Perhaps I may inform the House where we stand now. There are still 160 right hon. and hon. Members who wish to speak. I have pushed the stone a little way up the hill but it has not gone very far yet. I will do my best. But I must warn some right hon. and hon. Members who put in appearances rather late that I shall have a certain preference for those who have stayed here hour by hour, day after day.
Quite a number of right hon. and hon. Members were not here when I started my speech this morning. I trust that the House will forgive me if I do not repeat my introductory remarks. If a number of right hon. and hon. Members are here primarily to listen to the next two speakers, I trust that they will bear with me as this is the only opportunity I am likely to get to make my small contribution.
Before referring to the general argument, I would like to make two points about agriculture. It seems to me that our hill farmers and milk producers have ground for serious concern about the conduct of the negotiations. On 24th June the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster informed us that the Community was sympathetic to the needs of our farmers and that he was satisfied that
… in the event of entry we should be able to give the continuing assistance needed to maintain the incomes of farmers in the hill areas."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th June, 1971; Vol. 819, c. 1606.]
The President of the Scottish National Farmers' Union reacted to that statement by saying:
It is in somewhat general language, but I take it to mean simply that Britain will have scope to continue the existing type of income support for farmers in the hills and uplands.
That is what the negotiations were about. There was no doubt that the Common Market countries knew the problems and were sympathetic. The issue was whether we would be allowed to continue our present production grants if we so wished. We tried to get clarification from the Government bill: were unsuccessful. Finally, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture replied to a letter I wrote to him and said
… we did not seek to negotiate a guarantee for the specific subsidies we use at present. What matters is to have established the principle of being able to provide the assistance needed in the hills.
My contention is that that is not satisfactory, that the principle was never in doubt, that what we wanted and what the hill farmers of Scotland wanted was an assurance that in future the Commission would not say that our present production grants had to go, on the grounds of fair competition.
I assure the hon. Gentleman that there was no doubt about the position and that there was no need to negotiate it because the principle was clearly established. We have it in the recorded agreements which we have made with the Community, we can continue to make these grants so long as the British Government wish so to do.
I am grateful for that information. It is a pity that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture was not able to make that point in his letter of 15th July. What the right hon. and learned Gentleman is now saying is very different from what was said in that letter and very different from anything said so far. But I am grateful that at last we have brought out that point, and we shall certainly not forget what has been said. We now have an assurance that we can continue the present grants.
I will come briefly to questions about milk marketing. We were assured that we need not worry about the future of the Milk Marketing Board, but there is a statement by Dr. Mansholt published in this week's Farmers Weekly:
It will definitely have to become an executive organisation applying the rules of the Community. It may also have to change the way it regulates production because of the competition rules of the Treaty of Rome.
I am not saying that the Milk Marketing Board will necessarily be in great difficulty if we join the Common Market; I am saying that the Government have not been absolutely clear on this issue.
If hon. Members opposite think that my suspicions about hill farming and the Milk Marketing Board are partisan, I refer them to the leading article in this week's Farmers Weekly. Headed "Who's Fooling Whom?" it says:
There is a growing suspicion that we have been hoodwinked, that the Government has not told all about the Luxembourg agreement and that we may discover a lot more unpleasant things nestling among the European goodies when the first layer of the hamper is removed after October 28.
No section of the Community has more grounds for such fears than farmers. It is rapidly becoming clear that on a number of vital points we have not been told the whole truth.
I have referred to agriculture not only because I am interested in the subject but because three senior Ministers have repeatedly said how satisfied our farmers are and how rosy everything is for agriculture. I believe that the Farmers' Weekly is right, there are good grounds for believing that they have not conducted the negotiations on these issues as they should have.
I want briefly to say something about the general argument. I have never been convinced by the economic arguments for entry. I have always believed that economic growth in this country depended overwhelmingly on the policies pursued by the British Government. Whether we get growth in or out of the Community depends on the economic policies of Her Majesty's Government.
But I cannot say the same about the political arguments. On this issue the political arguments are crucial. We are all agreed that we want to build a world in which people settle their differences peacefully and where they are no longer threatened by weapons of mass destruction. The pro-Marketeers, particularly those on this side of the House, argue that Britain can best contribute to this as a member of the Community, that as a member of a major economic power grouping we could have a significant influence on the development of world events and that outside we should not, and that it is within this framework that we could make the best contribution. They have argued that although the Treaty of Rome and the Community are basically capitalist, committed to a doctrine of private enterprise and free competition, nevertheless we should be prepared to join with our trade unionists and Socialists and work to build a Socialist Europe.
On the other hand, the anti-Marketeers have argued that we should stay out and pursue progressive policies towards the freeworld, set an example to the world in disarmament and, above all, seek to strengthen the United Nations. They have argued that joining the Community, rather than helping to advance Socialism within Europe, would make it harder for a future Labour Government to achieve a Socialist Britain, harder to extend public ownership and Government control of industry, harder to pursue radical regional policies and harder to redistribute wealth.
If one comes down decisively on the side of the pro-Market arguments when judging these political considerations, then it is right to say that we should enter although we have a Tory Government and although the terms are not all what we want. But I find it difficult to come down decisively on either side of those arguments. I ask myself what the intentions of the Government are. Do they intend to make the Community a more outward-looking organisation? Do they intend to work with Willy Brandt to achieve a closer understanding with Eastern Europe? If the C.A.P. rules worked adversely on our balance of payments, would they ensure that they did not create unemployment and deflation in order to solve that? Would they fight within the Community to obtain the radical regional policy which, incidentally, at present they are not prepared to pursue at home? Would they see that personal taxation was adjusted to compensate for the regressive nature of value-added tax? Above all, would they take action to protect the pensioners and to increase pensions and to see that all wage-earners got increases in wages to offset the substantial increases in costs which they would have to bear? I believe that the answer to all those questions is, "No", and it is for those and other reasons that I have decided to oppose entry. For me it has not been an easy decision, because the crucial considerations are the political and international arguments. But, having made the decision, I have been confirmed in my attitude by the views of my party and the views of my constituents.
You said, Mr. Speaker, that there were still 160 hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who wished to speak. I duly noted what you said and its implications. I have also taken account of the fact that when I last spoke on this subject, in July, I spoke for about an hour, because I then thought it right to deal with certain matters at considerable length.
Whatever the divisions of opinion in the country, in the House and inside the parties themselves, there is one thing on which we can all agree. It is that the choice before us is great; indeed, probably the greatest peace-time issue which has to be decided in this country in this generation. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in all parts of the House have had to take some hard and difficult decisions in relation to their own parties. They have made their own personal decisions. Although I speak from this Dispatch Box as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I hope that the House will first permit me some personal thoughts of a more general character.
There is nothing merely trivial or ephemeral about the matters on which we have to reach a conclusion. This is genuinely a parting of the ways. It is a time which marks the end of one era and the opening of another and, whatever the views of hon. Members, there can be no doubt about that.
What is more, and what is much more difficult, we have to weigh costs and benefits of very different kinds. The fact is that they cannot be translated into a common measure, involving, as they do, political values, economic values and social values. In the last analysis, and it is, after all, the last analysis which we are trying to make in this debate, when all the arguments and all the statistics and all the historical analogies and all the economic forecasts are exhausted, it must be a matter of judgment.
When I spoke in the debate in July, I explained to the House that with my particular responsibility I have no doubt whatever that the terms which have been negotiated are not only fair, but that joining on those terms will be to the great benefit of the British people. Nothing that has happened in the meantime has caused me to change my mind. But I think it is recognised in all parts of the House—certainly I recognise it—that this is not just a matter of striking an economic balance sheet, of totting up the consequences on various assumptions for the gross national product. The choice before us is a much deeper one than that. And I reached my decision in the full recognition that this was a parting of the ways.
When I look back to the proud rôle which Britain has played over the years both in peace and in war, I, too, feel a certain nostalgia—and there is nothing dishonourable in that. After all, we were brought up in the tradition, whatever criticisms there may have been of it, of a great imperial past. But that is now done, its legacy discharged. Under successive Governments, Conservative and Labour, with remarkable skill, patience and unselfishness on both sides, new and equal relationships have been created where formerly there was sovereignty on the one hand and subjection on the other.
These new relationships and the Government's decision to join the Common Market are well understood by the Commonwealth. Yesterday the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) said we were deserting the Commonwealth. That is not the view of the Commonwealth itself. If anyone doubts what I say, perhaps I should mention a recent personal experience which immediately came to my mind after the right hon. Gentleman made that assertion. Last month I took the chair at a meeting of more than 30 Commonwealth Finance Ministers. That meeting lasted for two days and out of those two days the item of Britain's application to join the E.E.C. took just one hour. There was no acrimony, no bitterness, and everyone who attended would agree with me that there was full understanding.
That meeting, the first since the Government's decision to join the Common Market, was generally agreed to have been one of the best meetings of Commonwealth Finance Ministers for many years. I would add that of all the delectable places in the Commonwealth offered for next year's meeting the unanimous choice was that it should be held in London. I recognise that the process of disengagement from empire—inevitable and wise as it was—has been for many people in Britain a difficult transition to accept. It has left for many, especially of an older generation, a sense of loss and it has deprived the younger generation of that sense of immediate purpose which has drawn out the best of our talents in the past. But now, in the new prospect, instead of disengagement we can look forward to co-operation. We have the opportunity of a new purpose in working towards a common goal, a goal more worth while, more effective and more challenging than the narrower objectives of a political and economic programme based on purely national lines.
Partnership is an equal enterprise and brings two values. It brings the chance to learn and the chance to lead. There is nothing chauvinistic about Britain's approach to Europe. We are not thinking in 19th century terms of dividing and ruling and of trying to impose our conceptions on others. But at the same time we are not joining merely in order to seek a refuge from a bleak and hostile world; we are not acceding to the treaty in a spirit of safety first. We are joining the Six as a proud and powerful country able and ready to make its full contribution. After all, it is recognised throughout Europe that we are rich in experience of international communities. We have a talent and tradition for co-operation and collective enterprise. So we shall bring to Europe an infusion of strength, of ideas, and experience and we shall help to provide the leadership which the enlarged Community can give to the world. This is the true pattern of events in which we are engaged, and no amount of party polemics can disguise this truth.
The fact is that, despite every effort, the out and out opponents of entry on the Opposition Front Bench—whether they have been consistent or have changed their minds—have failed to polarise this issue in party terms. This country's destiny is not to be weighed in the scales of party advantage. It is an issue of national and not of parochial dimensions.
When we debated this matter earlier in July, I spoke at considerable length because I thought it right then to set out fully the Government's views on a variety of matters. I then spoke about the economic case for entry, about the Community budget, the effect on the cost of living, the balance of payments, capital movements, direct investment, personal capital movements and portfolio investments, as well as the future of sterling and several other matters. Since the debate in July there has been one development of major importance and that is the international monetary crisis. Indeed, there have been times during the past two months when even the question of the United Kingdom joining the Community seemed to be dwarfed by that crisis. The immediate cause of that crisis was the action taken by the United States to correct its balance of payments deficit.
Perhaps on another occasion I shall have an opportunity of saying more about it, but it is useful for the moment to consider the prospects of an enlargement of the Community in the perspective of that crisis. I know from my talks with the Finance Ministers of the Six that they, like ourselves, accept that we have a common duty to work for a common solution. Successive United States administrations have always spoken out firmly and clearly in favour of European unity.
During the week I spent in Washington last month I met nobody concerned with the Administration there who took a contrary view. The reason is not far to seek, because for the United States this is the road to shared responsibility and shared strength. But in the tense atmosphere of recent times, with the problem of imbalance in the United States economy and the strains imposed on the monetary system, fears have been expressed in some quarters that enlargement of the Community might now hurt American interests and indeed the interests of world trade as a whole.
Therefore, one must ask what is the true state of affairs. The fact is that the Community is far from being the closed autarkic protectionist grouping that some people pretend. That is a mere caricature of the Common Market. Like ourselves, the members of the Common Market are critically dependent for their prosperity on the level of world trade. Indeed, they are dependent on world trade to a vastly greater extent than is the United States of America. Therefore, one of their main vested interests is in the free exchange of goods.
The E.E.C. is the world's largest importer and the world's largest exporter. Enlargement of this Community by the accession of ourselves and three other countries, all of them in their turn committed to free trade, is bound to reinforce the liberal trading character of Europe. The Community's external tariff is lower than the present United Kingdom tariff or that of the United States. Our membership will therefore result in a lowering of tariff barriers against American goods in our market. These are facts which, to listen to some speeches, sometimes seem to be forgotten.
Between the time of the formation of the Common Market and last year, American exports to the Common Market have almost tripled and the Common Market's share of American total exports to all countries has risen from 16 to over 19 per cent. We in the United Kingdom know that it is essential in the interests of all, certainly of ourselves, to safeguard and enlarge the freedom of trade. With our fellow members, that will be a prime aim of our policy.
There is one matter on which I should like to repeat the assurances that I have given previously, and that is the matter of sterling. At the annual meeting of the I.M.F. last month, I put forward certain proposals for the long-term reform of the international monetary system. As I said a few minutes ago, this is not the occasion to go into details, but I believe that the principle behind those proposals is widely accepted. As the House knows, it involved the replacement of the present reserve currencies, the dollar and sterling, by a neutral reserve asset. Referring back to what I said to the House in July when we last debated the application to join the Communities, it will be apparent that one consequence of the scheme which I put to the I.M.F. would be to fulfil our objective of a gradual and orderly phasing out of sterling in its rôle as a reserve currency.
As I have pointed out previously, everyone whose business is concerned with these matters knows that sterling's relative importance as a reserve currency has declined very considerably since the war. In 1950, official sterling balances were 16 per cent. of world reserves. By 1970, they were 7 per cent. To put the matter in another way, as a proportion of world trade sterling liabilities were 17 per cent. in 1949 and 4 per cent. in 1969.
The assurances that I have given remain as I gave them. They are set out in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and I do not think that I need go over them again today.
I do not propose merely to repeat the considerations which I put before the House at length in July. They are on the record, and they remain valid. But there are a number of points which must be made.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and some other right hon. and hon. Members have argued that our economy is not strong enough to meet the costs of entry. No doubt that is a judgment, and no doubt it is based on the words of the then Prime Minister, who told the House in May, 1967, that he had been talking of
… the robust strength of Britain's balance of payments and of sterling".
This is not a problem."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1967; Vol. 746, c. 1077.]
That was in May, 1967. It is worth recalling that, when the right hon. Gentleman's Government applied to join in July of that same year, we had a balance of payments deficit of £300 million a year, the National Plan was abandoned, sterling was weak and—I do not know whether the right hon. Member for Leeds, East considers this a sign of strength—we were only a few months away from devaluation.
I say in all seriousness to the House that I do not think that many objective observers would suggest that we were better placed to join in 1967 than we are today.
The right hon. Gentleman will recall that my main point on Thursday was that the only way in which we can hope to pay the balance of payments costs of entry, which the right hon. Gentleman finally confirmed on Monday would be £500 million by 1977, would be by a big increase in our growth; yet the Department for Trade and Industry and the C.B.I. together have confirmed that this year there is a 6 to 8 per cent. fall in our total industrial investment, and, according to the C.B.I., a further fall is expected next year. In other words, those business men who have signed the manifestoes in the newspapers in favour of entry are not prepared to back their judgment with their money.
First of all, the facts that the right hon. Gentleman related are not true, and he knows it. I will not weary the House, but there are a number of other points which the right hon. Gentleman made that are wholly without foundation, including views attributed to the Treasury which are quite untrue.
If the right hon. Gentleman really thinks that this country was in a better position to join in 1967 than now, then all I can say is that he is entitled to his opinion.
I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman is agitated, because he confessed on Monday that he had been misleading the House in July. But I put again to him the figures supplied by the Department of Trade and Industry, for which the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is responsible. There has been a heavy fall in investment this year. There is no increased investment expected next year. Against that background, to which we have to add the consumer boom launched by the right hon. Gentleman in July, how can he differ from the view expressed by The Times last Friday that we are riding for a stop in our economic development in 1973—the very moment when we have to start paying the intolerable foreign exchange costs of entry to the Common Market?
I do not think that that will carry very much weight with the House. Incidentally, if the right hon. Gentleman wishes to bandy about quotations from The Times, it also said that the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson) should never again be Prime Minister, and it is right about that.
Yesterday's opening speech was made by the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock and, very properly, the right hon. Gentleman naturally spent a considerable time dealing with the impact of our joining on Scotland in particular and on the regions in general. This evening, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry will be dealing once again with the general question of regional policy and our entry into the Community.
I want to deal with one observation made by the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock which I must say I found one of the most depressing remarks ever made by one who has held high office in a British Government. I quote the right hon. Gentleman's words so as to remind the House what he said. He said:
We are told that we shall have the benefit of competition, which means that firms all over the country will go to the wall."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th October, 1971; Vol. 823, c. 1494.]
What an appalling reflection on Scottish industry. What an insult to the people of Scotland. Here is the man who was Secretary of State for Scotland in the last Government—
I will give way in a moment—in effect saying to the people of Scotland that with competition our firms will go to the wail, that we are not equal to the other countries of the Six, that they are better than we are and that they are bound to win. The right hon. Gentleman could hardly have done a greater disservice to his native Scotland. I only hope that those whom he represents will take due note of what ha said. The reality is very different. The great majority of industry in Scotland, in England, and in Wales, is absolutely convinced that we shall benefit.
The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that there have been considerable changes in the incentives to industry in Scotland and elsewhere since he became Chancellor of the Exchequer. Will he look at what is being said by the chambers of industry in Glasgow? Will he look at what was said by Sir Eric Yarrow relating to R.E.P.? Will he consult his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who will tell him that the position of many Scottish firms, small and large, as a result of what has been done, will be desperate?
I take it that the right hon. Gentleman is simply confirming the view which he expressed yesterday. It is fortunate that that is not the view of Scottish industry.
I have great respect for those, whether they are for or against joining the Communities, who have remained consistent in their convictions. Again, as the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock yesterday rightly said,
It is this … changing of the story … that creates cynicism among the British people."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th October, 1971; Vol. 823, c. 1487.]
It is not only the British people. As I have been meeting the Ministers of the Six over these past months, one after the other—it is right that this should be said—has asked me the same question: "Why is it that Mr. Wilson has changed his mind?" They cannot understand how a man who has held the office of Prime Minister should fall so tragically below the level of statesmanship which is expected on an issue as great as this for our country.
I will give one example. During the debate several right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have tried to pretend that, in the course of the negotiations for entry, a Labour Government would have renegotiated the Community's agricultural policy. Every Member on the Opposition Front Bench, whatever his views, knows that that is simply untrue. There was no hint of any such "reservation" in the White Paper. The Labour Government's statement of 6th July, 1967, to which reference has been made, when the application was presented, made no such general reservation. The point is all the plainer because the statement did enter particular reserves on such agricultural matters as the annual review of prices, supplies of liquid milk, and support arrangements for pig meat and eggs. Therefore, it is absurd to contend, as the document prepared by the National
Executive Committee of the Labour Party does, that the Government—this Government—
made no sustained effort to change the fundamental nature of the Community's agricultural policy.
Of course we did not. Nor would the Labour Government, during the negotiations, have made any such effort to change the Common Agricultural Policy. They knew, and accepted, that such an approach would have been doomed from the start. The Leader of the Opposition was unequivocal on that point. Any assertion to the contrary is bogus.
There are three further points—
Since none of the right hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friends has responded to my invitation to quote what was said from the Front Bench opposite in the statement announcing the application for entry about this issue, and it was requoted on 8th May—all we get is selective quotations which Conservatives like to use—will he now state what was said in col. 312 of HANSARD of 2nd May, 1967, and incorporated in the White Paper, from which he voted, about our refusal to accept the arrangements made under C.A.P.?
Yes, we did support the right hon. Gentleman. I went into the Lobby in support of the right hon. Gentleman, because I remained true to my convictions. He is entitled to quote whatever he wants. If he will bring the HANSARD along tomorow he is entitled to quote it.
I will quote what the right hon. Gentleman said. He said:
we must be realistic in recognising that C.A.P. is an integral part of the Community. This recognition must form part of our position. We have to decide whether or not to apply for entry to a Community which is characterised by this particular agricultural system. It is useless to think that we can wish it away, and I should be totally misleading the House if I suggested that this policy is negotiable. We have to come to terms with it. But we can play our part in affecting its future development if, but only if, we are members of the Community."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1967; Vol. 746, c. 1066.]
There are three further points which have been raised again in this debate as they were in July.
The right hon. Gentleman has been quoting from HANSARD. But is he aware of the speech that was made, irrespective of what Lord George-Brown might say now, on behalf of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party at its conference in 1969? Speaking about the case which he put at the Hague on 4th July, 1967, when he put the application on the table, he said:
If anybody reads it, he will see I did in fact reserve all the major issues that the delegates have come to the rostrum to make today. I reserved them specifically for negotiation. I reserved agriculture. I reserved the C.A.P., the Common Agricultural Policy, and the levies. I reserved the sugar producers. I said specifically and in terms that we would decide whether to go in at the end of the day in the light of the negotiations on these issues.
Everyone knows, and also the members of the Six knew perfectly well, that the noble Lord was talking about the transitional arrangements. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] What is clear—[Interruption.] Perhaps I might pray in aid the views of another former Foreign Secretary. Yesterday the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart) said:
But surely it was not possible to say 'We are entering the negotiations in good faith and one of the things we shall ask for is that the whole nature of the C.A.P. shall be altered'. I do not see how anybody who knew the nature of the E.E.C. could do that, or how anybody who knew the nature of the Community and said 'We shall enter into the negotiations in good faith' could have expected terms substantially better than those which are now available."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th October, 1971; Vol. 823, c. 1514.]
As the right hon. Gentleman's researches have not made him fully aware of all the statements made by Labour Ministers, may I quote what he said on 30th June when he was responsible for the negotiations:
I think it will be generally agreed that the new decisions on financing as a result of the new decisions on the C.A.P. have made for us the problem of balance more severe. If I appear to labour this point it is only because, unless a solution is found, the burden on the United Kingdom could not be sustained, and no British Government could contemplate joining.
Is it not the case that that is what the right hon. Gentleman was saying in the negotiations at Brussels 15 months ago, before the Prime Minister sold out to President Pompidou in May of this year?
The right hon. Gentleman will have to do better than that. There is nothing at all in what I said there about reserving the C.A.P. for negotiations. What I said was—[Interruption.]
Two or three other points have been raised in this debate, as they were in July. The first is the effect of joining on our balance of payments and on the competitiveness of our economy. It is said that after our consideration was complete and we set out our conclusions in the White Paper we should have provided more statistics, and more facts. I dealt with that at some length during the debate in July, but the real point is, what possible advantage can there be in deploying spurious quantifications of one kind or another, with all the meretricious appeal of exact figures, when, in all honesty, we know that in some instances the magnitudes simply cannot be predicted?
It has been alleged from the benches opposite that we have refused to indicate the range of possible British contributions to the Community Budget between 1977 and 1980. But the Labour Government's White Paper gave a range of the total balance of payments effect of membership as being between £100 million and £1,100 million, and such figures, as almost every commentator said at the time, are utterly useless.
I should get on.
The House will recall that in July I dealt with our contribution to the Community Budget. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East, who opened for the Opposition on Thursday, has now joined ranks, a bit belatedly, with the right hon. Members for Stepney (Mr. Shore) and Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) in playing what I might call the "numbers game", that is, the game of confidently predicting the level of our contribution to the European Communities' Budget in the 1980s.
The truth is that the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman himself was a Member frankly recognised that it is impossible at this stage to make useful forecasts of the size of the Community Budget, and of the scale of our levies and duties in 10 years' time. The sort of figures used by the right hon. Gentleman are based on assumptions about agricultural developments in Europe over the next decade, and about the pattern and volume of this country's imports, both of food and of all other goods, not only from the enlarged Community, but also from all other countries. The fact is that such projections have no reliability whatsoever.
I cannot give way again.
I have already explained to the House the position about the removal of controls on capital movements, but I must refer to it again because, since we last discussed this matter and I set it out in detail, the Labour Party document published with the authority of the National Executive of the Labour Party purports to quote the T.U.C. as saying that the increased outflow of investment capital could be far greater than what they call the "official estimate" of £100 million.
What is this "official estimate"? It is a figment of their own imagination, for there is no such official estimate. So in this document, produced with great portentousness for the Labour Party Conference, the National Executive of the Labour Party quotes the authority of the T.U.C., the T.U.C. quotes official sources, and those sources prove to be nonexistent. That is hardly a way to conduct a serious debate.
What is the position about trying to quantify capital movements? I spelled out the full implications for investment trends and for the balance of payments in my speech to the House in July. It is common ground, I think on both sides, that, while transitional arrangements are open to negotiation, there is nobody in the House who disagrees that we must be prepared, as a member of the Community, to accept the system of capital movements provided for under the Treaty of Rome, and also under subsequent directives. I do not think that anybody will deny that.
The right hon. Gentleman says that he did not accept that. May I read his words:
… we must be prepared, as a member of the Community, to accept the freedom of capital movement provided for under the Treaty of Rome and under subsequent directives …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1967; Vol. 746, c. 1074.]
Those were the right hon. Gentleman's words.
The right hon. Gentleman would not read what I asked him to read before, and he would not on this. He will have full details of our negotiations with the Community, in which we said that we could not agree to this freedom of movement until we could guarantee that there would be no further movements from within the Community across the Atlantic. Will the right hon. Gentleman now confirm that that was said in 1967?
I quoted the identical words, in extenso, from HANSARD. That is what the right hon. Gentleman said, and everyone in the Community accepted it and thought that the right hon. Gentleman had said it in good faith.
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, including the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, have argued that we would be forced into policies of deflation or devaluation by the costs of membership to our economy and to our balance of payments. But that argument totally discounts the benefits to our competitive position, which British industry is confident will result from our entry, and it ignores completely the strength of our present payments position, and fails to make any allowance for our improving growth rate.
Our contributions to the Community budget will be built up gradually over the transitional period. By the end of that period our visible trade, both exports and imports, at 1970 prices, is likely to be about £24,000 million. In that context a relatively very small improvement in competitive strength would offset the expected balance of payments costs, and it is a fact that the overwhelming majority of British industry believe that with entry our competitive strength will improve.
The right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn), who is to follow
me, will, I think, at least agree with me that not to join the Common Market will have an adverse effect on technology. He of all people must surely realise that there is no
… future in the argument that technological co-operation on the scale we require can be achieved on a bilateral basis across a divided market. This is possible in joint aircraft projects, because the participating Governments can guarantee the demand through controlling the purchasing programmes of their respective Air Forces. But in the commercial field integrated technological development requires an integrated commercial market. I do not say there cannot be a restricted and useful field of technological co-operation, with professors crossing the Channel both ways to read learned papers to one another. But if that is all we can achieve in Europe, then we shall be condemned … as a continent—to the status of industrial helotry with all that that means in terms of world influence. And history may well say that we deserve it"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th May, 1967; Vol. 746, c. 1083.]
The right hon. Gentleman has made a very powerful case on something of which he is confident, and in which he and his Government believe. His case is that if his suggestion is not followed by this nation, disaster will follow. If he is so supremely confident in this House, will he and his colleagues now have the courage to put the matter to the acid test in a General Election on this issue?
I was not going to deal with that point, but since the hon. Gentleman raises it, perhaps I might read these words, which are an answer to him:
There are such sharp differences of opinion within each party that it would not be possible to decide the issue at a General Election, even if the leadership of the two major parties were taking contrary views.
Those are the words of the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in this respect. [Laughter.] I would only add, in fairness to him, that the right hon. Gentleman believes that there should be not a General Election but a referendum—but the Leader of the Opposition has ruled that out.
There is certainly no monopoly of expert advice about the balance of economic advantage if we join. Two letters in The Times last week showed how the opinion of university teachers in economics is evenly divided upon the merits of the case. So, inescapably, as I said at the outset, this is a matter of judgment.
My own judgment is that membership will strengthen our economy in two important ways. First, it will promote and assist industrial changes in a way which will lead to a better and fuller use of our national resources and our manpower. Second, it will give us a more effective voice in deciding questions of economic development in the world at large. In my judgment, I am sure that we shall benefit, and I want the United Kingdom to join.
When I set myself to prepare for this debate I hoped that I would be able to achieve four objectives: first, to be brief; second, to speak my mind; third, not to provoke; and fourth, to try to clarify the choices that the House has to make. If I may pay a tribute to a part of the Chancellor's speech, I fully agree with the words that he used at the beginning, about the "end of an era", the "parting of the ways", "a matter of judgment". However, if I may say so without disrespect, if he had been able to continue to develop his argument by recognising the truth, that we are all groping to find the right answer to difficult problems, he would have commanded more respect from the House.
But I shall not depart from my brief, which I have written myself so as to be short. I shall not be tempted by the right hon. Gentleman to provoke, and I have only one quotation to read, from which I think the House will learn but which I do not think that it will mock.
I do not share the certainties expressed in this debate by many of the principal advocates on either side. I envy the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir R. Turton). I envy those on either side of the House for whom this has always been absolutely clear, who have made no change of view at any stage and for whom tomorrow's debate is only a long-awaited opportunity to register a long-held view.
But I do not believe that that is the position of as many hon. Members as the debate might have suggested. I believe that the division in the country, in the House and in both parties is reflected in some sense within each of us. Indeed, even the Prime Minister, if the Gallup Polls could not reveal a single supporter for entry, might decide not to press his application. Therefore, we are talking about something which does divide us and which divides each of us.
I believe that the debate would have made more sense to the nation if more hon. Members had been prepared to confess publicly that they had argued it out in their own minds and that some doubts remained. I am very much afraid that if the people think that we have no doubts, they will think that we have not been listening to them over the last few years—because they have doubts.
I would go further and say that I think that history is unlikely to confirm any of our certainties expressed, and that what the historians will want to know is how deeply we thought about the possibilities. Moreover, a doubter listens because he wants to be convinced, while someone who is certain very often does not. It is with this approach, therefore, that I make my submission to the House.
I make no apology, in the course of having thought about this issue, for having changed the emphasis of my view at different stages. I would not regard it as being particularly honourably or necessarily desirable that in a world which is changing more rapidly than at any time in our history the one thing that remains absolutely unchanged was my view of how we should handle it. What sense does that make to an audience not only here but in Europe, which has changed its own view and its own institutions?
I was not an early European. I debated with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) when he came to my constituency 15 years ago, when I was opposed and he was in favour. He has not changed his view. I joined in the Cabinet discussions and I supported application, but I did it with doubts then, doubts of which I am not ashamed, as to whether Britain outside would be able to manage as well as inside, and whether we had the power alone to cope with the new power that had been created by modern industry. I supported the decision to apply.
But the right hon. Gentleman really must not pretend that the motives of the Labour Government in applying were comparable to his own. For example, I did not join in the Cabinet decision, neither did my right hon. Friends, in order to create a wider market to discipline the British trade union movement. When the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry spoke earlier this year about the motor tariff, he was very candid: it was to deal with wage increases in Britain. I am not criticising him. I am identifying a difference which he would want to see identified as clearly as I would. He sees in Europe a chance of market forces working unrestrained over a larger area. I do not. That was not why we applied.
I am not saying that. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that his attitude to market forces is different from ours. I am not saying who is right, but we take a different view about the rôle of market forces in a society. He sees those forces having greater sway in a bigger market. We saw in the Market—and this is why my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) said what he did say yesterday—a need for more protection for those who might be affected by the acceleration of technical change due to competition. We did not share the present Government's political motives.
It is not sensible for the House to try to isolate this central economic question from our philosophies on other economic matters, and to pretend that we can cut the question of British adherence to the Treaty of Rome from all the other aspects of policy which have guided us. That would be to mislead the public. I confess frankly that the view of entry which I took in 1967 and the application which I supported then were in the context of policies which would be followed by a Labour Government and which had very little in common—and the Secretary of State will be glad to hear me say it—with the philosophy of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues.
I wish to say a few words about some of my colleagues. Much play has been made about my right hon. Friends the Members for Workington (Mr. Peart), Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), Kilmarnock, Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and others, joined later by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore), because it is known now, and it was known then, that they had great reservations about the application. I can say what they cannot say, because I am not seeking to claim that I had their reservations; namely, that their positions were wholly reserved within the Cabinet, and everybody knew it. An application was made, but with reserved judgment until the negotiations had been completed. [Laughter.] Before it giggles, the House had better consider whether it wants the idea to go out to a public which is a bit more intelligent than it may think it is that Cabinets are always unanimous.
