HC Deb 06 August 1975 vol 897 cc498-9
32. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on his latest talks with EEC Foreign Ministers concerning progress towards European political union.

Mr. Hattersley

There has been no recent discussion of this subject in the Council of Ministers. I do not expect it to be raised until Mr. Tindemans has produced his report.

Mr. Hamilton

Will my hon. Friend reaffirm that it is the Government's official view that they agree in principle that political union is desirable, however long term that aim might be? In the meantime, does he accept the need for direct elections to the European Parliament, which would have to be preceded by increased political powers for the Assembly, and will he say what specific action the Government are taking to see that that happens?

Mr. Hattersley

Concerning political union, the Government have always been more anxious to obtain a working definition of what that means than to make a judgment about that concept before the working definition is agreed.

On the subject of direct elections, the Government, through the Treaty of Rome, to which we are a party, are committed to eventual direct elections. On the other hand, a great deal of careful work needs to be done before we can recommend to the House the form in which those direct elections should be held. The Government will report regularly to the House on the way in which those consultations and examinations are going, but I do not think we can comment on speed or time until that work is done.

Mr. Marten

On the question of the powers of the Heads of State meeting, mentioned in an earlier Question, is not the distinction that the Heads of State have no power at all to legislate, whereas the Council of Ministers has such power?

Mr. Hattersley

I do not think one should become confused by legal niceties. One should have regard to the realities of the situation. If my hon. Friend examines the history of the Regional Development Fund he will find that the Heads of Government decided that there should be a fund and that the fund should be of a specific size. If he also follows the arguments whether they were legally entitled to do that, he will, I think, conclude that, irrespective of their legal entitlement, what they decided came to pass. I think this is likely to be the reality of the position in Europe for a very long time.

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