On a point of order. Last Thursday, Mr. Speaker, you drew attention to the fact that many hon. Members wished to speak, and you asked hon. Members to keep their speeches short. If an hon. Member dilates or makes a lengthy speech, it shows complete lack of consideration for other hon. Members. Would it, therefore, be possible for you to request hon. Members to limit their speeches on this subject to 30 minutes for Front Bench speakers and 15 minutes for back benchers, give or take a couple of minutes?
The Chair has no power to impose such a time limit, whatever sympathy it may have with the idea. I must tell the House that I feel rather like Sisyphus: I have been pushing the stone uphill and getting nowhere at all. More hon. Members still want to speak than at the beginning of the debate.
When the House adjourned on Friday, I had been speaking for five minutes in what was intended to be one of the shortest speeches in the Common Market debate. Although it is very encouraging to see how the House has now filled up since the start of my speech, I will keep to that intention.
For anyone who may have missed the start, the story so far is this. I ended by asking: if hon. Members opposite thought that the terms negotiated in Brussels were not good enough, what terms would they have considered acceptable? My hon. Friends may consider it symbolic that that question was followed by an extended period of silence of 72 hours.
But the real pity in the extended argument over the terms is that it sometimes excludes questions and arguments over other issues which are also important. I suggest that it is also important to decide not only whether we are satisfied with a Britain which economically lags behind our European neighbours, but also whether we are satisfied with the kind of rôle which Britain may now play in the world, whether we are satisfied to rely on another country, the United States, to shoulder much of the European defence burden and, also important, whether we are satisfied with the kind of contribution which we are making towards the developing nations. On all these counts, there is precious little to give us satisfaction.
To deal with just one part, our rôle in the world, it is tempting to withdraw from any rôle at all, to mutter a prayer of thanks for being British and try to pretend that what happens in the rest of the world does not concern us. But I do not think this is either in our national interests or supported by our national experience.
In seeking a rôle we are not asking for some kind of return to empire. This is, first of all, a recognition that events will take place in a world and in a Europe over which we will want to have some influence. At present, the real decisions affecting the world and Europe are taken by the United States and Russia. Of course it is true that, as a medium-sized power, we have some influence, but even that influence is likely to decrease as the years go on.
Whether or not we join the E.E.C., the Common Market will develop, as will its influence. The development and influence of the Community now is, of course, mainly economic, but politically it has the opportunity of great influence throughout the world, including by association agreements with the developing nations.
The overriding case in favour of entry is that it is a natural development. Europe shares common interests and problems. We in Britain share the same interests and problems. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Consider, for example, defence. There is the obvious point—this needs no great power of prediction—that Europe will have to play a much greater part in its own defence in the years to come because America will not continue meeting such a substantial bill for the cost of the defence of Europe.
In side the Common Market we shall have the opportunity to make Europe's influence a real power in the world, and particularly a real power for peace. If we stay out, we shall continue as a medium-sized nation with no enormous economic power and with little influence over what is happening in the rest of the world. If we go in, we shall certainly help ourselves economically but also be able to help in the development of the rest of the world.
It is better to pool our resources and combine with our friends in Europe and have a world rôle than stay out and have no rôle at all. I will vote, not with reluctance but with enthusiasm, for our entry into the E.E.C.
I am glad to speak following my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Fowler), who, as the House will agree, made a thoughtful speech both today and on Friday, concentrating on some of the more fundamental themes that must determine the course of the debate.
We have been discussing whether or not Britain should join the European Communities for over a decade, and I do not propose this afternoon to attempt to analyse the ebb and flow of events or speeches over the years.
We all recognise that there are right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House who, for various reasons, have been opposed in principle from the outset. There are, however, others—I suggest the manifest majority—who have desired our successful application if satisfactory terms could be negotiated.
I start, therefore, fully recognising that what whatever views anyone may have held or expressed in the past, it is perfectly legitimate to express dissatisfaction with the terms which have been negotiated.
I accept that there are now on the benches opposite right hon. and hon. Members who were associated with our application to join—who must be presumed to have acted in good faith when applying—who still want to join but are now saying, "Not on Tory terms." It surely follows from that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South pointed out on Friday, that one must show some fundamental conditions or terms which can be changed or have been inadequately negotiated; and here I am well aware of my responsibilities as a negotiator, primarily to the Government but also to this House and, through this House, to the nation at large.
For my part, I have endeavoured in the last year or so not merely to make regular statements on the progress achieved but also to sense, and be guided by, expressions of feeling in this House about the relative importance of particular issues. If I judge correctly, the House has throughout shown a special concern for the effect of our entry on our responsibilities towards others, and notably, of course, toward the Commonwealth.
It is significant in this connection that at the end of the negotiations no less an authority than Mr. Arnold Smith, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat, felt able to say, as he did in July, that our membership of the Community would make the Commonwealth more, rather than less, important, both to the members of the Commonwealth itself and to the enlarged Community.
On the most sensitive issues—New Zealand dairy products and sugar from the developing Commonwealth—we have negotiated terms which have satisfied the Governments of those countries, the New Zealand Dairy Board and the Commonwealth sugar exporters.
I will not cover the ground dealt with in the White Paper and discussed in our debate in July. What Sir Keith Holyoake and Mr. Marshall have said about the terms for New Zealand is on the record. The only reservation—a perfectly natural one, from their point of view—relates to the pricing formula which we have agreed with the Community. Looking at the terms as a whole, Mr. Muldoon, the New Zealand Finance Minister, has said:
On balance, we think we have got a good deal.
He has also said:
I believe Britain should go into the Common Market. I believe it will be in the best interest of the British people and of the British economy that they should join the Common Market because they will be streng-
thened. And come what may, our trade ties will remain, so that a stronger Britain means a stronger New Zealand.
I should, perhaps, deal in passing with a reference made on the first day of the debate by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton)—
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is obviously about to leave the subject of New Zealand. Would he agree that to give a full picture of the situation he should state the views of the official Opposition in New Zealand which, before long, will very likely be the Government in that country and which, therefore, are entitled to have their views made clear so that we may know what all New Zealand is thinking? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman therefore state the case as put by Mr. Norman Kirk on behalf of New Zealand's official Opposition?
I can state something Mr. Kirk said, as reported in The Dominion of 9th October. Pointing out that, in his view, if Britain entered the E.E.C. the price paid for New Zealand butter would drop sharply on 1st January, 1973, he said:
if butter stays at £500 a ton until December 31st 1972, itself an optimistic assumption, the price New Zealand will get under the averaging process of the Luxembourg Agreement will be about £384 a ton. Thus, if it remains at £500 a ton until British entry, the price of butter on entry will drop by £116 or 23·2 per cent.
There is anxiety in New Zealand about that aspect of the matter. On the other hand, Mr. Marshall has said:
It is foolish to suggest that we shall lose heavily in our export income. In fact, we shall be better off because the average price has been so high in recent months.
I was about to say that I must deal in passing with the reference made on the first day of the debate by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton to a telegram from New Zealand ex-Service men which, he claimed, had been supressed. In fact, I understand that a telegram was circulated by the Commonwealth Industries Association to hon. Members, and I have now had an opportunity to make some inquiries about it.
As a result, we have been in touch with the President of the New Zealand Returned Services Association, Sir Hamilton Mitchell, who has informed the British High Commissioner in Wellington that the action of Mr. Reed, of the Auckland branch, in cabling direct to Mr. Edward Holloway, the Director of the Commonwealth Industries Association, was taken without prior consultation with the Dominion Council—that is, the central body of the R.S.A.—and, therefore, cannot be said to have the full support of the Dominion Council.
As for the allegation of suppression, Sir Hamilton told the High Commissioner he considered that the Dominion Council had discharged its obligation under the original resolution by bringing the matter to the attention of the British Commonwealth Ex-Services League, where it has been dealt with and fully considered. The Dominion Executive Committee of the New Zealand R.S.A. had, thereupon, decided that no further action should be taken in the matter.
Sir Hamilton made it clear to the British High Commissioner that Mr. Reed could speak only for the Auckland branch, which had some 6,200 members, and not for the 90,000 or so members affiliated to the New Zealand R.S.A. The Dominion Council did not associate itself with Mr. Reed's action, and that should be clearly on the record.
Turning back to sugar, for the developing sugar producer countries of the Commonwealth the terms we have negotiated constitute a firm assurance of a secure and continuing market for sugar for all the developing countries which are signatories of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. That is not just my view; it is the view of the Governments of the countries concerned, which have expressed their satisfaction, and of the representatives of the Commonwealth Sugar Exporters' Group and the West India Committee.
I have seen that. I am afraid that it has the history wrong; but, more important, it has the figures wrong as well. [HON. MEMBERS: "Tell us how."] All right, I will. The figures which Frances Cairncross gave of con- sumption within the Community show a deficit of just over half a million tons. Our figures show a deficit of over one million tons, and those figures do not take account of increased consumption in the Community. The article assumes no exports by the Community and no use of sugar for animal feed. I am afraid that it is not something which the House can rely on.
The right hon. Gentleman intervenes, "What about bankable assurances?" The important thing is that the Commonwealth Governments are satisfied with the position. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Sir R. Russell) asked whether it was our intention to cut Australia out of our sugar market. Australian exports of its negotiated price quotas under our Commonwealth Sugar Agreement are fully safeguarded to the end of 1974. We have agreed with the Community that the enlarged Community would be ready to take prompt and effective action to remedy any difficulties arising out of transitional arrangements for agriculture, and horticulture or any threat of abrupt dislocation of Commonwealth and third country suppliers. This Agreement clearly would apply to Australian sugar and other agricultural commodities. It was with Australia very much in mind that we negotiated this text, and at the appropriate time, as I have indicated in the House before, we shall be considering the next steps with the Australians on the one hand and with the Community on the other.
Another point made by my hon. Friend was whether we should be forced to resign from the International Sugar Agreement. By the time it comes to be renegotiated in 1973 it is possible that the Community will be a member itself. But, in any event, we shall have to shape a new international sugar agreement appropriate to the circumstances which lie ahead. The Community has shown itself very willing, as in the case of dairy products, to think in terms of international commodity agreements. It is in this way that we can best safeguard the primary producers of the world.
As for the other arrangements for the Commonwealth—the offer of association agreements, and the special provisions for a wide range of industrial materials—these have been universally welcomed.
Those hon. Members who accept the principle of membership of the Community, as distinct from those who do not want to join at any price, can hardly say that we should stay out because we cannot provide Commonwealth interests with better terms than they have accepted.
Some hon. Members who have spoken in the debate, such as the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), have expressed concern about the whole future of the Commonwealth with the United Kingdom within the Community. I think that their fears stem from a mistaken conception of the Community as inward-looking and protectionist. I do not believe that that is the fact.
The truth is that the Community is in the forefront of the developed nations in its record of trade with and aid to the developing world. After all, the Community's common external tariff is, on the whole, lower than ours, or, for that matter, that of the United States.
The European Economic Communities provide more in aid and investment in the developing countries than any other donor. Expressed as a percentage of gross national product, in 1969 the Community provided twice as much development aid and investment as did the United States. Against that background, I foresee that in the future Britain's developing Commonwealth partners which stand most in need of it—we do not dispute this—would have continuing relationships not only with us but also with our prosperous European partners, for both trade and aid, including investment. I believe that this relationship would permit a substantial diversification of their export markets and a substantial increase in their trade prospects.
We have also to protect the position of our partners in E.F.T.A. As the House will know, three members of E.F.T.A. are seeking full membership, and the rest are holding talks with the Community about the most appropriate form of relationship for them. Here, again, the House must take note of the general satisfaction that is expressed in E.F.T.A. about the way that things are going. In the words of the E.F.T.A. Annual Report for 1970–71, issued this September:
The year closed in a mood of confidence as the prospect of achieving wider European integration seemed brighter.
Enlargement should bring about a more rational and effective economic framework for Western Europe which is entirely in line with the aims of the Stockholm Treaty.
One major aspect of the negotiations still to be settled is fisheries. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture dealt at some length on Thursday with the position on fishing limits. My hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) has, however, asked me to confirm what was meant in our original proposal by the extension of historic rights to Community countries between six and 12 miles. As my hon. Friend will appreciate, we have been talking all the time about limits drawn from the 1964 base lines and subject to our full jurisdiction up to the 12-mile limit. As the House also knows, the existing members of the Community already have between them extensive rights in our own six to 12-mile zone. Our proposal, therefore, was that the Community principle of free access for member States without discrimination should apply to the waters of all existing and new members between six and 12 miles. But, in the event, our proposal did not seem to find favour.
What we have now proposed is that, in the absence of a new regulation satisfactory to all parties, we should agree to maintain the status quo, which for us means the existing state of affairs, until agreement could be reached after enlargement on what changes were needed and, most important, were acceptable to all concerned—I repeat, to all concerned.
For its part, the Community has accepted that the present fisheries policy needs changes, and it has formally acknowledged that a new policy must establish an overall balance of advantage that takes account of the legitimate interests of all member countries. I assure my hon. Friend and all hon. Members who are deeply concerned about this matter that we will not agree to any arrangements that do not satisfactorily protect our legitimate interests.
Why has the right hon. and learned Gentleman already agreed to reduce the 12-mile limit to six miles, as a negotiating point, if negotiations are still to continue on the question of the status quo?
We have not agreed that at all. We have put forward initial proposals. In the negotiations there is a good deal of to-ing and fro-ing. As has been said, there comes a point when one changes the game from chess to poker. We are now in the middle of these negotiations. We are determined to protect our legitimate rights.
Can my right hon. and learned Friend make this clear to the House? To ensure that ratification takes place in due time, by 1st January, 1973, the Treaty of Accession would have to be agreed by the end of this year. What happens if there is not agreement in Brussels by the end of this year either on the maintenance of the status quo on fishing or on the proposals which my right hon. and learned Friend has put forward?
That would be a difficult situation. But I assure my hon. Friend that the Community has agreed to discuss this matter in depth. We are to have another meeting on 9th November, after which I will report progress, and then we can face this hypothetical question if we have to.
There is a clear understanding that we must do one of two things. Either we must have an agreement on a new regulation which is satisfactory to all the members—that is all the applicants as well as the existing members of the Community—or, if we cannot achieve that, we have suggested that the Community will have to accept that we must maintain the status quo. If we do that, any question of a negotiation after enlargement would again be dependent, if the status quo was to be changed, on agreement by all the parties concerned.
The other major aspect of the negotiations concerned our contribution to the Community budget. A number of hon. Members, including the right hon. Members for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and for Stepney (Mr. Shore), have raised this issue and the whole question of the likely burden on the balance of payments.
In our debate on the White Paper on 21st July I went into this matter again in some detail. My purpose in the negotia-
tions was to settle what paragraph 43 of the 1970 White Paper described as
the transitional arrangements under which we approach paying our full share of the recently agreed Community financing arrangements".
That indeed was the only negotiable issue. I believe that the terms that we have agreed ensure that there will be no sudden or unbearable burden on our balance of payments before we have the full advantage of the dynamic effects of entry.
This is a very important matter. I invite the right hon. and learned Gentleman's comments on two points. First, there is no question that his predecessors accepted—they did not—the arrangements of the Six for financing their agricultural policy, because they were agreed among themselves only in April, 1970.
Second, in the Government's estimate how much would Britain have to pay to the Six at the end of the transitional period and how much under each of the three taxes—the value-added tax, the food levies and the Customs duties—would we have to pay across the balance of payments as from 1978?
The right hon. Gentleman has not let me get very far in my argument. I have to deal with the broader issue. The negotiating position is clearly set out in paragraph 43 of the February, 1970, White Paper. I have quoted it correctly. On 21st July, the right hon. Gentleman referred me to the end of paragraph 44, which states: "They"—that is, the Community—
have reached agreement in principle on arrangements for meeting the cost, but their application in a reasonable and equitable way to our situation must be a matter for negotiation, as has always been recognised.
Indeed, that was the matter for negotiation—the steps by which we moved up towards the payment of our full contribution. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, it was.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will recall his delegation presenting to the Commission in July last year—that is when the Chancellor of the Exchequer was still responsible for negotiation—a paper pointing out that the application of the financial regulations would mean that Britain would be paying four times as much net to the Community budget as Germany, which has a 50 per cent. higher gross national product. At that time there was no indication that Her Majesty's Government accepted this implication. Indeed, the whole purpose of the paper was to reject it. We on this side want to know what made the Government change their minds so that six months later they were prepared to argue only about the phasing of the rise to such a monstrously unfair contribution.
The negotiation was about the steps by which we would rise to the full amount. The purpose of the negotiation to which the right hon. Gentleman refers—he purports to quote from confidential negotiating documents—was to explain to the Community the view we had always held that it was important that we should have an opportunity to make a reasonable transition, as the 1970 White Paper said, to the full payment that would be required.
There has been a discussion about what that full payment was. I gave certain estimates at about the time of the negotiations. As I said, the Community was likely to say that they were too fair and too reasonable. That is what the Community did say. That is what negotiations are all about. We had a good deal of discussion about the size and shape of the budget in future. The Community said that we had exaggerated the likely growth of the budget, that we had minimised the receipts, and that we had underestimated the benefits.
I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman has criticised us for not providing in the White Paper an overall balance sheet of costs and benefits. What the White Paper does is to give the balance of payment costs as clearly as it can on the two elements out of three which can be predicted with any degree of accuracy—that is, our net budgetary contribution, which we think is likely to rise from £100 million in 1973 to about £200 million in 1977; the figure for food imports, which we think are likely to cost £5 million in the first year rising to £50 million in the fifth year; and then the element omitted is what are called the trade effects.
Everyone from the other side has said that these figures are highly speculative. To have presented a precise balance sheet would have given a totally false impression, not only that the economic consequences of our entry could be predicted in detail over a period of up to 10 years or more, into the future, but also that similar estimates could have been produced of the consequences of our staying outside the Community.
Many people, when considering my statement of 16th December, look at what I said about the possible debit at that time on the figures which had been bandied about for a good period of time. We have now quantified one of the elements—the food element more precisely than we could do then. What must also be quantified, and what I said on 16th December it was difficult to quantify, are the dynamic effects of entry. It has been estimated that, if ½ per cent. in growth is added over five years, this would bring in £1,100 million put on to the balance of payments. It would not all be export growth, but it would be export led.
The difficulty is, as we have all recognised in the House, that it is extremely difficult to quantify these figures with any precision. What I said on 16th December is on the record. In the light of the negotiations, we tried to give the House the best figures we could, estimating—as I said, with reasonable accuracy, we hope, but even then it is speculative—at the end of the period two items—the contribution to the budget and the food changes. Everyone will agree that there is difficulty about quantifying the trade effects, both the debit and the costs of staying out and the balance of advantage at the end.
I am sorry to press this matter. All of us concede that various estimates can be made of the dynamic effects of entry, which should be offset against the cost. On 16th December did not the right hon. and learned Gentleman quantify the cost of the changes in industrial tariffs as being between £200 million and £300 million? The right hon. and learned Gentleman repeated that figure to journalists on 24th June, according to the Economist? Was not that figure in the original draft White Paper? When I put it to the Home Secretary that it had been excluded from the White Paper only at the last minute, the Home Secretary was unable to deny it?
Surely it is the case—the right hon. and learned Gentleman must confirm this— that the Government did make an estimate and that the estimate was £200 million to £300 million? This brings the total impact cost of entry to £500 million a year in foreign exchange in 1977, on the Government's own calculations.
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has repeated that canard, which he has used from time to time. What he has said is quite untrue. An that I have said is as stated on 16th December. That statement must be read as a whole. I have always said that I believe that at the end of the day the balance sheet shows a positive gain in our favour.
As to the right hon. Gentleman's other allegations about what I am supposed to have said at a private meeting with journalists and what is supposed to have gone on in the Cabinet in the discussions on the White Paper, I say quite categorically that that is not a true statement of the position. It did not happen. We decided that we could not make such predictions. The fate of past exercises in elaborate economic predictions such as the National Plan has shown how unrealistic they are. It is no good producing statistics just as extensions of lines on a graph and assuming that we live in a vacuum with no motive force coming from any direction.
In the course of the negotiations—this was after 16th December—the Community itself pointed out how impossible it was to make any such calculations at present; and it was because of the inevitable uncertainties which must exist about the future that the Community declared that if in the enlarged Community unacceptable situations should arise, the very survival of the Community would demand that equitable solutions were found.
It is true that some people argue, against that background, that to join the Community in those circumstances must be regarded as an act of faith. That is certainly an element in human progress. But, above all, when we have stopped bandying about what we said on 16th December, before the negotiations really started, what the House has to do now in the light of such evidence as we are able to present is to make a judgment. In forming that judgment we have to accept that there are no available economic techniques which make it possible to quantify the effect of tariff changes—
—I have already given way quite a lot—since I suggest that the biggest factor in determining the outcome will be the vigour of British industry's response to the opportunities and challenge of membership.
The House has a right to know what is the right hon. and learned Gentleman's estimate of the contribution that we shall make to the Community budget as from 1979. We know what it is in 1978. We know that it is a reduced rate of £200 million. What we want to know is what is the full rate thereafter.
I will come to that.
In making this judgment, especially in view of the confidence expressed by the vast majority of our industrialists and businessmen and the economic performance of the Six, we have good reason to be confident that the overall effect of our balance of trade will be positive and substantial. As the 1970 White Paper admitted in paragraph 77:
No way has been found of quantifying these dynamic effects but, if British industry responded vigorously to these stimuli, they would be considerable and highly advantageous.
How do we see the size and shape of the Budget after 1977 and our possible contribution? We have to bear in mind that we shall not be joining a static Community. From the outset we shall have a full and influential voice in the decision-making process of the Community, including decisions relating to the shape of the budget. For the purpose of our calculations in the White Paper we have assumed that even in 1977 agricultural expenditure will remain as predominant as at present, and not, as we have reason to expect, that it would
be less so. We would not be simply waiting for events, hoping that something more favourable to our balance of payments would turn up. We would be active inside the Community pressing for the development of regional, industrial and social policies, which should bring us big benefits. That is the element in the budget after 1977—although we have got two further years of adjustment—which really is unquantifiable.
We cannot quantify it for our national budget or for the Community budget. But we have this assurance from the Community, which we did not have on 16th December, that if an unacceptable situation should arise it would take the necessary measures to put it right.
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way. He said that he would like to reach a situation where we stop bandying about what was said on 16th December. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), that the suggestion that he said something to journalists and that something was said in Cabinet was not a true statement. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman say that both parts of what my right hon. Friend said are untrue? Whatever happened in Cabinet, does he deny that he gave an estimate to journalists of the cost which has not been stated to the House?
I had a meeting with the Lobby, on terms which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will understand, when I referred to the whole range, from the most disadvantageous point to the most advantageous. I did not give anything like the impression which the right hon. Gentleman suggested, and certainly the Cabinet did not take the view which he suggested.
One particular point which was seized upon was that I said we could have an overall improvement in our balance of payments of £1,700 million by the end of the period. [Interruption.] They also quoted plus £1,700 million as well as minus £500 million.
I have talked so far mostly about the terms, and that is natural. I negotiated them and they have their place in our discussions. But I think more and more people are coming to realise—[Interruption.] An hon. Member is muttering "He said it." I did not say it in anything like the terms suggested. What I said, I stated on 16th December in this House, and I have explained the stages which took place since then.
I think more and more people are coming to realise that the real issue is whether Europeans in the 20th century are still creative enough to add another dimension to their political activities, and whether we can create some form of European unity without sacrificing our national diversity.
We have to debate and deliberate, on an occasion like this, on how this country can respond to the fundamental changes which have taken place in the world in the last 25 years. We have seen the end of the European Empires, the rise of the super-Powers in the East and the West, the spread through industrialisation of the means of economic power, and the relative decline of Europe, where modern society was born. The nation States of Europe, with all the ancient rivalries and fratricidal wars, are too small in the modern world to benefit from the sort of society that they themselves produced. I believe that they need to work on a larger scale, and work increasingly together, if they are to maintain their own splendid traditions.
What we have to consider in this debate—and I think most hon. Members have been doing this—is how can this be done in the years ahead. There are those who look towards a European super-State with all the trappings of executive and legislative power. That is not how I see the future. There is no virtue in gigantism for its own sake. This is the age of the individual as well as the continental-sized market. The strength of Britain in the past over the centuries has lain in our national coherence and singularity. I do not see us lapsing into citizenship of some great conglomeration of stateless persons. Nor do the citizens of the Community themselves.
There are those who look towards the safety of the past, and they see the future as a sort of comfortable perpetuation of what we have always done before. They talk of our present assets in the Commonwealth and elsewhere. I sympathise with them, but I do not agree with them. They take a partial view of our history and they misunderstand the present. They may not recognise it, but the consequence of their policies would turn us into a sort of latter-day Sweden or a greater Venice. Some people say "Why not be like Sweden on Switzerland?" We would have charm and some influence. But in any day of reckoning we would count for little, and our neighbours would know it.
The right solution is a compromise. We should join the Community in the knowledge that it represents the mutual balance of the interests of the national States and bears no relation to the super-State that many people think it is. It is admittedly more than a common market. We are not joining just a customs union, but a Community.
The balance of advantage between the nations in those Communities is constantly changing. That is why we cannot make estimates of what the position will be, in mathematical terms, in the 1980s. That is why I found this discussion of what will happen after 1978 so irrelevant. It is irrelevant for this reason, that no member of the Community will impose an unacceptable burden on us or any other member. Neither is any other member likely to accept it. That is the relevant consideration in practice, no decision can be taken against the vital interests of a member country.
There are various arguments about sovereignty and the provisions of the Treaty of Rome. President Pompidou put this vividly in his Press Conference on 21st January when he said:
How will the Council of Ministers be able to take its decision? I ask everybody and in particular our partners to consider how coalition governments work When everybody is of the same opinion all goes well. If that is not the case, there is a majority and a minority. At that point either the minority considers the question is not vital and yields, or thinks the contrary and breaks the coalition. It is plain that, in our construction of Europe one cannot break without everything collapsing.
I therefore conclude that important decisions can only be taken on the basis of unanimous agreement and that what is at issue here is political reality rather than juridical rule. If one ignores that reality everything would be destroyed.
Experience shows that national interests are consulted in a most elaborate fashion before a Community proposal gets anywhere near a final decision.
I listened to the hon. Gentleman courteously. I am trying to explain what I have done, and why I believe the terms are reasonable. I am trying to explain why I think people are mistaken when they over-emphasise the problems of sovereignty.
Will the Chancellor of the Duchy help me to understand this point? He has said, very sensibly, that M. Pompidou regards it as essential that for any significant change in an important aspect of policy there will be unanimity. Will he therefore tell me, since the French and the five others have agreed that the present agricultural system is to continue, how in God's name we, a minority, will be able to change it when we enter?
The Leader of the Opposition, when Prime Minister, dealt with that particular difficulty. The policy was not negotiable in the context of the negotiations. [Laughter.] As the Leader of the Opposition explained on 8th May, 1967, we can influence it if, but only if we join the Community.