Unanimity is not the same as collective responsibility. I have no criticism of the hon. Members for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor) and Ludlow (Mr. More), who joined the Government in the summer of 1970 knowing that the Government they entered wanted this country to enter Europe. They came out when the decision was made and it affected them most directly. It would be a very great pity—because it is a dishonest way of presenting the means by which those in politics reach their decicisions—to suggest that there was unanimity in the last Government and then a total change of view. Everybody knows that in political decision-making we must reserve our position until we see how the final choice has to be made.
I must claim to reserve the same freedom to comment on the terms negotiated by another Government as I would have had in the Labour Cabinet to comment on the terms negotiated by a Labour Government. Therefore, let us not have too much of that.
The right lion. Gentleman had better listen to my argument before he comments further. The greater part of my speech, if I am allowed to reach it, deals with the question of how the House should decide this matter.
I agree very much with what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said—and it enables me to shorten my argument—that the economic predictions cannot be advanced as solid ground for reaching a decision. If there is one thing which all of us should have learned over the last 25 years it is that the economic problems of Britain are not simply to do with economics. The organisational problems of the world monetary system, the political problems, the attitudes of people—all these things create the conditions in which a society grows economically.
There is a great danger of our producing for members of the public a new myth—"Vote 'yes' for more jobs in Europe"—after all the experience we have had of putting forward remedies which we promised them would produce the desired answers. No Governments since the war have succeeded in achieving growth, a balance of payments surplus, stable prices, higher productivity and full employment at the same time. If any Government had done so they would have been in power throughout the last 25 years.
The forecasts do not make sense as an answer. In my constituency I succeeded a Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I have listened to 11 others in the House. They were all good and honest men but they were all wrong in their forecasts. Therefore, I agree with the Chancellor that we should not base our case on them. But the House should at least have had a chance to know what the best Government forecasts are. The Lockheed loan of 250 million dollars was subjected to a long inquiry by a Congressional committee, and matters to which the Select Committee on Science and Technology, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer) is Chairman, has devoted many sessions on issues that have received more detailed consideration than the decisison which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has called "a decision which ends an era". That is our complaint—that we do not want to rely on an intervention from the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) or second-hand news about what he told the Lobby.
This is not principally an economic issue; it is a political argument. The Government see it as a political argument. The people sense it as a political argument. History will confirm it to have been a political decision. Of course, it must be mainly to do with Britain's rôle in the world and her relationship with the United States, the Soviet Union, China and Japan. Ministers sound convincing on Europe only when they talk political language.
I wish to read a quotation, but not in order to mock or to criticise, from a speech which the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry made last year at the Agra-Europe Conference before he was a Minister. I ask the House to listen not because it represents the Government's view but because it is the best political case for entry that I have heard. No one at the end of it will be cheering or laughing. The right hon. Gentleman said:
what are we going to get out of it? Firstly, in a world where more and more the big battalions hold sway, we are going to move closer and closer to those who are not only our neighbours but who, for so many reasons, have interests compatible with our own. I know it is unfashionable to talk about the political objectives of the European community, but they seem to me by far the most important of all. Tensions on our continent's eastern, south-eastern and southern frontiers have not disappeared and, unhappily, are not likely to do so in the near future. The defence bulwark of the U.S.A. is to be gradually withdrawn. Western Europe grudgingly and unenthusiastically no doubt, must unite to assure the safety of its own frontiers and, no less important, its strategic negotiating strength. The first thing we buy is, to my mind, the economic unity upon which must be built the political structure capable of assuring the independence of our continent and its right to develop its own particular mixture of democracy, liberalism and the respect of the individual.
So number one on my list is the defence of the integrity of Western Europe towards which the enlargement of the community is the fourth faltering step after NATO, the Rome Treaty and the creation of EFTA.
I read that to the House because those words explain why the Chancellor said
that it is the end of an era. It has a political motive tightly linked to defence. I said that no one would cheer or laugh.
I come to the defence aspect of it. This is the best exposition of the Prime Minister's real thinking, and I suspect that of most of his Cabinet colleagues. He went through the agony of negotiation before he failed in 1963. He did not fail because of the negotiations. He knows that he failed because of the Polaris deal at Nassau. At the very moment when de Gaulle wondered whether we had shifted from America to Europe, the then Prime Minister reaffirmed the special relationship, confirmed the exclusion of France from the nuclear partnership, and confirmed again the insult de Gaulle had suffered when he asked for a triumvirate to run N.A.T.O., which was denied by America and Britain.
My interpretation is that at that moment, or soon after, the right hon. Gentleman, then a Minister in an outgoing Government and now the Prime Minister, resolved that nuclear weapon technology was the golden key to lift the French veto on British entry. I can put to the Prime Minister only what I believe. It is not part of the terms, but it is an essential part of the deal. That release of that technology is now openly demanded.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not forget that in the atomic world—I have responsibility for the Atomic Energy Authority—it has always known that that is what it was about. One could not visit Harwell or other places without knowing from all the people there that it was the French exclusion from the nuclear deal that was the major barrier between Britain and France. In his speech the Foreign Secretary admitted, after an intervention from the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), that the Mc-Mahon Act was very important. I can only put it to the House, because it has not been brought into the White Paper, that a massive shift of military support linkage from the United States to France, always the sleeping partner with the Atlantic Alliance, is what lies at the heart of the Prime Minister's defence and foreign policy.
I give a parallel example. As a Minister, I negotiated the centrifuge agree- ment with the Germans and the Dutch. A centrifuge is not a piece of nuclear equipment; it is a little engineering component which goes round very rapidly. It is a very simple engineering component. It stemmed—and the House should know this—from the period of co-operation between Britain and the United States in this sphere. The amount of negotiation that was required to get the centrifuge agreement settled, on that simple engineering component, indicates to me the magnitude of what the Prime Minister will be undertaking if he carries through his nuclear deal.
Except in the House, I have only once debated with the right hon. Gentleman. That was on 3rd February, 1951. We were both new Members. He had been elected in February and I had been elected in November. He has probably forgotten it but I have not; I have checked. His speech was based upon the importance of the Atlantic Alliance. I found the notes of my speech. I said, "Democracy means the right to be wrong." That is still the argument I put to the House today—[Laughter.] The question is; who has the right to be wrong? Has the Prime Minister the right to be wrong on behalf of all of us and to bring about the end of an era in British history? If the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is right, if he speaks for the Cabinet, if the renegotiation of the nuclear arrangements is undertaken, if defence and foreign policy are to be put in to for harmonisation with tariffs and taxation, we are being asked to undertake such a major political commitment that there is no parallel for it, certainly in this century.
I should have thought that it would be obvious that in such an arrangement this House would be subordinate to the bureaucrats in Brussels, or—I think that the Prime Minister sees beyond that, too—faced with subordination to Brussels, we shall demand a European suffrage and we shall have entered a fully-fledged federal European State.
In a situation where all these major decisions are taken by the Commission, the Prime Minister thinks that he can bring the second lever into play, the lever of British opinion wishing to democratise the power to which it is subject. Therefore, I claim that the Government have set out upon a course that can only be interpreted in terms of a major federal structure for Western Europe. If this is so, why is it not more apparent? I will tell the House. If it could be said that this is only a little economic arrangement one could tell the public that it is too complicated for them to understand. But it is not a little economic arrangement. By playing down the politics of it, one can be sure that the public do not understand what it is really about. By isolating the nuclear element from it and saying that it has nothing to do with the White Paper—which is true—one could complete the act of concealment.
To undertake changes of this magnitude without specific and explicit public consent is to undermine the basis of British parliamentary democracy. Either we subordinate the House of Commons to a non-accountable bureaucratic structure in Brussels, or we go on to the full federal structure.
I am likely to be in the same Lobby as the right hon. Gentleman, rather surprisingly, but as he is explaining what was the concealed intention behind this Government when they were previously in office, what was the intention behind his Government when they decided to apply in 1967?
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has not been present throughout my speech, but I said that the Conservative Party's motives for entry—I am commenting on rather than criticising what I believe to be its motives—were totally different from those that motivated my right hon. Friend the former Prime Minister and myself in presenting our application.
Let me develop my case. I am seeking not to provoke but to argue a case. I stay further to the Prime Minister that this proposal will not work. It will not work because one cannot generate the will to carry through such a change without first obtaining the consent preceding the decision. If I were a long-standing European, as is the Prime Minister, I would feel that he had killed my European dream, because visions are realised only when men enter a common enterprise freely. They carry the strain. They are rewarded by their effort. One cannot march a nation into a new era and adventure on the scale—against its will. [Interruption.] I am prepared to develop my argument as best I can. I should be grateful if the House would allow that.
A major constitutional issue lies at the heart of this question. We have talked about sovereignty, but what does it mean? Without referring to the old texts or the Treaty of Rome, it means that when people come to this Chamber we can point to the Treasury Bench and around the House and say, "This is where your laws are made and your taxes are imposed. This is where policies are explained, and you can get rid of these men yourselves." That is all there is in parliamentary democracy. Open debate plus a secret ballot is parliamentary democracy. It has nothing to do with Mr. Speaker's wig or the mace, or all the little things the tourists come to see. It is the combination of open debate and secret ballot, that is the basis of our system. Parliamentary democracy does not mean that we control our destiny. Our future could be decided in Brussels, Peking, in the Kremlin, the Pentagon or anywhere else. What it does is to guarantee that how we respond to the circumstances of our time is decided after open debate and by secret ballot.
I have tried not to make this into an argument of the kind that we have every day. Let me develop my case. I am doing it as best I can.
The arguments about parliamentary sovereignty are not arguments about the House of Commons having any rights, because I think the House knows that we hold these rights in trust for others. I am not interested in Parliament save only as an instrument of the public. When Lord Shawcross, in one of the silliest of many silly speeches, said "We are the masters now", he broke the central principle of parliamentary democracy. This House is famous not for its wisdom or its customs or its HANSARD, but for Erskine May. That is why people come to see this House, because in Erskine May is contained the distilled wisdom of our experience of open debate and secret ballot. We do not have a written constitution. We have got something much more formidable. We have got a constitution embedded deeply in the hearts and minds of the people who live in this country, and it is that which encourages and shapes and restrains us all.
In 1910 a small constitutional change was delayed by the Crown. In 1949 a change of control of an industry was delayed by the House of Lords. Are we to be told by the Government that a simple majority in a single Chamber on a single day is really to put an end to this long process of development of self-government? I believe it would totally misunderstand the whole temper and nature and history of this country if a decision of this magnitude were taken in this way.
I cannot give way. I am pressed a little for time.
All the attention this week has been on European institutions. This debate is about a British institution and how we should decide an issue ourselves. It is, of course, in relation to the public that we have to take our decisions. It is very easy to make fun of opinion polls and referenda. The right hon. Gentleman read an extract from a pamphlet that I wrote on referenda, drawing attention to one of the difficulties of proceeding in that way. But the truth is, and every Member of the House knows, that in the 20 years since the Commission was set up there has been an enormous development of our constitution in that our electors are better informed, and they are now beginning to press us more forcibly than they have ever done before. When the demonstrators come here they do not threaten Parliament. They sustain Parliament. It is when the U.C.S. workers—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Just listen to the argument. It is when the demonstrators take a charter flight to Brussels that we shall know where power has really moved.
No, let me finish.
If the Crown is no longer a constitutional safeguard, and neither is the House of Lords, the only place which could perform this function is the House of Commons. The issue tomorrow is not keeping the flag of Europeanism flying, for no one is in any doubt where most hon. Members stand upon Europe. It rises well above party loyalty. But they should accept that the constitutional issue rises above it. The House has got the power tomorrow to reserve the position for the people. I do not believe that if my hon. Friends or hon. Members opposite who choose to vote that way did so to give the Government time to think, to reserve the position for the people, anybody would misunderstand the motives that led them to do it.
I plead with the House, before this is all brushed off as a procedural matter, to recognise that parliamentary democracy is a very fragile thing indeed. It rests upon a network of assumptions so sure and strong that power is able to pass peacefully from one group to another. When Churchill had defeated Hitler, he was defeated by the British public. Why? Because he had been brought up to believe that in Britain power passed that way. If ever this House were to create a situation in which people thought that it no longer reflected their power ultimately to decide, I believe that parliamentary democracy, which hangs by a gossamer threat, could easily fall to the ground.
Hon. Member may think me strange to concentrate almost entirely upon this issue, but there are not many places in the world where people can turn to an assembly that shapes their lives and say, "I decide who speaks there. I can remove them and by doing so I can change the policies of my society." The party system, for all its faults—and I do not much care for people who mock it in this House and then outside at conferences, Conservative or Labour, take a different view—preserves that basic choice. All the pressures of society are trying to bring us together into the mush of men of good will and no party. The party system preserves choice.
What I warn the House of is this. If the people think that by a temporary coalition, which has never been tested at the polls, some Members of Parliament claiming a divine right that we have denied to kings, deny the people the right to decide their own future, we are in serious trouble. [Interruption.] I believe what I am saying. We live in a world where enormous and unaccountable powers are everywhere growing, whether they be General Motors, the big companies, whether they be the mass media or the big organisations for which we work, and people see in this Chamber the one thread connecting them to a countervailing power. If we cut the thread that connects them to us I do not believe that this House could long survive.
Certainly it would not help Europe if we joined, having entered this way. The Europeans do not really need our money for their common agricultural policy. They do not even need our technology because they can buy it as anyone can, as the Japanese did, from abroad. What they really need is the thing that we must preserve, if ever we were to go in to be of value—our experience of government by consent. I say this to the Prime Minister: If you rupture the social contract in this country as a pre-condition of entry into the Community, the terms are too high for anyone, whatever his view of Europe may be.
I began by admitting to doubts, and I have described them as best I can. But I have one absolute certainty at the end, that whether the European communities are good for Britain, only Britain can decide. The Prime Minister could leave this House to sign the Treaty of Rome and no one could stop him, but he cannot take this country into Europe by signing the Treaty of Rome. A British signature on the treaty of accession, legislation forced through this place, will not be the end of the matter. It will not commit the Opposition which entirely reserves its rights. It will not commit the British people because they will have had no part in it. I say to the Prime Minister: It would precipitate a major crisis and unleash the biggest constitutional and political struggle that we have seen in this country for many years. Will that struggle be anti-European? Not at all. It will be the right of British people, if they go in, to go in freely and to carry with them the thing they value most—the right to decide their own future. I have said before in political anger, and I say it again now, quite coldly, that the Prime Minister has forgotten the people, and in the end the people will always have their way.
The right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Wedgwood Benn) has made a speech of great ingenuity and extreme complexity. Obviously, he attaches the very greatest importance to our constitutional procedures, but his speech, in my view, suffered from the fundamental defect that, for a man who believes in the British constitutional procedures, he vastly over-exaggerated the importance of the particular party in power at the time when this country enters the European Community. After all, there are already Social Democrat and Gaullist parties within the Community. The right hon. Gentleman's Government, surely, could not have decided that they would go into the Community on the supposition that they would be in power perpetually.
A Parliament like ours, used to the party system, engages upon entering into an important international agreement or treaty in the natural knowledge that there will be other governments of different parties coming later. In other words, the duty of a Government is not to take a party into the Community; it is to take the nation into the Community, and that is the spirit in which we ought to approach the issue.
For the sake of brevity, I propose to concentrate on one single, but important, point made by the Foreign Secretary when he opened the debate last week. He spoke of the Ottawa Conference and how the benefits of the Agreements made there had been eroded over the years. I think that I am the only Member of the present House of Commons who was present at that Conference. I was there as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Stanley Baldwin, and my leader in Birmingham, Neville Chamberlain, as Chancellor of the Exchequer carried out the work of negotiation. He regarded it as his mission to bring into operation the policy which his father, Joseph Chamberlain, had originated many years before.
It needs quite a feat of imagination from us now to remember the circumstances in which Joseph Chamberlain originated that policy, which still affects us today, when he was Colonial Secretary in Lord Salisbury's Government in the last decade of the nineteenth century. It should be remembered that at that time no nation came anywhere near us in wealth or world-wide power. Joseph Chamberlain and his contemporaries were so much nearer to the amazing achievements of our nation in making the Indus trial Revolution, which Professor Hobsbawm in his recent book, "Economics and Empire", has described as the greatest transformation of human life ever to take place in recorded history. All around him, in the Midlands, Chamberlain was familiar with the tremendous industrial developments which had sprung from it. He had been in business himself before coming into public life. There never could have been a Minister, by character and personal experience, better fitted to frame the long-term commercial policy for the country.
Amid all the complacency, self-confidence and increasing wealth, he saw the early signs of danger. He noticed a certain slackening in the pace of industrial advance and saw the thrusting, dynamic industries rising behind the tariff walls in Germany and the United States. Even in those days he looked forward right into our present times, and he doubted that the United Kingdom could survive as a great Power alongside the Continental giants of Russia and the United States in the twentieth century without the support of the big market of an imperial trade federation. So he brought forward the policy called the imperial Zollverein, which was free trade within the Empire behind an imperial tariff wall. It was a tremendous conception.
What happened? In spite of the fact that, in those days, the Colonies were so much weaker in relation to us than they became later, they at once made clear that they would have none of it. Even in those days they were not prepared to be just suppliers of food and raw materials. They were determined to develop and protect their own industries. Joseph Chamberlain, therefore, immediately changed his policy to one of mutual imperial preference. Along these lines considerable progress was made, but, as the House knows, as it was later developed it was decisively rejected by the country in the General Election of 1906.
When Neville Chamberlain came to take up the task again at Ottawa, more than a quarter of a century later, much had changed. Our position in the world and our wealth were much reduced compared with what they had been before. One thing, however, did not change—the absolute determination of the Dominions to develop and protect their own industries. That was why the negotiations were so difficult for British Ministers at Ottawa. Indeed, at one time, it looked as though the Conference would break down completely. But, in the end, agreement was achieved.
It is no part of my intention to denigrate or undervalue the importance of the Ottawa Agreements. On the contrary, for many years, and still to a certain extent today, they were a powerful encouragement to imperial trade. But we must face the fact that they were only a pale shadow of Joseph Chamberlain's original master plan. They were not a basis on which Britain could raise an industrial economy comparable to that of the United States. It was more a holding operation, and, as time went on, industrialists in the Midlands came to feel that in the daily conduct of their export trade. Gradually, more and more complained that they were excluded from the markets of the Commonwealth by tariffs and embargoes. My right hon. Friend explained last week how, when he was Commonwealth Secretary, he saw this process remorselessly at work.
Thus it was that, after Midland industry had for 50 years been the champion of imperial preference, last July the Council of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce voted unanimously to support British entry into the European Economic Community. But before it did so, it communicated with all of its 4,200 members specifically asking whether any of them wished to bring forward any objections or reservations. Only 13 members replied in that negative sense.
I have never heard the economic case for our entry into the Common Market put better or more concisely than it was by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment on Monday night. He avoided all exaggeration. He said that it means more opportunity in good years and more security in bad. I believe that, in our present circumstances, it offers the best chance we have of bringing into being that more prosperous and more civilised industrial community which we all desire.
My reading of political history tells me that bath Joe Chamberlain and Neville Chamberlain were noted for their lack of judgment, I should have thought that any of the members of the Chamberlain family were the last people to quote in support of an argument favouring British entry into Europe, and I am surprised that the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) did it, though I recognise at once his close affiliation with Birmingham and the part he has played in Birmingham politics, and I can understand his paying respect to his predecessors and those with whom he has had a long political association.
I wish to take up a few of the threads which have run through the debate—I see some of my friendly enemies are here—and, perhaps, say a few words on matters which are of great importance to us in the Labour Party. It is not surprising that a six-day debate should develop into a series of interviews. At least, that is the way it has seemed—or, as someone suggested, perhaps a selection conference. Nevertheless, there have been some surprises among those whom we have interviewed so far, and Mr. Speaker has told us that there are well above 100 who may yet give us some surprises.
Some indication of what the debate is about was given when we interviewed the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. More). The hon. Gentleman said that he disagreed with his Government on their Common Market policy, and, in the circumstances, as he found his attitude to that policy incompatible with his position as a Whip, he had resigned from the Government. Then he said that, on the basis of a free vote, he would support the Government's policy. I think that that is a fair summary. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I understood the hon. Member for Ludlow to say that he would join the Government supporters in their Lobby, that they would be embarrassed by his presence. [HON. MEMBERS: "Wrong."] Then I must take it back. Obviously, it was a bad interview, and I misunderstood.
I am sure that I did not misunderstand the Secretary of State for Employment when we interviewed him. His case for going into Europe was one which we on this side could unanimously turn down, and we did. I am glad that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is here today, because I wish to quote him, although he has not so far been interviewed.
The Secretary of State for Employment promised sunshine tomorrow. He said that there would be marvellous job opportunities once we got into Europe. Then he made various quotations, as others have done. He did not quote his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, but, at the point at which he got down to some of the actions taken by his right hon. Friend in that Department, he showed that his sunshine was, in fact, moonshine. Earlier, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his interview, told us that there were great job opportunities open to us because of the developing trade within the Six and the expansion in which we could take part.
Let us line up all three Ministers and see what they were saying. If I understood the argument correctly, the Chancellor of the Exchequer accepts that there is a built-in deficit in our trading arrangements with the Six, so that, if we are to break even at the end of the day, we must more than double the rate of growth in trade expected by both France and Germany. That is just not on. So it is fallacious to argue, as the Secretary of State for Employment did, that there are great job opportunities waiting for us once we get into Europe.
When the Secretary of State for Employment went on to hint at the philosophy of the Tory Party, he had forgotten what his colleague the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry had said on previous occasions about a deliberate use of unemployment in this country to smash wage applications being made by the unions.
Certainly. I cannot recollect the date, but we are all here witnesses to the occasion when the right hon. Gentleman said in the House that, if the trade unions in the motor industry persisted in their wage claims, he would not hesitate to bring down the tariff barriers and create unemployment in the industry in order to break the position being taken up by the motor industry unions.
I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman twice, but he has rather seriously misquoted me, and I feel that, if he had it in mind to say that, he ought to have been prepared to quote the actual words. What I was complaining about was the, on the whole, softness of management in not resisting exaggerated wage claims.
Precisely; that is what the right hon. Gentleman was doing, but what was his purpose? He said that he would lower the tariff barriers on the importation of foreign motor cars in order to create slack in the British motor industry.
That was precisely his argument. That was no point in making the case if it were not. In other words, the more foreign motor cars are brought into this country, the weaker the case of the motor industry worker. If the workers' job opportunities decline, as they would if we brought in masses of foreign motor cars, obviously, the employer would bestrengthened in his resistance to trade union wage claims. So the right hon. Gentleman was plainly arguing that he would deliberately bring in more foreign cars to create unemployment among Midland motor car workers in order to resist wage claims. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] Of course he was, and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment had forgotten all that part of the Government's history.
I come to the question of public opinion in this country. I find it most encouraging that the mind-benders have been defeated. This is the first occasion I recall when, after the British people have been subjected to a deluge of propa- ganda—educational processes, some hon. Members have called it—the mind-benders have been defeated. That should give us great encouragement in the Socialist movement. It means that a future Labour Government could, perhaps, pursue Socialist policies in the teeth of total opposition from the British Press. I am delighted that the British people have at last matured in such a way that they can resist the pressures put on them by the British Press and the media generally.
It has been suggested from the benches opposite that, perhaps, all the money spent and spread around in the European Movement, although it may not take us into Europe, may at least bust the Labour Party, so that, whichever way things go, it will have been well spent in a good investment. Let us for a moment look at the Labour Party and take up some of the matters raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). Let us consider the position of the party itself and what is likely to happen.
My first great worry is that the British Labour Party is going hell-bent towards its own destruction. What happens if there is resistance by its Parliamentary representatives to conference, rank-and-file decisions of our movement? We all recognise that we are a political coalition. It is often argued that we represent opinions ranging from Marxism to Methodism, and I do not deny that. The spectrum is tremendously wide. There is no way in which a coalition of our kind can survive in British politics unless it accepts the decisions of an extra-mural authority. It must accept the rank-and-file decisions taken outside Parliament if the Parliamentary coalition is to survive.
I am sorry to think that the Labour Party is hell-bent towards its own destruction if there is rejection of that argument. I say that in a year when the arguments between us are bound to intensify, not about the Market but about other fundamental political issues. The party is now committed, for instance, to climb the City wall at last, to take into public ownership the banks and insurance companies. I already hear arguments against that. I have heard that certain lion. Members would never support the idea. In the process of formulating a policy upon which the Labour movement will contest the next General Election, that argument is bound to take place, whether we like it or not. The rank and file of our movement have laid down the policy which will be pursued at that Election. Therefore, Parliamentarians must come to some understanding of what is being demanded by the wider movement outside.
If we are seeing the start of disagreement with rank-and-file opinion, a refusal to accept the authority of the highest policy-making body in the movement, its annual conference, then we are heading for problems and possible destruction.
Will the hon. Gentleman follow through the logic of that constitutional point, that his party must follow the decisions of its highest policy-making body? If that is true while the Labour Party is in Opposition, why is it not true when it is in Government? If in fact it is true when it is in Government, the Government are held entirely to the wishes of the policy-making body of the Labour Party Conference.
I will tell the hon. Gentlemen why. It is because the Labour movement's annual conference, in its policy-making responsibilities, lays down the basis upon which we all contest Elections. That is the programme and policy that we put before the British people. If a Government are elected they are committed to pursuing the policy they put before the people, otherwise it is a bogus prospectus. It is the duty of every Labour Parliamentarian to accept annual conference decisions, to accept the policies on which he or she contested the election. [Interruption.] If hon. Gentlemen argue that they can willingly go back on annual conference decisions on electoral policy, what is the purpose of laying down that policy? What is its purpose unless we are committed to it?
As one who has been consistently opposed to entry into Europe, I must ask my hon. Friend this: does he sincerely feel that the argument he is now developing is helping to maintain unity within the Labour Party? Does he feel that his argument should be made here or, rather, in another place more appropriate to these matters?
Much as I understand my hon. Friend's concern to shuffle off such discussion to a private place, I believe that it is our purpose here to discuss as openly as possible what our commitments are. Every one of us in the party contested the election on the policy laid down, which states very clearly what is our attitude on the Common Market. It clearly states that under no circumstances would a Labour Government accept the implications of a value-added tax or the imposition of food levies, and that it is totally opposed to the abolition of food subsidies. It defines regional policies and so on. It is all there in the document. That was the commitment that every hon. Member on this side accepted when he went into the General Election as a Labour candidate. Those who now reject the document on which they fought the election, by doing something opposite to what it says, are being dishonest to the electorate.
As members of the British Labour movement, we have a right to say that the greatest and highest authority in our movement has declared the basic policy and that it is our responsibility to find ways of putting that policy into practice, whether we are in Government or in Opposition. We have the obligation to be consistent with the policy proclaimed at the General Election.
There is a greater importance in the question, because of an international misunderstanding of the position, mentioned by two of our Front Bench speakers. I refer to the misunderstanding on the part of both Georges Pompidou and Willy Brandt, who believe that on 29th October it will be all over, that once Britain is in Europe the potential European leadership in the Labour movement will emerge and take the Social Democrat argument into a new dimension. They are saying that once Britain is in Europe the opposition of the Labour Party ceases. It does not. We have rejected the terms because of the fundamental principles I have mentioned. We are totally and fundamentally opposed to any form of tax harmonisation along the lines suggested, to the scheme of food levies and to the abolition of subsidies.
We are demanding an immediate election, but if that is not conceded by the Prime Minister that argument will remain open until we have a General Election. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) told our annual conference very clearly that we shall contest the next General Election, whenever it is, between now and 1975, on the terms now being proposed by the Government. The Labour movement will stand firm by its pledge to the British people. It will give them an opportunity to take a decision on the terms now proposed, whenever that opportunity comes. When Willy Brandt asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what had made Harold Wilson change his mind, it is more important he should understand that the position of the Labour movement has not changed.
I think that I understand the British Labour movement as well as most. The position will not change between now and 1975. Indeed, if it ever changes it will harden into total opposition in principle against the European Community. So there is no chance of this position changing.
What we are saying is that we demand a General Election and that at that election we shall fiat on the basis of the rejection of the terms now proposed. That is our position and it will continue. Therefore, both Herr Brandt and President Pompidou must understand clearly that the British people, if they elect a Labour Government at the next General Election, will be electing a Government who will then say to the Community, if we are in by then, that they have their own terms and proposals for membership and that if those are rejected by the Community then the relationship which may exist at that time will be changed dramatically and totally reversed. There should be no ambiguity about the sort of things we are saying and about our commitment.
It is said that this is an academic argument because, no matter what our political commitment, once the Tory Government take us into Europe we cannot do anything about it. There are arguments about signatures to treaties and so on. But no Government can be committed by their predecessors. That is the accepted position in all things, including international agreements. If we get a change of Government before 1973, there will be no problem. If the present Government go on to 1975—heaven help us!—even then there will not have been irreparable damage to our ecnomy. This is because, according to the transitional terms already announced, we shall be only two-fifths on our way towards tariff abolition and the rest. The internal taxation changes and so on will not have started, except for the embryonic V.A.T. in 1973. Tax harmonisation in Europe cannot take place before 1975.
These major changes envisaged for Europe will not prevent a Labour Government carrying out their commitment to the British people. We should look to the future, therefore, with a great deal of confidence and we look to the leadership of our future Labour Government to honour their pledge to the people that these terms will be submitted, and if they are rejected by the people, then that Government will change the position when the time comes.
I will not follow the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) very far, except to hope that his party is not so hell-bent on destruction that it will be destroyed tomorrow night. I look forward very much to the support of hon. Members opposite in the Lobby. Hell must not strike before midnight on Thursday.
This debate has been of great profundity and interest, especially for backbenchers. An identity of this House of Commons with the ordinary people we represent has clearly emerged. It is not the identity of dedicated European man. It has become clear that the House stands for and holds most precious the sovereignty and power of this House first and beyond that its constituents, its regions and those great areas overseas with which we still do 70 per cent. of our trade. I believe that that is the mood which I have come increasingly to sense in the House over the last few days.
First, it justifies the belief of the late General de Gaulle that this country is not and never could be totally dedicated to Europe. Secondly, I believe that the situation means that this country, with a bare majority in the House of Commons uncertain about the commitment, and with the people on the whole opposed to the idea of going into Europe, far from being a help to Europe in these troublesome times would be a hindrance and would not contribute to the future envisaged by the Six and by the Government.
I propose to vote against the Motion tomorrow night. This is not just because of a feeling of reluctance on my part but as an expression of the political reality as it exists in Great Britain today.
I seldom agree with The Times on matters concerning Europe, but I did agree the other day when it said that the House should consider not the immediate future but what is going to happen in Europe in the 1970s and 1980s. It is these points to which I want to address myself because I believe they are the points which really matter.
The whole shade of Europe has changed. The Common Market has had 12 golden years since the signing of the Treaty of Rome. They have been golden years without so much as a winter. But things are changing now. It is clear that the great period of unlimited growth is over. Let us compare the remarks of Signor Giovanni Agnelli, the Chairman of Fiat, to his shareholders yesterday with the address of Lord Stokes in another place. Lord Stokes foresees abounding expansion in Europe; Signor Agnelli foresees a slump, and expansion only in markets in South America and beyond the Iron Curtain.
We have to think of the changes taking place now—for example in the American balance of payments position, with the cessation of the flow of dollars. There is also the fact that Germany is once more astir. These are some of the political considerations we must bear in mind.
Both Mrs. Miriam Camps and Herr Dahrendorf have been quoted in the debate because they have examined the question of the institutions. Herr Dahrendorf has spoken of the need for a
second Europe. Mrs. Camps, in International Review, has rightly said that the institutions of Europeans are now flattening out, that their zest has gone, that they neither advance forward nor move backwards and that immobilism has descended upon them. I think that this is true. I do not propose to attempt a learned essay to describe what these two distinguished writers have to say but their summation can perhaps be best found in Genesis, Chapter 11, verses 1 to 9:
And they built a tower and the Lord called it Babel.
