HC Deb 27 March 1975 vol 889 cc680-2
10. Mr. Britian

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will make a statement about contingency plans to protect the British economy in the event of a British withdrawal from the EEC.

Mr. Healey

The Government have recommended to the British people to vote for staying in the Community. I am, of course, always prepared to revise my economic policies if necessary, in the light of changed circumstances.

Mr. Britian

Is it none the less not important, in view of the risk of a "No" vote, to make contingency plans for what would happen if there were withdrawal from the Common Market? If that is so, does the Minister not accept that it will involve co-ordination between a number of Government Departments? Will that not he an impossible task? Some of the Ministers will be in favour of staying in and some will be in favour of coming out which will mean that the views they form on contingency plans will differ radically.

Mr. Healey

As the hon. Gentleman will know if he has consulted his right hon. and hon. colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench, consultation between Departments is an osmotic and continuing process under all Governments.

Mr. Molloy

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that many people in the House and throughout our nation believe that one reason for our difficult situation is the absurd terms agreed when entering the EEC? Does he not further agree that while a "No" vote will enhance our chances of economic recovery—[Interruption.] I hope that some of the pro-Market horny-handed sons of the soil behind me will not laugh at this. Does my right hon. Friend not agree that it will be the endeavours of the British working people which will put this country right, and not the fancy theories of some economists?

Mr. Healey

I agree with my hon. Friend that the theories of economists rarely put anything right. I also agree with him if what he implied in his latter remarks was that, irrespective of whether we remain a member of the Community, our economic salvation lies overall and overwhelmingly in our own hands.

Mr. Moate

Had the Government not secured these modest changes in the terms they would have been recommending withdrawal. Must it not be sheer nonsense for some of the right hon. Gentleman's Cabinet colleagues now to say that it would be catastrophic if Britain were to withdraw from the Community? What adverse effects does the right hon. Gentleman consider as being likely to arise from a "No" vote?

Mr. Healey

The hon. Member will not succeed in drawing me on the latter point. I can tell him—it is important that we should recognise this—that the critical problems which require resolution if this country is to improve its economic performance are problems which it is within our power to resolve, irrespective of whether we are in the Community. The terms the Government have renegotiated will make it easier for us to resolve those problems as members of the Community.

Mr. Mike Thomas

Nevertheless, does my right hon. Friend not accept that the British people are entitled to know what plans the Government have in the event of a "No" vote and are entitled to know in a clear statement what the cost would be?

Mr. Healey

The important thing for the House to recognise—the previous Government recognised this in much of the information they published—is that the economic gains and losses to be derived from membership of the Community are extremely difficult to calculate. They are the subject of great dispute among experts who supported entry and those who opposed it. On the other hand, I must tell my hon. Friend that a decision to leave the Community is very different from a decision not to join it. The economic consequences of doing so would be very much more grave.