Many right hon. and hon. Members wish to participate in the debate. I propose to put a limit of 10 minutes on speeches between 7 and 9 o'clock. I appeal to right hon. and hon. Members who may be called before that time to bear that limit in mind. Furthermore, I hope that the House will think it fair if today I give priority to those right hon. and hon. Members who were not called when we last debated this subject, on 1 December, even though they may be Privy Councillors.
We are debating the future shape of our continent: the impetus towards democracy in eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union; the emergence in the centre of Europe of a united Germany; and the reduction, on an unprecedented scale, of the armed forces that for decades have opposed one another across a divided Europe. All those developments we can welcome. All those developments will need a mass of continuing work.
It seems that a lot is going on. Last week, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I had talks in London with the Polish Prime Minister and the French and German Foreign Ministers. President Havel of Czechoslovakia will visit Britain next month. Next week, I go to Hungary. In April, I shall visit the Soviet Union for talks with Soviet leaders. Those are just a few of the array of visits and meetings now in progress. The airways of Europe and the Atlantic are thronged with travelling Ministers. At first, all the visits and discussions seemed somewhat formless. That was my first impression a few weeks ago but now I begin to see new patterns of consultation and sensible understandings emerging.
The first phase of smashing statues and hunting secret policemen in eastern Europe is almost over. The more difficult task of building democratic institutions and creating free market economies is beginning. As that happens, we enter a completely new phase of East-West relations. Until now, the challenge for the West was to manage a relationship between adversaries. The overriding need was to avert war—
No, I must get on a little.
After that overriding need, we had to seek progress with arms control and greater respect for human rights. Much of our effort was directed to limiting the damage of the cold war, exposing the abuse of human rights and countering the disruptive influence of the Soviet Union worldwide. That traditional effort required perseverance and sometimes courage. We did not need to look beyond political alliances, political systems and certainties. Now, many countries, including the Soviet Union, are being transformed.
We shall still need steadiness and courage, but we must welcome fresh ideas and original thought. That is undoubtedly the new mood in Britain, the rest of Europe and across the Atlantic. That came across sharply in the remarkable series of meetings in Ottawa last week. It turned out to be a diplomatic festival as well as a formal conference. The Foreign Ministers of NATO and Warsaw pact countries were there to discuss an open skies regime. In practice, our talks ranged far more widely. It was less a case of open skies than open house. It was an extraordinary experience to talk and listen to the Polish, Czech or Hungarian Foreign Ministers and hear, for the first time in nearly half a century, genuinely national points of view emerge.
I came away with a strong sense that the Soviet Union is no longer sure of its moorings. The Warsaw pact is no longer biddable. Democracy is starting to encroach. Soviet foreign policy is much more sensitive than before. I have the impression that, perhaps for this reason, it at present contains more questions than answers. I admire the Soviet leadership for riding the tide of events, but the pace and strength of the tide will increase over the next few months.
The dominating issue at Ottawa was German unification. The western allies and, as the House knows, successive British Governments, have always supported the principle of German unification, to be brought about as the result of the freely expressed choice of the peoples of the two Germanies. We can be glad, as friends of the new and democratic Germany, that the years of painful division are coming to an end.
Momentum toward unification has built up fast and it is now likely to happen sooner rather than later. The political momentum is largely due to the continuing flow of people from the German Democratic Republic to the Federal Republic and the desire of those who stay behind to share in the prosperity of their fellow Germans in the West. There is also, as we can all understand, an emotional momentum, which, in a way, is the most powerful of all.
Other, equally important realities can now be taken into account. German unification, of course, closely affects other countries—her immediate neighbours, her partners and allies in the Community and in NATO and the four powers that retain rights and responsibilities in Germany. There are, therefore, external aspects to the German question and alongside self-determination goes the need for joint determination of those external issues.
Before the Ottawa meeting, we felt that the external aspects were not always adequately heeded as the West German Government grappled with the rush of events in the GDR. Until last week we lacked a framework for discussing the external aspects of German unification. We were not alone in our concern as others were worried that we seemed to be in a scramble towards unification without the framework for handling the external aspects, including membership of NATO by a united Germany, the implications of that for the territory of what would be the former GDR because of the Soviet troops there, the status of Berlin and the final settlement of borders, as well as the implications of unification for the EC.
Our message was not one of obstruction, but that we risked muddle and instability if the issues were not addressed in some orderly way. Many felt those anxieties and told us about them and we were probably foremost in spelling them out. Because of that, a notion grew up, particularly in parts of the German press, that we were in some way going back on our traditional support for the principle of unification. I hope that that notion has now been dispelled to the comfort of us all.
I was talking then about the suggestion made by President Delors that an independent GDR might apply for membership of the Community. I agree that his statement and my comments upon it have been overtaken by events.
When I visited Washington on 29 January, I stressed to the President and to the Secretary of State that a framework was needed, but we did not discuss in detail what form it should take. By the time I went to Ottawa at the beginning of last week, our thoughts had become more precise. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I were clear that, at Ottawa, I should press as hard as possible for a meeting or meetings of the six—the four former occupying powers and the two Germanies. Other external aspects need to be discussed in the EC, in NATO and with Poland, but a six-power meeting seemed to be the first step.
When I got to Ottawa, I found that I was knocking on an open door, because the minds of our allies had moved precisely in the same direction; only the Soviet Union was reticent but. in Ottawa, that reticence was overcome within 24 hours. We believe that a forum of the six offers some obvious advantages. It brings together those most immediately concerned, the two Germanies and the four countries that have a unique standing in terms of legal rights and responsibilities in Germany.
My right hon. Friend has touched on the status of Berlin and many people would he interested to know exactly what is British Government thinking on it; after all, we have a garrison there. Is that likely to be reduced in the near future? How does my right hon. Friend see things developing in that regard?
It might save time if I made some progress, but I shall give way later to those who may be dissatisfied by the inadequacy of my remarks.
We have therefore achieved our aim—a channel that can guide the discussion in the future. We welcome that achievement and plenty of hard work lies ahead. We are now optimistic, however, that German unification can be achieved in a manner that fits a pattern of European stability and security acceptable to all. I cannot help adding that now that that framework is beginning to take shape, everyone is saying how important it is.
Everyone is happy to climb aboard now, but an analysis of the importance of discussing the external aspects of German unity was regarded as unrealistic foot-dragging when the Prime Minister and I spoke about that a few weeks ago. Such analyses were two a penny around the table at Dublin on Tuesday. I want to express my appreciation of the way in which the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Genscher, has stressed throughout, in private and in public, the importance of consultation and the particular role of the four powers.
The right hon. Gentleman has just mentioned the contribution of Mr. Genscher. He will recall that Mr. Genscher told the press at the Dublin meeting that he regarded the Helsinki organisation, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, as the most important framework for dealing with those problems. He signed the declaration by the Community Foreign Ministers that said the CSC'E was a fundamental element. The right hon. Gentleman did not mention the Helsinki arrangements. Why not?
I have been speaking for about eight minutes and I have a particularly exhaustive account of the CSCE process, which I shall give in about 10 minutes. Once again, I learn the lesson that I should make some progress.
It is not just on procedure that we have begun to make progress; there is a coming together of ideas on substance as well. There is the concept of a united Germany in NATO. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) would agree that that is important to the West. It is also important for the security of Europe as a whole, as a number of east European countries now, for the first time, recognise. A neutral Germany, outside existing security arrangements in Europe, would weaken stability, and we believe that the Federal Government was right to reject that option. American and other foreign troops and their nuclear weapons will need to remain in Germany in significant numbers as a stabilising element in European security. There is a growing consensus on that point.
We need to take account of Soviet concern, and that means finding special arrangements for the territory of what is now the GDR, including, perhaps, the continued presence of Soviet troops for a transitional period. It is too soon to be precise about details and I do not think it sensible for the Government to try to be precise about them. The principles, however, are becoming clear. I believe that the Soviet Union will come to accept that its own interest in stability will be served by having Germany as a member of the defensive western Alliance, but with the special arrangements I have mentioned, especially as arms control reduces the level of forces on both sides in Europe.
The second important consideration is the eastern border of a united Germany. No one with any sense of history can be surprised by the Polish emphasis on this subject, which was stressed to us by Prime Minister Mazowiecki last week. The German Government have made it clear that the substance of their position is not in doubt. I have heard Mr. Genscher say several times that a united Germany will comprise the territory of the Federal Republic, the GDR and Berlin—not more, not less. Nevertheless we believe that there should be a formal and binding agreement to settle this matter once and for all. A treaty is the obvious solution and Poland, of course, will need to be closely involved in the discussion.
In answer to the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston), we need to consider seriously within the Community the implications of an enlarged Germany. The economy of the GDR is clearly ill suited to Community life. It is massively state-aided, it offends every EC environmental directive and its industrial and manufacturing standards are, to put it mildly, not those of the single market. The Germans will therefore need derogation from Community law, and we shall all need some transitional arrangements. That is why the Irish Government, as the President of the Commission, have proposed a special Community summit to discuss this, after proper preparation, towards the end of April. We welcome that initiative. The European Commission agreed in Dublin, at my suggestion, that detailed work should begin now in preparation for that meeting.
In relation to the Oder-Neisse line, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the need for Germany to seek unity, and I am in favour of that. But a possible future powder keg might be the lot of the German minority living in the territory, in Silesia and around Stettin, to the east of the Oder-Neisse line.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the sooner Poland is drawn into the European Community the better, because that would ensure that the human rights of the ethnic minorities in Poland—and perhaps in Czechoslovakia, too—could be maintained, remembering that that was a source of some problems in the days before 1939?
Indeed it was. The Helsinki Final Act covers human rights and the question of borders, so it is important as a safeguard for both parts of the problem.
Fourthly, there is the question of Berlin. The western allies have defended freedom in their sectors of Berlin during the long period when the city and Germany itself was divided. Now that the Berlin wall is coming down and unification is in prospect. we do not want needlessly to perpetuate the occupation regime. It has served a particular and worthwhile purpose during a particular period in Berlin's history.
The allies will consult the Russians about the future status of the city, and the two Germanys should be asssociated with the rather more formal process of four-power consultation.
I am particularly anxious that, in all these matters, we should work closely with the French. We have long had a virtual identity of interest in many of these matters. I hope that we can work for a virtual identity of view.
My right hon. Friend has spoken of the economic background of East Germany. We are well aware of the massive wealth of West Germany. Obviously, East Germany will be put back on its feet. May we have an assurance that there is sufficient money in West Germany to put the east European economy back on its feet and that the British taxpayer will not be required, through European funding, to put into effect a greater Germany, which will then have the economic effect of putting some of our own companies and people out of business?
My hon. Friend will have seen and read how the German Government, industry and the Bundesbank are already engaged preparing a massive infusion of help into the GDR. The question of the access of the eastern part of a united Germany to Community funds—how exactly that would work out, transition arrangements for goods and, as I mentioned, derogations to the law—is all detailed work which is just beginning in the Commission in Brussels and which will come to a head at the European Council at the end of April. It is a big series of dossiers, as they say in Brussels, and it is too soon to be clear what the outcome will be.
The second important outcome of the Ottawa meeting was the agreement to hold a CSCE summit later this year, at which—this is important—an agreement on conventional force reductions in Europe would be signed and which would establish a framework for future European co-operation.
The background is known to the House. For years, our negotiators struggled to secure, in the Helsinki process, a common standard of human rights. It was a long-drawn-out business under several Governments, painstaking and painful. The Governments of Eastern Europe were in the end brought to sign up to a set of standards by which their own people could apply a test, and we have all been able to make good use of that Final Act.
People such as President Havel and Doina Cornea would have been lost to view—they might have disappeared for ever—if we had not had a standard that could be waved on their behalf, a mechanism by which we and others could keep pressing for their freedom and rights.
All that effort has been proved worth while. It has been vindicated. The new Governments of eastern Europe, many of whose individual members benefited personally from that process, want to build on it for the future. We agree and believe that the process can now play a greater role than ever before in strengthening peace and stability in Europe. It has the right membership and the right broad agenda.
We need to make human rights, democracy and the rule of law as secure and as permanent as we can throughout Europe, and to achieve that we need an underlying framework of stability to support and nourish the wider growth of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, because all history shows that the survival of those things is fragile and sometimes at risk. The CSCE process is there to hand. We believe that it should be adapted and strengthened for that purpose.
I see the CSCE rather like a motorway which at present carries a good deal of the traffic of East-West relations, but that traffic has been moving uncertainly in the past. The political work of the CSCE will become more important in future. If this motorway for carrying the traffic of East-West relations is to fulfil its potential and carry the additional traffic, we must widen it. We must increase the number of lanes and find other ways of keeping the traffic flowing. So we shall look for practical new elements with which we can strengthen the CSCE's contribution to European security.
The Council of Europe provides, particularly in the European convention on human rights, a mechanism—a rather more formal standard—which will be important as the east European countries develop. That is why they are showing such interest in the Council of Europe, and I welcome the fact that our representatives there have supported them in their efforts to become more closely associated with the work of the council.
Returning to the subject of the CSCE, last year, we and the United States launched a proposal in this context of free elections and made another about respect for the rule of law. In Ottawa, I advanced another British proposal which, so as not to bore the House, I simply mention.
The cold war had many undesirable effects, but one which was perhaps neutral was to freeze many of the old nationalist emotions and tensions which for centuries were flashpoints in Europe. Now that the cold war is melting and the ice is thawing, there is a risk—we can see it in every newspaper—particularly in central and eastern Europe, that national reawakening will be accompanied by some of the uglier effects of nationalism as the old rivalries reassert themselves.
In the West, we have made a reasonable job of overcoming such rivalries in freedom, but Communism—the enforced and artificial uniformity of Communism—denied that chance to our eastern neighbours. The CSCE could provide a means of resolving disputes between its members to defuse tension and avert the threat of conflict, alongside, of course, the established machinery of the United Nations.
The process should not get bogged down in machinery. It would perhaps be reasonably easy to get agreement on a piece of conciliation machinery and then find that most countries spend their time finding excuses for not using it. We need to encourage the countries of Europe to talk and think collectively and more often about some of these issues—such as minority rights and the protection of minorities—which may be at the heart of existing or future disputes between and within countries.
The third important agreement to come out of the two and a half days in Ottawa was perhaps in some ways the most surprising. It was the agreement reached between the United States and the Soviet Union on the reduction of their stationed forces within Europe. Alongside that was a consensus between the alliances that the negotiations going on in Vienna should press ahead as quickly as possible so that we can reach an agreement this year.
We shall work hard to achieve that outcome. Problems remain. We have not solved the problem of aircraft or the problem, which always dogs the negotiations, of effective verification, but I came away from Ottawa with the feeling that the political will was there to achieve that result.
As many hon. Members have said, we need to look beyond the Vienna negotiations to the future needs of European security. Future arms control measures will be part of that, as will the political aspects of security, which I have already mentioned. In Ottawa, I suggested that we should set this work in hand, and we shall follow up the proposals in NATO and the CSCE.
I agree that we cannot settle matters in Europe overnight, and it will take some time. However, in future, could not we introduce the concept of a wide neutral zone in Europe that is non-nuclear, with both American and Russian troops withdrawn? It is an old concept that was suggested many years ago by Mr. Gaitskell and others in the Labour party. As we think to the future, is not this the way that we should go?
That is a concept of which we shall certainly hear more, but I do not think that it makes best use of our opportunities. The separation of conventional and nuclear, which lies at the heart of the hon. Gentleman's suggestion, is a bit old hat. I would rather do what we have suggested, which is not try to copy exactly the CFE I talks on conventional forces in Europe, but to look at what the needs of European security will be in 1991–92 and begin to work out what further arms-control collective negotiations are needed to meet those needs.
All those developments raise the question of the future of our own Atlantic Alliance. We need not be dominated by thoughts of symmetry and what is happening in the Warsaw pact. The implications for the pact of democracy among its members will certainly be profound. It will either be transformed or fade away. But that is for its members to decide. They will decide, and are deciding now, what its future should be.
NATO will change, too. It will be affected by the changes in eastern Europe and will need to adapt. However, it is different; it has proper foundations in the consent of Governments and peoples. Therefore, whatever happens to the Warsaw pact, NATO will endure. We need to distinguish as rigorously as we can between those attributes of NATO that will remain important in future and other aspects that should change in response to events. Our security needs will change, but the need for security will not.
Among the permanent characteristics I would list—some hon. Members will have different lists—NATO's present membership, the presence of significant stationed forces, including those of the United States, Canada and Britain, on the continent, a sensible mix of nuclear and conventional forces and an integrated command structure. Those essentials taken together would mean that we would continue to have a strong European defence. For us they include, among other things, the retention of the independent nuclear deterrent.
As for change, the Alliance will become more deeply involved in the management of change in Europe, in the dialogue with the East, in arms control and its verification, in consultation about security problems outside—as well as inside—Europe and in developing the new ideas that I mentioned for the 1990s, such as minimum deterrence. An Alliance that can change with the times still has a lot of offer for the security of its members. It offers a sure link between Europe and north America. I hope that we can have a consensus in the House about the importance of that. It offers a sound framework for co-operation in defence and arms control and the cheapest insurance policy against the uncertainties and possible turbulance of the 1990s.
The long-term security and stability of Europe can best be maintained if what is happening now—the democratic renewal in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe—remains on track. There may well be reverses and upheavals, but I do not think that they are likely to bring back the cold war. However, they could send tremors of danger through the whole of our continent.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in that context and in the context of the peace treaty governing the reunification of Germany, there is an attractive logic in considering eventually a formal agreement between NATO and the Warsaw pact, within the umbrella of other international agreements?
That is one possibility, but it assumes the survival of the Warsaw pact. We should not argue that we need the Warsaw pact—that is a matter for its members. If they decide to keep it, my hon. Friend's suggestion will fall to be considered, but we should not say, "We need the Warsaw pact."
I am nearing the end of my speech, because I know that many right hon. and hon. Members wish to speak. I was talking about the process of democratic renewal in eastern Europe. We must provide what practical support we can for that. Hon. Members will be familiar with much of the detail, which was covered during the debate in December. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State with particular responsibility for these matters may have something to say about this.
I stress the key role in the process of the European Community. The Community's response to events in the East has been fast and effective. The Commision, at the request of the United States and others, co-ordinates the work of the wider group of 24 western countries. We, the Twelve, are sending aid of many kinds. We have launched the idea of a European development bank, whose emphasis on helping the private sector owes much to our urging.
We are acting to develop trade and co-operation agreements with the eastern countries and, as a British initiative before Christmas, we looked for closer forms of co-operation between the Community and those countries in the longer term. We want to enable those emerging democracies to develop their economies and align themselves more closely with the Community as reform proceeds.
I hope that the process will eventually lead to full membership of the Community. That is for the future, and a matter for those countries, as well as the Community.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that one other step that it is essential to take now in our relations with the emerging countries of eastern Europe in order to assist them, is to try to dissuade them from building up economic, military or political boundaries between themselves? That could only give rise to the nationalistic tendencies about which he spoke earlier.
I entirely agree. I was encouraged by the talks that I had for the first time with individual eastern Foreign Ministers in Canada. They were well aware of the danger there. Democracies heed public opinion. They are all engaged in election campaigns in one way and another. My right hon. Friend's point is sound, and it is in the minds of those in the eastern European countries.
I hope that the process of gradually creating and enriching association agreements between the countries of eastern Europe and the Community will eventually lead to full membership. That will be a matter for them, as well as the Community. The Community already provides a stable political, economic and legal framework for European development. Their relationship with the Community will enable those countries to cope better with the conomic and political travail through which they will pass during the next few years. It will be hard for almost all of them. We have provided bilateral help. That well-targeted help is well documented and I shall not list it today. It is increasing all the time and is increasingly effective.
I wish to make a new announcement today. We want to look, on an all-party basis, at what help Britain might give to political parties in eastern Europe and elsewhere. We shall shortly be in touch with others in the House to see whether we can reach some understanding about the way in which we, as a country, could do that.
I thought that the House would want to know that some right hon. and hon. Members, notably the right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling), have already taken on such a task on behalf of NATO parliamentarians, in consultation with Mr. Primakov, chairman of the supreme Soviet, as long ago as last June. I am glad to say that that intention is prospering and on-going. I was glad to hear what the Foreign Secretary said, and perhaps we can come together on this.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for bringing me up to date on that. We shall ensure that, as far as possible, these efforts are brought together.
Hon. Members will agree that we must encourage those countries in every way possible in the amazing task that they have set themselves. In their societies they are transforming the nature of the relationship between the state and the individual. That sounds easy as a general statement, but it is extraordinarily difficult in practice day by day.
I have touched on the three main efforts in which the British Government are engaged—the move towards German unification and our interests in the external aspects of that, the development of the European security framework and support for reform in eastern Europe. All those tasks stem from events of which the House was glad—the breaking down of walls and the freeing of peoples.
Lech Walesa told me when he was here before Christmas that he and his fellow amateurs, as he put it, had done their bit by proving to us professionals that the impossible was possible. He added—this was the thrust of it—that the rest was up to the professionals. We professionals—parliamentarians and diplomats, business men and bankers, journalists and broadcasters—must show the skill and imagination to follow up in a worthy way the work of, for example, the shipyard workers in Gdansk, the crowds in Wenceslaus square, and those who, through the years, defied the Berlin wall.
I welcome the Foreign Secretary back to this country after his unsuccessful visit to Dublin for the Council of Ministers meeting where he found himself, yet again, out-voted, out-argued and out on a limb.
There are in this important issue some matters of considerable importance, and our relationship with the United States, as the Foreign Secretary has rightly said, is of crucial importance. Therefore, why was it falsely said in Dublin that there was American support for the Prime Minister's policy on sanctions for South Africa? Was it President Bush's repudiation yesterday of that claim which makes the Government too scared to tell the House, other than through a written answer, that they will now lift the investment sanction pressure on South Africa?
The House will be delighted to know. The House would have been delighted to know yesterday what was being said. This morning's Financial Times says:
In Washington, a senior administration official stressed that the White House did not endorse Britain's intention to lift the voluntary ban on investment in South Africa".
No, I will not give way. I am well aware of the time constraint on all of us.
