HC Deb 06 July 1961 vol 643 cc1649-51
44. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Prime Minister when he expects Ministerial consultations with other Commonwealth Governments about the Common Market to be completed; what further action will be taken to ensure continued consultation with these Governments on future relations with continental Europe; and if he will make a further statement about Her Majesty's Government's policy with regard to the European Economic Community.

The Prime Minister

I expect that the United Kingdom Ministers will have concluded their visits to Commonwealth capitals by about 17th July. One of the matters included in the present discussions is naturally that of further consultation.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Has not what we have already heard of the Ministerial consultations revealed the anguish throughout the Commonwealth at the possibility of any European arrangement which might weaken the ties between the oversea Commonwealth and Britain? In view of the necessity for the utmost Commonwealth and national unity in the face of threats to peace in the Middle East, Berlin and elsewhere, could not Her Majesty's Government seek to postpone a decision until there has been some relaxation of tension in the world and time to call a full Commonwealth Conference on this vital matter?

The Prime Minister

I take note of what my hon. Friend has said, but I would really prefer to await the possibility of discussing this matter with my colleagues when they return.

Mr. Shinwell

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's speech the other day, when he appeared to be soft-pedalling on this issue, and in view of the poor response met by the travelling Ministers, is it not about time that the Prime Minister scrapped this foolish idea?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to his views, but I really think that he takes this great issue rather too lightly.

Mr. Lindsay

Are there not a large number of outstanding Commonwealth statesmen, Mr. Menzies and Lord Casey, for example, who have expressed full understanding of the British position and confidence in the way in which we shall handle the matter?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I think we really must be careful to try to treat the matter in as statesmanlike a way as we can and neither to exaggerate the difficulties nor to underrate them.

Mr. Healey

As Her Majesty's Government last week agreed at the E.F.T.A. Council meeting that they would not conclude any agreement with the Common Market countries until all the other members of E.F.T.A. were prepared to conclude their agreements with the Common Market countries, can the Prime Minister give an assurance to the House that Her Majesty's Government will not conclude an agreement with the Common Market countries until all the Commonwealth Governments have given their consent to such an agreement?

The Prime Minister

I do not know about consent to every detail, but the question that we have first to consider is whether and on what basis the negotiations should begin. That is really what has to be discussed; and as a final stage, of course, the consent of the House and many other consents will have to be given.

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