HC Deb 08 February 1962 vol 653 cc611-2
Q2. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Prime Minister if he will advise a general election before agreeing to Great Britain's entry into the Common Market.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Member to what I said in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) following my statement on 31st July last year.

Mr. Stonehouse

Would not the Prime Minister agree that it would be quite unprecedented and wholly against the spirit of our Constitution for a Member of Parliament to be whipped into voting for the undermining of our fundamental institutions and their merging with Europe, particularly bearing in mind that Conservative candidates, including the Prime Minister's right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary, at the last election were telling the electorate that it would be impossible for Britain to agree to the Rome Treaty for these very reasons? Is not the electorate entitled to be consulted about this?

The Prime Minister

When the negotiations are brought to a conclusion, it will then be the duty of the Government to recommend to the House what course we should pursue. I do not think that it is necessary to anticipate it now.

Mr. Shinwell

Will the Prime Minister reply to the Question, and also to my question of 31st July, 1961, and not merely repeat that he will bring the matter before Parliament? What he is being asked is whether he will consult the electorate? Apart from the economic aspects, surely the political implications involved in joining the European Economic Community justify asking the electors whether they are prepared to accept this constitutional change?

The Prime Minister

All these are matters for consideration, but I think that the first thing to do is to see how the negotiations proceed and in what form they are concluded.

Mr. Rankin

Surely the Prime Minister will agree that before he takes this step he ought to consult the country? Is he hedging on that question?

The Prime Minister

I am not prepared to answer a hypothetical question.

Sir C. Osborne

As the Opposition are so bitterly divided on the question of the European Economic Community, is not the suggestion quite impracticable?

The Prime Minister

I think that we may as well see how the negotiations go on.