HC Deb 16 December 1974 vol 883 cc1121-39
The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement about last week's meeting in Paris, which I regret I was not able to make last Thursday as I had hoped.

On the invitation of the President of France, the Heads of Government of the European Community met together on Monday and Tuesday, 9th and 10th December.

Our conclusions were recorded in a communiqué which has been published as a White Paper, Cmnd. 5830.

The House will see from the White Paper that a considerable part of the discussions related to worldwide issues, in particular the economic situation, trade, employment and inflation.

A high priority was given by all of us to the problems posed by the world threat of general recession, and in this connection we discussed the policies to be followed by individual countries, by the Community, and the wider world. The Federal German Chancellor dealt with the problems facing his own country on which announcements since the meeting in Paris were subsequently made by his Government in the German Parliament. Since they involve a substantial measure of reflation by a surplus country, I am sure all of us in this House will warmly welcome them.

On energy, we sought to get an improved consensus of views between the European Governments and the United States, and in particular the possibility of closer co-operation between oil-exporting and oil-importing countries. This meant that the French President in his discussions this weekend with the President of the United States would have a clearer view of the ideas and hopes of all of us on these matters.

Co-operation in the field of energy is to be pursued further at a meeting of energy Ministers in Brussels tomorrow.

On the renegotiation of the terms on which Britain entered the Community in 1971, I informed the other Heads of Government of the position of Her Majesty's Government, and the particular issues to which we attach high priority; the issues set out in our election manifesto in February and endorsed again by the people in October. I informed them also of the terms of the speech I made in London on 7th December, of which a copy has been placed in the Library of the House.

Substantial progress was made on the question of Britain's budgetary contribution to the Community and appropriate instructions given to the Community institutions, so that they can now get to work to set up as soon as possible what was called the "correcting mechanism" referred to in the communiqué. We intend to have a firm proposal and decision on this by the early spring.

Since the communiqué was published, anxiety has been expressed by hon. Members and others about two matters. The one relates to the principle of majority voting, and the Luxembourg Compromise as it has become known. I can assure the House that there is no question at all— and that this was clear in the minds of all the Heads of Government—of any member State, when important national interests are at stake, being required to set those interests aside as a result of a majority voting procedure. The communiqué makes it plain that each country will continue to be free to maintain our respective positions regarding the Luxembourg Compromise of 1966. What the meeting had in mind was the un-desirability of having too frequent a recourse to the veto, where, for example, relatively minor matters were involved.

The other issue related to the desire of most Heads of Government to make progress towards the election of the European Assembly by universal suffrage. I made it clear that the British Government could not take up any position on this question until after the renegotiations are complete and the results submitted to the British people for decision. And this was specifically reserved in the communiqué as a Statement by the British Prime Minister. On institutional matters generally, the House will have seen that the Prime Minister of Belgium, Monsieur Tinde-mans, has been invited to prepare a report on the institutional development of the Community, so that this can be considered by a meeting of Heads of Government a year or more from now.

The Heads of Government also reached decisions on the Regional Development Fund. The fund will be endowed with 1,300 million units of account—that is about £540 million—over the three years 1975 to 1977. Twenty-eight per cent. of the fund will be allocated to this country. Our net share of the fund could turn out to be about £60 million in all. Compared with the Government's own national expenditure on the regions of about £500 million a year the results will naturally be modest.

I was particularly concerned to press upon our colleagues the importance of national Governments, such as our own, particularly at a time of worldwide anxiety about employment, being able to act speedily with existing, and where necessary novel means of providing national aids for regional employment and regional development. On this I found full understanding among the other Heads of Government. I emphasised, of course, that such action should not offend against the Community rules of fair competition, nor amount to competitive bidding, one country against another, in order, for example, to attract some new development, say an American-owned company settling in Europe.

I have referred to institutional aspects of the Community. There is a general wish, which I share, to have important decisions taken quickly and effectively at the political level, both by Foreign and other Ministers and by Heads of Government themselves. The meeting in Paris was in effect the first European Council. In future there will be three of these meetings a year, and more if they are required to deal with particular problems. They will be concerned both with Community matters and with important questions of policy, for example on world energy and related world finance problems, outside the Community area.