We unreservedly welcome the debate. At this time, when history is being made every day, it is right that the House should have time to look at the momentous events going on around us—events which will yet determine the kind of world that we shall inhabit for generations to come. After all, we know that Britain will be intimately affected by events on the other side of the continent and well beyond that as well.
The Foreign Secretary forcefully made the point that we are at a veritable hinge of history and the people of Britain have a right to expect that their politicians will try. to achieve a consensus on what is happening and on what role Britain should play.
Remarkably, the Foreign Secretary said that we should think collectively in Europe. That is a remarkable claim, but one to which we would subscribe. In most countries, in the East and in the West, an attempt is being made in the dramatically improved climate of relations to achieve a community view of what the future holds.
These times involve the collapse of the cold war and with it the collapse of the Warsaw pact as a military alliance in anything other than name. That has created unprecedented opportunities for the new and less risky European security order. There are also the grave and perhaps crippling crises within the Soviet Union—in the economy, in the ruling Communist party and in the republics that seem set to secede from the union.
There is no doubt that, as Mr. Gorbachev was the trigger for the remarkable process that we are enjoying, his personal and policy survival is of considerable consequence to us all.
There has been the economic collapse of the former Communist satellite states in eastern Europe, where four decades of sterile, incompetent, corrupt bureaucracy have left rising expectations which, if denied, may spark instability or worse. Then there is the question of the new unification of the two German states, a question which seems to mesmerise the world and one on which the Foreign Secretary rightly concentrated.
That is a more than full agenda, and for any Government with vision or any sense of destiny, the need for national consensus on the future would be self-evident. A consensus at home and the building of future influence abroad should be our collective priority.
But if, as is the bitter reality, we have no consensus, but instead conflict at home and isolation abroad, it is solely the result of that unique egocentric short-sightedness that our Prime Minister has made her own special hallmark. We were out-voted and marginalised again this week in the EC over sanctions, just as we were on the social charter and on monetary union in December, and it looks as though we shall be in conflict again over the role of the new European bank for development and reconstruction, perversely, at exactly the same time that the Government have the brass neck to claim that that bank should be placed in Britain.
Will the hon. Gentleman remember that we would not be in this position today had it not been for the foresight, vision and co-operation of Ernest Bevin and Winston Churchill in days when the Labour Government were doing things of which the Conservative party thoroughly disapproved on the domestic front, but it realised that there were greater things to come together on? Would it not be a good thing if the hon. Gentleman emulated the example of that great Labour statesman now?
The hon. Gentleman should listen not only to Opposition Members but to many of his colleagues. Of course we want a consensus. We should like to return to the vision of Ernest Bevin, when the creation of NATO and a unified Europe stood at a more difficult time than today. If anybody is guilty of breaking such consensus, shattering it before it could even be contemplated, it is the lady in No. 10 Downing street today.
We are divided even from the Americans on South Africa. As I said, as we gallop alone to relieve the pressures that have brought reform in that country. We are shunned in the Commonwealth and out on a limb on nuclear modernisation in NATO. As the world moves into a new era, the Government's stewardship of foreign policy has brought us to a new low in international influence. Never was that more glaringly on display than in the handling of the German issue.
For more than 40 years, we in Britain have stood by the objective of uniting the two artificially divided German states. Therefore, we should now rejoice that the brave people of East Germany have liberated and democratised their oppressed land, and that the German people can now choose to live together in peace and freedom.
But at a time when delicacy was required, the Prime Minister offered only meddling obstruction. At a time when vision was required, the Prime Minister offered only a crude rehash of the past. At a time when generosity and imagination were required, the Prime Minister offered only bleak prejudice.
Is my hon. Friend aware that at least some Opposition Members were not keen about the language that the Prime Minister used about German unification, but some of us who had a certain experience at one time of our lives as young fellows, have never quite forgotten that experience, and we have a worry about this matter? That is why the Labour party split after the war on the question of German rearmament. Some of us feel very strongly about that matter, although in principle, we are in favour of German reunification.
If my hon. Friend reads Le Monde, he will know that the French are very concerned—all the French. My hon. Friend must not imagine that he speaks for the whole of the Labour party, as I saw him claim to do on television the other day. We want unification, but we want to be certain that there are safeguards, so that we never again see the situation that arose before.
I always listen with great care and attention to those of my elders who have wider and longer experience than myself. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) speaks with great passion, as do other of my right hon. and hon. Friends. However, I have read carefully the words of President Mitterrand, whose experience is as long and distinguished as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Walton. As my hon. Friend listens to the rest of my speech, he will come to realise that the distinction I draw is one of the tone and the repercussions of that tone, rather than of any under-estimation of the concerns that he and many others in Europe genuinely feel.
It is an act of diplomatic vandalism for the Prime Minister to campaign with the insensitivity that she has, and thereby alienate and irritate our closest European ally and our most important European trading partner. Last week, I was told by German members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg that our Prime Minister stimulates and encourages the very forces of Right-wing German nationalism that she warns about by insisting—in her own special, grudging, carping tone—that, of all the Europeans, only the Germans are to be denied self-determination.
We must ask ourselves why the Prime Minister seems immune to criticism from the continent and even from this House. Why is it necessary for Mr. Ingham and Mr. Powell to cut her newspapers so forensically that she can ignore the criticism that is coming? Last weekend, The Sunday Times, which is not known for its loyal support of the Labour party, commented:
Britain's future role in the world is more uncertain than at any time since the end of the second world war …No wonder Britain is set to play only a marginal role in the reshaping of Europe, an increasingly irrelevant voice that nobody bothers to listen to. That is certainly isolation, but there is nothing splendid about it.
An editorial in The Economist, which is usually well to the right of the politics of Ronald Reagan, stated:
There is fog in the Channel, and once more the continent is cut off. This time, however, the fog is being generated in Downing Street and threatens to cut off not just Britain's partners in the European Community but the new governments of Eastern Europe, all of black Africa and even America. In short, Britain is in danger of becoming an irrelevance on the world stage, largely because its foreign policy emanates from the gut of its prime minister, Mrs. Thatcher.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Walton said, there are concerns inherent in the unification of the two Germanies, and they are shared by many cleverer minds than that of the Prime Minister. Poland's western frontier is of vital significance and it must be guaranteed absolutely. I agree entirely with the Foreign Secretary's view that there should be a treaty in that respect. The prospective neighbours of a united Germany are
apprehensive and nervous about the perhaps natural introversion of their large next-door neighbour. Instability in central and eastern Europe poses dangers to us all.
Nevertheless, it is a counter-productive insult to continue to rattle old skeletons in the face of two Germanies, as the Prime Minister has repeatedly done over the past few weeks. To invite any comparisons between Hitler's third reich and the threat it posed to Poland and to other neighbouring countries with the Federal Republic of Germany—a nation with strongly rooted, robust and developed democratic institutions, many of them created by this country after the war, and which has no conceivable territorial ambitions—displays a perverse lack of tact, or just an absence of reality. A newly united Germany will pose a challenge to the rest of Europe, but it will be economic, not military. As I said in December's debate, perhaps we should beware of the second Japan, not the fourth reich.
When the costly and painful unification is complete—perhaps five years is a generous estimate of the time that that will take to accomplish—and despite the formidable problems of unifying currencies, harmonising benefits and pensions, and tackling appalling pollution problems, we will have in our midst in Europe an economic super-power that could easily distort the balance between the Community's member states. The Prime Minister would serve this nation better by facing up to that challenge instead of abrasively campaigning to lose our friends and allies.
The framework to develop relations with Europe will be found within the European Community—with nation states both inside and outside its present membership. It will be within the Community that economic and political balance can be ensured and strengthened. It is the Community which will be able to tackle the huge aid project for recovering the crucial stability of newly democratised countries. Only the Community can provide the institutions that can bind together diverse states and provide the pooling of sovereignty that alone will guarantee that no nation or economic force becomes disproportionately powerful.
Given Britain's isolation among our Community partners, what hope is there that we will be on the inside track of the new Europe? As a party politician, I suppose that I should rejoice in the incompetence of the present Government, the divisions among Ministers and Conservative Back Benchers, and the yawning chasm between Downing street and the Foreign Office. But I do not. I care enough about my country and the future of my children and their generation to feel only despair at the way that Britain is avoidably losing out.
In security, amazing opportunities are opening before us. The agreements reached in Ottawa that the Foreign Secretary outlined show what is possible when political will is there. But the disintegration of the Warsaw pact demands a reassessment of NATO's role and its current military strategy. It is interesting that the doctrine of flexible response was not among the components listed by the Foreign Secretary as the most valuable to be retained within NATO. Obsessional debates about neutralism are becoming meaningless, given that the bulk of Soviet troops will be leaving eastern Europe and that only one alliance is left facing a radically weakened, if still well-armed, Soviet Union.
The 35-nation CSCE group meeting to which the Foreign Secretary referred offers a real chance to bridge the now almost irrelevant divide in Europe. We must grasp that chance. I stand full square with the Foreign Secretary on that. The group must not degenerate into a talking shop but should set about creating institutions that will provide a new security framework for our continent.
I listened sympathetically to the Foreign Secretary's suggestion that the potential border problems, ethnic grudges and nationalisms that have been unleashed by the new process might be considered by the group. In the new security and political atmosphere that now exists, we must seek to avoid crude triumphalism and vain, unconvincing attempts to grab credit for what has happened. That would be not only wholly inappropriate as the euphoria dies away and the problems pile up, but deeply patronising.
The people of Poland, many of whom I met when I visited that country three weeks ago, displayed an astonishing sophistication last year in achieving what they wanted from their elections, despite the complex problems and obstacles put in their way under the system offered. I welcome the Foreign Secretary's initiative in bringing together the political parties of this country, to see whether we can give financial aid to political parties abroad. There is no doubt that the German system of foundations allied to political parties has played a major role in boosting German influence abroad and helping developing countries.
I know of the hon. Member's commitment to this cause. However, could he draw the attention of his colleagues in the European Parliament to this matter? The European Democratic group has twice tried to set up a fund, which it wants to call the European democracy fund, to do exactly that, but the Socialist group, including the hon. Gentleman's colleagues in the European Parliament, has twice blocked it.
I was in the European Parliament last week when the debate took place and the decision was taken. A number of distinctions have to be drawn. First, there is already aid to political parties in the European Parliament, and the Socialist group has made a gesture of levying its members and adding to that levy to help the promotion of the political process in eastern Europe. Secondly, some political parties represented in the European Parliament might have an affinity with organisations abroad which should perhaps not be the beneficiaries of public money. I understand that the various parties in the European Parliament continue to talk about the issue. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I have a deep interest in the subject, and I intend to pursue it irrespective of what anyone outside the House intends to do.
The people of eastern Europe are in the process of rejecting many of the easy stereotypes on offer from the Right and also perhaps from the Left in the West. The Czechoslovakian Prime Minister was quoted last week as saying that there would be no Thatcherite revolution in that country. The Daily Telegraph quoted him as saying that
there would be a privatisation programme, but it would be pursued slowly.
By saying that, he was perhaps rejecting all the ideologies that are being peddled today, and that may be the key to their future.
As we face the new dawn in East-West relations, I hope that Britain, in spite of our Prime Minister's gross lack of judgment, will be able to play a major role in building a secure future. Certainly, the Labour party believes in the importance of multilateral processes, in the forging of friendships and alliances and in consensus for the benefit of all and not the ego of one. When the Labour party comes to office, that will be our guiding principle.
Britain has some unique and irreplaceable assets. For example, the British Council, which already has an organisation in place in eastern Europe, has allowed Britain, almost alone, to channel immediate technical, scientific and educational help to those countries. The council's over-stretched staff are already providing practical assistance and English language courses where there is an urgent need.
The BBC world service has played a remarkable, perhaps even an historic, role in the liberation of eastern Europe. From every country reports have come about how the objective, fair and truthful news from the world service has sustained and informed millions of people, and kept hope alive amid years of oppression. Surely, it is therefore now time for the Government to recognise that huge achievement and to provide the trivial sums that would give life to world service television.
Britain has the assets and, in spite of the Government we have a proud record of rising to a challenge. The British people deserve the chance to participate in the bounty that the present situation presents. Dare we hope that our Government can eventually, even belatedly, rise to the expectations of their own people?
We are grateful to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary for giving us such a wide-ranging and comprehensive review of the present situation, however quickly it may he changing. I hope to be able to comply in two ways with Mr. Speaker's request that we should make brief interventions in the debate. I admit straight away that I do not propose to be as comprehensive as my right hon. Friend; and I do not wish to state views on the disarmament process which is going on, because I think that there is a better chance of success now, and my right hon. Friend has the matter completely in hand.
On the question of the future of NATO, I must confess that I do not understand some of the language now being used on both sides of the Atlantic. It is said that NATO must change from a military function into a political framework. I confess that I do not know what help a political framework in NATO would be. I do not see what purpose it would serve, because we already have a political framework. Therefore, I think that we should drop the idea that NATO is just going to become a political organisation. We shall still require a united defence in Europe. We had better concentrate on that.
I was slightly disturbed when my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that that would enable NATO to look after defence in other parts of the world—although he did cast that remark away lightly. I strongly object to that. NATO has a European purpose which will continue, although perhaps in a more limited form, but I could not support a NATO in Europe which regarded itself as the policeman of the rest of the world. Nor do I think that that would be acceptable to what were formerly the colonial territories. They would regard the European powers in a new form as trying to dominate their independence in other parts of the world.
I have no desire to see Europe try to sort out what is happening in Colombia with drug runners, or what is happening in South Africa, or anywhere else in the world. I think that South Africa is of relevance, not just for the reason that the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) mentioned, but because we have opted out of the views of our partners in the European Community, and the views of the Americans on the other side of the Atlantic. The important thing is the consequence that that will have for our relations with those two groups when dealing with the new situation in Europe.
I hope that I can be brief about the new situation in Europe, because it seems to me that all sorts of objections—or if not objections, strange constructions and interpretations—are being put on the situation unnecessarily. I hope that I will not be thought arrogant in any way if I say that what is required seems to me obvious—as obvious as it is to the eastern European countries.
First, German reunification is inevitable and the eastern European countries recognise it. The hon. Member for Hamilton said that this was a new dawn. It is certainly an era of hope. Therefore, when we say yes, but only with careful consideration, a great deal of reservation and several conferences, those countries will say, "There you are—the British once again are trying to slow the whole thing down or prevent it from happening." The Foreign Secretary knows as much about the subject as any hon. Member—certainly since 1965, when he was my private secretary. He understands these attitudes and that they are unfortunate. We need to say, "Yes, we share your hope and we are going to work out how to help you." That may seem to be only a slight difference, but it will be vital for their attitude towards us.
German reunification is inevitable and we have always recognised that. Sometimes we said that we believed in it because we thought that it would never happen. If that was the case, it is now going to happen, and we must accept it. What are the problems? It is up to the two Germanies to settle how they come together. It is not up to us as occupying powers, or interfering busybodies from outside.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary mentioned the formula of four plus two. I understood that, at the recent conference, it was changed to two plus four. That is important. The two refers to the two Germanies, who will work out how they come together. Then the four powers will discuss with them the implications of unification for the four-powers. As far as the three powers are concerned, we have long recognised that, when the two Germanies come together, that is their affair and we no longer have an interest from that point of view. Moscow has also come to recognise that situation in the past few days. Therefore, the two Germanies will settle what they are going to do, and the four powers will acknowledge that. That is not difficult and there is no problem about it. It will not take long.
I heard the Czech Prime Minister say the other day that he had asked for the withdrawal of Soviet forces in Czechoslovakia. Mr. Gorbachev's reply was that he would certainly consider it, but, of course, it would be a lengthy operation and might take more than a year if he decided to do it. The Czech Prime Minister said, "I replied to him, 'Well, it only took you a day to put them in, so why should it take longer than a day to take them out?'" That is a very practical approach.
The East German Prime Minister, Mr. Modrow, has said, "We have little time: do get on and allow us to achieve our purpose." Why is there so little time? Why is Chancellor Kohl saying, even before the general election, that various things, one of which I shall discuss in a moment, must be done? The reason is that they have fears.
What.is Chancellor Kohl's fear? Every month, 70,000 East Germans are still crossing his border. West Germany has done a magnificent job in accommodating East Germans since they started to come in through Hungary, but an extra 70,000 each month pose a problem. A second problem is that both Chancellor Kohl and the East German Foreign Minister are worried about the state of the East German economy, which they believe may collapse at any moment. In that case their problems will be infinitely greater: there is no time to be lost.
What is the third fear? The possibility that there may still be a hard core of Communists in eastern Germany who will attempt to reverse the process cannot be overlooked. There is no time to be lost: they must get on with it, and that is what they will try to do directly after the election. I see no problem, and no need for lengthy investigations.
It is interesting to note that Chancellor Kohl has proposed the introduction of a unified currency as soon as possible, preferably before the election. I heard him make a very well balanced speech the other day. Having completed the economic part, he looked up, smiled and said, "So, you see, I think that I can say without fear of contradiction that Ludwig Erhard has triumphed over Karl Marx." That was a very revealing statement.
What the Chancellor said took me back to 1948, when Erhard—whom I knew well, both as Finance Minister and as Chancellor—reformed the German currency. He said, "Our marks are useless: we shall revalue them. If we take 10 for one, we shall have the dynamic to create the new Germany." It worked. East Germany—which now has an anomaly of four marks to one and a black market of 10 to one—must reform its currency in a similar way to obtain the same dynamic that Erhard produced for western Germany. I do not see why we should query that, or why it should pose any problem for the Community.
In a moving intervention, my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow)—who has now left the Chamber—asked for a guarantee tha the British taxpayer would never be involved. What does that mean? Despite all our protestations that we want freedom for the eastern Empire—that we want it to have its own way, to be successful and to enjoy a higher standard of living—the only issue that appears to concern my hon. Friend is the need for the British taxpayer not to become involved.
Of course western Germany will provide the larger part of what is necessary; indeed, it is already doing so. Already German business men from the big firms are roaring around eastern Germany, establishing their plants and distribution systems and offering capital. Perhaps we should mention that to one or two British business men; after all, East Germany is not all that far away.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary says that we should have discussions about the possibility of our parliamentary parties' taking part in political activities in the east European countries, and showing them how to proceed. They are already doing that. The Socialist parties are roaring around those countries. All that we have to do is persuade the Conservatives in this country to do the same. The Conservatives in France are already doing it, as are those in the European Parliament. I see no need to make a great fuss; let us get on with trying to persuade those countries that, when elections take place in less than a month's time, they should vote for the party that we support. Opposition Members can do the same.
We have no problem with regard to the European Community, because of the special provision in the treaties that East Germany should always be given preference. It has been given preference, and will continue to receive it. That leads automatically to union, and there is no need for long arguments about it. As for the other eastern European countries, we must recognise—perhaps, as a Back Bencher, I can say this more easily than others can—that, after 40 years of Communist domination and repression from Moscow, they have no experience of government or administration: they do not know how to run an organisation. They talk of a market economy, but they have no idea how to produce one. When we ask, "Where will your investment come from? You have no savings, because under Moscow you were not allowed any. How will you create a market economy?", they do not know the answer.
That is a frightening feature of the present developments, and we must help in every way that we can. The east European countries welcome management studies, and we ought to help with investment as much as we can. The Community is already organising that, and we should play a large part; we should assist those countries to develop their economies in a way that will enable them eventually to become members of the European Community.
Nothing that has happened at the Adam Smith Institute has given me any reassurance at all. If, after 10 years, it is thought desirable for the emerging eastern European countries also to enjoy interest rates of 15 per cent., mortgage rates of 15·5 per cent., balance-of-payments deficits of £20 billion and inflation rates of 8 per cent., very well: let the Adam Smith Institute go and tell them, and we shall jolly soon see that they are taking no notice. The problem with the eastern European countries is considerable.
Let me say a word about the Soviet position, which seems all too often to be overlooked. What we are discussing depends to a large extent on Mr. Gorbachev's retaining his present position—or, if someone else replaces him, on that person's following the same policies. We are entitled to have doubts about that. Indeed, any Government would be very unwise to ignore the possibility of a change—an attempt to return to an earlier system.
What has happened to Mr. Gorbachev? He set out to improve the Soviet economy to such an extent that the Soviets would welcome him and his supporters as their saviours—a laudable ambition. I am convinced—in fact, Mr. Gromyko has told me—that he believed that no change in the political organisation would be required. Once people were properly fed and housed, they would say, "This is a good political organisation." However, the economic situation has worsened in the five years of Mr. Gorbachev's regime; the result has been the emerging demand for political rights in the Baltic states, the eastern European countries, the southern states of Azerbaijan and Russia itself. There is increasing evidence that support for Mr. Gorbachev is waning considerably.
I talked the other day to some Russians from Leningrad. When I asked them for their comments on this country, they replied that Mr. Gorbachev seemed to be infinitely more popular abroad than at home. I said. "That does happen to politicians from time to time." We must recognise that all our plans to help depend on Mr. Gorbachev's position being maintained, and on the retention of the present Soviet policy line.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the forces of reaction in the Soviet Union would be strengthened—thus undermiing Mr. Gorbachev's position—by the lack of a flexible response from NATO and from this country? The more aggressive our defence posture, the more likely are the generals and other reactionary forces in the USSR to reassert themselves.
If by "flexible" the hon. Gentleman means a balanced arrangement for disarmament, I agree with him. That is what the Foreign Secretary has said. That must be the basis of any negotiations between the two sides. However, we must also recognise that those whom we describe as diehards in the soviet Union are concerned about the break-up of the Soviet empire. When he started along this path, did Mr. Gorbachev deliberately intend to break up the Soviet empire? It is difficult to believe that he did. In that case, will anyone who does not hold the same view intervene and say,"This has got to stop"?
Does my right hon. Friend agree that West Germany recognised the need immediately to satisfy some part of the consumer demand in the Soviet Union in order to reinforce Mr. Gorbachev's position? It made a grant and transferred food immediately so that the people of the Soviet Union would recognise the benefits of perestroika. Ought we not to press our Government to follow the German lead?
Chancellor Kohl has said that he will not accept neutrality. That is absolutely right. We should back him. That would mean having German forces and NATO forces, if he requires them, in a united Germany. I do not believe that it is a realistic or workable proposition that there should be NATO forces in what is now the western part of Germany and Soviet forces in the eastern part, once there is a united Germany. No Government could operate under such conditions.
