European Economic Community

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th April 1971.

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Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford 12:00 am, 26th April 1971

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on the progress of the negotiations for Great Britain to join the European Economic Community.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on progress in the Common Market negotiations.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

I have at present nothing to add to my statement of 18th March.—[Vol. 813, c. 1659–62.]

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

Since the negotiations have run into some difficulties—through no fault of my right hon. and learned Friend, whose skill and pertinacity are well known—would the Government consider holding a summit meeting between the Prime Minister and the President of France to discuss such matters as defence and sterling, which are not on the agenda of the negotiations but are, I think, relevant to them?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

Certainly there are no present plans for a meeting such as my hon. Friend suggests. I think the negotiations must be settled in Brussels. I do not think my hon. Friend is right in saying that they have run into difficulties—in this sense, that there is no reason to be surprised that there are many critical matters now taking some time to resolve. I am sure the whole House will agree that it is much better to get the right solution slowly than the wrong solution quickly.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

But if defence and sterling have to be on the agenda, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) wishes—

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

Well, I understood my hon. Friend to say that, but I will withdraw that, and put the question like this. As the purpose behind going in is very largely political, is it not time that the future political structure of Europe was added to the agenda in the negotiations? At the same time, if the Community is to be enlarged, would my right hon. and learned Friend at some time take steps to see that the official language to be used is English?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

Certainly, the political advantages of enlargement are overwhelming, but that is not a subject for discussion in the negotiations. If we became a member of an enlarged community, English would be an official language.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Order. There are 29 other Questions on the Order Paper dealing with the Common Market.

Photo of Mr Ronald Russell Mr Ronald Russell , Wembley South

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is aware that United Kingdom imports of butter from New Zealand have increased from an annual average of 12,000 tons in 1900 to 1909 to 119,000 tons in 1930 to 1939 and 168,000 tons in 1961 to 1970; and, in view of this, if he will seek permanent arrangements for the continuation of this trade in the event of Great Britain joining the European Economic Community.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

We have tabled proposals on New Zealand dairy products asking for some form of continuing arrangement, subject to review.

Photo of Mr Ronald Russell Mr Ronald Russell , Wembley South

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give an assurance that if continuing arrangements are not obtained the Government will not sign the Treaty of Rome?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

My hon. Friend would be wise to await the outcome of negotiations, and then he can make his decision.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

During previous negotiations great fears on this score were expressed because of what was then called the "butter mountain"; that is to say, a permanent surplus of butter in the Community. What is now the position of the so-called "butter mountain"?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

It is certainly much smaller than it was. There has actually been a shortage of butter in some countries. I imagine that the position will change considerably over the years, and there is a great weight of opinion which believes that as the agricultural structure of the Community changes in years to come there will be a great demand for dairy products from New Zealand.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

Does my right hon. and learned Friend recall that during the 1962 negotiations the present Prime Minister negotiated special arrangements covering New Zealand? Is he further aware that negotiations to deal with the New Zealand problem which were confined to the transitional period were regarded in many directions as unacceptably insufficient?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

We have made it perfectly clear to the Community that, broadly speaking, the problems that remain to be settled in negotiation are transitional problems, except for New Zealand dairy products and sugar from the developing countries of the Commonwealth, which the Community has already agreed with me are special problems.

Photo of Mr Robin Turton Mr Robin Turton , Thirsk and Malton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consultation he has had with the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland regarding the procedure to be adopted at the conclusion of negotiations with the European Economic Community.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

We are in regular consultation with the Government of the Irish Republic, and will continue to consult them as the negotiations proceed.

