HC Deb 19 December 1962 vol 669 cc1255-63
19. Mr. Wise

asked the Lord Privy Seal, in view of the recent statement on behalf of the European Economic Community regarding the postponement of the entry of European Free Trade Area countries into the Community, if it remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government not to ask the agreement of Parliament to the signature of the Treaty of Rome until the successful conclusion of negotiations with those European Free Trade Area countries who have applied for admission.

35. Mr. Fletcher

asked the Lord Privy Seal to what extent the announcement by the Foreign Ministers of the six European Economic Community countries, that they cannot make any arrangement with Sweden, Austria and Switzerland before the end of 1963, affects his current negotiations for this country to join the European Economic Community.

Mr. P. Thomas

I have nothing to add to the statement my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal made to the House on 13th December.

Mr. Wise

If my hon. Friend read my Question again, he would see that it is susceptible to two very simple answers, either "Yes" or "No". Could he not bring himself to use one of these useful monosyllables?

Mr. Thomas

As my hon. Friend knows, there are many questions which are not easily susceptible to the simple answer "Yes" or "No". The point in this case is that arrangements which will meet satisfactorily the legitimate concerns of our fellow members of E.F.T.A. must be among the conditions for our entry into the European Economic Community.

Mr. Fletcher

While I realise that this is not an easy question, will not the Minister agree that this is really the acid test of the Government's sincerity? Will he recognise that unless there is an assurance that the E.F.T.A. countries will be admitted into the European Economic Community, this is a matter which, because of its political as well as its economic implications, must affect the final decision of this House? Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he will extract from the European Economic Community a recognition that the E.F.T.A. countries will be admitted on terms acceptable to them?

Mr. Thomas

As the hon. Member knows, the London communiqué set out what were the obligations, not simply of Britain towards the other partners of E.F.T.A., but of all the partners in E.F.T.A. We stand by the terms of the London communiqué.

22. Mr. P. Browne

asked the Lord Privy Seal what stage he has reached in agreeing with the European Economic Community upon the structure of the Agricultural Common Market Fund should the United Kingdom join the Community.

25. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Lord Privy Seal if, in the negotiations on Great Britain's entry into the Common Market, he will resist the proposal that Great Britain should contribute to a European Economic Community agriculture fund in view of the burden that this would put on the consumer in terms of higher prices.

Mr. Godber

We accept the provisions of Regulation No. 25, by which a European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund was set up in accordance with Article 40 (4) of the Rome Treaty. Accordingly, if we join the European Economic Community, we shall both contribute to this fund and benefit from it. The level of consumer prices in the United Kingdom would not be dependent on the level of British contributions to the fund.

Mr. Browne

Would not my hon. Friend agree that the word "agricultural" here is slightly misleading yin that both reasonable price policies and the Agricultural Common Market Fund affect everyone in this country, both consumer and taxpayer, and the country's efficiency generally? Will he, therefore, ensure that we do not pay a contribution to this fund in proportion to our food imports, which would be far and away the largest in the Community?

Mr. Godber

I am aware of this problem and obviously this is a matter which will call for serious discussion in the Brussels negotiations. Indeed, it has already been the subject of such. The point which I was making in relation to the level of consumer prices was that it is clear that there is no direct relationship between the two.

Mr. Ronald Bell

Can my hon. Friend say when it is expected to reach this point in the Brussels negotiations? I understand that it has not yet been reached. Secondly, is it not the case that although prices in the United Kingdom will not depend upon our contribution to the fund, our contribution to the fund may well depend upon prices in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Godber

In reply to the second point, it will depend more upon world prices. The prices in the United Kingdom will be related to the Community prices. As to the question of whether this matter has been reached, I think that there has been discussion on it but I should require notice before giving a detailed answer.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Percy Browne.

Mr. Browne

May I ask a supplementary on the last Question, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

No. I hope that the hon. Member will please move on.

