HC Deb 22 February 1968 vol 759 cc646-8
Q6. Dr. David Owen

asked the Prime Minister whether it is now the policy of the Government that, as an initial step, Great Britain should seek to become a full member of Euratom.

The Prime Minister

As the House knows, we have applied for membership of all three European Communities and these applications stand. Any suggestion from the Council of Ministers that we might join one Community in advance of the others would of course be considered on its merits.

Dr. David Owen

Following the suggestion of Herr Brandt—and I understand the difficulties over the fusion of the treaties—does my right hon. Friend accept that the Euratom Treaty, with its article about common enterprises, offers the opportunity for forming European firms in this vital industry?

The Prime Minister

I have noted that this suggestion has been put forward, but there has certainly been no proposal by the Council of Ministers collectively that this should be proposed to us. We have expressed the view in the past in relation to our application for membership of all three Communities that we would have a very great deal to contribute to the successful working of Euratom or the nuclear component within the merged Communities.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Before the Prime Minister considers joining with Euratom would he make sure that the Euratom countries first have some agreement on how they should budget for that organisation?

The Prime Minister

There are a number of problems. I think that I have expressed not only that point but also the fact that Euratom seems to have been something of a disappointment to some of its members and that we would have a great deal to contribute to make it more effective.

Mr. Macdonald

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that these attempts partly to join or to creep in by the back door must jeopardise our chances of establishing a stable relationship with E.F.T.A., the Commonwealth and Eastern Europe, with all of which we want to expand our trade?

The Prime Minister

It is not the policy of Her Majesty's Government to go in for partial membership of anything in this context. My hon. Friend has referred to a certain suggestion. If there were a suggestion from the Council of Ministers to this effect, we would naturally want to consider it.

Mr. Heath

While Britain remains outside the Community, does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that probably the most profitable opening is in the servicing of nuclear reactors both in Europe and outside? On Tuesday, the right hon. Gentleman said that he was prepared to have a co-operative arrangement with Europe. Does that extend to the knowledge of the processing of enrichment at Capenhurst or is that excluded?

The Prime Minister

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman has in mind possible exclusions by us in connection with our arrangements with the United States. Nothing is excluded in this matter. We put forward a proposal in Paris and elsewhere. It has not been followed up, so obviously it has not been discussed in detail with the other Governments. All aspects of peaceful nuclear research were in our minds, including the joint production which I mentioned on Tuesday, and also the joint production of reactors, on which considerable progress is being made, even now, between ourselves and certain of our European partners.