HC Deb 22 February 1978 vol 944 cc1436-8
53. Mr. Henderson

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

55. Mr. Ron Thomas

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

Dr. Owen

At the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council on 7th March.

Mr. Henderson

Does the Foreign Secretary recall making a speech in Edinburgh a few weeks ago which greatly disturbed his hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), in which he indicated that measures would be taken to ensure that the Executive of the Scottish Assembly was consulted on EEC matters? Does he accept that this is something that should be discussed with his European colleagues at the forthcoming meeting?

Dr. Owen

No, because the Bill has not yet gone through Parliament and the people of Scotland have not yet voted in the referendum. No final decision has been made in this House.

Mr. Thomas

Will the Foreign Secretary make clear to his colleagues in Europe and on the Commission that the Government intend to continue the policies to protect and create jobs, irrespective of what the European Commission says? Will he remind them that this capitalist bloc in Europe has lamentably failed to deal with unemployment?

Dr. Owen

I shall make it clear to the Commission and the Council that at a time of stubbornly high unemployment in all EEC States it does seem most maladroit politics to try to examine, in a spirit which may have been appropriate at a time of full employment, the various measures that member States have taken in a desperate attempt to reduce unemployment.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

When the right hon. Gentleman next meets his colleagues in the Council of Ministers, will he review the progress being made on the enlargement of the Community, particularly in regard to Greece and the applications of Portugal and Spain, and see what he can do to get matters moving, because they sem to be going very slowly?

Dr. Owen

We are awaiting the Commission's opinion on Portugal and the Fresco report, which will be an over-view of the whole issue of enlargement which the Commission promised. I agree that the question of enlargement is the most serious issue facing the Community, and it will be under almost continuous discussion.

Mr. Spriggs

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the criticism being made by our Common Market partners about the assistance that the Government are giving towards the problems of unemployment in this country and the creation of new work schemes? Would he consider it helpful to publish in the Official Report the schemes being operated by our Common Market partners to protect their own countries against the effect of unemployment?

Dr. Owen

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment is having discussions with and is convincing the Commissioner and the Commission officials that the various steps that we are taking are necessary and vital and that it would be extremely foolish to interfere with them at this time. No one denies the right of the Commission to look at this sort of area, but it is most inappropriate to do it at a time when unemployment is at such a high level. It is the sort of thing that could be done when the Community is looking at its macro-economic policies in a period of expansion.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Since the European Convention on Human Rights may come up in the right hon. Gentleman's discussions, will he say whether he feels any embarrassment at the revelations in The Times about the forcible repatriation of Soviet exiles, who went to their certain death? Will he make available under the convention all pertinent documents? In view of the blot that attaches to the reputation of some distinguished public servants in this country, will he make sure that there is the fullest investigation and a report to Parliament?

Dr. Owen

The decision to publish under the 30-year rule exposes these issues to the public gaze. I strongly supported the change from 50 years to 30 years, and some would argue that the period should be shortened even further. However, there are consequences for individuals and for the House if we reduce the time limit. It is bound to affect people still living. I think that inquiry and scrutiny are in the public domain. If the people concerned are still alive, they are free to comment, and other people are also free to comment, on the documentation, but it would be a major step if, having reduced the period, we felt that every time documents revealed criticism we should set up a formal inquiry. However, this is not a matter for me.