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Column 381of the summer or the autumn at the earliest, and it will be a protracted procedure. It is at that point that all the pressure groups and lobbies will begin to make themselves heard. It will not be a straight issue of accepting Delors stages 2 and 3.
There are many reservations about those two stages. I was impressed to find in Brussels the other day the Commission going out of its way to explain that the Delors report is not a Commission document but an ad hoc document to which the Commission itself is not
committed--although obviously Mr. Delors is committed to it to a considerable extent. We know the reservations of the Bundesbank and of its governor, who has already made it plain that he does not want to see Brussels exercising control over the budgetary and fiscal policies of member states. Nor does he see his way to accepting a long-term commitment to stage 3.
The banking authorities in Federal Germany are exceptionally powerful because of the substantial stake that they have in German industry. Therefore, I imagine that the proceedings will be lengthy. My guess is that we shall arrive at an amended stage 2 without a long-term commitment to stage 3, and probably without Brussels exercising any budgetary or fiscal powers.
President Mitterrand has stressed the urgency of pressing ahead with monetary union. We might point out to him that, if he thinks that it is that urgent, there is no reason why he could not have lifted exchange controls already. Were he to do so, we could consider joining the exchange rate mechanism sooner than we might otherwise do. In any event, that development involves highly technical problems that cannot be rushed, so we are in no danger of an immediate confrontation.
I turn to the avalanche in eastern Europe. Despite President Mitterrand's belief that our actions in the Community will have an immediate effect in eastern Europe, the time scale is not as closely connected as he suggests. We all agree on the need to provide first aid to the countries of the East, to tide them over the winter as best we can. We all agreed, also at the Elyse e dinner, that long-term, massive reconstruction for eastern Europe-- a kind of Marshall plan--must wait upon reforms, as these will take time. All the countries of eastern Europe are emerging from Socialist control, but they have a long way to go before finding freedom. East Germany has not even begun that process of changing its Government, and Poland's Administration is still in the hands of members of the Communist party that was. The same is largely true of Hungary. Nevertheless, the action taken by the Community will be important in extending the Community, as is our objective and aim, not only to the EFTA countries but ultimately to the emerging democracies of eastern Europe.
We should be careful in two respects. First, 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. That point must be made to President Mitterrand, and no doubt it is much more in Chancellor Kohl's mind that he likes to admit. Secondly, we must be careful that a split in the Community does not send the wrong message to eastern Europe and to the EFTA
Column 382countries. They would like to join a whole Community, not one in which a united Germany would dominate the scene.
I salute President Mitterrand's decision to hold last Saturday's Elyse e dinner, because the affairs of eastern Europe concern western Europe directly. It was right to send a message before the Malta summit that it is our primary concern not to see another Yalta. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, speaking as Head of Government, rightly said that there must be no border changes. The mention of border changes reminds one a little of the Organisation of African Unity. She knows very well, as we all do, that the most important border is on the agenda whether Governments like it or not. It have no doubt that German reunion will happen, although I do not know how it will develop. We may rejoice at it or regret it, but nothing that we or any other Government say or do will stop it. I understand the anxieties of our French friends about the prospect of a reunited Germany. I agree with the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) that it is not possible to anchor a united Germany to a European Community for ever ; it will stay there only if people want it to. The horse has not yet bolted, but it is too late to lock the stable door. Our French friends must recognise that they have a choice. They can work with us and with the Germans, in which event there will be a proper balance in the Community ; or they can try to exclude us, as M. Mitterrand sometimes threatens. That would mean an economic Dunkirk for us, but an economic Vichy for France. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said that matters of defence must be left to NATO and the Warsaw pact, and that was the right thing for a Head of Government to say at this time. I submit to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, however, that the Warsaw pact is bankrupt. I do not mean that it is financially bankrupt. The great machine is there but the life has gone out of it, and eastern Europe remembers only how Warsaw pact tanks put down the cause of freedom in Berlin, Budapest and Prague. We must make no attempt to undermine Soviet influence, or to threaten the security of the Soviet Union. It is, however, no task or business of ours to strive to keep the Warsaw pact alive.
Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West) : It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), but I do not propose to take up many of his remarks directly. Let me first return briefly to a comment made by the hon. Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall) about the power of communication.
To an extent, the House fails to recognise that the world is now a much smaller place, and that people are strongly influenced by what they hear on radio and see on television. The United States, for instance, might have found it easier to continue in Vietnam if the American public had not seen each night on television what was happening to their forces.
