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Orders of the Day — European Communities Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th July 1972.

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Photo of Mr John Mackintosh Mr John Mackintosh , Berwickshire and East Lothian 12:00 am, 13th July 1972

I am not suggesting any collusion. This is done by a process of mutual interests preserved over many years. It needs no collusion for the two Front Benches to come to this conclusion. We have experienced this on the back benches over the years. If this is not so, I hope the go-ahead will be given to the Select Committee to produce these proposals within the next three months so that they are ready for 1st January, 1973.

I turn now to another issue concerned not merely with the power of this House against the Executive but the allied though somewhat different point of the power of the Executive in this country. It is a somewhat different question whether we, as a country, can do what we like. We must be frank. Looking back a mere decade to the late 1950s, or early 1960s, under the premiership of Mr. Harold Macmillan, there is no doubt that at that time Britain was still, though possibly fading, a world power. A summit conference between East and West without Britain was unthinkable. We had an Empire covering the African continent. It took Mr. Macmillan six weeks to cross it. At that time we maintained major forces in the Gulf, the Indian Ocean and East of Suez. We were in many senses a world Power with considerable effect in world events. A mere decade later we have almost completely lost this position. We first need an East-West meeting in Moscow which never contemplate bringing in this country. We have lost an Empire, and the Commonwealth has a sentimental value. It is a kind of "teach-in" on race relations, but it does not add to the strength of this country. We have now withdrawn our forces from many parts of the world—a move with which I entirely concur.

No longer having the power to be a world force, we must consider where our interests lie and where we can have, not a world influence, but a more localised influence to protect and look after the interests of this country. The answer lies in our position as a European nation. We cannot, in Europe exercise a proper influence outside the Market because, whenever the need to bargain arises and we are operating outside the EEC, we do not have the means to exercise political influence which we would have as a full operating member of the Community.

Looking at our foreign policy, what immediately needs to be tackled? We must work with the other European Powers jointly in an East-West security conference. Nothing would be more disastrous than for the Soviet Union and its satellites, which will operate as one, to play us off one against the other. We need to co-operate on this matter at once.

As a Euro-group we need to be in a position to talk to the next American Administration over the reduction of American forces in Europe, which is almost certain to happen. We need to be interested jointly on Mediterranean stability and in all the areas around Europe where it is right that we should co-operate with the European Powers. We need to work together on industrial, agricultural and economic matters. If we are left outside the Community, we are neither a world Power nor an effective European Power of the second level.

I turn now to domestic affairs and industrial policy. I think that even my own Front Bench would agree that a tariff-free area, a free trade area, in Western Europe is a great advantage. But we need more than this. We need to get rid of non-tariff barriers. We need to set up genuinely European companies. We need to be in a position to ensure that satellite companies of the United States or other international corporations cannot play off one European Government against another or, for that matter, go to one country and close down works and set up in another to defeat a trade union. We must ensure that this capacity to play off the countries of Europe against each other is not possible in the industrial sphere.

We need a common pollution policy, because we live in the same area of sea and air. Dr. Mansholt's proposals in this sphere are admirable.

We need a common fisheries policy—of no small interest in this House—because we can completely destroy the whole of our fishing stocks unless the matter is properly and adequately tackled.

We need an effective regional policy, Europe is becoming a single industrial unit which needs a common regional policy. We already have had one benefit, out of prospective membership because the Government have had to raise regional incentives to 20 per cent. for this country. Why? Because this is the minimum allowed for built-up areas in Europe, and we cannot, as a prospective member, offer less. This Government was offering far less but has had to change as we cannot offer less than the European Powers offer in their built-up areas.

Foreign policy objectives, economic objectives, pollution objectives and environmental control objectives are all things which we can achieve as members of a European Community working together in a dynamic way. We cannot achieve these things by retreating into isolation which leaves us neither a world Power nor an effective agent within Europe.