HC Deb 06 August 1975 vol 897 cc492-7
29. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when next he expects to attend the EEC Council of Ministers.

Mr. James Callaghan

On 15th and 16th September.

Mr. Canavan

What immediate steps will my right hon. Friend take to persuade other Common Market members to extend the terms of the Lomé Convention to include other non-associate countries, particularly members of the Commonwealth?

Mr. Callaghan

This is an important matter, which is the subject of discussions. The first step which we shall be able to take will be at the Special Assembly of the United Nations, which is to be held on 2nd September. The Community has reached an agreed position on those and other matters. I do not think there will be a settlement there, but we shall certainly follow up the matter over a period of months. We shall not be the principal paymasters. The largest sum in aid of this scheme will probably come from the Federal Republic of Germany. Therefore, the Germans will naturally have an important say in these issues.

Mr. Dykes

At the next meeting in September, will the right hon. Gentleman be able to say that he feels that it will be some time before Greece becomes a full member of the EEC, and does he agree that there is a substantial difference between the Government's position in welcoming Greece's application and implementing it, since this involves difficult negotiations about a country with a basically weak economy?

Mr. Callaghan

It is too early for me to reach conclusions on that matter. The Commission was asked by us at its last meeting to prepare a report on the issues involved. I understand that the Commission will be some months in preparing that document. When that work has been completed, we shall be able to consider the basic problem of how soon Greece will be able to join.

Mr. David Steel

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider with the other members of the Council of Ministers the question of having Scottish representation in Brussels? On commonsense grounds, does he not agree that the Scottish Office should now open a liaison office in Brussels, so that we may take direct advantage of the various European funds available there?

Mr. Callaghan

I understand that my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council made clear in the debate on the summer Adjournment motion that the White Paper on devolution will deal fully with the question of representation in the EEC, following the establishment of the Scottish Assembly and similar matters. I wish to put on record that the rôle of United Kingdom Ministers is to represent the United Kingdom. There- fore, I regard it as my rôle to represent Scotland, Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Henderson

Does the Foreign Secretary accept that he might represent the United Kingdom more effectively if he were properly advised by the Scottish Office about the Scottish case?

Mr. Callaghan

It is not for me to disclose the secrets of the Cabinet, which are kept tightly—[Interruption.]—but I should not like the hon. Gentleman to be under any misapprehension that the Secretary of State for Scotland never speaks to me about this question, or that there is not a telephone, or that he is unable to write to me about the matter, or, indeed, that we do not have committees considering these problems. It is an absurd idea that I go to Brussels without having full knowledge of what the Secretary of State for Wales or the Secretary of State for Scotland has to say. Even if we do not cover them in correspondence, we certainly have discussions on these matters.

Mr. Dalyell

Changing the subject to a more fruitful topic, will the Foreign Secretary discuss with his colleague the disadvantages that accrue to democracy of having a peripatetic European Parliament? Does he know that it costs £1 million a year to shift all the paper from Strasbourg to Luxembourg to Brussels and back to Luxembourg, apart from the valuable time of busy officials? Will he raise this matter in relation to the need for a permanent seat for the European Parliament near the centre of power?

Mr. Callaghan

There have been some preliminary skirmishes or talks in what are called the couloirs, but I do not think there is any agreement, yet as to the prospect of a permanent home for the European Assembly.

31. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent consultations he has had with EEC Ministers; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. James Callaghan

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I attended the Community Heads of Government meeting on 16th and 17th July and visited Hamburg for a meeting with the German Chancellor on 24th July. We also had discussions with a number of Heads of Government and Foreign Ministers of EEC countries at the Conference on European Security and Co-operation in Helsinki last week.

Mr. Skinner

Does my right hon. Friend accept that those of us—perhaps a small and dwindling band—who feel that the Common Market, or certainly the Treaty of Rome, contains the seeds of its own destruction, believe also that a gallop towards political union would be doubly disastrous for this country? As one who expressed concern before the referendum, during it, and perhaps even after it, will my right hon. Friend say once again that he, too, is concerned about any drift or gallop towards federalism, and that he will put it in the appropriate locker, draped appropriately, perhaps, with the Union Jack, at any time that he finds it necessary when he meets his colleagues in Europe?

Mr. Callaghan

There has not been a recent discussion on this issue. On the whole, the old nag tends to hobble along rather than gallop. That is my experience, in whatever field it moves. We shall now have to wait and see the report that Mr. Tindemans will prepare and bring in at the end of the year or thereabouts. Then I think there will be a series of discussions. It is bound to be a long drawn out matter, in which the House of Commons and many other bodies will want to express their opinion. Even after that I think that the gap between discussion and action would be very substantial.

Mr. Rifkind

Does the Secretary of State agree that those who, like the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), have often argued that the European Commission is essentially an undemocratic organisation, should realise that the best way to deal with this is to make the European Parliament more effective by means of direct elections, and so on?

Mr. Callaghan

The powers of the European Assembly are frequently considered by the Council of Ministers, but I do not think that at present there is any need to extend them.

Mr. Spearing

As the Foreign Secretary has mentioned the Tindemans Report, will he confirm that this is to the Heads of Government and not to the formal Council? Will he also help the House in distinguishing the political functions as between the Heads of Government meeting and the Council? Surely only the latter comes within the ambit of the Treaty of Rome, and the Heads of Government meetings are extra to the Treaty and therefore not within the constitution of the EEC.

Mr. Callaghan

This is tempting ground. The Heads of Government, when they meet now, call themselves the European Council. The Foreign Ministers, when they meet, call themselves the Council of Foreign Ministers, and the organ referred to in the treaty is the Council of Ministers, but I do not think that the semantic differences between the two are likely to affect the attitude of the Council of Foreign Ministers if their Heads of Government take a certain view, because some Foreign Ministers might find that they would not be occupying their posts very long if they did.

Mr. John Davies

In view of the Foreign Secretary's flexible approach to these matters, will he assure the House that the Tindemans Report, and any other such reports which come before the Council of Ministers, will be made available to be seen by this House and debated in one form or another?

Mr. Callaghan

It is absolutely imperative that that should be so. The Council of Foreign Ministers will need to discuss this, but of course it will need to have the fullest debate in all areas of public opinion, including Wales and Scotland, and in the trade unions and other organisations, like the CBI. I think that many people should have a voice in how we see the future of Europe developing before final decisions are taken.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Does my right hon. Friend accept that, although some Labour Members do not necessarily want to gallop towards union, we would not mind a delicate canter? With that in mind, when the consultations on the Tindemans Report have been completed, will he be prepared to consider the production of a Green Paper, so that we can have public discussion on this matter—discussion which has been lacking in any sort of detail since the referendum campaign?

Mr. Callaghan

It is a little early to say that, but if my hon. Friend will put a Question down later, I shall give consideration to it.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

In view of the enthusiastic approach that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have rightly expressed towards a common European foreign policy and other policies, will he say to what extent all members of the Community were consulted before it was decided to have an economic summit on unemployment and other matters this autumn, and what arrangements are to be made to ensure that the Community as a whole is represented there?

Mr. Callaghan

The Heads of Government who attended a lunch given by the Prime Minister had a fruitful discussion on a wide range of issues, including the general economic situation, which we were unable to complete owing to the timetable for the CSCE meetings. They will remain in contact in order to follow up some points touched on in discussion. No decision has been taken on whether this will lead to further talk at Heads of Government level.

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