nagged the last Government a little about the apparent lack of energy in both thought and action on the subject of energy. I hope that what the noble Lord has said, and my support for him, may encourage our present Government not only to be energetic but also to look energetically into the future in this most important context.
May I congratulate the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Brayley, who opened the debate upon giving us a useful expose of the gracious Speech and advising us that what we should be saying would be, in some degree, advice to his right honourable friend, the resourceful new Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, Mr. Callaghan. It is interesting for me personally to think that if I had been ten years younger I might have been furnishing some of that advice to him in private, instead of which, being ten years older, I shall try to furnish some in public.
Before I proceed, may I express our great obligation to one more person and that is the former Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, the noble Earl, Lord Avon? It was a very great pleasure for us all to hear somebody who naturally thinks so much and so easily in terms of the world as a whole. Of course our power since his days has been restricted, and it does not come so naturally to us 179 as it did, and still does, to him. But it was very refreshing for us to be reminded of the world as a whole and to be taken away for a little time with some wise reflections on that scale from our smaller, though desperately urgent, local problems.
Before I speak of those practical matters which have been discussed by noble Lords this afternoon, may I return for a moment to the mood of yesterday? In that mood, I would suggest to your Lordships that the task of British external policy in these days is to make this country once again credible. I base that statement on a chance remark that I heard in a world broadcast. The comment was made from a foreign country that Britain is the sick man of Europe. If that comment had come from, say, Paris or Bonn I should have regarded it as part of the European game, but in fact it came from, of all places, Vienna. It seems to me that in the eyes of other people and their possibly unfair judgments, we really must recover from a bad period and re-establish credibility. When a country is doing well and is strong, it can afford in the management of its external affairs to forget a little about its domestic affairs. But when, like ourselves, a country has passed through a rather bad patch, everything it does domestically contributes, either positively or negatively, to the effectiveness of its external policy.
Perhaps I may add one more word in the vein of yesterday. We are clearly, in this context, in the middle of a great discussion about what our society should be like, and that again will be important for our external relations. If I may just contribute a thought on that point, I should like to see a society which is neither callous nor jealous. We must not be callous as we used to be, on the basis that callousness is due to the inevitable operation of economic forces; nor must we allow a spirit of jealousy to disfigure the concept of social justice with vindictive personal attitudes.
I do not propose to deal with economic questions specifically because they will arise next week. But may I make just one general suggestion for the improvement of our external economic relations before I come on to the political side? Could not the emerging co-operative machine between the Government, the T.U.C. and the C.B.I. be used to study 180 specifically certain things which the world believes we do badly, and which perhaps we really do do badly? I will give your Lordships one example. Could there be a proper attack on the real reason for our reputation for bad delivery dates of exported British manufactures? You find it all over the world. Could there not be a specific study and specific action on that point, which is one of our major weaknesses.
May I now go on to the gracious Speech and say, first, that there are many things in it which will reassure all of us. I should like to refer, as did the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, to the subject of the United Nations and the reaffirmation of our support for it. This has, I think, a somewhat warming personal recollection between the noble Baroness, who will wind up the debate, and myself, of the time when we both worked for that great fighter for better international behaviour, Mr. Philip Noel-Baker.
There is one gleam of light in so much international depression, and that is the re-emergence of United Nations forces as a factor for the upholding of the peace in troubled parts of the world. For some years certain important countries have obstructed the use of United Nations forces for this purpose at every turn. But happily in the Middle East events have compelled these countries to withdraw that opposition and we now see the United Nations going forward again in this most important aspect of U.N. work which was foreseen from the beginning. I would couple this sentiment with a reference to the credit which successive British Governments and the British Armed Forces will always have in the history of the United Nations for the steady, upholding of this principle in Cyprus.
There is one other United Nations point—a somewhat delicate one—raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, and on which I should like to say a word. First, we all wish Mr. Ivor Richard every possible success in the United Nations and I am sure that he will respond to our wishes and give a most impressive performance. There are two schools of thought about what our presentation on the United Nations should be. One school of thought is that 181 diplomatic experience is best, while the other school suggests political experience. Both are sincerely held and any Government in power have a complete right to apply either of those principles. All I ask is, that it will be possible for the noble Baroness, when she winds up the debate, to join the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, and myself, in a governmental appreciation of the work done by Sir Donald Maitland. I do this not for a personal or even a professional reason, but because I think the British public as a whole have not the faintest idea of the courageous grind which in these days representation in New York demands of our representative. It is now a colossal organisation in which often things are discussed because they are emotive and not because they are practical; and in these discussions, from the practical point of view, the British representative has often, sadly, either to abstain or to vote in a minority against what is proposed. It is not a pleasant experience or an easy task and we should recognise at this moment that Sir Donald has performed it with courage and self-respect.
I am also extremely happy to see the emphasis which the gracious Speech places on aid. There has been lately a slight disposition to question whether aid has any use. This argument is totally unfounded, although aid is never quite as well administered and well chosen as it should be. But when one tries to think what Egypt or India would have done without the resources placed at their disposal, one sees how terribly further backward these countries would now be than they are if they had had no aid. I hope that the Government will think in terms of those countries which have been especially disadvantaged by the rise in the price of oil. I have in mind India and Bangladesh, but there are others, and I hope that both by our own efforts and diplomatically we can help in ensuring that they get a good share of what countries are prepared to give.
My Lords, I am bound to return to the major subject of immediate discussion among us; that is, the North Atlantic and the European Economic Community. Fortunately, things that have been said by many noble Lords will preserve your Lordships from my being too long. But like other noble Lords I am worried by 182 the phrase about our defences which says,… while reducing its cost as a proportion of our national resources.I have an instinctive feeling that this is just a litle too bland. Of course we should like to be able to do this, but this is not the kind of pledge, I hope, to which any Government need feel themselves mathematically bound. This is not just a question of our own immediate security. It is even bigger than the picture of it given to us so graphically by the noble Earl, Lord Avon. What has happened in the United States is that with the disappointment and disillusionment of Vietnam it is not just a lobby that has arisen. A national mood has arisen, questioning American commitment anywhere except in North-America. Its commitment in Europe, which will be so vital to us in years to come, can be affected by any action by European countries which appears to be a withdrawal from our own responsibilities, in which case Americans will conclude therefore that they can withdraw from theirs. This is not simply a pressure group; it is also a mood, and we have to be extremely careful—all of us in Europe—not to give the impression that if the Americans are to be expected to go on helping us we shall do little or nothing to help them. The risk is as great as that.
Now, my Lords, I turn to the European Economic Community, and may I here speak very much in terms of what the noble Lord, Lord Brayley, called "advice". May I take one or two of the words in the gracious Speech. There is to be this "fundamental renegotiation". Perhaps I can first get rid of "fundamental". I can only assume that this is a piece of verbal inflation which has nothing to do with foreign policy in the sense that no Government would undertake a "superficial" renegotiation. If I may go on to the subject of renegotiation, this could be an important point, and I do not feel that "renegotiation" is internationally a very happy word. The point is—it came out vividly in the visit I paid last week to Brussels—that if by renegotiation it meant any questioning of the international validity of the Treaties of Accession—two volumes in the Command Papers—or the Treaty of Rome, 183 then we would run into suspicions of our own international good faith. We have had friendly warning of this and I hope that renegotiation will not be held to bear that interpretation.
On the other hand, it can mean something quite different. It can, of course, mean that we go to Brussels in the consciousness that certain things that are being done and planned under the present Treaties are not satisfactory. When we go let me beg that we get rid of one of our national complexes and let us also help the public to get rid of it, too. For ten years we were in the posture of people outside a locked door and we got something of an "outside the locked door" complex. Now we are in. We are discussing these matters as members, not just with full obligations but also with full privileges. We are discussing these matters with people who are all conscious that this, that or the other feature of the Community, whether in policy or in organisation, is not wholly satisfactory. If we stick to that thought, we shall then find ourselves negotiating as members with other members, and not in any way as outsiders or suppliants.
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? I wonder whether the noble Lord would take into account the point of view of people like myself (and I am vain enough to believe that the point of view I express commands the majority in the country) that we will not under any circumstances whatever accept the terms under which we went in, the Treaty of Accession, without our having an opportunity to say "Yes" or "No". In other words, if we are to be treated, as indeed we now are, as an occupied country, then we demand the same right as any occupied country to resist those who impose it upon us.
§ LORD GORE-BOOTH
My Lords, it has of course always been my privilege to take account of the views and words of the noble Lord, who does me the honour of listening to me from time to time. But I must confess that I do not quite follow his remarks about our country being occupied. Given his former military status, I find this a difficult one to accept. What I am prepared to agree simply is that we go to Brussels—or, 184 rather, we are at Brussels; we do not even have to go there; it is partly ours—and we discuss freely with other people who themselves are not necessarily happy, and who indicate their unhappiness, with a good deal that happens there. That surely is "a fair do".
My Lords, may I add one or two words of humble advice on what our Foreign Secretary, or whoever it may be, will equip himself with for these discussions. May I first suggest very strongly that he goes equipped with statistics which describe honestly the relationship between world commodity prices now and Community commodity prices, because unless those statistics are right we shall get into an insoluble argument and we shall not come out of it right. These statistics must be fair and accurate. Then, let us also remember that we have had a few examples of international ill-manners lately, which have been referred to in this debate. I think that what recent episodes have shown is that public international sarcasm is no kind of a method of negotiation. I do not say that this is bound to happen, but let us remember. Let us remember, too—and I say this also to the noble Lord, Lord Wigg—when we are arguing, as we shall be, extremely toughly about the Common Agricultural Policy, that French farmers are not demons; they do not have horns; they also have wives and children. Then, let us also remember that while we argue our regions wait; and that also has been a matter of great interest to people in this country. I in good faith believe that gradually we are approaching a solution to this question.
