HC Deb 22 November 1971 vol 826 cc929-34
5. Mr. W. H. K. Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement, consequent upon the recent latest round of negotiations with the European Economic Community, with particular regard to the fishing industry.

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

I have nothing to add to my statement on 11th November.—[Vol. 825, c. 1237–40.]

Mr. Baker

Would my right hon. and learned Friend give the House an assurance that after the negotiations are concluded the comparable catching power of the British inshore fleet will be in no way lessened? Further, would my right hon. and learned Friend not agree that the ideal solution at the moment would seem to be the retention of the status quo?

Mr. Rippon

Certainly we have suggested that the status quo might be one solution, but the other parties to the negotiations are not so keen on that at the moment because they would like at any rate to retain the marketing regulation, and the marketing regulation is being considered and various proposals are being put forward which look as though they might be beneficial to everybody. So far as the general situation is concerned, I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that we will not agree to any arrangements which do not satisfactorily protect our legitimate interests.

Mr. James Johnson

If there is no agreement on the 29th of this month when the Chancellor meets his opposite numbers and if, as I understand, the deadline is to be 14th December, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman give the House an assurance or undertaking that he will not sign the fisheries agreement even after the Accession Treaty is signed, sealed and delivered?

Mr. Rippon

We have made it clear that we cannot sign the Treaty of Accession on the basis of the present fisheries policy. Certainly, therefore, there will have to be a satisfactory settlement of this issue before signature.

Mr. Marten

Can we get it absolutely straight? Does my right hon. and learned Friend stand by his statement at the Conservative Party conference that we would not sign the Treaty of Accession if we did not get arrangements which satisfactorily protected our legitimate interests? That is what the House wants to know.

Mr. Rippon

I stand by what I said at the Conservative Party conference but not necessarily any paraphrase of it.

Mr. Healey

The House will be relieved to hear that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has confirmed the pledge which he refused to confirm when we discussed the matter a fortnight ago in this House, but may I ask him a question about the Norwegian negotiations? He will be aware that the Norwegian Government will be unable to join the Treaty of Rome unless its requirements on the fisheries matter are met. If Norway does not join, Denmark will not join either and this would completely change the balance on which the right hon. and learned Gentleman recommended the agreement to this House. Can he assure the House that he will insist on Norway getting a satisfactory settlement of fisheries matters?

Mr. Rippon

There is no discrepancy in any way in what I have told the House on this matter. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman about that. I think he misunderstood the position on the last occasion. I cannot negotiate on behalf of Norway and it would be very remiss of me to give undertakings on behalf of the Norwegian Government and people.

12. Mr. Ewing

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he proposes to have a meeting with the Common Market Commissioner for regional policy, following his visit to Scotland.

Mr. Rippon

I anticipate increasingly frequent and close contacts with the European Economic Community Commissioner for regional policy and his staff.

Mr. Ewing

As the visit was by its nature a fact-finding mission, and in view of the widespread concern throughout Scotland and other regions that the regional policies of the Common Market Commission will be completely inadequate to solve the problems from which we are suffering, particularly in Scotland, does not the Minister agree that an immediate meeting and a statement to the House would be in order?

Mr. Rippon

Certainly the visit was a fact-finding visit in the sense that no decisions resulted from it. There is no question of the Community at the moment taking decisions which affect our regional policy as a result of this visit. I was, however, glad to see that The Scotsman in its report on M. Borschette's visit on 5th November described his observations generally as reassuring.

Mr. Maker

Is it not a fact that the regional economic development policies of the Six are in general very powerful and have been very effective? Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider giving more information to the House about the results which are being achieved in such areas a Brittany, South-West France and the South of Italy?

Mr. Rippon

Yes, Sir, I think that would be very helpful. M. Borschette made a speech at a meeting of European journalists in Bristol of which a copy is in the Library of the House, and that contains a lot of useful information. Certainly the purpose of the Community is to stimulate regional policy and not in any way to discourage it.

26. Mr. Redmond

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received from people who object to the Treaty of Rome on religious grounds; and what replies he has sent.

Mr. Rippon

Ministers have received only two such letters and in each case the reply confirmed that the European treaties are not concerned in any way with ecclesiastical matters.

Mr. Redmond

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that reply, but I assure him that I have been nothing like so fortunate since I have received hundreds of letters from people who have said "We cannot sign the Treaty of Rome because we are Protestants". Is he aware that people seem to think that entry into Europe will destroy the British-type Sunday and give us a Continental Sunday? Would he say what is the attitude of the Church of Scotland to this matter?

Mr. Rippon

The Church of Scotland has recently expressed favourable observations on the subject of our entry into the Community. A very influential body of that Assembly expressed support by a large majority. We have to explain to a few people that their ecclesiastical views, doctrines and practices will not in any way be affected by our entry into the Community.

Mr. Russell Johnston

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman also bear in mind that the Dutch Reformed Church has on many occasions expressed the view that its freedom to pursue Protestantism is in no way diminished by the existence of the Roman Catholic Church?

Mr. Rippon

That is true, and in an enlarged Community the Protestants may be in the majority.

38. Mr. Dodds-Parker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has for closer association in developments overseas between the Commonwealth Development Corporation and similar institutions of the European Economic Community.

Mr. Kershaw

I understand that the Commonwealth Development Corporation has already invested in a number of projects in partnership with similar European institutions, and is at present discussing with other interested institutions the possibilities for further joint operations of this kind.

Mr. Dodds-Parker

May I ask my hon. Friend to urge the new Chairman to take a particular interest in spreading the undoubtedly successful technical and managerial achievements of the Corporation over a wider area?

Mr. Kershaw

I am obliged to my hon. Friend. France, Germany and the Netherlands have broadly similar institutions to the C.D.C., as does the European Organisation as a whole. The Corporation is already co-operating with them on four projects and hopes to do so on more.

41. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his proposals for signing the Treaty of Accession to the Treaty of Rome.

Mr. Rippon

The sequence of events leading to full membership of the Communities was outlined by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in his statement to the House on 17th June.—[Vol. 819, c. 643–5.]

Mr. Marten

Does my right hon. and learned Friend recall that in a Written Answer to me on Friday of last week, he said that we had to sign the Treaty of Accession to establish an agreed text on which our legislation could be based? Would it not be preferable to agree a text, get the Six to initial it and for us to debate the consequential legislation based thereon and sign afterwards? What is wrong with that?

Mr. Rippon

I do not think that that is the appropriate procedure. Legislation is not required before the signing of the instrument of accession; but as I told my hon. Friend on 19th November: Signature will be the means of establishing an agreed text on which our legislation can be based."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1971; Vol. 826, c. 230.]

Mr. John Mendelson

Why did not the Government announce, before the vote was taken at 10 o'clock on 28th October, that they had abandoned their original plan of introducing a short Bill into the House of Commons before signing the Treaty of Accession? Why have they now abandoned the plan to have two Bills on the matter and why was the first intimation of this basic change, about which hon. Members knew nothing when they voted on 28th October, given on Friday morning in a deliberate leakage to the Press? Is not this double-dealing of the worst kind with the House of Commons?

Mr. Rippon

That is an extraordinary observation for the hon. Gentleman to make. I think that hon. Members understood perfectly well, when we had the debate, that legislation would be necessary. The details of legislation are, by custom, never presented in advance.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Would my right hon. and learned Friend make it clear that legal effect to adherence is not given until ratification, and that signing a treaty of accession does not of itself import that?

Mr. Rippon

My right hon. and learned Friend is quite correct.

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