Photo of Mr Robin Turton Mr Robin Turton , Thirsk and Malton

Will my right hon. and learned Friend undertake that at the conclusion of negotiations the British people will have the same rights as the Irish people to comment upon and, if necessary, to veto any terms offered?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

The British people will have the rights which the British people enjoy under the British constitution, and there will be no difficulty about that.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Stretford

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the benefits Commonwealth Caribbean States may expect in the event of their becoming associated with the European Economic Community under a Yaoundé-type Convention.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what benefits associated status would bring to the developing Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean if they were to accept offers of association with the European Economic Community.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

The precise benefits would depend upon the terms of association when these are negotiated. Associates of the existing Yaoundé Convention enjoy the benefits of a considerable measure of free trade with the Community. They also qualify for aid provisions from the European Economic Community amounting, over the period of the Convention, to 1,000 million United States dollars.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Stretford

Will my right hon. and learned Friend accept that his statement is welcome to the House and to our Commonwealth sugar-producing friends and allies in the Caribbean, who stand to benefit substantially from association, as did the former French overseas territories? In the wider sphere of British membership of the European Economic Community, will not the fact that Britain is playing a major rôle in Europe and, through Europe, in the world, as France has done in recent years, give far greater benefit to other Commonwealth countries?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

That is certainly my firm belief and the belief of many people in the Commonwealth. We are still pressing the Community for the repetition of the 1963 Declaration of Intent in respect of the independent developing countries of the Caribbean and certain other developing countries in the Pacific. The West Indies Associated States have already been offered associated status under Part IV.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

In view of the great concern in the House about the Caribbean, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us whether the Caribbean Governments have been consulted in the negotiations now taking place, and will he say in detail how we intend to protect the vital interests of the Caribbean?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

They are consulted. I have consultations here with representatives of the Caribbean Governments, and many Ministers have visited us here. After every Ministerial meeting I have consultations in Brussels with the High Commissioners. I visited the Caribbean in February. I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is a clear understanding between us of what we are seeking to achieve. I cannot go into details on these complex matters of the way in which we are seeking to protect the interests of the Caribbean countries, Mauritius and Fiji especially in respect of sugar.

Photo of Mr Richard Body Mr Richard Body , Holland with Boston

Does my right hon. and learned Friend appreciate that sugar is not the only commodity grown in the West Indies? Other commodities will be in real danger unless they are supported by commodity agreements.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

It is important that we should get the 1963 Declaration of Intent repeated so that there may be the offer of association, or some other appropriate trading agreement, between the enlarged Community and these countries. I know my hon. Friend is concerned about this. It applies particularly to bananas, where we would seek within association to provide for our traditional suppliers the same treatment as the existing members of the Community accord to their traditional suppliers.

Photo of Mr Maurice Foley Mr Maurice Foley , West Bromwich

Do the Government intend to press for a revised Yaoundé Convention, including the Caribbean and other Commonwealth countries, and to make a contribution to the European Development Fund on the same lines and of the same dimensions as France and Germany?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

I imagine that within an enlarged Community there would be discussions about how we dealt with association in the years beyond 1974 and how we developed new world commodity agreements on a broader basis within the framework of other international agreements. Certainly we would wish to do that. We would be contributing to the European Development Fund on an appropriate basis. As I have said before, we not only would be able to aid our present clients through that fund but could maintain bilateral aid as well where that was appropriate.

Photo of Mr Richard Leonard Mr Richard Leonard , Romford

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what change there has recently been in the political aims of the European Economic Community.

Photo of Mr Richard Leonard Mr Richard Leonard , Romford

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman take this opportunity to make it clear that the exaggerated fears about loss of sovereignty resulting from British membership of E.E.C. have no basis in fact?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

I believe that they are false arguments. There is no reason for anxiety about that. We should be pooling sovereignty to no greater degree than we have already shown ourselves willing to do in N.A.T.O., Western European Union, the International Monetary Fund and a host of other international treaties.

Photo of Mr Derek Walker-Smith Mr Derek Walker-Smith , Hertfordshire East

Does my right hon. and learned Friend appreciate that, quite apart from any further develop- ments in the political context, it is entirely clear to anyone who reads the Treaty of Rome and has the capacity to understand its provisions that membership will involve a loss of sovereignty unprecedented in the history of this country?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

I know that my right hon. and learned Friend has the capacity to understand the Treaty, so I am slightly surprised at his comments. I assure him that if we join the enlarged Community at its present stage we shall at every point have the opportunity to determine how far and how fast we are prepared to go in association with the other States, bearing in mind that on all major issues of sovereignty there would have to be a unanimous decision.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

If the Minister is right, why will he not agree to an independent investigation of the facts to see which legal gentleman is right, and publish the report? Secondly, will he give an assurance that we on this side of the House will be able to raise whatever questions we wish to raise as we do now, subject only to Mr. Speaker and to the Orders of the House?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

In the last few weeks the hon. Gentleman has asked several hundred Questions and we have done our best to answer them. We will continue to do so.

