Skip to main content

British Membership

Volume 885: debated on Wednesday 29 January 1975

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what calculations his Department has made about the effects of United Kingdom withdrawal from the EEC.

The implications of the United Kingdom's continued membership of or withdrawal from the EEC are kept under review. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made clear, the House will have an opportunity to debate the whole question at the appropriate time.

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that if we were to withdraw one very likely consequence would be that international companies which are now contemplating investment in this country would transfer their investments to the remaining members of the Community? Can he give an undertaking that the Foreign Office will carry out a serious examination of this quantifiable aspect of withdrawal and inform the people, when they come to vote, of the results of the study?

I must tell the House that we have had notification by some companies that their investment intentions are to some degree dependent on whether Britain remains within the Community or leaves it and finds its future and destiny somewhere else. Clearly, however, this is only one of the considerations we must face. The House regards the future as a matter of balancing the advantages against the disadvantages. My hon. Friend has drawn attention to one of the disadvantages, and that must be balanced along with the general package.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that one of the considerations is that, if we left the Community, food prices to the housewife would be much higher than if we remained inside it, in view of high world prices and continuing shortages?

There is no question of that. Indeed my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection has told the House that the overall level of food prices enjoyed here is slightly lower than it would be were we outside the Community. That is the position that exists now. But it would be rash to make long-term predictions. There might be fundamental changes in the cost of raw materials in the world. As things stand at the moment, however, we are in benefit.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the most extravagant calculations are being voiced by Sir Christopher Soames from Tory Party platforms up and down the country? Will he take steps to ensure that investigations are made into who is financing Sir Christopher's appearances at these conferences? Will he also take steps to ensure that Sir Christopher concentrates on the job for which he is so lavishly paid?

It seems to me that it is not Labour Members but Conservatives who should be preoccupied with the future of Sir Christopher Soames. Having said that, however, I must repeat that, irrespective of our judgment as to the accuracy or the value of what Sir Christopher has said or may say, he has rights as a citizen of Great Britain, and I shall continue to defend them.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, if the question of withdrawal arises, the withdrawal would have to be negotiated and the terms approved by Parliament, as the Foreign Secretary said at his first meeting with the Council of Ministers?

There can be no question about that. Those who will be most optimistic about our future outside the Community are people like my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), who believe that we should come to a free trade arrangement with the Community. That would be a long and, many of us believe, difficult negotiation.