HC Deb 21 October 1971 vol 823 cc892-5
Q1. Mr. Spearing

asked the Prime Minister how many petitions he has received on the subject of sovereignty and the Common Market.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

I have received a number of petitions on the Common Market, but statistics showing the specific issues covered are not available.

Mr. Spearing

While thanking the Prime Minister for that reply, may I ask him to explain to the House why he is urging hon. Members to vote in favour of entering the E.E.C. while many matters of domestic importance will be taken away from the sovereignty of this House? Does he not agree that neither this House nor the nation will know what these will be unless and until he publishes enabling legislation? Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that he is asking us to sign a form before he is prepared to show us the small print?

The Prime Minister

No. I cannot accept that, because the position about sovereignty, and the implications of the Treaty of Rome and the regulations issued under it, have been covered in White Papers published by both the previous Administration and ourselves.

Mr. Tapsell

Is it not true to say that one of the most important social responsibilities of a sovereign Government in this country is to secure the employment and living standards of the people of this country? Would they not be most seriously threatened if we were to be permanently excluded from the Community?

The Prime Minister

It is the responsibility of the Government to try to ensure opportunities for employment, and the view of the Government is that entry into the Common Market does most to assist that.

Q3. Mr. Skinner

asked the Prime Minister whether he intends to have a further meeting with President Pompidou after the Commons vote on the question of entry into the European Economic Community.

The Prime Minister

There are no plans for a bilateral meeting, but as I made clear in my speech in Zurich last month, I believe that at the right moment there should be a meeting of Heads of Government of the Six and of the candidate countries to discuss the future course of Europe.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Prime Minister aware that if the vote on 28th October is successful he might be summoned to appear at the Elysée Palace to present his credentials, if he has any? If that happens, will he take with him one of those representatives of hon. Members on this side of the House who appear to be threatening to break through the picket line that has been erected by the trade union and Labour movements?

The Prime Minister

I should have thought that a serious subject like this demanded rather more than a childish and frivolous supplementary question.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Will the Prime Minister make it clear at this meeting that the decision to have a free vote on this side of the House springs not from any cooling towards the Common Market but from a respect for the House of Commons which is not shared by the other side?

The Prime Minister

The decision on this side of the House has been welcomed in Europe and that on the other side regretted.

Mr. John Mendelson

Will the right hon. Gentleman take this early opportunity to address himself to the serious statement made by M. Deniau, a responsible member of the Brussels Commission, republished this morning on the front page of The Guardian, to the effect that he holds it to be absolutely necessary that after Britain's entry into the European Community—if it occurs—America must authorise Her Majesty's Government to share atomic secrets with France? The Guardian adds that this fully proves what the Government have always hitherto denied, that it is intended to set up a third nuclear command after entry into the E.E.C.

The Prime Minister

I read that article in Le Monde, and the misleading headline in The Guardian proves nothing of the sort. My own position on the matter of a Franco-British deterrent in trust for Europe has been on record for the last six years, for everyone to read. M. Deniau's article did not say that Britain must hand over anything to France. What it pointed out was that there should be a change in the MacMahon Act.

Q5. Dr. Gilbert

asked the Prime Minister what plans he has to seek to convene a conference of European Free Trade Association Prime Ministers to discuss the progress of the negotiations for the enlargement of the Common Market.

The Prime Minister

There are frequent consultations with European Free Trade Association Governments at Ministerial and official level; but I have no plans for a meeting of the kind proposed.

Dr. Gilbert

In the light of the fact that none of the six neutral E.F.T.A. members will have to pay a penny towards the Community budget, while drawing all the benefits of industrial free trade for their manufactured goods, and in the light of the special arrangements that Norway is seeking for its agriculture and Eire for its industry, can the Prime Minister name a single member of E.F.T.A. that has failed to negotiate better terms than have Her Majesty's Government?

The Prime Minister

None of them has yet completed its negotiations; none has negotiated its terms. Moreover, there are not six neutral members of E.F.T.A. Two others, apart from ourselves, who are negotiating for full membership—Norway and Denmark—are not neutral. The others are each attempting to negotiate the arrangements they want.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm the undertakings given by two successive Governments to our E.F.T.A. partners and uphold them in any further discussions with Common Market countries?

The Prime Minister

If by "two successive Governments" the right hon. Gentleman means from 1967 onwards, I agree. The undertaking given in 1961–63 was a different one—a far firmer one—that E.F.T.A. countries would not enter the Community or have arrangements with the Community unless all could do so at the same time. That undertaking was changed in 1967, but has remained the same since.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Is it a new practice, Mr. Speaker, to call two hon. Members from one side and to ignore the Government side?

Mr. Speaker

Calling an hon. Member is entirely a matter for the Chair. It is not a matter of order.