The influence of western communications on those in eastern Europe is clearly known not only to us but to Mr. Gorbachev, who is, I feel, the supreme example in the modern world of a manipulator of public relations. To my mind, his most significant speech in this regard was made
Column 383about a year ago, to the United Nations. He made it clear then that, in his view, the socio-political force of the idea of
democratisation could not be stopped. He also made clear his understanding of the power of communication when he said : "It is hardly possible to preserve, as it were, closed societies." Another member of the Politburo, Alexsandr Yakovlev, put it more succinctly :
"Any event becomes the property of five billion people--within hours."
That is what is happening, and I think the Soviets--or, at least, the more modern members of the Politburo--understand it. What we must ask is whether this is a one-man phenomenon. What would happen if suddenly there was no Gorbachev?
The buzz words used by the Prime Minister, and by the Secretary of State today, reiterate that question, as has Mr. Gorbachev. We must argue continually for stability. Western nations are anxious not only about the stability of relations between East and West but to ensure that what is happening in eastern European countries is irreversible. How can we reconcile our desire for moves towards democracy in eastern Europe with the concept of stability? If we want stability, we will keep the Berlin wall and keep the Warsaw pact and NATO inflexible. However, if we want irreversible change we must examine clearly and carefully our response to what is happening in eastern Europe.
It is in our interest to foster two aspects of the Gorbachev doctrine. First, since 1985-86, he has propounded the view that a nuclear war could not be won. That is relatively new in Soviet thinking. How should we respond to it? Secondly, he has said that a large-scale conventional war in Europe would be almost as devastating in its consequences as a nuclear war. How should we respond to that? The power of communication in Europe is showing clearly that the threat from the Warsaw pact countries is diminishing. That has an impact, particularly on young people and, if I may have the attention of the Secretary of State for Defence, on defence spending. If relations between eastern and western Europe are loosened and the threat of war diminished, it will be difficult for western nations to maintain previous high levels of defence spending. The United States, Mr. Cheney, and West Germany have all recognised that, and I suspect that we are beginning to recognise it in the United Kingdom. I suspect that, behind and beneath developments in the Ministry of Defence, there is a large-scale review. That suggests, not that our defence spending will be slashed dramatically--one cannot do that without huge dislocations in industry and commerce--but that particular types of weaponry will be reconsidered. The Labour party is to pay some attention to that, and we shall state how our defence policy and posture will be affected.
Is it not a fact that certain types of weaponry--for example, the European fighter aircraft--will be called into question in a review of defence spending which takes into account the diminished threat of war? Is it not a fact that the West Germans are dragging their feet? What will be the implications for the industrial and commercial base in the United Kingdom? If I may be parochial for a few moments, what will be the implications for a company such as Ferranti? Much of our industrial and commercial manpower is tied up in defence. It is not just the hon.
Column 384Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Franks) who can allude to that. It is not possible to transfer manpower overnight without a great deal of dislocation.
The Prime Minister has said from the Dispatch Box that Mr. Gorbachev must match his words with deeds. How many more deeds can we ask him to make before we make an adequate response? The INF treaty was asymmetrical. The Soviets gave up many more weapons than we did, whether whether for good reasons or for bad ones. The START negotiations are asymmetrical too. The view that we are asking the Soviet Union to adopt and exhibit on conventional weapons reductions is asymmetrical. Its attitute to the anti- ballistic missile treaty is much more progressive than that of the United States of America. Much more dramatic was that, when it said it would withdraw from Afghanistan, it did so. Those are deeds. We must ask ourselves what deeds of ours match those of the Soviets, particularly viewed through the eyes of our young people.
Do we want to test Mr. Gorbachev? My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) put that question to the Foreign Secretary. While the new Europe emerges, it is farcical to continue to place nuclear weapons in Europe or elsewhere. The West Germans will not tolerate short-range nuclear weapons on their soil, nor being part of an Alliance that wants to modernise and introduce these weapons into their armoury. That may be difficult for many people to accept, but we cannot applaud what is happening in eastern Europe without at the same time reciprocating on the weapons at our disposal.
These are difficult matters. If we in the Labour party are against the modernisation of short-range nuclear weapons, as we are, why in the blazes is the continuation of British strategic nuclear weapons part of our policy? It does not make sense to say that we are not in favour of placing short-range nuclear weapons in Germany targeted on Warsaw and that we need much more expensive nuclear weapons at our disposal in 1994 which can be targeted on Moscow and Leningrad. If we are to ask the Government to review their defence policy and posture, we must review our own.
