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Political Co-Operation

Volume 885: debated on Wednesday 29 January 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the current extent of political co-operation with the European Community.

A report on political co-operation was included in the Government's White Paper on Developments in the European Communities, March to October 1974 (Cmnd. 5790). There is now regular co-operation on broad problems of foreign policy at many levels involving the Foreign Ministers of member States and their officials. It is increasingly helpful on a number of international questions.

In the light of my right hon. Friend's experience of political co-operation in the Community, will he tell us whether he believes that the political influence of this country in the world would be greater or less if we were to withdraw from the Community?

If my hon. Friend thinks that that is a question I find easy to answer, he underestimates the difficulties in this situation. Certainly, over a whole range of subjects, including our relationship with the Arab world, our position in face of a potential energy crisis and our relationship as a European Power with the United States, our position is eased and made more powerful by membership of the Community. But were we to choose, as the Government or as the people, that we no longer wished to remain in the Community, we should be able to establish or re-establish a rôle in the world which would be satisfactory to hon. Members.

Scotland may be dragged into the Community after the referendum as a result of the vote of the people of England. Has the right hon. Gentleman told the other member States about the effect of the promised legislation for a Scottish Assembly?

The other member States were told of the proposals for devolution, contained in the Labour Party manifesto which carried the majority of seats in Scotland, and they know that when the referendum comes the Labour Government are intent on calculating the views of the people as a whole. That must mean, of course, the views of the United Kingdom as a whole.

Can my right hon. Friend assure us that if the renegotiated terms meet the terms of the Labour Party manifesto the Foreign Secretary will recommend them to the British people?

In his speech to the London Labour mayors, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it clear that he took the view—I do not see how any other view could be taken—that since the Government were operating according to the letter and the spirit of the Labour Party manifesto, on which we fought and won two elections, if the terms of the manifesto were to be achieved and if we obtained the results which we sought to obtain, it would be our automatic duty to recommend acceptance of those terms to the British people. That is the Prime Minister's view, clearly stipulated, and I may say that it is also mine.

Can the right hon. Gentleman clarify an important constitutional point? He said that it would be the duty of the Prime Minister and the Government to recommend the terms to the people. Could we be sure that we would first of all have a recommendation to Parliament?

I do not think that these constitutional aspects are for me but are for the party leaders and, if I may say so, aspiring party leaders.

Can my right hon. Friend, for the benefit of the whole House, give an estimate of the authoritativeness of a Government recommendation carried by eight votes to six, with five abstentions?

I take it that my hon. Friend has been making one of his books again. Since I find his bookmaking ability more reliable than his political judgment, I will leave it at that.