HC Deb 14 April 1970 vol 799 cc1206-8
Q2. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Prime Minister what discussions he has now had with the Trades Union Congress about Great Britain's application to enter the Common Market; and if he will make a statement.

Q6. Mr. Edward M. Taylor

asked the Prime Minister what arrangements he has made to consult the Trade Union Congress on the negotiations on Great Britain's proposed entry to the Common Market.

The Prime Minister

There was a very full discussion of Britain and the Common Market at the meeting of the National Economic Development Council on 16th March and I shall also be discussing this with members of the Economic Committee of the T.U.C. on 28th April.

Mrs. Renée Short

As the economy of the country is growing stronger every month, for which the Government deserve great credit, is it not clear that the trade unions will do everything they can to oppose anything which will jeopardise the situation? As the gross hourly industrial wage in this country is better than that in almost all the other countries of the Common Market, according to the latest figures available, and the cost of living is lower than in all of them, will my right hon. Friend give a categorical undertaking to the House that he will not agree to any decision to take us into the Common Market which is likely to put increased economic burdens on the shoulders of the working people of this country?

The Prime Minister

The fact that, to use my hon. Friend's phrase, the economy of the country is growing stronger every month did not stop the right hon. Gentleman opposite selling Britain short again to the Foreign Press Association yesterday, with his usual selection of figures. I hope that he will read today what he said after last year's Budget about balance of payments prospects—if he would like to be reminded of those words.

On the latter part of my hon. Friend's question, the Trades Union Congress representatives have made clear in their discussions, for example, in the N.E.D.C. that they were in favour of negotiations being started and pursued with determination. But, like most hon. Members in this House, they will want to be aware of all the facts resulting from the negotiations before reaching their own decision and they have undertaken to call a meeting of affiliated unions to decide their attitude when the terms of entry are known.

Mr. Edward M. Taylor

Does the Prime Minister agree that there is considerable anxiety in Scotland over the fact that entry into the E.E.C. would virtually outlaw the policy of industrial development certificates which, under Governments of both parties, has brought new growth industries to Scotland? Would he promise to discuss this important question with the Scottish T.U.C. when he comes to Scotland?

The Prime Minister

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's premise. When we debated the regional aspects of possible entry at the time of Britain's application a number of us produced some arguments against what the hon. Gentleman has in mind. On the question of i.d.c's, I I thought it was increasingly the policy of those supported by the hon. Gentleman to get rid of those constraints on the freedom of private enterprise and to abolish other forms of help. The first part is the policy of the C.B.I. and the latter part is, I understand, the policy of right hon. Gentlemen in relation to investment grants and to their criticism of the aluminium smelter and other schemes.

Mr. Hooley

Has my right hon. Friend observed the fantastic tangle that the Common Market countries are getting themselves into over wine surpluses, agricultural policies and the value-added tax? Would it not be as well to let them sort out these problems for themselves before continuing our hot-foot desire to get into this tangle ourselves?

The Prime Minister

I think there is no doubt that they will sort out these problems which still await settlement before negotiations get very far. I do not think it will be an argument for our deferring our application while some of these matters are settled.

Mrs. Ewing

Is the Prime Minister aware that the trade union movement in the Common Market in its dealings with employers is organised on undemocratic and monolithic lines? Is he further aware that the Scottish National Party is the only party to have pointed this out, or does the Prime Minister of Great Britain prefer to turn a blind eye to all the undesirable and undemocratic features of the Common Market?

The Prime Minister

I never turn a blind eye to the hon. Lady. If she tells me that these matters are undemocratically worked out in the Common Market, both on the employers' side and on the trade union side, I would be glad if she would send me a memorandum on this matter, following her prolonged investigation on her recent visit to the Continent. I would be glad to study it. I know that the trade union movements in the Six are extremely anxious to see the Common Market strengthened and their own efforts strengthened by the adhesion of Britain, with our own strong trade union movement, and other countries.