HL Deb 13 July 1965 vol 268 cc98-101

2.39 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the refusal of the French Government to implement further stages of the Treaty of Rome will have the effect of taking away the right of the other five members of the Community to decide their tariff policy by a majority vote after 1st January, 1966, and whether the present discussions on the Kennedy Round proposals for liberating international trade will be affected.]


My Lords, recent developments in Brussels are a matter for the European Economic Community. It is, of course, for the Community to decide what effect the French action will have on the right of the other five members to decide their tariff policy. We sincerely hope that the Community will find it possible to overcome their difficulties in time to avoid delay and damage to the Kennedy Round.


My Lords, does this new difficulty in Europe not make it all the more desirable that we should clarify our own aims? Could we not now say to all the members of the Community, without any loss of dignity, that we want to help them to solve their difficulties and that we could help very much better from inside than from outside the Community?


My Lords, I do not think that there is any need for Her Majesty's Government further to clarify their aims. We have made them abundantly clear in the past. We are anxious to have closer contact with Europe, consistent with our other responsibilities. We have said that on many occasions and repeated it on many occasions recently. We are still anxious for EFTA and the Community to get closer together, and I hope that that will be pursued as quickly as possible. But we still do not feel that it is any part of the role of Her Majesty's Government to interfere in what, at the moment at least, is a purely domestic matter between members of the Six.


My Lords, could we not say that we would be willing to come into the Common Market in order to help? Is it enough to talk about building bridges, when the bank on the other side of the river we want to bridge seems to be crumbling? Are there not other ways of crossing the river and helping?


My Lords, we have always made clear the conditions under which we would join the Common Market. These conditions are not altered by the fact that one member of the Community has now taken certain actions which we regret. Our conditions remain exactly the same as they always have been, and our desire to be associated with Europe remains exactly as it always has been.


My Lords, could Her Majesty's Government not at least say that they sincerely hope that the Community will continue to make progress in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Rome? Further, would the Government, for their part, say they still hope to be able to sign the Treaty and thus achieve the unity of Western Europe?


My Lords, with regard to the noble Lord's first question, the Government can say that. I myself did say that last week, and I am perfectly prepared to repeat it at this stage. With regard to signing the Treaty of Rome and entering the Community, we have already said under what conditions we would do so and I will not detain your Lordships by repeating them in extenso. We have expressed our desire to become as closely associated with Europe as possible and we have asked that there shall not be political talks without our being present, and other things of that kind. The fact that there are certain serious and regrettable disagreements within the Community does not in any way alter Her Majesty's Government's position.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that many of us hope that the Government will not be susceptible to the brandishments of the Liberal and Conservative Parties on the Common Market? Does he not think that it is unfair to use a disagreement between General de Gaulle and the Common Market to get in by the back door? Have we not, as the Labour Party, made our position clear in the conditions that we have laid down, while the other two Parties are prepared to accept any conditions to get in?


My Lords, we certainly have no wish to enter by the back door or as a result of any internal disagreement. Our wish to enter and our conditions for doing so, which I need not repeat, have been made clear.


My Lords, in view of the debate which is coming on later, may I ask the Government whether they have a view to express on when a question ceases to be a question and becomes a speech?


My Lords, my general feeling is that it ceases to be a question about five minutes before we move on.