HC Deb 07 July 1960 vol 626 cc695-7
41. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Prime Minister if the speech of the President of the Board of Trade in Washington on or about 15th June, when he warned Great Britain against economic threats from the European Common Market, represents Government policy.

The Prime Minister

I presume that the hon. and learned Member is referring to an answer which my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade gave to a question from an American journalist on 14th June. He then said that the present economic division of Europe threatened the normal development of European trade, including our own, even though this was not the design or intention of the members of the Common Market. This is also the view of Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Hughes

Is the Prime Minister aware that recent Ministerial statements on this subject indicate that the policy of the Government is a confused mass of threats and fears arising from the situation in Europe? In the interests of industry and progress in Britain, will he do something to clarify the situation and remove the threats?

The Prime Minister

As I said on 28th June, what we want is an arrangement for a partnership between the two groupings for a common system of European trade. That implies, first, loyalty to our friends in the E.F.T.A. and, secondly, every possible effort to reach agreement between the Six and the Seven to see how this larger system can be brought about. We are anxious for that.

Mr. Osborne

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that there is a danger that economic threats from the Six have been over-exaggerated? Is it not the case that the Seven can well enough stand on their own feet and will probably prove to be more stable that the Six?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that the organisation of the Seven will prove successful but I still believe that, both in the short term and in the long term, we ought to try every means to bring about harmony. I think the House will agree that this is rather a large question to debate by Question and Answer, and I think that in the debate next week there are likely to be opportunities for more detailed discussion. Perhaps I may be allowed to close on the hope that we shall, with patience and effort, arrive at some good conclusion.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I agree that it is difficult to discuss these matters by Question and Answer, but I do not feel that a debate on the economic situation is the adequate forum we require for this purpose? There are many other things which we wish to discuss in that debate. Will the right hon. Gentleman have a word with the Leader of the House and suggest that the Government make time for a debate on our economic relations with Europe before the Recess?

The Prime Minister

I mentioned that matter because I have been—perhaps wrongly—informed that it is likely to be a subject which, with others, will come up on that occasion. I will consult the Leader of the House, and if arrangements can be made so that we can complete the business of the House in the remaining Supply Days and, I hope, finish our work before the Bank Holiday, it would be a good thing.