I do not have time to describe the whole process of consultation, but I tried recently in a speech at Chatham House to do so. It is a long process of consultation before any decision can be reached in the Community—it involves lengthy consideration at every level—and in that consideration our Parliament, like other national Parliaments, would have a vital rôle to play at all stages. Nor would any British Minister be likely to forget that Ministers remain answerable to their national Parliaments.
I would not like to give the impression that we should approach joining the Community in a negative spirit. We ought to be considering what we want to achieve in that Community, not just what we want to prevent. The Community is alive, and the way in which it grows will depend on all its members proceeding with mutual respect. That is the sort of thing I want to see.
We are all agreed that the decision to be taken at the end of the debate will be historic. Even the most prosaic will look upon it as a sort of catching-up process, and recognise that on our decision on Thursday depends whether we catch up or whether we cast adrift.
I believe it is a decision that only Parliament can take. Burke is the most frequently quoted authority on the duty of elected representatives, and he took the view that the people were the natural control on authority but not the body to exercise authority, for to exercise and control together is contradictory and impossible. So he held, and this I believe is the view of most hon. Members, that the elected representatives must assume responsibility for the practical solution of particular problems. As he put it:
Parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole—where not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide but the general good resulting from the general reason of the whole.
That ought to be our approach. When we vote on Thursday we have a great responsibility and a great opportunity. In this House this week we stand to gain for future generations through peace that unity of Europe which our forebears vainly, if heroically, sought by arms.
Leaving aside all political questions—and I can hardly promise to do that throughout the whole of my remarks—I think it would be a churlish Member of this House who would not recognise that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, after the arduous efforts which over recent months he has made in the cause in which he believes, is bound to feel some satisfaction that he has got his measure so far. Therefore, in the remarks which I seek to make in replying to what he has said, I seek to recognise his integrity—and, indeed, that of all Members of this House—in reaching this decision.
It has been said by some newspapers that the debate we have had in these last days has been a boring debate. May be some of those who have said that in the newspapers have not listened to the debate. Perhaps they have taken it on Lobby terms as the right hon. and learned Gentleman dealt with some of his figures. I believe myself, having listened, not to the whole of the debate but to most of the speakers in it, that it has been one in which Members in all parts of the House have recognised the great issues at stake and have sought to state their views in a manner which they hoped would persuade other hon. Members It is in that sense that I seek to address the House now.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman, in the early part of his speech—I shall come to the later part of his argument—based most of his arguments on what I believe, too, to be the much more important question of the sovereignty and the whole future of this country. In the early part he seemed to suggest—I am not saying that these are unimportant matters—that everything was now plain sailing, on such subjects as New Zealand, sugar, E.F.T.A., all these other particular issues which have figured most prominently in the arrangement of the terms. He seemed to suggest that on these matters everything had gone quite smoothly and quite properly and quite acceptably to all concerned.
I wonder whether the Government, in that case, if they think that to be the case, have stopped to ask themselves, why is it, if the whole of these negotiations has gone so well, the British people have been so little persuaded. I am not saying that I know what the British people think about these matters, and I certainly do not accept that Gallup Polls or any kind of polls are the final arbiters of what the British people think, but I do not think that there is any member of the Government who has argued that everything has gone so smoothly, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested, on most of these controversial measures, who would also claim that the British people have been persuaded.
So we ought to ask, why have they not been? Is it because the case has been bady put, whereas the case against, on this side, has been better put? It is not very easy for the Government to say that. Or is it because those who are opposed to entry on these terms have had most of the means of communication—of the newspapers—on our side, and Members opposite have been deprived of the means to state their views to all concerned? Or is it because the British people are stupid? One has to try to probe to discover why it is that, despite the highly successful negotiations which the Prime Minister has told every elector throughout the country he has had, as he has done in the document he has distributed through the Post Office, the British people have not been persuaded.
Just before he leaves that point, may I ask the hon. Gentleman if there is not the possibility that it is because the Leader of the Opposition and some of his colleagues have changed their minds and large numbers of Labour supporters support them regardless of the merits of the case?
The hon. Gentleman can rest assured that I have not left the point yet. I have only just started. I shall seek to deal with many of these matters as I proceed. I believe that the British people are perfectly capable of making up their minds on this subject. Of course they look to see what is said to them by their political leaders, but I believe they have their own judgment in these matters, and that it is wise for Members of this House to respect that judgment and to respect the processes by which it is reached.
In trying to probe this mystery as to why the British people have not accepted the view of the Government and so many others who have supported them in their arguments, my suggestion as to why they have not succeeded in persuading the British people is partly because hon. Members opposite have not sought to present the argument on its merits. I know that hon. Members of this House very often in other matters hurl quotations at one another; that is a perfectly legitimate form of political controversy and on some occasions essential; but I believe that hon. and right hon. Gentlement opposite, particularly if they believe so passionately in this cause, would be better advised to try to present the case on its merits rather than to say that somebody on this side of the House may have changed his mind. There are many hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House who have changed their minds, including the right hon. Gentleman.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is perfectly entitled to say that, but there are many hon. Members of this House who have changed their views on this subject, and who were perfectly entitled to do so, and who should not be charged on that account. What I am saying to the Government, and I am saying it perfectly seriously, is that, in a matter of this nature, I think it would be wise, when Ministers say they are asking the country to take an historic decision, to try to present that issue on its merits.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that before the Community was set up public opinion in the countries of the Six was in a similar state, but that those people no longer retain the same point of view they did?
I promise the hon. Gentleman, if he will be good enough to sit during the rest of my remarks, that I shall deal precisely with that. I promise him and I promise the Patronage Secretary, too.
The hon. Gentleman may find it disagreeable, but I propose to make my speech in the orderly fashion in which I always do.
In my opinion much the strongest argument for entry into the Common Market—and I think it is right for those who take a different view to consider those strongest arguments touched upon by the right hon. and learned Gentleman in the latter part of his speech—much the strongest argument is that which says that in the years to come great decisions are going to be taken by the countries in Europe, great decisions which are bound to influence and affect the trade of this country, the welfare of this country, the general relations of this country, possibly issues of peace and war; that great decisions are going to be taken and we should be there where the decisions are taken. This seems to me to be an extremely powerful argument, and that it is an obligation on those of us who take a different view to try to answer it. In my opinion that argument is the most serious of the most serious arguments which have to be faced by those who are discussing this question. So I should like to reflect upon that theme.
My first reflection upon it—and this touches directly on what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said—is that it appears to me a curious argument first of all to say that the main reason for going in is that great decisions are to be taken in Europe and at the same time to argue that our entry into Europe is not going to involve any erosion of essential sovereignty.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman tried to deal with this question precisely. He said that we do not have to fear any erosion of essential sovereignty, because of what he called today the process of consultation in the Community whereby these decisions are reached, and because of the understanding which the Prime Minister has with President Pompidou
and the arrangement that has been made that the individual will of a single nation will never be overriden by the power of the majority. Indeed, paragraph 30 of the White Paper begins with this sentence:
All the countries concerned recognise that an attempt to impose a majority view in a case where one or more members considered their vital interests to be at stake would imperil the very fabric of the Community.
That is the safeguard against the submergence of the will of a particular nation, but in my judgment that does not describe the real situation.
Policy in Europe is made under the Treaty of Rome by the tug of interests between different nations, and the question may be not whether the majority will override the single nation which wishes to have its vital interests protected, but whether a nation, to secure its own way, will threaten the disruption of the whole Community and thereby enforce its will on the others, even though others claim that interests, maybe of a lesser nature, are involved. In other words, if we enter we may have to accept a whole series of decisions which we dislike intensely for fear that another nation will threaten to destroy the Community if we do not accept them. I believe this to be a possibility. Hon. Members opposite may say, "Why should you worry about these theoretical possibilities; why frighten yourself with such a scarecrow?" [An HON. MEMBER: "Why."] The reason is that that is what has already happened. The right hon. and learned Gentleman does not understand the organisation he is proposing to join. It was precisely by that method that the common agricultural policy was decided. The common agricultural policy was never part of the Treaty of Rome. Anyone who reads the memoirs of President de Gaulle will see that, at his first meeting with Dr. Adenauer, he said, "You will have to accept our ideas on agricultural policy, otherwise we will not go on with the Community." Everyone knows that is how it happened; so it is not a theoretical possibility that decisions within the Community will be made by these means of blackmail. That is what has happened on a major issue on which most people have thought that the procedures of the Community are antagonistic to our interests.
That is not the only way in which it can be proved that the claim in the White Paper that there will be no erosion of essential sovereignty is quite unfounded. I will not weary the House by going through a whole list, but I will give a few of the headings.
The value-added tax is a derogation of the sovereignty of this Parliament. The House of Commons and the British people will have less power to protest against the value-added tax than John Hampden had to protest about ship money. If we go into the Community, that will be settled away from this House.
The Government claim, wrongly in my belief, that investment allowances are one of the best ways to deal with regional policy. They will not be allowed to do it in that way if the rules of the Community are fully applied. Regional employment premiums were put forward by the Labour Government. Those will have to go, too. So those two instruments at least—and there are several more—impartially selected, chosen by the Government and by the Labour Party for dealing with regional policy, would have to go because, under the procedures of the Community, Brussels knows best. That is the principle on which it is done.
Before my hon. Friend gets carried away by his own rhetoric, on the important point of principle which he rightly raised on the issue of sovereignty, how does he square the fact that membership of the United Nations also carries with it some secession of sovereignty, and membership of any treaty or any organisation involves sharing, compromise and, if he likes, haggling?
If my hon. Friend will permit me, when I come to that part of my argument I will seek to reply to him. I promise that I will do so, but hon. Members must not extract too many pledges from me or my speech will go on for a very long time.
I say, therefore, on regional policy—and I have given only two examples from many—that there will be a derogation—
The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that, but that is not what the Commission in Brussels says, and the Commission probably knows a great deal more about it than he does. It the right hon. and learned Gentleman thinks what I say is wrong, why did not he publish in his White Paper a more extensive account of what regional policy was involved? He devoted only three paragraphs to it which did not deal with many of the questions.
To take another example, under the regional policy decided by the countries in Europe there will have to be a decision on where the territories are to be drawn under which particular kinds of grants will be given. This will not rest solely with the House of Commons—
There are discussions in Brussels on how to draw the areas for which grants and different forms of development aid may be given. These discussions are necessary because, if a whole country were to be made a development area, irrespective of the unemployment position within it, it would not be possible to apply a common regional policy. These matters have been fully discussed in Brussels. It is the ignorance of the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the country should be looking at.
The Government have shown themselves equally ineffective in negotiating on behalf of this country on the question of iron and steel. Most of the questions about iron and steel, the rights of this House and our rights of control over our steel industry, were never raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman in the negotiations. The Prime Minister boasted not many months ago of one of his brilliant interventions in keeping down prices in the steel industry. That kind of intervention would not be available to him if we were in the Community. That also is a derogation of our sovereignty.
Many of us on this side of the House—and I do not expect much sympathy from hon. Members opposite, but perhaps more on this side on this particular aspect—have argued for most of our political lives that what we wish to secure is that the great economic decisions shall be made in a way that is responsible to this elected House of Commons. We believe if we go into Europe on the terms which have been arranged under the provisions that have been made there will be some derogation from the sovereignty of this House in dealing with such matters as taxation, coal, steel, the levels of unemployment, and regional policy.
I turn to my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) who interrupted me, since I promised I would come to his point. Of course, I understand the argument that it may be desirable or necessary to have an erosion of essential sovereignty—[An HON. MEMBER: "And right."] Or right, as one hon. Member says. Indeed, many who say that argue, and are perfectly entitled to do so, that the way to go into Europe is to go flat out for a full, federal State responsible to a federal parliament.
I respect hon. Members who say that, but that is not what the Government say. Indeed, the Government are trying to say the exact opposite. The Government are trying to pretend to this House something quite different. Hon. Members opposite say that there will be no erosion of sovereignty. Indeed this is said in the Government White Paper, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman has repeated it today. When they say that there is no erosion of sovereignty involved, they are seeking to delude the British people.
Let us take, for example, the leading article in yesterday's Observer, a paper strongly in favour of our entry into the Common Market:
In this initial period…
if Britain ever gets in—
…Britain's views must be cogently presented, all the more so because it is inevitable that to some extent policies and decisions on all major questions shaping the Community of Ten are going to be discussed and settled in future away from Westminster.
I could answer the hon. Gentleman, but I say to hon. Members opposite that in my view, not only in the interests of those of us who are opposed to entry but in the interests of the Government, it would be very much better if they sought to argue the issue on the merits, which is what I am seeking to do.
No; I have given way several times already. I underline the case again by quoting Lord Gladwyn in The Times today where he sets out his view on the question of sovereignty and the powers and authority of this House. Lord Gladwyn says:
If indeed we want the Community to work, the Commission must perform an important rôle. And if we want the whole affair to be democratic there is ultimately no alternative to a Parliament.
I agree with that, too, but in the meantime these great decisions that are to be taken in Europe will be taken by undemocratic bodies. That is the situation as defined by Lord Gladwyn and there is no getting round it. [Interruption.] If the Prime Minister will listen a little more carefully, I will tell him what Lord Gladwyn says at the end of the article. [AN HON. MEMBER: "What about your own argument?"] Let me tell the House what Lord Gladwyn says first.
The first thing is to get into the Common Market: the second is to make it work.
It sounds to me a bit like the song in "Guys and Dolls":
Marry the man today and change his ways tomorrow.
It is one way of going about it. But is that what the Prime Minister said to President Pompidou:
the first thing is to get into your Common Market; the second is to make it work.
That has been the plea which has been made by many hon. Gentlemen on many different aspects of the subject, including fisheries. We are told today on fisheries that we shall have to wait until after the vote before we know how that will work.
No. I suggest to hon. Members opposite that it is partly because of their persistent ambiguity on these matters that they have been unable to persuade the country.
The same applies to the question of food. The country has got it firmly in its head that food prices are going to go up if we go into the Common Market. Indeed, the Prime Minister assists in this respect—not that the Minister of Agriculture needs much assistance on this matter. For every time the Prime Minister gives a reassurance that there is not going to be much of an increase in food prices everyone is the more certain they are going to go through the roof. Indeed, the situation on food prices is such that the country knows that this is what will happen.
This is no small question. It is not a secondary matter. The end of the era of cheap food is no small incident in British history, even if the Leader of the Liberal Party is not prepared to shed a single tear at the abandoned tomb of Richard Cobden. The instinct of the British people on these matters, particularly when it is sustained in the teeth of persistent opposition and propaganda from the main organisations and newspapers in the country, is not to be despised by those who aspire to govern them. I expect the right hon. Gentleman to take some account of these matters.
Anybody who considers the question cannot deny that the erosion of sovereignty will be real. Therefore, it would have been much wiser, in the interests of the nation as a whole, to see if there were some way in which we could gain advantages of entry or association with the Community without the disadvantages which will follow for this House of Commons and the rights of Parliament and the rights of decision.
Because of their previous economic circumstances it was easier for many of the countries in Europe to join the Community. It was certainly easier than for this country to do so, because they did not have to sacrifice many of the economic advantages we have in our preferential trade. And in the same way it is easier for some of the countries in Europe to make the derogations of sovereignty which are required to join Europe precisely because the Parliament of France, for example, has not the powers of the British Parliament. The Parliament of France was devised by President de Gaulle largely in order that it should not have the same kind of powers as our Parliament possesses. Therefore, it is a very different matter for this country to decide to shed its Parliamentary sovereignty than it is for other countries which have yielded parts of it already.
If I have left that impression, let me correct it at once because that is not my intention. However, when we make derogations from our national sovereignty, I believe that we should be clear about where that sovereignty is to be transferred. As one who has spent some time supporting parliamentary institutions, it is my opinion that it is very unwise for this country to blur the responsibilities of this House. Throughout the country, people look to this House as the body directly responsible for upholding their living standards, their levels of employment, most of their economic rights and the control of their livelihoods. Most of the great political battles in this country's history have been fought to persuade people to look to a democratically elected House of Commons to decide these matters. To take great chunks of that sovereignty and to transfer them to other bodies when no one can say how those bodies will work is extremely dangerous.
People talk about the public opinion polls. On this matter at least perhaps I shall have the agreement of the Prime Minister. I do not set great store on public opinion polls, especially when they set out to describe the faculties, qualities or characters of political leaders. They are not the best bodies for settling such matters. However, one of the most melancholy aspects of public opinion polls at present is that they make two pronouncements together. If they are to be believed, the combination is serious. First, they say that the majority of the British people are opposed to entry into the Common Market. Secondly, in the next breath, they say that they believe it is inevitable that we are going in. That seems to display a feeling of impotent fatalism amongst the British people which is highly dangerous. When the British people think that they have lost the power by their own efforts and their votes at the ballot boxes to change the course of their lives and of history, a very dangerous state of affairs arises.
Not very long ago, the Prime Minister agreed with me about this. He said that he wanted to do the whole deed in the open. Only a few months ago, the official doctrine was that it would be done only with the full-hearted consent of the British Parliament and people. The people got lopped off that formula fairly early on. I think that it happened in July. Then we were left with only the full-hearted consent of the British Parliament. Instead of "full-hearted", perhaps "half-hearted" has been substituted, but what does 50 per cent. here or there matter when the Government cannot tell us about the missing £500 million. Then it became just "the consent of Parliament", though not a matter of confidence, of course. Such indelicate language never passed the lips of the Patronage Secretary, whatever may have been blurted out by some big-mouth at the Treasury.
Where are we now? It is to be done no longer with the full-hearted consent of the British Parliament and people. Where is the Prime Minister heading now? On to what rocks is he going now? Into what parliamentary shoals, shallows and subterfuges is he steering now'? We are seeing the most daring display of seamanship since the wreck of the "Hesperus". At one time, everything depended on the full-hearted consent of the British Parliament and people. Now it all rests with the Patronage Secretary and on whether the bloodthirsty instruments of the Guillotine and the Closure can be manipulated by "Free Vote" Francis.
I voted against my party on occasions. I do not recall that I ever did it to keep a Tory Government in office, and I do not propose to do so on Thursday. But we shall be voting about a more important matter than that. The Prime Minister and his Government have no mandate. They have no authority to carry these measures through the House of Commons. If the right hon. Gentleman had wanted the authority, he could have tried to get it at the last General Election. So little did he do so that he never argued it in the country and never argued it in his constituency. Most right hon. and hon. Members opposite, including the deputy leader of the Government, the present Home Secretary, never even mentioned the issue in their election addresses. More than 100 right hon. and hon. Members opposite thought the subject of such paramount importance that they did not mention it in their election addresses.
I think that they mentioned prices. I dare say that the hon. Lady managed to squeeze a mention of prices into her election address, but I do not recall very much about the Common Market.
When right hon. and hon. Members opposite vote on Thursday, they will do so having no mandate and no authority from the people to carry through this measure. I should have thought that even those who favoured the Common Market would wish it to be done with strong backing from the people. If it is an historic decision, it should be taken in an historic manner. It ought not to be—
Can the hon. Gentleman help us? He will remember that he went to the General Election in 1970 as a member of a party which had an application on the table to join Europe. For the record, can he tell us in what part of the Labour Party Manifesto or in what speech made by any member of that Government it was made clear that, when the terms were known, they would be subjected first to a General Election?
The right hon. Gentleman should have been a little more diligent before putting that question to me. If he will do me the courtesy of consulting my own election address—[Interruption.] That is the difference between my situation and that of many other right hon. and hon. Members. When I stand here and say that I am opposed to entry into the Common Market, I am saying exactly what I said at the election. I also made it clear that, when I returned here, I would do all that I could—
So I say to hon. Members that when they come to vote, both—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]—I am answering for the people who sent me to this House of Commons, and I think that other hon. Members should do the same, because the Prime Minister has no authority in the records of this country, he has no authority under constitutional precedent, he has no authority under the mandate which he sought in 1970, and he has no authority from any of the ways in which we are accustomed to settle our affairs, to push through a measure of this major consequence without letting the British people have the chance to give their verdict.
So let the right hon. Gentleman pluck up his courage to face the free vote of the people. That, in the end, is the only vote which will count.
No one can say that the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) has not been wholly consistent on this issue. In the last 10 years, the hon. Gentleman has gone into the Division Lobby against the Common Market supported by only three of his colleagues. At that time the Labour Party sat mutely by.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has also been wholly consistent on this issue, long before he went off to conduct so ably the negotiations in Brussels.
Many hon. Members who have spoken in the first two days of the debate have also made plain that they have held strong and consistent views on this issue for the last 10 years. I envy them their certainty on this matter. All I can do is to pinpoint, with some degree of accuracy, the moment at which doubt first began to enter into my mind.
Some years ago, I made a small contribution to the pamphlet "One Europe". As a reward for my efforts I was one of those who were invited to go to the headquarters of the Commission in Brussels. We were greeted by a distinguished member of the Commission's staff who proceeded to give us a lengthy talk on the difficulties of harmonising British patent law with the system of patent law in force on the Continent. I admit that, on the whole, patent law is not a subject which makes the blood course swiftly through my veins, but, as I listened to this brilliant argument unfold, I found myself increasingly thankful that this distinguished gentleman was not in any way responsible for the conduct of the economic affairs of this country.
When it comes to making a decision on this great issue, I do not think that we, as Members of Parliament, can afford to be wholly influenced by subjective matters. We must try to look at the facts. It seems that in the course of the last two months the economic case for going into the Community has been very much strengthened. A number of my hon. Friends—notably my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) in an outstanding speech on Wednesday night—argued that we ought to be working towards multilateral international free trade. Many of us think that that would be a wholly desirable end. But, since Mr. Nixon floated the dollar and introduced the import surcharge and other measures curtailing America's international trade, the world has entered into a climate which is strongly protectionist. Therefore, there is no point in hoping that free trade will come when we have to deal with the cold wind of protectionism.
I agree that many of the economic arguments with which we are faced cannot be quantified. Perhaps our entry will stimulate growth. It is difficult to quantify that. Perhaps our entry will stimulate investment. I most certainly hope that it will. Perhaps our entry will stimulate efficiency and lead to improved living standards. I hope that that will come to pass. The academic economists appear to be wholly divided on this issue, as on so many others, but I am certain that when it comes to trying to drive a hard bargain in international trade negotiations, the European Economic Community has very few masters. We know, to our cost, that it can drive a hard bargain.
If we are going into a protectionist climate, then I would far rather have the negotiators of the European Economic Community working on our behalf than against us.
However, I am much less certain and have many more reservations when it comes to the political and the constitutional side of this question. The Foreign Secretary, opening the debate, talked about increased British authority on a wider stage. I do not think that our influence on the international scene will necessarily increase through our entry. It seems only too probable that an attempt to hammer out a common European policy on the great issues of the day will lead to the lowest common compromise.
If we go in I do not fear that Britain's voice or influence will be swept aside or disregarded, but I do fear that the voice of Britain will be muted in endless committee meetings.
At the same time, I fear that we shall lose rather more of our economic independence than many people now realise. This House, after all—the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale referred to this in passing this afternoon when he mentioned John Hampden—has achieved its unique position and power through its total control over taxation.
In the next Session we shall be asked to approve a Bill to adopt a scheme for V.A.T., and no doubt we shall. We shall do that quite voluntarily but, whatever the technical merits of V.A.T. may be, I doubt whether it will prove to be a very popular tax. When it comes into force after 1st January, 1973, and our constituents come to us and say that they do not like the V.A.T. and wish to get rid of it, then, because it will be an integral part of the economic system of the Community, we shall find that even if there is a majority in the House against V.A.T. we cannot get rid of it.
That will drive home to us, in a forceful and perhaps unpleasant fashion, the fact that we have lost a degree of economic independence in this country, and economic power in this House. But it is not necessarily wrong or fatal to give up independence. After all, many of us give up a degree of independence when we get married, and we do not necessarily regret that. It seems to me, however, that on the question of independence we should not vote lightly or easily, and I have argued, therefore, that the public should have an opportunity of expressing their views before a final decision is taken.
I welcome unreservedly the fact that this side of the House, at least, is to have a free vote on this issue, and I regret that the Opposition's response to that has been so grudging. The battle for public acceptance will not end on 28th October, and I believe that the public mood might well have been irretrievably soured if the Government had tried to push the policy of joining Europe through the House at every stage on a three-line Whip.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale reminded us—as did the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party—that the Common Market issue was not raised in so many constituencies at the last General Election. This was due entirely to the fact that at that time it was the policy of the Labour Party, as well as of the Conservative Party, that we should go into the Common Market.
It is argued now that there should be a General Election on this issue. What about the constituencies of the 89 Members of the Parliamentary Labour Party who are still in favour of entry into the Common Market?
The hon. Gentleman will have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) speaking from the Front Bench. The hon. Gentleman will realise that, like my hon. Friend, many of us on this side of the House who are in favour of going into the Community put that fact to our electorates, and were elected.
I do not altogether welcome the hon. Gentleman's return to the House, but I accept that he honestly put this issue to his electorate at the last election. What would happen if there were now to be a General Election on this issue? Holding that view the hon. Gentleman would presumably argue in favour of going in, and the Conservative Central Office would have to find an anti-Market candidate to put up against him in order to give free expression to the views of the electorate. What would happen in the constituency of Leeds, East? At the start of the election the Labour candidate would be in favour of staying out of the Common Market, but who can say what his view would be at the end of it?
I do not think that a General Election could necessarily give the views of the electorate on this single issue, and I have argued that there ought to be a special referendum on this issue. In the constituency of Beckenham we had a special referendum and, oddly enough, the voice of Beckenham almost exactly supported my views on this issue. The voice of Beckenham, as expressed in the referendum, was uncertain, slightly hesitant, divided and marginally in favour of entry into the Common Market. It could be argued that it showed a massive mandate to abstain after 10 years of debate. I do not feel like abstaining, but I do not base the case for my vote on a fractional majority of a few votes in a low poll.
I think that what finally decided me to go into the Lobby in favour of entry into the Common Market was a point made by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, and he was only repeating what has been said many times on this side of the House. It is true that, as the years go by, our power to influence decisions of the Six will inevitably decline if we stay outside, while their power to influence our decisions will inevitably increase. The coming together of Western Europe in the Community is one of the most hopeful signs that there have been in the last few centuries. The fact that Western Europe now seeks to settle its political differences in arguments about butter surpluses, rather than in arguments about guns, seems to me to be an absolute gain. I think that the European Economic Community will be a better place if we are inside. It seems to me likely that their decisions will be wiser and better-balanced if we are inside rather than outside, and therefore on Thursday I shall vote to go in.
I interpret the speech of the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart), in his own words, as a mild "Yes". I suggest to him and to any of his hon. Friends, and, indeed, to any of my hon. Friends, who are thinking of voting "Yes" on Thurs- day that they should abstain. That is the burden of my first few remarks.
