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Column 994In the past, miners have been shot or put into psychiatric hospitals for striking. Now they are fearless of the bureaucracy and their independent organisations are springing up. We in the Labour movement have a duty to support the struggles and establish direct links with workers in other countries. I am proud and privileged to have done that and that messages from the British trade union movement have been read out in Lenin square and circulated among the masses in eastern Europe. Demands are being made for freedom, free expression, freedom of organisation and free speech and we must assist the workers in that.
When I was researching my speech for this debate I came across two statements made by Trotsky, to whom my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North referred. Trotsky was a comrade in arms of Lenin at the head of the Russian revolution in 1917. He said :
"The vengeance of history is more terrible than the vengeance of the most powerful General Secretary."
When we see heads rolling in eastern Europe we realise how apposite Trotsky's words were. They were an indictment of Stalinism. More prophetically, he added :
"Crowds will fill the arena. They decide, they act, they legislate in their own unprecedented way."
The struggle is a continual challenge to the rule of the bureaucracy. The international working class has a duty and responsibility not only to support workers in eastern Europe but to join in the struggle against Stalinism in the East and capitalism in the West. The only genuine guarantee of peaceful co-existence and prosperity for all workers, not only in Germany but in all nations across the globe, lies under the umbrella of democratic Socialism. I am proud to have participated in today's debate. Although my comments will not influence Conservative Members, I say clearly to the workers in eastern Europe, "We stand four square with you, we salute your struggle, and we look forward to the day when we shall live together under the umbrella of Socialism."
Mr. David Nicholson (Taunton) : I shall not follow the hon. Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields) in his rewriting of history in the interests of Leon Trotsky. I felt for the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) when the hon. Member for Broadgreen expressed solidarity with him but in view of the vexatious remarks of the hon Member for Hamilton earlier, perhaps he deserved it. It is a pleasure for me to take part in my first foreign affairs debate. I have three reasons for being particularly interested in this subject. First, my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) referred to the Great Britain--East Europe centre. I support my hon. Friend in his call for more funds for that centre because there is so much for it to do at present. Under the auspices of the centre, I was host to Hungarian democrats and Polish Solidarity Members of Parliament in my constituency. As part of a process that is taking place partly in Westminster and partly in local constituencies we trained them--although that is not the best word to describe it--in the practice of democracy. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) said that Poland and Hungary need to move on to local government elections. I was pleased to introduce the Polish Members of
Column 995Parliament to the mayor and the chief executive of my local authority. They discussed the mechanism of holding local government elections.
The second reason why I am pleased to take part in the debate is that shortly before the last election I visited East Germany with several of my colleagues who are now my hon. Friends. I pay tribute to the role of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in the Federal Republic of Germany, which has done much not only to bring together like-minded parliamentarians of western Europe but more recently to put such parliamentarians in touch with democrats in the Parliaments of Poland and other countries. We noticed the tremendous backwardness, the dreadful transport system and the limited supplies and choice of food in the shops in East Germany. Our guide in Dresden, who was not a Communist, to whom we warmed, and with whom we established a good relationship, was born, prematurely, I think, a few hours after that dreadful RAF bombing raid on Dresden in early 1945. There are lessons in that for the peoples of Europe to seek peace and to work together.
The third reason why I am happy to be taking part in the debate is that I am a part-time historian. I must apologise to the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) who is right to say that Barbarossa was June, not May, 1941. I edited the diaries of Leo Amery, father of my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), who cannot be here this morning. The House will know that my right hon. Friend was in Albania at the end of the war when the Communists were taking it over. Alas, Albania does not yet feature on the list of countries moving towards democracy. Leo Amery's interest in central Europe and the Balkans stems from the fact that his mother was an early Hungarian refugee. She was driven from Hungary in 1849 after an earlier Russian invasion.
I should like to give a warning about recent developments. My hon. Friend the Member for Daventry is right that our fears and warnings should not stop us hoping for and working towards a better world. But in 1848, the whole of Europe outside Russia had revolutions and by 1849 most had been suppressed. It was back to the ancient regime for most countries. We see the dangers particularly in Poland where the democrats may fail and in Russia where the Baltic states, Georgia and other sections may break apart and the Red Army may clampdown with fearful consequences. That is why we must keep up our guard while hoping for a better world.
