HC Deb 18 March 1975 vol 888 cc1451-3
Q2. Mr. Moate

asked the Prime Minister when he now next expects to attend a meeting of Heads of Government of Common Market countries.

Q6. Mr. Tomlinson

asked the Prime Minister when he now next plans to meet the EEC Heads of Government.

Q10. Mr. Mike Thomas

asked the Prime Minister when he now next proposes to meet the heads of EEC Governments.

The Prime Minister

At our meeting in Dublin on 10th-11th March, the Heads of Community Governments agreed to meet again in good time to prepare for the International Energy Conference later this year, but no dates have yet been arranged.

Mr. Moate

Does the Prime Minister recall that at an earlier summit meeting he endorsed a statement by the Heads of Government that economic and monetary union remained their objective and that their will had not weakened? Yet he is now reported as saying that economic and monetary union is either dead or at least on the list of endangered species. Is not it clear that on this issue the Prime Minister is presenting one face to Europe and another face to Britain? Will the right hon. Gentleman say clearly whether he does or does not support the objective of economic and monetary union?

The Prime Minister

There is no problem. I have told the House that this remains an idea of the Community. After the Paris summit meeting I told the House that we regarded this as a very remote possibility indeed. We were not expressing concern about it. I likened it—as I shall in my statement this afternoon—to our aspirations in favour of general and complete disarmament. But that will not happen by 1980, either. Members of the Community are clear about our views. I shall be referring to the matter in a statement which, with permission, I hope to make after Question Time.

Mr. Tomlinson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many Government supporters, and other hon. Members, are grateful, after the Dublin summit meeting. that there will be no need for another summit before the British people have a chance of making their voice heard on the question whether we remain a member of the Common Market? We congratulate the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary on the work which they did in Dublin, which is also in accordance with the terms of the Labour Party manifesto.

The Prime Minister

I thank my hon Friend for what he said about this matter. Since the regular three-or-four-times-a-year summit meetings began, the practice has been not to arrange the date of the next summit as the old summit breaks off. On both occasions we have fixed the date by communication afterwards. No decision has been taken about the date of the next summit, whether before or after the referendum.

Mr. George Gardiner

Since there is no immediate need to meet the other Heads of EEC Governments, will the Prime Minister take steps, instead, to reassure British nationals in those countries—who often do valuable work for this country by promoting our exports—that they will not be disfranchised in what will be a national referendum rather than a constituency party election?

The Prime Minister

This matter was raised in the debate on the referendum, while my right hon. Friend and I were in Dublin. My right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council undertook to consider representations relating to points made in the debate. This matter is being considered.

Mr. Thomas

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that, regardless of how long it takes to bring the Heads of Government together, it need not take three months to seek the views of the British people? Can the referendum take place soon, before everybody is sick to death of the whole business?

The Prime Minister

I have a great of sympathy with the point made by my hon. Friend. I should like to see this take place sooner, and so, I guess, would the whole House. [Interruption.] I would guess that the House and the country would like to see this matter brought to a conclusion as soon as possible. The Bill will be introduced in the near future. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House, provided they are given enough time in which to decide the matters of contention, will co-operate to the full in setting as quickly as possible the earliest date for the referendum.