The hon. Gentleman said that this was something of a contract, and he likened it to marriage, but in marriage one marries for better or for worse, and the conditions in law are not exact. It is a matter of personal characteristics.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) used the phrase "chunks of sovereignty", and that is what I want to refer to now. Last summer, long before the White Paper was published, I asked the Foreign Secretary whether he would include in it details of the sovereignty we should have to give up. He said that he would not. Later on, on 29th July this year, I asked him:
…if he expects to be in a position to publish, before September, a schedule showing for each article of the Treaty of Rome the Section and name of any Act of Parliament which would require amendment should the United Kingdom decide to accede to that Treaty, together with statements describing the significance and effects of any such amendments.
The Chancellor of the Duchy, who replied, said:
No. The examination and modification as necessary of community legislation is continuing and is not expected to be completed before the end of the year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1971; Vol. 822, c. 163.]
But that did not mean to say that we could not have had published before this debate those parts of the Community legislation which we do know about, and those parts which we have had some indication will be passed between now and Christmas—assuming that we pass this Motion.
In other words, we know that something is agreed, but we are not told what. We are told that something will come before the signing of the Treaty, but we are not told what it is. Hon. Members who are thinking of voting in favour are therefore putting, their names to a form on which they have not seen the small print.
I put this to the Prime Minister last Thursday and asked him whether he was
…asking us to sign a form before he is prepared to show us the small print?
No. I cannot accept that, because the position about sovereignty, and the implications of the Treaty of Rome and the regulations issued under it, have been covered in White Papers published by both the previous Administration
and ourselves."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st October, 1971; Vol. 823, c. 892.]
But that goes exactly counter to what his right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said in reply to my question of 29th July. The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. Either the details are in the White Paper—I suggest that they manifestly are not: it is too brief—[An HON. MEMBER: "Were they in yours?".] That is not what the argument is about. The vote on Thursday will be on the Government's White Paper, not that of the Opposition.
Either that, or, as the Chancellor of the Duchy said, we are signing a blank cheque, because he is not prepared to give us the details. Therefore, any hon. Gentleman who votes "Yes" on Thursday is guilty of something which the hon. Member for Beckenham said that he would not wish to do—commit himself to something that we do not know about.
If complications arise, if things are more complex and difficult than they appear at the moment—I think that they will be: I will quote Article 101 in a moment—it is no use hon. Members saying, "We did not understand, we did not know," because the electorate will say that it is the duty of Members of Parliament to ask questions. I have done so, and I have had no proper reply. Any hon. Members looking at these facts should think very carefully about voting "Yes".
I now wish to switch to the merits of the matter. Here, I am in agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) who spoke on Thursday, and my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham), who spoke on Friday. Those are the two pillars of my case, and I wish to put a coping stone on them.
I have heard no fewer than 35 speeches in the debate, many of them in favour of entry. I have found them, particularly those of my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. William Rodgers) and the hon. Member for Beckenham, a mixture of ideals, hopes, generalised assertions and repetition. It has been extremely difficult to have an argument on the merits of the matter because hon. Members always try to disengage from the proposition.
Some hon. Members have been sent, free of charge, a most interesting book called "Destiny or Delusion?", putting the case against the Market. I asked the European Movement whether it had published any Press release or booklet to counter any of these arguments. I was told that it had not. The New Statesman also published an interesting case against the Market, and I understand that no comment has been made on that either.
So the merits of the proposition have been rather more emotional than exact. In particular, there is the repetition of the word "opportunity". We hear it time and again in almost every sphere. "Opportunity" does not mean that there will be a guarantee of success nor even that success is probable. It is of course uncertain. It is like the pools: everyone has the opportunity to win £100,000. The question is, what are the odds?
In a television interview on Independent Television on 27th May, the Prime Minister was asked by the interviewer, a Mr. Snow:
Are you saying then, quite definitely, that there is no doubt that the housewife, though she may be paying more, will have a husband who will be earning even more than that?
The Prime Minister answered:
That will be the opportunity open to him, yes.
But there are nearly one million people in this country who have not the opportunity to earn anything. There is no guarantee in that whatsoever. It is the same as a teacher at a school near Eton College assuring the mother of a small boy that the child has an opportunity of going to Eton. This is the type of promise that the Government hold out to give people a hope of gain.
But it is not just a matter of opportunity. If firms expand—the right hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), for example, said that a firm in his constituency had a chance to expand—technology brings its own problems. We have them anyway. One man's expansion is another man's redundancy: in my own constituency, the ongoing rate of technical change—
I will explain it to the hon. Gentleman in a moment. If there is extra competition in Europe, there will be less opportunity for someone somewhere else—[Laughter.] Of course hon. Members laugh. They do not understand how difficult it is for a man who is thrown out of work—[HON. MEMBERS: "Explain."] I will explain. My hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie), who was a coal miner, said last week that his union would not necessarily favour entry to the Market, even if it meant another 25 million tons a year, if it also meant that other miners in Europe would thereby be put out of work.
We are not being asked to enter a co-operative society. The Common Market is a highly competitive institution. All the difficulties and dangers of excess competition will therefore be highlighted if we go in. We see these large firms moving around like prehistoric animals eating each other up. We hear of merger manœuvres. This will go on all over Europe if we go in. Where will it end?
After the war, I was fortunate enough to be part of a school exchange project. We had friends on the Continent. Some of the staff who organised this had fought in two wars. They were not promoting international understanding so that my son could put my friend's son out of work or vice versa. That is what I mean by competition.
The White Paper says that there will be greater opportunities. It states that there is a higher wage rate in the Common Market than in this country. Paragraph 52 of the White Paper says that, except for Italy, earnings in the Common Market are between a quarter and a half higher than in this country. But that is an average figure and it is very difficult to compare averages.
When I asked the Chancellor of the Duchy whether he could give me figures for each industry, he replied in a letter on 1st October:
Comparable figures on an industry basis, which you request, are not available to us.
If those figures are right, quoted in the round, they must be tested by an individual comparison, and that the Government are not able to give.
What of growth? We are told that growth will be greater. But it is not growth as a whole that counts but the parts which grow and the parts which contract—and that suggests that one has a control over the economy, not only functional and individual, but also geographical. If there are common regulations for a much wider area, in the average situation it means that the number of those people who will be at a disadvantage will be greater.
It is well known that Whitehall receives many deputations. The various Ministries are always hearing special cases for industries or parts of the country. Generally speaking, Whitehall is sympathetic and sensitive to these cases. However, if we widen the social, geographical and historical area over which such cases can be pleaded, the average will not necessarily be good for everyone. Those at a disadvantage will increase in number, and perhaps this country will be at a disadvantage to a greater extent than most.
This will in particular affect regional development. The Chancellor of the Duchy said, when questioned about this, that there was not much in the White Paper on the subject because it was not in the negotiations. Is he aware that the White Paper is not about the results of the negotiations but about the effects of our entry into the Community?
If the Channel Tunnel were built it might be fair to say, to avoid regional distortion, that we will charge a common tariff for rail freightliners from the other side of the Channel to any terminal on British Rail. By imposing such a common tariff, we would be producing a regional policy at a stroke, the regional implications would be very great. However, Article 101 of the Treaty says:
Where the Commission finds that a discrepancy between the provisions imposed by law, regulation and administrative action in Member States is interfering with competition within the Common Market and consequently producing distortion which needs to be eliminated, it shall consult the Member States concerned.
But Article 101 also says:
if such consultation does not result in an agreement eliminating that distortion in question, the Council shall, on a proposal from the Commission, adopt the necessary directives for this purpose, unanimously during the first stage and thereafter by a qualified majority. The Commission and the Council may take any other appropriate measures provided for in this Treaty.
It does not say what a distortion is or who shall judge what it is. It says that in respect of a
distortion which needs to be eliminated
meaning, presumably, that certain distortions may stay
it shall consult the Member States concerned".
We are then told that certain measures may or shall be taken. We are told that
if…consultation does not result in an agreement…the Council shall…adopt the necessary directives for this purpose…and…take any other appropriate measures.
Can any hon. Member imagine a provision of that kind being passed in Committee upstairs?
That is the sort of legislation the hon. Member for Beckenham is apparently happy to support, although its implications almost beggar the imagination. These are the sort of provisions we have in mind when we refer to our sovereignty. This is what the Labour Party meant in 1924 when, as we were recently reminded at Brighton, one of our election posters said:
The rich man's power is in his purse. The poor man's power is in his politics. Do not surrender your power to the rich man. He already has too much.
I do not believe that there are not industrial interests in Europe or that they do not have some interest in regional policy.
I had intended to refer to the common agricultural policy but because of the number of hon. Members who wish to speak, I will not delay the House on this subject, except to comment in passing that a common agricultural system of prices on an area as diverse geographically as that from Italy to the Shetlands and Orkney has very grave dangers for good husbandry, a point which has not been made in these debates. The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food agreed in a letter he sent to me some time ago that there might be technical dangers in adopting the C.A.P. for British agriculture, but he pretended that they would be offset by extra income to the industry.
The future of Britain is bound up with the future of its land use, and the same applies to all civilisations. America discovered in the 'thirties that one cannot have a free market system in agriculture which does not fit the natural conditions of the country concerned.
Looking at the future, it is clear that the issues of peace and war grip our imaginations and fears. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge- Bourke) and the hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) said that they had had two world wars and did not want a third. I agree, but we are not trying to prevent two wars that have happened. They are over and it is a third that might come. I have found that young people are far more aware of this problem than hon. Gentlemen opposite imagine. Indeed, they are more aware of it than are hon. Gentlemen opposite. Hardly anyone has really analysed this problem for the future.
I do not feel that Britain should be great simply for its possessions. A country, like a person, is not great because of what it possesses but because of what it does. We are in an historic position to play a world rôle. There are personal links between a great many parts of the world and this House, and in this House there is knowledge, and an understanding and sympathy for what is happening in the various power blocs in many parts of the world.
What do we see in the world? We have a Europe partly based on Benelux and the Coal and Steel Community. Then we have the Council of Europe. People look at Soviet Marxism and say "Certain things that it predicted are beginning to come to pass". We can look at China and say that we do not like some aspects. But there is a great deal to learn from its community life. We are witnessing the struggle for the survival of democracy in certain areas, including the United States, particularly on civil rights, matters affecting the consumer and on conservation.
We have great Commonwealth links but, as the Prime Minister showed in Singapore, he does not think much of them. We have had a world rôle and we can continue to have one, among other things, preventing a possible third world war. After all, such a war will not happen because somebody wants it to happen. It will break out only because of a diplomatic difficulty, with the world stumbling into war, I fear that this is not beyond possibility in view of what is happening in India and Pakistan.
If we do not have freedom to use our links with various parts of the world—our traditions, and the things we have accumulated throughout history—to prevent, perhaps by a hair's breadth, a situation into which the world may stumble, we will not be able to play our rôle and do the things that hon. Gentlemen opposite say we will be able to do only if we join the E.E.C.
There has been a lot of misunderstanding about this. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have been conned into an action which cannot be put better than it was expressed by the Prime Minister, as reported in The Times on 21st May last. An extract from a speech the right hon. Gentleman made at the banquet in the Elysée Palace, when he met President Pompidou, read:
When Mr. Heath spoke, he said that the common objective of Britain and France was to build a united Europe in 'a city that is, at unity itself, that has peace within its walls and plenteousness within its palaces'.
He was talking about walls. That was the direction in which his mind was moving. Perhaps he did not realise that he was quoting Psalm 122, but it is referring to Jerusalem and not Europe.
We in Britain have some idea of what Jerusalem means; the ideal community—something held in common on both sides of the House—but Jerusalem today is not England's green and pleasant land. Indeed, it is not even that part of Western Europe that has adopted an Asian religion called "Christianity". Jerusalem is the whole world. Unless the leaders in this country understand that, the probability of a third world war will be there, however much we are anxious to avoid it.
Because of this narrow-minded approach not only on the part of the Prime Minister but also his supporters on the benches opposite, I shall willingly vote "No" on Thursday.
I am a European, not least because I was born one. Because I was born a European, I believe fervently in the future of European co-operation.
Having said that, I wish to emphasise how important I appreciate it is, particularly in a parliamentary democracy, that one should have the fullest consultation with one's constituents before coming to a decision of this gravity. That I have done, as most hon. Members will have done.
During the Summer Recess I had a campaign of advertisements running in the local newspapers in my area calling on everyone to write to let me know what they felt on this great issue. One interesting point to emerge was that not one of my local industries wrote against our joining the E.E.C. So intrigued was I by this, not least because we have a 4·7 per cent. unemployment rate in my area, that I followed up this phenomenon by discussing the matter with leaders of local industry. When I discussed with them their plans for the future, I came to the conclusion that in my constituency industry foresaw appreciable expansion and consequential reduction in unemployment.
It is very pleasant to give way to my former opponent in West Ham. I hope that he will extend me the privilege on a future occasion. When I speak about industry, I speak about the people who are responsible for running industry. With great respect, and it may be with some sadness, we have not yet reached a stage when the forward planning of industry is discussed with the trade union movement in its fullest detail. Perhaps that will come in the future. I hope that it will. But for the present, it was true that the managers of local industries discussed with me their plans for the future and, in doing so, caused me to believe that the prospects for them, for the town and for employment were of very great significance.
In addition to my correspondence campaign, I had 71 public meetings in my constituency. I thought it necessary to have these because my constituency is very widely scattered. It has a large number of villages and many of those who live in the constituency earn their living through agriculture and horticulture. Working hard as they do, they do not always find it easy to come to our centre of population to discuss matters with their Member, and I felt it right to go to them.
Going round the constituency, I found that there was concern over the future of the three great rural industries, agriculture, horticulture and fisheries. But when one discussed agriculture with those who have large farms in Norfolk, one realised very quickly that all of them were looking to the future with some hope, and with the hope of running their enterprises more profitably than they have done in the last five or ten years. Hopefully, as I constantly expressed, they will be able, as a result of that, to pay higher wages to agricultural workers.
During the debate last week, reference was made to the attitude of the National Farmers' Union to our joining the Community, and the Minister mentioned part of a circular which set out the union's view. I should like to mention another part, which may stand well in the record:
There is little doubt that by the end of the transitional period, British producers can achieve the Government's forecast of an additional 8 per cent. in output, over and above the expansion that would otherwise have been expected.
The circular then concluded:
To summarise, therefore, the N.F.U. is neither pro nor anti but believes that agriculture cannot be regarded as an obstacle to entry.
If the union says that, surely one is right to believe that there is a good future for this industry in the Community. From my consultations, especially with the large growers of beet and corn, I find that there is a tremendous future for them. There is also the possibility that we can grow more grass, thereby growing better beef and taking advantage of the higher beef prices.
I have no doubt about the future for Norfolk farmers. If the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Spearing) will forgive me, I take more notice of those who are doing the job in Norfolk than of him when he expresses his concern for their future. Our farmers will do well.
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Would he not agree that, whilst the prospects for the large arable farms, especially in East Anglia and South-East England are probably good, those in the rest of the country, particularly upland areas and those dependent on grass, which may not be grown as much, are not as definite as he makes out?
The hon. Gentleman asks me to speak for people whom I do not represent. There are those on both sides of the House who are more qualified than I or the hon. Member for Acton to speak for those interests.
Turning to fisheries, in the King's Lynn constituency we have a small fishing fleet which has a considerable advantage over some other fishing fleets throughout the country because the datum line for the limit begins at the mouth of the Wash, and this gives them clear water of about 20 miles within which to fish. Nevertheless, we welcome the Minister of Agriculture's assurances about conservation measures which will remain within the United Kingdom's control. I note with great pleasure the strong negotiating position we now have and the Government's determination to safeguard the interests of our fishermen.
In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), the Minister of Agriculture repeated his commitment to compensation and assistance to horticulture in the event of smaller growers going out of business as a result of our joining the Community. I should like to add to the remarks of my hon. Friend and hope that if some of our smaller growers are adversely affected the Government will be extremely generous in their compensation to such people.
There is still considerable apprehension in my constituency about pears and apples. The industry is beginning to recognise, perhaps for the first time, the need to grade, store, package and market efficiently in order not only to compete in the United Kingdom market but also to exploit market possibilities overseas—and certainly there are some there. We appreciate, too, the potential for bulbs, field crops and soft fruit, and people in King's Lynn are confident that they can exploit these opportunities. If small farmers, horticulturalists and fishermen are prepared to take on the rest of Europe in this great venture, is it not about time that we in this House of Commons started to show some courage too?
I took particular note of a remark made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. In opening the debate he said that now was the time for Britain to show courage, yet what he often saw about him were the withdrawal symptoms of a nation uncertain as to its future. I too recognise those symptoms. The question for us in this debate is whether we, in parliament, can respond and lead our country to find a new rôle and a new purpose in the world outside. For too long we have reeled under the economic and spiritual burden of winning the war.
Like the hon. Member for Acton, I recognise the splendid speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely and that of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) who spoke most movingly of some of the sacrifices made by themselves and their families during two world wars. We recognise those who look backwards to an unhappy past and understand their wish that we should have a united Europe. Some of us were not materially affected by the last war except that my parents' lives were disrupted to a certain extent and business suffered, and so on. But we were not the victims of action in war. We simply saw the war as young children. I suppose we enjoyed it because of its excitement. However, my generation does not want another war. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for West Ham, North is amused by that. I was a child during the war. Children played with toys then, as they do today.
Of course we enjoyed playing with such toys as forts. Although we did not suffer in the war, we recognise that war is unacceptable today and at any time in the future.
My generation wants to look ahead to the future. We look for leadership now into a brilliant future for Britain, a leadership which casts off the shackles of the past and recognises that Britain has a unique rôle to play in the world in future.
The key to this rôle may be found in a speech which Signor Colombo made in
a House of Commons Committee Room earlier this year. He said this:
For over a decade Italy has placed among the guidelines of her policy the widening of the European Community to the United Kingdom. This aim, which we have pursued with tenacity even in the darkest periods, has seemed to us to be the natural crowning of the process of integration between nations which are so near in civilization, history, geographical position, and economic levels.
I take issue with the Prime Minister of Italy, because I do not believe that this is the natural crowning of the process. I believe that, for the hope of humanity as a whole, it is the beginning of a process which will continue for many years and enable the world to find the peace and security which have so far eluded it. I believe that the achievement of Britain's entry into the E.E.C. may well be the catalyst which leads to an outward-looking and a politically united Europe, a Europe not an end in itself, but a beginning of new associations, a Europe whose natural markets will be the Middle East and Africa where we have ties of language, of history, of geography, and of understanding, so that we can act in our own interests together.
By the end of this century the population of the Middle East and Africa will be about 1,000 million people, who will be looking forward to the future for growth rates which so far in Europe we have not attained and looking to us for partnership in the great ventures in which they are involved.
I am glad to say that this view is well illustrated by a recent speech in Ghassan Tueni, who was only recently Deputy Prime Minister of the Lebanon, which he made at an extra-mural meeting at the Conservative Party Conference at Brighton. During the course of his speech he said this:
We think Britain is particularly well placed to usher into the Middle East a new force, the force that would break the present polarisation. This new force can only be Europe. Not a Europe that would be a fourth or fifth competitor in a game of power politics, but a Europe that is prepared to consider the Middle East as its natural extension, its natural partner in a new international complex. A complex that would be both political and economic, reviving the ancient community of civilisation that bound Europe to the Middle East.
I agree with Mr. Tuéni that this is the prospect that lies ahead of us. Now is the time for us to forget the colonial past
and to look ahead to the reality of a new kind of co-operation in Europe which will be in the interests of us all and in the interest of world peace.
Last week an hon. Member spoke disparagingly of this whole venture as requiring a triumph of hope over experience. My generation and those who follow expect no less from their leaders than that they should achieve that reality in the cause of world peace. For that reason, I shall be voting in favour of the Motion.
There was much that I agreed with in the speech of the hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler), but my experience has not been in agricultural parts. I represent part of the great city of Leeds. In the spheres of engineering and wool the future of that city lies in Europe.
This is largely a gut issue, by which I mean that it is something which is not settled by arguments or the small change in the agreement. It is a matter of certain fundamental attitudes from which we start.
On the Opposition Front Bench today are my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). I have known them for many years. I ask only that they grant me the same credit for sincerity as I grant them.
More than 10 years ago I debated this matter with my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North in his constituency. He has brought up to date today many of the arguments. I recognise that these fundamental arguments are still the same, but my right hon. Friend was then making that speech long before we discussed terms. It was the very idea that repelled him. He has been consistent in his objections.
With respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale, who sits next to my right hon. Friend—they are like a pair of heavenly twins—he has the same fundamental assumptions. He has objected. I have re-read the speech that he made in 1967. He has brought that up to date.
I hope that those on the Opposition Front Bench will understand that over all these years I have been attracted by the idea. I went on a deputation with my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins), my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen), and Lord Diamond to see Hugh Gaitskell before the 1962 speech to try to get him to modify his view.
Hon. Members now on the Opposition Front Bench do not believe in the Labour Party policy at present. The Labour Party policy is to go in on the right terms. They do not want any terms at all. They reject the idea root and branch. If we win at the next General Election, as I understand it we will carry on after it with the attitude which we had at the last—that if the terms are right we shall go in.
In 1967, in a glowing passage, my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale said that he would not be whipped into the Lobby—that we were not to be whipped into Europe. Frankly, I am not to be whipped out of it. I am sure that my hon. Friend will accord to me the degree of tolerance on a three-line Whip for which he asked for himself.
I grant my right hon. Friend his position immediately. I will defend his right to say what he wants in the House of Commons as much as I have had the right to say it. However, after I had voted against the Leader of my party on that occasion I did not claim the right to be a member of the leadership at the same time. That is what my right hon. Friend must face.
I never claimed to be the Leader of the party. That charge should have been made in another quarter where obviously it could have been answered with greater fluency than I can command now.
My constituency has never been in any doubt about my attitude. Over all these years, even when I differed with Hugh Gaitskell and previous to that, my party has never misunderstood my position. Indeed, only a few weeks ago when I was re-adopted for the new Leeds, West constituency I said, "I hope that you know what you are doing. You are adopting a European". That was rather better than putting it in an election address, because by then the election had passed. This was concerned with my future. I have no doubt that certain people will object when I get back there, but I must take the consequences. I do not think that I have ever avoided the consequences in my political life. I understand that sort of thing perfectly well.
I grant my hon. Friend this: he is certainly expressing a view which was expressed at the conference, but at the present time there is a certain schizophrenia in our movement. All the 62 Members, or whatever the number was, who voted in 1967 voted against the concept; the terms were not known at all. In the main, the conference this year voted against the concept. My own trade union voted against the whole idea and would have none of it, before even the terms were known. Therefore, somehow there has got to be a reconciliation in our movement in this opposition.
This is a great issue. Somebody said that it is the only issue which is short of war. We must not misunderstand each other and we must not misunderstand what we really want at the end of the day. I have always wanted to go into Europe and I have always hoped that I would be voting to go in under a Labour Prime Minister. What is more, I am being completely loyal to the Labour Party, of which I was a Minister, on the assumption that our Prime Minister proceeded in good faith because he wanted to go into Europe. Therefore, I must take it that the leader of my party and those associated with him still want to go into Europe.
The only issue is the terms, although that is not the only issue between my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale today. Had it been possible for us to win the last General Election and our Prime Minister had taken up the terms of 30th June —I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale shakes his head. This is a hypothetical possibility; he could not have gone into the election believing that we would lose. On the assumption that we would have started negotiations at that time, whatever the terms would have been, my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale would have opposed them. I believe the conference would have opposed them because, as I said earlier, it was a gut issue. Everybody to whom I have put this view understands that the proposition is perfectly true. However, I believe that I was led in good faith. I do not believe that my leader "conned" me in this matter. I wanted to go in and I waited with anxious expectancy and with a certain excited hope for the terms. The terms eventually came at the end of the day, and we are told that they a re not good enough.
My position and that of my hon. Friends has been challenged. Very often the famous speech of Hugh Gaitskell has been prayed in aid. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale was not so great a friend of Hugh Gaitskell as I was. My hon. Friend has quoted Hugh Gaitskell at length. I refer him to something else which the leader said in the famous 1960 conference at Scarborough when he opposed conference and made it possible for us to win in 1964. He said "What about the Parliamentary party? They are honourable men and they cannot change overnight." Frankly I cannot change overnight. I shall not abstain. This is not the stuff for total abstainers. This is the time for men to stand up and be counted. That is how I shall go into the Lobby.
I do not question the good faith of my hon. Friends on the Front Bench. I do not question the faith of the new Members who could not be expected to be hog-tied to any previous decision. But I do sometimes question the good faith of those people on the payroll vote and who were members of the last Government, in their attempt to re-write history. I should like to refer to some words which appear in the White Paper which we produced in 1970. Unlike the hon. Member for King's Lynn, I will not make a second-hand speech consisting of copious quotations, but I should like to make just one quotation. This is the fundamental assumption on which the Labour Party was going into the Common Market. This is what they believed—not the small change but the big stuff:
But whatever the economic arguments, the House will realise that … the Government's purpose derives above all from our recognition that Europe is now faced with the opportunity of a great move forward in political unity and that we can—and indeed we must—play
our full part in it. We do not see European unity as something narrow or inward-looking. Britain has her own vital links through the Commonwealth, and in other ways, with other Continents. So have other European countries. Together we can ensure that Europe plays in world affairs the part which the Europe of today is not at present playing. For a Europe that fails to put forward its full economic strength will never have the political influence which I believe it could and should exert within the United Nations, within the Western Alliance, and as a means for effecting a lasting détente between East and West; and equally contributing in every fuller measure to the solution of world's North-South problem, to the needs of the developing world.
The paragraph continues—because the foregoing words were written by a famous man:
Her Majesty's Government consider that events since the statement was made, and particularly the outcome of the Summit Conference of the Six on 1st and 2nd December, 1969, reaffirms the validity of the statement.
That is the major aim. I say to those people who want to re-write history that that document was written in the concept of the realisation that the Government had accepted the Treaty of Rome, the common agricultural policy and V.A.T. that went with it, the harmonisation of currency and social security benefits and, indeed, not the figure, but the idea of the long-term financing of the Market. I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North is keen on quoting Lord George-Brown, but that was months ago—
It does not matter whether it was Scarborough or Brighton. My right hon. Friend came out of the Government; and I think it is to his credit on this issue largely because there were certain things that he could not stand. I have approached privately no fewer than four former Ministers in the Cabinet for chapter and verse. What I understand is truth. It is no good a man saying, "No Cabinet of which I was a member did that". It is inherent in this document which I have quoted. When I went to the General Election of 1970 it was in the knowledge that we had accepted the Treaty of Rome, the C.A.P. and V.A.T. that went with it, and the harmonisation of currency and social security benefits. It is all in the document.
