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Commons Chamber

Volume 889: debated on Wednesday 9 April 1975

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House Of Commons

Wednesday 9th April 1975

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

Efta Countries (Foreign Ministers)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has any plans to meet the Foreign Ministers of EFTA countries.

13.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will arrange to meet the Foreign Ministers of the EFTA countries.

14.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to meet the Foreign Ministers of the European Free Trade Area.

I met the then Foreign Minister for Portugal on 6th and 7th February and I hope to meet his successor and the Foreign Minister for Norway at a meeting of the NATO countries on 29th-30th May. I have at present no plans to meet the others.

From the soundings which the Foreign Secretary doubtless has already undertaken among Free Trade Area Ministers, has he any reason to suppose that if Britain were to leave the Common Market the EFTA countries would not continue to support the concept of industrial free trade between EFTA countries and Britain and the EEC?

I have not taken soundings on this matter because I have been trying to make a success of renegotiations. Therefore, my opinion can be only hypothetical. I assume that the EFTA countries would welcome the continuation of the partnership which we have had for many years. We can always solve some difficulties at the expense of creating greater ones.

Since the case for the United Kingdom's staying in the Common Market must rest almost exclusively on the inability to obtain an agreeable free trade area and since The Times and the Economist now take the view that a free trade area would be reasonably possible if we were to leave the Community, does the Foreign Secretary not agree with his right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, who made the same sort of remark on television some weeks ago?

I remember nothing about that.

Unfortunately, since my right hon. Friend the Minister of State says that he cannot remember the remark he made, I am in no position to say whether I agree with him. Basically, I do not see that it would be of any great advantage to the United Kingdom to exchange a partnership of 200 million people for a partnership of 40 million people.

Is it not unlikely that if we were to leave the EEC the EFTA countries would be anxious to extend to us treaty facilities, remembering that we would have just broken other treaty facilities? Is it not wise to remember that the preponderance of our trade is with Europe and that a greater partnership with EFTA is in no way a substitute for the EEC? Are not my hon. Friends chasing a will-o'-the-wisp?

I do not wish to intervene in any quarrels in the Conservative Party—I have plenty of my own—but certainly I do not regard EFTA as an alternative to the EEC, and never have done.

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that instead of his speaking about partnerships of 200 million or 40 million people, Europe would be better served if this country's policy were aimed at uniting everybody, and if we were to act as a catalyst in that respect?

I think it would be a good idea, but if we were to come out of the Community it would not help us to achieve that aim.

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that when EFTA countries trade with the Community they have to observe its directives and regulations?

In a great many cases that is so. I am sorry that there were not more hon. Members present in the House last night to hear my right hon. Friend the Paymaster-General talk about the trade agreement made between Sweden and the EEC. Under that agreement Sweden has had to accept, as part of the conditions, Articles 90 to 92 of the Treaty of Rome—provisions which cause so much difficulty to a number of hon. Members, but not to me personally. In those circumstances, in the argument which we shall be conducting in the country we should beware of believing that we can escape from the policies of the EEC by contracting out. Its influence is broader than that.

Rhodesia

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the prospects for a constitutional settlement in Rhodesia.

11.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further action he has taken to end the illegal régime in Rhodesia.

Following the arrest of the Rev. Sithole, talks between the ANC and Mr. Smith were broken off. Now that Mr. Sithole has been released to attend the OAU meeting in Dar es Salaam we hope that an early and constructive resumption of talks may be possible. We remain in close touch with the governments of neighbouring African countries and will continue to support their efforts to promote a just and peaceful solution.

What significance does the Secretary of State attach to the more moderate statement by Mr. Smith at the weekend? Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that in spite of his preoccupation with Europe he will seize any opportunity that may arise for a British initiative over Rhodesia to reinforce the helpful influences now being exerted by Zambia and South Africa?

I do not think that it would be helpful for me to comment on or attempt to interpret Mr. Smith's speeches. I think that they must stand for themselves. His actions will count for more.

As for our own position in this matter, I have strengthened our representation in the Southern African countries and have strengthened communications between us. Although I am not wholly up to date about what took place at the OAU meeting yesterday, although I have received one message about it, nevertheless I think that relations between the African countries and ourselves are sufficiently close for our politicians to converge as much as is possible. I hope to carry that process further at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference in Jamaica at the end of the month.

Has my right hon. Friend seen the statement made at the OAU by the Zambian Foreign Minister to the effect that he understands that South Africa intends to withdraw its forces from Rhodesia? It would seem that Rhodesia cannot continue for very much longer as an illegal régime now that Mozambique and Angola have also cut their connections with that country.

Yes, I have seen what Mr. Mwaanga said. The Prime Minister of South Africa told me that when hostilities ceased in Rhodesia he would withdraw his troops. At the moment I have no confirmation of the statement made by Mr. Mwaanga. No doubt other statements will be made in due course. As to the survival of the Rhodesian régime, I am concerned—as I know my hon. Friend is—to ensure that that country, which is bound sooner or later, and I hope sooner, to have a majority of Africans in its Government, shall achieve that peaceably so that Europeans and Africans may continue to live there together.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that this country must still have a tremendous responsibility for the Europeans and British communities in Rhodesia? They will look to us in the last resort to safeguard their lives and their future.

I think that safeguarding the lives of the Europeans in Rhodesia will depend as much on the wisdom and magnaminity which they show during the current negotiations as upon any armed force that we could put at their disposal.

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not mean that. It is my belief —as I think it is of hon. Members on both sides—that the minority population in Rhodesia should be enabled to live there. I think that a lot will depend upon the way in which they handle their own affairs during the next few months.

Are not there now welcome signs that the Government of South Africa are bringing effective pressure to bear on the Smith régime to take a more reasonable attitude? Will my right hon. Friend do everything in his power to encourage the South African Government to understand that the achievement of a just settlement in Rhodesia is very much in the interests of South Africa, not only in terms of its relations with other Black African countries but in terms of securing the support of countries in Europe and elsewhere?

It is true that Mr. Vorster is anxious to see a settlement of the Rhodesian problem. He would not accept that he was intervening in the affairs of Rhodesia. He has consistently denied that. However, the weight of opinion of that neighbour of Rhodesia must have a considerable impact on Rhodesian policies.

Moscow

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will pay an official visit to Moscow.

My right hon. Friend recently paid an official visit to the Soviet Union with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. At present he has no plans to return.

If my right hon. Friend or any other Minister has the opportunity to visit Moscow, will he please inform Mr. Shelepin that his allegation to the effect that those who demonstrated against his visit were professional agitators, paid £5 a day, was a disgusting lie? Will he also inform his host that many hon. Members on both sides of the House care deeply about the KGB's current persecution of dissident minorities of all kinds, not least the two trade unionists sentenced to five years' exile, Professor Mark Azbel, who is not allowed back to Moscow, and the Slepak family, which went on hunger strike on Sunday after waiting five years for an exit visa?

My hon. and learned Friend has made his point. It will be reflected in Moscow before any of my right hon. Friends visits the USSR.

Even though the right hon. Gentleman has no plans to visit Moscow, will he none the less send a message to the Soviet authorities calling their attention to the increasingly alarming and growing reports of atrocities perpetrated by the North Vietnamese forces in their invasion of additional territory in the southern Republic, with a view to persuading the Soviet authorities and other countries, including our allies, to work in a concerted fashion, to check the reports, and, if they are true, to try to put an end to the situation forthwith?

That is another question. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to ask it, he must put it down.

If my right hon. Friend visits Moscow, or if he is able to convey a message, will he make it clear that although some Government supporters are concerned about the problem of political prisoners in the Soviet Union they are also genuinely concerned about political prisoners on our own doorstep —namely, the Shrewsbury Two—and many other people charged and brought to trial in this country because they do not agree with the present political philosophy and suffer as a result of it?

My hon. Friend knows that he and I disagree about the Shrewsbury Two, as he calls them. However, I welcome his initial comments, in which he referred to the unacceptability, to him and to other Social Democrats, of the existence of political prisoners in the Soviet Union. It is important that all sections of the Labour Party should make that point as often as possible.

Reverting to the question asked by the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner), will the Minister ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to summon the Soviet Ambassador and make it plain that we deplore the Communist-sponsored aggression in South Vietnam, and that the United Kingdom stands four-square by the moral obligations of the Paris agreement and expects other nations to do the same?

We attach a great deal of importance to the Paris agreement. However, I think that is a different matter from summoning the Soviet Ambassador. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to ask about Government initiatives, he must put down a Question.

Middle East

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on his recent discussions with Dr. Kissinger on the Middle East.

I would refer my hon. Friend to my full statement in the debate on foreign affairs on 25th March.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that Dr. Kissinger has not ruled out a possible resumption of the step-by-step approach which he has already used? Will he also state whether Dr. Kissinger confirmed to him that Israel, at any rate, was standing by either for a resumption of step-by-step negotiations, or to go to Geneva?

My conversations with Dr. Kissinger are confidential, but I understand that United States policy does not rule out either a resumption of what are called step-by-step negotiations, or a return to Geneva, depending on what seems to be the most likely way forward. At the time I met Dr. Kissinger he was naturally dispirited as a result of his most recent efforts. Nevertheless, I think that if there were an opportunity of bringing the parties together without returning to Geneva, and if that seemed to be the best course, it should be taken. If not, a return to Geneva should be the next step.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that, apart from the countries in the Middle East, no one would be more affected by a further outbreak of war than ourselves, and no country's economy is more vulnerable to tension in the area than is ours? Therefore, in the light of Dr. Kissinger's unfortunate failure, ought not the right hon. Gentleman to go to the Middle East to see whether this country, alone or in unison with our Community partners, can bring the parties together and take some form of initiative which might bring about a further step towards a settlement?

Of course, we are not uniquely affected by any development of tension in the Middle East, but our interests are affected substantially, as are those of others. However, I would rule out any prospect of the United Kingdom acting alone in this matter. That would seem to be to repeat the follies of 20 or 30 years ago, from which I hope we have learned lessons. There is a prospect of other nations apart from the United States and the USSR taking an interest in these matters, because we are all concerned, but this must be the subject of general agreement, and I do not know of any general agreement to that effect yet.

Did the right hon. Gentleman's discussions include a mention of Dr. Kissinger's statement, as endorsed by President Ford, that he would not rule out the possible use of force by his Government in the Middle East? If that matter were discussed, did the Foreign Secretary associate himself with it or dissociate himself from it, as a Minister in Her Majesty's Government?

That statement, which was made many weeks ago, has been overtaken by explanations and events on a number of occasions. I see no useful contribution to the cause of peace in the Middle East in resurrecting it now.

We do not underrate the efforts of Dr. Kissinger recently, even though they produced no concrete results, but does my right hon. Friend agree that time is slipping away and that if we wish to take advantage of the climate for peaceful negotiation it is urgent that the Geneva Conference be reconvened in the very near future?

I agree that time is slipping away. We should not lose sight of the fact that President Sadat said that the United Nations mandate would be renewed for a period of only three months instead of the normal six months. I believe that we should draw lessons from that, because in my view President Sadat is a man of his word in these matters and there is considerable significance in what he has said. I promise my hon. Friend that we shall lose no opportunity of taking any initiative in this matter. I hope that this may be one issue that I shall discuss with the other Community Foreign Ministers when I meet them in Dublin at the weekend, although the agenda is clearly a matter for common agreement between us.

My hon. Friend the Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Tugendhat) referred not only to a British initiative but to a European one. If at any time the Foreign Secretary thought that a visit to the Middle East by himself might contribute to the possibility of a useful European initiative, would he keep his mind open on this possibility?

I have considered this matter and discussed it with some of our allies. At the moment, however, I do not think that there is anything that I can usefully do. If I thought that there was, I would undoubtedly go.

European Security And Co-Operation

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the latest progress of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Substantial progress has been made at the conference. A number of important points remain to be settled, but there have recently been signs that some of these, especially in the Declaration of Principles and on military confidence-building measures, may be on the way to a solution.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that reply. Will he confirm, none the less, that Her Majesty's Government are not yet satisfied, first, with the guarantees offered by the Soviet Union with regard to confidence-building measures and, secondly, with those concerning the freer flow of people and information across frontiers? Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to see that there is no further erosion of the Western position on these matters, and make clear to Mr. Brezhnev that he will not get his summer summit meeting unless the Soviet Union makes some concessions on these matters?

I know of the hon Gentleman's interest in these matters. However, I do not believe that that kind of approach will get us very far. There is a process of negotiation going on at present. Each side is putting forward its own proposals. We are working closer to agreement. I hope that we shall get it, because my belief and that of most people who study these matters is that the signing of an agreement by 33 European nations, even though not having as much political content as we might like, would be an historic moment in the history of Europe. For that reason, I believe that we should work for that. Therefore, I do not rule out a summit conference; indeed, in the reverse way, I am trying to achieve one.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the approach which has been suggested by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) seems to indicate that he and some of his right hon. and hon. Friends are not really concerned about achieving genuine disarmament in Europe? In those circumstances, is not it time that the Opposition made it clear that they are serious about taking the steps which they say are necessary on a multilateral basis if they believe that disarmament should take place?

It is not for me to judge the motives of the Opposition, but there is clearly a problem here between achieving a genuine move to détente and a mere propaganda move. I want to see sufficient meat in the agreement—without getting everything that we want—to ensure that it represents something which people in Europe, including people in Eastern Europe, will consider to be an advance over anything that they have seen before, signed by their own Governments and politicians.

Although I go a long way with what the right hon. Gentleman has just said about the interests of people in Eastern Europe outside the Soviet Union, is it not evident that the main reason why the Soviet Union wants a meeting of this conference at summit level is to secure a propaganda victory by putting the seal on achievements since the war in gaining control over peoples and territories? Therefore, in consultation with our Western allies, will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear to the Soviet Union that a meeting at summit level is not essential and that our needs must be met?

I am being asked to comment on the motives of a great many people today. Again, I must disclaim knowledge of the Soviet Union's motives. I do not mind conceding propaganda victories to anyone, if they are peaceful and if they carry the confidence of the people of Europe further forward. That is the task to which we have to bend ourselves As regards not ending this conference with a summit meeting, that must depend on the nature of the final agreement. But I should be deeply disappointed if it did not end with a meeting of Heads of Governments, as it began.

May I associate the Opposition with the view of the Foreign Secretary that these are important negotiations? We wish them well. However, will he now tell the House that he will make it his business to keep us better informed about the progress of negotiations than has been the case to date?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. As regards keeping the House informed, the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) has prompted me consistently to answer Questions, and I am always glad to do so, but the Opposition have been extremely lax in the way that they have failed to ask for foreign affairs debates. I have had literally to force myself upon the House in order to explain my views. I am always willing to keep the House informed on these matters.

Cyprus

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress is being made in negotiating with the Turkish Government for compensation for the British owners of land in Cyprus now under Turkish control.

We continue to press for a positive response from the Government of Turkey to the repeated representations made by Her Majesty's Ambassador at Ankara about the establishment of compensation procedures.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will he pay special attention to the plight of those British citizens whose land in Cyprus has been seized by the Turks and who, because they happen to have been born in Cyprus, may have unwittingly acquired dual British-Cypriot nationality? Will he assure that representations are made by Her Majesty's Government on their behalf to the Turkish Government?

We are conscious of these problems, particularly the one referred to by my hon. Friend. We continue to make representations from time to time, varying in strength and in our attitude according to the depth of suffering. My hon. Friend referred to a group of people who are suffering particularly. I promise that we shall continue to do what we can, but my hon. Friend must understand that in the Cyprus situation our powers are limited. However, we shall continue to press as far and as fast as we can.

