HC Deb 10 February 1970 vol 795 cc1080-97
The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the White Paper laid before Parliament today, and now in the Vote Office.

While this, as I have already told the House, deals exclusively with the economic assessment of the cost of British entry to the Communities, on a wide range of assumptions, hon. Members will no doubt wish to study it against the background of the four White Papers published in 1967, dealing with the decision of 2nd May to make application, and the basis of that application; with the legal and constitutional issues; and with the matters relating to the common agricultural policy. The fourth White Paper was the statement of the then Foreign Secretary at the meeting of the Council of Western European Union in July, 1967.

The structure and content of today's White Paper follow the pattern I outlined at Brighton last autumn and announced to Parliament soon after. The estimates and assessments made in 1967 have been recalculated on the basis of more up-to-date information, and they cover, in particular, agriculture, the balance of trade in industrial goods, invisibles and capital movements, and the consequences for each of these which entry into the Communities might have for us, and, in particular, for our balance of payments.

The House will see that the White Paper also sets out the potential implications of membership for the development of our industry, and concludes with an overall economic assessment of the theoretical range of possible costs, in both balance of payments and resource terms, which membership of the Communities could involve.

I have indicated to the House on a number of occasions the difficulties arising from the wide range of assumptions which must be made. Before saying a word about them I should make it clear that, for reasons the House will understand, the calculations do not allow for what we would hope to achieve in the course of the negotiations, whether in terms of quantities and costs, or in terms of periods for transition and adjustment.

The assumptions that have been made relate in the first instance to the common agricultural policy, and as far as possible reflect the most recent decisions of E.E.C. Ministers: in particular, the summit meeting at The Hague on 1st and 2nd December last year, and the meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Communities ending on 22nd December. Even now we do not have a complete picture of the future shape of the Community's agricultural policy.

Clearly, we had to wait for the outcome of these meetings, as I have told the House more than once, and this was why my earlier hope of being able to lay the White Paper before Christmas was not realised.

But the House will recognise that this is a continuing process. The Ministers of the Six met last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, when the White Paper was already in print, and there will be further meetings which may necessitate revision of the estimates.

Even if this were not so, the House will understand that many of the estimates must be highly speculative. There must, for example, be a wide margin of error arising from any calculations which may be made about the response of British agriculture and industry to changes in prices and tariff levels whose effects cannot be fully felt for a number of years. Hon. Members will realise what margin of error this involves both in the calculations of the agricultural cost, and its wider implications in industrial, commercial and financial matters.

Given the assumptions, we have sought to present, within an inevitably wide range, as full and objective an account of the position on agriculture as is possible. We have, however, found it very difficult to present any meaningful estimates about invisible earnings and capital movements: still more difficult to make any about the long-term industrial consequences, described in the White Paper as the "dynamic effect" of entry, though here many hon. Members will have studied the report made by the Confederation of British Industry and published by it a few weeks ago.

We have not found it possible to set out figures in quantifying these industrial consequences. It is right that those who are engaged in industry and trade, to whom would fall the responsibility of taking the thousands of day-by-day decisions which entry into the Communities would entail, should judge—as hon. Members will seek to judge—to what extent membership would give industry more opportunity for successful enterprise and expansion.

The White Paper also makes no attempt to estimate the cost to Britain of remaining outside the Communities, if the final result of the negotiations were to produce terms and conditions which the Government, and Parliament, were to regard as unacceptable.

Again, the White Paper does not attempt to deal with the political arguments for entry into the Communities, beyond recalling what was said on this issue in the 1967 White Papers.

Hon. Members will wish to study this document, which I must say right away is lengthy, detailed and heavy going. I am sure, however, that most hon. Members, whatever their views on the issue of British entry, will accept that the figures have been calculated in a completely objective and neutral way. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will be arranging for talks through the usual channels for a full parliamentary debate—

Mr. Dickens

And a vote.

The Prime Minister

—after hon. Members have had adequate time to study the White Paper, and to study the public comment which the White Paper will no doubt generate both in Britain and overseas.

Today is not the time to attempt to draw conclusions in terms of policy from the White Paper. Britain's application for membership has been made and that is not in question. The Governments of the Six have made clear their intention that negotiations will begin in the summer. Until the outcome of those negotiations is known, neither the Government nor Parliament will be in a position to take final decisions. The negotiations will take place against the background of Britain's economic progress, and particularly of the improvement in our balance of payments and in the strength of sterling. Not only this House but the world outside recognises the sharp contrast of our position today with our position both in 1967 and in the previous negotiations from 1961 to 1963.

