Orders of the Day — European Communities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th October 1971.

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Photo of Mr Jasper More Mr Jasper More , Ludlow 12:00 am, 25th October 1971

—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.