Photo of Mr Ronald Murray Mr Ronald Murray , Edinburgh Leith

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made in the examination of necessary secondary legislation in the negotiations for entry into the European Economic Community.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

A group consisting of representatives of the applicant countries and the Communities has since September, 1970, been examining the secondary legislation in force in the Community. About 70 per cent. of the instruments in force have been examined, and the technical adaptations to these instruments, which will become necessary in the event of our accession, have been agreed.

Photo of Mr Ronald Murray Mr Ronald Murray , Edinburgh Leith

Is the Minister able to give the House any guidance as to the amount of secondary legislation which will be required? For example, could he estimate the amount of legislative time that will be available for entirely domestic matters once we accede to the Treaty of Rome, if we do?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

There will have to be a discussion in this House in an appropriate form over many of these matters. I cannot say how much time the House will take over it. Much of it may be agreed without difficulty.

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Walthamstow West

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been received from France about the future of the sterling balances in relation to the European Economic Community.

Photo of Dr John Gilbert Dr John Gilbert , Dudley

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether discussions about the United Kingdom's economic prospects and the future rôle of sterling now form part of the formal negotiations over the United Kingdom's entry to the European Economic Community.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

The French Government have made no representations of this kind to Her Majesty's Government. From the outset it has been made clear that economic and financial matters such as those referred to would not form part of the formal negotiations but that they would be discussed in an appropriate forum.

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Walthamstow West

Is it now Government policy to phase out the sterling balances?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

We had some discussion of this rather technical matter in the debate in July, and I recommend the hon. Gentleman to look at that.

Photo of Mr Norman Pentland Mr Norman Pentland , Chester-le-Street

The Minister will recall that he and the Prime Minister have at all times informed the House that the question of sterling and the political implications involved in our acceptance of the Treaty of Rome would not be matters for discussion during the present negotiations. Can he assure the House that this is still the case?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

That is what I have just said.

Photo of Mr Richard Body Mr Richard Body , Holland with Boston

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what figure he now considers a reasonable and equitable contribution to the budget of the European Economic Community in the first year of any transitional period of entry for the United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

I have nothing at present to add to the statement I made to the House on 16th December.—[Vol. 808, c. 1354–70.]

Photo of Mr Richard Body Mr Richard Body , Holland with Boston

I expected that to be the answer that I would receive. Would the Minister not agree that in describing the present offer he is reported as having used the words "reasonable and equitable" and Sir Con O'Neill to have used the words "fair and generous"?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

I think that on 16th December I said I thought our offer to be fair and reasonable. I also added on that occasion that I thought the Community thought that it was too fair and too reasonable. That of course, is what the negotiations are all about.

Photo of Mr Roland Moyle Mr Roland Moyle , Lewisham North

As the Government consider that in domestic terms 10 per cent. increases are too high, will not the right hon. and learned Gentleman apply the same criteria to any increases negotiated in our contribution to the European budget?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

That does not seem to be a very consequential observation.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

Whatever figure may be agreed eventually for our contribution, surely it cannot be in the interests of the Community to impose intolerable burdens on our economy.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

That is the basis of our argument. It would be a great tragedy if the Community sought to impose upon us such short-term burdens as would deprive us all of the manifest long-term advantages.

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Stepney

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what revised estimates he has made of the annual costs of the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Economic Community and of Great Britain's contribution to it.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

These matters are under constant review. I made a statement on this subject on 16th December, and the matter was discussed in the debate on 20th and 21st January. But any attempt to quantify the costs of British membership of the Community must depend upon the outcome of the negotiations.—[Vol. 808, c. 1354–6; Vol. 809, c. 1401–12.]