Our partners in the conference were left in no doubt that while we were not dissatisfied with the progress made on the budgetary question, there was a substantial number of other matters on which we should expect satisfaction. There is still a long way to go if Britain's essential requirements are to be met, and it is in the best interests both of this country and of Europe that speedy progress be made and the issues decided.

These questions will be taken up in meetings, early in the new year, of the Council of Ministers, and, as appropriate, at the next Heads of Government meeting to be held in the new year in Dublin under the presidency of the Irish Republic.

Mr. Heath

On behalf of the House, I welcome the Prime Minister back after his illness and express our pleasure at his recovery and thank him for the statement that he has made amplifying the communiqué which was published after the Heads of Government summit meeting.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we welcome the conclusions of the summit and the fact that he put his name to everything in the communiqué with the reservation about direct elections of which he spoke?

It is now apparent that the summit in itself was an important meeting which decided to implement and carry further the decisions which were reached at the Paris summit of 1972 and the Copenhagen summit of a year ago.

Is the Prime Minister aware that the work of the Heads of Government seems to have decided itself into a number of groupings? The first is to improve the work of the Community, which we welcome, and, in particular, that when the Foreign Ministers meet in council it will be possible for them to deal with political co-operation at the same time. That has always been a controversial matter and we welcome that it has been settled. The Commission will play its full part, common diplomatic positions will be taken up by the member States of the Community and the Assembly will be more closely allied with them.

Secondly, is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the importance of the decision that, to use the phrasing of the communiqué, the Luxembourg Agreement should be renounced? That is not quite as the Prime Minister put it. Of course, the right to preserve national interests remains to members of the Community, but I believe that it is also right that the Luxembourg Agreement, which has always been an agreement to differ, should have been renounced.

Thirdly, the group of proposals which will affect people in the Community—in particular, the study on common passport legislation, common alien legislation, and so on—will be a step forward and will bind people in the Community closer together.

Fourthly, I welcome that the Heads of Government agreed to pursue the Paris summit agreement in the hope of achieving an overall European union and to stick to the date of achieving it by 1980. The method of approach by the Belgian Prime Minister, of producing a report by the end of 1975, is a good way of handling it. I also welcome that the Prime Minister and the conference confirmed the objective of economic and monetary union and that their will has not changed.

Fifthly, I think that the House will welcome the work done at the summit dealing with inflation, the danger of unemployment, and that those States in balance of payments surplus should help those with deficits. I should think that that was an admirable example of the member States helping each other when the necessary occasion arises.

Sixthly, we welcome the establishment of the regional development fund, which was agreed in principle at the Paris summit. The amount is only half what we hoped for, but it is a beginning on which all Governments can work. Although £60 million may be a small proportion compared with what we spend on regional development, it is a large amount compared with the budgetary contribution of this country towards the Community as a whole. Therefore, we welcome it.

Lastly, on the budget, as the communiqué specifically sets out, the Heads of Government of all member States referred to what was achieved in the accession negotiations—that if an unacceptable situation arose, the Community would have to deal with it. We welcome that they are now dealing with it in the interests of the Community as a whole, not only in the interests of Britain. I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister has accepted that situation.

To sum up, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it was a worthwhile summit and that all the agreements point to a dynamic Community which is working with determination towards the solution of its immediate problems and a stronger European unity in the long term?

The Prime Minister

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he said about my return. The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to read anything that he wishes into the communiqué and the accounts of the summit, but he will recognise that it was certainly a more successful summit than the one which he attended in Paris which laid down a large number of absolutely unattainable objectives which have bedevilled the Community ever since. As for Copenhagen, they never tried to reach agreement on anything, as far as I can see, except the regional fund, on which he failed to get any agreement at all.

