Exploratory contacts, without prejudice to our position generally on the common fisheries policy of the Community, have continued with the Commission of the European Economic Community. Pending completion of the examination of the implications of this policy, Her Majesty's Government continue to reserve their position.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the House is getting tired of these rather vague answers? Can he give now a specific assurance that the Government will not sign on the dotted line before we get adequate safeguards for our inshore fishing fleet?
We shall certainly raise this matter at the appropriate time in the negotiations. One difficulty is that certain details of the policy have not yet even been settled by the Community itself. There is a need for clarification on quite a number of matters. The hon. Gentleman can be quite satisfied that this is not a matter which will go by default.
Is not the position exactly the same as indicated in the answers given by the Minister to several recent Questions from both sides of the House; namely, that in regard to any agreements reached before our possible entry to the Common Market Her Majesty's Government reserve their position absolutely both in regard to conservation and otherwise?
Sometimes people say that these negotiations are going too quickly and urge us to be careful. We have to get the right solutions and to negotiate in a fair and reasonable way. Regarding the fisheries regulations, I assure the House that we have made it perfectly clear that, as far as we can now judge, they would be detrimental to our interests, and these matters must be taken up before we enter the Community.
Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman's last remark mean that he agrees with the vast majority of hon. Members on both sides of the House that the common fisheries policy, as at present defined, would be quite unacceptable to the British people and Her Majesty's Government? Further, does he expect to reach a solution on this problem before the Summer Recess, or is it likely to take until rather later in the year?
I should not like to give any guarantee about the timing of it. Certainly it has to be done. I have never gone beyond saying that we would break the back of the negotiations by the end of the summer. There will be some matters still to be cleared up. This is one of them. I have represented very strongly to the Community, as have the other applicants, that a fisheries policy which may have been quite appropriate for the Community of Six is not appropriate for a Community of Ten in which the new applicants would represent 60 per cent. of the fishing interests.
I fully understand the impossibility of my right hon. and learned Friend answering the sort of questions which he has just been asked, but would he bear in mind that in Dorset, and probably in all the coastal regions of England, there is alarm and apprehension about this aspect of the policy, possibly exceeding that about any other question in the negotiations?
The point is that on many of these matters of negotiation a lot of people are affected, and we deal with matters, first with one and then with another, to try to obtain a fair and reasonable settlement. I have no doubt of the strength of feelings on this matter.
There is an evident desire on the part of the Community to carry the negotiations forward rapidly. There will be a further ministerial negotiating meeting on 7th June. In the present climate I remain confident that we shall complete the main body of the negotiations by the summer.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the great satisfaction felt by many of us at the progress of the talks? Would he not agree that the major issue now outstanding on which progress has not been made is that of New Zealand, and will he make every effort to provide for New Zealand the same kind of help as he has promised to provide? Will he ensure that those who believe that we would leave New Zealand in the lurch will be proved wrong?
I think that we can say, "So far, so good." But there remain a number of important issues still to be settled. I have always resisted trying to have a list of priorities among all the matters to be raised. In the House, in the country or in the Community I think that no one doubts how strongly we feel about the need to provide adequate protection for New Zealand dairy products.
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that it is the unanimous view on this side of the House, shared, I believe, by many hon. Members of the Conservative Party, that there should be adequate time for consideration of the terms when they are finally revealed, and that it would be quite improper for the Government to seek a decision of the House until several months have elapsed after the publication of the terms?
I do not think that there has ever been any dispute about that. I hope that fairly shortly we shall be able to assess the main body of the terms, and, therefore, we shall be able to assess the situation as it then is. It will be some time before the question of actually signing a document of accession can arise. It would not be before the end of the year.
It is a question not of signing a document, which is a matter for Her Majesty's Government in the last resort, but of when the House is asked to pronounce on the package as a whole. My point—and I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman can satisfy us on this matter—is that there should be a period of many weeks, even of some months, between the final publication of the terms and the Government requiring the House to take a decision on whether they should be accepted.
As my hon. Friend will see, we have made some progress regarding horticulture in the last round of ministerial meetings. I have said that we shall have to bring up the fisheries question at the appropriate time. I am sure that my hon. Friend will be able to judge in a few weeks how far we have got.
Do the proposals put forward by the Norwegian Government for the modification of the common fisheries policy have the support of the British Government? Does the speech made by the Foreign Secretary at Aberdeen on Friday mean that the Government will not seek to take Britain into the Common Market without first securing a modification of the common fisheries policy?
We are in contact with the Norwegian Government about their proposals. I do not think that their proposals would be in every respect the same as ours. I am going to Norway next week, and I am sure that this is one of the matters which we shall discuss. As I think I have made perfectly clear, we regard the fisheries regulation as raising very great difficulties for us as it now stands. We have reserved our position, and we shall certainly be dealing with this matter before the question of entering arises.
