HC Deb 02 August 1971 vol 822 cc1056-67
2. Dr. Gilbert

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what negotiations will be necessary under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade should any of the present European Free Trade Assciation members not obtain full membership of the European Economic Community; and if he will make a statement.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)

Of the present members of the European Free Trade Association, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Norway have applied for full membership of the European Community.

The other members of E.F.T.A. are seeking arrangements with the Community which would vary, country by country, depending on their political, economic and social position; and they are at present engaged in discussions with the Community.

Any such arrangements, when concluded, would normally be considered by the Contracting Parties to the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs in the light of Article XXIV.

Dr. Gilbert

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman saying that there will have to be negotiations? If there will have to be, has he taken note of the serious increase in protectionist sentiment in the United States recently and especially the Congressional sentiment, towards trade and agriculture policy? Does he have anything to say about that?

Mrs. Rippon

The position of the United States is another matter. In the course of all these negotiations a number of things happen which are relevant to G.A.T.T. All that will happen, in the normal course of events, is that when the agreement is concluded we shall report the matter to G.A.T.T.

Mr. Marten

If we do not join the Common Market, what agreement shall we seek with Common Market countries?

Mr. Rippon

That is a hypothetical question, which is not likely to arise.

Mr. Healey

To revert to the original Question, has the Minister's attention been drawn to the speech by Senator Humphrey in London last weekend, and earlier speeches made by the American Secretary of the Treasury and the American Secretary of State? Since Her Majesty's Government—I understand—are now being consulted by the members of the Common Market on important major issues of common concern, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman assure the House that Her Majesty's Government will press for a reduction in the present discrimination operating in the Common Market against external countries, in view of the real risk that this could lead to American retaliation and grave damage to British trade?

Mr. Rippon

We have been in close touch with the American Administration. I have seen the speech to which the right hon. Gentleman refers. He will know that successive American Administrations have wholeheartedly supported Britain's application to join the Community, and have wished to see enlargement of the Community for many reasons. There are a number of matters that concern them about which we keep in touch. It is also fair to bear in mind that the Community is less protectionist than many other countries are.

3. Mr. Tilney

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what restrictions there are in the countries of the European Economic Community on participation in pools operated in Great Britain; and what action is being taken by Her Majesty's Government in negotiations for entry into the Common Market to remove such restrictions.

Mr. Rippon

A number of such restrictions are applied, varying from country to country. They do not present a difficulty in so far as our accession to the Community is concerned and are not, therefore, a matter for negotiation.

Mr. Tilney

Will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that over 12,000 people are employed on the Merseyside in the pools business? Will it be possible to come to some agreement with the Common Market countries, rather on the lines of a double taxation agreement, whereby a proportion of our pools excise duty goes back to the country of origin, so that our balance of payments and employment on Merseyside may both benefit?

Mr. Rippon

Our present arrangements outside the Community will not be affected by our joining. As regards the other matters which my hon. Friend raises, we shall, clearly, be in a better position, once we are inside the Community, to raise questions of that kind, all of which, I have no doubt, will be for the benefit of his constituents.

7. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next proposes to hold a Ministerial meeting with the European Economic Community.

Mr. Rippon

The next Ministerial meeting will be on 21st September.

Mr. Marten

When my right hon. and learned Friend started negotiations with the Six, was it on the basis that if terms were agreed and put before the House the Government should make them the question of a vote of confidence, and, following from that, was it also asked by the Six that there should be broad agreement between the two main parties, and did they ever define—if not, could he ask the Ministers to define—what they expect by the wholehearted support of the House?

Mrs. Rippon

None of those matters was raised with the Ministers; nor are they likely to be.

Mr. Molloy

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman confirm with his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary that, after that meeting, they should consider meeting their equivalent Ministers in the Commonwealth to discuss many of the points which must arise from the next meeting?

Mr. Rippon

There are all sorts of discussions taking place at all sorts of levels all the time. I have no doubt that these will continue.

11. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many members of the Commonwealth have now made official representations to Her Majesty's Government against details of the terms agreed for United Kingdom entry to the European Economic Community; and if he will make a tour of those countries before final decisions on entry to the European Economic Community are taken.

Mr. Rippon

No Commonwealth Government have expressed formal opposition to our joining the European Economic Community. Australia has expressed concern about the effect on its exports of some of the details of the arrangements negotiated. Some anxieties have also been expressed by India and Pakistan.

Mr. Hamilton

How many Commonwealth Governments have come out specifically and positively in favour of the terms of entry that have been negotiated? In answer to the second part of the Question, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give an undertaking that he will consult the Commonwealth Governments more closely on the implications of the Immigration Bill as it affects the free movement of labour of Commonwealth citizens into the country?

Mr. Rippon

Various Commonwealth Governments have expressed their views at various times. I think that most of them have made it clear that they understand the reasons why we are applying, and many of them have specifically welcomed our application. There are regular meetings with the High Commissioners of the Commonwealth both in Brussels and in London. We are concerned, although we have not settled it yet, about the definition of "United Kingdom national" in the context of the movement of labour, and we are in consultation, and will remain in consultation, about that aspect.