On the question of representations to the Turkish Government, is it not a fact that they are now suggesting that such representations should be made to the Federal Turkish authorities in Cyprus? Does the Minister accept that this is a foolish and unworthy distinction? Will he tell the House whether he is in fact negotiating these matters with the Turkish Government at home or with the Turkish authorities in Cyprus? Indeed, was not most or much of the damage caused by Turkish troops under Turkish command?

I do not wish to comment on the hon. Gentleman's definition of foolish and unworthy distinctions. I should like to make it clear that we expressed our position in this House on the day that the so-called federated State of Cyprus was declared. Our position is that the legitimate government of Cyprus has not altered because of the unilateral declaration. Notwithstanding that, we have special obligations, in practice as well as in principle, to British citizens who are suffering in Cyprus at the moment. Because of that, we thought it right to make representations both to the Turkish Government in Ankara and to the local authorities in Cyprus. I am sure that we are right to continue to do that.

Strategic Arms Limitation Talks

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on whether Her Majesty's Government consider Great Britain bound by the ceilings on strategic arms negotiated by the United States Government at the recent Strategic Arms Limitation Talks.

These are bilateral agreements between the United States and the Soviet Union. We welcome them, but since they concern only United States and Soviet strategic arms they are not applicable to the United Kingdom.

Will my right hon. Friend comment on the known Russian view that the ceilings agreed for the American side include the strategic weapons possessed by Britain? If we are not a party to and are in no way bound by the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, may I ask what my right hon. Friend proposes to say when he goes to Geneva next month for the review conference on the non-proliferation treaty, when he will be asked what Britain has done to carry out its obligations under Article 6 to proceed towards nuclear disarmament?

It is true that the Soviet Union claims that there should be a general ceiling and that the United States has repudiated that view. Certainly, if my opinion were sought I should support the United States on this matter. There cannot be an asymmetrical arrangements of that kind, especially when we are not consulted.

Regarding the discussions in Geneva to which my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will be going, I do not accept that we are in breach of our obligations under Article 6 of the nonproliferation treaty. We participate in a number of international bodies of that kind. I am sure that my hon. Friend has noted that in a special declaration during the Moscow visit we reached agreement with the Soviet Union to hold consultations on the problems of arms limitation and disarmament. We intend to carry that out.

If we were to be bound by these talks, would not that be an infringement of parliamentary sovereignty?

It is astonishing how the Common Market crops up in the most innocent of conversations. Yes, I suppose it would be an infringement of parliamentary sovereignty, but if right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will kindly listen they will probably hear me define what I think sovereignty is at about half-past nine tonight.

Namibia

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proposals Her Majesty's Government intend to make in the Security Council to bring further pressure to bear on South Africa to withdraw from her unlawful ocupation of Namibia.

We supported the resolution passed by the Security Council on 17th December 1974 and look to the South African Government to respond positively.

As the South African Government are unlikely to respond positively, and as the Security Council's warning to the South African Government runs out on 31st May, will my right hon. Friend and his colleagues who normally answer on African matters bend their minds a little more thoroughly to this question, since it is abundantly clear that the OAU intends to go on campaigning for the destruction of raciliasm in Namibia and South Africa itself?

It is too early to say whether there will be a reaction from South Africa before the Security Council is convened again. Our hope is that pressures upon South Africa from ourselves and other countries, as well as from the Security Council, to the effect that South Africa's position in Namibia is unlawful and that she should withdraw, will be accepted by South Africa.

Will the right hon. Gentleman invite some of his hon. Friends to dust down their consciences? If there were such a thing as an hierarchy of unlawful occupations, would not South Africa's occupation of South-West Africa, or Namibia, be right at the bottom of the list and the illegal occupation of South Vietnam right at the top?

I am glad that I am not responsible for the consciences of hon. Gentlemen opposite. As for my hon. Friends, I am glad that they have shown a continuing concern for a situation in Southern Africa which has remained illegal, has been declared by the International Court of Justice to be illegal, and in our view is unlawful. It would be wrong to forget the situation there. The people of Namibia have a right to determine their own future. We, as part of the international community, have a right to stand up for them.

Portugal

10.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if British relations with Portugal have been affected by the recent abortive coup and if he will make a statement.

Britain's good relations with Portugal have not been affected by the attempted coup of 11th March. It is our hope that the changes taking place in Portugal and the results of the forthcoming elections for a constituent assembly will promote the cause of democracy, so that our relations can be strengthened.

The Portuguese authorities have reaffirmed their adherence to their international commitments, of which NATO is one.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the abortive Portuguese coup demonstrated the existence of a threat to democracy from the Right which has not been a feature of the carefully orchestrated campaign backed particularly by hon. Gentlemen opposite regard- ing the present situation in Portugal? Will he make it clear that the British Government would be utterly and completely opposed to any steps taken from any quarter which would overturn the present Portuguese régime from the Right and lead to the situation which came about in Chile following the coup against the Allende Government there?

It is my hope that the changes taking place in Portugal will strengthen the cause of democracy and neither the Right nor the Left in its extreme form. Indeed, I understand that one Right-wing and two Left-wing parties have been banned from taking part in the elections. I hope that there remains a broad spectrum of parties which will offer the Portuguese people the opportunity to express a wide range of opinions through the ballot box. As I have said on other occasions, I hope that the armed forces movement will hold the ring so that these elections can take place in a peaceful and orderly way.

Does the Foreign Secretary accept that, despite all that has been said, the main threat to democracy in Portugal comes from the extreme Left? If we can equate the armed forces movement in Portugal with democracy, it is a surprising state of affairs indeed.

I do not think that we can equate the armed forces movement with democracy, but I do not believe that anybody has ever tried to do so. Portugal has emerged from 48 years of dictatorship. In a country where I have seen and had personal knowledge of and contact with the leaders of those who do not have that democratic tradition and background, the struggle towards democracy is difficult. That is why we should be slow to condemn. It is for the Portuguese people to choose their own régime. All I ask is that they choose it in free and orderly elections.

12.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement about the safety of British subjects, interests and property in Portugal and its overseas territories.

We have no reports of any threat to the safety of British subjects in Portugal, Mozambique or Angola. We shall watch the situation with care.

When a British journalist was seriously molested in Lisbon, was appropriate action taken by Her Majesty's embassy? Have the Government obtained assurances from the new rulers of the Cape Verde Islands that specific British facilities there will be safeguarded?

The second question is clearly unrelated to the Question put down by the hon. Gentleman. If he wants information about facilities, he must table a Question.

Concerning the journalist molestation, as the hon. Gentleman described it, certainly inquiries were made and a point was made. But I suspect that both the hon. Gentleman and I have different interpretations of what then took place.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May we be told the name of the journalist concerned in this matter?

Reverting to the right hon. Gentleman's answer, I should point out that my hon. Friend's question referred to

"the safety of British subjects, interests and property".
Surely that covers the Cape Verde Islands. Will he now answer my hon. Friend's Question?

I think that the right hon. Gentleman is being a little unnecessarily casual in his reply. My hon. Friend's original Question quite plainly asked for a statement about the safety of British subjects and "interests" in Portugal and its "overseas territories". We have interests in the Cape Verde Islands, and although it may have escaped the right hon. Gentleman's attention, the Cape Verde Islands happen to be among the possessions of Portugal. So will he kindly answer the question or tell the House that either he or his civil servants have come here unprepared?

I shall answer the Question if I am given notice of it, and only then.

European Community

Brussels

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will pay an official visit to Brussels.

I hope to visit Brussels for an EEC Council of Ministers meeting in May.

Does the Secretary of State agree that if the referendum is to be meaningful the British people must be presented with some form of positive alternative by the Government? As we have already negotiated ourselves into and out of EFTA and into the EEC and would have to negotiate ourselves out of the EEC again if that were the decision of the referendum, is it not becoming clear that the only European group to which the Government will not have applied to join will soon be Comecon?

I do not know—I had not thought of it, but it is a new idea. I am grateful to the hon. Member, after his experiences of China, for putting the idea into my head. As to the present position, it will I think be in our best interests if at the moment we take the basic decision whether we shall remain in the Community, as in my judgment it is in the best interests of Britain that we should.

If the referendum of the people of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland says that we should remain in the Common Market, what arrangements will the right hon. Gentleman make for the future Scottish legislative assembly to be represented directly in Brussels?

I should like notice of that question. The original Question was a simple one, asking whether I would pay an official visit. I should not like to give an answer which might be offensive to the hon. Gentleman without at least having thought about it first.

Foreign Ministers

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet Foreign Ministers of the EEC.

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet the Foreign Ministers of the EEC countries.

When my right hon. Friend has a chance to meet the Common Market Foreign Ministers, will he, in his cool, professional and competent manner, explain to them that whatever the outcome of the referendum there will be no cheap North Sea oil for any of those who are currently joined with us in the Common Market? If it seems that the Common Market Ministers are not too aware of what he is trying to indicate to them, perhaps he could then display the other side of his character, which was shown to our loyal, hardworking Deputy Chief Whip. He could even tell them, in the brusque way in which he dealt with that little incident, that if there is any hesitation we are finished.

On the first part of that question, I agree about there being no cheap North Sea oil, but so far as I am aware that is not in question. Under the energy policy as far as it has been devised, we have the right to fix our own prices and we shall continue to do so. Indeed, we are engaged in international discussion on a wider basis in order to ensure that we achieve the maximum benefit for the British people from our fortunate discoveries. As regards my relations with the Deputy Chief Whip, I take note of my hon. Friend's strictures. Unfortunately, unlike him, I did not have the advantage of learning my manners in a good grammar school or at Ruskin College, Oxford.

Will the right hon. Gentleman, on Saturday, fortified by the result of the vote which we are to take tonight, express to his colleagues, the other Foreign Ministers, the appreciation of the great majority of hon. Members at the substantial concessions which they have made to meet the negotiating requests of the British Government, often at considerable inconvenience and cost to their own countries?

There is no doubt that it was because all our Common Market colleagues felt that our membership was of such value to the Community as a whole that they made concessions. The fact that it is of value to the Community as a whole is no reason why it should not also be valuable to us.

Would we be allowed, under the Treaty of Rome, to differentiate, in terms of the price of oil, between this country and the other members of the EEC?

I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would put down a Question about the price of oil. What is clear, and what I repeat as a general principle, is that there is no question but that we have complete control over these resources and can charge what prices we like. In so far as we enter into an arrangement with the EEC countries to limit that freedom, that is a sovereign decision which we shall take and which no one can force upon us.

If the right hon. Gentleman does meet the other Ministers, will he be able to get an assurance from his partners in the Common Market that if and when a Conservative Government are returned to power in this country they will retain the sovereignty to abolish value added tax?

With the help of the hon. Gentleman, I hope that it will be a long time before that fate overtakes the British people. As for value added tax, it is clear that no harmonisation of this tax is likely, and that we should not be required to tax essential and basic foodstuffs. This is an important issue for us.

My right hon. Friend said that he is meeting the Foreign Ministers next weekend. Will he confirm that there is a meeting of EEC Foreign Ministers in Ireland in the not-too-distant future? If so, will he tell us something about this series of meetings?

My hon. Friend must have misunderstood me. The meeting in Ireland is next Saturday; that is when we are meeting.

When, in October 1972, the Queen's signature was affixed to the European Communities Bill and the Great Seal was also affixed, had not these other Foreign Secretaries the right, at that time, to think that the nation's word was then pledged and the matter settled?

It was made clear right at the start that for the Labour Party—the then Opposition—the issue was not closed, and that we would leave it to the British people to take the final decision. That was all argued out in the House, and I see no value in going back over that ground again. That was made quite clear, and the British people will take their own decision very shortly.

Council Of Ministers

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in what form he plans to announce the provisional agendas of meetings of the Council of Ministers between Easter and early June 1975.

We shall continue to deposit in the House a monthly forecast of Community business. As a general rule it will be followed the next day by an oral statement.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. Has he been sitting in the Chamber over the last few days and heard hon. Members say time and again that we can ask Ministers to take a line in Brussels concerning the view of this House? If that is so, how does that coincide with the Statement of Agenda which refers to the "estimate" of subject headings likely to come up for discussion? If it is only an estimate of matters that he has, now is it possible for the House to discuss matters coming on the agenda and so instruct Ministers what line they should take?

I have spent a good deal of time in the House over the last two days and have heard many criticisms of the scrutiny procedure—almost all of them from my hon. Friend. The answer to his question is the answer given many times before, which I believe is abso- lutely right: if the House can control its Ministers, it controls the business in Brussels, because the Ministers have the right to participate in, and sometimes to veto, what happens there. That remains the position.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether, at any of these meetings, the Lomé Convention will be further discussed? Will he say what the future of that convention, with the benefits that it offers for the Commonwealth, would be if Great Britain were to withdraw from the Community?

I do not think that the Lomé Convention will be discussed at any meetings next month, because it is now signed and agreed between 46 Commonwealth and developing countries and the Community. It is difficult to decide what would happen in terms of the convention if Britain were to withdraw, but it would certainly put the entire matter at risk, and I think it would pose some very great problems for many Commonwealth countries if they wanted to continue the same sort of relationship, as I am sure they would, because it is so beneficial to them.

At the whole series of Ministers' meetings which are to take place, will the United Kingdom be represented by Ministers who personally support the policies of the Government, or will there be occasions when German, French and other Community Ministers have to deal with British Ministers who, privately, are opposing the policy which at those meetings they will be supporting? Is this not a case in which the Foreign Office ought to take responsibility for these negotiations? Reverting to what the Foreign Secretary said, the problem is not whether Parliament can control its Ministers but whether the Government can control their Ministers.

The hon. Gentleman is reverting to a question that he asked, with little credit, on the day before the House rose for the Easter Recess. I repeat what I said then. The Prime Minister made it absolutely clear that Ministers speaking from the Dispatch Box—he meant that phrase metaphorically as well as literally —would express the view of the Government. I repeat what I said then. I have no doubt that my colleagues acting in Europe or anywhere else will act with clarity and honour. That ought to satisfy the hon. Gentleman.

Will my hon. Friend consider putting in the Vote Office supplementary statements on business in the Council of Ministers when that business is changed after the business has been laid down in the initial estimate?

I shall certainly consider doing that. We try to keep the House informed as much as is possible by what is stated in the oral statements that I give monthly and in giving each month corrections or alterations from the written statement deposited the previous day or 48 hours before. Certainly it is our wish to keep the House informed as much as is practicably possible, and I shall consider ways of making that more realistic.

Does the Minister know what are the provisional agenda headings for this proposed meeting? If he does, will he say whether the subject of fishing limits will be on the agenda? If not, why not?

I do not think that the hon. Lady understands the nature of the question when she refers to this proposed meeting. Had she been here on the day that the business statement for the forthcoming month was made—on the day before the House rose for Easter—she would have discovered from me that although fishing limits and the problems associated with them are not part of the official agenda for Council business during April, we expect that they will be raised and that we shall be taking some part in the discussion.

As this may also be relevant to our credibility at these meetings, will the right hon. Gentleman answer a question which the Prime Minister failed to answer yesterday and which was asked by one of my hon. Friends? If important Questions are down for answer in the House—Questions which would normally be answered by dissenting Ministers in the next few months, in relation to these guidelines—if the question arises of their being transferred to another Minister, who takes the decision? Is it the Minister to whom the Question is tabled, the Foreign Secretary, or the Prime Minister himself?