Is it not absolutely clear from my right hon. and learned Friend's replies to this and previous Questions that the position of Her Majesty's Government is that they will use all their powers of persuasion, diplomacy, and so on, to protect the position of Britain's fishing interests?
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that Norway not only is the largest fishing nation in Western Europe but was the only nation not to sign the 1964 Fisheries Convention? She now states that she will not sign the Fisheries Convention of the Common Market. Do we intend to go with her in this matter?
I have nothing to add at present to what I said in the debate on 21st January and in answer to Questions on 22nd March and 26th April.—[Vol. 809, c. 1405–6; Vol. 814, c. 6–8; Vol. 816, c. 9 and 13.]
We have said that we are prepared to have discussions about the whole range of these matters and then we can see what will emerge. I do not think that I can deal in detail with many of the points raised by my right hon. Friend, which are matters for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I shall not go beyond what I said on 21st January, and I certainly cannot add to what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told the House on a number of occasions.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman must know that it is plainly incompatible to have a free movement of capital within the sterling area and also a free movement of capital within an enlarged European Economic Community. If he cannot go beyond his brief, will he at least make it clear that he rejects the French proposal that we should start repaying the sterling balances at the rate of 5 per cent. a year?
I think that the French proposals in negotiations which are confidential have received many interpretations. Discussions are proceeding at what we consider to be the appropriate place and in the appropriate way. I cannot add to what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said about them. We have said all along that we have no objection to having fairly wide ranging discussions about the future rôle of sterling, what might happen to its reserve role, and what might happen to the sterling balances. All those are matters for discussion. Before any arrangements were made, the House would have to be informed. We are at a very preliminary stage. As to the negotiations, we are dealing with the harmonisation of capital, and we have proposals as to how that can be dealt with in the transitional period, but we have not yet reached agreement about it.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will state in£million sterling total European Economic Community expenditure on the agricultural fund in 1966–67 compared with 1970–71, the annual rate of increase in this expenditure and the percentage proportions spent on the guarantee and guidance sections respectively for the five-year period; and what increase in guidance section expenditure has been authorised under the Mansholt Plan.
I am arranging for the statistics called for in answer to the first part of the Question to be published in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
With regard to the last part of the Question, the price increases and structural changes approved by the Council of Ministers of the European Economic Community do not amount to approval of what is know as the Mansholt Plan. No decision has been taken to increase expenditure under the guidance section of the European Economic Community agricultural guarantee and guidance fund above the limit of£119 million which has obtained since 1969.
I suspect that the figures will reveal a five-fold increase in open-ended expenditure, which is surely preposterously expensive in relation to the achievements of the common agricultural policy in disrupting world food markets and ossifying European agriculture in its present pattern. If the Mansholt Plan leads to larger farm units and greater efficiency, will it not also lead to an increase in surpluses? So why has my right hon. and learned Friend agreed to this policy, and to destroying the present balance of British agriculture between livestock and cropping, without making progressive dismantlement of this policy as at present conceived at least as live an issue as the future of sterling?
My hon. Friend has asked me for some statistics, with which I have provided him. When he sees the statistics, he will see that he is right in saying that the expenditure has increased, for a number of reasons—because the Community has extended the coverage of the C.A.P. gradually and because it is spending more to reduce the surpluses of which my hon. Friend complains.
|BUDGETS FOR THE AGRICULTURAL FUND 1967–71|
|Expenditure relating to.||1966–67||1967–68||1968–69||July-December, 1969||1970||1971|
|Expenditure relating to.||1967||1968||1969||1970||1971|
|* Converted from units of accounts at the rate of£=2·80 U.A. All other conversions at£=2·40 U.A.|
|† In order to change the budget to a calendar year basis 1970 includes expenditure for 18 months for the Guarantee and Guidance Sections.|
The increase in annual expenditure from the Agricultural Fund from 1967 to 1971 is +265·7 per cent., +34·0 per cent., +12·2 per cent. (this relates to the increase in only 12 months' expenditure attributable to 1970) and -3·2 per cent. respectively. These percentages have been calculated from the original figures in units of account.
|The foregoing percentages must be regarded as approximate as they are based on comparisons of expenditure from different sections of the fund for periods which are not identical.|
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what estimate he made, when formulating his proposal to the Six for the phasing-out of Australia from the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement during the transitional period, of the effect his proposal would have on the export quotas of other countries, in particular developing countries, in view of Article 34 of the International Sugar Agreement.
The Community has agreed that we may continue to meet our obligations under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement to Commonwealth countries, including Australia, until the expiration of the Agreement at the end of 1974. Thereafter we have asked that the Australian sugar quota to our market should be phased out gradually over the remainder of the transitional period.
My right hon. and learned Friend has not answered my Question. Will he make an answer as to the effect on the International Sugar Agreement of phasing out Australia? If Article 34 has to be implemented, will it not cut down the quotas of the developing countries under the International Sugar Agreement and also reduce the supply of cane sugar to our refineries?
