HC Deb 06 December 1962 vol 668 cc1491-4
Q1. Mr. Pentland

asked the Prime Minister how many communications he has received calling his attention to the political and constitutional issues involved for the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth in the event of Her Majesty's Government's application for full membership of the Common Market being accepted by the countries of the European Economic Community; and what replies he has sent.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

I have received numerous letters on the wide-ranging matters referred to by the hon. Member. My replies have dealt with the particular points raised by my correspondents.

Mr. Pentland

Will the Prime Minister agree that the political and constitutional issues involved in our joining the Common Market are giving rise to considerable concern and speculation in the country? In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman himself has already indicated in his pamphlet on the Common Market that a loss of sovereignty by Britain would be consistent with our joining, will he now explain to the House to what extent he expects the loss of sovereignty to go, how much there will be and how far-reaching? Is it his intention to raise these issues with President de Gaulle in the forthcoming talks he is to have with him?

The Prime Minister

We have discussed this matter in debate and otherwise. It is very difficult to answer on these matters in question and answer. Of course, any economic treaty, or any other treaty, involves pro tanto some transfer of sovereignty under its terms.

Mr. Pentland

But are not the people of this country still in doubt about exactly what the Prime Minister means when he says that this will mean for Britain a loss of sovereignty and, indeed, will mean constitutional changes in British law and the machinery of Government? The British people have still no idea at all of what the extent will be.

The Prime Minister

There have been very wide-ranging debates on this issue in which we have all tried to take part. I should have thought that the best course was to let the Brussels negotiations continue on the economic aspect, it then being for Parliament to see where we stand.

Mr. Gaitskell

Does the Prime Minister realise that this cannot be regarded as just another treaty which involves a certain amount of limitation on what we do, because it involves setting up institutions where we should be subject to majority decisions, so far as we can make out, and it involves by-passing Parliament? Is it not time that we had a clearer statement from the Government about it?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I think that by far the most practical thing is to continue the negotiations. If they are brought to a successful conclusion, then will be the time for Parliament to have a debate on whether or not it is prepared to accept the consequences.

Mr. Grimond

Is not the Prime Minister aware that we have suffered already a great deal from the Government's failure to make known to the country their view on the economic implications of the Common Market? Will he now consider making rather more clear the Government's view of the political implications because, unless some political changes are brought about in Europe, even those of us who support Britain's entry may feel that it may not bring about a very satisfactory situation?

The Prime Minister

All these matters have been subject, I think, to more public discussion in the Press, on the platform and elsewhere than almost any other subject, and rightly so. However, it is very difficult in question and answer to deal with these matters.

Q4. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Prime Minister whether he will instruct the Minister of Agriculture and the Lord Privy Seal to prepare a new statement of Great Britain's objections to the agricultural policy of the Six, so as to require not only a transition period in the interests of British farmers, but also a revision of the European Economic Community agricultural policy, in the light of the adverse criticism of it by the Agricultural Committee of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and by the United States Government.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friends the Minister of Agriculture and the Lord Privy Seal are already taking full account in the negotiations of the need to secure satisfactory agricultural arrangements not only in the transitional period but also in the longer term.

Mr. Zilliacus

Will the Prime Minister kindly make clear whether this means that now that the Agricultural Committee of the G.A.T.T. and the United States Secretary of State for Agriculture have protested against the present policy of the Six, the Government will join in this protest and demand a change in the policy of the Six themselves as contrasted with merely arguing about a transition period?

The Prime Minister

I do not think on the whole that the method of trying to conduct these negotiations by continual public statements about them is likely to be successful. We have all these matters in mind in the negotiations which are being conducted.

Mr. Gower

With reference to this and an earlier Question, is it not strange that those who have preached for so long the brotherhood of man are so frightened of any commitment beyond the Straits of Dover?

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