Quite clearly, questions about the machinery of government are questions for the Prime Minister, but, equally, attitudes to the EEC, our position in terms of renegotiation and our intentions between now and the referendum, are matters which are under the general control of my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, and that will continue.

Will the Minister of State confirm, for the sake of the hon. Lady the Deputy Leader of the Scottish National Party that on fishing limits the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is discussing this very matter next week, I understand, with his eight colleagues in the agriculture and fisheries field?

That is absolutely right. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture will be discussing this matter on Budget Day, 15th April. Had she been present on the day that the statement was made, a fortnight ago, the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) would have known that.

Will the Minister confirm to his hon. Friends as well as to the country at large that whatever happens to fall on the agenda, it is through these meetings that we have parliamentary control of our sovereignty, and that there is no relinquishment of the sovereignty of this Parliament to the European Commission?

I made my views on sovereignty and the role of Parliament clear on Monday evening. I suspect that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will touch on this subject later this evening. There is nothing that I want to add now to what he has said or may say later today.

Sovereignty

22.

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?

Vietnam (Relief Aid)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on relief aid to Vietnam.

The House will be aware that I announced last Thursday that the Government would be making available an immediate sum of £750,000, subject, of course, to parliamentary approval, for humanitarian needs in Vietnam and Cambodia, particularly among the children. I now propose to increase this to £1 million.

Of this sum, an initial £100,000 has gone to the International Red Cross, which is able to operate both in areas controlled from Saigon and in those controlled by the Provisional Revolutionary Government. It has already begun to fly in condensed milk and other supplies from Singapore. It is now working out its detailed programme, and I propose to allocate a further £150,000 to the IRC for this work, bringing its total grant to £250,000.

The British Disasters Emergency Committee, representing the major British voluntary societies, met yesterday to hear the latest reports from the field and to make detailed plans for making help available to those in need—particularly the children. I discussed the situation last night with their representatives, and I am clear that through their various contacts they will be able to find ways of operating throughout South Vietnam. I therefore intend to make available to the committee a contribution of £250,000 towards the immediate operations of the British voluntary societies for bringing relief to Indo-China. The committee and the societies are already working out the logistics with help from my disaster unit.

UNICEF and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees have now issued a joint appeal for money for combined relief programmes. They will be provided throughout South Vietnam and Cambodia, on both sides of the war lines. I propose to make immediately available to them £250,000 in response to this appeal. This is additional to a contribution of £500,000 which was made available last week to the UNICEF Indo-China programme following my announcement last July of a total British contribution of £1 million. This programme is, of course, also assisting relief work in Cambodia.

This leaves a further £250,000 available at present for allocation as the plans of the international and British aid agencies become clearer. As they do, if this proves to be not enough, I may wish to come back for approval for further funds.

The main need at present is for medical supplies, food and shelter for the thousands of children who have permanently or temporarily lost their parents. It is my view, shared very widely, that it will be best for them eventually to be reunited with their families in the villages and towns wherever this is humanly possible. While my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was glad to make special arrangements for the orphan children being flown to Britain from Saigon, and while we all understand the compassion and individual concern so vividly expressed in the last few days, it is, I think, of the greatest importance that compassion is expressed above all in providing help to the several thousands of children who are at risk of disease and malnutrition, and whose lives are, therefore, at risk, in Vietnam itself. This will be our Government's priority. What we seek to do is to translate the deep feeling in Britain for the people of Vietnam into the most practical and constructive assistance we can offer.

We welcome the right hon. Lady's statement, and we are particularly glad that she has put such a practical slant on the need to give aid. If there is any question of her coming back for approval for further funds, I am sure that she will meet a generous response from the House as a whole.

I think that there is some concern about the orphans who have been brought here through a most generous effort by many people, the fear being that these small children might have a terrible problem in settling down in the wholly different environment of this country. Will the right hon. Lady take it that anything which the Government can do to help in this problem will he much appreciated?

Second—perhaps this is not entirely a matter for the right hon. Lady, but, as the Foreign Secretary was not able to deal with it, we should like her observations—some of us are concerned about the position of British subjects in South Vietnam. Has the right hon. Lady any information to give about their situation?

On the first matter, whatever individual views may be about the flight of the orphans to Britain, I am sure that one recognises that this represented an effort arising out of a genuine feeling of compassion immediately expressed in the way that some people felt suitable, and I am sure that all the agencies of our social services will be used to ensure that the best possible future is arranged for these children.

There is information now about the British civilians who remain in Vietnam. Arrangements are ready to take the remaining British civilians out, but a number of them are staying quite deliberately because they feel that they have a rôle to play.

The House welcomes what the Minister has said and her announcement about the increased aid which, rightly in my opinion, she is giving in the right place. Money supplied for aid especially to children all over Vietnam is better spent than are resources devoted to the sort of gimmicky publicity stunts which we have seen in the past few days and are still seeing.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that. in spite of propaganda to the contrary, the PRG have a stated policy of looking after children from wherever in Vietnam they come and of placing them as far as possible with relatives and with families, and especially in relation to the children of American Service men, who have been subject to a lot of propaganda to the effect that they would be left out if they were left in Vietnam? Is not that kind of propaganda misleading, since the Minister of Health of the PRG has said that these children will be given special care—

It is quite clear that the PRG recognise the need for external assistance. In fact, one of our practical problems is to provide money immediately to those agencies which can get into the areas controlled by the PRG. That is why I am giving an increased amount at present to the International Red Cross in particular, since it and UNICEF also have ways of getting into the areas controlled by the PRG, to help with their own programme of looking after the children. This is one of the practical problems one faces at the moment.

Will the right hon. Lady bear in mind that some of the reports which have come out suggest that there is good reason to fear for children of mixed parentage who are orphans? Will she look most carefully at those reports, and, if it seems that the best way to help them is to assist in moving them, will she consider doing that?

Indeed I shall. Representatives of a number of agencies and organisations have seen me or are to see me in the next day or two to give their up-to-date reports from the area. One of the problems is that the Saigon administration has now introduced its restrictions on children coming out. The problem of children coming out is extremely difficult. I am sure that the hon. Lady will agree that it is best to rest on the advice of the agencies with experience here, their general advice at the moment being that the need is to get help into Vietnam rather than bring children out.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her prompt reaction in the giving of aid. Is she able to say whether further assistance is needed to help the Saigon Children's Hospital, whose work I have seen at first hand? Is she in a position to strengthen the number of doctors and nurses working at that hospital?

May I answer my hon. Friend in this way? My general impression from the members of the British agencies whom I saw yesterday—one of whom had only just returned from Saigon—is that the number of relief workers in Saigon is at present entirely adequate. There are plenty of relief workers in Saigon. There is also adequate availability of medical supplies and food in the Saigon area, although distribution can be a problem. Therefore, my inclination is to say that there is not an immediate need in the Saigon area itself, and that the major need arises outside Saigon, further north, north of the war lines, in the whole area.

I associate myself with the welcome which has been accorded to the Minister's statement. Will the right hon. Lady reject the description "gimmicky publicity stunts" applied by her hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) to the flights bringing children out? Is it not wrong so to describe efforts to assist humanity? Second, what will the right hon. Lady's reaction be if the Saigon administration changes its attitude regarding the flying out of orphans? In the event of the situation deteriorating further, as is likely, and the Saigon administration wishing orphans or other children to be evacuated, what will the Minister's attitude be?

On the first matter which the hon. Gentleman raises, I think that each person must make his own judgment. I should not wish to condemn any effort which arises from genuine compassion and concern. I should not, therefore, wish to condemn in any way the flight of orphans out of Saigon. At the same time, I think it correct to make a distinction between what private people do and what the Government feel it right to do, and I can only repeat that the Government's attitude is that money can best be used to take help in for the thousands of children who, one hopes, can be reunited with their parents.

Is the right hon. Lady satisfied with our communications with the Hanoi Government? If she is, has she been able to make representations about the British subjects remaining at their posts, as she expressed it, in circumstances which, in certain events, might put them in great difficulty in the immediate future?

I think that matter is for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. One is anxious to see what contacts one can make with the Hanoi Government and, through them, with the PRG in terms of helping the British agencies to operate in the PRG-controlled areas. But that is a different matter. The first point raised by the hon. Gentleman is for my right hon. Friend.

I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friend on the speed with which she has brought to bear on the desecrated country of Vietnam the important relief work that she has announced. Does she agree that the best relief that can be given to South Vietnam is the ending of the Thieu régime, which has been propped up for too long by America, and that the refugee problem has been part of American strategy over the years? Is she in a position to assist with any peace initiatives?

The House will appreciate that I am making a statement today on the immediate Government aid that we can give to help deal with the human problem that is arising from the situation there. Hon. Members will have their views on what would be the best and most helpful way of ending the present human distress there, but that is rather a matter for my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary than for me.

Fishing Industry(Blockading Of Ports)

With permission, I should like to make a statement about the blockade of ports last week by inshore fishermen. I apologise to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House, for the slight delay in making this statement.

A blockade of ports throughout the United Kingdom organised by an action committee based in Scotland started on Monday 31st March. The fishermen involved claimed to be still worried about the arrangements relating to imports of frozen fish. In addition, they were concerned about the common fisheries policy of the EEC and to press their view that the United Kingdom should extend her fishing limits urgently irrespective of the outcome of the United Nations Law of the Sea Conference should other countries in the North Atlantic area do so. Other points concerning them were the proposed extension of the National Dock Labour Scheme and what they felt to be the inadequate coverage of the Government's temporary aid for the fishing industry.

I had previously arranged to meet the Scottish Trawler Federation and the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, each of which had already raised these issues, and neither of which was associated with the blockade. I took the view that it was inappropriate to meet the action committee, but I had no objection to the attendance of members of the committee who were on the executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, and two others who were invited as guests of the federation. This meeting was held on 2nd April. All those who spoke, whether or not they condoned the blockade, took a virtually unanimous view on the issues which had led to it. I emphasised the value to our industry of the measures with regard to Norwegian exports of frozen fish announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 26th March and described the Government's policy with regard to the other issues. I do not think the fishermen had properly appreciated the assurances given by my right hon. Friend in the House on these issues in answer to questions following his statement. These were incorporated in a statement released after the meeting. With permission, I will circulate a copy in the Official Report. On the basis of this statement the action committee decided to terminate the blockade early on 3rd April.

The Government cannot condone the blockade, which caused loss and inconvenience to many who were not otherwise concerned, but I must express approval of the action of the fishermen in ending it so quickly after hearing the assurances I was able to give them. These included an undertaking to reconvene a similar meeting as soon as possible after the discussions of the Council of Agricultural Ministers of the EEC to which my right hon. Friend referred in reply to supplementary questions on 26th March, and the relevant discussions on fisheries limits at the Law of the Sea Conference.

I thank the Minister for making that statement, albeit belatedly. We appreciate the part that the hon. Gentleman played personally in reaching agreement with the fishermen. However, with respect to him, was it not a dispute which should never have happened? All the issues raised in it, about which all sections of the fishing industry were unanimous, as the hon. Gentleman said in his statement, were forcefully stated in the House in a debate on 17th March. Why did the Government not act more positively then?

I have three specific questions. First, can the Minister say anything about the help for boats under 40 feet, a matter that is causing considerable concern in certain sections of the industry?

Secondly, may I ask the hon. Gentleman to keep the House fully informed of the progress of negotiations on the common fisheries policy, which is particularly important? In the light of what is proposed at the Law of the Sea Conference, there is an urgency about this. We on this side of the House shall certainly support the hon. Gentleman in what he is seeking to do.

Thirdly, the Minister was reported in the Press last Friday, after his meeting with the fishermen's associations, as saying that as a result of all that had happened the Government would be giving higher priority to the industry. Will the hon. Gentleman now repeat that assurance to the House?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his personal tribute, but I think that he is a little unfair to the Government. My outstanding impression was that there was inadequate communication between the Government and the fishing industry. It was not helped by some comments made by hon. Members following the statement made by my right hon. Friend. I am not referring to the lion. Gentleman in particular. I felt that the Government needed better communications with the industry.

I turn to the hon. Gentleman's three questions. The Scottish inshore men— — that is, roughly all those with boats between 40 feet and 80 feet—made a generous offer that they would be willing to give up to their colleagues with boats under 40 feet some of the money being made available to them in the temporary aid already announced. I made a commitment that I would consider that. There are difficulties, but the House should be informed of this generous gesture made by the Scottish inshore men.

We shall certainly keep the House informed about the common fisheries policy.

I think that fishing will of necessity attract a higher priority in discussions because of past events, because of the Law of the Sea Conference, and because of the implications of the review of the common fisheries policy. It was in that context that I was able to give assurance easily.

The sort of behaviour described by my hon. Friend in his statement is unusual among fishermen, particularly inshoremen, but they have a deep-down fear that the stocks of the fish they catch are slowly being exhausted. Does my hon. Friend accept that this fear is exacerbated by industrial fishing? What steps is my hon. Friend taking in consultation with nations such as Denmark which are fishing here almost on a "Hoover" scale and exhausting the stocks when the North Sea quota is almost exhausted?

I think that my hon. Friend accurately expresses the fears and concerns of the fishing industry. I accept that the fishermen have never had to deal with a situation of quotas in the past. There is a great deal of opposition to industrialised fishing. My right hon. Friend has already given an indication that this is not just a fishing matter. Trade considerations arise as well. We have assured the fishermen that we shall have to examine these in the allocation of any future quotas or, indeed, in the discussion of limits.

I thank the Minister for coming to Shetland to see the Shetland fishermen. I ask him to repeat to the House the undertaking given by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that he will take up with the Danes the question of the quota and to confirm what was reported after his meeting with the fishermen in Aberdeen, that he had said that, while he very much hoped that we could have an international agreement on extending the limits, if that proved impossible the Government would at least reconsider a unilateral extension of the limits.

I appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman said about my visit to Shetland. It is a very nice place, and I quite enjoyed the visit, although I would not suggest that I was there to help the right hon. Gentleman. I hope he will agree that there is a problem here. I think he knows that there are two problems which are related—quotas which deal with conservation of stocks, and limits. Partly they arise from the common fisheries policy and partly they are the concern of the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission, which is a slightly wider body.

All I can do is repeat the assurance I gave in Aberdeen, that we regard these problems as of some urgency. They can be solved and arrangements approved only with a willingness on the part of all concerned to get together and tackle them. That is why unilateral action is so undesirable. I said that if following the Law of the Sea Conference any other nation should take unilateral action we should need to consider what action we should need to take as a result.

Does the Minister not agree that his statement today is considerably less definitive than the statement he gave to the fishermen in Aberdeen last Wednesday? Does he accept that the blockade last week was only a token blockade and that the fishermen are genuinely worried about the future of their industry? Unless something is done to prevent foreign boats carrying on with industrial fishing, they fear that there will be no fish left for them to catch.

The hon. Member is one of those I was referring to earlier. I wish he would give credit where credit is due. My right hon. Friend's statement was a good statement which referred to almost all the things which I discussed with the fishermen, but the hon. Member's reaction to it was that it would not satisfy anyone. If hon. Members, in the interests of getting votes, intend not to convey the facts of what takes place in this House they must be warned. The fishermen like a straight deal and will not stand for being manipulated by any political party. I warn the hon. Member that he should be a bit more encouraging when worthwhile action is being taken by the Government.

