§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I should like to make a statement about the meetings I attended in Brussels and Reykjavik last week. I am sure the 883 House will forgive me if I go into some detail.
At the meeting with the Community in Brussels in the early part of the week we reached agreement on a number of important points. For convenience, I will deal with the matters in the order in which they arose.
First, there was a satisfactory measure of agreement on Euratom. When this subject was first broached, the Community asked the candidate countries for compensation for access to the assets of Euratom. We said we did not think this request was justified, and I am glad to say that it was withdrawn. We have now agreed in principle to an exchange of knowledge of equivalent value, to take place immediately after our entry. We have also settled a number of legal issues arising out of our acceptance of the Euratom Treaty, including its application to our dependent territories with the exception of Hong Kong.
Next, tariff quotas. We reached agreement on arrangements for twelve industrial products which we at present import wholly or mainly duty free, and where it appeared that the imposition of the Common External Tariff would have meant a new charge on supplies to British industry. The products in question are phosphorus, silicone carbide, wattle extract, plywood, wood pulp, newsprint, ferro chrome, ferro silicone, aluminium, lead and zinc. The only product on which we have yet to settle is alumina. The effect of the arrangements we have made is that around 90 per cent. of our imports of these commodities from outside the enlarged Community would continue to be imported duty free.
The Community also agreed to an indefinite suspension of the Common External Tariff on tea. With permission, I will circulate details of these inevitably complicated arrangements in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
We then dealt with the important issue of agricultural transition and Community preference. Here we were able to settle the main problems, and agree on a basis on which the remaining points of detail can be worked out.
Briefly, we would adopt the mechanism of the common agricultural policy at the beginning of the transitional period, but 884 our transition to Community prices would be achieved by six even steps spread over five years. The deficiency payments system would be phased out gradually during that period. British producers and consumers and third countries should thus have time enough to make the adjustments which in many cases would be necessary.
On trade with third countries, we have secured explicit recognition by the Community that if circumstances arose during the transitional period in which significant volumes of trade risked serious disruption, then the enlarged Community would deal with the position. The Community would likewise take rapid and effective action to deal with any difficulties which might arise in the operation of the transitional mechanisms.
The Community recognised that we had a special problem over horticulture. Here it was agreed first that tariff adjustment for horticultural products should proceed at a slower rate; secondly, that no move on horticultural tariffs should take place until a year after our accession; thirdly, that there should be provision for flexibility in the adjustment of horticultural tariffs to permit some modifications of the process if necessary; and, finally, that for apples and pears, where there is a special problem arising from surpluses in the Community, we should replace our quota arrangements at the beginning of transition by a system of compensatory levies, offsetting the difference between British and Community prices. These levies would be gradually phased out during the transition period as British and Community prices come into line. Taken together, these measures should ensure that British horticulture gets the exceptional treatment which it needs.
I now turn to the question of our contribution to the Community budget. As the House will know, there are several ways of approaching this difficult and important problem. The Community has now suggested an entirely new approach, based on certain initial principles.
The idea is that a percentage—or key—would be set, which would vary by small amounts annually, and would represent the proportion of the Community budget which we would notionally be expected to pay in each of 885 the years of the transitional period. But the sums actually payable in each year would be reduced by a large amount at the start of the transitional period and by a progressively smaller amount as time went on until we arrived at full acceptance of the Community's direct income system. An important and favourable development is that the Community admits the possibility of a further period of correctives after the end of the transitional period.
While welcoming this new approach, I made it clear that its usefulness could only be assessed when precise figures were attached to the formula to enable us to see what we would actually be paying. But if the figures were fair and reasonable, I see no reason why the present proposal should not provide the means of arriving at a solution satisfactory to all concerned.
Finally, I come to two related questions: that of the association with the Community of the developing Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean and Indian and Pacific Oceans; and that of future imports Of sugar from the developing Commonwealth countries.
The Community has now agreed that it is prepared to reaffirm the 1963 Declaration of Intent in respect of the independent Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean, Mauritius, Fiji, Western Samoa and Tonga. This declaration offered a choice between two forms of association and a trading agreement. I warmly welcomed its reaffirmation, which would give the countries concerned complete and wide protection and freedom of choice. They would have up to 1975 to negotiate these arrangements with the enlarged Community, of which we should of course then be a member. Until then our existing pattern of trade with them would remain unchanged.
