HC Deb 20 July 1961 vol 644 cc1465-8
Q8. Mr. Turton

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the visits of Ministers to the Common- wealth on the Common Market problems; and if he will give an assurance that he will not start negotiations with the European Economic Community if it would involve splitting or weakening the Common wealth.

Q10. Mr. Grimond

asked the Prime Minister if he has now completed his consultations with the Ministers who were sent out to the Commonwealth; and if he will now make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy with regard to the Common Market.

The Prime Minister

I hope to make a statement on 31st July.

Mr. Turton

While I am glad to have that reply, will the Prime Minister answer the second part of my Question? In view of the fact that most of the communiqués and Press reports show that the Ministerial doves have failed to convince the Commonwealth countries that there will be no harmful effect to the Commonwealth resulting from the opening of negotions, it is important to get a personal assurance from the Prime Minister about his own convictions.

The Prime Minister

I do not think that that is a true reading of the discussions we have had; but the consultations my right hon. Friends have been having with Commonwealth Governments are evidence of the great importance we attach to Commonwealth views and interests. It would, perhaps, be better if my right hon. Friend will await the statement which I have to make.

Mr. Grimond

Can the Prime Minister say if he has yet decided whether he will publish a White Paper or a document setting out not only the difficulties of joining the Common Market but the advantages both for ourselves and the Commonwealth and for our E.F.T.A. partners? Can he also say whether the arrangements made by the French and their Commonwealth will be still open to us?

Mr. Prime Minister

I have answered that I do not think it would be proper to publish a White Paper of an argumentative character and I have explained that it is difficult to set out the pros and cons in a Government White Paper of an official character. It is a matter on which the House must form its own views.

Mr. Chataway

Will the Prime Minister bear in mind, when he is considering his statement next week, that any further delays in applying for membership of the E.E.C. can only discourage those individuals and countries within the Six who are most anxious to have us in and to meet our difficulties?

The Prime Minister

That is relevant, but I think that my statement will be on the first convenient day.

Mr. M. Foot

When the Prime Minister tells us that he is going to make a statement on 31st July, can he say whether it will be a statement at the opening of a debate, or will he try to make this statement in such circumstances that he will be protected from general criticism in debate by the House?

The Prime Minister

That is a question about the convenient method of having a debate which would be better addressed to the Leader of the House who, later, can answer it in the course of announcing business.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

If the decision to open negotiations to join the Common Market involves sending a delegation of Ministers to Bad Godesberg, will my right hon. Friend recall that the last time that was done it involved one-and-a-half years of great tribulation, after which the nation was called upon to repudiate the policies of those who went there and to send them out of public life?

The Prime Minister

I remember that my views on those occasions were freely expressed. I am not quite so sure of what the noble Lord's views were.

Mr. Gaitskell

Could the Prime Minister say whether it is correct that there is to be a Commonwealth Finance Ministers' Conference in September, and, if so, whether any undertakings were given by Her Majesty's Ministers in the course of these recent talks that no final decision would be taken on this matter until further discussion had taken place, either with the Commonwealth Finance Ministers or the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference?

The Prime Minister

There is to be a Conference, I think, on 12th September. There is no final decision in the sense of a final treaty that could possibly be taken. This is quite a different question and one which I shall try to deal with in my statement, and, no doubt, in the debate, as to whether some preliminary decision should be taken.

Mr. Shinwell

In the statement that the Prime Minister contemplates making on 31st July, would he take into account the report in the Press of the recent statement in Bonn by the Council of Ministers concerning the Common Market, that their definite objective is political integration and, if that is to be the case, will the right hon. Gentleman give the matter very careful consideration before agreeing to enter the Common Market?

The Prime Minister

I have, of course, studied that statement very carefully. It is very interesting to see that the French Government, led by General de Gaulle, took rather the opposite view, and were strong supporters of confederation as opposed to any federal system.

Mr. Wade

If the Prime Minister thinks that this is a matter at which the House should arrive at its own views, surely the House should have an opportunity of expressing its views in a debate?

The Prime Minister

I would rather not anticipate the arrangements for the debate. That will be dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House when he deals with the business of the House in a moment or two.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

On the second part of the Question, has my right hon. Friend studied what has been lately said by the Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and does he not think that it is a jolly good statement?

The Prime Minister

I have studied all these statements and, in the light of them and of the reports of my right hon. Friends, the Government will reach a decision and announce it to Parliament.

Mr. Jay

Whether the Prime Minister goes to Bad Godesberg or not, will he consider in his statement of 31st July the views of the Commonwealth countries on this issue as well as the views of the Six?

The Prime Minister

Yes, of course.