HC Deb 28 April 1976 vol 910 cc371-3
22. Sir A. Meyer

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proposals he intends to put forward for effective democratic control of the EEC.

Mr. Hattersley

The Council of Ministers, where the important Community decisions are taken, consists of Ministers of the Governments of the member States, each of whom is accountable to a democratically elected Parliament. We see this as providing the main effective channel of democratic control at the present stage of the Community's development. The European Parliament can also play a useful rôle, as we recognised in our proposals to strengthen financial control in the Community.

Sir A. Meyer

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is as unhappy with that answer as I am. Now that he has a new Secretary of State, will he make it plain that he has the opportunity of improving on the lamentable and purely negative record of his predecessor? Instead of clucking about in Europe like a wet hen, he should start making proposals to the people who expected the British to have something to say about democratic control.

Mr. Hattersley

I am not unhappy with that answer, not least because I wrote it myself. I know the point that the hon. Gentleman is making. I must say that I fear it, not only as one who wants to be realistic about the EEC, but as one who supports the EEC and wants it to gain support throughout the entire Community, because people like the hon. Gentleman, who constantly want the Community to do more, without defining what "more" should be and the value of more, do the Community more harm than good.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Has my right hon. Friend read the various letters in The Times recently by prominent members of the European Movement who maintain that the European Parliament should have the power not only to influence the decisions of the Council of Ministers but to reject them if necessary? If that is not the complete abrogation of national sovereignty and is not federalism rearing its ugly head, I should like to know what is.

Mr. Hattersley

I have read those views, but I do not share them.

Mr. Dykes

Is the right hon. Gentleman worried that the momentum towards direct elections by 1978, or close to it, is now fading away? Does not that underline the importance of the July meeting of the European Council?

Mr. Hattersley

I am always worried by metaphysical concepts such as momentum towards integration and other things which I hear both in this House and in Brussels and which I find it difficult to describe or draw or give any quantitative value to. I am sure that most member nations, like Great Britain, are prepared to see direct elections when they are practically possible. I think that some other countries now realise something that we discovered a year ago—namely, that there are some technical and constitutional difficulties involved in preparing for direct elections and in ensuring that Governments who have committed themselves in Brussels and elsewhere have the support of their domestic legislatures. We have always accepted that position and we accept it today.

Mr. Hurd

Following that answer, when will the Government put before the House practical proposals for a Select Committee, which the former Foreign Secretary announced in our debate on this subject well before Easter?

Mr. Hattersley

I do not think that I should transgress any further. The next Question is directly concerned with direct elections, so perhaps I should leave that answer to the subsequent Question.