HC Deb 30 May 1968 vol 765 cc2127-9
Q1. Sir Knox Cunningham

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of recent developments in Germany, he will now withdraw the United Kingdom application to join the Common Market.

The Prune Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

No, Sir.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Has not the basis of the Common Market been affected by events in France as well as in Germany? Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that for him to say that New Zealand butter would not prevent him from getting in is both insulting and stupid?

The Prime Minister

The hon. and learned Gentleman had better get it right. I said that there was a recognition in the Common Market countries that the New Zealand problem had to be solved and that they were willing to solve it. That was the point about my reference to New Zealand. As far as Germany is concerned, I refer the hon. and learned Member to an Answer I gave to the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) last week.

Mr. Howie

Is it possible that the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham) really meant France, for it is hard to see how anyone would wish to join an organisation in such confusion at the moment?

The Prime Minister

I have said repeatedly during the last fortnight that it would not be right for me to comment on the internal difficulties and, indeed, the agonies of France. What is going on there now is no reason for acting on the suggestion put by the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham).

Sir D. Walker-Smith

If the Prime Minister will not withdraw the application—which many people would think an appropriate thing to do—will he not at least step up the Government's tenuous consideration of the possibilities of alternative courses in this unpredictable situation?

The Prime Minister

I answered a similar question earlier this week and another last week, and I have nothing to add to what I said on those occasions.

Mr. Moyle

Now that the French road block seems to be crumbling, does my right hon. Friend intend to resume the pursuit of our application to join with pace and momentum? If so, does he think that the nation will be behind him?

The Prime Minister

It is not for me to talk about French road blocks. Our application is in with the Six as a whole. If there is a change of attitude in the Six —and we know where our difficulties arose before—we can pursue it with pace and momentum, and we shall continue to do so.

Mr. McMaster

What does the Prime Minister think would be the effect on the prices and incomes policy, particularly wage claims, of a further rise of 13 per cent. in the cost of food on top of the increases which have followed devaluation?

The Prime Minister

That does not arise from the Question on the Order Paper. Nor is it appropriate for me to comment on wages and prices policy in France.

Mr. Macdonald

Is my right hon. Friend not secretly rather glad that his application to join the Common Market was a failure? Will he make applications in future to join bodies which, first, want us to join them and, secondly, which it will be to our economic advantage to join?

The Prime Minister

The question of the economic advantages of joining the Common Market was fully debated by the House a year ago, before we took the decision to apply by a large majority of this House. The majority of the countries in the Common Market are extremely anxious that, not only in our interests but in their interests and those of Europe, we should join the Common Market. So far, only one Power has reserved its position on this point.

Mr. Thorpe

Have not the events of the past two months, particularly in Germany and France, proved what a valuable contribution this country, with its history of political maturity and technical knowledge, should make to the Continent of Europe? On the purely domestic front, does the Prime Minister agree that one by-product of joining the Common Market would be that the ridiculous bitterness between the Northern and Southern parts of Ireland would once and for all be healed?

The Prime Minister

I have felt, as many hon. Members in many parts of the House have felt, that one of the strongest arguments is the political argument. This country cannot remain immune from dangerous tendencies on the other side of the Channel just by pretending that the Channel is wider than it is. I believe that we should have something to contribute towards the stability of Europe, which means in the end the stability of this country.

Sir Knox Cunningham

On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I will raise the matter again.