HC Deb 03 August 1965 vol 717 cc1270-3
Q6. Mr. Eldon Griffiths

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of recent developments in the Common Market, he will now reconsider his policy on British membership.

The Prime Minister

I cannot see that the present difficulties within the Community in any way affect the position about British membership.

Mr. Griffiths

I am glad to be able to ask this Question, because the other day when the Minister of State at the Foreign Office appeared to move his party's programme on this a little further towards the Common Market the Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party rebuked him. [HON. MEMBERS: "Question."] May I therefore ask the Prime Minister first, whether the celebrated five conditions are still in force, and if not, which ones have been dropped? Secondly, will he say straight out whether, if the conditions are favourable, it is his policy for this country to join an expanded European community?

The Prime Minister

In the first place, the Question relates to recent developments in the Common Market. I thought that Front Bench speakers on both sides had made it very clear in the recent foreign affairs debate that it would be very wrong for Britain to intervene in the recent developments, or to start basing new changes or tacks of policy on what has been happening in this very difficult situation, which we all want to see resolved by our European friends.

Secondly, as for the five conditions, I have repeatedly made it clear that those five conditions measure the requirements that we have for joining the Common Market. I have said—and my hon. Friend said the other day—that certain of those conditions are less applicable, in terms of urgency, than they were—particularly, for example, the one relating to E.F.T.A. At that time there were real fears that Britain might join without securing safeguards for the other E.F.T.A. countries, especially the neutrals. There has now been a complete change of attitude concerning the position of the neutrals, and to that extent that condition is not as important as it was.

As for the third part of the supplementary question, our position always has been that we are prepared, willing and ready to join the Common Market if—but only if—conditions are realised which will satisfy essential British interests—I cannot spell out what they are—and particularly our right to go on trading with Commonwealth countries. Those are the tests.

Mr. Shinwell

Will my right hon. Friend exercise the utmost caution and prudence before entering into negotiations with the countries of the Six, recalling the horrible example of the Leader of the Opposition?

The Prime Minister

We have always made it clear that we are prepared to enter into negotiations—there is no possibility or question of this in present circumstances—if essential conditions can be realised. One of those relates to Commonwealth trade. So long as the present agriculture policy of the Common Market countries remains unchanged I do not think that it will be possible for us to join without its having a most serious and damaging effect on Commonwealth imports into this country, and upon our balance of payments.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

I fully agree with the Prime Minister's prefatory remarks about not using this occasion in any sense to make capital, and I fully endorse what he said as to the hope of a successful issue from the difficulties of the Common Market countries, but will he consider the possibility of publishing, as a White Paper, the Government's assessment of the effect of the Treaty of Rome on our institutions, in the context of sovereignty and jurisdiction, so that informed discussions could take place as to what possible modifications of the Treaty of Rome could help to enable Britain to play a part in a wider although less rigidly institutionalised European association?

The Prime Minister

I thought that in the long debates we had—many of them extremely constructive—during the period of the negotiations there was the fullest understanding of what the Treaty of Rome meant. The right hon. and learned Member himself wrote quite a lot on it, with a high degree of authority. There were many discussions on this. I do not think there was much disagreement between any of us, whatever our viewpoint may have been, about the effects of the Treaty of Rome. What is perhaps more relevant is that some of the discussions related not to what was in the Treaty of Rome but what was outside it—partly agricultural policy and partly the question of whether, by signing the Treaty of Rome as an economic organisation, we might be committing ourselves to a full supra-national position in Europe in relation to defence and foreign policy. Certainly my predecessor as Labour leader and I, and all of us on this side, felt that this country would not agree to handing over control of defence and foreign policy to any supra-national organisation. The Treaty of Rome was a different matter, presenting fewer difficulties than those of agricultural policy and the problem of supra-nationality.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot debate these wide topics in supplementary questions.