HC Deb 25 February 1965 vol 707 cc604-5
Q4. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister what steps he is now taking to promote economic unity between the European Free Trade Association and the Common Market.

The Prime Minister

Our principal task now is to make a success of the Kennedy Round of tariff negotiations and so lower the tariff barrier between the two groups. We for our part will do all we can to achieve this. For the rest, we shall try to harmonise policy where we usefully can through the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Western European Union and the Council of Europe, as well as through bilateral discussions.

Mr. Marten

While thanking the Prime Minister for that reply, which I will study, may I ask him to say whether he would dissociate himself from the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) and his hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt)—whom even the Economist described at "woolly"—to the effect that we should sign the Treaty of Rome on the dotted line? Would he, secondly, say what practical, functional steps the Government are taking to build a bridge between E.F.T.A. and the Common Market?

The Prime Minister

I made it clear last week that there is no question whatever of our being invited or having any opportunity for discussing at present the question of adherence to the Treaty of Rome or in other ways to join the E.E.C. I have stated on a number of occasions the conditions which we would insist must be provided for there to be any question of negotiation. To answer the hon. Gentleman's second point—which is a very important one—I hope, in meetings I shall be having in Bonn, Paris and elsewhere in the next few months, to see whether there are any other means, apart from those which I have given in my Answer, of building a bridge between E.F.T.A. and the E.E.C.

Mr. Grimond

While it is apparent that we cannot just sign the Treaty of Rome without consultation with our E.F.T.A. partners—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—is it not the case that if the Tory Party is serious in its new-found desire to get into the Common Market, we must accept the principles behind the Treaty of Rome? Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to have any consultations with our E.F.T.A. partners as to a general approach to the Six to see, if an opportunity should arise in future, how far we could make a joint application to join?

The Prime Minister

While welcoming the fact that the Liberal Party accepts the first of the five conditions which we laid down, the right hon. Gentleman will understand if I have to say that I cannot answer for the Conservative Party in answer to his first point.

Hon. Members


The Prime Minister

I am not quite sure who could, either. To answer the right hon. Gentleman's second point, we are certainly prepared to discuss this question with our colleagues in E.F.T.A. There have been a number of interesting proposals put forward from all sides of the House during the last two or three years and it may be that the chance of one or two of them becoming more effective may be greater now than it was.

Mr. Bellenger

Are we to understand from my right hon. Friend's statement that he sees no possibility whatever of our entering into any negotiations with the Common Market and that, therefore, it must be a matter between E.F.T.A. and the Common Market countries?

The Prime Minister

From the point of view of British entry, I should have thought that it is generally agreed on all sides of the House that there is not at present any proposition by which we could enter into such negotiations. If the situation were to change, then I have made quite clear the conditions we would want to see fulfilled before there could be negotiations.