I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said about political co-operation. That matter has been much pressed by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. Compared with the original formulation of the Community, my right hon. Friend sees much greater activity by Foreign Ministers acting as Foreign Ministers discussing worldwide questions, which perhaps have been somewhat neglected in the past. I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's welcome for what was decided on these particular questions.

No change in the practice regarding the Luxembourg compromise was agreed. We have agreed on the desire to avoid an over-use of the veto on matters which may not be of overall national importance. But there was no disagreement when I asked the question, "Does this mean that if there is a vital national interest it cannot be used?" They all said, "No, of course not." They agreed that we would all want to use the veto from time to time, but that it should not be over-used. We fully accept that.

European union—I think that the right hon. Gentleman referred to this matter in the context of the Paris summit of two years ago—is a very desirable objective, but there was no agreement on what it meant at the Paris summit two years ago. At the meeting of Foreign Ministers at Schloss Gymnich at Easter, my right hon. Friend asked each of the other eight what they meant by it. There was no agreement about the meaning of that phrase. It means what individual countries or individuals want it to mean. Therefore, we were quite happy to go along with the reference to European union. I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman has ever clearly defined what he means by European union.

I regard as more important the reference to economic and monetary union which the right hon. Gentleman glibly accepted in Paris two years ago. That, again, has never been properly defined. There was an attempt to operate the snake for a few weeks, which collapsed following the floating of sterling by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I did not find anyone in Paris—my right hon. Friend will confirm this—who believed that there was the remotest possibility of economic and monetary union by 1980, which the right hon. Gentleman is now commending to the House. No progress whatsoever has been made towards it. If the right hon. Gentleman knows what it means and has views about it, the House will be passionately anxious to hear what he has in mind-perhaps in the debate that we are to have on Thursday. The view expressed by some of our leading colleagues was that it could not become a reality in the near future.

Indeed, when the right hon. Gentleman just now, I thought rightly, praised the action taken by particular countries of following different economic policies—for example, German reflation when others are faced with deflation—that was a total denial of the concept of immediate or early economic and monetary union. A simple union, as was strongly pointed out by our colleagues, would mean one central bank, one central currency and one central Finance Minister. It would also mean that every country would have to pursue exactly the same policy with that single currency when the need at present is for Germany to reflate and for others to draw in their horns considerably. Therefore that is an illusion.

We agreed to the communiqué about economic and monetary union. In the same way, I am happy to tell the right hon. Gentleman that just as he agreed, when he was Head of Government, we in Government have agreed to the long-term ideal of general and complete disarmament. I am all for it. But I do not expect it by 1980. That was the phrase that I used last week in respect of economic and monetary union. We accept it as a long-term objective, but it was not accepted by anyone as an objective by 1980, any more than total disarmament was, and that was the phrase that I used.

Regarding the regional fund—[HON. MEMBERS : "Too long."] I have been asked seven questions, and I propose to give seven answers. Regarding the regional fund, the right hon. Gentleman said that it was only half what he was asking for. In fact, in Copenhagen he did not get anything, so he should welcome the fact that we have got half. The right hon. Gentleman got a form of words. We have got cash, which is rather different.

What is much more important, as I hope the right hon. Gentleman will agree, is that I emphasised the need for reasonable freedom, especially in the present world situation, to follow national policies of regional help without it being questioned by fussy interference from the Commission or anybody else. I wish that he had made that plea for this country. I wish that he had laid claim to that when he negotiated the terms of entry in 1971.

Finally—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."]. I am sorry that hon. Members are so frivolous about these important European questions. We were creating a precedent by sticking up for national British interests there.

With regard to the budget question, the right hon. Gentleman was right in what he said. But what he did was to turn the form of words agreed to in 1972 into procedures and into an instruction to the institutions of the Community —namely, the Council and the Commission—to create a self-corrective mechanism on the basis for which we asked.

