HC Deb 20 February 1969 vol 778 cc764-5
Q7. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Prime Minister what consideration was given at the recent Commonwealth Conference to the effect on Commonwealth trade of Great Britain joining the Common Market.

The Prime Minister

I would refer my right hon. Friend to paragraph 54 of the Communiqué on the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Meeting.

Mr. Shinwell

Is it not likely that as a result of the discussions at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference reference was made to the repercussions following our entry into the Common Market, if that should happen? What conclusions were reached about it?

The Prime Minister

References to that were made not only during the full Conference, but during the bilateral discussions with individual heads of Governments. Some Commonwealth countries wholeheartedly support the idea of Britain's joining. Others accept the idea but are worried about particular aspects of their own trade. We fully discussed each country's anxieties with the country concerned, except New Zealand, which is a special case on which I and others have reported to the House on a number of occasions.

Sir C. Osborne

As the events of the last week have shown that President de Gaulle is still master of the other five Members of the Common Market, and since he shows no sign of retiring or dying, would not it be better for us to withdraw our application until he is dead?

The Prime Minister

I have had to tell the hon. Gentleman in the past when he has used similar phrases that this is not a form of diplomatic address which it is particularly helpful for Governments to use in communications with one another. I would not accept what the hon. Gentleman said about any one member of the Six being master of the other five. This is a community of six countries, and the desire of the other five for British entry is very very clear indeed, as was reiterated by Chancellor Kiesinger's joint declaration with me last week.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Does or does not my right hon. Friend favour a wider free trade area, involving, inter alia, Great Britain, the Commonwealth, the old Commonwealth, and the United States? Has he canvassed that with President Nixon? If not, will he do so at the earliest opportunity?

The Prime Minister

President Nixon has not arrived yet. We are all in favour of the widest possible area of free trade. We are all in favour of world government, but, we do not think that either is likely to come quickly—[Interruption.] Most of us are in favour of ultimate world Government. I shall speak for this side of the House, and, I think, most hon. Members opposite. The fact that these things are not likely does not mean that we should not push on with the thing which is most important, and as a move towards world free trade British entry into the Common Market will be a valuable step, in addition to strengthening Europe technologically against power blocs.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Perhaps I could cut through the welter of words used by the Prime Minister. Is it not a fact that the Commonwealth would not look with favour on this country signing the Treaty of Rome as it stands?

The Prime Minister

The Commonwealth has no collective view on this matter. Some Commonwealth countries are very keen on Britain getting into the Common Market. Others say that it is a matter for Great Britain, and that they will accept a neutral position. Others express anxieties about certain aspects of the effect on their own trade. Not a single Commonwealth country at the Conference opposed Britain's application.