HC Deb 11 July 1961 vol 644 cc204-8
41 and 42. Sir D. Walker-Smith

asked the Prime Minister (1) what is the result of his inquiries as to the possibility of getting information from the signatories of the Treaty of Rome relating to the implementation thereof, with a view to publishing a Command Paper;

(2) whether he has been able to find a convenient method of assessing the constitutional modifications required by the adherence of the United Kingdom to the Treaty of Rome with a view to the inclusion of such an assessment in a Command Paper.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

Copies of the official English translation of the full Treaty of Rome, including the annexes, are in the Vote Office.

As to the implementation of the Treaty, I am arranging, with the agreement of the Commission of the European Economic Community, to make available in the Vote Office as soon as possible copies of the Progress Reports issued by the Commission since the Treaty was signed. I understand that the latest Report takes the position up to 30th April this year.

I have also considered whether it would be possible to publish documents giving the arguments for and against adhesion by the United Kingdom to the Treaty as it stands. As I have frequently made clear in the House, Her Majesty's Government have no intention of signing the Treaty of Rome without making satisfactory arrangements for the Commonwealth countries, our European Free Trade Association partners and British agriculture. We shall not, therefore, be in the position of joining the Treaty of Rome without any derogation, protocol or amendment, and indeed the Treaty itself in Article 237 expressly provides for necessary changes in the Treaty to be made by agreement in the case of adhesion by states other than the original signatories. So there would be no value in attempting to strike the balance of advantage on the basis only of the existing documents.

Finally, there is the question of publishing some official Paper setting out what would be the interests of the Commonwealth and the European Free Trade Association and of our own agriculture which would need to be met by amendment or protocol or derogation to the Treaty before there could be any question of our adherence to it. This seems to me, on careful reflection, to be a matter of argument which would be quite unsuitable—at this stage at least—for publication in a Government document.

Mr. A. Lewis

On a point of order. You will recollect, Mr. Speaker, that a few weeks ago you advised Ministers that it was your wish that when there were long Answers to Questions, whether sponsored or otherwise, it would be as well if they were answered in a statement at the end of Questions. I ask, therefore, whether it is still your wish or desire that that procedure should be operated.

Mr. Speaker

It is, but I should rather deal with the matter after Questions so that we shall not take up the time of the House.

The Prime Minister

Moreover, should it seem right in due course for Her Majesty's Government to take the decision to negotiate with the Governments of the Six, it does not seem to me that prior publication of our full negotiating position would necessarily be helpful.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Does the Prime Minister appreciate that I am very grateful to him for the trouble to which he has gone in answering these Questions so fully, and, in particular, for the information contained in the answer to Question No. 41? In regard to Question No. 42, does my right hon. Friend appreciate that his answer has gone a good deal wider than the Question actually put to him, which was merely for a factual assessment—not of the arguments for and against—of the constitutional modifications required in the context of the Treaty of Rome and of the information he has now promised in answer to Question No. 41? As this goes to the issue of political sovereignty which is at the heart of the matter, could my right hon. Friend say whether it is possible to provide such a factual assesment?

The Prime Minister

It is, of course, clear from the Treaty now available that some merging of sovereignty in the commercial, economic and social fields covered by the Treaty is inherent in the idea of the European Economic Community. The Treaty makes that clear. It also makes it clear that defence, foreign policy and public order would in any case be excluded, but until we have concluded any negotiation, should it be started, we cannot summarise the position further than that.

Mr. Gaitskell

While appreciating that the Prime Minister has gone some way to meet the general demand for more information on this matter, may I ask whether he has decided how the House of Commons is to be informed of the results of the negotiations and talks now taking place between Ministers of Her Majesty's Government and Commonwealth countries?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps I might be allowed to consider that when they return.

Mr. Jay

Whilst the Prime Minister's reply today was mildly reassuring to some of us, is there not growing evidence of increasing resentment in more than one part of the Commonwealth at Her Majesty's Government's present conduct of some of these negotiations? Would it not be very much better to call a general Commonwealth conference before we go very much further?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir, that is not the general experience of my colleagues conducting these negotiations. On the contrary, there is a general agreement that a Prime Ministers' conference at the present stage would be a quite unsuitable piece of machinery for dealing with this matter.

Mr. Holt

Will the Prime Minister make clear to the House that there is a difference in the original words of the French and Italian texts which are translated into English as "amendment" in Articles 236 and 237? Article 236, which deals with new members joining, allows for "adaptations", which can be done in protocols and does not allow for any substantial amendment to the main Treaty—Articles 1 to 240.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, but it has always been our position on the points on which I think the House is so well informed that I need not repeat them—the Commonwealth interest and agricultural interest and so forth and the interests of our partners in E.F.T.A.—that any association, if it is to be embarked upon and to be successful, must have a reasonable amount of give and take on all sides.

Mr. Gaitskell

Reverting to my previous question, will the Prime Minister consider, in view of the very great importance of these talks now taking place, publishing the outcome of the talks and the differences of points of view there may be in a White Paper so that the House may be fully informed as soon as practicable after the Ministers return? Is it proposed by Her Majesty's Government to accept the invitation of the Foreign Ministers of the Common Market countries to meet them on, I think, 1st August to discuss these matters?

The Prime Minister

I think there are many communiqués which have been agreed. I have just heard of one agreed this morning by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations in Canberra and his colleagues there. I will see whether they can be put together and published. In regard to the second question asked by the right hon. Gentleman, I have read something in the Press. What I think is proposed is that there should be a meeting of the W.E.U. countries and at that meeting in a general way this matter and other matters would be on the agenda.

Mr. Gaitskell

Communiqués are frequently drafted to disclose as little as possible and a collection of communiqués might not throw very much light on what has actually taken place. More seriously, will the Prime Minister consider, in view of the enormous importance of this matter, giving a better and fuller account to the House of Commons of these talks?

The Prime Minister

Of course, I shall consider that with my colleagues when they return, but the right hon. Gentleman will realise that there might be some feeling against a purely ex parte statement as any statement would have to be agreed as giving the picture of the discussions with all the countries visited. I do not think an ex parte statement would be quite fair however objective one tried to be. One must get it agreed with the others.