As regards sugar, the Community on 11th May undertook to bear in mind the importance of sugar for the economies of the developing Commonwealth countries concerned after 1974, and suggested that the question should be settled within the framework of negotiations on whatever form of association or trading agreement these countries wanted. I replied that this approach was helpful but needed clarification. I did not think that the undertaking, so far as sugar was con- 886 cerned, was sufficiently firm to provide the sort of assurance which the Caribbean countries and other sugar producers had always needed.
In the early hours of 13th May, after further contacts, the Community put an additional text to us. They now said that it would be the firm purpose of the enlarged Community to safeguard the interests of the countries in question whose economies depended to a considerable degree on the export of primary products, in particular sugar. This text amounts to more than a declaration of intention. It is both a specific and a moral commitment.
I can now say this to the developing sugar producing countries of the Commonwealth. There would be room in the enlarged Community, of which Britain would be part, both for present quantities of sugar from these countries at remunerative prives and for the development of sugar beet production. With this safeguard now promised, I believe the House can he satisfied that these countries will not suffer from our entry into the Community. The assurances which successive British Governments have given to these developing countries have now been double-banked by the Community's commitment.
I thanked the Community for its declaration but made it clear that before accepting it, I must consult the Commonwealth countries concerned. I am hoping to arrange these consultations in the very near future.
I believe that the progress on all these points which was made in Brussels last week is a clear demonstration of the Community's desire to carry the negotiations rapidly forward to a successful conclusion. We shall be meeting again at an additional Ministerial meeting in Luxembourg on 7th June.
At the end of the week I was in Reykjavik for discussions with my Ministerial colleagues of the European Free Trade Association. My colleagues unanimously expressed satisfaction at the progress made in the Brussels negotiations and in the discussions the E.F.T.A. countries were having with the Community. They expressed their confidence that all E.F.T.A. countries would be able to participate in the progress of European integration in a way acceptable to the Community and to themselves.
§ Mr. Healey
I hope that I may be allowed to concentrate on the sugar issue, not only because of its importance in itself, but because it is a symbol of two things: first, of the way in which the British Government are handling the negotiations, and, secondly, of the attitude of the Community to the developing world.
First, I should like to ask whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman is aware that many of us feel that he might have got an acceptable and bankable agreement on sugar if he had stuck to the line he took on Tuesday night, when he talked of figures and quantities, instead of collapsing like a pricked balloon when asked to create a pleasant climate for the meeting of the Prime Minister and President Pompidou.
He said in the statement that we now had a firm undertaking that the Commonwealth countries would not suffer. Does this mean that Her Majesty's Government are free to renew the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement in 1974 if the Community fails to provide for a continuation of their sugar exports to Europe and if Her Majesty's Government and the exporting countries themselves feel they will be otherwise condemned to the fate which Madagascar, Congo-Brazzaville and Surinam have also suffered as a result of similar agreements made by France and Holland at an earlier stage?
My second question is this. I understand that Her Majesty's Government have not yet accepted this arrangement and that its acceptance depends on the outcome of consultation with the developing Commonwealth countries concerned. Could he assure the House that if the Commonwealth countries themselves take the view—which I know the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not—that they would be better off with figures and quantities, which is what he was asking for last Tuesday, Her Majesty's Government will go back to the Community and insist on hard figures and quantities?
My next question—and I know how seriously hon. Members on both sides of the House will take the reply—is this. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that he would insist on precise figures for the financial contribution to be made by Her Majesty's Government. Could he assure the House that he will not accept a vague concatenation of adjec- 888 tives, as for Commonwealth sugar, as a substitute for hard figures in the case of New Zealand butter and lamb? If he is to insist on hard figures for New Zealand, why does he not do so also for Mauritius, Fiji and the Caribbean countries, which are very much poorer than New Zealand and much more dependent on Britain for a single crop?