I deplore the comparison that is made between the present Germany and the past Germany of the 1930s. Much as I admire the chief rabbi, I cannot support his statement that Jewish people from this country should be present at all the negotiations. The Jewish people here do not form a country; Israel has no status in this connection. Germany believes—as does Japan and many other countries—that in the modern world it is not military power which is of the utmost importance. Japan has become very successful through the exercise of economic power. We wish that we had greater economic power. West Germany realises that, given time for the recapitalisation of East Germany, a united country of 80 million people will be the most powerful country, economically, in the Community.
I was glad to hear the Foreign Secretary's reference to France. We want a balance in the Community. The obvious balance is this country and France. That was recognised long ago by General de Gaulle and President Pompidou. It is still recognised today. However, we must take a positive line and work for it. If we persist in making provisos about this and that in the Community, the French will not accept it. There is the closest relationship between Paris and Bonn. Everything is done by consultation between Paris and Bonn. They work out their policy together, including their defence policy.
As for Poland and Czechoslovakia, we agreed long ago—with Chancellor Brandt of Germany taking a large part in the negotiations—that the frontiers would never be the pre-war frontiers; they would be the post-war frontiers. That is now accepted by Poland and Czechoslovakia. The Foreign Secretary was right to emphasise that the ethnic German groups in those countries would like to be within the boundaries of a united Germany. The welcome that Chancellor Kohl received from the Germans in Poland and Czechoslovakia demonstrates that fact.
Similar problems have been solved in many parts of Europe. The Foreign Secretary mentioned some. Italy is another case. It has had similar problems, but they have been resolved through peaceful negotiation. We could do the same. As the standard of living improves in those countries, national and ethnic differences will be greatly reduced. I see no real problem over that. With agreement over the Polish-Czechoslovakian boundaries, another obstacle is removed.
We must hasten the completion of the Community arrangements as fast as possible. That is what Germany wants. Those who say that we must slow up and wait for the eastern European countries to get ready to join us are wrong. It took Spain and Portugal 10 years, after General Franco and President Salazar went, before they were in a position to negotiate with the Community. Their economic position was infinitely stronger than that of the eastern European countries today. Whatever one thought of General Franco—and I never thought very much of him—during his period in office, the middle class grew and became extremely well trained. The banking system was well organised; so was the industrial system. That enabled Spain, after 10 years of democratic government, to join the Community. It will take the eastern European countries at least 10 years to reach the point at which they can become members.
Our job is fully to develop the Community as quickly as possible; the eastern European countries recognise that that is in their interest. Then we should be able to give them more help. They will be granted associate member status and then, if they want it, full membership. That is the biggest safeguard of all for those who are worried about the place that a new, united Germany would have inside Europe and inside the Community. That is where we must put our trust. We have a major part to play in that process.
It is a great pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). It is a somewhat sentimental occasion for me. We first became politically involved with each other more than half a century ago—then, as now, holding very different political views—because we were fighting a Conservative Prime Minister who believed in appeasing Nazi Germany. Today, more than half a century later, we are united in fighting a Conservative Prime Minister who is obstructing the creation of a unified, democratic Germany. I also congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on a more recent anniversary, which he celebrated yesterday—the 40th anniversary of his entry into Parliament—and on the magnanimity that he showed in allowing the Prime Minister to attend the celebrations.
I was very interested, if I may say so without offence, in much that the Foreign Secretary had to say. Some of it will bear careful reading. I was particularly interested when he advocated minimum deterrence and a follow-up to the current negotiations for a conventional forces in Europe agreement. I only hope that he took more trouble to clear those passages with the Prime Minister than he did with his recent speech on turning tanks into tractors, of which I thoroughly approve.
I very much agree with the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup who feels alarm and stupefaction at the Foreign Secretary's idea that NATO, having lost its enemy in Europe, should look for enemies in other parts of the world and try to expand its geographical influence. I do not think that the Foreign Secretary will find many takers for that idea in the Community—least of all, incidentally, in a united Germany.
I intend to concentrate on two issues—first, the implications of what is going on in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union for the present level of defence spending in Britain and NATO, and secondly, the implications for our security and that of the West of those same events. We all agree that, whether or not we foresaw the nature of what was going to happen, we were taken by surprise by the extraordinary acceleration of the speed at which it happened. The Foreign Secretary has had to admit that the remarks that he made a few weeks ago are totally irrelevant as he speaks to us today. No one was prepared and the nature of the change was far more fundamental than we recognised.
The end of the cold war and the impact of glasnost on the western part of the Communist world has released pressures that had been bottled up for 40 years—in the case of the Soviet Union for 70 years. The explosive force of those pressures has produced change at a rate that it is very difficult to follow and which, as the Foreign Secretary admitted, could lead to many dangers as well as to many opportunities. We have to ask ourselves whether any of the possible dangers—they are not all certain dangers, by any means, yet—are grounds for maintaining the present level of defence spending, or the present structure of western defence in NATO. I would suggest not.
The worst that could happen in the Soviet Union would be that the midsummer Congress of the Communist party produces the rejection of central control by the Communist parties in most of the Soviet Republics and perhaps produces a split into three of the Communist party of Russia itself—one under Gorbachev, a Left-wing or radical party under Yeltsin and another under Ligachev or Gidaspov which is more conservative. That is all perfectly possible.
One possible explanation of Gorbachev's haste to develop new powers as President of the Soviet Union is that he wants to detach himself from the Communist party altogether and to detach the state from the Communist party to run a more normal system which would have much more in common with the West. that is bound to have implications for the unity of the Soviet Union. It seems almost certain now that the three Baltic republics whose incorporation has been recognised by the Soviet Government to have been illegal will be independent by the end of this year. Georgia and the Central Asian Republic may wish to follow shortly afterwards.
There is much speculation as to whether Gorbachev or his successor, if there is one, would seek to stop that process by the use of force. I remember Arbatov, who was one of his advisers, telling a body in Harvard last year that he would react to demands for secession in the same way as Abraham Lincoln did in the United States. But Mr. Arbatov forgot that the American civil war cost the United States more deaths than all the wars that followed, including Vietnam, at a time when the United States had only one seventh of the population it has today. The American civil war took place on the other side of the world, where there were no neighbouring countries capable of intervening.
It would be very different if there were a civil war particularly in central Asia. The counter-productive effect of military intervention in stimulating nationalism in Georgia and Azerbaijan is already a great warning. I doubt very much whether any Soviet regime under Gorbachev or any successor would follow that path. If it did, the result would be to destroy the Soviet Union as a force in world politics for at least a generation. It is certainly most unlikely, under any hypothesis that I can imagine, to produce a military threat to western Europe or to Britain. It would remove the very possibility of a military threat from that source.
Nevertheless, there are real dangers in eastern Europe. The liberation of the peoples of eastern Europe threatens the new balkanisation of eastern Europe. Yet we all know—this is one reason why the first world war broke out—that it is impossible to draw boundaries for nation states in eastern Europe without including powerful minorities in each state which, if persecuted, will rebel against it. We see signs of that already in Yugoslavia with the Albanians, the Serbs and the Croats, and there were many signs recently in Romania with the ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania. I very much hope that that process will not develop, but I fear that the economic catastrophe facing some of the new regimes could produce some terrifying political forces and developments.
Even if the worst came to the worst, however, those developments could not sensibly be met by British defence spending or NATO intervention. The Foreign Secretary's idea that we should try to develop instruments inside the Helsinki arrangements to enable that body to be used for conflict resolution in eastern Europe is excellent. There could be quite a useful role for the Helsinki instrument in mediating between Greece and Turkey, as eastern Europe is not alone in having such national conflicts.
Those developments are not likely to present a threat to the West such as the Warsaw pact from the days of Stalin to the days of Brezhnev undoubtedly presented in capability, although there is still an argument about how far it presented that threat in intention. I cannot understand the Government's reluctance to recognise that the need for drastic cuts in British defence spending is on us and there is no room for manoeuvre. I am sure that the Foreign Secretary regularly talks to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who desperately needs to save money somewhere to use it for productive purposes in restoring our ruined and eroding social and economic infrastructure, not to mention helping the countries of eastern Europe. Economic aid to eastern Europe would do far more for our security than building up NATO.
With regard to German unification, on which the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup spent some time, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that German unification is inevitable in the very near future and that there is nothing that anybody outside can or should do to prevent it. In less than a month from now, there will be a new Parliament and a new Government in East Germany, and its first decision may well be to reconstitute the three federal Lander in East Germany, which may simultaneously declare themselves part of the Federal Republic, as they are empowered to do under a constitution that we as the victorious allies endorsed. If that does not happen, the people of East Germany may continue to vote with their feet, producing unification by migration rather than by political decision, so we should not worry about that as a threat.
There will be some enormously difficult problems for the Germans, and later for other countries, but I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup that the threat of a united Germany—if it is a threat—will be economic, not military, and that the daftest thing that we could do would be to restrict Germany's armed forces and thus allow it to have the same glorious freedom from defence burdens in competing with us from which Japan has derived so much benefit in the past 40 years.
Like many right hon. and hon. Members, I have spent many months in Germany since the last war. I cannot speak for East Germany, but West Germany today is by far the least nationalistic of all the larger European powers. It is far less nationalistic than Britain under the present Prime Minister; it is far less nationalistic than France under President Mitterrand, never mind President. de Gaulle; and far less nationalistic in many respects even than Italy. The one thing that could revive nationalism in Germany would be an attempt by the former occupying powers to continue acting as occupying powers. That is the danger that the Prime Minister's recent behaviour has aroused.
I know that the Foreign Secretary agrees with me, because he has tried his best to soften the asperities of some of the nonsense that she has talked, but that has not stopped some of the British tabloid press following her lead. That is followed by the German tabloid press, and before we know where we are we have conjured up the very dangers that we were trying to prevent.
Does the right hon. Gentleman recoil, like others, from the rather offensive suggestion that the German people were guilty of crimes against humanity in the second world war? All that, vis-a-vis the Nazis and the wrongdoers, was dealt with through the Nuremberg trials process. The German people were not guilty, and were never adjudged to be so; moreover, 87 per cent. of the current German population were born after the war or were youngsters at the time.
Conservative voters were not responsible for what the Government are doing. But it is idle and dangerous to ignore the fact that Germans performed the most awful atrocities during the last world war, and that is not forgotten.
The obscenity of Nazism is a disease which could be caught in any country, if the conditions are right. If I may say so as a declining person—[HON. MEMBERS: "Never!"] Thank you very much—I was inviting that response. The appeal of Communism in Europe just before and after the war was that capitalism in Europe had produced Hitler, Mussolini and the second world war. That was a powerful factor in the appeal of Communism in western Europe, France and Italy and in eastern Europe but, thank God, everything has changed since then. We must not forget that the evils that we fought in Germany in the last world war were present in many countries but, thank God, the conditions that allowed them to take over did not exist.
With respect, I must get on.
It will be vital to maintain stability and security in the new Europe. The dangers are very real. None of the cold war structures is appropriate. NATO's original military role disappeared with its enemies. No one now believes that there is a threat from the Warsaw pact—as the Secretary of State said, it no longer exists—nor is there a threat from the Soviet Union. The bloc mentality, which is an essential part of NATO, has no role in our approach to the new world.
We need a new security system. What sort of security system should it be? It cannot be based on NATO in its present form. The American role in NATO will soon be unacceptable to the Americans as well as to the Russians, and there are already signs of that in Congress. Even the American Secretary of State, Mr. Baker—the Foreign Secretary's colleague—said the other day that perhaps a united Germany should have some associated membership of NATO. That is what he said, but as the Foreign Secretary knows, when he got back he was compelled by the chinovniks and apparatchiks to withdraw it. From time to time, the Foreign Secretary has been compelled by higher forces to withdraw things. Nevertheless, Secretary Baker meant what he said when he uttered those words, just as the Foreign Secretary meant what he said when he said that we should be turning tanks into tractors. I give him credit for sincerity in his first thoughts.
In its present form, NATO is not appropriate. It is difficult to shake off the bloc mentality. As the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup said, people as disparate as Mr. Bush and Secretary—General Worner have been saying recently that it must adopt a political role if it does not have a military role. The question is what political role.
The key point that the right hon. Gentleman is skirting around in his fascinating analysis is the presence of United States troops in Europe. The President of the United States, Mr. Baker and German politicians from the three main parties, and ourselves, for what that is worth, are united in saying that it is important for European security that there should be significant United States forces in Europe. They are an essential component of the defence side of NATO, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and I believe should be preserved. Does the right hon. Gentleman believe in that?
I believe that United States troops need to be here under the NATO umbrella. The right hon. Gentleman must admit that many Germans, in opposition and in government, do not want American forces in Germany. No one I know in Germany wants American nuclear weapons in Germany to drop on East Germans, on Lech Walesa or on Vaclav Havel. Yet the Government are still yammering away about replacing Lance by a weapon with a range which would enable it to hit not only Germans but Germany's eastern neighbours. Can idiocy be carried any further than that?
With respect to the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup, the European Community cannot provide a framework. The plain fact is that it is dominated by West Germany. The best proof of that is the fact that, when the Bundesbank raised interest rates last October, although Britain is not a member of the exchange rate mechanism the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to raise interest rates 40 minutes later in the middle of the Tory party conference, having spent£2,000 million of our reserves trying to avoid that decision. Germany will be the decisive factor in the European Community so long as the Community is restricted to its present membership.
I accept the points that the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup made about the difficulties of bringing all the east European democracies into the Community as soon as they ask, but there is no reason why Austria should not join today. Ireland, as a neutral country, has joined and if, as is more than likely, the next Swedish Government decides to join—Swedish industry and finance have already voted with their funds to join the Community—another neutral country can do so.
Neutrality is a buzz word which has lost all its meaning. A country can be neutral only if there are two alliances or blocs to be neutral between. German neutrality is as irrelevant as Swiss, Swedish or Austrian neutrality in the new world into which we are moving. The Community must expand north and east of its present frontiers as fast as possible to take in the Scandinavian countries as soon as they want to join—none of the problems to which the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup referred apply to them—and countries such as Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia as soon as possible. The Community should make it plain that that is its intention. That would offer a framework in which a united Germany could occupy a more comfortable position than in the limited framework of the west European community.
I do not believe that the European Community will ever form a suitable security structure to contain Germany. Various attempts are being made to do that—I tried to do so a little through the Western European Union when I was Secretary of State for Defence 20 years ago—but the plain fact is that the disagreements on strategic matters between the major European powers—particularly between Germany, Britain and France—exclude that.
The Foreign Secretary misled the House about the four-power arrangement—it is two plus four, not four plus two. The only role of the four-power meeting will be to liquidate its residual responsibilities in Berlin and to reaffirm frontiers which have already been embodied in treaties. It is an unsuitable body to deal with major problems, because it excludes all Germany's eastern neighbours, particularly Poland and Czechoslovakia, which for historical and other reasons are deeply concerned about Germany's place in the new Europe.
The only conceivable structure that could be developed for the new European security system, as Mr. Genscher said a few days ago in Dublin and with which the Foreign Secretary appeared to agree when he signed the declaration, is the Helsinki conference on security and co-operation in Europe framework. We are far from ready for it yet, but Mr. Genscher was right in saying that it was the most important framework, and the Foreign Secretary was right to join his colleagues in saying that it was fundamental. I was glad that the Dublin meeting agreed that there should be a working committee in midsummer to prepare for the summit of the CSCE, and it has already been suggested that it should accept responsibility for national conflict resolution.
As to the problems facing us now, I agree that they are not insoluble, but many of them will have solutions in which we can play little part. At the moment, it is impossible to devise a solution for many of them because the position is changing so fast. Many countries are marching together to confront the challenges. It is extremely depressing that, instead of Britain being in the lead in that march our Prime Minister seems to be locked in a time warp. I find it difficult to understand how she can go around talking of how we have won victory in the cold war and saying, "It is all due to me, the British Prime Minister," and the next moment saying, "Absolutely nothing in the world has changed—we must go on exactly as we have done for the last 40 years." The Minister of State, of course, is far too intelligent not to recognise the contradictions in that extraordinary posture, but I do not ask him to agree with me.
A couple of days ago, the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) referred to the Prime Minister's paranoid isolationism. There seems to be an odd element of mental disturbance. Like all his predecessors, the Foreign Secretary, who is very able and experienced, has to spend most of his time battling with No. 10 instead of dealing with the problems. The only difference between the present incumbent and his predecessors is that the right hon. Gentleman seems to be on librium. The Secretary of State for Defence knows that the services are crying out for him to get down to a drastic review of what is going on. Meanwhile, people are voting with their feet against the present set-up, and natural wastage is being overtaken by the fall in re-engagements.
While the rest of Europe is marching to confront the new challenges, the Prime Minister is shuffling along in the gutter in the opposite direction, like an old bag lady, muttering imprecations at anyone who catches her eye. It is not a noble role. She has managed to produce an extraordinary degree of unanimity against her in the press. I follow the newspapers; occasionally I write for them myself. Last Sunday, I was fascinated to find that the editorials in The Observer, The Sunday Times and the Sunday Telegraph were all bashing the Prime Minister. She is the only person in the world who could get Peregrine Worsthorne, Andrew Neil and Donald Trelford in the same bed at the same time. All I can say is, "Eat your heart out, Pamella Bordes."
The right hon Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup will recall that the Prime Minister deposed him as a result of what the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) called a peasants' revolt. As the poll tax has produced a peasants' revolt, might not the time have come for another peasants' revolt by Conservative Members? There are signs that the revolting peasants are revolting over the poll tax, but that affects only their seats in Parliament. What the Prime Minister is doing to Britain's foreign and defence policy affects Britain's role and future in the world. So I say to the peasants on the Government Benches, "Go to it."
The first four fifths of the speech of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) were fabulously interesting and drew on his enormous experience. The last fifth has to be described as vintage Healey; it made enjoyable listening but added not one jot to the sum of human wisdom or to the progress of the debate.
The House will have enjoyed the buoyant optimism of my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) about what is happening in eastern Europe. I think we all share that optimism. There is a reason for the sense of elation which my right hon. Friend must feel, with his distinguished war record. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East and many others who fought in that terrible war must understandably feel tremendous elation that we are at last seeing the achievement of what they thought they were fighting for—the emergence of a free Europe of republics and kingdoms working together in democratic structures. At last that is in sight, having come at a speed which few people dreamed of.
The main point of my intervention is that there are also considerable dangers ahead. In fact, the 1990s in many ways will be more dangerous for our security than the 1980s. I do not mean that one does not welcome the chaos and fluidity that followed the end of the cold war, but there are enormous threats, none the easier for not being identified as threats. We are not clear where they all come from. They are there. If we dismiss them and say that keeping up our guard is nostalgic, we could all pay a terrible price.
I do not deny for a moment, nor did my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, that we need to adapt our collective defence structures and, incidentally, our territorial defence structures, in the 1990s. It would be ridiculous if we were like the French general staff in the 1930s, assuming that the collective defence structures of a previous era, aimed against the enemies of a previous era, are suitable for the 1990s; clearly they are not. We should put fully aside the Maginot mentality which might lead people to assume that we need do nothing except reinforce the defence structures of the past.
There are serious new dangers to which we should be fully alert before we begin to talk about spending the peace dividend or gaily dismantling the defence budget or the fundamental political support which defence spending needs and which has been won by serious statesmen over many years. It is easy to throw all that away, but it would be dangerous to do so.
What are the dangers that one darkly talks about? Let me be the first to admit that one cannot see every detail. Nationalism and tribalism lurk in countries whose names we have forgotten or which have not appeared on maps for the last 70 years; suddenly their aspirations are appearing again. There are all those dangers, which can be very bloody.
There are bigger dangers. First, there is Russia. I mean Russia and not the Soviet Union. It is still an enormous European country stretching back into Asia, with a population of hundreds of millions but possibly shorn of many of the autonomous republics, the trans-Caucasian and Baltic republics which it has built into an empire. Such a country may emerge as a great liberal democracy but the historical record is not good on that score. It has never known democracy.
A great deal of bitterness is building up. The position is getting worse and worse, even with the economic reforms. The Russians and the Moscow economic planners have repeatedly agreed on what they ought to do and repeatedly shied away from doing it. As a result, there is endless piecemeal reform which is making things worse rather than better for perestroika. There are enormous difficulties in that great uncertain republic which has its bitternesses and its own nationalisms. We would be crazy not to understand the great dangers that lie there and not to design our own defence structures and our preparedness for any evils and threats that might come from there.
Coming nearer home—and it is very near home, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup reminded us—there is the question of Germany and the need to see that the amazing events in East Germany are handled in a stabilising and orderly way and do not destabilise not merely the eastern European, but the western European system as well, which brings us up to our own doorstep. My right hon. Friend is right to say that these matters can all be handled quickly and efficiently, but it will also be extremely difficult. Many, including myself in recent months, have under-estimated the extreme dangers and potential instabilities if the matter is not handled quickly.
As Chancellor Kohl, to his credit, spotted early on, there is and remains a threat that the whole East German economy could dive into a vortex of chaos, with desertions and migrations on a scale even bigger than the present 70,000 or 80,000 a month. One can imagine that 1 million or more might try to move across in a day if panic set in and there would be a black hole which could be full of dangers. People say that the East Germans can survive and that they need not worry if there are no dentists in Leipzig. Someone told me that one of the worries was that no parking fines were being collected in East Berlin—although I said that that was not necessarily a reason for leaving the country.
There are more serious worries. One can imagine a total collapse of East German society which, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup reminded us, has no leaders of experience among the present leadership. Even those who are likely to be elected on 18 March have no experience of running an open, free-market economy and a free society. The question of Germany must be handled swiftly, and I believe that it will be.
It is fascinating to see that the governor of the Bundesbank who, only three weeks ago, was saying that the idea of monetary union was fantastic, has suddenly discovered—perhaps it is unfair to say "suddenly"—that it is a perfectly manageable affair, provided that it is done rapidly. He and other Germans whom I see do not want a Government to be elected in East Berlin on 18 March who then call a national assembly and enter into protracted negotiations with West Germany about the kind of federation that should emerge a few years hence.
