HC Deb 21 March 1972 vol 833 cc1335-7
Q1. Dr. Gilbert

asked the Prime Minister what discussions on international monetary matters he had in his recent talks with M. Pompidou.

Q2. Mr. Onslow

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

Q18. Mr. St. John-Stevas

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

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

President Pompidou paid an informal visit to Chequers on 18th and 19th March. We discussed a wide range of subjects of interest to both our countries, including international monetary and trade questions, the future of the enlarged Community and East-West relations. The details of our discussion must remain confidential.

Dr. Gilbert

I put it to the Prime Minister that the reason that M. Pompidou is having a referendum is that he knows he will win, whereas the right hon. Gentleman is not having one because he knows he would lose. The reason in both cases is the same. Because of the appalling terms negotiated by his right hon. and learned Friend—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Is this a question?

Dr. Gilbert

—every French taxpayer will be benefiting by sharing in a lifelong pension of hundreds of millions of pounds a year paid for by the British taxpayer and housewife.

The Prime Minister

The reason is that both countries and Governments are following their own constitutional procedures.

Mr. Onslow

May the House take it that my right hon. Friend assured M. Pompidou that, whatever need there may be in France to show up the political divisions of their Opposition by holding a referendum on enlarging the E.E.C., we in this country require no such device to expose the divisions in the leaderless rabble on the Opposition benches?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend is correct, It is an internal matter for President Pompidou and the French Government. The Opposition here have made their divisions only too plain.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Is not the referendum, as the Leader of the Opposition once said—for all I know, he may still be saying it—contrary to the traditions of this country? In any case, will not the massive "Yes" that will be given on 23rd April to British entry make St. George's day as memorable in our history as St. Crispin's day?

The Prime Minister

The Leader of the Opposition on that occasion went on to say that It is not a way in which we can do business."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th November, 1969; Vol. 792, c. 200.] I agree with him in that and hope that it is still his view.

Mr. John Mendelson

Will the Prime Minister give a little serious attention to what is, after all, a very serious question? Does he now agree that, given the fact that Norway and others of the applicant countries and the French people are to have a serious opportunity to express their opinion on this important move, it is high time he agreed that the people of the United Kingdom should also have such an opportunity in a General Election?

The Prime Minister

As for a General Election, it was made perfectly plain at the last General Election by this party that we had a mandate to negotiate—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and that if the negotiations were successful we would put them to Parliament. Parliament—[Interruption.] However much hon. Members may dislike it, Parliament approved them by a majority of 112. It is on that basis that we are working.