HC Deb 24 July 1972 vol 841 cc1285-96
1. Mr. Rost

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what facilities have been provided for Government-assisted visits to European Economic Community countries for trade union officials.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Anthony Royle)

Trade union officials have taken part in visits and conferences organised by non-governmental bodies which receive financial support from Her Majesty's Government. Her Majesty's Government are considering what further financial assistance can be given in this field.

Mr. Rost

While welcoming that reply may I ask my hon. Friend to do more to get more trade unionists to visit the EEC countries, particularly countries such as Germany, where the standard of living has been rising so much faster than ours and where industrial relations are so much better? Is there not a great deal to be learned by sending our trade unionists over there, to a country where the law is obeyed and where genuine productivity bargaining helps the country as a whole?

Mr. Heffer

The law was obeyed under Hitler too.

Mr. Royle

I would not like to make any comments on my hon. Friend's last remarks. Many visits and exchanges take place, financed by the trade unions. Over the years many trade unions have had close contacts with the European trade union movement. We have received no requests for assistance from trade unions but would be prepared to consider sympathetically any proposals they might put to us for assistance in this field.

Mr. Deakins

Would it not help if members of British management were also invited to go to Germany to see how industrial relations operate there?

Mr. Royle

Many members of British management visit Europe, including Germany, regularly and many more will be going in future.

2. Mr. Milne

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions have taken place with the Europe Movement concerning its future rôle and activities following Great Britain's entry into the European Economic Community; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Anthony Royle

No formal discussions have taken place although the European Movement, along with other private organisations which receive aid from Her Majesty's Government, keeps the Foreign and Commonwealth Office informed about its future plans.

Mr. Milne

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that answer is rather vague in view of the tremendous propaganda efforts of both political parties assisted by the European Movement prior to our decision on entry? Is it not time that concrete proposals were made about this movement so that we would know precisely where it stood during the Common Market discussions and what finances were available to it?

Mr. Royle

It is not for me to comment on the plans of a private organisation. The European Movement has played a valuable part in the past in promoting contacts between British people and other Europeans and will, I am sure, continue to do so. The British Council for the European Movement has as its patrons my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe). The Director is Mr. Ernest Wistrich.

3. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether plans for the European Economic Community summit meeting to be held in October have now been finalised; and what recent official communications he has had with the French Government on the subject.

4. Mr. Blaker

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the latest state of preparations for the summit meeting of European Economic Community and applicant countries.

6. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what items have now been placed on the agenda for the Common Market summit meeting by Her Majesty's Government

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)

On 19th July I attended in Brussels a further meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Community and acceding States devoted to preparation for the European summit conference. The meeting made significant progress in finding common ground. With regard to the agenda, there is general agreement that economic and monetary union will be a priority item, including industrial and regional policy. These are meetings of Ministers of the ten Governments concerned and summit preparations are a matter for multilateral agreement.

Mr. Hamilton

In view of the fact that this meeting is likely to take place while the House is in recess, may I ask the right hon. and learned Gentlemen to give an undertaking that the House will have the opportunity of debating this matter so that it can give guidance to the Government about what it would like on the agenda? Is the Minister aware that we on this side would very much like to be assured that the Socialist principles embodied in the Tory Government's Industry Bill will not be jeopardised by the French, the Germans or anyone else in the EEC? Will he give an undertaking that the Government will not allow themselves to be compelled by the French to return to fixed parities—it is obvious that there is some pressurising—if the Government feel that they ought not to do so?

Mr. Rippon

Debates are not a matter for me. Subjects have been raised in the House from time to time. I can assure that hon. Gentleman that there is no difficulty, and I think this is understood now by the House as a whole, about our present regional policies. We want to see them taken a stage forward in a wider European context. As to monetary policy, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made perfectly clear that it is our intention to return to fixed but adjustable parities as soon as possible.

Mr. Blaker

Is it not clear that one of the subjects to which the enlarged Community will have to give most careful attention in the early stages is the relationship between the Community on the one hand and the United States and Japan on the other hand? Is my right hon. and learned friend satisfied that the Government are giving adequate thought to that subject in preparation for the summit meeting?

Mr. Rippon

In the original preparations for the summit we broke down a potential agenda under three headings, one of which was the external relationships and responsibilities of the Community. The external relationships of the Community must comprehend the matter to which my hon. Friend has referred.

Mr. Marten

Surely the whole philosophy behind the European Communities Bill is that we should debate these matters and give guidance to delegates going to meetings of this sort. Will my right hon. and learned Friend reconsider that matter? Secondly, if the Government do not get concrete and satisfactory undertakings about industrial and regional policy, will they take a robust line at the summit meeting and say that we shall not go in until this and other important matters are properly settled?

Mr. Rippon

I do not think my hon. Friend has ever understood the nature of the Community we are joining. We are not joining a machine; we are joining a living organism in which we shall participate. None of the problems which my hon. Friend sometimes suggests arise in relation to our regional policy, but we shall be making our contribution. On the question of debates, we have made several proposals about the way in which the House might deal with matters in future and I hope that, with the Opposition's co-operation, we shall make some progress shortly.

