§ 46. Mr. Viggers
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will raise in the Council of Ministers the future adequacy of co-ordination between the European Parliament and the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Frank Judd)
The question of the relationship between the European Assembly and this Parliament is primarily a matter for the two institutions themselves, which both may wish to reconsider after direct elections. I doubt whether the Council of Ministers can assist at this stage. The British Government have made plain in this House and elsewhere their position on the powers of the European Assembly.
§ Mr. Viggers
Does the Minister agree that his answer adds up to the fact that nobody knows so far how co-ordination will work? What leads him to think that the European Members of Parliament will be the exception to the general rule that capable and ambitious people tend to seek to maximise their power and influence?
§ Mr. Judd
As the hon. Gentleman knows, we debated this very point at some length the other night. I remain convinced, together with colleagues, that the main accountability of the European Assembly will be through Ministers to this House, and this House will, therefore, continue to attract maximum talent.
§ Mr. Spearing
Is not the position quite clear? Does not my hon. Friend agree with the statement of the former Commissioner, now Lord Thomson, in the Lloyds Bank Review last July, when he said that from the moment of direct elections the new European Assemblymen will cease to be colleagues of Members of this House and, instead, become rivals? Is not that clear and is it not also clear that this House and this Parliament have no part in the written constitution under the Treaty of Rome?
§ Mr. Judd
But I am sure that my hon. Friend will also agree that, as we discussed the other night at some length and on other occasions, the functions of the European Assembly are in no way to be compared with the legislative functions of the House. I do not believe that the sort of person who is interested in a legislative role will be attracted to the European Assembly in the same way as people will continue to be attracted to this House.
§ Mr. Marten
Can we once and for all rule out the dotty suggestion that Members of the directly elected European Assembly, if any, should be Members of the House of Lords?
§ Mr. Hurd
Developing that point, may ask whether The Times was accurate this morning in its account of what the Foreign Secretary said at the Summit Conference about the direct elections Bill? If it was accurate, was this not a very deeply partisan and misleading statement? Would it not be better to correct it now by acknowledging that in recent weeks, and again this week, the obstacle to progress with the Bill has nothing whatever to do with the electoral system but is simply the continuing refusal by the Government to provide adequate days for discussion?