Finally, my Lords, I know that I am a committed person on this question. I am committed to an adventure in a new form of international living. Let us remember that twenty years or more ago we were offered something like the leadership of Europe. We cannot have it on those terms now because some of our colleagues have done better in economic terms than we have. But we now have something which is as near leadership as we can get, and that is a most important place in the whole destiny of Europe. We have accepted this place in Europe. Let us maintain it.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, may I begin, as have other noble Lords, by 185 congratulating my noble friend Lord Brayley, not on his maiden speech but on his maiden speech from the Dispatch Box? I listened to him with some nostalgia, because I in fact made my maiden speech in your Lordships' House from that very Box, and I can only hope, in retrospect, that I made it nearly as well as my noble friend. At the other end of the spectrum, we have had a moving and impressive contribution from the noble Earl, Lord Avon, whose immense experience and distinction was reflected in everything that he said to-day. I think that he evoked for me and for many of your Lordships the best traditions of a British diplomacy and foreign policy that is at the same time realistic and compassionate. I should like to return later to certain specific points that he mentioned. I should also like to say before I go any further what a pleasant habit it is becoming to follow the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, with whom I find myself, over a whole spectrum of foreign policy, so very much in sympathy.
I should like, my Lords, to make one other point, which is that from time to time—and I think this is within the general ambit of our debate—there have been comments about the Government which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has seen fit to form. It seems to me that this is a Government of very considerable ability and experience, and I dare say that most of my colleagues in this House will agree with me that the higher ranks of that Government, to say the least, compare favourably in distinction, experience and ability with any Government that has been formed in this century.
Having said that, may I turn to the subject which we are discussing to-day, which is the foreign affairs, Defence policy and European aspects of the gracious Speech? I should like to begin, if I may, by referring briefly to what I regard as the general context within which any formulation of foreign policy must take place. It seems to me that we are concerned perhaps more than ever at this moment, at this juncture in international affairs, with the very safety and survival of the democratic system, which I should like to refer to, in what might be regarded by some Members of your Lordships' House as old-fashioned terms, as the Free World. That is what we are talking about. It may be an old- 186 fashioned phrase and it may raise in some quarters accusations of some kind of reversion to the polemics and rhetoric of the cold war; but I believe, my Lords, that we cannot assume lightly the safety or survival of the Free World, which I for one hold very precious—and I believe that most of your Lordships will join me in that feeling. We have to defend it. If we look around us at the moment, I believe that we can see it threatened from every side. It is threatened economically. The policy of the oil-producing countries, upon which I do not presume at this moment to advance any valid judgment, is nevertheless a danger to the strength and cohesion of the West; not only to the prosperity of the countries of the Free World but to their very cohesion, because the pressures that this policy has imposed upon the West have caused a kind of breaking apart of the solidarity and cohesion of the Free World.
We are faced with international terrorism on an unparalleled scale; international terrorism in various forms, including perhaps the most insane and incomprehensible form of all, the hijacking of civilian aircraft for political purposes. We are faced also with the growth—the perceptible, identifiable growth—of Soviet military power. We are faced with this all over the world. We are faced with it not only on the Northern frontiers of China, not only in the oceans of the world, but in a place which affects us deeply, immediately and urgently; that is to say, in Central Europe where the Soviet forces facing the forces of the Western Alliance are growing monthly in strength and in the power and effectiveness of their equipment. This is a factor we cannot afford to ignore. I am not suggesting that we are faced with a deep communist conspiracy, centrally controlled from some mysterious underground headquarters somewhere in the Eastern World. There are people who suggest that that is the case and who can bring evidence to support their contention. All I say is that these things taken together, whether they are the re-suit of some co-ordinated policy or not, constitute a real, continuing and increasing threat to the Free World and to the democratic values under which we have all lived for centuries.
I believe—and in this I perhaps carry the thoughts of the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, a little further than he was 187 able to carry them himself—that the basic aim of any British foreign policy, and the Defence policy that goes along with it, because they are inseparable, must be to contribute to the defence of political freedom in the world. I have had experience, as have many noble Lords in this House, of life in those countries where there is little or no political freedom, and I come back to this country with a feeling of relief, of liberation and a constant and renewed determination that I will never subscribe to any foreign or Defence policy in this country that basically is not aimed at the preservation of political freedom and of democratic values. I believe therefore, my Lords, that we must consider foreign and Defence policy against this background. It is no use having great and imaginative domestic policy; it is no good improving the prosperity and quality of life in this country if, in the long term, we are not prepared to defend it from attack either from without or from within.
It is in this context, therefore, that I think we should look at the intentions of Her Majesty's Government as they are set out in the first part of the gracious Speech. I have to say that these inspire me with a great measure of confidence. If we look at the main points which are covered in the first part of the gracious Speech—the strengthening of international institutions, support for the United Nations, increased aid and liberation of trade, opposition to racial discrimination, support for attempts to achieve peace in the Middle East through the appropriate United Nations resolutions—I believe that all these aims will command the support of civilised men and women of all political Parties in this country. It is, of course, possible and even desirable to sound certain warning notes. I think the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, has said that we must remember always that the United Nations, to whose aims and principles we are clearly and rightly committed, needs strengthening. The history of its first quarter century of existence has not been a universally inspiring one. It needs strengthening and revising; it needs above all our support. I am therefore gratified to learn that this support is made clear in the gracious Speech.
The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, and the noble Earl, Lord Avon, referred 188 also to the question of aid. Here I find myself in agreement with them both. Aid to the sick and sad and poor of the world must surely be one of the priorities of the foreign policy of any civilised Government. As the noble Earl, Lord Avon, has said, two-thirds of the world are living at a level which would be regarded by the other one-third as intolerable, and we must help them, and help them, as the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder has said, without political strings. It is not acceptable that the aid which we give to the developing countries should be regarded as some form of charity in return for which they are expected to follow certain policies or to conduct themselves according to certain political principles.
§ LORD PEDDIE
My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend? Although one would appreciate the necessity of having no strings attached, would the noble Lord not agree at the same time that there should be a very strong sense of direction as to how that aid is applied?
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, we could go a long way and for a long time down this road, but I confess that I find myself differing from my noble friend on this particular point. Perhaps we could argue this at some other time. Basically, my feeling is that aid should be given to developing countries as aid, and it should be left to them entirely to decide how they use it, and it should not be a question of the donor making restrictions upon how it should be used. My noble friend and I are clearly not entirely at one on this point.
I should like to come to the important question of Europe and the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards the European Economic Community. Before I say anything substantive on this, in case there should be any misunderstanding perhaps I may say that my own views on the enlargement of the European Community and the European vision remain unchanged. Those views, I think, are tolerably well known. I still believe in the future of Europe; I still believe in it particularly as an important political force in the world. But, my Lords, we are now in a very strange and new situation, and I believe it is one we must face. First of all, those of us who are committed Europeans, as the phrase has it, will be 189 the first to admit that the first year of the enlargement of the European Community has been a disappointing one. We have not made the progress that some of us feel should have been made towards economic strength or political unity. There has been, in my view, a failure of will in Europe, and this has quite clearly had its effect on public opinion not only in the countries of mainland Europe but also in this country as well. That is a factor which no Government can afford to ignore.
Secondly, and I think the more practical point, Her Majesty's Government are now committed to renegotiation. This commitment is clearly stated in the gracious Speech, toa fundamental renegotiation of the terms of entry to the European Economic Community.What exactly does this mean in terms of practical foreign policy? Certain Liberal politicians have been heard to say that we are all minorities now. Whether that is true or not, I might say that we are all renegotiators now because I believe that there are certain matters inside the European Community about which everybody, pro or anti European, Conservative or Labour or Liberal, will agree upon; that is, that there are certain things which must be changed inside the Community. If I mention only two—the Common Agricultural Policy and the system of community financing—I do not suppose that there is one Member of your Lordships' House who would disagree with me that those matters need renegotiating. Whether we are talking about renegotiating the terms of entry or renegotiating the conditions of our membership seems to me to have only a cosmetic and outward significance. The only difference, it seems to me, between what the previous Government were doing and what Her Majesty's Government now propose to do is in the question of putting the result to the British people. I believe that in a democracy like our own, this is not an ignoble element of policy.
I do not like Government by referendum. Your Lordships will note that this has not been specified in the gracious Speech. But it seems to me that there is nothing impractical, ignoble or even inexpedient or undesirable in putting this matter to the British people when the renegotiation of these conditions of our 190 membership has been completed. It is, after all, the duty of Governments not only to lead but also to listen, and it was, after all, the Leader of the previous Government who said that this great matter of membership of the European Community should be the subject of the full-hearted approval of the British people. That is all, it seems to me, that Her Majesty's Government are now proposing. The great question—and I believe that this is where the test will come—is whether Her Majesty's Government will renegotiate to stay in the Community or renegotiate to come out. That will be the acid test. My own belief, based upon my experience of the previous Government and of the Ministers of the present Government, is that Her Majesty's Government will renegotiate the conditions of our membership with the firm intention of remaining within the Community. That is my belief.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, would the noble Lord like to look at his next door neighbour who is shaking his head in disagreement?
§ LORD CHALFONT
My next door neighbour? I frequently look with admiration at my next door neighbour. If he was shaking his head I can only say that it is not a matter of great astonishment to me that he was.
On the assumption that the Government are going to negotiate with the basic aim of remaining in the Community, I should like to put a serious proposition to your Lordships' House. As a nation we are about to enter into serious and vital negotiations with our partners in the Common Market and I believe that in this field, as in every other field at the moment, there is a need for a unified national approach. I believe that it is totally arrogant for anybody, whether pro-European or anti-European, to suggest now what can or cannot be achieved in negotiations over the Common Agricultural policy or the Community system of financing. It is arrogant for anyone to say what can be negotiated. Our Common Market partners—and here I agree so fully with the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth—are our partners in the Common Market and not some kind of vague enemy across the Channel. They are quite capable of looking after their own interests in any negotiations. Anyone who 191 has had experience of negotiating with the French or with the Germans can have no doubt that they need no help from any Fifth Column in this country to secure their own interests. So I say it should now be the aim of all of us, inside or outside the Labour Party, inside or outside the European movement, to do what is best in the interests of Britain, and in Europe, because these two things are very close together.
