HL Deb 07 July 1971 vol 321 cc991-1000

3.43 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Burin wood, for intervening at this point, but I should like, with permission, to repeat a Statement which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has just made, I understand, in another place. The Statement is as follows:

" With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a Statement on the subject of the European Communities.

" The White Paper which I promised in my Statement on June 17 is being presented to Parliament and published this afternoon. Copies will be available in the Vote Office at the conclusion of this Statement. It is a comprehensive and detailed document, and inevitably long. The Government has therefore decided also to publish a short version next Monday.

" The White Paper records the Government's conclusions as follows:—

  1. (1) The Government is convinced that our country will be more secure, our ability to maintain peace and promote development in the world greater, our economy stronger, and our industries and peoples more 992 prosperous, if we join the European Communities than if we remain outside them;
  2. (2) the Government is satisfied that the arrangements for our entry agreed in the negotiations will enable us to adjust satisfactorily to our new position as a member of the Communities and thus to reap the full benefits of membership;
  3. (3) the Government will therefore seek the approval of Parliament in the autumn for a decision of principle to take up full membership of the Communities on the basis of the arrangements which have been negotiated with them."
My Lords, that concludes my right honourable friend's Statement.


My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Earl for the short Statement, in contrast to the rather long Statement that had to be read on the last occasion. I do not think there is really anything to discuss now with regard to the Statement, beyond the matter of the arrangements. The Government have stated their views. We shall have full opportunity. I take it, to debate this White Paper, and it may well be that the noble Earl would care to say a word about what he sees with regard to arrangements. Your Lordships will need, I should have thought, three days, and quite clearly this is such an unusual occasion that, if I may, with respect, suggest it, it may be a good idea if noble Lords intending to take part in the debate give their names in rather early, so that the unfortunate managers of the House have some idea how much time to provide.

If I understand the situation correctly, we shall know in the next day or two the likely dates—this is a matter for discussion through the usual channels. Another place will be debating this matter before the end of July, and I take it that we shall be doing the same—not necessarily on the same days, though possibly we may have to overlap to fit in with other arrangements and matters that we have to discuss. I think that is probably all I need say now, beyond the fact that presumably we shall also have to consider when the final decisions are taken, when this will be, and whether it will be in the spill-over period or in the next Session. Here again, the Government may or may not be able, or wish, to give an indication.


My Lords, we on these Benches naturally welcome the first conclusion of the White Paper which was read out by the noble Earl, more especially since we have consistently maintained as a Party for the last twenty-three years that this is what should be done. Whether we can agree with the second conclusion, that, the Government is satisfied that the arrangements for our entry… will enable us to adjust ". and so on, will naturally depend on our study of the White Paper. This we obviously cannot be expected to have undertaken in the few minutes that it has been at our disposal. But from what has already been announced by the Government it is extremely probable that we shall agree with it also, and, if so, it follows that as a Party we shall be behind the Government when it seeks the approval of Parliament in the autumn. For the rest, I would like to associate myself, as regards the arrangements, with what the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition said.


My Lords, I am grateful to both the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for their reception of this Statement. I would tend to agree with what was implicit in what the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition said and what was explicit in what the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said: that it might be more sensible for us to reserve our substantive comments on the subject matter of the White Paper until your Lordships have had time to read, mark and inwardly digest this fairly weighty and not unimportant document.

I should like immediately to respond to what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said about arrangements. As I see it, we have quite a massive timetable stretching ahead of us. There are the arrangements for the exploratory debate before the Summer Recess, and thereafter the debate on the matter of principle in the autumn. So far as our first debate is concerned, I would hazard a guess that a large number of noble Lords will wish to participate in a debate on what is a matter of cardinal importance, one way or the other, to the future of this country. It seems to me that the length of our debate, whether we need two or three days, for example, will depend upon the number of noble Lords who wish to take part. I would therefore echo what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has said. It would be very helpful if we could have as soon as possible an indication of which noble Lords would feel inclined to participate.

As to the timing, I should like to keep our options open for a little while, and I imagine that this would suit the convenience of your Lordships. I think this is a matter to be handled through the usual channels, and I would wish to bear in mind also representations as to the convenience of individual Peers and the House. I think it would also be convenient to your Lordships' House if we were able to give an indication of the suggested timing as soon as may be. This I will have in mind. As regards the second debate, my assumption is that this would be—again it depends upon the future programme—some time in the early autumn; but at this stage I do not think I am in a position to go beyond that.

3.50 p.m.


