HC Deb 28 November 1979 vol 974 cc1284-6
45. Mr. Wigley

asked the Lord Privy Seal what progress is being made on discussions concerning the common system of election to be followed for the next election to the European Parliament.

Sir Ian Gilmour

Article 138(3) of the Treaty of Rome provides that the European Parliament shall draw up proposals for elections by direct universal suffrage in accordance with a uniform procedure in all member States. It goes on to say that the Council, acting unanimously, shall then lay down the appropriate provisions which it shall recommend to member States for adoption in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. The European Parliament has not yet drawn up proposals.

Mr. Wigley

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance on behalf of the Government that, as it is adopted by the other EEC countries, they will accept a proportional representation system of election to the European Parliament? Will he consider proposing on behalf of the United Kingdom the regional list system, as outlined by the previous Labour Government?

Sir I. Gilmour

We rule out nothing. But there is a long way to go yet, and we must see what the European Parliament proposes before we can give any assurances.

Mr. Deakins

In deciding their attitude on this contentious issue, will the Government be concerned to strengthen or to weaken the European Assembly?

Sir I. Gilmour

I do not think that that is a matter that would come into our consideration. It seems to me that either electoral system might—I am unable to come to a judgment on this matter.

Mr. Hill

Will my right hon. Friend beware of the seduction towards PR in European terms? Is it not already apparent that the Members of the European Parliament are having an identification problem, without PR on a regional basis?

Sir I. Gilmour

I am not sure that I entirely accept what my hon. Friend says. I do not believe that people who are elected under PR necessarily have an identification problem. Having voted for PR in the House several times, I think it unlikely that I would express my hon. Friend's point of view. That does not alter the Government's view that we must wait to see what the European Parliament proposes before we can make any decisions.

Mr. Shore

As there is no actual proposal, I understand the Lord Privy Seal not wishing to over-commit himself, but all the same should it not be made plain to the Governments of Europe who will be considering this matter and the members of the European Assembly that there is a strong view among hon. Members on both sides of the House against the introduction of proportional representation either in the European elections or domestic elections? Is not that not quite contrary to the absurd propositions put forward by the President of the Commission, who obviously also has an influence in these matters?

Sir I. Gilmour

It is not for me to enter into these internal Labour Party squabbles. I appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman said. Certainly the House and the last Parliament made the majority opinion on this matter perfectly clear in the votes.