HC Deb 27 June 1974 vol 875 cc1723-5
Q4. Mr. Dykes

asked the Prime Minister whether he intends to have a further meeting with the President of the European Parliament following the discussions of 10th June.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so, Sir.

Mr. Dykes

Would not Mr. Berkhouwer be as fascinated as the rest of us to know whether the national coalition proposed by the Liberals would enable the right hon. Gentleman to send a delegation to Europe? Secondly, and more important, would the right hon. Gentleman join a national coalition?

The Prime Minister

When the Question was put down, I do not think that the feverish discussions on the part of the two Opposition parties could have been known to Mr. Berkhouwer. He discussed with me the question of the European Assembly. I told him that Labour Party representation was a matter for the Parliamentary Labour Party, and that I did not think that there would be representation in the immediate future but that this was a matter that would be considered after the conclusion of the negotiations and the decision of the British people about Britain's standing in relation to the Common Market.

Mr. Kinnock

Does my right hon. Friend share my opinion and that of the overwhelming majority of our party comrades that the European Assembly is no more democratic now than it was when we originally took our decision about participation, and no more democratic than would be a coalition with the Liberals? Does my right hon. Friend agree that our aim of fundamental renegotiation would not be assisted by involving ourselves in superficial tittle-tattle at Strasbourg?

The Prime Minister

I do not see why so distinguished an international figure as Dr. Berkhouwer should be smeared by association with the squalid coalition talks between the two major Opposition parties. He is a very serious parliamentary figure, with great experience in these matters, and, indeed, with experience of coalitions. My hon. Friend's other remarks concern matters which are for consideration by the House and by individual parties when the outcome of the negotiations is known, and when the decision of the British people is made. I have not yet heard from the Leader of the Opposition whether he supports either the principle of renegotiation or the particular terms we have put forward. Perhaps one day he will tell the country.

Mr. David Steel

As the Prime Minister is now treating the European Assembly seriously, will he say whether the Government support the Assembly's attempts to get increased powers on budgetary matters? Leaving aside the question of Labour Party representation, will the right hon. Gentleman facilitate additions to the delegation in August when those who are no longer Members of the House have to retire from the delegation?

The Prime Minister

The retirement of certain hon. Members of the past Parliament and their replacement must be a matter for the parties which send them. It is not a matter for the Government. We would not stand in the way of any views expressed by the Conservative Party or by the Liberal Party. I am not sure whether the Liberal Party is affected.

The question of the powers of the Assembly is consequential on the much more fundamental negotiations which are going on about Britain in relation to the Common Market. As the hon. Gentleman has identified himself with a coalition, in that event he can only raise the average level of quality of the Opposition Front Bench. Before a coalition is ratified, no doubt with the weighty support of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith), I hope that the Liberal Party will get answers from the Leader of the Opposition on his attitude both to a referendum and to the questions I put to him this afternoon.