HC Deb 27 March 1974 vol 871 cc427-33
6. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on re- negotiating the terms of entry to the EEC.

8. Mr. Moate

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make arrangements for the fundamental review of British membership of the EEC; and if he will make a statement.

20. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the stage reached in his preparation for the renegotiation of the EEC Treaty.

26. Mr. Lee

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is Her Majesty's Government's policy towards renegotiating the terms of the Treaty of Rome.

29. Mr. Blaker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the arrangements for renegotiating the terms of entry into the EEC.

Mr. James Callaghan

I would refer the hon. Member to the statement which I made to the House on 19th March.—[Vol. 870, c. 859–70.]

Mr. Marten

As renegotiation, it successful, will fundamentally alter the whole concept of the Common Market, or, if renegotiation is unsuccessful and the question is put for referendum, it will almost certainly mean that we shall withdraw, will the Government now begin to consider the creation of a wider free trade area?

Mr. Callaghan

The first two parts of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question are hypothetical. I do not wish to be drawn into that territory yet. As to the creation of wider areas, we have always argued that we need the widest area for trade and, indeed, that many of these monetary and trade questions can be solved satisfactorily for all countries only on a world-wide basis.

Mr. Lee

Will my right hon. Friend find a new job for Mr. George Thomson, whose undoubted talents could be more usefully employed this side of the Channel than in Brussels, where he appears to be sabotaging my right hon. Friend's—[HON MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—suggestions.

Mr Callaghan

There does not seem to be complete unanimity about the whole of my hon. Friend's question, but I understand that there is unanimity on what he said about Mr. George Thomson's merits. I should like to see his merits deployed in any field that would serve best.

I understand, although I was not aware that I was to be asked this question, that I do not have any power to remove him, even if I thought it right to do so. He is independent and, as long as he is independent, he expresses his own views.

Mr. Lane

Is it not already clear that there is ample scope for continuing the last Government's programme for reshaping the Community from within? Will not the right hon. Gentleman now acknowledge that Labour's talk of renegotiating terms of entry has been phoney and will not impress either the British public or our fellow members of the Community?

Mr. Callaghan

I am not sure which leg the hon. Gentleman is trying to stand on. Is it possible to renegotiate or is it not?

Mr. Christopher Mayhew

While the Foreign Secretary is mobilising all possible influence to improve the terms of entry into the Common Market, is it logical for him to prevent his supporters from going to the European Parliament to support him on this matter?

Mr. Callaghan

I have nothing to add to what the Lord President said on that subject in the recent debate.

Mr. Blaker

The Government gave the impression in the foreign affairs debate last week that, pending the outcome of the renegotiation, no new commitments would be undertaken vis-à-vis the other eight members of the Community. Does that mean that the Government do not propose to try to bring to a conclusion the negotiations on the regional development fund, which were already far advanced under the previous administration and which, if concluded, would bring this country great benefits?

Mr. Callaghan

We shall certainly need to reconsider that and other questions to see how far it is necessary to increase the size of the Community budget as an offset to an extremely large agricultural expenditure by this country, or how far it would be more sensible to reduce the size of the total budget and thereby reduce the size of any regional fund. These considerations have obviously to be taken into account in our negotiating approach.

Mr. Moate

In the fundamental renegotiations, will the right hon. Gentleman be seeking to restore the full powers of this Parliament over all Community enactments, including, particularly, Commission regulations, with which the Foster Committee did not deal specifically?

Mr. Callaghan

In principle, yes. The method I am not clear about, but I think that what has been clear from the attitude of the Labour Party, both in Opposition and in Government, is that we wish this House to be in a position to give the final answer.

Mr. Jay

While conducting these negotiations, will my right hon. Friend also have talks with countries such as New Zealand, Australia and Canada, in order to resume the previous close economic relations with those countries?

Mr. Callaghan

With pleasure. Mr. Walding, the New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister, has already discussed these matters with Ministers here.