As the Chinese say, it is a curse to live in interesting times, but we do. We shall not live up to our responsibilities to the British people, especially our young people, if we continue to argue for stability at the same time as arguing against development which would make the process in eastern Europe irreversible.
Sir Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead and Highgate) : I hope that the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) will forgive me if I do not take up his interesting defence analysis immediately, but I shall take up a couple of points later. I have one comment on the speech of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey). It is a pity that nine minutes of a superb speech were ruined by his wanting to be a taproom comedian. It did the rest of his remarks no good. I have had the privilege of leading the United Kingdom delegations to the Council of Europe and the Western European Union for the past two years. Three Europes are developing : the Community, the Council of Europe--I noticed that in a 45-minute speech the right hon. Member
Column 385for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) could not even bring himself to mention it--and the WEU. Each has its own distinct role which, in its place, is valuable.
The Community has to implement the European Single Act, to remove trade barriers, to achieve, to use that ghastly word, commonality in foreign affairs--my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary showed how successfully that was operating--as well as aligning economic affairs sensibly and working towards Delors mark I.
I was interested to read the full account of the speech by Herr Poehl, president of the Bundesbank. Today we have already heard references to what he said. He agreed with the British view that there should be a trial period of a couple of years, after all controls on capital movements were removed, before proceeding further, and that a political framework must be established before there could be a single independent European Community central bank. Those who criticise the British attitude towards the exchange rate mechanism always omit that proviso by Mr. Poehl. We have to note it carefully, because it is a practical way of considering the question.
If the Community is to succeed, which we all want, it has to find a way of exercising democratic supervision over the Commission. Earlier this week I had a most interesting conversation over lunch with Mr. Cheysson, who has had the unique experience of being both a Commissioner and Foreign Minister of France. He has said publicly on more than one occasion that we have to find a democratic way of controlling the Commission.
Perhaps one answer might be an appointed senate, consisting of Members from national Parliaments--an idea that has been floated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine). The idea is worth considering.
I have a specific question for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence about the Western European Union. I hope that he will answer it at the end of the debate. Does he believe with me that the 1954 treaty that established the Western European Union demands that the WEU should have exclusive competence over European defence? That is a most important question. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, defence has no place in the workings of the Community. I hope that my right hon. Friend will confirm that statement.
The Hague platform, the most recent WEU declaration, was signed by Governments of all political persuasions, both Right-wing and Left-wing. Spain and Portugal are the most recent members of the WEU, and they have very different political systems. However, all WEU members agree that we need to retain the nuclear deterrent for a long time. There have, so far, been no eastern European developments that would make me wish to see any change in the Hague platform. There must be results during the conventional forces in Europe talks before we can begin to relax.
I remind those who are going hell for leather for the social charter that Mr. Delors appears to want that there is already a very good Council of Europe social charter, to which reference was made at the Rhodes summit by all the Community leaders. Why does Mr. Delors want to go
Column 386further than that and create his own empire? A sensible social charter is already in place to which the Community should adhere. We are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Council of Europe and the European convention on human rights. One of the rules governing accession to the Council of Europe is acceptance of the convention. The Council of Europe has developed into a bridge between east, central and western Europe. All 23 countries of western Europe are members of the Council of Europe. We have recently admitted Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union as guest members. That is the way to achieve the Europe that Winston Churchill wanted : the old Europe reunited and re- created.
I take issue with my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley who, according to a report in The Guardian, wants to create a new body, consisting of the 23 nations of the Council of Europe and the countries of east and central Europe. However, I have already said that the Council of Europe has taken four nations into guest membership. I was the chairman of the committee that drew up the rules that allowed them in. They have a full right to speak in committees and in the Assembly. There is no need to create yet another body. I had the privilege of being present only a few days ago when Hungary signed the cultural convention of the Council of Europe. Many other conventions are available for signature. The sooner they are signed, the better it will be for everybody. We have to exercise caution. I had the opportunity of talking and listening to the four guest delegations at the Council of Europe. We saw the Poles, the Hungarians, the Yugoslavs and the Soviets all speak and answer questions. Every time the Soviet delegation was asked a question, it went into a huddle with a gentleman sitting at the end of the delegation. I was in the chair at that meeting and asked whether the members of the delegation could be introduced. Everyone who was there plus two who were not there were introduced but there was no mention of the chap at the end. In my usual quiet way I asked whether we could be told who the gentleman at the end in the red tie was. I was told, "He is our adviser". Alas, of the four delegations, only the Soviets had an adviser.