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Stepney

My Question asks not only about the estimates of Britain's contribution but about the estimates of the revised costs of the Community's expenditure on agriculture. I have in mind the fact that the Six met only two or three weeks ago to review prices for this year. Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman no information on that matter?

Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that we are here dealing with a point of enormous importance and that the costs here have risen from something of the order of £600 million a year C.A.P. as recently as 1966–67 to over £1,200 million last year, and that this further estimate of costs is of crucial importance?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

Certainly the Community has made what I think will be found broadly to be a helpful review in the context of the negotiations, particularly its proposals for carrying forward the restructuring of Europe's agriculture. But what we are concerned about is the budget from 1973 to 1978, and much of the discussion about the size of Britain's possible contribution turns to a large extent on the size and shape of the budget in those years ahead and what our likely receipts might be.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

If the advantages of going into the Community cannot be quantified until the terms are known, how can all these European-minded people tell us what the economic advantages are before the terms are known?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

No one has any doubts about the advantages. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] They are well known and understood in the Community. No one in the Community has doubts about the advantages. I know that there are doubts in this House, and I hope that we shall satisfy them in due course. Certainly we shall do our best. I am afraid that it is impossible to produce estimates of the costs, as distinct from the potential advantages, until we have concluded the negotiations or taken them much further forward.

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Walthamstow West

Why is not the United Kingdom concerned about the size of the Community's budget after 1978?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

We are, of course. I referred specifically to 1973 to 1978 because that arose out of the statement on 16th December when we were dealing with the transitional arrangements. But a lot depends on the size and shape of the budget, our receipts from it and what the likely consequences will be. These matters are much better assessed in the later stages of the negotiations.

Photo of Mr William Deedes Mr William Deedes , Ashford

On the balance of costs, are there not influential voices in the Community which want more of the Community budget spent on non-agricultural purposes? Is there not some benefit to be derived thereby?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

The estimates that I have given are based on an estimate of our likely receipts on the basis of the budget as it is today. The Community says that, as it restructures agriculture and as a higher proportion of its budget is devoted to regional and industrial policies, we shall get the higher benefit that we ourselves have suggested.

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

As the reply is long and detailed, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan Shadow Spokesperson (Scotland)

While I thank the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether he can say briefly how the effort of the Community in this direction compares with our own?

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

It is very difficult to make a comparison. Apart from the bilateral aid, there is the aid to the Yaoundé countries and to the associated countries, Greece and Turkey. It is very difficult to compare them briefly. However, the hon. Gentleman may be able to make some comparison when he has read the whole answer.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

Is not a strong argument for British membership of the E.E.C. the fact that if we became members we would be in a position to have an aid programme on the level, perhaps, of that of France, which is very much higher than our own?

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

We shall continue our bilateral programme and, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy has said, no doubt we shall be making a contribution to the European Development Fund. The aid programme, anyhow, will be increasing in the years to come.

Mr. Cunningham:

In view of the fact that nearly all the money in the European Development Fund is distributed to countries with very small populations, is not a factor, though a very small one, against our joining the Community that we would be contributing additional sums for distribution to the very small countries which might be balanced by taking funds away from countries like India with large populations?

Photo of Hon. Richard Wood Hon. Richard Wood , Bridlington

I do not agree. Our contribution to the E.D.F. will have to be considered when we have discussions at the end of 1973. I see that our programme to India is likely to be maintained in the future.

Following is the information:

E.E.C. Aid to its Associated StatesApart from the assistance which member states provide bilaterally, the Community's collective aid to its associated states is of two kinds. First, aid provided under the Yaounde Convention to the African Associated States and Malagasy through the European Development Fund. Most of this is in grant form but it includes both soft loans from E.D.F. and standard loans from the European Investment Bank. Secondly, aid provided to Greece and Turkey, which are associated under Article 238 of the Treaty of Rome and are not entitled to assistance from the Fund, but which are eligible for loans from the European Investment Bank.

