HC Deb 11 February 1971 vol 811 cc788-9
Q4. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister if he will invite the French Prime Minister to visit Great Britain.

The Prime Minister

I have indicated to the French Prime Minister that he will be welcome here whenever he is able to come.

Mr. Marten

I am delighted to hear that news. Now that the Common Market has agreed to go ahead towards economic and monetary union, would not such a visit be a convenient way for the French Prime Minister to inform himself of the feelings of the people of this country about these and similar matters?

The Prime Minister

The French Prime Minister has all the normal means of diplomacy open to him to keep himself informed about the views of people in Britain. If he were able to come here on a visit, which we should welcome, he would no doubt have an opportunity of speaking to the British people and explaining his views, which no doubt he would do in English.

Mr. Heffer

Will the right hon. Gentleman indicate to the French Prime Minister, when he does meet him, that even those people who are keen on European unity cannot possibly accept the agricultural system of the Common Market, and that it must be a subject of renegotiation before Britain could possibly accept entry into the E.E.C.?

The Prime Minister

I had an opportunity of talking to the French President and the French Prime Minister in Paris in November, but I was not able to make that point to them because in the attempted negotiations by the previous Administration and at the beginning of the negotiations of this Administration, it was indicated that we did accept the common agricultural policy as a system.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Does the Prime Minister realise that, whatever may be our views on the Common Market, there are hon. Members on both sides of the House who welcome the restoration of l'entente cordiale with France?

The Prime Minister

Yes, we were all very glad to hear the words of the President of France in his Press conference. I personally welcome the closer and much happier relations we now have with the French people.

Mr. Molloy

If the Prime Minister has discussions with the French Prime Minister, will he tell him that, despite Press reports and other forms of mass media propaganda, the majority of the British people are apprehensive about joining the Common Market and that, if we were to do so, we have no desire to smash E.F.T.A.?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is quite right; the position of the E.F.T.A. countries is very important. As he knows, two of them are already negotiating with us for full membership and the others are in process of discussions about the particular arrangements they want.