HC Deb 27 March 1974 vol 871 cc444-6
19. Mr. Grylls

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is his policy in regard to the appointment of a Labour Party delegation to the European Assembly.

Mr. James Callaghan

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council on 18th March to a Question from the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith).—[Vol. 870, c. 664–5.]

Mr. Grylls

The Foreign Secretary has tried to hide behind the Leader of the House and, this afternoon, the Prime Minister. Will the right hon. Gentleman now, once and for all, come clean and tell the country why the Socialist Government have used the institutions of the Community, such as the Council of Ministers, but still refuse to send a Socialist delegation to Strasbourg to swell the Socialist benches? If he still will not send a Labour Party delegation, will he recognise that this country is well represented by the Liberal and Conservative delegations?

Mr. Callaghan

I think that the Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council are ample figures behind which to shelter. They have stated the case, and I do not have to repeat it.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Will my right hon. Friend refrain from wasting time considering whether the Government should send official representatives to the European Parliament? Will he concentrate, instead, on reviewing the allowances and travel arrangements of Members who attend at present?

Mr. Callaghan

May I say that, on all these matters which excite so many hon. Members, our first priority is renegotiation. That is what we are going ahead with. The other questions can no doubt, be considered in due course.

Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker

As the European Parliament is considering questions of renegotiation, does the Foreign Secretary appreciate the widespread dismay in the European Parliament at the continued emptiness of the 18 chairs, because of the great history of help to social democracy by Ernest Bevin, John Hynd and others in the years after the war?

Mr. Callaghan

Yes, Sir. We have played our full part in various forums of this sort. We can consider this matter again in due course, but it is not a matter of first priority, bearing in mind the limited powers of that Assembly.

Mr. Faulds

Would not my right hon. Friend be well advised to reconsider the question of sending a Labour delegation to the European Assembly? Does he not agree that such a delegation, particularly in view of our renegotiations, would much better represent the interests of Britain than do the tattered remnants of a discredited Opposition?

Mr. Callaghan

I find myself in agreement with parts of that supplementary question.

Mr. Skinner

Would not the right answer be not to listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick and some hon. Gentlemen opposite, but to fetch back those who are already there and thus relieve us of part of the cost to the Community budget which arises from having to pay inflated expenses while those concerned use charter flights at £46 a time and put the difference in their pockets?

Mr. Faulds

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As he so often is, my hon. Friend is out of touch with reality. I am the Member for Warley, East, not Smethwick.

Mr. Kelley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would my right hon. Friend care to take the opportunity to define what authority the Foreign Secretary has over decisions—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not a matter for the Chair.