HC Deb 27 May 1976 vol 912 cc625-7
Q1. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister when he will next meet the Prime Minister of Italy.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I hope to meet the Italian Prime Minister at the next European Council in Brussels on 12th and 13th July.

Mr. Marten

Will the Prime Minister on that occasion raise with the Italian Prime Minister, and perhaps with other Common Market colleagues, the propriety of a Commissioner in the Community standing as a parliamentary candidate in the Italian elections? Now that we have evidence that a senior Commissioner, Signor Spinelli, is standing on the Communist ticket, perhaps the Prime Minister will initiate what his predecessor used to call a full, frank and searching inquiry to see whether there is any further Communist penetration of the Community by other Little Red Riding Hoods? This is very disturbing.

The Prime Minister

I understand that Commissioner Spinelli is standing as an Independent on the Communist Party list. It is not for me to reconcile these strange doctrines. He has withdrawn from all official duties in the Community for the moment. If elected he will resign, and there is some evidence that if he is not elected he will not wish to resume his functions. There has been no secret about Commissioner Spinelli. He was a member of the Communist Party many years ago, before he became a Commissioner. There is therefore no need for an inquiry to find out about secret Communists.

Mr. Dalyell

Will my right hon. Friend use his powers of persuasion to convince the incoming Italian Government that the best chances of technical success for the JET fusion project are at Culham, and that the Italians might do well to look for other research projects for their understandable worries about Ispra?

The Prime Minister

The project at Culham is one of the most advanced in Europe. It is one that I pressed for consistently when I was Foreign Secretary. I know there is a great Italian interest in the matter. It is a Community project and there are no Community projects of that character established in the United Kingdom. I think it would be a very worthwhile opportunity both for Europe and the United Kingdom, especially as we have one of the best teams in the world assembled at Culham for this very new and exciting venture.

Mr. Watt

When the Prime Minister meets the Italian Prime Minister will he ask him to investigate the racket under which fat cattle leave this country, with a slaughter premium paid on them as they go, are transported to Italy, where they are slaughtered and subsequently shipped to Denmark, with monetary compensation amounts being paid as they cross each border? How can the common agricultural policy operate properly when such rackets are going on?

The Prime Minister

I do not think I shall be discussing that with the Italian Prime Minister, but the point raised by the hon. Member is important. The CAP does not operate to the benefit of this country, and it involves a great deal of money being spent unnecessarily. It is our intention on all occasions—and certainly before the next agricultural price review, in the spring—to raise these matters at the highest level in order to get an agricultural system better fitted to the needs of the consumer, as well as giving producers decent returns.

Mr. Heath

To return to the supplementary question of my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), will the Prime Minister go further than he has been asked and take an initiative at the Heads of Government meeting to secure an agreement that once a Commissioner takes up his appointment he will remain in the appointment for the full agreed term, eschew party politics and not return for electoral purposes, or give notice of a return for electoral purposes, until his term, which he has accepted, is completed?

The Prime Minister

I think that there is something to consider here, but, as will be in the right hon. Gentleman's mind, this is not the first time that someone has given an indication that he wishes to return to politics in his own country before he finishes his term of office. I have thought of at least one recent occasion when perhaps it might have been rather convenient for that to be done, but I do not wish to particularise. On the general question, of course, we should consider what should be the position of Commissioners in these matters. On the whole, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that if they are appointed for a fixed term they should see out that term. If they wish to return to their national politics, they should do so after the end of the term.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Does my right hon. Friend accept that at least the Italian Communists have some regard for the employment prospects of their countrymen, in sharp contrast to the callous and irresponsible attitude to the jobs and livelihoods of those employed in shipbuilding in this country, as demonstrated by the hypocritical shower on the Opposition Benches, which overshadows even the Leader of the Opposition's suggestion, in the United States, that in order to cut public expenditure she would stop issuing kidney machines?

The Prime Minister

I think I shall have more important matters to discuss with the Italian Prime Minister than the machinations of the Opposition, but I hope it is being borne in on them that there are a great many jobs at stake today—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yours".] If Conservative Members think that I care about this job, it only shows the lengths and the depths to which they have sunk. I must say that it is an interesting hors-d'oeuvre to the nature of the debate that we are going to have, if this is to be the level on which it is to be conducted.

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