My Lords, nobody can take exception to the noble Earl's suggestion that we should reserve our comments on the contents of the White Paper until the appropriate occasion emerges for a debate. I accept that it is quite proper that that should be so. However, I have just glanced at the White Paper, and I observe that there are two items which have a bearing on Questions that were asked earlier in our proceedings this afternoon. One was by my noble friend Lord Balogh, and the other by my noble friend Lord O'Hagan; one on the sterling balances, and the other on the subject of immigration. I observe that as regards the matter of sterling balances, what is contained in the White Paper is hardly consistent with the replies the noble Earl gave to my noble friend Lord Balogh and myself. What the noble Earl said was that the Government would exercise their judgment. It is quite obvious from paragraph 125 of the White Paper, that what the Government have agreed to, having had some discussion with the E.E.C., is to reserve the whole subject until after we have entered the Common Market. That is much like buying a pig in the poke, or pie in the sky. I could, of course, use more elegant language, but I have not had appropriate time to prepare myself. Anyway, that is how I regard it. It seems to me that when answers are given to the House—and I say this with the utmost respect to the noble Earl these answers should be consistent with what appears in the White Paper.

Then, on the subject of immigration and the free movement of labour. I observe that in paragraph 143 the Government has just dismissed this, leaving it entirely to the future. This is hardly consistent with the provision in the Treaty of Rome which makes it as implicit as it can possibly be that the matter of the free movement of labour is one for regulations to be devised by the Commission, and whatever regulations they decide upon, however adverse they may be so far as our immigration law and procedure are concerned, must be accepted by us.

I ask, with respect, that at least the Government might take note of the observations that I have just made, so that when the debate does arise we shall have more consistent and satisfactory replies; and in particular that it should be clearly understood that such vital subjects as sterling balances and the effect on our economic position, and the decisions taken by the E.E.C. on the subject of immigration, after we enter the Common Market, should receive further consideration. I think that in the circumstances, having observed what appears in the White Paper, I am justified in directing the attention of your Lordships' House to these matters.


My Lords, before the noble Earl answers, may I put a supplemental question?




My Lords, I think it would be more helpful if I were to reply immediately to the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. I believe that it would be sensible for all of us to reserve substantive comment until we have had time fully to digest the White Paper. All I should like to assure the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell—and I speak, as always, subject to correction—is that I do not believe that when he reads the White Paper carefully, and reads carefully what I said in answer to the first Question of the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, that he will find any inconsistency whatever between the two. I take note of what he has said on the point of immigration.

All I would say is that both matters are of considerable importance. On the question of the sterling balances, I should just like to say that what has happened is that at Luxembourg a broad agreement in principle was reached. The details have yet to be filled in. It seems to me that the line of the noble Lord's questions implies a lack of confidence in our ability, if and when we join the Community, to hold our own in the Community for our own national interests. I am sure that if the noble Lord has that lack of confidence, he is wrong in having it.


My Lords, may I, as an individual member of the Episcopal Bench, say how much I welcome the Statement that has been read to us. As an enthusiastic European I supported the last Government in their efforts to go into the Common Market, and was disappointed when those efforts failed. I hope very much that the terms this time will be such as to commend themselves to people of all Parties, and that we shall soon find ourselves within Europe.


My Lords. I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for his comments, of which I take due note. I hope he is speaking not only in his personal capacity but also in some of his other capacities as well.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that a great many of his noble friends behind him have entire confidence in Her Majesty's Government because of the way that they have conducted the negotiations so far, and indeed are heartily glad that they have achieved so much success? The fact that we do not propose to "jump the gun" by trying to debate a White Paper which we have not yet seen does not in any way imply that he has not got our overwhelming support.


My Lords, again I grateful to my noble friend. I will not attempt to "jump the gun". I happen to have read the White Paper, and perhaps have an unfair advantage. I am not wishing to debate the issue in any way, but however one views these negotiations, on whatever side of the fence one is on this issue, I would like, for my part, to pay a tribute—and I am not really thinking (although I include them) of my right honourable friends here to that determined team of British negotiators who have been engaged in Brussels and Luxembourg for the past many months, to whom we owe a very deep debt of gratitude, whichever way we feel about this particular issue.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl how he considers that his statement to me that the full details of the problem of sterling balances, and of export of capital, can only be settled next week, can be reconciled with the Statement of the Prime Minister, which he so kindly repeated to us, that we have now all the details and conditions at our disposal in the White Paper? Are these two statements consistent?


My Lords, again I should like to clarify the position. When I said that there were negotiations still pending in Brussels—which I think are due to take place on this coming Monday, July 12, and I do not know what the outcome will be this will be on the question of capital movements. If I did not make that quite clear to the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, in answer to his supplementary question at Question Time, I should like to make it clear that this is what I was talking about on capital movements.