I pay tribute to the BBC which broadcast that dramatic report by Charles Wheeler two weeks ago. We have heard of the bravery of the people who are bringing the changes about. The crowd was gathered in the central square in Georgia and the Patriarch appealed to them to leave the square and go into the church because of an impending clampdown. The crowd shouted back, "No" and stood in silence. A few minutes later the tanks rolled in. Troops and others with weapons, including forms of drugs, moved in and we know of the dreadful consequences. Happily, those responsible for those dreadful events were removed from power in the Soviet Union and we must pay tribute to Mr. Gorbachev for that.
My second warning echoes what has already been said today : we do not want a return to Balkanisation. My hon.
Column 996Friend the Minister said that in the two or three years before those countries were swallowed up, first in Nazi and then in Communist tyranny, they did not show any great fraternity towards each other. The Poles and Hungarians took slices of Czechoslovakia and the Hungarians and Bulgarians took slices of Romania. The borders of eastern Europe and the Balkans have no great certainty or legitimacy. My hon. Friend the Member for Daventry mentioned that in the context of German borders, and his point is well taken. Even during the war, Leo Amery was working with Czech and Polish exiles to get them to work together for a better world after the war. Alas, they were not to have that opportunity.
Thirdly, there is a German proverb which runs, "Mann ist was er isst"--man is what he eats. That is a rather materialistic view of the world, but if Bismarck returned to us today he would say that Parliaments, constitutions and speeches are no good unless the people can be fed. That need was well expressed by my right hon. Friends the Members for Blackpool, South and for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), who spoke of ensuring this winter that the Poles can feed themselves and put their agriculture and transport systems into some order. Fourthly, I commend the work of the British Council and the world service, and of the Churches in the West. The Churches have been responsible for much of what has happened in eastern Europe. The Roman Catholic Church in Poland and Czechoslovakia and the Protestant Churches in East Germany have made themselves the focus for resistance and liberalisation.
Finally, I come to the role of the European Community. I remember the great debate in this country over entry into it in 1971, when my old friend, the much respected and late Member, Sir John Biggs-Davison, told me that we must get our ideals right about entry into the EC. The Common Market, he said, is rather like taking in each other's washing machines--I suppose they could do with a few of those in eastern Europe. To many people in Britain the EC is either about taking in each other's washing machines or about the social dimension--the doling out of substantial sums, or the more sinister and controversial social charter.
The developments in eastern Europe offer tremendous scope for developing the Community as a sort of commonwealth of nations in Europe. This country has done much to develop that idea. I hope that the European Community can rise to these challenges, and that Britain can, too.
Solzhenitsyn summed it up so well. Years ago he made the point that one day in eastern Europe the grass would begin to break out through the concrete, and that is what is happening. The grip of the Red Army, the Communist party and the secret police is loosening and freedom is breaking through the concrete. We must be on our guard, but we should welcome these developments. I urge my hon. Friend the Minister, whose diplomacy, together with that of the Foreign Secretary, has so large a part to play, to continue his work of bringing about a better future for all the people of Europe.
Column 997from Birmingham arrived at 10.15. I shall not go into that now, but when we eulogise our system and deprecate that of eastern Europe perhaps we should retain a degree of modesty and caution. Nineteen eighty-nine has been a remarkable year and not only a year of anniversaries. It will come to be seen as epochal in its own right. Most of its events have been positive, but we must not be too euphoric--there have been some disasters of which the world should not be proud.
Superpower detente has returned ; the superpower leaders apparently even like each other. NATO has been getting its act together more--for instance, at the Brussels summit in May. There have been remarkable developments in western Europe and probably some redefinition of the relationship between the United States and its NATO allies. We have witnessed the collapse of Stalinism and the redrawing of boundaries in Europe. I hope that we have seen the emergence of new and more secure borders there. I suppose that the timing of today's debate, coinciding as it does with the floating summit at Marasaxlokk off Malta, provides us with an opportunity to reflect on what has happened and to gaze into the crystal ball.
