HC Deb 24 March 1969 vol 780 cc1033-7
18. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what studies are now being carried out in his Department on alternatives to entry into the Common Market following President Nixon's visit.

35. Mr. Raphael Tuck

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether, during President Nixon's visit, alternatives to Great Britain's entry into the Common Market were discussed with him.

Mr. M. Stewart

Full membership of the European Communities remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and no alternatives are being studied. The discussions which took place with President Nixon during his recent visit have in no way altered the Government's view that this policy is the right one.

Mrs. Short

Does not that reply represent an utter lack of imagination and flexibility on the part of the Foreign Office? Are we to go on for another 10 years saying that our application is in and that we have no alternative? Is it not time that we had a look at the whole question and examined the proposals for a free trade area put forward by General de Gaulle and made some progress on this? We cannot go on for ever like this.

Mr. Stewart

Imagination is one thing; moonshine is another. There would be no point in pretending that alternatives were open when it is clear that they are not open.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Is there absolutely no limit to the time that Her Majesty's Government are content to wait without encouragement, and no limit to the time in which they will pursue this policy, if that be the mot juste, of sterile passivity in this matter?

Mr. Stewart

No, Sir. I do not think anyone would say on any aspect of policy that one could use the word "never" or say that a particular posture should be pursued without limit. What I do say is that in the light of present information it would be quite wrong for us to make a change of policy.

Mr. Jay

Can the Foreign Secretary assure us that though the Foreign Office may feel unable to talk about these subjects, at least it is still able to think about them?

Mr. Stewart

I assure my right hon. Friend of that. These alternative possibilities, of course, have been examined in the past, but neither that examination nor any response we get from anywhere else justifies us in abandoning the policy which we are now pursuing.

23. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what changes have been made in Government policy on the application to join the Common Market since the statement by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at the Western European Union Council at The Hague on 4th July, 1967; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. M. Stewart

The reasons for Her Majesty's Government's application and the issues to be dealt with in the course of negotiations remain as set out in my predecessor's statement. While negotiations are prevented from starting, we are determined to achieve progress towards European unity in other ways, and will continue to pursue policies to that end.

Mr. Marten

How can the Government reconcile their opposition to the agricultural levy system, which we on this side of the House propose, with their support for entry into the Common Market, which will incorporate the levy system? Is it not time for the Government to stop their spaniel-like attitude on the backdoor mat of the Common Market, to throw this dead duck to the spaniel, and withdraw their application?

Mr. Stewart

I find it a little difficult to follow the hon. Gentleman through the back door and the dead ducks. We are not trying to get entry through a back door. The question of our application, so far from being a dead duck, is supported by all three political parties in the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We understand that this country's entry Into the European Economic Community will involve acceptance of the Community's agricultural policy. What we do with the agricultural policy when we are not members of the Community is a different question.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Is my right hon. Friend aware that although there are still some hon. Members who accept the political ideology of the Treaty of Rome, that ideology has now been rejected by one of the leading members of the E.E.C.?

Mr. Stewart

I am aware of that, but it does not alter the truth of what I said. Her Majesty's Government's policy has the support of the three main political parties in this country.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

I am sure that if the right hon. Gentleman put that to a free vote he might get quite a different answer. In using W.E.U., is not he in grave danger of misusing it and destroying a most valuable European Treaty as a back-door means of trying to get into the Common Market, which is a thoroughly vicious attitude?

Mr. Stewart

If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that we are trying to use W.E.U. as a back door to get into the Common Market, he does not understand the first thing about it. It could not be so used. While our application to join the Communities is blocked, it is all the more important to seek co-operation in all fields in which it can be sought, and co-operation in W.E.U. is one of them.

Mr. Thorpe

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of us feel that the pace of European integration should not be dependent upon President de Gaulle—and that is the view of the Leader of the Opposition—any more than the pace of Britain in the 1950s? Will the right hon. Gentleman take comfort from the fact that the Labour Party is no more bitterly opposed to the levy system than was the Conservative Party until a short time ago, and that we have equal hopes of converting the Labour Party as well?

Mr. Stewart

I am not sure that I am called upon to reply to the right hon. Gentleman but I listened with interest.

Mr. Shinwell

Does not my right hon. Friend realise that in this adventure in which he and his colleagues are engaged, the more they seem to exert pressure to get into the Common Market the more European relationships deteriorate? Is not the position very much worse than it was two years ago?

Mr. Stewart

One of the remarkable things since the second veto on our application, compared with what happened after the first veto, has been the great determination of our friends in Europe to help us forward and their anxiety that we should keep the application going.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that, contrary to the impression that has been given—that the whole House consists of ancient Britons—it actually consists of a very large number of modern Europeans?

Mr. Stewart

Hon. Members must give themselves what labels they wish but I repeat with complete confidence that the policy of Her Majesty's Government on this matter has had, and still has, the support of the three main political parties in this country.

27. Mr. Hordern

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will now seek to enter into negotiations with the European Economic Community in order to reduce existing tariffs between the United Kingdom and the European Economic Community.

Mr. M. Stewart

We seek membership of the European Communities, one of the consequences of which would be to reduce existing tariffs between the United Kingdom and the European Economic Community. But the Six have not been able to agree to opening negotiations with us.

Mr. Hordern

Why should the reduction of selected tariffs on a bilateral basis between the United Kingdom and any of the countries in the E.E.C. within the terms of the G.A.T.T. be linked in any way with entry into the Common Market?

Mr. Stewart

I am by no means certain that if they were not linked it would be in conformity with the G.A.T.T. We would not wish to enter an arrangement of this kind unless, first, we were clear that this was an invitation which came from all Six. We would want to know the nature of the proposals and whether linked with them there were any proposals about agriculture. It would also be reasonable for us to be sure that this was not intended simply as a substitute for membership of the Communities.