HC Deb 09 December 1958 vol 597 cc201-2
42. Mr. Cronin

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the Government intend to publish a White Paper on the European Free Trade Area negotiations.

Mr. Maudling

As my right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary, told the House on 4th December, I have been considering this matter. I feel, however, that it would be difficult to publish a full and satisfactory White Paper at the present moment.

Mr. Cronin

As the inimical clauses of the Rome Treaty are due to take effect in a few weeks' time, does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the need for a White Paper is urgent?

Mr. Maudling

I understand the point, but the trouble is that the negotiations and the documents are by mutual understanding confidential, and the Government could not make a unilateral move to publish them. I will try to see whether I can do something about this.

Mr. H. Wilson

Does not the right hon. Gentleman recall that the main reason we were willing to acquiesce in postponing a debate on this subject was that we understood that it would be possible to issue a White Paper after 1st January but very difficult to issue one before that? Will he give an undertaking that we shall have a White Paper telling the House and the country as much as he can tell the House and the country in good time for the debate which we hope and intend to have after Christmas?

Mr. Maudling

I share the right hon. Gentleman's desire to give the House the greatest information on this matter, but there is the difficulty of the documents concerned being confidential by international agreement. I will do my best in the near future to try to ensure that the maximum amount is made public.

Mr. Wilson

If I send the right hon. Gentleman one of these confidential documents from the Continent which are floating about in this country, showing that he has misled the House this afternoon in the statement about the offer made by the Six, will he publish that in a White Paper?

Mr. Maudling

I should he grateful to receive any document, but I should be extremely surprised if any document which the right hon. Gentleman sent me made the point which he thinks he could make.

Mr. Woodburn

Since up to now so much has been given to the public to discourage any hope of a settlement, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has any hopes of this matter being settled at the meeting next week?

Mr. Maudling

These things can be settled if there is a general will to succeed in a settlement, but not otherwise.