The bankers want to see something very different and far quicker. They want the three lander, under article 23, simply to submerge themselves in the Bundesrepublik, so that the entire East German state becomes a deutschmark area, with the Bundesrepublik having total control and responsibility for the circulation of currency, the legal system, the tax system, the social system and, in fact, the entire national structure of East Germany. The German Democratic Republic then, in effect, vanishes and ceases to exist separately.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that there are parallels between what happened in Germany in 1945–48 and what may happen in the very near future in eastern Germany? In that period, the point at which Germans discovered that they had a real currency which could buy real goods and had a real value was the point at which their economic miracle began. When that is perceived in East Germany and when the currency is unified, can buy real goods and has a real value, the East Germans, too, will enjoy their parallel economic miracle.
I very much hope so. One is always a little wary of historical parallels. I think that it was Balfour who said that history did not repeat itself, but historians repeated each other. My hon. Friend may be right to say that an economic miracle will come in East Germany. It may be achieved if there is a rapid merging of the three Lander into the Bundesrepublik under article 23 of the constitution. That must be recognised as the best outcome.
In this nation, we must be as helpful as we can. I do not agree with the right hon. Member for Leeds, East that there is nothing that we can do. We can be extremely supportive. In the past, our reputation in the Federal Republic has been high, as the right hon. Gentleman is the first to know because he played a part in that. As the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) said, it was British minds and energy which set up that fabulous success of the Federal Republic. As our views are still listened to, we have a role to play in seeing that the merging of East Germany and the Federal Republic into the new Bundesrepublik—or Deutscherepublik, or whatever it will be called—is handled in an orderly way. We should not be missing on the day when our voice and support are needed.
The second danger in relation to German unification which we have to address is the question of security and defence. It was interesting that, when the Polish Prime Minister, Mr. Mazowiecki, came to see the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs last week—or perhaps the week before—his main message to us as Members of Parliament was that Poland would never wish to see what he called a "neutral" Germany. We can argue about what the word "neutral" now means. However, Mr. Mazowiecki was very concerned about the removal of the allied military presence from western Germany or the emergence of a neutral large German state, which one of his aides likened to a ship in a harbour in a storm which had lost its anchor and was banging about knocking everything else in sight.
The Poles have a point there. We should recognise the Polish worries, which we were—eventually—right to do in the past. They are usually valid worries. We should do all that we can to see that a more dangerous kind of independent neutrality does not unleash itself in Germany. Perhaps it will not. Perhaps the nation is so anaesthetised against its horrific past that all those fears are unworthy. However, the fear is there and that is why I understand the concern at Ottawa of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and of the former occupying powers about the two German states—which will shortly be one, perhaps as soon as September, some people say. I understand the desire to create a framework or procedure within which the future security position can be discussed.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup said, the idea of a united Germany with two thirds in one alliance and a little bit in the other seems absurd. When we said to the Polish Prime Minister that it seemed odd that one might drive through Germany and come across a notice that said, "You are now leaving the protection of NATO and moving into a NATO-free zone," he said that it might seem odd, but we should be innovative and face the fact that there could be a prolonged transition period in which we saw a Soviet military presence—perhaps attenuated—in what is now East Germany and the military presence of the allied powers in the other parts of Germany. He said that the Poles would feel much happier if we could live with that innovation.
We must be ready to accept wholly novel solutions to a wholly novel situation. If one considers it further, one realises that unless one is resigned to seeing a neutral Germany or a Germany from which Americans and perhaps all foreign troops have been removed, one is left with very odd solutions for the time being. Perhaps we shall have to live with them, peculiar and unthinkable as they seem at first.
In the 1990s, the dangers could be different from—but as great as, more varied and, therefore, more frightening than—those we faced in the final stages of the cold war in the 1980s. I want to deal with the approach of the United Kingdom to these matters and its interest in them. In recent months—perhaps in recent years—a certain surprise has crept into the press that the British do not seem to be as fond of the idea of a united states of western Europe or as committed to one particular view of a greater Europe as they should be, and as some people hope that they are.
The surprise is not justified because, as many of us have remarked, it has always been a tradition on this island to be concerned to prevent any idea prevailing of a greater Europe dominated by any one country. We never liked the idea in the past of a greater Germany dominating. We never liked the Bonapartism of the French and we have kept a wary eye on any Soviet Russian imperial ambitions in the past. I do not see any great change in the pattern of the habits and instincts of this island at a basic level.
We are right to want to see a Europe that is not dominated by the grander ideas of the French, which President Mitterrand occasionally puts forward. We certainly do not want European domination by Germany—not that I think that there is any political instinct to achieve that domination in Germany today—and we certainly do not want domination by the looming power of a Russia which might be stripped of its colonies but which would still be very big.
The British approach to this enormously fluid scene is one in which we have clearly preserved the traditional national instinct. Of course we seek to exercise our sovereignty in common—I believe that that is the right way of putting it—with others in a whole variety of areas in which it makes economic and in many cases political sense to do so. However, we must remember that the treaty of Rome was rooted in nation states, not in the idea that there should be a total submerging of the practical and manageable structures—the nations—into a larger and more anomalous body.
Leaving aside any possibility of total submergence, is not the traditional concept that the right hon. Gentleman has outlined—that Britain believes in a balance of power on the continent and intervenes from time to time when one power, be it a Napoleon or a Hitler, becomes too grand—now wholly irrelevant in the light of our current power and possibilities? Is not that part of the reason why our partners on the continent are so suspicious of whether we are in or out of the new developments in Europe?
The hon. Gentleman does not understand how the statesmanship of the balance of power was carried through and implemented in the past. Far from involving detachment and isolation—although occasionally we were guilty of that with catastrophic results that we can all remember or read about in the history books—it involved the most intimate detail and continuous involvement in the structures and processes of European political exchange and dialogue. I strongly believe that that must continue today. I share the views of those who express concern that we might become too detached and isolated, with the same kind of results as in the past. The hon. Gentleman's analogy and comparison are not valid.
I should like to address the question that has been raised by some people, which is whether we should now speed up the integration of the western European Economic Community—the EC, which used to be the EEC—in response to and as a counterpoint to what is happening in eastern Europe. I certainly do not believe in slowing down and in going to the other extreme, about which my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup was concerned.
However, I wonder about some of the more intense speeches made by Monsieur Delors and others about speeding up, intensifying, deepening, furthering and accelerating and all the rest of it. If one reads some of those speeches, which are all about the need for the political will to do this and the political will to do that, one realises that they sound a bit like a 1990s version of Nietzsche. That chills me and is not something that we should welcome.
I make no bones about being a bit of an evolutionist in relation to the European Community and European integration. The European Community has been a fabulous creation. I see it much more as a magnet than as a block. I do not hold with those who say that it should be exclusive. Austria and other countries have a perfectly reasonable case to make about joining. Indeed, the European Community is proving a magnet to and possibly a cause of much that is happening in eastern Europe.
However, let us not get delusions of grandeur and believe that, for all its success, the European Community is the only answer or that it is a club that we keep others out of and that we should strengthen and deepen in every conceivable way and in which we should go faster than we are already going towards achieving the single European market. Perhaps, in a few years' time, our somewhat grand hauteur about the poverty of eastern Europe will have to be replaced by a recognition that they are highly dynamic countries that will want to work together among themselves. Indeed, Mr. Havel and others, including Mr. Mazowiecki, have already indicated strongly, as have their Ministers, that, although they have no time for the ridiculous COMECON, they would like to see some regional grouping in eastern Europe, with money flowing between the trading nations, which could look the European Community in the face and possibly do business with it, rather than one country after another being picked off.
Perhaps something like the old European Payments Union, which was a clever idea that worked extremely well, might do nicely in helping those countries to develop a modern capitalist trading system in eastern Europe. It might help them to maintain their European vigour and dignity without getting too lost in endless negotiations with the EC which, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup has reminded us, might take years and years and years.
Those are the ways in which I hope that our foreign policy might develop. Above all, I ask my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to do what he is trying to do and to participate in all these things fully and continuously. Britain should not be the sort of friend who comes along afterwards and says, "Good idea." We should be the friend and support who strengthens and encourages our allies as they take these critical decisions. By our allies I mean, for instance, the leaders in Bonn who are having to handle the most difficult crisis that has faced the Federal Republic since its inception, and who need all the support, encouragement and new ideas that we could conceivably offer them at this stage.
My hope is that we remain closely involved. If we do not, not only will we suffer from detachment and isolation as our financial industries and banks are bought up and as the whole centre of action moves to the continent—that is already happening, because London is now closing down as a financial centre—but Europe itself might lose one of its vital ingredients, which has been, through history, the wisdom, participation and common sense of this House and this nation. We, too, have been Europeans, and Europe needs us as much as we need it.
The right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) finished on an uncharacteristically nationalist note. However, I very much agree that the pace of change is so fast and, many think, so unpredictable that it is difficult to devise settled policies and views.
I shall concentrate on four issues to the exclusion of others, including force reductions and the position of the United States, important though they are. Three of the issues have inevitably been canvassed and dealt with by hon. Members already, but my first point has not. To a large extent, it has been neglected throughout the argument, although it was touched on by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath).
A couple of weeks ago today I had the opportunity of asking the Prime Minister a question. I asked her whether she agreed that the same logic that had led the West—not just Europe or, within it, the United Kingdom—to assist countries such as Poland and Hungary and would in turn be directed to other satellite countries should lead us to facing up to the huge problem of assisting the Soviet Union itself. Her reply was cautious. I might even say that she was timid, although that is not an adjective that I would normally apply to the Prime Minister.
This is one area in which we should not be timid. I should like to commend to the House, and especially to the Government and to Ministers, a visionary article that was published in the Financial Times on 6 December 1989 by Anatole Kaletsky. I refer to a couple of passages that put their finger on something that has still not been recognised, although the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup touched on it en passant. The article stated:
as the world celebrates the outward signs of liberation in eastern Europe, it is in danger of forgetting the deeper causes and consequences of the events in Budapest, Berlin and Prague…
It would be the ultimate historic irony if an outdated preoccupation with German unity and instability in central Europe should now distract attention from the infinitely more important issue of Gorbachev's attempts to reconstruct the Soviet Union and bring it closer to the liberal West. If Gorbachev and perestroika fail, the turmoil in the Soviet Union will be a far greater threat to world prosperity and peace than any conceivable development in Germany or central Europe.
He went on to say, as several hon. Members have said, that if Gorbachev could feed, clothe and heat Russia through the winter, the people might tolerate him for another year. If he managed to produce consumer goods such as cars, video recorders, or even soap and blue jeans, he might last longer. But can he do it in the present circumstances?
The author went on to quote an estimate—these things are very much estimates; when one talks in billions one wonders how it is all worked out—by an Hungarian-American financier called Soros, who
suggested that$25 billion a year of Western aid would be required to stabilise the Soviet economy and avert hyper-inflation in the two years ahead.
I shall quote two further passages from that article:
The first reaction of many Western readers will be to throw up their hands in horror
at such a proposal.
The Soros proposal is equivalent to the entire US foreign aid budget and more than double the annual disbursement of the World Bank…But‖The cost of helping Russia must be set against the cost of defending the world against her;$25 billion is a very modest figure when compared with the US defence budget of $300 billion, to say nothing of the sums squandered on armaments by other countries.
We should all give serious consideration, not just to tinkering around saying, "We shall have the odd joint venture here and take a few chaps from there for managerial courses."
In the West, we must consider that, if there is to be a dramatic drop in defence spending, it will be because of what Mr. Gorbachev has undertaken. He could be overthrown and there could be recidivism. There could be someone unpredictable with his hand on the Soviet Union's nuclear trigger. We can help prevent that and we should give it the most serious consideration.
My second point will be much briefer because several hon. Members have already talked about German reunification. Like other right hon. and hon. Members, I believe that reunification will take place, de facto, though not de jure, by the end of the year. We must remember that other changes will occur when the elections take place on 18 March. The polls forecast that there will be a Social Democratic, eastern European, East German-type victory.
Whether the victor will rush tumultuously into Helmut Kohl's arms directly after the election is a question for consideration. There may be some delay, but in practice rather than in law the DDR will join the Federal Republic and therefore, will join the European Community. One could argue that, because of her preferential trading arrangements with the Federal Republic, the DDR is already an unofficial associate member of the EC.
There are many fears about reunification. Some hon. Members have talked about a fourth reich. The right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) talked about instability in the case of a break-up of the DDR. He spoke of it as something to be feared. That was not the sort of instability of which the Prime Minister spoke when she addressed the Jewish Board of Deputies. She spoke about a different instability caused by a powerful German state.
With all respect, for the Prime Minister to talk about instability is a bit rich, because the United Kingdom has been one of the main factors of instability in the European Community in the last decade. The talk of fourth reichs and the like is an insult to the impecable democratic record of the Federal Republic. It has constructively and courageously advocated ostpolitik. Its internal society is open and tolerant.
As a Liberal, I acknowledge the Foreign Secretary's tribute to the work done by the German Liberal Hans-Dietrich Genscher. One could pick many other German politicians from both sides of the political spectrum. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) talked about Mr. Erhard, but Adenauer and Schmidt and others have all played a constructive role in European politics which was not a nationalist role. It is not to be forgotten that they were far-seeing.
One cannot have it both ways. If it is argued that the reunification of Germany produces an enormously worrying concentration of economic and political power, the answer—I disagree with the right hon. Member for Guildford—is to accelerate the process of economic and monetary union, thus firmly anchoring Germany in the Community and building up supranationalism to overcome the institutionalised nationalism which in the past we have been used to in Europe and which, perhaps, we are getting over. The Government's hesitancy in respect of monetary union is deeply flawed.
As borders become less significant after 1992, the next generation, and even more so the generation after that, will wonder what all the fuss was about. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East spoke about that, although he did not put it in exactly that way. We must remember that an adult male who was 20 at the end of the war is now on a pension. The world has moved on and we must recognise it.
It is difficult to sort out defence matters, and I shall not try to do so. It is all rather confused. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East was dead right: "neutral" is a word which now has quite a different meaning. It is hard to imagine Germany as neutral in any sense. It must play its part in the European Community and express opinions. It has to present attitudes. As a major state in an integrated European Community, it cannot have its decision-making power taken away.
One may say that the Warsaw pact as a military alliance no longer exists. Hon. Members may have noticed that the Hungarians have said that they would like to join NATO. I do not know why they want to join or what the purpose would be. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East was right that we must get away from the old business of blocs. That has changed. Where he was wrong, or at least where he went ahead a little fast, was in talking of the expansion of the Community.
I wonder whether the European Community does not have an optimum size. Can it go on like Topsy getting bigger and bigger? It will be difficult to administer and regulate. If the Community develops any effective coherent foreign policy, it will have to have a defence policy, too. One cannot separate the two. It is absurd nonsense to say that we shall have a foreign policy but no defence policy. The two things come together.
Several hon. Members made points about minorities, which are a big problem. Borders may exist but, for instance, the Oder-Neisse line is not sacrosanct. Why should it be—any more than the Saar was a sacrosanct part of France when it was transferred in 1956 by plebiscite? On the Polish side of the line, there are no Germans left. There are no Germans any more in what was Konigsburg and is now Kaliningrad. However, there are minorities spattered all over Hungary, Romania and other countries. They require some safeguards.
I doubt whether simply changing borders would be sufficient, because such people live in inconvenient places and groups. Some sort of assurance is needed if there is to be a final treaty. It has been suggested that that could be done through the Council of Europe and an extension of the powers of the European Court from only human rights issues to minority rights issues of education, culture and protection. I do not know whether that would be the solution, but it is probably the way to do it.
The know-how funds are proceeding well. There are criticisms that there is bureaucracy and there are delays, but the Minister will agree that the thing has to shake down. Money is coming through from the United States and the Community as a whole in pure investment terms too.
People have talked about helping the democracies. Hon. Members should note that every one of the countries turning to democracy and away from authoritarianism has chosen proportional voting systems rather than our system. That is a fact. They want consensus government. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) on the Labour Front Bench was wearing an allegedly consensual robe of emollience. It did not sound very emollient to me. Eastern European countries want a bit of peace and co-operation, and that is something which we should develop.
I am sorry that I have spoken longer than I intended, but it is difficult for us to stop one another speaking about such important things. I agree that we are being given an historic opportunity—probably the best Europe has ever had—for prosperous development in freedom. We should not be over-cautious, but should be anxious to get in there to help that process.
You force me, Madam Deputy Speaker, to speak faster than usual.
First I should like to praise my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) on their remarkable speeches. However, I am afraid that they omitted to mention the way in which the leaderships of eastern Europe perceive our Prime Minister. They believe that my right hon. Friend is a good Prime Minister, they respect her and they want her to play a leading role in the negotiations that will take place between the West and eastern Europe.
This debate is jolly dangerous to everyone in the House in the sense that no one predicted the events of 1989, but here we are trying to predict those of 1990. When the Select Committee on Trade and Industry, of which I have the honour to be Chairman, went to eastern Europe, we visited three Karl Marx institutes—in Budapest, Bucharest and Sofia—and in each one they were preaching the free-market economy and Thatcherism. Such small rumblings should not have gone unnoticed by those in the West who call themselves experts in this subject.
Without doubt we all give generous and warm acclaim to the self-liberation and birth of new democracies in eastern European countries. Now we must go beyond congratulations and act with alacrity and vision. One eastern European ambassador in London said to me only today that eastern Europe needs deeds now, not words, if it is to survive to achieve democracy.
In the work in which I have been engaged in the Select Committee and in which I participate on behalf of the British-Soviet parliamentary group, it has become apparent that it is easy to generalise and to miss the essential fact that each eastern European country is different. Certain problems, however, are common to all those countries, and the West, particularly the United Kingdom, should help quickly to overcome them.
The easiest problems to solve are, unfortunately, long-term and not immediate ones, such as helping with management training, improving distribution methods to get goods to the shops from the farms and the revision of COCOM. That organisation is irrelevant, but in Paris it is still grinding on with a four-year revision of its work. All the eastern European countries demonstrate their need for convertible currencies and we also need to help to provide some solution for the terrible debt problems faced by countries such as Poland and Hungary. It is awful to observe that the one country without any debt problem is the one that had the bloodiest revolution—Romania.
The West can give help to overcome the short-term problems, but we must act fast. The West Germans have set the pace and I believe that we should give instant credit to countries such as the Soviet Union to enable them to buy food from us. A story has gone round to suggest that the Foreign Office has said that we cannot do that without the permision of the European Community. That is nonsense. I hope that the Minister will kill that story when he replies and make it clear that we will be only too willing to help the Soviet Union to get the food that it urgently needs.
We could also help in an instant by ensuring that visas for east European business men are granted without delay. The only espionage in which such people will indulge now will be industrial and it is up to the host company to deal with that—it is not a job for the Foreign Office or the Home Office to investigate such people's reputations.
We could also encourage industry to give manufacturing licences for the basic commodities needed in the Soviet Union. Electric kettles are needed more than anything else. There must be British companies which could dump electric kettles on the Soviet Union and get plant started up now. It is extremely galling to hear from the Soviet ambassador that the South Koreans have found their way into a redundant defence company in Uzbekistan and are now licensing that company to make video and cassette recorders. The development of such manufacturing would not only help the Soviet Union to get into business quickly by translating its defence industry into consumer products, but help to soak up the surplus money sloshing around all the east European economies.
The prime problem faced by eastern Europe, which must be solved with similar alacrity to that adopted by the West, is bureaucracy. If anything will defeat Mr. Gorbachev the pragmatist, it is the bureaucracy of the Soviet Union, much of which is unwilling to do anything to change or to remove old privileges. That bureacracy is also unable to take on management tasks in the economy; since the advent of Communism in 1917, the Soviet Union has had a command economy in which management was not required.
It took us a long time to appreciate that Mr. Gorbachev is a man who says what he means and means what he says. On the two occasions when I have had the privilege to meet him, it has taken a long time to get used to the fact that he is a man who tells one the truth. Some people outside the House may say that that is one politician's judgment of another and that I may not be the best judge, but I believe that we must listen to him carefully. When he says that he is under threat, we must remember our alliance with him and that he is the man who has done most, on either side of the iron curtain, to damp down the fires of the cold war and to remove the Berlin wall.
I accept, however, that he has been extremely cunning in dumping all the problems of the economies of eastern Europe on to the West. We now have the responsibility to try to straighten them out. Mr. Gorbachev, however, still faces the eternal problem of his army—the 400,000 elite of the Red Army now stranded on a political island in East Germany. I do not know how he will get them out, but the economic problem of defence is the fundamental feature which beat him when he tried to preserve Communism.
There is a lot of work going on in the EC, but Britain should be more actively engaged in helping. My Committee returned from Brussels today and we are aware of three parallel policies in the EC—negotiations with the European Free Trade Association, the 1992 process and the aid programmes to the East. In 1989, the EC gave£200 million and it is now mapping out plans to give£600 million. Without being cynical, that aid presents many opportunities for British business as we attempt to solve the short-term and medium-term problems of eastern Europe.
Undoubtedly, with the implosion of imperialism in the Soviet Union, other types of alliance will form. Finland is already looking across the Baltic to Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia as a possible new trading area—one which would also encompass the northern area of Poland. Without doubt, we must accept that anything is possible but that deeds count more strongly than words.
I am not the least bit scared by German reunification. I remember, as a young boy, the horrors of the war, but there is no need to look back—we must look forward to helping Germany unite. I appreciate the problems associated with a neutral Germany—it must participate in all our European affairs. We must remember that, in 1989, West Germany took in 864,000 refugees. That is a social burden on West Germany and it is not right or proper for us to say that, so long as the British taxpayer does not have to pay for reunification, it does not matter.
We stand on the frontier of a new life of freedom which, for the first time in our lives, will be shared right across Europe. It is unexpected and therefore all the more wonderful. Above all, we in this country have a duty to help all those people in the east of the continent who have won their freedom, often with the blood of their brothers and sisters, after 50 years of terror.
I agree with the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Mr. Warren) about the crucial role that Mr. Gorbachev has played in unleashing these events. It is not all due to him, for there have been a whole series of other events as well, but his achievement has been very great indeed and, as most people believe, we are faced with a great historic opportunity—the greatest opportunity the world has confronted since 1945—and we are concerned to make sure that we make the best use of it, with Britain playing a leading part.
