HC Deb 08 November 1966 vol 735 cc1141-3
Q1. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Prime Minister what are the responsibilities of the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and the First Secretary of State, respectively, for British political and economic relations with member countries of the Common Market and the European Free Trade Association; and whether any other Ministers have specific responsibilities for such relations.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

The responsibilities of my right hon. Friends remain as set out in my speech during the debate on the Address on 21st April last. Others of my right hon. Friends, for example my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, are responsible for matters falling within their Departmental duties.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Can the Prime Minister tell us who is in charge of this somewhat ill-assorted team? Is it the First Secretary or the Foreign Secretary? Would he not agree that it is rather undesirable that the President of the Board of Trade should be involved in negotiations with Europe, in view of his well-known hostility to any question of British membership of the Common Market.

Mr. C. Pannell

On a point of order. How does that come under your previous Ruling about reflections on hon. Members of this House?

Mr. Speaker

It is in order to criticise a Minister in respect of his Ministerial responsibilities.

The Prime Minister

I am not sure whether or not the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) had completed his supplementary question. The position is, of course, that my right hon. Friends—as I explained in April-are entrusted severally with the duties involved in probings and discussions, not only with the Common Market countries but with E.F.T.A. The policy on which they have been basing these discussions is laid down by the Government as a whole.

Mr. Grimond

Did not the present Foreign Secretary make a statement on behalf of Her Majesty's Government in Scandinavia last summer which was accepted throughout Europe as a definite declaration of intent to enter the Common Market, and is that still the policy of Her Majesty's Government?

The Prime Minister

The statement made by my right hon. Friend in Stockholm was certainly the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and still is our policy. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to await a further statement which I hope to be making in the near future.

Mr. Heath

Is the Prime Minister aware that so far the House has received no account of the discussions which these Ministers have been having with European Governments? Would he, therefore, perhaps, by way of a White Paper, give the House this information, if not specifically Government by Government, then at least the details of the points raised by the Ministers and the general replies given in answer to them?

The Prime Minister

I will certainly consider that suggestion, although I am not sure that a White Paper would be appropriate. When I make the statement which I hope to make in the near future, we will be able to deal with all these questions.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Leader of the House has so far promised only a two-day debate for foreign affairs between now and Christmas? Will he make sure that when he makes his statement on Europe we will have a day on which solely to debate Europe?

The Prime Minister

That is certainly a matter which can be discussed through the usual channels. If the House feels that the statement which I hope to make, when I make it, is of a sufficiently far-ranging character to merit a debate of that kind, then I am sure that the usual channels could arrange it.