HC Deb 20 October 1976 vol 917 cc1444-5
34. Mr. Arnold

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further progress has been made in setting up the review of the staffing, structure and political rôle of the EEC Commission.

Dr. Owen

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister undertook to propose to the European Council next month the terms of reference for a review which the new President of the Commission might be asked to undertake of the staffing, structure and organisation of the Commission. It will be for the European Council to decide on the next step.

Mr. Arnold

Have the Government reached certain conclusions about the need to reform the central institutions of the Community?

Dr. Owen

Obviously, the terms of reference have to be confidential to the European Council. If my right hon. Friend undertook to give it to the Heads of Government at the European Council, the right time to review it would be at that meeting. The Government's views are firming up and if Opposition Members have suggestions on the areas of reform we will be happy to look at them and take account of them in drawing up the final terms of reference.

Mr. Marten

When will we know who will be the other Commissioner from Britain?

Dr. Owen

Members of the Commission are appointed by common accord of member States. We all seek the appointment of persons whom we believe to be best qualified for the position.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful for my right hon. Friend's remarks concerning the terms of reference. If the political rôle of the EEC Commission is to be altered in any way, will this be a constitutional matter which will require a change in the treaties if any changes are adopted?

Dr. Owen

That is an option. The majority of requests for changes in the terms in which the original proposal was put forward by the Prime Minister did not require either changes in the treaties or in the procedures. All the same, there might be some. There is a lot to be done in tightening up the administration and reducing bureaucracy.

Mr. Thorpe

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the question of the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) and tell us when the second Commissioner will be appointed? Is there not an empty room waiting in the Cabinet Office which should be filled?

Dr. Owen

As I told the hon. Member for Banbury, appointments are not made unilaterally but are made in accord by all member States. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Jenkins) has not been formally appointed, although everyone knows the situation. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on 15th July that he would consider any suggestion in this respect that the Leader of the Opposition might put to him.