These facts create a situation in which Government and Parliament can take their decisions in full confidence that on fair terms we can stand and profit by the far more competitive situation that entry into the Market implies. But equally they create a situation which leaves no one in doubt that should the negotiations not lead to acceptable terms for entry, Britain is and will he strong enough to stand on her own feet outside. This was the target—a position of strength—I set for our economic policies when the House debated these matters in 1967.

The question of entry, what I have called the final decision, does not arise on this White Paper, nor indeed in the debate which will follow. It is in the light of the negotiations which are due to begin in the near future that this decision must be taken. The Government and the House, of course, will recognise that political as well as economic factors are involved. If, when the decision is to be taken, the disadvantages for Britain appear excessive in relation to the benefits for Britain which would flow from British entry, the Government clearly would not propose to Parliament that we should enter the Communities. If, on the other hand, the costs, after negotiations, appear acceptable in relation to the benefits, the Government will recommend entry.

The Government will enter into negotiations resolutely, in good faith, mindful both of British interests and of the advantages of success in the negotiations to all the members of an enlarged community. We have made clear that if the negotiations produce acceptable conditions for British entry we believe that this will be advantageous for Britain, for Europe, and for Europe's voice in the world. Equally, we have made clear that if the conditions which emerge from the negotiations are in the Government's view not acceptable, we can rely on our own strength outside the Communities. But I repeat what I have said on a number of occasions in the House and outside that this outcome—a failure of the negotiations—would involve a cost for Britain, a cost for Europe, and a diminution of Europe's influence in world affairs.

Mr. Heath

May I thank the Prime Minister for his statement and also for the publication of the White Paper? The Prime Minister has reaffirmed the Government's intention of entering into negotiations and that no decision can be reached until the results of those are known. I do not therefore propose to question him about this White Paper this afternoon. It appears to be a substantial document and we on this side of the House would obviously like to consider it carefully in preparation for the debate in the House.

I have no doubt, as the Prime Minister has said, that there will always be a sustained debate in the country. I would ask the Prime Minister whether he would agree with the hope which I would like to express, that those on whom the public rely to a large extent for guidance in these matters should fairly express the pros and cons of the options set out in the White Paper, as well as the political considerations, which will be taken into account?

The Prime Minister

I would like to thank the right hon. Gentleman for his opening words and to welcome what he said just before he sat down. It is important that this issue should be judged on its merits by all concerned. I expressed the view before the White Paper was published that it would provide adequate pabulum, both for those who oppose entry, who will regard it as confirming their worst fears, and for those who support entry, who will regard it as confirming their best hopes.

It is important that in presenting this document—and all of us here have a responsibility, regardless of the side that we may take on the policy issue—to see that the facts and figures set out therein, even over a wide range of assumptions, are fairly put to the people as a whole.

Mr. Jay

Does my right hon. Friend accept the statement of the Common Market Ministers that the December decisions on the financial regulations on agriculture are fixed and irreversible and not subject to negotiation by this Government?

The Prime Minister

I take everything said by the Common Market Ministers in the spirit in which it is said. We regard decisions taken about the common agricultural policy as being fixed by them; that is their intention. There are still very important questions for negotiation, not least in the field of agricultural financing.

My right hon. Friend, when he forms his own objective assessment in the light of the White Paper, as I am sure he will do, will also no doubt attempt to make some assessment, which has been beyond the possibility of those who have had the responsibility for this White Paper, of how far, for example within Europe, there may be a desire to get their own prices down because of the degree of surpluses. That is why I say there are so many imponderables—we can only give guidelines, not final conclusions.

Mr. Thorpe

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he is to be congratulated on his consistency in keeping as many options open at the same time as is possible, apart from a definite commitment to open negotiations? Would he agree that it cannot be emphasised too often that the estimates are purely speculative and, therefore, subject to change, and that, while particular interests may be able to show that they would be disadvantaged in the short term, it will be the job of this House to look at the economic and political position in the overall and in the long term?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman has got it about right—there are no options open at all in respect of the decision to open negotiations and to approach them in a determination that they should succeed if the price is acceptable. That is our position. I hope that he was not referring to the wide range of assumptions in the White Paper when he talked about keeping options open, because I think that the House as a whole will feel that this is an honest attempt within some very variable assumptions to present figures to the House.

