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European Reconstruction (Foreign Minister's Conference)

Volume 439: debated on Monday 23 June 1947

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As I informed the House on 19th June, the French Foreign Minister and I proposed to the Soviet Government that a meeting of the British, French and Soviet Foreign Ministers should be held during the week beginning 23rd June in order to discuss European reconstruction and the offer of the United States Government set forth in the speech of the United States Secretary of State at Harvard, on 5th June. Last night I received the following communication from the Soviet Government:

"The Soviet Government has studied the British Government's note of the 19th June regarding the formulation of European Economic Programmes in connection with the declaration of Mr. Marshall at the University of Harvard on the 5th June of this year, which was the subject of bilateral conversations between the British and French Ministers for Foreign Affairs in Paris. The Soviet Government agrees that the primary problem of European countries at the present time is the quickest possible reconstruction and further development of their national economy, which has been destroyed by the war.
It is clear that the solution of this problem could be facilitated if, from the side of the United States of America, whose productive capacity was not only not diminished, but was increased during the war, aid was forthcoming corresponding to the aims set forth above. Although the Soviet Government does not at present have at its disposal data regarding the character and conditions of the possible economic assistance to European countries from the United States of America and also regarding those measures which were the subject of discussion between the British and French Governments during the recent conversations in Paris, nevertheless, the Soviet Government accepts the proposal of the British and French Governments and agrees to take part in a Conference of the three Ministers for Foreign Affairs.
In the opinion of the Soviet Government such a Conference might take place in Paris on 27th June."
I have informed the Soviet Government that the date, and place proposed are convenient to me as, I understand, they are convenient to Monsieur Bidault. Needless to say I welcome this prompt reply. The talks will accordingly commence this Friday in Paris and I trust that good results will follow from them.

I am sure the whole House would wish to welcome the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has just made to us. I would only like to add our good wishes to him and his colleagues in the work which they undertake in Paris. May they now make swift and sure progress.

Will it be possible for the deliberations to be held in private at this stage so as both to expedite matters and to avoid various delegations making speeches to their own nationals?

Up to now, in all international conferences, we have not found an efficient plumber that could stop a leak.

While congratulating my right hon. Friend on this result of his initiative in bringing together the three great European Powers, and so marking perhaps a decisive turning point in postwar history, may I ask him if he will continue to bear in mind the importance for this country of securing a balanced economic development of Europe and ensuring that there should be no one-sided Stimulation of the industrial West without a corresponding stimulation of the agrarian East.

We have to keep all these balances in mind. The great and essential thing we have to do is not only to fire the boiler, but to get the engine to run.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us some assurance that difficulties or delays arising in connection with one region will not necessarily prevent the conclusion of agreement with regard to another region: that they will not hold up the whole thing?

I do not think I ought to add to what I have said: I do not think I ought to add to what I said on Thursday. I made my position, and that of His Majesty's Government, quite clear. I will go out on Friday and try to get on with the job.

Will my right hon. Friend say whether in this connection he intends to press for the utilisation of the European Economic Commission?

All those things have to be worked out. An efficient, quick machine has to be devised if Europe if to be saved.