HC Deb 25 July 1973 vol 860 cc1602-4
16. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will next be meeting the French Foreign Minister.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I saw M. Jobert only the day before yesterday at a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Nine at Copenhagen. I have no firm plans for an early bilateral meeting, although M. Jobert and I naturally remain in close touch on all matters of common interest.

Mr. Marten

When the Foreign Secretary meets the French Foreign Minister in Brussels, Copenhagen, or in an aeroplane, will he make clear to him that, whatever the French attitude may be towards the Commission's proposals on Commonwealth sugar, Britain will honour its undertaking, which was given as an honourable assurance, and that, whatever the Common Market Ministers decide, Britain will import 1–4 million tons of sugar? What instructions will be given to the Commission's negotiators when the International Sugar Agreement comes up again at the Geneva session on 10th September? The Council of Ministers will not meet again until the 24th or 25th September, and therefore the Commission will have no new ministerial instructions as to the attitude to be adopted in the ISA talks.

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

We will make clear to the French and anyone else that we will honour the engagement which we undertook to Commonwealth countries. As my right hon. Friend has just said, there is nothing inconsistent in the Commission's proposals and our undertaking.

I should like notice of the question about the organisation of the Council's work.

Sir G. de Freitas

In view of the French Government's recent rebuke to a French member of the Commission for not being nationalist enough, will the Foreign Secretary, when he next meets the Foreign Minister of France, draw his attention to the possible amending of Article 157, as suggested in my Question No. 37, to make it clear that the Commission is international?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Moate

In a recent speech on the GATT negotiations M. Jobert said that in the French view the common external tariff should not be allowed to fall below a certain minimum level because it had a political purpose. Is that the view of the British Government?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

I have not seen reports of that speech. The common external tariff will remain. There has been no discussion in the Council of Ministers about the level of tariff.

Mr. Jay

If NATO can get on without France, cannot it get on without Portugal?

Sir Alec Douglas-Home

NATO does not get on without France. The right hon. Gentleman should polish up his knowledge of the alliance.

Back to