HC Deb 19 May 1975 vol 892 cc986-8
3. Mr. Grist

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what estimates his Department has made of the effects upon Wales of a British withdrawal from the EEC.

Mr. John Morris

I have already made clear my view that withdrawal would involve an unacceptable risk to the prosperity of Wales.

Mr. Grist

That is an extraordinary answer. I asked the Secretary of State what estimates his Department had made. However, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say what indications he has received from employers, firms and farmers of the numbers they might expect to employ in the event of British withdrawal from the Common Market? Will he confirm that no production quotas or similar restrictions could be imposed by the European Coal and Steel Community, except under Article 58, which requires the unanimous approval of all member Governments?

Mr. Morris

The hon. Gentleman is referring to what I regard as a wholly hypothetical situation. I am satisfied that it is in the interests of Wales that we remain in the Community. That is a wholly different question from joining the Community. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about Article 58. The decision can be taken only by the Council of Ministers, and the hon. Gentleman obviously knows of the unanimity rule.

Mr. Geraint Howells

Is the Secretary of State satisfied that Welsh agriculture, and especially livestock farmers, will do better once we are full members of the EEC and that the common agricultural policy will be of benefit to Welsh producers?

Mr. Morris

We have been anxious to ensure that there are changes in the common agricultural policy. The need for those changes has now been recognised throughout Europe. In his discussions in Brussels my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has ensured that Welsh agriculture is fully protected, and I am sure that he will continue to do so.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that in the run-up to the referendum it is important that we get away from the politics of fear in discussing whether we should remain in the Common Market or withdraw? Before we joined, people said that it would be disastrous if we did not join. Now it is said that it would be disastrous if we left. As regards employment, the balance of payments, inflation and a number of other matters, our membership in the early years has been disastrous for Wales.

Mr. Morris

My hon. Friend will not expect me wholly to agree with what he has said on this point. It is important that we establish the facts and that the discussion should be carried on on a rational basis, as it is now being carried on in Wales.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

Will the Secretary of State take this opportunity of correcting the wrong impression given by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry over the weekend? Will he tell the people of Wales that if we have lost jobs in Wales recently it is because of the world recession and possibly the loss of business confidence induced by his right hon. Friend?

Mr. Morris

The hon. Gentleman should address such questions to my right hon. Friend. I am not aware of any jobs having been lost in Wales as a result of our membership of the Community. What we are all suffering from is a worldwide recession. Leaving or staying in the Community will not solve our problems. Whether we are in the Community or outside, we must solve our problems within this island ourselves.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) that we must avoid the politics of fear. We must concentrate on the politics of truth in our approach to the referendum. Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that virtually every industry and firm in Wales believes that our industrial future and job prospects are more assured within the Market than outside? Will he also confirm that grants from the regional fund are additional to national regional policies? That is very important in Wales, which is virtually wholly a development area. Will he further confirm that the General Secretary of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation, Sir Dai Davies, has said clearly that we can solve the steel problem better within the Community than outside it?

Mr. Morris

May I clarify the steel situation? There has been no Community proposal to cut back steel production. There is no question of the Community's imposing any cut-backs in British steel without the approval of the Council of Ministers. Therefore, one is dealing with a wholly hypothetical situation.

As for the views of firms in Wales, I have not had the opportunity to canvass them. All I can say is that opinion on these matters is divided. We shall have to wait until 5th June before we know where the body of opinion throughout Wales stands.

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