HC Deb 26 February 1973 vol 851 cc1042-4
8. Mr. McBride

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what plans he now has to attend meetings of the Council of Ministers of the EEC.

Mr. Peter Thomas

I will attend meetings of the Council of Ministers whenever necessary.

Mr. McBride

Is the Minister aware that there are three reasons why Wales should have a Minister at the EEC Commission? The first is to makes Wales aware of the offsetting of currency changes in EEC States which starts today and how it will affect prices in Wales, the second is to make the British steel industry aware of any unpublished arrangements which will retard or inhibit that industry's growth, and the third reason is so that the Minister can explain in detail to Wales if and when any regional EEC funds will come to the Principality. The Secretary of State has a duty to tell the people but he has never done so.

Mr. Thomas

The practice under the United Kingdom arrangements is for Ministers to attend meetings of the Council when matters central to their responsibilities are under discussion. As I told the hon. Member, I will attend meetings at the Council whenever I consider it necessary.

Sir A. Meyer

Is it not clear that help for hill farmers is on the way from European Community funds, and would it not befit the Opposition more if they were to play their part in the Community institutions, thus ensuring that we secure the maximum benefit from them?

Mr. Thomas

It is right that the Commission has made recommendations that the Council of Ministers will consider.

Mr. John Morris


Mr. Thomas

I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman an exact date but I will find out and let him know.

Mr. Hooson

Does the Secretary of State intend to attend meetings where regional development and help for the regions is being considered? On what basis do the Government, for example, choose between the Secretary of State for Wales and the Secretary of State for Scotland or some other Minister? Is there any agreed plan on this matter?

Mr. Thomas

The question is whether matters being discussed at the time are central to the responsibility of the Ministers involved. The Secretary of State for Scotland sent Ministers to a recent meeting where there were discussions on matters which were important to Scotland but which were not so important to Wales. When other matters important to Wales arise, consideration will be given to a Welsh Minister being present.

11. Mr. William Edwards

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how he now proposes to ensure that the Welsh Office is continuously represented in the councils of the EEC.

Mr. Peter Thomas

Existing arrangements provide full opportunity for my views to be represented in all matters relating to the EEC.

Mr. Edwards

Does not the Secretary of State appreciate that a great deal of the work which is to be undertaken at Brussels is of a political nature in relation, for example, to the consideration given to grants for hill areas and in relation to the grants being given to areas suffering from the closure of steelworks? Aid is required at a political level in these considerations. Is it not a fact that we are still dealing with the Commission in Brussels as though it were a foreign country that has no direct bearing upon the economy of this country?

Mr. Peter Thomas

I agree that many matters of a political nature have to be decided in terms of the European Economic Community. But the Welsh Office certainly has regular contact with Brussels. Three officials from my Department have been in Brussels in the last few weeks and I am fully informed on all matters relating to Wales in particular which are going on in the Community.

Mr. Coleman

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether he made any representations to the Patronage Secretary regarding the inclusion of his hon. Friends in the delegation to the European Parliament?

Mr. Peter Thomas

Wales is certainly represented on that delegation. My one regret is that there are no representatives from the Labour side of the House.

Mr. George Thomas

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell the House which of the Welsh Members of Parliament is a full member of the Con servative Party delegation? I remind him that the European Assembly is a talking shop not much better than the Welsh Grand Committee.

Mr. Peter Thomas

I do not know whether by the last part of his question the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting that there should not be meetings of the Welsh Grand Committee or whether he intends to boycott it, in the same way as the Opposition have boycotted the European Parliament. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who is the representative?"] The representative, who is a Member of Parliament, a Member of the other place, is Lord Brecon.

Mr. Kinnock

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the Secretary of State to tell the House that there is a Welshman at the European Assembly?

Mr. Speaker

The content of such an answer is not a matter of order.

Mr. John

It is not even a matter of accuracy in this case.

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