The only matter remaining was the terms. What are the terms? All that was left was sugar, on which Lord Campbell has expressed agreement, and it comes up for revision in 1973–74. In New Zealand 58 per cent. of the public opinion poll declared that the terms "could not have been bettered". My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale shakes his head. Immediately after the vote in this debate I am going with a parliamentary delegation to New Zealand. Because I have got to face this, I have done a considerable amount of homework. I have got the results of the last public opinion poll. I know that my hon. Friend does not like public opinion polls. I do not like them very much, but, like my hon. Friend, I quote the figures which suit my own argument. I could quote statesmen in New Zealand on their feelings.
Before my right hon. Friend leaves that point, he has repeated the remark that we have accepted the terms spelt out in the White Paper. Presumably, by "we" he means hon. Members on this side, but would he not accept that the highest policy-making authority in the Labour movement is its annual conference, and that the annual conference of the Labour movement has never accepted these terms and does not do so now?
I would never use the word "we" in a concept which included my hon. Friend. I am speaking about things that had occurred before the annual conference. The General Election occurred before the annual conference. I am referring to the leadership of the party and to the document we have before us. I had thought that these things had been accepted when the election took place, and that we were now on the terms. However, I see that Mr. Speaker is looking at me with what would appear to be an accusatory eye, so I had better leave that point.
As I was saying, in effect the only matters at issue were sugar, New Zealand and the price of entry. The price of entry largely depends on the assumptions one starts with. I have heard reputable hon. Members on both sides give astronomical figures, ranging from £250 million to £1,000 million, and the more optimistic figure is always given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North.
I have only one point to make in connection with sovereignty, because I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale in thinking that this is the gut issue. In 1964 I was asked as Minister to provide the materials for the housing drive and found the materials with which 400,000 houses could have been built in 1965. What stopped us? What stopped us was the financial policy of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) who decided that we could not do it. Why could we not do it. It was because we had lost our sovereignty. The international bankers decided that we could not build 400,000 houses. My right hon. Friend knows that Labour Government foreign policy for six years was dominated by lack of sovereignty. It was overshadowed by Vietnam in order to propitiate Lyndon Johnson. This is not to depreciate my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton.
I understood this and I sympathised with it, but let no one tell me at any time that the Labour Government, with the best will in the world, had sovereignty. They did not, because they were running fifth in a six-horse race in Europe. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford has told us the tale of how as Chancellor of the Exchequer he went over to Europe and was kept in an ante-room while others discussed what they would do with us. If we enter the enlarged Community, we shall gain an accession of sovereignty, not lose sovereignty. We shall no longer be the sick man of Europe.
I feel that I have spoken too long. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] As the then George Brown said, going into Europe means more than the price of a slice of bacon. This is one of the great issues. We stand at one of the turning points of our history. Between the reigns of Elizabeth the First and Elizabeth the Second we have spawned our breed over five continents. We have fertilised the world. Under the shadow and protection of the British Royal Navy the infant United States grew to manhood. We fought two world wars, and dissipated our substance and bankrupted ourselves to buy time for the Americans to come into them. Here I would say to Senator Kennedy, in parenthesis, that before he starts speaking as he has done he should remember how many American men lie at the bottom of the ocean because the Channel ports were denied them. We went right through the Industrial Revolution. In 1945 we had to dissipate an Empire, and the emerging nations grew up. They are all away from us now and, as Aneurin Bevan once said, we now have to learn to be great in other ways.
Now we are back where we belong. We can, if we wish, be a small red spot on the map—no longer red splashed over the globe—of 50 million people; a derisory number against the market that is open to us in Europe and in a world of power blocs of over 200 million people in the United States alone. If we fail to go in, we shall have a great many American takeover bids here. We have the Comecon in the East. And there is China. When I was a boy at school and sang missionary hymns, every fifth man was a Chinese—that is how big China was then. But the Chinese are very lusty and they have improved since then.
These are the realities. We can no longer go it alone. I do not want a British Chancellor of the Exchequer again to be kept in an anteroom while others decide our fate. I want us to be in at the decision-making, and I believe that the genious of the British people is so great that we cannot fail to make it felt. I do not take a gloomy view of our country. People at gatherings such as Labour Party conferences are sometimes bloody-minded, but they are pretty determined, and I have a deep respect for them.
It will be appreciated that it needs a great deal from me, after 50 years in the Labour Movement, to make this sort of speech now. On Thursday night, I shall be voting with some of the most decent and honourable men of my party. They will be decent and honourable men on the other side, but they will be accompanied into the Division Lobby by some of the terrible backwoodsmen on that side, so do not let anyone sneer about the company we keep. I do not go into the Division Lobby behind any Tories; I go in by my own right. I am a free man, an international Socialist, and a member of the Labour Party, in that order, and on Thursday night my priorities will be right.
I should like to tell the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) how much I—and I am sure many other hon. Members—have enjoyed listening to him. I at once relieve his mind on one point when I say that I do not think that I shall be one of the "backwoodsmen" accompanying him on Thursday night. He will have to go into that particular Division Lobby without me.
It is not a very pleasant experience for one who has served his party for seven years as a Whip to find himself at difference with his party on a policy issue. My views have been published, and I do not want to weary the House by expatiating on them, but as I have not for ten years had an opportunity to speak in a Common Market debate, I should like in four sentences to give my reasons.
First, I fear that what is now an economic Community will become a political Community. Secondly, I do not want this country to enter any Community, political or economic, from which the White Commonwealth countries and the United States are excluded. Thirdly, I believe it unwise for us to link ourselves permanently with continental countries which differ totally from us in their constitutions, their political systems, their laws and their national traditions. Fourthly, I am unwilling that we should sign a treaty which, by transferring any degree of law-making or decision-making to a European authority, is bound to derogate from the power and prestige of our Parliament and, in particular, of this House of Commons. You will have noted, Mr. Speaker, from what I have, said that I am not really disputing the terms one way or the other.
Coming rather recently from the Whip's Office, may I make a brief reference to the nature of the vote next Thursday? I was pleased to hear the right hon. Member for Leeds, West say that he at any rate had no intention of being whipped into any Lobby. The country and many people in the House will have regretted that the Labour Party has not been able to follow the lead of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—
—but I would like to tell my own Chief Whip that if, by pressure on the other side, large numbers are compelled to enter a Lobby which they would not want to enter, my Chief Whip may well have to suffer the indignity of having a confirmed anti-Marketeer in his own Lobby.
I have never liked the expression "anti" or "pro-Marketeer". The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in what I thought was one of his less charitable moments, described the anti-Marketeers as being Flat-Earthers. I find some difficulty in thinking of a single expression that really describes the pro-Marketeers, because they seem to fall into two groups corresponding to the allegiances that used to divide many of our villages in the old days.
On the one hand there was the Band of Hope and on the other the Unity of Oddfellows. The Band of Hope were those who were so filled with the beatific vision of the world to come that they could not really be bothered with such mundane things as having to die first or to get buried, while the Oddfellows though equally convinced of the certainty of life after death, really did think it was important to make provision for the funeral expenses and kept a sharp eye on the small print of the insurance documents brought round by the man from the "Pru." Were I eligible for membership of either of those groups my heart would certainly impel me towards the Band of Hope because, having taken this great and momentous step towards Western Europe, it seems logical to go the whole hog—European baptism by total immersion, a united federal Government, common foreign policy and the lot.
It is difficult to find entirely credible the posture of the Oddfellows who wish to insist on things like the veto, national identity, and so on. But I am certain that the Flat-Earthers, like myself, should on this issue back up the Oddfellows. It is a great step into Europe and, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) told us rather ponderously on Thursday, "Europe" is a curious expression for the geographical amalgam which is the European Economic Community. He did not seem to draw the only two worthwhile morals from his lecture. This geographical amalgam has twice appeared on the map of Europe—once in the Empire of Napoleon, which lasted six years, and ten centuries previously in the Empire of Charlemagne which came to a rather sticky end not long afterwards in the reign of King Charles the Fat, possibly a rather different King Charles from the last one who reigned in Paris.
After listening to these debates for ten years I have come to the conclusion that the important thing is to pray that if we go into Europe things will come out all right. That being so, I hope that it will bring to an end one other argument to which we have listened—the argument whether the Community is inward- or outward-looking. All of us could agree that there is only one sensible thing to be in Europe, and that is upward-looking.
The argument which is now much less repeated than it was in 1961 is that of "The Off Shore Brigade". This, we used to be told, was the position of an island situated in a sea off the continental land mass which could not for some reason exist without going into economic decline unless it belonged to some Community, becoming what was rather strangely called an Off Shore island. Possibly the example of Japan has rather diminished the popularity of that argument.
What has been very strange, listening to the debates in 1971, has been the extent to which they are still being argued with the arguments of 1961. No one seems to have noticed that a lot of things have changed in the meantime. To begin with, we have listened to endless arguments as to whether the economic objectives will be achieved, but no one seems to consider whether those objectives are still valid.
We have undertaken certain economic obligations which we call the costs of entry in the intermediate period. It seems that we have done that in respect of the precise period when we do not wish to diminish our economic growth in any way. My party was elected in 1970 on a five-year programme to try to remedy as quickly as possible the blots which still disfigure our country—housing, poverty, the lower-paid, and all the other things that we know about. It seems rather regrettable that we should be embarking on a policy which will in any way restrict our growth in the early years.
What is strange now, although it was not strange in 1961, is that we still seem to be linked to a policy called "long-term economic growth". No one seems to have paid any attention to what is going on in the United States, although that is a country which for years has had all the benefits which we are supposed to be getting when we go into Europe, in terms of prosperous industry, with a huge internal market, and so on. During the past ten years the United States has been through a level of growth which we in the next ten years hope to be going through. Their experience in some ways has not been very reassuring.
They began the 1960s with a number of social problems—industrial relations, race relations, crime, drug-taking, and pollution in all its forms—and finished the decade with all those problems in a more acute state than when they began it. It leads to the suspicion that far from being the product of poverty some of these things may be the product of affluence, except for pollution, which we know is the product of effluence. Even more remarkable than this is the economic state of the United States, which began the 1960s with not very many economic problems and has finished up the decade with, simultaneously, a balance of payments crisis, severe inflation and heavy unemployment.
I mention these matters because if it is true that over half our people—51 per cent.—still dislikes the prospect of the Common Market, it is rather important that expectations should not be raised too high, and that we should not add to the dislike of the 51 per cent. the disillusionment of the other 49 per cent.
These are not the reasons for doubting the relevance of the long-term policy, which are altogether more crude and materialistic. They are simply that when we reach a level such as has been reached in the United States, long-term growth as a policy makes no sense unless it is possible to target it on to particular objectives. For example, the United States, incredibly, has not solved the problem of poverty. It makes no sense to demand a policy of economic growth as such. We have to try and target our growth to the objectives that I have mentioned. I hope that within a measurable time we shall find ourselves at the economic level of the United States. The damage that we can do, and the damage that can be done in the United States—which is very real—is rapidly to exhaust the world's physical assets, on which civilisation depends for not merely its prosperity but its survival. That is the importance of it. We need to launch out into a new realm of economic thinking. That leads me to the conclusion that the objectives of this policy are almost out-of-date. We could be said to be aiming at economic objectives which in the short term are unjust and in the long term are unreal.
I want to refer briefly to the international position which we are to adopt as a result of these policies. We are proposing to link ourselves with a continental grouping at a moment which appears to me to be singularly ill chosen in history. The international world has been in an astonishing state, ever since the last war, of deep freeze, with the two super Powers occupying apparently irremovable positions. But now new super Powers, China and Japan, may be emerging. Simultaneously, the deep freeze is thawing. Instead of a polar ice cap we have large icebergs detaching themselves and starting off on courses which cannot be foreseen or known in advance.
I have never been a passenger on an iceberg but I am sure that those hon. Members who have had that experience will agree with me that one should never choose a small or middle-sized iceberg but should be a passenger on a very big one indeed in face of the dangers of collision or crushing. So it seems a strange decision—to return from this chilly analogy to the warm reality of the accession treaty—that we should be joining a continental grouping whose defence interests cannot be the same as ours and which can never hope to become more than a semi-super Power. I stress, if we are going in, the importance of flat earthers like myself supporting the position achieved by the Prime Minister with President Pompidou—that decisions should only be taken by unanimous agreement when vital issues are at stake and that national identities should not be lost or national sovereignties eroded.
Finally, although he is not present to hear it, I make an appeal to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. This is that we should not spend too long on the consequential legislation. We have wasted too much time in the past on the Common Market, and the American experience suggests that we may have important things to do in this country and in this House before we get engulfed in the tidal wave of prosperity which the Common Market is to bring. I am advised by the learned Clerk that it is not out of order for a back bencher to put down a guillotine Motion, but I should be most unwilling, by thus pre-empting my right hon. Friend, in any way to ruffle the feathers of one under whom so many of my happy years in the Whips' Office were spent.
I am glad to have the opportunity to speak following the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) because he has introduced a theme which has been missing from the debate to a considerable extent. This is the questioning of whether long-term economic growth is quite the desirable end that we have tended to assume it is. Like him, I am opposed to British entry but, also like him and like my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell), I wish we were going to have a free vote on this issue. I think that there will be little respect for those right hon. and hon. Members who go into a Lobby contrary to their convictions on this major question, and there can be little respect for the parties which force them to do so. If I understood the hon. Gentleman aright, he indicated that, if there were to be a Whip on the Opposition side, he, as an anti-Marketeer, might find himself in the Government Lobby nevertheless. I hope that is not what he intended to say. If it is, it shows that the Government's proposal for a free vote is as much of a sham as we suspect it to be.
Like others, I am not by any means convinced of the economic argument. I believe that, for a very long time, if not indefinitely, the majority of our people are going to be worse off as a result of entry. Whether or not the majority in the long term are going to be better off or worse off I am not qualified to assess, but I certainly have the gravest doubts about the social and political implications I want to see a substantial social change in this country and I believe that it will be infinitely more difficult to obtain that change in a large unit than in a small one.
Whatever gains there may be will be concentrated in those parts of the country which are already relatively rich—the South-East, the Midlands and London—because those areas are closer to the economic centre of gravity in Europe and they have the most concentrations of modern industries producing consumer goods. It is in the mass production of durable, semi-durable and immediately consumable goods that any benefit that does accrue from entry will come. It is in the production of goods for sale that the mass market is desirable and I believe that this will cause a shift in the pattern of our economy. It will cause a shift towards those industries which are producing the kind of goods which in terms of natural resources we can least afford to be producing—goods which are expensive in natural resources, such as minerals and energy, goods which produce great pollution when we dispose of them and which produce the maximum damage in their production.
It is alleged to be fashionable to talk about the ecological situation, about environmental pollution, but I think that it is probably unfashionable to take them very seriously as matters on which to determine serious political issues. I believe that the essential questions and problems which our children and grandchildren will face are not how to make enough colour television sets to equip the whole country or ways in which to ensure that there are enough material goods to go round. I believe we are in sight of solving those problems now, that it is possible, with the wealth which exists in this country at present, to eliminate poverty and all the social evils around us.
One of the great problems which will be faced by our children and grandchildren is the fact that the world's natural resources are being used up at a much faster rate than they can be reproduced, that we are, in the process of making and using more and more consumer goods, and disposing of them when we have finished with them, destroying the environment in which we live. The most important long-term effect of going into Europe is to accelerate that process. We may or may not get any economic benefits and advantages. We have heard assessments on one side or the other. Figures have been quoted and disputed. I cannot decide finally whether there is likely to be a benefit in the sense that we are going to get a 3 per cent. or 4 per cent. growth rate to offset the substantial cost, but I am certain that the effects in the environmental respect are going to be seriously damaging.
The other major problem which our children will have to face is that the hungry part of the world is not going to be tolerant of being hungry indefinitely. We have here in Europe and in Australia and the United States pockets of wealth, but we have very large parts of the rest of the world whose relative poverty is rapidly increasing, and in many countries the standard of living remains virtually constant if it is not actually declining. It seems to me undeniable that a club, an association of wealthy countries, coming together to form a customs union to agree to trade between themselves on preferential terms, must necessarily be a source of damage to those parts of the world excluded.
Is the hon. Gentleman trying to suggest that countries which are excluded from this grouping will suffer? If so, does not that include this country? Would not we suffer from being excluded?
I do not think it is suggested in any part of the House that if we remain outside the Common Market we shall not be able to maintain a level of growth. I do not think that the hon. Member himself is suggesting that by remaining outside we should put ourselves in the situation of one of the under-developed countries where there is a real problem of starvation and of survival. That is the problem, and it is not just a question of generosity on our part in saying that we should be concerned about it. The world is not indefinitely going to tolerate the enormous differences which there are between the standards of life in rich countries such as our own and the standards which obtain anywhere in India, and in large parts of Asia, areas which, I may say, are completely excluded from any benefits of associate status by virtue of these negotiations, which must have the effect of causing greater poverty for those countries which are not within this trading bloc.
I say that not only for the reasons which have been set out by other speakers, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) and the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Sir R. Russell), but because of the detailed effects of particular forms of trade. After all, what is a customs union for? A customs union is to enable countries to have preferential, better terms of trade between themselves, so that other countries seeking to sell their goods within that union are at a disadvantage. This must have an adverse effect on the trade of those countries, particularly Asian countries which are developing manufacturing industries.
The hon. Member was saying that the European countries will be consuming natural resources much faster. Surely that will affect the terms of trade of countries in other parts of the world, simply because they are suppliers of the raw materials which, he says, will be running out.
Indeed, the hon. Member is quite right: resources will be shifted from the under-developed countries to Europe where they will be consumed even faster.
It has been suggested that associate status will be an adequate benefit to offset the disadvantages of those other countries which gain associate status. I am sorry that the hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler), who spoke a little earlier, is not still present. I had been waiting most anxiously to hear him, as a member of the executive committee of the Africa Bureau, say to what extent he disagrees with the assessment of the Africa Bureau, in a document sent to all hon. Members, that Britain's entry to E.E.C. will seriously worsen the trading opportunities of developing African countries. The hon. Member said on Friday that this was not published with the approval of the Executive Committee.
I had had every expectation that in his speech today he would have dealt with the very powerful argument presented in this document to the effect that, inevitably, African countries will be worse off in terms of trade than they are at the present time. I am most surprised that he did not mention it. Does he accept it? Britain's entry will certainly tend to create worse conditions for those countries which are already in an acute state of deprivation. They will not put up with that situation indefinitely. The problem for future generations will be the demands of the people who are most deprived in a world where nuclear vengence is easy.
There will also be the problems of maintaining and of replacing natural resources consumed as the mass production of consumer goods accelerates. I urge the House to bear these questions very seriously in mind. There may be some economic advantages, but it may be that the disadvantages will be very much greater, but the questions which really matter are those questions of the long term. There will be economic ill-effects in the short term, everybody agrees; if there will be advantages they will be in the long term; but the great long-term question will be how to eliminate poverty in large parts of the world.
It is simply a question of whether we can afford to go on using up resources in producing cars and television sets at the rate we are. What we can afford is to concentrate on the production of better services, both public and private, better food and better amenities. Those are not wasteful of resources and are more important for real living standards; they will be marginally more difficult to produce inside the market than out. We need and can afford better houses, hospitals, and other services but as mass production in other industries will be increasing there will be comparative disadvantages for industries supplying houses and other services.
I have concentrated on these issues because they have been under emphasised in the debate so far. I have my fears, also, on the regional aspects, but similar fears have been expressed by many other hon. Members. I believe that such gains as there are will be in the south, and that the losses will be in those parts of our country least able to bear them. I represent a London constituency, but my constituency suffers from overcrowding by those who come to London under pressure of unemployment; but that, important as it is, is less vital than the other issues I have raised.
The effect of entry into Europe will, I believe, be damaging to the real, long-term interests of this country, and I hope that on Thursday this Motion will be defeated.
It is a pleasure to be able to follow the hon. Member for Kensington, North (Mr. Douglas-Mann). We share an interest in housing, although we take widely different views, and we have together been studying housing in Germany. I hope that he will forgive me if I do not follow him in his interesting and original argument about the disadvantages of joining Europe.
I have never doubted that, given reasonable terms the long-term economic advantages would outweigh the disadvantages. I can produce no figures to prove that view, any more than those who disagree with me can produce figures to support their view. In the last analysis it is a matter of personal judgment and feeling. This was very well illustrated by the two letters in The Times on Friday, each signed by about 150 economists, one group of whom concluded that it would be to Britain's advantage to join, the other concluding that it would be to Britain's disadvantage. All I would say is that I would be happy in five years' time to meet the prophets of economic doom and compare notes with them. I should be happier still in ten years' time and very happy in 15 years' time, because I think that the benefits will increase as time goes by.
Certainly there will be transitional problems, not least for those on fixed incomes. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services on Friday repeated the Government's pledge that State pensions and other benefits would be reviewed periodically to keep pace with increases in the cost of living. He hinted that pensioners who came within the tax net would be helped by adjustments in the tax system. He hinted at it, but I sensed no commitment on the part of the Government. He identified another class of pensioners who came in the twilight area between supplementary benefit level and the taxable income level. He confessed that it would be difficult to find a way of helping them and that their best hope lay in a general abatement of inflation.
With great respect to my right hon. Friend, who is a most compassionate man, this is not really good enough. Speaking to pensioners about the Common Market one finds that many of them take the view that, while they themselves will not benefit, their children and their grandchildren will. This is a generous view and it would be wrong of us to presume on their generosity. If any section of the population is to be asked to make sacrifices for the future, the last to be asked are those who have made their contribution to society and have retired. I hope, therefore, that the Government will put forward coherent proposals for safeguarding against any increases in the cost of living all those on fixed incomes, whether their pensions be derived from the State or from private sources.
In general, such reservations as I have about entry are not on economic but on political grounds. It has certainly been my experience—I think that many right hon. and hon. Members will confirm this—that in constituents' letters, apart from an understandable concern about the cost of living, it is the political consequences and not the economic consequences that loom large. Constituents express the view that we would be handing over to foreigners everything that we have built up in a thousand years, that we would be run from Brussels and would lose our national indentity. Those are valid fears, because political unity is no vague possibility. It is one of the long-term aims of the Treaty of Rome, albeit without timetable or compulsion. The cause of political unity is espoused with enthusiasm, if not with fervour, by many in Europe and by some pro-Marketeers in this country.
There are two schools of thought on the way in which political unity might be achieved. On the one hand, there are those who say that the way to achieve it is to set up common institutions and to work through them to evolve common policies. That is a typically continental view; it does not appeal to me and I doubt whether it would commend itself to the British people. We have seen in our time an example of the folly of trying to impose common political institutions prematurely on unwilling partners, in the break-up of the Central African Federation.
On the other hand, there are those who say that the way to achieve political unity is to collaborate wherever appropriate and when common policies emerge to set up the institutions to serve them. I understand that this is the way favoured by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and by President Pompidou, and that this is something on which they agreed in Paris. But by whichever path we advance towards political unity—and I hope that it will be by way of common policies and not by way of common institutions—there are some ways in which the speed of advance towards political unity will be slowed down and other ways in which it is likely to be speeded up.
The factors that would tend to slow it down are threefold. First, there is the near-impossibility of making any significant move without the willing consent of all the partners. The pace of advance is likely to be the pace of the least willing. Secondly, there is the plain fact of the number of countries involved. It is difficult to imagine in the short term, or even the medium term, close political unity amongst ten very different countries. Thirdly, there is the innate skill of the British in looking after themselves. This is an attribute which foreigners recognise in us more clearly than we do ourselves. I claim no originality in identifying these factors. They are widely referred to and are well entrenched in the conventional wisdom on the Common Market; but they are not the whole story, because there are factors which would tend to speed up the pace of political advance, and these are inherent in the very nature of supranational politics.
First, there is the danger that, as politicians and civil servants get caught up in the glamour of careers on the European scale, they will tend to force the pace of advance without necessarily reflecting the wishes of the people they represent. Secondly, because of the sheer complexity of the administrative problems, there is the danger that the bureaucrats will wield disproportionate power and be insufficiently answerable to political control. We are told by way of reassurance that there are fewer bureaucrats in Brussels than there are civil servants in the Scottish Office. Long may it remain so!
If we allowed the factors that tend to speed up political development to prevail over those which tend to slow it down, the British people could conceivably, as many fear, find themselves on a bandwagon travelling in a direction not of their choosing and at a speed which they could not control. This will require great vigilance on the part of the House of Commons.
One of the most important rôles of Britain, with her accumulated political wisdom, will be to act as a restraining influence on those who want to hurry the pace along the path to political unity. Political unity in itself, if it evolves naturally over the years in accordance with the genuine wishes of the member countries, is no bad thing, but any attempt to force the pace could be profoundly damaging and lead to the break-up of the E.E.C.
Having acknowledged that these political risks exist, the question we must now ask ourselves is this. On balance, do the long-term advantages of joining Europe outweigh the disadvantages? It is my view that the advantages unquestionably outweigh the disadvantages, and that the political risks are well within our capacity to deal with. I therefore believe that we must go ahead and take up the membership that is offered, and do so confident in the belief that the great and unchanging qualities of the British people will be more than enough not only to meet the challenge but to derive great and lasting benefit from it.
I hope that the Government will pay attention to the plea made by the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Trew) for the pensioners when we go into the Common Market. I hope later in my speech to deal with some interesting points which he made about the political future of Europe.
We are here to express our individual views upon the large and general questions which arise at the prospect of going into Europe, but we are also here to represent the needs and the hopes of our constituents. I want to deal straight away with a matter of crucial importance to my constituents—the ultimate fisheries policy.
I did not understand what the Minister of Agriculture said on Thursday night, but I will not pursue that because since then the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has spoken. He knows the situation of Orkney and Shetland and he knows that, by itself, the six-mile limit is unacceptable. He gave me an assurance last summer that the position of Shetland is fully understood and has reiterated on several occasions that he is determined to protect it. I believe that the Chancellor of the Duchy is an honest man and a skilful negotiator. His assurances on this point play an important part in my intention to vote for entry into the E.E.C. Today he told us that we shall either maintain the status quo, which is acceptable, or that the legitimate interests of the fisheries industry will be protected. He assured us that he has not agreed to go back from the 12- to the six-mile limit. I make no apology for putting again on record the situation in my constituency. I trust that by so doing I shall strengthen the Chancellor's hand in the negotiations still to come.
Orkney and Shetland need a 12-mile limit. This is not simply a negotiating point. I have no desire to exaggerate the situation, but it is essential to the well-being of the counties as a whole and perhaps literally vital to certain islands in the Shetlands, where it is conceivable that if there is a serious blow to fishing the population will dwindle and disappear.
To talk about historic rights of other nations is a red herring. The historic rights of the other nations are not particularly historic, and they are not important. They amount to the right of the Norwegians to fish for basking sharks and dogfish and the right of the Dutch and Germans to take herring in a limited area off Sumburgh Head and Fair Isle. We are perfectly prepared to let them go on doing this, and for probably every other European to do the same. There are few more international industries than fishing, and those who take part in it are not lacking in a fellow feeling towards other countries.