Mr. Milne

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the conference between the non-applicant EFTA countries and the enlarged EEC is to take place at the wrong time? It should have preceded any of our negotiations with the EEC if we had any hope of achieving the type of Europe we wanted because, tied as we are by the European Communities Bill and the Community regulations, the prospects of success for the Sixteen are much dimmer than they would otherwise have been.

Mr. Rippon

The hon. Gentleman is suffering, like others of us, from a lack of newspapers. There is another Question on the Order Paper about the position of the non-applicant EFTA countries. But all these matters were concluded by the agreements reached on Saturday.

Dame Joan Vickers

As three of the countries which are joining are not members of WEU, will the question of defence, and particularly the co-ordination of defence, be discussed?

Mr. Rippon

That is a matter which comes within the purview of the Heads of Government. It does not come within the purview of the EEC treaties as such.

Mr. Shore

We know that no agreement has been reached to have a summit meeting, let alone agreement concerning the agenda. I should like the right hon. and learned Gentleman to make clear that he has no intention of being browbeaten by the threat of not having a summit meeting into making premature and disadvantageous agreements before the summit takes place in the hope that it will take place. That is a real threat. Secondly, may I reinforce the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) that the range of matters to be discussed at the summit are the kind of matters on which the House should be consulted and given the chance of expressing its views before agreements are reached in Brussels?

Mr. Rippon

There is nothing unusual about a meeting of Heads of Government to discuss a wide range of matters. This is a meeting of Heads of Government in a particular context. I can give the right hon. Gentleman the assurance he requires that there is no question of our being browbeaten or entering into unreasonable agreements in advance of the summit.

As for the date on which the summit will be held, the Dutch Foreign Minister, who presided over the meeting of Foreign Ministers, said at the conclusion of the proceedings: No one suggested today that there should be any going back on the April decision to hold the Conference in October. That is the present position and we are making the preparations on that assumption.

5. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement about the future relationship with the European Economic Community of those European Free Trade Association countries which will not be joining the Community on 1st January, 1973.

Mr. Rippon

Special relation agreements between the Communities and the European Free Trade Association non-candidates were signed in Brussels on Saturday, 22nd July. I would ask the House to await the statement which I would propose, with permission and for the convenience of the House, to make tomorrow.

Mr. Jay

Has the Chancellor noticed that the non-candidate EFTA countries have obtained all the benefits of an industrial free trade area without any of the crippling burdens of the common agricultural policy?

Mr. Rippon

They have certainly obtained some of the benefits but not all of the benefits which come from full membership. We have often debated this matter in the House and we have said that it would not be suitable for us to be other than full members of the Community. As the right hon. Gentleman may have noticed, the Swedish Foreign Minister, in Brussels on Saturday, made the point that for all of them the way was still open for further and deeper association with the Community.

9. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a further statement of Government policy on the relationship between Great Britain and the European Economic Community in the light of recent developments.

Mr. Rippon

Her Majesty's Government are firmly committed to full membership of the European Communities and continue to work to this end along the lines set out in the statement by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 17th June last year.—[Vol. 819, c. 643–5.]

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Can my right hon. and learned Friend say whether any progress has been made towards agreement on the siting of European institutions? Would it not be reasonable if an agreement could be reached along the lines that the political secretariat should be in Brussels and the European Parliament should be sited either in Paris or in London as its permanent home?

Mr. Rippon

The siting of all these institutions is a matter for agreement between the parties.

Mr. Foley

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman considered the question of association in the context of association of all the African States instead of simply the former French and British colonies?

Mr. Rippon

All the developing independent members of the Commonwealth have been offered the choice of association or a trade agreement. I think that is something which will be discussed further in the months and even years ahead. The dependent countries have the offer of Part IV association.

Mr. Marten

As my right hon. and learned Friend implied earlier that I did not understand the European Communities Bill, can he explain how he gives the same impression to the House when he is answering questions?

Hon. Members


Mr. Arthur Lewis

Let us have an answer.

Mr. Speaker

Order. If hon. Members wish to ask supplementary questions, they must rise to their feet.

Mrs. Hart

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman correct the statement he has just made? As far as I am aware, India, Pakistan and the countries of Asia are developing countries but association has not been offered to them.

Mr. Rippon

I apologise. The right hon. Lady is perfectly right. There is the offer to the Asian Commonwealth of the extension of trade, and discussions will take place on that.

19. Mr. Meacher

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proposals he is considering for the October summit conference of European leaders concerning trading relations with the less-developed countries of the southern world.

Mr. Rippon

As I have told the House, the summit conference will concern itself with the Community's external relations and responsibilities. The issue raised by the hon. Gentleman will no doubt arise under this heading of the agenda.

Mr. Meacher

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that increasing aid programmes and lowering tariffs are of little use if the countries of the Ten permit the terms of trade of the developing countries to deteriorate seriously? Would he say why the British Government have blocked the very sensible suggestion for linking trade with international monetary reform by awarding the developing countries special drawing rights as required for trade development?

