Does this mean that there has been no progress in the negotiations in one month? Now that the Common Market in its latest publication has stressed that the economic and political unions are two sides of the same coin, is it not time that the Government recognised this and brought the question of the direction of political unity into the negotiations? It would be very unwise to take this country in without being absolutely clear where we are going politically.
The last Ministerial meeting was held in March. It was always planned to hold the next Ministerial meeting in May. Political matters are not for the negotiations in Brussels.
Will my hon. Friend accept the assurance that we all recognise that the urgent thing to do is to conclude the Brussels negotiations for membership of the Community? At the same time, will he take note of the helpful suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) and make our partners aware of the importance of promoting political unity as swiftly as may be?
I do not think that that was the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), but I have noted the comment of my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer).
Is my hon. Friend aware that there is some ambiguity about the extent to which the future rôle of sterling is subject to negotiation in the present discussions in Brussels? Will he take this opportunity to make clear to the House the extent to which the future rôle of sterling is a subject for the negotiations and as such is welcomed by the British Government?
It seems that the terms which Her Majesty's Government have suggested as the price we would be prepared to pay for entry are obviously completely unacceptable to the Six. Will the hon. Gentleman tell us what further concessions, and their costs, we are prepared to make in order to get in?
The hon. Gentleman should know that we are negotiating with six countries, not just the French. We hope to make significant progress at the meeting to be held next month between my right hon. and learned Friend and Ministers of the Six in Brussels.
The Minister knows that there are sharp differences in this House concerning the proposal to introduce a value-added tax in this country. Will the Minister tell us what kind of value-added tax we shall have to introduce if we join the Common Market and whether he regards this as a matter for negotiation before entry?
The proposal for a value-added tax was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech. We have informed the Community that the five-year transitional period for which we had previously asked will not now be necessary for the introduction of a value-added tax. It will be for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to answer any detailed questions of the kind put to me by the hon. Gentleman.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs why he will not discuss with the Foreign Ministers of Norway and Denmark the desirability of adopting a common attitude should any of the three Governments be unable to get a parliamentary majority for entry into the European Economic Community.
Is there not a serious possibility of Denmark and Norway being unable to secure adequate parliamentary majorities for entry, for a variety of reasons, including entrenched clauses in the constitution of at least one of those countries? Would not this entail the distinct possibility of Britain's entering the community with all her E.F.T.A. partners outside and with a consequential reimposition of trade barriers between Britain and E.F.T.A.?
The fears expressed in the last part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary are unlikely to materialise. We in the United Kingdom regularly exchange information with our E.F.T.A. partners about the progress of our and their negotiations with the E.E.C. There is general agreement that these arrangements are working well. There are further opportunities for discussions at the meetings of the E.F.T.A. Council at both official and Ministerial level. The next E.F.T.A. Ministerial Council meeting will be held in May at Reykjavik.
As I indicated in my reply to the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Deakins), we are having discussions with all our E.F.T.A. partners, so the hon. Gentleman is correct.
Although we all recognise that the final decision will have to be taken by Parliament, is it not recognised that it would be absolutely wrong for Britain to enter the Common Market without the full-hearted support of the people? How do the Government intend to test the full-hearted support of the people? Is my hon. Friend aware that Norway, which is a very similar parliamentary democracy to ours, is to have a consultative referendum before the vote in the Norwegian Parliament? Why cannot we do the same?
My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy has made it clear in the House on many occasions since the negotiations have started, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made it equally clear, that we shall put the terms that we obtain at Brussels before Parliament and await its approval.
My hon. Friend said that when the Government know the terms they will put them before Parliament. Surely this is not true. Is not the true position that the Government will put the terms before Parliament only if the Government consider that the terms are worth considering as a basis on which to take us in? Is there not a difference?
The Minister has mentioned consultation with our E.F.T.A. partners. Will he give a definite assurance that on 15th May we shall not take any action or give any pledges that can be contrary to the interests of our E.F.T.A. partners? If not, will he give the reasons why he is unable to give such an assurance?
We hope to make good progress at the meeting in Brussels in May. The achievement of a wider economic integration in Europe is one of the basic objectives of the E.F.T.A. and the E.E.C. It is generally agreed that it is in nobody's interest to erect fresh trade barriers in Europe. We hope that the arrangements which E.F.T.A. members are seeking to make with the Community will reflect this.