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Common Market

Volume 643: debated on Tuesday 4 July 1961

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44.

asked the Prime Minister, in view of the need for more public information on the facts relevant to the problem of British membership of the Common Market, if he will now publish a White Paper limited to the relevant statistical and factual information.

48.

asked the Prime Minister whether Her Majesty's Government now intend to issue a White Paper setting out the facts and statistics relevant to consideration of the question of Britain's entry into the Common Market.

I will certainly consider whether a Paper could be pro- duced on the lines suggested. The range of factual information which is relevant to this complex question is very wide. A White Paper which contained only some of the obvious facts could give a very misleading impression. If an attempt were made to widen the scope of the White Paper and to publish detailed information, however factual, over a broader but still necessarily selective field, the result might be taken as carrying implications for our conduct of any negotiations which it might be decided we should undertake.

While I am deeply grateful to my right hon. Friend for his reply, I should like to ask him two supplementary questions. In view of the confusion and doubt, and even suspicion in the public mind—as well, indeed, as in this House—does he not think that it would be wise for some sort of objective statement, or a White Paper, to be published, setting out the short-term and long-term possible advantages and the short-term and long-term possible disadvantages to us if we joined the Common Market? Secondly, in his own judgment, does my right hon. Friend think that it will be possible to bring our Commonwealth friends, our partners in Europe and our farmers into this Common Market and yet retain the broad conception of European integration?

I quite see the object and value of producing some kind of document, and I have been trying to start work on it. There is the quite separate question which I undertook to consider, and which I hope to be able to meet, which was merely to give information of the measures taken by the parties to the Treaty of Rome in implementation of its Articles on common organisation and institutions. If we could obtain that, it would be possible to produce a factual, objective statement on them, but I still have a little doubt. I still find it difficult to reconcile this with the real purpose of a White Paper. Giving the arguments for and against is not quite the function of a public document published by the Government as such. If I can help, I will do so, but I think that hon. Members will see the difficulty. If the Government were asked to produce a White Paper for or against a much-debated policy, are the facts and the kind of objective statements really suitable to a Government White Paper? That is my difficulty, and that only.

One appreciates the Prime Minister's difficulty, but does not he realise that until a Paper is published that does give the facts for and against, the country is being asked to buy a pig in a poke and that unless the Commonwealth countries now being visited by Her Majesty's salesmen are also informed of the profit or loss to them, they, too, are being asked to buy a pig in a poke?

I think that the very phrase the right hon. Gentleman uses illustrates just the difficulty. He says that we must publish a White Paper about the facts and arguments, but that is just the one thing one cannot do about an argument.

Would the Prime Minister explain more clearly why he would be so embarrassed in a future negotiation if he published the facts and statistics on which the negotiation must necessarily be based? Is the Common Market the kind of game where it is really necessary for each player to hold the cards as close to his face as all that?

Well, there are some differences between holding the cards very close to one's chest and putting them all, before any negotiation starts, face downwards—[HON. MEMBERS: "Upwards."]—on the table.

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that though publishing arguments is, of course, dangerous, there is room for some simplification of the main documents? The Treaty of Rome is pretty tough reading. Could not my right hon. Friend produce a Treaty of Rome "told to the children"?

Of course, if it is valuable merely to summarise existing documents, that is one thing, but that was not what I was asked for.