HC Deb 16 July 1975 vol 895 cc1493-5
27. Mr. Canavan

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

31. Mr. Skinner

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

Mr. Hattersley

My right hon. Friend attended a meeting of the Council this morning and is accompanying my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at the Heads of Government meeting this afternoon. He expects to attend the next Council meeting on 22nd July. This latter meeting has been arranged since I made my statement on EEC business for July.

Mr. Canavan

Will my right hon. Friend take the earliest opportunity of discussing with the Council of Ministers ways and means of democratising the structure of the Common Market, in particular by limiting the power of non-elected persons such as the Commissioners and giving more decision-making power to the elected representatives of the people?

Mr. Hattersley

There are a variety of opinions about direct elections. I shall be pressed on this matter later this afternoon when a rather contrary view to the one advanced by my hon. Friend will be put. This has to await consideration, deliberation and discussion. I ask my hon. Friend not to over-estimate the powers of the Commission during that period. The Commissioners are essentially the Community's civil servants and in that capacity are essentially servants of the elected ministers.

Mr. Tugendhat

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that he and his right hon. Friend will do their best to safeguard the interests of the English language when they go to the Council? I noticed that when I visited the Commission's Headquarters last month English was not used on any of the notices or signs, and there was no indication that we were Members of the Community. This reflects badly on the importance that the Government attach to matters of this kind. I am happy to say that Mr. Ortoli told me that he will put this right. What steps will the Government take to ensure that English gains parity with French?

Mr. Hattersley

I have read of the hon. Gentleman's specific achievement in this area and I congratulate him on it. I understand the point that he makes, which is of importance to those who are not as conversant in French as French Ministers are in English. We understand the problems of being a late arrival in the Community. I realise that matters of dignity are concerned in relation to the acceptability of the English language—and the Welsh language—and we shall do our best to meet its need.

Mr. Crawford

In his next visit to the Council of Ministers will the Minister ensure, in view of the imminent establishment of the Scottish Assembly, that a Scottish Minister is permanently appointed to the Council of Ministers and that no decision affecting Scotland by the Council of Ministers will be taken without the express consent of that Scottish Minister?

Mr. Hattersley

The hon. Gentleman misunderstands the composition of the Council of Ministers as badly as he misunderstood the views of Scotland on membership of the EEC. There are no permanent appointees to the Council of Ministers. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs represents the United Kingdom.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Precisely for that reason, will my right hon. Friend make clear to the House whether or not his right hon. Friend will today withdraw any objections he has about a rapid movement towards direct elections to the EEC Parliament, towards closer monetary union and towards a common defence policy between the EEC countries? Is it not time that Her Majesty's Government informed the House of their attitude to these matters?

Mr. Hattersley

The House was informed of the Government's attitude in a White Paper published only five weeks ago. The Government's attitude has not changed during the past thirty days.