§ Mr. Rippon
First of all, may I say that I got out of the Community a firm assurance that I sought. It was an assurance designed not simply to cover quantities but also prices and employment. What we need to do is to safeguard the interests of the developing Commonwealth countries as a whole. The combination of the offer of association and the wide-ranging opportunities under that, plus the specific reference to sugar, make it perfectly clear what we and the Community have agreed upon and the policy which the enlarged Community would be committed to follow.
So far as 1974 is concerned, I do not think then the question would arise of our renegotiating the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement as such. What we would then have to do is to renegotiate within the enlarged Community an agreement which covered their associates and ours. We have said what our position is in regard to our associates and the need we see to cover their position, and I believe that the Community takes the same view about its own.
As far as New Zealand is concerned, I think the position is rather different because New Zealand cannot be brought within the framework of an offer of association. Thus, a different approach is required in that regard. So far as my consultations with the Commonwealth are concerned, because many of them have anxieties, to some extent generated by comments which, naturally enough, are made far away from them, I hope to explain to them what the Community's assurance means and what opportunities are now open to them in negotiating whatever form of association or trading agreement they like with particular reference to the problems of sugar. If, of course, they ask me for a lesser assurance than the ones I have been given, then I would certainly take their views to heart, but I shall try to dissuade them.
§ Mr. Healey
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman not aware that unless 889 the developing Commonwealth countries obtain a quantitative assurance this year their economies are likely to collapse long before 1974, because the planting of sugar requires assurances as to the market in seven years' time? To come back to my initial point, could he assure the Commonwealth countries either that they will get a quantitative market, on which they have always insisted, or that Her Majesty's Government will have the right to renew the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement in the absence of an agreement by the Community? I remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman that Surinam and a number of other countries have already suffered catastrophic economic damage to their sugar exports as a result of an agreement entered into by other European countries identical in form to the one the right hon. and learned Gentleman has presented to the House this afternoon.
§ Mr. Rippon
I have no reason to suppose that the Community would in any way depart from the spirit and intent of their declaration. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] But let us suppose that in 1974 we were unable to negotiate a new regime. We would then be within the Community and have our own rights as regards voting. We have very much in mind, as I explained in the statement, the need to protect in an appropriate way the developing countries.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I propose to call first for supplementary questions those hon. Members who had put down Questions and did not ask supplementary questions when they were called because the Minister said that he would be making a statement.
§ Mr. Moate
Would my right hon. and learned Friend accept that nobody could suggest he was selling out British and Commonwealth interests—rather, he is giving them away for nothing? Since he has failed to give specific answers, could he say specifically on sugar whether the Community has offered any means of reducing its surplus without which any agreement or assurance is meaningless? Secondly, would he recognise that the Community destroys more apples and pears than this country produces? Until that structural surplus is eliminated, any agreement of one, two, three or five years is meaningless and something of a farce?
§ Mr. Rippon
I do not accept the assertion in the first part of the question. In regard to apples and pears, in order to protect the British horticulture prices and producers against Community surpluses and lower prices in the Community, we have made special arrangements. There will be freedom for British horticulturists and opportunities in the enlarged Community for British horticultural produce which, if it cannot always compete on price, will be able to compete on quality.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the overall progress made at Brussels carries forward the policy of the previous Government and will be welcomed by a decisive majority of hon. Members in this House? [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Mayhew
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the new methods that he has outlined for the payment of the financial contribution have a number of obvious advantages? But will he say more about the period of time over which the rebates under this scheme are to be paid? Will it just be five years, or will six, seven or eight years be possible?
§ Mr. Rippon
I was so overcome by the generosity of the hon. Gentleman's earlier remarks that I almost faded away.
All the rebates will be completed in the five-year period—over the whole of the transitional arrangements—except for this possibility of correctives in regard to the financial arrangements.
§ Mr. Eadie
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, to some extent, he has prejudiced his negotiation standing in the sense that he thanked the representatives at the meeting, and now we have a situation where, I am convinced, an overwhelming majority of this House rejects the propositions that he has put forward and that, above all, the sugar interests involved reject them?
