HC Deb 13 April 1965 vol 710 cc1157-8
Q4. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister what steps he is taking within the machinery of Government to increase the bridge-building between the European Free Trade Association and the Common Market.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to Answers I gave to Questions on this subject on 25th February and 6th April.

Mr. Marten

While we would all agree that aviation is a very desirable form of co-operation, would not the Minister agree that so much has been said about aviation co-operation in these days almost to the exclusion of other matters? Would he consider setting up a council, on the lines of the Export Council, consisting of businessmen, industrialists and Government representatives, to keep under permanent review such opportunities for bridge-building between the Six and the Seven as we may have?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, there is an export council for Europe which is functioning together with the export councils in that area, and they are doing very valuable work. I hope that in the past few weeks we have shown that any opportunities for bridge-building of this kind have been seized upon. As I said in the Answers to which I referred when answering the Question today, it will be a matter for us to discuss with our E.F.T.A. partners what can be done to build bridges between the two trade groups, quite apart from bilateral bridges.

Mr. Orme

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that many of us on this side of the House consider that the most important bridge to be built is between this country and the British Commonwealth?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. This is a matter which I have often emphasised from both that side of the House and from this side. We are hard at work to see what can be done to stop the rot and decline in trade between Britain and the Commonwealth.

The Earl of Dalkeith

Since the Prime Minister seems so anxious to use the happy cliché of bridge-building, will he say what steps he is going to take to repair some of the boats he burned as between E.F.T.A. and ourselves on account of his import surcharge?

The Prime Minister

The cliché in question was taken from the Order Paper. I thought it only courteous to use it. It is in any case a very useful one. If the noble Lord wishes us to refer to the digging of tunnels, I have used that particular cliché myself in Paris, but hon. Members, noble Lords and right hon. Members really cannot go on for ever living on the memories of the difficulties of the first few weeks after we took office, with what they left us.