HC Deb 05 March 1970 vol 797 cc612-5
Q1. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the visit of the German Chancellor.

Q12. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on his talks with Herr Brandt.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

As the House knows, the Federal German Chancellor's visit to London has been highly successful and widely appreciated, not least his speech to Members of both Houses on Tuesday afternoon.

In my talks with him we covered a very wide range of European and world problems, including East-West relations, our common approach to the problems of N.A.T.O., disarmament, the Middle East and our common hopes of a speedy advance to economic integration and greater political unity in Europe.

As hon. Members would expect, both Governments were in very close agreement on practically every issue we discussed.

Mr. Marten

As the question of political unity in Europe was discussed, and since the E.E.C. is now discussing moving over from unanimous voting to majority voting in the Council of Ministers, did Herr Brandt say whether this is likely to be decided before or after we enter, if we do?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I do not think that Herr Brandt thought that it was for him to enter into matters which are really for negotiation between ourselves and the Six together. But, on the issue of political unity, even the hon. Gentleman, I think, would feel that what the German Chancellor has recently said on this issue, including what he said in Britain, accords very strongly with the views of most hon. Members. Certainly he was not pressing the federal issue, which the hon. Gentleman and many of us have said is not an immediate question anyway.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

What steps did the right hon. Gentleman take to restore the confidence of Herr Brandt in the genuineness of Britain's application to join the E.E.C., undermined as it had been by the Prime Minister's own irresponsible attempt to make party political capital out of our entry?

The Prime Minister

I took no steps, Sir: it was not necessary. I think that I have known Herr Brandt many more years than many hon. Members, and he fully understood the position of Her Majesty's Government on this. The fact that the Opposition, for their own purposes, put out statements which do not relate to the facts may have aroused a little interest in this House, but they do not carry any conviction with those with whom we are dealing in Europe.

Mr. Heath

Is the Prime Minister aware that we welcome the success of Herr Brandt's visit to this country, and particularly his very constructive and helpful approach on Anglo-German relations? Can he tell us whether there was any discussion about future meetings between European Foreign Secretaries in order to achieved a closer co-operation between them on foreign policy, now that this is not at the moment possible in W.E.U.?

The Prime Minister

Since that question is rather different from the previous one, perhaps I might say, in preamble, that I am sure that Herr Brandt has gone back convinced equally of the sincerity of all our major parties in relation to European questions, because I know that he had a constructive talk with the right hon. Gentleman. With regard to the question of political unity, our discussions really centred on the point, on which there have been reports to the House, I think, that if there are to be further talks within the continental members of Europe on political unity, we want to be associated with them. As for W.E.U., the right hon. Gentleman knows what the difficulty is. All of us hope very much that France will soon begin to play an equally big part in W.E.U. with the rest of us.

Mrs. Renée Short

As it is just as much in our interests to improve our relations and our trade with Eastern Europe as it is in West Germany's, did my right hon. Friend discuss with Herr Brandt the effect on our East European trade of regulations introduced by the Common Market countries, which would have an effect on this kind of agreement which we could negotiate?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. We had a very full discussion about the initiatives taken by Herr Brandt, in relation to policies and relations within Europe, and with Eastern European countries in particular. Indeed, his emissary, who had just returned from East Berlin, flew straight to London on Tuesday evening and we were able to have the latest position there. So far as East German trade is concerned, I do not see the kind of difficulties my hon. Friend sees if and when Britain enters the Common Market.

Mr. Thorpe

Reverting to the Prime Minister's answer to the Leader of the Opposition, is he confident that he was able to convince Herr Brandt that, whatever the domestic differences may be between the political parties of this country, on the question of the enthusiasm for joining the Common Market and the position that will be taken by different Governments at the negotiating table, there is very little difference between any prospective Government's position?

The Prime Minister

I do not need to discuss this, or to convince him. Herr Brandt is a very perceptive student of political affairs with a great knowledge of politics in Britain and the parties in Britain. The differences to which an earlier question referred were differences not about the terms that we would be negotiating but on certain domestic questions, where there is a big difference between the official Opposition and ourselves about and what we should do about dearer food on the basis of not joining the Common Market.