§ Mr. Rippon
I am sure that that is wrong. I am sure that the Community, whose intentions were good from the outset of our discussions, have clarified 891 exactly what they meant. I did not think that just "bearing in mind" was enough. To declare a firm purpose to safeguard interests does not mean only one vital interest but all of them. It means all the exports of developing countries, particularly sugar. One of the difficulties about sugar is that we have these agreements which run until 1974. So have the Community. Even in our negotiations, if we were not applying to join the Community, we do not state far in advance exactly what the position will be at the end of the negotiations. What we have to take into account is all the factors, which are quantity, remunerative price, and also the roll-on.
§ Mr. Marten
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that he has not dealt with the points raised by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey)? Congo-Brazzaville and Madagascar had associated status of the type which is offered now. They had quotas, and now they have hardly any sugar trade with the Common Market. This was vetoed by the Council of Ministers. In the case of Surinam, the Dutch went into the Common Market on this sort of assurance with the result that Surinam's was cut by half and it expires in 1975. Has not my right hon. and learned Friend seen the writing on the wall?
§ Mr. Rippon
We are concerned, therefore, to protect our arrangements up to the period of renegotiation. When these matters are renegotiated, we shall insist on the implementation of the assurance that the Six have given us.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that we can put our trust in the protections that have been given. Is not he aware that, only in the last few weeks, the Germans, who had agreed with the French and the remainder of the Six that they would not revalue unless they had the agreement of the Six, none the less revalued? There is an example of a definite promise and a written pledge being broken. Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman trust a pledge such as this?
§ Mr. Rippon
That is an entirely different issue, and no written pledges were broken. There was a long and very warm discussion, at the end of which they reached a measure of agreement.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
In respect of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give a firm undertaking—
§ Mr. Jennings
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it right that this part of the sitting, while we are dealing with proceedings following on a statement, should be regarded as a hang-over from Question Time, when so many hon. Members who did not put down Questions are now denied the right for a long period to put Questions?
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not think that I am denying anyone's right—yet. But so many right hon. and hon. Members try to catch my eye at the end of each answer that it is difficult for me to see whether those with Questions on the Order Paper are amongst them. Mr. Wellbeloved.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give a firm undertaking that, in respect of super, he will consult the Caribbean Islands and Fiji and that, unless they agree to the terms that he will finally recommend, he will withdraw the whole proposition?
§ Mr. Rippon
That is not a good basis on which to start consultations, which will be full and will deal with all these relevant matters.
§ Mr. Sandys
While congratulating my right hon. and hon. Friend on the excellent progress that he has made in these extremely difficult negotiations, may I ask him a further question about sugar? Does not he feel that any realistic person who understands the problem will think that the offer of a long-term association coupled with a categorical declaration by the Community of their intention to safeguard the interests of sugar producing countries represents as fair and as reasonable a solution as can be reached—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Is there any good reason to doubt the good faith—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."]—of those who, we hope, will soon be our partners?
§ Mr. Rippon
I think that my right hon. Friend is right. After all, in the last analysis, the prosperity of the sugar producers depends upon our good intentions and our determination to safeguard their interests as we go along. Since 893 13th May, our intentions have been reinforced by the declaration of the Community. That is why I say that the assurances have been double-banked.
§ Mr. Shore
Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman think that he is taking a very great gamble with the livelihood and prosperity of people who are dependent upon us? He owes it to the House to say what it is that made him change his mind from demanding, as we all knew, bankable security for the West Indies, to accepting what at best is a statement of good will? At the same time, why have the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his right hon. Friends changed their minds about what is acceptable in relation to the financing of the Community and our part in it? Within four months of the opening statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who said that unless we could get a change in the system itself the terms that would result would impose burdens upon us that we could not bear and which no British Government could accept, why is it that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends have accepted precisely those terms and that system at the end of the transitional period, and have not had the face to tell us openly about it?
§ Mr. Rippon
As for the proposals in regard to finance and our contribution to the Community budget, given that we get percentages and figures put to the proposals which have now been laid before us by the Community, there is nothing inconsistent between those proposals and the ones suggested by the previous Government or by my right hon. Friend, the present Prime Minister. There is no difficulty about the principle. It was always understood that there were a number of ways in which we could try to approach the movement of resources problem, but that throughout the transition we should start relatively low and move up in a progressive way. In so far as the new proposals permitted it, I regarded that as a basis for negotiation, but I said that we must see in more precision what they had in mind and then come back to the House and report.
