HC Deb 28 June 1971 vol 820 cc165-76

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Clegg.]

10.13 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

I apologise for having changed the original subject of my Adjournment debate. I did so because I could not resolve that issue, but I believe that in the presence of a number of hon. Members I am raising a question to which many people would like an answer. I see that the debate is to be answered by the Under-Secretary of State. I should have thought that a matter as important as this called for a reply from either the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster or the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

This is a simple issue. What did M. Pompidou, the President of France, say over the weekend? Did he, or did he not, completely and utterly contradict the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster? Or did the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster completely contradict M. Pompidou? Or did the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster not know what M. Pompidou was up to? I ask that because only last week the right hon. and learned Gentleman made a statement which was completely contradictory to the statement made by President Pompidou over the weekend.

I know that many hon. Members wish to take part in the debate, and I shall therefore be brief. I propose to quote the relevant extract from the President's speech. If hon. Members want to read the speech in full, they will find it in The Times or the Financial Times of today. According to The Times, President Pompidou, speaking at St. Flour—rather appropriate that—said: Britain is importing 75,000 tons of cheese every year from New Zealand. But under Common Market rules, these imports will decrease and tend to disappear. There lies a new possibility for you. You will have to take it. The report in The Times goes on to say that … a B.B.C. bulletin yesterday suggested that M. Pompidou was referring to British imports from New Zealand in general, and that he said these ' would diminish and would reach vanishing point '. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) tried to raise a Private Notice Question on this matter, and he has made a very good statement, as I would expect of him, to the Press. I would like to quote it, but I would ask hon. Members to read my hon. Friend's statement in The Times and also the statement by the former Leader of the House, my right hon. Friend—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I heard the hon. Member refer to a Private Notice Quesiton. I would remind him that if a Private Notice Question is not allowed, it is absolutely out of order to make any reference to it.

Mr. Lewis

I apologise, Mr. Speaker. My right hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) also made a statement, as a former Leader of the House and a former Minister of Agriculture. I would like to quote what he said, which is as follows: M. Pompidou's call to the French farmers to look to Britain for new opportunities is refreshingly frank. We should not blame France. Britain has capitulated. Whatever terms have emerged from the negotiations in Brussels and the Heath-Pompidou meeting there is one certainty: our full acceptance of the common agricultural policy means preference for French farmers as against Commonwealth farmers in the British food market. New Zealand has been promised a temporary respite. But it is only a respite. Throughout the negotiations Australia has been ignored and treated with cold contempt. Even the sugar producers of the Commonwealth have only vague promises of a guaranteed future. The article in The Times continues Mr. Neil Marten, Conservative M.P. for Banbury and a leading anti-marketeer on the Tory side of the House, said ' President Pompidou seems to have let a kitten out of the bag '. Perhaps that should be described as a big cat rather than a kitten.

This is a serious subject, and I will complete my remarks very swiftly in order to give other hon. Members the opportunity to take part in this debate. This shows that if we are silly enough to accept the advice of some hon. Members, though not all in this House, we shall be sold down the river on the issue of the Common Market. I am sure that the overwhelming majority of the people of the country, and, I believe, the majority of this House, will not agree to being sold out on this issue. Therefore, I make no apology for being quick and brief on this matter to give an opportunity to other hon. Members to speak.

10.18 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)

I am sure the whole House is greatly indebted to the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) for having raised this subject. I hope that the Foreign Office will put the French text of this speech in the Library tomorrow morning. I must say that when I approached the Foreign Office earlier today it did not know of its existence.

The second part of the speech by President Pompidou is even more important than the first. The second part of the speech said clearly that it was no longer the intention of France to reorganise her agriculture by the creation of larger holdings. What we in this House are interested in is the price of food for the British housewife, and if there is to be no reorganisation of European agriculture we are going into a market where undoubtedly the price of agricultural products will rise. It is clear from what President Pompidou said that so far as he and the French Government are concerned any idea of reorganisation on the lines of the Mansholt Plan, with the creation of greater agricultural units, is out of the question. This is why I want to see the French text placed in the Library.

