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European Economic Community

Volume 654: debated on Wednesday 21 February 1962

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5.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make a statement on the progress of his negotiations with the European Economic Community.

Since my statement in answer to Questions on 29th January, officials have continued their work on nil tariffs and Commonwealth questions in preparation for the Ministerial meeting in Brussels tomorrow when, in addition, we shall begin our discussions on agriculture.

Can the Lord Privy Seal report any progress yet in getting acceptance of any of the requirements put forward by the United Kingdom? Would he agree that the fuller the information that the House has about what is going on, the less danger there is of us being presented with a fait accompli without time to judge it properly?

The work done so far is largely that of analysing the problems and considering a variety of solutions to them, and the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate the difficulty of giving detailed information to the House so long as that process is continuing. But, as I have said before, I am anxious to do that as soon as possible and I will consider after this Ministerial meeting during the next few days whether it is possible to give a rather fuller statement to the House.

Will the Lord Privy Seal say whether he intends to publish, as a White Paper or in other appropriate form, the text of the agricultural agreement of the Six and when the House can expect to get it? Secondly, while we understand that there are many difficulties on the economic side, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether there are some pretty frank discussions going on and that Britain's view on the question of the political implications of the Treaty of Rome has been clearly stated?

I have undertaken to place in the Library a translation of the agricultural agreement arrived at by the members of the European Economic Community as soon as the definitive agreement is published. It has not yet been published, but as soon as it is we will have a translation made and copies will be made available to hon. Members. I have said before that we have been informed of the substance of the documents being considered by the Fouchet Commission and at the appropriate time there will be discussions at which our views can be clearly stated.

Following the supplementary question of the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), can my right hon. Friend assure the House that there is no question of any fait accompli as far as the Government are concerned?

None whatever, because we are bound by the Resolution of the House of Commons. But I appreciate the desire of the House to have as much information as possible as we proceed.

In view of the statement reported to have been made by my right hon. Friend to the diplomatic correspondent of the Irish Times, to the effect that there was no question of the negotiations dragging on unless Commonwealth safeguards could be obtained, can my right hon. Friend confirm whether or not he has obtained agreement from the Common Market countries to safeguards provided for the Commonwealth being of a permanent nature and not subject to a time limit?

The position on that was clearly stated in the Paris speech, as I have told my hon. Friend before. One has to look at both the arrangements during the transitional period and those during the Common Market period. Both of those are covered.

I am sorry to press the right hon. Gentleman on the publication of the agricultural agreement, but is he aware that it would not be enough for a copy to be placed in the Library, as most hon. Members will want to take it away and study it in detail? Will he make arrangements to have it printed and made available to all hon. Members as quickly as possible? Will he express at the forthcoming meetings in Brussels what I am sure is the almost unanimous disapproval of hon. Members of suggestions that some of our E.F.T.A. colleagues, referred to in the House of Commons Resolution, are to be told that they will not be welcome as associate members if they are neutrals? Will he ensure that the question of political or military neutrality is quite separate from what is supposed to be an economic negotiation?

The undertaking I gave was that as soon as we received the agricultural documents in the Community languages, we would place the French version in the Library, and as soon as they are translated we will make available to hon. Members the English translation. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of political matters which are separate from the Fouchet Commission to which he referred in his previous question. The position of our E.F.T.A. partners was clearly stated both in the House of Commons Resolution and in my Paris speech. Unless arrangements are made to meet their legitimate requirements, it is not possible for us to enter into an agreement.

20.

asked the Lord Privy Seal to what extent discussions on the association of Commonwealth States in Africa with the Common Market will be held up while current discussions between the Six and the sixteen associated African States are carried on; and if he will make a statement.

The two sets of discussions are inter-related but it is not possible to say at this stage how the timetable for each will affect the other.

Will my right hon. Friend make clear that there is no question on the part of the British Government of accepting inferior status for Commonwealth countries in Africa to that enjoyed by ex-French territories?

As I stated in the Paris speech, we wish to have the opportunity of association for those countries in the British Commonwealth who desire it.

Would the Lord Privy Seal be a little more precise? Would it not be extremely unfortunate if a policy for uniting Europe had the effect of dividing Africa? Will the right hon. Gentleman make clear that it is the view of Her Majesty's Government that there is nothing in reason, logic or sense why Commonwealth territories in Africa should have any less favourable treatment accorded to them than is being given or is proposed to be accorded to the associated territories of France?

The plain fact is that Africa is already divided. Sixteen countries associated with the European Economic Community have certain trading arrangements. The countries of the British Commonwealth are excluded from those arrangements at the moment and have different arrangements. Our object is to try to bring the two together. In these negotiations there must be a long process of examination of the characteristics of the trade and economies of the countries involved; all that is part of the negotiations.

May we not have it made clear that there is no reason why Britain should be expected to make sacrifices in respect of Commonwealth territories in Africa to buy ourselves into the Common Market, if that is the intention, and sacrifices which are not demanded of France and her associated territories?

We are certainly not regarding the Commonwealth as being asked to make sacrifices so that we can buy ourselves into the European Economic Community. The actual conditions which we and the Commonwealth countries themselves are asking are matters for negotiation.

