HC Deb 04 April 1957 vol 568 cc550-2
7. Captain Duncan

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why he agreed at the February Ministerial Council Meeting of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation to including consideration of agriculture in the European Free Trade Area in the resolution of 13th February; and the terms of reference to the Working Party being set up to study this subject.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Nigel Birch)

This Working Party was set up in consequence of the Council's decision of 13th February which drew special attention to the objective of finding ways to ensure the expansion of trade in agricultural products on a non-discriminatory basis between all member countries of the Organisation. My right hon. Friend's agreement amounted to no more and no less than that the United Kingdom would continue to play its part in the existing activities of O.E.E.C. in this sphere.

Captain Duncan

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Government are likely to come under suspicion if they speak with one voice in this House for the exclusion of agriculture and horticulture from the European Free Trade Area and with another when they agree to resolutions like this when they go to Paris?

Mr. Birch

I think that the best answer to that was given by my right hon. Friend on 13th February when he said that the fact was that all countries in Europe wished to discuss agriculture and very few of them wanted to have free trade in it.

Sir P. Agnew

Does my right hon. Friend consider that what he has said today is in conflict with the declaration which was repeated in the House only last week by his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade that he would not assent to any agreement in which agriculture and horticulture were included?

Mr. Birch

Perhaps my hon. and gallant Friend will await the answer to the next Question.

8. Captain Duncan

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will give an assurance that there has been no change in Her Majesty's Government's view that agriculture and horticulture should be excluded from any proposals for a European Free Trade Area.

Mr. Birch

There has been no change in the Government's policy. We cannot join in a Free Trade Area which includes agriculture and horticulture.

Mr. T. Williams

How does the right hon. Gentleman square that with his previous answer that the Government are willing to discuss agriculture because all other countries are anxious to do so?

Mr. Birch

We have made our position perfectly clear throughout. There is no harm in discussing agriculture.

Mr. Osborne

Is my right hon. Friend aware that certain European leaders have said that the scheme is no use to them unless agriculture is included? Will he stop deceiving those countries into the belief that we can take part in it?

Mr. Birch

This matter is now under negotiation. Our position on agriculture is perfectly clear, and that is the point of the Question.

Mr. Turton

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the inconvenience that is caused by hon. Members not having available to them a copy of the Common Market Treaty? In the Library there is only one copy, in French. Can he make a translated copy available to all right hon. and hon. Members?

Mr. Birch

I will certainly go into that. It seems very reasonable.

Mr. Jay

When the right hon. Member says that this issue is under negotiation, does he mean that the Government may recede in certain circumstances from the policy he has just stated?

Mr. Birch

What I meant was that the industrial Free Trade Area itself is under negotiation.