The Ambassador in the United Kingdom ( Aldrich ) to the Department of State 1
2439. In full-dress, two-day debate, Commons, as anticipated, passed government motion approving UK policy toward Western Europe expressed in London-Paris Agreements by large margin.
Following Eden’s comprehensive and persuasive introduction, debate centered mostly around questions such as whether new agreements will contribute to European military unity and to holding successful talks with USSR on German unification and how effective new limitations on German military forces will prove. There was little discussion of value German military contributions to NATO (except by Defense Minister Macmillan), of US European policies and reactions to agreements, [Page 1486] or of merits of maintaining UK troops on Continent (which were largely taken for granted). Few tears were shed for EDC and many speakers, including Julian Amery and Sir Robert Boothby, stated preference for new arrangements in which UK could participate. There was no expectation that Brussels Treaty would afford basis for supranational structure and speakers praised it largely as successful device for permitting participation of both France and Germany in Western European defense. Interesting development, however, is that Morrison advocated acceptance of French plan for arms pool, apparently as added restriction on Germans.
Regarding cost of UK forces on Continent, Gaitskell suggested burden-sharing under common NATO budget as possible means of relieving UK of entire cost after cessation of German support, but Macmillan replied NATO annual review would suffice to achieve equitable burden-sharing. Strong possibility exists that Labor Party will continue to press for some cost-sharing formula which will shift part of burden of maintaining UK troops on Continent to other nations.
Labor Party opponents of agreements, only handful of whom spoke in debate, offered no new arguments, but Bevan made emotional appeal by stating UK would require more US aid if it had to support troops on Continent and by posing question of German Army with Nazi officers in possession of A-bomb. After calling treaties “most ignominious surrender” in modern British diplomacy, he asked only that government meet with USSR before German divisions all in field. Bevan arguments, skillfully answered by Eden, did not create deep impression.
Official Labor opposition accepted agreements and Parliamentary Labor Party voted in first instance to vote with government. Large majority of Labor speakers favored agreement and excellent speeches were delivered by Orrion, Gaitskell, Attlee and Healey supporting government. However, Bevanites, pacifists, Crypto-Communists and cranks on party fringe, as well as pressure from constituencies caused party leadership to back down and members were directed to abstain but not to vote against agreements. Nevertheless, six Labor members, including Silverman and Emrys Hughes, did oppose in final vote, even after threat of strong party disciplinary action.
Although government would certainly have preferred Labor to vote for agreements, Parliamentary consensus was clearly in their favor. Government is expected to proceed with ratification when remaining procedural formalities are completed and when notice has been received from Federal Republic concerning their reservations to acceptance of World Court jurisdiction under Brussels Treaty.
Copies of debate will be pouched soonest.
- Repeated to Paris, Bonn, Rome, Brussels, The Hague, Luxembourg, and Ottawa.↩