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Volume 889: debated on Wednesday 9 April 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether, during the EEC negotiations, the representatives of any other member States raised with him problems connected with their loss of sovereignty.

Does this not prove that the practical experience of those members of the Community who have been within it for 17 years is that their sovereignty has been in no way reduced but, indeed, has been added to?

That is certainly my view. If one examines the position of the Government of France or Germany, one finds that it seems inconceivable that they may judge or suspect that they have lost any of their proper national rights through membership of the EEC.

Will my right hon. Friend try to explain to which category of pro-Marketeers he belongs—those who say that they genuinely want an integrated united Europe, or those who say "We want to go into the formalities but we really believe that we shall retain all of our national interests and do as we like"?

The reality of the matter is rather more important than the reality of my position. But if my hon. Friend wants to know, my position is this: I believe that the hopes I have for the future of Great Britain—hopes which are very much related to my views on social democracy and the party which my hon. Friend and I serve—are more likely to be realised within the EEC than outside it. That is my position.

Will the Minister of State now answer the question which the Foreign Secretary could not answer? If we stay in the Community and a future Conservative Government—hypothetical as the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary might think that to be—wished to abolish VAT, would they have the sovereignty to do so and, if they did so, what would happen within the Common Market?

It is utterly inconceivable that I could answer any question which the Foreign Secretary failed to answer. All that I can do is to repeat the answer that he gave—that in or out of the Community the right of a Labour Government or a Conservative Government to operate VAT according to their choice—[HON. MEMBERS: "Abolish it."] —including zero rating, which some of us regard practically as the equivalent of abolition, is absolutely clear.

When my right hon. Friend is being pressed for the abolition of VAT, will he bear in mind that many of us in the House and many people in this country would deeply resent the reimposition of purchase tax and a higher rate of income tax, which would flow from any abolition of VAT?