Many hon. Members have recently been to eastern Europe and there is a danger, into which I shall not fall, of seeing it from the perspective of those who have recently discovered it. If my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields) had not shot off, I would have told him that I believe that it is an incredible impertinence for anyone to offer advice to Lech Walesa, one of the heroes of the 20th century, about what should be happening in Poland. I much prefer Lech Walesa's perspective of what to do for the future of Poland as seen from Gdansk than the perspective seen from Liverpool, Broadgreen. While I do not reflect official party policy in every sense, I am pleased to say that neither does my hon. Friend the Member for Broadgreen.
The situation in eastern Europe is confusing, and I am even more confused having heard my hon. Friend the Member for Broadgreen. Had he made his speech in any eastern European legislature over the past six months, he would not have received the silent opposition that he experienced in this House.
We are all aware that eastern and central Europe has had a sad, tragic and violent history. We have often seen eastern and central Europe as faraway lands about which we know or care little. That indifference has been punctuated by extreme concern at times of crisis. Very few western Governments have even had a policy towards eastern Europe. The worst thing we have done is to ignore eastern Europe and to consider it as a mere clone of the Soviet Union. We seem to think that whatever happens in the Soviet Union is replicated in eastern Europe because that is where the Red Army is and where the Soviet Union has bequeathed its military, political, economic and social institutions. It was never quite like that. Some eastern European leaders tried within the parameters available in the Warsaw pact to encourage a degree of independence, if not autonomy, in Hungary and, to a lesser extent, in Poland.
The Soviet Union has historically seen eastern Europe as a colony. Those are countries in which the Soviet Union dumps its military products and substandard economic products. Those are countries which the Soviet Union can suck dry of their raw materials, although I must admit that
Column 998the drain on the Soviet Union in more recent years has, to a certain extent, overridden its earlier period of advantage over the eastern European countries. The Soviet Union sees eastern Europe as a cordon sanitaire and as an area from which it can gain surrogates to operate throughout the globe on its behalf. The Soviets see it as a territory which can best be described as the Soviet's means of forward defence.
All that is changing. Indifference has been replaced by deep concern. Nations that were exploited, subjugated, occupied, partitioned and ignored now occupy the centre of the stage. It must be more than a fad and more than people saying that they have been to several countries and we should do this or that and then tomorrow's issues might replace today's concerns.
We are all aware of the incredible transformations that have occurred. A few weeks ago I chaired a session of the North Atlantic Assembly. On one side of me sat the assistant secretary-general of NATO and on the other sat General Lobov, the chief of staff of the Warsaw pact. If anyone had told me three months before that that might happen I would have dismissed him as a lunatic or a romantic. We are all aware of mind-boggling events. No doubt there will be more.
We failed eastern Europe by not appreciating its diversity. We did not appreciate the fact that those countries have long histories of independence and, to a certain extent, democratic traditions. As has been said, we must be cautious. Totalitarianism embodies a single mass party, a revolutionary ideology, control of the media and of the armed forces and the use of terror. However, despite that, the model of totalitarianism as applied in the Soviet Union and, to a lesser extent, in eastern Europe, could not eliminate the spirit or strength of institutions, nationalism and of the Church. In that respect, I must refer once more to the Church of Father Popieluszko, embracing people who had been subjected to totalitarian ideology from the late 1940s.
With the president of the North Atlantic Assembly, I went to the town of Zagorsk, headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church. I asked one of the priests, "How do you relate to the Communist party? How intimidated have you been?" He said, "You must remember that we recently celebrated our millenium. The Communist party came to office in 1917. See things in that perspective. We will be around for many centuries after the passing of this type of regime."
I freely confess that, when I went to Czechoslovakia in the spring, I could see little sign of any mass movement. Oh yes, one met people from Charter '77 and one heard of the Jazz Section of the musicians' union and the exotic Plastic Children of the Universe, but nothing else. We did not know because we are guilty of making a swift analysis and then disappearing, but under the surface was a mass movement which has now emerged. In Bulgaria, there was even less sign of any opposition to Communism, but it is now bursting forth. We should reflect upon how we have misjudged events in the Soviet Union and in eastern Europe.
There may be a Poszgay in Hungary, and there may be a Solidarity Government in Poland, but one must remember and offer some cautionary advice if they are prepared to take it. The Communist party is an uneasy coalition party. One has only to look at the history of the late 1940s to see how Communist parties in coalition with non-Communist parties ended up. Graveyards are filled
Column 999with those who learnt the lesson too late and to their cost. Although I would pin my faith on Poszgay as a genuine democrat and on the Solidarity Government, we need a little more time to reflect on whether the Krenzes or the Mvladenovs of this world are genuinely democratic or whether they are simply following the words of Lenin--take one step backwards and two steps forward.