As to the assumption that if the terms are unacceptable we do not go in, I can- not imagine that there is a single hon. or right hon. Gentleman who would take a different view.

Sir G. de Freitas

Is it not a fact that the four applicant countries cannot get into the Common Market unless the Six want them and that if the Six want them the Six will seek transitionary financial arrangements to lessen the impact of an expansion from six to ten?

The Prime Minister

I referred to the importance of transitional arrangements and to the final terms. One development the House will have noticed during the period that the White Paper has been under consideration is that the Six, in finalising the agricultural policy, have set for themselves a programme up to 1977—before their own arrangements become definitive and final. They need that period for finalisation even on top of the work they have done in creating a common agricultural policy.

Therefore, there will be a general recognition that if terms acceptable for entry are achieved, those terms must include an adequate period for adjustment and transition, for Britain and the other applicant countries.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

In view of the imprecisions and omissions of the White Paper, extending to the effect of payments under the common agricultural policy in paragraph 44; the adverse effect of the rising prices, which, according to paragraph 76, are only roughly estimated: in view of the reliance on alleged long-term benefits, which, according to paragraph 105, are incapable of statistical calculation; and in view of the failure, admitted in paragraph 106, to calculate the full economic consequences, would the right hon. Gentleman assist the House and the country to the truth of these matters by making available for cross-examination by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen the gentleman who has been responsible for this singularly inadequate document?

The Prime Minister

I should congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on the speed with which he has read this document. I only hope for the sake of his professional clients that he takes a little more time in studying a brief before he gives counsel's opinion.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

The right hon. Gentleman ought to have a lawyer.

The Prime Minister

I have one, from the Opposition Front Bench.

When the right hon. and learned Gentleman has had time to apply his considerable mind to this question he will recognise that in each case it would not only have been impossible, but would have been misleading, to try to put quantitative figures on some of the points, indeed, all of the points he has raised. If he takes a different view, I do not think that he will get whatever it is he wants to get by cross-examination. He can make the point very fully in the debate in the House and the Ministers responsible, including myself, who will be taking part in the debate, will attempt to give him as good an answer as we can.

We could have made guesses to deal with the right hon. and learned Gentleman's point. I think that he would have been very disappointed if we had produced figures less objective than those which we have produced.

Mr. Shinwell

Now that we have been presented with an economic assessment of Britain's entry into the Common Market, and as the Prime Minister has said there will be a full debate in the House, can we be assured, before that debate takes place, that in addition to this economic assessment we will have a political assessment, giving an indication of what is likely to be the attitude of this country because of European policy that may be creating a supranational Government?

May I also ask my right hon. Friend whether, in the preparation of this multi-Departmental document, it ever occurred to him to consult, say, businessmen like Sir George Bolton, or Sir John Hunter, economists like Dr. Balogh and Sir Roy Harrod, or even a merchant banker like Sir Siegmund Warburg, and ascertain their views? Why should we have to depend on a multi-Departmental document which expresses not merely facts, but also opinions?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will feel, when he has studied the document, that he displayed less than his usual standard of fairness in these matters. I noticed that he selected—and I emphasise "selected" —a number of businessmen who support his case, one at least of whom I know to have been a passionate supporter of entry into Europe over a longe period. Possibly he got the other four right.—[An HON. MEMBER: "He was fair."] Yes, he was fair, four to one.

Nevertheless, I feel that when my hon. Friend studies the document he will find that we take into account the report of the Confederation of British Industry, which no doubt my right hon. Friend will have read, and which covers estimates made throughout C.B.I. membership. We did not, however, attempt to follow the C.B.I. in such quantifying of the trade and industrial advantages as it is convinced of. What we tried to do was to stick to those facts that were demonstrable, on the basis of assumption.

I considered at an early stage whether we should attempt to put in the political arguments, but I believe that the whole House will agree that those for and against are not quantifiable; they are not easily demonstrable. They have to be argued between people taking different points of view. I believe that my right hon. Friend would have been disappointed had I sought to balance some of the considerations, say, agriculture, by a statement on the political side, and would have felt it an unfair statement. Whereas agricultural figures have some validity given the assumptions, the political arguments would not, I would have thought my right hon. Friend would feel, have been very fair. No doubt in a fortnight's time he will be quoting the document in support of the position he has taken over a number of years in this matter.