In contrast, I sat next to one member of the Soviet delegation at lunch. He said, "We are exercising great democratic rights in our Parliament. We have rejected six Ministers proposed by our Prime Minister." Speaking as a former Minister, I am glad that that does not happen here. That is the contrast. The Soviets are still unwilling and unable to answer questions freely, and unhappy about doing so, but they are rejecting Ministers proposed by their Prime Minister. [Interruption.]
Between that and the cacophony of sound from those who have not been here for the past three hours, it becomes possible to see where we proceed in the movement towards the bridge that we are bringing forward. That bridge is providing hope for Europe and for the tens of millions who have not enjoyed human rights for four decades. The Council of Europe provides the way forward, and I am glad that the Government are supporting it.
Column 387I wish to discuss the insertion in the Loyal Address of mention of Hong Kong and the restoration of confidence to Hong Kong. The name of the game is how that confidence can be restored. It must be done by pushing ahead with democratic institutions and by a legislative assembly elected by full adult suffrage being in place as soon a possible. Not only must it be in place : it must be seen to be utilising its powers effectively. Equally, we must see democratic elections of the Chief Executive.
Many of us watched last summer the events in Tiananmen square. We saw a young man in front of the tanks who was waving only a handkerchief in response to the armed might of the People's Liberation Army. Yet under the agreement, that same People's Liberation Army which only a few months ago was the instrument of suppression, execution and crushing democratic expression, can be stationed in Hong Kong.
Not only myself but the people of Hong Kong feel that, if some agreement is not reached over that matter, confidence will not be restored. Because of such events, they require a fail-safe mechanism. Because they must have one, the Hong Kong people ask for British passports with the right of abode. Morally, they are equally entitled and justified in that course, as were the people in the Falklands and in Gibraltar. Of course, the counter- argument relates to numbers, not principles, but how can we argue about numbers, when nearly 1 million people in South Africa, which is not the most liberal regime in the world, can come to Britain using passports with the right of entry to and abode in Britain? The Hong Kong people are asking for passports not because they wish to reside here, but as a safety net should the provisions made by the Government prove ineffective.
Let me add one word of caution. Categories are not a solution. I do not want a system whereby the people who can get out of Hong Kong are those who can buy their way out or use influence or position to get out. In all such conflicts, it is not the rich but the poor who are penalised. However the interests of Hong Kong are also important because, if Hong Kong is to survive in its present form it will survive only as a community.
Finally, I consider that the people of Hong Kong have a justified case in asking for that concession. They ask for passports from Britain and from other countries as security, and Britain is the medium through which that should be arranged. It was rather tragic that the people of Hong Kong did not realise that what is happening to the boat people today could happen to them tomorrow. If the problem of the boat people is managed through forcible repatriation, the people of Hong Kong cannot look forward to a helpful solution should the Government's proposals not work out. They could be the stateless refugees of tomorrow.
We cannot continue saying, as the Government have done, that people should come to the West for freedom and for economic advantage, and then turn our backs on them. Imagine what would have happened had the West Germans stood by the river in Berlin all those years ago when those people swam across to freedom, and told them, "You do not really check out as a genuine refugee : swim back." Yet that is the attitude we are adopting to people who wish to come here mainly because we have suggested to them that to come to the West is the answer to their problems.
Therefore, we must see what we can do positively to help Vietnam, as we will be judged not by our words or by
Column 388statements in Hansard , but by our actions. We shall be judged not only on how we deal with the people of Hong Kong, but on how we deal with those who have come to us at our bidding for succour and for help. If Britain can make any claim to stand for the values to which we adhere as Members of Parliament, our duty is not to the privileged but to the disadvantaged, not only in Britain but throughout the world.
Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath) : Today's debate is not about eastern Europe, but of course all hon. Members are mindful of the extraordinary and dramatic events that have taken place there recently. All those years ago, on a Sunday, I stood at the Brandenburg Gate as a young Army officer on the morning that the wall started to be built. Of course I remember vividly the events that followed. We watched as young men climbed the wall, threw themselves into the canal, were wounded and were left to die.
As much as any hon. Member, I rejoice that the cruel and callous regime in East Berlin has fallen. We should remember that its secret service was probably one of the most efficient and evil in the world--one only has to recall its record in Angola.
We heard an extremely poised and well-judged speech from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. He well explained to the country why we must react cautiously to the speed of change and keep our guard up. To produce one argument in support of that, if we decide to scrap a weapons system, it may take 10 years to re-create it, and, to follow the hon. Member for Bolton, South-East (Mr. Young), we saw how the moves for reform were so dramatically and cruelly stamped out in Tiananmen square.