In the The Independent today, Rupert Cornwell referred to President Gorbachev meeting President Bush. He said that no Soviet leader has gone to a summit in such a degree of weakness. He reflected on the comparsion with the treaty of Brest Litovsk. From my reading of history, I remember that for the Bolshevik Government it was a deliberate tactical retreat. I should want to be certain about whether what is happening in the Soviet Union is a tactical adjustment, a genuine conviction that the world is changing, or just a breathing space for the Soviet Union. Six months ago, I would have said that with even greater conviction. I am now much more open-minded. Perhaps we have made mistakes. Perhaps developments in the Soviet Union will show that the economic, political and military system that was inflicted upon the Soviet Union will be but history. We must get our act together and get a better, coherent multilateral policy within NATO and the EEC on eastern and central Europe so that we can act together politically and economically and in terms of security. We must be positive and adventurous but not reckless. As many people have said, we are not yet certain whether the reforms are reversible.
We should not seek too eagerly to capitalise on the misfortunes of the Soviet Union. That would not be in our interests. We should not at this stage or in future expect countries such as Hungary or Poland to extricate themselves from the Warsaw pact. Whatever the defects of the alliance system today it must survive to bring a degree of order and coherence in the dangerous period that lies ahead. It is in our interests that the current structure of alliances survives. We should not tamper with alliances. We should encourage them and sustain them financially and economically and offer advice. We have heard much of the Government's know- how scheme. A few weeks ago, I participated in the scheme in my town by taking two Polish MPs, one Communist, one Solidarity. The local chamber of commerce has offered to send a team of its specialists to both of the constituencies in a couple of months in order to stimulate enterprise, because they are almost totally lacking in that skill.
We should relax the rules of the co-ordinating committee of western nations on technology transfer, but we must remember that we need more of a track record from the Soviet Union before we agree to transfer highly sensitive technology that might be used for military purposes. A great deal of information should be exchanged on environmental matters, and the arms control process must be sustained. I have not yet talked to the Whips about it, but I am off to Vienna on Sunday as part of a North Atlantic Assembly monitoring operation to look at the confidence-building talks and the conventional arms control negotiations.
We are living in exciting times and must take advantage of them. We must be prudent and not treat politics in the way that Geoff Boycott would treat his batting. Perhaps
Column 1000we should take chances but we remember that, ultimately, Governments are responsible for national security and should move at a pace that is consistent with that. The United States must remain part of the security equation in western Europe and we expect the Soviet Union to remain an integral part of that too.
When President Gorbachev talked two years ago of a common European home, he could not have imagined that the home which would emerge would be one or more democratic states. Countries within his military orbit have shown a disdain for the system within which they were compelled to operate. I am not good at crystal ball gazing, but I can foresee more and more nations seeking to join the European Community. I am not among the Community's most devoted adherents, but I strongly suspect that in future the Community will be greatly enlarged. That will be not only to our economic advantage but to our political and security advantage.
Mr. Hugo Summerson (Walthamstow) : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You protect the rights of Back Benchers. At least half a dozen hon. Members who wanted to speak have not been called in the debate. We have constituents in the same way as those who have spoken have constituents. With the coming of the cameras more and more pressure is put on hon. Members to speak. People say to me, "We have not seen you on telly. When will we see you?" Surely the time has come to place more time limits on speeches when it is clear that many hon. Members wish to speak in a debate. The present system causes great resentment among hon. Members who have taken the time and trouble to prepare speeches and to be here but are not called.
Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd) : I regret the fact that a number of hon. Members have been in the Chamber the whole morning wishing to speak. As the hon. Gentleman is probably aware, Mr. Speaker used the Standing Order under which he has authority to limit speeches between 11.30 and 1 o'clock. That is the only Standing Order that Mr. Speaker could employ this morning and he did that in order to get as many Back Benchers as possible into the debate. I assure the hon. Gentleman that if he looks at my list he will see that most hon. Members who were called spoke for between nine and 10 minutes.
