HC Deb 28 July 1976 vol 916 cc646-9
47. Mr. Wigley

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many representatives there are likely to be from Wales in the latest model of a directly-elected European Assembly; and in what way the Govern- ment foresee co-ordination between Members of the European Assembly and the proposed Welsh National Assembly at Cardiff.

Mr. Hattersley

The distribution of seats within the United Kingdom remains a matter for national decision. Her Majesty's Government will put forward proposals to the House in due course. In considering whether any machinery for co-ordination is necessary between the Members of the European Assembly and the proposed Welsh and Scottish Assemblies, the Government will wish to take into account the views of the Select Committee on Direct Elections, which has stated its intention to cover this question in a later report.

Mr. Wigley

Is the Minister aware that if Wales gets five out of the 81 seats, as has been widely reported in the Press, it will mean that we shall get one-third of the representation of Ireland with its 15 seats according to this model? It will also mean that Luxembourg, with a population the size of only Gwent, will have six seats, compared to Wales' five. Does that not therefore indicate that Wales should be singled out as part of the United Kingdom representation?

Mr. Hattersley

Let us assume that the figure the hon. Gentleman offers is right. The answer to his hypothesis is that Wales will benefit in two ways: first, through the Members elected to the European Parliament directly from Wales, and, secondly, directly as a result of the Members elected on behalf of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Kinnock

Does my right hon. Friend accept that only the blinkered view of nationalism could cause this preoccupation with numbers and that, in view of the total absence of any constituency relationship as we have hitherto understood it of representatives to the European Assembly, the regional or national distribution of seats in this country is virtually irrelevant to the question of a directly-elected Assembly?

Mr. Hattersley

I do not accept that an Assembly of the size that is now proposed, with Britain receiving the number of seats proposed, means that there can be no constituency relationship between Members and the people who elect them.

When the Select Committee, on which my hon. Friend and I both sit, considered the recommendation that it wanted to make on size and numbers—a recommendation which has been incorporated into the European decision—it took the decision it did because it wanted constituencies sufficiently small to enable a Member to have a proper relationship with his electorate, and I am sure that that will happen.

Mr. Tim Renton

In their devolution model, do the Government envisage that it will be possible for an individual to sit as a Member of the Welsh Assembly, a Member of the House of Commons and a Member of the European Assembly? If so, will the pay policy apply to such individuals?

Mr. Hattersley

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman is asking whether it will be legally or physically possible. I should think that it would be physically impossible, and the hon. Gentleman had better examine the legal possibility when he sees the Bill which sets up the Assemblies and the Bill which will give force to the decision on direct elections.

Mr. Dalyell

I have in my hand a letter of October 1974 addressed to her colleagues by the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) in which she refers to a Scottish Royal Air Force and says that there will doubtless be an English and Welsh Royal Air Force too. That letter was quoted at some length in the Adjournment debate at 10 o'clock this morning. Has my right hon. Friend any thoughts on the possibility of a Welsh Royal Air Force air attaché in Luxembourg?

Mr. Hattersley

I have only two thoughts on the subject. The first is that hardly anything that the hon. Lady suggests could surprise me. My second thought is that if anything surprised me I am sure it would be reported by my hon. Friend.

Sir A. Meyer

Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the Secretary of State for Wales energetically supports in Brussels attempts to get regional aid for projects in Wales, particularly projects for which regional aid has been refused by the British Government, such as the entertainments centre in my constituency?

Mr. Hattersley

I cannot comment on the individual case to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but it is the British Government's belief that regional policies as well as regional aid should have a far more prominent position in the overall strategy of the Community, and we shall go on pressing for that.