Mr. Rippon

I have great sympathy with what the hon. Member has said. As for linking development aid with special drawing rights—it is one of the matters which came up at Santiago—that sort of issue is quite likely to come within the ambit of consideration at the summit of the Heads of Governments. I assure the hon. Member that certainly these matters are very much in the minds of our partners in the Community as well as our own.

Mr. Richard

The right hon. and learned Gentleman should not be quite so bland on this subject. It is a matter of deep concern to this side, as it is indeed to the developing countries. Whatever one's views about the desirability or otherwise of Britain's accession to the EEC, one of the things which a number of people would expect the Government to push hard at the summit is precisely the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), and I would have thought that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would have had something more definite and firmer to say in this respect.

Mr. Rippon

I certainly have no wish to be bland about it. It is a matter of deep concern which has been expressed throughout the debates which we have had on the European Communities Bill and other occasions, and I have emphasised our very great concern that the enlargement of the Community should lead to an increase of effective aid to developing countries. I am sure that ought to have high priority.

Mr. David Steel

Will not the Chancellor of the Duchy give us a firmer assurance on this subject? Trade between the under-developed world and the EEC is extremely important. We hope that the subject will not simply be allowed to arise but that he will see that it is definitely discussed at the summit.

Mr. Rippon

The Foreign Ministers at their meeting in Brussels have been determining the heads of the agenda. We have pressed that one of the items should be the external relations and responsibilities of the Community. Clearly the whole question of development aid is inherent in the concept of external responsibilities. What I cannot do is to say what the Heads of Government will say in their communiqué.

24. Mr. Deakins

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he intends to make regular statements to the House following each meeting of the European Economic Community Council of Ministers that he attends.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)

After entry there will be frequent meetings with the Communities at ministerial level. Not every meeting will warrant a statement; but Ministers will keep the House fully informed of developments in the Communities.

Mr. Deakins

Does the Secretary of State appreciate that his reply is very unsatisfactory to those of us who want to see parliamentary control extended over his activities in Brussels and those of his right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster? Surely the House is now entitled as of right to regular and detailed statements on all the official meetings attended by the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Duchy in Brussels and Strasbourg.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

My interest is to see that the House shall be informed, but it does not necessarily follow from that that every meeting has to be reported upon. The Government have suggested the setting up of a special ad hoc committee to consider how best the House should be informed on these matters. I hope that the suggestion will be accepted because there is a need for the House to be properly informed. I think this is a way in which it could be considered.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Would my right hon. Friend agree that it will be more important for the House to have a debate before he goes to meetings of the Council of Ministers so that we can discuss the subjects which are to be raised and, if necessary, give guidance to my right hon. Friend?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

It is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to consider how often debates shall take place. I have no doubt that there will be many debates before I go to meetings of Foreign Ministers in Europe. I think that various parts of the House should meet together to seek to discover the most practicable arrangements to be made for keeping hon. Members informed.

Mr. Spearing

Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that his statement applies to all Ministers and not simply to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster? Will he consider the suggestion that every Minister should make a report in writing and in public after meetings of the Council of Ministers?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

The statement applies to all Ministers, not only to my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy. Instead of making pledges in advance that reports will be made on every meeting—because at some meetings, to my own knowledge, there is nothing worth reporting—I think it would be worth considering which meetings should be reported to the House and what information should be given.

28. Mr. Scott-Hopkins

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will propose the setting up of a political secretariat for the European Economic Community when he next meets the Foreign Ministers of the six European Economic Community countries.

Mr. Rippon

We believe that a modest secretariat to service meetings of Foreign Ministers could be useful. We would be ready to discuss this at the appropriate time with our partners in the enlarged Community.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

I am grateful for that reply. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that this matter should be settled and agreed by the Foreign Ministers before the summit meeting at which the final cachet will be given?

Mr. Rippon

The purpose of the Foreign Ministers' meeting is to prepare the agenda, not to determine the results. It is not necessary that this matter should be dealt with at the summit itself. It could be decided by agreement at any time.

Mr. Maclennan

Is it not undesirable to establish a secretariat which would diminish the authority of the Commission and, if the emphasis is to be on the development of political control of decisions in the European Community, should we not seek to strengthen the powers of the European Parliament?

Mr. Rippon

Certainly it should not cut across the powers of the Commission or our ideas for strengthening the European Parliament. There is an area of responsibility for Foreign Ministers which goes beyond the scope of the treaties themselves. This is why we feel it necessary to have some liaison.

Mr. Crouch

May I remind my right hon. and learned Friend that quite apart from the setting up of a secretariat and any question of strengthening the European Parliament, everybody in the House is concerned that we should strengthen this Parliament and our acquaintance with the various problems as we go into the Common Market? Will he give urgent consideration to appointing a Select Committee or Committees to con- sider this and all other questions arising from our position in the Community?

Mr. Rippon

I sympathise with what my hon. Friend has said. These matters are being pursued through what are called the usual channels.

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