HC Deb 14 June 1977 vol 933 cc223-5
Q3. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister if he plans to visit Paris in 1977.

Mr. Foot

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend has at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Marten

Should the Prime Minister change his mind and, if he does go to Paris, should he consult the French President about direct elections, will he tell the French President about the increasing anxiety of the British people, who do not wish to get further enmeshed in a Community where Euro-Communism is on the strong up-and-up? Second, will he make the point that no self-respecting British Member of Parliament could possibly vote for a direct elections Bill until we know that the salaries of Euro-MPs which are at present being mooted will be brought down to a level obtaining in this House, because we do not want accusations about a Euro slush fund in connection with those direct elections?

Mr. Foot

Despite the hon. Member's brave and popular proposals about the salaries to be fixed in this House, I am sure that all the matters he has raised will, subject to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, be in order when we have the debate on the Bill which is to be introduced. No doubt the Prime Minister would prefer to hear the views of the House on the matter before he discusses it with the President of the French Republic.

Mr. Kinnock

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us regard the matters of salaries and of Euro-Communism with a certain benign disregard but that the more important matter of lots of directly-elected MPs, with no constituencies, no real responsibilities, no real mandate, no real programme to carry out but having positions of enormous authority and suggestibility, is a major threat to the kind of democracy that we in this country have enjoyed?

Mr. Foot

Like the remarks of the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), all the comments of my hon. Friend will be in order when the debate takes place. That is the way in which we should proceed.

Mr. Tebbit

If the Prime Minister visits Paris and speaks to the French President or any other officials, will he be able to assure those officials that when he enunciates Government policy it is a policy which is supported by every member of his Cabinet at all times?

Mr. Foot

The Prime Minister will certainly be able to conduct all the conversations, not with "any French official"—I do not like the discourteous term of the hon. Gentleman—but with the President of the French Republic, with the full backing of the Government, and, I am sure, in the circumstances, when he goes, with the full backing of the House of Commons as well.

Mr. Whitehead

To take a contrary view, may I ask whether, if the Prime Minister goes to Paris, he will congratulate President Giscard d'Estaing on pressing ahead with the Bill for direct elections with the assent of all the parties of the Left in France and the opposition only of the unreconstructed elements in the Gaullist Party?

Mr. Atkinson

That is not true.

Mr. Whitehead

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the parties of the Left have least to fear from popular sovereignty and democratic accountability?

Mr. Foot

It is true that there is a variety of views on this subject in all parties. All those views are properly expressed in the House of Commons when it comes to a verdict on the matter. One reason why we have had some difficulty on this matter is that when the European Communities Bill was passing through the House under a guillotine we did not have proper time to discuss these matters.

Mr. Pym

As this Government have given their solemn word to our European partners to use their best endeavours to get the Bill through, will the Lord President tell the House whether he himself will positively support the Government's own legislation?

Mr. Foot

As I have told the right hon. Gentleman before, what we are doing is following exactly the precedent in these matters which he set when he was dealing with these questions himself. The best and most natural way, and the best way according to precedent, for these matters to be dealt with is when we reach the debate itself.

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