2. Details are as follows:

E.E.C. AID TO ITS ASSOCIATED STATES
1. AFRICAN ASSOCIATED STATES AND MALAGASY
U.S. $ million
Funds availableGrants CommitmentsDisbursements
(As at 30.6.70)
1st European Development Fund581·2*483·0439·3
2nd European Development Fund620·0597·8289·0
3rd European Development Fund748·0
U. S. $ million
"Soft" loans from European Development Fund managed by European Investment Bank
Funds availableCommitment Disbursements
(As at 30.6.70)
1st European Development Fund
2nd European Development Fund46·044·56·1
3rd European Development Fund80·0

Standard loans from European Investment Bank
Funds availableCommitmentsDisbursements
(As at 30.6.70)
1st European Development Fund
2nd European Development Fund64·046·823·0†
3rd European Development Fund90·0
Figures for commitments and disbursements from the 3rd European Development Fund not yet available.
* To be shared among all the Overseas Countries and Territories listed in Annex IV of the Treaty of Rome including Dependencies.
† Possibly includes small element (maximum $2 million) for Dependencies (which are not associated states).
2. COUNTRIES ASSOCIATED UNDER ARTICLE 238 OF THE TREATY OF ROME
($ million)
European Investment Bank Standard Loans
CommitmentsDisbursements
(As at 30.6.70)
Greece6953
Turkey17294

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs why he will not inform the countries of the Six at the negotiations to be held in Brussels on 11th May that Great Britain can give no definite answer until she has reported the negotiations to be held on 11th May to the European Free Trade Association meetings to be held in Reykjavik on 13th and 14th May.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

Decisions on the conduct of our negotiations with the European Economic Community must remain the sole responsibility of Her Majesty's Government. There will no doubt be a full discussion at the E.F.T.A. meeting of the positions reached by the E.F.T.A. members in their negotiations and discussions with the Community.

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , West Ham North

We are used to getting these evasive replies, but, since the Minister and the Government have said that they mean to keep our E.F.T.A. partners fully consulted on these matters, why cannot he give an assurance—it is only a question of a few days—that he will come to no decisions on these matters until such time as he has at least reported the conversations and negotiations to our E.F.T.A. partners? Subsequently we would obviously take our own decision, but what harm could there be in a few days' delay?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

I have made the position clear. We are constantly in touch with E.F.T.A. representatives in Brussels, and as soon as that meeting is over I shall be going to a meeting in Iceland to talk to E.F.T.A. Ministers. We have consultations all the time, sometimes at Ministerial level and sometimes at official level. There is no difference between us. I hope that the hon. Member fully under- stands that it was one purpose of the Stockholm Treaty—which shaped E.F.T.A.—to bring about an end to the economic division of Europe.

Photo of Mr David Knox Mr David Knox , Leek

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the progress now made in negotiations to enter the European Economic Community.

Photo of Mr John Cronin Mr John Cronin , Loughborough

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on the progess of negotiations for the entry of Great Britain into the European Economic Community.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

I have at present nothing to add to my statement of 18th March.—[Vol. 813, c. 1659–62.]

Photo of Mr David Knox Mr David Knox , Leek

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the sooner the negotiations are completed the better, because of the substantial advantages which British membership of the Community will bring to the British Commonwealth and the E.E.C.?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

That is certainly our purpose, and we shall go ahead on that basis.

Photo of Dr John Gilbert Dr John Gilbert , Dudley

Is it not time that this preposterous fiction that negotiations about sterling are not part of the formal negotiations was abandoned? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman not make a statement on this subject—because the negotiations in sterling are so clearly central to the whole negotiations—instead of leaving hon. Members to rely too much on leaks that appear in the Press?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

It is not fiction; it is fact.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , Oswestry

Is it the expectation of my right hon. and learned Friend that the Government will be in a position to recommend to the House a view one way or the other before we rise in August?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

As I have indicated to the House, I hope that we shall make substantial progress at the next round of Ministerial meetings in May. I shall report to the House when that has happened. We can then begin to form a judgment as to how matters are proceeding.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North

In view of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said just now about E.F.T.A., will he at least give an assurance that we shall not reach any settlement with the E.E.C. which would involve the re-erection of tariffs between the present members of E.F.T.A.?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

That has been a matter of considerable discussion between the members of E.F.T.A. We are not concerned to end the economic division of Europe by erecting new barriers.