I know that my hon. Friends are in some difficulty over this matter. I must remind them that Brussels is very close to Waterloo. In European history one always has to be careful of one's allies and one's friends.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)

And in Parliament.

Mr. Fraser

I know a little story, not about an admiral but about a marshal. When Napolean was staggering at the last moment, he asked, "Where is Grouchy?" My right hon. and learned Friend should be asking, "Where is Grouchy?" President Pompidou has stabbed him in the back by this sort of speech. We want to know precisely what was said. We want to analyse it and be quite clear that there has not been an abandonment of the Mansholt Plan, without which agricultural prices in Europe will rise.

10.20 p.m.

Mr. Edward Milne (Blyth)

My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) is to be congratulated on raising this important subject at this stage in the Common Market negotiations. Although we are being told that Britain will join if the terms are right, I agree with my hon. Friend that we must find out not just whether the terms are right but what the terms are. It all depends on the interpretation that is placed on the speech made by President Pompidou.

On an earlier occasion I had to raise a point of order with you, Mr. Speaker, in view of what I regarded as the scant respect with which the House was being treated in the light of the report which Britain's chief negotiator produced on one of his returns from Brussels. We now find that after all the euphoria of last Thursday, when we were told that we were taking a step forward from Luxembourg to Brussels and were on our way into the Market, doubt is being cast on what has been said. These important questions must be answered before we even begin to start considering whether we should enter the Community.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

When anybody has struck a bargain he always goes home to his friends and says what a wonderful deal he has achieved.

10.22 p.m.

Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)

The hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) made an interesting observation. What he said is what many of us think the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has said.

The Chancellor of the Duchy has done dirt on Britain and the Commonwealth every time he has been to Brussels and when he returns to this House he deludes some hon. Gentlemen opposite and one or two of my hon. Friends, who wave their Order Papers at what they think has been a marvellous achievement.

In effect, however, the Chancellor of the Duchy has said that, as far as New Zealand is concerned, quantitative guarantees have been agreed for the first five years during which that country will be guaranteed a market for agreed quantities and that if we enter the Common Market, the institutions of the enlarged Community will afterwards review the arrangements for New Zealand.

It is clear from what M. Pompidou has said that, in his view, this whole deal has been done in favour of the French farmers. He was speaking in his own constituency, which is a famous cheese-producing region of France. There are many such regions in that country. He wants to show that he has the better of the Chancellor of the Duchy. M. Pompidou has indicated this clearly. We want to know in how many other directions he has got the better of our negotiator.

For example, we know that M. Pompidou has achieved that in regard to Australia. We feel certain that he has got the better of the Chancellor of the Duchy in relation to the sugar-producing countries. I hope that tonight the Minister will come clean and give us some indication, if he can, of the duplicity of the Chancellor of the Duchy in selling out to France in this way.

10.24 p.m.

Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)

First, I support the request made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) that the text of the speech should be placed in the Library, because I confess that when I read the French newspapers on the subject of the sugar deal I found there was a great difference between the French and British interpretations.

Secondly, I hope that when my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State replies he will not say, "Well, of course, the President was speaking in his constituency"—as the hon. Lady the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short) has said. It might be all right for my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) to put things to his constituents with a slight local slant, but when one is President of France one does not do that sort of thing.

10.25 p.m.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

It really does seem that once again French policy is purely selfish. It has been selfish in defence and it has been selfish inside the Market. France has always taken this purely selfish attitude as an ally.

Mr. Marshall thanked the Minister for making the best arrangements available in the circumstances. He used almost the same words as Mary Queen of Scots used to the Governor Fotheringay when she thanked him for making arrangements for her execution. We are now learning that these arrangements were for the execution of Empire agriculture.

10.26 p.m.

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

The House and the British public have been misled by someone, and we want to find out the truth of the matter.

10.27 p.m.

