HC Deb 18 June 1974 vol 875 cc203-5
Q2. Mr. George Gardiner

asked the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied with the co-ordination between all Departments concerned in providing information relevant to the renegotiation of the terms of Great Britain's membership of the EEC.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Gardiner

In view of the consensus on Europe that is now emerging between the two Front Benches, will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to inform all his Ministers of the pledge that was made in Luxembourg by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, that the Government wish to co-operate fully in the workings of the Community? Is he aware that at the moment that cooperation seems to be given or withheld depending on the personal view of the Ministers concerned with the European issue? Will he make a start by urging the Secretary of State for Employment to stop blocking progress on redundancy payments?

The Prime Minister

As to the ongoing work of the Community, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with my authority and the authority of the Government, has said that we shall not seek to impede the work that is going on. The negotiations are certainly continuing. Today, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is trying to get some support for British agriculture and some action on behalf of the British consumer on beef, which is withheld from British consumers by the price and by the terms which the previous Government negotiated, putting our consumers and farmers in a very difficult position. My right hon. Friend is trying to ensure—whether he will be successful, no one can say—that there is a great improvement in our position compared with the terms that the hon. Gentleman so fully supported.

I have not noticed a consensus between the two Front Benches. Last week, during the debate on the Common Market, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs three times challenged the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition to say whether he supported what to us is the fundamental right of the British people, namely, to decide whether we should stay in the Market when the negotiations are complete. We shall ensure that the British people have the right to show that the fullhearted consent is present which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition promised in the 1970 election and then ratted on.

Sir G. de Freitas

Is my right hon. Friend aware—I refer to the provision of information, which is the key of the question—that the Select Committee on Secondary Legislation reports that it could not ascertain from any Government Department whether certain Commission proposals had been accepted or rejected by the Council of Ministers? Will he ensure that the Government in Whitehall has the staff and organisation to provide such information?

The Prime Minister

This is a very important matter. In addition, I think that the House must have the necessary staff to ensure that this vitally important Committee can do its job. This matter was dealt with fully by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs last week, during the debate on the Common Market. He referred specifically to his hope and intention that the Select Committee could do its job to the full for the protection of this Parliament and of the British people.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware, as a result of his co-ordination, of the recent threat to the Scottish whisky industry in the EEC report, which suggests that peat is an impurity? Is he aware that peat is a vital substance that is dear to the heart of mankind and to the British balance of payments? In his renegotiations will he care to say, "Hands off Scotland's peat"?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Lady would be wrong to think that Scottish whisky is a matter only for the people of Scotland. It is a matter of concern for consumers throughout this country and in the export markets. I invite the hon. Lady not to fash herself on this question. We have been through it all in the last year or two. We have considered not only Scottish whisky but English beer and the fatuous regulations concerning the sexual habits of hops, male and female, which are regarded as too permissive by the Commossion and on which proposals were made. We have also considered sausages, bread, and nearly everything else. This is the kind of tomfoolery with which the Government are not prepared to put up.