HC Deb 22 July 1976 vol 915 cc2002-5
Q4. Mr. Dykes

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his official visit to Bonn.

The Prime Minister

My visit to Bonn on 30th June was in accordance with the informal understanding reached between my predecessor and Chancellor Schmidt that the Heads of Government of our two countries should aim to meet for bilateral talks about every six months. As has become customary at these meetings the talks were conducted in an informal manner and covered the questions of common concern which were uppermost in our minds. A particularly welcome feature this time was the inclusion in part of our discussions of members of the Bullock Committee on Industrial Democracy. They were already in the Federal Republic and, at Herr Schmidt's invitation, joined the talks along with representatives of German management and trade unions.

Mr. Dykes

Was the Prime Minister able to reassure the German Chancellor that his commitment to introduce legislation for direct elections to the European Parliament in the next Session is firm, definite and unequivocal?

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to the many answers I have already given on this matter in the House. The position remains exactly the same as it was last time I answered these questions.

Mr. Hooley

Does not my right hon. Friend consider that these private tête-à-têtes between the President of France and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom or the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Federal Republic are a very unsatisfactory way of conducting the affairs of the EEC and are provoking serious resentment among other members?

The Prime Minister

I am not sure that that is true. There has been a substantial tour of visits by Heads of Government. Some visits have been more useful than others. I have found my talks valuable in concerting our approach, not on Community questions alone but on much wider questions concerning our policies in other parts of the world.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Did the right hon. Gentleman make clear to the Federal German Chancellor what he has never made clear to the people of this country—namely, whether he believes that freedom of parental choice in education should be available in the public sector as well as in the private sector?

The Prime Minister

We did not discuss education.

Mr. John Evans

When my right hon. Friend next visits Europe, will he take up with EEC Heads of Government the question of economic aid to Italy? Can he tell us whether the statement of the West German Chancellor that there would be no economic aid from the Community if there were Communist participation in the Italian Government represents the policy of the British Government?

The Prime Minister

I followed the exchange between Herr Schmidt and the Press on these matters. There was an exchange of views in Puerto Rico on the general matter, but if there were a request from the Italian Government—and none has yet been received—Communist participation in that Government would be a complicating factor. That was the nature of the discussion, but no conclusions were reached.

Mr. Marten

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that German and Belgian politicians want to turn Europe into a federal State, as do many of the Christian Democrat parties? Will the right hon. Gentleman make clear, in conjunction with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, that neither of the main political parties in this country wants anything like that? Is it not only fair to make that clear?

The Prime Minister

I admire the pertinacity with which the hon. Gentleman pursues his case, but I do not believe that saying something 77 times makes it more valid than saying it once. The hon. Gentleman and the House know my views on this matter very well.

Mr. Greville Janner

When my right hon. Friend met representatives of the Bullock Committee, was he able to ascertain whether their report would be available on time so that legislation on worker participation can be introduced next Session?

The Prime Minister

The exchange of views that we had on industrial democracy was extremely valuable to both sides. The British representatives, who included employers and trade unionists as well as independent members, felt that what had happened and was happening in Germany offered a great many lessons. In a private discussion with me Lord Bullock said that his committee was making rapid progress, but I cannot promise on his behalf when the report will be ready. As soon as it is received, we shall begin consultations with a view to introducing legislation, but I am naturally unable to say when that will be.

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