There is no need for God to descend to call what is going on in Europe today "Babel". We are not faced today in Europe with growth, except of one factor, the growth of Babelism.
These matters have to be put right, but the House of Commons has not the dedication and is not prepared to see these question answered. The problems lying ahead for Europe in the 1970's are threefold. The first concerns the Community's institutions, the second relations with Europe's defence and with the United States, the third the reunification of Germany. All three will face us and Europe in the 1980's and the 1970's and for the Community to survive except as a C.A.P. or customs union all three questions must be answered.
What is clear is that over the next ten years without the sort of action which people like Lord Gladwyn are calling for in the House of Lords, action of the sort which the federalists are demanding on the Floor of this House, the idea of l'Europe des patries is doomed. But I believe that we are not prepared to accept federal solutions. But are the Government so prepared, and if they are, should they not tell us before tomorrow night?
Of course there could be federal solutions for defence. The West Germans could be bound to the West in hoops of steel and we should have one finger, one European finger, on the trigger, or the button. But none of that is realistic, for it would not be acceptable to us, or to most countries in Europe, and it would certainly not be acceptable to Russia. Only last week there was a Gallup poll showing that Germany is becoming a largely neutralist country. I believe that these problems can be solved by a federal solution, but I believe that in that this House and this country could have no part. That is why on an issue like German reunification, if we have l'Europe des patries, the Germans will eventually be entitled to say that it applies to the gander as much as to those who would goose step to national unity, and that is what it is coming to.
There is only one answer and it is not to unite Europe. The whole basis of the old E.E.C. was the concept of the man of Lorraine and the man of the Rhineland, not only that Germany should be at peace with France, but that there should be no Rapallo, no repetition of that by the permanent division of Germany. But that period is coming to an end. A united Europe of which we were a member could not act as the necessary counterweight. The only force which could be a counterweight to a united Germany, which would be united only with the consent of the Soviet Union, would be the United States. Therefore if it be a question of our having (to choose between Europe and the Atlantic, we must remain an Atlantic Power, and that is why it is impossible for us to make this total commitment to the concept of Europe.
On purely political grounds, the advantages of entry are small and almost dangerous. Economically it is a matter of taking projections of additions of burnt out matchsticks among which there is not so much as one Swan Vestas, a balance to which there is no answer. It is possible to argue that we should be allowed to go into Europe free in view of the problems in Europe which will emerge and which will be solved only by some federal solution, but I should be opposed even to free entry.
As it happens, the price is very heavy. There is, first, the political price, the political price of ten wasted years of trying to get in. During those ten years we have lost friends. During those ten years there has been a sort of trauma of enforced inevitability about Whitehall. We have seen no new initiatives; we have seen the Soames—de Gaulle possibility rejected; we have seen our economy tortured so that we should be fit to go in and have the right balance of payments situation.
Historically, we have seen Foreign Secretary after Foreign Secretary, whether from my party or the Labour Party, destroying those bridges still remaining to us with the outside world. I have listened to right hon. Gentlemen talking about the captain of the Hesperus, but we have seen Foreign Secretaries behaving like the boy Capabianca, not just guilty of the stupidity of staying on the burning deck, but guilty of arson. Many things have been destroyed in the process.
At the end of ten years, as we make our third attack in the citadel of Brussels, is a low price to be expected? Of course the price is high. I do not blame my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who has negotiated brilliantly and who has obtained better terms than could have been obtained by the Labour Party, but let us face the fact that there are two elements in the economic price to be paid. The first is what are called the costs of impact, not just V.A.T. but higher food prices and possibly, in the short term, an adverse balance of payments and the loss of exports in the first few years. In addition, there are the long-term costs.
It is said that there will be growth, but the present indications in Europe are that there will not be any growth. We are to have to pay one-quarter of the budget, and figures which are not being revealed by the Government show that the costs must be in the nature of £500 million to £800 million a year in the late 1970s. These are the prices we are being asked to pay for a system on which we can make little or no successful impact, a system which would be most dangerous to the concepts of the country as a whole and this institution in particular.
I conclude by saying: an alliance with Europe, yes; partnership, yes; friendship, yes; but the concept of our being united with Europe on these terms and to these federal purposes, never.
I have frequently agreed with the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) in our economic debates, but I disagree with him strongly on this issue. I shall comment later on what he said about costs.
I hope that the House will forgive me if, unlike many others who have spoken. I do not try to convince the House of the strength of the argument on either side, because I feel that there are not many left to be convinced in this debate. I shall state simply why I remain in favour of Britain entering the Common Market.
First, I believe it to be a tiny but important step in co-operation with our neighbours. They have problems as the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone said, and so have we. I believe that by working together we shall have a better chance of solving our problems. This does not mean anything approaching integration—because it is a long way from integration even after 15 years.
Many of the basic economic decisions remain a problem of national Governments, and will continue to remain so for some considerable time ahead. In regard to co-operation with the Common Market countries—and I do not pretend this will involve the whole of Europe since it will not—the fact that other countries of Europe do not yet want to co-operate with each other in this way is no reason for not making a start now.
If it were to mean a reduction in the economic growth of this country and if it were to prevent redistribution of wealth, it would be too high a price to pay. Indeed, if that could be proved to me, even at this late stage I would be prepared to vote in the other Lobby. But for me economic growth is very important, not simply because I fought my own Government from 1964 to 1970 on this matter and, indeed, have fought this Government ever since—[An HON. MEMBER: "And did not get it."] I agree that we did not get it. I did this not because I think there is something beautiful about G.N.P. but because I feel that, without it, there is little chance of doing the things most of us are in politics to do; namely, to help to alleviate the misery of old people living lonely lives, to improve housing and social conditions, and to provide a better life for our young people. These are the reasons why I want a very considerable increase in the rate of economic growth.
On balance, I believe there are better opportunities for economic growth with our being members of the E.E.C. I do not believe that simply by association we shall automatically achieve increased growth. There would be no magical growth flowing from association. If we accepted the same wrong priorities inside Europe as we have accepted outside Europe during the last seven years, we would have the same miserable rate of economic growth.
The major argument many of my right hon. Friends have presented as to why we shall not be able to achieve economic growth is that there is, first, the matter of higher costs to which I shall be referring later and, secondly, the question of the balance of payments. I do not accept either of these arguments, as I hope to show.
I have for years argued that we have no need to let balance of payments prevent our going for a higher rate of economic growth, and I do not accept it today when we have about £34,705 million of foreign assets, according to the Bank of England's last quarterly report. In the transitional period—and I will deal with the post-1978 period in a moment—the direct net contribution will rise from £100 million to £200 million a year. In that context it is absurd to suggest that balance of payments need be a restraint on our rate of economic growth, especially since the E.E.C. had a 25,000 million dollar surplus on current account between 1958 and 1969. In those circumstances it will be absurd to allow balance of payments to prevent our going for a higher economic growth rate.
In regard to higher costs, the basic trouble with the anti-Market argument is that it assumes a post-1978 continuation of the highest figure. Most will accept that during the transitional period the figures are comparatively modest. But it is suggested that because they are rising there will inevitably be a continuation. If this were a definite fact, there would be a little truth in that argument; but I do not accept it, and I hope to show why.
I do not believe that the situation will be a static one. I cannot forecast what will happen in 1978 or 1980, but there are many people who are prepared to assert that they know. I do not know what the position will be in 1980. I only know that it will be different from 1971. All the trends and events of recent months show that, if anything, we are not going to have a static world in 1980. The position changes not only in months but in weeks. It would, therefore, be a very rash man—I know there are plenty of them about—who would be prepared to say precisely what will be the position in 1978.
The common agricultural policy is usually asserted as a major reason for high costs, and this, it is said, is why things will be so terrible for us in the post-1978 period. But can anybody really imagine that the common agricultural policy in 1978 will be the same as it is today? It is not the same today as it was two months ago. It is not the same today after what President Nixon did in August. It is not the same today as it was when the revaluations took place in Europe. When one adds to that pressures of consumers, movement from the land in Europe, and our substantial voice in fixing annual prices, it would be a rash man to forecast what the situation will be in 1978.
I believe my hon. Friend slightly exaggerates his case. The one thing we know about C.A.P. is that in 1967 it was running at a cost of £600 million a year, and at £1,100 million a year in 1971, and that the Commission and the Government expect it to be costing, at the lowest estimate, £1,600 million in 1978.
I am surprised my right hon. Friend should be so ready to accept the estimates of Ministers with whom he disagrees on almost every other aspect. I am not prepared to accept their estimates, my right hon. Friend's estimates or anybody else's estimates about what they say they know what will happen in 1978. But, despite what I have said, we still have forecasts of doom and disaster from my right hon. Friend—and many others who speak in the same vein—not just for the transitional period but for the whole of the period after. Indeed, my right hon. Friend in July mentioned the exorbitant costs going on in perpetuity. I do not believe any Government in this country would be so stupid as to pay them. Perhaps I should qualify that remark. It is possible that there could be one. But what my right hon. Friend is saying is that there would be stupid Governments prepared to pay that sort of price in perpetuity, and I do not accept that.
What the Government have entered into—this is the serious point— is that apart from the actual cost of C.A.P. in future, about which we cannot be certain, and what they have accepted for the future, without reserve or any break clause, is that from now on or from the end of the transitional period there should be paid over to the Six 90 per cent. of whatever food levies we have, 90 per cent. of all our customs duties and up to 1 per cent. in value-added tax. I cannot quantify these figures exactly, and I hope my hon. Friend will be able to tell us more about it. But let us have no doubt about the nature, size and permanence of this commitment.
My right hon. Friend spoke of post-1978 in gross terms without saying how the budget will be spent in 1978; and neither he nor I knows what the situation will then be. What I do know from the trends is that it will be a different situation from what it was in 1970.
I would love to take much longer to explain this matter, but I have mentioned that the trend in Europe is away from the land. It will inevitably mean that a post-1978 budget will be spent in a different way. It will be spent in terms of our having a substantial say as to where it shall go, and we and other countries in the E.E.C. will be qualified to have a say on these matters. It will be spent on helping the people on Merseyside and elsewhere—and why not?
It is sometimes said that any Government in this country would have no real choice because this is written into the regulations. I doubt whether President de Gaulle ever read a regulation. This is an important matter. It assumes that we shall stick to such a rigid situation that we shall go on paying in perpetuity, which would be an absurd situation.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. A great many hon. Members wish to speak in this debate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) has made his speech already. This is the third time that he has interrupted the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Joel Barnett) in 10 minutes. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to keep my right hon. Friend in his place firmly.
Order. As long as an hon. Member gives way to another hon. Member, there is nothing that the Chair or any other hon. Member can do, provided, of course, that everything said is in order. I sympathise with the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney), but his point is not a point of order. No doubt we shall get on quickly now.
To make the point for the last time, the nature of the agreement reached in April 1970 is to give a specific treaty basis, ratified by all the member countries, to the very arrangements that I have just described. They cannot be changed, except by the renegotiation of the treaty, and every member has the right of veto.
Everything that my right hon. Friend has ever said assumes that after 1978 matters will simply progress along the lines that he has suggested. However, we cannot assume that we shall have the same type of stupid Governments for all time. We may get one or two, of course, but we should have to have them in perpetuity to have to pay costs of this sort. It is to misunderstand the very nature of politics in general and Community politics in particular to assume that that would be the case.
I turn now to the question of redistribution, which is fundamental to me at any rate. If I thought that a Government of this country could not redistribute wealth in the way that I want to see, I should be opposed to entry today. When one talks about this, one talks generally about the value-added tax. I happen to believe that tax to be an administrative monstrosity. When we eventually have it, I believe that many hon. Members will be very surprised to learn from their con- stituents just how much of an administrative monstrosity it is.
It is argued that the V.A.T. could be used to prevent the redistribution of wealth. But we had a Budget this year, showing that the Government do not need a V.A.T. to redistribute wealth in a way that we do not want. On the other hand, a V.A.T. need not raise any more than purchase tax and selective employment tax. It depends, of course, on the rates and exemptions. I do not expect much from this Government. But I am not as pessimistic as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn), who seems to be concerned and under the impression that we shall have a Tory Government for all time. I do not believe that. I believe that a Labour Government would have the rates and exemptions that we want to see.
Even under this Government we must have food and other basic commodities zero rated, to use the technical term for "untaxed"; I know that it is wrong to describe that as "exempt". Those must be out, because they affect so seriously the lower income groups and old-age pensioners.
If my right hon. Friend suggests that we shall have Tory Governments for all time, I accept that we shall have tax systems that we shall not like, but that would apply whether there be V.A.T. or anything else. However, we shall have a say in the harmonisation of taxes. The Community would not be able to harmonise the rates and exemptions without us. Everything depends on the exemptions and the rates. I am optimistic enough to believe that a Labour Government would have the right sorts of exemptions and rates. I am equally optimistic enough to believe that, with the exception of the first year at most following our accession to the treaty, we shall have a Labour Government.
A great deal of nonsense is spoken about V.A.T. However, there is more than one type of V.A.T., in the same way as there is more than one type of income tax. We do not like this Government's income tax and the allowances that they have or do not have. But any future Labour Government would be able to pursue their own tax and social policies. They would not be prevented from doing so by anything in the Treaty of Rome.
On sovereignty, it is said that decisions will be taken out of our hands. On unemployment, my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney said on 26th July that now the Chancellor can act. Does anyone imagine that a British Chancellor of the Exchequer, any more than a French finance Minister, would not act? Certainly a Labour Chancellor would act to bring down the present intolerable levels of unemployment, and he would not allow the E.E.C. to prevent him taking action. That is why the Werner Plan for economic and monetary union has been a nonstarter—because no nation State is prepared to concede that kind of sovereignty. It came out 12 months ago, and we have heard little about it since.
Does anyone really believe that a Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer—even the two of whom I was so critical between 1964 and 1970—only wants a 2 per cent. level of economic growth? Of course not. I know that both my right hon. Friends wanted very much more. They wanted to do all the things that I said I wanted to do. They could not, not because of internal economic conditions but largely because of decisions being taken elsewhere. If we were inside or outside the Community, we should have considerable difficulty in the face of the present United States decision on import surcharges. But now there are rumours that the Community is contemplating a deal with the United States providing for the selective cutting out of the import surcharge. If we remained outside, where would that leave us? What say would a British Chancellor of the Exchequer have in a decision of that sort which affected us so profoundly?
We are not really talking about the transitional period where the costs are comparatively small. We are talking about post-1978, when we shall be in a wholly different and changing world. In that world, isolationism cannot be a rôle for Britain. We must influence those changes, which can make a major difference to the standard of living of our people.
I am not at all happy at the prospect of giving one jot of joy to this Government, which have pursued divisive policies since the General Election. Real statesmanship on the part of the Prime Minister would have resulted in the adoption of very different policies. I am not happy to lose the friendship, I hope only temporarily, of some of my right hon. and hon. Friends. Certainly I am not happy to be going against what my party wants me to do. However, this great issue transcends personalities and the complexion of the Government that happens to be in office in 1971.
I have thought about this matter for days, weeks, months and years. I hope that I shall never be accused of being arrogant, but, in my judgment, and at the end of the day, it is a matter of personal judgment. I believe that entry will bring important benefits to the country and to those whom I have the honour to represent. Given that conclusion, I should not be true to myself if I did other than support the Motion so as to enable Britain to play a full part as a member of the Community.
The hon. Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Joel Barnett) is to be congratulated on his fair and reasonable presentation of a case which, in many ways, must be very difficult for him to have to argue before so many of his right hon. and hon. Friends. It is that sort of speech which makes this debate the greatest one that this House has known this century. The House has done itself great credit in the eyes of the people for the way in which the debate has been conducted.
I do not pursue the hon. Gentleman's arguments in detail because I believe that in many instances we have had too much minor detail and exacting presentation. There cannot be an exact presentation of all the arguments for and against entry. I believe that basically this is an emotional issue. Those who wish to see this country play a leading part in a United Europe need a vision; they need to be emotional; they need to talk about peace and the influence of the moral and ethical position that British leadership can bring. We have not heard enough about that from others who have spoken in favour of entry to the Common Market.
Those of us who see a vision want a united people within Europe. We want to believe in the strengthening not only of our own industry but of European industry, because, by so doing, the whole world will benefit. We believe that our influence in culture, in education, in every sphere, will be beneficial not only to ourselves but to Europe and beyond the bounds of the Continent of Europe.
But sure we should accept what was said by the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). In being honest, let us realise quite clearly that there must be some doubts in every sphere in the arguments which we are presenting to this House and to the country. Of course there will be vast problems; of course some will suffer; of course this nation will have to pay considerable costs. It is obviously impossible to define exactly how much these costs will be. How long is a piece of string? It is an impossibility at this moment, and no one should suggest otherwise.
A number of those who oppose entry propound the argument that because they do not know the exact details, because we cannot define exactly every single influence, before having signed the treaty we cannot go in. They contend that we must know every single aspect of the effect and the cost of entry on the British people before we go in.
That is false argument. We must have some trust in those whom we are joining within Europe because I believe that they wish to see the same kind of advance of industry, of growth and of prosperity and for peace as we want. If we judge them by their past actions, this is what they have shown in their reaction to given situations within the Community.
To those who think that we must only benefit, I say that that is not true. Of course there will be some losses. But any contract or bargain which is reasonable and good, whether industrial or international, must be beneficial to both sides. It means that there will be costs and benefits on both sides.
I turn now to one aspect which has not been sufficiently debated—the criticism that the Government do not have a "mandate" to sign the Treaty of Rome and enter the Community. According to our constitutional history, mandate does not exist. That may be a legalistic argument but it is true. Neither Dicey nor Jennings deals with that matter as such. It is something which has grown in modern time which has often allowed Governments to do things which the people have not wanted. The previous Government claimed that they had a mandate to nationalise the steel industry. However, I am quite certain that if there had been a referendum on nationalisation of the steel industry at that time the majority of our people would have been against it.
I do not believe that any Government would be able to carry a mandate to put up taxation. No one in this country will support that kind of contention. This is why we have seen those areas of the world which have referenda falling into a state of non-government.
What the Government have is a mandate to carry out the kind of policy upon which they were elected. That policy will best be brought forward by our entry into Europe. That is what every member of the Government is propounding. I believe that Conservative Members should bear that in mind before they vote tomorrow evening. It is the Government's judgment that entry into Europe is an integral part of the whole of the financial and social policy for which they were elected. I ask some hon. Members on my side, whose opinions I respect. to turn their minds towards that aspect before going in to vote against the Government on this matter on Thursday.
I want now to deal with two aspects about capital movement. There has been false fear that our entry into Europe will allow a massive flood of capital out of the United Kingdom to other parts of Europe. This has not happened with any nation within the Community; there has been no flood of repayment of capital to the United States or anywhere else.
I believe that we are likely to benefit from capital investment. I have considerable experience of American investment within Europe and Britain. I can give a number of illustrations of extra investment going not to Britain, where the firms would have liked it invested, but to Europe because Britain was not part of the Community. Therefore, when we are in we are likely to see a greater flow of this capital into Britain—into areas of Scotland, the North-East and, I hope, the South-West.
No one has considered the amount of British capital which has had to be placed within Europe to enable British firms to compete within the Community. When we are in, that will not be necessary; we shall just be part of the enlarged Community.
I grieve when I hear those opposed to entry suggesting that we shall lose control of our own system of taxation. That, in all honesty, is balderdash. We are committed only to a set proportion of value-added tax to the Community Budget. We are not even committed to the exact level of that tax. After all, there are three different levels and, indeed, three different structures of tax already operating in the E.E.C. More to the point, Italy has not yet introduced it, although it is the general view that it will be introduced. Therefore, to suggest that the Chancellor's control over the whole of our taxation policy will disappear is not only untrue but it puts false fears into the British people.
The idea that the Werner Commission will bring about massive integration, that we shall not be able to control our interests and our investment policy, is again quite wrong. The first stage of Werner will surely be welcomed by everybody—the desire to stop hot money flooding across European barriers. That is something which every Government of whatever party in every nation wants to limit or to stop. So we are with that. Most Governments would like to see some co-ordination of long-term interest rates. Those are the first two factors of the first stage of Werner.
I accept that the third stage of Werner leads to complete economic integration, but it will need a revision of the Treaty of Rome to bring that about, and that has never been mentioned by those who use this factor as an argument against entry. They never say that we would have an absolute veto on any proposal to introduce anything like that, and I believe that it will not be done during the lifetime of even the youngest Member of the House.
I believe that too much false fear has been injected into the British people. I have here a letter from a constituent who wrote to me on the basis of something called the "Voters' veto". I shall read only a small part of the letter, but it seems to illustrate the extent to which those who are opposed to entry are prepared to go in trying to influence Members of Parliament.
The writer said:
Thank you for your letter, dear sir. I am extremely sorry I signed that form without reading it. A friend brought it to me after I had an eye operation recently, hence my very poor reading. It was indeed very foolish of me to sign anything without reading it. Please accept my sincere apologies for this. I am very sorry.
That is the length to which some people are prepared to go to try to influence public opinion, and it is clear that we should know something about that during this debate.
Those who are opposed to entry say that it has not been Labour Party policy to bring about economic co-operation within Europe and a closer financial entity, but I ask the House to consider what the Leader of the Opposition said last year:
…nothing but good can be gained within an enlarged Community from much closer cooperation in financial matters."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th February, 1970; Vol. 795, c. 1089.]
I want to see that, but there are many hon. Members opposite who do not, and I think that it is fair to make certain that people outside the House realise that even on the question of the financial cooperation within Europe there is a great division within the Labour Party.
Sovereignty is the last issue to which I propose to refer. Many of those hon. Members who are making judgments on this issue must have been to Europe. Have they seen a yoke on the French or German people? Have they heard them complaining that they are no longer free? Have they heard them moaning about the Commission? The answer is that of course they have not. When talking to French, German, Dutch or Belgium Members of Parliament, does one hear them complaining about not being able to control their own destinies?
Not at the Council of Europe, and not at the Western European Union. All those European members, without exception, have been trying for the last two years to influence members of the Socialist Party here to alter their policy, and I am sure that they would say to hon. Gentlemen opposite, "You are crazy. You do not understand the position. We want you in, your opposition shows that you do not at the moment understand what it is all about." M.P.'s in Europe do not consider that they have lost any sovereignty. They do not believe that they cannot control their own destinies through their own Parliaments.
I ask the House to pursue this vision and let us work in a united Europe for a greater degree of peace. Europe has been the centre of dissension and war twice during this century. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Lieut.-Colonel Colin Mitchell) said that he would rather die on his feet than live on his knees. People in Europe are not on their knees. Their living standard have advanced to a greater degree than ours have during the last 10 years. I want to be able to bring similar benefits to Britain. We can do that only by playing a major rôle in a free and a united Europe.
I do not propose to follow the discourse of the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) on non-representative democracy, although I shall later deal with the importance of consulting the British people.
What is essential—and I think that the right hon. Gentleman who is now on the Treasury Bench will go along with this, although I do not believe that he will go along with much more of what I say—is that we should discuss this proposal in non-romantic terms. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has, on occasions, discussed the matter in non-romantic terms. He knows that many of the problems which will follow if—which I do not believe will happen—Parliament decides in the end to go into the Common Market, and which will follow if this House passes all the subsequent legislation—which I do not believe it will—will land on his desk, at any rate for the next few years. The right hon. Gentleman has occasionally spoken with some realism about the position, but there was not much of that from the Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon.
In passing, may I comment that in a debate of this importance the Chancellor of the Exchequer, having made a major speech, should be present to listen to what other hon. Members have to say. The right hon. Gentleman has been here for part of the time, but he ought to be here almost all day. Next to the Prime Minister's speech, which we are still awaiting, the Chancellor's speech was the main contribution that we have so far had from the Government, and the right hon. Gentleman has an obligation to listen to what others have to say.
The Government have spent a great deal of public money, but they have still not got their case across to the British people. During an Adjournment debate one Minister told me that it was intended to spend no more than just under £1 million for the time being. The case has not gone across to the British people, despite the fond expectations of hon. Members who support the proposals before us. Before the Summer Recess I was told, "You wait until we come back. By then there will be a considerable shift in public opinion". I am within the hearing of many of my colleagues who said that. That shift of opinion has not occurred. In fact, public opinion is moving in the other direction to a considerable extent, and one reason for that is that the Government have never come clean with the country.
Whatever case the Government have, they have never dared to put it to the people of this country. The reason for that is obvious. It is that they have been speaking with two voices. When they have negotiated with President Pompidou, they have given a number of undertakings which have never seen the light of day here. When they have returned home they have not dared to state their real intentions. That is the indictment of the Government's public conduct.
What we have to judge has nothing to do with Europe as an idea. It has nothing to do with a Socialist Europe as an idea. I have to prevent myself from laughing loudly when I hear some of my right hon. and hon. Friends talking about European Socialism as a justification for going into the Tory Leader's Lobby tomorrow night.
I am very sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish), who is Chairman of the Conservative Members Committee for Europe, is not now present, as I should have liked to put this proposition to him. If it is true, as some of my right hon. Friends are saying, that they will vote for a Socialist Europe, will the hon. and gallant Member support the Motion tomorrow evening? He is on record publicly that he wants to go into the Common Market because he believes that it is the only way to keep Britain safe for capitalism. That is his view of the matter.
But we are now getting this kind of romantic nonsense from some of my right hon. Friends to justify a position that has not occurred since the foundation of the Labour Party. At no time has the Leader or the Deputy Leader of the Labour party or any member of our Parliamentary Committee gone into the Lobby with a Tory Leader, on the Tory Leader's Motion, an action which whatever the Government Chief Whip may have said involves expressing confidence in the Tory Government. The only exception was Ramsay Macdonald, and he went to see the King first before he did it.
We must concentrate on the realities of the situation, and the realities are these. We are not asked to vote in respect of an academic Motion concerning the desirability of a larger economic entity. The Government Motion asks us to accept this Economic Community of six States and the "arrangements" the Government have male with that Community. It is on that proposition that we have to vote. It becomes clearer as the debate continues that entry will impose very considerable burdens upon the British people for a long time. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is the one Minister who has occasionally said that he expects quite a difficult period at least for the first few years.
We have to remember that this whole subject cannot be put before the electorate by quotations thrown back and forth. It is not the Government's constitutional duty today and tomorrow to prove that other people may have agreed with some of the Government's present statements. They are the responsible Government, and they have to justify to the House and to the country what they want us now to do. That is the only case that will stand up in court. They are failing in that duty by indulging in this silly game of quotation and counter-quotation.
When we look at the realities we find that these burdens will weigh particularly heavily over the next eight years or so on our lower income groups. There can be no doubt of that, and it is something that does matter. It is not possible for hon. Members, among them hon. Friends of mine, to divorce the precise proposal that the Motion implies from the general conduct of the policies which the Government are pursuing.
In this respect I pray in aid what was said yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart), a former Foreign Secretary in our Labour Government. He was beginning to plead with the Government yesterday to pursue better social policies. What a hope that appeal has with the present Treasury Bench! What does my right hon. Friend expect? Does he expect that the members of a Tory Government will change into saints overnight just because he votes with them tomorrow evening? What an unrealistic proposal that is!
What a hope my right hon. Friend has that the present head of the present Government will suddenly adopt enlightened social policies in response to my right hon. Friend's pleading so that my right hon. Friend can vote with the Government tomorrow night, and vote also for the Government, as he hinted, in passing subsequent legislation next year! Does my right hon. Friend really hope that the Tories will respond, and so change their whole philosophy? The Prime Minister has always refused to give a positive reply there. He has no intention, nor have any members of his Cabinet, of changing Tory social policy into something equitable and decent after this Motion is passed, if it is passed.
The hon. Member for Honiton spoke of the duty of Members of Parliament in their relations with the electorate. One of the major reasons why this project has no hope of succeeding is that the Government have failed to persuade a majority of the electorate, and this must be linked with the subject of parliamentary sovereignty, which is involved.
I have respect for some of my colleagues in the Liberal Party in the House who have always quite openly said that they do not mind the country's parliamentary sovereignty being merged with that of other countries. But that is not the position of the Government. It is not the position of the Conservative Party. It is not the position that was put to the Conservative Party annual conference only a fortnight ago. Anyone who watched the televised proceedings of that conference will be aware that not a hint of that position was given; instead, there was denial after denial.
We can say that not only are the Government proposing to do away in the longer term with the essential independence and sovereignty of this Parliament but they are proposing to do it without the consent of the British people. That is why Ministers may know that in such a situation there is no obligation upon any Member of Parliament to facilitate the passing of subsequent legislation even if the Government Motion is carried tomorrow. This will be the democratic justification for moving Amendment after Amendment to practically every word of the subsequent legislation, and I am confident that several hundred hon. Members will take part in that effort, even though some of my hon. and right hon. Friends have already said that they may not do so, or may do so only in regard to selected bits.
Another aspect is the will of the electorate and the position of the two major parties. It was the fond hope of the Conservative Party at one time that there would be agreement between the major parties which could be used as justification for not consulting the electorate. I would not have accepted that idea even then.
But the point is that the two major parties have adopted directly opposing positions. It has never been held by this House or by constitutional lawyers outside that where a fundamental change of the Constitution is involved and where the two major parties are opposed we can proceed without consulting the electorate first in a General Election. That is an argument that involves a General Election. It is not an argument that would have been quite so strong had the two parties been officially in agreement with each other.
It is no argument against that proposition that there are those in the major parties who take one view or the other. That has always been the case. There have always been groupings when the two major parties are opposed to each other. One major party has declared officially that even though the Motion is carried it will keep the matter open and will fight the next General Election on this subject.
I tell my right hon. Friends who tomorrow evening propose to vote with the Prime Minister that the right hon. Gentleman will for ever after quote their names in evidence that he had support not only within his own party and not only on that day. When the chickens come home to roost, and when the value-added tax is introduced—not by my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Joel Barnett) but by a Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer—when the cost of food goes up and the general increase in the cost of living reaches 35 per cent., the Prime Minister will say to my right hon. Friends: "But you were there with me. If you willed the end, you must be responsible for willing the means."
People who are dedicated to the cause of Labour and to the idea of Europe have many ways of making that dedication clear. It gives them no justification for going into the Tory Leaders' Lobby on his Motion and thereby allowing him to escape political responsibility for years to come.
I come now to my last point, which links the principles with the terms. Many of my hon. Friends believe that the Community is based on the principles of international latter-day capitalism and that the Labour Party is dedicated to turning Britain, by democratic means, into a Socialist Commonwealth. They are, therefore, dedicated in principle to entering the Community. But that does not mean that the terms do not matter. The terms determine the well being and standard of living of our constituents over the next 10 years or more, so the terms are relevant to everybody.
In these negotiations, the Government have completely failed to safeguard many of the interests of the British people. It is not God-given that these financial burdens of at least £500 million across the exchanges must be imposed on the British people. The fundamental objection to the whole course of these negotiations is that, while the Six spent four and a half years carefully adjusting each other's economic interests before they ever agreed to form their own association, they were not prepared to do the same for the United Kingdom.
Why in the name of the Lord should not the same be applied to the major industrial nation in the West of Europe—Great Britain? Why cannot the same care be taken? Why could not the Government say to the British people, "We want to conclude these negotiations, but we cannot get the kind of satisfactory agreements which we think are necessary"? That is the position as explained by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) at the Labour Party Conference.
It is reasonable and not at all academic to say at this stage that if we want the others to be proper partners we must reopen the negotiations. Some of my hon. Friends will say that that is unrealistic, because then they will reject us. But if they are not prepared to enter into an agreement with us to safeguard the basic interests of the British people, if they say, "We must have this common agricultural policy, and you must largely finance it, we must have this kind of arrangement and you have to accept it", then they have not made a serious effort. The Six have hurried into certain agreements in the last two years. President Pompidou insisted at The Hague Conference, when Willy Brandt and others urged him to open negotiations with Britain, "Only if you accept the permanency of the common agricultural policy". There is some justification in what my right hon. Friends have been saying when they say that some things have been finalised since the Labour Government submitted their original application in 1967.
This being so, I am confident that tomorrow night, assuming the complete integrity of every right hon. and hon. Member whichever way he votes, this will be a matter of great importance to the people of this country. I believe that the proposals are unacceptable and that there is, therefore, justification for voting against them. But I also know that those who are dedicated to the causes of the Labour Party and at the same time to the causes of a wider European association can have no place in the Tory Leader's Lobby tomorrow night.