I wish to take the opportunity of congratulating my hon. Friend. At least half the men in that fleet, as far as I can gather, are relatives of mine, as my hon. Friend probably knows by this time. There is great resentment at attitudes adopted by some hon. Members. We are pleased to hear—but it is only to be expected—that fishermen with boats of over 40 ft. are willing to help out their colleagues with smaller vessels. I hope there will be no legal obstacles to that kind of solution. Even so, that is no final solution for a proper subsidy to the fleet.

What has happened to the spate of legal actions with which the fishermen were threatened a week or two back?

I have already said that I gave a commitment on the question of the subsidy and my hon. Friend will appreciate that the offer was made in the context of an offer by the Scottish Fishermen's Federation. I want to make that clear—the Scottish inshore men are slightly better organised. I have said that we will look at this matter again.

The legal actions were taken by the various port authorities. They were injunctions. I do not know whether I have the correct legal phraseology, but as far as I am aware the injunctions were to restrain fishermen from holding a blockade. When the blockade was lifted the legal actions were withdrawn in the sense that they did not need to be continued. Therefore, I do not think that there is any difficulty over the question of anyone pursuing the fishermen.

Will the Minister accept my congratulations on the considerable personal part he played in getting the blockade ended so quickly? Will he undertake to ensure that when his right hon. Friend goes to Brussels he makes quite clear during the renegotiations of the common fisheries policy that there can be no question of full access to our beaches after 1982?

As for further financial support, will the Minister undertake to give at least full and objective consideration to the further submission for help that the industry intends to make after 30th June?

On the last point, we have already said quite clearly that we are providing only temporary aid. That does not prevent any recipient coming back to us when it ends. It is not for me to encourage the fishermen in that direction, even if they needed any encouragement.

On the second point, I agree that there has been a lot of distortion by certain people, for some reason or another, to the effect that all foreigners—and that is an emotive phrase—will be fishing up to the Scottish beaches tomorrow. I do not accuse the hon. Member of that distortion, but the distortion has created uncertainty among the fishermen. This situation just does not apply before 1982. Every fair-minded person recognises that there will be a lot of renegotiation and changes long before 1982. I shall myself be accompanying my right hon. Friend to Luxembourg next week and to Brussels thereafter. Following is the information:
Statement issued following Meeting held on Wednesday 2nd April between Mr. Hugh Brown, MP, Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office and Scottish Fisheries Organisations
After the meeting with the Scottish Trawlers Federation and the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, which included members of the Action Group, Mr. Hugh Brown issued the following statement:
"I was greatly impressed with the sincerity and unanimity of the fishing industry today. As regards the chief points they raised, the Government intend to seek changes in the Common Fisheries Policy of the EEC in the light of the UN Law of the Sea Conference and the subject will be raised at the meeting of EEC Agricultural Ministers later in April.
As regards limits, in the event of unilateral action by other countries we should consider the situation urgently with a view to protecting the interests of our fishermen.
The question of imports from non-EEC countries is being studied by EEC and early progress is expected. A ban on imports would be against our worldwide trade relations, but we will keep the situation under review for evidence of dumping and we will also keep under review the economic state of the industry.
As regards subsidy for boats under 40 feet and shellfish boats I cannot make a commitment but we will review the position fairly.
As regards the dock labour scheme the Government does not envisage any extension to operations by crews of inshore fishing boats and will welcome detailed comments on this.
I undertook to discuss all the points raised by the meeting with my Ministerial colleagues and to re-convene a similar meeting, if possible on a UK basis, within about 10 days of the relevant meetings at Brussels and at the Law of the Sea Conference. On this understanding I appealed for an end to the blockade."

Question Of Privilege

I now want to rule on the matter of privilege. The hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) yesterday submitted to me that a Written Answer by the Prime Minister published in col. 351 of Hansard of Monday, 7th April, constituted a contempt of the House and a breach of its privileges.

I have considered the matter carefully.

In general, I think that arrangements made within political parties in this House would be unlikely to raise questions of contempt or privilege. Also, the Chair must be careful not to appear to be trying to interfere in such arrangements.

In this particular case, as I understand the Prime Minister's answer, the new element is freedom to dissent in the country, not any change in the normal practices in this House.

Therefore, I am not prepared to give to a motion concerning it precedence over the Orders of the Day.

May I thank you for your ruling, Mr. Speaker? I accept it, though I regret it. Other possibilities exist. For example, the third paragraph of the Written Answer, with which I agree, precludes both pro-and anti-Market Ministers appearing on the same platform. No doubt, therefore, the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party will have to consider whether the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Employment can appear together on 26th April.

Statutory Instruments

Ordered,

That the draft Meat and Livestock Commission Levy (Variation) Scheme (Confirmation) Order 1975 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments.—[Mr. James Hamilton.]

Cruelty To Animals Act 1876(Amendment)

3.57 p.m.

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876.
This is by no means the first attempt that there has been under this procedure and others to amend the 1876 Act, and it may well be that it is not the last. Others have tried before me, and I should like to pay tribute to those others, such as the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body), the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) and Lord Houghton, for all they have done in this respect.

I make no apology for delaying the House in its deliberations on matters of great moment today to take a few minutes to intrude the voice of animal welfare. Since the Cruelty to Animals Act was passed almost 100 years ago there has been an immense increase in the number of experiments. The intentions of the Act were admirable and the debates upon it are still enlightening to read. It stipulated that experiments should be carried out under licence and must be performed with a view to the advancement by new discovery of physiological knowledge or of knowledge useful for saving or prolonging life or alleviating suffering. I ask the House to remember those words.

The standard licence stipulated that animals likely to suffer pain must be given an anaesthetic or, if serious pain would continue, they should not be allowed to come out of the anaesthetic That was in 1876, and there were at that stage about 300 experiments a year. Now there are nearly 5½ million experiments annually on animals in this country. The overwhelming majority of those are carried out under one of the three certificates of exemption from the basic provisions of the 1876 Act. There are a total of 4½million alone under Certificate A, which allows experiments without anaesthetic.

Mr. Richard Ryder, in his recent book "Victims of Science", has calculated that only about one in three of these experi- ments has any medical purpose whatsoever. Many, as we have seen from recent Press publicity, are carried out for the purely commercial aims of those who are pandering to the vanities and vices of our consumer society.

I am prepared to concede that there is a great deal of sentimental thinking about animal experiments, particularly from those who say that no such experiments are justified. I would never go that far. Those of us who have seen a loved one struck down by some fatal disease would be the first to concede that in such cases experiments on animals which might lead to a cure being discovered for the disease would be necessary however many such experiments were needed. But how many of the experiments carried out meet the spirit of the 1876 Act?

Are we really advancing the frontiers of physiological knowledge if we blind a monkey to establish that when blind it will bump into obstacles? Are we really advancing the frontiers of physiological knowledge if we force-feed animals to death, pumping either anti-freeze or shredded polythene into their stomachs?

Mr. Richard Ryder in a recent newspaper article has discussed some of the experiments he saw carried out when he was a medical researcher. He talks of watching a cat being blinded and having its tail cut off. It was then put into a rotating cage to deprive it of sleep. Every few hours it was taken out to have fluid drawn from the brain. He said:
"It was a crazed, pathetic creature. And the experiment was for such a stupid cause."
That kind of thing, and the force-feeding to which I have referred, are all too common among the categories of these experiments. Very frequently they are to establish toxicity and no more than that. Toxicity in many cases can be assumed. All hon. Members know that if we were force-fed an exclusive diet of shredded copies of the Official Report for several days, however wholesome we find a diet of our own words, we would sooner or later expire. So it is with the wretched animals. If we force-feed an animal to the point of death all that we establish is that it dies.

The Home Office inspectorate which has been set up to oversee these experiments is just 14 strong—fewer than the Littlewood Committee recommended 12 years ago. In 100 years there has been no prosecution under the 1876 Act, nor do the annual returns from the Home Office give a detailed breakdown of the purposes for which the animals have been used. One laboratory assistant told Mr. Ryder:
"We usually know when the inspectors arc coming and have plenty of time to clean up the blood and put the instruments away."
In these matters Parliament has moved too little and too late. The recommendations of the Littlewood Committee for amending the 1876 Act have never been carried out. The Bill introduced by Douglas Houghton as he then was and he is still widely remembered and respected in this House—designed to amend that Act received an unopposed Second Reading two years ago but was "talked out" on Report. Now, because the public conscience has been inflamed by the notorious ICI smoking beagles, more palliative action seems to be in prospect. Now at least we have my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill), a sponsor of Mr. Houghton's Bill, installed in the Home Office, where she can do good, not necessarily by stealth.

Let me speak plainly to my hon. Friend, for whom I have a high regard. We do not at this stage want the offer of a few more inspectors or the strengthening of the advisory committee alone. We want amending legislation, achieved by the time of the centenary of the 1876 Act. We want it to distinguish between the medical and non-medical purposes of vivisection and to discourage the latter. We want it to stipulate that experiments shall not be licensed if their purpose can be achieved by means not involving the use of a living animal. We acknowledge that the Government and the Medical Research Council must give a lead here along the lines advocated by the RSPCA, FRAME, the National Anti-Vivisection Society and others.

That is what my Bill seeks to do. Lord Houghton asked in 1973, at the time of the Second Reading of his Bill:
"upon what pinnacle do we base human life and well-being that denies all rights to every species but our own?"—[Official Report, 11th May 1973; Vol. 856, c. 894.]
That is my position today.

It is not enough to say that those who advocate such a measure are a hysterical group of hypocritical softies, more concerned with the welfare of mice than that of men. Concern for human suffering and exploitation goes hand in hand with that for animals, and so it has done since the days of Wilberforce and Shaftesbury, who were also concerned with animal welfare.

Many of the arguments advanced for the continuation of the slave trade are precisely those we see today for the continuation of these experiments. It is said, first, that it is commercially necessary; second, that the creatures concerned do not feel suffering as we feel suffering; and, third, that if we do not do it, others will. They were nonsense arguments then and they are nonsense arguments now.

Animals cannot speak for themselves in this House. They can only suffer for themselves. It is our responsibility to see that where that suffering is needless it should be alleviated. It is for that purpose that I seek to introduce this Bill.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Phillip Whitehead, Mr. Richard Body, Mr. F. A. Burden, Mr. Ivor Clemitson, Mr. Robin Corbett, Miss Janet Fookes, Mr. Clement Freud, Mrs. Helene Hayman, Mr. Kenneth Lomas, Mr. Roderick MacFarquhar and Mr. David Madel.

Cruelty To Animals Act 1876(Amendment)

Mr. Phillip Whitehead accordingly presented a Bill to amend the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876; and the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second Time upon Friday 9th May and to be printed. [Bill 128]

Orders Of The Day

European Community(Membership)

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [7th April]:

That this House approves the recommendation of Her Majesty's Government to continue Britain's Membership of the Community as set out in the White Paper on the Membership of the European Community (Command No. 5999)—[The Prime Minister.]

Question again proposed.

4.8 p.m.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. For the third day running the Government have tabled a motion concerning some Commission documents about regional aid which, if they wished, could be moved with the main motion. I therefore wish formally to give notice that if they did 1 would register an objection.

I have nothing to add to what I said about this yesterday and the day before.

4.9 p.m.

I am sure everyone today, whatever their personal opinions, will agree that a major part of this debate should be devoted to agriculture. It accounts for some three-quarters of Community budget expenditure. The common agricultural policy demonstrates the closest approach ever made towards a common market. And it is the development of agricultural policy, in relation to our own important production potential and to imports, which will determine both the security and cost of our food supplies for the future.

Like most agricultural support systems, the details of the CAP are often technical and complicated. But we have to form a judgment in this crucial sector on the implications for this country of the situation now obtaining within the Community and that likely to apply outside it. First, therefore, I shall seek to set out the fundamental factors, including what we have secured in the process of renegotiation. Later, I propose to say something about my own present views and position.

In the Labour Party manifesto of February 1974 we said that we sought
"Major changes in the Common Agricultural Policy, so that it ceases to be a threat to world trade in food products, and so that low-cost food producers outside Europe can continue to have access to the British food market".
This reflects the real concern felt by many people—myself included—that we should not be forced into a rigid system, designed and operated to suit the requirements of the Six original members but paying scant regard to United Kingdom interests as a major food importer.

However, it is salutary to remind ourselves today that under the system of guaranteed prices and deficiency payments we did not maintain an open market in the United Kingdom. We could not do so—and no country with an important agricultural industry of its own has even done so. We were, for instance, operating quota systems for butter, for certain fruits and for bacon, minimum import prices enforced by levies for cereals and a whole range of tariffs on other foodstuffs. It is true that at that time Community prices were in general far higher than world prices, that its import barriers were more widespread and protective than ours and that we traditionally had been able to obtain the bulk of our imported supplies at relatively low prices from Commonwealth and other third countries.

When we took office, therefore, the key question for me, as the Minister charged with responsibility for agriculture and for safeguarding the nation's food supplies, was how best to translate the manifesto commitment into concrete negotiating points. It was clear enough that the terms of entry negotiated by our predecessors were largely transitional and inadequate to ensure that the CAP could be operated for the future with proper regard for our legitimate interests if this country remained a member of the Community. It was equally clear that developments were taking place in world trade which had a substantial bearing on these issues.

It is not, I think, in dispute that our entry into the Community coincided with the start of a marked increase in the general level of world prices and a serious shortage of some commodities. World grain prices rose fourfold between 1972 and 1974. At the peak last year the world sugar price was as much as 10 times the average of prices paid the previous year under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, and for many foodstuffs the prices of our traditional suppliers outside the Community have risen far more than those inside it.

There are those who assert that this is a temporary phenomenon, that prices are already falling in some cases, and that if we were free from the constraints of continued membership, we should soon find sources of relatively cheap food again. I wish I could share their confidence. But there has been something of a revolution in world food supplies and prices comparable to the oil crisis, which itself was responsible for major increases in the costs of food production, processing and distribution, through its effects on fertilisers, fuel, transport and shipping costs.

Moreover, the rising world population with increased expectations, and the growing ability of developing countries to make their demands effective, must increase the pressure on available supplies. Also, world stockpiles have been seriously depleted. In these circumstances it is foolish to suppose, much as they value continued access to our markets, that any of our traditional suppliers would be willing to gear themselves primarily to meeting our needs, especially at the expense of other outlets where they could obtain a higher return.

Of course, world commodity prices will fluctuate, and, of course, certain foodstuffs can be produced more cheaply outside the EEC. But in my judgment the increases in domestic food prices which we have already experienced have in the main been due to world causes rather than to our EEC membership. It would be irresponsible, whatever our views of the Community, to plan for the future other than on the assumption that the general level of world food prices is likely to be higher than in the past—with the strong possibility of sharp fluctuations in both availability and price. [Interruption.] In reply to a seated interjection, I accept that I have to face the reality and I must state what I believe to be the truth.

These considerations lead to two fundamental conclusions. The first is that it makes increasingly good sense to produce as much of our own food as we can efficiently and economically. Very soon I shall be producing a White Paper on this specific matter. Secondly, EEC prices are likely to be much more in line with world prices than in the past, and the CAP system could provide our best assurance of supplies.

For all these reasons, we decided from the start of renegotiation that the sensible course was to seek changes—major changes where necessary—in the operation of the CAP and some of its commodity régimes, but not to try to overthrow the system itself. It was on this basis that our detailed negotiating objectives were formulated and agreed. As the House is well aware, they were set out in some detail in the statement I made to the Council of Ministers on 18th June 1974. It is in the light of the progress which we have since made towards these objectives that the motion before us has my strong support. I must therefore deal with these objectives and that progress at some length.

