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Volume 888: debated on Wednesday 12 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress of the renegotiations of the terms of United Kingdom membership of the EEC.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if the EEC renegotiation objectives outlined in his statement to the Council of Ministers on 1st April 1974 have yet been achieved.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the renegotiations on the EEC.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the summit meeting of EEC member countries in Dublin in March.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further progress report on the negotiations which he is conducting on British membership of the EEC.

Outstanding renegotiation matters were discussed at the Council of Ministers meeting on 3rd-4th March and at the Heads of Government meeting in Dublin on 10th-11th March. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be making a statement on the outcome of the Dublin meeting later this afternoon.

In the meantime, may 1 remind the right hon. Gentleman of the passage in Labour's manifesto and the White Paper that the taxes which form the so-called own resources" of the Community are unacceptable to the Government? Will he assist us by measuring the terms in the manifesto against the terms agreed by saying whether the taxes arising from, say, imported foodstuffs into Britain will belong to Britain or to the Common Market?

Is my right hon. Friend aware that perhaps the most important single aspect of the objectives set out in his speech to the Council of Ministers, which were the objectives set out in the Labour Party manifesto, refer to this country's right to plan our internal affairs in a Socialist direction? Will he take this opportunity of scotching the rumour that there is anything whatever in the membership of the Common Market to prevent a Labour Government carrying out the sort of measures included in the Industry Bill which is now before a Standing Committee?

I have no intimation at all from the Commission of any difficulties in carrying out the proposals included in the Labour Party's manifesto on the National Enterprise Board or the Bill which is now before the House.

Will the Foreign Secretary say a little more about the Community's attitude towards regional policies? Does he feel that the Commission, in light of the renegotiation, is striking a reasonable balance between the encouragement of national policies and restraining the auction in regional aids which would be damaging to everybody?

Subject to the view of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, this matter will be debated. I hope that we shall have a full debate in order to remove a number of misapprehensions which are being spread. Having taken a very active part in the discussions which led up to the issue of the Commission document, I believe that it preserves a proper balance between the right of individual nations to take action to avoid unemployment in development areas and any overbidding which can result from an auction, perhaps, by the better-off nations to secure industries in regions where we would not wish them to go.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that now the charade of renegotiation is over and we are about to enter a referendum campaign, he should recommend that his civil servants be given paid leave of absence similar to that which has been given to Sir Christopher Soames and Mr. George Thomson, who are now propagandising on behalf of the EEC? Will he assure the House that a reply will be forthcoming fairly soon to the letter written by my hon. Friends and myself on the subject of the relationship between the EEC and the Industry Bill?

On the first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, I know that we shall see a number of strange bedfellows, but I am surprised that he should associate himself with editorials in the Daily Mail. The answer to the second part of the supplementary question is that I hope that there will be a reply fairly soon.

Will the Foreign Secretary remind his colleagues that "Scotch" and "Welsh" are words which have a different significance for many of us? I do not know whether there is a word for Ulster. Will he accept that in Scotland there is deep disappointment that he has done nothing to change the common fisheries policy which will apply in 1982? What hope does he hold out for our fishermen to retain control of the right to fish in their own waters, when EEC fleets are allowed to mop them dry, as has happened around their own coasts?

On the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I am always careful, if ever I use the word, to put in the letter "c ", mak- ing it "welch "— and I would not dream of using the word "scotch" with a "ch" or an "s ". I only drink it.

As regards the fisheries dispute, I have written to the hon. Gentleman's colleague about it, and I shall be glad to discuss it further at any time.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what would be the consequences for our trading position if, in spite of what appear to have been successful negotiations, we ever left the Community? Should we not have to embark on a series of fresh negotiations with a large number of countries— not only the EEC and EFTA but the Lomé countries, and others? Might not those negotiations take a considerable time, during which British industry would remain in a state of uncertainty?

In answer to a supplementary question I would not wish to embark on the thorny path which the hon. Gentleman has invited me to tread. As I said earlier, clearly it would be a traumatic experience if we had to de-negotiate our way out, having renegotiated our way in.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that no decisions were taken in Brussels on Commission documents concerning the stocktaking of the common agricultural policy and, therefore, that the renegotiation of the CAP has been omitted from these renegotiations?

In answer to the first part of my right hon. Friend's question, Yes, Sir ". In answer to the second part, "No, Sir ". There has been a substantial change in the agricultural policy which most people, except my right hon. Friend, recognise.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if the renegotiation of the terms on which the United Kingdom entered the EEC has now been completed.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what matters now remain to be renegotiated with the European Community.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what issues are still outstanding in the renegotiation of the terms of entry to the EEC.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he hopes to complete the renegotiations with the EEC.


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on which matters of importance remain outstanding in the EEC negotiations.