In his speech last Thursday the Minister of Agriculture said that our acceptance of the terms of entry was supported by the National Farmers Unions of England, Scotland and Wales. It may be significant that he omitted from his list the Ulster Farmers Union. It is clear to me that many farmers in Northern Ireland have serious reservations about many aspects of the terms, although they appreciate the attention given to their special problems by the Chancellor of the Duchy.
Ulster agriculture, providing as it does, employment for about 15 per cent. of the total work force and exporting about two-thirds of its total production, is particularly vulnerable. Over 38 per cent. of our agricultural output comes from the pig and poultry sectors. We import four-fifths of our feed grains, and with our potential for cereal production severely restricted by climate and soil we experience in the intensive farming sector a very severe feed cost disadvantage.
In Northern Ireland we suffer from remoteness from markets. Extra costs due to this factor amount, for example. to £7 per ton on bacon and around £4 per head on live cattle. The remoteness problem is caused, of course, by our having one strip of water between us and consumers. The Common Market wilt make it two strips.
Northern Ireland's grassland and high standards of animal health have made milk production very important. This would be put at risk by unfair competition from producers in the Republic of Ireland, with their much lower quality and lower hygienic standards. We are conscious in this, as in certain other fields, of being the only part of the United Kingdom with a land frontier with another applicant country.
Much has been said about the right future for beef producers. Here again, there are snags for Ulster farmers. Costly feeding stuffs would force a return to grass fattening, with consequent seasonal fluctuations in output and prices.
But perhaps the most important issue is that of plant and animal health. Northern Ireland has an enviable reputation here, especially in our beef, milk, poultry, pig and potato sectors. It is absolutely imperative that no steps should be taken which would change this status.
I turn briefly to the issue of sovereignty in the context of our free parliamentary system. As an Ulster Member, may I presume to give to the 618 right hon. and hon. Members representing constituencies in Great Britain advice which only an Ulster Member can give? Only an Ulster Member has witnessed the frustration experienced by a Parliament which is less than sovereign. He alone knows what it is to be a helpless spectator while experts afar off impose solutions which he knows will prove disastrous. It is very cold comfort to him to be vindicated two years and one hundred dead later.
I fear that many here cannot or will not visualise a time when they will be exposed to criticism and even the wrath of their constituents, unable to understand that Parliament has lost the power to act. Of course we shall be told that internal affairs will remain matters for domestic legislation, but this very principle was asserted in the 1969 Downing Street Declaration on Northern Ireland. Yet every party in the House agrees that this was merely "part of a continuing process", acquiesces in the interference by many self-appointed advisers and is in no position to reject even the moralisings of Senator Kennedy.
The British people have been brought to place their faith in a parliamentary system developed over some seven centuries. What will be their reaction when their cherished right to change the party in power ensures no change in policies? How long will administrations last once it is seen that they are merely facades behind which decisions are made and implemented by others?
I fear that, as in Northern Ireland, the exasperation of the people will force an increasingly rapid turnover rate in the tenancy of No. 10. If any Parliament in any way subordinate is to retain its authority or credibility, it must be assured of the automatic support of the superior body. That superior must resist pressures from the ignorant and the malice of the vindictive. When we have failed to achieve this in our own family in the United Kingdom, what possible hope is there of succeeding in a highly complex Europe?
I have supported the idea of British membership of the European Economic Community since the Community was founded. It was a matter of deep regret to me at the time that we were not one of the foundation members, and it is a matter of great regret to me now that we did not make an early and successful application for membership. I believe that had we done so, much of the economic trauma which we have suffered over the last 10 years would have been avoided. That is certainly so if, as it is reasonable for us to assume we had managed the rate of growth which has characterised member nations of the Community in that 10 years.
But our failure to join, and our failure to apply to join, in those early days, is a matter of regret for a second reason which is particular to and specifically about today's debate. I have always regarded our membership of the Community as not only essential but inevitable. However, I have also always believed that the longer we waited to join the more difficult our joining would be. Every year that Europe has changed without our membership, the institutions of Europe have changed in a way which makes our eventual membership more difficult, and the more it changed without our influence the more difficult became the problems of harmonisation and adjustment. The problems of harmonisation and adjustment are reflected in the price of entry and in the nature of the bargain which has been struck between the Six and the Government this year and last.
I wish to make my judgment on the Government's terms very plain. I do not regard them as ideal. I believe that had they been negotiated by a Labour Government they might have been marginally better because they would have reflected more the social and economic priorities which my right hon. and hon. Friends and I share. But the real comparison which the House must make before it decides how it votes tomorrow is not between the terms negotiated by the Government and the terms which might be or might have been negotiated by some regrettably hypohetical Labour Government but, today's package of terms and the sort of terms we might obtain were we to abandon our application now and make it again in future. That is the choice for those of us who believe in the principle of entry.
It is my judgment that anyone who finds today's terms unacceptable would certainly discover that any terms negotiated after the withdrawal of our application and a re-negotiation a great deal less acceptable than the terms we have before us today. That is one reason why I believe that there is an imperative necessity for those of us who are supporters of the ideal of Europe to demonstrate our support tomorrow. I intend to do that.
The implication of what I have said—that the terms become more difficult and the price higher the longer the Community changes without us—is a frank and obvious acceptance of the fact that a price must be paid for our entry. No sensible person denies that. But, in my judgment, the potential benefits of European membership incomparably outweigh that price. Principal among those potential benefits is the prospect of economic growth. I put it no higher than a prospect. It is not something about which we can be certain. But Europe seems to me to be the greatest prospect, and perhaps the only prospect, of expanding the economy in the way which my right hon. and hon. Friends must achieve if we are to maintain and carry out the programmes to which we are all committed.
That growth is potentially possible not simply because of the huge benefits of the large market—although they are important in themselves—but because of the nature of the Community. It is not simply a giant free trade area. It is, as it calls itself, an economic community which endeavours to stimulate trade and to promote commerce, and by its conscious attempts at promotion and stimulation it is likely to produce an investment situation which this country has not been able to achieve in the last 10 years.
My hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Joel Barnett) was absolutely right when he said that if we fear an expanding economy, as we have feared it from time to time since before 1960, Europe will not bring us the economic growth which we need and desire. But the institutions and stimulus of Europe make that fear a good deal less likely and make the impetus to investment always strong and sometimes irresistible.
I regard the prospect of economic growth as the primary object or the principal prize of Europe for reasons which in some ways are materialistic but about which I am in no way ashamed. When I look at the record of the Government of which I was proud to be a member for six years and I see our very considerable achievements between 1964 and 1970, I have no doubt that we would have done a good deal better had we achieved the right level of economic growth during that time. The housing targets would have been achieved; the school leaving age would have been raised; the National Health Service would have been financed differently; our overseas aid targets would have been met. I express no apology for making the political point that I became a member of the Labour Party to achieve that sort of goal. I wish to achieve it not only because the Labour Party should be concerned with the rising level of material prosperity but because the housing, hospital, and school building programmes are a central element in its drive towards a more equal society. Those things can and will come from economic growth.
I would vote for Europe if that were the only prospect that it offered—but it is not, particularly at a time of crucially high unemployment. I represent a constituency in a city which is facing a high level of unemployment for the first time in recent history.
Were there other countries which could offer us the same benefits, I should not hesitate in urging my right hon. and hon. Friends to join them. I do not look simply to a Europe of the Six, Seven or Ten. The E.E.C. is the beginning of a wider Europe, including some of the countries outside the west of Europe. What we must decide as practical politicians is that the prospect we are offered is the prospect of the Six turned into the Ten. Let it one day be the Twelve, Fourteen or Sixteen, but today's prospect is the Ten, and it is to the Ten that I wish to address myself.
I represent part of a city which is facing high unemployment for the first time in the memory of many, indeed most, working people. Birmingham is now afflicted by some of the problems which have faced the rest of the country on and off for the last 40 years. I am told that it is the calculated assessment of all those who advise Birmingham and Midland companies that their prospects for growth investment and expansion would be appreciably better if Britain were a member of the Community. There are many great firms in the Midlands whose investment decisions for 1971 and 1972 are very largely dependent on the prospects of this country entering the E.E.C. I see it as my debt, for instance, to the 3,500 men who will be sacked from the B.S.A. works in my constituency in the next three months as a result of the combined ineptitude of their management and the callousness of the Department of Trade and Industry, to vote for any scheme or proposal which is beneficial in general and which will stimulate investment in the Midlands in particular.
Having said that, it is hardly necessary for me to say that the Europe I support and want to join is not the Europe of right hon. and hon. Members opposite.
Our prospect now is entering Europe on what some of my hon. Friends crudely call Tory terms but of using the fruits of those Tory terms according to Socialist priorities. That is what I believe can and should be done. Anyone who wants to compare the difference between their Europe and ours need do no more than read their White Paper.
The present comparison I want to make is between the attitudes of right hon. and hon. Members opposite and that of my hon. Friends to the terms as they now stand. Nothing has done more to antagonise members of the Labour Party to membership of the E.E.C. than the Government's treatment of regional policy in their White Paper, to which they have chosen to devote three paltry paragraphs. What we are suffering from in the E.E.C. debate when regional policy is considered is not the inadequacy of European policy but the low priority which the Conservative Government give to regional policy when they write their White Paper about Europe.
I have to tell the Conservative Party that what we are suffering from in general when debating Europe in the House and in the country is the absolute lack of confidence now felt by the country in the employment prospects of the nation, and in the prices policy of the Government, and the crucial damage done to industrial morale, not only by the Conservative Party in the last 14 months but by the false prospectus they offered the nation at the General Election.
When I say to my constituents, "Prices will not rise as fast as many scaremongers tell you", they say, "That is what the Prime Minister said at the General Election campaign in June, 1970". Whilst the Conservative Party may be determined in the advocacy of Europe to this country, the effect of their policies has set Europe back five or ten years in the public mind. That is a tragedy and one which members of the Labour Party must face if we are to accept what are crudely called Tory terms in the hope that the benefits of Tory terms can be used according to our priorities.
It has become fashionable and, perhaps, almost obligatory for those of us who support British membership to say a word about our personal attitude to our party obligations and constituents. I intend to do that with as little sentimentality, mawkishness or embarrassment as I can muster. I say straightaway that I do not argue with the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway who reminded many of us earlier that we were in the House because we were candidates of our party rather than for our personal qualifications. Like him, I am fortunate enough to serve in the House of Commons because my ballot paper in the last election and propaganda in previous elections described me as the Labour candidate. The propaganda in the previous elections and at the last election made it very clear that not only was I the Labour Party candidate but I was a candidate committed in definite and strong terms to fighting for Britain's entry into the European Economic Community.
Yesterday evening the management of my Labour Party. When the attitudes of the Parliamentary Labour Party and their Members of Parliament were considered, reminded me that at my selection conference in 1962—when the Labour Party was committed against European entry—I told the delegates to that meeting that I was for Europe and, in the foreseeable future, would remain for Europe. I have taken that public stand virtually all my public life for reasons which I can only describe not simply as consistent with my view of social democracy but essential to that view. In those terms there is no choice for me tomorrow evening. My choice is breaking my word to my constituents and breaking my compact with my constituency party; but also, much more important, denying my judgment and beliefs. That would not be in the interests of the House. With some trepidation I say that it would not be in the interests of my party.
I am doing my best to deal with my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), who has just described my view as arrogant. I understand why he says that. Let me try to explain why I believe he is wrong. There are some of us—I do not know how many—who have publicly taken a view which may be wrong but which in all con- science they hold. We may be insignificant members of the Parliamentary Labour Party, but the country as a whole will not admire a party which has a group of men in its midst who, having said constantly that something they believe is still in the national interest, do not have the courage to carry that view into the Division Lobby.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn), who is not here at present, referred to what he described as the "divine right" of some Members of Parliament. It is not a matter of divine right. I have never done anything in my life about which I was absolutely certain. But I am as certain as I have been about anything that my vote should go for Europe tomorrow. A previous Member for Bristol did not talk about a Member of Parliament's divine right but about a Member of Parliament's divine duty. That duty, as Burke saw it, was to use his judgment and then courageously apply that judgment. I propose to do that tomorrow night not by voting for the Conservative Party but by voting for Europe.
I, too, shall be voting tomorrow evening for entry into the E.E.C. I shall do so because inside the Community Britain will be a better place in which to live and will be better able to contribute, albeit modestly, towards making the world a better and safer place.
On balance, both the political and the economic arguments point towards entry. When the previous Government, headed by the present Leader of the Opposition, applied to enter, they believed also that both the economic and political arguments were in favour of entry. Matters have not changed since June, 1970, sufficiently to justify the Leader of the Opposition rejecting the present terms. The political situation has changed little. The terms he can have expected to obtain, unless he was ignorant entirely of the views of Europe, can hardly have differed substantially from those that have been negotiated by the present Government.
Furthermore, I believe that the economic benefits that the last Government foresaw must be substantial. Governments do not lightly set their hand to enterprises involving great and fundamental changes for their country, enterprises which will arouse controversy and incur political risk, unless they believe that the benefits are very real. I believe that the economic benefits will come because the dynamic impact on industry and output will be substantial.
There has been much reference to the fact that we shall be members of a much larger market. I believe that more important in its effect for British industry will be the fact that we shall be members of a faster-growing market than industry has been able to plan for in recent years in this country. The very factor which causes much concern for all of us, the difference in structure of European agriculture compared with our own, holds out one of the main assurances that the economy of the Six will continue to grow, able to draw on the resources at present inefficiently applied in certain parts of European agriculture.
When I say that I think this will be a better country to live in, I believe that it will be a better country for every section of the community to live in. Like other hon. Members, I spent much time in recent weeks talking to my constituents, and many of them are elderly and retired. The point which disturbed me most in my discussions was that there was a widespread belief that entry would be good for the young and the active but that it might well be secured at the expense of the elderly and retired. I do not believe that that will happen. I would not vote for entry if I thought that it was going to happen. My own party has given assurances that it will not happen.
What is important is that the elderly shall feel confident that they will not be paying the price, because there is enough uncertainty and worry amongst people today, and one does not wish to create more unnecessary worry simply because we do not speak clearly in the House and members of the Government do not speak clearly.
There is one way in which one could bring considerable reassurance to elderly people. There has been a very strong fear that any adjustments will be related to the cost-of-living index. This is not a fair yardstick to use for the elderly. Their expenditure on food is a higher proportion of their income than that of other members of the community. I hope that the assurance that will come from the Government is that the protection that will be given will be in the form of increases in pensions related to the cost of expenditure on food in the average elderly person's budget. By that means we can give total protection, by ensuring that there will not be an impact spilling over on to that part of their income additional to pension such as there has been from the cost-of-living increases in recent years.
If those of us who have high hopes of entry are justified in our belief, the results must be shared fully and adequately. There is a feeling abroad that this is an enterprise in which the elderly and the retired will not be sharing. Today when a man retires he can, on average, look forward to 14 years of married life in retirement. Women who have been insured in their own right, retiring at the age of 60, can look forward in many cases to over 20 years of retired life. I do not want these people to regard themselves as being outside the mainstream of political and economic endeavour. If we enter Europe and if those of us who have high hopes find them realised, I believe that whichever party is in office will wish and will be obliged by public opinion to share the fruits of that entry with those who have retired.
I have spoken of periods of 14 and of over 20 years. It is conceivable that in 20 years the wages of those in employment will double if we have even modest success in the handling of our economic affairs. The average wage today of people in industrial employment is £25 a week. Can one see that rise to £50 a week without steps being taken to ensure that retired men and women are not just protected against the cost of living but that they share proportionately in the general level of advance in the country? Over a period of 20 years one may well see the standard of living doubled. I have estimated that an increase of three-fifths would be a reasonable target over a period of 14 years.
I have always believed that one of the weaknesses of our handling of social affairs has been our inability—not our lack of intention and good will—adequately to look after the elderly and the retired. In the last six years all that we have been able to do under Governments of both parties is to increase the real value of the basic retirement pension by an average rate of 1 per cent. per year.
I shall vote tomorrow night, like other hon. Members, not with total confidence, well aware that these are difficult matters to weigh, but with one of the considerations prompting me to vote in favour of entry into Europe—the consideration that if we succeed in the enterprise and our economy flourishes and prospers, we shall be able to make much better provision for the elderly and retired, because I do not believe that they will be left on an island of difficulty and economic embarrassment when a sea of national prosperity, as we hope, laps around us.
I am very pleased to have been called to speak. I have always been against the signing of the Rome Treaty, and I have so declared myself publicly and by voting, but I have not had the opportunity before to give reasons for my objections, not having been fortunate enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye.
I have sat through all the debates on this subject over the years and it has amazed me how, no matter what party has been in power, the Government have been backward in coming forward in giving factual information about the benefits because they have claimed that these benefits cannot be quantified. Governments have said that they cannot be sure but they believe there will be great advantages because of the dynamic effect of going into the Market. But when they are asked to say what and how, they cannot do so. We have heard the general statement that there would be additional potential markets and 250 million additional customers. But we shall also have 250 million potential competitors.
We have been told that there will be a great expanding dynamic market which will increase the standard of living of the people, which will enable cars, machinery and equipment to be produced much more efficiently and much more cheaply than in Britain, and that if we get into Europe we can join in this great bonanza. If it is true that we have been struggling along, as is suggested, perhaps entry into the Community would not be such a good thing for the British people and the British workers, faced as they would be with 250 million competitors who would have the advantage, for them, of lowered tariff barriers.
But, be that as it may, we can never get any factual information. We are told by the Government that when entry has been secured the cost of living will not go up too much, that it will rise by only ½p in the £, that food prices will go up by only about 6p, and so on. They put forward estimates, but neither this Government nor previous Governments have been conspicuously successful in their forecasts. All Governments—and I have sat in this House for 27 years—have told us that the cost of living will not go up, but we find that the very next week it does go up. The Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us that the Government will not raise taxes, but the very next week taxes do rise. The Government say that they will not attack the social services, and the next week the social services are attacked.
Can I really believe these promises and pledges? The hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Hall-Davis) was shedding real tears--I give him credit for it—about the hardship and difficulty which, it is admitted, will confront the old-age pensioner. What is he worrying about? The Government Front Bench have been shedding their crocodile tears. They said that they would help old-age pensioners. Why worry about them if the cost of living will not rise substantially? Why does the Secretary of State for Social Services promise to cushion them from effects which will not occur?
Pledges and promises made are being continually broken. I do not trust this Government; neither do I trust the Treasury advisers or the Treasury experts. I read in the Press that Lord George-Brown, in another place, has been prophesying what will happen and how we shall prosper. I sat here when he presented his great Letter of Intent. What has happened to it? I have not seen it of recent date. I have heard on the radio and read in the Press this morning that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has told the country that he wants to go into Europe because he believes that this will help a Socialist Europe. When I meet the Krupps, the Thyssens and the big boys of the C.B.I., they tell me that it will be good for capitalism, that it will help the capitalist advance. Everywhere we find contradictions, and when we ask for evidence no side can substantiate its claims.
I know that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said that he will vote. Good luck to him—I hope he does. I have never been one who always followed the party line, but I have been consistent, supporting and doing what I thought was right, if necessary against my party. In 1967 I voted against the terms for entry envisaged by the Labour Government, and in so doing said I was prepared to face any action taken against me. Many of those who have declared that they will vote—in this case not so much against the party line but with the Tories which I never did—wanted to have my throat cut. "Expel him", they said, "withdraw the Whip." But now they say they do not want any action taken against them. I do not want any action taken against them. I have never been a hatchet man, but it is the hatchet men who wanted to cut my throat, chop off my head, who are saying now that we should not take action against them.
It is fun now to have a go at the Leader of the Opposition, because, it is said, he has not remained firm. I have been reading some of his original statements—they are too long to go into now—and, in my opinion, he has been more than consistent. Hon. Gentlemen should read his speech in the House on 7th June, 1962, where they will find all the points he has been putting forward ever since. Better still, hon. Gentlemen should read his book, extracts of which I have here, "The Relevance of British Socialism". They will find consistency from the beginning. I shall not quote extracts now, but all his points have been made consistently from 1962 to 1971.
Another reason why I am against going into the Common Market is that we must sign the Treaty of Rome. I know that once we sign that Treaty we shall have signed away a lot of our sovereign rights in Parliament. This has been denied by both the pro-Marketeers and the Government. One tries to get Questions answered but they are evaded by this Government just as they are by most Governments. Having put Questions and failed, I tried to get the answers in writ-
ing. If any right hon. or hon. Member would like to have it from the horse's mouth, he can have it. I have two letters here, one from the Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office, the other from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster himself. The right hon. and learned Gentleman's letter makes interesting reading. The date is 7th July, and, inter alia, as my lawyer friends say, it tells me that there are five categories of statutes—
regulations, directives, decisions, recommendations and opinions. Article 189 makes clear that the last two have no binding forces, whereas the three others have binding force on the member states, but with different applications in each case. Under Article 189 regulations and decisions are binding in their entirety; and consequently the House of Commons, in taking any action in respect of a regulation or a decision, would have to refrain from anything inconsistent with it.
So it goes on. It would be open to the House to debate, to pass an opinion, to say what it wants to say, but it would not be able to take any action to reject or amend.
I will not agree to give up my parliamentary rights to a Council of Ministers. I am not being party-political about it. Whether it was a Council of Ministers of the present Government or of the potential Ministers on this side who will take office in the next Labour Government, I do not believe that I can trust them to deal with our affairs in that way. I cannot trust them to go off and have private discussions on something I know nothing about and then come back and tell the House, "We have agreed. You can debate it, you can have your say, but at the end of the day this will operate, whether you like it or not."
I have voted against my party on many occasions, and I hope that I should do so in the future. [Laughter.] Yes, the occasions will arise. I remember the teeth and spectacles debates and the imposition of health charges. We have heard references to party decisions, conference decisions, and the rest. Some past events are amazing to recall. I remember in our own party—I think that it was our own Deputy Leader, who will vote tomorrow in favour of entry, who made it—there was a call for us to support, contrary to our election manifesto and contrary to our declared party policy, the imposition of charges in the National Health Service. It went through without question, but there were a few of us who voted against it. Again, there was a move to take action or expel us. The same sort of thing may happen again when Ministers go to the Council of Ministers on some other issue. It will not be good enough to be told that I cannot vote against or I cannot amend.
I come now to the hypocrisy and the dishonesty of the Government and their advisers on this whole issue. We are told that £680,000 is being spent—I think that about two-thirds of it has been spent so far—on propaganda for this bonanza of entry into Europe. The Post Office is called in aid. Incidentally, I do not think that we have ever had a vote on that, and the House of Commons has never given authority. In answer to a Question yesterday, I was told that £680,000 is being spent. But how much is being spent to advise old-age pensioners on their rights for new pensions?—just £680. That is the measure of the help being put out to look after the poor old-age pensioners on whom so many crocodile tears are shed. The Government have promised that they might do something if the cost of living goes up, but only £680 is spent on telling old-age pensioners their rights today, never mind when we are in the Common Market. On the other hand. £680,000 is spent on trying to kid, bluff and twist the people into supporting this so-called great dynamic enterprise of entry into Europe.
I must be brief. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] All right. If hon. Members want to make me go on longer, I can speak for a good bit. However, I wish to come to a conclusion, and I add these words in a jocular sense. It is really laughable. One of my pro-Market hon. Friends said to me, "You need not worry you can go to the Council of Europe and have a discussion there". Who could go to the Council of Europe? I have been in the House for 27 years and I have never been able to get outside Westminster unless I pay my own fare. I am not in the pay of the Whips. I have never been able to go anywhere.
I asked my hon. Friend what happened at the Council of Europe. "Oh," he says, "a beanfeast. All the pro-Marketeers, Geoffrey de Freitas, who has been there permanently, and the rest of them go there." I told him that I am not one of those chaps, and he said, "This is how you could get on. You say you support Europe, you go there, and you get on." It is rather strange, but, apparently, if one is an active pro-European one can go off to the Council of Europe and discuss things. But then what happens? Can we do anything about them? "No", I was told, "you cannot do anything about them. You discuss them, you have a nice beanfeast, but after all is said and done nothing happens".
Is that to be the way things go, first, with a Council of Europe and later, perhaps, with a European Parliament able to discuss but to take no decisions? We shall not be able to criticise or amend. It is not good enough for me. I like to be critical of the Executive. I like to have a go at the Treasury Bench. I like to have a go when I think they are wrong, whether they be the bureaucrats in Whitehall or the bureaucrats in Brussels. I like to peg away. and, with the active help of Mr. Speaker, I can raise Adjournment debates and take things up in various ways.
Eventually in this House we can have a go and we can get changes made. But I am told that we shall never be able to do that in Brussels. That is why I say "No" to the bureaucrats in Brussels.
We have heard the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) give a long apologia as to why he would vote against his party line, and now we have heard the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), speaking at equal length and, I thought, more apologetically, tell us why he would not vote against his party line. The experience of having listened to hon. Members opposite must, I think, make those of us on this side who have decided that we must vote against entry into Europe feel that we have had a comparatively easy time of it.
In view of some of the things which have been said in the Press and elsewhere, I think it worth putting on record that, for my part, I have never been approached by any of my Whips on this subject. No attempt has been made to pressure me by the Whips, by my colleagues or by my constituency organisation. When I hear the Leader of the Opposition talk about the arm-twisting which, he says, has been going on in the Conservative Party, I am reminded somewhat of the I.R.A. denouncing the bruitality and violence of the British Army.
I feel obliged to vote against entry. Nine years ago—this will be within the recollection at least of the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Guy Barnett), who is not here at the moment—I fought and lost a fairly notorious by-election as a supporter of the negotiations for entry into Europe then being conducted by my right hon. Friend the present Prime Minister. I hope to show why, in nine years, my views have changed.
I understand the idealism of the Europeans. I do not think that their history is very good. When they say that Britain has always been a part of Europe, I find that an extraordinary interpretation of history, for it seems to me that the one thing which has determined this country's history is that it never has been a part of Europe, and the nearer it has come to becoming one the greater trouble it has always got itself into.
No, I must not give way. We have seen what happens to speeches when one does.
I understand those who talk about the ties of a common culture and the rest. But I believe that, when all the talk about politics, culture, common interests and so forth is done, this is an issue which must be taken on the balance of economic advantage. I have noticed that, as it has become more and more obvious that the economic effects were difficult to quantify, more and more people have been talking less about the economic effects, save in general terms, as the hon. Member for Sparkbrook did about the inevitable effects of economic growth, and more and more about the political necessity for entry and the defence reasons for entry.
I shall return to the economic arguments, but I wish, first, to say a brief word about the political and defence arguments. I believe the political argument to be of very little importance. I realise that that will surprise some hon. Members on both sides. There is no political unity in the Six, and the likelihood is, as a visit to the Commission headquarters and a talk with the Eurocrats will tell any hon. Member, that there will not be any for a generation, and probably, as my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) said, in our lifetime.
Nor do I believe that there is any serious risk of a major or total loss of sovereignty if we join the Six, because no Parliament can bind its successors; no Parliament can be committed by its predecessors. I have never believed, for all those who talk about entry being irreversible—which simply means that there is no fixed termination date in the Treaty—that if, for example, the French Government found that the Treaty was operating against its interests and that membership was incompatible with those interests, France would not be out of the Community like a streak of lightning. I believe that Parliament certainly retains the right to get out, though it would be a very difficult and complicated matter to unscramble once we were in. I do not accept that there is a total abrogation of sovereignty by Parliament, though I agree that there are a number of ways in which we should be limiting our ability to look after certain interests of our constituents. I do not believe that the political arguments against entry or for entry are the arguments by which in the end we must decide.
Now I come to the defence arguments, which my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary has increasingly been using in his public speeches. I agree with much of what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Lieut.-Colonel Colin Mitchell) said about defence. The simple facts of the matter are these. If the Americans are going to withdraw from Western Europe, which I believe is not imminent but is probable over a longer term, the peoples of Western Europe, if they wish to be defended, will have to replace the American shield by making a number of very costly sacrifices to defend themselves. If they are prepared to make those sacrifices, of money, national service or whatever it may be, they do not need an economic community to do it, nor did being in the E.E.C. keep France inside N.A.T.O. If they are not prepared to make those sacrifices, being in an economic community will not of itself cause them to do it. That argument for entry can be made legitimately only if the economic advantages of going in are such that they make the sacrifices easier to bear, because our prosperity is sufficiently enhanced to make it easier to enlarge our defences. But that brings us back to the economic test which I have always maintained is the significant one by which we must stand or fall.
I said that I would return to the reasons why over a period of nine years I have changed my mind about entry into Europe. It is partly because I believe that we should have done much better if we had joined earlier than we could ever do now, but partly because things in Europe have changed. Nine years' experience of the way in which the common agricultural policy has developed give a salutary reason for looking at the whole thing again.
Next, I am sure now, as I was not then, that the secular trend of tariffs in the world, the temporary American experience notwithstanding, is downwards. That could not be said for certain nine years ago. After the Kennedy Round, and in view of the enormous extent to which it is in the interests of all major trading nations to get freer trade and to get tariff levels down, this is a tendency which we are likely to see as a secular trend from now on.
The American move I think to be an aberration. It was in part a defensive reaction to the common agricultural policy. I do not believe that this country would negotiate better trade deals and terms with other countries inside a comparatively high tariff wall than it would outside, negotiating independently. It is true that the Common Market tariff has followed the secular trend downwards, and I believe that it will probably have to do it again, but I do not see why we should be tied to it now.
Then there is the merit or otherwise of the balance of economic advantage. Nine years ago I thought that on balance entry would be economically to our advantage. I am not absolutely sure now that it would not still be so, but the balance of advantage has become so small and so difficult to quantify accurately that I cannot believe it to be worthwhile going to the enormous trouble of taking this momentous step, particularly against what I believe to be the will of the majority of the people of this country.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook and my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd) said that the large industries of the Midlands and a number of other very large firms were in favour of entry and were convinced that it would do them good. We have all read letters in The Times from the chairmen of 70 large companies, and so on. I have not the slightest doubt that entry will do those firms good. I believe that many of them will achieve a certain amount of growth.
I am certain that it is true that many firms have held up their investment decisions until they know whether we are going into the Market, as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook said. I am certain that we shall have a considerable investment boom when the decision is taken one way or the other. I am even prepared to say that it will be larger if we decide to go in.
A number of industries and firms will benefit, some substantially. But I wonder how many right hon. and hon. Members have examined an anlysis of the economic effects of entry made by Baring Bros. some months ago. The interesting thing about it was the calculation that since only 15 per cent. of our total output of manufactures goes for export, and since it is easy to calculate that only 11 per cent. of our exports would get a new duty-free entry into all countries as a result of entry into the Common Market, the proportion of our total manufactures that will receive new duty-free advantages is about 2 per cent.—15 per cent. of 11 per cent. That will include a number of very large firms, but the overwhelming majority of employment and manufacture in this country is not in the hands of a few large combines. That is the measure of how marginal the effect of entry is likely to be.
I know that those 2 per cent. are only the ones directly affected, and that there will be a spin-off effect in demand for components and so on. But it is a pretty small proportion of our total trade that will be directly given an export incentive and advantage. It is impossible to quantify, just as it is impossible to quantify the extent of competition and damage which other firms will suffer from competitive duty-free imports; just as it is not easy to quantify the competitive disadvantage we shall suffer when the present members of the Six secure duty-free entry for manufactures into the E.F.T.A. countries, which at present only we have; just as it is not easy, although one can make some fair guesses, to quantify the probable losses of our export trade to Commonwealth countries when preferences begin to disappear.
It is fashionable among Europeans to say that the proportion of our trade with the Commonwealth has been diminishing rapidly and that the proportion of the Commonwealth's trade with us has been diminishing as well. I have never been able to understand quite why, at a time when our exports into the Common Market countries over the tariff are going up like a rocket, it should be so essential to get rid of the tariff. The attitude towards Commonwealth trade seems to me cavalier and contemptuous. I am not saying this from any sentimental attachment to Commonwealth countries, which can look after themselves fairly well on occasion. But we are talking, in the case of Australia, of a total of exports of about £400 million a year; not only that, but we are talking of a favourable balance of trade of £200 million a year. A favourable balance of trade of £200 million a year would have made a considerable difference during any of the times in the last 10 years when we were having balance of payments troubles. It is not to be ignored.
