HL Deb 22 January 1976 vol 367 cc644-6

3.17 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make a Statement regarding their attitude to the proposal in the Tindemans Report on European Union that the Governments of the Member States of the European Community should accept an obligation to consult one another on major issues of foreign affairs and to endeavour to work out common policies.


My Lords, Member States of the Community already make a practice of consulting each other on major foreign policy issues, and Her Majesty's Government have consistently advocated that the nine countries should act as one in their relations with the outside world. We shall need to examine very carefully, both here and with our partners, the proposal that there should be an obligation to reach a common view.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for his reply, may I ask him one further question. Of course, there already exists a measure of consultation in these matters, but the Tindemans Report goes a good deal further and asks for the creation of a single centre for the progressive development of a common European policy, without which, as it seems the noble Lord agrees, Western Europe is unlikely to exercise its due influence on world affairs. May I ask the noble Lord whether Her Majesty's Government will take an early opportunity to state their general reactions to the Tindemans recommendations?


My Lords, the Report, of course, is a very substantial document fully covering the field raised in the noble Lord's Question. It will take some time in this country and in the other eight countries for proper study of these proposals, some of them very far-reaching indeed, to be completed; but I can assure the noble Lord and the House that the Government are actively studying this important Report, and we hope to take full part in the discussions on these matters which will in due course take place between us and our partners in the Community.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that some of us who share the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, that something good should come out of Tindemans, nevertheless are glad that the Government are not going to rush into a Statement, believing that in the end there can be a constructive consensus among the Nine only after long and deep discussion?


My Lords, I could not hope to express Her Majesty's Government's policy in this regard better than my noble friend has already expressed it.

The Earl of ONSLOW

My Lords, could the noble Lord answer two questions for me, please? First, is he aware that at the time of the Middle Eastern War of 1973 the EEC Foreign Ministers produced a declaration which carried a great deal of weight, certainly among the Arab nations, and consequently carried much more weight because it was a declaration of the Nine as opposed to declarations by the individual Governments?

Secondly—and perhaps this question should be directed to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd—would there not be a perfect case for debate in this House on the Tindemans Report?


My Lords, the second part of the supplementary question should be addressed to my noble friend. I have no doubt that his reply will be very helpful. On the first point, I agree that the Euro-Arab dialogue which is proceeding will, like the 1973 initiative, help towards a solution of the Middle East conflict. In conducting that dialogue all members of the Community are fully aware of the position of Israel and of the rights of Israel.


My Lords, is my noble friend convinced that the working out of a common European foreign policy will in no way weaken the identity of views on foreign policy which have previously existed between this country and the USA?


My Lords, I can give that assurance. Relations between the EEC and the USA are on an excellent footing. Moreover, M. Tindemans has himself made interesting proposals as to the way he thinks these relations can be even better handled and strengthened, and we shall examine what he suggests with great care and, indeed, with sympathy.