HC Deb 04 February 1969 vol 777 cc203-5
Q1. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Prime Minister whether the speech of the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary at The Hague on 8th November, 1968, regarding European policy represents Government policy.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

Yes, Sir.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

What has the Prime Minister done, therefore, towards convening the conference of Heads of European Governments which the Foreign Secretary proposed on that occasion? Will he confirm the truth of the report in The Times that he has a secret scheme for launching a federation of European countries—so doubtless he will be seeking the Presidency?

The Prime Minister

In reply to the first part of the question, the hon. Gentleman will remember that the last time I answered this question I said that this matter should be further pursued at the Luxembourg conference of the W.E.U. This conference is taking place later this week and my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will be there. There is nothing to add to what I said on that point. In reply to the second part of the question, I have seen statements and speculations in a number of newspapers, starting in a French newspaper, on the lines suggested by the hon. Gentleman. There is nothing whatsoever in that speculation.

Mr. David Howell

Did not The Hague speech to which we are referring contain an undertaking to increase technological collaboration with Europe? How is this to be reconciled with the attitude Britain appears to be taking to the European airbus project as reported this morning in the newspapers?

The Prime Minister

There is nothing incompatible in the attitude which we are taking to the airbus project with what was said at the time. With regard to technological co-operation in general, the Government have always stressed that the real hope of European co-operation is in industrial technological co-operation to make us less dependent upon technology from across the Atlantic. It does not mean that we have to commit ourselves to every costly adventure in space co-operation.

Mr. Jay

Whatever we may think of airbuses, would the Prime Minister agree that the Government have no authority from this House, or indeed from the electorate, for proposing to take the United Kingdom into any sort of federal state whether in Europe or anywhere else?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend will remember that when we debated these matters rather less than two years ago, I made it plain that it was certainly not our policy. These stories, stemming from an article in the French newspaper L'Express, are entirely without foundation.

Sir G. de Freitas

Is the Prime Minister aware that many of us who applauded the Foreign Secretary's speech at The Hague conference have been very much disappointed at the lack of Government initiative since then?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend will be aware that immediately following that speech I said that the right place to pursue this would be at the Luxembourg conference. That takes place this week. We were not able to have the conference earlier than the time for which it was fixed.

Mr. Thorpe

While the Prime Minister supports the speech which was made by the Foreign Secretary, may we take it that he does not associate himself with the remarks made at the same conference on the same occasion by the Leader of the Opposition, when he said that it would be wrong to seek to isolate France by creating new institutions without her?

The prime Minister

I am not responsible for the statements of the Leader of the Opposition.