I have recently returned from a tour of Australia and New Zealand. I met no one in Australia who was not convinced that we would, when the preferences began to go—and they were certain that they would—be liable to lose up to half of our exports to Australia. That half represents the £200 million a year which is our favourable balance with Australia. That, taken into account with the possible effect across the balance of payments of our cost of entry, means that we are now talking in terms of figures which are as large as or larger than the whole of the balance of payments deficit which reduced this country's economy to an almost deliberate standstill over the whole period of the last Labour Government. It is a very substantial figure.
Talking of reducing the economy of the country to a standstill, it is worth bearing in mind that the comparisons of growth rates in Europe and in this country over the last 10 years, which advocates of entry are so fond of making, are really made meaningless by what were the experiences of this country for at least half that period. We were in serious balance of payments difficulties largely because we tried to maintain the value of our currency at what nearly everyone now recognises to have been a grossly overvalued figure and by deliberate Government action throttled our growth rate back to virtually nothing. It would have been a miracle if our growth rate had compared favourably with those of Western European countries during that period. I am inclined to think that, over the next year or so, our growth rate will compare extremely well with those of most of the countries of Western Europe.
My hon. Friend the Member for Honiton, turning to those of us who feel inclined to vote against entry, said that he hoped we would recognise that entry into Europe was an inescapable, integral part of the Conservative Party's policies for dealing with the economy in this country. We should put him right on that. He clearly has not read the Conservative Party's manifesto for the last election, which very clearly detailed the Conservative Party's proposed economic policies and then said that it was the belief of the party leadership that these policies would strengthen the country's economy in such a way that we should be able to negotiate for entry into Europe in the certainty that we would be strong enough to stand on our own feet if we were unable to secure favourable terms for entry. So it was never an integral and inescapable part of our policies. It was something which could be taken or not according to how the terms went. But the party's policies were supposed to enable the country to stand on its own feet outside Europe.
I just do not understand now those people who say, "What do we do if we do not go in? What alternative is there?" I agree with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who said publicly some time ago:
I have never accepted for a moment that it is disaster to stay outside Europe and automatic prosperity to be inside.
Of course it is not. How can anyone pretend that this is our only, our last, hope, that there is no alternative, at a time when we have a record level of exports, strong reserves, a strong currency and an economic policy which I firmly believe, as everyone on this side of the House must believe, will, before many months are past, begin to get a growth rate going here simply owing to the incentives of changed policies and a shaking out of over-manning in certain sections of industry, which I believe will be taken up next year? It is ludicrous to suggest that this is a sort of last hope for a bankrupt country. On the contrary, I believe that it is not we who oppose entry who are being defeatist or are refusing to accept a challenge but that it is those who can think only of a challenging future after they have submerged the identity of this country inside a European confederation who are the defeatists, who are refusing the challenge.
I have referred to the common agricultural policy and trade with the Commonwealth. I want to say one thing about what I found in Australia and New Zealand. They all recognise that this is a decision we must take here, that we must take it in our own interests, that we have a right to protect our own farmers, whether by a levy system or any other means we choose. What they could not understand, and what I cannot understand, is why we should change our policies, not to protect our own farmers but in order to cut out some of the cheapest, best quality food from producers who have deliberately built up their industries and have moulded their products and marketing in order to provide a cheap and standard source of food for this country, and buy foodstuffs from Community sources at sometimes twice the price.
Why should one pay £80 a ton for French beet sugar when one can get it from Australia at £40 a ton? Why put the price of canned fruit up by 40 per cent., dried fruit by 10 or 20 per cent., and so on? We have had singularly little convincing argument in favour of doing this. We are told that the cost of food is likely to rise only by an average of 2½ per cent. over six years. But concealed in that average are some very large individual increases. It is estimated in the Southern hemisphere that out of a total consumption of 400.000 tons of butter a year at least 150,000 tons will be switched to margarine when the higher prices begin to bite within the Community. For what are we asking the British housewives to buy margarine instead of butter or to pay twice as much for French sugar beet as for Australian sugar beet unless the economic advantages enormously outweigh the disadvantages, which I do not think they do? We are going to have a lot of explaining over the years to do to the British housewives.
I always have recognised that this was not really an issue on which it was very easy to convince anyone either way, because I do not believe that this is basically between most people an issue of fine calculation of economic advantages or disadvantages.
I do not believe that it is even a matter of a great searing European faith in an ideal. I believe that basically the division between people who feel strongly is between those who on the one hand believe that the sole and overriding object of policy must be economic growth and who simultaneously believe that it is axiomatic that efficiency and growth are synonymous with size, and those, on the other hand, who, like me do not believe either of those things. Those who, like me, do not believe either of those things are bound to be suspicious of this move.
Let us take an example of the kind which will worry people in this country. I do not believe that the regions in the country which are now depressed will benefit from going into Europe. On the contrary, I think that many of them will become more isolated from the economic centre. There will be great pressure for any growth which occurs to take place in the Midlands and in the South-East. That will produce the kind of social and environmental problems which we thought we had more or less dealt with.
In this country we probably have the best town and country planning legislation and machinery and the best conservation record of any country, in Europe certainly and probably in the world. It is true that nobody can make us change our planning procedures or force us to do things of that kind if we join Europe, if we do not want to do them, but the commercial pressures will be very much greater.
At the moment, one can see Continental goods trucks that are far above the legal limit permitted in this country going through small country towns and creating absolute havoc. We are told that they are certainly illegal, but that nothing can be done about them because the owners cannot be prosecuted in this country. If we go into Europe, pressure to conform to that kind of thing will get worse and worse and the environmental effects could be very bad.
But much worse than that is the conviction that one has only to make something bigger, whether the organisation of government or the organisation of industry of a firm, and everything will be better and more prosperous and everyone will be happier. All the experience which we are now getting in this country is that the larger the size of combine, the worse the labour relations become, and on the whole the less profitable per unit of production it becomes. Size is not efficiency. Size more often brings inefficiency. What is more, size does not make for happiness.
We have a considerable responsibility not only to our country but to the people in it to consider the effects of this kind of thing on their happiness. I am committed to take into account the majority feeling of the people. My leader committed me to this during the election campaign and I said exactly what he said—that this required the full-hearted consent of people and Parliament. I do not think that the consent of Parliament is all that full-hearted and I am sure that the consent of the people has not been secured at all. It is because of this, as much as because I am not convinced that the case has been made, that tomorrow night I shall vote against entry.
The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) has long been a champion of the Commonwealth, and I am sure that there are few in the House tonight who do not share his sympathies and who, were the opportunity available, would not wish that we could enter into a trade association with the Commonwealth which would bring us the bene- fits which we hope to get by association with Europe. He confined himself to an economic argument in order to show that there were advantages available inside the Commonwealth which we should be able to enjoy if only we wanted. But, as a Midlands Member, he must be well aware of the changing patterns of trade inside the Commonwealth. He must know that in 1969, for example, the Japanese outsold us in deliveries of motor cars to Australia when the Japanese sold 54,000 and we sold 48,000, that in Canada the Japanese sold 50,000 and we sold 50,000, but the United States nearly 250,000.
The pattern of trade and industry inside the Commonwealth has changed. Some of the former Colonies and some of the Commonwealth States associated with us have become much more industrialised and have turned to other suppliers. They have involved themselves in other markets. The hon. Gentleman had a nostalgic hope for a revival of a Commonwealth which, unhappily, has passed and gone. When he spoke about the United States surcharge of 10 per cent., he said, amazingly, that President Nixon introduced it in reaction to the common agricultural policy.
Or even in part. I thought it was directed very largely at the fact that the Japanese were flooding the American market and accumulating dollars and that the same thing was happening in Europe, so that the United States adopted this protectionist stance.
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman mentioned that, because, apart from the Commonwealth dream no longer realisable there is also the North Atlantic Free Trade Association, once the hope of my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), which the new protectionist trends in the United States have once and for all destroyed.
Tonight, therefore, we must consider what are the prospects in Europe, and we must put aside these hopes which, alas, have been falsified, for other associations. I was glad that, although the hon. Member put his emphasis on economic affairs, he did not try in any dogmatic way to quantify the economic benefits which we might gain or the losses which might be incurred because of entry. As the correspondence in The Times has recently shown, the academic economists have paired, so to speak, and gone home, have cancelled each other out. What remains is for us with out long parliamentary tradition to make our own solemn decision.
What is striking is the way in which as the debate has gone on some of the certitudes have departed, but in the House and throughout the country there has been a great debate which, as the moment of decision approaches, becomes more and more serious until we finally reach the conclusion which, I believe, will be as determinative for the country as the Reform Bill was more than 140 years ago. In 100 years' time the British people will still remember the debates in which we have taken part, recognising that we made a major decision and involved ourselves in a major change.
I differed from my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Bern) when he spoke about our entering into some sort of great change, as though it were of our creation. The change is something which has been taking place in Europe since the Second World War for a whole variety of reasons—a new technology, new interlinkings, new take-overs, enlargement of industry. All these have resulted in changes to which we must seek to adapt ourselves. It is not we who are making the changes; but rather we who are adapting ourselves to the changes.
I have long been concerned with the development of European institutions. I happen to be one of the founder members, in 1949, of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe. I took part in its earlier debates when the whole thing was a great ideal. Among those who were associated with the idea of a United Europe after the shambles of the war were some of the greatest Socialists which the past-war world has seen.
Those who jeer and suggest that somehow or other the concept of a United Europe is simply a capitalist conspiracy ought to take account of the men who were among the founders of the European institution, the 0.E.E.C., the Council of Europe and later the Common Market institutions which developed. Among them, I assure my hon. Friends, they will find men whom as Socialists we were always proud to acknowledge among our ranks—men and women who had at heart the high ideal of the brotherhood of man which, after all, has always been a fundamental in our Socialist thinking.
Since that time there has been a change. The dream has become a reality. The vision of Europe with its ideal content has been translated into institutions.
We are asked in this debate to accept the opportunities of the E.E.C. either in company with nine other Western European States or in a changing world—the world of which I spoke in my opening words, where the old patern of trade and alliance is changing and crumbling away. We are in danger of being left isolated, crushed between super-powers, and we must decide whether to adapt ourselves to the changing world and identify ourselves with institutions which are the institutions of tomorrow and not with the vestigial remains of the past
I fully respect the reactions of those who are opposed to the Common Market by instinct or even by judgment. I believe that in this country there is an understandable fear of the unknown, of the hazards involving the possibility of a loss of identity, the fear of making an irreversible decision. That is a spontaneous reaction which we must respect. People are asking "What will entry mean to our job? Shall we be better or worse off? How will entry affect Parliament's sovereignty and our legal system?" These are basic questions which have to be answered. We must all try to find our own answer to these problems.
Equally, I believe that those lion. Gentlemen and hon. Ladies who have changed their minds on this issue deserve our respect. I would be the last to condemn anyone who, having thought the matter out, has come to a different conclusion even from that which they held in 1967. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) came forward in a manly way and said he had changed his mind. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) made a speech in 1967, which I am sure he would not like to have repeated today, and properly, sincerely and honourably has come forward to say that he has changed his mind and has advanced countervailing arguments to those he stated in 1967.
We often change our minds. Hon. Members opposite have changed their minds in some cases about the Industrial Relations Bill, and no hon. Member on this side would condemn them for doing so. Equally, I hope that those of us who have remained consistent in our views will not lose our credibility by continuing to hold the views we have held for many years before.
I do not think those of us who have consistently been in favour of entry into Europe and who have held those views for many years, and have given our reasons for so doing, should now be required to stand on our heads and disclaim our past and pretend that somehow we never believed in those things on which we voted and which we upheld some years ago.
When we talk about democracy and parliamentary institutions, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East when he opened the debate, I believe that it is much more dignified for Members of Parliament to say in a straightforward and honourable manner what they believe in than to make some specious appeal for a referendum, which is the instrument of the demagogue. The whole history of totalitarian States shows that the referendum, while claiming to be the means by which public opinion, is exposed as a device for imposing on the public the views of those who seek to dictate opinion to the public. Therefore, I have no sympathy with the idea of a referendum as a means for ascertaining the views of Parliament. Parliament, historically and traditionally, is the agency by which the people of this country express their views, and those who seek to challenge or attack the right of M.P.s to declare themselves in this situation are doing a disservice to parliamentary democracy.
We shall be voting tomorrow on the principle, quite apart from the terms of entry which are a matter of calculation. I recall my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition quoting Wordsworth:
High Heaven rejects the lore
Of nicely-calculated less or more.
The terms are a matter for calculation and assessment, but what I shall be voting for will be the principle of entry in the interests of the people and for cooperation by consent inside Europe once
we have gone in. I believe that to be a Socialist principle. It is a principle which we upheld in 1967, and I believe we should uphold it today.
I was present at Strasbourg when my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who I regret is not here, made what I considered to be the finest speech he has ever made in his career. After analysing the arguments for entry, he said of Britain's intended application:
If we do fail—and I want this to be understood—the fault will not lie at Britain's door …".
He might have said that in relation to the Labour Government. He went on to say:
But the cost, and above all the cost of missed opportunities, will fall, and in increasing measure, on every one of us.
I believe what was true in 1967 is equally true today.
They were statesmanlike words which should be read in the context of every speech or article written in connection with the Common Market. There was no ambiguity in what he said. The Leader of the Opposition spoke of Britain's historical involvement with Europe and of new concepts of cooperation, following the destruction of the war. He also spoke of a new unity in Europe based on
cool heads and warm hearts
and spoke of
… national traits and characteristics which will become stronger by being merged in wider, outward-looking unity.
I doubt whether anyone in this House would dissent from those views. He went on to say—and this is strictly relevant to what we are discussing in this debate and what we shall decide tomorrow—that the Treaty of Rome itself would not be an obstacle, subject to certain adaptations. He then said:
… in the ten years since the Treaty was signed it has been possible for us to study not only the text but the way it has been operating, what we might call the Common Law as well as the statute law, and we are encouraged by the results of our study.
What he meant was that the Common Market is not the definitive documentary institution which it was when set up. It is constantly evolving, moving forward pragmatically and in a sense which agrees with the general consensus of the members who take part in it.
Clearly, sovereignty is a natural question for everyone to raise. Just as an individual fears the loss of his personal identity, so a nation must feel that the greatest danger that can afflict it is the loss of its national identity. For that reason, it is a legitimate question to raise. But, as my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) said the other day when interrupting a Front Bench speaker, whenever we enter into an international treaty we abrogate a certain particle of our sovereignty. We agree to renounce a certain measure of our sovereignty in order to bring our attitudes and our future policies into conformity with those of the nations with which we are associating. So the idea of surrendering some limited amount of sovereignty for specific purposes is part of our history. We have done it constantly.
In the context of the Common Market and the institution of the Treaty of Rome, it is that and only that which we have been asked to do. We have not been asked to make a major surrender of our national sovereignty. There can be no country more nationalistic than France. There can be no leader more nationalistic than President de Gaulle. There can be few people so attached to their history and national institutions as the French. They were able to participate because they recognised that the degree of sovereignty that they surrendered was that degree which suited their convenience. Just as they were prepared to suit their convenience by this instrument, we can do the same.
I turn now to the common agricultural policy which, somehow, has been drawn into the argument as if after 1967, when the great majority of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides had made up their minds that entry was the right course to take, the policy is a new element which has appeared suddenly and made it impossible for us to accept the terms of entry.
The common agricultural policy is integral to the European Economic Community. It is not only integral now; it has been for many years, certainly before negotiations began for our own entry into Europe. The reason why it is integral and the reason why the French have been so firm in their attachment to it is that unless it existed it would have been impossible for any negotiations to begin. The reason why President de Gaulle said "No" was that he felt that if we went into Europe with a food policy based on preferential prices, which in effect, subsidised wages in this country, we should have an enormous industrial advantage to the disadvantage of the peasants of France.
We hear a great deal of talk about President Pompidou and his inefficient farmers. The word "inefficient" is used in a pejorative tone as though French farmers spend their time riding about in Ferraris and living a life of self-indulgence. However, a French farmer is just a peasant spelt differently. It is natural that the leaders of France should seek to defend and protect the interests of their peasantry. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House who are concerned with the fraternity of Europe would be as concerned about a worker on the land as about a worker in the factory.
Essentially, the common agricultural policy is a quid pro quo which is part of the negotiations so that we who look forward to great industrial advantages inside the Market in turn accept that we have to give some countervailing benefits to the peasants of the Continent of Europe. We should not treat the common agricultural policy as if it is the product of some original sin conceived in the mind of President de Gaulle and handed on to President Pompidou.
The common agricultural policy is an attempt to raise the standard of living of the peasantry in Europe so that, while we have the benefits of our industrial sales inside Europe, they in turn will be able to scratch a living out of the soil and have a standard of life comparable with that of the industrial worker elsewhere. As time goes on, I hope that the so-called inefficiency will change, that the price of food and the corresponding levies that we have to pay will diminish, and that there will be real harmonisation.
Our industrial growth has been inhibited by a number of factors, not least the iniquitous policies of the present Government which have led to inflation without expansion and unemployment without hope. It is a tragedy that in 1967 and later my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was hoping to negotiate from strength, whereas now we have to enter the Market at a time when the domestic policies of the present Government are such that, naturally, public opinion in the country feels that it cannot trust right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to carry out this policy. That is an attitude with which I sympathise fully.
If we want growth in this country we must look across the Channel and see what is going on there. Growth in Europe has been stimulated, if not wholly created, by the breaking down of tariff barriers. We are still separated from Europe by a high and spiky tariff wall. I dispute the figures which have been given. We are separated from Europe by high tariff walls and quotas of various kinds. The result is that our motor industry, with enormous possibilities of growth and expansion, is restrained and hemmed in by the tariff walls in Europe and the surcharge in the United States. if we are to have expansion—those long lines of production to diminish unit costs—we must have those high tariff walls pulled down so that we can enter the larger Market and enjoy its benefits.
The question of unemployment has entered into the debate. Another reason for believing that we should enter the Common Market, apart from the present intolerable unemployment which the Government could correct by fiscal and investment methods if they wished, is an even more sinister kind of unemployment which we are in danger of facing. Today, outside the Common Market, we have about 1 million unemployed. Assume a situation arose in which an inward-looking Six, with a high tariff wall around it, was to deny us the opportunities of selling our goods in the way that in the 1920s and 1930s we were prevented from selling our coal and steel and ships to European countries because the market collapsed or was closed down. If we had that kind of structural unemployment, as distinct from unemployment caused by fiscal and investment deprivation, which I well remember in the 1920s and 1930s in South Wales, we could not possibly recover from it, even under a Labour Government, because if the market collapsed we would be deprived of the opportunity of selling our goods.
I utter this warning to all those who try to put up bogeys about Europe. The real opportunity provided by entering Europe is that we shall be able to expand and to have full employment, which is what they have achieved in Europe. There have been marginal recessions now and again, but, basically, unemployment has been abolished inside Europe because of growth and expansion.
There is virtually no unemployment in France. The level of employment generally inside the Six is substantially higher than here.
One matter which has not been touched on in the debate is the development of multi-national companies. I emphasise this point, because its affects everybody who is concerned with industry in this country. Not long ago we had the shaming spectacle of Mr. Henry Ford going to 10 Downing Street and threatening to remove his business to Europe. That was a kind of blackmail. We talk about the blackmail exercised by unemployment, which is intolerable; but the blackmail which can be exercised and practised by the multi-national companies requires multi-trade union response. I feel that not only would that pressure be removed by our going into Europe, but there would be the possibility of trade unions organising on a multi-national basis to resist that kind of blackmail.
There has been reference to economic reasons against going into Europe. I have tried to show that the economic advantage of entry is great. Entry into Europe is not a magic wand to cure our difficulties, not a panacea, but I believe it offers enormous economic, and above all political, opportunities. By "political opportunities" I mean that the new interrelationship and the inter-mingling of the institutions of the Six give us the prospect of peace in Europe, something which until the last 26 years, we had not known for nearly 100 years. A life and death struggle between Germany, France and ourselves took place as recently as 26 years ago. How many military cemeteries mark the frontiers and plains of the Six, which at last have the prospect of living together in amity?
I believe that it is right to endeavour to live together in peace but, more than that, to use the institutions which we are evolving so that one day perhaps the machinery of the E.E.C. and of Comecon may together find a technique of cooperation, leading eventually to peaceful co-existence between East and West.
At Strasbourg in 1967 my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said:
In this century, the future of Europe, and the world, has twice required a generation of men to give their lives in defence of freedom. The Europe of today, the Europe it is in our power to fashion, with all this means for a wide world, calls for no such heroic sacrifices—the sacrifices which are asked of this generation are sacrifices only of supposed short-term interests, of short-term prejudices and stereotyped modes of thought. I believe that this generation has decided on its answer.
Those were the words of my right hon. Friend. They were noble sentiments in a speech which moved his European audience deeply. It was a speech in which high patriotism was wedded to the concept of an advocacy of European unity by consent. The sentiments which I applauded in Strasbourg I still uphold today, and it is in the spirit of my right hon. Friend's speech, and my own long-held conviction, that I shall go into the Lobby tomorrow in support of British entry into Europe.
The last two Speakers, one from this side and one from the other, each spoke for about half an hour. I shall make do with about half that time. It means that I shall have an opportunity to deal with only a few of the points that have arisen during the debate, but there is one to which I should like to devote particular attention.
We have heard a lot about whether British entry into the Common Market would be good for investment, or bad for it, whether there would be a flight of capital abroad, and whether there would be a terrible increase in our already terrible level of unemployment. It seems to me that one of the strongest arguments for going into the Common Market is that it will help to bring down the dreadful level of unemployment from which we are suffering.
There has been a great deal of argument about size, but I feel that there has been some misunderstanding on the part of some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. They have said that bigness is not best, and they are right. Big companies are often the least efficient not the most efficient, but it is beyond doubt that, to an increasing extent, in those industries which constitute the commanding heights of the economy plants are becoming bigger—plants which produce motor cars, chemicals, machine tools, or whatever it may be. There are considerable advantages for a company in placing large plant in a large home market, in placing large plant in a market where there are not tariff barriers, and where it can sell a great proportion of what it produces within a tariff-free area. As a result, this country has suffered a great disadvantage compared with our neighbours on the Continent. To an increasing extent, companies of all nationalities—British and American, as well as Continental companies—have been investing on the Continent instead of investing here.
That applies particularly to the key industries I have mentioned—the commanding heights. These industries have an effect right across the economy. When a company spends £100 million on building a new chemical plant or motor plant the effects are felt throughout the economy in the purchase of supplies, materials, and so on. So, when the motor car companies locate their plants on the Continent rather than in this country, it is not just a loss of exports from which we suffer but the loss also of all the goods and services which would flow into those factories. That has affected companies of all nationalities.
If we consider the motor car industry, we find that the two big American companies, General Motors and Ford, which play such a prominent rôle in our industrial life, just as they do on the Continent, between 1959 and 1968 increased their fixed assets on the Continent four times as fast as they did here. I have no doubt that British labour relations have given some heartache to Mr. Henry Ford, but most of that increase occurred long before Mr. Henry Ford's outburst and long before the worst of the troubles at Dagenham. There is no doubt that Britain is at a disadvantage against the Continent in precisely the same way that the Republic of Ireland is at a disadvantage against us.
If we are inside the Market we shall be able to compete on equal terms not only to get the investment of Continental and American companies but also, and this is particularly important, to get the investment of British companies. One of the most worrying features on the British industrial scene recently has been the extent to which the great British companies—British Leyland, British Petroleum, and the like—have been investing on the Continent in order to clamber over the tariff barrier. Once we are inside the Community they will be able to serve their markets from Britain, which will, I think, lead to a substantial increase in the level of investment in this country.
It is for this reason that we can look forward with somewhat more optimism than in the past to a reduction in the level of unemployment and an increase in the rate of growth. I have been disturbed by some of the statements made by anti-Marketeers on both sides to the effect that, whatever may have been the case in the past, the British rate of growth now promises to be faster than that of the Common Market countries. This is not the time to make party political points about the wonders of one's own party programme or the dreadful features of the other party's programme, but the fact is that if one looks at any reputable forecasts, whether produced by the O.E.C.D., the National Institute, or other bodies, one finds that the forecasts of the British rate of growth in the foreseeable future are much less optimistic than those for our principal Continental competitors. The forecasts for Britain are certainly better than for some time but, by and large, they are not as good as those for countries on the Continent. Anyone who doubts what I say has only to do as I did this morning—get the relevant statistics from the Library.
If I might now move to my final point to which I should like to devote some time. It seems to me that to some extent we are now in very much the position the United States Senate was in when Mr. Woodrow Wilson returned from Paris after having played such a prominent rôle in the creation of the League of Nations only to have the Senate reject it. It is true that the United States survived, and survived perfectly well, but it did not take up its responsibilities in the world; it did not play the part it could have played in preventing war. In due course it was, of course, involved in the war. The League of Nations survived, just as I have no doubt that we shall survive and the Common Market will survive, but it contained within itself the seeds of its own destruction. It was from the outset an imperfect instrument which failed to fulfil its high promise and the ideals and expectations of its founders.
In the changed circumstances of today, and in the different scenario in which we live, much the same applies to the Common Market and Britain. If we do not join, we shall certainly survive. But we shall become more inward-looking, more frustrated and more embittered, perhaps, about our decline in the world, the reduction in our opportunities and the difficulty we have in finding a rôle. We shall also lose an important chance to safeguard our own future. Whether we are inside the Common Market or outside, we are still affected by what happens, by their decisions on tariff policy, on regional policy and on agriculture. We shall be affected by that whether we are inside the Community or outside.
Inside, we do at least have the opportunity to influence those policies in a manner advantageous to us. Not only that: inside the Community, we have the opportunity of playing a more prominent rôle on the international stage. I do not mean threatening people with atomic bombs or third forces East of Suez. I mean that, when world trading policy, economic and aid policy, and almost any other policy which transcends national frontiers, is discussed in an international context, we shall have better possibilities of influencing decisions if we are part of the E.E.C. than if we are not. One has already seen, in the negotiations which have taken place in international trading matters, that our separation from the Community has been to our disadvantage.
The Community is very far from being a perfect instrument. I am sure that, had we entered it at the outset, it would be a lot better than it is. But, however imperfect it may be—many instruments, the United Nations among them, are imperfect—it is nevertheless the best we have at the moment. It is through bodies like the United Nations and the E.E.C. that we can hope to build a better world. They may not be as good as we would like, but they are the best we have to hand; if we want to play a role, we must join these organisations and try to make them work in a manner more in keeping with our ideals and ambitions.
It is not perfect at the moment, but with us in membership it would have a better chance of becoming a counterweight to the rather over-extended United States economic power and would have the chance to become the promoter of liberal economic and trading practices. It also has an opportunity to become an example of enlightened cooperation between sovereign independent states of a sort that the world has not seen for many a long year, which the world longs to see and in which we, with our experience, ideals and principles, can play a prominent rôle in a great cooperative venture.
I shall be proud to vote in favour of the Government. This country has a future in Europe which is greater, perhaps, than anything we have experienced in the past.
Once again today, we have had an excellent debate and the speeches have been at a high level of intense sincerity. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) made a very effective speech on behalf of a point of view which I do not share. I believe that he expressed very fluently the attitude of those of my hon. Friends who say that they will vote with the Government tomorrow. But I found his speech rather simpliste. We were treated, as we have been treated by the hon. Member for the Cites of London and Westminster (Mr. Tugendhat), to euphoric general assump- tions which they do not seem to find it necessary to prove or analyse.
I wish that my hon. Friend had been in the Chamber during the brilliantly perceptive speech of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude). I should have liked to hear my hon. Friend trying to deal with the hon. Gentleman's points. As I listened to my hon. Friend, I could not help thinking why, if the argument for entry were so overwhelmingly in the interests of the common people, he and his associates behind the Market campaign had not succeeded in winning the common people over to their point of view.
As I was about to come into the Chamber tonight, I was handed a report in the newspaper in my constituency area, the Lancashire Evening Telegraph, which for four days has been conducting a poll on the Common Market issue among people in the area. It is a pretty objective source because it has been plugging the need for entry in its editorials for weeks. What was the result of the poll?—18·9 per cent. in favour, 77·3 per cent. against. There is a lesson here for us. The instinct of the people on this issue is far better than we give them credit for, because they know that we are not being asked to go into the Division Lobbies behind the idealistic vision which inspires so many of my hon. Friends. if it were so, their reaction would be very different.
When we from the Opposition Front Bench say, "No entry on Tory terms". I believe that the people of this country instinctively understand what we mean. [Interruption.] I shall hope to underline my general statements with detailed arguments.
I understand and respect what motivates so many of my colleagues with whom I disagree. I do not think that anyone, and certainly not a Socialist and internationalist like myself, could fail to be moved by the initial driving force behind the creation of the European Community. We cannot fail to understand the feelings of those in Europe who faced the fact that three times France had been invaded—1870, 1914 and 1939—and three times Europe has been devastated. It was a stirring ideal to suggest that they should build a community which would for ever make a recurrence of that continental warfare impossible by integrating Germany into a European Community.
It shows how wise I was not to give way. None of us is perfect in his or her phrasing.
I was endeavouring to meet the point of view of those who have undoubtedly and genuinely been inspired by the European concept, bearing in mind the ideal that it would make Franco-German reconciliation permanent. That was the goal, and a very reputable goal it was, and I pay my tribute. This idealism has lingered on, despite the fact that the genuinely internationalist objective has become confused with what to me are some very dubious economic philosophies behind the Treaty of Rome.
I go even further. I agree with my right hon. and hon. Friends that this curious political, economic and philosophic structure of the European Community has probably, despite its defects, done a very great deal of good and certainly more good than harm to its originators. For them it has meant a creative surge in the first 13 years of its evolution. It would not be objective of any of us to ignore that fact. In those first early years it has meant an economic stimulus. They got that stimulus by the breaking down between themselves of much higher tariff barriers than exist at present between us and the Community. The surge has come from the creation of the supra-national institutions like the Commission and the Council of Ministers and it has come from, to use a much-abused word, the dynamic effects of feeling that they were going forward together to even closer economic co-operation by their common external tariff. Therefore, I repeat that I can understand the feeling which originally created the European movement which has such strong roots on this side of the House.
But surely we cannot make our decision tomorrow on the basis of a history of 13 years. With the emergence of General de Gaulle in France it became clear that the international ideal was being diluted and that France was determined to use the Community as a base for developing French interests and influence. As we all know, and as the history of the last few years shows, there was no supra-nationalism for him and none of that European spirit about which we are told so much, except where it suited France. Therefore, the only genuine integrated and common policy that evolved was the common agricultural policy, which more than anything else has set the seal on inward-looking self-interest as the attitude of the Community. This is something which has to be faced by internationalists in the House who are using international arguments and Socialist arguments. I have never heard a pro-Marketeer who is prepared to defend the concept behind the common agricultural policy.
No one can deny that for internal political reasons, for the crude party political reasons we are all told to put behind us when we make our decision tomorrow night, the aim of making the Community self-sufficient in food is being ruthlessly pursued in Europe, at whatever cost. We are told to accept this as a great contribution towards the development of free trade. This self-sufficiency in food is being pursued regardless of the effects on the healthy development of world trade in general and regardless of the needs of the developing countries.
The hon. Gentleman's intervention has made me decide not to give way any more. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may run away from the truth, but I shall not do so tonight.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] This is one of the questions with which my whole speech is designed to deal. Therefore, for hon. Gentlemen opposite to chip in with these narrow points, in the middle of what is intended to be a serious and not a frivolous argument, is to debase the whole Parliamentary debate. I repeat, I shall not give way any more because I intend to develop a coherent argument and not to take refuge in small debating points or in facile generalisations.
May I repeat what I was saying? The common agricultural policy, as everybody recognises, is contrary to the healthy development of world trade and to the interests of the developing countries which we as Socialists are supposed to have so much at heart. When my Socialist friends tell me that I must go into the European Community, not only because it is so outward looking but because it is so socialist in its approach to the questions of world development, I think they have become the victims of their own sloganising. We are told how much the Community spends in aid; the figures are tossed off in propaganda sheets, financed I do not know from which quarters. We are never told how the European Development Fund has been turned, like many other apparently idealistic concepts, into machinery for pumping money into former French colonies, not for their benefit but for the benefit of French trade and industry. We are told how developing countries are to be helped by the offer of association with the Community, that we need not worry about our own former territories because they will be offered association, too.
