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European Economic Community

Volume 886: debated on Tuesday 11 February 1975

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Q1.

asked the Prime Minister if, during the period in which Ministers will be allowed to speak against the Government's recommendations on EEC membership, he will arrange for Ministers to state explicitly that they are so doing when they dissent from the recommendation.

Why not? Why not start now, as the Secretary of State for Trade is making speeches which show him opposed to membership on any terms? Could we have a Cabinet Committee to control the Secretary of State for Trade, as well as one that controls the Secretary of State for Industry?

I find it difficult to follow the hon. Gentleman's convolutions, but it is not necessary to do what he asks. When the Cabinet makes a recommendation to the country in relation to the referendum, he need have no fear that any who might wish to act in accordance with the proposed agreement to differ will not identify themselves, but if the hon. Gentleman is worried I shall identify them for him.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is only fair and reasonable that the Minister who is to have responsibility for the National Enterprise Board should explain how membership of the Common Market would interfere with the activities of the board? Likewise, should not someone explain how the development plans of the coal and steel industries would be affected?

I am sure that the last thing my hon. Friend would want to do is prejudge the negotiations. There were some serious unsolved problems in the previous negotiations. These matters are being taken up in the negotiations, and they will be dealt with by the Government as a whole when we see the outcome of the negotiations.

Will the Prime Minister clarify one point on collective responsibility? We understand that during the referendum campaign Ministers will be free to talk according to their personal views. After the referendum campaign, when the matter is debated again in the House will the Prime Minister restore collective responsibility?

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that many of my hon. Friends have made clear they will accept the judgment of the country in this matter, so I think he is asking about an extremely hypothetical situation. Should he or anyone on his Front Bench wish to make any representations to me on how collective responsibility works, I shall be interested to consider it.

Is the Prime Minister aware that this Question is unnecessary? We already know which Ministers are for the Common Market and which are against it. The only interest is in those who are reserving their position, including the Prime Minister. We want to see to which side of the fence they will topple.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. He will understand that we fought the election on the question of renegotiating the terms. We do not know the terms, but when we do we shall make our recommendation to the House. The right hon. Gentleman is prejudging the discussion without even knowing what the terms are.