HC Deb 02 August 1965 vol 717 cc1042-4
15. Mrs. Shirley Williams

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will indicate Her Majesty's Government's policy towards the other five members of the European Economic Community in the light of the French withdrawal from active participation in the institutions of the European Community.

The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Walter Padley)

Her Majesty's Government's policy towards the Community and its members remains unaffected by the Community's current difficulties.

Mrs. Williams

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Might I refer him to a number of rather significant speeches recently by European figures, including M. Abs, Dr. Erhard and Signor Saragat, President of Italy? Will my hon. Friend consider making clear Her Majesty's Government's ultimate intention, providing the conditions are satisfactory, of entering the European Economic Community?

Mr. Padley

We should not wish to take sides in the present difficulties within the Community. Any attempt to do so would not be in conformity with our frequently expressed wish to see the E.E.C. succeeding and would be likely to be resented by all members of the Community.

The positive view of Her Majesty's Government on European unity was stated by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary and by me in the debate only last week. We stand for a Common Market to which the Six, Britain and the E.F.T.A. countries can belong. We wish Britain to be in at the beginning in any discussions on European political unity and we have also made far-reaching proposals for the defence of Europe as a part of the Atlantic Community.

Mr. Maudling

Could the hon. Gentleman supplement that brief reply by telling us whether the five conditions all still apply?

Mr. Padley

There are some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, as I said last week, who do not remember that the Prime Minister said that the question of Britain's relationship with Europe was not one of theology but a matter of practice. The five conditions are not the Ten Commandments. They relate to the vital interests of Britain and the Commonwealth. They will be interpreted in practical terms in the light of practical affairs as they exist between Britain and Europe.

Mr. Shinwell

Is my hon. Friend aware that he is neither entitled not competent to change the decisions that were reached at the Scarborough Conference? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Is he further aware—if he is not, I will tell him on behalf of the Labour Party—that there are general conditions, not a question of "commandments" but definite conditions, that have to be accepted before there is any question of entering the Community?

Mr. Padley

Perhaps I might say, not only as Minister of State but as Vice-Chairman of the Labour Party, that of course I accept that view. The point is that the facts can change even if the Conference resolutions remain.

Mr. Shinwell


Mr. Speaker

Order. It is difficult to make progress with foreign affairs.

Mr. Longden

Are the Government aware that, as a result of the disastrous policies of the French President and his seemingly hypnotic powers over the other five members of the E.E.C., the Community is in grave danger of disintegrating so that we may find ourselves back in the bad old days of the concert of Europe which inevitably ended in discord? Cannot the Government take some initiative to avert this disaster? Can they not, for example, suggest that Britain and her E.F.T.A. partners should replace France in the Community?

Mr. Padley

It is the view of the Government that that would be disruptive not only of the Community but of the chance of building the larger Europe which is the policy of the Government.

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