There must, in my view, be no undermining on this side of the negotiating position of the British Government, because naturally we shall be setting out in these negotiations—and they are only a continuation of the negotiations which the previous Government had begun—to secure British interests. But that is also in the European interest because it is my view, as a committed and passionate European, that there can never be a strong, healthy and powerful Europe if large numbers of the population of this country are resentful, doubtful and unenthusiastic. Therefore I believe that what we must now do is to make clear to our European partners—and I say again, they are "partners"—that we renegotiate whatever it is that we are renegotiating. I do not much mind whether it is called the "terms of entry" or the "conditions of membership", but we should make it clear to them that what we are renegotiating, we are renegotiating not as a Party but as a nation, and we are renegotiating it not only for Britain but for Europe as well.
Finally, I should like to say a few words if I may on the subject of Defence. This had given some cause for concern in the past to some of us even on this side of the House. There had been talk of massive cuts in Defence expenditure which seemed to be based more on some kind of statistical fantasy than on a clear understanding of Defence policy. There had been talks also of other convulsive changes of policy. But on reading the gracious Speech I find myself again personally much reassured. If we look at the paragraph which deals basically with the Defence issue, it says:My Government will give full support to the maintenance of the North Atlantic Alliance.That is quite unequivocal and I do not suppose there is anybody on either side of 192 your Lordships' House who would disagree with it as a statement of aim and of policy. It goes on:They will regard the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as an instrument of détente no less than of defence.I personally have some reservations about bloc diplomacy. I am not entirely sure that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is the right instrument for negotiations and diplomacy about détente, but nevertheless the gracious Speech makes it clear that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is to be regarded as an instrument of our defence, and I do not suppose that many of us would disagree with that. It finally says:In consultation with their allies they will pursue a policy directed to maintaining a modern and effective defence system while reducing its cost as a proportion of our national resources.Of course, the cost-effectiveness of Defence is an impeccable doctrine and it is one that has been at the basis of the Defence policy of the Party opposite and I hope that it will be at the basis of the Defence policy of Her Majesty's Government. I would think, however, it wise at this stage to fire, perhaps not "warning shots" but a few "illuminating flares"—what used to be called "Very lights", when I was a soldier—to illuminate the battlefield that lies ahead, both for my noble friend Lord Brayley and for his Secretary for Defence.
The first thing I should like to say is that I hope that Her Majesty's Government will continue to adhere to the importance of a strong conventional defence in Europe. I believe, as I have often said before, that our conventional defences in Western Europe are already perilously weak, and any action taken by any Government in Europe which further weakened those defences would, in my view, be the grossest irresponsibility. I believe therefore—this is a long argument which I am condensing because I have already spoken for long enough—that any drastic cuts in our ground forces or their equipment would be a very dangerous move indeed, and I hope that my noble friend will bear this in mind when he has his discussions with the Defence Secretary.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, whose experience of these matters is unparalleled, has outlined some of the 193 options which face any Government contemplating cuts in Defence expenditure. As soon as there is mention of possible cuts in Defence expenditure, my mind immediately turns to our nuclear capability. I have never believed that our nuclear capability contributed very much to our national safety, but this is a matter of controversy and a matter of strongly held opinion on both sides. In any case, I am reliably advised that to make cuts in our nuclear capability would achieve only marginal savings in our Defence expenditure at the moment. There are areas in which I think there could be considerable rationalisation, and perhaps I might depart from the views of the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, to some extent by saying that I believe it may well be that the Government, if they really seek substantial cuts in the Defence budget, should look at the whole concept of an autonomous air force. I wonder whether in the terms of modern defence concepts the idea of the autonomous air force, the strategic air arm, any longer makes very much sense. I shall probably be assassinated to-morrow by some outraged air marshal, but I simply present that for consideration. But cuts in the British Army of the Rhine? No. This, I believe, would be dangerous and I hope therefore that Her Majesty's Government, in examining the possibility of Defence economics will have the preservation of the strength of the British Army of the Rhine, and its ancillary forces, as a contribution to Western defence, as one of the linch-pins in our Defence policy which should on no account be weakened.
I will make one other small point on Defence: I hope that the Government will not be reluctant to use outside advice in looking at this question of Defence economies. The Service advisers in this country are among the most loyal, intelligent, constructive and patriotic Defence advisers in the world, but they have, after all, a vested interest in their services. If, as it has been said, war is too important a matter for generals—a statement I have never totally subscribed to—it is certainly too important a matter to use as a Party political football, and if there is a need for economies in Defence—and I personally regret that there should be a need for great economies in Defence—if the Government decide in their wisdom that priorities demand that cuts in public expenditure should cover Defence 194 expenditure, then so be it; but I would impress upon them that there is a paramount need that we should continue to maintain a powerful and effective security against attacks on the values and way of life of this country, whether they come from outside or within.
In conclusion, my Lords, I should like to try to draw together what I have said by underlining and identifying what I think are two major problems. The first is the balance between domestic and Defence considerations and preoccupations. Of course it is no good any Government bankrupting our domestic economy by a vast expenditure on useless armaments. This has been done before in the world, and it will be done again; I hope that we shall never do it. Equally, it is no use building up a prosperous economy, a high standard of living and a happy community, if it is constantly vulnerable to attack from outside, and if it opens up gaps in the defensive system of the Free World.
The second point concerns the national purpose. There are doubts abroad at the moment about our sense of national purpose. We need to get through a very crucial period in our affairs. In the long term, if we can retain our nerve, our will and imagination, I believe the prospects for this country are bright. I believe that in the 1980s we may be looking towards what Winston Churchill once called the "broad sunlit uplands". I believe that the programme outlined in the gracious Speech provides a very real framework to get over the crucial short period that will lead us in that direction. I believe this country has a great part to play in the way in which the world will develop in the last quarter of this century.
My Lords, there is always some difficulty in one's mind about how to conclude a speech in your Lordship's House, and I had searched for some apposite quotation from some great political figure such as Plato, Burke or Aristotle. But the whole thing was solved for me this evening by a remark made by the noble Earl, Lord Avon, which I wrote down as he said it. It was as follows, "Toleration and co-operation is what we need if the world is to survive." I hope that those words will inspire not only international statesmen, but national politicians of all Parties as well.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ LORD O'HAGAN
My Lords, so far this debate has been of remarkable quality, with the tone set very high by the noble Lord, Lord Brayley. I cannot hope to compete with the dazzling coherence of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, but I want to make a few remarks in a slightly stronger vein than I normally do in your Lordships' House: not because I wish to be cheeky, not because I have slight regard for the courtesies of this House, nor because I would presume to offer advice to the new Government, but because I think this is a moment when we should say what we believe. In a minute I should like to make a few remarks about our membership of the European Economic Community, but before I do so may I welcome, among others, the proposal in the gracious Speech which promises legislation to secure equal status for women; and may I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, that I hope she will not have to introduce an Amendment from the Front Bench which she now graces in order to prohibit your Lordships from making even more witty "cracks" about her new uniform.
I was very reassured to hear early in the gracious Speech what I took to be strong support for the Community. There was a passage that began:My Government will work for the strengthening of international institutions and of co-operation between all countries.…Exactly! That is the European Community. I am delighted that the Government are so keen on it; I take this as a good sign. I was not quite so welcoming when I came to the next sentence which dealt with the Community specifically and in which the Government promised to, seek "fundamental renegotiation" of the terms of our entry. On the other hand, I do not think those of us who believe in the future of Britain inside the European Economic Community should be too despondent, because the gracious Speech does not say, "My Government will seek to wreck the European Economic Community". It does not say, "My Government will seek to break up the Community". It does not say, "My Government will seek to ignore it or run it into the ground". I think we should be very grateful that the words used have caused so much debate because 196 within the ambiguity there is plenty of room for Mr. Callaghan to manoeuvre.
I understand that the other place have not yet debated these matters in detail, so we can hardly expect the noble Baroness, among all her other duties, to give a full response to all the subjects which have been raised in this debate to-day. But I think it should be said that if this country is ever going to renegotiate, rather than carry on the continuous process of renegotiation, which we know goes on all the time, then now is a good moment. The Germans particularly are dissatisfied with the way the Community is going. They are no great enthusiasts for the way the Common Agricultural Policy is run. The Community, both in its institutions and in its objectives, is in dissarray. Many of us believe that it has reached the limits set down by the Treaty of Rome and has now to seek a new purpose by moving on to something wider, something more suited to the conditions which are so different from the days of 1958. Therefore this new Government have a remarkable opportunity through constructive renegotiation to contribute to a wider and more genuine European Economic Community.
I was rather shocked to hear that one of the Directives we took on board as a result of the Treaty of Accession will later this year prohibit the growing in this country of the Edward VII potato. I hope that the present Government will look upon this as a matter suitable for renegotiation, because it was bound up in something that the Community has already decided to do since the relevant Directive was passed in 1969. But I cannot see why the Community should phase out the Duke of York or King Edward VII potato. I do not really see that this is bound up with the objectives laid down in the Treaty of Rome. This is something that we could insist be deleted in a new Protocol stuck on to the Treaty of Accession, passed through all the elaborate procedures laid down in Article 236 of the Treaty for changing the Member States' Commitment of Entry. We could do that: that would be one way. On the other hand, my Lords, we could go along and say, "You in Europe are worried about wart disease on potatoes, are going to ban our potatoes which we have enjoyed for so long. We 197 do not care about European warts; we do not want European 'spuds'; we insist on having King Edward VII and Duke of York potatoes. So, is there something you would like?" That, I should have thought, would be something eminently negotiable in that give and take way without going back to the Treaty of Accession and all that that involves.
