HC Deb 29 October 1980 vol 991 cc479-81
31. Mr. Marlow

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will now seek to renegotiate the United Kingdom's membership of the European Economic Community.

Sir Ian Gilmour

No, Sir.

Mr. Marlow

I rather thought that my right hon. Friend would give that answer, but time will prove a marvellous tutor. Can he bring to the attention of the House any industrialised country the currency of which has had a sudden and massive increase, boosted by the surging value of its raw materials and natural resources, and which, at the same time, had no control over its own trading policy? Could he say what happened to the industrial and manufacturing base of that country?

Sir I. Gilmour

I am not sure that most people would entirely agree with my hon. Friend's diagnosis of the situation and, unless he is suggesting import controls, I am not certain of the relevance of his question. He must realise that import controls are not the policy of the Government side of the House and are the policy of only part of the Labour side.

Mr. Russell Johnston

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of us who strongly support our continued membership of the Community feel that the criticism that it receives is due more to what has not been done or attempted than to existing policies? Will he give an assurance that the Government will seek to give a lead in these matters by, for example, tackling employment policies, possibly through an increase in the size of the regional fund?

Sir I. Gilmour

I agree with the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question. There is a lot in that. He will be aware that as a result of the 30 May agreement the Community is committed to restructuring the budget, during which many of the matters that the hon. Gentleman has raised will inevitably come up.

Mr. Dykes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that when hon. Members use the word "renegotiate" in this sense it is a euphemism for "withdraw", though they are afraid to say so, particularly after the resounding support for our continued membership expressed at, for example, the Conservative Party conference? Is not the psychology of public opinion that, while people grumble about various detailed aspects of policy, which is natural, they nevertheless wish to remain in the EEC and to develop it institutionally through the strength of all the members?

Sir I. Gilmour

I agree with my hon. Friend, though I do not think that it is fair to suggest that my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) is afraid to advocate withdrawal. Certainly, the contrast between the Conservative Party conference and the Labour Party conference on the question of Europe has been widely noted.

Mr. Shore

It will come as no surprise to the House that the Government have neither the will nor the wish to alter the unequal and shameful treaty of accession which a previous Conservative Government signed. As the right hon. Gentleman reminded us, there is in the unsatisfactory agreement reached on 30 May, a timetable for further discussions about the future of the CAP and the budget. Those are important matters and I wish to put a serious proposal to the Lord Privy Seal. On these vital matters will he circulate to hon. Members and to the country a Green Paper setting out what the Government wish to see changed in the budget and the CAP? They should not leave the whole thing to the initiative of the Commission in Brussels.

Sir I. Gilmour

We understand that the right hon. Gentleman has to parade round the paddock on this matter, and he has done that fairly satisfactorily. He knows that he is wrong to say that the 30 May agreement was unsatisfactory. That comes extremely badly from someone who was in the previous Government, because they achieved nothing on this matter. Our agreement was a good one and the right hon. Gentleman is rightly envious of it.

I shall consider what the right lion. Gentleman said about a Green Paper, but I think that he will agree, on reflection, that that is not necessarily the best way of setting about negotiations. Whether or not we have a Green Paper, there will be no question of our leaving everything to the Commission or to any of the other people who figure in the right hon. Gentleman's demonology. Of course we shall be in contact with all our partners and with the Commission and we shall be discussing the matters in the House. I do not believe that the best way of achieving our negotiating ends would be to put them forward in a Green Paper.

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