HC Deb 07 March 1967 vol 742 cc1256-9
Q2. Mr. Winnick

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a progress report on his visits to the European Economic Community countries; and if he will now make a statement of the Government's future intention on joining the European Economic Community.

Q3. Mr. G. Campbell

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the situation resulting from the visits he has so far made to European capitals on the question of the United Kingdom joining the Common Market.

Q4. Mr. Channon

asked the Prime Minister whether it is now the intention of Her Majesty's Government to apply to join the European Economic Community.

Q6. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the progress of Her Majesty's Government's policy towards the European Economic Community.

The Prime Minister

I have at this stage nothing to add to the reports I have already given the House on the visits of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and myself to Rome, Paris, Brussels, Bonn and The Hague.—[Vol.739, c. 643. Vol.739, c.1765. Vol.740, c.769. Vol.741, c.1427. Vol.742, c. 267.]

Mr. Winnick

Does my right hon. Friend agree that a majority of people in this country are neither fanatically for or against our entry but believe that we should go in if suitable conditions can be negotiated, and will he agree also that there are certain matters, such as the free movement of capital, which will need a good deal of negotiating before our entry?

The Prime Minister

I agree that there is a considerable body of opinion, the majority of opinion in this country, which thinks that we should enter the European Economic Community if the right terms can be obtained. The purpose of our visits is to learn more about the sort of conditions which could be obtained. Certain aspects of the question of the free movement of capital raise one of the difficult questions which I have told the House still remain unsolved.

Mr. G. Campbell

Although the visit to Luxembourg still has to be made, has the Prime Minister now enough information to decide what to do next, and will the Government take a decision upon the next move soon?

The Prime Minister

As I have told the House, as soon as the complete round of visits is over it will then be for the Government to consider their next step. I agree with what I think is at the back of the hon. Gentleman's mind. I have said more than once that it is essential to maintain the momentum of what we have started.

Mr. Channon

I agree very much with what the right hon. Gentleman has just said about maintaining the momentum, but does he think that after his visit to Luxembourg he will be able to make a statement in the House on the Government's decision before the Easter Recess?

The Prime Minister

I doubt that it will be before the Easter Recess. The whole House will recognise the serious importance of any decision of this kind. It is certainly our intention to get down to this question as quickly as possible after we, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I, have been able to evaluate the results of our visits. A decision will not be delayed a day longer than is necessary, but it will be recognised that, while we desire to maintain the momentum, momentum depends on other people as well.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Will the Prime Minister show some courage and brave the yelps and sharp nips of his—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—it should have been hyenas—the yelps and sharp nips—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. We must get away from the metaphors and come to the question.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

—the nips of his metaphorical Friends below the Gangway and take a decision on entering the Common Market now?

The Prime Minister

I have already answered the question about what we shall do in coming to a decision after returning from Luxembourg. As for the rest of that laboured supplementary question, the hon. Gentleman's standing outside the House—I say this quite seriously—is so great in other matters that it is unfortunate that he believes that he is also a Parliamentary wit. If he goes on like that, he will never reach half that level.

Sir G. de Freitas

In any consideration of our obligations to the Commonwealth, which are very real, will my right hon. Friend take into account that yesterday it was announced that Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika were once more opening formal negotiations for association with the Six, thus following the example of Nigeria?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, that is very important for dealing with an important area of Commonwealth difficulty, although, as the House recognised when negotiations were on foot four or five years ago, there are other very important Commonwealth problems particularly in the area of the temperate countries in relation to their food exports to Britain.

Mr. Turton

After the Prime Minister's past protestations of the need to safeguard the Commonwealth, will he now give an undertaking that before he reaches a decision on this matter he will have consultations with the Prime Ministers of the leading Commonwealth countries, such as Australia and New Zealand?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, my right hon. Friend the Commonwealth Secretary is on the way back from Australia and New Zealand and has discussed these matters there. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we shall do everything reasonable in the matter of consultation with Commonwealth countries as well as with the E.F.T.A. countries, whose interests are concerned.

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