My Lords, looking at the word "renegotiate" in this context need not fill those of us who are keen supporters of the Community, even in its present weak form, with so much dread. Nor do I fully accept the criticisms made by opponents of the Labour Party of some of the things to which, in their Manifesto, they had committed themselves on Europe. I should like very briefly to tempt fate by making one or two comments on some of the things to which they were, and are, committed in that Manifesto. My Lords, one of the things to which they attach importance is, "new and fairer methods of financing the Community Budget." I think this is something about which there is widespread agreement in the Community: that we need to look at the budget and our contribution to it. But I should just like to get it on the Record in your Lordships' House that for the first three months of 1974 Great Britain will have to contribute £39 million and will draw out £30 million. If other sectors are taken into account. such as the Social Fund (from which I believe we could have got more money if we had applied under the right headings, and I shall remind your Lordships of that later), and from the Regional Fund, which is still in the offing, then the worry about our contribution to the Community Budget can be diluted a little when reality is faced.
Another passage in the Manifesto spoke in very strong terms against the proposals for European economic and monetary union. My Lords, I think that no noble Lord should lose sleep if he is opposed to those proposals for economic and monetary union, because they are already in grave difficulties inside the Community itself, apart from any opposition in this country. It is not something that is going to come to-morrow. Then there are the interests of the Commonwealth and of the developing countries. The Community's Aid Policy is 198 quite good in expressing percentages of G.N.P. Certainly India, in the conditions it has negotiated for jute, may well do better out of the Community than it could have hoped to do by retaining links with us. There is also in the Manifesto the statement that "no harmonisation of value added tax which would require us to tax necessities", should be introduced. The present position is that Britain's zero-rating has been agreed for an indefinite period, and the future has been left entirely open.
My Lords, I should say that even looking at most of the commitments of the Labour Party, as expressed in its Manifesto, there is no overwhelming obstacle to successful renegotiation except perhaps in what is said about the Common Agricultural Policy. Even that, I would submit, is not quite so bad as many of us have been told. The Commission itself, based in Brussels, has put out an interesting document, called Improvement of the Common Agricultural Policy, which is dated November 5, 1973. If these proposals, suggested by the Commission, were adopted an expenditure of £500 million a year would be saved from the C.A.P. Some of those proposals are very much in tune with what I understand Her Majesty's Government wish to see as alterations in the Common Agricultural Policy. For example, the Commission's proposals say that the C.A.P. should be much more closely dovetailed into overall Community policy; that the interests of the consumer are growing in importance among the considerations underlying agricultural policies, and that disequilibria on certain agricultural markets must be scaled down. The C.A.P. is not something fixed, immovable, carved on stone that can never be altered. Like the rest of the Community, it is all too much in flux. We can nudge it forward one way or the other without too much difficulty, especially when the Community itself has already taken the initiative to try to do something about it.
It is impossible to discuss the Common Agricultural Policy in Britain, and perhaps even in your Lordships' House, without arousing a great deal of controversy, because there is too much confusion between world prices and Community prices. I do not propose to give your Lordships a lecture on the difference between the two, but I should like to get 199 on the Record in this House that many of the things levelled at the Community do not really square with the truth, and that many of the price increases for food products that have hit housewives, pensioners and those on fixed incomes cannot really be attributed to the Common Agricultural Policy. I will give two examples. During the 1972–73 marketing year the price of soft wheat inside the Community increased by 4 per cent., while the increase on the world market was 68 per cent. The beef price increase, to take something slightly more controversial, was 9 per cent.; the world price increase was 26.5 per cent.
I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, is here: I will put in something especially for him. When we compare the price rises in foodstuffs inside Member States with those in other countries in the world we find that an even more interesting conclusion can be drawn. If we compare price rises in the last half of 1972, before we were a member of the Community, with the first half of 1973, when we became a member, we find that the increase in food prices in Britain after we became a member was lower than the increase in food prices in Australia, Canada, Finland, Japan, New Zealand, Spain or the United States. These are facts we should have on the Record for discussion of the effect of the C.A.P. on our standard of living. I do not want to risk appearing to be giving a lecture, so I will move on from that subject. But I would emphasise that the C.A.P. is susceptible of change and that this Government have a good chance to make it into something much more useful to the ordinary people of the Community, instead of being just a system of awarding bonuses to farmers, as I am afraid it has been too much in the past.
There is also the factor of world prices. I was glad to see that Mrs. Williams, in one of her first statements in her new appointment, made it clear that what she could do was limited by the effect of world prices. It is important for everybody in your Lordships' House and in the country to have a clearer grasp of the relationship between world prices and prices in the Community, because it is very likely, almost certain, as the Prime Minister said the other day in the other place (I heard him), that we shall have a 200 referendum when the Government have completed their present negotiations about our membership of the Community. A referendum, as I understand it, is unlike a General Election. A referendum on a single issue does not offer a choice between comprehensive political programmes and a choice between alternative leaders; it focuses on one subject, and so if that referendum is to be genuine it must be taken on the basis of widely spread, genuine beliefs, and on facts that are universally accepted as true and on the basis of which everybody in the country can form judgments.
I am confident that this Government will take every step to put forward accurate and dispassionate information to the people of this country about our membership of the Community before we have that referendum. The previous Government failed to do so. They failed to explain the Community. They were too dictatorial and brusque in their general way of behaving, I suppose, for them ever to have tried and succeeded. But this Government, as I heard Mr. Wilson say on television recently, wish to bring decisions closer to the people. If this particular decision is going to be taken by a referendum it could hardly be closer. Your Lordships' House may have an important role to play in this context, and that is why in April, on the next Cross-Bench Day, I am going to introduce a Motion calling for more accurate and reliable information on the advantages and disadvantages of membership of the Community; I feel we can stand aside a little more easily and separate the grain from the chaff.
I do not want to seek to "chase" the noble Baroness tonight on this subject of the price of food. But the Government must make their position clear in order for the British people to be able to choose confidently when the terms of renegotiation are put to them, either at a referendum or at a General Election. I should like to ask the noble Baroness (I gave her warning of this question some two days ago) whether she and her Government accept the statistics put out by the previous Government about the impact on prices of Community membership. Do the present Government accept the estimate of the previous Government that the overall effect of the United Kingdom's accession to the Community on retail food prices so far (this question is dated February 12) 201 has been less than 1 per cent. and that in the longer term the effect is likely to be about 2 per cent. on food prices each year over the period of transition? That relates to the terms for renegotiation. At some time we should like to get that matter clear. This is not a political question, because I am not a member of a political Party. It is not designed to embarrass. I do not expect it to be answered to-day. But I hope it will be answered soon, as the answer is something the people of this country will need to know. I hope that I am not making cheap debating points. I believe what I am saying is important, because I do not believe that we shall ever again see cheap food in the world.
I was impressed by the eloquence and wisdom of much of what the noble Earl, Lord Avon, had to say, never more than when he posed the terrible dilemma that, not only are we in an energy crisis that puts in a new ingredient of spiralling cost for everything in the developed world, but simultaneously, and especially painfully for the Third World and the under-developed countries, we are in a crisis of food production. The two, as he indicated, affect each other. They are interrelated. For example, recently in the United States some grain was not sown on time because there was not enough fuel for the machines. Some fertilisers based on oil were not available. I do not think that this will be something which is a one-off event. There are no indications that we can ever expect the population of the world to stop growing faster than the capacity of the world to produce food. So world prices, as something that is a factor which this country has to take into real and everyday account, are not a problem that will go away.
We cannot even necessarily forecast that the immense strength that will be given to this country's economy by the development of North Sea oil is going to be something that we can sell. I heard Mr. Prior, the former Minister of Agriculture, when his mind was still fresh from the imprint of his departmental advisers shortly after he lost office, saying in public that we might well have to turn much of that oil into protein to eat. We should also realise that the Third World and the emergent countries are aware of the political power 202 that oil shortage has created for poorer countries, and food producers will not be slow in recognising the power they will soon have if the food shortage increases. It is worth remembering that 26 per cent. of our animal feed stuffs comes from the Third World and emergent countries; that 68 per cent. of cur processed meat comes from those countries; 14 per cent. of our cooking oils, and nearly 40 per cent of our sugar. We cannot take it as read that these countries will go on passing those commodities over on our terms. They are aware of what they can extract from the buying nations.
In this context the Community and its effect on food prices and in the food production sector is very important. I am one of those who want the Community to be something more than a supranational supermarket—although that is something, and it is something that may be important in a time of rocketing world food prices, as I have tried to indicate. But I complain about the Community's lack of human face, its poor social policy, its concern with wealth rather than people, and the way it measures its migrant workers in numbers rather than in terms of human misery. So I am not a blind enthusiast for the Community or our membership of it. But I seriously challenge any Member of your Lordships' House to produce a workable alternative future for Britain, a workable scenario for Britain, which does not involve us in becoming something like the Tristan da Cunha of the North Sea. If we are going to choose whether we stay in the Community or are going to get out, we must know what a future "out" would involve. For anyone to believe that the Community would offer the same sort of favourable conditions to us which it has offered to Norway is, I am afraid, a delusion, because they were never in. I believe that Europe must move beyond the Treaty of Rome. It has already been overtaken by the progress of events and I believe that the Labour Party, with its concern for social welfare and with its strong democratic traditions, can make a really positive impact on this emerging Community.
I was very interested to read Alexander Solzhenitsyn's words recently. Referring to Europe, he wrote:In finding the unity, steadfastness and courage to face the Second World War, and 203 then the reserves of strength to pull itself out of post-war ruin, Europe appears to have exhausted itself for a long time to come. For no external reasons, the victorious powers have grown weak and effete.In my view it is the E.E.C. which can disprove that great man; not yet, but I hope with a Labour Government altering the course on which the E.E.C. is set, this country, with its great democratic traditions, can make a major contribution.