I wish to make two observations on defence, neither of which will get the Secretary of State leaping up and down with joy, but perhaps it is not the job of Back Benchers to feed Ministers chocolates as though they were springer spaniels. The first is the need for a defence review. The last one was under Sir John Nott, and all hon. Members, whatever their views on defence, will agree that the situation that the Government faced at that time was entirely different. I seriously ask that consideration be given to a proper review of Britain's defence needs, against the background of the changes about which I have spoken, so that we can use our always limited resources in the best possible way.
Secondly--this point was mentioned earlier in the debate--I urge the Government to reconsider the question of short-range nuclear missiles in central Europe. Until three months ago, I thought that the defence arguments were convincing and overwhelming, but I regret that the issue was not handled with the political sensitivity that it demanded. We did not take sufficient note of German feeling. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will know only too well that many defence experts outside the House--I am thinking particularly of the noble Lord Carrington, whose views are highly respected by Conservative Members--believe that it is not the moment to modernise those weapons. At a time of all these changes, we are thinking of introducing modernised weapons targeted on East Germany. My brief theme is that, over the past decade, we have tilted our foreign policy to much towards the United States
Column 389and not enough towards West Germany and the European Community. The Prime Minister is on a visit to the United States, and I hope that it will be a great success. Some time ago she said that our relationship with America is paramount or supreme. I challenge that, because it is an out-of-date point of view. Let me make it perfectly clear that I am staunchly pro-American. I visit the United States regularly, have many American friends, and understand only too well its importance to the NATO Alliance. It supplies us with nuclear weapons, and intelligence that cannot be matched in western Europe. Yet when I consider the performance of the Reagan Administration over the past few years, I am uneasy that we were quite so close to the United States.
The concept of walking tall jarred with many of our constituents and people in Europe. I have not time to go into detail, but I had an American research assistant working for me when Grenada was invaded. When I gave her some papers, she was appalled by the gulf between the public position of the United States and the reality of what was happening. I was totally opposed to the bombing of Libya. It was a gross mistake that led to the IRA receiving its largest supply of arms ever. We learned afterwards that the White House had produced disinformation about the terrorist potential of Libya, and Britain went along with that.
The moment has come to tilt our policies towards western Europe. At Bruges, the trumpet gave an uncertain sound. There were two voices : one pro-Europe and one anti-Europe. At home and abroad it was the anti-European voice--the Little Englander voice--that was heard and the view that carried the most weight.
Our supreme task is not to kow-tow to the Bush Administration. As Mr. Charles Bremner wrote in The Times on 28 October 1989 : "The idea of Europe as a strong political pole is so central to the emerging Bush strategy that many would prefer Britain to exercise its transatlantic sympathies from within the new Europe, where it can counter pressure from France and others for a structure more dirigiste than London or Washington wishes. Thatcher should be inside the tent, fighting to marry the good points rather than standing outside pouring scorn on everyone else.' "
The United States as a special friend--conscious of the special relationship--says, "Get in there. Fight your corner, because it is also our corner." We are foolish if we cannot grasp that basic point.
The trumpet call must be clear. Britain cannot advance its cause by narrow nationalism--by denying, thwarting and frustrating and by continuing to act like a founder member of the awkward squad. Rather, we must participate and co-operate, while fighting our corner like the French, the Germans, the Belgians and all the rest. It is through the co-operation and the co- ordination of our activities in the European Community that we shall fulfil our historic role. Several Hon. Members rose--
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean) : The winding-up speeches are expected to begin at 1.50 pm, so time is very short. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to speak. I therefore appeal for the continuation of short speeches.
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Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) : Co-operation in the Community may be an admirable concept, but it will not be achieved if, through a combination of blind panic and blackmail, it is suggested that we can create a regime of concentric circles with Britain in the outer circle. I had hoped to hear from the Foreign Secretary some indication of the attitude that the Government propose to take at the Strasbourg summit. I am afraid that it is not at all clear at what point they will decide that they are no longer prepared to accept the diktats of those who seem increasingly to believe that the Delors plan solves all problems for the future. It is much more important that we should consider what is happening in eastern Europe and how we can help those countries to move towards democratic status in the hope that they will be prepared to enter a liaison with Europe in the future. That is important if we are not to exclude the Scandinavian countries and Austria from associate status to produce a stable political situation in middle Europe.