The right hon. Gentleman was right, I think, in another remark that he made here. The position is that in the years immediately ahead it is clear—as it was in his day; and that was why he asked for this saving clause—that the cost of entry into the Common Market will inevitably be a net disbalance for Britain. I think that was recognised by the right hon. Gentleman's Government. That was why he asked for this waiver. But when we come into the 1980s and when there is North Sea oil and the rest of it, if the terms of renegotiation are such that we are still in the Common Market, we would feel it right that we should make a bigger contribution then, following a smaller contribution in the late 1970s.

Mr. Jay

As what my right hon. Friend has said today about the Luxembourg Agreement is not what is contained in the communiqué and as it is rather important to be clear on this issue, will he now say clearly whether or not we have renounced the Luxembourg Agreement?

The Prime Minister

The position is that we said we would renounce the practice, which consists of making agreements on all questions—all questions, major and minor—with the unanimous consent of the member States, whatever their respective positions may be regarding the conclusion reached in Luxembourg on 28th January 1966. All members of the meeting said that where vital national questions are involved we have the right to indicate disagreement, and then agreements will not follow. That is the position we have taken up to now. It is the position we are taking following the meeting last week.

Mr. Russell Johnston

Is the Prime Minister aware that many people will regard with a certain degree of incredulity his reference to the endorsement of his manifesto by the people when fewer than one-third of the people actually voted for his party in a constructive way?

Secondly, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is a matter of great regret, on all sides of the House, that Britain should specifically—the Prime Minister referred to the fact that it was specifically —be the means of delaying the democratisation of the Community? How does the right hon. Gentleman square the speeding up of political decision, to which he referred, with a refusal to improve the democratisation of the Community and a rejection of any movement towards supra-nationalism in regard to the Luxembourg Agreement?

Finally, the Prime Minister referred in approbatory terms to the Federal Chancellor. Will he take this opportunity completely to reject the remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Ryman), who referred to the Federal Chancellor as a "patronising Hun"?

The Prime Minister

With regard to the third question, I deplore that remark. I very much regret anything of that kind being said about a distinguished visitor to this country. I do not like phrases which even hint at racialism.

With regard to the question about what the hon. Gentleman calls "the democratisation of the Community", and his reference to the communiqé delaying any democratisation of the Community, if by that the hon. Gentleman means direct elections, these are matters which I think can all be considered if and when satisfactory terms arise from our renegotiation and the British people accept them.

Mr. Bottomley

Will my right hon. Friend say whether the negotiations which he is at present conducting are within the terms laid down in the Labour Party manifesto as issued at the last General Election?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, entirely, they are, indeed, entirely consistent with what we asked for in 1966 and 1967. With regard to my right hon. Friend's question, I dealt with these matters in some detail in a speech in London just before the meeting in Paris and, as I have said, a copy of that has been placed in the Library. There are seven points on which we are insisting. We have made good progress on the budgetary point. One or two points may not now appear to be quite so difficult—for example, value added tax, on which harmonisation seems to be almost a dirty word in the Community. I have referred to EMU in this connection as totally unrealistic. But, as far as I am concerned, if we get the terms set out in the manifesto, approved by the British people in two elections, I believe that we shall have got what we set out to get. If we do not—as I said in the same speech—we shall have to make our own arrangements.

Mr. Walters

As the Prime Minister appears to be well satisfied with the progress at the summit, would he not consider it helpful at this stage if he made a clear statement of how he and his Cabinet would stand if he completes the renegotiation successfully?

The Prime Minister

I have just referred to that. We have made some progress on the budgetary question, which I very much welcome. I have referred to the fact that one or two of the other points to which we have attached great importance look to some extent like solving themselves because of pressure within the Community itself. I have just referred to some of them. But on other matters —for example, access to food, the question of the unfairness of the Commission in industrial matters, such as steel, as we have had over the last week, and the question of national aids for regional development—there are still a number of problems to be solved. We must see how we go on them. We have made progress last week. There is still a long way to go.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he is giving the impression of blowing up minor concessions into major triumphs and that ordinary people will not be fooled by this, even though he might temporarily have the support of The Times, the BBC and almost every other organ of the media, which have broadcast all manner of distortion and censorship on this issue to try to prevent the true facts being presented to the British people?