21.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he has now received, as a result of negotiations to date with the European Economic Community countries, official intimation from the Six of a desire to modify the Rome Treaty.

Would it be correct to assume that the Government are now negotiating our entry into the Common Market without seeking any modification of the constitution of the Rome Treaty? If so, would the right hon. Gentleman explain what this would mean by way of constitutional change in the United Kingdom if the Government's application is successful? Would he issue a White Paper on this aspect as well?

We have to be careful about the use of particular terms in this connection. The hon. Member spoke of "modification" of the Treaty of Rome. That is not being considered. That does not mean to say that adaptations of such things as voting rights, financial arrangements or protocols dealing with special circumstances are excluded. These two things are necessary.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is very grave concern about the apparent acceptance of the Treaty of Rome as it stands and in particular of Article 101, which will give the Commission by a majority vote—not a unanimous decision—the right to direct this House to pass laws in order that the laws of the United Kingdom will correspond with those of the rest of the community? Would not this be an outrageous invasion of our sovereignty? What is the right hon. Gentleman doing to amend this?

I know the hon. Member's anxieties about some aspects of this, which he never ceases to exploit. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am not complaining that he does so. The hon. Member is entitled to do so. Any particular article of the Treaty, of course, must be considered against the whole background of the Treaty. It should be recognised that in this sphere, which is strictly delineated, of activities under the Treaty of Rome, the Commission has certain powers, and the Council of Ministers has certain powers. These are carried through various regulations and directives, each of which has different force in the countries involved. This must be seen against the whole context of the Treaty of Rome.

To avoid "exploitation" by different hon. Members, would it not be better if the right hon. Gentleman gave the House some definite information? I recognise the difficulties while the negotiations are going on. Is the right hon. Gentleman still of the opinion that he may be able to give the House some definite information on the progress of negotiations before the House rises for the Summer Recess?

I said that I hoped it might be possible to give a rather fuller statement after the Ministerial meetings tomorrow.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that hon. Members in all parts of the House are showing considerable patience and understanding on some of these questions about which many hon. Members feel deeply? The right hon. Gentleman is carrying on these negotiations, inevitably, against a background of secrecy but, on reconsideration, will he not feel that he went too far in using the word against my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) and talking about "exploiting" this? Is it not right that all hon. Members should be free to express their views and anxieties about the Treaty so that the right hon. Gentleman should better represent the views of the House in negotiations?

I have always paid tribute to the restraint which the House is showing, and I am anxious to give as much information as possible. The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stone-house) is bitterly opposed to the negotiations which I am carrying on. I am entitled to say so, and I do not blame the hon. Member for using any tactics which he thinks right.

25.

asked the Lord Privy Seal to what extent the Governments of Commonwealth countries are able, within the machinery of the negotiations now being conducted in Brussels, to make direct representations regarding the safeguarding of the economic interests of underdeveloped countries.

The negotiations themselves are of course between the United Kingdom and the member Governments of the European Economic Community, but Her Majesty's Government are in continuous consultation with Commonwealth Governments. This is true both of independent Commonwealth countries and the territories of the Commonwealth for whose international relations the United Kingdom are responsible.

Is it not the case that many of the newly-developing countries, both ex-French as well as ex-British, are concerned that the Common Market may well become a ganging-up of the industrial States against the States producing primary products and raw materials? Is it not also the fact that this must be seen against the background of a change in the terms of the Treaty which has completely wiped out, in terms of higher prices for manufactured goods, any benefit from the so-called economic aid from Europe and the United States? What opportunity is there for these newly-developing countries to represent that point of view directly in the negotiations?

That is not our view of the development of the European Economic Community and it is not borne out by the facts. Former French territories are in consultation with France and members of the Community. They are holding a meeting about future developments and the form of association, and there they are able to speak frankly and express their views. Similarly, members of the British Commonwealth have given us their views about the matter. The plain fact is that the amount of aid given by the European Economic Community to overseas territories is very large indeed, far larger than we are able to give, and almost as large as that given by the United States.

26.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether, in the negotiations concerning Great Britain's application to join the Common Market, he will reserve the right of Her Majesty's Government to prohibit export of capital from this country to the countries of the Six in view of the importance of such monetary controls in ensuring full employment and relevant economic planning within the United Kingdom.

I have nothing to add to what I said on this subject in paragraph 15 of my statement to the European Economic Community on 10th October.

But will not the provisions in Article 67 make it absolutely impossible for any future administration in the United Kingdom to plan the country's economy? Shall we not be completely powerless to act?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we approved what he said in Paris on this point, which expressed rather less forcefully but perhaps more elegantly what we on this side said last August? But if the right hon. Gentleman said this, will he recognise that it is a cardinal point of the negotiations and that an export of capital in the early months after Britain's joining, if she does decide to join, could have the most disastrous results on our balance of payments and the future viability of this country?

Yes, Sir; I remember the right hon. Gentleman raising the point in the debate last July, and I said in Paris that this is one of the matters that we would wish to discuss. We have not yet reached the point, in connection with the Rome Treaty, of discussing the economic union with the Commission, but as soon as we do so I will bear the right hon. Gentleman's point in mind. I expect that he also has in mind the possible consequences of another Labour Government coming to power.