Nothing has saddened me more in the last year than the gap in understanding between the people in this country and those who rule it, when the latter have tried to explain what membership of the Community means. It has been a classic exercise in explanation by omission and it has weakened Britain's position in the Community as well as weakening the confidence of people in this country in the ability of Government to explain what they are doing. I believe the present Government can make a change in that situation. This gap in understanding has now got to such a pitch that many people feel that foreigners are forcing them to change their habits and way of life at an ever increasing rate without a British voice to speak up for them. This is something on which the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, and I have often found ourselves echoing each other.
That is why I attach particular importance to the Select Committees of either House examining draft Community legislation, because I think this provides a link between the Parliament of this country and the Community, and I hope we can be told when our Select Committee is to be set up. I hope it will be soon. But in the long run I believe it is the European Assembly which will best cope with these problems because that is the best body to monitor, on behalf of the British people, what the Community is doing in their name. I hope the Select Committee of this House will do a great job, but it cannot help to claw back sovereignty that has been ceded to Community institutions. The powers of the European Parliament are already accelerating. The European Assembly—I think the Labour Party is right, and that "Assembly" is the better term—is hopelessly undemocratic—witness my presence, if nothing else. It is essential to make it a genuinely directly elected democratic 204 body. This the present Belgian Government are trying to do. They are introducing a Bill to select their Members to the European Parliament by direct election, and after some discussion I intend to introduce such a Bill in your Lordships' House. I think it would be a good idea for us to have a Bill of a similar nature.
My Lords, I think it is time that I skipped most of what I have prepared to say to-night, although I could go on for hours on this subject. I should like to put a few practical questions to the noble Baroness, but perhaps it would be better if I were to do that on another occasion. Perhaps I may conclude by saying that I hope I have not been arrogant in what I have been trying to do in your Lordships' House to-day. I have been trying to explain some of the concerns that move me most at this moment about our membership of the Community. I believe your Lordships' House has an important role to fill as a national forum at this time in our history, and I have tried to raise some fundamental issues that we should face because I believe they need to be faced. I rejoice that through the recent Election, Parliament as a whole has now seized back some of the powers that it had long lost to the Executive, and I only regret that the people of this country cannot watch this process on television. Parliament, shaping up to this new challenge on television, would be something that would create much greater faith in the accessibility of our institutions. I still think that, whatever the difficulties ahead, the toughness and the tolerance of the British people give this country a good chance; but we must stop pretending that it is possible for Britain to isolate herself from world prices, from Europe, or from the future.
Finally, I should like to congratulate all those Members of your Lordships' House who have become Members of Her Majesty's Government. I particularly welcome the sentence in the gracious Speech in which Her Majesty's Government commit themselves to working for a greater measure of social justice as a prerequisite of national unity at this difficult time. I hope this means that they will welcome Private Members' Bills in this House and in another place in order to help them along that road. I hope we shall be able to move towards national 205 unity, and while hoping that this Government will be able to do that I would remind your Lordships of the courageous and constructive initiative taken by the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, in calling for cross-Party talks across Party frontiers. The country has put the Labour Party in power, but only on probation. I think that we in your Lordships' House, at one remove from the full frontal assault of Party political warfare, may be able to justify our existence by helping our leaders to take a long-term and nonpartisan view of Britain's future.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down may I make a very small plea. He says that we should separate the grain from the chaff when speaking of prices. Would he please separate the percentages from the actual prices so that ordinary people may understand what he is saying?
§ LORD O'HAGAN
My Lords, if I may reply to that by leave of the House, I managed to extract that information in percentages this morning but I am afraid my mathematical ability was not up to translating it into what the noble Baroness is asking for in time for this debate. I apologise.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, in his temporary absence, on behalf of the Opposition Back Benches, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Brayley, on his excellent maiden speech from the Dispatch Box. He is of course well known as a soldier and as an industrialist, and his speech was both brief and cogent. We shall listen very attentively in future to what the noble Lord has to say. I should also like, in her temporary absence, to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, who I think is the first Lady Chief Whip we have had in this House. I believe that to-night we shall have a most interesting exchange of views between the noble Baroness and my noble friend Lady Tweedsmuir, although I think there may well be quite a lot of common ground between them.
I should also like to join in the tributes to my noble friend and cousin Lord Avon, whose speech to-day was memorable, to say the least of it. The world at large misses his wise counsel, particularly in 206 these grave times, and it was like a breath of fresh air to hear the statesmanlike and vital words which came from his lips to-day.
We have joined, at least temporarily, the large number of European countries which have minority Governments, and the countries of the E.E.C. are very much concerned about this. But before turning to the E.E.C. and the Commonwealth, about which I should like to make some brief comments, I shall say a word or two about Northern Ireland, because I have been there several times, and have a number of friends in that part of the country.
Some of your Lordships may have seen on Tuesday night the disturbing television programme about the children in Northern Ireland. Anyone who has seen this programme cannot help but feel very disturbed by it, while at the same time admiring beyond words the restraint of our troops in this temporarily most unhappy part of the world. To see the humour and the tolerance which they show towards the attacks made on them is something which should be admired the world over. Those who belittle this country would do well to reflect on achievements of this kind. I noticed on the tape this afternoon that recruiting has fallen, at least for the time being. This is put down in part at least to the situation in Northern Ireland. Be that as it may, no words can be too praiseworthy for the conduct of our troops there. I rather agree with some of my honourable friends in the other place who said that if ever there was a special case for remuneration, it is the case of the British forces to-day, particularly in this part of the world where they are under constant danger 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I am certain that the noble Lord, Lord Brayley, with his military experience, and his right honourable friend will have studied this matter very closely.
If I may turn for a few moments to the E.E.C., we all listened with great interest to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, who has had first-hand experience at Strasbourg. I do not suppose anyone in this country can be completely happy about the way in which the E.E.C. is going at present. I am chairman of a small company which has some business interests in France. At the moment, as my noble friend Lord Avon 207 and others have said, relations between France and this country are somewhat strained, although if one talks man to man to the majority of the French people they are still very friendly. It is not going to be easy to resolve these problems, particularly those of the Common Agricultural Policy.
I should like to say one word about Denmark because I happen to be a member of the Anglo-Danish Parliamentary Group. I have been to Denmark and have many friends in that country. They are our oldest ally, and a very welcome member of the E.E.C. Of course, they are suffering from Governmental troubles. At the present time they have a minority Government, and also considerable inflation. But it is a very welcome piece of news that Queen Margrethe of Denmark is to visit this country next month. I think it is a very suitable time for her to do so, at a moment when we need to cement our good relations with the Common Market countries.
I was particularly interested in Lord Brayley's references to President Kekkonen of Finland, another country with whom we have had a long and happy history of good relations both in trade and in political matters. I have been to Finland as well, where I met the President, when I went with the British Parliamentary Delegation. I think the progress of the SALT talks there was very useful, and the arrangements which the Finnish Government made were very helpful. Certainly in Scandinavia we can count on some very valuable allies, particularly at a time when we need to increase our trade.
Inevitably I must say a few words about New Zealand, because there was a rather disturbing report from a correspondent in Auckland which referred to "Pommiebashing". I think that report has since been largely qualified. Certain letters which I have received from friends in New Zealand, of both English and New Zealand nationalities, do not bear out that this is going on to any great degree. But I think it has been made quite plain, and quite rightly so, that Australia, New Zealand or any other Commonwealth country will not take those people who are escaping from this country merely because they might not like the Government or the problems which we face: first, 208 because many of those countries have similar problems, and secondly, because people in those countries are expected to work very hard. So there will be no sympathy shown to those who merely moan and groan here and expect to go there to gain sympathy. For the hardworking person, there is tremendous scope in such countries as Australia and New Zealand. It is a very good piece of news that the New Zealand Overseas Trade Minister is visiting the countries of the Nine at the present time. I hope he will manage to have discussions here with the Minister of Agriculture and others, to clear up the problem of cheap butter and cheap meat from New Zealand, over which there has been some misunderstanding lately. My information is that foodstuffs in that part of the world are themselves rising in cost. It is not going to be an easy matter to resolve, but I am quite sure that Mr. Peart, who is a good friend of New Zealand, will do his utmost to get this matter resolved.
I should like to quote a few lines from a letter which I received the other day from a great friend in New Zealand, the wife of the former chairman of the Auckland Harbour Board, referring to the visit of Her Majesty the Queen, which was enormously successful, to the Commonwealth Games. She says:To think of happier things, our dear Queen has been here and she did look so handsome and beautiful. I always feel they are so precious and do give thanks when they get safely back to England.I think this proves beyond doubt that our relations with the Commonwealth countries are far more cordial than some of the media would have us believe. Of course there are problems. New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and others of these countries are naturally worried about the implications of our entry into Europe. I think this is why it is so necessary for there to be more discussions between the Governments of the Nine and the Commonwealth on the many mutual problems which come along. I think everyone will wish those who have taken over our foreign policy well, whatever our political views or differences might be. They face difficult problems, but I think we all wish them God speed.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, has made 209 reference to many countries and subjects. I hope he will not think I am discourteous if I do not comment upon each one of them. I think he will find as I proceed that what I do say will have reference to many of the issues that he has raised.
My first duty to-night must be to express appreciation to the Leader of the House, and to the House as a whole, for granting me permission to speak for a second time in this debate. I want to say at once that had I known I might not be permitted to speak during the discussion on foreign affairs I might not have answered so readily the invitation of the Leader of the House to second the Motion which is now before us. But with a delightful appreciation of the position of Back-Benchers he took the almost unprecedented step of tabling a Motion to dispense with the relevant Standing Order so that I might speak; and I want to thank him, and the whole House, for giving me this opportunity.
May I add that I try, despite the views I hold, to act in this House within its traditions and its spirit, and I do not want to take advantage of the opportunity the House has now given me to deal with controversial questions. I shall have plenty of opportunity, in Questions which I put to my own side of the House, as I have done to the other side of the House, to raise controversial issues. Quite deliberately to-night, because of the particular circumstances in which I am speaking, my contribution to the debate will be rather in the character of a maiden speech, and will deal with non-controversial matters. I have been impressed during my years in this House by the contribution which Members have made out of their experience in so many spheres to the deeper and perhaps longer-term issues which face us, and to-night, in the closing moments of this debate, I want to turn the attention of the House to a consideration of the structures which must be established in the world if we are to advance towards peace, co-operation and human welfare.