Part of our criticism of our Prime Minister, who has had a few remarks addressed to her by my hon. Friends, is that sometimes she does not seem to appreciate the scale of events. But then, in the next breath, she seems to say that she has been responsible for all the wonderful things that have happened. I have no doubt that, if the second coming happened during her period in office, she would immediately claim that it was all due to the operation to her housing policy of no room at the inn, and continue to go on pressing her claim of being responsible for all today's momentous achievements.
As I say, a few others, in addition to Mr. Gorbachev, have played a part in the affairs of Europe. When the Berlin wall came down, no man in Europe had a better right to rejoice than Willy Brandt, in view of the part he played as major of Berlin and the manner in which he kept the cause of democracy alive in Berlin and in Germany throughout his life. President Havel must take great credit for events in Czechoslovakia in recent times. All those who talk about German rearmament and unity should read carefully reports in the United States about what he has said on that subject. He is trying to instruct us in these matters.
Our Prime Minister should have a little humility. I was horrified to read the speech that she made to the Board of Deputies of British Jews recently. I read every word of it. I am amazed at the deductions that she fails to draw from the position on nuclear armaments and the whole nuclear situation. The right hon. Lady just repeats the old formula about our sticking by our nuclear deterrent. She spoke of a few other countries that would soon have nuclear weapons, and she did not seem terribly concerned about that.
The right hon. Lady does not seem to know, even now, that we are signatories of the non-proliferation treaty and that, if we are to abide by that treaty, we are committed to trying to get rid of nuclear weapons altogether. If we refuse to go ahead with that, not merely shall we be in breach of our solemn undertakings—anyone who reads the document will see that what I am saying is the truth—but we shall be helping to unleash the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries, some of which she mentioned in her speech to the board of deputies.
This is surely a moment when we should return to the question of how we are to get rid of nuclear weapons altogether, particularly as we have the scientific means of doing that, being the means of inspection. There is no greater advocate of nuclear disarmament in the full sense of commitment to the non-proliferation treaty—the Soviet Union is also committed to that treaty—than Mr. Gorbachev. One of the best ways for us to react to the statesmanship that he has shown in these matters would be to respond on that subject. Instead of doing that, the right hon. Lady turns her back on it and does not show any interest in it.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East. (Mr. Healey) gave an account of some of the new structures that will be needed to deal with this great new situation and he spoke of how to make the best use of them. There is one institution that I believe we should reconsider for the kind of framework in which we wish to see the new Europe—indeed, the new world—rebuilt. In addition to the institutions to which my right hon. Friend referred, this is the moment when we should be stressing our allegiance to the United Nations charter. We should restore the United Nations to a more central place in our diplomacy and dealing with the new situation.
If Conservative Members think that such an appeal is idealistic and confined to Labour Members, I ask them to read again the last speech made in the House of Commons by Winston Churchill. He pleaded for the restoration of the authority of the United Nations and said that the moment had come when that could be achieved.
I have previously quoted in the House from that speech by Churchill. He made it at a most significant moment in the history of Parliament. Not only was it his last speech here, but he said that he was impressed and oppressed by the dangers of the nuclear arms race which he saw before him. He thought that a bigger effort should have been made to restore decent relations with the Soviet Union. That was just after the death of Stalin, and he said that he had been stopped—"bitched up" was the phrase he used he used it not in the House but elsewhere—by the Foreign Office, but I will not now go into that.
I ask the House, indeed the whole country, to take note of what Winston Churchill said in 1953 at what was then an historic moment, like the one we face now. Speaking of the initiative that he had wanted to take with the Soviet Union, he said:
It might have meant a real UNO, with Russia working with the rest for the good of Europe. We would have promised them that no more atomic bombs would be made, no more research into their manufacture. Those already made would be locked away. They would have had at their disposal much of the money now spent on armaments to provide better
conditions for the Russian people. I trust the opportunity may not slip away".—[Official Report, 27 October 1987; Vol. 121, c.231.]
That was Churchill's view of the prospects and possibilities in 1953, but it did slip away and the chance of detente was lost.
I am not saying that that was all due to actions here or the impositions or chains that were placed on Churchill. Partly, no doubt, it was due to what the Russians did. Churchill underlined the need for a different attitude. He saw the possibilities that existed at the time. Now we have a new chance to do it.
I will not give way. I have in total only 10 minutes in which to speak.
The fear of many of us at this moment of great opportunity for the whole world—this is not merely an argument across the parties—is that the Prime Minister is restoring in the Cabinet the very conditions that have led to so many catastrophes before. The right hon. Lady has torn up the idea of proper Cabinet government. That is why we got into the Falklands war—that was the conclusion reached by the committee that looked into it. Time and again the Prime Minister has strayed from the proper idea of settling matters as Cabinet government decisions. I do not say that because I respect all the other Members of the Cabinet, although they are better than she is.
I do not believe that the original decision that we would break with the other countries of Europe over sanctions on South Africa was taken in the Cabinet. It was taken by the right hon. Lady, and all the others followed behind. It has been a miserable affair that they should have followed her in that way.
Similar dangers for us lie in Europe as we come to deal with the present situation. More and more people in Britain, and certainly in the House, are losing confidence in the way in which the Prime Minister deals with issues. We thought a few months ago that proper Cabinet government was being restored in Britain, but we have seen in recent weeks that it has been torn away. We can see how damaging that can be because it removes any possibility of putting before the Cabinet the proper consideration of all the present issues.
At no time would it be more dangerous for the Prime Minister to have such power and use it in such a way than at this moment, when we have the best opportunities for our country, as well as Europe, that we have had for generations. That is why I urge the Government to listen to what we say in this debate.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) that we live in exciting and challenging times. The people of the eastern European countries, the Baltic republics and Russia are throwing off the shackles of Marxism and Socialism, which have been shown to be manifest failures. That is what is exciting and we must rise to the challenges presented to us. In the whirligig of the unique time facing us, we must find policies, but they are extremely difficult to determine.
We must avoid the traps either of reacting too quickly to situations which may turn out to be bubbles which burst at a touch or of missing opportunities by reacting too slowly. It has been my fear so far that the Government have not yet got the policy right and steered a correct course between those two types of rapids and rocks on which the policy could founder. I was delighted with what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary offered the House this afternoon. He gave a clear indication that Government policy is now on the right course.
There are three issues on which we should focus. The first, on which there should not be change, is the crucial importance of the European Community. Its role has always been vital. Most Conservative Members, though not all, have recognised that. We live in a tri-polar world. Happily and hopefully we are talking not about war, but about the economic and commercial realities that face us in the tri-polar world of Japan and the Asian states, North America, and western Europe. It is crucial that we continue to play our role in the development of the European Community.
One danger that we face is that there are voices on both sides of the House and in all parts of the media from time to time, seeking to use the opportunity of the developments in eastern Europe to suggest that the European Community is not as important as it was. They suggest that more means better and we should relax our moves towards a single European market, 1992 and European monetary union. I am quite certain that that is wrong. I am certain that a major contribution that we must make in the interests of this country's citizens, the stability of western Europe and Europe as a whole, is to ensure that the move towards the European Community continues. That will offer the sort of opportunities for which many in eastern Europe are looking.
Secondly, how wrong the right hon. Members for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) were to suggest that there should be drastic cuts now in this country's defence forces. That should not happen too quickly. The military realities have not changed sufficiently. There is a tendency in the West to be bemused by Mr. Gorbachev. Much though we respect and admire his political agility and some of his objectives, we should not forget that Gorbachev remains, he would say, a Soviet patriot. Some of the non-Russian states of the Soviet Union might challenge that, but he is certainly a Russian patriot and he would claim to remain a Leninist, with the techniques and tactics inherent in that creed.
There are great dangers in suggesting that our interests are necessarily identical with those of Mr. Gorbachev. The responsibility of western Governments remains the preservation of western security. That is where our responsibility lies, not necessarily in the survival of Mr. Gorbachev. In all that he has done, his list of failures must be seen as considerable by any Russian, let alone non-Russian, member of the Soviet Union. I was delighted that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary stressed the dangers of seeking to equate or to see some symmetry between NATO and the Warsaw pact when clearly there is none; NATO, as a willing and voluntary combination of nation states, is totally different in nature from the Warsaw pact. Changes must come, but gradually, in the light of reality, not the wishful thinking that we have heard from the Opposition Members.
Thirdly, we need to change our attitude towards the two Germanies and modify our fears about their unification. We all recognise that fears still exist. That point has been made many times in the debate. However, insufficient credit has been given to the remarkable transformation of Germany since the war and the way in which democracy has taken deep and genuine root in that country.
We should recognise the historical reality that democracies do not become aggressive. There are very few historical examples of that. History also teaches us that past enemies can become firm allies in the future. Our relation with France, if it teaches us nothing else, should teach us that. We are in grave danger of exaggerating the spectre of a unified Germany. The two Germanies, unified, will have a great deal of work to do to make the union work. The East German economy represents only 8 per cent. of the gross national product of West Germany. Stimulating and bringing East Germany up to the European Community standard will absorb West Germany's investment surplus. One estimate is that it will take about 10 years to achieve that, and I believe it.
It is also important to consider the population. Germany is the largest of the European countries, but it is not a super power. Compared with Japan, it is not even an economic power. The population of a combined Germany would be about 80 million, but the population of both Germanies is declining and by the turn of the century it will be about 76 million, as against a forecast combined population of France and the United Kingdom of 115 million. That puts the matter in perspective.
I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary state clearly that one way forward in the future must be closer collaboration between France and the United Kingdom. Every European to whom I speak in the European Community cries out for Britain to play a positive role, and to continue to play a more positive role, in the functioning of Europe. There is no time now to get embroiled in the mysteries of the exchange rate mechanism and the social charter. The thrust must come from us. We must not be put of by phoney challenges to sovereignty. Sovereignty and national identity are important, but no Frenchman. Italian or Dutchman considers himself threatened by the unity that is developing in Europe.
I do not know what sort of union it will be—no one can know that—but the work of building the European Community is vital and must go on. We have a crucial contribution to make to the development of Europe and a response to make to the extraordinary and stimulating events in the eastern European countries. They would recognise that contribution. It would benefit them and give them an objective to which to aspire and a bloc with which to trade. It would also operate as a force for the free market and be yet one more demonstration, if that were needed, that Socialism, Marxism and Leninism are bankrupt philosophies and that it is the free-market principles for which we stand that offer peace and prosperity.
I have just spent four days in a two-star hotel in Romania—an anti-junket—and it is about Romania that I want to talk in this important debate.
I could not, in the 10 minutes available to me, describe the grotesque, bizarre and unbelievable character of the Ceausescu regime in Romania, the legacy of which I saw in those four days. Words simply fail me.
Some hon. Members may have read Malcolm Bradbury's marvellous satire "Rates of Exchange". It is said that he used Romania as the model for the people's republic in that book. If he did, he was not required to tax his imagination in the writing of it. It will be remembered that that mythical people's republic, Slaka, a net exporter of beets and brown suits and a net importer of everything else, where ballet and opera were good but footwear scarce mostly going for export, is a pretty good pen portrait of the grimness of Romania.
The first important point that I want to emphasise is the need to appreciate that those Romanian Christmas days that shook the world do not mark the end of the revolutionary upheavals in Romania. There remains in that country a deep and dangerous polarisation. The National Salvationist Front Government, which includes the leaders who came to the fore during the revolution, other intellectuals and technocrats, and key military officers who distinguished themselves in that fierce fighting, are, I found, trying hard to stabilise the situation in Romania. They have called an election for a constituent assembly for 21 May. They are doing their best arid deserve our support.
There are forces at work in Romania, some of whom took part in the revolution and others who did not, who evidently do not want to wait for the elections but rather to continue the politics of the street. Some hon. Members may have seen pictures of the events that I witnessed last Sunday in the Piazza Victoreie in the centre of Bucharest when a mob invaded and ransacked the Government's headquarters. It was not a pretty sight. I talked to many leading members of the Government and I remain impressed by their determination to keep the country stable and to reach those elections.
The Foreign Secretary talked about some of the uglies that are coming out from underneath the stones as a result of the revolutionary upheavals in central and eastern Europe. One that is very present and important in Romania is the spectre that haunted Europe long before Communism haunted Europe, and that is anti-semitism.
I had long discussions with the representatives of the Jewish community in Bucharest. In 1939, there were 800,000 Jews in Romania, and at the end of the war there were 400,000. The pogroms remain vivid and lurid in the minds of the Jewish community. The so-called Christianism and nationalism of some of the historical parties and forces in Romania that are now coming to the fore are giving real cause for concern to the remaining 20,000 members of the Jewish community. They told me that they regard the Iliescu National Salvation Front Government as sometimes the only thing that stands between them and the return of pogroms to the streets of Bucharest.
I wish that I had more time to develop that point, but I hope that the Minister is listening, because much western support is now going to those Christian nationalist forces. The Jewish community is worried, for example, about some of the broadcasts on the Romania service of the BBC, the earlier praise for which I identify with. But the Romania service seems to be giving some cause for concern; I leave that with the Minister for him to think about.
The most dramatic matter that I want to deal with in the few minutes available to me is the catastrophe of AIDS, on the brink of which Romania finds itself. Some hon. Members will have seen pictures and read articles in recent weeks about the situation there which has resulted from transfusions of infected blood into poor, malnourished and orphaned children in Romania. Because the Ceausescu regime could not feed those children, it injected them with 25 ml of blood at a time in an attempt to nourish them. Massive amounts of that blood now turn out to have been infected with HIV and the children of Romania are, in large numbers, falling prey to that infection.
I talked to a French child AIDS expert, Dr. Christian Courpotin from Trusseau hospital in Paris and Dr. Ion Petrascu, who have been doing some limited testing, and the results are staggering. In just a few weeks they have definitely shown 1,000 little children to be HIV-positive and, from their current testing, a likely figure of 2,000 children, with evidence now emerging of vertical transmission of the disease with devastating results. They have not even started testing the adults from whom the blood injected into the children came.
To put the problem into perspective, the tiny Black sea port of Constanta has more child AIDS victims than the entire metropolis of Paris. That is only one of the few sites where testing has taken place.
I visited the Victor Babes hospital in Bucharest. I have seen some appalling sights in my life, I have walked through the killing fields of the famines of Ethiopia and the Sudan, but I have never seen a more distressing scene than ward D1 of that hospital, where 80 tiny babies, stricken with AIDS, are lying waiting to die. Because the nurses do not know or understand, they are dressed as if they were on a space mission. They are terrified of the babies, scarely touching them, never mind giving them a cuddle.
Those children have no parents. They have had no human love or kindness. They are simply lying there waiting to die. There is not a teddy bear in the hospital. The lucky few have a balloon in their cots. Instead of nappies, rags are wrapped around them 10 to 15 times a day by terrified nurses.
I like to hope that the British Government and the western community can make a specific response to the problems of AIDS children in Romania, because I can assure the Minister that there is an impending catastrophe. Britain has donated 2 million syringes to Romania to help combat the problem, but they have not yet arrived. Plenty of people asked me about them when I was there. That was a welcome response from the Government, but I hope that they will look at the matter again. I hope that the private sector and the public will look again to see how we can respond. To see 13-month old children who look 70 just lying there waiting to die was very distressing indeed.
The situation in Romania is still unfolding. It is clear that the earthquake of 22 December was not the final one. There is a political fault line in Romania. We do not know, and it is not our business, what the Romanians' final political decision will be, but it is important for us in the West to respond positively to the Romanian Government's appeals for help on the economy and in the health sector and to intervene with caution in their internal politics in the way that I have been describing.
We should extend the hand of friendship to Romania. It is an important country with an innovative, bright and enthusiastic population. We can make a good friend there. We have made a fair start, but I hope that the British Government will try to do better still.
I wish to speak mainly about balance—the balance of argument and the balance of power in Europe. We have seen momentous changes, largely based on an understanding by the people of eastern Europe in particular, but also of the USSR, of the need for freedom of choice and to give full weight to the importance of that and to self-determination. At the same time, I detected in some of the speeches today a rather mean, third-rate appreciation of the importance that the Prime Minister attaches to those matters, without which many of the achievements that have proliferated throughout eastern Europe recently, and which are appreciated in the United States and elsewhere in the world, would not have occurred.
It does not take much imagination to appreciate that German reunification will give rise to much argument and dispute. I welcome German reunification as someone whose father was killed in the last world war and who was awarded the military cross for action in Normandy. As I remarked in a previous debate, I now regard the Germans as friends and colleagues. Nevertheless, I make the point that it is important for the Germans to understand the sensitivities on our side of the argument. It is inappropriate to make snide remarks about our Prime Minister or about anyone who takes a perfectly sensible, balanced view of the future of Europe, and to argue that they are adopting a negative, narrow, nationalistic approach. That is neither true, fair, nor balanced.
I invoke a German in my argument. Are the remarks of Mr. Gunther Grass to be dismissed? He advised caution. He said much more, and those who wish to read his article in The Times are welcome to do so. The Germans that I have met fully appreciate, perhaps better than some right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken today and in previous similar debates, that Germany should be more sensitive in its approach.
In the context of the wider Europe, to concentrate on the one aspect of institutional changes and the development of a federal Europe is itself not necessarily in the interests of Germany. We should give consideration to a freer, more liberal, looser association with other countries, not only in our own interests but in those of Germany itself. The enormous economic power and engine that Germany now has at its disposal could prove a disadvantage to that country if it led to envy, jealousy and all the other characteristics which led people to fear Germany in the past. It is for such reasons that I believe that we should not go down the path of creating a German-dominated federal system.
I was interested to hear the balance struck in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) and the emphasis that he placed on the word "involvement". I am on record as encouraging Members of Parliament to emphasise that word in relation to Europe. We need to be involved because we need to understand, but in understanding we do not have to be subsumed. We must keep that at the forefront of our thinking at this volatile and difficult time.
In the context of the thrust and drive towards the markets of eastern Europe, it would be as well if the countries of the East themselves would apportion the investment made in them by other countries as equally as possible, and not just rely on the impetus and initiative already taken by Germany. It is essential to achieve a balance in eastern Europe as well as in western Europe.
My other point arises out of an article in The Times on 14 February by Helmut Schmidt and Giscard d'Estaing. It was depressing and disappointing because it seemed to assume that the future of the European Community depends on a Franco-German axis. Nothing will be more divisive than if countries congregate in the context of the developments desired—by Jacques Delors and the Commission, among others—and create a combination of the economic strength of East and West Germany, which, combined with their voting strength on the basis of Franco-German unity and other alliances that they could develop, would cause serious concern to the other members of the Community. I do not regard that as very communautaire.
We must strive for a reciprocal, mutual balance. That is the key. At the same time, we must provide a bulwark against over-domination by any one country by associations between ourselves and Hungary—of the kind that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Corporate Affairs tried to achieve on his great visit to that country—Czechoslovakia and Poland, and even with Yugoslavia, Turkey and EFTA countries. That would offer a natural balance in economic terms to the strength and power that will otherwise be concentrated in a reunified Germany moving towards the East and dominating its markets.
It is equally important to remember our connections with the United States. Some complain that we have been moving away from a special relationship with the United States, and opinion polls suggest that the Americans believe that Germany will dominate the new Europe and that they will have to look to Germany rather than to the allies of previous decades. For decades, if not for generations, we have had a relationship with the United States whereby it sent its people over here to help us for the prime reason that we shared common values and interests of a kind for which the people of eastern Europe are striving and which we must help them to achieve.
It is a matter of the greatest importance for us to ensure that we do not allow the other members of the European Community to divorce themselves from the United States. We are living in a global village and we have a mutual interest not only in fair and free trade but in security. We must do all that we can to ensure that the Community plays an integral part in the developing and evolving world that we shall inhabit by the year 2000, but without in any way relinquishing our right, based upon self-determination within the Community, to make major decisions of our own.
Finally, it is important that the German people should be aware of the sensitivities that the question of Poland arouses and to understand that it is not just a question of borders. It is also about feelings. We must ensure that the Germans understand that the balance of power and the balance of opinion belong to all sides in the Community.
The transformation of East-West relations presents opportunities for the 1990s, but whether this decade will witness such a momentous shift depends upon a multitude of factors. The critical and most unpredictable one is the evolution of policy in the Soviet Union. Before I touch on that, I wish to pose other questions which, I submit, need to form the framework of our debate tonight. What role will our Alliance continue to play? What can we now expect of the Warsaw treaty organisation? To what degree is the framework operated in Vienna for the CFE—negotiations on conventional armed forces in Europe—still valid? What is our concept of a future Europe and, in particular of a future Germany?
First, as democratic values overcome the legacy of Yalta in Europe, does NATO still have a role or has the Alliance already accomplished its mission? Although article V, the "core" of the North Atlantic treaty, commits the parties to regard an attack on one as an attack that involves every other member, the raison d'etre of the western Alliance does not depend on an existing, identifiable military threat. Article II of the North Atlantic treaty clearly speaks of non-military roles, by obliging the parties to
contribute toward the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions, by bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which these institutions are founded. and by promoting conditions of stability and well-being".
Is not that a valid political role, which some hon. Members were questioning earlier?
NATO will remain necessary and desirable for well into the future. Its basic purpose of defending and furthering western values endures, as does its permanent worth as the only forum in which the 16 like-minded north American and European democracies can discuss political and economic as well as military dimensions of security policy.
Secondly, one of the ironies of the times is that, just when the WTO is being increasingly described as militarily and politically less important to its member states, a discussion is growing about the stabilising role of the Warsaw pact. Although the traditional Soviet objective of dissolving both alliances has not been formally abandoned, during his historic 19 December 1989 visit to NATO headquarters in Belgium, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze stated:
We believe the Warsaw Treaty and NATO at this crucial stage in the European process can play an important stabilising role in stabilising Europe.
