HC Deb 18 April 1962 vol 658 cc473-80
1. Mr. Lipton

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will insist, as a condition of Britain's entry into the Common Market, that Commonwealth products shall continue to enjoy their present freedom of access to this country or, alternatively, shall be offered other outlets by lowering Common Market tariffs or other means acceptable to the Commonwealth countries concerned.

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Edward Heath)

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to my statement of 10th October in which I suggested how the problem of Commonwealth products might be split up into its different components and how each of these might be treated if the vital interests of the Commonwealth were to be safeguarded. In reply to a Question on 7th March, I explained what progress we had made in dealing with the various groups of Commonwealth problems.

Mr. Lipton

That was a long time ago. In view of the fears still being voiced, with good reason, by the Deputy-Prime Minister of Australia in London as recently as last night, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that any attempt to bulldoze, hoodwink or prejudice Canada, Australia or any other Commonwealth country will be regarded as a gross betrayal and will drag the Government's reputation down to an even lower level than it has already reached?

Mr. Heath

There is no question of the Commonwealth being treated in the way that the hon. Member has just read out. We have given the fullest assurances to the Commonwealth and to Parliament to which we will adhere. The Deputy-Prime Minister of Australia was pointing out certain consequences that would follow if no special arrangements of the kind which I have described were arrived at. That, of course, is a different situation.

Mr. Healey

Can the Lord Privy Seal assure the House that Her Majesty's Government will not accept an arrangement which is of a purely temporary and transitional nature and will insist on comparable outlets being assured for an indefinite period?

Mr. Heath

I have repeatedly assured the House that in these negotiations we are dealing not only with the short or transitional period of the Community, but also with the long-term and Common Market period.

6. Mr. Dempsey

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he is aware of the damage being done to the export trade as a result of delay arising from discussion on the Common Market application by the United Kingdom; and when he expects to report to Parliament, with a view to facilitating exports.

Mr. Heath

I am not aware that our export trade is being damaged in this way, though I realise that the outcome of the Brussels negotiations will affect the plans of all those in the United Kingdom concerned with exports. That is why I am anxious to press on with the negotiations as quickly as possible. I cannot yet say when their outcome will be sufficiently clear to enable me to report to Parliament.

Mr. Dempsey

Is the Lord Privy Seal not aware that one of the largest exporting firms in Scotland has had its orders cancelled by a firm in one of the Common Market countries on the ground that entry will obviously affect prices? Does he not realise that the quicker the Government make up their mind and let the House and industry know what the position is the better it will be for Scottish exporters in general?

Mr. Heath

I was not aware of the particular case the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. If it affected prices it could only, of course, be to bring prices down because of the lowering of tariff barriers. I hope all firms in this country will continue to use all their efforts in the export trade to Commonwealth countries, to the countries of E.F.T.A. and to third countries of the world, quite apart from any plans which they can make for exports to the European Community.

Mr. Bowles

Will the Lord Privy Seal tell us—and take a little longer perhaps than usual—what is the real, overwhelming reason for the desire of the Government to join this Community at all?

Mr. Heath

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will read my statement of 10th October.

Sir H. Harrison

Will my right hon. Friend not agree that our export trade depends on our goods being at the right price and of the right quality irrespective of whether we enter the Common Market or not?

8. Mr. Walker

asked the Lord Privy Seal, in view of the recent official statement of Dr. Mansholt, a vice-president of the European Commission, on this matter, if he will give an assurance that he will not recommend the entry of the United Kingdom into the Common Market upon a basis whereby the major safeguards for Commonwealth interests are limited to a period of five years.

Mr. Heath

Her Majesty's Government fully adheres to the assurances already given to Parliament and to the Commonwealth countries. I have therefore nothing to add to the reply I gave to a Question from my hon. Friend on 19th March.

Mr. Walker

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that it is disturbing to find that Professor Hallstein, Dr. Mansholt and the French Foreign Secretary have all gone on record as saying that permanent safeguards cannot be provided for the Commonwealth? Will my right hon. Friend take note of the words of the Minister of Trade for Australia last night when he said that the Commonwealth would not be satisfied with the tranquillisers of some temporary safeguards?

Mr. Heath

I am fully aware of what my hon. Friend has said. I repeat what I said earlier—it is that in this matter we are negotiating both on short-term and long-term. Dr. Mansholt, when he spoke in London, was giving his personal views about certain aspects of agricultural policy. We are concerned with the Commonwealth interest over the whole field.

Mr. Mayhew

Does not the recent speech of the Leader of the House, stating that Britain's entry into the Common Market would be the main issue at a General Election, provide a clear indication that the Government have decided to enter the Common Market on any terms? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Is it fair to the Lord Privy Seal that speeches of this kind should be made when he is negotiating with the Six?

Mr. Heath

The speech by my right hon. Friend to which the hon. Member refers implies nothing of the kind. It is quite conceivable that there could be a General Election even if we were not able to negotiate arrangements to go into the Common Market.

Mr. Holt

While there would bound to be changes in the pattern of Commonwealth trade with this country as a result of our going into the Common Market, may I ask whether the objects of the negotiations should not be to ensure that the Commonwealth has as great, or possibly a greater, opportunity of trade with Europe as a whole, including Great Britain, as it now has?

Mr. Heath

Yes, Sir. The pattern of Commonwealth trade is changing all the time, quite regardless of the negotiations we undertake or whether or not we enter the European Economic Community. That is bound to happen with lively economies and developing countries. Naturally, we should like to see the Commonwealth have greater opportunities in the European countries. If the proposals which I have put forward are acceptable, they will definitely widen the opportunities of Commonwealth countries in Europe.

