HL Deb 10 December 1970 vol 313 cc1058-65

4.24 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to repeat a Statement that is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster concerning the E.E.C. negotiations. The Statement is as follows:

"With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and with that of the House I should like to make a Statement on the progress of the negotiations for British membership of the European Communities made at the Ministerial Meeting of the Conference which I attended in Brussels on December 8.

"At this meeting agreement was reached that the alternatives listed in the Declaration of Intent made by the Community in 1963 would be open to certain African countries, namely Gambia, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

"I might remind the House that these alternatives comprise association under the Yaoundé. Convention; other association agreements with mutual rights and obligations, particularly in matters of trade; or commercial agreements to facilitate and expand trade between the Community and these countries.

"The Community said that they could only state their position with regard to other Commonwealth developing countries in the Indian Ocean and Pacific, and the Caribbean, for which we proposed that the same options be available, in the light of discussions taking place with respect to the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement.

"The Conference also discussed further the basis of Gibraltar's customs arrangements with the Community following the agreement already reached—and reported to the House on October 29—that the provisions of the Treaty of Rome would apply to Gibraltar under Article 227(4). It has been accepted that as Gibraltar is not a part of the United Kingdom's customs territory there would be no reason to include Gibraltar in the customs territory of the enlarged Community.

"I again expressed the hope that the Community would shortly be able to make known their views on the arrangements to be made for Hong Kong.

"The principles of the United Kingdom admission to the European Investment Bank were agreed.

"In the course of a statement I made dealing with the question of transitional measures I proposed on behalf of Her Majesty's Government a transitional period of five years for adaptation in both the industrial and agricultural fields and for adaptation to the Community's rules regarding capital movements and fiscal harmonisation. I stressed that in putting this proposal forward we thought it essential that, within the common period of five years in the four fields, effective provision should be made for arriving at a mutual balance of advantage between the United Kingdom and the existing Community.

"In the industrial field we thought this could be done if we could provide for a suitable accelerated rhythm for tariff rates and adaptations. For agriculture and horticulture we should require that the adaptations be made with reasonable flexibility over five full years.

"I said that the five-year period should not in our view apply in the cases of Community finance, New Zealand butter and cheese and sugar from developing Commonwealth countries, nor to the European Coal and Steel Community and Euratom.

"The Community noted our proposals upon industry and agriculture with satisfaction and said that they would examine our suggestions of capital movements and fiscal harmonisation in a positive spirit. Deputies were instructed to pursue the discussion of all these questions in preparation for the next ministerial meeting.

"The Community said that they would establish their position on all of these questions within a global frame-work. This is naturally our own position. The agreements reached hitherto must all be regarded as provisional pending the outcome of the negotiations as a whole.

"At the meeting I also outlined certain considerations which we believe the Community should take into account in dealing with the question of the British contribution to Community finance. I pointed out that the United Kingdom would be likely to enjoy only relatively small receipts as a result of Community expenditure in its present form. I recalled also that the existine members of the Community had had an extended transitional period in which to move to the agreed Community system of financing, and that correctives had been provided for governing member countries' contributions during a period of years after the final stage of Community direct income had been started. I noted that the Commission had stated in its observations on our estimates of the effect of Community financing upon the United Kingdom that, should unacceptable situations arise within the present Community or an enlarged Community, the very survival of the Community would demand that the institutions find equitable solutions.

"I said that we would be making detailed proposals in this field as soon as possible.

"Finally it was agreed that ministerial meetings should take place next year on February 2, March 16, May 11, and June 22; and that the timetable of meetings could be speeded up if necessary."

My Lords, that is the Statement.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Marquess for repeating this Statement. Clearly there has been some advance in the agreement to the proposals made by Her Majesty's Government in regard to the transitional stages. The suggestions made by the Government are of course a considerable concession, particularly in the field of agriculture, and we should like to study carefully what the effect will be, not only upon the country as a whole but on agriculture in particular. I agree with the noble Marquess that, whatever the period of transition may be so far as we are concerned, in the case of New Zealand in particular five years would be far too short, and I was glad that the Government took this view, particularly in regard to butter and cheese. Is not lamb in the same category?

On this point, may I ask the noble Marquess whether full discussions are going on with the New Zealand authorities? As the noble Marquess knows, I have pressed on, I think, two occasions (and my noble friend Lord Hoy also has pressed this point) that there is considerable disquiet as to whether Her Majesty's Government fully consulted with the New Zealand authorities prior to their announcement of the import levy.

In regard to sugar and the developing Commonwealth countries, I think this must be treated as a very special category. I hope that there will be no question of! an agreement being arrived at whereby the total amount in cash received by the developing countries remains about the same, but that the total quantity of sugar is reduced. Not only must we consider the economic and financial aspects of these developing countries, but also any effect upon the living standards of the small farmer. This is a point that we shall have to watch with great care.