I am bound to say that quite a lot of diversification by these countries has taken place during the last couple of years because they felt that they were being told to go elsewhere. Therefore, they have to be given assurances of long-term arrangements if they are to redivert their trade here.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a much easier question? In the renegotiation, is there any exclusive responsibililty, either by staff or subject matter, for Scottish interests—agriculture, fishing, energy, and so on?

Mr. Callaghan

It is being undertaken on a United Kingdom basis, but representing, as I do, one of the—shall I say?—"Trinity" inside Great Britain, I shall make absolutely certain that our interests, whichever side of the border they may happen to be, are fully looked after.

Mr. Russell Johnston

Given the response that the Foreign Secretary gave to the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate), do I gather from his approach that the fundamental renegotiations are not concerned solely with the financial terms negotiated by the previous Government but go to the very heart of the nature of the Community? Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore make clear whether he is in favour of our membership of the Community as it is in principle?

Mr. Callaghan

I do not think that I want to go any further than the Labour Party manifesto, which I recommend the hon. Government to study.

Mr. Milne

Will the Foreign Secretary have talks with our EFTA partners in order to learn from them how, without seeking Community membership, they got better agreements in many areas than we did with membership?

Mr. Callaghan

If there had been a Labour Government three years ago, perhaps that would have been an appropriate question, but we are now part of the Community and it is important to observe how deeply embedded the institutions have become since we joined. Therefore, I think that it is better that we should start by seeing how we are to renegotiate—which was the basis of our agreement inside the party and at our own conference—than that we should try to start from the outside.

Mr. Rippon

Will the Foreign Secretary say something in this context about his recent visit to Bonn? Did he reiterate the view he expressed in his speech last week—that he was broadly in agreement with the objectives of European unity? In particular, did he raise the question of new negotiations in the sphere not only of regional policy but of social, industrial and aid policy?

Mr. Callaghan

Yes, Sir, we covered the whole field. I had very cordial conversations with both Chancellor Brandt and Herr Walter Scheel. We did not agree on everything, which was hardly surprising, but I think that they understood the reasons for our approach on many of these matters, and I hope to have further conversations with others in due course.

12. Mr. Christopher Mayhew

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Com- monwealth Affairs if, during the period of renegotiating the terms of entry into the EEC he will also put forward proposals for strengthening the democratic institutions of the Community.

Mr. James Callaghan

The need for greater democratic control over the work of the Community will be considered in the light of the results attained in the renegotiation of the terms of entry.

Mr. Mayhew

May I ask my right hon. Friend again to give his reasons for insisting that the case for lower farm prices, a better regional policy, a smaller British contribution to the budget, and so on, should be put in the European Parliament only by Opposition Members of Parliament? Why does not he allow his own supporters, who can put the case a lot better, to go as well?

Mr. Callaghan

I would not differ from the view expressed in the last part of that supplementary question, but my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made the position clear, and that is the position of the Government.

Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker

Is the Foreign Secretary aware that in the last 15 months a number of proposals have been put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk) and sympathetically received, and particularly by Mr. Rafton Pounder, about budgetary control, which have largely been adopted and will come into effect next year?

Mr. Callaghan

I am very glad to hear that.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Will my right hon. Friend correct my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) and the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Sir D. Dodds-Parker) by pointing out that we are not represented by Members of Parliament? They are men some of whom have either voluntarily decided not to stand for Parliament, or who were defeated at the polls. Is it not absolutely anti-democratic for people to be there—allegedly in Parliament—receiving tax-free fees, although they do not want to stand as Members of Parliament?

Sir Derek Walker-Smith

As the institutions of the Community work on a somewhat paradoxical basis, in that the primarily legislative function is vested in a mainly executive body, to wit, the Council of Ministers, will the right hon. Gentleman give his powerful support to the adoption of the suggestion—which I made more than once last year—that the legislative processes of the Council of Ministers be as far as possible conducted in public, as a contribution to the improvement to the democratic process?

Mr. Callaghan

I think that is a very interesting suggestion, and in due course I shall want to consider it, without giving a final reply today.

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