HC Deb 23 February 1967 vol 741 cc1951-5
Q2. Mr. Ridley

asked the Prime Minister what instructions he gives to Ministers with regard to their officially addressing rallies called to support British entry to the Common Market.

Q6. Mr. Harold Walker

asked the Prime Minister if he will instruct Ministers and other members of the Government not to attend and address, in their official capacity, meetings called for purposes inconsistent with Government policy.

The Prime Minister

The rules governing Ministerial conduct in these matters are well known and no further instructions are necessary.

Mr. Ridley

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Foreign Secretary made an extremely good speech last night? Is he further aware that, if his negotiations should not succeed, it will be because Ministers have shown too little enthusiasm for the cause rather than too much?

The Prime Minister

I do not accept the second part of that supplementary question, but I agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary who, on this occasion, as on all other occasions—and this applies to all Ministers at public meetings, held under whatever auspices—was expressing Government policy.

Mr. Walker

Is my right hon. Friend aware that mine is a very different Question? Will he also recognise that the presence of Ministers gives, by virtue of their office, an undeserved prestige and prominence to what might otherwise be inconsequential gatherings? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Will he make it clear to all his colleagues that the country is not committed to unconditional entry into the Common Market?

The Prime Minister

The House is delighted with my hon. Friend's phrasing. The position has always been that Ministers can attend meetings under the auspices of different bodies without necessarily sharing the objectives and the policy of those bodies. Every Minister I have ever known has done that at some time or other.

The position regarding entry into the Common Market is as I stated it on 10th November, 1966, when I said that we were undertaking these visits to see whether it was possible to get conditions for entry into Europe which would safeguard essential British and Commonwealth interests. That has been the basis throughout from 10th November, when it was announced.

Mr. Grimond

However inconsequential, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that meetings of the Parliamentary Labour Party are now almost always meetings called for purposes inconsistent with Government policy?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. Even the very much larger meetings of the Parliamentary Labour Party than the meetings the right hon. Gentleman is used to are not called for that purpose.

Mr. Sandys

Is the Prime Minister aware that the organisers of last night's Albert Hall meeting are most grateful for the massive advance publicity provided free of charge by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell)?

The Prime Minister

I have no doubt that they are very grateful, and I am sure also that all who attended would be grateful that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made quite clear the difficulties and problems about British entry and did not lend himself to the doctrine of unconditional entry, which is the policy of the party which I think the right hon. Member still supports.

Mr. Shinwell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I am very grateful for the favourable commendation from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), but in the Government's present difficulties, which cannot be concealed, does he not think it advisable for members of the Cabinet to be careful about the company that they keep?

The Prime Minister

In view of the courtesies between the two right hon. Members, which I must say are over my head, I would certainly not feel that any difficulty has arisen from the presence of my right hon. Friend at that meeting, despite the fact that I understand that at least one right hon. Gentleman present took advantage of the occasion to make a little party capital, even though I thought that it was a non-party occasion.

Mr. Woodburn

Can the Prime Minister tell us who are these mysterious people who want to go into Europe without any conditions? So far we have never been able to discover one.

Lord Balniel

In view of the unutterable confusion caused by the various Ministerial statements on the Common Market, may I ask whether the Prime Minister is thinking of issuing a D notice to stop any of them being reported?

Q4. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Prime Minister when he expects to reach a decision on whether or not to apply for membership of the European Economic Community.

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to my reply to a supplementary question by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) on 2nd February.—[Vol. 740, c. 769.]

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Can the Prime Minister give an assurance that he will arrange time for debate in the House between the ending of his probes in Europe and the taking of a decision on entry? Secondly, would he not agree that pressure by Her Majesty's Government for a non-proliferation treaty, which might be held to discriminate against or between existing members of the European Community, would have a very damaging effect upon our chances of entry?

The Prime Minister

The timing of any decision, as I have told the House, is a matter that will have to be considered after the present series of visits is complete. I have nothing to add to that at present. With regard to the nonproliferation treaty, I know that there are difficulties for Germany and other non-nuclear countries in this matter, because of their fears, which I think are unfounded—[An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."]—they are worried about the effect on their peaceful development of atomic energy. In my discussions with the Chancellor of Germany last week there was no suggestion that this was in any way connected with the question of Britain's entry to the Community, except that our entry would help strengthen Euratom or any successor body to Euratom.

Mr. Bellenger

Does not my right hon. Friend recognise that when he said "We mean business", it gave the impression abroad that we did? Therefore, if we are to maintain that impression, should it not be now, not in the far distant future, that the Government must make up their mind, one way or the other, as to whether we are to go into the Community?

The Prime Minister

It meant that we did mean business, and that we do mean business. All of the European leaders we have talked to are in no doubt whatever about the fact that we mean business. Each one to whom we have talked has received reports from the others, fully convinced of that fact. As I made clear on 10th November. we have to find out what are the likely terms, conditions and difficulties. When we have finished the tour we can then take a decision about it. It may be that one or two of the countries with whom we are dealing might feel that these difficulties can be overcome, given further discussions, before there is any question of formal negotiation.

Q7. Sir C. Osborne

asked the Prime Minister how far he discussed Great Britain's immigration problems with the heads of the Common Market countries; and what undertakings he sought that they would accept Commonwealth immigrants both from Great Britain and from all the Commonwealth countries.

The Prime Minister

I have had no discussions on this problem, Sir.

Sir C. Osborne

Why did not the Prime Minister have discussions on this important problem? Will he ask the European countries which of them is prepared to accept Afro-Asian Commonwealth immigrants from this country?

The Prime Minister

The reason why I did not have discussions about this question was because the purpose of my visit was to discuss the question of Britain's entry into the European Economic Community. This did not seem to be a relevant consideration in those discussions.