HC Deb 25 May 1971 vol 818 cc225-9
Q1. Mr. Hunt

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on his recent official meeting with President Pompidou.

Q11. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on his official conversations with President Pompidou.

Q12. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on his official talks with President Pompidou.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

I did so yesterday, Sir.

Mr. Hunt

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he drew President Pompidou's attention to the very widespread anxiety existing in the House and in the Commonwealth regarding the Community's recent statement on sugar? Following his talks with the French President, does he feel that there is any prospect of that statement now being strengthened to allay the understandable fears of the sugar producers?

The Prime Minister

The question of sugar was specifically mentioned in the communiqué which was issued after the meeting between the President of France and myself, which emphasised the importance that we both attach to it. At the same time, it should be recognised that the two countries in the new Community, if it is enlarged, with the greatest interests in the developing world will be France and ourselves. This is a joint interest because the present associates also want to maintain in an enlarged Community their existing rights for their products, which are as important to them as the products of the Caribbean, Mauritius and Fiji are to us. So this is now a joint interest between the two countries.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Is not the most significant achievement of the summit meeting the transformation of Anglo-French relations, which now have a warmth that they have not had since the time of Sir Winston Churchill, and to the creation of which my right hon. Friend's integrity and consistency on the European issue has made a notable contribution?

The Prime Minister

I hope the whole House and the country welcome the improvement in relations between France and ourselves and will feel that they are now on a better basis and that the mutual suspicions of the last 20 years can be forgotten.

Mr. Marten

May I return to the question which I asked my right hon. Friend yesterday? Is he now saying that he is against the control of the European Commission by a directly-elected European Parliament, and that it should be left to the Council of Ministers? If so, this is in direct contradiction to what the Germans, the Dutch and the Italians are saying. with this dichotomy of view, is it not important that this matter should be cleared up before we see the terms for entry?

The Prime Minister

The position is quite clearly laid down in the Treaty of Rome, that the Council of Ministers has the responsibility for taking all major decisions. At the same time, the European Parliament, as it at present exists, also has powers, and those have recently been increased in so far as finance is concerned. Our position is that that should be maintained—that the Ministers should take the major decisions. I also agree with the President of France—and this is a view shared by many other European leaders—that no major interest of any nation should be overruled by the other members. This position is quite clear. If there is to be an enlarged Community, and as it develops, it may well be that the European Parliament itself will grow in its power and influence. This has been a democratic process throughout the ages. I repeat that we can make a considerable contribution towards that.

Mr. Orme

Has the Prime Minister had any second thoughts on the exchanges which took place yesterday about the problems of consulting not only the House but the British people? Is he now prepared to assure us that there will be no rush vote this summer and that time will be given both for the House and for our constituents to be consulted? Has he noted the anti-democratic attitude of such newspapers as The Times this morning on this issue, and, if so, will he repudiate it?

The Prime Minister

I thought I made it plain yesterday that the Government have reached no conclusion on this matter. The negotiations have not yet finished; conclusions have not yet been reached on the major items; the White Paper has not yet been published; and it is not yet possible for either the Leader of the Opposition or myself to form a judgment as to how this matter can best be handled.

Mr. Walters

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many people who viewed with anxiety and some misgivings the beginning of the negotiations in case Britain should be rebuffed for a third time have been immensely encouraged by the success of his meeting with President Pompidou? Is he further aware that he can look forward to increased support from the country in the negotiations?

The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks. I believe it to be the case that many people have been worried about whether Britain would face a third rebuff. That is not now the situation, and they want to get on to the next stage, which is for the major problems to be dealt with so that a judgment upon them can be formed.

Mr. John Mendelson

Dealing with the problem facing the sugar producers, and as the Prime Minister's talks with President Pompidou were advertised as "plain speaking", may I ask whether he pointed out to the President that the Chancellor of the Duchy is committed, if the sugar-producing countries do not find his agreement acceptable, to return to the negotiating table to say that Britain cannot accept the proposals made at the discussions in Brussels?

The Prime Minister

That is a matter which will be discussed between my right hon. Friend and the leaders of the sugar-producing countries, probably next week, when they meet in London for discussions. My right hon. and learned Friend and the Government will decide what, if any, further action ought to be taken. I would ask the hon. Gentleman, who devotes a considerable amount of time and study to these matters, to recognise that there are existing associates which are also developing countries and have anxieties about the impact of former British developing countries coming into the association because they are more numerous, larger and much wealthier. We have also to consider in the joint arrangements made that the rights of their producers should be recognised. This was the arrangement to which the President of France and myself came.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

Do I understand from the Prime Minister's reply yesterday to my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever) that there is now no question of the future of sterling—although I think there are advantages from the point of view of this country in a change here—being involved in the negotiations as such.

The Prime Minister

We have never regarded it as being involved in the negotiations. The discussion which took place was between representatives of the Six and ourselves outside the negotiations. That was the position I maintained in Paris, and it remains the position now.

Mr. Jenkins

Was that accepted by President Pompidou?

The Prime Minister

Yes, it was. It was not part of the negotiations.

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