HC Deb 18 December 1961 vol 651 cc927-32
29. Mrs. Castle

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will give details of the arrangements he has made, during his current discussions with the European Economic Community, to make available to the individual Commonwealth Governments the full text of those parts of all working documents which directly affect their individual interests.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Edward Heath)

I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said to the hon. Lady on 30th November.

Mrs. Castle

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that the Prime Minister's Answer was completely vague? Is it not a fact that the Government have undertaken to keep Commonwealth Governments in the closest touch with the negotiations? Since, however, a number of those Governments clearly do not trust the summaries which are given to them of the proceedings which take place, can the Minister say what satisfactory information he will give them except along the lines indicated in the Question?

Mr. Heath

We are adopting a variety of means of keeping Commonwealth Governments fully informed about the course of the negotiations and to remain in consultation with them, both before matters are raised and after they have been discussed in the negotiations. Concerning the actual working documents, as I have already told the House, in international negotiations these are confidential. There are, however, other means of keeping the Commonwealth Governments fully informed about the contents, and those we are adopting.

Mrs. Castle

Is it not a fact that the Commonwealth Governments have not been satisfied with the means previously adopted to keep them informed? As an exception has already been made to the rule of not giving them the text of working documents, what objection is there to giving them this text in the future?

Mr. Heath

That is precisely why it was made an exception, and the hon. Lady knows why it was made an exception. The great majority of Commonwealth Government have expressed themselves satisfied with all the information we are giving them. Only at the last meeting of High Commissioners after the Brussels meeting I offered to consider any other suggestions which they like to put to us.

Mr. Russell

What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to make sure that there are not further leaks like the one that occurred a week or two ago?

Mr. Heath

There is another Question on the Order Paper about that.

30. Mrs. Castle

asked the Lord Privy Seal to what extent in his negotiations with the European Economic Community the strategic and defence consequences of Britain's entry into the Community are being discussed.

43. Mr. Rankin

asked the Lord Privy Seal to what extent Her Majesty's Government now accept political integration within the European Community; and to what extent Great Britain's entry will involve political and strategic controls over the direction of United Kingdom trade.

Mr. Heath

I have nothing to add to the statement which I made to European Economic Community Governments on 10th October, which has been published as -a White Paper.

Mrs. Castle

But is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Lord Gladwyn, in a recent article in The Statist, said that European unity was essential for strategic reasons in addition to many others because it would enable the European Community to produce and control its own atomic weapons; so would the Lord Privy Seal give the House an assurance that the Government would oppose any suggestion for the development of nuclear weapons by the European Community and under its political control?

Mr. Heath

That is a much wider question, but so far as strategic and defence matters are concerned they have not been dealt with in these negotiations, except the one exception in the Treaty of Rome which deals with certain trading aspects of strategy; but otherwise these matters are not being discussed.

Mr. Rankin

Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the Bonn Declaration of last July emphasises the fact that the Common Market is simply a political institution which will use economic means to attain a political end? Whether that be true or not, would he assure us that, if we enter the Common Market, then nothing will be allowed to happen which would impede the growing development of our trade with Russia and the Far East?

Mr. Heath

Again, that is a much wider question, but it is an aspect of an outward-looking Community which we would, of course, support. As for the Bonn statement, I dealt with that in paragraph 22 of my Paris speech, but it is a separate matter in that this is being considered by a separate committee, the Fouchet Committee.

32. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Lord Privy Seal which members of the Commonwealth have been proposed by the European Economic Community members for associate membership of the Common Market; and on what basis their association is proposed.

35. Mr. Walker

asked the Lord Privy Seal, in the light of the further Ministerial meetings he has held with the European Economic Community, whether he will now negotiate for protocols, which shall not be subject to a time limit, to be added to the Treaty of Rome for the purpose of safeguarding the interests of Commonwealth and British agriculture.

62. Mr. Hastings

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will now make a further statement about the progress of the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Economic Community.

Mr. Heath

Since my statement in reply to Questions on 29th November, I have attended a further meeting of Ministers in Brussels on 8th December, at which we reviewed the work done by officials and agreed on their future tasks. As a result, work is now in hand on United Kingdom requests for nil traiffs for certain commodities; on the import of manufactured goods from developed Commonwealth countries; and on the problems of the underdeveloped members of the Commonwealth. Provided that officials make sufficient progress on these matters, a further Ministerial meeting will be held in Brussels on 19th January.

Mr. Stonehouse

On Question No. 32, can the Lord Privy Seal tell us on what basis certain Commonwealth countries are apparently being chosen to become associates of the European Economic Community? Is it now the case that Europe will be able to decide which of these Commonwealth countries are going to be linked? Would it not be appropriate to have a Commonwealth conference called to discuss this split?

Mr. Heath

Our attitude to this was set out in paragraph 35—I think it was—of my Paris statement. There I asked that the less deleveloped countries of the Commonwealth should have an opportunity of association under Part IV, and that remains the position. Whether countries wish to take advantage of that is a matter for the individual countries themselves.

Sir J. Duncan

As one of the items for which a nil tariff was asked was jute goods, according to statements in the Press, can my right hon. Friend say whether that recommendation was made with the concurrence and agreement of the British jute trade?

Mr. Heath

I do not think I can now go into the details about particular items such as those my hon. Friend has mentioned.

Mr. Strachey

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that, in general, Commonwealth countries ought to have not less favourable treatment than that for the dependencies and ex-dependencies of France under this Treaty?

Mr. Heath

Yes. I think that is made plain in the statement I made.

33. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether Her Majesty's Government will be prepared in the event of entry into the Common Market to accept majority decisions of the Commission of the European Economic Community directing the legislative and administrative provisions to be adopted by the United Kingdom.

Mr. Heath

Yes, Sir, to the limited extent that the Treaty of Rome empowers the Commission to take such decisions.

Mr. Stonehouse

Is it not the case that if Britain joins there will be a unanimous vote needed in the first few years, but, following the first few years, a majority vote in Europe will decide what legislation should be passed in this country to bring our laws into line with those of Europe? Is the Lord Privy Seal making reservations in the current negotiations to retain the rights of this House of Commons to decide in its own due time what laws will be passed here in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Heath

Again, we have set out the whole of this in the Paris speech, which makes very clear our position on this matter. The Question refers solely to the position of the Commission. It is not a decision of the Commission but a decision of the Council of Ministers. The powers of the Commission are severely limited and defined by the Treaty of Rome, and its work is carried out by directives, and those directives bind the conclusions, but not the means by which conclusions should be reached, and that is a matter for national legislation.

Mr. Diamond

Will the Government also be prepared to accept majority decisions of such bodies as N.A.T.O., and, indeed, under every other such treaty which they make, and which provides for majority decisions? Will they also be prepared to accept majority decisions of the United Nations?

Mr. Heath

These are all very much wider questions, but the individual international organisations in which we take part have different means for reaching decisions.

Mr. Woodburn

Has the right hon. Gentleman observed that in the Coal and Steel Community, where majority decisions are assumed to be the rule, whether they become effective depends upon whether they are acceptable to the countries concerned, and that a majority decision is possible only if there is agreement amongst the countries?

Mr. Heath

One cannot generalise about this matter because there are different varieties of arrangements in each of the three Communities, which have different powers.