HC Deb 30 March 1976 vol 908 cc1100-3
Q3. Mr. Corbett

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his meeting with the Prime Minister of France.

The Prime Minister

I have had no recent meeting with the Prime Minister of France, Sir. I did, however, meet the French Foreign Minister on 18th March, when we discussed one or two of the matters likely to arise at the forthcoming meeting of the European Council in Luxembourg. M. Sauvagnargues also had talks with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

Mr. Corbett

When my right hon. Friend next meets the French Prime Minister, will he press upon him the urgent necessity completely to change the Common Market's common agricultural policy before it degenerates into a further mess and sweeps away the Market with it?

The Prime Minister

This matter was fully discussed in the recent meeting of the Council of Agricultural Ministers. The House will be aware of the line taken by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. There is great concern not only on the part of the British Government but on the part of the German Federal Chancellor and others about the extent to which this is now developing. There have already been preliminary discussions—which I hope will be followed up in the European Assembly—about the long-overdue reforms and long-overdue economies and what I also hope will be the long-overdue rejection of this system of total standardisation of everything we eat, drink, consume, buy and sell, because I believe that the strength of the European Community and of Europe should be in the diversity of our cultures and what we all have to contribute, and not a standardised uniformity.

Mr. Molloy

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that the remarkable achievement to which he has contributed so much, in getting a working agreement with the trade unions of this country in combating inflation——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman is on the wrong Question. This Question relates to the Prime Minister of France.

Mr. Molloy

What I was about to ask my right hon. Friend was, in view of what I said recently, Mr. Speaker, whether he thinks it is important that we maintain this first-class co-operation, with the TUC, and that we should see to it that it is not endangered by any CAP action which increases food prices.

The Prime Minister

I find it difficult to single out a relationship to the Question, Mr. Speaker, as you do—though you are usually more subtle than I am in these matters. I do not think that the matter arises from this Question. If my hon. Friend is suggesting that I give any advice to the French Prime Minister on this question, I must tell him that I have already said that I shall not give any gratuitous advice to my successor, whoever he may be. Still less would I ever give any to the French Prime Minister.

Mr. Adley

Before relinquishing his office, will the right hon. Gentleman reaffirm his Government's commitment to ensuring the success of the Anglo-French Concorde project, and will he consider inviting his successor, whoever he may be, to take an early flight in the aircraft?

The Prime Minister

The answer to first part of that supplementary question is "Yes", and the answer to the second part, as I have recently had such an invitation, is also "Yes".

Mr. Frank Allaun

Do the Government maintain their opposition to the dangerous proposal for a joint Anglo-French nuclear force, which would ultimately mean a German finger on the nuclear trigger? Will the Government maintain that opposition, even if France should rejoin NATO?

The Prime Minister

At no time as Prime Minister have I heard any suggestions of an Anglo-French joint nuclear capability. I do not believe that it has ever been put forward during the period of a Conservative Government, either. If it had been put forward during my premiership I would have totally rejected it, and I cannot think that President Giscard would have considered it, either. It is not a runner. I cannot imagine any Prime Minister or Government of this country accepting it, quite apart from the warnings which my hon. Friend gave, and which I gave many years ago, about the danger of anything that might look like a German finger on the trigger.

Mr. Marten

If the Prime Minister sees the Prime Minister of France, will he reflect that the views of the British people are very much in line with those of the Gaullist Party, that if the Common Market continues to develop it should develop on the lines of Europe des patries?

As it is now 3.30 p.m., may I congratulate the Prime Minister on the dexterity with which he has tried to answer, not always successfully, some of the Questions put in this House?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his concluding remarks. He has always been most courteous. Though, Mr. Speaker, you are in fact the custodian of the stop watch of this House, nevertheless, I thank the hon. Gentleman.

I have nothing in common, nor, in my estimation, have Her Majesty's Government, either now or at any future time, with Gaullist doctrines on these matters—nor, I thought, had the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten). Where the hon. Gentleman has expressed his doubts about the Common Market and where we have sought to reform it from within, it has been from a different stimulus than the negative position taken for a long time by President de Gaulle.

Mr. Crouch

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I propose to you that candles be now brought?

Mr. Speaker

I suggest that hon. Members at the back of the Chamber move down lower. I am sure that efforts will be made to restore the lighting.