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European Defence Community (British Association)

Volume 526: debated on Wednesday 7 April 1954

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what proposals for closer association with the European Defence Community have been made to the French Government.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will now state the policy of Her Majesty's Government regarding British association with the European Defence Community.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will make a statement on the latest proposals put forward by Her Majesty's Government for British association with the European Defence Community.

I have nothing to add to the reply which my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State gave on 5th April.

Does that mean that we have to await the decision of the French Parliament on the future of E.D.C. before we can be told what are proposals are?

No, Sir, it does not mean anything of the kind. It means that we have to consult the French Government and the other E.D.C. Governments before we announce anything to the House of Commons. I am very conscious of the patience that the House has exercised in this matter, and I am very hopeful that my right hon. Friend will be able to make an announcement before the Easter Recess.

Can the Foreign Secretary assure us that the House will be informed as soon as the French Parliament are informed? Of course, they must be informed when the matter comes up for discussion.

My right hon. Friend has given an undertaking, which has been repeated on several occasions, that the House will be fully informed directly an agreement has been reached with the E.D.C. countries.

In view of the delays, will not the Minister consider that it might be in the public interest, both of France and this country, that these things should be published sooner?

I do not think it unreasonable that we should wait until agreement has been published before the House is informed. That is the normal practice in these matters, and it would be an extremely untidy arrangement to depart from it in this case.

Will the Minister give an assurance that we shall have an opportunity of debating the matter before any agreement is ratified?

No, Sir. The normal constitutional processes will, of course, be observed in this matter, as in every other.

That is not answering my Question, because the House knows that according to the normal constitutional practice ratification can be made by the Government without debate. Why cannot we have a debate—