HL Deb 23 July 1970 vol 311 cc1100-4

5.17 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to repeat a Statement which my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster started to make in another place—and I hope that I may be able to finish it safely. The Statement is as follows:

"With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I should like as promised to make a brief report on the meeting at Ministerial level between the United Kingdom and the European Communities which was held in Brussels on the 21st of July.

"At the invitation of the Communities, I went through the list of questions which we wished to see covered in the negotiations, but my immediate objective at this meeting was to have put in hand by the Conference certain fact-finding work which, I believed, in the interests of both the Communities and ourselves, should form the basis for much of the negotiations for our entry into the Communities.

"I therefore put forward specific proposals for fact-finding work in the following fields:

  1. (1) agriculture and agricultural finance;
  2. (2) dairy products including New Zealand's vital interests in this sector;
  3. (3) Commonwealth sugar;
  4. (4) the Common External Tariff;
  5. (5) the complex task of agreeing authoritative translations of Community legislation, and certain related matters;
  6. (6) the European Coal and Steel Community; and
  7. (7) Euratom.
"By the end of the meeting it was agreed that work should be put in hand on all these subjects with the single exception of Euratom. On most of these subjects we shall be in close and continuing touch with the Commission, which has been entrusted with the task, on the Community side, of conducting with us many of these factfinding exercises. I hope that we shall then be able to establish certain objectively agreed factual data on which the negotiation of solutions can be based.

"Bearing in mind the proposals which I had put forward and the decisions which were taken, the outcome of the meeting was very satisfactory, and I should like to pay tribute to the helpful and constructive way in which the Conference was guided by Herr Scheel, the Federal German Foreign Minister, who, as President of the Council of Ministers of the Six, acted as their spokesman."


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Marquess for repeating that Statement. Perhaps I may say that in this particular case the usual channels worked in their usual well-oiled way and we were granted the usual courtesy of an advance sight of this Statement. I should like to ask one or two questions, if I may. The first is one purely for clarification. The Statement mentions that the action of the Chancellor of the Duchy was "at the invitation of the Communities", which is a slightly confusing phrase to me. The Communities, of course, are the European Economic Community, Euratom and the Iron and Steel Community. I presume that what is meant is the Council of Ministers of the Six. I should like to get that point clear. This is not a polemical point, but a point of clarification. In the same paragraph it says: My immediate objective at this meeting was to have put in hand by the Conference… Here is another new phrase. We have the Council of Ministers, the Commission and the Community. What is "the Conference"? This is a new phrase, and I wonder what it means.

So far as the rest of the Statement is concerned, I must confess that, although I welcome the Statement generally, I am surprised that there is so much factfinding to be done, because there is nothing new in any of the points set out in this Statement. They were set out by my right honourable friend the then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in June, 1967. Since then, certainly the British Government and the Foreign Office have been engaged in practically continuous fact-finding operations. I hope, therefore, that I may be assured that this new fact-finding exercise will not take too long.

My first specific question refers to Euratom. I notice that in the Statement it is agreed that work should be put in hand on all these subjects with the single exception of Euratom. Can the noble Marquess say why Euratom is excluded? It is one of the three Communities. If we sign the Treaty of Rome, Euratom will join. ft has most important implications, especially in the field of the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and the safeguard that will be placed on the Non-proliferation Treaty. I wonder whether I may be told why Euratom was excluded and at what stage it is likely to be considered?

Finally, we have the statement by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster that the outcome of the meeting was very satisfactory. I think we shall just have to wait and see about that, because we shall want to look closely at what comes out of these fact-finding operations. I should like to remind the noble Marquess that when we applied to join the Common Market in 1967—and I understand that these negotiations arc a result of that application—we made it clear that we should want to negotiate certain matters affecting the common agricultural policy—dairy products from New Zealand, sugar products from the Commonwealth countries and so on. I hope that I can be assured that the points we made in 1967 still form part of the negotiating position of Her Majesty's Government.


My Lords, we on these Benches also naturally welcome the Statement that has just been made, and we are delighted that the negotiations have, as it seems, got off to a satisfactory start. For this very reason, we rather hope that the present negotiator will be permitted, if possible, to go on negotiating. However, there have recently been reports in the Press that the French Government are reluctant to make any progress, however slight, in the direction of greater political unity, seeming to prefer the old Gaullist nationalist policy of what has been described as "free hands". Would the noble Lord be prepared to comment on these rather depressing reports? In any case, can he repudiate the suggestion, occasionally made in France, that Her Majesty's Government in some degree are themselves attracted by such a policy?


My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for what they have said and for their general welcome of the Statement. Regarding Lord Chalfont's questions, I think I am right in saying that of the two phrases that he used, "Conference" and "Community", he is right in thinking that "Community" refers to the Council of Ministers. However, I should like to be allowed to confirm whether I am right in using the word "Conference".

I quite agree with what the noble Lord says about the fact-finding. There has been a great deal of fact-finding done, as the noble Lord well knows, over the past few years. It was felt that this should now be co-ordinated with the Council of Ministers, and therefore this new work on fact-finding will be put in hand at once. It should not take too long. As the noble Lord says, most of the facts are known; but I think he will agree that there is always something else to find out. Regarding Euratom, my understanding of the situation is that Euratom itself wanted rather more time before taking part in the fact-finding exercises. I think that answers the noble Lord's questions.

With regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said about reports in the French Press, I do not think he will expect me to comment, but I can assure him that my advice is that at Brussels this week the feeling of co-operation and good will from all the delegations, including the French, was most marked. I hope that he will agree with me that this is very heartening, and that the negotiations have got off to a good start.


My Lords, I agree that it is heartening but it is quite another point from that which I raised.


My Lords, perhaps I may ask the noble Marcmess one question His right honourable friend is reported as saying on his return to this country that Her Majesty's Government accept the Common Agricultural Policy. I should like to ask the noble Marquess whether that is a correct report. Is it not a little unusual to say that the policy is accepted even before the proposals for fact-finding have started?


My Lords, this is perfectly true. My right honourable friend on his return said that he accepted the Common Agricultural Policy. I think that was the position adopted by the previous Government in 1967, particularly by the Prime Minister in a speech in Paris on May 5 of this year, when he stated that we did accept the principle of the Common Agricultural Policy. Therefore I do not think there is anything very new in what my right honourable friend said.


My Lords, I must press the noble Marquess on this point, because it is one of great importance. The previous Government said that they accepted the principle of the Common Agricultural Policy. The Common Agricultural Policy, as the noble Marquess knows, contains a number of complex concepts, including the financing of agriculture. If his right honourable friend has said that he accepts the Common Agricultural Policy, is he saying that he accepts the financial structure of that Agricultural Policy? If so, it seems that there is little left to negotiate.


My Lords, I do not think my right honourable friend meant to go quite so far as that—if that is the impression that was given.


My Lords, we had hoped to have a further Statement on the docks, but, as your Lordships know, the Sitting in another place has been rather unexpectedly adjourned, and we do not know when they will sit again. I think it might be for the convenience of the House if we do not have the other Statement. In view of that, with some relief, I beg to move that this House do now adjourn.