European Economic Community (Brussels Negotiations)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th February 1963.

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Photo of Mr Cyril Osborne Mr Cyril Osborne , Louth Borough 12:00 am, 11th February 1963

Many appeals have been made in the House for ten-minute speeches so that more hon. Members can take part in the debate. I will try to make a ten-minute speech, provided that I am not interrupted. I shall make a few very brief comments almost in shorthand style.

First of all, since General de Gaulle says that Britain must choose between being either a satellite of France or a junior partner of America, I support the Government in choosing America. I would rather be a poor relation of America than live on sufferance at the pleasure of General de Gaulle, for I believe there can be neither prosperity nor peace for the free world if the English-speaking peoples are permanently divided.

Secondly, I believe that we deceive ourselves and mislead people outside if we pretend that the Five outside the Six, or America, or E.F.T.A., will do anything to help us to their own detriment. They will not. If we are to be saved economically, we have to save ourselves.

Thirdly, I say to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), for whom I have a high regard and whose speaking ability I envy so greatly, that the Commonwealth group, headed by Lord Beaverbrook, hypnotise themselves if they believe that the Commonwealth is anxiously waiting to buy more British goods, or that closer Commonwealth trading relation will of themselves solve our economic problems. They will not.

Over the last twelve years, Canada has every year sold to this country over £100 million of goods more than she has bought from us—and there is a 40 per cent. tariff in Canada against our goods. Over the last twelve years, since this party has been in power, the adverse trade balance in Canada's favour against us has totalled £1,700 million. Why? This was the question which I wanted to put to the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson), but he was frightened to give way. The answer is that the Canadian people prefer American goods to British goods, because in their opinion American goods are either cheaper or better than British goods. I think that Lord Beaverbrook—if I may say so to my right hon. and learned Friend—should first of all convert the Canadian people before preaching at us.

The Russian people have a point of view. They rightly regard the Common Market as the economic arm of N.A.T.O. They fear that the leader ultimately will not be France but will be Western Germany, and they fear the re-emergence of German militarism which would demand, to begin with, unification with Eastern Germany and ultimately a return of the lost provinces from Poland. Let us make no mistake, in Russian eyes that would mean war.

Mr. Khrushchev has made it clear recently by publicly quarrelling with the Chinese that he wants, if possible, peaceful coexistence with this country. Anglo-Soviet trade is only £70 million a year each way. I think that it could be ten times greater, and I ask the Government whether we could not do more to increase East-West trade instead of leaving it as something rather distasteful, with right-wing Members of both parties turning up their noses at it. I should like to see our Ministers go to Moscow and Warsaw as often as they go to Paris and Bonn.

Fifthly—and I hope that I shall keep to my ten minutes—our economic problems can be put into simple terms. This is what the country and the House will not face. Britain has to import 50 per cent. of its foodstuffs and nearly 100 per cent, of its raw materials. In order to pay for them, we must sell abroad roughly 30 per cent. of all we manufacture. In the manufacture of these goods, roughly 60 per cent. represents direct or indirect labour costs. Nobody can make the foreigner buy British—and this is something which the right hon. Member for Huyton will not face. If our goods are too dear or not of good enough quality, we cannot plan our exports—and 5 million jobs depend on exports. This is the challenge which both sides of the House ought to face; how do we get our costs down and how do we get the quality of our goods up? We shall not do that by playing party politics in the House.

Sixthly, I regard Brussels as a great defeat—as great a defeat for us as was Dunkirk. The question is, shall we get the same sort of response now as we managed to get after Dunkirk? Will our people face the harsh, bitter and cruel economic dangers which I believe beset us, and have we the will to work in national unity to overcome them? It is not politics or long speeches which will save us; it is sheer hard work. That is the story which we ought to put out to the people outside the House.

No one put it better than did a right hon. and learned Gentleman for whom I had deep respect, although I opposed him politically—Sir Stafford Cripps. In 1949 he said: Any worker by hand or brain who goes slow, or is an absentee, or demands more money for no more output, is in fact doing his best to put up his own household bills and to put somebody—quite possibly himself—out of a job. That is what Cripps said in 1949. If organised labour would not believe Cripps then, will they believe a Wilson or a Brown today? I think not.

The Opposition claim that they will overcome our difficulties by planning. Let me ask them to face this honestly: how can they plan without direction of labour, and are they prepared to enforce that? How can they guarantee full employment when 5 million jobs depend on exports and they cannot force the foreigner to buy the goods which these 5 million men make? How can they get down our prices and increase the quality of our goods? These are the questions which face us.

I believe that they are incapable of doing these things, and because of that I shall vote against them. I shall vote against the motion of censure, moreover, for a personal reason: ultimately this is a motion of censure on my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal and on the work which he has tried to do in the last eighteen months. I believe that he rightly commands greater trust and respect than any other hon. Member, no matter whom hon. Gentlemen elect next Thursday.