HC Deb 07 June 1957 vol 571 cc166-8W
Captain Kerby

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what progress has been made by the working parties set up by him in his capacity as Chairman of the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation; whether he still expects them to present their reports on 15th June, as requested in their terms of reference; and if he will make a statement on the negotiations for a Free Trade Area associated with the Common Market and British participation therein.

Mr. Birch

The Council of the O.E.E.C. has considered the progress of the negotiations for the establishment of a Free Trade Area in Europe which have been going on in Paris for the past three months.

Good progress has been made in these negotiations. The subject is, however, obviously one of great complexity in itself as well as being closely connected with the arrangements for a Common Market provided for in the Treaty of Rome, which has not yet been ratified. Some time must necessarily elapse before definite proposals will be available for consideration by Governments.

In these circumstances, it is not expected that the various questions involved will have been sufficiently clarified to warrant a Ministerial meeting of the Council of O.E.E.C. in July, as had been envisaged, and it has been agreed that this should now be held at as early a date as is practicable in the autumn. This modification of the time-table will enable the negotiations in the three Working Parties which have been set up to continue into July.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was entrusted by the Council in February with the task of co-ordinating the negotiations and he will continue with this work and with informal conversations with other Ministers and with the Chairmen of the Working Parties.