Orders of the Day — The Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:12 pm on 28th November 1989.

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Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley Sidcup 5:12 pm, 28th November 1989

I shall explain why to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who always listens to me with great patience. Many people in Europe and in the United States will be intensely worried about such developments and from the defence point of view some will ask whether it is a clever move by Mr. Gorbachev to get eastern Germany into a position from which it can tell western Germany, "Yes, we will join you, if we both become neutral." The impact of that on NATO and on the defence of Europe would be immense, but I do not believe that he is as clever as that. When we look at the other situation, in which western Germany is still in NATO and in the Community, people then worry lest Germany have a dominant economic position in the Community and in Europe.

The only answer to the fears of those in Europe and elsewhere about a united Germany is to have a stronger, more tightly bound Community. That involves all aspect, of the Community. It also involves Britain taking a lead now and playing a constructive part in the formulation of the Community and its policies to ensure that a western Germany, even an enlarged united Germany, cannot be considered a danger to the rest of us. It concerns those of us who lived through the 1930s and who fought through six years of war as much as anybody else that that should not happen. Nor are we prepared to see a situation in which we again split up into a mass of little nation states. There are those who say, "Hold up Community progress, let eastern Europe get its own house sorted out individually, and then we shall be a nice lot of individual countries again." I am not prepared to accept that. Nor do I believe the British people are willing to accept it. The risks are far too great.

I repeat that the answer is a stronger, more united Community, and we must play our part in achieving that. It has proved to be the attraction for eastern Europe and is one reason why they have thrown off Communism. They want to adopt a system closer to that of the Community and they want to get the benefits that they see. The people of East Berlin and East Germany saw that more clearly than anyone else because it was going on next door in West Berlin and West Germany.

For those reasons, I urge the British Government and the Chancellor to play their part in going for full membership of the European monetary system. If we have a common currency, West Germany will be more tightly bound into our system. If we have a central bank—with, as I believe, democratic control—western Germany, or a united Germany, will be more tightly bound into the Community and into our continent. That is the next stage. We have no time to waste if we are to go on to help the people of eastern Europe when they become democractic. We can help them. The Americans will not like giving them a great deal of investment—they never have—but we can help.

We must not, however, allow that to take our minds off the problems of the Third world, which is the other big danger because the problems of the Third world are emerging again. In Ethiopia there are again hundreds of thousands of starving people. The Third world still needs the attention of the Community, but we must become more prosperous so that we can help eastern Europe in its development. Above all, we must have a Community which is tightly bound together so that later we can consider the future membership of what will then be free and democratic countries.