Extended Meaning of "the Treaties" and "the Community Treaties"

Part of Police Authorities (Powers) – in the House of Commons at 5:06 pm on 14th November 1979.

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Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East 5:06 pm, 14th November 1979

But surely, Mr. Weatherill, it is in order for me to say, in regard to the shape of the debate as a whole—whether or not amendments have been selected—that I do not wish in any way to criticise any hon. Members for tabling amendments which seek to extract information from the Executive.

I wanted to say that it would be extremely unfortunate if it were thought anywhere in Europe—and especially in Greece—that the debate reflects opposition to Greece's joining the Community. It would also be untrue.

6 pm

There are profound differences on some matters between the two sides of the Committee, but one of the happiest features recently in our relations with Greece has been the tremendous support given by hon. Members of all parties to the British-Greek group since the restoration of democracy in Greece. That group has endeavoured to establish close, cordial and developing relations between the two Parliaments and peoples, and Labour Members as well as Conservative Members have been conspicuous in that work. In earlier times, Mr. Weatherill, you showed deep interest in our work and can testify to what I say. It was no surprise, therefore, that almost 200 hon. Members, drawn from all parties, signed the early-day motion warmly welcoming the decision of the Greek Parliament to apply for membership.

I like to think that it is due to the efforts on both sides of the House of Commons that the Government have had second thoughts about cutting out the Greek language services of the BBC. In Greece there is immense interest in what is happening in this country and great warmth of feeling towards us. It would be a sad day if, as a result of the shape of this debate, the impression were given that there is any body of opinion in the British House of Commons hostile to Greek membership of the Community.

I say at once that I have sympathy with the view that there should be an annual appraisal of the effects of the Community budget, but the hon. Member for Swansea, East put the matter in clear perspective. Why pick on Greece? There is a financial crisis in the European Community, but that is no argument against Greek accession. I venture to think that the sooner we can weld together the democratic countries of Western Europe in close unity of function and purpose, the sooner we shall have institutions that reflect the needs and aspirations of its democratic peoples. The fact that there is an immediate financial crisis has no bearing on Greek accession.

I take the broader view. It was always sad that from the beginning our vision of Europe was limited. All the democratic countries of Western Europe should be together in the modern world, and I warmly welcome the Bill, which sets the seal of final approval by the British Parliament on Greek membership.

I hope that no message will go out from the House of Commons by word or vote which suggests to people in Greece, who are anxiously watching what we may say and decide, that there is any feeling of reservation about Greek membership. I believe that I speak for the vast majority of hon. Members in saying that, despite the budgetary difficulties which concern every member of the Community, the accession of Greece is a step forward. A Europe without Greece is unthinkable. We owe so much to the contribution of Greek culture to Western civilisation. I hope that the message will go out tonight that Parliament warmly welcomes the accession of Greece.