Mr. Neil McBride (Swansea, East)

I questioned the Prime Minister on President Pompidou's remark about the disruption of our food supplies. I do not forget that the President is one generation removed from his peasant stock and has all the realism of the French peasant. There are 8 million in the block agricultural French vote, and the President based his negotiations and his meeting with the Prime Minister on that fact.

Not long ago the Under-Secretary addressed a meeting in Cardiff of the European Movement, and I should like him to repeat to us what he said to that meeting because I believe that if by mischance we enter the Market we shall have a continuation of the strict French fragmentation farming method, and shall be asking the housewives of Britain to subsidise President Pompidou's inefficient French farmers.

10.28 p.m.

Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)

I support the request made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) and others that the text of this speech should be put in the Library in order that we can understand its full purport, but I add one further request on my own part.

I have tonight, pursuant to the 14 Parliamentary Questions which I tabled on Friday asking for the inclusion of certain matters in the White Paper, tabled further Questions, one of which asks for a statement in the White Paper as to the progress and prospects of the restructuring of the pattern of agriculture in the Community. That is highly relevant having regard to the words of President Pompidou as quoted or paraphrased in the Financial Times: The Government"— that is, the French Government: has abandoned any thought it might have had of bringing about a gradual reduction in the number of holdings or of trying to concentrate the smaller farms into larger ones. What view the French take of their agricultural industry is a matter for themselves so long as we do not enter the Community, but if we do enter the Community it is highly relevant in the context of what my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said the other day, that we might be recipients of some of the Community budget. If the economic pattern continues as of now and as the French President seems to wish it to continue indefinitely, those prospects are very slender indeed, and we shall have the dual disadvantage of high food prices and payment across the exchanges to support this agricultural policy.

10.30 p.m.

Mr. Alex Eadie (Midlothian)

We should congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) on raising this matter.

The House will recollect that I put down a Question to the Prime Minister about his meeting with President Pompidou. I was trying to express the concern felt by many hon. Members on both sides of the House about exactly what was agreed at that secret meeting. Did the House get all the information? The Prime Minister owes it to the House to say exactly what he and President Pompidou agreed.

10.31 p.m.

Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland)

I am fascinated by the way the debate has gone so far. We have had the extraordinary situation of six speakers a minute using the debate as a means of expressing their well-known attitudes of anti-Common Market politics.

Mr. Arthur Lewis


Mr. Jopling

I am not complaining. Nothing that I have said could conceivably be said to be a complaint about what has happened. But surely the truth is that we have heard a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House, whose views on this subject are well known, who have been using the opportunity, one after another, to make short speeches expressing their well-known views against the Common Market.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Jopling

I will not give way. I mean to take only a short time. This is an Adjournment debate.

Mr. Morris

Give way.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

Order. Hon. Gentlemen know that by using delaying tactics they will only have less chance of being called. A great many hon. Members have been called in the last few minutes and there will be further opportunity, but not with delays of this order.

Mr. Jopling

This is an Adjournment debate and I do not wish to take very much time.

Hon. Members

Sit down then.

Mr. Jopling

It is extraordinary to me that many—

Mrs. Renée Short

The hon. Gentleman has said that.

Mr. Jopling

—hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House have been making speeches expressing their well-known views. It is amazing, as the months have passed, that many of those who have made speeches and many of those whom I have seen rising in their places seeking to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have gone from point to point, and as they have gone from one point to another they have found that the purport of their argument has been broken—

Mr. Paget

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May we be told whether the Whips have laid on this filibuster to preserve the Government from the embarrassment of hearing their Minister?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. and learned Member will know that the Chair would certainly be unaware of any such thing.

Mr. Jopling

On principle, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I never speak to Whips.

Finally, it seems strange that those Members of the House who are well known to be against the concept of Britain joining the Community—

Hon. Members

Tedious repetition.

Mr. Jopling

—have used the excuse of President Pompidou's speech at the weekend to find another straw to cling to in pushing their dubious arguments against Britain joining the Common Market.

