HC Deb 15 April 1958 vol 586 cc33-4
52 and 53. Mr. Woodburn

asked the Prime Minister (1) what further steps the Government propose to take to speed up agreement on a European Free Trade Area; and

(2) whether he will propose a personal meeting with the French Prime Minister with a view to avoiding a deadlock on the negotiations for a European Free Trade Area.

The Prime Minister

At this stage further progress in the discussions must wait until the six members of the European Economic Community have made known their views, following their consideration of suggestions made to them by France. A paper setting out these views has been promised in time for the next meeting of the Ministerial Committee, which is under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General, on 2nd May. If at any time my right hon. Friend the Paymaster- General thinks I could help speed negotiations by discussing matters personally with the Prime Minister of France, or of any other country concerned, I should most gladly consider this.

Mr. Woodburn

Is the Prime Minister aware that there are informed circles who are convinced that the hard French attitude can be relaxed only if steps, in addition to those taken by the Paymaster-General, are taken to get the Prime Minister of France and others to bring pressure to bear on those who are holding up the progress of this conference?

The Prime Minister

Of course, I have sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman's interest—it is the same as mine—that these negotiations should succeed. The best method of handling it is a matter which has to be considered from time to time.

Mr. H. Wilson

Since this project, from its earliest days, has received widespread bi-partisan support in this House, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that we have had very little information from the Government on this question over a period of twelve months, apart from a few remarks in a debate a fortnight last Friday? Would he consider what can be done to give hon. Members more information?

The Prime Minister

I think that the meeting in early May will be of great importance, and it would be wiser to wait until that meeting has taken place.