HC Deb 28 July 1976 vol 916 cc639-42
42. Mr. Arnold

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he can announce the terms of reference for the review of the staffing, structure and political role of the EEC Commission.

45. Mr. Forman

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement setting out the terms of reference for the proposed review of the role of the EEC Commission to be carried out by the next President of that institution.

46. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has any proposals for restructuring the organisation of the Common Market.

51. Mr. Moate

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the terms of reference for the proposed review of the role, staffing and structure of the EEC Commission.

Mr. Crosland

At the European Council meeting on 12th and 13th July, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister suggested that the new President of the Commission might be invited to undertake a review of the staffing, the structure and the organisation of the Commission. This suggestion, which arose out of the discussion, was welcomed and my right hon. Friend was asked to prepare terms of reference for consideration at the next meeting of the European Council.

Mr. Arnold

How much independence should be allowed to EEC Commissioners in the conduct of their portfolios, given the collegiate role prescribed for the Commission in the Treaty of Rome? Does the setting up of the review imply that the Government's thinking is moving away from this vast concept?

Mr. Crosland

No, Sir. I do not think that the setting up of the review—which must be some way away; we still do not have any terms of reference agreed—implies any altered view on the part of the Government. The question raised by the hon. Gentleman about the arguments between a collegiate system, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, a series of independent Commissioners with independent portfolios could easily be covered by the terms of reference and could form the subject of an extremely interesting discussion.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that some of us, including myself, think it somewhat obscene for members of the British Government to take jobs at an alleged £60,000 per year, tax-free, when they are alleged to be all in favour of a pay and prices policy—except when it affects them—and when we know that British taxpayers have to pay this, if only in part?

Mr. Crosland

The trouble is that we all find different things obscene. My own view is that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will make an outstandingly able President of the Commission.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Yes, at £60,000 a year he ought to. I hope that he does better than he has done as Home Secretary.

Mr. Crosland

I have no detailed knowledge of what financial arrangements he will make, but I am sure that they will be made within a proper framework of prudence and principle.

Mr. Forman

May we take it from the right hon. Gentleman's first reply to this group of Questions that his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and himself still have not worked out exactly what the terms of reference might be for such a review? If that is so, will he at least give some indication of whether this is really no more than a cosmetic exercise or whether it really is the fundamental review that some of us thought might be the case from the original remarks of his right hon. Friend?

Mr. Crosland

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has certainly not yet worked out the proposed terms of reference in detail. I think that he intends the review to be a major one—not so much of the political role of the Commission, which is something that falls to be discussed under the aegis of the Tindemans discussions at this stage, but as to staffing, structure and organisation. The initiative taken by the Prime Minister does not betoken any lack of confidence in Signor Ortoli or any of the present members of the Commission, but I think that at any time it is proper to conduct a reorganisation of this kind and that it is a worthwhile thing to do.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Is my right hon. Friend aware that more than 80,000 tons of home-produced food is now being withheld from the open market under EEC rules, including 30,000 tons of butter, that the British beef mountain reached 14,000 tons by the end of June, and that stored beef is accumulating faster than it is being sold? [An HON. MEMBER: "Reading."] I am not reading. Stored beef is accumulating faster than it is being sold. For how long are we to participate in this mad charade?

Mr. Crosland

I found that an extremely interesting question but not one strictly relevant to the Questions under discussion.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It was relevant to Question No. 46.

Mr. Marten

As the Dutch Foreign Minister, who is the President-in-Office of the Council of Ministers, said in his speech to the European Assembly on 7th July that the Common Market is stagnating, declining, sterile, ineffective and disintegrating, and that the structure is in an advanced state of erosion—those were his views, and I think that I share them —is it not quite absurd that we should now be proceeding to direct elections to a Community in that state before the whole thing is restructured, if it ever can be? Will not the direct elections really be no more than—I borrow an expression from my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Forman)—merely another daub of cosmetic upon an already withering bureaucracy on the Continent?

Mr. Crosland

The next Question but one is on the subject of direct elections.

Mr. Greville Janner

Under the present structure, who is able to protest about the aid to be given by the EEC to Uganda? Will my right hon. Friend give details of this?

Mr. Crosland

Aid to Uganda and relations between the EEC and Uganda consist of two aspects. One is the relations through the Lomé Convention, under which, as the House knows Uganda is only one of a large number of countries that benefit from the favourable trading arrangements. This is a multilateral and not a bilateral agreement with Uganda. The other aspect of the matter is that the European Development Council has recently sent a team to Uganda to consider the possibility in Uganda of development aid. This was an EEC initiative and not a British one. I have taken the view that at present I am not prepared to take the initiative in trying to call off this operation, although it is something that I shall certainly keep under review.

Mr. Tugendhat

Reverting to the original terms of the Question, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I agree with his answer about the need for reviews of this kind? Certainly there is evidence to suggest that overstaffing exists. However, if the right hon. Gentleman holds that opinion, does he not agree that as the Commission has a smaller staff than the Scottish Office, and smaller too, I believe, even than that of Harrods, this shows the necessity for a much greater review of staffing levels in the British Civil Service than in Europe?

Mr. Crosland

I was briefed on the subject of the Scottish Office, but my brief included no reference to Harrods. However, if this suggests overstaffing on the part of the British Civil Service, it also suggests overstaffing on the part of British private enterprise concerns.