HC Deb 10 February 1969 vol 777 cc876-7
26. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy regarding proposals for tariff reductions between existing members of the European Community and countries which have applied for membership.

Mr. Mulley

No such proposals have been made. We are prepared to consider any proposals put to us in this field provided they come from the Community as a whole, and as long as they are linked with our objective of full membership of the European Communities.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Is it not regrettable that the Government should have so comported themselves that the French Foreign Minister was able to say that it was pointless to discuss tariff reductions in view of the British Government's disinterest in the matter? Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether this disinterest stems from orders from the United States Government or from fears about the balance of payments, or both?

Mr. Mulley

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that our position is based not on either of the grounds that he has mentioned but on the fact that we want to become members of the European Community. This is the view of this House and it has been the official policy of all three major parties represented here.

The reason why we have made it clear in these terms is that tariff reductions must, as the E.F.T.A. countries agreed at their last meeting in Vienna, comply with international obligations, and they could only comply with those obligations and meet our needs if they were directly linked with our obligation to join the Community.

Mr. Jay

If the E.E.C. countries are really willing to discuss reductions in industrial tariffs between the E.E.C. and E.F.T.A. without agricultural conditions, surely we ought wholeheartedly to support this? Why are the Government hesitating?

Mr. Mulley

This is all hypothetical. There are no such proposals. We shall be very happy to consider the proposals, if they meet our conditions, when they come along.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Is not the position this, that the French Government have made certain proposals, the German Government have made other proposals, that the two are slightly different, but that nothing has come from the Six as a whole?

Mr. Mulley

There have been no such proposals from the Six. We should be very happy to see them coming along.