The difficulty about sugar is that we have our agreement, to which we have been told that we can hold and the Community have their own arrangements to 894 which they will hold, These agreements have never depended entirely upon precise figures of tonnage. If we had insisted on a negotiation of tonnage, they would then have had to reconsider their own arrangements, and we would have ended up perhaps with a lower figure than the one which we really wanted to secure. Bearing in mind that sugar is now linked with the offer of association and, therefore, that these people will be brought within the Community, this throws a different light on the situation.
I have said all along—I spoke to the House about this on my return from the Caribbean—that it was not sufficient to consider a sugar agreement alone. A sugar agreement alone would not cover all the problems of the developing countries, which could only be met by association. Equally, an offer of association would not be sufficient without an understanding on sugar. So these two matters have been closely linked together. I do not think that the full significance of this has been appreciated everywhere. At one time in the negotiations there was great pressure both inside and outside the Community not to extend the influence of the Community beyond Europe and Africa, and that this offer of association should not be extended to the Caribbean countries and to countries in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. I pressed this case, and I am glad to say that the Community have now agreed to renew the offer.
§ Mr. Speaker
That is not a point of order for me. If the Leader of the House has a communication to make, no doubt he will make it.
§ Mr. Turton
After that last reply, will my right hon. and learned Friend explain why, in his dialogue to the deaf speech on Tuesday, he asked for bankable assurances for 1,400,000 tons of Commonwealth sugar and he now appears to have withdrawn that demand? Has that demand been withdrawn? If so, why?
§ Mr. Rippon
I did not put it in that way. I recognised that the situation had 895 changed as soon as the Community reaffirmed the Declaration of Intent of 1963. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to think of all these matters together within the context of association, which changes the whole negotiating position. I said that I thought that there would be a great deal of difficulty if we did not clarify the situation, because the developing countries of the Commonwealth needed some sense of security so that they could know that their interests were to be safeguarded and could plan their production in that way.
In the evening I spoke to them rather firmly about this matter and said that one of our difficulties in the negotiations was that I made a statement, the Chairman took note of it, and they then needed time to consider the effect of what I had said. I said that they should deal with this matter urgently; it needed only a sentence or two to clarify the position. As a result of the discussions which we had, we got this strong commitment. Many people have taken the view that all that we did was change the words from "bearing in mind" to "take to heart". That is not what happened. The translation of the French is not simply "take to heart", which is a very strong expression in French—[Interruption.] This is not unimportant. It is a strong expression—[Interruption.] It is a rather important point, because it is part of the agreement. This is the sentence to which we have to hold in future, a sentence which should be clear to ordinary men and women. It translates as, "It is the firm purpose of the Community to safeguard the interests". If I did not think that that was a bankable assurance, I should not have accepted it.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson
If the whole assurance depends on the translation of these rather obscure words in French, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman now answer these questions on sugar? Will he undertake to report to the House the results of his negotiations and consultations with Caribbean and other Commonwealth Leaders? If they are not satisfied with the agreement with which he is satisfied, will he give due notice to the Community that it is not accepted and that he is reopening the matter?
Will he now answer the question which I put to the Prime Minister on Thursday 896 —it was rather early then for anyone to have the full details—namely, whether the French or any other country would have a veto on our proposal to continue the sugar agreement after 1974 in default of really firm bankable arrangements? Will he further give an undertaking that he will not seek to negotiate the New Zealand problem on the same basis as he appears willing to negotiate the sugar agreement? Finally, will he circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the name of a bank which would regard as bankable a three-year operation when there is a seven-year period of production?
§ Mr. Rippon
On the translation, the right hon. Gentleman, who has some experience of international negotiations, knows that it is important, for the avoidance of misunderstanding, that there should be clear understanding of what words mean in both languages. That is why I was concerned about clarification on that point. Clear language of that kind is, in my view, a bankable assurance. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] After all, many people buy products with guarantees with lots of fine print. They would do better to tear up the guarantees and rely upon the normal assurances about goods of warrantable quality. Long detailed guarantees, in my view, would not at the end of the day be as good a bargain for the developing countries of the Commonwealth as one simple statement which we can all remember for years ahead long after the small print may have been forgotten.