The White Paper describes these objectives under two main headings—first, trade with third countries and, secondly, the operation of the CAP. Our aim on the first of these was to secure improved access to the Community market for food imports from third countries, and this we have achieved in a number of ways. Two in particular stand out—New Zealand dairy produce and Commonwealth sugar. We made it clear at the time that the arrangements made by the previous Government on both these questions were inadequate.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has stressed this repeatedly. For example, Protocol 18 of the Treaty of Accession provided for access on a degressive basis. It left entirely open the quantities of butter which might be permitted from New Zealand after 1977, it made no provision for continuing imports of cheese after that date, and the price arrangements were unsatisfactory in that they were related to the average price obtained by New Zealand on the United Kingdom market between 1969 and 1972. As a result of renegotiation, the President of the Commission has agreed to submit proposals by this summer under which annual imports of New Zealand butter for the three years after 1977 can be maintained at around the level of 1974–75 deliveries.

This marks the ending of degressivity and access for New Zealand butter should continue indefinitely. It has also been agreed that the problem of cheese imports should be looked at urgently, and the need has been accepted for periodic review and adjustment to the price, this last feature of course being in addition to the 18 per cent. increase which we secured last year. May I say to some of my hon. Friends who may be critical of this aspect that the New Zealand Government have welcomed these developments.

It was also the case that no firm arrangements had been made to ensure continuing imports of Commonwealth sugar to the British market after the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement expired at the end of last year. We asked for adequate and continuing access linked to assurances of supply at prices fairly and realistically related to Community prices. That is exactly what we have secured.

The developing Commonwealth countries were given the opportunity of sending up to the limit of 1·4 million tons, which was the amount then traditionally supplied under the former Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, and they have a guarantee for an indefinite period for the quantities that they have undertaken to supply.

This achievement formed part of the Lomé trade and aid convention recently concluded between the Community and 46 developing countries, including 22 Commonwealth countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. In addition to the provisions on sugar, this guarantees almost completely free entry for their agricultural products. More generally, we have secured reductions in Community tariffs and levies. For example, concessions have been achieved on a range of products such as matured Cheddar cheese, canned fruit and fresh and canned salmon.

We have not yet secured all the arrangements we want to see, but there are good prospects both in relation to the multilateral trade negotiations and in the negotiations now in train with various Mediterranean countries. We shall also be seeking more stable arrangements for beef imports from third countries, con- sistent with safeguarding the position of our own producers. We have made it clear that in our view some tariffs are still higher than they ought to be. In the case of New Zealand lamb, we have given notice to the other member States that we shall be seeking to eliminate or reduce the Community tariff, at least for imports into the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, the improvements we have obtained so far are evidence that the Community is not now an economic autarky. It is taking an increasingly outward looking view, and I am confident that our continuing presence in Brussels can help to maintain that trend.

I now turn to the internal operation of the CAP, and begin by referring to the beef regime. This formed a vital part of our renegotiation objectives. We made no secret of our dislike of the extent to which the Community system relied on a high level of intervention. During last year the drawbacks of full-scale intervention became more and more apparent. The Community had to buy up large quantities of surplus beef in order to maintain market prices for producers. As a result, consumers were being denied the benefit of cheaper supplies.

As an interim measure, I persuaded the Community to introduce a special system of premiums last August. And in the course of the negotiations on the CAP prices package earlier this year, it was agreed that there should he a new system of variable premiums within the beef rén to deficiency payments, and that these should be partly financed by the Community. It is these payments, rather than support buying which now provide the major element for the support system for beef now operated in this country. They give producers the assurance of adequate returns without unacceptably high prices for consumers, and they avoid excessive stockpiling of frozen beef.

There are those who have criticised this arrangement, largely on the grounds that it is only for one year. I believe that they underestimate our achievement and its potential significance as regards thinking and practice within the Community. What we have achieved is not just a temporary derogation for the United Kingdom. It is a very real innovation which is open to all member States. I further believe that, as its operation becomes more familiar to them, their doubts—on such questions as cost, and possible distortion of the market—will recede. Of course, we have to undertake new price settlements for every commodity arrangement each year and we set such considerable store on the need for continuing satisfactory arrangements on beef that I will not agree to any future settlements which do not meet this need.

Meantime, the changes we have secured in the beef régime are evidence of a welcome flexibility in the operation of the CAP. We attach great importance to this last point so as to enable special circumstances to be dealt with in different parts of the Community.

In particular, our manifesto stressed the need for a clear emphasis on national aids. This we have achieved in two ways. First, we have retained the national aids which we had before accession, and under the Less Favoured Areas Directive, our hill cow and hill sheep subsidies will attract FEOGA assistance. Secondly, we have demonstrated that the CAP can be flexible in enabling member States to deal with specific problems that arise from time to time. That is stated in the last manifesto on which we fought the election. We listed in it the direct aids that we have achieved. Examples of those aids are the special subsidy on pigs which we introduced last year, the near doubling of the calf subsidy pending the new beef régime and the restoration of the lime subsidy, which the previous Government had abolished.

Of course, there have been other criticisms of the CAP. One of these has been that, with its emphasis on high prices and support buying, it is too oriented towards the needs of producers—and inefficient producers at that. I myself have made this point. That is why I made it clear in my statement to the Council last June that the Community's pricing policy should take account of the needs of efficient producers and the supply-demand situation. Recent pricing decisions have reinforced the tendency for Community prices to be reduced in real terms. Paragraph 21 of Command 6003 gives specific examples of this for various commodities, and points out that, with the exception of beef, world market prices rose substantially in real terms over the last few years. This fact alone bears out the doubts I expressed earlier about the claims of those who see our pursuing a cheap food policy outside the Community.

This trend in world prices also has a bearing on the interests of consumers, this, too, being something on which we set considerable store in the renegotiation. Our consumer subsidies on a range of basic foods are likely to amount to some £550 million over the next year. These have not been questioned, and indeed the Community has itself contributed to the consumer subsidy on butter. Apart from this, and the downward pressure on real prices, the consumer interest has been met in a number of ways. The changes in the beef régime are one example. So, too, are the Community subsidies for sales of beef to pensioners. This is something which our meat trade has welcomed.

Perhaps the best example of all is the obligation which the Community has accepted to maintain supplies of sugar by buying supplies on the world market and selling them to consumers at the lower Community price. This alone has provided a subsidy of nearly £40 million to United Kingdom consumers. The significance of these measures can be seen from the payments made from FEOGA to our own Intervention Board during 1973 and 1974. Of the £175 million we received, over £80 million, or nearly 50 per cent. was for import subsidies, and a further 13 per cent., £22 million, was for direct consumer subsidies. By contrast, only about 5 per cent. of the total was for intervention and storage. This should at least give food for thought to those who maintain that the sole objective of the CAP is to take produce off the market so as to keep up prices.

If the CAP is to work properly it must avoid the creation of surpluses in the first place. This is one of the points which the Commission has recognised in its stocktaking report, which holds out prospects of further improvements of the kind we want to see. We shall be discussing the report in the Council. The discussions are bound to take time, and I do not want to say more at this stage other than that we shall continue to press hard for the changes which we believe to be necessary.

If we succeed in securing them there is nothing that our own highly efficient industry need fear. I stress that last point because, inevitably perhaps in view of the criticisms which have been made, I have given more prominence to the needs of the consumer. However, we must never forget the overriding need to secure economic and efficient production. We must remember that our farmers, who are probably the most efficient in the world, must be given fair prices and reasonable prices to produce the food that we need. This is not just good for the farmer but it is good for the consumer. That must be stressed.

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that he will be allowed to have an expansionist policy for agricultural products in this country while there are surpluses in the EEC countries?

Certainly I can give that assurance. I shall issue a White Paper very soon which will aim to achieve that. I hope that the hon.. Member for Banff (Mr. Watt) will realise that what I am saying is good common sense. As a practical farmer he must appreciate that. It is also significant—I respect the judgment of the farming industry on these matters—that all the National Farmers' Unions in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland—and I include the unions that I met recently in Belfast—have recently concluded that it will be in the long-term interests of British agriculture for the United Kingdom to remain a member of the Community. That is a view which, following my experience as Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, I now endorse.

I should like to say a little more about my personal position and why I hold my present views. I can best illustrate what has always been my approach by quoting two short extracts from a speech I made nearly eight years ago on 9th May 1967, to be exact. We were then debating the implications of joining the Community against a very different background of world food prices and trading conditions. I said:
"… I do not in any way retract my view that our present system of agricultural support is a better system and better adapted to our needs. What I recognise, however, in common with my colleagues, is that the common agricultural policy of the European Economic Community is an integral part of the Community and that, if we are to join the Community, we must come to terms with it."
Later I said:
"… we should enter these negotiations determined to succeed if essential British and Commonwealth interests are safeguarded."— [Official Report, 9th May 1967, Vol. 746, c. 1404–05.]
I have throughout approached the task of renegotiation given me by the Government in exactly the same spirit and with the same objectives.

I believe that in Dublin my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister fulfilled two major objectives for which I have part responsibility. I believe that we have been successful and that these essential interests have been, and can continue to be, safeguarded within the framework of the Community. Therefore, I concluded that I should support our continued membership so that we can play our full part in its future development along the right lines.

In this way, I believe we can do three things which would be much harder on our own. First, we can achieve far greater security of supply, at costs no longer unreasonable in the face of growing world pressure on available resources. Next, we can help to ensure that the Community of Nine, which is by far and away the largest trading bloc in food and agriculture, continues to develop in ways which positively encourage the expansion of world trade. This is crucial not only for the United Kingdom but for the developing countries and for the establishment of an effective contribution from Europe to the war on poverty, want and hunger throughout the world.

It should not be forgotten that practically all the members of the Commonwealth, deciding on the basis of their own interests, want us to stay in the Community. How can I be more New Zealand than are New Zealanders? How can I be more Caribbean than those in the Caribbean? It is amazing how some hon. Members will not face the fact that people in those countries which are in the Lomé Convention—and many of whom belong to the old traditional Commonwealth—believe that we should stay in the Community.

What my right hon. Friend says about Commonwealth leaders wishing the United Kingdom to remain in the EEC has some substance. It is a fact that quite a number of them do so wish. However, would he not agree that they have been compelled to search for alternative markets elsewhere in the world? They have had to turn away from Great Britain and find those markets—and indeed in so doing they were complimented on their efficiency by the Prime Minister. Now they want to add to those markets by having some association with the EEC. Does my right hon. Friend not agree that the valuable relationship which this country has had with nations all over the world within the British Commonwealth might in the end be damaged?

I do not disagree with my hon. Friend. It is true that many of those countries have sought markets elsewhere. Australia is a classic example. Australia recently concluded a sugar agreement with Japan, and I am not critical of that agreement. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) and I fought an election in which we promised to obtain access for Commonwealth produce to the Community and to our markets. I suggest that the agreement which we achieved in Brussels on sugar was a good agreement for the Caribbean countries and others who send sugar to us. It involved a guarantee of 1·4 million tons. Those countries welcome that agreement. In addition, a protocol to the Treaty of Accession deals specifically with New Zealand dairy products, and that has been welcomed by the New Zealand Prime Minister and his Government. In other words, we have fulfilled our objectives and obligations. For those reasons, among others, we deserve much more support, and I believe that we shall get it.

Finally, may I speak from my own experience—and I have had a great deal of experience in dealing with agricultural matters in this House for a very long time. My experience in the last year—and I say this genuinely and sincerely to my hon. Friends—has convinced me that within the Community we do indeed have the ability to influence events at the European level in all these areas. Of course problems and difficulties remain. Nevertheless, I believe that these have been immensely reduced by what we have achieved in our negotiations and that it would be a folly for us now to turn our backs on those achievements and on what can be achieved in the future.

4.35 p.m.

It is just 17 years since the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) called me in this House a political queer because I had put forward the notion that Britain might join the European Economic Community. I was very young and innocent in those days and I was not absolutely certain what was meant—indeed, I have been trying to find out ever since. But now that the right hon. Gentleman has become one himself, perhaps he may be able to tell me. If it is not misinterpreted, perhaps I might say that he and I should get together on the subject.

I congratulate the Minister not only on his conversion, since we all know that there is more joy in Heaven over the one who repents than over 99 just men—and as one of the 99 I welcome him into the club. I also congratulate him on his wide-ranging survey of the agricultural problems of the Community. I thought that today he made one of his best speeches, and certainly it was most comprehensive.

There is little I can add to the right hon. Gentleman's remarks, except to take up one or two points. He was right to claim major achievements on both sugar and beef. He should not claim that an achievement has been secured only in respect of Commonwealth sugar. He has also secured his objective in respect of domestic production quotas—a matter which is of great importance to farmers, particularly in my area. The only query I have is whether the British Sugar Corporation has the refining capacity to cope with the increased quotas. However, planting is so late this year that it may turn out that the corporation can cope with the situation.

The other major achievement relates to stock-taking. Based on the document which has been produced we can take a long hard look at CAP and discover the best way in which the situation should develop in future. That is an excellent achievement. There were certain things that had to be done in the short term. Sugar was only one item. It is not just the domestic side which is important, but there are of course Commonwealth considerations. It is interesting that on sugar the right hon. Gentleman arrived at the same figure as did my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hex-ham (Mr. Rippon)—namely a figure of 1·4 million tons. In other words, the bankable assurances have proved bankable all the way to the bank—and that is a good thing, too.

In approaching the CAP in future, after the referendum and when we remain in the Community, it is important that we start from the point that the CAP was not designed for this country at all. That was our fault. If we had joined the Community when we were asked we could have agreed it in a way which would have helped us. The Labour and Conservative Governments are equally to blame. Only the Liberal Party can be exempted from blame. Governments of both parties refused to join the Community at a time when they could have made arrangements which would have benefited this country. The approach of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) of joining the Community and then changing it from the inside was the only rational way in which this problem could be tackled. The Minister has tackled it on that basis. The results which he announced today are clearly of benefit to us.

Although the common agricultural policy was not designed for the United Kingdom, there is a curious similarity between the objectives set out in Article 39 of the Treaty of Rome for an agricultural policy and Section 1 of the Agriculture Act of 1947. They overlap almost exactly. The objectives are the same, although the method is different. Provided that we are agreed on the objectives, I believe that in the next few years it will be possible to change the CAP without changing the fundamentals so as to ensure that it becomes even more tailored for this country than in the past.

Too often the argument is put in terms of efficient British agriculture against inefficient Continental agriculture. I do not accept that Continental agriculture is made up entirely of bovine peasants following oxen across the landscape. I know that parts of it are different.

I ask the House to pause and to remember at what price the efficiency of British agriculture was bought—t he devastation of the countryside during the industrial revolution, the damage done to British social structure during that period. Do we want to force that on our friends within the other eight countries? Is it not better for us to try to help them achieve the objectives of the Treaty of Rome in an orderly, proper fashion without the distress suffered by previous generations in this country? I believe that we must bear that in mind and not be too smug about the fact that we have efficient agriculture. We have that, but, by golly, we paid the price for it.

It is important to remember the point made by the Minister. We are not only concerned with the consumers. We arc also concerned, as is the Minister, primarily with agriculture as a whole. The opportunities contained in the settlement negotiated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup, and the modifications brought about by the Minister, will facilitate the expansion of the domestic industry and make it an unparalleled success throughout the United Kingdom. All of us, especially hon. Members who, like myself, represent agricultural areas, welcome that.

The agricultural settlement has brought about a change in the CAP. That change had already begun before the change of Government last year. The Minister has accelerated that change. I believe that the consequence will be beneficial to producers and consumers in securing a supply of food at stable prices understood by producer and consumer.

