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Eec (Minister's Speech)

Volume 885: debated on Tuesday 4 February 1975

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Q1.

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech made by the Secretary of State for Trade about the EEC to the southern regional council of the Labour Party on 19th January represented the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech of the Secretary of State for Trade on the EEC at Brighton on 19th January represents Government policy.

Q9.

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech by the Secretary of State for Trade at Brighton on 19th January on British membership of the EEC represents Government policy.

Q10.

asked the Prime Minister if the speech made by the Secretary of State for Trade in Brighton on 19th January represents Government policy.

I refer my hon. Friend and the hon. Members to the replies I gave him and the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) in answer to supplementary questions on 21st January.

Is it not crystal clear from that speech that the Secretary of State for Trade believes that Britain should be renegotiating its terms of entry into the EEC with a view to coming out, while it is the collective position of the Government that we are renegotiating with a view to staying in? Is it not therefore incumbent upon the Secretary of State to continue his campaign for getting Britain out of the Common Market from the back benches?

The hon. Gentleman has got this wrong. My right hon. Friend and all of us on this side fought two elections on the manifesto, which says that we shall negotiate on these terms. When we have seen what the terms are, it will be decided by the country through the ballot box, which, of course, is now to be through the referendum.

What interpretation does my right hon. Friend put on the balance of trade figures? Does he agree with the interpretation put on them by the Secretary of State or with that of the Foreign Secretary? Since my right hon. Friend and others have made it clear that they are about to make a recommendation to the people before they take part in the referendum that we should like to stay in, can my right hon. Friend tell us when that statement will be made?

With such limited statistical qualification as I am capable of, I have been through the figures quoted on this occasion and all the other relevant figures. While, of course, one can have different base dates for figures, any reading of the figures confirms what are the facts—namely, that the expectations put forward in 1971 about the balance of trade between this country and the Common Market have been utterly falsified by the events, and that they are in fact much worse.

Of course this is partly due to high world food prices and the fact that we have been able to get food from the Common Market at high but not comparably higher prices. But if one takes the whole range of trade, the figures are far worse than those suggested by the Leader of the Opposition in those earlier debates.

Even accepting that collective Cabinet responsibility seems to have gone out of the window on this issue, may I ask the Prime Minister to confirm that the question of sovereignty, of which the Secretary of State makes so much, forms no part of the matters which are being negotiated between the Government and fellow members of the EEC? Will the Prime Minister clearly state his own view that if he is successful in obtaining the terms which he seeks this will involve no damaging erosion of our national sovereignty?

With regard to collective responsibility, there is on the part of the Government, and in all the foreseeable future, far greater collective responsibility than I can see now or foresee for three years ahead in the Shadow Cabinet. Parliamentary sovereignty is a very important issue in the negotiations. Perhaps, having a safe seat, the hon. Gentleman felt that he did not have to read our manifesto. If he will read it, he will see clearly stated that parliamentary sovereignty is one of the vital issues in the renegotiations. If, on questions of parliamentary sovereignty, which we insist is a very important matter, I and my colleagues are satisfied, I shall certainly be prepared to accept that the manifesto has been fulfilled. If not, not.