I agree that the future of the two alliances in Europe must remain a matter for speculation. As we have head tonight, the CSCE is increasingly cited as a model for the Europe of the future, with each Government engaged in a broad range of discussions as independent nations. At present, NATO and the WTO, as well as the neutral and non-aligned countries, negotiate as three caucuses in CSCE. However, assuming that in the future the CSCE framework will evolve into a Europe without opposing alliances, does any hon. Member present believe that that would prove more stable than the current situation? Would the absence of alliance structures, perhaps not aggravate irridentist and nationalist tendencies and make future Sarajevo cataclysms more likely? We must take the
longest view. How does this justify abandoning any notion of geopolitical balance as the various permutations of Europe 2000 are contemplated?
Thirdly, the briefings that I have been fortunate enough to receive from CFE delegations in Vienna, as recently as December, left me in no doubt that a conventional arms limitation agreement is possible some time in 1990 and if we could get aircraft off the table, we could get agreement by this summer, as the Minister knows. A number of important issues remain to be resolved. None are considered insuperable. There is ample good will on both sides, but more push from the other side. However, it is only the complexities that deter our side.
One eastern representative remarked:
whatever happens politically in Europe, even if the alliances disappear, the military potentials remain".
A treaty and, we hope, further treaties that formally reduce and constrain those forces are vital necessities.
The precise budgetary consequences of eventual conventional arms cuts—the peace dividend which excites all of us—must as yet remain unclear. In a first-phase CFE agreement, we could expect cuts for NATO of only between 10 and 15 per cent., and then only in certain weapons categories. It is likely that the benefits accruing will be offset by the cost of destroying and verifying treaty compliance—and that has not been considered sufficiently by hon. Members. Finally, what is our concept for a future Europe and, in particular for a future Germany? How will both countries interact on the evolution of policy on the Soviet Union?
In my present role as president of the North Atlantic Assembly, I presided over three days of talks last week in Brussels with the NATO Secretary General, Dr. Worner, with his council of NATO ambassadors and with a delegation from the Supreme Soviet, led by Ambassador Valentin Falin—the former ambassador in Bonn for seven years and currently chairman of the international committee of the Central Committee, a close adviser to Mr. Gorbachev, and the very Russian who is experienced in western Europe and European politics. He was accompanied by Marshal Akromeyev, of whom we have all read and perhaps some of us have met, as well as General Lobov, Chief of Staff of the Warsaw treaty organisation, whom I have met three times in the past year. There were also joint meetings with those newly elected Soviet parliamentarians and a representative body of senior NATO parliamentarians, including right hon. and hon. Members of the House.
Those meetings were the first between NATO and the WTO at military and parliamentary levels. They illustrated the extent and depth of Soviet misperceptions about our alliance. Marshal Akromeyev told me that, until five years ago, he was convinced that we would invade eastern Europe. If such misperceptions can be held by Marshal Akromeyev, Ambassador Falin and General Lobov what are ordinary Russian people thinking about us? Akromeyev has still to be persuaded that even now NATO is not an offensive Alliance. Lobov still believes that it is Alliance policy to preserve the wealth of the West and to keep the USSR poor.
There was a pervading feeling on the part of the Soviet delegation that they will be excluded, not so much from settlement as from an evolving European house. Incidentally, they want a US presence. They were explicit that German unification should not adversely affect US security. Ambassador Falin—although I do not believe that he is necessarily representative—is opposed to unification. He believes that Moscow maintains latent rights in East Germany, and that the German Democratic Republic must carry out its duties to the Warsaw pact, even after the March elections. He reiterated last week in Brussels, in a radio interview, that a united Germany could not carry on being part of NATO. He dwelt on the wartime destruction. There is not time for me now for me to go into the details that he gave, especially of destruction in Byelorussia. It was much more severe than German wartime damage and, he put it forward as an important factor in continuing Soviet economic difficulties.
There were no specifics from the Russians as to settlement, but repeated expressions of fear about German unification. They are not alone. Some of Germany's European neighbours, as I meet them in the NATO parliamentary network—as do other hon. Members, all the time—consider the prospect of a powerful united German state with more unease then hope. None is questioning German unity, but how is it to be secured? Nor do they question the two-plus-four framework agreed last week in Ottawa, but they are looking for firm safeguards as well as reassurance to the USSR.
I must confess that I do not share the nostalgia for stability felt by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy). I never thought that I would live long enough to see the liberation of eastern Europe, but I thank God that I have; and, if a good deal of instability is part of the price, let us pay it.
We have just come through what was, in effect, a third world war: but for nuclear weapons, the cold war would have led to a holocaust. While we should not claim too much credit for that, I would point out that it was the determination of the West to make it clear to the Soviets that their policy of expansion was a no-win policy that created the Gorbachev regime: Gorbachev is, in that sense, the son of Reagan.
I am not at all dismayed by the prospective union of Germany. The Nazi phenomenon came from the appalling inflation of the 1920s and the consequences of the world recession of the 1930s. There is nothing like that on the horizon yet, but we must face—and, from what I have heard this evening, I am sure that we are prepared to do so—the fact that the union of Germany, and Austria's approching membership of the European Community, will mean a preponderance of German-speaking people in the Community. We had all better brush up our German pretty quickly.
How is this to be faced? There are two schools of thought. The thinking in Brussels and Paris, followed to some extent in Bonn, is that we should try to anchor Germany in the European Community by making it more federal. I see the force of that argument, but I do not believe that it would work. I do not think that it is possible to tie down a growing, organic popular development with rules and institutions. What did an Irish patriot say?—"You cannot set limits to the march of a nation." But I do agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath): if Britain is fully involved, some counterpoise will be provided for the preponderant German element.
Whatever view we may have about federalism or non-federalism, I do not see the House of Commons that I have served for nearly 40 years accepting a tight federation. How, then, do we cope with the problem? A tremendous responsibility rests with the French and the Germans. If they want to develop a system that we cannot join, they can of course inflict on us an economic and financial Dunkirk; but in that event, the French will find themselves, geopolitically, back in Vichy. If they want to choose that route, it is open to them.
On the other hand, we too have a great responsibility, because a Europe united without us could be a Europe united against us. We must also make a big effort to bridge the gap between the Paris thinking and our own—on, among other things, economic and momentary union—and I believe that that can be done. The Almighty, in his infinite wisdom, did not see fit to make Frenchmen in the image of Englishmen. We may regret that, but it is a fact and we must live with it. We shall all have to make a considerable effort.
It is important to remember that the foundation of the European Community is not the treaty of Rome, but the reconciliation of France and Germany. That came about in 1955. When the French Assembly had refused to accept the idea of German rearmament, Anthony Eden gave an undertaking to commit a British Army corps and a tactical air force on the continent indefinitely. That was a generous and a dangerous commitment. On that basis, the French accepted German rearmament, and the Germans themselves agreed to rearm. The treaty of Rome elaborated on that foundation in economic terms. I am sorry that we did not have more of a hand in framing that treaty, but that is neither here nor there.
We are putting together massive interests, economic and financial, in the European Community. So far, they have been protected by NATO. I agree with many hon. Members who have said this evening that the Warsaw pact is finished, but I am not at all sure that NATO in its present form can continue when there is no Warsaw pact. What we really need is a European defence system. I believe that the Western European Union—which we set up in 1955, and which formed the basis and condition of the Franco-German reconciliation—provides us with the necessary structure. France and Spain are not in NATO—the command structure—but they are members of the WEU. We have a minimum deterrent capability, British and French. Here, surely, is the machinery through which we could provide a system for the defence of the interests that we are putting together.
For most of my life, I have seen British Governments respond to European initiatives—the Schuman plan, the European Defence Community and the treaty of Rome—sometimes negatively and sometimes positively. Here is an opportunity for us to take the initiative, and to tell our friends on the continent that the WEU is the nucleus of a European security system that could form the European pillar of an alliance with the United States. Nor should it exclude the grander design supported by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, involving both the United States and the Soviet Union in the ultimate security of this part of the world. It could be the basic building block for such a design—and a fallback if things go wrong.
I share the view expressed by the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) of the magnitude of the events that we are debating, and also his special concern about the implications for the liberation of eastern Europe—and the near-collapse of the Warsaw pact—for the problem of a united or reunited Germany. We shall face a great power in our own western Europe.
Like others, I do not think that we are faced with any real threat to European security from Germany. Anyone who has had any dealings with West German politicians will, I think, agree that there is no doubting that their democratic credentials are good and solid; nor do I doubt that people have learnt the lessons of history. It would, however, be unrealistic for us simply to say that a united Germany poses no problems for us, or that others who suffered more terribly than we during the second world war are not still very anxious about a resurgence of German power. As others have said, west Germany is already the dominant economic power in western Europe and a united Germany will greatly reinforce that power.
We must guard against the contingency of future adverse change. We should always bear in mind the lesson of history—that, sooner or later, an expression of economic power will correspond with that of political and military power. The key question is how we guard against the fears and contingencies not of today, but perhaps of tomorrow and the years ahead.
Two approaches to the problem are already highly visible. The first is the drive towards West European federalism, or as near to it as its supporters can get, in order, they hope, to bring German power under collective west European control. The second approach is to develop proposals for new pan-European security arrangements and frontier guarantees which would safeguard the European nations from any future assertions of German military power.
The case for a federalist approach was set out with great candour in an article in The Times Last week written jointly by former President Giscard d'Estaing and former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. As they put it, German reunification must be
part of a strategy of establishing a federal union of the member states of the European Community. Such a federation would entail not only economic and monetary union but also the integration of foreign policies, and ultimately military and security policies, in which France and Germany will have a special role to exercise jointly.
That is the destiny for western Europe that the authors of the Schumann plan and the Rome treaty long ago envisaged, and which their disciples have never ceased to advocate. It underlines much of the thinking behind the Single European Act and, even more, the current proposals for economic and monetary union.
Those who hold that view—they include the President of the European Commission, Mr. Delors, President Mitterrand, Chancellor Kohl, Prime Minister Andreotti and, as we heard again this afternoon, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath)—can be expected to press for it with all their energy, in the preparations for the intergovernmental conference and in the conference itself, agreed at the last European summit and scheduled for later this year.
I believe that that is the wrong solution. The closer and faster the economic integration of Europe, with German economic performance far outstripping that of her European Community partners, and long in advance of any serious attempt to achieve economic convergence, the more certain it is that in such a union German economic power will increase and the rest of western Europe will become part of a German economic zone. It is an illusion for France to believe that it can be the partner, even a junior partner, in such a union. Nevertheless, that concept chimes with the whole thrust of current European Community policy—the rush for economic and monetary union, the transfer of power from the nation states to the Brussels Commission and the European Parliament, the total integration of the European economies.
A corollary of that drive for union is the moratorium on enlarging the existing membership of the European Community. That will keep out Austria. It will certainly keep out the countries of eastern Europe, other than East Germany. When the right hon. Member for Pavilion spoke during the debate on the Loyal Address on 24 November 1989, he said:
We must ensure that in achieving a good measure of integration in the Community, we do not build an economic Berlin wall to keep others out."—[Official Report, 24 November 1989; Vol. 162, c. 381.]
I oppose the drive towards union because I want a wider Europe which will put a permanent end to the post-war division of our continent. I also oppose it because I believe that it would place the economic interests of our own country in great jeopardy. Political union in a federal or quasi-federal Europe is simply not acceptable to the majority of our citizens.
The alternative and, I believe, far more effective approach is twofold. The first task is to widen the collective security arrangements that have served us so well in post-war Europe. We can all applaud the present process of multilateral disarmament, under which huge, asymmetrical and verified cuts are being made in the Soviet Union's previously overweening conventional military power. However, the maintenance of the American commitment to Europe and the retention of NATO, in which not only has Soviet power been deterred but German power enmeshed, will be necessary for many years to come, and so, in a greatly modified form, will be Soviet guarantees for some of her neighbours in eastern Europe.
What we need to do now is to find a way to extend collective security across what used to be the iron curtain—a system that involves the Soviet Union and its east European neighbours, along with the NATO countries, in joint guarantees of existing European frontiers—except where peaceful and non-coercive changes may be agreed and the underwriting of those frontiers by collective security arrangements. That should certainly be on the agenda of the conference on security and co-operation in Europe meetings this summer. It may be that new arrangements can be grafted on to the existing Helsinki accords; it may be that a new pan-European and also a North American security conference is necessary. However, it is collective, Europewide guarantees about force levels, frontiers and mutual and collective assistance for which we should aim.
The second prong of such an approach is directed at the countries of Eastern Europe. We should encourage the earliest possible association with, and full membership of
the European Community, of all European countries who wish to join. If that is to happen, we must recognise that it cannot be achieved if the present thrust towards political and economic union in Western Europe is sustained. In the Times article, Giscard and Helmut Schmidt put the central question:
Is Europe seeking a single market with monetary stability in which all member states retain sovereign powers, or is it seeking a federation to which member states allot joint powers?
The answer should be yes, yes, and yes again to the retention of our sovereignty, and no, no, and no again to a federation of member states.
I end with an analogy suggested to me by President Gorbachev's reference to a common European home and Mr. Delor's recent reference to his vision of a European village. To me, the common European home that we should seek to construct is a very large apartment block with flats of varying sizes—
I am unable to share the enthusiasm of the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) for constructing, through a system of conferences and the use of the conference on security and co-operation in Europe and border guarantees, the security that we need in a new Europe. It seemed to me to be all too redolent of the conferences at Locarno and Lugano and the League of Nations, all of which were full of guarantees and good will but which did little to protect us from the most awful war that mankind has ever experienced. We need to construct something that is much sounder than that.
I face the prospect of a united Europe with a mixture of joy and apprehension. We all rejoice that eastern Europe is finally free of the shackles of its imperial masters. However, I am apprehensive about tearing up a security system that has brought peace to Europe for 45 years. That peace was brought about by the division of Europe into two hostile camps. At times there has been tension, and sometimes there has been danger. Nevertheless, that division has worked. It succeeded in suppressing many of the nationality and border problems that had been at the heart of European history for a long time and that are now re-emerging.
The challenge that we face is to replace a system that has guaranteed us that security and not to allow the problems that are re-emerging—the problems of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century—to engulf us again. All those problems are still there—boundaries, nationalities, ethnic minorities, above all, a greater Germany and just exactly what that means and what its position will be in Europe.
Events have unfolded incredibly fast, but in some ways things are more certain now than they were three months ago. It now seems to be fairly clear that democratic states are emerging in Hungary, Poland, East Germany and Czechoslovakia. There is obviously some danger of rather greater problems in Romania and Yugoslavia.
It now seems certain that there will be a united Germany. Three months ago it did not seem at all clear that the United States and the Soviet Union would agree to that, but now it is perfectly clear that they will. We should welcome that as it is something we have sought for a long time, but we have to focus on the fears and problems in western Europe and in the Soviet Union. If anybody has suffered from overweening German power in the past, it has been the countries of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
We do not yet know what the Soviet Union needs for its own security. We do not really know what the future of the Soviet Union and its empire within the boundaries of the USSR will be. We cannot ignore the danger that the Soviet Union may revert to what it was before. I doubt that it will present the same military threat, but there is certainly a possibility that the liberalising that has taken place under President Gorbachev will stop.
It seems fairly certain that eastern Europe will have to go through a simply dreadful period of economic reconstruction. Some of its economies have been practically destroyed, and almost all of them are in a terrible mess. If we are to help to sustain democracy in those countries, which is one of the keys to the future peace and stability of Europe, and prevent them from reverting to nationalism, dictatorship and narrow interests, it is extremely important to promote the free enterprise economy and the economic development of those countries in which West Germany and the EEC will have to play the foremost role.
I do not want to strike a churlish note in all the optimism that today's debate has generated, but I have some misgivings over German unification. The problem of Germany in Europe has caused wars in Europe three times in the past 120 years. Although the democratic credentials of our German friends are every bit as good as the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) has said, they must take into account our legitimate concerns in formulating their own stands for unification and the Europe in which that unified Germany will play a part. It looks as though Germany will unify within the West, perhaps firmly anchored into the NATO Alliance, as that is what Chancellor Kohl says that he wants.
However, I am concerned—and I shall be interested to hear the view of my hon. Friend the Minister—that if the Soviet Union and East Germany hold out for a neutral Germany and the German elections get closer and the SPD and Mr. Lafontein say that that would be a reasonable price to pay for German reunification, we shall then be faced with a very different problem which no one who has spoken in the debate has yet addressed—the serious possibility of a neutral Germany floating around in the middle of Europe.
We have vital interests at stake. They are definitely shared by France and most of the other countries in the EC, and I believe they are also shared by the United States, the Soviet Union and most of the countries in eastern Europe.
We should set ourselves a couple of signposts. Obviously there are many objectives that we should try to achieve. The establishment in eastern Europe of democratic states on their existing boundaries seems to be a crucial condition for the way in which eastern Europe develops. The united Germany that emerges from the present discussions must agree to that. East and West Germany have separately signed treaties with Poland and Czechoslovakia agreeing their borders. There is some doubt over the legality of those treaties and how they might bind a unified Germany, but clearly they have to be brought into the process of unification so that everybody is committed to the existing boundaries.
Although my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) said that democracies do not go to war with each other—and there is a large element of truth in that—several dictators have been elected and, in past conflagrations in Europe, dictatorships have emerged out of democracies. Although democracy is a necessary condition, it is not sufficient. We need to develop some institutional arrangements which tie together the cultural, political and economic interests of all the countries of Europe.
We need to do that in the interests of ensuring the survivial of democracy, suppressing some of the nation state rivalries which between 1800 and 1945 gave rise to so much trouble, and trying to make those boundary disputes and nationality disputes caused by groups of one ethnic community living in another country less important. I do not believe that it is time to return to the old balance of power idea advocated by Peregrine Worsthorne in his article in The Sunday Telegraph That would be extremely dangerous. It requires great subtlety to work for even 30 years and usually results in armed conflict.
The institution that is in place and clearly available to perform that function is the EC, on which we should build our hopes and the future construction of Europe. its first task would be to ensure the incorporation of East Germany into the Community and to start making arrangements with other eastern European countries and gradually bring them in, in less than 10 years in some cases, although perhaps countries such as Romania will take rather longer.
While I should be happy to move some way towards what the French and the President of the Commission are suggesting, I should also be happy to slow the process a little if it would lead to the broadening of the Community. If we want to construct a Europe in which the rivalries that have led to conflict in the past are diminished, we have to construct a broader Europe in which all those countries are involved. A united Germany might well dominate a Community of 12, but it would be rather more difficult to dominate a Community of 16 or 20.
To sum up, I am overjoyed at the prospect of a Europe emerging from 45 years of cold war, but somewhat worried about some of the minor disputes and problems of the past that have been in the deep freeze during that time. President Gorbachev has set us the challenge of creating a common European home, and that that has to involve a framework for containing a united Germany arid for suppressing some of the border and nationality problems. The two key ingredients are making sure that democratic countries arise in eastern Europe and broadening the EEC. If we do that, we have considerable prospects for turning to great positive effect the wonderful opportunity with which we are faced. If we fail to do it, at some time in the future we may be faced with repeating some of the awful episodes of the past 150 years of European history.
I am happy to follow the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) and share his joy at the positive movement in Europe, having experienced it at first hand last March in Hungary and having revisited Berlin and Leipzig last month. The changes there are bound to cause delight to anyone who prizes freedom and the movement of people.
The right hon.Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) referred to Balfour saying that it was not a question of history repeating itself, but of historians repeating the past. That is one of the dangers we face at the moment. In that context I have more sympathy with what the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) said about the EEC. It has been regularly claimed in Europe and in the House that hope lies in a united Europe. Historians call the period of a united Europe the dark ages and I am a shade concerned that we might be returning to that period of history.
I was interested in the comments of the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), who said that the Almighty had made Englishmen and Frenchmen different. He reminded me of the story of the English business man who claimed that he was a self-made man and relieved the Almighty of an awful responsibility.
We have a tendency to lecture others and although I am delighted that Members of Parliament and members of the Inter-Parliamentary Union have been using the agency of the IPU to share with the emerging forces in Europe some of our concepts, we have to do that with sensitivity. They have reached this stage in their development without a great deal of help from us. While they may not have much experience of the working of parliamentary government as we understand it, they have kept the torch of freedom alight in dark ages in the past 40 years. Now they are moving towards a new era. It is good that we share that with them.
I understand, and note with some thanks, that the Government are providing advice on local government structures to the emerging east European democracies. I fully support that, but, coming from Northern Ireland, I must say that the Government have little to boast about, when a significant part of this nation does not have a true local government structure and when the structure for Northern Ireland legislation is akin to old-syle Stalinism. We have left ourselves open to certain accusations.
With Jim Nicholson, a former Member of this House who is now a Member of the European Parliament, I visited and had discussions with many of the smaller emerging political parties in East Germany. We owe them some help, but I regret that blocs within European Parliament have voted against giving them financial help. It is all very well to say that we as individuals can help, but they need more help than that to deal with their state structures. I hope that hon. Members will use their influence and help them with their political campaigning.
The rush to encourage democracy and to dismantle dictatorships must not endanger already established democracies. I noted the comments that were made tonight about disarmament, but the arguments for massive cuts in conventional forces are premature and send a strong signal to the generals who still command divisions of tanks and missiles in the East.
I speak as a child of the early 1930s. I remember the high hopes for the League of Nations, which was set up after the first world war. Disarmament left the nation open to blackmail and attack. I remember the blood that had to be shed to restore freedom and democracy to only half of
Europe. We have heard speeches from senior Members of the House who served at that time, but I should like to give a brief quotation from an elderly constituent—a man in his 80s—who served with the merchant marine on the Archangel convoys during the second world war. Dealing with what he believes is needed at this time, he says:
Highly skilled statesmanship is required; the political rush to disarm requires extreme caution, in case this nation is placed in the position that we have been through before…of fighting by force of arms, to restore Europe's soul and sanity.
I regret the report from Romania, which was referred to by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway), on the tragedy of HIV-infected children and emerging anti-semitic views. The Europe of the future will need strong moral principles and ethical structures based on a Judean-Christian ethic. If anyone has departed from that in the past, that is to their shame and we should not repeat their folly.
Hon. Members who have been involved in the changing world since 1984 feel it a privilege to have been even a minor part of that process. I was lucky enough to be a member of the Select Committee which invited Mr. Gorbachev here in 1984. One has followed the unfolding process with enormous joy and it has reached the point where we can now debate East-West relations in a different context. The change in East-West relations is not simply a matter for continental Europe, on which most of the debate has concentrated. It goes wider and covers the regions and regional conflicts.
