HC Deb 18 November 1968 vol 773 cc875-7
8. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the Harmel proposals for closer European co-operation.

16. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action he plans to take on the Belgian initiatives to link Great Britain closer to the countries of the European Economic Community.

48. Mr. Cronin

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further action he plans to take to associate Great Britain more closely with the countries of the European Economic Community.

Mr. M. Stewart

Full membership of the Communities remains our aim. Meanwhile, we must make progress towards closer European unity in other ways. M. Harmel's proposals for closer co-operation, particularly in foreign policy and defence, provide for this, and we are considering them in consultation with other European Governments.

Mr. Marten

Did the Foreign Secretary suggest that Britain and the Five should set up a study group to consider the Harmel proposals, thereby leaving France out of it? If so, is not that a rather divisive procedure from the point of view of European unity?

Mr. Stewart

No. Sir; we have proposed further study of those proposals, but at the meeting which I had with representatives of the Five countries recently the French also were invited to be present. We have no wish to proceed without them, but we cannot take the view that, if they are not prepared to co-operate, we should do nothing.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Could not the proposals be discussed at the proposed conference of Heads of Government which the right hon. Gentlemen supported at The Hague? What steps is the right hon. Gentleman taking to bring the conference about?

Mr. Stewart

I would not at present answer the second part of that question. If such a conference were held, these proposals, and, no doubt, other matters, could be discussed.

Mr. Cronin

In view of France's obvious economic difficulties and the difficulties that the Community's agricultural policy is in, and also the fact that it is clearly desirable that there should be much closer co-operation between the countries of Western Europe and ourselves, is not this a most favourable time to adopt a new initiative and press on with negotiations to enter the Community?

Mr. Stewart

As I explained, we are engaged in active work on M. Harmel's proposals, with French co-operation if it is available, but are prepared to go on if it is not.

Mr. Mayhew

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the speech he made at The Hague. Do I understand from his reply that no invitations have gone out for the Foreign Ministers to meet in order to push forward this idea?

Mr. Stewart

Not so far, but the Foreign Ministers met quite recently at the same time as the N.A.T.O. Ministerial meeting.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Is not the problem here to get outside the veto and the European treaties, and that if we are seeking co-operation with the Five that is not subject to the veto this will have to be in the fields of defence and political consultations? Does the Foreign Secretary agree, and will he say what he is doing about it?

Mr. Stewart

That is what I said in my first answer.

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