HC Deb 11 July 1979 vol 970 cc463-4
40. Mr. Knox

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on progress towards a common EEC foreign policy.

Sir Ian Gilmour

As I told my hon. Friend on 13 June, the Government expect and hope to play a leading role in the co-ordination of EEC foreign policies. We are working towards a common approach to a wide range of problems. Areas of agreement exist on issues as diverse as the Middle East, Vietnamese refugees and Nicaragua.

Mr. Knox

What progress has been made towards the setting up of a political secretariat for the nine member States of the EEC? Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the Government are pursuing this enthusiastically?

Sir I. Gilmour

There is no permanent secretariat for political co-operation. At present, national presidencies take it in turns to provide the necessary services, and that has been adequate so far. It is cheap and efficient, and measures have recently been taken to strengthen national presidencies by loans of staff from the preceding and succeeding presidencies.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Why should it be assumed that the people of the nations in the EEC necessarily want the same policies on foreign affairs?

Sir I. Gilmour

It is not necessarily assumed, but practice has shown that there is a wide measure of agreement on a number of issues.

Mr. Churchill

Will my right hon. Friend discuss with his EEC counterparts the effects on Europe of the SALT II agreement, and in particular article XII of that agreement? If it does not mean the non-circumvention of the treaty by the transfer or sale of strategic weapons to third countries, what does it mean?

Sir L Gilmour

I am in some difficulty, because I was just about to answer a substantive question from my hon. Friend on that point. I am sure that that question will be reached.

Mr. Robert Hughes

While unreservedly condemning the expulsion of people from Vietnam on ethnic grounds, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman why, if he believes that the Vietnamese regime is barbaric, he is insisting that these Chinese people remain in Vietnam? Why is he not persuading his colleagues at home and in other parts of the EEC to take as many of these refugees as possible in the shortest possible time?

Sir I. Gilmour

The hon. Member is confusing two fundamental issues. Almost everybody in the House agrees that people who do not wish to remain in a country should be allowed to leave it. That is very different from a Government systematically expelling about 1 million of their own people by treating them in an intolerable manner.