The question of agriculture, although perhaps it was the most important, was only one of the seven points put forward by the Foreign Secretary at Luxembourg on 1st April 1974, on which the so-called renegotiation was based. There has been a tendency in this debate to dismiss the renegotiation as if it was hardly relevant to the debate. However, it is mentioned in the motion and I should like to examine what has happened. It is not unreasonable to do that.

The second point raised by the Foreign Secretary concerned the budgetary contribution, which had always been a matter of dispute. We have always borne in mind the statement made at the Paris Summit about the need, if an unacceptable situation arose, for some kind of correcting mechanism. We have fully debated the correcting mechanism, which the Minister laid before us two months ago. The important modifications introduced at the Dublin Summit do not alter the fundamental principle on which the correcting mechanism is based. We can accept it as something which is good not only for this country but for any other country which may find itself in the unfortunate situation which the Government expect us to experience in three years' time when the mechanism becomes effective.

Other budgetary measures have arisen in the course of the past 2½years since we joined the Community. The Government, and the British Liberal, Conservative and independent Members from this House and the House of Lords have made a considerable contribution to the question of the financial control of the Community. We now have a draft treaty. There is the prospect of the setting-up of an audit court. A public accounts committee is in the process of being set up and we are now in a much better position to deal with the budget, small though it is, and the appropriations than we were when we joined the EEC 21 years ago. That is an on-going process which has been effected by the introduction of the correcting mechanism, although it does not depend entirely upon the intentions of the Government when they came to office a year ago.

The third point related to economic and monetary union. In the past the Foreign Secretary said that this matter has been put off until the Greek Kalends. That may be so in terms of an economic and monetary union of the kind which my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup had in mind at the Paris Summit of 1972. However, he might agree that that does not alter the necessity to do something about the monetary problem within a Community context, not only because it is a real problem faced by this country but because the effective working of the CAP in the long term demands a solution to the monetary problem—otherwise we shall be left with the green pound, with monetary compensation amounts and the mess which we now tend to find when trying to deal with cross-frontier trade.

While I accept the judgment of the Foreign Secretary that economic and monetary union in the form in which it was foreseen two years ago will probably not come about, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will have something to tell us later today about what he has in mind for the monetary problem within the Community when we get round to it. There are serious problems here which must be dealt with.

The fourth point concerned regional industrial and fiscal policies. The Government have had very few problems. The regional fund exists since the money for it was voted yesterday by the European Parliament. There is one minor point which must be worked out between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. I understand that we shall be meeting in Luxembourg next Tuesday to thrash that out. We can then go ahead. Small though it is, the fund represents a beginning. Nevertheless, it can make a considerable contribution to correcting the imbalances within the British economy and the Community which, up until now, owing to the fact that countries with regional problems tend to be the poorest, we have not been able to tackle.

One point must be brought out in case, by any mischance, the referendum goes the wrong way and we leave the Community. I refer to the question of Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland stands to gain more from the regional fund than probably any other area of the United Kingdom. If we leave the EEC there is not the slightest doubt that the Republic of Eire will stay in. Therefore, investment which might go to Northern Ireland, and which could help solve the grave economic problems of that Province, will almost inevitably go to the Republic south of the border. Therefore the difficult and dangerous situation in Northern Ireland can only be exacerbated in economic terms, and possibly in political terms, if we are forced to raise trade barriers along the border between the North and the Republic.

In respect of capital movements, the Government have been happy to rely, as I expected, on Articles 104, 108 and 109 of the treaty. This is straightforward. I do not think that anyone anticipates any enormous problem on it. As this is a Community, it is not in the interests of any of the other eight members to bring in regulations likely to be fundamentally damaging to the economy of this country. Listening to some of the speeches in the debate, I got the impression that we were at war with the other eight and that we were spending all our time fighting them. Yet the basis of the Community was, and the basis of these Articles is, that the Community will go to the assistance of member States in trouble in this way, as it has done in the case of Italy and in the case of this country. The whole capital movements problem and the general economic problem associated with it is one which never was basically a problem at all.

The sixth and perhaps next most important after agriculture is the question of the Commonwealth and aid to developing countries. Like many other hon. Members, the Minister of Agriculture mentioned the Lomé Convention, as a result of which 46 countries are now associated with the Community and associated on terms more generous than any association agreement ever concluded. It is an association agreement which permits all manufactured goods from those countries to enter the Community without hindrance, together with 90 per cent. of their agricultural goods. Anyone who takes objection to that and still maintains that the Community is an inward-looking rich man's club is deceiving himself to the very depths of deception. This agreement can serve as a model throughout the world. The Community is giving more aid per capita than the United States, the Soviet Union and any of the other major countries and economic blocs concerned.

On top of that there is the development fund, 80 per cent. of whose disbursements will be in grants—not loans —which are of major importance to the developing countries.

It is not only the associated countries, because the non-associated countries also arc benefiting as a result of British entry from measures taken both by the previous administration and by this Government to the extent that whereas in 1970 only 13 per cent. of Community aid went to non-associated countries, now 40 per cent. does, and the total is rising. In addition, we have general specialised preference schemes with India in which, again, I am glad to say that the British Members of the European Parliament had some say in bringing about. We have one being negotiated with Sri Lanka, and we hope that that can be extended.

In the light of that, the strictures which the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) passed on the Minister for Overseas Development on Monday seem restrained almost to the point of modesty, especially knowing the right hon. Gentleman. It is difficult to know how the Minister, having negotiated this agreement, can now come out in favour of Britain leaving the Community and placing all this in jeopardy—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) speaks knowledgeably on these matters, but he must remember that there arc only two possibilities. Either they continue in association with the Community without us, which means that the right hon. Lady can leave office because there will be nothing for her to do, and the connection between us and the developing countries will be severed, which may be all right for them but not for us since they are an important source of primary materials, or, in the course of denegotiation, the former British territories will be denegotiated out of the Lomé Agreement. We cannot hope to match the agreement which has been concluded by this Government at Lomé under these conditions. The right hon. Lady both in her heart and in the execution of her office seems to be at best illogical but at worst putting partisan prejudice well ahead of even her own announced convictions.

The seventh and final point raised was the question of VAT. Here again the concern of the Government was that VAT should not be employed in such a way as to place a tax on essentials. We had already ensured that by writing into Community documents the principle of zero rating. The first time that it was produced was again in the European Parliament, again on a motion by one of my hon. Friends, and again I hope, the principle having been accepted, there will be no problem there.

At the end, we have this renegotiation, so-called, and we have to ask ourselves whether it was worth it. Was it necessary for the Foreign Secretary to put on his "bovver" boots and go stamping into the Council Chamber in Luxembourg to throw around his considerable weight and considerable eloquence—

The right hon. Gentleman is taller than the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) and therefore does not need knee pads.

Nearly all this could have been accomplished and probably was accomplished in the normal process of Community business. One matter which many Government supporters seem incapable of understanding is that the Community is not a static instrument. It is essentially dynamic. It changes. It has changed very considerably in the 2½ years during which we have been a member. It will change much more after the referendum when we continue to be a member, when we have the full-hearted consent not only of the British people but of the Labour Party, and when, with any luck, we shall also have Labour Members taking their full part in the Community institutions.

All this could have been done, but, if it was necessary to stage this charade to achieve these results, the charade was worth staging—I put it no higher than that—and in consequence of the results, we have done precisely what my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup said we would do before we joined, which was, once inside, to move to change the Community in directions which we thought were of benefit not just to this country but to the Community as a whole.

We may argue about the problems and about whether we have gained or lost in cash or trade terms. I believe that we have gained in both. The evidence is clear that we have. But I always cling to what the Prime Minister said in Strasbourg in January 1967 when he warned us, in the words of Wordsworth, not to get too hypnotised by the nicely calculated less or more. I hope that we have secured a basis which will enable the Labour Party to join us in building the Community in the future.

It has become apparent in this debate, however, that the precise nature of the renegotiated terms is not what we are talking about in this House today or what we shall argue about in the country over the next two months. This is the fourth such debate since 1961, and they have all trodden the same well-worn ground. We shall argue about sovereignty, about faceless bureaucrats and about the fundamentals. On these matters, I realise that it would be as stupid of me to try to convince some right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House as it would be for them to try to convince me. Nevertheless, it is useful to place on record one or two facts about the Community which may still not be fully appreciated in this House.

I had never thought of the Prime Minister as being naive, but I was alarmed when he said that he and his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary were surprised to find how flexible the Community was. If I might adopt a condescending phrase used by the Prime Minister about my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) on one occasion, those of us who have been around for some time knew that already.

The flexibility of the Community has been one of its most striking features. One of the other striking features about it is brought home to us when we hear hon. Members talking as if there w as some kind of witches' coven meeting and performing mystic rituals in private in Brussels. One of the most striking things is its openness. There is far more open government within the Community in Brussels than there is in this House or in Whitehall.

The Commissioners discuss their plans with Members of Parliament before putting them to the Council of Ministers. They give more information than Ministers, as I know, having been one. They give more information in their answers to the extent that the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing), after visiting the European Parliament, was moved to say that she got more information there than she ever got here. Indeed, not only do the Commissioners do all that, but the structure of the Community makes it inevitable that the legislation and the considerations behind that legislation are known fully from the start. That is clearly something on which we must build. Yes, the Community could be more democratic. I cannot claim that it is the most democratic institution in the world.

The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. If the Community is as flexible as he imagines, why did the Conservative Government rush into it in the first place on the terms that they accepted?

The Government of which I was a member entered the Community on the basis, as I have repeated more than once in my speech, that we were going in on terms which were satisfactory as entrant's terms—terms which were recognised by certain right hon. Gentlemen opposite as being satisfactory as entrant's terms—and to try to improve the situation from within. That was made plain at the time by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup. That is precisely what happened. Once inside a club it is much easier to get the rules changed than when standing outside saying that one wants to join. That is what we have managed to do. The flexibility of the Community has been amply demonstrated in the last 12 months as it was in the year before when the Conservative Party was in Government and changes were made.

We must ask the question which has been asked again and again in the debate: what is the alternative if we come out? Hon. Members on both sides of the House, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), have referred to a free trade area as if it were automatic and would come about just like that. Why should it? Why should the Community grant privileges of that kind to us?

My hon. Friend said that it is in the Community's interests. The right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) has constantly said that because we have a large deficit the Community will want to give us a free trade area. But, as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. Walden) pointed out yesterday, that will not get rid of the large deficit, It will still be there. If we do not get a free trade area, the deficit will be shifted somewhere else. On top of that, if my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury looks at the figures with care, he will discover that whereas 35 per cent. of our exports go to the other eight countries of the Community, less than 10 per cent. of their exports come to this country. Therefore, it is entirely in our interests, not in theirs, to negotiate for a free trade area. We would have to put forward some fairly compulsive arguments, having treated them in the way in which we would treat them, to get that advantage.

Is it not a fact that the French Government, in particular, always made it clear that they would not allow this country to enjoy the benefits of industrial free trade with the Community unless we accepted the obligations of the common agricultural policy? Therefore, it is most unlikely that France would allow us to enjoy the benefit of a free trade area.

The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Luard) is right. This was the problem that my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) ran up against 15 years ago when he was negotiating for a free trade area. It is interesting to note the number of converts on that point. I do not recall any loud cries of enthusiasm coming from the right hon. Member for Battersea, North in 1957 and 1958 when my right hon. Friend was negotiating. Rather the reverse. There was considerable dislike of the situation.

I know that many hon. Members wish to speak and I do not want to keep the House any longer, except to make two points.

First, I believe that the maintenance of British membership of the Community is now more than ever essential for this country and for the Community. I have never held any other view. I came into politics because that was what I wanted to do. I do not claim any virtue for consistency. It merely happens that in my opinion it was necessary for this country to be a member of the Community. I only regret that our membership was so late and that it was not done when we could have shaped the Community perhaps nearer to our heart's desire.

Earlier I said that there had been four such debates as this. Each one—this one will be no exception—has ended with an overwhelming majority of right hon. and hon. Members voting in favour of entry. However, this debate will be an exception in the sense that, whereas in the past that has been the end of the matter, now the Government, having abdicated their responsibilities, are proposing that the House of Commons should abdicate its responsibilities as well and that a referendum must follow in which we shall have to urge the British people also to say "Yes like the House of Commons.

Those who vote for this motion tonight, as I believe an overwhelming number of right hon. and hon. Members from both sides will, are not only voting for a motion, but are, in effect, taking a pledge to campaign to see that the vote that takes place in this House is repeated by the vote that takes place in the country. History will judge very harshly anyone, from the Prime Minister downwards, who, for party or any other reasons, fails to carry out the pledge.

5.6 p.m.

Not for the first time during the last three days I have felt that we should have altered the procedures in this House. For three days we have been listening to a succession of speeches from the Front Benches which have repeated one another like Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Front Bench speakers have been going over the seven elements of the renegotiation and saying what was valuable. It seems to me that that was unnecessary. The two Front Benches could have come to an agreement and one on either side could have spoken. It is intolerable that time should have been taken from back benchers in this way when hon. Members like myself with something rather different to say have already pledged to keep their speeches short.

:My hon. Friend is mistaken in referring to them as Tweedledum and Tweedledee. They are, of course, Tweedledum and Tweedledum.

:That must come out of my 15 minutes.

The hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk) made a valuable point in relation to the terms. It is the first time that point has been made from the Front Benches these three days. The terms have been examined and referred to, but the point has not been made that they will be substantial matters for people to consider.

I welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food opened in the way that he did, because there has been a tendency to go over the seven points, not to relate them to the pledges which were given, and then to leave them in order to pursue a series of myths. I want to deal with some of those myths.

My right hon. Friend made four basic points in defence of his present position: first, that world conditions had changed; secondly, that we had not entered renegotiation with intent to "overthrow the system itself" and that what we eventually emerged with as our negotiating position was justified; thirdly, that our achievements should be judged in the light of the objectives of 18th June, not our initial pledges to the British people; and, fourthly, that we fulfilled those objectives.

I want to examine those four basic points in the light of some of the myths that have been put about regarding important matters of principle.

I start with the question of sovereignty. Here I want to pick up what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Lady wood (Mr. Walden). My hon. Friend said that the sovereignty issue would not be brought up
"because it was not in the manifesto."
Having been interrupted by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham. South (Mr. Spearing) that "It was", my hon. Friend said:
"If my hon. Friend looks at the seven points for renegotiation he will sec that sovereignty, if mentioned at all, is mentioned in the most marginal sense."—[Official Report, 8th April 1975;Vol. 889, c. 1036–7.]
That is important, because the emphasis which has been given by both Front Bench speakers to the seven main points of renegotiation has obscured the fact that our pledges and manifestos contained more than these. I will quote from the February manifesto. I happen to believe that party manifestos matter. I for one have been offended by the cavalier attitude to them expressed in the House on both sides—

:I am talking about other speakers. I will let my right hon. Friend know when I am referring to him and he can take the matter up. He need not get so fussy about it.

I am offended by the cavalier manner in which people have treated the concept of party manifestos and pledges. Our February manifesto, after referring to the profound political mistake "of the previous Government in taking us in without the consent of the British people, said:
"This has involved the imposition of food taxes on top of world prices, crippling fresh burdens on our balance of payments, and a draconian curtailment of the power of the British Parliament to settle questions affecting vital British interests. This is why a Labour Government will immediately seek a fundamental renegotiation of the terms of entry."
These words are all in the same paragraph. The concluding sentence refers to the previous sentence, that relating to food taxes, which are still with us, but brings up the "draconian curtailment" of the power of the British Parliament. That is by no means a marginal reference but puts sovereignty into the heart of our manifesto. By no means can we avoid this question.

