HC Deb 23 May 1966 vol 729 cc27-9
30. Mr. A. Royle

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will make a further statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy regarding an application to join the European Economic Community.

37. Mr. Eldon Griffiths

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what steps he is taking to probe the French Government's attitude towards British membership of the European Economic Community.

Mr. George Thomson

I have nothing to add to the statements by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on 26th April and by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 21st April.

Mr. Royle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if a decision is made to withdraw from E.L.D.O. it will seriously retard the acceptance by the European nations of the welcome decision by Her Majesty's Government to join the European Economic Community? Will he, therefore, oppose any such breach of the agreement with E.L.D.O.?

Mr. Thomson

I am sorry, I gave the hon. Gentleman the Answer to the wrong Question. I thought that I was answering Question No. 30.

Mr. Speaker

The Answer was to Question No. 30. B>I think that the supplementary question was on the wrong Question.

Mr. Royle

On a point of order. My supplementary question was to do with Britain joining the E.E.C., and was very much related to Question No. 30, and indeed to the right hon. Gentleman's answer.

Mr. Thomson

I am sorry. I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman's question and the answer to that is that that is really another Question, which is on the Order Paper.

Mr. Royle

On a point of order. The Minister is avoiding my question.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Minister can avoid a question.

Mr. Griffiths

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this sort of confusion sums up very well his Government's policy on Europe? Can we once and for all have a clear answer? We have had statements from the First Secretary of State, from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and from his right honourable self. Do the Government wish to join the European Community, or not?

Mr. Thomson

I was trying to be helpful to the hon. Gentleman, and any confusion was on his side, as it turns out, and not mine. As to the substantive point, we have stated the position. We are ready and willing to enter the E.E.C., provided that there are proper safeguards for essential British interests.

Mr. Shinwell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I preferred his original Answer, namely, that he had nothing to say? The less he says about this the better.

Lord Balniel

Now that some Ministers have made the Government's policy clear on their determination to enter the E.E.C., does the right hon. Gentleman accept that there is widespread doubt in this country as to the terms which the Government are trying to obtain, particularly with regard to agricultural policy? Will the right hon. Gentleman consider making a clear and considered statement as to the terms which the Government are trying to obtain in relation to the E.E.C.?

Mr. Thomson

I think that the position of the Government, as I have given it, has been carefully considered. I think that it is the right position at this stage of our probing operations, and I am going to stick on that.

Mr. Richard

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to re-emphasise and reiterate the Government's commitment to the eventual economic and political unity of the whole of Europe? Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the entry of Britain into the E.E.C. would indeed be a powerful step in that direction?

Mr. Thomson

The Government see great advantages for Britain, for Europe, and for the world in a wider Eupropean Economic Community, provided that it safeguards essential British interests.