As a result of the meeting of Heads of Government in Dublin which concluded yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I are satisfied that we have now taken the issues which have been under negotiation since last April as far as possible, and there are no other issues that we intend to raise in advance of the referendum.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the House will want an early opportunity to congratulate him and his colleagues on their achievement and success?

That was so surprising that I could not believe that my right hon. Friend had reached the end of his supplementary question. I am grateful to him.

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that if Britain withdraws from the Common Market it will be likely to lead to rising and heavy unemployment in Scotland?

These are issues which are better for debate than for answers to supplementary questions. They are all complicated matters, and I am trying to approach them in a manner which will satisfy Britain's interests and not the interests of those who have particular views one way or the other.

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on reaching agreement yesterday with our partners in Dublin? Is not some tribute also due to our Community partners for showing such a cooperative attitude— especially our Socialist comrades, the Federal German Chancellor and the Prime Ministers of the Netherlands and Denmark, for showing us such solidarity?

It seems as though the electioneering season has started rather early. As regards the attitude of our Community partners, there was no doubt that there was a very strong desire on their part to ensure that, so far as they were able, the United Kingdom should remain a part of the Community. There is no doubt that this actuated their replies to the requests that we have made during the past 12 months— and that should weigh with disinterested people when they are making up their minds on this issue.

As one of the objectives of the Government's renegotiation, as set out in the Labour Party manifesto, was to ensure the retention by Parliament of the powers that we need to pursue effective regional, industrial and fiscal policies, and as the power of decision over State aids is subject to the provisions of the treaties of Rome and Paris, if the negotiations have succeeded will those treaties be amended accordingly?

No, Sir. I am satisfied that the practice of the British Government in regard to industrial policies and the curing of unemployment will not be jeopardised by the agreements that we have made.

In spite of what my right hon. Friend said about fiscal and employment policies, will he confirm that if this country remains a member of the Community we shall be comitted to economic and monetary union? If so, how can he guarantee what he said to the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten)?

There are a number of matters to which we are committed, such as universal disarmament, but I do not expect it to arrive tomorrow. The same is true of economic and monetary union—

It is no use some of my right hon. and hon. Friends fighting these old battles over and over again. I hope that we shall not get excited about it. Those who do not want to accept it will not accept it—[AN HON. MEMBER : "he Tories will."] I do not care who does and who does not. I am only giving my best judgment to the House. That judgment, whether or not it is accepted, is that economic and monetary union is unlikely to come for many years, and that when it comes it will only be when all the members of the Community are ready to adopt it.

The right hon. Gentleman was careful to say that there were no new matters which the Government propose to raise before the referendum. Does not this underline the fact that renegotiation is not a process with a certain begin ning date and a certain ending date but a continuing factor in our membership? Have not the Govenrment given notice that they propose thereafter to pursue the question of the steel policy of the EEC?

That is partly true and partly not. In the Labour Party manifesto, which was voted on by the country, we set out a number of issues on which we wished to have some satisfaction and some changes. Those changes have been carried as far as we think it is possible and proper to carry them. After the British people have taken the decision, if we are out, that is the end of it— certainly the end of any further negotiations — but, if we are in, there will be a number of matters on which we shall continue to try to fight for and support British interests as against everyone else's, but looking at the situation in the light of the general interests of Europe as a whole.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that on 7th December the Prime Minister said that the question of steel would be included in the renegotiations? What progress was made on this matter?

At the Council of Ministers, I intimated that if the referendum were decided in such a way that Britain remained a member we should wish to pursue the problems concerning steel investment and to review other problems. Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister reinforced what I said at the Council of Foreign Ministers.

Does not all that the right hon. Gentleman has said with great robustness today demonstrate the essential flexibility and stability of the Community to the needs of its members? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that he has succeeded— we are glad about it — in obtaining the accommodation of the Community to the needs of Britain, as we on the Opposition benches always expected and felt confident that we would?

There is no doubt that during the course of the past 12 months a number of changes have been made in the policies of the Community, as a result of our presence there and of the activities of a number of Ministers. I believe that it has become a more outward-looking body than it was before. In relation to the developing countries, for example, it is embarking upon new policies which are bound to help the developing world.

My right hon. Friend has confirmed that the renegotiations are now complete. Will he give us his personal view on the question whether the terms of the manifesto on which Government supporters fought the General Election have been met?

I certainly hope to join the Prime Minister in expressing a view to the Cabinet. That is the first place in which it should be put.

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that nothing in what he has negotiated about in recent months will have the slightest effect on the extent to which we are governed and our policies are controlled from Brussels?

I do not think that it will have much effect, but I think it is quite clear that the United Kingdom Government will be able to maintain control over their own basic affairs.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Has my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster indicated to you that he wishes to answer Question No. 60?