23. Mr. P. Browne

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he is asking for the right to re-negotiate any agreements reached over agriculture by the European Economic Community between the signing of the heads of agreement and the ratification of the Treaty of Rome by the United Kingdom if negotiations are completed to the satisfaction of Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Godber

This is an important problem which arises not only in respect of agriculture but over the whole field of Community action. We shall be raising it at an appropriate stage in the negotiations.

Mr. Browne

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that the position may arise when this country has initialled the heads of agreement and there will then be a hiatus until the Treaty of Rome is ratified, during which the agricultural policy of the Common Market countries involved may result in their agreeing upon terms for certain commodities amongst themselves? Will my hon. Friend, therefore, not accept that we must have the right to negotiate what they agree in this interim period?

Mr. Godber

I am sure that it would be right for us to be kept very closely informed and in touch with any such negotiations which arrive at a conclusion before our entry. It is, however, impossible at this stage to give any clear indication in relation to it. I have indicated that we are very much aware of the problem, but I do not think that we can seek a suspension of action within the Community during the period to which my hon. Friend has referred.

Mr. Browne

While I accept that we cannot ask for suspension, would not my hon, Friend agree that we must get this right? It is no good our initialling heads of agreement on matters about which we know nothing, which is what it would amount to.

Mr. Godber

I accept that. Obviously we should have to be fully informed on any of these matters when the time comes.

26. Mr. J. Wells

asked the Lord Privy Seal what estimate he has made of the effect on the British cider and perry industry and of the consequent effects on British horticulture of Great Britain's entry into the Common Market; and what proposals he has made on this matter in the course of the negotiations.

Mr. Godber

These matters are still under discussion in the negotiations and I cannot make a statement on them at present.

Mr. Wells

Is my hon. Friend aware of the fact that British cider is made by a completely different process from cider made in France and Germany and that if we in this country have to conform to that very inferior product it will have a disastrous effect on the cider-drinking and cider-making communities and that this in turn will have a very adverse effect on the horticultural industry?

Mr. Godber

I understand those difficulties. The Commission is considering proposals for the harmonisation of food standards, and certainly, at the appropriate stage, we shall make our representations on this matter and make the views of the British trade, to which my hon. Friend has rightly referred, known to the Community.

27. Mr. Jay

asked the Lord Privy Seal what increases in the price of wheat, fat cattle, fat sheep, wool, eggs and milk he now estimates as likely to result from the adherence of the United Kingdom to the European Economic Community on the terms now proposed by the Government.

Mr. Godber

It is not possible to estimate the likely price changes because no decisions have yet been taken on the levels at which prices are to be harmonised in the existing Community, far less in an enlarged Community.

Mr. Jay

Does that mean that the Government are conducting these very important negotiations without any idea of the effects on food prices in this country?

Mr. Godber

No. It does not mean that any more than it means that we accept the estimates that the right hon. Gentleman himself has put forward.

Mr. Jay

Then may we know what the Government's ideas are?

Mr. Godber

I have already indicated that in fact we cannot give precise estimations. I think it is wrong to do so at this time.

Mr. Jay


Mr. Godber

If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to have rough ones, I would say, in relation to the products mentioned, that both our market prices and our guaranteed producer prices for wheat are below the corresponding prices now obtaining in the Community; our producer prices for fat cattle and milk are within the Community's price range; and our price for eggs is above that range. Production of fat sheep and wool in the existing Community is small; therefore, no valid price comparisons are possible.

Mr. Turton

Would my right hon. Friend publish the Krohn report of the economic research group of the E.E.C. so that we can see what they say on the matter?

Mr. Godber

I should like to consider that.

28. Mr. Jay

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether the Government are consulting the United States Government with a view to making joint representations to the European Economic Community concerning those aspects of the Community's agricultural policy which are contrary to the principles of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Peter Smithers)

The Community's agricultural regulations have recently been examined by a General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Committee on which we, the Americans and many other countries, including Commonwealth countries, are represented. The Committee concluded that it was not possible as yet to make a final analysis of the effects of the regulations. It will examine further regulations as they come into force.