The House seems occasionally to underestimate the importance of the volatile situation in the middle east, which remains a significant political flashpoint. I am concerned that neither the Government nor any other international agency have put forward any proposals to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict which take account of the fact that Israel, which is a democratic country, has the problem of persuading its voters and people to move towards a peace process and that it will do so only with encouragement from those who believe firmly in democracy and who understand the complications and complexities of the situation in the middle east.
Resolution of the Palestinian question will not enhance stability in the Arab-Israeli context unless it is supported by a comprehensive peace process. Those who tell us that the Palestine Liberation Organisation is moving rapidly towards a position where it will recognise the need for the existence of the state of Israel tend to misinterpret the signs that we have received from the PLO when it has met in conference. It was clear, even from Fatah, when it met in Tunis in August, that its main political message was that it intended
" to intensify and escalate armed action and all forms of struggle to liquidate the Israel-Zionist occupation of our occupied Palestinian land and guaranteeing our people's right to freedom and independence."
In Israel, both the Labour party and Mapai have made it clear that in differing ways they wish to see a movement towards an election process and the opening of political dialogue with the Palestinians and the PLO. However, they will not do so unless that process is taken one stage at a time. So that they can move towards dialogue it must involve people whom they can recognise and accept as being at least responsible politicians. It is clear that the Israeli people themselves are almost equally divided between those who do not wish to see a meeting that would give recognition to the Palestine Liberation Organisation and those who would be prepared to accept representatives who, although perhaps not directly elected, could at least demonstrate that they had the backing of the people whom they purport to represent.
The need for acceptance of an election plan is general throughout Israel. It is interpreted in different ways by different groups, but the need to find some machinery that will enable talks to begin is something that this House should support. Occasionally, we do not give sufficient
Column 391weight to the problems of the area in that we always highlight the abuses, which the Israelis themselves are prepared not only to investigate but to take action on. I do not defend those who commit any form of abuse against human rights, whoever they may be, and I am frequently dismayed at the fact that the real abuses in Syria, Iran and Iraq are not condemned with the vigour and clarity of expression with which Israel's problems are condemned in this House. I continue to believe that it is vital that we give our support to those who want to see a way forward to a negotiated peace and a political settlement that will last. Israel's commitment to democracy can never be underestimated. Its people understand the need for an open expression of political views. They have a right to be untrusting of those with whom they have to talk and who are, after all, people who have carried on a violent war of terrorism against Israel for many years. If the Israeli people are wary of the movement towards talks, that is only too understandable.
If we in Britain give as much encouragement as we can to the Israelis by making it clear that we understand their reservations and the reasons behind those reservations, I believe that the Israeli people can be persuaded to move towards opening talks for elections and to find Palestinians with whom they can negotiate a proper peace for the future. I hope that very soon we shall begin to see that process opening up. As a democratic state which offers support in eastern Europe to those whom we see moving towards an elective system, and one that we support, I hope that we can also understand the problems that Israel faces in the middle east and give it the same kind of unequivocal support. As a democracy, it is seeking a solution to the problems of the middle east.
Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington) : I welcome the paragraph in the Queen's Speech on the European Community, and the excellent speech of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary this morning. He was right to say that this is a critical time in the development of the European Community and Europe as a whole. In those circumstances, it is crucial that Britain should be a full and positive participant in these developments.
The secret of success in the European Community, history tells us, is to adopt a constructive approach that combines British and Community interests, and it is possible to do this. For example, it is in British and Community interests to make further progress with European integration based on social market principles. This is a basis on which Left and Right in the Community can unite and, increasingly, a basis on which East and West in Europe as a whole can unite. It will mean pressing ahead with the action programme for the single market by the end of 1992. It will mean Britain joining the exchange rate mechanism as soon as that is sensible and there is a basis for it that is likely to be sustainable. It will mean accepting the principle of a social Europe to complement the economic Europe that is already so well advanced.
In this context, I was naturally glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister say earlier this week in the debate on the Loyal Address that Her Majesty's Government are firmly in favour of parts of the social
Column 392charter. By implication, she was saying that if the present draft were improved in a liberal market direction, we need have no difficulty with it.
