HC Deb 24 February 1970 vol 796 cc982-6
Q3. Mr. Farr

asked the Prime Minister if he will appoint a Minister responsible for the assessment of all European Economic Community regulations and directives as they are issued, so far as they affect, or may affect, the United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, under my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, has special responsibility for all matters affecting our entry into the E.E.C., and he and other Ministers concerned with both domestic and external policies keep under review the implications of the development of Community policies.

Mr. Farr

As many thousands of orders have been issued which Parliament will have to accept without amendment, is it not absolutely essential for us to scrutinise them now so that any objectionable material may be dealt with during the negotiations and before it is too late?

The Prime Minister

This is a matter for the negotiations—[Interruption.]—and, of course, some of these matters were dealt with in the Government White Paper of 1967 on the legal and constitutional issues involved. Certainly many thousands of regulations and other instruments have been issued, and many of these have now gone. For example, of the 12,000 or so regulations and the like issued in the last 10 or 11 years, 3,500 are still in force. Of the 7,000-odd regulations 1,200 are now in force.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

How many of our laws and regulations will have to be altered if we enter the E.E.C.? Will it not he in the region of 2,000?

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the White Paper which I mentioned. As a distinguished lawyer, he will, no doubt, be able to appreciate all the arguments contained it it. Really, however, these are matters for the negotiations; and the House and the Government are properly concerned not with all the minutae of the regulations but with the main strategic issues which will form part of the negotiations.

Q8. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Prime Minister what are the specific proposals he will make when negotiations take place with the European Economic Community which safeguard British interests.

The Prime Minister

I would refer my right hon. Friend to my reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) on 19th February.—[Vol. 796, c. 187.]

Mr. Shinwell

Perhaps with his retentive memory my right hon. Friend will recall that that answer was a generalisation. Does my right hon. Friend ever remind himself of the five or six conditions which have been frequently agreed at party conferences and which have been stated by him on many occasions? Does he still believe in those conditions? Has he no clear, specific and definite ideas in his head about this matter, or is he just unwilling to tell us about them?

The Prime Minister

On this matter my memory is more precise than that of my right hon. Friend, which is a rare occurrence, but only because I have just had a chance to look the matter up. The answer to which I referred him dealt with a whole series of points to be taken up in the negotiations, and this long series of points was set out in the statement made by the then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown), at the meeting of the Council of Western European Union. My right hon. Friend will find that the issues which are in his mind were covered in that statement.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Is the right hon. Gentleman preparing to fight the next General Election on a policy of not going into the Common Market?

The Prime Minister

It is difficult to explain anything to the hon. and learned Gentleman, but I will try to help him on this one. If he will read the speech which I made last Saturday he will find that matter clearly dealt with, right down the line. What I said last week was in criticism of the Opposition, not in respect of what this country might have to undertake——

Sir G. Nabarro


The Prime Minister

—would have to undertake if we got satisfactory terms; I was dealing with the attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite on some of these issues willy-nilly whether or not we were in the Common Market.

Mr. J. T. Price

If and when these negotiations commence, in Brussels or elsewhere, will my right hon. Friend put as the first priority on his list the making of inquiries among our European neighbours as to why we are suffering inconvenience at British ports every week because of French housewives blocking them as they come to Dover and other ports to do their shopping in British supermarkets?

The Prime Minister

The habit of not only housewives but of the other gender, from the Common Market and from more widely afield, including America, of coming to this country to buy not only foodstuffs but many other commodities was one of the points to which I referred in my speech on Saturday, as I did in a speech which I made on the South Coast last September. It is the apparent unwillingness of the Opposition to allow this to continue, whether or not we get into the E.E.C., that was the subject of my speech.

Mr. Hastings

Has the Prime Minister noted the comments of prominent Europeans since his latest speech on this issue which clearly indicate that the right hon. Gentleman is already suspected of playing politics with it?

The Prime Minister

I have not seen such comments of any named leaders of Europe on this matter. I have seen the suggestion that some of them are muttering, just as I see a large selection of reports about hon. Gentlemen opposite muttering.

Sir G. Nabarro

They are muttering behind the right hon. Gentleman.

The Prime Minister

I have not heard anybody muttering behind me about my speech last Saturday, which received the full support of all my hon. Friends—[Interruption]—and many hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is for these mythical leaders of Europe and for mythical hon. Members of this House to become articulate, and hon. Members will have a chance to do that in the two-day debate which will be starting in a few minutes' time.

Q9. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Prime Minister whether he will arrange for Members of Parliament to be present during the forthcoming negotiations on Great Britain's entry into the Common Market.

The Prime Minister

No. Sir, but I intend that there shall be full reports to the House on the progress of negotiations, and the results will, of course, be laid before the House.

Mr. Lewis

Would my right hon. Friend seriously consider the advisability of seeking the assistance and wisdom of the Father and Deputy Father of the House about these negotiations? I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) would be only too willing to give him every help and guidance.

The Prime Minister

I see no lack of inclination on the part of either the venerable Father or Deputy Father of the House to give all the assistance they can in our consideration of these matters. In the next two days the House will be debating these questions and hon. Members in all parts will be giving their advice to the Government on the conduct of the negotiations.

Since the application is not in question and since the House as a whole I think agrees that the negotiations should go forward, we look forward in the next two days to getting the widest possible range of advice on how the negotiations should be conducted.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

In any negotiations that occur, will the right hon. Gentleman always bear in mind the interests of our friends, such as Australia and New Zealand and, to be topical, Yugoslavia?

Mr. Russell Kerr

Well spoken, gunboat.

The Prime Minister

The question of Commonwealth interests was fully dealt with in the White Paper to which I referred when answering an earlier Question.

Mr. Lipton

Has my right hon. Friend noticed that for the first time for a very long time there is not a Question on the Order Paper asking him to go somewhere?