HC Deb 18 February 1976 vol 905 cc1285-8
37. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he expects the official printed version of the Tindemans Report to be available; and by what means and at what price it will be on sale to the general public.

Mr. Ennals

Copies are expected to be available free of charge from the Belgian Embassy later this week and from the Community offices towards the end of the month. Copies will also be available from Her Majesty's Stationery Office towards the end of the month at a charge of 60p.

Mr. Spearing

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as this report dealt with further steps towards European union and as the Government did not put the objective of European union in their letter-box leaflet during the referendum, it is important that the British public should have the report universally available? Why is a report to the Council of Ministers of the EEC being issued by the Belgian Embassy?

Mr. Ennals

It was presented by Mr. Tindemans himself. Therefore, it was reasonable that his own country should publish the report. Copies were rapidly made available in this country to Parliament and the Press——

Mr. Spearing

No. Three days later.

Mr. Ennals

—and copies will shortly be made available to the public as a whole.

Mr. Stokes

Will the right hon. Gentleman make clear to Mr. Tindemans and apparently to some of my colleagues that—speaking for England—most English people want a Europe of nation States, not a federal system?

Mr. Ennals

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government will not only speak for England but will take into consideration the interests of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Conservative Party is not able to do that, but we are. Dr. Tindemans revealed that he was a federalist. However, his report contained no proposals for a constitutional change of that kind. I am not expecting to see a federal system in this country in my political life.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the people of Britain have a right to know that in this report there is a suggestion of a two-tier economic system with a commitment to defence and the manufacture of arms, which are matters of tremendous importance to them? Further, it is not true that the report was easily available either to Members of Parliament or to the general public.

Mr. Ennals

It was rapidly made available. I believe that it was available within a couple of days. If hon. Members did not get it, that is unfortunate. The issues contained in the report should be widely debated. They will be debated in this House. The public should know what the issues are.

Mr. Hurd

Do the Minister's last words constitute a pledge that we shall have a proper debate in this House on the Tindemans Report before the Prime Minister goes to Luxembourg to discuss it?

Mr. Ennals

A debate is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I cannot give a pledge that there will be an early debate, but I have no doubt that there will be a debate in this House at the right time.

Mr. Ogden

Will my right hon. Friend help the House by saying that, if a Member, on his own or his constituents' behalf, asks the Foreign Office to supply him with a copy of the Tindemans Report, my right hon. Friend will at least consider such a request?

Mr. Ennals

Yes, of course.

Mr. Marten

The right hon. Gentleman referred to federalism. Has he read the covering letter of the Tindemans Report in which Mr. Tindemans says that in his opinion the Common Market will fulfil its destiny only if it espouses federalism? As for party consultations, does the right hon. Gentleman realise that there is not unanimity within the Conservative Party and that a growing number of people are opposed to direct elections? Therefore, will he meet those of us in the Conservative Party who are opposed to direct elections?

Mr. Ennals

My right hon. Friend has heard what the hon. Gentleman has said about direct elections.

The Tindemans Report was a personal report by Mr. Tindemans. In it he indicates his personal preferences. I have indicated that those preferences are not shared by my right hon. Friend or myself.

Mr. Molloy

Should not my right hon. Friend take serious cognisance of what has been said this afternoon about direct elections and the Tindemans Report? Should he not make it clear to his colleagues in the EEC that there is great perturbation in the House about all these proposals? Will he not also agree that those proposals should be the subject of a full-scale debate?

Mr. Ennals

I can only say that my right hon. Friend has witnessed the scenes in the House this afternoon.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Will the Minister accept that my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) speaks only for himself? Will he not also accept that one of the important issues in the Tindemans Report is that of further and closer political co-operation? Will he agree that the suggestion to set up a secretariat to improve political co-operation among the nine member States is essential and will lead to further and deeper talks on matters of defence?

Mr. Ennals

At this stage I shall not comment on the individual proposals contained in that valuable report.