Further progress in European integration will mean that we should also promote cultural unity of the European home and use it in our schools. The national curriculum and our media. We should help to build what my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) called a more robust European civil society. It means that we should not feel frightened by the further developments of a political Europe. Some of my right hon. and hon. Friends seem unduly alarmed by this. They have no real need to be, and in current and future circumstances, Britain cannot afford to stand aside. Our approach should be based on reality rather than myth and on a clear-eyed appreciation of British national interests. For example, in today's interdependent world, with the rapid globalisation of markets, money and media, the old idea of national autonomy or--to adapt a phrase from another context--of conservatism in one country, is simply unattainable. There is no alternative to pooling our national sovereignties within the European Community to create a larger and more effective capacity to act at Community level. Equally, it is pointless to spend time and energy railing against the Community method, since it is clear that ad hoc alliances within the Community and even qualified majority voting can and has benefited our national interest on many occasions.
To dub everyone who favours further progress in this direction as a Euro- federalist is absurd. The Community consists of proud and distinctive nations, some of them even at the sub-national level. It is likely to develop not as a carbon copy of the United States or some other federation, but as a new political hybrid that will be sui generis. The principle of subsidiarity will be vital in that some functions will be best exercised at national level, some at sub-national level and some at supra-national level. In removing the fears and misconceptions that cloud our European future, political leadership has a vital role.
One piece of evidence for this is the recent poll in The Independent, in which the most interesting comparison was not that between Britain, France and Germany, but that between Britain and Spain. Nearly all the British answers to the poll demonstrated the impact of our sometimes negative attitude towards some of the more adventurous Community initiatives. Nearly all the Spanish answers demonstrated precisely the reverse.
What should be our approach from now on? We should approach Community challenges in a self-confident, positive spirit. Membership is to be exploited for our legitimate national interests. We should get into the habit of helping to write the Community agenda for the future, as the French and Germans have done for years. We should explain to the British people that an effective policy in so many different sectors of European Community activity can be based only on a realistic appraisal of our national interests within the Community and how best to promote them.
We must not make mythical assumptions about our alleged national autonomy, or the supposed constitutional supremacy of this House when the reality and substance of power is flying elsewhere every day. We should come down to earth and eschew both Euro-theology and Euro-demonology.
Column 393If our partners get things wrong, as they do from time to time, we should put constructive counter proposals, as the Chancellor did so ably with his evolutionary approach to European monetary union a while ago.
If we do not approach membership of the European Community in a constructive way, our partners may lose patience and go ahead without us being in the first rank beside them. That is borne out by what we know of continental public opinion and it was illustrated by answers to the recent poll in The Independent. If that happened it would be a tragic replay of too much of our post-war history, notably the events of 1950 and 1956.
I remind the House that, more than 30 years ago in May 1953, Sir Winston Churchill made a memorable speech in which he said of Britain's relationship with Europe--then it was the Six :
"We are with them, but not of them".
That may have been an appropriate description of our relationship with the six at that time, but it would be an entirely inappropriate and damaging description of the relationship now and in the future. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will go to the European Council in Strasbourg in a few weeks' time with a positive attitude and an agenda of positive points to serve British and Community interests. I hope that they will take the advice of the Daily Express leader today, which I do not have time to quote.
Splendid isolation, or a semi-detached attitude, is no longer a sensible option for Britain, nor is it a sensible definition of leadership. We should combine with our partners to construct a more prosperous and peaceful Community. That will do more than anything else to safeguard the future of the country--and the future of the Conservative party, too--in the 1990s and beyond. It will provide a political anchor for Germany and act as a powerful magnet to eastern European countries on their path to pluralism and democracy, and as a model of freedom and responsibility it can be a beacon of light to the world.
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Carlshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman), because I could hardly disagree more. If he thinks that power will go from this place, let him fly to Strasbourg and declare himself a whole-hearted European unionist, and let him tell that to the electorate, because that is the logic of his arguments.
I celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Council of Europe. Some 40 years ago, I stayed with a German family in Hamburg as a schoolboy and I became friendly with their son. Recently he asked me why I was against the Community. I told him that, 40 years ago, we had avoided killing each other by two or three years, and that I did not want my son to put his son out of work.
The Community is not, at heart, a democratic community. It is not primarily concerned with partnership between nations or peoples. Primarily it serves the financiers and bankers. It is an economy fit for transnational companies to work in. That is why the European unionist party is well represented by Conservative Members, whether they declare it or not.
Column 394The European Community is more about competition than co-operation. It is more about coercion than conciliation, about profits rather than people. I challenge the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington about having it national where possible and having it international where that is better. The word "subsidiarity" does not permit that. The treaty of Rome does not permit it. It is expressly designed to create a political and economic union. I was sorry to hear the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), for whom I have great respect, talk widely about federation and confederation, and even advocating one. It seems that hon. Members do not understand the difference between a federation, which the European Community can never be under the treaty of Rome, and confederation, still less a political union, to which the treaty of Rome almost inevitably leads by the forces of capital and economic integration.
