HC Deb 09 December 1958 vol 597 cc188-90
14. Mr. Cronin

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will investigate the prospects of forming a closer economic union with Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, having regard to the circumstance that the first common market tariff cuts and quota enlargements are due to be made on 1st January.

The Paymaster-General (Mr. Reginald Maudling)

I do not think I could usefully add to my reply to the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) on 18th November.

Mr. Cronin

Bearing in mind that the prospects of agreement on a European Free Trade Area have now receded severely, would not the arrangements suggested in the Question at least partially cover the right hon. Gentleman's nakedness in the conference room?

Mr. Maudling

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is concerned about my nakedness. So far as his Question is concerned, the Government still believe that something like the Free Trade Area is still the best line for Europe.

19. Mr. Jay

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what offers have been received from the countries of the European Economic Community to extend voluntarily to the proposed free trade area countries the tariff reductions to be made on 1st January under the Rome Treaty; and what reply Her Majesty's Government gave.

Mr. Maudling

The Six made known their intentions to the O.E.E.C. yesterday. The matter will be before the O.E.E.C. Council of Ministers when it meets, probably next week.

Mr. Jay

Is the Paymaster-General aware that distinguished representatives of the Community have been saying privately for some time that an offer was made as long ago as last July to the British Government to extend these cuts on 1st January, and that it was turned down by the British Government? If that is not true, as is believed by many people, will the right hon. Gentleman deny it?

Mr. Maudling

I am glad to have the opportunity of saying that it is totally untrue, because the only thing that happened in July was that it was suggested by the European Community that the idea of a provisional agreement might be considered, but no proposals were made. At that time it was felt by the Govern-merits concerned that it would be premature to consider a provisional agreement. In fact, when we met last October the question was again raised, and the representatives of the Six still said that it was premature.

Mr. Jay

If this offer is still open for 1st January, what is Her Majesty's Government's attitude to it?

Mr. Maudling

I have explained that no such offer has ever been made. A proposal reached the O.E.E.C. yesterday which will be considered, I hope, next week.