HC Deb 04 May 1967 vol 746 cc730-5
Q1. Mr. Molloy

asked the Prime Minister what changes there have been since 4th April on the proposed method of consultation with Commonwealth Prime Ministers regarding the implications of Great Britain joining the European Economic Community.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I would refer my hon. Friend to the statement I made to the House on Tuesday last.—[Vol. 746, c. 310.]

Mr. Molloy

Will my right hon. Friend acknowledge that, whilst many of those people who used fervently to sing the praises of the British Empire do not seem to be so keen on the British Commonwealth of Nations, yet in so far as this is a remarkable comity of nations covering many continents, peoples and races, it could make and has made a great contribution to world understanding? Will he say that there will be in no way a deleterious effect on the British Commonwealth of Nations if we should go into the E.E.C?

The Prime Minister

I dealt with the economic consequences on the Commonwealth in my statement, and they will probably be very fully debated next week. On the question of political links within the Commonwealth, no difference will be made to our present system of consultations and frequent Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conferences.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

After consulting Commonwealth Prime Ministers, has the Prime Minister any plans to consult the people of this country by the obvious means of a referendum?

The Prime Minister

The people of this country will be consulted next week by the obvious means of a debate in Parliament.

Q8. Mr. James Johnson

asked the Prime Minister what discussions he has had during the past month with the various member States of the European Economic Community regarding the mobility of labour within the Community, particularly with respect to the immigration of citizens of Commonwealth Dominions; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

None, Sir.

Mr. Johnson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there can be discrimination against coloured students and workers in West Germany which is equally bad as discrimination that has occurred here in the past? Can he give an assurance that there will be no bar against the immigration of people like West Indians and Pakistanis to the E.E.C, and will he ensure that the terms for their entry are perhaps at least the same as those which apply here?

The Prime Minister

This is an important, difficult and very complicated question which I think would be better dealt with in the debate next week. Certainly there is considerable doubt about operations within the Common Market countries themselves on the entry into those countries of persons who have come to a Community country from outside. There is, of course, no doubt about those who were born in that country—the descendants of immigrants.

Mr. Grimond

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that this is one of the matters which will be required to be negotiated after we enter the Community, if we get in, because although there may be doubt about the theoretical position, a practice has grown up in the Community of accepting immigrants on certain conditions and making them citizens of the country concerned? As there is free movement within the Community, do Her Majesty's Government accept this practice of the Community or think that this is a matter which will have to be negotiated?

The Prime Minister

This is a very difficult matter on which a good deal more information is needed than we have at present. The negotiations will be the right time to establish that information. To answer the point made by the right hon. Gentleman, I do not think that there has ever been an authoritative decision by, for example, reference to the court or in any other way about whether immigrants coming from an associated country to one of the existing member countries then has, after a period of years establishing citizenship, the same automatic right to go to other Community countries as those who were born in the member country concerned. We need more information about this, and that information will be given to the House as soon as we get it.

Mr. Shinwell

Will my right hon. Friend make it quite clear to everybody concerned, before we enter the Community, if we ever do, that if there is to be free movement of labour for Italians, Germans, Frenchmen, Luxemburgers and the rest to come to this country and vice versa, we will place no restriction whatever on any subject of the Commonwealth?

The Prime Minister

This is a problem bristling with difficulties and I want the House to be in full possession of the facts when we have them as a result of discussion. One of the problems which might arise for Common Market countries would be their position if there were to be an absolutely free movement by everyone now living in Britain to those countries. There are other complications in this matter and I should like to have all the facts before trying to give any assurances to the House.

Sir C. Osborne

As the net number of immigrants into this country last year was 50,000 and as there are one million here already, will the Prime Minister make it a condition, and say so now, that we will not go into the Common Market unless those people have complete freedom to go into the Common Market as citizens?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will know that we do not share all his views on the immigration question, nor, indeed, any of them. I am certainly not prepared to say that we shall make it a condition of entry into the European Economic Community that the hon. Gentleman can solve his problems, or the problems to which he keeps drawing attention—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."]—I am answering the question by saying that I shall not give an assurance. The hon. Gentleman asked for an assurance that I am answering by saying that I will not give an assurance that we will, as he said, make it a condition of entry—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]—I am answering his question, which was whether I would give an assurance, to which the answer is "No". I will not make it a condition of entry that Commonwealth immigrants into this country have to be free to move, in the numbers the hon. Gentleman has in mind, no doubt, to the Common Market countries. I hope that that is a clear enough answer, even if the hon. Gentleman does not like it.

Mr. Heffer

Is not my right hon. Friend aware that every year Turkish and Algerian workers and workers from various ex-French colonial countries come into the European Economic Community for work and that there is no bar on those workers coming into the E.E.C.? Is he also aware that this is there- fore a matter which can be discussed and settled by negotiation?

The Prime Minister

It certainly must be discussed. We need more facts. I hope that it can be settled to the satisfaction of the great majority of hon. Members. It is certainly a fact that despite the provisions of the Treaty of Rome for free movement within the Six, by far the largest number of foreign workers in most of the importing areas of the Six are not from other countries within the Six, but workers who, despite the provisions of the Treaty of Rome, have come from outside, from countries like Spain or Turkey.

Mr. Longden

Will the right hon. Gentleman have a look at Article 51 of the Treaty of Rome which appears to demand a unanimous vote, that is to say, to allow a veto, in matters concerning migration within the Community?

The Prime Minister

I am, of course, aware of that Article but, as I have said, there are some very difficult questions, not yet resolved, of fact. I do not know whether they will present particular difficulties for us, but we want to analyse them and to see how serious they are. They will then be a matter for discussion and possible negotiation.

Mr. Michael Foot

Can my right hon. Friend tell us whether this is one of the questions which was exhaustively probed in his recent discussions with the Six Governments? Will he give a complete report to the House by next week on what were the discussions which he had on this matter, and can he say whether he can give the House an undertaking, which we are entitled to have, that this whole question of immigration into this country and the Community is one of the matters to be settled before we go in and not after?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps my hon. Friend did not hear my Answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) when I said that during our visits we had no discussions on this question of the mobility of labour within the Community. It was certainly not raised by them as one of the difficulties. The more we analyse it, the more we can see that some problems have to be solved. These will be discussed before there is any question of entry. If there is a problem for negotiation and settlement before, it will be settled before entry, but I am still not in a position to give full details of what the difficulties are.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Can I have some clarification? Did I understand my right hon. Friend to say that it would be a breaking point in any negotiations if the Community would not accept Commonwealth people of any colour?

The Prime Minister

I did not mention the question of colour and we shall not approach any of these discussions on the question of colour. Nor, I am sure, will the Common Market countries with whom we shall be in discussion. I did not use the expression "breaking point". I said that we needed to know a lot more facts. It is by no means certain that under present Community practice the movement of immigrants from one country to another, immigrants who have come in from outside, from an associated territory, is allowed. There are many difficult problems to analyse on which the Community countries themselves have not reached finality, but, as the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longdon) made clear, these are matters which, even after entry, require a special method of settlement.

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