Oral Answers to Questions — European Scientific and Technological Collaboration

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th April 1968.

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Mr. Moorman:

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on progress in co-ordinating the work of those Departments he charged with the task of preparing the British case for European scientific and technological collaboration.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

It is not the practice to make public details of the Government's internal machinery for the co-ordination of policy, but I can assure my hon. Friend that the arrangements in this field, as in others, are working satisfactorily.

Mr. Moorman:

While I appreciate the difficulties involved in making available the evidence of the Inter-departmental Committee, may I remind my right hon. Friend that if we are to retain the credibility and interest of the British case on European science and technology, we should make a statement soon on what we have been doing?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

We have done so from time to time and, of course, there was the speech of the Minister of Technology when he visited Strasbourg a few weeks ago. We are now considering what the next proposition should be, particularly in relation to the European Institute of Technology or the European Technological Centre, and I think that my hon. Friend would probably want us to have further discussions with our friends in Europe before we say too much in public.

Photo of Mr David Crouch Mr David Crouch , Canterbury

Would not the Prime Minister agree that our opportunities for scientific and technological co-operation with the Economic Community would be increased if we took some interim step towards some association with the Economic Community and gave an earnest of our intention to join the Community in such a way?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

If the hon. Member means by that Article 238, I have frequently given reasons why I do not think that would be the right answer. In the Benelux proposals which involve contact between us and the Six in advance of negotiation, there is ample opportunity for technological co-operation between us and the Six as a whole.

Photo of Dr David Owen Dr David Owen , Plymouth, Sutton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us are slightly concerned at the lack of enthusiasm the Government are showing for the proposal for a European laboratory to specialise in molecular biology, and will he look at this closely?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

There is not so much lack of enthusiasm, but we are talking particularly in this Question about technological co-operation. There are many important proposals for cooperation in pure science. Some are highly expensive, including the 300 GeV accelerator and other things. It is a question of deciding how our resources are best spent. What we have been trying to stimulate is some interest in a combined European approach to technology rather than necessarily expensive pure research laboratories.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

Is it not rather a long time since the Prime Minister first made his proposal for a European technological community and surely we have a right to expect that some statement of progress should have been made by now? Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that if a great deal of money is spent on projects like the 300 GeV accelerator that will reduce the amount available for co-operation on technology?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

That is what I was trying to imply in my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) a moment ago. As far as proposals for co-operation on technology are concerned, I first put this forward in November, 1966, and there have been many public statements about it since, but that was on the supposition that we could have full technological co-operation. That could exist and can only exist with in an integrated market. what I put forward last year before the veto was applied in December was rather more limited proposals and we have more recently spelled out what we intend by them. But the responsibility for lack of progress clearly lies on those who applied the veto.