HC Deb 04 November 1976 vol 918 cc1614-6
Q1. Mr. Townsend

asked the Prime Minister when he next intends to meet his opposite numbers in Europe.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

I shall be visiting President Giscard d'Estaing on 11th and 12th November, and shall meet the Heads of Government of all the EEC countries at the European Council meeting in the Hague on 29th and 30th November.

Mr. Townsend

When the Prime Minister meets his colleagues, what will he be able to tell them about the likely trend in Anglo-American relations following the election of Mr. Carter? Will he discuss with the French President the danger to Europe of the Americans following his Government's line and cutting defence expenditure as Mr. Carter has promised?

The Prime Minister

Anglo-American relations, which have been good with the Republican Administration, will, I am certain, be equally good with the Democrat Administration, because our relations with that country transcend individual parties. Therefore, I shall expect to say to my colleagues that, whilst we shall certainly work to continue the relationship that exists between our two countries, we shall also hope that Europe as a whole will continue to maintain good, or even improved, relations with the United States, if that is possible. I believe that all countries must regulate their defence expenditure both according to the external threat that they see and also in a way that will maintain the strength of their internal economy.

Mr. Craigen

When the Prime Minister meets his opposite numbers, will he discuss with them the problem of youth employment, the serious threats that seem to be emerging, and how best the Community can tackle the immediate and longer-term problems involved?

The Prime Minister

I began a discussion on this matter when I was Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. I take the view that there are structural changes in the levels of employment in some of the industrialised countries that will make it very difficult to reduce unemployment in all our countries to the levels to which we have been accustomed during the past 20 years. I know, for example, that Chancellor Schmidt is concerned about this matter. He told me that he intends to make a detailed breakdown of statistics and groups. Because of the interdependence of our economies, this prob- lem affects us all and perhaps can be met only by our all working together.

Mr. Lawson

If Chancellor Schmidt, Dr. Emminger and Old Uncle Fritz Cobbleigh and all are as full of admiration for the current management of British economic policy as the Chancellor likes to make out, why was it necessary for the Prime Minister to appear on television last week and threaten our allies in the most foolishly irresponsible fashion?

The Prime Minister

I dealt with that matter a week ago at Question Time. The hon. Gentleman is rather behindhand. If he would care to see the reaction to the broadcast, I shall be happy to send him the comments that Chancellor Schmidt made after the broadcast when he said that he fully understood both the basis on which I was approaching this matter and the way in which I had said it.

Mr. David Steel

Will the Prime Minister use these occasions to begin discussions on the steps the Community might take effectively to relieve us from our situation as a holder of a reserve currency?

The Prime Minister

I prefer not to go into detail on these matters at this time. I am aware that a number of statements have been made by Mr. Tindemans and others, which were intended to be helpful, but I do not wish to add to them this afternoon.