Mr. Sandys

While obviously at present there are too many uncertain factors to enable us to assess the effect upon our balance of payments, which must necessarily depend upon the outcome of negotiations, does the Prime Minister agree that the Six have every interest in the maintenance of the stability of the currency of their future partner and would derive no advantage from asking us to accept an unfair or excessive burden?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that that will be their attitude. Indeed, so far as European currencies are concerned at present, I believe that there is general confidence in Europe in the present strength of sterling and in our balance of payments.

I was interested to see that in the recent talks in Brussels and since there is a very deep interest in Europe, not least by the French delegates, in closer European cooperation in monetary matters. We have always made it clear that we are prepared to go along with the best of them on this question and shall be prepared to do so and to negotiate, if that is an issue in the negotiations, or afterwards if that is an issue afterwards.

I believe that nothing but good can be gained within an enlarged Community from much closer co-operation in financial matters. In this, we have a great deal to give from the strength of our currency and balance of payments and the financial expertise of this country in many matters which will be of benefit to Europe as a whole.

Mr. Albu

Can the Prime Minister make any comment on reports in today's Press that the French Government are considering ways in which they can assist in reducing whatever may be the financial burden caused by our entry?

The Prime Minister

I have read these Press reports. I have no information on them. I believe that there has been among people in France an increasing awareness that there will be benefit for France and Europe generally from British entry. I cannot confirm or deny statements in the Press, but many of these matters may become clearer in negotiations.

Mr. W. H. K. Baker

The Prime Minister will be aware that Chapter 2 of the White Paper is headed "Agriculture and Food". Can he give an assurance that before a debate takes place in the House the other one of the triumvirate—Fisheries—for which his right hon. Friend is responsible, will receive adequate treatment in the same way as the rest of agriculture and food has had in this document?

The Prime Minister

There is a reference to it in the White Paper and, of course, this matter was very much studied at the time of our decision, in 1967, to make application. I believe that this is a most important issue which we shall want to consider. If it is any comfort to the hon. Gentleman, on balance I would feel that we shall have less trouble on fishery questions in the European Economic Community than we have had in the European Free Trade Area.

Mrs. Anne Kerr

Does the Prime Minister appreciate that while housewives may primarily appear to be concerned only about the increase in the cost of food if we enter the Common Market, they are also concerned about the political impact such an entry might bring about? May this be included in the debate we are to have, so that it is not confined merely to the narrow confines of the White Paper which many of us have not had an opportunity to read?

Does the Prime Minister also recognise that in the constituency which I represent, which has a very large number of ex-Service men and men concerned with overseas work, there is very strong resistance to the idea of doing anything further to undermine the idea of the British Commonwealth?

Finally, does the Prime Minister recognise that among the young people of this country there is a total lack of enthusiasm for the idea of the United Kingdom joining the European Common Market?

The Prime Minister

The political implications of going into Europe, for and against entry, are not, I believe, differentiated by sex as far as this country is concerned. I believe that many men and women, including right hon. and hon. Ladies and Gentlemen in this House, will have formed their own views about these questions and that there will be those inside and outside this House, ladies and gentlemen, who will feel that the political advantages are decisive or that perhaps they are disastrous. So I do not think it is a question of linking this question with housewives.

The debate will be a matter for the Chair, against the background of the Motion on the Order Paper.

Since this White Paper is not a statement of policy by the Government, since policy has been decided, namely, to apply and to leave a final decision until we know the terms, and since it is meant to be a factual White Paper, it would be for the greater convenience of the House if we were to debate it on a Motion to take note of the White Paper.

This would enable all hon. Members to say whether they agreed with the facts and figures stated in it and would also, subject to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, allow hon. Members to attempt to quantify those parts which we have not ourselves attempted to do so.

Certainly, I would have thought that in so far as the debate goes into issues of policy and the terms on which we could accept membership, everything said by my hon. Friend would be in order, subject to your Ruling, Sir.

Mr. Tapsell

Would the Prime Minister agree that the key short-term consideration is the cost to Britain on the balance of payments of entry into the Common Market? In this context paragraph 101 of the White Paper estimates the cost at between £100 million and £1,100 million. Does the extraordinary vagueness of this estimate reflect the inability of the Government to form a judgment or their desire to sweep the whole subject under the carpet until the General Election is out of the way?

The Prime Minister

The last part of the question is below the hon. Gentleman's usual very high standard in these matters. I would guess that he started reading the White Paper at paragraph 101 and did not work through it in the short time available. I believe that when he has read the White Paper he will see how that paragraph has been constructed and with what background.