This is a timely debate because it is being held on the eve of the summits in Malta and Strasbourg. It has also been a high-quality debate. It was started by the Minister describing from Olympian heights the moral decay of the whole Communist system. We have heard the visionary views of my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) who followed. We have had political insights from Liverpool and have listened to the experiences of many hon. Members who spoke about their sense of wonder at the scale and pace of what has been happening in central and eastern Europe.
Effectively, the foundations of the political and economic system established at the end of the second world war are now shaking. As the historians among us
Column 1001have pointed out, the crust of Communism imposed on the countries of central and eastern Europe by the limits of the advance of the Soviet tanks at the end of the second world war has dissolved. Underneath that crust is a thousand years of history with all the advantages, challenges and fears that derive from that, including the danger of nationalism, not only within central European states but within the Soviet empire itself, and the destabilisation that might follow if the process is not handled with care.
One needs a sense of history to understand the nature of the changes. Each of the countries of central Europe must be treated in terms of its own history. There is no monolith in central Europe. I noted that fact a few weeks ago when I was with a distinguished dissident from Czechoslovakia. He said that the engine of change in Poland has been the Church, that the engine of change in Hungary has been the Hungarian Socialist Workers party- -it has now changed its name--and that perhaps the engine of change in East Germany was the information revolution which meant that people could readily see what was happening across the border. The human exchanges between that divided country also acted as a mechanism for change. He bewailed the fact, however, that there was no similar engine for change in Czechoslovakia. He said, "Alas, we are but small coteries of intellectuals who have no real chance of effecting change." Those small coteries of intellectuals have now been borne aloft by people power and we welcome that. We also welcome what is happening in Bulgaria, which has a special relationship with the Soviet Union because, in the previous century, the Russians liberated that country from the hordes of the east, the Turks--
We must be ready with our feet on the ground to address the challenges of the new system. We must accept, for example, that there will be profound changes affecting conventional and nuclear disarmament. Despite what the Prime Minister preached during her recent visit to Washington, there must be serious question marks over the reasoning behind the short-range tactical nuclear weapons in the light of the changes taking place in central Europe. Those changes were underlined by the United States' Secretary for Defence, Mr. Dick Cheney. Ultimately, when the mists clear, there will be a new European security system and with it will emerge a new concert of Europe. At its core will be the current European Community with various constellations of countries in different forms of association with it.
I take issue with the Minister on his description of the scaffolding now being built. The word scaffolding assumes that there is a blueprint and that a structure already exists. At this stage the view through the glass is dark and it is impossible to see the shape of the new Europe, either in terms of defence or politics. One should not too easily try to apply the analogy of scaffolding to structures that are not yet properly in place. The flight from the current position to what will be is exciting, but there will be substantial turbulence on the way.
We all have our own personal reactions and memories of what has happened. In the early 1960s I lived for some
Column 1002years as a diplomat in Hungary and it was a joy for me this March to see the silent and dignified march of the people on their own national day.
We think of what President Gorbachev said when he talked of the common European home. Cynics could ask, "How can you possibly have a common European home with a wall through the front room?" That wall has gone and the concept of a common European home has become more plausible. However, we must ensure that there is at least a guest room for the United States in that common European home.
A feature of the current summit is that the superpowers will be unable to make decisions vitally affecting the interests of Europe and its component parts without reference to Europe. Gone are the days of the 1960s and the Glassborough summit or even the recent Helsinki summit, when decisions that vitally affected Europe's security interests were taken above our heads. Now Europe is, and will increasingly be, a key player on the stage.
I shall sound a couple of cautionary notes. We should not be too heady or have too great expectations about the interim period. It may well be that for the immediate years we shall see increasing shortages and unemployment, as the subsidies are removed, and an increasing drain of skilled manpower from central and eastern Europe to the West. We should not be too light- headed about the depth of democracy in central and eastern Europe. Apart from the Czechoslovakia of Masaryk, the history of central Europe in the inter-war years and immediate post-war years was that of autocracy, however benign--one thinks also of the Weimar republic. Therefore, the democratic roots do not go so deep and will have to be carefully watered and nurtured.
Western Europe must respond sensitively to the challenges which have been raised. So much of what we see is interlinked. For example, if we think of East and West Berlin, it is inconceivable in the new circumstances that, as one Conservative Member mentioned, the two currencies can co-exist now that the wall is down and there will be commuters who live in East Berlin and work in the West.
