HC Deb 29 January 1963 vol 670 cc756-9
Q4. Mr. Donnelly

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement regarding his latest official communication with President de Gaulle.

The Prime Minister

I do not recall ever having received an official communication from General de Gaulle, certainly not in the last twenty years.

Mr. Donnelly

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the impression is growing in this country that President de Gaulle has defeated him diplomatically on almost every aspect of foreign policy and that there are new challenges implicit in the latest Franco-German treaty which have much wider implications than the Common Market? Can he say when at a critical time in this century we have had less leadership from a British Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister

In so far as the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is meant to be of aid in the deep sense of patriotism which he has, I welcome it. In so far as it is merely an attack upon me, I think that I can afford to forget about it.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Whatever may be the channel of communication with President de Gaulle, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware of damaging statements by the President and by French spokesmen to the effect that my right hon. Friend preferred to make the Nassau Agreement rather than to have European or Anglo-French interdependence in nuclear defence? Is an official denial of these damaging statements to be made?

The Prime Minister

I dealt with that at some length in my speech at Liverpool.

Mr. H. Wilson

Does not the Prime Minister realise that the total collapse of the Government's policies in these negotiations, with all that that means for our economic and foreign policy position, suggests that this is no time—[Laughter.]—

Sir G. Nabarro

The right hon. Gentleman has lost the leadership now.

Mr. Wilson

—suggests that he might deal with this question in a less frivolous manner than was indicated by his first reply? Has he not even now developed an alternative policy to put forward, and will he inform President de Gaulle, when he is in touch with him, that the first step that he intends to take is to call a Commonwealth conference and stop being pushed around by President de Gaulle or anybody else?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman made a quite good recovery at the end of his supplementary question, as he sometimes does, but I thought that at the beginning he opened a rather wide flank. I thought that he was against Britain joining the Common Market.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some of us hold the view that President de Gaulle owes this country very much more than we owe him and that we are getting a little tired of the General and of some of these people associated with the European Economic Community and the European movement? Is it not time that we made up our minds to stand on our own legs by whatever device is open to us? Will the Prime Minister be good enough to inform the House when we shall have a statement from him—an authentic statement—on the present situation arising out of the intransigence of General de Gaulle?

The Prime Minister

So long as these negotiations were in being, it would have been very improper, unwise and altogether wrong of me to do anything that could interfere with their possible success. If and when they come to an end, a situation will have been created which we shall deal with. I am convinced—and encouraged in my view by the right hon. Gentleman—that we shall deal with that situation as we have always dealt with difficulties facing us. We shall face it, I believe, as a united country.

Mr. G. Brown

In view of the announcement that the French delegation expects to leave Brussels for home at 5 p.m. today, will the Prime Minister undertake to make a full statement tomorrow on the position as he sees it?

The Prime Minister

Of course, a statement will have to be made at the right moment. We have an important debate tomorrow and I am not sure when my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal will be back. I understand also that there will be considerable discussion among the five other members of the Community this evening and perhaps tonight. But, of course, a statement will be made at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. Brown

The Prime Minister has referred to "considerable discussion" among the five. Is he aware that in Britain a very unhappy feeling is growing of humiliation at the sense of hanging around while everybody else is discussing us and we seem unwilling to say anything? If the French have gone home and the Six as a whole have stopped talking together, would it not be better for everyone if the Prime Minister made a full statement at an early moment?

The Prime Minister

That is a matter for consideration. I do not think it is humiliating to feel that five out of the six member countries are on our side and that we have the sympathy and support of all Europe and the free world.