The Prime Minister

If my hon. Friend has been fooled by the Tory Press acclamation of what happened last week, there was no ministerial responsibility for my hon. Friend being fooled in that way. But were he listening to what I said a few minutes ago, he would have noted that I said that there were seven major points for renegotiation in our manifesto, which has been the policy of our party for a considerable time, and that I asserted that there was limited progress on one of the seven. I hope that my hon. Friend will deduce from that that there is a long way to go on the others.

Mr. Powell

On the subject of a Community budget, has it been made clear to the other member States of the Community that both the taxes which provide the Community's own resources and the purposes on which they are mostly to be spent have been declared to be unacceptable to the British Government and that, therefore, in those respects there will have to be fundamental alterations before the negotiations can, in that respect, be regarded as successful?

The Prime Minister

It was the fundamental changes we were seeking in the discussions on the budget. What I have said to our colleagues in the Community —as indeed, has my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on many more occasions—is that the particular way in which the own resources system has been worked out—and was so tamely accepted by right hon. Gentlemen opposite three years ago—ignores the fact that Britain is a very considerable food-importing nation, probably the biggest food-importing nation in the world. Therefore, a budget based right across the board on levies and duties on food imported by a country which has to import a lot of its food, compared with many European countries which are self-sufficient and even food exporters, necessarily involves great unfairness. At each point we were pressing, and in particular for fundamental changes in the budget.

Mr. Mackintosh

I understand my right hon. Friend's policy about the whole pattern of renegotiation, but does he agree that the most difficult single problem has been solved and that the sooner renegotiation is over the better, because then the Community can turn together to face major problems of recession, energy shortage, and reflation, which we can solve only in common and of which the benefits to people in this country will be greater than any other?

The Prime Minister

Both in my speech to the London mayors and to the conference I said that in the interests of all of us—of Britain and also of the other members of the Community—it is vitally important that we make the maximum progress to get these matters settled so that we can put the issue to the British people and everyone here and in other parts of Europe can know where he is. That I believe to be urgent, and both my right hon. Friend and I impressed that upon our colleagues. That was why we had some anxiety on the budget point. We should have liked to see even more rapid progress.

My hon. Friend has listed various problems, including the dangers of recession, which were greatly stressed by the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.

There are also questions of energy problems, the question of inflation, the question of a healthy balance of payments, recycling, and the rest. We were not inhibited in any way from discussing these questions fully, both in the larger meetings which included the Heads of Government and the Foreign Ministers, and also in the more limited meetings of the Heads of Government, where we pursued these matters very frankly. This was with a particular view to the fact that the President of France, who was our chairman, is to meet the President of the United States very soon, and we wanted to give him freedom to discuss matters freely, and also because others of us will be having meetings with the President of the United States and in the Soviet Union as well as with other Heads of Government shortly.

Sir Bernard Braine

The communiquà does not appear to make any reference to one of the gravest problems facing the Community in its relations with the outside world, namely, the continuing world food crisis and the absolute fact that 30 million to 40 million people will die of starvation somewhere in the world in the next 12 months. Was the subject discussed?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I pay tribute to the hon. Member, who has been active with other hon. Members throughout the period he has been in the House—indeed I have often joined forces with the hon. Gentleman on this—in drawing attention to the vital importance of this subject. The problem was discussed. The Council of Ministers has been giving attention to this matter following the World Food Conference. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear that one of the seven items I referred to on which considerable progress was made —it is referred to in the document I have placed in the Library—was the not unsuccessful negotiations in Jamaica of the Ministers in relation to making benefits available to certain developing countries—a wide range of Caribbean, African and Pacific countries.

Here I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development, who played a significant part in those negotiations. I know that the hon. Member will welcome the progress which has been made. I should like to see even more progress made—for example, in relation to the Indian sub-continent. It is certainly the case that it is no longer true, as a result of progress made in recent months, that it is only the old French and Belgian colonies that are being favourably considered.