My Lords, may I ask the noble Marquess what is meant by the reference in the Statement that Gibraltar is not within the United Kingdom's customs territory and therefore will not be included within the customs territory of the enlarged community? Can the noble Marquess say whether the Gibraltar authorities have been consulted and agree with this position?

I am glad to see that the position of Hong Kong is still being looked at, and I hope that the Government will not in any way give up their pressures on the Common Market to see that suitable arrangements are made for Hong Kong. I am not certain what is meant in the second paragraph of the Statement. My understanding is that. Nigeria is already an associate member with the Common Market. I believe one or two of the other territories are also associate members with the Common Market. Does this mean that these countries could retain a new relationship with the Common Market if they so wished?


My Lords, we on these Benches welcome this Statement. Now that the Government have, happily, made what seems to be quite substantial progress in negotiations on British entry into the European Economic Community, will they consider increasing their efforts to explain to the British people that entry would, in the long run, be the only sure way to maintain a reasonable standard of living, and to make our voice heard once again in the councils of the world?


My Lords, could we raise this whole issue above the level on which it is normally discussed? I ask the noble Marquess whether he does not agree with me that the issue with which we are concerned is the future that Britain should have, the future that Europe should have, and the effect that Europe could then have upon the world, and that so many of the other issues pale into insignificance against that remarkable opportunity?

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Marquess whether he really considers that the Statement which has been reported to your Lordships' House will satisfy the majority of public opinion in this country? Is he not aware that the Statement merely sidesteps the two fundamental issues; namely, the financial contribution the United Kingdom will be required to make to the Commission, and, in particular, the fundamental issue of the suggested political integration which will lead eventually to complete subordination in foreign affairs and defence and our Parliamentary system? Will he take those factors into account? Also, since the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has asked that the British public should be better informed on the subject, may I ask whether the British public will really be informed? Is not the Statement which has been made so vague and ambiguous and so full of complexities that hardly any person in the country, outside members of the Government and those who are fanatical pro-Marketeers, can understand it?


My Lords, I am grateful for the general welcome that has been given to the Statement this afternoon. I am sure that the noble Lords, Lord George-Brown and Lord Shinwell, will not expect me to comment in general terms on what they say, except that I did agree with one and I did not agree with the other. On the more technical matters of the Statement, I should like to pick up one or two points that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, asked me. I know that he is worried about the position of New Zealand, and of course consultations are going on with that country because of the special conditions appertaining there. I also entirely take his point about the sugar countries. It is very important in these negotiations to make absolutely certain that not only does their standard of living not become in any way impaired but that, as he said, the cash and the work flow equally together.

So far as Gibraltar is concerned, my understanding is that as Gibraltar is a free port it is by their own wish that they prefer to remain outside the Customs Union. The noble Lord raised the question of Nigeria, and without notice I can only say that I think his point is correct. I believe that this is an alternative offered to them; but if I find I am wrong, I will let the noble Lord know. May I assure the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, that we will do our best in the months to come to put over our case with the greatest possible vigour, and of course any help that he can give us will be gratefully received.


My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Marquess for his assurance that full consultations are going on with the New Zealand authorities. Could he put my disquiet fully at rest by answering the question I put to him the other day and which I intimated through the usual channels I would put here: were there consultations with the New Zealand authorities prior to the announcement of the import levy scheme?


My Lords, I can answer that question for the noble Lord. The answer is that there were no prior consultations. Advance warning was given and consultations have been going on ever since.


My Lords, in view of the failure of the noble Marquess to reply to any of my submissions, may I ask him whether the Chancellor of the Duchy has made any progress as regards the proposed political integration which I understand is one of the main objectives of a section only of the Conservative Party and which is only partly accepted by every member of Her Majesty's Government? Has any progress been made in that direction, and, if so, may we know about it? If the noble Marquess is not informed about the subject, can he give any indication when your Lordships' House will be informed?


My Lords, I certainly will undertake to keep the noble Lord informed on this matter. I cannot, I am afraid, give him any information to-day. I hope he will accept that.


My Lords, will the noble Marquess understand that the lights went out just at the right moment?


My Lords, while net sharing the starry-eyed attitude, the rather religious attitude in some ways, towards the Common Market of my noble friend Lord George-Brown and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, may I ask the noble Marquess to stress, for those of us who do not share that attitude but still want to go in and negotiate and are with the Government and with the last Labour Government on this matter, that sugar is the test case in this issue? We do not want to beggar our Colonies, who produce sugar cheaply, while going into the Market.


My Lords, I can assure the noble Baroness that I will bear what she has said very deeply in mind.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Marquess whether he would not agree that if there is going to be any progress towards any kind of political federation, which seems to be so much dreaded by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, such progress can be made only with the full consent and approval of both Houses of Parliament of Great Britain?


My Lords, I quite agree.


My Lords, is the noble Marquess aware of what actually happened in another place on the occasion when a Division ensued on a debate? Is he aware of the vote by the so-called—I am not responsible; I have not invented the term—payroll section of the place; and would he forbear from taking too much notice of what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, says?