HC Deb 07 February 1966 vol 724 cc29-31
56. Mr. A. Royle

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he is taking to implement the proposals made by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs at Strasbourg last month by initiating talks with a view to joining the European Economic Community.

Mr. M. Stewart

My hon. Friend's speech was a restatement of the Government's policy. There can be no question of initiating talks until it is clear that the obstacles to British membership which have existed hitherto within the Community have disappeared.

Mr. Royle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that very important developments have taken place in Europe since his hon. Friend made his speech at Strasbourg? Will he reconsider the situation and seriously consider opening negotiations to join the European Economic Community?

Mr. Stewart

No. I think that I should stick to the terms of the Answer I have just given the hon. Member. I am aware of the developments within the Common Market itself, but I do not think—as events now stand—that it would be sensible for me to say more than my hon. Friend and I have said.

Mr. Edelman

In the light of what my right hon. Friend himself has already said, does not he think that it would be timely for him to make a more formal declaration of intent on behalf of Britain? [Interruption.]

Mr. Stewart

No. I do not think that that would be a suitable step at this juncture.

Lady Tweedsmuir

In view of the apparently general acceptance of the idea in the House, arising from the last supplementary question, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that if he were to make a general statement of intent now it would do away with the misunderstanding which appears to have arisen, namely, that the British Government have a lukewarm attitude on this most important issue?

Mr. Stewart

There is no misunderstanding about this. It has been made quite clear, in terms, that we are ready to enter the Community if certain essential British interests can be safeguarded. I am sure that no hon. Member would wish to suggest that we should proceed without regard for certain essential British interests, and the statements that we have so far made reflect the present situation and needs of this country.

Mr. Shinwell

Would my right hon. Friend care to remind himself and his colleagues in the Government that the five conditions laid down some years ago for our entry into the E.E.C. have not been modified by any decision reached since that time?

Mr. Stewart

Indeed, I remind myself of this and my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) reminds me as well. He will remember that I have referred to this matter more than once in the House, though I added—I think rightly—that events have made some of those conditions easier to fulfil than they were at the time that they were stated.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is not the right hon. Gentleman being a little changeable, having, by earlier statements, suggested that Her Majesty's Government are now interpreting much more flexibly the five conditions mentioned by his right hon. Friend?

Mr. Stewart

No, Sir. What I have said about the five conditions before is what I said just now, that the actual movement of events has made some of the conditions easier of fulfilment than they were.

Mr. Royle

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I intend to raise the matter on the Adjournment.