Mr. McMaster

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the very great concern felt in Northern Ireland about the recently announced agreement that the movement of labour will be renewed by the Common Market countries after three years? Is he aware that this might affect the sovereignty of the people of Northern Ireland and lead to an upsetting of the political balance? Will he try to obtain better terms with respect to safeguarding employment in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Rippon

That is taking the matter a little wider than the Question on the Order Paper. It would perhaps be more appropriate for me to deal with the point when we reach another Question later on.

Mr. Mayhew

Did I hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman say that the Australian Government had made no formal complaint at all? Is he aware that broadcasts made by an Australian spokesman in this country on the subject created an unfavourable impression not only on British viewers but back home in Australia?

Mr. Rippon

The point I was making was that Australia, like other Commonwealth countries, has never expressed opposition to our entry but has expressed anxieties about the effects of our entry upon certain specific exports. I believe that we have got an agreement which is much more comprehensive and effective than perhaps they fully understood. This matter was raised in last week's debate and I have indicated our willingness to consider with the Australian Government commodity by commodity where they feel it appropriate and where they feel that there is any threat of severe disruption to trade in any agricultural products.

17. Mr. Scott-Hopkins

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he remains satisfied that the negotiations for entry into the European Economic Community will be completed in time for the announced timetable for parliamentary action; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Rippon

The progress in our negotiations with the Community gives no grounds to anticipate any adjustment to the arrangements for parliamentary consideration outlined by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in his statement to the House on 17th June.—[Vol. 819, c. 643–5.]

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that negotiations on New Zealand are virtually finished and that the New Zealanders are satisfied that their interests will be protected for at least a generation? Will he also confirm that the fishery negotiations will take place at the next meeting of Ministers?

Mr. Rippon

I am satisfied that the arrangements made for New Zealand are of unlimited duration, and I hope that they will continue for as long as necessary. The question of fisheries is difficult and complex. We may make progress on 21st September, but whatever happens we must go on until we reach a satisfactory arrangement.

21. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs why the document, "Britain and Europe", contains no table showing relative social security benefit increases in Common Market countries comparable with the table showing increases in average incomes; and whether he will arrange for such a table to be included in subsequent editions.

Mr. Rippon

No, Sir. There is obviously a limit to the number of tables and diagrams which can be included in a 16-page publication.

Mrs. Lewis

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the taxpayers are paying for all this propaganda and that if they are paying for the false propaganda which is being put out, they would also like some facts and figures? Could the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster publish a supplementary White Paper to show all the necessary Orders in Council which the House will not be able to amend in any way and which will have to be agreed in toto, so that the House and the country may know what will have to happen?

Mr. Rippon

I will certainly bear in mind the hon. Gentleman's enthusiasm for more information to be published. I wish that we could have found room for this table, because it would have shown the British people that by and large social security benefits are rather larger in the Community than they are here.

Mr. Selwyn Gummer

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) very quickly moved from the subject of social security benefits when he found that such a table would be very much to the advantage of the argument of those who wish us to enter the European Economic Community? Has my right hon. and learned Friend considered the possibility of producing another White Paper with all these facts so that one may show how clear is the case for our entry?

Mr. Rippon

We will bear that in mind. Meanwhile, if the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) cares to look at that excellent publication by the Community, "The Community and the Common Man", he will see a great deal of useful information supporting our entry.

Mrs. Spearing

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that a table of increases in average incomes is somewhat vague and that it would have been better to show a table of incomes for comparable occupations? Will he consider that as a supplement to the information already published?

Mr. Rippon

It is important that it should be understood that the increase in real incomes in the Community in recent years has been far higher than that in the United Kingdom.

22. Mr. Hayhoe

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the progress of the negotiations over British membership of the European Economic Community.

28. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the present state of the European Economic Community negotiations.

Mr. Rippon

I have nothing to add to my statement of 14th July and to my answer on 26th July to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) about the Northern Ireland Safeguarding of Employment Act.—[Vol. 821, c. 491–5; Vol. 822, c. 21–2.]

Mrs. Hayhoe

Would not my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the significant progress in recent weeks, perhaps as a result of debates in the House and outside, has been the highly significant and decisive swing in public opinion in favour of our entry into the Common Market?

Mr. Rippon

I am sure that my hon. Friend is right in what he says about public opinion. It is simply that the more people that know about the Community, the more they are anxious for us to go in.

Mrs, St. John-Stevas

Has my right hon. and learned Friend observed that this massive swing in public opinion in favour of entry—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, for the first time there are more people in favour than there are against—has occurred since the Leader of the Opposition came out against it? Can my right hon. and learned Friend judge whether this concatenation of events is purely coincidental?

Mr. Rippon

That is not a matter for me. These are troubled waters in which I do not choose to delve at the moment.

Mr. J. T. Price

As a number of important issues have been swept under the carpet because the right hon. and learned Gentleman was anxious to bring a cocked-up agreement to the House some weeks ago, can he tell the House what diplomatic activities will take place as soon as the House goes into recess on, for instance, the liquidation of the sterling balances, the abandonment of sterling as a reserve currency and the fishing agreements, all of them awkward questions? Are we to be given a report in the autumn about what will have been going on in the chancellories in the interim before we vote on the matter?

