HC Deb 15 June 1978 vol 951 cc1177-80
Q3. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister when he next expects to visit Brussels.

The Prime Minister

I have no plans to visit Brussels before the meeting of the European Council, which will be held there towards the end of the year.

Mr. Marten

In view of the suffering which the closure of the Spanish frontier by the dictatorship of General Franco has caused to the people of Gibraltar, will the Prime Minister, when he goes to Brussels, make it a precondition of opening negotiations with the Spanish for entry into the Common Market—which I support—that they should open the frontier beforehand? Will he ask the Foreign Office to be a little less pussyfooted about it and a little more robust?

The Prime Minister

The opening of the frontier between Gibraltar and Spain is not a matter which is concerned with the entry of Spain into the European Economic Community; it arose long before the Spanish application for entry to the EEC. It is a matter on which I have made many protests to the Spanish Government. In my view—I have said so frequently—the frontier should be opened, quite irrespective of any application by Spain for membership of the Community. The Spanish Government know very well our views on the matter. In my view, the frontier should be opened tomorrow. The question has nothing at all to do with the Community.

Mrs. Castle

Is my right hon. Friend aware that even The Times newspaper has become alarmed at the scandal of rising meat prices in the EEC and the threat which the British housewife now faces to her supplies of less costly New Zealand meat, under the common agricultural policy? Will he go to Brussels and tell the Community that we have no intention of allowing it to force up the prices of New Zealand meat in this country in order to support less efficient French sheep farmers?

The Prime Minister

The Minister of Agriculture has made clear on more than one occasion, and as recently as 20th April, that one of the essential points which govern our attitude to proposals on marketing arrangements for mutton and lamb is that New Zealand's interest and that of our own housewives must be fully safeguarded. That is the Government's policy, and my right hon. Friend has been most vigorous in advancing it in Brussels.

Mr. Maurice Macmillan

Will the Prime Minister reconsider his firm refusal to take political action in the Council of Europe, particularly in relation to trying to get some sort of coherent policy towards the re-stabilisation of the situation in Africa? This is especially important, in view of the great community of interest between the European countries and the community of interest between the African countries and the members of the European Community.

The Prime Minister

Yes, there is a close identity of interests. Western interests have always been very strong in Africa, but it is the nature of those interests and the way in which they are expressed that is of importance. The Foreign Secretary had discussions with his Foreign Minister colleagues on this matter yesterday, and I think that they are coming to a common agreement on the policy that should be followed.

If in the first part of his question the right hon. Gentleman was referring back to Gibraltar, let me make it absolutely clear that I think that the House, in expressing itself in this way, will influence the attitude of the Spanish authorities. I do not object to pressure on this question, but I do not want to link it with the other issue. It is an issue which stands on its own. That border should be opened.

Q4. Mr. Mike Noble

asked the Prime Minister when he last met the Trades Union Congress.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas).

Mr. Noble

When my right hon. Friend meets the TUC, will he discuss with it ways and means of ensuring that reluctant Tory local authorities take advantage of the steps recently taken to restore free school milk? Does my right hon. Friend not agree that this is a much better use of public funds than the tax cuts pushed through by the original milk-snatcher and her friends?

The Prime Minister

I saw the full page advertisement by the National Dairy Council in the newspaper this morning. I think it will have met with pretty general approval, at any rate on the Government side. I hope that Conservative local authorities will take it up. They can, at least for a year, get this milk for children between 7 and 11 at little or no extra cost to themselves. That at least should appeal to them.

Mr. Michael Latham

Are we to understand from the answer that the Prime Minister gave to the House last Tuesday that the Government's policy towards stage 4 of a possible incomes policy is to find out what trade unions want and then do it? Are the Government going to give any leadership at all?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for advice on tactics, but perhaps he will be kind enough to leave it to me. I think the wisest thing is to hear what the annual conferences of the unions have to say about these matters. For example, an interesting resolution on the subject was passed at NALGO yesterday. I think that we had better weigh up the attitudes and reach our conclusions, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be disappointed whatever we do.