What we are not prepared to do is to have the area between the six- and 12-mile limits fished by all and sundry, so that stocks are depleted—particularly stocks of white fish. In 1970 of the white fish caught round Shetland and landed in Shetland and elsewhere 38 per cent. came from between the six- and 12-mile limits, and of the herring landed in Shetland 44 per cent. came from between the six- and 12-mile limits. In 1971, so far, 35 per cent. to 40 per cent. of white fish came from between the six- and 12-mile limits, and about 27 per cent. of the herring. Therefore, it can be seen how important it is to preserve the limit.
Although I am a pro-Marketeer of long standing if we were not to reach a satisfactory solution on this aspect—although I believe that in other ways entry will benefit this country and the North of Scotland—I should have to reconsider my decision about our entry. Some people will complain that I appear to be prepared to put Shetland fishing before the good of Europe, or even Scotland. My answer to that is twofold. First, I make no bones about now having a certain hesitation about some aspects of the E.E.C. These hesitations arise largely from the development of the E.E.C. without us. It would have developed differently and better had we gone in at the start. I do not want to exaggerate, because in some ways the E.E.C. has lived up to my expectations. I would deny that it is inward-looking. I would only say that it is not dealing with some problems which are of prime importance to this country.
My faith that we should still go into Europe is founded on the belief that we shall give it a new impetus. I regard the decision on fisheries as a crucial indication whether Europeans are really sympathetic to our position. If, for instance the E.E.C. is serious about regional development—and that is a matter that causes concern all over the House—it will surely not destroy a major factor in that development, and there is no doubt that not only in Scotland but in Northern Europe as a whole fishing is a major factor in development. We are not asking the E.E.C. to give up anything; we are simply asking it to take note of this very important factor in the whole life of the north. It would be a sign of ill-will in Brussels if they were to proceed further with a policy which might be destructive of communities with no alternative way of life.
Secondly, I have always objected to the argument that some small marginal benefit to a great number of people is sufficient reason for serious damage to a smaller number. The only communities in Shetland which have kept their population for 100 years are the fishing communities, and three of them—Skerries, Whalsey and Burra—are almost wholly dependent on fishing. It is not only a question of the income which comes to Scalloway and Lerwick; the building up of other areas in Shetland and Orkney depends largely on fishing. The population of the Faroes has gone up from 23,000 to 37,000 largely due to fishing. Successive Governments have given encouragement and finance, the Shetlanders have committed themselves to building larger boats, and about 16 processing factories are in operation. To cut off supplies of fish at the moment would be a serious betrayal. I must also impress upon the Minister that not only the economic aspects of fishing are important; the social and sociological aspects are also extremely important. Fishing is the one industry which seems to be able to attract and keep people in a small community. We have not yet found another industry which will do this.
I accept that we are here as representatives and not as delegates. I also believe that in a matter such as this, while we have to weigh claims against each other, one of the arguments that we have to weigh seriously in the balance is the future of the people who send us here. I make no apology for saying that.
I am unhappy at the way in which this debate has been conducted. I cannot see that the issue has ever been put so clearly as to be understood by the ordinary person. I accept the difficulties of a referendum, but whether we should not have had one I am not at all sure. A General Election is out of the question, for reasons which have been cogently put by members of the Labour Party. It must cover a variety of issues. But I cannot clear from the back of my mind the fact that the Prime Minister has given the impression that he would not go into Europe unless there was a majority of people in favour of it. I cannot cross my heart and say that I am wholly convinced that there is such a majority. Like my leader, I do not remember the Labour Party, when in Government, saying that we would have to have an election before going in. I feel that at the moment we are not showing up democracy in this country in a very clear or favourable light.
What conclusion do I draw from this? It is not that we should wash our hands of the matter but that at this stage we should be frank about our reasons for going into Europe and our expectations of what will happen.
I find myself in some disagreement with some of those who, like myself, on balance want to go in. To begin with, I reject entirely the view that bigger is necessarily better. Many of the most pressing problems in the world are created simply because things are too big. People groan under too big business, too big cities, too much centralisation—and perhaps too big political units are one of the troubles of mankind. It has been said that those who stay out of the Community in small units will suffer. I cannot honestly say that when I go to Austria, Switzerland or Sweden I find that those countries have suffered. I do not want to go to the other extreme and say that smaller is always better. It is possibly true that this country could not become Sweden, Switzerland or Austria. By gaining a large home market some industries certainly will benefit. Perhaps we can all benefit, but there is no certainty about that. There is no magic about bigness as such.
I am not particularly impressed by statistics about growth. I have never seen the strength in the arguments about growth. I do not want growth in arms or useless production. Growth seems to me to be a matter of quality, and difficult to assess. I am not sure that even in bulk growth the Common Market will forge ahead as is expected. It is vital to know how we are to use the opportunities of which we all speak when we go into Europe.
On this subject the Government have said far too little. Part of the Foreign Secretary's speech—and, indeed, part of the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—was devoted to reassuring people that nothing much would happen politically, at least in the short run. The Foreign Secretary said:
Decisions on the political evolution of the Community are not for now, even for tomorrow, but for the future."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st October, 1971; Vol. 823, c. 921.]
That seems to me to be again advancing towards the future by walking backwards. The decision that we are about to take this week is a political and not solely an economic one. I feel that if it is worth taking at all, it is because we believe—
or at least I believe—that Europe is an important political as well as economic conception. If we do not believe that, and are not going into Europe hoping to make it more effective politically, I doubt whether we shall feel it is worth going in at all.
I share the right hon. Gentleman's sentiment. I would not like to be numbered among those who think that we are joining a static Community. The Community will evolve by consent of all the members, though I would hope, like the right hon. Gentleman, that it will evolve towards a more closely political unity.
But are the Government going to press for this? We are going to change the balance in Europe. Presumably, we are going to be an important new factor. What is to be our line about this? Let us take finance and currency. We cannot have a policy on finance and currency which is only economic. These are important political aspects, and we must have machinery for dealing with them. Are the Government to produce a plan calling for a new form of discussion in Europe? It is more and more apparent that the decision-making process in Europe must be altered. If one looks at the response to America at the moment one sees that it is fragmented, slow and ineffective.
Are the Government going in with some view about the way in which decision-making in Europe can be expedited, improved and, above all, democratised? The hon. Member for Dartford was right to draw attention to the danger that unless we have ideas on this subject such decisions will be left to bureaucrats. In the long run, that will not do. In persuading the country to go into Europe it is up to the British Government to tell the people what part they will play when they get in.
The most pressing problems in the world do not involve the common agricultural policy. They are such matters as nuclear war, poverty, inflation, pollution, alienation from that industrial system and that whole set of industrial and urban problems which makes New York unmanageable. It is no good thinking that it will be possible to build a satisfactory New York on the Rhine. Equally, the problems cannot be dealt with by single countries. They can be dealt with to some extent on a European basis. However, they are not being dealt with in the E.E.C. The Secretary of State for Social Security told us on Friday that the Treaty of Rome has little to say about social security and health care. The British Government have an opportunity to influence the course of events here, as they have in terms of regionalism. The regional policies of Brussels are very sketchy. But they must know what they want.
It is also the Government's obligation to make it clear to the people, at any rate once a decision to go in has been taken, why exactly they are going in. Are they simply hoping for some impetus in economics, or have they an idea of the contribution that they will make to the economic and political future of Europe?
I accept that British sovereignty will be impaired. It is misleading of Ministers to pretend that it will not be. However, that is one of the good points about going into Europe. Our sovereignty is already impaired in a hundred different ways. A powerful example was given by the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell). I also believe that Europe has a cultural and political vitality which can be immensely important. I do not deny that our sovereignty is and will be impaired but I believe that if we are to have any progress in re-asserting the European idea and, within that, the British idea in the context of the world, it has to be done through some wider grouping. I see no other grouping for this than Europe.
Countries like Scotland and areas like Orkney and Shetland may be better able to play their part, express their needs, and make known their personalities in a European context—along with such countries as Norway, Ireland and Denmark—than they are now under the shadow of London. This is a very centralised country. By going into Europe I hope that we shall decentralise to some extent.
These are the hopes which make me a European. They are hopes which can be realised only by positive action. I reject the negative view that we should go into Europe because we cannot think of anything else to do. There are plenty of other things that we can do, but they are not so attractive as going into Europe. I reject the view that we are finished if we do not go in. I also reject the view that our troubles will be solved simply by joining a larger market. It is worth joining the E.E.C. only if we have a clear conception of the sort of Europe and the sort of Britain that we want, coupled with a clear determination to tackle the relevant problems of the world on a European basis.
It may be that the House and the country are becoming a little bored with Common Market debates. That does not cast any reflection on the sincerity of hon. Members who have spoken or who have yet to speak in this debate. I speak in church sometimes, and I never open any address without remembering the advice of an old mentor who said to me, "Remember, no souls are saved after the first five minutes." It is my firm belief that no votes will be changed after six days of debate.
As all the arguments have been deployed, it is not my intention to reiterate any of them. However, I am grateful for the opportunity briefly to state my personal position for the record and to indicate why I have always been opposed to Britain's entry into the Community and why, reluctantly, I have to go against the party line.
When the Treaty of Rome was published 11 or 12 years ago, I read it and opposed it from that moment. It has not been amended since. In February last year, when the House debated the last Government's White Paper, I tabled an Amendment saying,
…and at end insert, 'having studied carefully the White Paper and all the many adverse implications of entry into the Community, decides to withdraw Britain's application forthwith.'
Mr. Speaker King refused to select my Amendment, and I was not called in two subsequent debates.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) has quoted from his election address, and I make no apology for referring to my own address. I wrote:
Although the question of Britain's entry into the European Economic Community is not a party matter, I have always been against entry, and I personally shall continue strongly to oppose entry.
The main arguments revolve round our sovereignty and the terms. I do not like the terms. They are demanding, excessive, and more in line with the crippling reparations required of a country defeated in war. Membership will mean the end of cheap food for the country, and I am wedded to the policy of buying food in the cheapest market while, at the same time, assisting our own people in the British Commonwealth.
However, for me, the terms are incidental to my detestation of the Treaty of Rome. There can be no doubt that the ultimate end of the Treaty of Rome is federation, unification or a merging of the members of the Community. The honest pro-Marketeers recognise and admit this. We heard it from the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). We heard it from my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Trew). They recognise it. I am bitterly opposed to it. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is a dedicated European. I respect his views. I expect the same respect for mine. I recognise that he has given the party a free vote.
When the Treaty was first published, the first President, Walter Hallstein, said:
We are not in business to promote tariff preferences, to establish a discriminatory club, to form a larger market to make us richer or a trading bloc to further our commercial interest. We are not in business at all: we are in politics.
Since then, there has been much talk and some confusion on the issue of sovereignty—especially from the Government Front Bench. In a Written Parliamentary Answer on 22nd June last, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said:
President Pompidou and I agreed that decisions in the Community should in practice be taken by unanimous agreement when vital national interests of any one or more Members are at stake."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd June, 1971; Vol. 819, c. 264.]
On that same day, newspapers reported the Bonn Foreign Minister Walter Scheel as indicating that "classic national relations" would not be allowed. He added:
Our aim remains a European Government after expansion through British entry. The
argument over a United States of Europe or a Federal Europe is one of words. A European Government will take decisions on common policies and will be subject to a European Parliamentary control.
That German view is very definite.
The disadvantages of joining the Community are factual and any benefits are purely speculative.
It is all too obvious that entry into the Community will have vital consequences for the people of this country. Almost invariably I am against the use of the referendum, but, the consequencies of our decision being so vital, I am convinced that the people should be given the opportunity to indicate their wish, even at this late stage, because I believe that the subsequent debates, if we do sign the Treaty of Rome, will take a long time. I still think that there is the opportunity to consult the people with a referendum.
There is apparent confusion about what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said or intended to convey at the election, but there is widespread belief that the people were to be consulted after negotiation and before entry by the signing of the Treaty. A General Election is not the answer, for the question cuts across all parties. The referendum, to my mind, is a solution which would satisfy all, and I hope that this still may be done.
It has been pointed out that if an M.P. dies during the term for which he is elected power goes back to the electorate for them to use to elect someone else, as it does at the end of the term. Therefore, to my mind, if an M.P. supports the giving away of that power to foreigners, or to anyone else, he betrays that trust. In fact, he betrays his country. Every sacrifice of national sovereignty is derogation of the power of the electorate. I know that some of my hon. Friends do not agree with me, but I have the distressing duty of voting against my own Party, and I feel that I should be allowed to give my views. Therefore, to my mind, the people should be consulted, and a referendum is the way.
There are those who say that a Member of Parliament is elected to exercise his own judgment on matters which come before Parliament, and there are others who say that an M.P. should represent the majority view of his constituents. I am happy that I can fulfil both of those considerations. I am bitterly opposed to entry and I am satisfied that the vast majority of my constituents are against entry. This is confirmed by my postbag which is overwhelmingly against.
I recognise that this may not be so with my party political executive, although I have no official indications, and I recognise that my future in this House may thereby be at risk; but I owe it to this House, to my constituents and, not least, to myself that I vote as my judgment and conscience dictate. Once the decision to enter is taken and the Treaty is signed, we cannot reverse the decision. Future Parliaments will be bound. Contrary to all past history in our unwritten constitution, we shall have renounced sovereignty from that moment.
In 1940, in the darkest days for France, Britain offered union to her. She refused. Perhaps she was right. Today I believe that we should renounce any loss of sovereignty and should seek to continue the national independence we have so long enjoyed.
This is the first time that I have had the honour to addressing this House, and I crave the indulgence and tolerance customary on such occasions.
I have the honour to succeed, as Member for a Stirlin and Falkirk Burghs, the late Malcolm Stirling who I know was held in high regard by hon. Members on both sides of this House. Malcolm MacPherson was a quiet, retiring type of person whose main interest in politics was education, but I should be failing in my duty both to my constituents and to this House if I did not comment that his prime concern was his constituency. No higher tribute could be paid to the late Malcolm MacPherson.
The constituency which I represent is made up of three areas: the county town of Stirling, Falkirk, and the very fast expanding town of Grangemouth.
The county town of Stirling is a mixture of industry and of tourism. While the new emerging Stirling University is not itself in the constituency, the county town lends its name to this famous university. Its industry is light industry, and its tourism has brought it fame in that it is now known as the "Gateway to the Highlands".
Falkirk, if I could portray a picture of it, is solely an iron town, being the home of iron founding in Scotland and, to a large extent, in Great Britain. It speaks volumes for its iron-founding firms that they have managed to modernise their plant and machinery, and there is now situated in Falkirk one of the most modern, up-to-date foundries in Europe.
Grangemouth, whose name will be added to the title of the constituency after the next General Election, is well known both inside and outside this House as the centre of the oil industry in Scotland. It possesses many more industries, of course—saw mills, whisky distilling and bottling—and the docks are among the most modern in Great Britain.
There are industries in Grangemouth for which we are grateful, because, for a very long time indeed, it has been relatively easy to gain employment in my constituency. But this picture is changing rapidly. There was a time in our history when we considered that the problem which related solely to Scotland, namely, the regional problem, was being solved. Without wanting to be controversial in this, my maiden speech, I must make the point that the unemployment figures in Scotland last week clearly indicated that the regional problem from which we suffer is far from being solved.
This brings me to the point that I want to make about the Common Market. I have just contested a by-election. One hon. Gentleman today said that he had held 71 meetings in his constituency. I claim—I am sure that hon. Members will respect my claim—to have been closer to the electorate in the last six to 12 weeks than many hon. Members in this House by virtue of having contested this by-election. I want to be perfectly honest with the House. It was very difficult to get people to discuss the Common Market because of the domestic issues with which Scotland is faced at the present time. But, when I was successful in getting people to discuss the Common Market, I found that there was fear and apprehension about the future should Great Britain enter Europe. That fear is exemplified in the belief that nothing within the terms of the Treaty of Rome would be sufficient to solve the regional problem from which Scotland suffers.
It is true that those who run industry, particularly in Grangemouth, are in favour of entry. I should be dishonest if I did not make that point. But the vast majority of my constituents express grave fear and concern that Scotland would be a periphery nation of Europe and that, indeed, we would become Europe's bedroom in that people would only live and sleep in Scotland and would have to go to Europe to obtain work.
I sincerely believe that this issue takes precedence over the question of prices. There is, of course, grave fear and apprehension about the effect on prices should Britain enter Europe. The common agricultural policy, which basically alters the system that we employ for determining our food prices, can only increase prices beyond all recognition, and during the by-election which I contested housewives, without exception, expressed that fear and apprehension.
There is also the grave question of the free movement of capital and labour. I have always been opposed to Britain's entry into Europe against the background of the Treaty of Rome. I am not anti-Europe, nor are the people in Scotland in general, or the people in my constituency in particular. Our horizons stretch much further than the geographical boundaries of our country. Indeed, we are proud that many great Scots have left our shores and travelled to the four corners of the globe and shared their wisdom and knowledge to make this world a better place in which to live. But, having said that, I must tell the House that there is fear and apprehension that we would become a periphery nation, that we would merely be Europe's bedroom.
I think that if this House, on Thursday night, were to vote in favour of entry, as I concede seems likely, we would be making a grave error of judgment. If Britain said "No" now, Europe would have to rethink its future, and I am convinced that from that rethink would emerge policies which would be acceptable both to this House and to the country as a whole.
It is vitally important that we take the nation with us when we make such a momentous decision as this, and the evidence before us is clearly that the people of this country are not with us on this issue. The knowledge that has been gleaned by ordinary people from the pamphlets that have been published is limited. I do not know, and I should not want to venture a guess, whether that has been deliberate or otherwise, but I know that the people of this country require much more knowledge, and much more background material on which to base their judgment, before we can expect them to judge this issue rationally.
My appeal is that we should sit down and give ourselves more time, and I am with the hon. and gallant Member for Wembley, North (Sir E. Bullus) on this. In the enabling legislation that is to come, and in the debates that will take place to enact it, the opportunity should not be lost to consult the people so that we have a clear indication of their will on this very important matter.
I have already referred to the C.A.P. The V.A.T. is another measure which is giving cause for concern to the people whom I represent. Whichever way the by-election result in which I was involved is viewed, one thing that is clear is that there was a massive majority against entry into the Common Market. Of the three candidates, only one campaigned on the basis that Britain should enter the Common Market, and he gathered only 7,000 votes, while 30,000 votes were cast for the other two candidates, both of whom contested the by-election on an anti-Market platform. Despite the fact that the Common Market was not a major issue in the by-election, I believe that those figures give a clear indication of people's views, and I repeat that it would be a grave error of judgment on our part if we were to ignore public feeling on this great issue with which we are concerned.
I have enjoyed listening to the debate since it began last Thursday. I am conscious of the fact that I am present in the House of Commons at a time when history is in the making. I am proud, indeed, to have the opportunity to play a part in that history-making, and I thank right hon. and hon. Members for the kind and courteous attention which they have paid to me this evening. I know that on future occasions, which I hope will be quite numerous, the reception may not be as quiet and as helpful as that I enjoyed this evening, but I sincerely thank all right hon. and hon. Members for the kind way in which they have received me tonight.
During my time in the House I have had the opportunity of congratulating quite a number of maiden speakers, but it gives me real pleasure to congratulate the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Ewing) on the way in which he has acquitted himself this evening. We heard a well-phrased speech, delivered with much moderation, and we look forward to hearing the hon. Gentleman again.
The hon. Gentleman spoke of his predecessor. We were very glad to hear the tribute that he paid to the late Malcolm MacPherson, a tribute which we all wish to second.
The hon. Gentleman spoke, too, of his constituency, and told us that it had a combination of light industry and tourism, and was also connected with whisky. It is the ambition of my constituency to get more light industry and tourism, but, alas, we cannot distil whisky.
Of its nature, this debate has to be something like an "explanation of vote", something that we have had to get used to when we have attended assemblies in Europe. Sometimes we find it rather difficult to get accustomed to it, but it has one advantage—that it can last for only five minutes. I am afraid that I shall not be able to keep within that length of time.
I, too, have been in touch with my constituency. I have held 20 meetings there. I am well aware of the views of the electorate, and I have come away from those meetings with the feeling that I have the majority of my constituents behind me in deciding to vote to go into Europe.
There are many ways in which we can look at the problem that we are debating this evening. The point that I start with is the way in which, since the end of the Second World War, European institutions have multiplied. The E.E.C. is only one facet of a fairly intricate system of international institutions. I think that there has been too much tendency in this debate to speak as though the decision about entry is something in vacuum, something that it might have been in the old days, something that it might have been in the days of the Zollverein, with M. Pompidou playing the rôle of Bismarck.
That is not the case. Already this country and this House send delegates to three European Assemblies—the Council of Europe, Western European Union, and the North Atlantic Assembly. The decision on Thursday is about whether we should send delegates to a fourth assembly—the European Parliament—about which many of us in this House know all too little. Those who have discussed it with members who attend know that it is somewhat more technical in nature, and that its debates do not range as wide as those to which we are accustomed in the Council of Europe at Strasbourg.
I have been a little perturbed during this debate to find that there are what seem to me to be rather doubtful ideas about the way in which the institutions of the Community work. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) spoke as though it was for the Commission in Brussels to make decisions on taxation which would affect the whole of the Community. That is very far from being the case. The important thing to realise that it is the Council of Ministers—and Ministers will be fully accountable to the House—which has to make the important decisions, and, rightly or wrongly, the European Parliament has very little power. In my opinion, it is too early for direct elections to that Parliament and perhaps it is early days to give it further powers.
I had hoped that the hon. Gentleman would go further and confirm, as the Chancellor of the Duchy has done, that once the Council of Ministers has reached a decision, which is not even known to this House before or during discussion, that decision is not alterable or amendable in this House. Surely that is not democracy.
The point is, surely, that these decisions have to be unanimous. The Motor Show is going on at present. It has been said that the E.E.C. is like a motor car with a very fine engine but even better brakes, and that perhaps the brakes are too good for the motor car. It will be far harder to get new decisions through than for decisions which we do not like to be taken.
As I said, we are not discussing this matter in a vacuum. We are already members of many European institutions. We are members of N.A.T.O. and O.E.C.D. Even the transport ministers of Europe have their own organisation. If we join the Common Market, those contacts will become closer. When one goes to Strasbourg—
—as many hon. Members have done, and takes part in debates at the Council of Europe, one finds very little difference between the points of view of those who come from Common Market countries and those who do not.
I am surprised that there has not been more talk in this debate about the E.F.T.A. Annual Report for 1970, although my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy mentioned it. I believe that in this we find the key to an awful lot of problems. It is certainly a very heartening report, and shows that inter-E.F.T.A. trade has increased again during 1970. The first thing that strikes one from this Report is that our trade with the other two applicants is only about a third of our total trade with E.F.T.A. and our trade with the non-applicants is two thirds. Our trade with Austria and that with Finland each increased by 27 per cent. Our trade with Sweden increased by 20 per cent.
But the Six have now said that they do not wish to re-erect any tariff barriers and that these countries will get the full benefit in the reduction of barriers after the date of entry. It might be said—this point was almost argued the other day at Question Time by the hon. Member for Dudley (Dr. Gilbert)—that one could have it all and not get hooked. One could have that argument, but it would not work out like that.
Although we shall be joining a Community of ten, we shall in effect get all the advantages of an industrial free trade area of no fewer than 16. When we add to this the associated States, about whom an hon. Member opposite the hon. Member for Kensington, North (Mr. Douglas-Mann) was a little sceptical, one sees that we will be joining a fairly large Community.
The outlook is not very promising for the others with whom we trade outside E.F.T.A. and the E.E.C. In 1970, our exports to the United States increased by 4·1 per cent., but our imports increased by the same amount. With the new American restrictions, the prospects them do not look very promising. We get a similar picture when we consider the other outside States.
For my constituency, the position is fairly satisfactory. Unhappily, fishing in West Dorset does not play the important rôle that it used to in the old days, but it is of importance. I was very glad that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) stressed that we need a 12-mile limit. The difference between his constituency and mine is that mine is very much nearer the French Fishermen who have to come across the Channel. We really need this protection and I hope that my right hon. Friend will be very tough in this matter.
Otherwise, I believe that it will be in the interests of my constituents, in regard to farming, that we should go in, that the farmers of Dorset will do better. As for the smaller industries, like ropes, nets and twines and a very modern industry, fibre glass weaving, I believe that we are well situated to take advantage of the new markets in Europe.
Lastly—a point which I and others have raised at Question Time and otherwise—there is the problem of those on small fixed incomes. There are many retired people in my constituency, and it is not sufficient to say that old-age pensions will be raised if and when the cost of living goes up. They need additional help. The obvious solution is some form of taxation relief such as the age allowance, but I am told that that will be abolished and that something else will take its place.
I appeal to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer—many hon. Members have approached me about this—to say something on this point, to give some hope to those people who have been very altruistic in their approach to the problem of entry, and to promise them some taxation concession if they face a rising cost of living.
I have long believed that this is the right thing for Europe. I have attended many debates in the Council of Europe and elsewhere about the future of Europe. The conclusion always is that some further drawing together in the economic sphere is overdue. I believe that the Europeans are on the march and I shall be very sorry to see Great Britain in the rôle of straggler. If we are prepared to join in that march to a higher standard of living in Europe this country will reap a full reward.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) will forgive me if I do not follow his arguments too closely, since I want to keep my remarks fairly brief. But I would follow one of his major points—that those of us who have consistently considered that the future prosperity of this country could be best served by joining our fellow Europeans have seen very little evidence produced to persuade us to the contrary.
Very few alternatives have been canvassed. I can recall only one—that of a North Atlantic Free Trade Area. This was the great issue about three years ago for those who are terming themselves anti-Marketeers. I argued then and I still argue that it was unacceptable to me primarily because I object to this country joining any grouping in which it will have a subordinate rôle. This is the great value of our joining Europe, that we will be on equal terms with our partners.
I believe that our joining the enlarged Community will be a great political advantage not only to our own country or to Europe but to the world as well. European influence in the world is particularly necessary today, as other nations are developing and taking their place in world affairs. Europe's history and expertise can play a particularly big part in helping to maintain the peace of the world.
One hopes, as always, that one day we will talk of the whole of Europe. I hope that Europe will eventually include East and West, but, as things stand, it is clear that the Eastern Europeans want a common, or home, market with a substantial base of their own, albeit dominated by the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, they have acceded to the very point that is the basis of this debate, which is the need for a larger market.
Chancellor Willy Brandt is making great efforts to establish a detente with the East. It is to be hoped that this will assist towards the eventual development of one Europe. So far, however, his efforts represent only a scratch on the surface of detente, and we will have to wait perhaps a considerable time to translate our hopes into reality.
In terms of technology, there is the clearest evidence that we need to become part of the European scene. We need a European approach to advanced technology and particularly to research and development. It will become ever more impossible for Britain to go it alone and the evidence shows that we are unable, with our resources, both economic and manpower, to launch out unilaterally into advanced technology, be it in space, aircraft, computers or synthetics.