Mr. Jay

As two United States Ministers have now criticised the agricultural policy of the Community, and as our interests here coincide with those of the United States and the Commonwealth, would it not be a good idea if we made joint representations to the Community?

Mr. Smithers

Our interests do not coincide precisely with those of the United States. We are, however, sitting in the Committee with the United States and with Commonwealth countries, which are separately represented.

29. Mr. A. Royle

asked the Lord Privy Seal if the United Kingdom joins the Common Market, what time he would expect to elapse before arrangements could be completed for Hong Kong; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Smithers

As my right hon. Friend informed the House on 12th November, the Community has agreed to work out, before Britain's entry into the Community, appropriate measures in the field of trade relations with Hong Kong.

Mr. Royle

May I ask my hon. Friend whether he is aware that there is great concern in the Colony regarding these negotiations and that if reasonable terms are not obtained for it, there could be serious unemployment? Will he keep in close consultation with the Government of the Colony during the coming months?

Mr. Smithers

Yes, I am aware of the seriousness of the matter. The Colony has been represented by the attendance of an official at the negotiations and we are in close touch with the Governor throughout.

Mr. Healey

In view of the great importance of not introducing any further measure of discrimination as between the various members of the Commonwealth, could the hon. Gentleman assure the House that Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom will not accept any arrangements for Hong Kong which are inferior to those negotiated for Singapore?

Mr. Smithers

As we are at the present time in negotiation, I do not think that I should add anything to what I have already said.

Mr. Dance

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind, when he is giving his consideration to these matters, that Hong Kong is beautifully administered—that the administration is first-class, and that it does not cost this country one penny?

Mr. Smithers

We are well aware of the excellence of the administration of Hong Kong.

30. Mr. Bullard

asked the Lord Privy Seal how many of the regulations of the Commission of the European Economic Community are concerned solely with the production and sale of foodstuffs; and how many are concerned with the production and sale of manufactured goods.

Mr. Smithers

A total of 143 regulations were issued by the institutions of the European Economic Community up to the end of November, 1962. 116 of them relate to the production and sale of foodstuffs land 8 to the production and sale of manufactured goods.

Mr. Bullard

Would not my hon. Friend agree that this is a very high proportion indeed of the regulations which are concerned with agriculture as opposed to industry, and does not this explain the misgivings of the farming community in this matter—that whereas for industry there is a pretty clear picture of what its future will be under the various arrangements, the future of agriculture is dictated very much by these very complicated regulations, over which this House, if we were to join the Community, would have no control? Therefore, will he see that, before we join, we do have more control over the drafting and formulation of these regulations?

Mr. Smithers

My hon. Friend will appreciate that there is a much larger proportion of regulations for agriculture for the reason that the Common Market in industry was largely defined in the Treaty of Rome, whereas the Common Market in matters concerning agriculture was left to be established very largely by regulations.

32. Mr. Matthews

asked the Lord Privy Seal what information he has obtained in the course of his Brussels negotiations regarding the extent to which harmonisation of social security services has been achieved by the European Economic Community.

Mr. Smithers

The Treaty of Rome does not specifically require the harmonisation of social security services but the Commission is considering what might be done in this field by co-operation between member Governments.

Mr. Matthews

Is my hon. Friend aware that there are complaints in certain quarters of limited information on this subject? If Britain were to enter the Common Market there would inevitably be harmonisation of our social services and this might lead to tighter Government control over details of insurance rights and policy conditions as are practised on the Continent? Is my hon. Friend aware that this in turn might lead to British pensions gradually moving towards the higher levels which prevail in Germany?

Mr. Smithers

My hon. Friend will find that a good deal of information on this subject is published in the Commission's "Plan of Action" which has just appeared, but the fact is that the Comission is still working on this subject. There are no proposals for either compulsory harmonisation or uniformity. There is, however, to be a conference shortly to discuss this matter. Thereafter, no doubt, there will be further information about the Commission's intentions.