Mr. Atkinson

Has my right hon. Friend any misgivings about our seemingly total acceptance of the Treaty of Accession? Has he any regrets about having said that he personally will advise the British people to accept the conclusion of the renegotiation outcome in advance of any decision taken by the Labour Party conference?

The Prime Minister

When I attacked in the House the Treaty of Accession from my position on the Opposition benches I was referring to the terms negotiated in 1971. I thought that they were deplorable. It is quite clear that the Leader of the Opposition was a soft touch and was so regarded by our colleagues in Europe. We are trying to renegotiate those terms. It is quite clear that they can be so renegotiated within the terms of the treaty. That was said in early April by my right hon. Friend.

That does not mean that we must lie down under the appalling surrender on sugar. The Leader of the Opposition can turn and laugh at my reference to sugar. He knows that the problems in relation to sugar that the British housewife is facing are due entirely to the sell out on the sugar terms negotiated by his Government. This point is being made this week by the Commonwealth sugar producers. They were given no guarantees. We made that point very strongly outside the House when the terms were negotiated.

The terms of the Treaty of Accession are to be varied, not by treaty changes, if we are successful here, but by changing the terms on which the right hon. Gentleman negotiated our entry into the Market three years ago. We are making some progress—not fast enough, but considering what the right hon. Gentleman achieved we are not doing badly up to now.

On the second part of my hon. Friend's question, what I said was entirely in accordance with the Labour Party manifesto. I fought two elections on the manifesto. I had a lot to do with the production of the manifesto over a period of time. I stand by the manifesto.

Mr. Heath

Hear, hear.

The Prime Minister

I am glad to hear the Leader of the Opposition say "Hear, hear". I hope that he means that he stands by the manifesto. He has spent the last three years opposing everything that we said in the manifesto. That is why he is on the Opposition Front Bench, not on the Treasury Front Bench.

I stand by the manifesto. I stand by the requirements we have set out. We are now seeking to attain those requirements, and if we achieve them, it stands to reason that I can commend them to the people. If we do not, we must, as I said in the statement, make other arrangements, because I could not commend them to the people. Every Labour Member of Parliament was elected on the manifesto. All our constituents will expect us to honour the manifesto. If the Leader of the Opposition had a manifesto half like it, he might not be in the trouble he is in now.

Mr. Thorpe

Is the Prime Minister aware that we all welcome his return to health, both physical and European, and that we recognise all his reservations, cautions, conditions, apprehensions, and strictures upon the inadequacy of the Opposition in their negotiations, but that many of us think that things are going very well and that we congratulate him and that we hope things will continue to go well.

The Prime Minister

I thank the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) for his very kind words concerning my temporary indisposition. As he said, I have returned from European sickness. I am not sure of the cause of the disability. I was better once I returned to some good, plain English food —we all have our tastes, do we not?— and beer.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to my remarks about the Opposition. Although I did not take much time to deal with the Liberal Party, what I had to say in my strictures on the official Opposition must apply equally, if not a fortiori, to what the Liberal Party has been saying.

Mr. Marten

The Prime Minister said in answer to my right hon. Friend's supplementary question that there was no agreement on what political union means. He then said that it is a desirable objective. How can there be a desirable objective when there is no agreement on political union?

Second, will the right hon. Gentleman expedite a study of what is meant by political union before we have a referendum? That is one matter about which the people will want to know. The people will want to know what is entailed by political union. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot do that, will he, before the referendum, move the repeal of Section 2 of the European Communities Act?

The Prime Minister

Many of us were concerned—even had we thought that the terms were right—about the way in which the Act was drafted in terms of its effects on the rights of Parliament. Political unity has been demanded by many people but I have never yet heard a clear definition or an agreed definition of what it means.

I doubt whether the right hon. Leader of the Opposition could tell us what he means by political unity, but he has said it is something that he desires to see. It is obviously very desirable in principle, but no one has begun to say what they mean by the term. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition will tell us this week what he means by political unity. I doubt whether he knows. For example, the unity of the Conservative Party is desirable, but I have no idea if everyone would define its unity in the same way or define how its unity will be achieved. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about the Labour Party?"] We are doing quite nicely thank you in that respect.

