26 JANUARY 1962, Page 6

Westminster Commentary

Made Glorious Summer

By JULIAN CRITCHLEY, MP pERHAPS. But who will be the Son of York? Mr. Edward Heath? Whoever he may be there is no doubt that he will be made very welcome, for this winter has been a particularly hard one. Amidst a clatter of falling reputations, his is the only one to have risen. He has gained in cdnfidence and thus authority, and his mastery of and enthusiasm for our entry into Europe is one of the brighter 'patches in an otherwise sombre picture.

The last six months have been pretty awful. After the successes of the Brighton Conference, nothing has gone well. The Government, whilst trying to steer the Immigrants Bill through the House, is prevented from using the one real argument in its favour, namely, that an exten- sion of control over all immigrant labour will be necessary once we accept controlled immi- gration from Europe, for fear of admitting what many suspect, that the Government has already made up its mind to join Europe.

The Army Reserve Bill is yet another ex- pedient, one of the many that have been sub- stituted for a realistic defence policy.

After many denials that the Army was short of manpower and that therefore any return either to full conscription or to a system of selective service on the American pattern would be necessary, the Government introduced a system of selective service that is both unfair and inadequate. It is an interesting fact that whereas both the colonial and the foreign policies of the Government have been realisti- cally readapted to Britain's decline in power— for example, the withdrawal from Empire and the decision to enter Europe-- this has not been the case with defence.

The real reason why so much of what we have been trying to do has been unsatisfactory has been that we have been attempting to do too much. The best example of this is Britain's independent nuclear capacity. It was acquired in order that we should still be seen to be one of the Great Powers. It has served not so much to impress our friends or to frighten our enemies, as to disguise from ourselves the changing position of Britain in relation to both. The V.-bombers have been of much greater political value than military worth, for they are enabling Macmillan to adjust his party to Britain's altered circumstances. The withdrawal from Empire has been presented as the creation of a multi-racial Commonwealth, and now that people are becom- ing aware that the Commonwealth is not just a simple magnification of Empire, but some- thing quite different, Europe is offered as the means whereby our influence in the world may not only be maintained but eventually be in- creased. Hence the refusal of the Government to admit that an independent nuclear deterrent does not really make military sense (for the Americans are both able and willing' to defend the free world with nuclear arms), nor, at present, will they consider merging the V-bombers into some NATO-controlled, European-based force. This they will only do once we have joined Europe; for then there will be no need for pretence.

How smooth will be the Government's passage into Europe? There' would seem as yet no need to revise the probable course of events : that the terms will be announced around midsummer; and that the House will be asked to approve them in July, the Tory Party conference to ac- cept them In October. Our entry could then date from January 1, 1963. It is now possible to fore- cast very largely what the terms are likely to be; they will be attacked both here and in the Commonwealth. However satisfied the Govern- ment may be, Commonwealth reaction to them will clearly be that we should have done much better. Nor should it be forgotten that there are comparatively few convinced 'Europeans' amongst Tory MPs; if one puts on one side those `Romantics' who are opposed (perhaps the same number), the bulk of the party was pre- pared to support the decision to open negotia- tions last July, either because of boredom with our continued economic weakness or because they were satisfied with assurances somewhat rashly given that no Commonwealth, EFTA or even home-produced eggs would be broken in the making of the European omelette. It is this group whom the Government must keep sweet if the Tory Party is not to split when it is asked to approve our entry.

There arc signs that the Government's case may go by default. The anti-Common Mar- ketecrs are noisy, if not particularly impressive; the man to watch is not Mr. Robin Turton, nor even Sir Derek Walker-Smith, but the hoc:,, Mr. Peter Walker, and if my Daily Express is to be believed, they are holding large and success- ful public meetings in the depths of Putney and Kensington. Whilst they lack a leader of calibre, they arili not short of issues, at first sight un- related to Europe, which if properly exploited may well make the Government lose its nerve— and the Centre of the party its confidence in the Government. There is the hostility to. the United Nations that is characteristic of the Tory Right. springing from frustration that the UN is doing something that the West (and Britain) cannot do, and anger that its intervention in the Congo would seem to be contrary to the interests of Sir Roy Welensky. And there is every likelihood that the Northern Rhodesian constitution \,‘ ill prove to be as difficult as was Katanga.

But this is perhaps too gloomy a picture. The Central Office is in favour. The Research De- partment, the CPC and the Bow Group are all convinced Europeans. (The fact that the Bow Group is in favour may not be 'altogether an advantage.) The party worker in the constitu- encies supports negotiations, and his loyalty. should enable him to leap the last fence. Such influential back-bench Members as Mr. Nigel Birch, the new, chairman of the party's Finance, Committee, are pro-Europe. And while Mr. Birch and others argue the case, the Whips will be keeping a close eye on the anti-Common, Marketeers. It is understood that it will no longer be enough for them to be summoned to the office of the Chief Whip, for Mr. Redmayne, too,. is to be double-banked.. ,Mr.. Duncan Sandys,, other commitments permitting, is to pay each and every onc.a personal visit.

Despite everything, there is a chance that the pay pause will lead to a wages policy .that will at last enable the country to benefit from a sus- tained and quickened rate of growth. So radical an innovation would give nothing but pleasure to Conservative MPs, and behind and besides, everything that has been said there is the effect that Europe must have upon the Labour Party., .If, after a run of electoral defeat, and the bitter disputes about the bonib, the ecstasies of Europe are then to be added to the agonies of revision- ism, how can the Labour Party compete in a general election that may then be no more than six months away? The greater strain will eventu- ally be felt not by those who voted for Europe last July, but by those, of whatever party, who abstained.

However badly things may have gone this winter, and they may well get worse, a glance at the kind of decisions that have been taken over the past year cannot but put present dis- contents into perspective. England, separated from the Continent since the Reformation, is to rejoin Europe: in its wake we are to adopt the decimal system, drop freezing point from 32° to 0' and substitute the ten-shilling unit for the pound sterling. At home, for the first time, a Government has determined to intervene in the process of collective bargaining in an attempt to frame a wages policy that could guarantee both stability and prosperity. For all this one can for- give the Government its present absurdities. Commentators do well to stress them, but what makes them so very sure that the weather will not change?