The consultations will be those which I have promised, and I shall report back to the House on the developments.
Concerning veto, I believe that we can rely upon the assurance that the Community have solemnly given. When there has been so much discussion about it in the Community, there can be no question of their saying that they did not understand what they were doing, because we underlined it in the most firm way. Our Commonwealth Sugar Agreement ends in 1974 and their convention ends in 1975. There will then be a renegotiation of two new régimes, and if we do not get safeguards for the interests of the developing countries, then we could exercise a veto. It must be remembered that we are very large consumers of sugar.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Is the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) raising a point of order?
§ Mr. Rippon
May I first answer the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition about New Zealand, and whether we can negotiate her position in the same way as for sugar. The answer is that, as things are at the moment, there is no question of New Zealand being offered association. It has not been sought, or been asked for by New Zealand. Therefore, we have to proceed in a different way.
As far as the sugar regime is concerned, perhaps talk of vetoes is unfortunate, because I am satisfied that the Community meant what it said, and that we can rely on that. If, at the end of the day, a situation arose which we could not agree, then one would no doubt have a crisis in the Community, which we would resolve, holding firmly to the assurance that we have been given. Without the implementation of that assurance, I do not see how we can accept a new régime, or an amendment of the régime.
§ Mr. Thorpe
Although there is still much to negotiate, may I congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on the progress that has been made to date? Is he aware that the interests of this country and, indeed, of the Commonwealth, do not depend on small print or phrases but on whether there is trust between the partners in Europe, and whether there is genuine enthusiasm for a united Europe? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman take comfort from the fact that, apart from those who now choose to sit on the fence—
§ Mr. Thorpe
—wherever they may happen to sit in this House, the main critics, and the most vocal critics, are drawn from the extreme Right and the extreme Left of British political life, who have historically been renowned not only for their isolationism but for their complete lack of vision?
§ Mr. Rippon
I am sure that at the end of the day, when the House as a whole can judge the package, there will be no doubt whatever that it is a British interest, a European interest, and in the interests of the whole of the Commonwealth, developed and developing, that these negotiations should succeed.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
As one who believes—and many people in the country share this view—that the outcome of these negotiations is going to decide not just what will be the price across the counters of this country for the next five years but what will be the future of our children and our children's children, may I ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether he would not agree that it is important that all of us know the full package deal before we form any final judgment whatsoever? When that package deal is known, will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind the opening sentence of the speech made to the Conservative seminar two weeks ago by M. Berthoin, who particularly emphasised that the purpose of the Treaty of Rome was political?
§ Mr. Rippon
All those considerations must be borne in mind. I can only repeat that, at the end of the day, I do not believe that this House would let the British people turn their backs on their rightful destiny.
§ Mr. Barnett
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the French still insist on sterling being part of the negotiations? While one would accept that the idea of cutting balances by 5 per cent. a year is nonsense, as I am sure they would, will he nevertheless be prepared to give a firm commitment not just about discussions, but about not having a higher level of sterling balances than there are now and about negotiating the removal of sterling's reserve rôle?
§ Mr. Rippon
Matters for negotiation are limited to questions such as the harmonisation of capital movements. We have made it clear that we are prepared to have discussions about the future rôle 899 of sterling, its reserve rôle, and sterling balances, in the appropriate forum, and in the appropriate way. I cannot add anything to what I said during the debate on 23rd January, and to what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said in a number of statements to the House.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
Is not the position in regard to sugar in essence that up till 1974 we have been graciously accorded permission not to breach our clear contractual commitments, and thereafter we have to make do with the general assurance, unparticularised as to terms, and unquantified as to amounts, which, in the language of the law, with which my right hon. and learned Friend is so familiar, would certainly be held void for uncertainty?
§ Mr. Rippon
I think we must remember that we ourselves would be renegotiating in 1974 on the conditions which existed then. To that extent, matters must be hypothetical. We must safeguard the interests of the developing countries in the context of the situation then. We are satisfied that, in the light of the assurances that we have been given, coupled with the agreement about association, or trading agreements, which can be negotiated in the period up to 1974, we can ensure that the developing countries in the Commonwealth not merely do not suffer, but will benefit to a greater degree by access, with us, to this large and growing market.