We forget at our peril that the difference between federation and confederation, which is not much understood even in this place, was the cause of the most disastrous civil war on the continent of north America. English-speaking people fought about that very definition. When, as on 11 November, we remember the origin of wars, we should remember that it is in the small print of constitutions that, sometimes, such conflicts arise. I do not want there to be conflict in Europe arising out of such ideas or ancient rivalries and economic competition, which, with political aspiration, we have been told, as I believe, were the origins of the 1914- 18 conflict.
I believe that we now have something of a break point in Europe. The Foreign Secretary was quite right to refer to 1848. I must refer to 1918 and 1919. Does not the elimination of the Potsdam agreement and the breaking down of the wall bring us to a situation not very different from that which confronted us with the treaty of Versailles? At that time, we had a central European power with eastern European satellites, and a great power to the east, which happened then to be in revolution. There was a settlement between the victorious western powers--the United Kingdom, France and their allies--and a vanquished Germany.
I question whether the treaty of Rome, as constituted and practised, makes a viable or proper pinpoint on which the future of a co-operative Europe can be based. The French have a phrase, point d'appuie--point of leverage-- which I believe President Mitterrand put forward in Strasbourg as a major plank of his policy. I ask the House whether the treaty of Rome has not within it some of the seeds of failure of the treaty of Versailles?
Politicians in a hurry rightly want to secure a peaceful future for Europe, but can one be obtained with a flawed constitution which denies national self-expression, which denies countries such as ours the power of this Parliament, and which, in respect of national taxation and the balance between public ownership and private endeavour, gives the United Kingdom a lower constitutional status than is aspired to, and will probably be gained by Estonia and Latvia?
I put it to Conservative Members, especially those who believe in a European mush--that is what many of them are advocating--that if we want peace, good will and stability in Europe, as do I, my friends and our grandchildren, we must build it on a sure foundation, and I do not see that foundation in the treaty of Rome.
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Sir Rhodes Boyson (Brent, North) : I always try to speak on the debate on the Address because it provides an opportunity to range widely, but apart from some comments at the end of my contribution I shall confine myself to foreign policy, especially European policy. I still think, however, that too many Bills are featured in each Session's Queen's Speech. Hon. Members on both sides of the House spend far too much time passing through the Lobbies in support of or in opposition to Bills that we have to rewrite the following year. That happens year after year. We should have more debates on major issues both here and abroad so that we get the direction right before we introduce the Bill.
I think that we are all agreed that the lid has come off middle and eastern Europe. We are confronted with a Pandora's box, or a box of honey--it will be one or the other. What Britain does and what other countries do will be decisive for the future of Europe in our own, our children's and our grandchildren's lifetime. It is vital that we have every link possible with middle and eastern Europe.
I recently returned from Hungary, where it was clear to me that the Hungarians do not regard themselves as part of eastern Europe. They see themselves as being in middle Europe. The best way to lose friends immediately in Hungary is to refer to the Hungarians as eastern Europeans. Anyone who does that might as well get straight back on the aeroplane and return to the United Kingdom. You always expect me to produce one good quote, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I have done so at the beginning of my speech.
In middle Europe generally the star is rising in the west. For a long time the middle European countries looked to the East, but they realise now that the East's economic system has not worked and they want to be back with the West. We have a chance to revitalise European civilisation. That goes beyond the Common Market. The tragedy of this century was the first world war, when Europe destroyed so much of its culture and aspirations as a result of dividing itself. We now have a chance to bring Europe together. The economics must be sound, but basically this is not an economic issue. The countries of middle Europe want to be in Europe and to be back with us in the West.
When I was in Hungary I did not make the number of visits that the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) described when he spoke from the Opposition Front Bench this morning. It seems that he went everywhere and saw everyone. I was privileged, however, to meet the leaders of the political parties and Hungary's Foreign Minister. It is clear that they are all concerned that Hungary should return to Europe. I welcome the fact that the Hungarians have presented their culture at the Barbican centre--indeed, I attended the ballet there, as did many other hon. Members --as part of the community of Europe. The Hungarian company presented ballets from the West--it did not confine itself to middle European productions. The Prime Minister of Hungary is coming here next month. He is a Harvard graduate and he knows the West. He is young and his record within the Communist party has been that of a reformer throughout. Next year, Prince Charles and Princess Diana will visit Hungary.