What is glossed over in this argument, which is unworthy of any deep-thinking Socialist, is the fact that this policy, too, is highly discriminatory. Of course it embraces developing countries in Africa because that is a part of the world where France has ex-Colonial ties. But the significant thing about this great Community is that the offer of association does not embrace the great developing countries of Asia, now struggling with problems of desperate poverty—India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Malaysia and Singapore. It does not embrace them for one simple reason, that they are more industrially developed and, therefore, their products constitute more of a threat to the internal interests of this rich men's club. The countries of Asia which most desperately need help are to be left to the tender mercies of others. So we are going back to the nineteenth century concept of dividing the world into spheres of interest.
Worse still, we are undermining the healthy development of multilateral trade by a vast expansion of the system of bilateral and discriminatory trade agreements at the expense of the rest of the world. The world is to be divided by the Community into us and the outsiders. It is this—and I suggest that the House takes it into account as we discuss the international implications of our entry—which is increasingly worrying the United States, which has now come to realise that when the enlargement of the Community is complete, if it is made complete by our decision to go in, nearly one half of world trade will come under special arrangements organised round this European trading bloc. It is this which is feeding a dangerously protective mood in the United States and has led her to her determination to act, however regressively, blindly in the defence of her own interests.
Therefore, the European concept has lost its internationalist way. De Gaulle has set his highly nationalistic stamp on the Community, and the frailty of the new concept of European unity was revealed in the exchange crisis of 1969 when, as we all know, the Six did not react as a whole. Each country of the Six reacted individually to protect its own interests.
As a result of that experience in 1969, the choice was made starkly clear: either the Community would go on to full economic and monetary union, or it would disintegrate into nothing more than a grouping of nationalist States. It was from that experience that we had the birth of the Werner plan, which, if implemented, would destroy the last remnants of this House's sovereignty. It would take from the individual members of the Community all control over monetary policy, all control over their foreign exchange parities, all control over the shape or size of their own national budgets, all control over the level and nature of their taxes, all control over their regional and structural policies, and, as the Werner plan made clear, it would mean the transfer of these far-reaching decisions from the national level to the Community level.
In the negotiations, as the Prime Minister made clear to the House on 10th June, the Government have pledged that Britain will play her full part in the progress towards this vast expansion of supra-nationalism. Those are words, but they are important words. The Government have made that pledge without putting before the country or this House any plans for securing democratic political control in Europe over this new Leviathan.
It is astonishing to me that the Government should produce that kind of facile patter to which we have now become so accustomed from the pro-Marketeers, saying, "We resolved the sterling question. We promised to proceed towards the dissolution of the sterling balances within the context of progress towards monetary and economic union ". But not a word about political control. On the contrary, we have been assured that the powers of this House will remain complete. Yet the Government must know, if they are talking realities, that when they talk about monetary and economic union, they are talking about transferring the central control of the British House of Commons over taxation to the Brussels Community.
So what are we to have? We are to have taxation without representation on a scale that would make Charles I look like a democrat. Is that the offer being put before us? "No," say my right hon. and hon. Friends, "that is not the issue. What are you worrying about? The Werner plan will never be implemented". I am supposed to take consolation from that—I see the Secretary of State nodding his head—as though that were a solution to our difficulties. People tell me to look at the currency crisis with which Europe is now struggling. There is no monetary and economic union even within sight at the present time. Is not every member of the Six going his own way? They can say that again. The currency confusion in Europe at the moment makes our dear old £ look like the stablest currency of the lot. Some E.E.C. countries are floating together, some E.E.C. countries are floating separately, while France has a system of dual exchange rates.
I was tremendously touched to read in the Financial Times only today that M. Giscard d'Estaing, the French Finance Minister, is proposing that the Finance Ministers of the Six at their meeting next week should try to reach world solutions to the monetary crisis without waiting first to settle their own difficulties. In fact, as we all know, the views of France and Germany on this issue have proved irreconcilable and relations between the two countries are at their lowest ebb for years. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] It is no good saying, "Rubbish". That is the kind of facile evasion which refuses to face the truth. [Interruption.] I am sorry that hon. Members opposite dismiss the comments of, for example, the Financial Times as nonsense. That is what it said. Everyone knows that relations between France and Germany on this issue are at the lowest ebb for several years, and I am quoting the Financial Times in saying that.
I do not say that this is a desirable state of affairs or that I welcome it. I am doing no more than present it as the reality which we have to face. The year 1971 has proved a watershed in the history of European unity. Faced with a major challenge like the currency crisis, which has been precipitated by the actions of the United States, the Six have shown clearly in the last few weeks that they are not prepared to follow common monetary policies. Does anyone deny that? Will anyone suggest that they are following such policies? Will anyone suggest that there is harmonisation of currency policy between France and Germany at the present time? The countries of the Six have shown, too, that they are not prepared to go for economic union, and they have shown, therefore, that they are further from political unity than they have ever been before.
This situation makes even greater nonsense of the common agricultural policy, for without a co-ordinated movement of currencies one cannot have the common agricultural prices which are at the heart of it. So the whole concept of unified farm policy, supported by a Community fund, is put in jeopardy, and all we are left with is the onerous commitment in the Government's White Paper for us, a food-importing country, to pay vast subventions to the food-producing countries.
We are faced with a worse threat than that, for, as the Sunday Times made clear in the article by Malcolm Crawford last Sunday, if the currency crisis in Europe—this is what is worrying the United States—is solved by pegging the revalued D-mark at a new and higher level and then the units of account which are the
basis for calculating the common agricultural prices are raised in line, which is what Germany would almost certainly insist upon, there will be a new wave of increases in Common Market food prices and import levies. As the Sunday Times put it,
The United Kingdom faces a massive dollar crisis bill.
In such a situation, this country would be mad to accept these terms. I challenge the claim by my noble Friend Lord George-Brown in another place, or by my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), that a Labour Government would ever have accepted them. We never accepted the new financial arrangements for the common agricultural policy in our February White Paper. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer tried to suggest that we had, he dare not quote that Paper to the House. I suggest that he looks at paragraph 26.
Nor did my right hon. Friend the then Prime Minister accept them in his statement to the House on 10th February last year. He said:
Even now we do not have a complete picture of the future shape of the Community's agricultural policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th February, 1970; Vol. 795, c. 1081.]
It was against that tentative background that we produced our estimates. I know that no Government of which I was a member would ever have accepted them.
Yesterday in another place Lord George-Brown pleaded with us in the Labour Party not
in a final frenzy of self-inflicted frustration".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 26th October, 1971; Vol. 324, c. 567.]
to jeopardise the interests of this country. We all know Lord George-Brown as a sincere man, but we also know his capacity—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—for optimistic euphoria. I agree that he could sell anything. I plead with him not to be the prisoner of his own auto-salesmanship but to sit back and assess quietly and objectively the new situation with which we are now faced.
Another great argument for rushing us into Europe is melting before our eyes, and that is the growth argument. For 1971 has been a watershed not only in the political development of the Community but in its economic development,
as some of us have warned it would. The great growth bubble on which all the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook rests has burst at last. As Ian Davidson pointed out in the Financial Times of 13th October:
It is ironic that, just as Parliament reassembles for its historic debate and vote on the question of principle, the papers should be full of the economic difficulties of the Common Market countries.
The euphoric generalisations of the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster fade before the facts.
I am grateful to the right hon. Lady, not only because she mentioned me but also because I am an ex-colleague of Ian Davidson on the Financial Times. He mentioned the difficulties, but I am sure that the right hon. Lady will agree, if she looks at the figures, that, whatever the difficulties, the forecast rate of growth for the Common Market countries over any period in the future she likes to mention is higher than ours.
The hon. Gentleman must have got slightly out of touch with Mr. Ian Davidson. Let me give the picture as Mr. Davidson presents it in the Financial Times. Talking about the growing economic difficulties in the Common Market countries, he said:
In all of them wage and price inflation has become a serious problem, if in varying degrees. Hardly a week passes without fresh reports of cutbacks in company profits and investment plans. In Germany industrialists are openly worried by the upward float of the Deutschemark and its impact on their exporting prospects, and there is a clear possibility that the down-turn in the boom could lead to a recession.
So I say to the hon. Gentleman and to the Secretary of State for Employment that it is not only Italy, with over one million unemployed, which is suffering her most serious crisis since the war; it is also Germany. According to a report by West Germany's main economic institute, published last Monday, Germany's growth rate next year may be negative.
So not only have the facile assumptions about the growth rate for Britain if we go in not been proved but the glowing picture of growth in Europe has been dimmed. The European dream is disintegrating before our eyes. I know that my hon. Friends may say, "This is just why the Social Democrats in Europe want us to go in and help." But we cannot help them if the condition of going in is to hang impossible institutional and philosophical millstones around our necks, to say nothing of the financial burdens.
The terms on which we shall all be voting tomorrow are designed to perpetuate the evils from which the European ideal is now suffering. If we accept the common agricultural policy, for instance, it means that we shall not only be supporting it but saving it from the extinction it deserves because that is the bargain which President Pompidou struck before he would agree to negotiate at all. He has also struck another bargain, to which Lord Gladwyn referred in that remarkable article in The Times where he wrote:
M. Pompidou got a pledge from the Prime Minister that Britain would support France in the strict application of the unanimity rule as it emerged from the 'Luxembourg compromise' of January, 1966.
[An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] An hon. Member opposite says, "Hear, hear". Perhaps he welcomes the unanimity rule, but my hon. Friends voting with the Government tomorrow do not welcome it. Nor does Lord Gladwyn, because he knows it has produced what Herr Dahrendorf, the European Commissioner for External Affairs, has described as a Europe becoming
… ever more bureaucratic and more illiberal",
with power passing from the Council of Ministers to the Council of Permanent Representatives and with a European Parliament that is a farce.
Lord Gladwyn admits that if we want the European community to be democratic there is no alternative to the transfer of decision making to a European Parliament. He also admits that this has been specifically ruled out by the Prime Minister's deal with President Pompidou. So I say to my hon. Friends that if they argue that these terms which we shall be asked to vote on tomorrow are acceptable, they are either subscribing to the French concept of a Euro-bloc of loosely knit nation states or they are deliberately deceiving France. If they are deliberately deceiving France, they are also deceiving the British electorate, who have been asked to buy this deal on the pledge that it does not involve giving up national sovereignty.
So we now face the reality—not the slogans, not the posters, not the high ideals and dreams. We face the reality that their European vision has disintegrated and that for us to join in this situation on these terms would only act as a multiplier to Europe's difficulties. So I suggest to my hon. Friends who have always been consistent supporters of the European ideal that our wisest council would be to wait until we can see more clearly what kind of a Europe we are being asked to join.
Hon. Members opposite love to take refuge behind generalities but, as even the Observer said on Sunday, the phrase "entering Europe" is just windy rhetoric. What kind of a Europe are we being asked to join? What does joining Europe involve for us, not only economically but in terms of national sovereignty?
Is it to be just a step to a wider free trade area in which the common agricultural policy and the fussy harmonisations and the bureaucratic interference of Brussels will have no place, or is to be a fully fledged European union? It is only the latter than can give us that common foreign policy and common defence policy without which, according to the Prime Minister, we shall not have that enlargement of British interests which is held out as such an inducement to us. But if it is the latter, we owe it to the British people to tell them the truth.
Of course the present Community presents no difficulty to the present Government, because they approve of the dear food policy and the common agricultural policy; they approve of a value-added tax; they approve of shifting the tax burden from direct to indirect taxation. By going into the Community, this Community in this condition and on these terms, the Government are only fulfilling their natural political destiny; but they are not fulfilling ours.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham told the Government last night in moving terms that they must not advance into Europe with the women and children way out in front. He knows that we have not been given adequate assurances that pensioners and others on fixed incomes will not bear the brunt.
He knows that the majority of pensioners in private pension schemes in this country have no future protection against inflation and that, according to Mr. Ralph Hart, and again I quote the Financial Times, the rise in prices following Britain's entry could halve the value of their pensions in 10 years or less.
We all know that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry does not want us to go into Europe so as to push up wages by £7 a week, which has been the inducement held out on every poster by the Labour Committee for Europe and published in every trade union journal in the land. At least the right hon. Gentleman has the honesty to acknowledge that. He wants us to go in because, as he told German industrialists at Düsseldorf, he believes that a dose of Common Market competition would hold down wage increases. These are the political realities with which we are faced and by endorsing this deal we shall be endorsing those realities.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook said, "The Europe I want to enter is not the Europe of hon. Gentlemen opposite". He has no other choice. Tomorrow night we must vote not just as party politicians—
We must vote as Socialists, because it is the Socialist concept of Europe to which my hon. Friends have told us that they are pledged. If we vote as Socialists, that means voting against the Government.
I should like first on my own account, and I am sure on behalf of hon. Members on both sides of the House, to express my sympathy to the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) for what I know must have been a day of some concern.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) on Monday both recalled to me my maiden speech in this House last year. They drew my attention particularly to the fact that at that time I said I had then no sense of mandate for Europe. They did not, perhaps naturally, go on to the rest of what I said. In the rest of my remarks I argued strongly against the suitability of either using a referendum or a special general election as a means of resolving the problem in question. I very firmly opted for the need for hon. Members to have a specially intensive degree of concentration with their constituents during the period running up to this particular event in parliamentary life.
Like other hon. Members, I have tried hard to live up conscientiously to that, and I have sought effectively to consult and talk with my constituents in recent months. Whereas in July 1970 I honestly said that I had no sense of mandate, I must tell the House that today I have a very strong sense of support for doing what I should do tomorrow evening, and that is to go into the Lobby to vote for membership of Europe. Doubts there may still be, but it is my profound conviction—and it is certainly the conviction of the people with whom I have talked—that I should cast my vote as I deem right, and that it is up to this House to reach its conclusion in its habitual way. My consultations have left me in no doubt whatever about what is right.
I asked many thousands of my constituents about this matter. The experience I had of intensive consultations underlined the immense complexity of the issue before us. Time and again the spotlight of public interest has shifted from one central issue to some other no less fundamental: sovereignty; continental defence; the cultural and scientific survival of Europe; the underdeveloped world; the economic consequences for Britain short and long-term; the repercussions on the Commonwealth. The inescapable conclusion was that one way or the other every facet of our future is deeply affected by this decision. For many of us, there must be a sense of awe in taking part in such a great national decision, whichever way we decide.
The debate in this House, to a great deal of which I have listened, mirrors the consultative process in evoking the manifold considerations with which we are all concerned. Speaking as one whose conviction in the need for European integration and Britain's part in it has never wavered from a time long antedating the Treaty of Rome, I feel myself not unnaturally drawn into all the wide ramifications of the great issues involved. I must say to the right hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn that when she speaks of being rushed into Europe it is a sensation with which in recent times I am not familiar.
Tonight I conceive it to be my task to concentrate upon those which are more directly the field of my own responsibility in Government. My primary concern is with the wealth-creating activities of our national life, and to these I propose to address myself.
Whatever my natural disposition to the Continent of Europe may be—whatever my preferences or my prejudices—I could not responsibly press for European membership if I did not believe that it would add to our national prosperity and improve the wealth-creating capacities of the nation. I am convinced that it will.
My conviction arises from testing what seem to me the critical questions of our prospects as an industrial and trading country against the conditions that membership is likely to present both row and in the future. I suggest that those critical questions can be summarised under five heads. Will our external trading performance be improved? Shall we have better opportunities to use our national resources to the full? Will our traditional innovative and technical skills flourish? Will our major basic industries thrive, especially those for which the State answers as owner? Finally, will our expertise and flair in banking, insurance and other invisible earners have greater scope?
If I can answer these questions positively, the well-being of the country in terms of its prosperity must to better assured in membership than outside, provided only that the costs of membership not accounted for in my analysis are not crippling. My conclusion, not from prejudice but from careful re-appraisal, is undoubtedly positive on every count.
Perhaps more significant still is the fact that, practically without exception, the leaders of our industrial organisations and of our great enterprises are of the same mind. Hon. Members cannot surely fail to be impressed by the extraordinary degree of unanimity with which they have stated their views publicly on these issues. These are, after all, the men and women who are at the sharp end of the economic challenge—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Then who is? They know that they have not only to reach a general conclusion but to live with its consequences under the eyes of their members and shareholders. In the light of this, it is surely impressive that the C.B.I., both in its central and subsidiary councils; the A.B.C.C. as well as its associated chambers of commerce throughout the country; countless trade associations, and innumerable company chairmen have all spoken and written with confidence and assurance of the benefits they foresee in membership.
Why does the right hon. Gentleman—and, for that matter, his right hon. and hon. Friends—always consider that industry has only one side to it? Is not he aware that the Trades Union Congress, which was neither pro-nor anti-Market, made a close and deep study of this issue and, on the basis of it, came out against entry? Will not the right hon. Gentleman take that into consideration, as well as the views of the C.B.I.?
Of course I take that into consideration. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should suggest to me, of all people, that I am not conscious of there being two major sides. However, in the end, the judgments of managements are those of the people who have to answer for success or failure. I am sure that that is true.
Nor is it just the big firms. The Smaller Firms Council of the C.B.I. has voted overwhelmingly in favour of entry on the terms negotiated. Indeed, small firms can be expected to benefit just as much as large ones. This has been the experience in the Six.
The right hon. Gentleman justifies his one-sided quotations from managements and his ignoring of the views of the T.U.C. by saying that it is management which carries the consequences of success or failure—
Very well, management has to answer for the consequences of success or failure. I do not want to misquote the right hon. Gentleman, though my point is not affected. Is he not aware that the whole point of the industrialists' approval of our entry is that, if the Government's judgments about the economic effect on this country are wrong, they cannot suffer because they do not stand or fall by Britain's prosperity since, under the free movement of capital, they fulfil themselves through European prosperity, regardless of what happens here?
That is a spurious comment.
I should like now to answer as briefly as possible the critical questions which I posed just now and, in doing so, to answer some of the comments and views which have been expressed in the debate.
First, a word about our trading prospects. There has been some criticism in the debate that the Government have not been prepared to publish a quantitative assessment of the estimated effect on trading movements of the complex realignment of tariffs and the industrial consequences likely to result from membership. I have in mind particularly an intervention on this subject by the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Clinton Davis). I do not see him here this evening. However, many other hon. Members have spoken about it.
The imponderables are obviously so extensive as to make realistic quantifications an absolute illusion. To try to measure the aggregate and complex effect of trade responses to a progressive elimination of tariffs between ourselves and the Community, a progressive alignment with common external tariffs towards the outside world, the as yet unquantified and unspecified relationship between non-candidate members of E.F.T.A. and the enlarged Community, the uncertain dismantling of Commonwealth preference by the Commonwealth countries themselves, the unknown development in association arrangements between the enlarged Community and third countries, let alone all the other unpredictables arising, for instance, from the recent American measures, and to seek to forecast reasonable quantification amongst this great mass of variables and uncertainties is to pose a problem of forecasting which makes the ultra long-range weather forecast seem like child's play.
No. I shall carry on.
When one thinks of the myriad influences at work on the terms of trade and the response of individual industries, and individual firms within those industries, clearly precise calculations, or even calculations within a wide bracket, are virtually impossible.
May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that, in a speech which he addressed to his own party in the House two or three months ago, he attempted to give just such an assessment—that in his judgment we should do badly, or we should do less well, in the transitional period? Surely he can tell the House whether the results of his studies are that it will be a plus or minus for British trade if we enter the Common Market.
The right hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong in suggesting that I made any qualification at all in that statement. I did not.
Indeed, in all the criticism which right hon. and hon. Members opposite have made, they seem to forget the judgment of their own White Paper in February of last year. When they were looking at just such an aggregation of uncertain elements in relation to the total overall balance of payments cost they stated that it was
far too wide to afford any basis for judgment and positively misleading.
They said that in their White Paper and reproach us for taking exactly the same view.
What we do have is the experience of the Six. Since 1958 they have increased their trade between themselves by an average of 16½ per cent. per annum and with the outside world by 9 per cent. per annum. The overall increase of 12 per cent. is just double ours.
What is certain, therefore, in this sphere, is that we shall be exchanging an area of trading preference in which growth has been undeniably slow for one in which growth has been extremely fast. This can only have an advantageous effect. If we add to this that our new area of trading preference is one hat, in terms of its own generation of internal and external trade, has been putting it further and further into the lead in both, then surely we must be harnessing ourselves to what has been and continues to look like being a great success story.
Nor is it convincing to see in our own relatively good performance in our trade with the E.E.C. an argument for not needing to remove the barriers which exist. The record shows that the elimination of those barriers between the E.E.C. countries had an even more stimulating effect on their trade with one another than upon their trade with the rest of the world.
One lesson which has been brought home to all of us since we debated the White Paper in July is the need to be in a position to protect our international trade interests. As a member of the enlarged Community we shall share in the bargaining strength of the world's biggest trading bloc, and have an influential voice in its use. If we remain outside, our power to influence other trading giants, such as the U.S.A. and Japan, will fatally diminish.
I now propose to say something about our use of national resources. This means on the one side our people, and on the other our investment. We are at present experiencing all the bitterness and pain of excessive unemployment, and particularly in certain parts of the country suffering from industrial decline. The general under-use of people from which we are suffering will be remedied by the renewed buoyancy in the economy which we confidently foresee, and this in its turn will be substantially buttressed by the added economic dimension which the Common Market will bring.
But, despite that, we all recognise the need for specific measures to offset the tendency of certain parts of the country to prosper less than the rest. The question has been raised frequently in this debate whether membership will damagingly limit our ability to provide such measures, or will create conditions in which the economic pull of the Com- munity will undermine them. I am clear that neither of those eventualities will occur.
In the first place, the Community, in the preamble to the Treaty of Rome, clearly identifies regional imbalance as being a problem to be overcome. In the second, the Community has made it clear that it sees its rôle as complementing national regional policies—not replacing them. In the third, it has quite recently shown its awareness of the need to discourage competitive bidding up for internationally mobile projects by relatively prosperous areas at the expense of regions—the kind of regions that our development areas are—which have a much more pressing need for such forms of industrial investment.
The "central areas" problem, to which great reference has been made, is a deliberate endeavour to ensure that those areas which realy need a hand are not sacrificed to over-concentration in the more naturally prosperous ones. To all those initiatives we can only give a genuine welcome as contributing towards the attainment of our own objectives in these fields.
I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I am coming to that, and I shall deal with it in my own order, if he does not mind.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) asserted that neither the former Government's investment grant incentives nor our tax allowances would survive within the Community rules. I must tell the House that there is nothing whatever in the present provisions of the Community which support that assertion. We consider ourselves free to use what methods we may choose, subject only to such rules as those to which we may assent in the future within the enlarged Community.
The right hon. Member for Battersea, North, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas) and many others maintained that our I.D.C. policy would not survive effectively because if we pressed an industry to site its investment in a development area it would react by deciding to go abroad. The right hon. Member for Battersea, North had some complicated, rather Cassandra-like, things to say about the future disposition of manufacturing investment generally to meet the requirements of the markets. All I can tell him is that his view of the matter, however much canvassed by his friends amongst academics and economists, is sharply in contrast with that of industrialists both here and abroad. They seem very widely to think that membership will materially increase total investment in this country, and that our regional package will have a profound impact upon its siting.
So much has been said about regional policy that I hesitate to add still further to it, but I have so great a part of industrial responsibility in this field that I feel I must answer the points which we were pressed so strongly to answer by, amongst others, the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson), the right hon. Member for Cardiff, West, and the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller). They all fear that we shall find ourselves obliged to include within the so-called "central areas" parts of the country we consider to be in need of special help. If we did so, it could only be because we had assented to that course in the discussions that we shall have with the Commission: if not, nothing prevents us from taking the matter to the Council of Ministers, and in the last resort we cannot be overridden on what we deem to be a basic national interest.
Let me make it absolutely clear that we regard the provision of special assistance to areas such as the present development areas as a matter of vital national importance. Existing member States of the Six have taken a similar view of areas to which they attach particular importance, and the arrangements which they have agreed with the Commission reflect to the full the priorities which they feel are necessary. It is mischievous of hon. Members opposite, and shows their misunderstanding of the operation of the Community, to suggest that we should be unable to continue to give special assistance to those parts of the United Kingdom which we judge to be in need of it. Let me say, too, that we have absolutely no need of any protocol, as suggested by some hon. Members opposite, to safeguard these vital national interests. We rely entirely and effectively on the Community as it is today.
As I come from Merseyside, I am very interested in this aspect. Will the right hon. Gentleman say how the very important points he has made are in line with Article 93 of the Rome Treaty, which says that if member Governments of the Six have policies which are not in line with the Commission they can be brought before the Court of Justice if the Commission has asked them to change their policies and they have not done so? Can the right hon. Gentleman explain the difference between what he has said here and the actual terms of Article 93?
I am stating what are the realities of the situation. In relation to Article 93, the Commission can reproach a country for the measures it takes, and that country then enters into consultation with the Commission. If there is disagreement, nothing prevents the country concerned from raising the matter within the Council of Ministers. As I have said. we cannot be overridden on a matter of basic national interest.
This brings me to the other side of our resource problem. All of us are aware of the relatively low level of industrial investment from which we have suffered over many years, and not just recently. There seems to me to be no doubt—and, as I have said, this view is mirrored by that of management here, on the Continent and in the U.S.A.—that membership is likely sharply to increase that level of investment.
There are good reasons for that. In the first place, the added buoyancy which will be derived from membership in itself will stimulate our own investment. In the second place, in the exchanges of investment that are likely to flow between here and the Continent following membership the strong probability is that the balance of the flow will be inward rather than outward. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because we are already strongly established in the Community in investment and it is undoubtedly less strongly established here. My hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Mr. Emery) referred to this point during his interesting speech, and I entirely endorse what he said.
In the third place, there is likely to be a considerable new inflow of American investment to seek the advantages of the enlarged market. Not only my own personal evaluation, for what it is worth, but also the outspoken views of many American industrialists confirm to me their preference for the United Kingdom as the investment location provided that we are members of the Community.
Let me say a further word about investment and its impact upon regional policy. Incoming investment from Europe or from America has often the great advantage that it is not already committed to an existing area within our own country and can be more easily and directly influenced by incentives and persuasion than can home-based investment. The implications of this for regional policy are important.
My third question asked about the future of our innovative and technical skills. The immediate reaction is to wonder how on earth we are to encourage them and profit by them if we find ourselves in the long term outside the Community—
I was referring, not inappropriately, to our innovative and technical skills. The immediate reaction is to wonder how we could encourage them and profit by them if we found ourselves in the long term outside the Common Market. Recent experience in so many fields, particularly in the high technology industries, like aerospace, computers and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) said yesterday, nuclear energy, merely underlines the indifferent prospects for entirely national-based enterprises. The vital need is to rationalise and concentrate European capacities in these fields and to organise them to meet primarily the requirements of the vast European market.
Of course it can be argued that nothing would prevent us, as non-members, from taking part in that rationalisation and concentration. But do hon. Members seriously believe that such a development is likely, in economic separation from a subcontinent endowed as it is with much the same skills as ourselves, and certainly much greater wealth, but with a progressive cohesion in company law, taxation, patent rights, capital markets and technological exchange arrangements, from all of which we would be excluded? Of course not. The inevitable result would be to put at risk our present highly developed capacities in this field and our whole future potential.
My fourth question referred to our basic industries. Those in the private sector have already spoken out, to a large extent, for themselves—and pretty loud and clear. It would be hard indeed to detect more than a handful of managements who do not believe that their prospects are brighter and more secure in membership than outside.
The same is true of the industries in the public sector whose future would be most affected by membership—namely, coal and steel. In both cases, managements have unreservedly subscribed to the belief that they would enjoy advantages from membership.
No, I have given way enough. We have to consider the time.
But of course, the Government, as trustee in ownership for the nation, have a special responsibility for the welfare of these industries—
No, I will not.
The modifications in practice and control to conform to the E.C.S.C. Treaty for both these industries involve no change in structure for either. Nor do the adaptations to the Treaty invalidate the essential relationship between Government and industries. I should like to say that particularly for the benefit of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, West, who raised such grave doubts about this yesterday.
They do involve substantial changes in pricing practices—I am speaking particularly of steel—but these, which remain to be worked out in detail, allow for greater flexibility in pricing, not less, and both Government and industry have already stated their preference for such greater flexibility anyway.
Finally, there is that whole wide field of work which contributes invisible but for all that extensive and valuable credits to the nation's account. There has not been a great deal of reference to this in this debate. Perhaps that is because no one has much doubt that in membership they will greatly prosper. That is certainly my belief.
The versatility and expertise in these activities spread widely, as they are, throughout the country but with their impressive fulcrum in the City of London, are likely to benefit enormously from membership. The greater freedom of movement of capital, the more intensive cross-frontier investment, the concentration and rationalisation within the high technology industries—all these and many other facets arising from membership are likely to open up new dimensions of success to our invisible earners, with benefit both to the enterprises and to the country.
I have endeavoured firmly to suppress the feelings of emotional involvement which I undoubtedly have about the widening integration of Europe. What I have said reposes upon a careful and objective assessment of the opportunities and risks. However, I cannot restrain myself from commenting on the significance of this week's historic debate and decision. I earnestly hope that, once behind us, all the doubts and uncertainties will give way to a determination to succeed and to make of this gathering identity of Western Europe the force for advancement, for wisdom and for good that this great Continent should rightly be.
The House will agree that it is something of an innovation for a Minister to begin an important speech by speaking from the point of view of a constituency Member. On an issue of this kind, that is a good approach, and I propose to say something about my experience in my constituency and the importance of public opinion. I hope that the Secretary of State will acquit me of discourtesy if I do not take up, as I am tempted to do, many of the important points he made because I an aware that many Members desire to speak, although we have just agreed to sit until seven o'clock.
The debate will continue not only tonight but for many months, because unfortunately the economic arguments for and against our membership cannot be subjected to objective proof. It is equally unfortunate that the major problems, especially the consequences of the common agricultural policy, can be quantified with some precision whereas the advantages which should flow from the opportunities created by a larger market cannot. While we must exercise our judgment on such evidence as is available, I believe that at the end of the day it is largely an act of faith that we shall successfully meet the challenge of joining the Common Market, or—and I know of no other possibility—that we shall make a living outside it in increasingly difficult world circumstances.
One needs greater faith to believe that we shall be prosperous outside the Market than that we can succeed within it. We have a very difficult future in economic and political terms because the world is rapidly changing to our disadvantage in competitive terms and in terms of political influence. I am absolutely convinced that neither in economic nor political terms are we any longer masters of our destiny, whether we are in the Market or not. It is a very long time since we could claim such a decisive voice.
I became convinced about 18 years ago, in the early days of the European Coal and Steel Community, that it would be very much to our advantage to participate fully in the developing pattern of European integration. We did not join the Coal and Steel Community. We made a further mistake in the negotiations about the ill-fated European Defence Com- munity. We made the greatest mistake of all by declining to participate in the negotiations and discussions which led to the Treaty of Rome.
I agree with those who say that there is no point in dwelling today on past errors except in so far as they have a direct relevance to our present decision, as they do in the effect they have on the terms of entry. We are all too well aware of these difficulties, especially those presented by the common agricultural policy—higher prices and the contributions we must pay across the exchanges to the detriment of our balance of payments—because these flow in large measure directly from our decision not to become founder members of the Community. Then we changed our mind, but in the meantime General de Gaulle had come to power and for his own reasons he vetoed our application.
The House must understand that if we decline to join now the terms on a future occasion, if there is one, will be more onerous than they are today. This is not because the Six would be any more difficult but because they are bound to evolve their affairs further and the cost of our adjusting to their practices would be that much greater. No one could reasonably expect them to set aside 12 or 13 years of achievement for the benefit of their people merely to suit us.