I turn first to Europe. We have had a series of speeches, notably one from the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and, in the later stage of the debate, a penetrating informed and constructive speech from the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, on the European Community. But I think there is now being discussed in Europe a proposal 210 which is of even greater significance to the peace of the world than the European Community. I refer to the discussions which have been proceeding at the Conference on European Security and Co-operation. My Lords, when this proposal was first made, nine years ago, it was received in this country and in Western countries in a very lukewarm way; perhaps that was due to the fact that it was first advocated by Communist countries in a provocative and anti-Western spirit. But as the years have passed there has been growing appreciation of the importance which these discussions on security and cooperation across the Iron Curtain might have in contributing to peace. We have now reached the situation in which not only has there been the preliminary conference, but the Commissions are now discussing these issues in detail, and we all hope that these discussions may lead to a Summit Conference.
My Lords, why do I say that this is so important as a structure for peace? It is not merely because it provides the hope of a conference to discuss differences between East and West, not merely because it is accompanied by a conference which is discussing proposals for reduction of armaments, but because it has in itself the possibility of a continuing organisation which will progressively, as East and West get nearer together, consider proposals for economic cooperation; for the use of the great rivers which cross the frontiers; for the use of power across the frontiers; for the use of measures against pollution—for all those constructive things which in the long run are the greatest contribution for peace. One hopes that as the present discussions proceed they may lead not only to a Summit Conference but also to the establishment of a continuing organisation in Europe, which may be able to bring the greatest co-operation between East and West, and promise the most hope for people.
The second structure for peace in the world that I want to urge to-night arises from the oil situation. We have had the producing countries of the Middle East using their control of the contribution of oil to the world to make not merely changes in prices but also changes in the quantity of supplies, and that indicates an entirely new position in the economic 211 relationships of the world. It indicates that we have reached, in economic world affairs, a fundamental change in the relationship between developed and developing nations, between the richer nations and those that have been regarded as poorer. I emphasise that what has happened in respect of oil cannot be isolated: it is bound to occur in the demands which the producing nations make on other materials and foodstuffs which they supply.
Most of the mineral resources and many of the foodstuffs which our country and the developing countries need come from the poorer nations of the Third World. Inevitably the action which the oil-producing countries have taken in the Middle East will be followed in the case of other material resources—and, indeed, in foodstuffs—which come from those producing countries. In the past, the mineral resources in those territories have been owned by the West, their cost has been priced by the West, and the destination they have reached in sales has been determined by the West. That situation is now completely changed. In nation after nation of these producing countries, 51 per cent. of the ownership has been taken by those countries from the industrial companies of the West which previously owned them. In many of those countries there has been complete nationalisation. As a result of these developments the balance between the countries producing the minerals and the foodstuffs of the world and the developed, industrialised nations has completely changed.
This situation has appeared to come suddenly upon us, but we have had our warnings. Even at the last Commonwealth Conference, Mr. Whitlam, the Prime Minister of Australia, warned us that the producing countries would be getting together to demand their prices from the developed countries. We took no notice. When the balance was the other way, at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development at Santiago two years ago, the proposal was made that there should be common discussions on this subject between developed and developing nations. It was rejected by the West. It was rejected because at that point the balance was in favour of the West against the developing countries.
212 May I look for a moment at the facts about the mineral and other products which come from the developing nations? I am indebted for the details to Mr. Roy Bennett, who writes the article about the United Nations for a medium which many Members of this House will not appreciate, Tribune. Roy Bennett, in his last article, showed these facts. In the case of bauxite, aluminium ore, there are five countries which control the supply of the world; three of them are in the Caribbean, Guyana, Surinam and Jamaica, one is Guinea, in Africa, and one is Australia. In the case of copper, four countries virtually control the whole supply: Zambia and Zaire (the former Belgian Congo), in Africa; and Peru and Chile, in South America. In the case of iron ore, six major countries in the Third World dominate supplies: Brazil, Venezuela, Peru and Chile, in South America; India, in Asia; Liberia, in Africa. Similar facts can be shown for chrome, manganese, lead, tin and nickel. Supplies of these are even more concentrated in the Third World than in the instances I have given.
In that situation we have to begin to think that there must be discussions between representatives of the developed nations and the developing nations in order that a correct balance may be secured. I welcome the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and the noble Earl, Lord Avon, emphasised in their speeches the need for this agreement between the developed and the developing nations. My one qualification would be that I do not think it should come about by America attracting a group of nations, or even by Europe in the very good proposal that it has made: it should be under the auspices of the United Nations. It should be under U.N. auspices, not only because the United Nations represents both the producing and consumer countries but also because it represents nations of the Third World who because of the present stringencies in the oil supplies are suffering most, more than we are—India, and other countries.
A proposal is immediately to be made to the General Assembly of the United Nations, suggesting that there should be a conference regarding the prices of world raw materials and foodstuffs, so that an agreement can be reached. I hope that 213 the new representative of Her Majesty's Government at the United Nations will give the fullest support to that proposal. Such discussions need not necessarily be to the prejudice of this country. In return for raw materials and foodstuffs, we can contribute the technology and industrial equipment. Large sums come from these countries into the banks of London and of the West. By proper discussion between the two sides we could reach a balance which would be of value to the whole world.
I should now like to come to the third pattern of future peace and co-operation and human welfare that I want to suggest. The time has come when there should be an economic arm of the United Nations which is as powerful as the political arm. We have now reached a stage in world affairs where international action in the economic sphere must be taken if the hunger of millions is to be prevented. To take immediate examples, there are the appalling famines in Ethiopia and parts of West Africa, resulting from the disasters in the Sahara, which could have been prevented. The Sahara Desert has been advancing by one mile a year. That has been largely the cause of the famine in the West African countries and it could have been prevented.
My noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder referred—and I hope that the report of his speech will be read by every Member of this House for the contribution of scientific knowledge which it made—to what has been done in the Sahara. I have seen it. On the edge of the Sahara at Bou Saada, to which my noble friend referred, between the fertile land and the desert, there are now trees, barley, fruit and vegetables, and the forest is preventing the advance of the desert. If that pioneering effort were followed all around the Sahara, the advance of the desert could be stopped and we could proceed to cultivate even the desert itself. But the task of converting the deserts of the world, which represent one-seventh of its area, can be fulfilled only by an international economic agency. Underneath all of the deserts there is water, as we saw on a film the other night about Saudi Arabia. Water brought to the surface can change the deserts into arable land, and that must be done if the danger of hunger in the future is to be avoided.
214 Then there is the great source of the oceans. I refer not merely to the farming of the oceans, but to the minerals below them and to the power of energy, and that task too, can be fulfilled only by an international economic agency. Indeed if it were fulfilled in any other way it would be a danger to the peace of the world. This third great structure for peace and co-operation and human welfare in the world must be the establishment in association with the United Nations of an economic agency which will undertake these great tasks, for only in that way will the problems of our time be solved.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
My Lords, I should like first to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Brayley, on his maiden speech from the Front Bench. He referred to a great number of matters in a short time, some of which I should like to speak to; and of course we understood, although we regretted the fact, that he could not enter into what he called "any details of policy". I should also like to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, on assuming command of the Honourable Corps of the Gentlemen-at-Arms. I suspect that as a pioneer and as a Chief Whip, she may have her problems, but I feel she will be undaunted. While I have regretfully to say that I hope her tenure of office will be short, nevertheless I wish her very well indeed.
This debate so early in the life of a new Government has of necessity been of a probing nature. Almost every noble Lord who has spoken has sought to define the real intentions of the Government, masked as they are by phrases in the gracious Speech that can be interpreted in almost any way—which no doubt is the point of the exercise. One or two noble Lords who are confirmed in their views have shown their enthusiasm for the document before us, notably the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. If I may say so, it was a real achievement to second the humble Address in what must have been about the shortest notice ever given to anyone. But I was not surprised, having in Government endured through Parliamentary Questions what came to be known as "my daily Brockway". I take a certain vicarious pleasure in noticing from the Order Paper that he is up to it again.
215 My Lords, the tone of this debate has clearly reflected the overriding need for this country to generate confidence overseas, and of course at home. My noble friend Lord Carrington spoke with his deep knowledge of the interlock between Defence and détente. The Labour Party are pledged to reduce Defence costs by several million pounds, and many noble Lords have referred to that phrase in the gracious Speech which states that the Government,…will pursue a policy directed to maintaining a modern and effective defence system while reducing its cost as a proportion of our national resources.If the cost of Defence is to be a proportion of the gross national product this could be a very serious statement, for the G.N.P. will not grow. There is no doubt, too, that the huge sums which are apparently forecast for domestic purposes are bound to add to a vicious inflation, compounded by the high price of necessary imported commodities, and the enormous cost of energy. Surely the need to retain our defence capability should be set in the context, too, of the United States' present impatience with the Alliance and their desire to see Europe sharing a greater burden of the costs of defence.
I should like to join all those who have paid tribute to my noble friend Lord Avon. We were so delighted to see him in his place again, and all of us enjoyed not only a brilliant but a most distinguished speech spoken from the heart. I certainly will always remember what he said on détente. He said there were two things which were essential: we must equate like with like in détente, and the Western nations must be in agreement. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in another great contribution, said he felt that the strains and pressures on the Western World were such that we cannot just assume that the Free World will remain safe and secure. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Avon spoke with sympathy and enormous understanding of the immensely serious problems confronting the developing countries with their rising populations and the quadrupling of the price of energy. As the House will recall, the United Kingdom had a rising aid programme, but it is as nothing compared with the problems which confront the developing world now. That is why I 216 much welcome a conference on energy with the consuming countries, and no doubt also with the producing countries, because surely it is time that the Arab States themselves sought to help their African neighbours in particular.