I should like to mention the concern of many hon. Members about the short term in the Soviet Union. Much has been said about Mr. Gorbachev's ability to rethink the Soviet Union's position and all that that has meant in the logjam of international relationships. Hon. Members who have visited the Soviet Union more recently than I have will recognise that the next three to 12 months will be critical to public opinion in the Soviet Union.
It behoves us to think deeply about what we can do not only to help Mr. Gorbachev and to ensure his survival but to help the Russian people to recognise the courageous step that he has taken. The liberalisation that he has brought about must show some results if people are to continue to follow. One of the saddest aspects at present, perhaps because of the way in which it has been done, is that ordinary people have yet to see the effect of perestroika.
A Soviet delegation recently visited the House. I asked what we can do to help. The message was, "We do not want anything special—we want normal loans." When I asked what else we could do to help, they said "Nothing." Yet one felt that that was the official position rather than the true position. The Germans, as I pointed out to my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), did not ask what they could do to help—they did something. They provided an enormous amount of food and consumer goods and made the loan arrangements to facilitate that. Those goods will be in the shops shortly.
I hope that Britain will follow that lead and not wait and ask, "What can we do to help? What committees can we set up? How can we help to reinforce your democracy?" I hope that we shall perform some short, sharp tangible act so that people in the Soviet Union will say, "Gosh— perestroika has started to work; we have friends in Britain, Germany and Europe." We must back that process of tremendous traumatic change, which many of us recognise will take 10 or 20 years to bear fruit.
I support the view that the dynamo for change has been the European Community. When the Select Committee visited eastern European countries, everyone said, "We recognise that this dynamic Community is part of the world economy and we want to be a part of it." The European Community was the magnet that was drawing them. We cannot afford to slow that process for 10 or 15 years while they develop their economies.
None of us knows which will be the good or bad economies or what traumas they will go through. We should extend the hand of friendship and ensure that they can become associates. We should not deny them the impact, dynamo and creation of the wider Community, which has the wealth to support that process. We can then have a Europe of concentric circles which will draw in countries as they are ready to join.
I am deeply concerned about the Horn of Africa, which was often regarded as an area of Soviet influence. The Horn of Africa committee met constantly to discuss the Soviet Union controlling the Gulf. Three countries are in a state of traumatic turmoil. We have heard about the human misery in Romania, but it does not compare with what is happening in Sudan, Ethiopia or Somalia. There are refugees from Ethiopia in Sudan, refugees from Sudan in Ethiopia, refugees from Ethiopia in Somalia, and Somalian refugees in southern Ethiopia. The formidable trauma of starvation is threatening Tigray and Eritrea. The takeover of the port of Massawa—the one port from which food can be obtained—is a cause of tremendous concern. When the public become aware of the turmoil in those countries, they will ask what we are doing to help.
One of the benefits of East-West relations is that we can work together on such problems. The Soviet Union and eastern European countries, which have had programmes in Ethiopia, and western countries, including ourselves, can work together to try to bring an end to the conflict in those countries. I ask my hon. Friend to do something about the Horn of Africa with the same urgency that we acted on Cambodia and the boat people. There should be a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council about the Horn of Africa before the position gets worse.
Vietnam is seen as part of the Soviet economy, because many Vietnamese work in the Soviet Union. That is one way in which Vietnam has tried to balance its books. Again we have seen a change in emphasis at the recent conference of the Association of South East Asian Nations. It was interesting to note that the conference asked that an Economics Minister rather than a Foreign Office Minister should attend its next conference, because ASEAN is a developing economic unit. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister would be delighted not to have to go so far.
We should encourge Vietnam to be part of the economic element of ASEAN, free of Soviet influence. We have a vital interest, because the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Warwickshire, North (Mr. Maude), has just come back from Vietnam where he was trying to solve the problem of migration. We need to be statesmanlike; we have an opportunity to make statesmanlike gestures by increasing the aid programme and stopping sanctions against Vietnam so that it can leave the eastern influence and become part of its natural community in south-east Asia.
I was very much taken by what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said at the beginning of his speech about building bridges and motorways into central and eastern Europe. If we are doing that, surely we should do no less for the outlying regions.
Over the past 40 years, we have grown accustomed to the division between East and West. It has been symbolised by the economic divide, so to speak, between capitalism and Communism. The same applies to the military sphere. The NATO Alliance has been lined up against the Warsaw pact. In the past few months, it is as if the whole edifice has been collapsing around us. Politicians and military leaders are busy contemplating the new framework.
The reunification of the two Germanys looms large. Some hon. Members, like the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), welcome it; others have doubts and anxieties stemming from their experiences in the second world war. Certainly a reunited Germany will be a mighty colossus in the heart of Europe. For the present there is no military threat, as has been pointed out in the debate, but that is no guarantee for the future.
More immediately, the threat from Germany is essentially economic. The Federal Republic already has a strong economy. It can boast a£50 billion balance of payments surplus, against our£20 billion deficit. The countries of eastern Europe which are emerging from Communist rule are seen as part of its natural markets. There will have to be massive investment by the Federal Republic in East Germany. There will also have to be massive investment in eastern Europe. Japan is gearing up to invest part of its huge surplus of capital resources in that area. France traditionally has close links with Romania. Where does that leave Britain? I am thinking particularly of the more impoverished areas, such as the north of England, Scotland and Wales.
To be parochial for a moment, in Wales we have had massive closures in our traditional industries, coal and steel. We have had to look to overseas countries for new jobs. Japan has invested widely in Wales. So has West Germany, as is symbolised by the major Bosch plant in south Wales. With the dramatic developments in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, will the investment which is badly needed in Britain dry up?
We all realise too that it is not only Britain which may suffer. The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) has referred to the Third world. It could be adversely affected because money invested in eastern Europe will not be invested in the Third world or in Britain.
My main purpose in intervening in the debate is to point out that last week the hon. Member for Rochford (Dr. Clark) and I, on behalf of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, went on a fact-finding mission to Bulgaria. The first thought that strikes one in Bulgaria is that the hostility to Soviet Russia discernible in other eastern European countries does not exist. There are historic reasons for that; on two occasions Russia has liberated Bulgaria, once from the Turks and later, at the end of the second world war, from Nazi Germany. It is also worth pointing out that there are no Soviet troops stationed in Bulgaria.
Another landmark is the fact that on 10 November last year Zhivkov, the longstanding president, was ousted by a Communist party coup. Since then there have been changes. The Bulgarian-Turkish border position has eased. People are allowed to retain their Turkish-sounding names. Religious tolerance has been introduced. While Bulgarian remains the official language, people are permitted to use other languages if they choose.
We found Sofia a hive of political activity. The newly emerged Union of Democratic Forces had been allocated a high-rise building and people were going in and out continuously as if it were the London underground. A daily newspaper was published and the hon. Member for Rochford and I had an interview with the editor. We also had numerous discussions with leading figures in the Union of Democratic Forces, which comprises activists in many factions who have come to the fore since th dramatic happenings of 10 November. Several had served prison sentences fairly recently.
Some of our discussions were about future election arrangements. The UDF wanted a delay because of the lack of time to organise. It thought that November would be the earliest time to hold elections. Nevertheless, there is strong speculation that the elections will take place early in May. The UDF complained about a shortage of newsprint. It also needs office equipment, including basic items such as typewriters and duplicators. Despite the difficulties, it displayed tremendous enthusiasm.
We also had many discussions with Communist party officials, including the Speaker of the Parliament. Talks centred on the method of electing a new democratic Parliament. In that respect, Professor Spasov, the secretary of the parliamentary legislative commission, was most informative. He said that the commission had in mind a dual arrangement for elections. There would be the first-past-the-post method, as in the United Kingdom, and a proportion of members elected by the method of a transferable vote.
Until the past two weeks, the Agrarian party had served as a junior partner of the Communist party and it had been part of the Government for the past 40 years. At present, Bulgaria has a pure Communist Government. At the election, the Agrarian party will fight under its own banner, but the leaders of that party suggested that, immediately after the election, they would again be prepared to enter into a coalition with the Communist party. That concept caused me concern. Bulgaria and the other countries of eastern Europe in this new era need an opposition party to expose the Government's mismanagement and errors, when they occur. That needs to be encouraged.
I believe that the Communist party, for the time being, will remain in power in Bulgaria. It retains a national organisation which will be too much for the new democratic forces, despite their enthusiasm. The American Secretary of State, James Baker, whose visit coincided with ours, suggested that his country would be prepared to recognise a Communist Government, provided that the elections were free and fair. I am sure that all hon. Members endorse that sentiment.
I have visited Bulgaria several times. The Bulgarians are essentially a friendly people. There is a need for modernisation and technical assistance. The Bulgarian people are in uncharted waters. I wish them well for the future.
Two years ago, I had the great privilege of going to a small and, in those days, unusual gathering in the Netherlands to discuss human rights. It was one of the first times—the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) knows all about this—that a group came from the Soviet Union, led by the then Minister of Justice of the Russian Republic, and Fyodor Burlatski—who was the chairman of the Soviet human rights commission—to sit down and really talk with westerners about problems of human rights. It was a refreshing experience, although at that stage there was some hesitancy on both sides.
A year later, in January 1989, having met in the meantime at Atlanta, at the Carter presidential centre—both President Carter and President Giscard d'Estaing were members of that small group—we went to Moscow. I had the privilege there of being one of the first people from the West to stay in the Soviet Communist party's own hotel. The Labour party delegation who went two weeks later were somewhat surprised to find that my name was in the visitors' book when they got there.
The most moving moment of that visit came when Father Ted Hesburgh, who was President Carter's civil rights chairman, said mass in his room in that Soviet Communist party hotel, and we went to it. Whatever one's religious beliefs—and I am not a Roman Catholic—it was a most moving experience to see the dawn breaking over Moscow during the celebration. People knew that we were there, they knew what we were doing, and we were able to discuss it openly. That was an exciting leap forward.
I have watched with increasing excitement the events of the past year. It is remarkable that we in this House tonight can debate East-West relations in a wholly different atmosphere. There is real trust and a new understanding on both sides. There are several hon. Members in the Chamber this evening who took part in the discussions a fortnight ago when we had a visiting delegation of Soviet parliamentarians, and they know exactly what I mean. We exchanged views robustly. We even had the marvellous sight of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller), who is a dear friend of many of us, rebuking some of the Soviet parliamentarians for what he thought was too great a leap forward. He in turn was rebuked because the Soviet delegates said that they thought that the age of the stereotype was over. Things have moved a long way.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, in a remarkable and constructive speech, said that the time had come for fresh ideas and original thoughts. He was right. That is a challenge which hon. Members of all parties should take up and we should try to work together. If there was ever a need for people who truly believe in parliamentary democracy to work together, that need is here now, and this is the occasion.
The countries of eastern Europe are seeking to adopt or to create democratic structures. One must realise a point that has not been mentioned in the debate. We are dealing not with long-established nation states which had their nationhood taken from them, but with countries that had a brief independent history. In their present boundaries, Bulgaria was created as an independent nation in 1908, Czechoslovakia in 1918, Hungary in 1920, Poland in 1918 and Romania, the oldest of them all, in 1877. None of them has had the democratic structures that we so easily take for granted in this place.
I was glad when, during an interesting exchange earlier between my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy), there was talk of our trying to help the countries of eastern Europe to found, establish and strengthen democratic structures. We have a real duty as well as a real opportunity. We must not be patronising or seek to impose. When he was asked whether he was a supporter of the Church, Churchill once said that he was, but that rather than a pillar, he was a flying buttress. We must be the flying buttresses of the nascent democracies of eastern Europe.
What we could do—and it would be a challenge—is try to consider whether there is some merit in our having a special Select Committee on eastern Europe, which could be a unique institution because it could be a joint Select Committee with European parliamentarians from Britain. Perhaps we could help those countries through exchanges, seminars and discussions.
Goodness knows, our system here is imperfect enough and, as I said briefly in the House yesterday, the balance between the Executive and the legislature is not right. Nevertheless, we have a firm and secure parliamentary democracy of which we are all proud. We know that we can work together, across party lines—and we do, in our Select Committees and other things. Not all the emerging democracies are conversant with that. One sees splintering on the Right, with many parties jockeying for position. One also sees the understandable distrust of those who held office in former Communist Governments.
Eastern Europe is full of vicars of Bray, but we must accept that the vicar of Bray is an important political phenomenon when we are trying to develop new institutions that do not have deep roots or people with great experience. In this exciting year, with elections in Hungary and East Germany next month, with the great challenge and the great opportunity of German unification—which will come about—I believe that we, with our democratic traditions, have much to give as well as much to learn.
I was much taken with the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), who spoke in his capacity as Chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and who said that we could encourage those eastern European countries to form their own Common Market-type of Community that could come together with our own European Community because, through economic strength, one can break down divisions.
I am anxious to sit down to allow my hon. Friends a little extra time, but I hope that the message that will go out from this debate will be that we parliamentarians in Westminster are anxious to give and to share our experiences and that we should like to play a constructive part—not overpowering, but constructive—in helping the emerging democracies in eastern Europe to create institutions that will allow their countries to have far longer histories than they enjoyed before their freedoms were snuffed out in the 1940s.
As a relative political greenhorn, it is difficult for me to follow speeches of the quality and the authority that we have been privileged to hear this evening, especially from senior right hon. and hon. Members. It is truly fascinating to feel and to hear the excitement that they are experiencing, having been participants, either as politicians or as soldiers, in creating the world in which we have lived during the past 40 years, but which we now see being reshaped.
Their excitement is matched by the excitement of people of my own generation because we shall inherit the world that is being made now. That excitement took me to East Berlin and to Prague in November last year. I did not go as part of an Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation and I was not sponsored in any way. I went there independently and was emotionally swept up in the fever and the ferment of the new movements there. I was left in no doubt that what was happening were genuine revolutions in every sense of that word. I must acknowledge the assistance that I received from the embassy in Prague during my visit and the warm-hearted reception from the students who were active in the movement in Prague.
I vividly remember meeting a youngish man in jeans and denims in one of the theatres in Prague, with whom I had a fascinating conversation. Within a month of returning home, I read that that man, Vaclav Klaus, was the Finance Minister in the new Government in Czechoslovakia.
Hon. Members have referred to the need for cross-party work to try to establish contacts with the emerging democracies of eastern Europe. I am pleased to tell the House that I am participating in just such a venture with the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick), who is in his place, in organising a conference in London in May to bring together young politicians from the emerging democracies of the East, as well as young politicians from the west of Europe and North America. I think that that conference will be important and exciting, and I should like to acknowledge the assistance and advice that we have received from the Foreign Office, and especially from the Minister of State who is to reply.
To depart from that cross-party note, I was disappointed by much of what the Foreign Secretary said when he opened the debate. I was seized by one phrase that he used, when he talked about the need to keep certain characteristics of NATO permanent, one of which was NATO's current membership. I was disappointed to hear that, because the Foreign Secretary still seemed to be stuck in the old bloc mentality that I had hoped that we were beginning to break out of and discard.
If the membership of NATO is to be permanent, how should we respond to the news in this morning's papers that the Foreign Ministry of Hungary is contemplating applying to join NATO? How on earth could we justify saying no to a democratic Government in central Europe? The attitude that NATO should continue in some kind of splendid isolation while everything else changes around it is of no assistance or help to President Gorbachev in his efforts to make the Soviet Union a respected member of the international community—the important goal that he must achieve if he is to rebuff some of his internal critics.
We must drop the unjustifiable and untenable idea of the western Alliance as a gentleman's club in which the Foreign Secretary can blackball applicants for membership. We must also drop the almost existential search that has gone on over the past six months for a new role for NATO, whether in fighting the drug trade or as some sort of international environmental agency, as I have heard mentioned in NATO headquarters. Those suggestions were rightly ridiculed by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath).
What is the future of NATO and the Warsaw pact? It is clear that the status quo is untenable. The Warsaw pact is already beginning to dissolve in front of our eyes. We can safely predict that, as rival parties begin to compete for power in the competitive political climate of the new democracies of the East, politicians will find that promises to leave the Warsaw pact are a guaranteed vote winner. The new Governments will not put up for long with the constraints and taints of the Warsaw pact.
Several hon. Members have expressed fears that, with the dissolution of the pact, we shall begin to see the emergence of the ethnic, national and territorial rivalries which disfigured European history and led to wars and conflicts. In that sense, we can regard the Warsaw pact as a 20th-century equivalent of the Ottoman empire, creating similar problems and potential crises as it decays and crumbles.
The significance of the fears of emerging conflicts as the Warsaw pact dissolves is—I address myself to Labour Members—that the traditional Left-wing demand for the dissolution of cold war security blocs is no longer adequate. As the cold war blocs dissolve, something new must take their place. That is why I support what some analysts have already advocated—a new security framework which includes, in principle, all members of NATO but also all members of the Warsaw pact, including the Soviet Union, in the medium to long term. There should be a new north Atlantic security alliance. I say north Atlantic because I believe that it should not be simply a pan-European alliance.
We should welcome and encourage the continuing involvement of the United States in European security matters. I say that as one who lived and worked in California for six years before becoming a Member of the House. I use the word "encourage" because I do not believe that the problem will be that the Americans will overstay their welcome in Europe but that they will be only too keen to orientate themselves towards the Pacific coast rim. I was well aware of the pull of the Pacific rim for Americans when I worked in California and of the way in which the whole pendulum of political power in the United States swings towards the south and west states, which do not have the traditional ties with Europe that the north-eastern states have.
We should work to encourage continuing American involvement in European matters. I believe that it will be good of itself but also that it will make it easier to have a balanced European security framework in which the Russians can eventually play their part as free and equal partners.
The new framework should have a sound organisational basis, and its development should start with the CSCE talks. President Havel has already called for those talks to be brought forward, but a conference by itself—even if it is semi-permanent—cannot act as a conflict-resolving body, though the Foreign Secretary seemed to suggest that. A conference is no substitute for the links, co-operation, understanding and ethos that can develop by working together in a proper organisational framework. That is the lesson to be drawn from the unique success of NATO in the past 40 years. We should carry that lesson forward into the future.
In Britain we have looked on in amazement and with considerable pleasure at the pace and scale of the developments in Europe, particularly in Germany. The Prime Minister was none the less absolutely right to put it on record last Sunday that
there is no doubt that this coming together of the two parts of Germany is going to happen.
A number of hon. Members have already said that that is a fixed point. It does not mean, however, that we should throw our hats in the air or lose our critical faculties. We must think long and hard about the framework within which the full implications of Germany's unification are worked out. Obviously that will be the vital task of the six, to which the Foreign Secretary referred in his excellent speech.
There are some necessary principles to which the Government should cling when playing our part in the process. The new, greater Germany should be encouraged in every possible way to remain a leading member of the European Community. It should not be tempted by some of the more euphoric distractions to the east, which I detect could be a temptation to German public opinion.
I do not believe that it would be right to disband NATO simply because it is argued that there is no longer a need for the Warsaw pact. In the past there was no necessary symmetry between those organisations. I am also worried about the concept of German neutrality, which was advanced quite strongly by some hon. Members, not least because, if that neutrality is armed, what reassurances will be given to Germany's neighbours? If Germany is a disarmed neutral, who will keep Germany disarmed?
Those questions haunted the House for many of the inter-war years. We should not lose sight of them, especially as German politics, admirable as it has been in the years since the basic law of 1949, has recently thrown up, for reasons I do not have time to go into, an alarming tendency on some of its wilder shores. Recently, Mr. Schonhuber spoke about the notion of armed autonomy in Germany. I do not pretend that that is the majority view within the Federal Republic—God forbid that it should be—but we need to be warned and to be wary about such things.
I agree with the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) that it is vital to keep the Americans fully engaged in the new European construction. In that way we shall avoid the risk of repeating the cardinal mistake of the League of Nations between the wars when, essentially, we lost full American commitment to and participation in the maintenance of the European security arrangements at that time.
The European Community is the foundation of the common European home about which President Gorbachev recently spoke eloquently. We need to use that foundation to reach out generously to the new democracies and emerging market economies of central and eastern Europe to help them make the difficult transition from state Socialism to a mixed economy, or, better still, to free-market capitalism, should they decide that is what they want. That help should definitely include the sort of help at which the Foreign Secretary hinted in his excellent opening speech, when he spoke about the possibility of help for the new emerging political parties in the eastern European countries. I hope that the Government will press forward with that.
To me, that suggests initially putting more commitment and resources into the excellent know-how funds that we already have for Poland and will shortly have for Hungary and Czechoslovakia. I hope that that process will be extended to other Comecon or former COMECON countries as they emerge towards a market economy. Clearly that will be the basis for those economies to move on towards associate status one day with the European Community and towards fuller participation, as I am sure they will wish to have, in the Council of Europe as a bridge towards the possibility of membership of the Community at a more distant date.
In that connection, it is important that we in Britain should play our full part both bilaterally, as I believe we are doing, and as part of the Community in its efforts to help those countries. They must not be left to languish in their difficulties because, as many hon. Members have pointed out, there is a sort of J-curve in these revolutionary developments; one goes through greater difficulties before reaching the stage when one reaps the fruits of great changes.
Nor should we take the view that those countries to the east of Germany have now become part of a predominantly German economic imperium. They have a right to expect support and sympathy from all the major western European countries and doubtless from the United States and Japan as well. So, in all these matters, Britain still has some vital policy choices to make, now and in the near future, in relation to these great questions. I put it that way because the situation has evolved over perhaps only the last six months.
The first option might be to continue with the present policy, as adumbrated by the Prime Minister and others, which undoubtedly has the right objective, which is a stable framework for a United Germany but which, in my view, needs to be followed through in a more diplomatically acceptable way than has been the case hitherto—acceptable to the Germans and to those who live in the proud and now independent nations further to the east, including the Soviet Union itself.
The second option—I see this as not to be recommended—would be to adopt an explicitly pro-German policy and then to try to use the political credit which we might hope that would build up for us in Bonn, and subsequently in Berlin, to try to dilute or slow the process of European integration in some sort of alliance of procrastination with those elements in the Federal Republic which would look on that with some favour. Such a policy would be fatally flawed because it would underestimate the degree of positive German commitment, especially in the older generation of Germans-people of 40 and over—to the existing structures of European integration.
