HL Deb 18 December 1979 vol 403 cc1538-41

2.58 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time. The support which Greek accession commands throughout the House has been very gratifying. During the earlier stages of the Bill a number of your Lordships underlined the basic political reason for welcoming Greece into the European Economic Community; namely the need to assist in consolidating the new democracy there. That is indeed the crux of the matter. Some of your Lordships have also quite properly pointed out the implications of widening the membership of the Community to include not just Greece but also two other Southern European economies, Portugal and Spain. The problems for the Community of having to adjust to the increase of the membership to Twelve, as with the earlier increase to Nine, will be considerable. To resolve them, the Community will need to display an effort of will and imagination similar to that shown by the founding fathers of the Community.

Understandable concern has also been expressed by some of your Lordships about the implications of Greek accession for certain industries in this country, notably the textile and clothing industries. I wish to stress that the Government are not at all complacent about this problem. The need to give our textile industry time to adjust to the new world economic conditions is one of the Government's chief industrial priorities. But, as I explained during Committee stage, in Greece's case our negotiating hand was tied by the fact that there are no formal restrictions on Greek textiles under the current Association Agreement; and that in any case it is necessary to look at this question in the broader context of trade as a whole.

Finally, I should like to express pleasure at the relatively quick passage of this Bill—assuming that your Lordships agree to it this afternoon—which will, I hope, ensure that this country is the first of the present Member States to ratify the Greek Accession Treaty. To the best of our knowledge, no other Member State is as far advanced as we are in the ratification procedures. It is fitting that this country, which has throughout the accession negotiations been one of the chief supporters of Greek accession, should be about to become the first to ratify. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Trefgarne.)

3.1 p.m.


My Lords, may I, from these Benches, also welcome the Third Reading of this Bill? In the previous stages, the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy and others, raised the various problems that may arise over Greek accession, and the Minister dealt with those fully. So I thought it as well not to take up the time of your Lordships' House on those occasions by going over again what was being so thoroughly debated.

But now I would ask for your Lordships' indulgence on a more general ground, arising from the facts of my personal involvement in the history of Greece over the last 40 years. This was first as a member, and indeed second-in-command, of our Legation, in peace and war, in Athens and then in Crete from 1939 to 1941; next it was as political adviser to our Commander-in-Chief and as Minister in our Embassy on the liberation of Greece from 1944 to 1945; and, since then, as a regular visitor and lately as instrumental in conveying to the Greek people the historic hospice in Rhodes of the English Knights of St. John.

These, your Lordships may think, are all ties so wrapped up in emotion and past history that my judgment must be suspect. I trust not. On the contrary, it has been an experience of mind as well as of heart to be a witness and, at times, a participant in the progress made by Greece. For progress, real progress, in her economy and now in politics it has been, from my first acquaintance with the country, then still struggling with few resources, except the liveliness of her people, from the debacle of Anatolia; through the unprovoked aggression on her from Albania and the subsequent German onslaught and the starvation and suffering during the occupation in the war; through brutal civil strife on regaining her freedom in 1944 to a position of increasing economic well being and restored constitutional Government.

The ineluctable law of Zeus, we are reminded by Aeschylus, is that the human race learns only through suffering. Greece having, like us, faced and survived many tribulations, sometimes through the slings of fortune, sometimes by self-inflicted wounds, we must hope—despite the gloomy forecasts now fashionable about the 1980s—that the accession to the Treaty of Rome will lead to further advance for Greece herself in which we and our partners in Europe may mutually share. Like others and the Minister himself, I trust that our ratification of this Bill will be the first.

3.4 p.m.


My Lords, because of the general desire of the House to pass this Bill as quickly as possible, we had not planned from these Benches to comment at this stage. But in view of the very moving speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, we should of course like to give our own very warm welcome to Greece on her accession to the European Communities. We have long years of friendship with the Greek nation, as we realise when we remember Lord Byron, a former Member of your Lordships' House, and his fight for their freedom. We warmly welcome them, we warmly welcome this Bill and we wish it good fortune.


My Lords, may I simply say in a minute or two that I am very glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, who has personally witnessed events in Greece before, during and after the war, and to hear his welcome to this Bill. I should like to thank my noble friend, because I raised a number of points concerning the effects on this country, for as we welcome Greece we must also recognise that there will be problems for some of our industries, particularly textiles and clothing. I confirm that my noble friend was able to answer all the main points which I raised during the two earlier stages. As I also on Second Reading expressed the hope that we would be the first to ratify, I am very glad to hear that news brought to us today by my noble friend.

On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.