I was attracted to the idea of a united Europe because it seemed to offer a more secure economic future and would give us more political influence. In the immediate post-war period it seemed clear that the changing balances of power were such that we could no longer sustain the rôle of a world power and that we would impoverish ourselves if we tried. I was also attracted by what was sometimes called the European idea, the concept that Western Europe has a genuine and important rôle to play in world affairs and that collectively we can do very much more than the individual nations of Europe. That point was extremely well developed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart) in his eloquent and moving speech. It is this thinking and idealism, rather more than policies and institutions, that has accounted for the success of the Community, and for that reason it enjoys the wholehearted support of the people of its member countries. Therefore, it is a matter of very great concern to me that public opinion in Britain is hostile or, at best, lukewarm to our approach to Europe.
As the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry evidently did, I have also spent a considerable time during the last months in my constituency discussing these issues. I found a few people who are enthusiastic at the prospect of our entry and some who have admitted that they have reluctantly concluded that it was the best course, but also a great number who are very much opposed to it. I did not seek to have any kind of referendum, but if one were possible I hazard a guess that the number who would not express an opinion would exceed the total of those for and against. It is of very great concern that public opinion is so unenthusiastic towards our approach to Europe. The Government must accept a large measure of responsibility for this, partly because of the way that they presented the case and partly because of their current economic policies.
As my right hon. Friend and I both live in the city of Sheffield, I would point out that there is some up-to-date evidence. He must have received, as I have in the last five days, a statement from the Sheffield Telegraph, which is a moderate morning newspaper, that in the summer it held a poll and 71 per cent. were against and 29 per cent. were for entry. Ten days ago it held another one and the result was 80 per cent. against and 20 per cent. for. That is some movement of opinion, is it not?
I am aware of the figure that my hon. Friend quotes. However, I would not place too much importance on a poll of fewer than 2,000 voters in a city of 500,000. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that not only in Sheffield but throughout the country there is great apprehension and lack of public support for the Motion that we have before the House. I think the House should attach great importance to this because if we are not only to join the Community but to play a proper part in it we need in this country a radical change of attitude over the whole range of politics at all levels from the ordinary citizen to Ministers and civil servants. I believe that we can and must take a tough line in pursuit of our national interests within the negotiations and within the Community, but we shall succeed there only if we are convinced that we are committed to the ideals set out in the preamble to the Treaty of Rome.
In view of my own commitment over a very long period to the desirability of our playing a full part in the development of Western Europe, I think the House will understand that for the first time in 21 years I am unable to accept the advice of my party or to join its members in the Lobby tomorrow. It used to be the practice in such circumstances that hon. Members would abstain, but abstention, like many other things, has been devalued in recent years and I think everyone will agree that abstention on a matter of this magnitude is not an attractive proposition.
Failure to vote will certainly be misunderstood and misinterpreted, and I think will incur the displeasure of partisans, inside and outside the House, on both sides of the argument. Nevertheless this is the course that I propose to take and I propose to take it for one quite simple reason. I have already explained the state of opinion in my constituency, as I understand it, of a great number of people who are opposed to the Motion before the House. I hope they will understand why I cannot, as they would wish me, join my party in voting against it. Equally, rightly or wrongly, I do not feel that I am entitled to vote for it on their behalf as well as my own. Accordingly it is my intention not to vote when the Question is put at the end of this debate.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) has made clear the action that he will take, and we have to respect him for the decision that he has arrived at.
The last words of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry were to ask the whole House, if we eventually sign the Treaty of Rome and enter the Community, to work hard and helpfully in making the thing work. We have a long way to go yet, but if those in favour of the Motion get their vote—and there are many other votes which they have got to get before we are in—I would expect every Britisher and certainly every British Member of Parliament, once we are in, to use all his efforts, skill and judgment to see that we get the best possible out of it for Britain. So I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend was making an appeal which would be answered in the way one would expect.
But I ask my right hon. Friend whether he, not only on his own behalf but on behalf of all of his colleagues who differ from me, can guarantee that if we do not get in—as I say, there is a long way to go yet—they will work hard and will use their skills to see that we make the best of that situation. I have heard it suggested that if we do not go in, if we do no, take the advice given us by the Government, they will have to throw in the sponge, hand in their mandate, and accept the leadership of the Labour Party in a new Government. There is no need for that. Constitutionally, there is no ground for it. Therefore, as I say, after full and free debate and the judgment which we shall be able to give as individuals, I hope that my right hon. Friend will himself, if such be the position, respond to this appeal to help make a success of a Britain outside E.E.C.
As a negotiator myself in business, over the past nine years, when both sides of the House have wanted to negotiate to enter the Community, I have never been able to understand why they have not had some other negotiations going on alongside. I have never understood why we have not had a little Ottawa Conference or why we have not tried to strengthen our position in E.F.T.A. I put the point to the leader of my party: if you want to get good terms from others, never let them think that they are the only pebbles on the beach; let them see that there are some alternatives. I believe that the great weakness of my party in this matter, and the great weakness of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, is that all along they have given the impression to the people with whom they were negotiating that there is no alternative.
My other dissatisfaction with my right hon. Friends who have been urging us to accept these terms is that they never really make themselves clear. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State noted seven clear questions to be answered tonight. His replies were wordy, stilted, some of them contradictory, and, I must say, some were very much the opposite of my experience in dealing with similar people.
I direct attention not so much to the general talk of dynamism and the emotional appeal which so many people make but to some of the facts which are there to be recognised and on which we can form a judgment. One fact always uppermost in my mind is that at the moment we are a wealthy and influential country, and we have produced living conditions for our people which compare well with those in the rest of the world. I do not accept all the talk about the uplift which the Common Market countries are supposed to have had in comparison with ourselves. I have not seen it in looking about my constituency or in visiting Europe.
I speak here as a business man, a small business man, not a representative of one of the great empires about whom we hear when evidence is produced. Our wealth at this time depends on the way we trade. We do 30 per cent. of our business with imperial preference countries, 16 per cent. with the E.F.T.A. countries, 34 per cent. with the rest of the world—we are a maritime nation with old traditions on which our trade is built—but only 20 or 21 per cent. with the European Economic Community.
I have never known a business man worth his salt who would put 80 per cent. of his established business at risk in the hope that he might improve on the 20 per cent. I have never known it. If the percentage were 45 or 55 per cent., I could accept the argument that, recognising certain trends, it might be wise to take advantage of it; but with the ratio at 80 to 20 per cent., the gap is too wide. It is not on.
My hon. Friends ask: Why should we lose some of the 80 per cent.? It is certain that we shall lose much of our imperial preference trade.
No. I usually give way a great deal, but I will not give up the time now.
We shall lose much of our imperial preference trade and part of the trade we have with the E.F.T.A. countries, because it is clear that when they join their business will be taken over by the Community countries.
To save time and blood pressures, may I make it perfectly clear that because of the promise I have made to the Chair that I shall take the minimum time I shall not give way.
I shall give the reasons why I shall be voting against the advice of my party tomorrow night.
My hon. Friends are acting like Young Liberals.
The second fact that cannot be denied is that if we join the Community as it is envisaged we are joining a Community which can be clearly defined. It so happens that geography is against us there. The one fact that even my interrupters cannot deny is that we shall be on the perimeter of that new market, and if there is a second lesson I have learned in business it is that if a businessman is to enter a new market he makes certain that his industrial plant and warehouses for distribution are in the centre of that market and not on the perimeter.
Next to the wages ingredient in costs, transport come a very good second. Our being on the perimeter will mean that our industries will find it more difficult to meet the keen competition we shall have to face within the Common Market countries in the way that they should. I am certain that our industries, both large and small, will not sit idly by. I am convinced that a result of joining the Community under the present terms will be that their capital investment over the years to come will be in their European subsidiaries.
More than that, I am convinced that once we are inside the Community American and other international investment will be in Europe and not here, for two reasons. First, international investors will want to get into the centre of their market. Here the timing is against our deciding to join. I do not disagree with the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), who said that the timing of being asked to sign the Treaty of Rome is very important.
I have every reason to believe that the following facts were submitted to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State by an international body. If an American investor were considering where to invest his money in Europe, not taking into account the possibility of our entering the Community, and not taking account of political feelings, prejudices or special relationships such as we have had in the past, he would bear in mind that the present cost of production in this country works out at 67 per cent. of the gross income, which means that he is left with 33 per cent. for development, investment and profit. In the European countries, particularly those in the Community, the production costs range from 61 per cent. to 65 per cent. This means in terms of investment, looking at it as a pure business proposition, that they have 35 to 37 per cent. to get from their profits and future investment as against 33 per cent. existing here. So if we remove from them the advantages of being based here—which are to have markets in imperial preference countries and the special arrangements with E.F.T.A.—and they merely have to make their judgments on return from investment, there is every inducement to them to invest in Europe, and that is precisely what they will do.
At this moment, geography is against us, the existing balances of our trading figures are against us, and timing is against us. It is upon these grounds that I believe that, if it is that we view the situation on the hard facts of business, we should not sign the Treaty of Rome. I believe that we should take full advantage of the base we already have.
I turn to the purely party issues in this House. We shall have a mixed bag in the Lobbies tomorrow night. I shall be voting with hon. Members whom I never expected to join in partnership. My right hon. and hon. Friends supporting the Government will be voting with many people who would not usually fit into their thinking. The big fish they want is the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins). He has made it clear, in the letter he sent to the 101 colleagues who pleaded with him to follow the Whip, that he believes in signing the Treaty of Rome in order that we shall have "International Socialism". Is that why my right hon. Friends want him in their Lobby? The whole of the argument produced by some right hon. and hon. Members opposite in order to excuse their voting with the Government is that they want to get international Socialism. I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to defeat the Motion because I believe that, by staying out and developing the strength we have got and the experience we have gained in the markets that are ours, we shall be able to strengthen British capitalism, and I believe that it is the strengthening of British capitalism which is vital.
I have two minutes left of the promise I made and my final words are to the Government Whips. The Government may be voted down either tomorrow or on the consequential legislation. I hope that they will persuade the Prime Minister and the Government to announce well in advance that this does not mean that they hand over their mandate. I hope that they will explain to the Government that many of the allies they will have in the Lobby tomorrow will be only too eager, on the ground that they think they might bring the Government down, to vote against them later. There is no constitutional reason on this issue for handing over the mandate. It was not in the manifesto. [Interruption.] The Prime Minister in many speeches made it clear that this was not a pledge in the sense that it had to go through merely at the Government's behest. He said that Parliament and people had to be consulted.
On this ground, the Government owe it to the Conservative Party not to repay the loyalty that party workers have shown to them by handing over their mandate if they are defeated on this issue. The Government have every right to urge the House and the country to let them have their way, but if on this issue they do not have their way there is no reason why they should hand over their mandate. If they can make clear in advance that however hon. Members opposite vote it will not bring the Government down, they will be removing much of the opposition that comes from that quarter.
Tomorrow night we shall vote, and I shall have to vote against the Government on this issue and possibly on the consequential legislation. It is possible that the Government will be defeated on one or other of the procedural Motions. I should not like to think that they were so besotted by this piece of policy that they could allow it to overcome their good judgment and to make them forget that Conservative principles and Conservative policy are the basis of Government policy, and should remain so for the next four years.
I hope that the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) will forgive me if I do not comment in detail on what he said, but I should like to direct some pertinent questions to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and I hope that he does not dash off before I have had the chance to do so. [HON. MEMBERS: "He is off."] At any rate, he will have the opportunity to read them in HANSARD tomorrow.
While he is still in earshot, I should like to say that if it is true that the British Government cannot be over-ruled in the Council of Ministers in the drawing up of national and community regional policy as he suggested, there never will be a Community regional policy, because the very concept of a regional policy for the Community presupposes that somebody at some place at some time can stop an individual nation's complete sovereignty over regional planning policy. One cannot have it both ways and national regional planning policies will be restricted by the Community, or there will not be this extra aid which the Community says it will be able to get.
It is all very well for the. Foreign Secretary to shake his head, but I got that information from M. Borschette when I interviewed him recently at the headquarters in Brussels. He said that unless national sovereignty were conceded in regional policy, Community policy could not work. That is a simple fact of life.
One of the difficulties about this argument is that everyone tries to develop his own arguments along lines which suit his own prejudices. This has been the basic problem with the statistics of the economic effects. We are told in an act of faith and flurry of misleading statistics that the Community's economic growth in the last ten years having been greater than that of the United Kingdom, ipso facto it was because the countries concerned were members of the E.E.C. That is simply not true.
Many expert economists who have studied this very issue know perfectly well that there are countries within Europe which were not members of the E.E.C. which had a faster rate of development than members of the E.E.C. Even if it were true, it would not follow and could not be proven that if the United Kingdom were to join the Community, we should have the same benefits of growth which supposedly the Six had obtained through being members, simply because the structure of our economy and the nature of our trading relationships with the rest of the world are radically different today from those of the Six when they formed themselves into the Community a decade ago.
Furthermore, the rate of growth in the Community itself may be slowing down. Consequently, when we are going into all the mass of statistics and non-proven arguments, it must be remembered that it is all highly speculative and that even if it were not, there will still be grave economic problems for this country in the short run: so that the economic argument for going in is basically nothing other than an act of faith. I wish that the propagandists would stop trying to blind us with the statistics. They sometimes use figures rather like a drunk uses a lamp post—more for support than for illumination.
I do not claim to be any more objective in my approach than any other hon. Member, but if hon. Members opposite who are chattering away will listen for a moment, I will say that I have never been a campaigner against the Economic Community. In fact, until recently, I was a member of the Labour Committee for Europe, and in 1967 I was sent by the then Prime Minister to the Council of Europe to find out about the Community. I undertook 50 visits to the Community in three years, and I have recently returned from a fortnight's fact-finding mission of my own around the periphery of the Community, during which time I met Ministers in Rome, Brussels and Paris and saw three of the Commissioners in Brussels and ambassadors in Paris and elsewhere. I think it can be said that, whatever else I am. I am reasonably well-informed about current developments in the Community.
For this reason I ought to correct the assertion of the Secretary of State that we could play any way we liked with regional policy. The implication of what he said was that we can do as much and exactly as we like and determine our own central area, that we can continue to conduct our own regional policy in the Community as we wish.
One of my concerns has been the uneven development of living standards. This is causing deep tension throughout the world. In the affluent society, with all the technological revolution that is taking place, all kinds of disruptive disparities are arising. The growing gap between the relative poverty in the southerly parts of the world compared with the great affluence of the northern hemisphere, whether it be in Japan, the Soviet Union, Europe or North America, is the possible flashpoint for a future world conflagration.
I cannot see the integration of the United Kingdom with the E.E.C. making any noticeable contribution to solving that problem. I know all about comparative statistics on overseas aid in Italy and Germany on a per capita measurement.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I in all courtesy call your attention to the fact that there are six separate debates now taking place in the Chamber. This is not fair to my hon. Friend who is trying to make a good case.
I am afraid there is also a debate going on around the Chair. I hope that hon. Members will contain their enthusiasms and that they will be as happy at six o'clock tomorrow morning.
I would not mind so much if hon. Members were heckling me, but they seem to be heckling one another.
I have seen all the statistics about relative contributions to overseas aid by France and Germany compared with those by the United Kingdom. They still leave me relatively unimpressed in toto that the northern hemisphere countries understand the problems of poorer parts of the world.
There is also a gap in the rate of prosperity within the more prosperous nations themselves between the relatively affluent industrialists and many workers in the new, technologically based industries on the one hand, and the elderly, sick, unemployed and lower-paid service workers and those with large families on the other hand.
I have been increasingly disturbed in the last few years at the way taxation policy has been evolving in the Community. In some nations of the E.E.C. there is considerable tax evasion when levied on factors of production. Many statisticians have calculated that over a third of the income which comes to governments from factors of production in France and Italy is lost through evasion. There has been a persistent swing in the last few years away from such taxes towards consumer taxes on goods and services. These are taxes which consumers cannot avoid.
As a Socialist, I have always believed we should levy taxes according to ability to pay, not according to the necessity to spend. This was why, year after year, I refused to support my own Government on the selective employment tax. For the very same reason, I am thoroughly opposed to the value-added tax. I spent a lot of time in Europe during the period when the V.A.T. was being introduced. I saw the fantastic increase in the prices of certain basic commodities—incidentially, including food stuffs—as a result of the levy. In their most recent developments, E.E.C. fiscal policies have been typically regressive, characteristic of a capitalist system, and Tory in inspiration. I find it disconcerting when some of my right hon. and hon. Friends say that they are anti-V.A.T. and will fight it all the way, but are pro-E.E.C. We cannot have one without the other. Only one nation in the Community, Italy, has held out against the V.A.T. Before long, it will have to toe the line.
The main point of my speech concerns regional policies. Newcastle-upon-Tyne is a working-class community with a heavy Labour following. It returns four hon. Members to this House, only one of whom will be voting for entry into the Community. For that reason, I wish to devote a few words to explaining how the North of England will fare as a result of regional policies evolving in this country and those evolving in the Community.
I came back from my recent fortnight's tour genuinely trying to allay my fears and doubts about Community regional policies. Most of my pro-Market friends have argued—I have used the same arguments myself—that resulting from entry we shall have substantial economic growth, which I believe is non-proven, and, therefore, we shall have a spin-off effect in the regions which will be of great benefit to them.
The Economic Community itself has had a very rapid rate of economic development since it was founded. Because, in general, there are wider regional disparities, especially in France and Italy, than there are in this country, one would have expected a tremendous effort to close the gap at national Government level, since there was no Community regional policy. When I argued in a Parliamentary Labour Party meeting a few weeks ago that the regional gaps were not closing, one of my hon. Friends told me that I was talking a load of nonsense. I thought that that was rather arrogant, and perhaps I might make a few quotations to suggest that I was not altogether wrong in my argument.
I begin with the European Economic Commission's Report on its own history of regional development within the Community. It was written two years ago. On page 143, under the heading "Demographic Aspects", one reads:
In the Community as a whole, the lowest rate of population increase was found especially in regions with an economy having a large agricultural element and in regions experiencing an industrial decline.
Is that nonsense?
On page 154, one finds:
In Italy, Belgium and France… regional concentration is still increasing. The densely populated regions (north-western Italy, the Brussels region and the Paris region) are still growing faster than the national average.
Is that nonsense?
On page 175, under the heading, "Economic Growth", it says:
In Italy, the area with the strongest economy, namely the north-west, recorded the highest economic growth rate. The south, on the other hand, lagged somewhat behind the national average.
Is that nonsense?
In the declining old industrial areas of Belgium, Liege, Namur, Hainaut, and Belgian Luxembourg they failed to attain the national average.
Mr. Albert Borschette, E.E.C. Commissioner for Regional Policy, in June, 1971, said that
a Community regional policy, which should complement national policies, had become urgent because the gap between the rich and the poor areas was growing.
Is that nonsense?
On 5th July, the European Communities Press and Information Division said:
Economic disparities between the regions are in many cases great and in some cases increasing … Left entirely to itself, industrial centralisation may easily feed on itself … Changes and improvements in the transport network are conferring new privileges on the areas near the new growth points. New industries establish themselves for preference near the big centres of large-scale consumption.
One of my hon. Friends asks what that proves. It proves that when I said the central pull in the Community had stopped the regional gaps from closing and some of my hon. Friends and the right hon. Gentleman said "Nonsense" they are betraying a high level of intellectual arrogance.
Does the hon. Gentleman deny that the disparity between the development areas of the south and the prosperous areas of the north of Italy has diminished by 50 per cent. since the E.E.C. has been in being, whereas the disparity between the development areas and the prosperous areas of the United Kingdom has diminished by only 25 per cent.? Incidentally, Italy is the worst example and the one most quoted by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
I have just come back from the south of Italy. I did a tour of Sicily, Mezzogiorno and Rome with many of the Development Ministers, so I can answer the hon. Gentleman's question.
First, we cannot compare the South of Italy with the development areas of this country. I am sure that my pro-Market Friends will agree that we cannot compare the industrialisation of a relatively poor agricultural area with a declining industrial region such as that in the North of England, Central Scotland, or, for that matter, the Lille area of France, in statistical terms. The south of Italy has a per capita consumption of approximately half that of north and central Italy. Nearly every politician in Southern Italy uses the same complaint about the gravitation of all their talented offspring towards the flesh pots of the North. We shall be saying the same in ten years about the drift South from Scotland, the North, and other areas.
Amongst those who are talking "nonsense" about this central pull we must presumably also include the Business Editor of the Sunday Times who, 10 days ago, said:
There are commercial advantages in being located near the centre of the Market. The epicentre of the E.E.C., once expanded to ten members, and calculated from the size and locations of conurbations of I million people or more, will be on the Franco-Belgian border. Plants located there will have the lowest 'distance costs'—and this includes not just transport costs, but other related things, such as accessibility for executives and salesmen.
It so happens that I have just come back from the Franco-Belgian frontier. I was told by my pro-Market Friends that I ought to find out the facts, and I went to find the facts. So far, none of the facts I have given have been answered. I will stay and listen to the answers if there are any.
I went to the port of Dunkirk and saw the massive development of its cargo complex. I have seen the new berth being developed which will take 300,000 deadweight ton tankers. The port manager told me that they had just built a 125,000 tonner. I said that on the Tyne we were launching 250,000 tonners. He said, "Of course, Mr. Rhodes, but we are in the centre of the Community and your big tankers will be using our port, not the port on the Tyne where they are built." I hope that he is wrong. [AN HON. MEMBER: "He is a salesman".] If my hon. Friends compare the relatively poor development of the Port of Tyne with that of Dunkirk they will realise that what I am saying is true.
I will give way when I have finished the train of my argument.
A team of economists in Oxford, led by Colin Clark, who is no fool, does not talk "nonsense", and, so far as I know, is not anti-Market, has developed a complex points system of scoring whereby areas of the European Community of Ten were rated according to their regional income and "distance costs", including land and sea transport costs, tariffs, and so on. They found that an area comprising South Belgium, Holland and the adjoining corner of Germany had a premium over the South-East of England of 27 per cent., and that the South East had a premium over Wales and the North of England of 14 per cent.
People who want to say that I talk nonsense are entitled to that political privilege, but if they go on saying, "Nonsense," to Albert Borschette and Colin Clark and the Community's own policy statements either they are intellectually arrogant or they know that they are wrong and are not prepared to listen to the truth.
In the light of his visit to Belgium and his mention of the situation in the Walloon belt, has the hon. Gentleman borne in mind the tremendous recrudescence of Antwerp and those areas which are closer to my consituency than Manchester, the fact that the port of Felixstowe now does more container traffic than Rotterdam, and what that means for this country?
That is very interesting. When I was in Paris—[Laughter.] The hon. Member may laugh, but he asked a question and he should have the courtesy to listen to the answer. When I was in Paris the port managers told me that before long there would be one-way traffic through the Channel from east to west. They may be wrong, but when I asked them to name the ports on the United Kingdom mainland which would gain most from the Central pull of the Community and our advance into the Community, they named London, Southampton—[Interruption.] Oh, yes. These were port managers who know their job —not the hon. Member. When I asked about the prospects for Newcastle, they shrugged and said that they did not know—
They thought that Teesside would do better than Tyneside, but very badly compared with the Channel ports. I think that they are right and that most people who study the business of port development think that they are right, too.
I am glad that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has returned, because I was saying that if he believes he is right that we cannot be over-ridden by the Council of Ministers of the Commission on regional policy, he wants to talk to Albert Borschette, who will tell him that there will never be a regional policy at Community level if that is the case.
There will be a need after entry to step up rather than reduce our regional aid programmes, and I ask myself what the reaction of the Conservative Government will be to this challenge. I am afraid that because the overwhelming representation from our regions is not of their party they have very little to lose. Because of the very competitive character, based on free enterprise, of the Community, decisions will be taken in short-term national interests which will either stop a hard stick policy over I.D.Cs., because multi-nationals will move out altogether if we are too tough with them, or cause a trimming back in the carrot technique and a concentration on infrastructure. In Rome, Ministers told me that infrastructure development was no solution to regional imbalances.
We have seen the writing on the wall. The Government have already approved plans for a four to five million growth in population in the South-East in the next generation. The G.L.C. and others have massive plans for office development in the London area. There is a tendency towards relaxation of I.D.C. policy because, if they are too tough, in the long run, they may damage us in Europe. We know that R.E.P. is being phased out. The Chancellor of the Duchy asked me the other day what I was bleating about, since the North Sea would become a great European lake and that this would help our Northern ports. I retorted that if he believed that he was suffering from the mad hallucinations of a drunken sailor. All the evidence is that the pull is towards the centre, and it will need vigorous regional policies to reverse the trend.
It is not that what is happening in Europe is not happening here. It is simply that by entering the Community the process will be accelerated. If I thought that the Commissioners and the Council of Ministers could reverse this trend, I would modify my views about entry. But since I have no faith in a Tory Government and the free enterprise capitalist system to carry out the policies which will reverse the natural pull towards the centre of the Community, I cannot and will not go in the Government Lobby tomorrow night.
I was fascinated by the way in which the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Rhodes) conjured up fears about the patterns of port development in Europe. I do not believe that what he said will happen. Our regional policy within an enlarged Community can be effective; our Government have the will to make it effective and this will greatly affect port development, whether the present Government or any other Government are in power.
Some remarkable speeches have been made in the debate. This issue has drawn out people's full experience and has brought them to a judgment: they have risen to the level of this great issue. I have waited for 42 hours to be called to speak, and it has been fascinating to me to hear how much experience and hard work have gone in to the 10 to 30 minutes which back-bench Members have allocated to themselves.
Most of us have been discussing this issue with our constituents. I have found, and I believe many of my colleagues on both sides of the argument have found, that, in spite of the public discussion and the coverage by the mass media, there is still widespread misunderstanding of the basic issues. There is a general fear of great change and a particular fear that, even if the long-term economic benefits of entry are arguable, the short-term cost would be greater than the country and individuals could afford.
There is still lurking about some distrust and even dislike of foreigners. These fears are the core of the opposition in the country to our entry to Europe.
Similar fears worried the members of the Six while they were making their Community. They were worried about preserving their sovereignty, their separate identities, their culture and languages. They were worried about influxes of hordes of foreign workers to take their jobs and massive imports of goods at prices they could not match. But, as the Six have learned over recent years to work together to common advantage, these fears have largely disappeared. They have proved to be groundless. They do not feel that they have lost out over sovereignty. They do not feel that they have lost their identities. They do feel that they have gained greatly in prosperity.
I expect confidently that when we join the enlarged E.E.C.—as the vast majority of the British people have already accepted that we shall do—the fears that today underlie opposition to our entry will gradually be dissolved. There have, indeed, been many worries that have made people in Britain doubt the wisdom of our going in. I shall mention some of them because it is our responsibility to examine the fears our constituents have put before us.
Sovereignty was and remains a major worry. But for many of us, including many of my constituents, this worry has been somewhat relieved by the important understanding that has emerged among the Six that if any issue was regarded by any member government as of vital national interest, the decision on that issue would need to be unanimous; thus no country's vital interest would be overlaid by a majority vote. Stemming from Luxembourg in 1967, this agreement, as the House knows, was highlighted at a recent meeting between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and President Pompidou. But in effect, it is merely a confirmation of the practice that members of the Six had, by experience, worked out and found to be the best method of adjusting their differences.
This safeguard for individual sovereignties and separate national identities is helping to build confidence and trust between the members of the Six. This will be a slow process, and the pooling of sovereignty is bound to be a slow process with people proud of their history and wanting to learn slowly to work together. This safeguard is of basic importance for us in Britain.
A second problem was how to safeguard Commonwealth interests. For many of my constituents, and for me personally, this was also a major issue. Before I entered Parliament, most of my working life was spent in Africa. My wife was half Australian. Most of my immediate family spent the greater part of their lives working in India and Africa, and most of my cousins are Canadians.
But the most important of my worries for the Commonwealth have been removed. At a time when we are entering the Community, I am glad that the Government have shown their deep concern for our most distant Commonwealth partners, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore, by joining with them in a defence agreement for the Far East.
The Six have already decided to give generalised tariff preferences to developing countries. When we are inside—this is important—we shall need to ensure that the quotas, too, are generous. The Six have also offered associate membership to many developing countries, including many of our Commonwealth partners in Africa, and now, by negotiation, we have got favourable deals for the Commonwealth—old and new. This is the view also of the Director General of the Commonwealth Secretariat. Many individual Commonwealth countries have also agreed that these arrangements are in their favour. I congratulate both the Six and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on their joint and historic achievement.
A Britain that is economically weak cannot be of much help to the Commonwealth as a market or a source of capital. If, as I expect, we gain strength by joining the E.E.C., we shall, with our partners in the Community, be in a much better position to help.
Apart from sovereignty and the Commonwealth, another widespread worry has been that entry will bring a sharp rise in the cost of living which will overwhelm those on small fixed incomes. All of us who have been about in our constituencies during recent weeks know how deep this worry is and how widely shared it is, even by those who are not in the same circumstances. The Government have given some far-reaching assurances that they will safeguard the interests of many of those on pensions and small fixed incomes. The Secretary of State for Social Services said in this debate last week that he was examining how best to protect those who are not already covered by the proposed measures. This is a responsibility which the Government must discharge. We must protect these groups of our fellow citizens while we are dealing with the changes in incomes and prices that our entry will bring.
But for me, the most worrying of all our current difficulties is the high rate of unemployment in Britain. As one who learned, in the early 1930s and later from the Jarrow hunger marchers, of the terrible impact of continuing unemployment on family life, I regard this as a major issue. I welcome the strong and widespread measures being taken by the Government to reverse this trend. In common humanity, let us pray that they succeed.
But I agree with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, who spoke on Monday, that our entry into Europe will give us opportunities to expand our industries and provide more jobs. In Europe unemployment, except in a small part of Italy, as hon. Members have already mentioned, is no longer a problem. The Six are having to recruit workers from outside—3 million Yugoslavs within the E.E.C., and now active recruitment from Greece and Turkey because all the local reserves have been sopped up. But the 64 dollar question is what use we make of these opportunities in the largest home market in the world. If there is a recession in world trade, we shall—again I agree with my right hon. Friend—be better able within the Community to reduce our unemployment than we should be if we remained outside.
One special problem not yet resolved is how best to protect our fisheries if we enter the Community. My constituency is hardly involved, but I speak of this because, at my home in Cornwall, I live among fishermen. I welcome the assurances given by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, but he will need to secure firmer safeguards if they are to be effective. In fishing we lead Europe both in our catches and in our measures of conservation, and many depend on this work. This is one of the industries in which the Community will do well to change its policy, to the common long-term advantage of our fishermen and their own. They have said that they will change it. I hope we shall be able to help them in this decision.
So much for some of the doubts and worries that I have shared with my constituents. On the positive side, what kind of Britain and Europe do I want to see for my children and, I hope, for my grand-children?—for this is what the debate is really about. Certainly Britain in an enlarged Community. Certainly a Community strong enough, in close alliance with the United States, to secure the defence of its own peoples; a Community at peace within and actively seeking peace with its powerful neighbour, the Soviet Union. Certainly a community of nations which will gradually grow together in trust and understanding, pooling only those decisions that are essential for the common advantage; a community which will provide for its own different peoples at home better standards of living and, outside, increasing world trade and more help for the developing countries. We shall, I believe, have much to give to such an enlarged Community. Equally, we shall, I suspect, have much to learn from their experience.
Although that is what I should hope to see emerge, I recognise many external hazards which might hinder the development of such a Community. There are wars being fought and threatened. The United States, on which our defence depends, is beset by serious financial difficulties and serious external and internal problems and needs to reduce its defence commitment in Europe. There is a world monetary crisis. There is a threat of a recession in world trade, and the United States is facing demands for a retreat into protectionism. There is disillusion in many industrial countries over the usefulness of help given to the developing countries.
But, for me, these external hazards are arguments in favour of our joining the Community and, with other members, taking a full part in its efforts to meet these threats to peace and prosperity.
As a first duty, members of the Community will, in my view, need, on the basis of their industrial strength, to take a greater part in the defence burden, especially in conventional forces, which the United States has carried for far too long. In the meantime, with the support of the Community, Western Germany is making a major contribution to a detente with Russia, while the United States is making a separate effort. So much for the fears conjured up by some of the opponents of Europe, saying that a major obstacle to a detente is Germany.
The E.E.C., by lowering its external tariff barriers at a time when there is a threat that others will raise theirs, has made a promising contribution to freeing world trade. Certainly, the E.E.C., through its members, singly and collectively, is making a major contribution to helping the developing countries, as my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) showed so well in his eloquent speech. But, when we are in, we shall need to look carefully at the terms of this help and, in particular, ensure that trade with these countries is not unreasonably restrained by quotas.