When the Labour Party were in government, we found that there was a whole range of technology where it was impossible for us to go ahead on our own, although we thought it right and proper that we should enter those spheres. We had neither the financial nor manpower resources to do so and, with the passage of time, we will become progressively an under-developed country in terms of science and technology if we fail to join the Community and adopt a European approach.
An example of this in recent years has been the brain drain. Our young people with knowledge of technology have been unable to find suitable work in this country and have gone abroad. We have been unable to continue with or launch new projects. In some cases, we have had to adopt a bilateral approach with Europe simply because we did not have the resources to go it alone.
It is logical to demand that those who oppose our entry into Europe must face up to the alternatives. If they claim to be in a position to prove that if we join we will be the losers, then equally they must evaluate the alternatives. It is not sufficient for them to say, "It is not for us to prove that there is an alternative". They must give precisely that proof. The people of Britain need it if they are to make the right choice. If joining the Community is wrong, what is right?
It is logical to demand that those who oppose our entry must say what our growth will be in the future. We must be told how it will be possible to obtain it and why it has been unattainable in the past. They must evaluate our rôle in advanced technology and explain why we have been unable to achieve it.
Without arguing against the case being made by my hon. Friend, may I ask him to say why it is not up to the Government to give us all the facts and figures, instead of merely saying that our entry into the E.E.C. will mean an increase in the cost of living of only a halfpenny or so in the £? We must have tangible evidence of this.
How will joining a Community of 3 million increase our productivity and help us to overcome many of our present ills without those 3 million becoming increased competitors with us? All the necessary facts and figures should have been given in the White Paper.
I shall be making my views known on some of those matters as I make my speech, and I trust that my hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not deal with his specific question now.
I was arguing on the basis of Labour's years in government, and the points I am making were made by the then Labour Government when we were responsible for technology. I am observing that those who are now taking a contrary view to what they said then must say how the objectives that Britain must have for the future can be achieved if we stay outside the Community.
I have always regretted that Britain failed to join the Coal and Steel Community in 1951, just as I have regretted that we were not one of the original members of the E.E.C. Had we joined initially, the pattern and shape of the Community would probably now be extremely different and we would not now be discussing terms of entry and what it will cost us to get in.
It is worth recalling, especially by those who now say that the Community countries are being hard on us, that originally it was our decision not to go in. In 1959 we set up E.F.T.A., composed of those countries which refused to join the E.E.C. We were all waiting to see how the play was going. But we did not want to be left too far behind, so we set up E.F.T.A. to enable any changes being made in the E.E.C. countries to be made by the E.F.T.A. countries, thereby keeping in step.
People complain that if we join the Community many of the decisions that we now take will be made for us by faceless men in another country. They should remember that the Commission for E.F.T.A. is situated in Geneva, where many decisions of vital importance are taken.
For example, when we imposed the 15 per cent. surcharge in 1964, it was in Geneva that complaints were made and where we were urged to remove the surcharge within 12 months. People in this country were not screaming about demands being made by faceless people in a foreign land.
No. E.F.T.A. is no substitute for the E.E.C. Nor is E.F.T.A. in this country. E.F.T.A., as such—the place where the decisions are taken—is in another European nation, which proves that there is no great merit in many of the arguments on the sovereignty issue.
I come to the importance for me of the position of my party in this matter. Since 1962 the Labour Party has been clear in saying that it was our determination to join the Community if adequate terms could be obtained. All along we have said that in our view that would be the best course for Britain. We laid down five special conditions that we thought should be satisfied, though in the fullness of time the background to those conditions has altered radically, so that by 1967, during the Labour Government's time, my right hon. Friends were able to assess that sufficient evidence existed to suggest that the time was ripe to begin to make another attempt to join the E.E.C.
Therefore, one presumes that at that stage they had tested the five conditions we had laid down to satisfy themselves that they could be reasonably met. So that it could not be argued that they had not paid attention to this, they went on a tour of the six capitals to discuss the matter privately with all the Heads of State. One presumes that they discussed the background to these five special conditions. Therefore, one could assume that after they returned they decided that the five conditions could be reasonably met.
Hon. Members will recall that it was argued that our application in 1967 was more likely to succeed because we had been so careful with the planning and because the application was made as a direct result of talking to our friends in Europe. It was said that the reason why the 1962 application failed was because it was not well prepared. Our application was different. It was well prepared. Because it was well prepared one assumes that we were absolutely clear in 1967 about matters such as the Treaty of Rome and C.A.P. being no longer a problem—otherwise we would never have come to the conclusion that the time was ripe to apply.
Following on from that, it is reasonable, therefore, to suppose that the various Departments of State must have produced what I would call "position papers" in order to determine the parameters of the case for the negotiators. They would lay down the maximum position, the optimum position and the minimum position, and from that certain work would be done to determine our position, and in negotiating clearly there would be a to-ing and fro-ing between these various positions. It would be a kind of amalgam of the various positions—the maximum, optimum and minimum. Therefore, when a judgment was made about the terms that would finally be negotiated, one would expect to take them overall, because if one gained on one and got the maximum, one would get the minimum somewhere else and the optimum somewhere else.
Therefore, the terms now offered appear not to be significantly different from those we would have accepted. But if it is now argued that these are not the terms that we would have accepted it is not unreasonable to have these position papers published before next Thursday. Let us see what the Labour Government's negotiating position was. Let us see what were the negotiating factors given to our team. We shall then be able to judge our negotiating position as against the terms that have now been offered from the E.E.C.
I hope that that can be done. It is a simple proposition. It was understandable that when some of my hon. Friends were pressing the Labour Government in 1970 to publish their negotiating position, the Government rightly said, "We cannot do that". Any trade unionist is aware that one does not publish one's negotiating position whilst negotiating an increase in wages from an employer. One is asking for a lot but one may be prepared to accept something less. One does not say so before one starts. Therefore, it was a reasonable refusal by the Government.
But since that is not the case today, in that we are not negotiating any longer, it is reasonable that we should ask for these papers to be published. It would help some of us to make up our minds on the relationship between these two things.
I am in complete agreement with the Labour Party's view of the Government. I believe the Government to be incompetent. Their economic, industrial and social policies are a disaster for the country. Like many others, I have fought them for so long. I regret that the British people were misled enough to elect them in June last year.
I support also the Labour Party view that it is, in principle, in the interests of Britain to join the E.E.C. if we can obtain the right terms. That is what we have argued and I support that entirely. The only area of disagreement is whether the terms are right. It is critical to know what was our negotiating position so as to be able to assess the final agreement that has been reached. I remain convinced that of all the choices open to us—there are other choices besides the E.E.C.—joining the E.E.C. will prove to be the best policy that we can adopt. Those who hold other views have made their own assessments. But it is in the interests of our people, and they have a right, not only to know what entry will cost, and to evaluate the advantages in the long or short term, but they ought to know also what it will cost if we do not enter the E.E.C. That is one of the factors that the British people have not yet understood. If we reject the E.E.C., we should reject it only after telling the people just what their future will he like in the years that lay ahead.
I hope that the hon. Member for Shore-ditch and Finsbury (Mr. Ronald Brown) will excuse me if I do not comment on all the points he made. The House listened to him with great interest, particularly when he spoke about the terms. The burden of his speech was that this is not a party issue, there being no party politics about the matter.
We are taking a decision unprecedented in history. Many of us have tried to evaluate which way we should vote on Thursday. Like many hon. Members I have done a lot of travelling and much discussing about this. I have looked at the economics as best I am able. Everyone would agree that the economics of entry are very finely balanced. One can say, "We have this advantage but that disadvantage; we have this little advantage but that little disadvantage", and so on.
It is true that over the past 10 years or so the growth of the E.E.C. countries has increased at a greater rate than ours. But I remind the House—I am not making a party point—that in the six years from 1964 to 1970 our economy was run down. I do not expect hon. Members opposite to agree with that. But to try to compare the growth of the E.E.C., with their uninterrupted progress, with our progress, which I consider was interrupted, is a fallacy.
I have spent some time in Brussels. One of the points I put to the Commission when I was discussing this matter informally was, "The Common Market countries are doing very well. Britain is doing very badly. We are the poor relation". They said, "Certainly". I said, "Why do you want a poor relation to join you?", but I did not get a satisfactory answer to that one.
I have many reservations on the Common Market issue, but one of the things that worries me particularly is that by joining the E.E.C. there will be the irreversible consequence of running down our traditional markets in the rest of the world. If the attitude of the Common Market countries is, "We are doing beautifully. Britain is a poor relation, but bring her in", there must be something behind it now that they want us to join.
Initially there are bound to be disadvantages. One would expect that. The long-term effects of exhausting world resources must be considered, but I do not think that that is an issue which affects Thursday's vote. Between now and Thursday we must make up our minds.
As I say, initially there will be disadvantages from entry. I will not exaggerate the rise in the cost of food. One other disadvantage that worries me is the question of a reduction in tariffs. I am all for competition if we start reducing tariffs between us, although we will get ourselves right eventually, in the transitional period some of our trade will be lost. This must be added to the question of the increased cost of food, whatever that is, although I will not argue about the price of a pound of butter.
If we want more competition—this is the industrial and economic argument for joining the E.E.C.—we do not necessarily have to join the Common Market. If we want to get competition, we can do it easily. Some time ago when there was an inflationary wage claim at Chrysler, there was some talk about reducing tariffs. It did not matter whether one was a pro-or anti-Common Marketeer, everybody was up in arms about that, because that would be unfair competition.
The advantages and disadvantages of our joining the Common Market are finely balanced. The letters in The Times from anti-Market economists and pro-Market economists prove this.
One thing we should remember is the political effect of our joining the E.E.C. There is no question but that there must be some loss of control eventually. This I accept. I look further than that. It is all very well merging one's business and saying that profitability will be higher and higher in the long run. The question I ask is: what sort of partner am I taking on?
I look with some suspicion at the proposition that all our defence will be perfectly all right as soon as we get into the E.E.C. I want first to be assured that France will rejoin N.A.T.O.
Next, there is talk about world commodity markets. The International Sugar Agreement has been going for some years but even now, although this position may be changed in future, the E.E.C. does not belong to it. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has got terms as good as any which any Government of the United Kingdom could have obtained. However, the E.E.C. can absorb the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, which is about 1·4 million tons per year, only if the Common Market countries are prepared to have agreed quotas. Otherwise it cannot be done, because there will be an exportable surplus of sugar. These things must be ironed out.
Then there is the question of the floating of the Deutschmark which the Common Market countries have not yet decided amongst themselves; nor have they agreed to the reaction to the Nixon 10 per cent.
We should not delude ourselves that simply because we join everything in the garden will be rosy. For some time we had a fixation about Europe. It is that Europe is our only salvation and our only market. The only thing that will produce markets for us is profitability being competitive. If we can sell in Europe, why cannot we sell in the rest of the world? We should not overplay the question that Europe is our only market.
I confess that 10 or 12 years ago I was more or less in favour of joining the Common Market. At that time our economy was stronger than it is today. I do not think that our economy today is sufficiently buoyant, although it is becoming more so, to withstand some of the initial disadvantages of entry.
Finally, what of the public? We are all elected by those who vote for us. In 1964 the Common Market was not an issue; nobody mentioned it. It was a dead duck, although one hesitates to use the word "duck" nowadays. In 1966 the Market was not an issue. In 1970 we said that we would negotiate. That is fair enough. So far as my own campaign was concerned, it was not really in issue. Of course, I was questioned, and I said that we would have to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages and that if the advantages outweighed the disadvantages I would vote for entry; otherwise, I would not.
I cannot see that the issue is so overwhelming that we must get into the Common Market. I am worried that despite the propaganda which has rightly been put out, despite the fact that, as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) said earlier, most of the national Press has been slightly pro-Common Market, we have not as yet convinced the general public that we should join. About one-third of the public say that they want to join.
My hon. Friend should read his figures a little more carefully. Only about one-third of the people in this country say that they want to join. I do not think it is wise for any politician to ignore public opinion. I do not think I have a mandate to go into the Common Market. One might say that the subject is too complex for the ordinary man to understand. I think this is really political arrogance, and I say this as a politician. I do not think I have the right to say to the voters, "I know better than you and, therefore, I shall vote for it." I do not accept—the hon. Member for Shore-ditch and Finsbury raised this point—the fact of defeatism, that if we do not get into the Common Market this country is finished. One only has to look at the last four or five months' trade figures and at the reserves. While we are talking about the buoyancy of the economy, the E.E.C. has a growth of about 4¾ per cent. per year, and that is what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has budgeted for this year. What shall we get if we go in?
I regret that this matter seems to have got into the political cockpit. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was absolutely right to have a free vote. There is no doubt that hon. Members on this side of the House will be able to vote as they wish. I do not agree with referenda; I do not think many hon. Members like them. But short of a referendum, the next best thing is to have a free vote in the House of Commons, on both sides, so that we can get the true feeling of Members of Parliament. As a Member of Parliament I have obviously given this matter very careful thought, and it has been a very difficult decision to make. I am not suggesting that I am infallible—I do not think anybody is—but as the economic factors in my view are not overwhelming, as the political arguments and implications could be very far-reaching and we have not convinced the general public of the desirability of entering the Common Market, I cannot commit the electorate to such an uncertain gamble, and reluctantly and regretfully I shall vote against the Motion.
The constituency of the hon. Member for Surrey, East (Mr. William Clark) overlaps part of the London Borough of Croydon. I speak as a resident of Croydon and as a patron of the Croydon Branch of the Common Market Safeguards Campaign, and I found the hon. Member's speech welcome.
I am glad to learn from the Croydon Advertiser that two out of the four Croydon Members propose to vote on Thursday against the Common Market entry. I wish the other two would follow suit. I personally am opposed, and have been opposed for many years, to British entry into the E.E.C. both on domestic and international grounds. I shall confine my remarks this evening to the international reasons. In doing so, I begin from a point made by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster towards the end of his speech when he said—I took a note of his words—that the question was how we would respond to the changes which have taken place in the world in the last 25 years or so.
I put it to the House that that is the wrong question. We are concerned not with the last 25 years or so but with the next 25 years or so, and at a time when the pace of history is increasing faster than ever before it is profoundly dangerous to consider an issue like this in terms of the recent past. I believe that there was a much stronger case for our membership of the Common Market in the late 'forties and early 'fifties, in the context of the post-war situation, than there is as we look at the problems that we will face in the 'seventies and beyond.
Some of the arguments advanced for membership are essentially out of date In my submission the really big international problems facing us in the period ahead are global ones. They are not European problems. They are not confined to any one continent, or to either side of the cold war, or to any one group in the world. They result from the growing gap between the richer and the poorer countries; from the population explosion; from the threat of nuclear war; from both the dangers and the opportunities provided by the growth of science and technology.
All those problems seem to me to require global action through the co-operation of all countries by means of whatever machinery we can devise, and the question to which we should address ourselves in this debate is: will the enlargement of the E.E.C. by British membership and the membership of the other candidate countries enable our country and the other countries of Europe to play a more and not a less effective rôle in relation to these world problems? My own conclusion is that it will inhibit us in many ways from playing the sort of rôle that we should play.
I want to consider this subject particularly from the point of view of the growing gap between the richer and the poorer countries. We often fail to appreciate just how fast this gap is growing. The gap between our living standards and the living standards of the poorer countries has approximately doubled since 1960, and it will grow many times faster in the rest of the century at the present rate of progress, no matter what we do about it. It represents a threat to the peace, the security and the prosperity of everyone in the world, whether he lives at the moment in a developed or an underdeveloped country.
Let me look briefly at the position affecting our membership from the point of view of aid to developing countries, and rather more extensively from the point of view of trading relations. It is often claimed that the Community has a better record of aid to developing countries than we have, but it is a very mixed record. If any hon. Member doubts that, I ask him to look at the 1970 figures, given as a percentage of gross national Product, devoted to official Government aid.
The British figure in 1970 was ·37 of 1 per cent. of our gross national product. We were beaten by France, with ·65; by the Netherlands, with ·63, and by Belgium, with ·48, and we were better than Germany, with ·32 and Italy, with ·16. If private investment is added—because it can be for the purpose of U.N. statistics—we get the same picture, with France, the Netherlands and Belgium having a better record than ours and Germany and Italy having a worse one. It makes no difference whether or not a country is in the E.E.C. If we take the long list of members of the O.E.C.D.—16 nations—again we find in that league table many countries above Britain and many below. The reasons for the difference are national in each case. The record of all members of O.E.C.D., including the Six, is too low. All should be improved, just as our record should be. It does not make any difference whether or not we are in the E.E.C.
Our performance in overseas aid in the years ahead will depend partly, as it has always done, on the state of our balance of payments. What worries me profoundly is the possibility that the strain on our balance of payments in the early years of membership of the Community will create the sort of situation in which the Treasury may come forward with recommendations for cutting overseas aid—and here I speak with some bitter experience. I put it to the Government that if we enter the Community it will be a national disgrace if we pay our contributions to the Community budget at the expense of the developing countries. This is something about which I hope both sides of the House will be vigilant.
I turn to trading aspects, on which we can base a clearer criticism of entry than on the question of aid. We could do better or worse, theoretically, with aid, inside or outside the Community. As for trade with the developing world, the one question that has received a lot of attention has been that concerning the sugar-producing countries. In a sense n is ironic that we have devoted far more attention to the 500,000 or 600,000 people in Mauritius than to the 500 million or 600 million in the Indian Continent. We should certainly pay more attention to the larger Commonwealth countries.
As to the sugar issue, we are concerned with some of the smallest and most vulnerable members of the Commonwealth—countries vulnerable to any change in their ability to sell their sugar in our market, and dependent on this one product. They are countries which have recently been British colonies, such as Fiji, Mauritius, and Barbados. It is a matter of national honour that we do not betray them in the situation that will arise after 1974. The record of the Community in this respect has been a bad one. The sugar-producing countries such as Surinam, Malagasy, and Congo—Brazzaville—have suffered in relation to the beet sugar producers of Europe.
This is a classic example of a situation in which the interests of the developing countries clash with those of European producers. What has happened so far with sugar does not bode well for the future. We have been told by the Chancellor of the Duchy that the words "take to heart" written into the agreement have a special significance in French. Be that as it may, I have never seen any conceivable excuse for the failure of the Chancellor of the Duchy or the Government to insist on a quantifiable guarantee from the Community for sugar producers after 1974.
Returning to wider matters, the position that I put to the House is that neither the E.E.C. nor Britain has had a good enough record in adjusting its trading pattern to the needs of the developing world. Our pattern has been better than that of the E.E.C. because of Commonwealth preferences, and because the Commonwealth forms such a large part of the developing world. The present position is that 26 per cent. of our imports come from developing countries while 20 per cent. of the imports of the Six come from developing countries. If we have to adjust our trading pattern to theirs by forgoing Commonwealth preferences and adopting the Common external tariff this is bound to be, to some extent, at the expense of the developing countries, particularly those in the Commonwealth who will not qualify for associate status.
I do not want to talk about the merits of associate status or otherwise for countries in Africa and the Caribbean. This is a much-disputed area, and the recent report of the Africa Bureau makes interesting reading. Even if we assume that the Commonwealth countries of Africa and the Caribbean will benefit from associate status we are talking of 100 million people, whereas the Commonwealth citizens who will be excluded amount to 700 million living in India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Malaysia and Singapore.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that Indian exports to the E.E.C. between 1958 and 1969 showed a very much bigger increase than India's export trade to us in the same period?
The point is that export trades increased because of the growth in the economy of the Six. Because of economic growth, the Six have naturally imported more goods, including more goods from developing countries. It really comes back to the question of the relative percentages of their imports and ours. The effect of our entry upon India and the other Southern Asian countries will be a double one. They will lose their Commonwealth preferences in the British market and will see that preferential position overtaken by their competitors among the Six and the associates of the Six. They will suffer a double loss
At this stage, in particular, we should be concerned about the effect upon India which did not feature in the negotiations to any extent. It should have done. We are talking about the largest country in the Commonwealth—the largest country in the developing world, apart from China—and the largest democracy in the world. The maintenance of democracy and free institutions in India has been one of the greatest achievements by any country over the last 20 years, and the preservation of democracy and free institutions in India is of vital concern to the whole human family. We are discussing this matter at a time when India is bearing a crushing burden because of the effects of the situation in East Bengal This is a time when we should not take our obligations to her as lightly as they have been taken by the Government in these negotiations.
Like others, I believe that the danger we face is that of a world polarising into two or three large trading blocs dominated by the United States, Japan and the E.E.C., each with a limited number of developing countries in some form of attachment but leaving outside a large part of the developing world. The growing protectionism between these blocs will be bad for the people within them and worse still for those outside.
It has been argued—this was the point of an interjection by the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. David Mitchell)—that because of this situation Britain should be careful to get inside one of these blocs, and will suffer if she stays out. I believe that to be a mistaken view. Our trading future must involve trade with all continents. We simply cannot sustain the standard of living that we enjoy, let alone improve it, unless we have exports to all continents. Therefore, the growth of these trading blocs runs counter to British interests as well as to the interests of a large part of the developing world.
If some of us make a plea to the House of Commons this week to have regard to the needs of the developing countries, we are not doing it simply because we regard the situation in the developing world as a moral challenge to us—although clearly it is; we are also doing it for reasons of national self-interest. It is in the interests of Britain and of the developing countries that there should be the widest and freest trade among all countries.
This argument for more freedom of trade ties up with other international requirements. In the 1970s there is a need for more dynamic development in the developing countries, for disarmament, and for the strengthening of the United Nations. All these are objectives in which Britain should be taking a lead rather than being obsessed with her relationships with her neighbours in Western Europe.
Sometimes it is argued that the creation of a regional bloc, such as an enlarged Community should be seen as a kind of stepping stone towards the growth of a world community—that we must co-operate with our neighbours first, learn the lessons of co-operating with them and, in due course, build on that foundation a stronger United Nations or world community. We do not have time for that. It is a leisurely timetable, by which we see the evolution of Europe first as a customs union, then as an economic union, then, perhaps, as a political union, and finally —in a generation's time, perhaps—taking other steps. That leisurely approach to international problems is far too evolutionary in the critical age in which we live.
It really is a question of priorities. It is a question of what items feature on the agenda of Cabinets. It is a question of what subjects are the subjects of six-day debates in our Parliament, or in other parliaments. It is a question of whether the most able people in the Foreign Office are in the European division or the United Nations division. I do not believe that a country such as ours can have on its agenda more than one or two major changes of this kind at any one time.
The world issues to which I have made a brief reference this evening are being pushed back because of our obsession, all the time, with having a different relationship with our European neighbours, whose contribution is inhibited because they are obsessed with the problems of enlarging the E.E.C. It seems to me that historians of the future may need to write of our period that it was one in which the rich nations of the world were obsessed with the debts which they owned one another, and with customs arrangements which they made with one another, so that they turned their backs on the needs of mankind. This simply will not do. It is because these international questions deserve greater priority that I believe we should not be so obsessed with European problems as we are at the present time.
It is with some feeling of unwillingness that I am not able to say anything more now about the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) than that both sides of the House listened to it not only with interest but with great respect. It was a closely argued speech. After all, he is an expert on this subject, and I myself would be very reluctant to, as it were, tussle with him on some of the detailed propositions he put forward in what was a fascinating and appealing speech. At least, he struck a chord which is common to both sides of the House when he said that we must maximise aid to the under-developed countries.
None the less, I thought it rather sad that he emphasised to the extent he did what he regarded as the limitation of the Community in regard to this whole matter. To my mind what we shall be doing, by deciding, as I hope we shall, to vote in principle, and then for the subsequent legislation, on going in on the terms as set out, will be not only taking our logical place in Europe, at long last, but also doing one of the things to which the right hon. Gentleman attached importance, and many other things as well.
I would say that with our addition, and the addition of the other applicant countries, Europe will be sorting itself out in a final sense, and looking outwards to the rest of the world. To my mind that is not only an acceptable but also a proven proposition. One knows from those long conversations one has with people in the Commission and others when one goes on the Continent that aid to under-developed countries is a matter of concern, and they insist that it is.
That is only one aspect of the question, and it is not one which has come up very frequently so far in this great debate. In the earlier part, the debate tended to concentrate on and emphasise rather sordid language—about who said what, and when, and who has changed his mind, but that has been superseded now by the debate focusing on what I regard as the priorities, and the opportunity and the challenge which this country now has and the dramatic character of something which we ought to welcome very strongly, namely, the new Anglo-French entente. It is because the achievement of Anglo-French entente after so many difficulties and blind alleys has provided the launching pad for our potential entry to the E.E.C. that the whole House should welcome our new friendship with France and not scorn it in the old chauvinistic way in which the relations between this country and the French Republic have been characterised.
The case for our entry into Europe has an overwhelming and utterly convincing logicality, but this debate is primarily about the terms recommended by the Government and all the implications of what will come afterwards. I will refer to one or two specific aspects of the terms.
The transitional period means that the United Kingdom has the strong advantage of becoming a full member in 1973, with- out paying the full dues and expenses of membership until virtually 1980. Other encouraging items which should be put into perspective are that, for example, the initial contribution to the overall budget is just over 8½ per cent., compared with the 16 or 17 per cent. originally suggested by the Community. We have accepted the principles of the common agricultural policy in return for what France and other member countries regard as major concessions to us. On sterling there has been an outline agreement satisfactory to ourselves. On fisheries we are now virtually starting from scratch, but no one can assume pessimistically that we are at an automatic disadvantage in that these negotiations are now on the verge of beginning.
The Commonwealth countries, apart from the two main white Dominion countries, who through us and through their own unilateral efforts create contacts with the Six and ourselves will have ample opportunity to make a special arrangement with the Community if we go in. The right hon. Member for East Ham. North referred to the residual arrangements which would apply to E.F.T.A. countries remaining outside.
All this must mean to those who look at it objectively that the Six have made as many concessions as we have, if not more, in conceding the common agricultural policy and a number of other items. We are not joining a doctrinaire, rigid, regulated, massive bureaucracy intent on oppressing this country and intent upon having us as a hostage member only for its own advantages, We are joining an organic group which will continue to develop organically in the future. It is a sophisticated organism, unique in the world. It is large-minded and not narrow-minded, undogmatic and not doctrinaire. The old arguments about what will prevail in the enlarged Europe—planned Socialism or Horatio Alger-type capitalism—are in the context of a new and enlarged Europe sterile, futile and arid.
In the sense that such arguments have manifested themselves in what has been said so far in debate, I believe they represent the fact that it is difficult for hon. Members, in whatever party they may be, to know what will be the new context of Europe with ourselves inside it. We now have the opportunity of entering a massive efficient, well-organised and successful economic grouping without the disadvantages of tight central political control.
A body such as the Council of Ministers is almost tailor-made for the kind of political structure and political behaviour which we enjoy in this country. It is pragmatic, objective and works on a mixture of balance of judgment, concessions, reciprocity and agreements after a large discussion and it is the central political power base in the Community. Therefore, by definition, we have our own democratic extension through this national Parliament into the Council of Ministers, and that is how the Community is democratically organised and controlled.