Therefore, if the seven elements of renegotiation have ignored this factor, they have ignored the one aspect about which the manifesto used the term "draconian". It is to the shame of the Government that that aspect was not also renegotiated. I hoped that it would be. I was encouraged to think that it might be by the speech made in Brussels by the Foreign Secretary and then by the Prime Minister's reference to the need, if necessary, to look at the treaties themselves. That did not happen.

Therefore, we want to consider the question of sovereignty. The fundamental error which has been made on the question of sovereignty is that everyone here has discussed it either in the narrow concept of national sovereignty and the shades of imperialism—that was the joke made in the brilliant and witty but highly superficial speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood in reference to some hon. Members opposite —or on the question of parliamentary sovereignty. I am reminded of James VI sticking his finger in a table cloth in the old Scottish Parliament and saying "This Parliament has ane hole in it". The concept of parliamentary sovereignty held by those who take this view has ane hole in it. They refer without cease to our representative rights, not delegated rights, as if they somehow gave us power to ignore what we said to the people who put us here.

That is what is missing. We are not here without a mandate, without commitments. What is missing is the voice of the British people as soon as we say that we can neglect that which we put in our manifesto. This is what people vote for. They do not vote for my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood or me or anyone on the Front Bench to make up our minds when we come here. They say "This is the policy on which we elect you. It is to fulfil this that you must if you can, be bound." It is not enough to neglect those commitments and to substitute another set.

With respect to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, that is what happened in the case of agriculture. We were pledged to look at the imposition of food taxes and said that one objective was:
"Major changes in the common agricultural policy so that it ceases to be a threat to world trade in food products."
We were pledged to bring about
"New and fairer methods of financing the Community Budget."
This was not just the amount. I will come to that in a moment. We said:
"Neither the taxes which form the so-called 'own resources' of the Communities, nor the purposes, mainly agricultural support, on which the funds are mainly to be spent, are acceptable to us."
These have not been altered.

The one aspect which has been altered is the question of financing the Community Budget. With great pleasure, they have brought this one home as if that was the important part of our earlier debates. It never was. To say that we are now saving £125 million for Britain.

:Indeed, in several years' time, when we will be paying a much greater contribution towards it—does two things. First it presupposes a very large amount to be paid into the budget, but second it means either that we have achieved something in saving that £125 million or we have not. If we have not, clearly there is no gain. If we have achieved something, it means that the Government's assumption is that we shall be earning 85 per cent. of the average earnings of the rest of the EEC. Not till we are 15 per cent. below the average GNP of the Community will this gain come into effect. We have to be poor to benefit from that gain. Some gain.

The other aspect, that of not accepting the purposes for which the funds will be used, has not been taken into question. We talked about "securing continued access"—not "better access", I would remind the Minister of Agriculture and the Foreign Secretary, as one said on 4th June and the other on 18th June, but "continued access"—to the British market. We went further and said that
"… we shall stop further processes of integration, particularly as they affect food taxes."
What happened is that we continued with the process of integration. We did not stop it. We did not have a conference and decide what should be done: we continued discussing the so-called "no empty chair" policy and accepting decisions by the Market involving and enmeshing us more.

It was not easy for me in that situation. I wrote a letter to my right hon. Friend on 23rd April last year—he still has not replied—in which I said that I did not believe that that was acceptable to me or to my party. I then had to resign in October to fight a particular fight over sugar, when we did manage to get access —[Interruption.] If the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of Agriculture both disagree with me and if instead of making comments to each other they would tell me where I am going wrong, I would listen—

:I believe that on 18th June we jettisoned what we had pledged to the British people on food and agriculture and came up with a fresh set of proposals. It is these—I know where they came from—which we were later asked to accept as our negotiating position. They were the proposals of 18th June, albeit none of them was precise. Indeed, the precision disappeared. This is disappointing, because the Foreign Secretary had said that

"…we shall have to reserve the right to propose changes in the treaties, if it should turn out that essential interests cannot be met without them."
So it is wrong for the White Paper, which we are discussing, to say, as the Prime Minister said in his statement, that the Minister of Agriculture "gave precision" to those objectives. On the contrary, he came up with a set of extremely vague objectives, some of which are now repeated in the extremely vague paper on the stocktaking of the common agricultural policy.

The other myth that I want to deal with is the myth that the EEC has protected us against high world prices. This was first said by the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection, but over the last three or four weeks the strength with which it has been said has been dwindling. Now, the White Paper has emerged, saying that it is "even Steven", that we have been no worse off with food prices inside the Market than we would be outside.

That is quite untrue. It ignores several things completely. One is the effect of our entry on world prices. The prime example is sugar. The West Indians were screwing us because they could see that by the end of the year we were likely to move into a beet regime in Europe and they had to get what they could out of the situation. Our entry of Europe affected that. Secondly—[Interruption.] I am seeing a lot of smiles on the Front Bench, but none of its occupants has yet challenged any of the points that I am making. It is not just that there was a technical effect from our entry: our entry itself added to prices.

For example, let us consider what happened to Denmark and Ireland, two countries which entered with us, which were basically food exporters and not, like us, a massive food importer. But exactly the same thing happened to their prices as to ours. What they were doing —the Tory Government started it before we went in—was hike up our consumer prices to fit in with the Common Market. This is what the Danes did with pigmeat, pork and bacon. They were bringing prices into line with German prices because that is what they could do within the Market.

In any case this argument is wrong for another reason—that the situation has changed. Despite the most abnormal year or two years, starting with the Soviet spring and summer failure in the harvest, followed by the soya bean problem and the protein problem with the anchovies in South America and the famous "Russian-capitalist coup" on the Chicago grain market, one of the most abnormal years in agricultural and pricing history—certainly this century and some economists believe including even the last century—the best they can say for it is that it produced an even situation. But even that has gone. All of the main commodities—beef, lamb, and grains such as wheat and maize—are now dearer inside the Market than outside it. The short-lived gloat has gone. If we are to get only an even position once every 75 years in any century, I will take my chance on that.

What has happened to prices? We can see what has happened. I have here The Times "Shopping Basket", which most people quote. It deals with about eight of the main commodities in 14 European capitals. In running down the list of these commodities I find that prices in Britain at present are cheaper than in over half the capitals. That is to say, on the first item, beef, there are nine peoples worse off. On pork chops, 11 are worse off, on butter 13 are worse off, and so on. We are one of the cheapest countries in all commodities in the whole of Europe.

However, even more significant is the fact that if one takes all these basic commodities and averages them out over the six capitals of the original six EEC countries, one finds that our prices are 40 per cent. cheaper than theirs are. What does this mean? It means, first, that our prices have risen nearly 50 per cent. over three years. They have been saved by the consumer subsidies, thank goodness, but they have still risen by nearly 50 per cent. in three years. Despite that, however, we still have not reached the Olympian heights of European pricing. That is why we are not hearing so much about the cushioning of prices. We are only half way up the escalator. We have still got two years to go in the transitional period, being protected by accession compensatory amounts and monetary compensatory amounts. But we are on that treadmill and moving up very fast. Let us hear no more rubbish about the EEC not pushing up food prices. It has done so dramatically, and will continue to do for the next year or two.

The agricultural policy itself has now moved into its surrealist phase, with mountains of butter, mountains of beef and lakes of wine. Only one man—other, I suppose, than M. Lardinois!—could have painted that landscape, and that is Dali—yes, Salvador himself. It is really surrealist. It is ironic that my right hon. Friend, who has fought such a noble fight in the past against the worst lunacies of this policy, should be defending it here today.

Why are the National Farmers' Unions supporting it? I do not know. I did not think that they had time to support it, being too busy blockading ports to prevent Common Market stuff from coming in. In between blockading ports they have made the decision to support the CAP.

What is proposed for us agriculturally? The CAP will provide a gross imbalance between livestock and cereals. The cereal boys are doing well, but it is that kind of policy which when—[Interruption.] If my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, with his farm and his knowledge of Herefords, which I have often discussed with him, wants to interrupt me, I am willing to give way. That which helps the cereal farmer hurts the livestock farmer. This is no policy for Britain. Should we alter it? We could have done so if we had fought for that alteration and were willing to risk challenge in saying that we had to do what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said initially, before my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture or he, or both of them, changed their minds—that if necessary we should challenge the structures.

I do not accept the great word "flexible". The word is "flexible", yet we are told as soon as that word is used—and the hon. Member for Saffron Walden, in telling us about how flexible the policy was, warned us that if we did not accept the CAP we would not get the industrial policy: some flexibility!

:I was picking up the point that you made and which you took up during your speech.

:I knew that there was a good voice missing from the Front Bench, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

It is some flexibility when that threat occurs. It is some flexibility when the Italians are faced with a situation in which they cannot participate in the meat trade because they have insufficient frozen meats to do so under the Lardinois deal. They call this a "double body blow". They say:
"The mechanism put into action by Lardinois cannot be blocked by the veto of our Minister of Agriculture. The measure does not actually fall within the province of the Council of Agriculture Ministers of the Community but of the Agriculture Commission which takes simple majority decisions."
They feel not only the great loss of industrial output but that their livestock industry is in danger as a result. So let us have no more nonsense about flexibility.

Finally, I must say that it has given me no great pleasure—[Interruption.] No, I cannot go on. I have made pledges and I stick to my pledges. I think that manifestos are important. I delivered a pledge to Mr. Deputy Speaker and I hope to keep it. I hope that that is a lesson to the Government Front Bench.

Of course, over the next two months these things will be discussed. I have been disappointed that the Prime Minister, who performed a major stroke in opening up this democratic discussion to all of us and the members of our party, did not see fit to widen it just that little more to allow Ministers also to participate in the debate. I think that this would have helped. We would have had plenty of jeering from hon. Members of the Opposition but, with respect, some of us here would have been rather happy with some of the jeering from them instead of some of the cheering.

All parties are split on this subject— the Tory Party, the Liberal Party, the Labour Party— the Scottish National Party—[Interruption.]. Yes the SNP too, and when the hon. Member for Clack- mannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid) comes into my constituency and says that we should be in Europe, I see that the SNP is split. All parties are split, and new and strange bedfellows will be encountered. I hope that during the next two months we shall not get the kind of speech I heard from the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire (Mr. Fairgrieve) yesterday. None of us can choose his bedfellow. I am sure that the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of Agriculture did not particularly choose theirs. Nor can we choose our allies —to alter the course of engagement in the Government Front Bench. But I hope that they will at least not try to convince the British people that we have fulfilled the major objectives. My regret is that I believe that in this field the major objectives were not even attempted

5.27 p.m.

I do not think that the House will be surprised if I seek to intervene in this debate, although I hope that, on account of the number of occasions on which I have previously been able to speak on the question of European policy in the House, my contribution may be comparatively short. For the theme of Europe, peaceful, strong and free, with Britain giving it leadership and using its influence, has been a major theme of my parliamentary and political life.

When I came into the House and made my maiden speech on 26th June 1950, it was a speech on Europe, on the Schuman Plan proposals, when I urged the then Labour Government to accept the invitation extended to them and to take part in the talks, even if not to commit themselves to accepting the results of the discussions which were then about to take place. To my infinite regret, and I think that of perhaps many other hon. Members, that invitation was not accepted by the then Labour Government. It was rejected, I think, looking back, for two reasons. It was rejected, first, because there were many on the Government side of the House who did not like the idea of going into what they thought was a CDU, or a Christian Democratic Europe. It was not apparently going to be an SPD Europe. Now that is to change, Secondly, they believed that it would provide a strong limitation on the policy of nationalisation to which they were committed and which they were still carrying through, and indeed, of course, it has been proved that that was not the case. I greatly regretted the fact that they did not accept that invitation.

Today we are again discussing the subject of our membership of the European Communities and European policies, within two months to the day 25 years afterwards. Should we not ask ourselves whether it is not at least some reflection on British institutions—on parliamentary institutions, on British policy-making, on the general will and determination of this country—that in the 25 years in which others have been developing their resources and making rapid progress and, indeed, extending their political influence, we, 25 years later, are still arguing this out. It is still not the last stage, because we know that the Government are committed to a referendum.

I talked, argued cajoled, campaigned and negotiated on this subject, and it led finally to the House giving me, as Prime Minister, the authority to sign the Treaty of Accession to the European Community. That Treaty is not affected in any way by what the present Government have done, are doing or are proposing to do. As far as I am concerned —unsatisfactory though it may be, I realise, to some Government supporters —that is the hallmark of what is required. The Government are now adhering to the Treaty of Accession for Britain to go into the Community. Therefore I express my satisfaction with that, but the fact that I as Prime Minister was authorised to sign that Treaty of Accession was in my view a proper use of parliamentary authority, a proper use of the parliamentary sovereignty of which the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) has been speaking.

But this has never been accepted by those who oppose our membership of the EEC. It has never been accepted by a small number in my own party, and by a considerable number of Labour Members. The fact that they do not accept this has driven them into every conceivable political contortion, and verbal distortion as well, in order to deny the parliamentary process which was carried through, leading them finally to accept the referendum which we now face.

I do not want in the Prime Minister's absence to say very much about him personally. I do not regard his late conversion to a referendum as being particularly honourable, any more honourable than his twists and changes in European policy from the time he was in opposition, then in Government, back into opposition and now again into Government.

We were told that the renegotiation referendum was necessary to hold the party together, and therefore was justifiable, but that has proved to be exactly the reverse of the case, and we see not only the Labour Party but the Cabinet divided, and the fact that the Prime Minister has lifted collective responsibility from members of the Cabinet has led to the position which we now see. In passing, perhaps one might comment that it seems strange that Ministers should be allowed to say what they like outside the House but have apparently been instructed to deliver words in which they do not believe when they stand at the Dispatch Box. These are troubles which surround the Prime Minister and they are his troubles. They are none of our concern though he may, in looking at them, reflect on the old Chinese saying, "Never lift a stone to drop on your own toe".

Where I differ from the Prime Minister is on his approach in his speech, which was to put the entire emphasis on the question whether what has now been agreed and commended by the Government compares satisfactorily with his party's manifesto, and to put this forward as a criterion on which the country will judge when the referendum comes.

I do not believe that to be justifiable, nor could I be happy with the country taking that approach. Indeed, I should be gravely worried if it did because, while I welcome the changes which have been made, I believe that they have come about in the normal development of the Community and I do not believe that the country will vote on a minute comparison of the extent to which these new arrangements which have been developed in the course of ordinary business meet what was set out in the detailed party manifesto.

I appreciate the Prime Minister's point of view from his own party's discussions —that I fully recognise—but from the point of view of the country that is not the great issue, and I believe that what the country has to face is a very great issue indeed.

For that we have to go back to the primary purpose of the European Community when it was founded. It was founded for a political purpose, not a party purpose, not even a federal purpose, as some would argue. I recall Herr von Brentano, when he was German Foreign Minister, saying, "There are some who say we are bound on a federation. At the beginning at any rate" he said "I believed we could work out a blueprint for a future political Europe"—this was back in 1960 —" but already I recognise, as we all recognise, that you cannot impose a blueprint on ancient nation States which come together in the form in which we have done." It was not a federal but a political purpose, the political purpose was to absorb the new Germany into the structure of the European family, and economic means were adopted for that very political purpose.

