HC Deb 13 November 1969 vol 791 cc608-11
Q4. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister if he will arrange for all appropriate Ministers to commence studies of alternative trading options to the Common Market.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to a supplementary question by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) on 22nd May.—[Vol. 784, c. 653.]

Mr. Marten

The Prime Minister must agree that the so-called costs of staying out of the Common Market cannot really in all honesty be properly assessed without an assessment also of the benefits of remaining out? That being so, should not the Government set up a study of alternatives such as a free trade area between the Six and the Seven, particularly if the Common Market negotiations prove to be barren?

The Prime Minister

I think it was with the general support of the House that I called for this new statistical appraisal of all the implications of the costs of joining the Common Market. When the figures are available they will he given to the House. On the question of alternative schemes, the hon. Gentleman has placed N.A.F.T.A. and other schemes before us, and now he is talking about a free trade area. We have the Treaty of Rome to go on with the other calculations and what has been decided in the Six, but it would be impossible to make any assessment of what the relative rates of tariff and duty and agricultural arrangements would be in any hypothetical free trade area between the Six and E.F.T.A. If there is anything meaningful that we can get on this I would be very ready to make it available to the House, but it cannot be studied with the same degree of accuracy, given the spread of assumptions. as the study which is now in being.

Mr. Cant

Would my right hon. Friend also suggest to supporters of N.A.F.T.A. on both sides of the House that the time factor is important? Would he also remind them that the Kennedy Round, which covered only partial changes in tariffs, took four years and that we must be into Europe on the right terms long before that?

The Prime Minister

Yes, given the right terms, as my hon. Friend has correctly said. Certainly the Kennedy Round, which was a pretty remarkable achievement—there were a very large number of countries involved—took a very long time and we are still a long way from seeing it fully implemented in practice between the different trading countries.

Q5. Mr. Biffen

asked the Prime Minister what proposals he has to discuss with the Prime Ministers of Eire and Denmark the problems of adapting their respective agricultural industries to the requirements of the Common Market.

The Prime Minister

None. Sir. We are in regular contact with both Governments on matters of common interest through the normal channels.

Mr. Biffen

As exchange rate changes in the franc and Deutschmark have put the Common Market agricultural policies into such disarray, are these not exactly the circumstances in which we should be seen to be pressing for a European agricultural policy which allowed a much greater degree of national initiative in matters such as foodstuffs and agriculture? Should we not be consulting with those countries mentioned in this Question, both of which have substantial domestic agriculture?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman can assume that the Danish and Irish Governments, in view of their very substantial position in agricultural world, are taking as close an interest in the Common Market Agricultural policy as we are. If he wants it to be seen that we are having discussions with them. the Anglo-Irish Economic Committee is meeting today in Dublin and the AngloDanish Liaison Committee met in London on 30th September. Furthermore, my right hon. and noble Friend visited Copenhagen for talks with members of the Danish Government from 8th to 10th September. The hon. Gentleman can be assured that we are maintaining close contact on all these matters.

Sir G. Nabarro

Did the right hon. Gentleman observe that yesterday in Brussels the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, namely, the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley) is reported as saying—

Mr. Speaker

Order. No quotations in supplementary questions.

Sir G. Nabarro

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Under-Secretary alluded to joining the Common Market as being like having an affair with an elephant? As the hon. Member for West Bromwich is one of Her Majesty's Government's Ministers and portraying Government policy in this statement, can the Prime Minister say whether it is his intention to go slow on the Common Market application, in view of agricultural difficulties, for the rest of this Parliament?

The Prime Minister

These illogical analogies create certain difficulties, and I have no personal experience of these matters. I noticed reports in the Press, but I have not been in touch with my hon. Friend. One question I thought of taking up with him was whether he had not got the period of gestation for elephants wrong.

An Hon. Member

Eighteen months.

The Prime Minister

I thought that it was two years but the report seemed to suggest that it was longer. I shall naturally want to sort out with my hon. Friend whether he has got his biological facts accurate.

Mr. Shinwell

In view of the statement made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley) yesterday, or reported to have been made by him, about falling in love with an elephant, are we to understand that in the assessment my right hon. Friend has in hand he will import sexual aspects of the problem?

The Prime Minister

As was made clear when we last debated these matters, the Government are to study all relevant aspects of the entire situation. I am not aware that my hon. Friend was particularly bringing the concept of love into these elephantine relations.

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