Mr. Rippon

Some of these matters, not that concerning sterling, will come up in the negotiations again. There will be another Ministerial meeting on 21st September and I have no doubt that the subject of fisheries will be considered, although I cannot guarantee that we shall settle the matter then. Far from agreements having been cocked up, to use the hon. Gentleman's elegant expression, they have been carefully considered and always reported in full to the House.

Mrs. Healey

In view of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's enthusiasm for giving the House and the public all possible information on this subject, can he explain to the House why the Government have suppressed the figure for the foreign exchange costs arising out of tariff changes on industrial goods, considering the fact that he gave the figure of £200 million to £300 million in December?

Mr. Rippon

None of these matters arose in the negotiations, as the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate. The negotiations were concerned with the contribution to the Community budget, and that I dealt with on 16th December. There were then, derived from the White Paper of 1967, certain figures covering a number of matters, including tariff changes and changes in food import prices. One of these elements is quantified in the White Paper. The two balancing elements of the tariff changes due to changes of Commonwealth preference and the tariff advantages which will come from joining the Community are not quantifiable, and I think that everyone has recognised that. It has been very difficult for a long time.

Mr. Healey

Is it not the case that the Minister gave the House a figure in December of £200 million to £300 million and that it was suppressed, contrary to his own advice, by the Cabinet, and that he confirmed this figure privately as recently as 24th June?

Mr. Rippon

The right hon. Gentleman has no knowledge, naturally, of what advice I gave to the Cabinet, and it certainly would not follow the lines he has suggested. I have made it perfectly clear, and what I said on 16th December is on the record. It contains two elements, one of which has been quantified in the White Paper.

25. Mr. Latham

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what part a proposed British commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation European Defence Improvement Programme has played in the negotiations for British entry into the European Economic Community.

Mr. Rippon

None, Sir. Defence matters have at no time been an issue in the negotiations for enlargement of the European Economic Community.

Mr. Latham

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman assert that the fact that the billion-dollar European Defence Improvement Programme was agreed upon during the period of the Common Market negotiations is pure coincidence? Has his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary read the speech of the Minister of State for Defence at Munich in February in which he spoke of moving towards a political and defence union in Europe? Does this not mean a common weaponry and a consequent passing of British nuclear weapons into German and French hands, among others?

Mr. Rippon

It had nothing to do with the negotiations to enter the Community. The hon. Gentleman can say it is coincidence in the sense that the agreement would have been reached in any event.

Mr. Hastings

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that there are those of us who are disturbed that defence has played no part in these discussions with the Community so far and who hope that such discussions will start before long?

Mr. Rippon

They will not arise in these negotiations, although, of course, we have interests in European defence, and one hopes that there are many aspects of European defence which may be assisted as a result of the enlargement of the Community. That does not follow from the negotiations.

Mr. Shore

How can the Chancellor assert that it has nothing to do with defence policy when the White Paper asserts again and again that Britain's security as well as her prosperity would be increased if we were to join? Is this not yet another area in which the benefit of a detailed and probing Select Committee examination would be felt by the House and the country?

Mr. Rippon

Even in a Select Committee people would have to ask the right questions.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is no need to pussyfoot about it? Surely the object of our European policy should be to establish a European defence in a situation where the Americans want to leave and the Russians show no signs of doing so? Will he and the Government: draw the conclusions and not be afraid to tell the British nation?

Mr. Rippon

As my hon. Friend appreciates, all that I am doing is answering a question about what part defence matters played in the negotiations. The answer is "none". That is not to say that European defence is not an important issue and that other of my right hon. Friends cannot deal with it and have not dealt with it from time to time.

Mr. John Mendelson

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman then deny, in the light of what he has said, that the Prime Minister has been pursuing plans for some time to create a joint Anglo-French nuclear command, which would be a third nuclear command? [Interruption.] I know that it has the support of some hon. Members opposite. Would the Minister admit that this plan is still in the mind of the Prime Minister and that the Government have failed to put any of these ideas before the House in the debate on entry to the E.E.C.? [Interruption.] I am pleased to see the Prime Minister in the Chamber. I was asking his right hon. and learned Friend whether he has now given up the idea developed in the Godkin Lectures of an Anglo-French nuclear command. If he has not, are not the Government guilty of suppressing some of the essential elements in the whole negotiations over entry to the E.E.C.? Should there not be an additional White Paper on this problem before the House takes a vote on 28th October?

Mr. Rippon

These questions have been put from time to time to the Prime Minister and he has answered them. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] They have played no part in the negotiations.

Mr. Healey

Returning to the original Question, would the Chancellor of the Duchy add to the dismay of his hon. Friends below the Gangway by admitting that the Government made no contribution to the European Defence Improvement programme until they had an assurance from the West German Government that they would meet the cost?

Mr. Rippon

That has nothing whatever to do with this question.