HC Deb 21 March 1967 vol 743 cc1435-9
Q1. Mr. Winnick

asked the Prime Minister whether an application will be made to join the European Economic Community in the near future; and if he will make a statement.

Q8. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now make a statement of Her Majesty's Government's policy on joining the Common Market.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I have as yet nothing to add to the Answer I gave on 9th March to Questions by the hon. Members for Banbury (Mr. Marten) and Shrewsbury (Sir J. Langford-Holt).

Mr. Winnick

Is a formal application likely to be postponed if the Government feel that a French veto is likely, or that there will be long delays during the negotiations? Would my right hon. Friend also inform the House whether there is any way in which the Government can help to provide a balanced debate showing the pros and cons of entry?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend and the House know, the Government have now started to consider very deeply—it will take a little time—all the issues which have arisen as a result of the visits of my right hon. Friend and myself. All relevant considerations will be taken into account before reaching a decision and announcing it to the House.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a very simple Question in the hope of receiving a simple answer? Can he assure the House that he does not intend to lose the momentum which he has acquired by his European visit, but will make up his mind very soon to have a go?

The Prime Minister

I have repeatedly told the House that I regard it as of great importance not to lose the momentum of these visits. They have done great good and provided us with a great deal of information which must now be very carefully considered. We shall certainly not delay it unnecessarily, but, with the importance of this historic decision one way or another, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman would want us to rush into a premature decision.

Lord Balniel

Having just returned from Germany, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that it is universally believed in political circles there that he has informed the Bonn Government that he is prepared to accede to the Treaty of Rome, subject only to transitional arrangements and special arrangements for New Zealand? Does he appreciate the importance of saying the same thing on the Continent as he says in London?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, which is why, on every visit, I spoke about the Treaty of Rome—as I have already told the House—in the exact words which I used in this House on 10th November and the exact words which I used in Strasbourg, which was, of course, a public speech. Nothing else about the Treaty of Rome has been said either by my right hon. Friend or by myself. On the second part of the question, the story which the noble Lord says is universally believed does not bear any relation to what I said in Bonn or in any of the other capitals.

Mr. Driberg

On the question of momentum and timing, does my right hon Friend agree with the Commonwealth Secretary—I hope he does—that it is likely to be years rather than months before there is any chance of our getting into the Common Market?

The Prime Minister

What my right hon. Friend said was that it may be years. It is difficult to forecast, but I feel that we want to keep the momentum and if we feel that British and Commonwealth interests can be adequately safeguarded—that is what the probe was concerned with—we should try to settle the matter with as short a period of negotiation as possible. But there will be two sides to such negotiations and I would not like to forecast, especially after the last experience, how long they will take.

Mr. Turton

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm the statement which appears today that he will make a second visit to Paris before he makes up his mind?

The Prime Minister

That report is pure speculation. We have no plans at all for second visits, apart from my right hon. Friend's visit to the W.E.U. in Rome. There are no plans for this. If, as a result of the Government's consideration, we thought that there would be any advantage in a second visit to any of the capitals, we should, of course, consider it at that time.

Mr. Woodburn

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Common Market countries think that the transitional arrangements over the assimilation of agricultural prices cannot take less than six years and that this would lessen the effects of the change for all countries and make it more practicable?

The Prime Minister

I have had a great deal of advice from the Common Market countries about some of these problems. I would not say that that was the agreed view of all the Common Market countries. I do not believe that, as yet, they have got a set position on this matter and I am not quite sure why they should he expected to have one until it has advanced a little further.

Q4. Mr. Ian Gilmour

asked the Prime Minister what discussions he had with the French Foreign Minister during his recent visit to Paris about Great Britain's previous attempt to enter the Common Market in so far as it affects the present negotiations; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

I have, as yet, nothing to add to the report which I gave to the House on 26th January on the visit to Paris of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and myself.—[Vol. 739, c. 1765.]

Mr. Gilmour

In what way does the Prime Minister consider that his agreement with the French Foreign Minister that Britain was wrong in 1962 and 1963 and that the French veto of our application was inevitable is likely to assist this country in the present round of talks?

The Prime Minister

We must learn by the experiences of the past in connection with these negotiations. I have the very strong feeling, for example, that the fact that they were so long drawn out and dealt with so much detail, while some of this might be useful to us now, was one of the big factors involving the use of the veto by General de Gaulle. The other issue was the feeling that he had been seriously misled over certain questions which came to a head at Nassau.