My Lords, if that is so, does the noble Earl not think that if these negotiations are going to be conducted next week the Prime Minister is surely not quite entitled to say that all the conditions are at our disposal in the White Paper? Surely the capital movement is such a vital issue that a failure to fill in the details on that subject is not consistent with what the Prime Minister has said. While I congratulate everybody on their marathon attempt, I must confess that a little more candour would not be out of place.


My Lords, I am not at all clear to what paricular statement of my right honourable friend the noble Lord is referring. There is nothing in the Statement which I have just repeated which would bear on that matter. All I would say is that both my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy, and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and this was very much the case when the Prime Minister was in charge of these negotiations some ten years ago—have been extremely forthcoming and have gone to great pains to keep Parliament informed of the conduct of the negotiations as they have proceeded. If I may say so, I resent what the noble Lord has said about lack of candour. I do not think that the testimony bears it out.


My Lords, the noble Earl knows my opinion that it will be disastrous for England if we go in. But can he tell us whether there has been any secret diplomacy in the conditions which is not contained in the White Paper?


No, my Lords, there has been no secret diplomacy. There have obviously been, as is the case in any important negotiations, confidential discussions. But the agreement which has been reached up till now is set forth, and candidly set forth, in the White Paper which is now before Parliament and the country.


My Lords, may we have an assurance from the noble Earl that everything that has been done is contained in the White Paper, and that there will be no repercussions afterwards from other happenings that we do not know about now?


My Lords, I can give the noble Lord an absolute assurance that the substantive agreements which have been reached between us and the Six are contained in the White Paper.


My Lords, having, like many noble Lords and other people in this country, been apprehensive about the arrangements for New Zealand, may I ask my noble friend whether he is aware that what is contained in the White Paper, so far as I have read it, will give very much more relief to New Zealanders than was the case, say, a few months ago? Having said that, may I ask my noble friend whether there will be continuing discussions with the farming communities in New Zealand, through the New Zealand Government; and can there be a guarantee that if there is a need to make the transitional period for butter and cheese more flexible, that will be put in motion?


My Lords, I recognise my noble friend's connection with the Antipodes and with New Zealand, and it is a connection which I myself feel, having spent my earlier years in that country. I am grateful to him for what he has said about the outcome of the negotiations in Luxembourg as they have affected New Zealand. I share his impression about those negotiations. But I would remind my noble friend—I do not wish to go into the substance of this here—that, so far as butter is concerned, there is a three-year review provision. We shall remain, as always, in close touch with New Zealand—and I see no reason why our contact with New Zealand should be any less close in the future than it has been in the past. I am absolutely confident in giving my noble friend an assurance that if we receive any representations from New Zealand in the course of the coming years we shall pass on those representations and have them very much in mind if and when we become members of the Community, especially in relation to this review provision.


My Lords, is there anything in the White Paper to allay the fears of the Australian Government?


My Lords, it is not for me to speak for the Australian Government, but the noble Lord might like to glance at paragraph 121 of the White Paper which deals with the Australian position. If I were an Australian, I should find very substantial reassurance in what is said there.


My Lords, I should like to express from the Back-Benches on this side of the House the view of some of us that we shall give close consideration and sympathetic understanding to the White Paper, because we believe that it is in the long-term interest of the mass of people in this country, if their standard of living is to go ahead, that we should join the E.E.C. if the terms are reasonable.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury. Again without wishing to go into the substance of this matter, I cannot but say that I happen to share what I understand to be his point of view.


My Lords, may I take up and generalise on a point already made by the noble Earl, and ask him whether he will agree that, whatever any of us may think, this whole discussion should be carried out on the basis that if we become members of the Community there should be no loose talk about British leadership, but that the British voice and British interests will be of great significance in the councils of the Community?


Yes, my Lords. I would entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, speaking from his very great experience. If, as I hope, we join the Community, then I see us as partners in a continuing and great European enterprise.


My Lords, may I thank the noble Earl the Leader of the House for his momentous and historic Statement to-day? Also, may I assure him of the enormous welcome which I think this Statement will receive from practically everybody who has the future of this country at heart'?


Again, my Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. In replying to her, I would say how much it means to me to be able to reply to the first supplementary, as it were, which I have received from that particular quarter. I have been a great admirer of her late husband and know the contribution which he made to the particular enterprise on which we are now embarking.


My Lords, may I echo the noble Earl's personal remarks to the noble Baroness?