HC Deb 05 July 1971 vol 820 cc904-5
11. Mr. Jay

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he can give an assurance that the expansion of the British steel industry will not be limited by the European Steel and Coal Community in the event of the United Kingdom becoming a member.

Mr. John Davies

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Jay

In that case, will the Secretary of State now publish, so that hon. Members can have it, the memorandum on the subject from the European Coal and Steel Community which was presented to the Government on 4th May?

Mr. Davies

No, Sir. If all the documents which are part of the negotiations were published, it would make negotiation exceedingly difficult—[HON MEMBERS: "Oh."] I realise that something that must be very approximate to the document has recently appeared.

Mr. Michael Foot

Following the right hon. Gentleman's last reply, will he absolutely confirm to the House that the document originally published in The Guardian and republished today in the Financial Times is the authentic document? Second, will he confirm that the British negotiators made no objection to the document, and raised no point in opposition to it? Third, will he confirm that it was the original intention of the Government not to disclose these discussions to the House or the country even in the White Paper, which is why the White Paper in this respect is now being rewritten?

Mr. Davies

The hon. Gentleman would do very well to wait for the White Paper, when the matter can be fully discussed. The Guardian article was a commentary and did not pretend to be an exact reproduction of the document itself. But, as I say, the whole matter can better await the publication of the White Paper.

Mr. Lane

Is not this another example of an anti-Market hare which is not going to run?

Mr. Davies

Yes, Sir. I do not think that it has very far to run, I am bound to say.

Mr. Foot

But since on New Zealand and on Commonwealth sugar the Government were perfectly prepared to claim that they had made objections to the original demands of the Community, even though eventually they conceded them in general, or in the main part, why does the right hon. Gentleman refuse to tell the House, and the people who work in the steel industry or the coal industry, what the response of Her Majesty's Government was when this document was lodged with them? If such information could be given on the other matters, why is it being withheld in this case?

Mr. Davies

It is the Government's belief that the negotiators, at the time of the negotiation, handled the essential issues which surround these problems. As I say, the matter will be very much clearer when the White Paper is issued, and I suggest that it can better be discussed then.