§ Mr. Bottomley
Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that trade, rather than aid, is in the best interests of Europe and the developing countries? I appreciate what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is doing in support of the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, but can he say what representations he has made to see that we maintain our trade with Malaysia, and retain the Anglo-Indian Trade Agreement which has been in being since 1939?
§ Mr. Rippon
I made a statement on this some time ago. In relation to the Asian Commonwealth, the Community confirmed its intentions of having a trading agreement in that regard. We have the nil C.E.T. on tea extended indefinitely, and the Community has spoken of the need not only to maintain but to extend 900 trade in that direction. I think that that covers that position.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the importance of trade. This is the best form of aid. I was convinced, after my visit to the Caribbean, that it was no good saying to the Caribbean even simply that they would have the continuation of the benefits under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. There were all the other tropical products to be considered. It was imperative that they should have the offer of association. I urged on the Community, and on other Government who have an interest in this, that they should not face the developing countries of the Commonwealth with a choice between association with Europe, or loss of generalised preference schemes, and matters of that kind. All of us, as developed countries, have to make a contribution to the developing Commonwealth which not only maintains quantities at remunerative prices, but, above all maintains and, I hope, improve their present level of employment.
§ Mr. Tapsell
If the Deutschemark continues to float, will it be possible for the Community, within the next few weeks, to give my right hon. and learned Friend the firm figures for which he has naturally asked, so that he can assess the new proposals about our association with the common agricultural policy?
§ Mr. Mackintosh
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that many of us who have the interests of the developing countries at heart have been impressed with what the Community has done for the 18 States in the Yaoundé Convention? If this means that we shall be able to extend the same advantages to our dependencies, it will be of great benefit to them.
Will the Minister confirm that when the YaoundéConvention has to be renegotiated, as we shall be concerned about our relations with our former dependencies on the question of sugar, we shall have a veto over the continuance of the Community's relations with its former dependencies, and this will be a mutual arrangement for the benefit of all parties?
§ Mr. Rippon
That is correct, and we shall have to make arrangements which, 901 at the end of the day, are acceptable to the enlarged Community as a whole, of which we would be part.
§ Mr. Jennings
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the only language allowed—and fully understood—in this House is English, and that the phrase "take to heart" may be strong in the French connotation but in this country is both ephemeral and imprecise? Will he promise to bring back from his future negotiations on New Zealand something precise and quantitative, in the form of a completely understandable formula, before we ever get into the Common Market? Is he aware that if he does not he will threaten the leadership of the Tory Party; he will split the Tory Party from top to bottom and bring about the downfall of the Tory Government?
§ Mr. Rippon
I understand that my hon. Friend is not particularly interested in the terms in forming his judgment whether or not we should enter the Community. On the question of language, the language that I used was precise and in English. On New Zealand, I have explained that different considerations arise, because we cannot settle the matter within the context of the offer of association.
§ Mr. Orme
Is the Minister aware that some of us find the Government's adherence to the declaration of intent very amusing, especially after the way in which in a different context they criticised what my right hon. Friend said in relation to the trade unions? If the Government are so concerned about a contractual approach, why should they throw it overboard on such a vital issue as the West Indies agreement on sugar? It brings into doubt the whole attitude of the Government in this regard.
§ Mr. Lane
While my right hon. and learned Friend is continuing to negotiate firm terms and safeguards—and, I hope, making further progress—will he also go on stressing to the public the great political advantages of an enlarged Community, in contrast, for example, to the speech made yesterday by the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore), who 902 was again parading his narrow nationalistic prejudices?
§ Mr. Rippon
I am not responsible for the views of the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore). Clearly his speech of yesterday did not correspond with his vote on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in May, 1967.
§ Mr. Oram
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman recognise that what the sugar-producing countries need is not only a guarantee of their sugar market but a diversification of their economy, so that they no longer have to depend on one crop? Did he discuss that aspect of the matter in the recent negotiations? When the Minister goes to the sugar-producing countries, will he be accompanied by the Minister for Overseas Development, so that those countries may be satisfied about this Government's intentions in both aid and trade matters?
