HC Deb 07 November 1967 vol 753 cc831-3
Q2. Sir C. Osborne

asked the Prime Minister, in view of the conditions that the French Government have now imposed as a prerequisite for Great Britain's entry into the Common Market, if he will now state his alternative policy.

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to the speeches by myself and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in the Debate on the Address on 31st October and 2nd November.—[Vol. 753, c. 38; Vol. 753, c. 327.]

Sir C. Osborne

Since it is obvious that General de Gaulle will blackmail us until he dies, what is there against our accepting associate membership until he does die, as an alternative to withdrawal?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman is hardly stating a negotiating position. He must take responsibility for the assumption in the opening part of his Question. My right hon. Friend and I have on a large number of occasions in this House stated our view that, while there are alternatives, we regard all of them as second best, and the position is exactly as we stated in the House last week.

Mr. Henig

Would my right hon. Friend give consideration now to having very high-level talks with the French Government with a view to seeing whether there are any conditions at all on which they will now allow Britain into the Common Market and, if there are not, will he consider temporarily withdrawing our application?

The Prime Minister

Our application was made to the Six, our application remains in with the Six, and it is being considered by the Six. As my hon. Friend knows, in addition to the talks my right hon. Friend had with the French President and his Government in January, I had very full discussions with the French President in June. Our discussions must continue to be with the Six.

Mr. Barnett

As, even at the best, we could not hope to get in before 1970, would it not be worth considering a form of association allied to negotiations which would bring us entry in 1972?

The Prime Minister

Apart from the arguments against association, which have been frequently stated from both sides of the House, my hon. Friend should not underrate the difficulties of negotiating an association agreement that might take even longer to negotiate than entry.

Mr. Clark Hutchison

Does the Prime Minister really imagine that we are going to get into the Common Market?

The Prime Minister

I understand that the President of France himself has said that we are going into the Common Market. I think there may be some difference of emphasis about the time factor between his position and ours, but I have no reason to doubt his view and ours that we shall be in.

Q5. Sir D. Walker-Smith

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now appoint a senior Minister in the House of Commons to conduct any further discussions on Great Britain's application to join the European Economic Community and to report directly thereon to the House.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer I gave on 6th June to a Question by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell).—[Vol. 747, c. 189.]

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Is not the Prime Minister aware that a great deal has happened since 6th June? Is there really no one in the congested corridors of power who could interpret Britain's position in this matter with dignity and decorum and avoid indiscretion and humiliation alike; or does the Prime Minister want to deny the House of Commons its proper rights of interrogation in this matter?

The Prime Minister

There has never been any question of denying the rights of interrogation. My right hon. Friend and I are regularly interrogated on this—in my case twice a week. I refer the right hon. and learned Gentleman to statements made in a White Paper following my right hon. Friend's speech at W.E.U. and the statement he made in this House last Thursday.

Sir A. V. Harvey

On a point of order. Could you give guidance, Mr. Speaker, on how far a Minister may refer to an Answer given in a previous Session? I thought that it had to be brought up to date.

Mr. Speaker

I should not think that a Minister would refer to a previous Session. I did not notice it.

The Prime Minister

If it was out of order, I willingly withdraw it, and refer in place of that to the statement I made in this House last week on this question.

Mr. Speaker

I am advised that it is not exactly out of order, but it is a practice which if it were extended could be very embarrassing to those who put Questions.

Mr. Sheldon

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the report of the Commission on Britain's application to enter the Common Market? Would he say what representations he intends to make about this rather tendentious report written by European civil servants?

The Prime Minister

I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that the Commission's report—I think I have another Question on this later this afternoon—did recommend at the end of the day that Britain should be in and negotiations should begin. In negotiations, as my right hon. Friend has frequently stated, we are quite prepared to discuss anything said there about our economic position and the position of sterling currency and any of these questions.

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