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Western And Northern Europe (Economic Planning)

Volume 415: debated on Wednesday 31 October 1945

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether, in view of the recent electoral victories gained by the Socialist and progressive parties in France and Norway and of the predominant position held by similar parties in other countries of Western and Northern Europe, including the United Kingdom, he will consider the advisability of inviting official representatives of these countries to discuss, at a joint conference or by other suitable means, the co-ordination of their economic and commercial policies in order to ensure full employment and rising standards of living and other economic and social question of mutual interest.

I do not think that a conference on the limited scale suggested by my hon. Friend would secure the ends he desires. His Majesty's Government will co-operate closely with all these countries in all measures calculated to secure full employment and higher standards of living.

While appreciating that reply, may I ask the Foreign Secretary whether he is aware that there is now, for the first time, a majority of these countries in favour of State economic planning for these ends? Does he not think it would be useful to provide an opportunity for their representatives, with us, to get together and endeavour to keep their plans in step and shape, in order to assist one another?

I cannot ride two horses. I am committed to the United Nations Organisation, and I am still hoping that, that organisation will work. Therefore I must pursue a policy not of dealing with separate entities in this way, but of aiming to make united action work.

Is it not a fact that it would be most undesirable that international relationships should be conducted on the basis of the political complexion of particular countries? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we admire him as the representative of this nation, and not as the representative of a party?

I have never known until now on what the admiration of the right hon. Gentleman was based, but the world is so small, economically, that we have rather to treat it as a whole, and not sectionally.

In the United Nations' Charter are there not provisions to provide for regional areas?

Yes, but if I express regret at bilateral action by other Powers, I do not think I ought to imitate their action in pursuing that policy.