Hon. Members on both sides—this applies particularly to Labour Members—have expressed fears about sovereignty. But in 1971 is this not an illusory argument invoking the old sense of the word sovereignty relating to one single national entity like the United Kingdom? Of course, with the old style of thinking we can be a sovereign independent but forgotten national power. But, if we wish to have an accretion of real sovereignty, we have the alternative opportunity of joining the Community and taking our rightful and logical place in Europe.
Much time has been lost since the original negotiations but, after so many difficulties, hesitations, disappointments and set-backs, we are still going into the Community early. The Community's existence has only just begun. That is why it is important and vital to be sure to enter at this critical stage. I am convinced that there will be a vital opportunity for the United Kingdom, with its great traditions and, above all, its most sophisticated political system to give its real contribution to Europe and to say, "We are not afraid to accept the challenge"—and indeed not afraid to accept one or two of the so-called disadvantages, though I prefer to use the word difficulties, in the terms as negotiated, principally on the common agricultural policy.
Let us remember that the fears which have been expressed about the difficulties of entry were the same fears that were expressed word for word in newspapers and magazines in the existing member countries at the time when the Common Market was originally initiated. In Germany there was the long debate about propping up an inefficient French agriculture. It was said in France that economic planning and financial autonomy would be ruined and destroyed overnight by entry into the Community, with power being transferred to Brussels and eventually to Strasbourg. In Italy it was said that industry would be utterly smashed by German and other foreign competition, and in Belgium it was said that the country would be crushed completely by German industry.
But, to take France as an example on which to assess the possibility of this country succeeding economically in the Community, one can see how that society, which was infinitely less efficient and less well organised than we were earlier on, has become a highly efficient and well-organised society, with an enviable and indeed sustainable annual rate of growth, which is expected to be 5·8 per cent. over the next few years under the five-year plan. Surely the existence of the five-year plan in France itself is an indication that the fears about the erosion of sovereignty, the loss of national control and national discretion in so many policy matters is an illusion and will continue to be in the future.
Some of the other false assumptions of the anti-Marketeers frankly have added to public alarm in recent weeks as we have approached a decision in principle in this House. They need to be contradicted and denied in this debate.
One of the comments which have been made again and again is that, with the other applicant countries, we shall be joining a frozen situation where nothing can be changed, that we shall join an entity which will dominate us, and that we shall be only half a member instead of one of the largest members. Considered in the context of the way in which the Europeans wish to welcome us as equal partners and as a country which will be a balancing factor between the other large member countries, those criticisms clearly are nonsense.
Another false assumption of the anti-Marketeers is that we can survive and do well on our own industrial base. One of my hon. Friends contradicted himself earlier today when he said that we were strong enough 10 years ago to enter the Community but were now too weak, and went on to say that none the less we could remain outside since we were achieving a higher rate of growth and ought to become buoyant again. However, all the evidence suggests that our industrial base is too small when it is compared with that of the Community. We must enter if we are to contribute to the rest of the world in terms of technological and innovatory development.
Another false assumption of those who are against entry is that the dictatorship of the bureaucracy in Brussels will continue, with the result that no democratic control will exist. I have referred already to the objective evidence in Europe which disproves that theory.
The anti-Marketeers also suggest that there will be no deleterious effect on national morale if we stay out. They suggest that public opinion is dead against going in. However, with no disrespect to any opinion poll, I beg leave to doubt that proposition about public opinion in the country at large.
I believe on the contrary that, having heard the conflicting arguments on both sides, the people are not merely utterly bewildered but feel that they have had no opportunity to get a proper picture about membership of the Common Market. It is true that there have been arguments on television, various documents and pamphlets and of course, the White Paper. However, the advantages of the higher living standards and better social services now being developed in the nations of the E.E.C. have not come across to the public. Only the psephological experts and historians will be able to assess the uncanny way in which the arguments have not been able to impinge themselves upon the public mind. Only by assessing the advantages and disadvantages afterwards shall we be able to see what a pity it was that the real arguments were not put over properly.
The old 1961–63 argument, enunciated earlier, that we were too strong then and too weak now is surely set aside by the evidence of our growing economic strength the evidence of a faster expansion of the economy, which is likely to coincide extremely felicitously with our accession to the Treaty of Rome and our entry into the Community if the decision in principle and all the ensuing legislation is taken in this House.
One point about the common agriculture policy, which needs mentioning not merely once, is that, if one examines the instrument of the C.A.P. and the aims set out in the initial document which set up this policy, one of the so-called strategic aims at that time—it may surprise hon. Gentlemen opposite, but it is true—was to reduce eventually over an extended period the number of inefficient farmers in the Community without causing them excessive hardship by an abrupt change. Whether one argues that this timetable, this kind of phased out process over a long period, is right, none the less that is one of the aims of the C.A.P. Not merely is it one of the aims, but it has already started in the sense that French agriculture is a reducing sector in terms of population and will be in terms of output if the population fall in the agricultural sector continues at the same rate over 10 years.
Again on C.A.P., the anti-Common Market camp has repeatedly said that high price levels will constantly be a feature' and cannot be abolished. I believe that the reverse is the case: that high price levels are basically and intrinsically in jeopardy in the future development of the C.A.P. We have already seen in Europe in the last three or four years how price levels by and large have been kept steady while world prices and prices in this country for foodstuffs have risen at a fast rate. Our contribution to the C.A.P. will be the second largest after Germany—[An HON. MEMBER: "Much larger."]—well into the 1980s. The French agricultural sector is declining rapidly and the future price structure of the Community, with our entry, will bear no comparison with what has been seen in the last seven years.
If one could accept all the assumptions on all the evidence of what would appear to be the advantages of joining, the aim of all men of good will outside this House seeking a future for this country, and of hon. Members on both sides who also wish to see this country strong and influential, must be a strong and motivated nation within the European Economic Community espousing not the politics of fear and of nervousness, but the politics of hope and of challenge.
I address myself tonight to all those who are genuinely anxious, before this decision is taken, to be certain where our long-term interest lie. Amongst those I include my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Ewing) whose excellent maiden speech today was all the better for being not merely eloquent but right.
In this debate all the political arguments for entry which we have heard—unless they are arguments for merging this country into a nuclear-armed superState—rest on the vague assumption that somehow this country would be economically strengthened in the process. But the arguments are unfortunately advanced without the truth of that assumption having been first established. Let us be clear, therefore, that since our debate in July world events have decisively vindicated those who argued that the Government's White Paper was grossly under-estimating the long-term economic burden of joining the E.E.C. and the advantages to this country of staying out—which is, of course, the same thing.
The White Paper and the various propaganda offshoots sought to mislead, basically, by pretending that a temporary high level of world grain prices, due to a rare failure of the United States maize crop in 1970, would continue indefinitely, but even so they dared not give an estimate of the prospective payments burden. The whole position of the United Kingdom depends on the future gap between E.E.C. and world food prices, and I expressed the opinion in the July debate that after the exceptional year of 1970 world grain prices would turn down and the gap widen.
What has happened since? I draw my information from pro-Market newspapers. The Economist said, as early as 31st July:
Across the Northern hemisphere, from the Ukraine to … Ontario, this year's harvest is
ripening into a bumper crop … the present health of the harvest is daily driving down world cereal prices. …A decline in world prices now could embarrass the British Government, which recently assessed the cost of entry into the E.E.C. on last year's prices, which brought the world market unusually close to the artificially high prices in the Common Market.
The F.A.O.'s annual survey, quoted in The Guardian of 7th September, said:
The conditions that pushed up prices and trade in 1970 were on the whole temporary.
The Sunday Times of 15th September reported a bumper grain harvest in the Common Market itself, but with prices still held at 50 per cent. or 60 per cent. above British prices, and a consequent further increase in the cost of the C.A.P. We know now that the United States maize harvest this autumn is almost certainly an all-time record—28 per cent. up on last year—and that the American wheat harvest is 18 per cent. up on last year. Maize prices, according to the Sunday Times of 17th August, have "crashed" since the summer, and the long-term prospect is clearly for lower prices. But the Sunday Times candidly adds:
British consumers … look wistfully at the collapsing world grain market. But they cannot benefit by the cheap prices",
owing to the Government's levy policy, which is holding up prices against the British consumer.
Therefore, the whole of the Government's July calculations—not just of the balance of payments burden but also of the cost of the C.A.P. and the prospective rise in retail food prices in this country—have already been shown to be indisputably false, yet the Minister of Agriculture speaking in this debate on Friday repeated the Government's assumption that the price gap would remain the same as it was early this year, which is manifest nonsense and vitiates the whole of his economic argument.
The Government's July estimate of a rise of between 16 per cent. and 20 per cent. in retail food prices due to joining the E.E.C. was in any case obviously misleading, because it did not take into account either the rise already engineered by Government food levies as a preparation for entry or the V.A.T. on food distribution, which the Minister of Agriculture at Question Time last Thursday was unable to deny.
In view of all that, and the present world food prospects, it seems to me clear that Sir John Winnifrith's estimate that our retail food prices would be forced up by at least 50 per cent. is much nearer the truth. Indeed, that is strikingly confirmed by the August survey of the National Institute, which showed how much higher retail food prices were as recently as October 1970 in the E.E.C. than they are here. They were 27 per cent. higher in France, 47 per cent. higher in Germany, and 78 per cent. higher in Italy—a middle figure, again, of about 50 per cent.
A food price gap of that order would, in the first place, raise all the separate elements in the balance of payments burden and without doubt put the total nearer £1,000 million a year than £500 million in the long run, even if we accept the Government's own estimates of the annual budget tribute paid net by the British taxpayer to Brussels at only £460 million a year and the estimate which the Chancellor of the Duchy gave on 16th December last year of a further loss of between £200 million and £300 million on non-food trade. So, on the Government's own figures, it adds up to £700 million, taking the middle figure. Every one of us knows in his heart that such an extra burden must gravely weaken this country, if not cripple it, politically as well as economically.
Indeed, the only serious attempt—made since last summer—to query these estimates rests on two assumptions; first, that the Government's food levy policy would be continued anyway, even if we did not join and, secondly, that as a result of joining the British public's consumption of beef and butter would be cut by between 20 per cent. and 25 per cent. as a result of higher prices. Those are the assumptions on which any optimistic estimate is based.
Secondly, joining on these conditions would enable the common agricultural policy to be kept going, whereas if we stay out it might, in time, dissolve from its own extravagance. M. Pompidou, who has been much quoted in this debate—I am sure that he is flattered—has made it absolutely clear that if the British taxpayer will really subsidise those lamest of all lame ducks in Europe—his own farmers—the C.A.P. will be given a new lease of life. He calls it "a new opportunity for French farmers".
Thirdly, an unnecessarily engineered rise in food prices of this order must mean a lower standard of living for the British people, made worse, as it will be, by V.A.T. and much higher social security contributions. This will bear especially hard on old people, on large families and on those still living near the poverty line.
Fourthly, the July White Paper admitted this by arguing that money wages would not rise as a result of entry. The Government now promise a rise in pensions in money terms to offset higher living costs. But over the years we ought to have the rise in pensions without the engineered rise in prices. If we force up food prices in this way it will be economically impossible to provide the same real level of pensions as we otherwise could have done.
So with the other social services. The Secretary of State for Social Services—I am glad to be able to compliment one Minister in this debate—honestly admitted on Friday that joining the E.E.C. would not alter our social security system, thereby giving the lie to all the lavish propaganda about the Six social services which has been served up to us in recent months.
We have been repeatedly told in these months that the real standard of living per head in the Six, except for Italy, is now higher than in this country. Even if this were true it would not be relevant to what will happen to our living standards if we join. But it is wholly lacking in statistical foundation and almost certainly untrue. All the available statistics show that real living standards in this country are as high as in all the Six except Germany—higher than some and very much higher than Italy.
For lack of time tonight I can give only one comparison. The latest United Nations calculation of the comparison of real incomes per head, as given me by the House of Commons Library and brought up to the latest possible date of 1969, shows that the United Kingdom is about level with Germany, Belgium and Holland, well above France, and 40 per cent. above Italy.
The real fact is that we have retained as high a real standard as that of these countries because of our low food prices, and only if we gratuitously switch over to a dear food policy shall we fall behind them. The general conclusion, therefore, is that the growing payments deficit resulting from entry on these terms would clearly mean even slower growth for this country than has been the case in the past.
Some people genuinely think that one can get out of this situation by repeated devaluation. But, unfortunately, inside the E.E.C. this implies an automatic and inescapable further rise in food prices and therefore an accentuation of all the other consequences.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he may be short of time, so I interrupt his prepared speech to ask whether he will answer a question which I wanted to put earlier to his hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). We have the remarkable spectacle of the right hon. Gentleman's return to the Opposition Front Bench to speak for a party which claims to be against entry on these terms while he is against entry on any terms. Can he please rationalise this for us?
After that, I will certainly not give way again—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—to that hon. Gentleman. Nobody who takes the economic consequences seriously—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I am answering—can doubt that in all probability growth in these circumstances would be grieviously slowed down.
That prospect of slower growth for these reasons must, in turn, exert the most damaging effect on our development and under-employed areas—not merely Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but the North-East, North-West, Merseyside and the South-West. We have seen in the past year the shattering effect that a recession can have on these areas.
If we joined the E.E.C. three new powerful, long-term forces would be set in motion which must, in my view, have a disastrous effect. First, new industrial development would tend to shift from the British Isles to the Belgian, Dutch and Lower Rhine area.
It is worth bearing in mind—I do not believe that this is yet fully understood—that at present if a great British, American or international company wants to manufacture in Western Europe it can, by locating one factory in the British Isles, tap the whole British, E.F.T.A. and Commonwealth preference market (to which we still send 30 per cent. of our exports duty free) and, by placing a second factory within the Six, export to that area duty free.
A prudent company will therefore, tend to do what most of the great companies have done, and place one or two more manufacturing units in each area. Abolish E.F.T.A. and the Commonwealth preference area and merge into one continental unit and there is no export case for the location of factories in the British Isles. The natural thing, therefore, would be for a firm to locate a single unit in Belgium or Holland. There would be bound to be less industrial investment in the British Isles.
This quite evident fact was confirmed by a striking article—[Interruption.] Any hon. Gentleman opposite who thinks that this is bunkum should read the article in the Sunday Times of 17th October which showed that an economic and social research team which had gone into this subject, and whose results were published in Regional Studies, had found
an area in the south of Belgium and Holland and the adjoining corner of Germany
to be the economically most attractive area for industry in the whole enlarged area. According to their evidence, that would grow into the industrial Midlands of the new group. In the United Kingdom there would also inevitably be a redoubled tendency for new investment to move to the South-East. Can Ministers say, for example, whether it is true that if we join the British steel industry proposes that the main centre of new steel manufacture would be in South-East England?
Thirdly, and most important of all, the force of I.D.C. control, which is the main instrument countering these tendencies, would be largely undermined by the compulsory abolition of exchange control enforced by the Treaty of Rome. That would be far more important than any manipulation of grants and loans, which are dignified by the euphemism of "regional policy" on the Continent. If a British firm, refused an I.D.C. in the South-East, threatens to go to Belgium or Holland instead, the exchange control now normally prevents it. Abolish that, as we should have to, and the British Government would be left with no effective reply to a firm which said, "Unless we get our I.D.C. where we choose we shall go to the Continent".
It is thus inevitable that if one first sets in motion new and powerful forces for a drift of industry and employment out of this country, and simultaneously strikes out of the British Government's hands the one effective control against it, one will start a progressive movement for employment to decline not just in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but over large parts of industrial England, north and west of the Midlands, as well.
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer two questions about investment? I have been following him very closely. First, he suggested that the majority of new investment within Europe is likely to go to a conurbation in Brussels, Holland and the Ruhr. Will not the major part of non-European investment be American? Will not the right hon. Gentleman accept that the reason that American investment has gone there in the past is that we were not in the Common Market and they would much rather come to England?
The hon. Gentleman did not listen to my argument. I explained clearly that under present circumstances there is a strong argument for coming both to the British Isles and to the Continent. But if we amalgamate the whole area into one market the argument in favour of the British Isles disappears. In addition to all this—the hon. Gentleman said that he was following closely; I hope that he will listen—the Brussels Commission is now, in effect, exercising the right to determine what are to be our development areas and what are not. I should like to ask the Minister—the right hon. Gentleman shakes his head—whether he can give an assurance that if we do join the British Government will be free to schedule what areas they choose as development areas and to use in those areas what instruments of policy they think necessary.
The tragic consequences of the Government's present policies arise not just from the damaging effects on our own country but also from the lost opportunity for constructive international policies. Do Ministers deny that at this very moment the E.F.T.A. countries, which had the wisdom not to apply to join, are being offered by the E.E.C. Commission full industrial free trade area status, without the burden of the C.A.P. or subjection to the Brussels bureaucracy? That is precisely the solution which would have been overwhelmingly in the interest of Britain and which we could still achieve if we had the wisdom and resolution to pursue it as we pursued the Marshall Plan and the Kennedy Round.
The present policy, if not checked, will now secure that Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Austria and other E.F.T.A. countries—and even East Germany—will have industrial free trade area status with the Six and make no contribution whatever to the cost of the C.A.P. In effect, the British taxpayer, almost alone out of 10, 12 or 14 countries, would bear those burdens, and all the others would get the same benefits without paying anything for them. This is the grotesque situation to which we are now being brought.
Not merely are the E.F.T.A. non-candidates now being offered all these benefits without the burdens, but it is now clear that General de Gaulle at the time of the Soames affair offered a very similar situation to us and it was our own Foreign Office that turned it down. [Interruption.] If the Prime Minister is saying that he would have accepted it, this is a most interesting answer to get from him. I was not a member of the Government at that time, and I think that it was a mistake to turn it down, if that is the offer which was made.
Why should not the United Kingdom he given the same opportunities now as the other E.F.T.A. countries? For internationally such a liberal solution would yield the precious gain to us that we should not have to erect new tariffs against anybody and we should not line up with the E.E.C.s agricultural protectionism against the free trade forces in the United States. The common agricultural policy, apart from anything else, is plainly a breach of G.A.T.T. and it has been one main force in pushing the United States towards protectionism. There are strong protectionist forces in the United States. But there are also strong free trade forces, as Mr. Hubert Humphrey's speech in London and the manifesto of a number of American economists, and also the extremely influential Williams Committee's report to the President recommending the progressive elimination of most tariffs over 10 years and total elimination over 25 years, has shown in recent months.
An American President, if he has strong international support, can, as the Marshall Plan and the Kennedy Round showed, range himself with the free trade forces against the protectionist forces. But if even this country, which up to the last few years was always on the liberal side, disappeared into the restrictionist and protectionist embraces of the E.E.C. and the C.A.P. these protectionist forces, with all the disaster that could mean for the free world, are all too likely to prevail. It is not pleasant to hear on all hands now that on these matters this country's opinions are hardly considered in Washington.
The House should note the practical moral of the position into which we have now been forced. If Parliament rejects these policies, so far from the alleged dreadful consequences following, the opportunities would open up for more liberal and constructive policies in the whole field of trade, aid and international monetary reform. Indeed, there is no reason why the E.E.C. should not co-operate in those policies just as it did in the Kennedy Round with the United States, E.F.T.A.. Japan and the developing countries. The opportunities here are immense. It is only the lead that is lacking at present.
However, what probably matters even more at the moment than these lost international opportunities is that we have now reached a point at home where the Prime Minister has plainly not obtained the full-hearted support of Parliament and people. Any individual poll, referendum, by-election or what you will can no doubt be disputed, but no one with any pretence of honesty can examine the total available evidence and maintain that full-hearted, popular consent has been obtained for this policy. Never in modern times has it been suggested that sweeping and irrevocable changes can be made in our constitution without any mandate from the electorate—and, incidentally, in virtually no other democratic country either.
I say that because of what has been said today about sovereignty. The constitutional change involved in signing the Rome Treaty would certainly be the greatest since 1689, if not longer than that. We should hand over power to legislate for British internal affairs to unelected bodies outside this country. We should surrender the power of taxation, and tax revenue, to authorities other than the British Parliament and the British Crown. We should subordinate British courts on internal issues to a court of law external to this country. We should abandon the basic principle that Parliament cannot irretrievably bind its successsors. All this would curtail and not, as in our previous constitutional changes, extend the rights of the electorate.
Even if one thinks that all that is right, one cannot reasonably argue that it should be done without the consent of the electorate. In the constitutional crisis of 1910, there was virtually nobody who argued, least of all among the Conservatives, that even the powers of the House of Lords should be curtailed without electoral consent, and two General Elections were held for that reason.
The present Prime Minister has rightly declared that the border of Northern Ireland must not be changed without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. I say that the United Kingdom has exactly the same right of self-determination as the people of Northern Ireland. All the other applicant countries at present are granting a referendum to their electorate as a fundamental democratic right. Nor does anybody believe that the phrase in the election manifesto:
Our sole commitment is to negotiate: no more, no less
could, with any shred of sincerity, justify the signature of the Rome Treaty. For the Prime Minister to pretend that this justifies an irrevocable decision does not enhance the Prime Minister's reputation for political veracity.
I see the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry sitting rather coyly on the Front Bench opposite. He, with that charming candour which we all so much value, admitted in his maiden speech that the Government had no mandate for any such decision. Any attempt, therefore, in those circumstances, to force a decision on a clearly divided nation would merely damage Parliament in the eyes of the people.
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I think it is fair to repeat the question which was asked earlier by the Leader of the Liberal Party. If the Labour Party had been re-elected and had got the terms that they could accept, was it their intention to have a referendum or a General Election?
It would certainly have been my intention—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] The hon. Gentleman has asked me what I suppose was a serious question. I believe that, in those circumstances, the Government should obtain the assent of the electorate. It so happens that it was the party opposite who won the election, and therefore their manifesto was rather more relevant. In those circumstances, it seems to me that to ignore this pledge—
Would my right hon. Friend accept that there is nothing embarrassing in the question which was asked? More than one member of the then Labour Party said in unmistakably clear terms that once the negotiations had been finalised they would be first submitted for endorsement or otherwise by the annual conference of the Labour Party. [Interruption.] I can well understand, because hon. Members opposite are so devoid of any understanding of the meaning of the word "democracy"—[Interruption.]—particularly at this time of night, that they find it difficult to understand that as a democratic movement the British Labour Party has said that it would first consult the opinion of its rank and file and then, if the policy was endorsed it would be submitted to the rest of the people of the country. That is the answer to this sort of question.
I did the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) the courtesy of assuming that he was asking a serious question, and I have given him a serious answer. If he will now allow me, I will continue with my serious argument.
To pursue this policy that is dividing the nation and the House would in my view be too great a constitutional outrage to be binding on future Parliaments or future Governments. It would not be accepted by millions of people unless and until the electorate had given its consent. For these reasons, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has said, a future Labour Government would regard this whole issue as open unless and until a new settlement could be reached which genuinely upheld British interests and was accepted by the British electorate.
For why, after all, are a majority of the ordinary people of the country resolutely opposed, as all the evidence shows, to this unwanted revolution? Basically, it seems to me, it is because they profoundly believe in our democratic system, with all its faults, and do not wish to see that precious tradition sacrificed to the unknown or put at the mercy of other countries, whose attachment to parliamentary government in some cases, to say the least, is rather more recent than our own.
I believe that the British people want friendly relations politically, commercially and culturally with all these and other nations. They want good neighbourly policies. But they do not want an indissoluble union, and I believe that they are right. That is why, in the end, this issue will be decided not by this Government and not even by this House, but by the next General Election.
As the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) was concluding I could not help wondering what many members of his party would have looked like or felt like had Chancellor Brandt been listening to him. And that goes, perhaps, for many people in France who, whatever we may say about their parliamentary government in recent years, have played a slightly leading part in respect of some of the principles for which I have always believed the party opposite stood. But apart from, or perhaps partly because of, the revelation in the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about the constitutional principles and practices of the Labour Party, I should have thought that we could all agree that today's had been a good debate.
We have seen criticisms, mostly from those who perhaps were not here or who did not read HANSARD, that the debate last week did not live up to what was expected of it. I do not think that anyone who has been here today could say that. I believe it has been a good debate, and I would particularly like to congratulate the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Ewing) on what was I understand a most sincere and impressive maiden speech. I apologise to him in that I was not here when he made it. I have a full report of it and the impression which it made. I understand the fears and apprehension which he expressed on behalf of his constituents about unemployment, particularly against the background of the present position in Scotland.
The effect of membership of the Common Market on the employment prospects of this country will be one of the main themes about which I want to speak. I shall take a different view of these effects, but I want, nevertheless, to congratulate him. He chose a good occasion to make his maiden speech and he rose to the occasion.
When we turn to the Opposition Front Bench speeches, if it might be true to say that the debate was opened by Mr. "Demagogue", I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea, North will not take it as a slight if we feel it was closed by "Mr. Pedagogue".
It is nice to see the right hon. Gentleman back on the Front Bench. He has been given the return ticket, from Plymouth possibly, to come here to make the same gloomy forebodings, to give the same exaggeratedly pessimistic figures and ideas, to show the same lack of vision which the Leader of the Opposition found incompatible in him as a member of his Government several years ago.
To hear the right hon. Gentleman proposing that this country should consider association with the Common Market—something which has been well gone into before by successive Governments and rejected by them as a viable means for this country—to ask that we should have a situation in which we had no vote, no control over the policies of the Europe to which we would associate and at the same time to come to this House and talk about giving up sovereignty is a proposition which does not stand the slightest examination.
Let me make it quite clear to the right hon. Gentleman that I was not suggesting association at all but the same industrial free trade area status which it appears, unless he denies it, is being offered to the non-applicant E.F.T.A. countries.
The right hon. Gentleman knows, or if he does not his colleagues certainly do, that such a proposition was not open to us, and was not sought by the previous Government, and for good reason. At least the right hon. Gentleman is consistent, because he has come to the House and said on the Front Bench what we all know—and however much we disagree with him we respect him for this—to be long-held and fundamentally-held views.
I thought that the same could have been said about the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). I thought he had been constant and fundamental in his opposition to membership of the Common Market. At least I felt he had been constant in his fervent support of the three-line Whip, but I happened to look back at the speech he made in this House on 8th May, 1967, when he concluded with these words:
I say that we must not be 'whipped' into the Common Market. I certainly do not propose to be."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1967; Vol. 746, c. 1123.]
I will not give any long quotation from that pamphlet but the
House might be interested to hear one sentence:
Thus, the true defence of the Commonwealth as an association of free peoples depends on the unification of Europe.
That was the hon. Gentleman's view, in which he was joined by no less a person than the hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) and also by the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman).
Some of us are somewhat consistent in our views. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, in arguing that case, of course made clear that he wished to see the unity of the whole of Europe but he also argued that, since this could not be achieved in one stage, a unity of Western Europe was the first stage towards what he wished—not what he argues now, the opposite.
