HC Deb 26 June 1974 vol 875 cc1546-7
31. Mr. Hurd

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which Commonwealth Governments have indicated to Her Majesty's Government that they favour a pulling back by the United Kingdom from the European Communities.

Mr. Hattersley

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply my right hon. Friend gave on 17th June to a Question from the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley).—[Vol. 875, c. 17.]

Mr. Hurd

Is not that rather odd? As this is a phrase which the Foreign Secretary used himself in his speech, should not the hon. Gentleman elaborate on it a little? Ls not the fact of the matter that the Commonwealth argument so often used by the hon. Gentlemen's right hon. and hon. Friends against British membership of the Community has now been absolutely stood on its head in that, in the Commonwealth, particularly among the poorer countries, the overwhelming hope is that Britain will stay in the Community and help them get proper access to the Community as a whole for their products?

Mr. Hattersley

No, I think that it was utterly reasonable that I should draw the hon. Gentlemen's attention to the entire paragraph from which he had extracted three words to include in his Question. The point that my right hon. Friend was making properly and necessarily, is that while there are very many Commonwealth countries which hope that we shall retain our membership of the EEC, Commonwealth countries are virtually unanimous in the hope that we shall renegotiate, and in doing so preserve and extend their interests. That position has been stated many times, most recently by Mr. Kirk in New Zealand on 5th June. My right hon. Friend was absolutely right in pointing out that balance of interest, which is retained membership but improved terms.

Mr. Roy Hughes

But does not my hon. Friend appreciate, nevertheless, that it is not the Commonwealth countries which must ultimately decide this issue but the people of Britain?

Mr. Hattersley

Of course, I accept that without reservation. I hope to answer a Question on that precise subject later today. But, while the British people must decide, I hope and believe that one of the things that will affect the people's decision is the influence of the Commonwealth. This is properly part of our renegotiation objectives.

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