HC Deb 24 July 1973 vol 860 cc1402-4
Q3. Mr. Deakins

asked the Prime Minister what plans he has for further meetings with Heads of Government of EEC countries.

The Prime Minister

I expect to have further bilateral meetings with Heads of Government of EEC countries as the need arises but there are no arrangements for such meetings at present.

Mr. Deakins

At the next meeting with his colleagues, whenever that occurs, will the Prime Minister make two issues clear: first, that this country cannot be committed to European economic and monetary union until a decision has been taken by this House; and, secondly, that until such decision has been taken by this House no one can commit this country to the second stage of the Common Market economic and monetary union?

The Prime Minister

The position on the question of the development of the Community in relation to economic and monetary union is the same as on any other aspect of Community development. The Government must retain the support of the House of Commons in carrying through the policies which were agreed at the summit.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

At the meetings will my right hon. Friend consider putting forward a suggestion which I have made in recent months both in this House and in the European Parliament? Will he advocate that the legislative processes of the Council of Ministers should be, as far as possible, held in public? Would not this have the advantage of making the Council, when it is formulating directives on matters which touch closely the lives of citizens in the member States, additionally sensitive to the views and feelings of those citizens, including our own?

The Prime Minister

I have seen the suggestion of my right hon. and learned Friend and noted it with great interest. As he will realise as well as anyone from his experience in the European Parliament, there are two sides to this question. The European Parliament—the report I have just received from our own representatives there emphasises this—feels somewhat frustrated by what it regards as the slow and clumsy method of operation of the Council of Ministers in Brussels.

The alternative proposal being put forward is that instead of a gathering of this kind being as large as it is, with almost all speeches immediately being relayed outside, it should be treated more on the basis of the Cabinet system in this country in which the Ministers can discuss among themselves in the customary way the policies they want to put forward. The proposals could then he put before the Parliament at Strasbourg or the Ministers' national Parliaments. Both these aspects need to be carefully considered.

Mr. Pardoe

Will the Prime Minister state his priorities vis-à-vis monetary union and political union in these dis- cussions? Is he aware that many people consider that in the short term monetary union would be an unmitigated disaster for the British economy, and that the important priority is the democratic development of a United States of Europe?

The Prime Minister

That seems to be an unduly provocative question on the last day before we go on holiday. The concept at the summit meeting, which was embodied in the communiqué, was that political, economic and monetary developments would move together towards 1980. On the question of political consultation, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has just returned from Copenhagen and Brussels, where there were detailed political consultations about relations between Europe and the United States.

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's remark that monetary union would be disastrous for the economy of the country, provided that we maintain the position that we have always maintained, namely that it can be brought about only if there is economic development at the same time. This involves regional policy to a large extent.

Mr. Benn

Will the Prime Minister be discussing with the Heads of Government of the Common Market countries the widening trade deficit between Britain and the Common Market? The gap has been widening sharply and cannot be explained by imports of raw materials. What action have the Government in mind to correct that situation?

The Prime Minister

As I have said that there is no plan for a meeting with the Heads of Government, the question does not arise.

The gap between the growth of our exports and imports between Europe and the United Kingdom is less than with the rest of the world. I am afraid, therefore, that the doctrine put forward by the right hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends, including one who is not on the Front Bench at the moment, that the trade gap is due to our entry into the Community and a failure of trade with the EEC is unsustainable.