I went so far as to point that out in my maiden speech in 1950, and I said then that the German dynamic had already returned. Its economic potential was tremendous, its drive was immense, and somehow Germany had to be contained inside a framework, otherwise all that we had seen in 1914 and 1939, which affected my generation, would happen again.

I debated with myself before I made that speech whether it would give offence to those in Germany whom I knew, and I decided that it would not. Indeed, it was welcomed, but what is important is that that situation still holds good today. The power of Germany is now immense. Its economic and financial power is immense, and so is its military strength, and yet the great majority of German people want desperately to have a framework in which they themselves can work and—I put this without causing offence —be contained. This is the general view of the German people, and the greater their strength becomes the more they want to be in a Community in which to work. But they want it to be a balanced Community.

They have long argued that Britain should be part of that balance. That is why they have been prepared to make their sacrifices to get Britain into the Community. They did so in the original negotiations in 1961 and 1963, and again in 1970–71, and they have done it yet again in the arrangements which they have made in adjustments within the Community.

It was a political purpose, first, to bring about a rapprochement between France and Germany which was finally sanctified in 1963 in Paris by Dr. Adenauer and President de Gaulle. Secondly, it was to see that Germany would have a framework in which her strength could be used for the good of Europe; and thirdly, so that Europe itself could create its own strength. This was for two reasons: first, because it wished to work with its allies, who were much stronger and powerful, in the form of the United States, and, secondly, because it knew that allies also have limitations to what they can do and that Europe would have to do much more for itself. We therefore are today part of this vital political purpose in Western Europe as a member of the Community.

When one looks around Europe today and sees Portugal with its political system changed from one extreme position to another extreme position, one asks oneself what the impact of this will be on Spain, where many of us have been hoping, and many in Europe have been expecting, that when the present regime came to an end, when General Franco ceased to hold power after 40 years, there would be a change, as a result of which the substantial middle class which has developed would have far greater influence on the policies of Spain, on its institutions and on its attitudes, and after a period we should see Spain wanting to get back to the mainstream of European life again and moving towards a position in which she would become acceptable. What will be the impact on Spain of the change in Portugal? Will it undermine the Spanish position, as some fear, or will it drive the Spanish position further to the right, as others fear? Whichever it foes, the danger is there for us in Europe.

To move further along the Mediterranean to Cyprus, we see there the potential dangers not only for Cyprus but for Greece and Turkey. We know full well the dangers in the Middle East. Negotiations have broken down, and either side at any time is in a position to make a strike.

There is another aspect of the Mediterranean situation which has not been discussed in the debate so far. Marshal Tito, the creator of modern Yugoslavia, will one day, to intense personal regret in this country and elsewhere, cease to be the dominant influence in Yugoslavia. Does anyone doubt that that will be the moment when Soviet policy and Soviet power will exert itself in order to regain a position which it lost more than 20 years ago?

With those dangers facing Europe and facing us as a country, is this the moment for Britain to withdraw from the European Community, which is a centre of stability, of activity and of prosperity in Europe?

Looking further afield, what about our relationship with the United States? Over the past 20 years, administrations in the United States have supported British entry into the European Community, and increasingly the United States has been interested in seeing Britain as a member of the Community. But what is in some ways an even more important factor has now developed. We have seen the anguish of the American people in going into Vietnam and becoming involved there to such an extent, and we now see their anguish in seeing the consequences of American withdrawal.

We must not overlook the impact of that on American politics. The American administration is pledged to European support. But the question is, how does an American President muster support for a European policy today? This is now, and will more and more become, a serious question in the United States.

I look back to the period just before 1939, to the time when Americans in America were saying, "Europe has been unable to sort out its own problems. Why should we become involved in Europe's affairs, part of which we do not understand and over part of which we seem to have comparatively little influence?" Had it not been for Roosevelt, with strength, purpose and vision—and, one may add, with cunning—being prepared to take the United States eventually into the conflict, being given, indeed, the opportunity by Japan's attack, where should we in this country have been, and where would Western Europe have been?

Of course, they were proud days when we stood alone—and that thought may be echoed by those who want to stand alone now—but how long can we as a country stand alone, or how long then could we have stood alone?

There is, therefore, this problem in relationships between the United States and Western Europe, that if we pull out of the Community there will be many in the United States who will once again say, "The Europeans cannot sort out their own problems, and they are even quarrelling among themselves".

:I do not believe that NATO can carry out its proper purpose effectively if Europe shows signs of disintegrating and fragmenting within the Community and the United States is unable to maintain its support to the extent which a President desires.

That is the supreme issue facing the House and the country in the debate over our membership of the European Community. Nobody disputes the importance of the agricultural arrangements, the tariff arrangements and the other arrangements. I had to negotiate them for three years, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) did in 1970–71, and all too often I was then accused of dealing in technicalities and arrangements about kangeroo soup.

The truth is quite otherwise. From the time of my speech to the House on 17th May 1961, I said that the first purpose of the negotiations was political, for the reasons which I have explained. Today, the issue is still a great political issue. That is the reason for my regret that the Prime Minister placed the whole of his emphasis on a difference in arrangements and completely avoided any mention of what I believe to be the supreme issue here.

Of course, benefits have been gained in the arrangements, and some of them I welcome. But I remind the House that arrangements had been made for the new budgetary provision to be considered. When I had the discussions with President Pompidou which led to the settlement of the negotiations, he recognised that full well. Although he believed in the monetary arrangements of the snake, he recognised what we were doing when we had to float. In January 1974, I personally discussed with Helmut Schmidt, the present German Chancellor, the rearrangement of the budgetary provisions of the Treaty of Accession because I believed at that time that what was allowed for in the Treaty of Accession would have to take place—not immediately, but certainly that preparation should be made for it.

In any case, what has been arranged now does not come into effect until 1977 or 1978. At this moment, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer is trying to make up his mind what to do next Tuesday— and foreseeing the future and seeing precisely what the position will be in 1978 or 1980 is plainly impossible. However, the new arrangement which will cover the budgetary contribution is to be welcomed.

I welcome in particular the Lomé agreement. Everyone knew that it was bound to come. Those of us who had worked for this to replace the previous association agreement had done it for one reason. The division of Africa was carried out in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by the European Powers. We set up the barriers in Africa. We did a great deal to improve conditions there, and it is for the historians to say whether the French cultural approach, the Belgian social approach or the British parliamentary approach was the most successful. That is a matter for history.

What we wanted to do was to break down the barriers which existed between those countries with a British connection, a French connection or a Belgian connection—or even, some time previously, a German connection. Language was a barrier. Instruments of Government were a barrier. Trade was a barrier.

Now, under the new arrangement, those barriers are being removed, and we can see that the countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific have opportunities now which they have never had previously. That is why I welcome what the right hon. Lady the Minister of Overseas Development has been able to achieve in her part in influencing the Lomé negotiations. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about India and Pakistan?"] We negotiated for India, Pakistan and Ceylon in 1961 and 1963, and when we were vetoed, India herself went off, and so did Pakistan, to make their own agreements with the Community. What is more, there was agreement in the Community for a zero tariff on tea, which particularly affected Ceylon, as it was then—Sri Lanka as it is today. But all that happened 10 years or more ago, and the situation was very different in 1971 and for the present Government's negotiations.

I come now to the question of sovereignty. Of course, this is a matter which must be treated with the deepest respect, but, whether one is discussing national sovereignty or parliamentary sovereignty, what matters is the purpose of sovereignty. To me, sovereignty is not something to be hoarded, sterile and barren, carefully protected by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) in a greatcoat with its collar turned up. Nor is sovereignty something which has to be kept in the crypt to be inspected by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury on the eve of the opening of Parliament.

Sovereignty is something for us as custodians to use in the interests of our own country. The question we have to decide, therefore, in carrying through this great political purpose, as I believe it to be, for the peace and freedom of Europe and of our own country, is how we are entitled to use that measure of sovereignty which is required. That, I believe, puts it perfectly fairly. It is a judgment which we have to make, and I answer without hesitation that the sacrific of sovereignty, if it be put in that extreme form, or the sharing of sovereignty, the transfer of sovereignty or the offering of sovereignty is fully justified. Indeed were we not to do so in the modern world, I believe that as a Parliament, as a party and as a Government we should be culpable in the eyes of history. I believe, therefore, that sovereignty is for this House to use in the way it thinks best.

In this debate, those who argue that we should come out of the Community have to show—the onus is upon them—what the alternative is. There are only two alternatives. Indeed, I do not believe that one of them is a true alternative, but two alternatives have been put forward, and the first was put by the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), with his usual clarity and eloquence. The right hon. Gentleman, with all his experience in Government and at the Board of Trade, has never recognised that the Community—all of whose members have made certain sacrifices in order to gain benefits—is not prepared, and never has been prepared, to have a free trade area alongside it containing us as a major industrial power, seeking all the advantages of industrial trade but not being prepared to give the Community any of the advantages of agricultural trade. He was never prepared to accept that in the original negotiations, but it was constantly proved that no such arrangement was possible.

I come to the present situation. Why do the other former EFTA countries have an arrangement with the Community? It was not negotiated on their own. They have an arrangement only because we went into the Community and because we did a great deal to negotiate it for them. Why do they want us to stay in the Community? Because they know that we understand their interests and that we are prepared to help look after their interests.

If we come out of the Community, all that disappears. Indeed, we shall not have a free trade arrangement remaining, because the tariffs will automatically go up around the Community. As was pointed out from the Government Front Bench, for particular items of trade the tariffs could be very great.

What is more, even were we to have membership of a free trade area we would have no say in what was done by the Community. That would be a real and pointless sacrifice of sovereignty. Such a course would have no political purpose of any kind in Europe or for us. Therefore, I do not believe that is an alternative, because I do not believe that it would be granted. Even if it were to be granted, it would be thoroughly unsatisfactory for any British Government.

The other alternative is to go into a siege economy. There are some who would like to do that. There arc some who believe that the internal arrangements for industry in this country are more important than our general trading position, our political influence in the world or our capacity to play any major part in securing peace and prosperity in Europe as a whole. Very well. I accept that they are perfectly entitled to say that. However, let them stand up honestly and say it and not argue about the sort of points which we so often hear put. whether on arrangements for agriculture, tariffs, sovereignty, or anything else. Let them say quite clearly that what they want is for Britain to go it alone and to take all the consequences of going it alone.

Going it alone undoubtedly means the loss of our political influence. It means the loss of our trade, the loss of jobs and certainly a massive loss of investment. There can be no doubt about the loss of foreign investment in this country were we to leave the Community.

I come to the conclusion which I have argued so often before, and which I hope will not be described by the Prime Minister as doctrinal—that the supreme issue is political. The only way for us to exercise our influence, for us to influence Europe and for Europe in turn to be able to influence the world—because I believe that Europe should have a much more balanced position with the United Steles in the Western world—and the only way to maintain the proper and effective unity and defence of the West, is by our remaining a member of the European Community.

In doing this we are not looking only at ourselves in our generation. Of course, if we go out the disadvantages are immediately apparent to the whole country and to our generation. As we are a member we may find difficulties with which we have to deal in the Community. It has already been shown that there are many ways in which this can be done.

I say this with regret to the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister, recognising their political difficulties and their party difficulties. The fact that they have had to carry out the renegotiation in the way that they have done has used up a large amount of the good will with which we went into the Community. The Community was genuinely looking for us to give leadership in its position in the world, and we have so far not given it. There is disappointment and a loss of good will because of the renegotiations and the way in which they have been carried on.

I come to the future, with which the Foreign Secretary may be able to deal when he winds up the debate. I believe that the most important sentence is at the end of the White Paper, where the Government say that if the referendum keeps Britain in the Community they are prepared to play a full part in it. All too often I have felt from the Prime Minister's speeches that he was saying "Yes, we must belong to this Community, but we must not act as though it is a Community. We must not help it to be one." I hope that I am not misrepresenting him. That last sentence of the White Paper means that, with a referendum which confirms our membership of the Community, whichever Government are in power will play a full part in the development of the Community as a community. I believe that we shall find it infinitely more satisfying than trying to deal with irritating matters here and saying all the time that we must draw back.

I believe that the development of the Community must take place first and foremost in the Foreign Secretary's field, because so many other aspects of the Community's activities flow from foreign policy. The problems about the energy crisis, Herr Brandt's position and the Dutch position at the Copenhagen Summit —the problem there was that the Community had never settled foreign policy in relation to the Middle East. The result was that it could not possibly settle an energy policy. If we face a further crisis in the Middle East in a few months' time, does the Community know what its attitude will be? Does it know how to deal with a further energy crisis? That is the real test of Community activities. It is of vital importance.

Secondly, we have one great advantage in foreign policy in the Community. We can agree on policy, and after we have thrashed through the problems we have nine different people to operate that policy right across the world. That is an advantage which no other country or organisation has, and we should make the utmost use of it.

The institutions of the Community need to be improved. I welcome the quarterly meetings. We started half-yearly meetings. As Prime Minister, I felt on many occasions that so much more could be done not only on the telephone but by actual meetings of Heads of Government as well as Foreign Ministers and the Council of Ministers. This will have to come about. The whole organisation in Brussels must be improved. The Community would welcome it. It expected us to give a lead, but we have not done so.

The parliamentary institutions of the Community can certainly be greatly improved. I do not believe that it is possible for much longer for right hon. and hon. Members to carry out the two tasks of proper representation here and proper representation in Strasbourg and Luxembourg. These are practical ways in which we can help the Community and in which we can develop its other policies.

Therefore, the decision which the country will have to make must be presented to it as one of major political importance for the future peace, prosperity and freedom of this country and Western Europe. That is the issue. We are acting as trustees. This is not a temporary policy affected by fluctuations one way or the other. I have always emphasised that this is a long-term policy in the history of Britain and Europe. It will affect future generations much more than it affects us. We are not only responsible for the present but are the trustees of all those in Britain in the future.

5.59 p.m.

The right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) naturally compels attention when he speaks on this subject. [Interruption.]

:Order. Will hon. Members who wish to leave the Chamber please do so quietly.

:The right hon. Gentleman put forward one proposition that I do not think could be disputed. This was that the question which we must decide, and which the nation will have to decide at the referendum, is not the difference between the old terms and the new terms or, despite the ingenious speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan), a comparison of the new terms and the Labour Party manifesto. What we are concerned with is a broad general assessment of the results for this country and Europe of our staying in or our going out, a broad assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of the general position as it is now and, still more, as it will develop as the years go by.

It should be understood that we are making, at any rate one way, an irrevocable decision. If this country decides to come out now, if we slam the door in our own faces, the door will not open again. That is why I say that we must consider the situation not only as it is but as it will be.

As to the possible advantages of membership, my right hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) suggested yesterday that those of us who had advocated membership of the Community should perform the penance of reading the speeches we made at the time. I have performed part of that penance by reading part of the speech I made on 10th May 1967. It was not a bit as my right hon. Friend said it would be. It was much more careful and qualified.

My right hon. Friend was one of a number of right hon. Members who, supporting the policy of going into Europe, said that trade would grow, that entry would be a revitalisation, a blood transfusion, and that our future economic prospects would be better. If he now says that he did not say that, no one will listen to him.

If my right hon. Friend wants to know what I said then, perhaps he will perform the same penance and read the speech instead of guessing about it. [An HON. MEMBER:" Tell us."] That is what I am about to do, if I am allowed to.

I pointed out in that speech that there were a number of potential advantages of access to a larger market—the probability of attraction of investment, the opportunity to give greater help to the poorest parts of the world, and a growth in political influence. But I was careful to add —and this is the heart