HC Deb 28 April 1966 vol 727 cc945-6
Q3. Mr. Maxwell

asked the Prime Minister what progress has been made in arranging the Commonwealth Conference of Ministers of Trade this year; and whether he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

A meeting of Commonwealth trade officials will begin in London on the 9th of May to carry forward preparations for the agenda and to suggest a date for the Ministerial Conference which, I hope, will take place later in the summer.

Mr. Maxwell

I am very much obliged to my right hon. Friend for that information. Could he tell the House, in view of the Government's intention to probe the possibility of our entry into the Common Market, whether this will be on the agenda?

The Prime Minister

I think it would always be a matter at any Commonwealth Trade Ministers' Conference to inform our Commonwealth colleagues of any development in British trading policy in any direction. The main purpose of this particular trade conference is to advance our trading relations within the Commonwealth.

Mr. Heath

While we welcome the continuation of Commonwealth Conferences, could the Prime Minister say whether it will be his intention, or the intention of the President of the Board of Trade, to pursue proposals put forward in 1964 for guaranteed markets for Commonwealth primary products? If that is the case, how would he reconcile it with a proposal to enter the European Economic Community?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is a great authority on, I think it was called, Article 234 of the Common Market. We shall certainly pursue every question of integrating our trade with the Commonwealth on the basis of studying one another's needs. I was not aware that it was the view of the right hon. Gentleman that we should end long-term arrangements we have with the Commonwealth in the matter of trade.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Will the Prime Minister say whether, in view of the growth of regional preference in the pattern of trade in the world today, the restrictive provisions of the G.A.T.T. in relation to Commonwealth Preference will figure on the agenda of this conference for discussion?

The Prime Minister

The position of the G.A.T.T. in regard to "no new preferences" has been long established. There was a time when I hoped that it could be renegotiated as a process of making the G.A.T.T. permanent, but those years are long past. Certainly we have and enjoy Commonwealth Preferences and of course they would be very much one of the issues involved, as the right hon. and learned Member remembers, in any negotiations with the E.E.C.