9. Mrs. Castle

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is yet in a position to place in the Library copies of the final text in French of the agreement reached by the European Economic Community on agricultural policy, together with an English translation of the text.

Mr. Heath

The final texts of the fourteen agriculture documents were approved by the Council of Ministers of the European Economic Community on 4th April. They will be published in the OFFICIAL JOURNAL of the Communities in due course. Meanwhile, advance copies of the French texts are being made available to us as quickly as the work of reproduction and checking permits. The texts of nine documents have ben received so far (together with two supplementary documents) and copies have been placed in the Library of the House. We expect to place the other five texts in the Library today. An English translation will be placed in the Vote Office as soon as possible.

Mrs. Castle

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, may I ask if the words "as soon as possible" in the English translation will not be extended to mean a matter of weeks but will mean merely a matter of days?

Mr. Heath

I could not give an undertaking that it will be only a matter of days, but it will be very soon, and as each document is completed in turn we will make it available in the Vote Office.

16. Mr. Swingler

asked the Lord Privy Seal what examination has been made by his Department of the probable effects of Britain's entry into the Common Market on the film industry; and if he will publish the conclusions reached.

Mr. Heath

The European Economic Community has not yet adopted a common films policy. It is therefore not possible to judge at this stage what effect, if any, our entry into the Community would have on the British film industry.

Mr. Swingler

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the fact-finding commission set up by the E.E.C. last year on the film industry has now reported to the Governments of the Six and that it has been published that the Governments of the Six have been asked within the next month to make their proposals about a common films policy of the E.E.C.? Would he, therefore, ask whether the Government may have a copy of this fact-finding report on which the policy will be based so that they may be able to put forward proposals in the negotiations?

Mr. Heath

If this matter reaches a stage of proposals being formulated during the negotiations, I hope that we shall follow the customary practice in these negotiations so far, which is to obtain copies of the documents concerned and to express our views upon them.

17. Mr. Swingler

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will add to the delegation in Brussels which is negotiating about Britain's entry into the Common Market representatives of British film producers who are competent to advise on the measures necessary to safeguard the interests of the industry and to foster its growth.

Mr. Heath

No, Sir. It would not be practicable to attach to the delegation representatives of all the many industries whose products are being or will be discussed.

Mr. Swingler

In the light of the Answer given by the right hon. Gentleman to the previous Question, may we take it that the Government will now make representations to ensure that when the documents are brought out they are provided to them in order that the experts in the film industry in this country may have an opportunity in the next few weeks of being able to formulate some proposals to put forward?

Mr. Heath

On the delegation at Brussels we have a representative of the Board of Trade, and the Board of Trade is in close contact with the British film industry over this matter. As for proposals, as I have said, we shall follow the normal procedure in these negotiations.

20. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Lord Privy Seal what is the minimum requirement Her Majesty's Government are seeking in the negotiations with members of the European Economic Community in respect of preferential treatment for the entry of primary products from New Zealand, Australia and Canada, respectively, into the United Kingdom.

Mr. Heath

No negotiator can be expected to announce in public his minimum terms for agreement on any particular subject.

Mr. Shinwell

Is not there some indication that the right bon. Gentleman has not made up his mind about the minimum requirements? If he does not know how he stands in this regard, how can he negotiate successfully? May I have an assurance from him that he will allow neither himself nor his colleagues in the Government to be manœuvred by any of the members of the Six into a compromise which operates to the detriment of this country and of the Commonwealth?

Mr. Heath

In his time the right hon. Gentleman has carried out a good many negotiations. I cannot believe that he ever announced in public what his minimum terms would be. Answering the latter part of his question, we have every confidence that we shall not be outmanœuvred in the negotiations.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the Minister aware that when I entered into negotiations on behalf of any British Government with which I was associated, I was not prepared to compromise if the compromise meant any detriment to or deterioration of the prestige and power of this country?

Mr. Heath

Every negotiation consists of a compromise of some degree or another, otherwise it would not be negotiation, it would be a series of ultimata. What we have to do is to look at the balance which we achieve on the whole solution.

32. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Lord Privy Seal to what extent it is a condition of Great Britain's entry into the Common Market that British foreign and defence policy, including North Atlantic Treaty Organisation commitments, shall be co-ordinated with that of the Six.

Mr. Heath

I put forward Her Majesty's Government's views on these matters in the statement I made to the Western European Union on 10th April, copies of which are available in the Vote Office.

Mr. Zilliacus

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that if we were to go into the Common Market the Government would be as free as they are today to pursue a foreign policy for a European settlement—for instance, through disengagement on the lines advocated by the Opposition—in spite of the known objections of their partners in the Common Market to any such policy?

Mr. Heath

The Treaty of Rome has no effect on foreign policy. At the same time, the members of the three Communities have been discussing together what political arrangements should be set up alongside the Communities. I was dealing with that matter in my speech of 10th April. But the effect on foreign policy depends on the nature of the proposals reached by the Six.

Mr. Mayhew

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when his speech became available in the Vote Office, and when it leaked into The Times?

Mr. Heath

I understand that it was available in the Vote Office on Friday of last week.

Mr. Chataway

Does my right hon. hon. Friend agree that, despite the failure of the talks in Paris, there is a need for closer political association between the countries of Western Europe, and that if we succeed in negotiating our way into the Common Market we should be keen to arrive at such a closer political association?

Mr. Heath

Yes, Sir. I fully expressed this view in the speech I made to Western European Union. This is a matter for the members of the Six, whose Governments are taking part in these talks.


Mr. Heath

May I say, in answer to the point raised by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) a few moments ago, that the text of my speech to Western European Union was released on Friday, but as the House had risen it was not available in the Vote Office until Monday?