While we consider these enormous problems, we should also welcome the struggle to unity of the Nine within the European Community, and when people talk about France and say how difficult she has been of late, it is perhaps an encouragement to recall the Copenhagen Declaration of December, 1973, to which France herself was also a party. It said this of our foreign policy and of our defence:The Nine, one of whose essential aims is to maintain peace, will never succeed in doing so if they neglect their own security. Those of them who are members of the Atlantic Alliance consider that in the present circumstances there is no alternative to the security provided by the nuclear weapons of the United States and the presence of North American forces in Europe, and they agree that in the light of the relative military vulnerability of Europe the Europeans should, if they wish to preserve their independence, hold to their commitments, and make constant efforts to ensure that they have adequate means of defence at their disposal.My Lords, if sometimes we feel fainthearted, let us remember that this was said by all the Nine.
Because Britain is no longer one of the most powerful countries, it surely means that the conduct of our relations with other nations has become ever more important. That is why the passages in the gracious Speech that refer to the Commonwealth, the United Nations and the E.E.C. are of the greatest importance.
I do not think it fair to ask Her Majesty's Government to comment so early in their life on every aspect of policy in detail, but I should like to ask certain questions on matters which I assume must have been carefully considered over a period of time, as they are contained not only in the gracious Speech but also in the Labour Party's Election Manifesto of which the new Prime Minister said he was the custodian. It sometimes makes me wonder whether he means to keep it safely away or stop it getting out. For example, the gracious Speech refers to the particular importance of the U.N. and the Commonwealth. But the Manifesto remarks that these two organisations have been treated "with 217 scant regard by the former Government." My only comment is—what a nerve!
We had a debate on the Commonwealth in this House, where I recalled the continuous consultation that goes on between Members—and the last conference in Ottawa was generally agreed to be a great success. The United Kingdom contributes over 82 per cent. of aid to Commonwealth countries alone. In the United Nations we are the second largest contributor after the United States. We have the largest force of technical advisers in the U.N. Agencies of any country. I must confess that I am not impressed by the appointment of a political ambassador to the United Nations. I of course wish Mr. Richard well, but I should like to join with those noble Lords who have paid tribute to our professional diplomat at the United Nations, Sir Donald Maitland. He has served this country very well, as indeed have Mr. Robin Haydon at No. 10 and Nicholas Gordon Lennox at the F.C.O., all three of whom were suddenly swept away. While we in this country understand the position, it is not always understood overseas that members of our Diplomatic Service serve any Government with equal impartiality.
There is much more in the gracious Speech that needs to be explained. It refers, for example, to the opposition to all forms of racial discrimination, which I am sure we all support. But the Manifesto says that there should be disengagement from Britain's involvement in apartheid in South Africa. What does this mean? I am sure that the noble Baroness when she comes to reply will be able to give the House more detailed information because she is so close to this matter. Does it mean, for example, a ban on export licences or a ban on trade with South Africa? I think we should know. In referring to Rhodesia the gracious Speech maintains that no agreement will be given to a settlement which is not supported by the African majority. I assume that this is a different way of referring to the Fifth Principle, which we all support. But the Manifesto refers to intensifying sanctions against Rhodesia, and I suggest that this House has a right to know what is meant.
Then we come to the all-important question of the European Community of which I think the most distinguished 218 speech was made by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and an interesting one by the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, the only member of the European Parliament to speak. I am sure he would like to know as much as we should all like to know whether delegates from the Labour Party will attend the European Parliament, because if any negotiation is to go on I think it will be a strength to the Foreign Secretary to have Labour Members also at Strasbourg.
I suggest that we should have a clear explanation from the Government of the meaning of the words in the Queen's Speech:My Government will seek a fundamental renegotiation of the terms of entry to the E.E.C.I realise that there are those in the Labour Party who would like this country to withdraw from the E.E.C. But the Treaties establishing the Community and Euratom are concluded for an unlimited period, like the United Nations Charter. The Community system rests on the original consent, and the continuing assent of Member States through their national Parliaments, and there was a majority of 112 in another place for entry. Our constitutional system gives to Members of Parliament the responsibility to judge whether it is in the interests of the British people to become, and to remain, a member of the Community. Therefore, I assume that the phrase "to renegotiate the terms of entry" can apply in only one of two ways, either from within, working with the other eight members, or from without, alone. I think it may be that I myself got some comfort from the actual words, deliberately spoken, by the noble Lord, Lord Brayley, who opened this debate, when he said:We approach this negotiation in no spirit of confrontation".Therefore, until one can see the result, I will assume the best: that the Government hope to change matters from within, together with the eight other members of the Community. Because, my Lords, changes are of course necessary; I think we are all agreed on that. For example, that is why regional policy is still under discussion; that is why economic and monetary union is still the subject of debate, because of the floating of the currencies of some members; that is why the Community agreed to study means of improving the Common Agricultural 219 Policy, and why my right honourable friend Mr. Godber could not agree to the raising of beef prices by 10 per cent.
There is no doubt that in this country there are many who can see only the difficulties of the first year of membership. But there are also very large numbers of people in this country who think of the advantages of membership, not just for themselves but for their grandchildren. That has so often been said to me. I am sure we are all glad that on Wednesday the Foreign Secretary is to meet our Ambassadors to the Nine and to the Community to discuss the methods of renegotiation of the terms of entry. But I suggest that in a debate of this character, without going into details, this House would wish tonight to know the answers to two fundamental questions. First, are this Government still, as were the previous Labour Government in principle, in favour of British membership? Secondly, do they still support the principle of a Common Agricultural Policy? Because, as Mr. Wilson once said to another place when he was Prime Minister before:It is useless to think we can wish the C.A.P. away, and I should be totally misleading the House if I suggested that this policy was negotiable. We have to come to terms with it, but we can play our part in affecting its future development if, but only if, we are members of the Community".My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, spoke (and I had hoped to speak on this subject, too, but I will not as he did it) about some of the facts given to this country in a major speech by Commissioner George Thomson. Mr. Thomson said that the relationship between Community prices and world prices has been turned upside down, so that for several of the major commodities the Community system is operating to hold prices down rather than pushing them up. The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, spoke of some of the problems of New Zealand. While it is perfectly true that there remains a big gap with E.E.C. prices, the world position has changed so much that the New Zealanders, for instance, find that they can earn more for their butter and cheese on the world market than they can in Britain. Therefore, whatever fluctuations there are in average food prices, I suggest to the House that it is an illusion to believe that ever again will this country 220 be able to base her economy on cheap world food. It will simply not exist.
My Lords, it has been reported that the new Foreign Secretary is seeking this renegotiation of the terms of entry to the E.E.C. because of the effect on prices in this country. But, my Lords, membership of the Community was not negotiated for only economic reasons, valuable although I believe them to be. In both Defence and in foreign affairs this country can exist only in partnership with others. As my right honourable friend Sir Alec Douglas-Home once said—and I quote:We have to persuade and reconcile, where previously near monopoly power operated. There are two main requirements: we must have friends and we must be consistent.So, my Lords, I suggest to the House that this Government will be judged by what they do, or what they do not do, to ensure that this country will always be a strong and steady ally in good times and in bad.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ BARONESS LLEWELYN-DAVIES OF HASTOE
My Lords, I think the noble Baroness knows that I always enjoy debating with her, but I shall enjoy it rather less to-night because she comes from Office full of all those facts which we on this side do not yet know, full of the authority which still clothes her Front Bench in a kind of protective mantle which I can assure noble Lords will have gone in about three weeks. But it is there now, and the noble Baroness is even more formidable than she is normally. Nevertheless, I think, I have an answer, if not to all her questions, certainly to all her arguments. Perhaps I might begin by dealing with her challenge about the Commonwealth. She asked us what right we had to say what we did about the Commonwealth. I might begin by saying that of all the famous U-turns which the Administration opposite made, the one we liked the best was their U-turn about the Commonwealth. The difference and the improvements in the relations between our Government and the Commonwealth between the Singapore Conference and the Ottawa Conference were so marked that everybody in the whole world saw them. I am very surprised that the noble Baroness laid herself open to that particular comment. We in fact propose to base our foreign policies on far closer contacts with the Commonwealth 221 countries than the previous Government did, and we base our approach to the United Nations also on co-operation with Commonwealth countries.
If I may say so, I thought the noble Baroness was a little unworthy in her reference to Sir Donald Maitland. Conservative Administrations over many years have made political appointments in their representatives abroad. We deeply value the quality of Sir Donald Maitland's services—always. I should like to echo what the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, said about the kind of work that people do at the United Nations. I myself have served there under that splendid character Philip Noel-Baker, to whom the noble Lord referred. I knew well Sir Andrew Cohen, Lord Caradon and other United Nations representatives. All these people were possibly more famous in the rest of the world than they were at home. Sir Donald took his place as any career diplomat or non-career diplomat would have done. We wish him well in his new duties, whatever they may be; and we also send our warmest wishes to Mr. Ivor Richard in his present appointment.
My Lords, the noble Baroness also referred to Africa, Southern Africa and so on. Apart from my noble friend Lord Brockway, I do not think other noble Lords have done so. She asked me what we were going to do. She will, I am sure, be glad to know that the present Government will continue the policy which we followed during our previous Administration, of placing an embargo on the sale of arms to South Africa in accordance with our international obligations. We shall give no help—
BARONESS TWEFDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
My Lords, for clarification, may I just ask the noble Baroness: does that include the obligations under the Simonstown Agreement?
§ BARONESS LLEWELYN-DAVIES OF HASTOE
My Lords, we shall give no help or co-operation to the South African Government which could be used for internal repression or for the enforcement of apartheid. That, I think, covers that particular point. In the past noble Lords have pointed out the importance of our trading relationship with South Africa. This is absolutely true. But I believe that the whole House rejects that country's 222 racial ideology and we shall use every influence we possess to encourage evolution towards a humane society—a society which takes full account of the interests of all races and is based on respect for human rights and dignity.
