HC Deb 28 May 1968 vol 765 cc1535-8
Q9. Mr. James Davidson

asked the Prime Minister if he has considered the resolutions on European integration, copies of which have been sent to him, passed by the Conference of Parliamentarians from 12 countries which was sponsored by the European Movement and took place in Bonn on 3rd and 4th May, 1968; and what action he intends to take in this matter.

The Prime Minister

We warmly welcome the success of this Conference. The resolutions addressed to us are entirely in line with our policy.

Mr. Davidson

May I have an assurance from the Prime Minister that, in spite of the present contortions which are shaking France, we are prepared to wait until these contortions are past and take advantage of the improved climate for the British application, and that there is no intention of removing from the table Britain's application to join the Common Market?

The Prime Minister

I said last week that I did not propose to make any statement about what was happening in France that might be taken as an intervention in the internal affairs of another country, which would be most unusual. So far as the last part of the question is concerned there is no change at all in the position of Her Majesty's Government. The application stands exactly where it did and we stand behind it.

Mr. John Lee

Could we not take a leaf out of the General's book, and have a referendum on the subject of the Common Market before we pursue it any further?

The Prime Minister

There was a very large majority of this House in favour of the Government's Motion which came before the House a year ago. Whatever short-term difficulties there may have been, both before and since recent events in France, they do not affect the validity of the basic decision taken by the House on that occasion.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Has the Prime Minister read the interesting book written by the right hon. Member for Bat-tersea, North (Mr. Jay), the ex-President of the Board of Trade? If he has read that book, is he prepared to look into the North Atlantic Treaty idea as an alternative to the Treaty of Rome?

The Prime Minister

I am sorry but I have not yet had an opportunity of reading the book written by my right hon. Friend. I hope that I may be able to do so, although I do not think anyone will accuse me of being unaware of the general position of my right hon. Friend, whose views on this matter have been stated in my presence on very many occasions. I think I know what alternatives he and the hon. Baronet have in mind.

Mr. Heffer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if France should move towards a Left-wing Socialist Government in the near future many of my hon. Friends would be very unhappy that they had not supported her?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that I can either answer a hypothetical question or enter into speculation about the state of mind of my hon. Friends on that subject.

Mr. Marten

Is the Prime Minister aware that since we had the debate in this House on the question of applying to join the Common Market, there has been a great shift in the opinions of Members? Could he say what is holding up the Prime Minister in considering other alternatives while the application lies upon the table?

The Prime Minister

I am not aware of a substantial shift of opinion in hon. Members sufficient in any way to shake the conclusion reached by the House in May last year. I have explained that the possible alternatives, some of which are probably not practicable, were fully considered before a decision was taken. The delay in meeting Britain's wishes in the matter is not of itself a reason for changing direction in the fundamental sense.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Is it not a melancholy fact that we are denied the political benefits of joining the Common Market?

Mr. Michael Foot

Will my right hon. Friend take into account that the person who thought that the Government's application to join the Common Market was most brilliantly timed and superbly executed was Mr. Cecil King? Will he, therefore, have second thoughts on the matter?

The Prime Minister

I have many times and in different contexts heard my hon. Friend arguing against the principle of guilt by association. The mere fact that one individual out of 50 million in this country took one view or another at that time does not affect the fact that some 400 or 500 Members of this House took a particular view, and that was the decision of the House.

Mr. Shinwell

Would my right hon. Friend care to exercise his customary compassion and, before General de Gaulle retires, invite him to this country so that some hon. Members on these benches can express their thanks to him for preventing us getting into the Common Market?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that in any circumstances, whatever the purpose of the visit, if my right hon. Friend and General de Gaulle were to enter into a confrontation, many hon. Members would like to be there to witness it.

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