The objections put forward today from the Opposition Front Bench by both the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman have nothing whatever to do with Tory terms. Their objections are fundamental to the Common Market as such. To satisfy their objections, the six existing Common Market countries would have had to agree in negotiations not just to adapt and adjust their policies and institutions; they would have had to have given up the basic tenets on which the Community has lived and prospered over the last dozen years and on which they are determined to go into the future. No one could have known this better than the Labour Government when they made their application. They could not for one moment have expected the negotiations to have succeeded in persuading the Six to upset their basic policies and arrangements and institutions to a fraction of the extent which would be required to satisfy the current Opposition line, let alone to meet all the fears and objections and figures used by the right hon. Member for Battersea, North.
Of course it is perfectly honourable for individual politicians at any level to change their minds, as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said. But to be credible in depth and integrity a change of mind has to be better argued and more convincingly presented than has been the case from the Opposition today. An occasional revelation, a single journey to Damascus, is respectable, but when a whole party goes in for a package tour the gullibility of onlookers is strained beyond endurance. Either the Labour Cabinet were dishonest and hypocritical, which I do not believe they were, when they made their application, and intended the application to fail, no matter how the negotiations went, or the majority of the members of that Cabinet are now stifling their true convictions about what is in the future interest of our people for the sake of peace and an attempt to get a spurious unity in their own party and for the sake of currying short-term popularity.
It is proper to draw the attention of this House and the country to the support and the bi-partisan attitude of the then Conservative Opposition on this great national matter when the Labour Government were in office, compared with the fractious, irresponsible, partisan and party political attitude of the Labour Opposition now.
Yes, indeed I do, and the hon. Gentleman will be glad to know—or perhaps he will be disturbed to know—that I was just about to do this; but I think an important aspect which this House and the country are entitled to take into account is the integrity and depth of the present views of the Opposition.
Many subjects, and aspects of the question, have been raised in today's debate. There are many with which I cannot now deal. For example, I cannot deal with the problems of the developing countries which were raised—for example, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice), but by others as well—except to say—and the right hon. Gentleman knows my past interest in this subject and my past connection with it—that I cannot believe and will not accept that our membership of the Common Market will lead either Britain or Europe to play a lesser rôle in this vital development in the world's affairs than we have done outside it. I believe that it will strengthen our ability to do so and I believe that it will strengthen and help Europe to do it. No single British politician has played a more constructive part than my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in developing constructive trading policies to help developing countries as he did in the first U.N.C.T.A.D. conference in 1964. Anybody who has had dealings with the under-developed world and with the problems of the under-developed world knows I am speaking the truth.
However, my job tonight is principally to give the House a view of the Government's considered opinion on those aspects of the question which we have to decide which fall within the field of responsibility of my own Department. First and foremost is the question of full employment. Of all the arguments for Britain's joining the European Economic Community one of the most compelling and, for the vast majority of ordinary people, perhaps, the most important, is the advantage that we believe membership can give us in achieving and maintaining full employment in the years ahead. Presumably that was also the view of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues opposite—anyhow until a year ago.
First, before coming to the arguments and assessments about the future it is not a bad thing to see how successful the Common Market has already been in ensuring full employment. A little practical evidence is worth a great deal of theory. If the Common Market countries had been unsuccessful by this test of full employment there would indeed be serious cause for concern and scepticism, no matter what the theoretical arguments on paper might be. In fact, however, the Common Market has been highly successful in achieving and maintaining full employment—far more so than Britain in the last five or six years. In 1969, for the Community as a whole, the average unemployment rate was 1·8 per cent. In that year only Italy had an unemployment rate worse than that in Britain.
Only by Italy—and the long-term problems of Italy have long been known to be worse than those in any of the other countries. In 1970 the Community's average figure fell to 1·7 per cent. Incidentally—speaking from memory—the Italian level of unemployment fell from 3·4 per cent. in 1969 to 3·1 per cent. in 1970.
The conclusion from experience, therefore, is that in joining the Common Market we should clearly be joining a community in which the maintenance of full employment has had a high priority which has been achieved successfully in practice, a record which we can look to perhaps with envy now but with hope for the future.
The right hon. Gentleman has answered the point I wished to make on unemployment. Unemployment in Italy this year has been far higher each month than in this country, even under a Tory Government. The right hon. Gentleman must face the fact that if there had been no public investment in the regions in Italy, unemployment would have been far worse, because no private capital has gone into the regions.
This does not alter the fact that, with the exception of Italy, total and average unemployment has been low in the Common Market countries, they have given a high priority to it and have had success. Even in Italy, the position has been improved relatively.
Turning to an assessment of the effect of Common Market membership—
I am afraid that I cannot give way; many hon. Members want to speak. Turning now to an assessment of the effect of Common Market Membership on future levels of employment, it seems to me that opponents of the Common Market overlook one of the basic facts of modern industrial life, namely, the great and constantly growing importance of free, unrestricted access to the largest possible market for one's goods and services.
Except for a few industries, the advantages of very large-scale units of production can be easily exaggerated. They may exist in theory, but they are seldom fully realised in practice. On the other hand, I believe that unrestricted access to the largest possible market brings advantages, even to comparatively small production units which are difficult to exaggerate and are easily underestimated. The size of market is more often than not the main spur to the adoption of the most refined and specialised methods of production. The truth of this can be seen in the whole trend of industrial history; but it is a truth whose dominating impact grows greater with the development of modern technology. This is a particularly critical problem for Britain.
The T.U.C. says that we should use our existing balance of payments surplus to finance an increase in the growth of output in this country, but it is no good producing what we cannot sell, and to keep Britain's industry working at full pressure we have to sell a large proportion of our output to customers outside our own national market. The great continental Powers, such as the United States and Russia, have vast markets within their own national boundaries. The much smaller nation States of Western Europe have now succeeded, by their establishment of the European Economic Community, in creating for themselves a home market of equivalent size. If we join that market we shall also enjoy that advantage, and we shall increase it. If we and the other applicants all join the Community we shall become part of the largest home market in the developed world, with all the opportunity in good times and security in bad times which membership of such a large and powerful trading unit can provide.
On the other hand, if we stay outside we shall, among the countries with a comparable standard of living, be left with one of the smallest home markets. That would be a perpetually dangerous position to be in. On our own, in the years ahead we should find it increasingly difficult to sell the volume of output that we need to maintain full employment. If ever the cold winds blew of a world recession, or the post-war trend towards freer world trade were unfortunately to be reversed—a danger which is seen on the horizon at the moment, unfortunately—we in Britain would find ourselves dangerously exposed and in a very weak position to protect ourselves. This is a risk which we should not willingly take. We have the opportunity to protect ourselves against it and we should be mad to throw away that opportunity.
Some people argue—and it has teen argued in this debate today—that the creation of trading blocs is dangerous and that we ought to bend all our energies instead to promoting freer patterns of world trade. But by joining the European Community we are not creating a world of trading blocs. Such blocs already exist. The United States trading bloc already exists, as does the Russian and Eastern European trading bloc, and indeed as does the E.E.C. The choice we have is whether to join one of these great trading areas or whether to stay outside all of them.
Of course we have to use all our power and influence to resist any trend to protectionism, because no country stands more to gain than we do from freer trade. And we need to encourage the further growth of freer trade, but we shall be able to do this more effectively inside rather than outside the Community, because the Community exists.
As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said in winding up the debate in July, we must bear in mind the enormous power of the Community in international trade negotiations. When these negotiations take place the biggest influence is wielded by the biggest importing economies. Since the Community probably is the world's biggest single importer, its voice in such negotiations in future will be extremely powerful. If we are members of the Community we believe that in future we shall have a bigger influence in international trade negotiations and agreements than we could possibly have on our own outside these great trading areas.
Opponents of the Common Market speak as if the only momentous decision is the decision to join it. But, as I have been seeking to show, the decision not to join it would be equally momentous. I am in no doubt that the opportunity in good times and the security in bad times are bath greater for Britain inside than outside the European Community. It is this judgment about the balance of opportunity and security which makes us believe with the utmost conviction that joining Europe gives us a better chance of maintaining a high and stable level of employment for our people than we can have outside it.
Since we believe that stable full employment is more important than any other single factor to a healthy and prosperous society, we believe that the argument about full employment alone is a decisive one in the great decision we have to take. Let us make no mistake that full employment depends on growth. And nowhere is this more true than in the regions where unemployment is at present at its highest.
The arguments about the balance of payments and the advantages of joining are just as great as they were when the right hon. Gentleman's Government, of which he was a member, sought to join. But let us make no mistake that full employment depends on growth, and that is true more in the regions than anywhere else. No incentives to attract industry to the regions can be successful unless there is sufficient industry to attract.
I want to get on. So far the most important condition to achieve is the condition which allows for the greatest possible rate of growth. This intention is to be achieved inside Europe because of the accessibility and free access to the European market.
I am sorry. I have already given way more than the right hon. Member for Battersea, North did.
I know that even if they accept this point, some hon. Members are still concerned that membership of Europe will weaken the vigour with which we can pursue our own regional policies. Others of my right hon. Friends will be speaking tomorrow and Wednesday, and they will address themselves to this question in detail. All I say is that there is no justification for this fear. All the types of policies that we have used in this country are being used in one or more of the European countries at the moment.
Moreover, we should remember that from the beginning it has been one of the declared objects of the Community, written into the Preamble of the Treaty of Rome itself, to ensure harmonious development of members' economies by reducing the differences existing between the various regions. That is one of the cardinal principles of the Common Market. The member countries are pursuing it actively, and there is no reason or justification for fearing that inside it we shall not be able to participate in that objective, and be helped in doing so.
Similarly, surely there can be no doubt, looking into Europe at the other areas for which I hold responsibility—the areas of real wages and real standards of living, industrial health and safety—that there is no danger but only possible benefit from association as a full member of the European Economic Community.
In the right hon. Gentleman's illustration of the regional policies of the Six, he gave the House some figures for Italy. Is he aware that if the same ratio prevailed in the northern region of England the unemployment figure there would be 30,000 higher than it is even under the Tories at the moment?
Will my right hon. Friend point out to the hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Milne) that both the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Bagier), who have very difficult unemployment positions, favour entering the Common Market because of the advantages to our part of the world?
We are confident that the extra growth that we can obtain as a member of Europe will enable us to deal more effectively with the problems of our regions than we shall be able to do outside it.
The free movement of labour is a matter which causes concern, especially outside the House. It is easy to appreciate the concern. But we believe that there is not likely to be a mass migration of labour on any scale that we could possibly find objectionable. The growing prosperity of the Community has meant that workers have not needed to move to other countries in order to find jobs. The high level of employment, coupled with social and language differences, has meant that the abolition of administrative barriers to the movement of workers within the Community has not resulted in the large increase that people feared. There has been a reduction in the past few years. The number of nationals of the Six member countries moving within the Community fell from about 250,000 in 1965 to under 170,000 in 1969.
We in Britain also have seen this decline in movement reflected in the falling number of work permits issued to workers from the Community countries who have sought to come and work in the United Kingdom. That number has fallen both in absolute terms and as a proportion of the total number of job permits issued in this country.
In view of all this the Government felt that there would be no reason to seek any transitional arrangements for the introduction of the free movement of labour provisions except in the case of Northern Ireland which, for a number of years, has had employment problems on a scale and of a kind which are special to itself and needed the benefit of that transitional period.
It is worth noting that the Government's views on this subject have been supported by the T.U.C. in both the reports which it has made regarding the Community. It is important that we should make it clear in this House that fears on this particular aspect at least need not cause alarm and that this view is shared by the T.U.C.
Joining the European Community is no magic cure. We have never held out that it was. But we believe, with the deepest conviction, that it gives us a better opportunity for a fuller life in terms of economic prosperity and political influence than we could possibly have outside.
From the point of view of the subjects for which I am responsible, particularly from the point of view of full employment, growth is paramount. The opposition to joining seems to us, and I believe to the country, to be coloured by three dominant characteristics. First, it is negative. No alternative is offered. If this is not the best way to get better growth in future, what is? The opponents do not make that clear at all. They certainly have not succeeded outside hitherto. [Interruption.] The mutterings coming from the Opposition Front Bench are interesting in view of their performance during six years in power.
The second characteristic of the Opposition is backward looking. I believe that every one of the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite would have been against the Act of Union 250 years ago. Free capital movement between England and Scotland? How terrible! A common monetary system? How frightening!
This leads me to the third—
The right hon. Gentleman was jibing at us by saying that we would not have been in favour of a common monetary policy. Is he in favour of a common monetary policy in Europe now?
The right hon. Gentleman's Government, of which he was a leading member, made it clear that this was not objectionable when they made their application. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] We are no more, no less committed in this attitude than the Labour Government, of which the right hon. Gentleman was a leading member.
This backward-looking characteristic of the Opposition is complemented, and finally, I suppose, consummated, by their fundamental pessimism about and lack of confidence in Britain which they display in all their arguments. Every risk is seen at its worst and quantified at its maximum. If we cannot be absolutely sure, then we are told to stand still, as if there were no danger in standing still. We will always come off worst. Apparently, when the tariff barriers fall, for some reason, instead of British companies feeling that from a British base they can export more to Germany and to Europe, they will go in and serve the British market from Germany. What nonsense, what pessimism, what utter stupidity is it that lies in this kind of analysis?
Apparently we must be afraid of the Community. But if we cannot compete successfully with the European countries, which have labour standards and wage costs somewhat higher than ours per hour, then who on earth can we compete with and what hope is there for this country? Of course we can compete, and the advantages of a larger market are the spur which we need. This pessimism and lack of confidence is not typical of the kind of Britain which I know or love or want to live in in future.
The responsibilities of Parliament collectively and of individual Members are different. We have to listen and take account of what we hear.
We also have a duty to make decisions and to lead. When we think of when my generation first became conscious of political events in our country and in the world, we think back to the 'thirties. What, in retrospect, was the greatest criticism? With the wisdom of hindsight, certainly the most severely justified criticism of Parliament, of the Government and of the parties was that we did not lead, that we followed too much, that we believed that we should not, and could not, lead the people to meet the occasions and the needs of the future.
I ask the House to remember that history, to give a lead now for the future. Among all the difficulties of weighing opinions, among all the objections, which are many, one thing stands out clearly and gives me at least hope and encouragement, and that is that the more I talk with younger people, the more I believe that they expect us to say "Yes" on Thursday.
I am sure that when the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Employment reads his speech tomorrow he will find that he has left us with not a little ammunition. Time and again the Prime Minister has stood at that Dispatch Box and said that it is the high wage cost of British industry that is holding us back. The Minister has just admitted that hourly wage rates are higher in Europe than they are here. If that be so, right hon. Gentlemen opposite can never again say that our problems are due to the high wages being demanded by British workers.
Does the coal industry on the Continent have a record comparable with that of the British coal industry? The same question can be asked of the steel and agriculture industries on the Continent. From the point of view of costs and production, no major industry on the Continent does better than its counterpart in this country, so I invite hon. Gentlemen opposite not to interrupt me before I have even started my story.
The men in charge of this industry say that next year, when we are in the Common Market, we shall export millions of tons of coal to Europe, but this year we are importing coal because we are not mining enough of it ourselves here. Did anyone ever hear such nonsense? We are to export coal to Europe next year, even though we are not producing enough this year to meet our own needs, and as a result we have been importing coal, some from as far away as Australia. I have read what Mr. Ezra and others have said, but they are like hon. Gentlemen opposite. They are groping hopefully. They have no apprehensions about what the future is likely to hold.
Let me start with one simple proposition. We are told that we are bottom of the league in production, and bottom of the league in exports. We are at the bottom of almost every league, but there is one league of which we have been at the top in every post-war year, and that is in expenditure on defence. No Common Market country, over the last 10 to 20 years, has spent anything like the same percentage of its gross national product on defence as we have. If we had spent that money on tooling up, on industrial investment, on the social services and education, as they have done, we should not be in this bad position. Like the ordinary householder, the nation cannot spend its money twice. So long as we carry this burden, so long shall we be the sick nation of Europe. Our hands are tied. We are shackled. How can we compete in these circumstances?
Every time that this country has been in difficulties, under whatever Government, we have pulled out the crystal ball and seen in it Europe as the panacea, the place where there would be no difficulties. But I should like some consistency from the Government. This year's Defence White Paper said:
Britain's political and trading interests are world-wide.
And we are going to cut back—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is no good saying, "No." We shall have to put up tariffs against some of those who are now our trading partners.
Of course, everyone says that it will be so simple. The Secretary of State talked of a large home market, as though that were the answer to all our problems. I do not know whether he has studied Britain's biggest exporter, the car industry. We have a home market of 100 million people because we can export to E.F.T.A. countries without any tariff barrier to jump. But with a barrier to jump, Germany exported three times as much to E.F.T.A. countries as we did in 1970. How much better will Germany do when the barrier is down for her too?
No, it merely goes to show that British industry will be less competitive. If we cannot outsell them when we have no barrier and they have, how will we compete when everyone is on equal terms?
I would admit that, but even the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry today was talking about our car exports having risen 10 per cent. this August over last. But he did not add that this August the import of foreign cars was the highest for any month since foreign cars have been coming into the country. We compete in the American market on the same basis as E.E.C. countries compete there, and those countries have exactly the same barriers to jump as we have.
Bearing that in mind, would any hon. Gentleman opposite care to explain why the Germans sell three times as many cars to America as we do? I will explain why—[Interruption.]—and it has nothing to do with a bigger home market. [Laughter.] Nor is this a laughing matter. I am prepared to stand here all night if hon. Gentlemen opposite want a bit of fun.
The answer is simply that the Germans have always put exports first, if necessary by denying their own market to ensure meeting export demands. The Labour Government did exactly the same in 1951. Sir Stafford Cripps said, "Export or there is no steel for you", and they exported. Between 60 per cent. and 70 per cent. of their total output went into exports.
Then the rot set in, with the arrival in government of the Conservative Government that followed. They swept away the restrictions, and naturally the home market proved more profitable than foreign markets. Markets which could have been ours for virtually all time were handed over to the Germans. They got them for nothing, simply because they were prepared to meet export commitments before supplying their home market.
Amid all these counsels of gloom, how does the right hon. Gentleman explain that the British motor industry is anxious that we enter the Common Market? Is he aware that the industry believes that unit production will be up by 280,000 by 1980 as a result of our entry?
Certainly, and I have with me Lord Stokes' full page advertisement about that. I have great respect for Donald Stokes and his colleagues, but they already have manufacturing capacity there, and that will be expanded. Anybody who imagines that they will expand in Dundee rather than Dusseldorf does not understand the trade.
Would the right hon. Gentleman explain why, when the tariff is removed, they should rush to produce their cars in an area when there is already no tariff advantage, whereas in fact, if the tariff is kept on, that will be precisely the reason why Lord Stokes and his colleagues would wish to go to the Continent? Actually, by joining the Common Market, the motor trade would have every incentive to produce in this country.
The hon. Gentleman is forgetting transport costs. Consider the added cost of producing cars here when they must be transported 500 or 800 miles to be sold. Anybody who thinks transport costs of that nature do not matter should speak to the Austrians, as I did recently. I asked why they bought four times as many cars from the Germans as from us, and their answer was simply the nearness of the German factories. That difficulty will not be overcome if we join the Community.
If a large home market is essential and if this country can be viable only on the basis of an enlarged market—if growth, full employment and all the other wonderful things of which the Minister spoke will come about only from such a market—can somebody please explain the progress of Japan, which has a smaller market than we have, including E.F.T.A.? [AN HON. MEMBER: "It is bigger."] Japan has, if not a smaller market, then a market no bigger than ours. I said that it was smaller. I bow to superior ignorance. If Japan is a market of the same size, why has she not had these problems? There has been growth in Japan, but she has had none of these problems; nor is she seeking any great enlargement. Japan has been sensible. Japan has not gone in for Concordes or T.S.R.2's, and she has not spent 5, 6 or 7 per cent. of her wealth on defence. On average, she has spent 2 per cent. of her gross national product on defence. Everyone wonders why she is more competitive and is capturing markets all over the world.
I will not give way. The hon. Gentleman never makes an intelligent observation.
If anyone believes that Japan's prosperity and growth is in no way due to the fact that she has not tried to spend her money twice, in that she has not spent millions and millions of pounds on defence to the extent that we have, they do not understand the ordinary basis of economics.
It is said that we shall have a lovely time with the free movement of labour and capital, and everyone pretends that there is no difference. The man who has never had to tear up his roots and to walk the streets seeking a job, cannot be compared with a man who has only to sign a cheque to transfer his capital; they are different persons—[Interruption.] Get on your feet.
I am talking about a constituency which today has a high level of unemployment. Forty years ago the constituency was half as big again in population as it is today. The people have had to tear up their roots and transplant themselves. Even in the Common Market propaganda some have suggested that this was one of the great advantages. Those employers of labour in Sunderland do not agree with what was said by the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward). If one asks shipbuilders in Sunderland whether they want to enter the Common Market, one will find what their answer is. The shipbuilding industry is the biggest employer of labour in Sunderland.
I am glad that you are calling for order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because, after all, I have not been allowed to start. The interruptions have been incessant and persistent, but I intend to say what I have to say.
Our workers are told that they are £7 a week worse off than they would have been had we been in the Common Market. They are told that they get less holidays and poorer social services, and that they work longer hours. Does anyone really believe that?
Then why do hon. Members oppose their wage claims?—[Interruption.] Is it because we are not in the Common Market? That is marvelous. I will tell the workers that they are fools and that the Tories—every one of them—admit that they are £7 a week worse off, that they are working longer hours and getting shorter holidays, and that, therefore, there is every justification for every worker in Britain to put in his claim.
Are Common Market agricultural workers more efficient than ours? Are their steel workers more efficient than ours? Of course not. Consider the prices. Are their miners more efficient than ours? We know that in those three basic industries our costs are lower than those in the Common Market. Yet it is pretended that British workers would have been getting £7 a week more and working fewer hours and having longer holidays.
When we get into the Common Market we shall belong to a trading group which embraces one-twelfth of the world's population. Eleven-twelfths of the world's population is outside the Common Market. In the Defence White Paper the Government said that we are world traders. We are now rejecting eleven-twelfths of the world to have favourable terms from one-twelfth.
I am talking about world population. Including all the associated States, the Common Market still represents little more than one-twelfth of the world's population. There are 3,500 million people in the world. [Interruption.] If the Common Market population was 350 million, it would still represent only one-tenth of the world's population and that would leave nine-tenths in which we would not be interested—[Interruption.]
Order. I must ask the right hon. Gentleman to address his remarks to me, because otherwise it is difficult to prevent that most objectionable parliamentary practice of sedentary interjection, from which we are suffering at the moment.
Order. The purpose of my interrupting the right hon. Gentleman was to remind him that if he would address his remarks to me the sedentary interjections would not be so prevalent.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, you have a much higher regard for the supposed good manners of hon. Gentlemen than I have. I have been here a little longer than you. I have seen them come and go, but I have seen no basic improvement in their general manners. So it does not in any way upset or trouble me.
The Common Market will represent one-tenth or one-twelfth of the world's population. The other eleven-twelfths of the world is outside the Market. When we are in, we shall still be doing as much trade with the Commonwealth as we did last year with the E.E.C. If our trade with the Commonwealth has declined, I hope that hon. Members understand why. For instance, ten years ago when Ghana exported one ton of cocoa it was able to import one tractor. This year Ghana has had to export 10 tons of cocoa to buy one tractor. No wonder Commonwealth trade declines when the price of primary products falls and the price of manufactures increases. This means that Commonwealth countries will buy less.
It also assumes that this is a static world and that it will remain as it is now. I do not believe that. A very prosperous Europe can be built, but if the standards of the two-thirds of the world which is at present going hungry are not improved the prosperity, not only of Europe, but of the world, is in danger. Hungry men are angry men, and angry men are irresponsible men. It does not matter whether it is tomorrow or next year, or a decade from now; angry men will do in these territories what they have done throughout world history. They will revolt and, because of the world situation today, when they revolt there is always the danger that they will bring down with them the citadels of every prosperous community.
One of the most objectionable features of the Government's application to join the Common Market is what we have done in relation to the old Commonwealth countries, New Zealand and Australia in particular. Of course, we have negotiated a transitional period for them. We have said, "For three or four years your interests will be safeguarded", and after that they will be expected to seek new markets or to diversify their industry. Anything which reduces food production is sacrilege. I believe that Australia and New Zealand will have to diversify and cut down on their production of primary products, particularly food. If they have to cut down at a time when everybody is concerned about the problem of hunger and world poverty, it is sacrilege, it is indefensible and it is too high a price for any intelligent civilised nation to be expected to pay.
Hon. Members say that when we get in, we shall influence them—as though we, the Socialists alone, were going in. It is they, the Tories—hon. Members opposite—who are going to represent us. They are the gentlemen who are going to exercise their influence in Europe. The present Government attack the unemployed, the sick and the industrially injured; they take away the school milk. They have got their priorities wrong. Anybody who believes that they are the kind of Government whom I can trust to negotiate for me should have another think.
My fear is that they might influence the Europeans to follow their very bad uncivilised conduct. They might induce them to attack the things which are near and dear to their own people. [Interruption]. If the hon. Member would take that plum out of his mouth I should be able to hear him better.
If the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends had rather better manners and had listened a little more quietly and without interruption my speech would have been shorter, but I want to make it perfectly clear that I have had too many barrackings from hon. Members opposite to let them get me down. They tend to sustain me. They provoke me. It merely means that I continue.
The idea that there is no future for Britain except as part of what will be the biggest concentration of capitalist States now existing is nonsense. I am a Socialist. I believe in Clause Four. I believe with Nye Bevan that unless we control the commanding heights of the economy we cannot control our own destiny. I want us to capture those commanding heights. I know that we shall not be able to do it if we go into Europe. Because I believe that it is possible to build Socialism here and then to have it spread across frontiers for other people to enjoy, I am against our joining the E.E.C.
In his rather long speech the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) said that he would like some consistency from the Government. I wonder what he wants from his own Front Bench? I really seriously considered making my speech on this issue using only words which had been used, and not very long ago, by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). If I had, it would have made a very cogent and compelling case, but it would have been far too long. From the outward appearance of these three right hon. Gentlemen one would gather that a gargantuan feast of one's own words was a very healthy diet. For, since those brave and true words were uttered, and very recently, they and several of their colleagues with them, have scuttled into the protection of Scanlon's sheep below the Gangway, and I do not suppose the history of Parliament can show a greater example of tergiversation than that displayed by the Leader of the Opposition. His every other action belies his every other word. Only the week before last—and I told the right hon. Gentleman that I would, if I had the privilege of catching your eye, Mr. Speaker, refer to him briefly, though, I feared, unfavourably—he was talking of "undemocratic arm-twisting" on this side. He must have seen a great deal more than we did—and what has he since been doing to his own side?