§ 29 and 37. Mr. Bellenger
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) the principal factors preventing an agreement between the European Economic Community and the European Free Trade Association;
(2) what action he is now taking to initiate discussions between Her Majesty's Government and the Ministers 1088 of the European Economic Community towards formulating proposals for an agreement between the six and the seven nations forming the European Economic Community and the European Free Trade Association.
I would refer the right hon. Gentleman to the Answer just given by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond).
It is not possible to assess the relative importance of the different factors until negotiations are held.
I would like to emphasise how much we welcome the proposal that discussions should take place.
§ Mr. Bellenger
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that neither the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) nor I was satisfied with his right hon. Friend's reply? Is he aware that all that his right hon. Friend told us was that a meeting is taking place in Lisbon shortly, but his right hon. Friend has been constantly engaged in meetings in the last year or two and the House is no wiser about the real causes of the differences between the Common Market powers and ourselves and now the Free Trade Area? Will Her Majesty's Government tell us what are these differences, so that if they cannot resolve them perhaps the House may be able to help the Government?
I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it is impossible in terms of Answers to Questions to deal with the complex problems arising in this matter. I am sure that he will be aware also that members of the European Free Trade Association, both in November and in March last, emphasised the desirability of holding a meeting so that we might discover exactly what the reasons were that made it difficult for us to reach an understanding, and their relative importance. That is why we are very glad that it looks now as if there will be a chance of holding these discussions.
§ Mr. Bellenger
As the right hon. Gentleman cannot give a reply in answer to a Question, may I ask whether he would consider the possibility of issuing a White Paper or some other suitable 1089 document in order to state specifically what he, at any rate, thinks are the causes of the difficulties?
Since it appears now that some discussions are likely, I think that we had better wait and see how those discussions go. We shall then be in a better position to report to the House on the current situation and the prospects.
§ Mr. Thorpe
Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that the recent Commonwealth communiqué has wiped out the excuse which we have had so often from the Government that the Commonwealth is opposed to this? Will he bear in mind that there is real disquiet that British industry will be excluded from one of the fastest growing markets in the world and that British agriculture will have a vast surplus which will be unable to reach the Common Market?
No, Sir. I think that there are real difficulties arising from our commitments in connection with Commonwealth trade which persist and will be likely to persist in this matter. They are not, I hope, insurmountable but they are quite formidable difficulties. As for the second part of the supplementary question, I know the anxiety, Which we share, that the United Kingdom should be excluded from the increasing trade in Europe. That is why we have taken the active part we have in working for an association between the two groups.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Would not the right hon. Gentleman, at some convenient time, indicate the borderline of responsibility between himself and the President of the Board of Trade about this matter and in answering questions about it?
It is sometimes difficult to draw borderlines because our joint responsibilities in this matter overlap in many ways—in the financial, economic and trade aspects of this problem.