30 JUNE 1950, Page 4

What is the Schuman Plan?

From the very beginning every statement about the factual con- tent of M. Schuman's proposals for a Western European authority to control coal and steel production has been carefully described as. provisional. The limitations of the latest document drawn up by the French experts after last week's exchange of views are under- lined as carefully as ever. The French delegation itself will want to modify it substantially. But even when it has been modified it is still doubtful whether the producers and consumers of coal and steel will have a very clear idea of the plan which is to make so much difference to their lives. There will be a high authority which will organise co-operation between Governments, enterprises and interested organisations. It will be supervised by a common assembly, elected directly by the Parliaments of the member countries. It will use consultative committees representing employers, workers and consumers--a provision which can hardly mean much if British experience with nationalised industries is of any relevance. But what will the authority do ? It will take measures necessary for realising a single coal and steel market, or in other words it will try to break down international barriers to the movement of these commodities, whether those barriers are put up by Governments or by cartels. It will make rules for the elimination of price discrimination. It will protect wage-levels. It will draw up development plans, though only for the guidance of the actual enterprises. It will not .make any alteration to the present ownership of the industries concerned. All this amounts to the setting up of a sort of fence of reasonable rules within which the European coal and steel enterprises will be required to work. A lonely hint at positive action by the new authority appears in a clause which suggests that it may make grants or loans.