What of Britain herself? It has been said again and again in the debate that there will be wider opportunities open to us once we are part of the largest home market in the world. I do not doubt it. But there will be risks also as we remove the protection of our own tariff barriers.
To my mind, what must be repeatedly stressed is that we shall not, just by going into an enlarged Community, automatically solve a single one of our major economic problems. This will still depend on our own efforts, on how we use our skills and experience, and how management and labour together are able to improve our competitive abilities. A great deal will depend on how far our Government succeed in providing incentives within our economy and drawing out the great but too often latent capacities of our people.
Like most right hon. and hon. Members I believe deeply in our own people and in our capacity to build at home an open, tolerant and compassionate society with rising standards of living. By entering the Community, we shall, I believe, increase our strength and influence. We have it in us to do well for Britain in Europe, to do well for Europe itself, to do well for our Commonwealth partners and other developing countries, and, above all, to do well for world peace. I shall be voting for Britain's entry.
When my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn), speaking from our Front Bench, emphasised the enormous gap between public opinion and the House, no one, whether an anti-Marketeer or a pro-Market man, could gainsay that that gulf exists. I thought that there had never been a more determined demolition speech in the House of the whole rôole of democratic leadership. Surely never before has such an enthusiastic plea for the end of democratic leadership been used as a bid to become Deputy Leader of our party. However, whatever may be the explanation for that gap, it is one that we are bound to examine, and it is bound to trouble us.
I am not afraid of holding what is a minority opinion within the community. It is a customary position for me at the beginning of any campaign with which I have been identified. I do not believe that it is necessary for us always to act as a seismograph, merely registering passively outside opinions. Indeed, nothing that I have been able to do since I have been in the House would have been gained if I did not take a contrary view.
But whenever the House has been generous enough to accept a minority view I have urged, I have always been aware that already there was a tide of opinion flowing towards the view which the House was accepting. The campaign to educate and mature opinion in the country and bring to the surface new insights has always led to a movement towards the view adopted by the majority of the House.
That is not the position today. It cannot be gainsaid that public opinion is ebbing away and is not coming with us. It is a serious matter, and we are entitled to ask why that is happening. I do not doubt that one of the reasons is that the community has been fed on illusions. The narcissism of all of us politicians, the manic dispositions of our parties, have conspired to mask the reduction in Britain's rôle.
The Dutch, like ourselves, had open seas and they had an empire. But immediately we go to Brussels and the Commission we are struck by the European spirit there, particularly amongst the Dutch. How can they take such a different attitude from ours? One of the reasons is that the Dutch knew that their empire had come to an end. They lost a war, and then they knew that they had to assume a new rôle in Europe.
But under Attlee's Administration we transformed our empire into a Commonwealth. As a result we brought to our nation perhaps an excess of solace. A public obeisance to our changing position was adopted by all the political parties, but there was a stubborn retention of the inner fantasy that still the sun never set upon our empire. The Prime Minister, with his east of Suez policy, was matched by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, with his daydream that our frontier was on the Himalayas. So, together, we all failed to adjust to reality.
Now the moment of truth has come. Unfortunately, it is too painful to be endured—understandably, by many outside the House, but, less pardonably, by too many in the House. Some may have stood on their heads cynically and some have yielded under party pressures which bear especially hard upon the family man living on a derisory salary and unfortunately lacking financial independence. But not a few have debauched themselves by self-administered opiates which gained them the delusions of the grandeur of a Britain with which, with rare conceit—and none of us lack that—they identified. Now we are having an ugly chauvinism which distorts all arguments. Every fact is selected to the effect that alone Britain is great but in the Community is nothing. An eager public, proferred such fantasies by men of great rhetorical skill, applaud these false soothsayers and turn savagely on the realists who would take away their sweet dreams. The major fault for this unhappy situation of public opinion being flung overwhelmingly against the majority in this House does not lie upon those who, lacking maturity to enter into new relationships, invite us to regress into joyless masturbatory isolation. Responsibility lies on this Government. Of that there is no doubt. No post-war administration has so brutally put its ideology before the national interest as this Tory Government.
Aware, as the Government were, that the issue of our entry into Europe was an historic one likely to affect the lives of our children and grandchildren, they have nevertheless refused to abate their provocative policies. There was an overwhelming need to have a calm electorate able to assess the merits and demerits of entry. Instead, in the 15 months since the election, during the period in any Parliament when it is easiest to avoid inflaming party strife, this swashbuckling Government have activated the maximum degree of anger and anxiety among the whole community.
At this historic moment when conciliatory policies were needed, when an electoral victory should have been used judiciously and generously, they could not resist the temptations of power and, yielding to them, they have pursued policies and irrelevant legislation which has left the nation divided and distrustful.
I shall come to that and to my hon. Friends. Now we have a fevered nation, bewildered above everything else by a frightening unemployment problem which evokes in Wales all the memories of the dreadful 'twenties and' thirties. In my constituency, now threatened by 10 per cent. unemployment, the view undoubtedly begins to be formed that this unemployment has been deliberately created to damp down wage claims and to tame trade unionists. The very style and boasts of some of the Cabinet has fed these beliefs, and so it comes about that it is a sullen nation, mistrustful of the Common Market precisely because those in the Tory Government who urge it are themselves mistrusted.
So it comes about that we do not have a debate concerning how we can democratise this European Community. We should have had from my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East, with his great concern about participation in the Community, something about how we may raise standards of life and how we can ward off the anomie and alienation which is endured by modern western man; instead we are having yet another debate in which we seek to persuade our reluctant constituents of the merits of the principle of entry.
We should have been able to use this debate to insist upon the democratisation of the institutions of the European Community. I find the Brussels bureaucrats—I know not why we use the word pejoratively; bureaucrats assist us in this country as they assist Europe—often to be men of high quality and great dedication, keenly aware of their isolation, and they themselves are yearning for the greater involvement of the man in every European street in the affairs of the Commission. I believe that the peculiar British genius to create and foster democratic institutions means that this country has a special contribution to make in shaping new institutional forms and new institutional practices which will feed into the Commission the views and aspirations of the people of Europe.
The British social democratic movement will betray its destiny if it sulks its way through the next few years instead of using the occasion to obtain greater accountability from European civil servants. Do not my hon. Friends realise that Gaullism is dead, and that the result will be not only to bring Britain into Europe but to bring the possibility of a true European spirit into Brussels? With the rigid nationalistic stranglehold of de Gaulle on the European Community ended, the institutions of the E.E.C. are revealed as inchoate.
I do not complain, as have my right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench have, that regional policies are not defined in the Community—that the "T's" are not crossed and the "I's" not dotted. I welcome it. I welcome the fact that we are going into an institution where undoubtedly the practices are, surprisingly and fortunately, unformed, because an imaginative Socialist movement, finding a natural resonance with this new international spirit, should be hammering out techniques by which participation in government should become the right of every citizen of the new Europe. It would be a far more profitable exercise than the self-indulgence of a miserable, hairsplitting debate on the terms of entry, punctuated by some squalid heresy hunting of those who persist in being men and not weathercocks.
I, too, because of this, must use the occasion—because the opportunity has been lost to speak of these bigger issues—to speak to my constituents through the House and to my constituency party. Not surprisingly, the majority of my constituency party provoked by Tory misconduct, profoundly fear entry into Europe under a Tory Government. I tell them that Governments come and go, and that certainly this Tory Government's mismanagement will ensure their early demise. But the opportunity to enter Europe may never come again, and to refuse—because of this temporary ramshackle Government—to go into Europe now, even though it will bring great benefits and few disadvantages to Wales, would be a supremely foolish attempt to cut off a nose to spite a face.
I have told the workers in my constituency—and through this House I tell them again—that although the Common Market is no panacea for our economic problems, entry gives my miners, steelworkers, car component workers and aviation workers, like my man-made fibre workers, far greater certainty of job security than will occur if we stay out. I believe that an attempt to stand alone brings with it overwhelming dangers that this country will be burdened with long-term chronic unemployment. All of us know from the grim historical record that when unemployment strikes this country those who are most likely to suffer are those who live in the valley townships of Wales. I want my constituents to know that my prime reason for voting for the principle of entry into the Common Market is that I believe that it will stave off the hardships that otherwise will, in the short or long run, be likely to come to the families of my valley.
I have no intention of helping to cut the economic throat of my constituency. Nowhere, for example, are the advantages of entry more clearly shown than for our miners. They have suffered enough from the ill-considered run-down of pits. If there is no assured and expanding market for coal, instead of having increased bargaining power to demand the higher wages which they certainly deserve they will have unemployment without the opportunity of alternative work.
Already coal stocks are increasing dangerously. A total of 29 million tons are in stock—1·5 million tons more than a year ago. Meantime more and more opencast mining operations employing wandering Irish labour are becoming a direct threat to deep-mined coal. Forty-three sites are already being worked and, on the edge of my constituency, my miners can see it is intended to have a vast new opencast operation near the mountains at Blaenavon.
I do not want my miners to live always in the fear that their jobs will disappear. If we enter the Common Market with restrictions and quotas removed we can begin to threaten the 25 million to 30 million tons of coal, most of it from the U.S.A. and some from Poland, which the Six are importing.
I find nothing more sickening in the whole of this Common Market debate than the crocodile tears wept by some miners' leaders, including those who spoke at the Labour Party conference, prompted by odd, bizarre political motivations, who, although recognising the advantages of entry to our miners, weep over the possible results on miners in the United States or behind the Iron Curtain. Wherever their loyalties may lie, belonging to a mining constiuency as I do, mine belong to the miners in Blaenavon. Hafodrynes and the South Wales coalfield.
Nor can we doubt the valuation of the consequences of entry to the steel industry made by the management and those people or organisations with specialised knowledge of and commitment to the industry. My constituency owes a special debt to Lord Melchett and his management. Without their aid I do not doubt the stainless steel works we have at Panteg would not only never have been developed but would by now have been hived off and undoubtedly cannibalised by Sheffield.
My Panteg workers, like other steel workers, including those working in Llanwern, will take heed of the opinion of Lord Melchett's team, shared by the steel union which voted at the Labour Party conference for entry, that they
look forward with confidence to the advantages they can gain
With a Government like this, clearly reluctant to invest the capital needed for our publicly-owned steel industry, with a trade war stepped up as the United States attempts with surcharges and revaluations of currency to make us and Europe pay for their Vietnam follies and their unproductive megalomania) space programme, the threat to Japanese steel, thwarted by American protection from finding its traditional outlets, will be an increasing risk to the jobs of my steel workers. Only if we join the European Steel Community will we have the base to enable us to attempt to ward off the threat of Japanese steel to our third world markets.
My car component workers at Girlings know their work and rate of wages depend upon the success of the car and commercial vehicle industry in increasing their exports. Every large car manufacturer in Britain, from Lord Stokes, of British Leyland, to the management of Ford's at Swansea, wants to enter Europe. With a market six times bigger than our own home market and with as yet, as we know when we drive on the continent, only one European in seven owning a car, the opportunities are enormous. If we do not take them, the work and wages of my Girling workers can languish.
This is not theory. It is fact in my constituency. Already, the fact is that on a previous occasion when we failed to enter Europe a Girling factory intended to expand in my constituency opened on the continent, just as the failure to enter meant that the man-made fibre industry that could have been expanded in Pontypool went across into Germany.
It is, of course, not only because the balance of economic advantage lies in my constituency heavily in favour of the Community that I want to enter. It is because I continue to yearn for the ideal set before us and learned by me more than 40 years ago as a boy. It is the ideal set by Keir Hardie of a United States of Europe. I want to see borders blurred, a mixing of nations, an ending to the infantile chauvinism which has already precipitated two terrible world wars. I do not fear, as some of my colleagues do, for the identity of the Welsh people. If they have survived the English for so many centuries, they have nothing to fear from mere Frenchmen or mere Germans. I want to see a Europe formed to which the Welsh will be able to contribute their distinct brand of radical socialism.
Every hon. Member I have heard so far who has said that he will vote for Europe has begun his speech with a proem or ended with a peroration which said that he has been here for ten, or 20 or 30 years and has never before voted against the Whip. That is not something I can claim. I have always been with the heretics. Why? I have been with them on the issue of Vietnam and on the issue of defence. I have been with them because fundamentally what was intolerable was that our Labour Government were being forced, because of their dependence upon America, to abdicate their sovereignty. I do not want this nation to be a vassal State. I want it to be able to participate in a Europe where is voice will be heard and where the destiny of this nation will be shaped by us together with our European comrades. It is for all these reasons that I shall be voting for Europe, against the Tories, towards the Socialist realisation of the workers of all lands to unite.
It is quite impossible to follow the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse). I am convinced that when he enters Europe he will be recognised not only for his eloquence but by his usual sartorial elegance as well.
People in the country at large have over the last few years had a rather low opinion of politicians. Some people have quoted the fact that a majority of our people are against entry into Europe. That an even larger majority feel that we shall go in any way regardless of what they think rather underlines that fact. I would hope that after this great debate the opinion of the people of politicians will rise. It is ironic, for example, that some of those who have commented about Members of Parliament being lobby fodder are now demanding that their own Members do exactly what they are told and not vote as they individually think. I reject this view utterly. I believe that any form of unfair pressure from whatever quarter on any Member, whatever his view, must be seen not to succeed, otherwise our status as individual Members will be reduced and parliamentary democracy itself will be in danger.
I want to make it clear that in my case I shall be voting against the wishes of my constituency executive. It accepted my decision with sorrow but with understanding. I hope that just as it respects my views it will accept this tribute I pay to it for its fair mindedness. I believe that this is an issue on which each Member can only make up his own mind. I must admit that making up my mind was a long and wearying process and that for the first time in my life I lost sleep about a political issue. But I finally decided, and without that great degree of emotion which many other hon. Members seem to have on this issue, that I should vote against entry at this moment.
I have had no sudden conversion on the road to Damascus or on the road to office, but I believe that it is up to me this evening to explain to my constituents exactly why I shall be going into the Lobby tomorrow night. I take four factors which have helped me to make up my mind—principle, my country, my constituency, my party.
I have always seen that it would be exceptionally difficult to take the country into the E.E.C. if the majority of the people were against doing so. In the 1970 General Election, my own interpretation of my party's attitude was that I should not have to vote for entry against the wishes of the people. I appreciate that others on this side of the House interpreted what we said in a rather different way. All I can say is that I did not. Having said that I would not vote against the people's wishes, I do not feel as a matter of principle that I should go against that statement tomorrow night.
However, I must say that I think that parliamentary democracy has been given a great boost by allowing a free vote on the Government side. I shall not go into the reasons why we are to have it, for I do not think that that matters in the long run; the fact is that we are to have it, and I think that the country at large is grateful. It is a matter of regret to me that the Opposition could not do the same.
I believe that on a free vote of the House as a whole a rather puzzled and worried nation would have accepted the verdict that will be recorded tomorrow night. I believe that party politics will only be more despised when it is recognised generally that it is still the policy of all political parties in principle to go into the E.E.C. That is certainly not what the majority of the electorate believes to be the policy of the Labour Party.
I have no doubt that if tomorrow night the vote is "Yes", the real choice for the future is not whether we go in, but merely whether we go in under a Conservative or Labour Government. Therefore, for me tomorrow night's decision is a matter of principle, the time when everyone has to stand up and be counted.
From my country's point of view, I considered the economic issue. For me the economic case is simply not proven. Indeed, it cannot be, as we have heard over and over again during these debates. Some vague and emotive phrases have been used, such as "economies of scale", "greater competition", phrases supposed to give us inspiration to go in. Economies of scale mean large units and large units do not always make for greater competition. I read with interest a pamphlet written by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-West (Mr. Tom Boardman). I want to discuss not the details but merely the title. He called it "Supermarket". It was not very promising for the future of many small businesses in view of what supermarkets have done to the retail trade in this country.
It is interesting to note there have been no official up to date figures supplied by Her Majesty's Government on the same basis as those they prepared in July last year when they first took up negotiations after the General Election. It was estimated then that by 1977, taking the new bases of contribution of 1 per cent. of V.A.T., the levies and customs duties, the net effect on the balance of payments would be a loss of some £470 million a year. Why has there not been an up to date assessment of those figures on the same basis? Perhaps it could be that either of those figures were right, or perhaps too optimistic. Since that date we have had the effect of the United States surcharge, which has been estimated to cost us another £70 million or so on our balance of payments.
Therefore, to my mind the economic case is pure conjecture. There is no proof of it, and anybody who puts it forward must do so as a matter of faith. I do not object to anybody having that faith, but I have not got it and I believe it is up to the pro-Marketeers to prove that case and to give me that faith.
Turning to the political aspects, I am very concerned, as are some of my constituents, about the future of Ministerial responsibility in this Chamber. It is bad enough at the moment with the proliferation of State boards and corporations to represent one's individual constituent's complaints. Heaven knows, what it will be like when we go into the Common Market—if we do. Is there any likelihood, for example, of a Minister of Agriculture having to resign on a question of principle, as was the case a few years ago? I think not. The bureaucracy in Brussels will be blamed for many things to make life easier, and for this very reason I feel that my constituents will be ill-served when we go into Europe.
The White Paper sets great store on the veto. I would like my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers) to know—he is not here tonight—that what finally tipped me into voting against entry is the decision by the Council of Europe Committee, of which he took the chair, that Europe should move to majority rule immediately after Britain joined the E.E.C. I ask myself how long will the veto last? What can we use it for, and what cannot we use it for? There is a whole range of questions which have not been answered by Her Majesty's Ministers.
I do not doubt people will say "Do not worry about these things—they can be sorted out after we get inside". I do not feel these fundamental questions can wait to be answered after we get inside. I do not doubt the sincerity and the ability of the present Administration in defending this country's vital interest. But Governments come and Governments go, and I have some doubt about the ability of future Administrations so to preserve this country's vital interests.
The third issue that worries me in the political sphere is that of European defence. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Lieut.-Colonel Colin Mitchell) expressed my sentiments on this matter last night. I believe the idea of Europe standing on its own feet poses more questions than it answers. The one factor likely to lead to a European war is not a Franco German rivalry, and I should be surprised if any hon. Member thought that was a possibility. The real danger is a Germany with a finger on the nuclear trigger, the one thing I do not think the Soviet Union would stand for, certainly not in the foreseeable future.
Therefore, the Government should explain exactly what they mean when they talk about a Europe that is going to defend itself even more. I believe that questions I have raised about Ministerial responsibility, the veto, and defence have all been insufficiently discussed. I believe it is fears about these kind of issues that is the root of much deep opposition among our people to the idea of going into Europe. They want to know how far they will be taken and how much of their sovereignty will go, bearing in mind that any compromise means the loss of some sovereignty. It is not acceptable to me, nor, I believe, to the majority of our people to leave these matters until later, to the wave of an arm, and worry about them when the time comes. Fundamental issues like these affect our future security, and I do not think that we should wait.
I believe also that the Commission itself is one of the prime reasons for the concern of the public about what will happen to us in the future. I should like some undertaking about the extent to which we shall be able to control decisions taken by the Commission.
I want at this point to become a little parochial and to talk about my constituency concerns. Those hon. Members who are familiar with my constituency will know that it is one of the main boot and shoe manufacturing areas of the country. Although the right hon. Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) has said that Europe will be good for the boot and shoe industry, I have not seen one authoritative report based on long-term planning which agrees with that view.
The only detailed report that I have seen is one which was requested by the Boot and Shoe Manufacturers' Association, which showed that, unless a drastic change took place, the production of walking out shoes—that is, men and women's ordinary shoes—could be reduced by 20 per cent. by 1980 should we go into the Market. That estimate was made up of a combination of factors: the fact that the French and Italians could compete on equal terms not only here but in E.F.T.A. countries; the fact that we should lose preference to E.F.T.A., other countries, and the Commonwealth; and the fact that the common external tariff, which is lower than ours, would allow countries like Spain and Greece to export more to us.
There is a problem in this industry which is common to many others. We hear it said often that one reason why price rises will be kept down in this country is our superior distribution. The converse of that is that the Continental countries have a much more efficient distribution. Therefore, our selling costs on a distributive basis will be higher than those of our friends on the Continent.
Individual manufacturers will pooh-pooh the idea. I have no doubt that the chairmen of U.C.S. and Rolls-Royce pooh-poohed any idea that their industries were in difficulty. It cannot be said categorically that every firm will do badly. The point made in all the reports is that some firms will tend to do well and that others will not.
As is normally the case, the people who sit on the board of the industry's association represent the larger firms. It is the smaller firms which have voiced their doubts.
It was perhaps their concern for their future livelihood which led people in my constituency to take part in a referendum recently. Hon. Members have scoffed about the size of polls. I took no part in this referendum, and I did not try to push it one way or the other. I was amazed to discover that more than 50 per cent. of my constituents voted and that something like 67 or 68 per cent. of those voted an emphatic "No." Perhaps they, like me, agree that they are Europeans but not Continental Europeans. They made a very important distinction.
I turn briefly to discuss my concern about going into Europe as it affects my party. I have heard the E.E.C. described by some as "a neo-fascist organisation". I have no fears in that direction. Mine are exactly the reverse.
I listened with interest to what was said at the Labour Party conference on the question of going into Europe. Over and over again the safe refrain came through: "Let us go into a Socialist Western Europe." I am, therefore, suspicious of a European Parliament in which the largest party will be a Socialist Party and will also contain a considerable Communist Party as well. I also believe that the machinery of the E.E.C. is ideally suited to Socialist beaurocracy.
Is my hon. Friend trying to tell me that the European Parliament is fully representative? If so, it would justify more than one Communist.
Perhaps the Commission is not Left enough for some hon. Gentlemen opposite, but it is Left enough for me. The whole framework is too remote and lacking in democratic control. Therefore, I unashamedly regard it with the deepest suspicion.
I find myself in some difficulty, because my hon. Friend is suggesting that by supporting the European Economic Community we shall be supporting European Socialism. I wonder whether he has read the Lambeth, Norwood Constituency Labour Party's resolution at the Labour Party conference:
This Conference believes that British entry into the European Economic Community will only serve to strengthen the interests of international big business monopolies and their ability to exploit the European working class.
Conference therefore declares its total opposition to entry under any terms, and in particular rejects entry by Britain on the terms negotiated by the Tory Government.
It calls upon the National Executive Committee to convene a conference of the European Labour Movements to discuss basic policies towards the construction of a United Socialist States of Europe.
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention. Unlike hon. Gentlemen opposite, I would rather accept the opinion of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) than that of the Lambeth, Norwood Constituency Labour Party.
The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. William Rodgers), on the first day of the debate, said that the Community was not laissez-faire. In fact, he took the view that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry might find himself not in accord with the policies of the Community.
Underlying the Community's policies is not what I understand to be Conservative philosophy. There are certain things about which I feel somewhat puzzled.
I find it odd that Government spokesmen should tell us that one of the advantages of going into Europe is that family allowances are much larger than in this country. In my own little way I thought that we on this side of the House were supposed to be gradually doing away with family allowances, not building them up. Yet I am told that is one reason for going in. We seem to be going along an odd path, and the destination seems even stranger.
My opposition to going into the E.E.C. is not based on anti-Conservatism. I believe that my criticisms of the Government's policy are based on good Conservative principles.
I believe that in voting against entry I shall not be going against the interests of my country, my constituency, or my party. Despite the strength of emotion in the country on this issue, I detect a wide feeling that it should be settled one way or another before long.
I do not believe that this is our last chance to go in, because the reason that the French and the Germans want us in will be maintained for a considerable time. Nevertheless, from many points of view, not least the business community, it would be better if the country knew whether we were going in or not.
Whatever the arguments over terms, most people in the country expect the principle of entry to be settled tomorrow night. I hope, therefore, that all hon. Members will vote according to their consciences and not their party loyalty or any personal ambition. I believe that the electorate hope that this will be the case and that, once the decision is made, it will be accepted. I fear that it will not be accepted in the House or in the country.
I sincerely hope that the answer tomorrow will be "No". But if it is "Yes", it is essential, in the national interest, that we make the best of it. To go into Europe in a half-hearted way will be courting disaster and fatal to this country's interest.
The talk today of changing treaties took me back to my days reading history, about when this country had the title "Perfidious Albion": it was never trusted by Continental Powers because it was always changing its mind. It took us many years to lose this reputation and we do not want to acquire it again.
If the House decides tomorrow to join the E.E.C., I shall be sorry, but I hope that in that event the future will still my fears and prove me wrong. If that is the case, I shall be glad to have been proved wrong.
Order. May I, with great respect, put a point of view to the House? We have had two speeches from the back benches of 29 minutes each, some of 24 minutes each and so on. I believe that hon. Members who catch the eye of the Chair should have some regard for the fact that I have the names of 150 hon. Members who still wish to speak. I would make the plea that from now until 7 a.m. hon. Members should be rather unselfish.
I shall try to take note of what you have said, Mr. Speaker, and set an example which I hope will be followed by other speakers.
Although we have just heard two rather long speeches, they were both interesting. I was more persuaded by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry), although I disagreed with some of his speech, than I was by the flamboyant oratory of my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse), parts of whose speech seemed to verge on megalomania. For this reason, I found him somewhat unconvincing.
I received a telegram this evening which said:
Good luck and congratulations to you and your friends on your courage and integrity.
I thought when I read that, "That's me all right." As one who has a long record of being in some trouble with discipline, I am not unused to this sort of tribute. But it ended with another tribute which I have never received before: "From three Tory admirers." This is not an area of the world from which I have had the pleasure of receiving support in the past.
I was also put back a little by the way it started—" To the Rt. Hon. Hugh Jenkins"—and then of course the penny dropped—
I need hardly add that it had dropped immediately, but I spread it out for the benefit of some of my right hon. Friends who are not quite so quick.
This is not the first time that there has been confusion in this matter. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend is not here so that he could hear another message which I received by post this morning:
Congratulations on your decision to vote with our dear Prime Minister on Thursday and help keep the Russians out.
There is one aspect of this debate which has not received the attention which it deserves, although it was touched on by the hon. Member for Wellingborough. I refer to the question of the defence implications of the Common Market. One or two things said by hon. Members opposite suggest that among their reasons for going into Europe there is another consideration which occasionally peeps out of the bag. It should be mentioned, because ever since his Godkin lectures at Harvard in 1967 the Prime Minister has been an open advocate of Anglo-French pooling
of nuclear weapons in an enlarged Community. Government spokesmen, when pressed in Parliament on this issue, have said that nuclear sharing was not a bargaining factor during the negotiations but that nuclear collaboration following British membership was not ruled out. That is, I think, a fair statement of what has been said, and it fills me with profound disquiet.
The reason for that disquiet is that such a development would be completely against the spirit of the Non-Proliferation Treaty which France, incidentally, has not signed. If following on our entry to the Common Market we propose to go into arrangements with a country which has not signed the Treaty which has maintained the fear of nuclear weapons at a low level, this is an alarming development for us on both sides of the House. None of us will easily put on one side the consciousness that mankind lives in peril. Therefore, we should examine anything which appears to move us in a more perilous direction.
The Secretary of State for Defence let the cat right out of the bag when he said at Sutton Coldfield in June this year:
Britain's Common Market military alliance with Europe will be just as successful as her rôle in N.A.T.O. …
That suggests that there is in the Government's mind defence considerations which are intended to follow other arrangements with the Market. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said to an audience at Harvard that
for over a quarter of a century the Americans had carried too high a share of N.A.T.O.'s costs. An enlarged E.E.C. would enable the European members of N.A.T.O. to relieve the United States and take a larger share of Western defence spending".
The proposition that this country should
take a larger share of Western defence spending
would not be very popular in this country. Perhaps the country suspects that there is something in the background. This may be one of the reasons that the British people, with that well known common sense which we always attribute to them when they say things with which we agree, are saying that they do not want this country to go into the Common Market.
I turn to another subject, which has not been referred to hitherto in the debate and which ought to be mentioned. This is a brief examination of considerations which are not the substance of the debate but, since the arguments for and against have been so widely pressed, I want to examine the reasons why we make up our minds as we do and what will happen as a result of those decisions.
I recall travelling to the European Coal and Steel Community in 1950 to see it at its beginning. I was a Labour candidate at the time. The European Movement has been pouring out money for years and years and I made this trip at their expense.
I say in passing that considering the money expended, the results suggest that public relations and advertising are not quite so persuasive as some people argue. For the money poured out, the net result is a public opinion more hostile to the idea than it was years ago. One of my companions on this trip was my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams). We saw the Community at its inception. We travelled to Paris and Luxembourg. I thought immediately, and she agreed, that this was a proposition that would get off the ground. I came to the conclusion that we should not under any circumstances associate ourselves with it and my hon. Friend decided almost straight away that we should.
The consistent attitude we have both adopted since, and the consistency of the attitudes of hon. Members on both sides of the House, has led me to the conclusion that it is those who are primarily concerned with means who want us in and those primarily concerned with ends who want to stay out. This seems to be the touchstone which one can put to opinion forming on this matter.
Fascination with institutions is the death of socialism. I commend that idea to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). One recalls Herbert Morrison, who began as a Socialist and finished as a Parliamentarian. One of the early Europeans, R. W. G. Mackay, who was a Member of Parliament for Reading, a very Left-wing Socialist and a good friend of mine, became so merged into a passionate concern for a European federation that in the end one thought that it was any sort of federation. There are still others, alive and in the party, who have fallen hook, line and sinker for the fascination of a new and larger community into which nationalism can merge. They have not asked themselves fully what sort of community we are proposing to join; rather, perhaps, they have had doubts and have said to themselves, "Let us join it, and perhaps afterwards we can mould it into a more Socialist shape."
This is the 64 thousand dollar question. Can one do that? Can we join this organisation, which is undoubtedly dedicated to the preservation of the acquisitive society—one has only to read the Treaty of Rome to see that—and by our membership transform it into an organisation more socially orientated than it is? It is not possible at present. On the whole, the Community is hostile to social actions and priorities. It tends to worsen the institutions we have, to substitute, for example, the common agricultural policy. It substitutes in other ways things worse than those we have already, such as not having a free health service, as we have—or the remnants of one.
In the very long term it is possible that the Community may evolve into a more socially orientated body, but its present purpose is to preserve the acquisitive society and perhaps to extend its life beyond its natural length. It boils down to this. If one is prepared to settle for welfare capitalism with more capitalism than welfare, one may be able to force oneself into the Lobbies with the Tories on Thursday. But those who do that should. I think, be limited to those who feel that they can do so with the support of their constituency parties. On such a count, would all the fingers of one hand be needed to number them? I see two of my hon. Friends who could do so. There are some, but if hon. Members were to say "We do not arrogate to ourselves the responsibility for all decisions. We rely upon the democratic process to give us some guidance", this is a touchstone that I have found useful in the past and I commend it to my hon. Friends who find themselves in this situation.
I have been alarmed and astonished at the degree to which the Eurofans are out of touch with reality. They must have been reading the political journalists. Almost all of them have been continuously airborne over Europe from the beginning. The most cruel punishment that could be dished out to these journalists would be to force them to read their own rantings over the last year or so. Sheer imagination has been dished up as cold fact. I read David Wood, Nora Beloff and Peter Jenkins for a laugh and I read the cartoons and the women's page for serious comment.
My very good friend the right hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever) has offered to bet six to four that "Jenkins Minor" will be reelected as Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party. I am referring to a chronological minority, of course. I happen to be senior in years to my right hon. Friend. Having no money and not being a betting man, I took him on only in pence, and I hope that my right hon. Friend, whom I greatly esteem, will hold the bet open so that hon. Members opposite who feel like taking him up on this may—[HON. MEMBERS: "Get on with it."] I am still within my time limit. I started speaking at 12.07 and it is now 12.22.
I do not think we shall get in and, what is more, I do not think we ought to go in. If we want to make fundamental changes in the nature of our society, we can only do that by preserving the power on the Floor of this House. If we surrender that power to another authority, we reduce our own power to control our own affairs.
There is one other thing to say. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has the power in his own hands to keep us out. If, when he winds up the debate, he says that should we fail—I do not think we shall—on Thursday, and the vote goes against us, Labour will take us out on returning to office. I believe that France will withdraw the invitat