10.35 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Anthony Royle)

The debate which has been initiated by the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) has been a very useful exercise. There are many anxieties and worries about our application to join the European Community, and, therefore, it is important that they should be answered. It is sad that I have only six minutes in which to answer the many points which have been made in this very useful debate. I understand that the debate has to finish at 10.43. We should get that fact straight before I try to answer the hon. Member for West Ham, North.

Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides will realise that with the best will in the world it is not possible for me to answer the many very important points which have been raised by right hon. and hon. Members opposite and by my right hon. and hon. Friends. I will do my best to answer some of them.

The main theme of the criticism tonight has been about a certain speech made by the President of France recently.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

The hon. Gentleman has said that before.

Mr. Royle

I have not said it before. The hon. Gentleman may have said it before. The hon. Gentleman should get it plain: I am saying it for the first time. The position is as it was stated by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the House on 24th June. There is no contradiction between that and what President Pompidou is reported to have said.

Mr. Alfred Morris


Mr. Royle

The hon. Gentleman says "Rubbish" without allowing me to finish what I am trying to say. There is, apparently, no authentic text of what President Pompidou said. However, my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) made a very important point when they asked me to try to arrange that, when the authentic text reaches this country, we should table it in French in the Library.

I give the House an assurance that when we get the authentic text—although I cannot promise, my French not being very good, that I shall be able to understand every word of it in French—we will endeavour to place in the Library a copy of the speech in French and a copy of the speech in English for the benefit of those hon. Members who cannot speak French. I know that there are very few in the latter category here this evening.

As I have said, there is apparently no authentic text of what President Pompidou said, but we have heard from the Embassy in Paris the appropriate statement, which was put in the following terms, and I think it is important to put it before the House: At the time of the negotiations with Britain and when the idea which had been put forward in the early stages by the Commission seemed rather to have been abandoned, I had the Cantal"— that is President Pompidou's constituency— in mind in asking the British Prime Minister whether cheese from New Zealand was of the same importance as butter. Indeed, you only have to reflect on this example to see the chances put to us. I am quoting President Pompidou, as I understand what he said. Britain imports at present 75,000 tons of New Zealand cheese. Now under the arrangements which have just be made, or rather the agreements which have just been reached, in practice these imports will decrease and tend to disappear during the transitional period. This refers to cheese. Thus, there is a new opportunity for our cheese producers whch must be seized. This is the end of the quotation of the text of what, as I understand it from our Embassy in Paris, was said by President Pompidou in his constituency of the Cantal.

The is no inconsistency between the terms of the Luxembourg Agreement on New Zealand and President Pompidou's speech as I have read it. The President merely set out the advantages of the agreement for France. [Laughter.] I have been quoting President Pompidou speaking in his constituency, setting out the advantages of the agreement for France and for his constituency. In the same way British Ministers, including my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy will be extolling the opportunities for British industrial exports to Europe if we join the Community. The President was not referring to butter.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North) indicated assent.

Mr. Royle

I am glad to see the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) nodding.

Mr. Jay rose

Mr. Royle

I cannot give way. I have very little time left.

My right hon. and learned Friend made it clear that New Zealand would be guaranteed a market for agreed quantities during the first five years of our membership of the Community. On the assumption that we join the Community on 1st January, the amounts involved in 1973 would be 96 per cent. butter and 90 per cent. cheese and in 1977 80 per cent. butter and 20 per cent. cheese. A review of the butter situation will take place during the third year after our accession, and that is the answer to many of the points made by hon. Members on both sides.

As my right hon. and learned Friend made clear, the institutions in the enlarged Community would review the butter situation in the light of supply and demand and trends in the major producing and consuming countries of the world, particularly the Community and New Zealand. Among the considerations of which account would be taken would be the progress made towards an effective world agreement on milk produotion and the question of New Zealand's progress towards diversification of its economy—

The Question having been proposed after Ten o'clock, and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at seventeen minutes to Eleven o'clock.