Common Market

Oral Answers to Questions — Board of Trade – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th April 1965.

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Photo of Sir Richard Nugent Sir Richard Nugent , Guildford 12:00 am, 29th April 1965

asked the Prime Minister whether the public statement of the Foreign Secretary made during an authorised interview with a United States news agency, and published on 20th March, on the subject of relations with the Common Market, represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Photo of Sir Richard Nugent Sir Richard Nugent , Guildford

As the Foreign Secretary's statement on this occasion was a very forthcoming one in terms of joining up with Europe, does this mean that the Prime Minister is now prepared to discuss with the European Economic Community his five conditions about entry?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I should have thought that the position here was quite clear. There is no question whatever of Britain either seeking or being asked to seek entry into the Common Market in the immediately foreseeable future. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition described it at the election as a "dead duck", and this particular question is not a reality. As regards the members of the Six, there is no evidence that they have changed their attitude at all to British entry. So far as this Government are concerned, the conditions we laid down still apply. This does not mean that we cannot do something to build a bridge between the E.F.T.A. and the E.E.C., and we have taken initiatives to discuss this at Ministerial level in the E.F.T.A. to see whether the E.F.T.A. can agree on an approach to the Common Market from the E.F.T.A.

Photo of Mr Jo Grimond Mr Jo Grimond , Orkney and Shetland

If, as the right hon. Gentleman just said, the five conditions remain, this would, in fact, make it impossible for this country to join the E.E.C. at any time, would it not?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The point here—let us be absolutely clear about it—is that the terms on which the last Government tried to crawl their way in were quite unacceptable to the Commonwealth. While there may not be many difficulties about the Treaty of Rome—one or two obvious points will have to be dealt with—so long as there is the agricultural policy, about which we repeatedly warned the then Government, which would mean a levy of 75 to 80 per cent. on every ton of Australian or Canadian wheat coming into this country, an increase in our import bill of hundreds of millions, and an increase in our industrial costs, then to join on those terms would mean complete disruption of our trade with the Commonwealth, which I hope that no one in the House would be prepared to contemplate.

Photo of Mr Duncan Sandys Mr Duncan Sandys , Wandsworth Streatham

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that building bridges is no substitute for joining the Common Market?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

If the right hon. Gentleman is telling us that the policy of the party opposite is to join the Common Market on conditions which would destroy Commonwealth trade, as I have just said—if that is what we are to read into his speech last night—and a European nuclear deterrent, it is about time the Leader of the Opposition made the position of the party opposite clear to the nation.

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford West

I thank my right hon. Friend for his clear answer. Will he convey this clear answer to his noble Friend in another place?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The statement of my noble Friend in another place, of which I nave read every word, was completely consistent and in complete agreement with what I have said. What we have made clear—I have said it again in Rome privately, and publicly this morning—is that, while there is no question whatever, as I hope the whole House agrees, of immediately joining the Common Market, and while we should require very different conditions before we could contemplate joining the Common Market, if we can get any easement of tariffs between the two blocs which divide Europe today, it is our duty to do so. That is the purpose of the initiative which we are taking in the E.F.T.A. I hope that we cal get agreement there, and I hope that it will then have the support of hon. Members in all parts of the House.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

As the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) believes that the Prime Minister has made his position absolutely clear in regard to the Common Market, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what the initiative is which, so he announced last week, he is poised to take? What consultations and preparations have been made before taking such an important initiative, and what indications has he had from the European Economic Community of its response to it?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The right hon. Gentleman is a little premature; my invitation was to the Leader of the Opposition to state the Opposition's position. As regards the details of his question, I should have thought that, with his long experience in the matter, he would expect us to discuss these questions with our colleagues in the E.F.T.A., then, having done so, to make what statement is appropriate—I hope that one will be made to the House immediately afterwards—and then to have discussions with the members of the Six. In answer to previous supplementary questions, I have given some idea of the kind of initiative which could be taken. There are some four or five issues—the right hon. Gentleman will know what they are—which we could pursue with our E.F.T.A. colleagues and see how far there can be E.F.T.A. agreement on them.