HC Deb 06 May 1970 vol 801 cc396-7
16. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will initiate discussions with the Common Market members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation with a view to discussing the implications of a common policy on conscription.

Mr. Hattersley

No, Sir.

Mr. Marten

As all the Common Market countries with the exception of Luxembourg have conscription, would not Britain be the odd man out if we joined the Common Market with the object of having a unified defence?

Mr. Hattersley

I think that, not for the first time, the hon. Gentleman misunderstands some of the objections of the European Economic Community. I think he will agree that I am at least as enthusiastic for our membership of the Community as he is, and he may therefore rest assured that we are taking whatever steps are appropriate and necessary. This is not one of them.

Mr. Orme

We are well aware of my hon. Friend's views on the Common Market, and that is what worries many of us on this side of the House. France and other countries have used conscription and defence as an argument for Britain to join the E.E.C., and we are concerned that the Defence Ministry should state its position on this important issue.

Mr. Hattersley

I do not pretend for a moment that the issue is not an important or indeed fundamental one, but what I do insist upon is that on many occasions in the last two months the Government have made their position on conscription very clear. That position is unalterable, and I think it satisfies my hon. Friend.