§ 36. Mr. Skinner
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet the EEC leaders; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Skinner
Will the Foreign Secretary tell the EEC leaders that the United Kingdom Parliament is having a free vote not only on the method of direct elections but on the principle? Taking account of the fact that half the Labour Back Benchers have declared themselves against the principle of direct elections, will the Foreign Secretary accept that if he wants to get this legislation through he will need more than just a Labour-Liberal alliance; he will need a Tory one as well?
§ Mr. Walters
Will the Foreign Secretary bear in mind the enormous political importance of the Middle East to Europe, and does he agree that it is preferable that European policy on this issue should be in advance of that of the United States? After President Carter's statement on a national home for the Palestinians, is there not a danger that we are trailing behind? Will he discuss this when he next meets EEC leaders?
§ Dr. Owen
It is important that there should be a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli dispute. One does not pursue that objective by talking about being in advance of or trailing behind the United States. We want a rational, positive policy. That objective has been broadly maintained, and it has been helped by the EEC forming a view of Middle East problems and keeping in close liaison and in general agreement with the United States. I do not see us either in advance of or behind the United States; I see us working together with them.
§ Mr. MacFarquhar
If we are unable, even using our best endeavours, to hold direct elections in May or June of next year, will it not cause our European partners not only to be unhappy with us, but to set back their own direct elections?
§ Dr. Owen
The Council decision made it clear that elections in the nine countries would proceed simultaneously over a four-day period. That decision would have to be changed if we were unable to stick to the target date and there was to be a go-ahead in other countries. Our partners expect us to use our best endeavours, but many other member States are finding difficulty in their legislative processes. Each member country must look after itself in these matters and each tries genuinely to honour any agreement to which it has put its name.
§ Mr. Watt
When the Foreign Secretary next meets his EEC colleagues, will he impress upon them the sense of frustration felt among the leaders of the fishing industry? Unless the EEC agrees quickly to a 50-mile conservation zone around Britain, the EEC ports will be blockaded not only by French boats but by Scottish boats as well.
§ Dr. Owen
There was a debate in the House on Monday night, and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will make a statement later today about the Council meeting. His actions and the Government's actions over the last year or so, when negotiating these matters, show that we are perfectly prepared to stand up robustly for justified British interests. We have never disguised our dissatisfaction with EEC policies on fishing, agreed in 1970.
§ Mr. Marten
In view of the very poor performance of the Common Market 400 compared with the hopes of those who voted for our entry, will the Foreign Secretary welcome the setting up of a Select Committee, evenly balanced between hon. Members who are for and those who are against our membership, to go into the worthwhileness of our membership, or will he not dare to do so?