It is not an assessment of short-term agricultural costs to which the hon. Gentleman referred in his question. It is a total of the extremes of the range, the extreme estimate as regards agriculture, trade and other considerations. I believe that the House will agree, when it has studied it, that either extreme is most improbable, because it would be almost incompatible for certain of the assumptions to co-exist against such a total. That is better discussed in debate.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the final cost within the range will depend on a lot of assumptions which we cannot at this stage be categorical about, and also on the progress of negotiations.

When it comes to the debate, if the hon. Gentleman is prepared to chance his arm in being categorical on some of his assumptions, on which we have said that there is no finalisation, if he is prepared to be more specific about them, and can tell us how he thinks the negotiations will go, I will be prepared to accept his strictures when the time comes.

Mr. Barnett

As there will be some balance of payments costs, although not perhaps so over-stated as they have been and no doubt will be in the future, will the Prime Minister consider the possibility of a European reserve currency to take over sterling's rôle and so enable us to meet that higher rate of growth rather than a continuing surplus on the balance of payments of £500 million?

The Prime Minister

This is a matter which I dealt with in answer to the question put by the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). We made clear in 1967 that we were certainly prepared to enter into discussions for a common currency. The problems of a reserve currency have moved on a good deal since 1967, for example the Basle agreement and the special drawing rights. We are prepared to enter into discussions, as I have said, with the best of them either in the terms which I have just mentioned or those set out in the recent discussions in Brussels.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

I welcome the White Paper's conclusion in paragraph 108 that failure to negotiate entry at a cost that we could afford would mean the loss of an historic opportunity for Europe to contribute to world peace and prosperity. In the light of that conclusion, would the Prime Minister not agree that any attempt to perform a political somersault and run away from negotiations before the next General Election would be to put narrow party political advantage first and the interests of the country second?

The Prime Minister

The words of paragraph 108 were also echoed in the concluding words of my statement this afternoon. That is what I said at my own party conference in Brighton last September and on many other occasions. That is our position.

It has been made clear many times, both inside and outside the House, that our application is in; and I have said today that it is not in question that it is in. I have heard no pressure to withdraw the application—certainly not at any of the three party conferences, and there was no vote at our conference that we should withdraw it.

The application is in. We have said that we are ready to begin negotiations tomorrow if the other countries are. We now know of their willingness to start this year, and there can be no question of not proceeding with determination to succeed in those negotiations. If the price proves to be too high that will be another matter for the Government and the House.

Mr. Heffer

Would my right hon. Friend agree that nothing has changed with the publication of the White Paper and that attitudes for or against entry into the Common Market remain the same? Would he not also agree that we are faced with three basic alternatives: we become a satellite of the United States, or we join a wider European community and build a united Europe, or we try to remain completely independent and isolated. Is it not clear that the future of our country must be in a united Europe at the earliest possible moment?

Is my right hon. Friend not absolutely correct in approaching this matter with the greatest of caution and on the basis of negotiation, which is the sensible attitude which is being adopted at the moment?

The Prime Minister

This White Paper does not raise the issues touched on in the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). It sets out to be an objective assessment of whatever is quantifiable so that all hon. Members and people outside can decide what they think the choice is and what decision they would take faced with that choice. I think that my hon. Friend's list of the three questions is perhaps a little over-simplified. For example, there would be no question of our becoming a satellite of the United States when we are in the position of economic strength in which we are today and in which we intend to remain. Nevertheless, my hon. Friend's conclusion happens to be the one which I and the Government have reached. But I think that these are much more matters for the debate than for questioning over the White Paper, which many hon. Members have not yet read right through.

Sir Beresford Craddock

May I ask the Prime Minister about subsidies to industry? As he knows, there are various articles in the Treaty of Rome which forbid member countries to subsidise industry in their own countries. Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to obey those articles and withdraw all the subsidies which we give to British industry?

The Prime Minister

I think that the philosophy and the letter of the Treaty of Rome follow closely the G.A.T.T. rules requiring the country not to subsidise industry in a way which gives it an unfair export advantage. Those matters can be raised in G.A.T.T. and have recently been raised in E.F.T.A. from time to time.

But there is nothing in the Treaty of Rome as I read it, or as it has been carried out in practice, which prevents Government assistance to the internal reorganisation of industry. For example, the I.R.C. has been under some degree of questioning in recent days. If it has any analogy outside this country, it has some analogy with the I.R.I. in Italy, which has been highly successful there. Its operations have not been questioned in more than 10 years of the Treaty of Rome.