§ Mr. Rippon
I hope that they will be satisfied in both regards. Certainly our purpose is to safeguard their interests, and their interests cover not only quantities and prices of sugar but the whole question of unemployment in those areas and their degree of dependence, in many cases, on other tropical products, such as rum, citrus products and tobacco. We must consider those matters in the broadest way and see that we really safeguard their economies in the years ahead by every means at our command.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser
Can my right hon. and learned Friend explain how there can be any advantage in associated status for monocultural sugar States? That point has not been explained so far. I know that my right hon. and learned Friend has suffered from the dialogue of the deaf in Brussels; are we now to suffer from the monologue of the dumb here?
§ Mr. Rippon
My right hon. Friend no doubt bears in mind the fact that some developing countries which are now monocultures do not want to remain in that state forever.
§ Mr. Loughlin
May I refer the Minister back to the question of New Zealand? Has his attention been drawn 903 to the New Zealand Government's statement, in which it is indicated that even a good transitional agreement would only mean the difference between sudden death and slow strangulation? Is he taking that factor into account when he is negotiating E.E.C. agreements?
§ Mr. Rippon
All these factors are taken into account. I went to New Zealand and I have had discussions with Sir Keith Holyoake recently, as did my right hon. Friends. Mr. Marshall is arriving here today, and I have no doubt that we shall discuss these matters in the course of the next few days.
§ Mr. Emery
Will the Minister clear up one point which seems to be slightly confusing? It has been implied that because certain French associated States were not able to maintain their sugar sales to the Community the same thing would automatically happen to any British colonies that became associated States. Will he confirm that as far as the American colonies or territories were concerned no safeguard was given, no statement was made, and no firm intent was given to safeguard the purpose and the interests of their economies?
§ Mr. Rippon
I am not sure about my hon. Friend's reference to the American States. I am sure that we, within the Community, will safeguard the interests of our clients—if I may put it in that way.
§ Mrs. Renée Short
Behind all the euphoria that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is unsuccessfully trying to create, is it not clear from the limited information that he has given us today that the housewives of this country will have to face an increase in the cost of food bought in this country once every 10 months—that is what he has told us—in order that we may bring our food prices to the level of the common agricultural policy price? Is it not also clear that they will have to pay more to buy British-produced and home-grown fruit? Has he considered what effect this will have, not only on the cost of living in this country but on the attitude of the trade unions and the whole economic situation, and is it not clear—
§ Mr. Rippon
In some cases the transitional arrangements provide for us to move up to Community prices and in other cases they provide for us to move down. That is the position in the case of horticultural products.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
Is it not clear that whether we are for the Common Market or against it we are equally concerned in this House about the future of under-developed countries in the Commonwealth? Are not the facts of the situation—as opposed to the fears—that my right hon. and learned Friend for the first time has obtained an assurance from the Six that they will treat in future the interests of the sugar-producing countries of the Commonwealth as being part of the interests of the enlarged Community and that we ourselves will be there to see that that is done? Is not that a much better guarantee than a quantifiable assurance that would soon be out of date?
§ Mr. Rippon
I believe that that is true. The difficulty about quantities is that there is a danger that the minimum will come to be regarded subsequently as the maximum, whereas what we require is the long-term safeguarding of these interests.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
We readily understand the main purpose of the Minister, which is to safeguard what he terms British interests, but does he realise that the overwhelming majority of our people would feel very sick at heart if at the end of the day in safeguarding British interests he sold down the river the interests of the sugar-producing countries and New Zealand? Will he give an assurance that under no circumstances he will have to come to the House as the Government did in 1938 to get an agreement to sell Czechoslovakia down the river?
§ Mr. Rippon
The whole purpose of these negotiations is to ensure that nobody is sold down the river; indeed, I believe that at the end of the day the British people will be satisfied that the interests of everybody have been adequately protected, as far as we can look ahead in these matters.
§ Mr, Hugh Jenkins
On a point of order. Mr. Speaker. The Chancellor of the Duchy rose 15 seconds before 3.30, when my Question No. 43 on the Common Market was due to be called. I thought that it was your intention to call me, Mr. Speaker, so I did not raise the matter at the time. Will you rule on that point?
§ The following is the circulated statement: