HC Deb 05 December 1967 vol 755 cc1122-4
12. Mr. Farr

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs what estimate has been given to him by the Australian Government of the expected annual decline in our export trade to Australia as a result of the United Kingdom joining the Common Market.

Mr. Whitlock

All our discussions with the Australian Government about our application for membership of the E.E.C. are confidential and I cannot, therefore, enter into details.

Mr. Farr

I am not very grateful for that reply. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that all the newspapers carried a full and detailed report of the Paper which the Australian Minister for Trade submitted to Her Majesty's Government in the spring of this year, which indicated that it would cost this country in lost export trade to Australia £160 million per annum? Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that figure and, in that event, say whether he feels that it is altogether too high a price to pay?

Mr. Whitlock

I do not wish to be drawn into public discussion of satements made by Ministers of other Commonwealth Governments. Obviously, any figures must be largely a matter of speculation, but I should be very surprised if our exports to Australia fell by as much as the figure mentioned by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Shinwell

If the Government intend to abandon the Commonwealth, why not do it in a decent and straightforward fashion instead of by the method of making futile application to join the Common Market?

Mr. Whitlock

We are not abandoning the Commonwealth, and the reasons for our application to join the E.E.C. are well understood in Commonwealth countries.

Mr. Braine

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that all of us, on both sides of the House, greatly value our traditional ties with Australia? What positive steps are the Government taking, or proposing to take, to promote greater trade and investment in Australia's expanding markets, irrespective of whether we go into the Common Market or not?

Mr. Whitlock

Every effort is being made to expand our trade with Australia. Obviously, our exports to Australia are a valuable part of our export trade, and every attempt is being made to increase them.