My Lords, British firms trading with South Africa have a special duty towards non-white workers, and this again we wish to emphasise. We welcome the publicity in the Press, particularly in the Guardian, and in Parliament about the performance of British firms operating in South Africa, and we especially welcome the publication of the Report of Trade and Industry Committee of the House of Commons.
The House well knows that I could talk about Rhodesia until the cows come home. I am not going to do this now, but the noble Baroness who has just spoken asked me about sanctions. Of course, we want a settlement in Rhodesia, but it must be a settlement that we are completely satisfied has the wholehearted support of the African majority there. We are very conscious of our responsibility to Rhodesia, and of our commitment in particular to the African people who still look to us for protection and justice. They must play a major part in working out the terms of a settlement which they could support, and I am absolutely certain that the present talks, which we welcome, that are taking place between the Smith régime and Bishop Muzorewa and his colleagues would not have been started if it had not been for the existence of sanctions.
The noble Baroness in a sense tried to twit me about sanctions. We intend to intensify sanctions by every means we can. I know that, like me, she has no vindictive desire to harm Rhodesia, but we believe that intensified sanctions are essential if we are to get the kind of settlement we need; and we propose to co-operate with other nations at the United Nations in fulfilling our obligations of that kind.
The noble Baroness also asked me about Defence questions, as indeed did the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. I am rather sorry that he is not here now because I had one or two things to say to him. I should like to start by saying that we rather like being described as "Lord Shepherd's flock". I was a well 223 brought up girl and my mind runs on Biblical and hymn quotations and the first quotation that came to my mind is in this case was:Sheep may safely graze.The second thing which came to my mind was in relation to the past Administration. How many people must have thought:The hungry sheep look up and are not fed.My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, with all his knowledge and experience, made one grave misrepresentation when he said that the position of my right honourable friend Mr. Healey seeks greatly to diminish our Defence effort. This is not true. We seek an equality of sacrifice in response to a threat which must by its very nature threaten all the nations in an equal degree, as my noble friend Lord Brayley, in a notable speech, pointed out very accurately.
§ BARONESS TWEEDSMUIR OF BELHELVIE
My Lords, would the noble Baroness allow me to interrupt, because this is really very important? I should like to say on behalf of my noble friend that he is very sorry that, owing to a previous engagement, he could not remain until the end of the debate. He was referring, of course, to the speech made and something which is also in the gracious Speech, the fact that there will be several large cuts in Defence expenditure. Therefore I would like to ask the noble Baroness what she means by "equality of sacrifice".
§ BARONESS LLEWELYN-DAVIES OF HASTOE
My Lords, I should like to point out that in the last Budget the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Barber, made a cut of £178 million from the Defence bill of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. I would also point out that when we took over in 1964 we managed to cut £700 million from the previous Conservative Defence Estimate which they never sought to put back. Obviously, we shall look at the thing broadly. What the Opposition do not seem to understand is that all the countries of the Alliance face this problem equally, financially and psychologically, but we spend considerably more on Defence than the majority of our European allies. It is right, I believe, in full 224 consultation with our allies, that we should seek to make what economies we can to try to make the most of the resources that we have between us. I cannot believe that there could be any objection to that course.
My Lords, from that I should like to turn to NATO and also to the Common Market, but before going any further I should very much like to echo what has been said from all parts of the House: how moving it has been to have the noble Earl, Lord Avon, speak to us. Those of us who remember him well at the old League of Nations, at the United Nations and the Foreign Office, find it a special pleasure to have him with us to-day. He brings with him a breath of the old, more leisurely, perhaps more thoughtful ways into our present rather frantic jet age. When I was thinking of that he suddenly rather electrified us by his discussion of the problems of poverty and of the underprivileged world. With my noble friend Lord Chalfont, who made a most logically argued speech, and of course my noble friend Lord Brockway and the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, we strongly echo all the sentiments which he expressed. I would especially welcome the fact that at last we have the Overseas Aid Department out from under the Foreign Office. I thought it a monstrous thing when it went into the Foreign Office. I felt quite sure that it was the wrong decision. It meant that there were political ties attached to aid, or that people would think there were. And we all knew it meant that aid was not represented at the top level where it should he. Noble Lords who have spoken on this subject, even if they cannot say so in public, I am sure would agree with that view.
My Lords, NATO has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and of course by the noble Earl, Lord Avon, and the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan. We attach great importance to the trans-Atlantic relationship and we propose, as the gracious Speech says, to give the highest priority to maintaining and improving friendly relations between the United Kingdom and the United States. We have an ever more common interest in co-operation to try to bring about effective management of economic and financial problems, and we need to work together to maintain effective Defence 225 arrangements. We need friendly relations all over the world, and noble Lords on all sides of the House acknowledge the key-note of our relationship with the United States.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, may I interrupt for a moment? Does it mean that the pledge in the Labour Party Manifesto to renegotiate the Holy Loch Agreement has gone by the board?
BARONESS LLEWELYN DAVIES OF HASTOE
My Lords, I am not here to discuss details of Defence policy in the Manifesto. I am here to discuss the gracious Speech. Turning from NATO to the E.E.C., of course all noble Lords are deeply concerned, and rightly so, about Britain's future relations with the E.E.C. Of course one can never forget the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in this respect. If ever there was a loyal and doughty crusader in a cause it is he. I sometimes wish that he would lift his visor up and lower his halberd. Nevertheless, we always listen to what he says.
I want to say quite clearly that it is the intention of this Government to seek a fundamental renegotiation of the terms of entry into the European Economic Community. When these negotiations have finished, or have been taken as far as is possible, the results will be put to the people of this country. That, my Lords, is the basic position of the Government and it is quite clear. My right honourable friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary is of course considering how best to put into effect this fundamental renegotiation. As my noble friend Lord Ardwick pointed out, my right honourable friend has already had talks with the Dutch Foreign Minister. He will be consulting all our E.E.C. Ambassadors next week and will be going to Bonn on March 21 to talk to Herr Brandt and Herr Scheel.
Renegotiation there must be, but as my noble friend Lord Brayley said, it is not our purpose to have a confrontation with Europe if it can be avoided. Confrontation is not part of the new Government's philosophy. I should like to be able to go into greater detail about the Government's strategic approach to the negotiations, but the Secretary of State naturally is still in consultation about the highly complex and technical issues which 226 are raised, so it would clearly be inadvisable for me to go any further and, for reasons which the House will appreciate, I should like to leave the question here. There will be many opportunities for further debate later on, and there is of course to be a debate in another place early next week. My Lords, that is our position on the E.E.C.
I had prepared a great many notes to talk to the House about, but this has been such a notable debate and we have had such magnificent contributions that I want to reply to the comments which noble Lords have made; and time goes on. I cannot see the clock so I do not know for how long I have spoken.
§ BARONESS LLEWELYN-DAVIES OF HASTOE
Thank you. I should like at this moment to refer to what my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder said, and he is not going to like it a bit. Ho is absolutely fascinating in his ideas. I think of him as the British Herman Kahn, but more human. He is not going to like anything I say. He is always full of fascinating schemes for the future which always have a proper scientific content. I noticed a rather menacing nod in my direction on his part every time he came to a positive proposal, and I should like to tell him that we are well aware that there will be very hard negotiations at Caracas next month. We are well aware that the subject of the Law of the Sea, as enshrined in the Geneva Convention of 1958 on the continental shelf, provides that a coastal State has sovereign rights over the continental shelf. It is going to be extremely difficult to negotiate any convention which does not take account of these sovereign rights. Nevertheless, we absolutely understand; and for myself I totally agree with everything that the noble Lord said about scientific research—the importance of it, the necessity for not confining it—and he is the best example of people who do not do that.
It is essential that research which can be of such potential use to the rest of the world should not be put at risk by restrictions of the kind to which my noble friend referred. But he is a great man for killing monsters and jumping over mountains, and he may be better at it 227 than Her Majesty's Government. We shall do our best. We shall be giving close attention to our policy at the Law of the Sea Conference, and if he likes to call it "horse trading" we will "horse trade" with the best of them.
About Sinai: again one sees the force of his arguments, but I am afraid that it is quite out of the question that the Egyptian Government would consider leasing its land in the way he suggests, although we entirely understand his scientific and idealistic approach to the whole question.
My Lords, I think I have dealt with what the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, said. I was particularly anxious that our tribute to Sir Donald Maitland was appreciated by the whole House. We very much enjoyed my noble friend Lord Ardwick's global trot which was so immensely valuable. I do not know how many of your Lordships are as old as I am, but I remember so well our late 'Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, who used to start his speeches by saying, "We are going to have a tour d'horizon". That is exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, did, in a particularly valuable way, if I may say so.
I hope that I have covered adequately at least some of the points that have been made during the debate. The noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, did me the courtesy of sending me advance notice of his points. I could not possibly reply to them in detail but I promise that I will write to him and give him the answers. The only speech I missed in the whole debate was that of the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, which I will read to-morrow, and if there are any points to answer I will do so.
My Lords, foreign affairs is a terribly difficult, if tremendously exciting, branch 228 of politics. It has always been my favourite, but this is the first time I have ever been allowed to speak on it. It is one in which there are never solutions to problems which lie in our own hands. We always depend on other people, as the noble Baroness said so very eloquently. It is vitally important to consider all the factors involved and not to make wild promises about possible achievements, especially at the very beginning of an Administration. We must not make the mistake of making premature commitments on matters that require detailed and careful study. We are making no wild promises, but one promise I can give to noble Lords; that is, that in all our dealings overseas we shall be guided by the fundamental goal which was set out—if the noble Earl, Lord Onslow is listening—in the Labour Party Manifesto of, "Peace and justice in a safer world." We believe firmly that only in a peaceful, just and secure world can Britain's own individual interests truly prosper. It is in the light of this requirement that we shall judge all our international policies.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned until Wednesday of next week.
§ Moved, that the debate be adjourned until Wednesday of next week.—(Lord Aberdare.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly until Wednesday of next week.