HC Deb 20 July 1970 vol 804 cc1-7
1. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proposals he has, and what methods he will use, to keep Members of Parliament fully informed of the progress made on the application to enter the Common Market.

19. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what arrangements he is making to keep the public informed of the progress of negotiations with the Common Market countries.

34. Sir G. de Freitas

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what are his plans for publicising the negotiations for Great Britain's entry into the European Economic Community.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Anthony Barber)

I shall be reporting to the House from time to time on the progress of negotiations, and will also be making information available through the Press and broadcasting media.

Mrs. Short

In view of the undoubted unpopularity of the proposals and of the difficulties among the Six which are becoming evident—for example, the latest difficulties with the lire and the mark—will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that we shall want to know absolutely and precisely, not only what proposals the Six make to us, but the proposals that the right hon. Gentleman makes to them and that we shall want the fullest opportunity to discuss them and to see his proposals produced as White Papers or Green Papers? Will he give the House an undertaking that this will be done and that there will be adequate opportunity for the House to discuss the matter? [HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."] This is a very important matter.

Mr. Barber

The hon. Lady is quite right: it is precisely because it is such an important matter that I shall be reporting to the House from time to time on the progress of the negotiations.

Mr. Lane

May I wish my right hon. Friend success in the negotiations? As the majority of the public appear to be neither in favour nor against but open to persuasion, would my right hon. Friend, in his regular progress reports to the public, put the maximum stress on the benefits as distinct from the disadvantages?

Mr. Barber

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's good wishes. We have never sought to disguise from the House and the country that there will be short-term disadvantages. But it is also absolutely right that one should point out the very important long-term and medium-term advantage to this country if we are able to join on reasonable terms.

Sir G. de Freitas

In any publicity, will the right hon. Gentleman take into account directly connected discussions such as those likely to take place next week, I think, in Geneva on trade between the E.E.C., the United States, Japan and this country?

Mr. Barber

Certainly. Those are the sort of considerations that I shall bear in mind in conducting the negotiations on behalf of Her Majesty's Government.

6. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Common Market negotiations.

12. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the state of the negotiations for Great Britain to join the Common Market.

20. Mr. Barnes

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the opening of negotiations for British entry into the European Economic Community.

23. Mr. Cronin

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the negotiations to enter the European Economic Community.

30. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the negotiations for British entry into the Common Market.

Mr. Barber

I would refer hon. Members to the statement which I made on our position when the negotiations for membership opened on 30th June. That statement was published as a White Paper (Cmnd. 4401).

I am leaving this afternoon for Brussels for the next Ministerial meeting which is being held tomorrow, and I shall report to the House on the outcome of that meeting at the earliest opportunity after my return to London.

Mr. Marten

Can my right hon. Friend clarify the Government's position towards a European monetary union? Do the Government intend to let sterling get locked into such a European monetary union? If so, how does this square with the thinking of the International Monetary Fund on more flexible exchange rates and also with our own sovereignty?

Mr. Barber

Her Majesty's Government have received no approaches from the European Economic Community on the question of international monetary matters. We are, of course, as my hon. Friend will appreciate, in close touch on these matters with the Community Governments along with those of other countries in bodies such as the I.M.F. and the Group of Ten. Perhaps I may say to my hon. Friend that, in general, we see no incompatibility between the aims of the I.M.F. in these fields and those of the European Economic Community.

Mr. Barnes

Now that the main negotiations are starting, will not the Minister agree that it is very important that the advantages of Britain's joining should be stated as positively as possible for people in this country? Would he not agree that that would in no way be incompatible with maintaining a strong negotiating position?

Mr. Barber

I agree entirely with what the hon. Member has said. In answer to a Question a few minutes ago, I said that I had never sought to hide the short-term difficulties of joining, but I agree that it is about time that the British people realised the longer-term benefits, provided that we can get reasonable terms. [Interruption.] The fact is that productivity in the Common Market has been rising faster than ours, output has been rising faster than ours, incomes have been rising faster than ours, consumption has been rising faster than ours, earnings in the Common Market have been rising faster than ours and the standard of living has been rising faster than ours.

Mr. Allaun

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an undertaking that Britain will not, as part of the entrance fee, agree to share her nuclear secrets with France? Would not that be a breach of the spirit of the non-proliferation treaty?

Mr. Barber

Defence does not form any part of the Treaty of Rome and I would not think it likely to form any part of our negotiations.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Sir Hárry Legge-Bourke, whose work as my Chairman over the years I much appreciate.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

I hope you will allow me to say how deeply I appreciate those very kind words, Mr. Speaker.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether, in the course of the negotiations, he proposes to probe as deeply as possible the work which has been done so far on behalf of the Common Market countries by Professor Triffin, of Columbia University, who has been working on a common currency?

Mr. Barber

Again, no approaches have been made to Her Majesty's Government about this. I have, however, read what my hon. Friend has read in the Press and, obviously, I will bear in mind what he says. I cannot go further than that.

Mr. Barnett

While noting what the right hon. Gentleman said to his hon. Friend about there being no approach from the Six concerning international monetary matters, may I ask him to comment on reports that the Foreign Secretary has agreed not to press or to support any new more flexible approach to these currency matters during the period of negotiations? As these may well last for up to two years, would not this be an outrageous commitment? Will the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, deny these reports?

Mr. Barber

The position is that Her Majesty's Government welcome the moves which the European Economic Community has already made towards closer economic and monetary integration and we are ready to play our full part.

Mr. Turton

Will my right hon. Friend say whether the financing of the Common Market agricultural policy will or will not be an early item on the agenda?

Mr. Barber

I hope that it can be considered reasonably early because it is of such great importance. It would be difficult for me to say exactly when it will be considered because, so far, we have had only the formal opening of the negotiations. It would be as well to wait until after the meeting to which I am travelling this afternoon before we are able to let the House and the country know which matters will be considered first.

31. Mr. Jay

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will give an assurance that it is not the policy of the Government to merge the United Kingdom in any Federal State in Western Europe or elsewhere.

Mr. Barber

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made clear that our approach to this question is a pragmatic one. We want to work more closely together to achieve Europe's aims but it is not our intention to draw up a blueprint for a federal Europe.

Mr. Jay

Whatever that may mean, will not the Minister give a clear assurance, as did the Prime Minister in the previous Government, that this is not the policy of the Government?

Mr. Barber

What I said meant exactly what I said. The simple fact, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, is that there is no reference to federalism in the Treaty of Rome.

Mr. Marten

Even pragmatism can work very rapidly sometimes. Is not it, therefore, the duty of our Government to look ahead as statesmen and say whether or not they will accept federalism?

Mr. Barber

I should have thought that it was a sufficient safeguard to say that a federal State could not be brought into being without the assent of all the members of the Community.