I cite an interesting poll that was quoted in a book entitled "British Social Attitudes", produced recently by SCPR, which reminded us that, according to a poll done by Euro-Barometre, 50 per cent. plus of all the British people questioned said that they had great pride in their country and less than 20 per cent. answering the same question in the Federal Republic said that they had great pride in their country. So the fear of German revanchism is, in present circumstances, overdone because the nature of German public opinion has been changed in a fundamental way by the experience of the past 40 years, and that is all to the good.
The third and best policy option for this country would be to register our sympathy and support in practical ways for the process of German unification, but at the same time to move closer to our Community partners, especially France, Italy and Benelux—I was delighted to hear what the Foreign Secretary said about moving closer to Paris—in their determination to deepen the process of European integration by pooling sovereignty for our mutual benefit. I could not disagree more with the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) on that point, especially in relation to completing the single market and moving on with due speed towards economic and monetary union.
If we adopt that approach, we shall serve simultaneously not only our national interest, which is vital to this House, but the wider Community interest as well, to the benefit of the emerging democracies in eastern Europe which we welcome into the concert of free nations.
Another interesting feature, in addition to the poll that the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman) mentioned, is the interesting contrast in the fact that, although there have been demonstrations in favour of unification on the streets of Leipzig and Dresden, there have been no such demonstrations in western Germany. That goes some way to show that most of that population feel deeply anchored in the West and do not share the same romantic excitement of their counterparts in the East.
This has been a remarkably wide-ranging debate. The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) managed to bring in Ulster. The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) managed to bring in the Horn of Africa, and the Liberal spokesman, the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston), managed to bring in proportional representation. Some Members showed a more Atlanticist tendency, some a more European tendency, and within those groups, some gave a wider or narrower definition of that Europe. There was basic agreement, almost to the point of a love feast, although there was a spectre at that feast, but more of her later.
There was a sense of shared excitement at the change and co-operation after the stagnation and confrontation that has characterised so much of the post-war world. At a time of such bewildering change, it is difficult adequately to predict the future, and mould policy responses that are appropriate and prudent for the time.
We can imagine the problems of those Soviet astronauts who left the earth on 6 September. On their return, the old faces had gone—the Honeckers, the Husaks, the Zhivkovs and the Ceausescus. In their absence, we witnessed the strange death of Communist Europe as the old forces lost confidence and the new forces took over: an excellent theme for a future historian.
As East-West relations improve, clearly that river of improvement will go into many channels over the landscape of the world, whether they be political, in the security sphere or in the extra-European sphere—the developing world—which the hon. Member for Broxtowe brought to our attention. Politically, it is clear that the old age of the two super-powers has gone. One can ask whether the Soviet Union can, in the full sense, still be defined as a super-power.
The decline of the Soviet Union was shown dramatically at the Ottawa conference last week. Mr. Gorbachev, a man of vision, and—as the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber said—a man who should be supported, showed that he recognised the need for fundamental reform. He realised that his east European allies were no longer reliable, has already faced the disintegration of the Soviet empire and now faces enormous problems in the Soviet Union.
While Europe, for its part, catches up with its geography and history after the untidy interlude of the immediate post-war world, the momentous developments in West and East Germany lead to an inevitable unity. East Germany is mightily weakened, to the extent that some parts of it simply do not function. The figures have already been given by hon. Members. Last year, 344,000 East Germans fled to the West. By the end of February it is assumed and predicted that—even after the opening of the wall on 9 November—at least 100,000 East Germans will leave. Many of them will be young, with skills, and that will pose housing and employment problems in West Germany. That development will be little influenced by outsiders as they proceed to unification, and probably to a social democratic future.
Unfortunately, the process of unification in Germany has been caught up in the West German election campaign. There is at times an almost hysterical element. Although events are moving fast, one needs prudence, a certain ability to step back and view what is happening in the light of history. Sadly, much is being decided on the hoof.
Ottawa has set out the steps towards unification—the necessary framework that the Foreign Secretary mentioned today. But I am a little worried that he mentioned the six, as opposed to the two plus four of the Ottawa formula. The key starting point of that unification is monetary and political discussion between the two parts of Germany. Then there is the endorsement by the four powers. We should be wary of using terms such as "occupying powers", which have fallen from the lips of the Prime Minister of late and have been completely unhelpful.
Then there is the wider framework—to ratify the frontiers and to ratify and take on the security implications, the 35 members of the conference on security and co-operation in Europe—the Helsinki process. That is the process which will lead to the long-delayed second world war peace treaty, but it is a peace treaty with a difference, because this time it is the vanquished who will set out its terms.
The German question is fundamental in terms of the political shape of central Europe and beyond and the new economic weight of that Germany, whether or not as part of a united Europe within the definition of the EC. That will play a decisive role in the future.
Yet no umbrella framework is yet in sight for the new political developments. Perhaps it is too early in any event to envisage that, but the question of how we are to build that new Europe can now be posed. Some principles stand out. The core will be the current EC, as enlarged, I hope shortly, with Austria, Norway and Sweden, countries which, economically, culturally and in every other way, are ready without difficulty to be part of the Community.
I hope that the Government will consider urging the Commission to set in train the preparatory work for the acceptance into the Community of Austria, the only country to have applied so far, so that that will not be too long delayed after 1992. That will be a sign to Austria of its easy acceptability into the Community.
The enlargement of the core Community is the starting point. It poses problems about the democratic deficit and the decision-making machinery within the Community. At what point does an enlarged Community under the current rules become non-sustainable? Those are practical problems which will have to be addressed in the near future.
There will be a European structure at different levels. The intergovernmental conference to be held towards the end of the year will take on some of those. Whether as concentric circles or constellations, other groups will be attached in various forms to that core Community. The association has proved extremely flexible in the past. It can be a framework either for those in a waiting room for entry for for those who will not be able to enter that core Community in the foreseeable future.
Clearly, the United States also will be linked. The Baker doctrine has already been alluded to, but it will not be the same form of relationship as currently exists, if only because of changes within American public opinion. Whether the United States is coupled to the new Europe by treaty or some other way, there is certainly a place for the United States in that new European home. There must be a place also for the Soviet Union, not only because it is a European power, but because, due to its size and economic position, it can never be part of the core of the Community.
The frontiers must be clearly defined. When the CSCE begins to examine the question of frontiers, given the nationalities and tensions within the existing countries, it may have to adopt, sadly, a formula not unlike that used by the Organisation of African Unity, which accepts existing frontiers and the fact that there can be change only with the whole-hearted consent of the people immediately involved.
It may be that the existing frontiers—particularly the Oder-Neisse line—will be sacrosant. As the Foreign Secretary emphasised, a way must be found of giving guarantees to cultural minorities within the central countries through the European convention on human rights, the court within the Council of Europe, or the cultural and scientific basket of the Helsinki process. We shall need to see how the revised Council of Europe can play a positive role in the interim process.
As to the security implications, there are across-the-board developments that would have been inconceivable a short time ago. The Warsaw pact as such does not exist, and NATO will have to redefine its position, because the threat as once defined no longer exists. However, as part of the problem is managing change, NATO must continue to exist in its current form for some time.
Other problems present themselves to the Government—and will do so to my own party soon. They include the conversion possibilities because of the considerable number of jobs in the military sector that are likely to be affected. We have 311,000 men under arms, and 365,000 personnel are employed in our defence industries. As it is unlikely that any research is currently being undertaken by the Government, it should begin urgently.
The challenge to our defence strategy is clear, as is the challenge to Germany to recognise the existing frontiers. It is said that Chancellor Kohl has been less than forward in that respect. Progress in current arms control negotiations—has been remarkable—whether it be at the CFE in Vienna, in the START talks, the breakthrough regarding chemical weapons, or the military basket of the Helsinki CSCE talks.
Only the hon. Member for Broxtowe and my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) introduced the question of the Third world—partly in the context of the new Europe turning its back on the Third world as a result of its obsession with central and eastern Europe, partly because of the Community's inadequate personnel resources, and partly because it is so busy that it has time for nothing else. It is also clear that, in terms of East-West relations, we are in a new climate and that there are areas of remarkable agreement in respect of conflicts outside Europe. There are different levels. Clearly, in areas that are far from the immediate security interests of the super-powers, such as southern Africa, the Soviet Union has played a remarkably constructive role—for example, in the settlement that has led to progress there and to independence in Namibia. In other, more sensitive areas—those where conflicts are contiguous to the superpowers—whether it be Nacaragua or Pakistan, there has been less possibility of movement.
In intermediate areas such as the Horn of Africa or the middle east, there are some signs of constructive Soviet intervention. For example, there is evidence that the Soviets are bringing pressure on Syria as part of the middle east peace process. They are also putting pressure on Mr. Mengistu in Ethiopia—a former client state—to be more constructive in his internal position in that country. It is clear that we are in a new era, in terms of Third-world developments, although it is also clear that major conflicts remain.
What can Britain do? We should play to our strengths and respond imaginatively. We applaud some of the constructive things done by the Government—the excellent work of the Great Britain-East Europe Centre and the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union—my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) mentioned an IPU visit. There is also the know-how fund and the positive role of Britain within the Council of Europe.
Perhaps our Government could do as the Americans have done, and consider the adequacy of our diplomatic personnel in central and eastern Europe, because there have been massive cuts during past years and now we are in a different era.
Are the Government considering the COCOM restrictions, or visas for people in central and eastern Europe? The Germans are already saying that they will relax or abolish visas for the Polish. But, again, we appear to be reluctant, or to be following behind other countries in that respect.
We have not been constructive in other areas. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) stressed the Prime Minister's highly negative stance on Germany. The Minister accuses us from time to time of ritual condemnation of the Prime Minister. He and his colleagues should not just listen to what we have to say, but look at the press, which are normally tame and docile about the Conservative party and the Prime Minister.
I refer the Minister to The Sunday Times, which mentioned the handbagging of history last Sunday, and to the main editorial in The Economist this week. He should look at the article in The Times by Ronald Butt, who normally speaks—or at least writes—in reverential tones—on his knees, to the Prime Minister, who says:
But the negative attitude of Mrs. Thatcher's government is well on the way to turning a tried friend into a suspicious, anxious and … inward-looking country.
There are a crowd of witnesses. It used to be said that the nightmare of any Conservative Prime Minister was to wake up and find The Daily Telegraph against him or her, but even its editorials are now showing the deep resentment that is being caused in West Germany.
Surely we should praise West Germany as a major ally and a well-founded democracy, and recognise the inevitability of unification. We should fight our corner on the details, as President Mitterrand did with great finesse when he met Chancellor Kohl last weekend. He made grand declarations and an acceptance, and then worked where they believed there were particular points of interest. There is a great contrast between the way that the Foreign Secretary has put the case and the way that President Mitterrand, albeit with some of those traditional reservations of France, has put the same case, with much greater effect, keeping an ally whose support will be needed in future.
The Prime Minister loudly trumpets that events in eastern Europe represent a triumph for the free market. That suggestion does not bear serious analysis. The theme has been "Democracy yes, the unfettered market no." That is true of both the leaders of the newly emerging countries and the parties that are likely to emerge.
The probable victor in East Germany is the SPD, the East German equivalent of the Social Democrats. That will affect Germany as a whole, and I believe that the welfare social democracy of Scandinavia and Austria—and of our own Labour party—will act as a model for the newly emerging forces in eastern Europe. We hail the developments there as democratic and social. We have no fears about the new age of social democracy in Europe, and the first fruit of that will be a unified and democratic Germany. We must be prudently optimistic: let us welcome this new age.
When I had the privilege of winding up the last debate on this subject, on 1 December, I began by saying that the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) had wound up for the Opposition with dignity, aplomb and a wide sweep of knowledge. He has done the same today, although his hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) opened with a ranting, knockabout speech. I could read my last speech again, as Lord Wilson used to, and glory in my own
past genius. As the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) will remember, Swift said of "The Tale of a Tub":
Good God! what a genius I had when I wrote that book.
If we repeat our dual act any more, it might be a good idea for the Opposition spokesmen to swap round occasionally. In any event, the hon. Member for Swansea, East widened the horizons of what has been a very interesting debate.
In a vintage performance, the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent argued that we should not miss our opportunity, and quoted from the famous Churchill speech. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary's speech will have shown him that we have no intention of missing that opportunity. When he studies my right hon. Friend's speech, to which tributes have been paid today, I believe that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it contained much that was imaginative and forward-looking.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary talked about the development of the Helsinki process to deal with problems of nationalism, and the boundary difficulties that are certain to raise their heads again. He also talked about the need to use the original spirit of the United Nations to try to bring people together to deal with some of the long-lasting and intractable difficulties which will not have gone away when the force confrontation is dissolved.
I do not think that we shall make again the mistake that was made in 1953—let us pray that we shall not be seen to have done so—although I suspect that the forces in the Soviet Union were not there to respond at that time. There is the same feeling throughout Europe—although people are looking back at history with some nervousness, they are determined not to miss the present opportunity.
On one point I profoundly disagree with the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent. Indeed, it would be surprising if I did not, for it is at the heart of the political divide between us. He paid tribute to the Ostpolitik of Willy Brandt, and said that it had helped to produce the present changes. He argued that it was ridiculous for Conservative Members, the Prime Minister and President Reagan to argue that the free market or any part of the great resurgence of western values had brought them about. I strongly believe, however, that that above all brought about the Soviet understanding that the competition was lost.
Indeed, they say so quite openly. When they saw that a new and terrifying structure of armaments might face them in the shape of the strategic defence initiative, they realised that the competition would never be won and that they would have to join the school which would teach them the way forward. Although I admired the speech of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent, I disagree profoundly with him on that point.
We also heard a vintage speech from the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), who managed to do something that even the hon. Member for Swansea, East and my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) did not manage to do, although they referred to a wide range of issues. He managed to bring Pamella Bordes into the debate and in the process invented an excellent new joke. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East passed me a courteous note saying that he could not be here for the end of the debate. It is a tribute to the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent that he has stayed until the end. I do not criticise those who have had to leave, due to other engagements, but it is a pleasure to us all that the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent has been in his place throughout the debate.
The theme that dominated the first part of the debate was Germany and our response to unity. I take issue with my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who also sent me a courteous note apologising for the fact that he could not be here for the end of the debate. He reminded me of the days when I was his private secretary. He said that it was all very easy and perfectly straightforward—that there was no need for committees or councils, that Community matters could be dealt with in a moment, and as for NATO, what was all this nonsense about discussions?
It reminded me of the way in which senior Ministers hold out their hands to their Parliamentary Private Secretaries for their railway tickets and expect them to be there. I have some familiarity with the psychology. In the meantime, however, somebody has to go and buy the railway ticket and produce it, one hopes, at the right moment. We must pay tribute, boring for them though it may be, to the railway ticket holders who labour in councils and committees to ensure that this historic and wonderful event—the freeing of the other one third or one quarter of the German people and their right to self-determination, for which we have stood for so long—comes about in a way that does not undermine the Community.
Let us consider for a moment the extraordinary developments in the Community, if we assume that soon there will be a united Germany, although part of its territory will be unable to comply with Community law for a considerable period. That will be unprecedented. I beg my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup to allow time for a little council, a little committee, just for a day or two. It will not happen automatically. It has never happened before, so we ought to consider it carefully.
As for NATO, I agree very much—as I so often do—with the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) and with a number of other hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy), again not for the first time—that the NATO structures are still valuable and that within them we can tackle, in an informed way, security issues.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup that I can never find much content in the ideas that come across the Atlantic about making NATO more political. I am never quite sure what that means. Committees invented by Mr. Nixon are still in existence. For example, there is a committee which discusses the environment. That would be the last way in which to make NATO a political institution. There are properly based political and democratic organisations, above all in Europe and the Community, to deal with the political aspects.
There is, however, a real sense in which NATO will have a different and very important role, even in the period immediately ahead of us, without looking too far ahead. I refer to verification—a new concept. We are moving towards something that we tried in the 1920s and 1930s but got wrong. We failed to do it properly. We rested our security almost as much on treaty obligations, and therefore on trust, as on our capacity to repel any attack.
In one sense, it has been easy for the last 40 years. It was a great achievement for 40 years to persuade voters and taxpayers in democratic countries to pay for all the armaments to repel attack. Now we are moving towards far lower armament levels and treaty obligations. The last time we did this—the naval agreements of the 1920s and 1930s, the disarmament of Germany after the first world war-we did not verify, so an air force was trained in Russia and they built the battleships.
If we intend to rest our security to a far greater extent on treaty obligations, verification and trust will be crucial. NATO will change into an organisation which plays a vital role for a large part of Europe as well as maintaining a necessary minimum insurance, which will involve nuclear insurance. I strongly disagree with the right hon. Member for Leeds, East, because the Soviet Union is beginning to talk our language and discuss minimum deterrence.
We cannot go back to the old language of a denuclearised and demilitarised Europe just when the Soviet Union has started to realise that minimum deterrent theories are in its own security interests, so that there is a happy and potentially beneficial growing consensus on security issues and we should not throw it away. My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) made those and other related points with his usual clarity.
We should examine with a great deal of care the fascinating, potentially creative and productive but also potentially dangerous instabilities of flux which we now face. The right hon. Member for Leeds, East was pulling our leg a little when he said that he could not conceive how any danger could come out of the balkanisation of eastern Europe. He said that it could not be dangerous to us. He said that the Soviet empire—using language that he did use at other stages of his career—would tear itself apart, so how could it be dangerous?
It is all too easy to write a scenario in which such a combination could be dangerous. I shall sketch one rather briefly, although others could do it much better. Let us imagine that not all the democracies created by the balkanisation take root. We hope that they will, and I shall say a little more about how we shall help them to take root. Mr Shevardnadze said at the recent plenum and repeated to journalists on the aeroplane back from Ottawa, so it was not said lightly,
If perestroika collapses there is a risk that we"—
in the Soviet Union—
could have a dictatorship.".
That is all too easy to imagine. One can imagine balkanisation, some of the democracies having failed and a dictatorship coming to power—they were not my words, but those of Mr. Shevardnadze—so it is not very difficult to sketch out a scenario in which there is considerable danger.
I am not saying that any of that is likely, and we hope that the chances of success are high, but it is surely worth retaining that reinsurance, particularly as our own peoples show no disinclination to pay for it. They want some savings, and they will surely get them, but they show no inclination to rush headlong into the disarmament and pacifism of the late 1920s and 1930s because they have a collective memory of what happened last time, which for the purposes of today's debate the right hon. Member for Leeds, East set aside when he said that he could not even see a purpose in the transatlantic Alliance. He seemed to be leading us back to the old doctrine, which was twice dangerous—that we can balance the security of Europe without the New World. Surely we have learnt that we cannot do that. That would be my answer to the interesting speech by the hon. Member for the Western Isle (Mr. Macdonald), to try to persuade him that those insurances were necessary.
The consensus around the CSCE process is growing and is satisfactory. The hon. Member for Inverness., Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) and many others made the point that perhaps that is the way forward. I would have said to the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth), had he been here, that there is some relevance to Northern Ireland. Are not those who seek to solve the problems of the minorities of Ireland by changing boundaries in exactly the same position as those who might seek to change the problems of the minorities in Moldavia or anywhere else by changing boundaries? We should seek to solve the problems within the existing national boundaries and such ancient attitudes will soon look as outdated as they are.
It was rightly said that there must be some trade-off between our security needs and the success of the growing democracies in eastern and central Europe. It is not only in our interests but in the interests of justice and democracy that we should try to help those countries to secure democracy. That is a fair and right argument.
I cannot agree entirely with the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber, who said that £25 billion of aid should be made available to the Soviet Union. A fundamental reason for my disagreeing is that the Soviet Union is not asking for such aid. My hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Mr. Warren) said that the Soviet Union should be given credit, but it is not asking for credit. The credit line established by Lord Wilson is still open. There is a debate within the Soviet Union about whether it should go down what appears to be a rather dangerous but seductive route of borrowing to put food on the shelves, but what will that do to its agricultural production? We should not be doing the Soviet Union a favour by offering it cheap loans, which it is not seeking.
I am assured by the Soviet embassy that it is actively seeking credit from the United Kingdom. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be willing to facilitate anything that will enable it to obtain from our industry that which it so urgently need and that which it has been offered by West Germany.
There may be some confusion here, as I am told that credit lines from the 1970s are still outstanding. We must get to the bottom of that. The Soviet Union has not yet decided whether to buy its way out of its problems using credit. The east European precedents show that that is a poor way of trying to do things.
The know-how fund extends to all the countries of eastern and central Europe, which is good. We must try to develop institutions—this point was made by the hon. Member for Western Isles and by my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) —to handle political aid. That is new territory for this country. Earlier, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced a new initiative, which was put to us by the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber and other hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Hamilton.
A new institution is necessary to handle political aid. At the request of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, my office has today been in touch with the leaders of all the parties in the House, because we must discuss this thoroughly to achieve cross-party consensus. We must try to achieve that quickly.
A large theme of the debate has been the future of Europe and whether it is to be intensified and deepened or whether it is to be widened. That may be an over-simple way of putting it, but I was surprised and fascinated by the consensus among hon. Members for the widening of the Community. My right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup agreed when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that we should consider the possibility of eastern European countries becoming members of the Community. I believe that that is the way that we should proceed. The hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber and my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Maples) raised that issue.
This is the turning point, and we must decide which road to take. The explicit purpose of many in Germany and in the Commission is to intensify the integration of western Europe into a federation within the next few years. It is not realistic to think about a Community—certainly not within my lifetime—which contains the countries of eastern and central Europe. Can we foresee them being part of a federated Europe? I cannot believe that that will happen.
I believe that we shall move towards a wider and slightly looser Europe. I do not believe that it would be safe to leave a political vacuum in central Europe. My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) said that those countries may experiment with forms of association among themselves, but that was tried in the 1930s. An attempt was made to put together groupings in the centre of Europe between the two big blocs. That does not work. Western Europe should be the core of a reunited wider Europe. I was fascinated by the consensus which seemed to be emerging in the House that that is the way the country wants to go. It is an important matter for the nation to decide, but decide it we must, sooner or later.