HC Deb 21 July 1969 vol 787 cc1219-23
18. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of Great Britain's application to join the European Economic Community.

19. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the latest position about the United Kingdom's application to join the Common Market.

41. Mr. Eldon Griffiths

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on his negotiations to secure British entry into the European Economic Community.

Mr. M. Stewart

I have nothing to add to the reply which my right hon. Friend the Minister of State gave on 10th July to a Question by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes).—[Vol. 786, c. 303.]

Mr. Wall

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that many people are pleased now that there seems to be a better chance of Britain entering the Common Market, and, equally, other people would prefer an Atlantic free trade area? Is it not the Government's duty to consider the pros and cons of both those alternatives and inform the British people on the important facts

Mr. Stewart

It is true, as the hon. Gentleman says, that there now seem to be better prospects than at some time ago for the success of our application for entry into the European Economic Community. In order to enter the Economic Community, one has to negotiate an agreement in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Rome. In the course of that negotiation, we should have regard to British interests and we should endeavour to keep the House informed.

Mr. Marten

I listened with interest to what the Foreign Secretary said. Does he recall that Dr. Luns, the Foreign Secretary of Holland, who was over here last Monday, said that the British application would receive the backing of the Dutch Government only if there were a firm commitment by this Government to a federal Europe? Is the right hon. Gentleman, or is he not, giving such a firm commitment?

Mr. Stewart

We commit ourselves in making the application to what is set out in the Treaty of Rome, and this was further spelled out in the recent Anglo-Italian declaration. The British Government stand on that.

Mr. Griffiths

Could the right hon. Gentleman say a word about the impressions he formed at last week's meeting of the Monnet action committee which he attended, and will be reaffirm that, in spite of the problems of agricultural policy and institutions, for the British Government to pursue their application to join the Common Market continues nevertheless to make good sense for this country?

Mr. Stewart

I believe without any doubt that it is right for us to continue our application. As for the work of the Monnet committee, there is a later Question on the Order Paper.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Prime Minister's replies last Thursday on the question of nuclear sharing were received with widespread approval on both sides of the House, and does he agree that those who think that we can ease our way into the Common Market by offering nuclear sharing with France or any other West European country are acting at once cynically and in breach of both the spirit and the letter of the Non-Proliferation Treaty?

Mr. Stewart

That is another matter, and nothing I have said would give any support to the anxieties which my hon. Friend has expressed.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

When we come nearer to the prospect of a negotiation, will the right hon. Gentleman see whether he can bring the statistics up to date regarding British entry? There have been many thrown around which have little basis in fact that I can see, and help in this respect from Her Majesty's Government at a later date would be valuable.

Mr. Stewart

The right hon. Gentleman will recall that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that we should put information of this kind before the House as soon as it was meaningful. Some of the hypothetical speculations which have been indulged in have no relationship to reality.

Mr. Shinwell

How does my right hon. Friend reconcile his statement at the Monnet meeting in Brussels last week that he is in favour of supra-national government with the repeated statements by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that he is not in favour of federalisation? How do we reconcile those statements?

Mr. Stewart

My right hon. Friend will remember that in the Anglo-Italian declaration there was reference to a European Parliament and the method of election thereto. The reply I gave at the Monnet committee meeting was entirely in line with that declaration. The development of a fully federal Europe is a very different matter.

Mr. Hastings

Whatever the other economic merits may be, is the Foreign Secretary aware that visitors from this country to Belgium and Holland are being implored by their friends to bring gifts of butter because they cannot afford to buy it there?

Mr. Stewart

That seems to be another question.

Mr. Barnett

In view of the perversion of the facts in both the economic and the agricultural spheres which there have been in recent months, would it not be as well for all concerned if a White Paper were issued at the earliest possible moment setting out the true facts and taking into account all the possibilities, including the considerable changes which would take place in our own agricultural set-up.

Mr. Stewart

I must repeat what I said earlier. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made clear that, as soon as it is possible to make a meaningful communication on this matter, it will be made.

Mr. Jay

As the Prime Minister has twice said in the House that it is not the Government's policy to take this country into a federal State, why does my right hon. Friend make statements committing this country to a European Parliament, which plainly implies federation?

Mr. Stewart

No, Sir; I advise my right hon. Friend to study again the terms of the Anglo-Italian declaration, with which the House is familiar and which, I think, is acceptable to the House.


Mr. Richard

On a point of order. I do not in any way question the sole prerogative which the Chair rightly has about whom it shall call to ask a supplementary question. However, do you not think it necessary, Mr. Speaker, to point out that, apart from the Opposition Front Bench spokesman, supplementary questions were asked by the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris), my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), which I make to be five on one side of the argument, while only two were called on the other side of the argument—the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) and my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Barnett)?

In view of the expressed view of the House on the last occasion when this subject was debated and as HANSARD is read carefully on this issue by people in Europe, do you not think it right that it should be made clear that the ratio of five to two, even allowing for the fact that you have to protect minorities in the House, is grossly unrepresentative of the views of the country?

Mr. Marten

Further to that point of order. The hon. Member has referred to the divisions in the House and what he considers to be the ratio of pros and antis. May I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that you were absolutely right for two reasons? One is that there were two Questions on the Order Paper, so that if the two hon. Members asking those Questions are subtracted, the ratio is probably quite right, and that, according to the latest National Opinion Poll, about one-third of the people in the country think that Britain should go into the Common Market. You reflected that splendidly, Mr. Speaker; thank you.

Mr. Speaker

Under the guise of points of order, the hon. Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) and the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), anxious to help Mr. Speaker, have continued the battle of the Common Market. It happens from time to time that when I call hon. Members to ask questions the amounts of support for different views are not mathematically the same. Questions Nos. 18, 19 and 41 were three Questions about the Common Market, two from one opinion and one from the other. I am glad that the hon. Member for Barons Court does not question Mr. Speaker's selection of hon. Members to ask supplementary questions.

Mrs. Renée Short

Further to that point of order. As there are a large number of free-ranging Members—if I may call them that [Laughter.]—may I point out that I was very disappointed that my legitimate Question No. 51 was not called with Questions Nos. 18, 19 and 41? Perhaps my right hon. Friend will tell me why.

Mr. Speaker

That is a matter which the hon. Lady must take up with her right hon. Friend. I cannot distinguish between the free-rangers and the batteries.

It happens from time to time in a round of Questions that some very important issue arises. I could let it run for the whole of Question Time. I have to balance the keenness of a number of hon. Members to ask supplementary questions on one Question with the keenness of those hon. Members who have had Questions down for a long time and who will be disappointed. I must disappoint someone every day.

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