HC Deb 13 July 1977 vol 935 cc422-4
34. Mr. Henderson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next intends to meet EEC Foreign Ministers.

39. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will next attend a meeting of the Council of EEC Ministers.

41. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet his EEC colleagues.

Dr. Owen

I met the Foreign Ministers of Community countries yesterday at a political co-operation meeting. I expect to meet them again at the Foreign Affairs Council on 26th July.

Mr. Henderson

When the Foreign Secretary next meets his colleagues on 26th July, no doubt he will have an opportunity to discuss the common fisheries policy. Will he make it clear that there is a growing body of opinion in this country which believes that if the EEC persists with its obstinate and greedy attempt to take over our fishing stocks it will be the end of the Common Market for us?

Dr. Owen

No one in the Council of Foreign Ministers is unaware of the very strong feelings in this country about the common fisheries policy. My colleagues are well aware that this policy will have to be substantially readjusted to meet the legitimate claims of a number of States with fishing interests—not just Britain, but Ireland and other countries. In the light of the 200-mile limit we must have a common fisheries policy that is more attuned to the interests of the nine member States. This will have to be negotiated. There is recognition in the Community that there will have to be compromise on all steps. I am confident that the Minister of Agriculture will achieve a settlement of this vexed issue.

Mr. Marten

As foreign affairs are not strictly subject to the Treaty of Rome, will the Foreign Secretary propose that at the next Council meeting Ministers should be joined by the EFTA Foreign Ministers, particularly now that the free-trade area is down to zero tariffs? Will he also suggest that the new applicant member States, once they have made their applications, should also be invited to attend the Council of Ministers meeting in order to get a foretaste of life in the Community and also to stage a grand alliance of Foreign Ministers of Europe? Would that not be more truly representative of Europe than just a meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Nine?

Dr. Owen

Discussions take place in the Council of Europe among 19 countries on matters of common interest. Membership of the EEC is more committed, as the hon. Gentleman knows, than membership of EFTA, and it is best to keep Community affairs within the Council of Nine and widen the circle to a Council of 19 when it is appropriate.

Mr. Canavan

When the Foreign Secretary next meets his Common Market friends, will his enthusiasm for the EEC spread as far as accepting and supporting the report of the Common Market officials who predicted that next year Britain would have an economic growth of 3 per cent. and that wage increases of more than 10 per cent. could have a beneficial refiationary effect on our economy, because the extra money spent would help to generate more jobs? Is this not the first bit of common sense that has come out of the Common Market?

Dr. Owen

I am glad to see that my hon. Friend has found something in the Common Market on which to comment favourably. I hope that we shall achieve a faster rate of economic growth.

Mr. Hurd

Is it not now plain, particularly following last week's vote on the direct elections legislation, that it is almost impossible to make a success of British membership of the EEC so long as there are Government Ministers who work openly and systematically to destroy it?

Dr. Owen

I do not believe that to be the case. The Opposition must accept the fact that there are, have been, and, I regret, will continue to be for some time, substantial differences of view on the issue of Europe. It is one thing to hold a different view but another to suggest that people are prepared systematically to undermine our membership of the Community. That is not the case, and it is not the record. I prefer to interpret the free vote of the House of Commons on this issue as indicating that there are an overwhelming majority in the House who want direct elections. I hope that we shall now manage to carry the legislation through.