HC Deb 11 April 1973 vol 854 cc1295-6
1. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if the Government will now take steps to seek to arrange frequent consultation between the EEC and member nations of the Commonwealth.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Davies)

It is for the independent Commonwealth Governments to decide for themselves on the degree of consultation they wish to have with the European Communities. I am glad to say that many of these Governments have already accredited their representatives to the European Communities and others are in the process of doing so.

Mr. Dormand

Does not the equivocation of that answer demonstrate yet again that in the eyes of this Government the Commonwealth is a very poor second to the EEC? One concedes that the present disintegration of the Commonwealth is not entirely the fault of this Government, but will the right hon. Gentleman recognise that that disintegration is now a matter of deep concern to many people within the House and outside? Does he not agree that this country has a special responsibility to try to restore the bonds which formerly linked this Commonwealth?

Mr. Davies

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State dealt with this point on 21st March, very fully and well, in answer to the hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand). There is no question of regarding the Commonwealth as in second degree to the Community. The truth, however, is that in these matters Commonwealth countries have an independent position to demonstrate to the Community, and naturally they do so with the full understanding and support of Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Marten

Would not one of the best ways to help the developing Commonwealth be for the Common Market to come out absolutely clearly and say that it will accept the 1.4 million tons of Commonwealth sugar from the developing countries at the right price, rather than just saying that it will "have it at heart" to do so?

Mr. Davies

As my hon. Friend knows, the countries principally concerned in the Commonwealth met here at the end of last month. I think that they went away from that meeting with a real sense of satisfaction that their interests were both understood and considered—not just sympathetically but effectively—here and in the Community.

Mr. Callaghan

If the Commonwealth as a whole decides that it would like to make a common approach to the EEC, whether on the subject of sugar or anything else, may we have an assurance that such a co-ordinated move will have the support of Her Majesty's Government?

Mr. Davies

Clearly, it would have to be seen in what fields the Commonwealth as a whole—which, after all, includes this country—was involved in making a direct approach to the Community. This country is now a member of the Community. There are considerable areas for movement by groups of Commonwealth countries—particularly in sugar producing— to take direct action with the Community, and they are, as they know, strongly supported and helped by Her Majesty's Government.

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