In the worst scenario, the very problems that forced East Germany in the past to erect the German wall--the movement of skilled personnel across the wall and the damage to the economy which resulted--will arise. It is difficult to envisage going back to anything within the Germanys of the sort which led to the wall's erection. The scenario must be of increasing co-operation between the two Germanys, ultimately ending in who knows what.
At the moment, Germany is not on the agenda ;, Europe is. However, as the European picture clarifies, so the German picture will clarify. If we truly believe in self-determination we cannot stand in the way of self- determination on the basis of free elections in the two parts of Germany. That must be our position in relation to German reunification.
There was substantial consensus in our debate. The issues on which there was no consensus included the references to the Prime Minister. Had the Prime Minister at Washington and elsewhere spoken in the tones and substance used by the Minister today, the Opposition would not have raised any objections. The Minister avoided the stridency and ideological baggage which made the Prime Minister sound, as The Sunday Times correspondent said, so much
"like a figure from the past"
Column 1003I have already touched on the German question, which leads to the third area of difference--the relevance of what is happening in central Europe to integration within the Community. We have to be very sensitive and careful because we must show no sign that we are using the developments in central and eastern Europe as an excuse for slowing the process of integration in western Europe. It might be argued that the degree of integration within the European Community is part of the attraction for those in central and eastern Europe.
Mr. Shore : Does my hon. Friend agree that it is equally important that developments in eastern Europe should not be used as an excuse for accelerating in a reckless way the process of integration in western Europe?
Mr. Anderson : I accept that we have to consider the situation as Europeans, certainly not only sub specie aeternitatis, but in the light of fairly recent history. We have to work on the basis that frontiers and alliances are not immutable.
Finally, we have to invest in democracy. Right hon. and hon. Members particularly the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) have mentioned what should be done in the short term because of the immediate food crisis in Poland. Equally, we have to use our influence on longer-term aid with the IMF, the World Bank, and the Group of Seven and of course the European Community. We must mobilise our private sector in terms of joint ventures. We welcome the CBI initiative drawing on the know-how scheme for training middle management from those countries which have not had relevant experience of it.
Institutionally, there have been developments in the Council of Europe, which has a much more extensive role to play in the current context as a bridge between East and West. I was recently in Austria where one can see the evolution of the old concept of Mitteleuropa with Vienna as the traditional capital. Other important areas include English language teaching, student exchanges, visa formalities and all the points which were set out with such foresight in the Select Committee report which my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) played a part in producing.
The landscape is changing rapidly. If we are adequately to respond to that we need historical insight. Now we see but darkly what is evolving, but it is clear that the European Community will be the core of the new Europe with constellations of countries around it. It is a time of hope for which we need to acknowledge a great debt of thanks to Mr. Gorbachev. Let us stretch out that hand of friendship and help to the countries of eastern Europe at this historic time of hope.
Mr. Waldegrave : It is a pleasure to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) who struck the note that the House wished to hear from the Opposition Front Bench perhaps a little better than the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) who spent most of his speech attacking the Prime Minister. History will answer the Prime Minister's critics. The period of response, strength and solidarity in the West led to the
Column 1004departure from the Brezhnevite regime of any hope of being able to compete through confrontation with the West, and the part that the Prime Minister and President Reagan played in that will be shown by history to be very important.
The hon. Member for Hamilton said that the Prime Minister was cautious, but the best answers to that were given by the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) and the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore). We must be careful to ensure that we keep the alliances. When the Prime Minister talked about the dangers of the ice floe breaking, she meant not that she did not want it to break but that large chunks of ice in the river can be a danger to shipping, and that is no more or less than the truth.
So many good speeches have been made that I should run out of time mentioning them one by one. I must mention the speech made by the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney, who spotted the fundamental importance of acceptance by the Soviet Union and the Warsaw pact of the removal of asymmetries. Once that doctrine is established, there will be hope for a movement to true defensive alliances that do no more than secure our genuine security needs at a sensible minimum. The right hon. Gentleman was right about that, as was my hon. friend the Member for Corby (Mr. Powell), who made an excellent speech.
I say to the hon. Members for Hamilton, for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) and my hon. Friend the Member for Corby, who raised the subject of short-range nuclear weapons, that under the comprehensive concept there is a framework for dealing with the next stages of the negotiations. At a time when we are not seeking to disrupt alliances, we should not seek to overturn the agreement that was unanimously reached in NATO. We should use it for the next stages of the negotiations.
The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Dr. Thomas) spoke interestingly of the dangers and the promise of the right and wrong kinds of nationalism. We do not yet know whether the right kinds of nationalism will follow. The hon. Member for Walsall, South and my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Sir P. Blaker) powerfully said that we do not yet know for sure what the outcome will be in the Soviet Union, which is why we must maintain our insurance. That is no more than prudence. As the hon. Member for Walsall, South said, the co-ordinating committee controlling East-West trade is one element of that insurance. We do not know yet whether it is entirely safe to take down that part of our defences against the transfer of military technologies.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), my hon. Friends the Members for Ruislip-Norwood (Mr. Wilkinson) and for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) said that although we immensely welcome the changes, at this stage we can only applaud what looks like a great turning point in history. As yet, we are not clearly into the new world. The changes in some of the countries that we have been debating, such as Bulgaria and the German Democratic Republic, are immensely welcome, but we are not yet in the new world. I suspect that Mr. Krenz will not be the answer in the GDR, and the Bulgarians are still talking about a more polite face for their regime rather than returning to their people the right to decide what regime they want to live under. Therefore, we have a duty to maintain the structure that has seen us through until now, particularly as it is not difficult to see
Column 1005how it can be adapted to manage peace, as it once prevented confrontation. The caution mingled with pleasure that we heard from many hon. Members is the right response.
We rightly heard much about how the newly emerging democracies should be associated with the other institutions of Europe. I spoke of the Council of Europe, and in a recent intervention the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney argued that we in the European Community should not be too inflexible. We should try to keep open different tailor-made associations, which I think was the phrase that the right hon. Gentleman used. That is exactly right, because one can imagine a variety of different patterns of association with the Community, with the European Free Trade Association and other institutions of Europe that will suit the traditions of particular countries.
I think that the hon. Member for Walsall, South was the only hon. Member who mentioned that we should not underestimate the diversity of traditions in eastern Europe. We are not talking about a monolith, although it may have looked like one because the countries were forced into a monolithic shape from the outside. Historically their traditions are more complex.
The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney was the first to introduce the subject of Germany, and other hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Corby and the hon. Member for Hamilton also mentioned it. I think that they welcomed the tone of my statement about Chancellor Kohl's speech. We all know that reunification is a subject that has many reverberations, particularly among the older generation in Poland, France and Britain--and why not?
Surely, the Chancellor was attempting to sketch out the type of institutions which might be required to make a reality of the Adenauer doctrine of freedom first, and that conjunction of the two Germanys could take place only in a new Europe. We have all assented to that doctrine for 30 years or more.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine)--the Father of the House--made an impassioned plea, as he has done to me privately, about Poland and food aid, and many right hon. and hon. Members have joined with him. My hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell), the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber and my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South also mentioned aid to Hungary.
I assure right hon. and hon. Members that the urgency of the situation is understood. Some $114 million in food aid has already been sent by the European Community--that is a lot of food, and involves a lot of transport and organisation. Another $45 million worth is coming from another group of 24 member countries and I am happy to say that further food aid is being urgently considered by the Commission.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Corby said, distribution is a considerable problem and we shall be doing well if we concentrate on how to get distribution better with some of our bilateral funds. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South made an interesting remark when he mentioned that Lech Walesa had told him that the problem was not to bring food from outside but to get it out of the barns and warehouses on the farms in Poland. What is the cause of that? It is only natural, because the farmers do not trust the
Column 1006currency, and that is a classic symptom of a country or a system which has inflation and the fear of greater inflation. People hoard goods, as they did in Germany during the great inflation of the old days. How can we deal with that? In the short term we have to send food, in the medium term we have to help the Poles develop a real currency. That is why we have put so much emphasis on our support for their stabilisation fund, which is an essential part of their financial package and is aimed at reforming the currency. If people trust the currency they will put goods into the market, rather than doing deals on the black market and hoarding, which are the problems at the moment. That is why we have put a $100,000 subscription into the billion dollar Polish currency stabilisation fund.
No right hon. or hon. Member mentioned the importance of opening up trade access to the Community, and nor did I so I too am guilty. I am happy to say that this week a raft of quantity and other restrictions on trade from Poland and Hungary were abolished, and more will follow for other eastern European countries as they move forward with their reforms.
The hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy was fair enough to pay tribute to the role of the Churches and so did my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. Nicholson) and the hon. Member for Walsall, South. They mentioned the Catholic Church in Poland and Czechoslovakia, and the Protestant Church in Germany. It was moving to see that great old man, Cardinal Tomisek, playing a crucial role when he used just the right words at the right time to bridge the gap and to help a movement which was essentially an intellectual movement among the intelligensia, as the hon. Member for Swansea, East rightly pointed out spread to the mass of people. His role in that was exceedingly important. It is funny now to think of Stalin's old saying, "How many divisions has the Pope?" He had too many for the Stalinists, that is sure.
We have heard some moving speeches, one in particular to which I must pay tribute, about the relationship of all these changes to democratic Socialism. It is not for Conservative Members to enter these matters as experts, but we must always know who our real opponents are and who is linked to us by enough commitment and belief in the institutions of democracy. We must always know that there is a real bond between us although we argue passionately about the outcome of elections, the right economic policy and the rest.
There is no question in my mind about the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton, (Mr. Heffer), though I find very little to agree with in his view about how to run an economy. I have listened to him making passionate speeches against my party on many occasions, but I can assure my right hon. and hon. Friends, who I know will agree with me, that we know which side of the barricades he would have been on in 1968, and it would not have been with the Russian tanks--but he might have been explaining to the chap next door to him, who thought that he was fighting for capitalism, that he was very wrong-headed to do so. The hon. Gentleman would nevertheless have been beside him and standing up for freedom.
Rather more eccentric were a couple of other speeches we heard. When I was in Cracow recently, I was told--teased, rather--by the rector of the university there that we have more Communists in our universities than they do in Poland. It is clear that we have more Trotskyites in our Parliament than they do in Poland or elsewhere in eastern
Column 1007Europe. It is wonderful to hear the argument between the Trotskyites and the Stalinites. It is like hearing the man arguing against someone who says that the earth is flat. The Trotskyite proves marvellously that the earth is not flat at all. Not at all, it is clearly a large cheese floating in a bowl of stewed prunes. It is really wonderful to listen to the lunacy of it all.
I remember somebody once describing the events of 1917 in the Soviet Union as rather like a revolution started by Shirley Williams and taken over by the Kray brothers. I am not entirely sure that if, to make a remark in very poor taste, the ice-pick had been on the other foot, Trotsky's world would have been any more pleasant than that of his old mates who did him in.
We were on the wrong track today. My old job in the Department of the Environment was involved. It is for English Heritage to put a preservation order on such hon. Members. Soon there will be no such people anywhere. The poor hon. Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields), who puts the workers' struggle as his sole special interest, will have to retire to his hobby, which is winemaking--a good hobby--and that will be the end of that. Meanwhile, it is a pleasure of a certain antiquarian kind to listen to these dinosaurs trundling about.
I read recently a clever and intelligent article written by a grand American academic who works for the Rand Corporation and the State Department--one cannot get much grander than that. He proved by logic that history had ended--that it was all over. At this very moment in the committee rooms of whatever the University Grants Committee is now called, I can imagine historians getting together in desperation in view of that thesis. What he meant by the article, which is worth reading, is not that history is over. What nonsense! He meant that "history" is over, that "history", as defined as an inevitable process by Hegel or Marx, is over. That narrow view of determinist history is indeed over. It is a concept that never had much intellectual force behind it.
The events of this year in Europe have shown that, far from history being over, a marvellous new chapter of history is opening up for Europe, one much more full of joy, excitement, interest, and some danger too, than the gloomy and bleak chapter on which we hope to close the page.
It being half-past Two o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.
That, in relation to any Standing Committee to which the Census Order 1989 may be referred, Standing Order No. 101 (Standing Committees on Statutory Instruments, &c) shall have effect as if for the words one and a half hours' in paragraph (4) were substituted the words two and a half hours'.-- [Mr. Nicholas Baker.] .