Mr. John Mendelson

Has my right hon. Friend noticed the increased opposition and the area of doubt about our entry to the Common Market, particularly on economic grounds, since the last debate took place? Will he accept that some of those who are full of doubt and apprehension have been somewhat reassured by his categorical statement several times in recent months that if he found the conditions unacceptable he would not propose entry? Would my right hon. Friend now accept that the definition of what is unacceptable must include not only terms about the transitional period, but the basic terms for the future economic arrangements in the Community? My right hon. Friend has said nothing about that yet. Would he give the assurance that the Community must also make concessions to us if we are to find conditions acceptable?

The Prime Minister

It is always implicit in negotiations that either party is free to say "No", if terms are unacceptable. I cannot imagine any hon. Member entering into negotiations on that question—or any question in this House—which did not leave him free at the end of the day to say "No" if the terms were unacceptable. That is true of industrial negotiations, trade negotiations and negotiations as fundamental as are covered here. This has always been our position.

What we had to decide three years ago was whether he should apply. I believe that is not now in question in this House. What will be in question is the final terms.

As to the last part of my hon. Friend's question—whether I would make it clear to those with whom we shall be negotiating that they will have to show a bit of give as well, if that is what he is saying—obviously that is what negotiations are about. We have not sought to make negotiations more difficult in this White Paper by speculating about the progress of negotiations. No hon. Member would have wished us to do so.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

When the Prime Minister said this afternoon that he felt that if the terms offered in the final negotiations proved unacceptable it would still be possible for this country virtually to go it alone, had he given thought to the necessity that would then automatically come about of having to revise completely our whole preferential trade system and attitude towards the most-favoured-nation clause and, finally, the whole question of the possibility of European countries having a common currency?

The Prime Minister

I did not say that we should be going it alone. Britain would never be alone in these circumstances. We have trading relations with the Commonwealth. We have trading relations with Europe, which are highly productive and fertile, both ways, with Britain outside the Common Market. That phrase can be picked up both ways by different sides to the dispute. We have productive trading with the United States, and with countries which are neither in the Commonwealth nor in the Common Market.

I do not think that there is any question of our being unable to survive in that situation, but our survival in that situation, or within an enlarged Community, will depend on our economic strength, which is now much greater than it was three years ago, or 10 years ago. In those circumstances, I believe that we can survive, but in neither case shall we be alone.

There will also be the benefits of the Kennedy Round, whether we are in the Common Market or outside it, and these are all parts of what will be an interrelated world trading community. I do not think that there is any question of our standing alone, although I believe that we shall pay a price, and Europe will pay a price equally with us, if agreement cannot be reached.

Mr. J. T. Price

We shall all wish to give the most careful study to the White Paper which my right hon. Friend has just outlined. Is he aware that there is growing anxiety, in all sections of British public opinion, regardless of party politics, about the bipartisan Butskellite movement emanating from this House in favour of admission to the Common Market?

Whatever may be the long-term, hypothetical, imponderable advantages of the Common Market, is it not quite clear to any thinking person who knows anything about our affairs that in the short term the absolutely certain immediate outcome of admission to the Common Market will be, first, increases in food prices, second, a very serious limitation of our sovereign power to make economic decisions, and, third, complete disruption of our agriculture policy, to which many of us have given sincere support?

Will my right hon. Friend take serious notice of those feelings, and ensure that not only the economic theorists are given a hearing, but that practical men who know something about public opinion are given a fair crack of the whip when a decision is taken on this matter?

The Prime Minister

I have not noticed that the fact that both Front Benches are in support of entry to Europe on satisfactory terms has been in any way inhibiting to hon. Members on the back benches of both major parties, to say nothing of the third party. I think that there has been, and will be, a continuing and lively debate. I have not seen any repression of, or inhibition on the part of, those who take a different view from that taken by the Government, or the Official Opposition, or the Liberal leadership—[Interruption.] I was not aware that my hon. Friend was inhibited by that.

The questions asked by my hon. Friend are matters for the judgment of the Government and the House when the time comes. I do not disagree with what my hon. Friend said about the inevitable short-term price as regards agriculture, the cost of living, and other matters, but these will be outweighed by long-term gains to Britain, to Europe, and to the world. This is a matter about which everyone must form an opinion. We cannot form it until we have the negotiations, and that is not an issue on the publication of the White Paper.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is important, but I must protect the business of the House.