As it was clear that the nine countries had no idea what European union meant in definitive terms, we all agreed with enthusiasm that M. Tindemans, who carries high respect within the Community from all countries, whatever their points of view, should spend next year considering all aspects of the institutions, including political unity. At the end of that time—that is if we are still in the Community and depending on the terms and so on—we shall be prepared to consider what he recommends. Her Majesty's Government will have absolute freedom in saying what type of European union we are prepared to recommend to the House. So far there are no proposals on the tapis at all.

Mr. Dalyell

In the discussions on European energy policy, was much said about North Sea oil?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I have already said that I referred to it in the context of the budget. There was relatively little discussion about specific European energy policy because all of us recognised that the big energy challenge, including recycling, is of worldwide dimensions. It was that which we spent most of our time discussing. We did not try to work out a specific European energy policy, but, as I have told the House and as the communiqué says, the energy Ministers of the nine countries will be meeting in Brussels tomorrow.

Mr. Heath

Almost without exception among my right hon. and hon. Friends and from many parts of the Labour benches there has been a welcome for the communiqué to which the Prime Minister has put his name and for the statement which he has made today. I ask the right hon. Gentleman not to allow himself to undermine his own position as he has been doing in the answers which he has given to many supplementary questions.

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will take the opportunity of rereading the communiqué and his statement and seeing exactly what it is to which he has agreed. It is very important. We welcome the fact that he has signed.

I point out to him that the reply that he gave on own resources reaffirms that the system of own resources represents one of the fundamental elements of the economic integration of the Community and that the rearrangement which is being made will be within the framework of that system. That is perfectly right. We arranged for that in the accession negotiations. I heard for the first time that the Prime Minister thinks that in the 1980s we might be paying a greater proportion than that set out in the Treaty of Accession. That shows that we negotiated an arrangement that has sufficient flexibility to handle both the current economic problems and the better position we hope to have in the 1980s.

On the question of EMU, does the Prime Minister mean that he has reaffirmed that the will of the Community has not weakened and that its objective has not changed since the Paris con ference? There is not very much room for criticism of us on that point because the right hon. Gentleman has reaffirmed everything we set down.

On the regional development fund I welcome the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has obtained £60 million. That will do a great deal to redress the balance of the budget. The right hon. Gentle man said that we did not provide safeguards but he then said that national aids will be within the rules of fair competition and will not amount to competitive bidding. Both those decisions are absolutely right and we made both when we were in Government. Will he recognise that that is what he has agreed and will he abandon this sham of renegotiation? He has said that he accepts the Treaty of Accession. Let him say honestly to the country that what he is doing is using the normal machinery of the Community to make the necessary adjustments as we go along.

The Prime Minister

We are using such machinery as is available to us to repair the damage done by the right hon. Gentleman in his negotiations. I have already mentioned sugar. But for the sell out on sugar, on which we warned the House and the then Government, we would not be facing a desperate and costly sugar situation today.

On the main point of the right hon. Gentleman's intervention—I was not sure whether it was a question—nothing I have said in the House today in relation to the communiqué is other than what I said, as my right hon. Friend will confirm, in the negotiations with our colleagues last Monday and Tuesday. On every point on which I have reserved our position today I reserved it specifically and in terms last week.

I have answered the point about European monetary union. The right hon. Gentleman signed on EMU a blank cheque. He did not have the faintest idea what it meant. He must have realised that it was unattainable or, if attainable, utterly damaging to this country. We made EMU a long-term objective. There is not a hope in hell—I mean in the Common Market—as the other Heads of Government have made clear, of EMU taking place in the near future. Everything that is in the communiqué which bears on the points which we are renegotiating was specifically reserved by my reading out the seven items on which we require satisfaction on renegotiation. The right hon. Gentleman is wrong. Nevertheless, I do not mind if he chooses to take satisfaction from this point. We are working hard to undo the damage which he has implanted on the country.