HC Deb 11 December 1975 vol 902 cc644-6
Q1. Mr. Pattie

asked the Prime Minister whether he will dismiss the Secretary of State for Trade.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

No, Sir.

Mr. Pattie

Does the Prime Minister recall that during the course of his disastrous performance here last Thursday he told the House that the referendum result had been utterly decisive? How does he reconcile that degree of finality with his right hon. Friend's membership of a Labour Party watchdog committee designed to monitor the activities of the EEC? Can we now take it that the doctrine of collective responsibility has been finally laid to rest?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong about this matter. I have read the transactions of this particular committee. I did not think that it was particularly a Labour Party committee. I understood that some Opposition Members were on it. The Committee specifically said that it accepted the decision of the referendum.

Mr. Noble

Does my right hon. Friend accept that Labour Members do not share the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie)? Will he also accept that he and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade have a golden opportunity next week to appear as Santa Claus in Lancashire, providing that they are prepared to listen to the voices of the united Labour movement through the TUC, the Labour Party conference, the Parliamentary Labour Party yesterday and the liaison committees at work in Lancashire and throughout the country on the subject of import controls? Will he accept the invitation to appear as Santa Claus and not as a star character in "A Christmas Carol"?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend could have added to that list the CBI. Neither the CBI nor the TUC is in favour of generalised import controls for our balance of payments, but they take the view—we have said that we accept that view—that where sectors of industry that have a future are being threatened for their very existence by imports in a world depression, we must look at the matter.

This matter has been fully investigated and I have every confidence that a statement will be made in the House before we rise. However, there is a problem. Negotiations are still taking place on the very difficult Chrysler problem. The Chrysler problem could involve this matter. I do not want to say more than that. That is why there has been the delay.

Mrs. Thatcher

I wonder whether the Prime Minister could clarify a statement on import controls that was made in the House last night after Ten o'clock. The Minister of State, Treasury, in reply to a question by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), gave an assurance that there were no secret negotiations on the subject of import controls. Does that mean that there are no negotiations at all, or that the Prime Minister is going ahead without them?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise that question. I have not seen the particular words used, but I accept her account of them. There have been no negotiations on this matter—if by that is meant international negotiations. Certain procedures have to be followed. Those procedures have not started for the reasons I have just given to the House. Therefore, there is no question of any secret negotiations taking place, but procedural consultations in accordance with our international obligations would be necessary in certain circumstances. I have explained to the House—I have perhaps gone further than any of my colleagues in this matter—that the issue has been held up because of the difficult situation, which is still continuing, concerning Chrysler. Indeed, negotiations are taking place today.