Mr. J. T. Price:
As the right hon. and learned Gentleman has so far failed to give any clear answers to the many Questions tabled on this matter, will he make a genuine attempt when he is next at the Dispatch Box to give some indication that he is prepared to defend vital British interests in these negotiations and not act like a weak limpet and give away all our vital interests to our trading competitors in Europe?
Would my right hon. and learned Friend say whether, in phasing out Australian sugar, it is intended that this should be replaced by sugar grown in Great Britain or elsewhere in Europe?
I shall be having something to say in my statement later which will be relevant to this. Certainly I would assume that there will be room for expansion of our sugar beet production.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend think it right to use the Post Office for this sort of tendentious pamphleteering, and, if he does, will he make funds available for a series of pamphlets, equally impartial, from the other standpoint, which I shall be happy to draft for him?
As the Post Office is now supposed to be working on a profit-making basis, is it not the case that every person who contributes to the operation of the Post Office is paying for this distribution whether he likes it or not? Why should the Post Office charge people—when the overwhelming majority are against going into the Common Market—for twisted propaganda in favour of entry?
I am not in a position to announce any plans between now and the next ministerial negotiating meeting on 7th June. But I shall certainly be meeting representatives of Governments of the Six.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, whereas it would be a mistake to import into the negotiations matters which are not directly relevant to them, since the object of the negotiations is to achieve an end which goes beyond the negotiations, there would be every advantage in seeking to maintain or, indeed, to extend the discussions with his opposite numbers on military, political and financial matters?
The discussions can be fairly wide-ranging about the future. What I am concerned to do is to get on with the matters which are within my province at the negotiating table in Brussels.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if his proposals for the United Kingdom percentage contribution to the European Economic Community Budget were based on the assumption of a 10-nation European Economic Community; and what alteration would be needed in his proposals in the event of Denmark and Norway not joining the European Economic Community.
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman confirm, therefore, that in the event of Britain entering a Community of seven, eight, nine or ten nations, no alteration would be needed in the proposals he has put before the Community as a compromise on this issue?
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is a highly pessimistic interpretation of the present state of the negotiations to say that there is no real likelihood of the Scandinavian countries, Norway and Denmark, joining if we join?
There was no statement from the Community at the meeting on 11th and 12th May, but I raised this matter and reminded the Community of the nature of New Zealand's special problems and of the need to find a suitable solution to them.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend note that even among those of us who most welcome the progress of the last week there is an intense desire to make sure that we do everything possible for our New Zealand friends?
In view of the recent reply of the French President to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman recognise that there can be no sell-out on this issue? New Zealand has supplied the British market for many years and her economy is geared to this country. That is, I think, recognised on both sides of the House. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will remain firm on this issue when he negotiates.
Following my right hon. and learned Friend's answer to me after he made his previous statement, can he confirm that it is his intention to negotiate for permanent entry of New Zealand dairy produce prior to, and as a precondition of, British entry?
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman recognise that as New Zealand stood by us from the other side of the world in two world wars, no advantage to us personally or as a country would be worth letting her down and letting down the economy which she has constructed to fit in with our requirements?
I have not lost a single opportunity to make clear to the Community how strongly we feel about this matter and how essential it is that there should be adequate safeguards for New Zealand and that, in saying this, we are seeking to defend not British interests but the interests of New Zealing.
Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman noticed the recent debate in the Council of Europe at Strasbourg on this matter in which representatives of both major parties in Britain expressed the view that merely transitional arrangements would not be sufficient and delegates from the continental countries expressed their good will towards and understanding of New Zealand's position?
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that Scottish exports to the E.E.C. are less than one-half of England's and that the opposite situation exists with regard to exports to E.F.T.A.? Would he not, therefore, regard it as irrational as well as unjust that he should negotiate on behalf of the two countries, and would he arrange for separate Scottish representation under the terms of our Treaty?
Bearing in mind the length of time in which some of us have tried to get this position clarified, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman confirm whether or not Commonwealth immigrant workers in this country will have to become citizens of Britain before they are acceptable as community workers within E.E.C. in the event of Britain joining?
As I said, all these matters are being clarified in discussion in the Community. I recognise that there are a great many anxieties about this, which we shall have to clear up. The negotiations are lengthy, and they are complicated; I am afraid that we can take only one matter at a time.
Would not the right hon. and learned Gentleman for once this afternoon give a definite answer to one issue which is being raised? I, personally, am not against going into the Common Market, but if the right hon. and learned Gentleman continues along this line it is quite clear that the Government are going to get us at all costs into the Community without explaining the position to the country.
The hon. Member need feel no such anxiety. There are discussions going on with the Community in order to ensure that the various difficulties which are mentioned from time to time do not arise.