HC Deb 20 February 1968 vol 759 cc227-30
Q2. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on the progress being made to establish a European technological community.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer I gave on the 1st of February to Questions by my hon. Friends the Members for Faversham (Mr. Boston) and Newark (Mr. Bishop).—[Vol. 757, c. 404.]

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Since this has proved one of the happier of the Prime Minister's initiatives—[An HON. MEMBER: "The only one."]—no; if I wish to be rude to the Prime Minister, I will be rude on my own occasion—should he not be pursuing it both in private and in public with much greater vigour and making clear exactly what new institutions he has in mind to set up to make it work?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the response to our broader major initiative in Europe has not been the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Gentleman knows the difficulties.

We have been discussing the technological community with representatives of the Dutch Government on their visit to London this week. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology is currently discussing with the C.B.I. and others concerned our proposals—originally their proposals—for an institute of technology in Europe. We are pursuing it with all concerned.

Dr. David Owen

Is my right hon. Friend aware that by refusing to share the technology of Capenhurst and partial enrichment we are in danger of driving the European countries to establish their own enrichment plant and in this way we shall get no commercial contracts for this valuable investment?

The Prime Minister

I made this clear to President de Gaulle last June. We are prepared to have the fullest discussions on the basis of a European nuclear programme provided, but only provided, we are part of a wider European market.

Mr. James Davidson

Can the Prime Minister give the House any information on the West German reaction to this proposal, which has been put forward on a number of occasions by my hon. Friends and myself?

The Prime Minister

Is the hon. Gentleman referring to the main question or the question of enriched uranium?

Mr. Davidson

To the main question.

The Prime Minister

At the time the Guildhall speech was made we had a very warm welcome from the German Government, and they have pursued it further with us. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Benelux proposals, which we have supported, provide for both bilateral and multilateral contacts on technological questions.

Mr. Heath

Is the Prime Minister aware that a new institution like a technological community, at a time when the executives have been fused and there is a general move towards fusion by all the communities, may not be the most helpful way of proceeding, whereas to encourage the idea of a technological institute may produce very good results for our own industry? About enrichment, is this not a matter which is dealt with by, or at least comes under, the nonproliferation treaty arrangements? Are there not very big issues at stake here, as well as the servicing of nuclear reactors?

The Prime Minister

On the first question, we have always made it clear that oar proposal for a European technological community did not mean adding a fourth institution, particularly, as the right hon. Gentleman said, at a time when the three existing communities are being merged. What we want is a very strong technological component within the Common Market arrangements, in addition to such proposals as the European institute of technology.

On the second question, there is, I think, nothing in the proposed terms of the non-proliferation treaty which would prevent our having the fullest co-operation with European partners on the production of enriched uranium 235 or other nuclear products for the purposes of the civil development of nuclear energy. The non-proliferation treaty—[An HON. MEMBER: "Get on with it."]—I was answering two important questions which the right hon. Gentleman put, and he understands the answers even if his hon. Friend does not. There is nothing in the treaty to prevent that kind of development.

Mr. Heath

Would the right hon. Gentleman make it clear—[An HON. MEMBER: "Not again."]—I should like to clarify this point, because of its importance in relation to weapons. Is the Prime Minister saying that he has indicated that he would be prepared to make available to the European countries the "know-how" of enrichment of uranium as we have it at Capenhurst?

The Prime Minister

This is certainly an important question. The answer is that, last summer, I told President de Gaulle and other European leaders that we were prepared to join them in setting up a joint European system for the production of enriched uranium 235 on the ground that we have the "know-how". Others have a certain kind of "know-how", although not comparable with ours. But they do have certain other advantages, like cheap electricity—although Pierrelatte is very expensive, as the right hon. Gentleman knows—and we offered to join the French and others in a joint programme for development.