HC Deb 12 March 1980 vol 980 cc1324-7
28. Mr. John Evans

asked the Lord Privy Seal when he expects to meet his EEC colleagues.

29. Mr. Knox

asked the Lord Privy Seal, when next his noble Friend expects to meet his European Economic Community counterparts.

Sir Ian Gilmour

At the next Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on 17 and 18 March.

Mr. Evans

When the Lord Privy Seal next meets his European colleagues will he take the opportunity to inform them that the story that Britain is seeking to join the European monetary system is a wicked rumour put out by the Foreign Office? Will he tell them that the United Kingdom has no intention of joining that European snake?

Sir I. Gilmour

No, I shall not. The Foreign Office feeds no wicked rumours. We have said that the European monetary system is something to which we are extremely favourably disposed and which we have been considering for some time.

Dr. Mawhinney

When my right hon. Friend next meets his EEC colleagues will he tell them that their failure to agree, and to agree with us, on a firm response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is undermining the standing of the Community, both in the eyes of the world and in the eyes of the citizens of member countries?

Sir I. Gilmour

With respect to my hon. Friend, he is being fair neither to our Allies nor to the European Community. When the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan took place there were certain difficulties of perception and reaction. My hon. Friend will have noted that those difficulties have been largely resolved. There is a recent agreement that the European Community will support the bringing of neutrality to Afghanistan. That is a specifically European approach. There has been a remarkable degree of convergence in the European Community in its approach to Afghanistan.

Mr. McNamara

Will the Lord Privy Seal expand on that statement about the European approach to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? Does he believe that the unanimity covers economic matters? Is there a common policy on the selling of foods to Russia at a cheaper price than it is sold to Britain? Are there common policies on trade negotiations, the Olympic boycott and on what our general reaction should be?

Sir I. Gilmour

I did not hear all that question. There is a common policy on economics, as the hon. Gentleman knows. His question was purely rhetorical. There is no common policy on butter exports. We strongly oppose the export of subsidised butter to Russia. Not all our partners agree. It was agreed that traditional trade flows should continue. Even the United States has not cut all grain exports to Russia—only the additional quotas.

Mr. Knox

Does my right hon. Friend agree that too often Britain's attitude to the Community appears to be negative and that it is important that it becomes much more positive? To that end what initiatives does my right hon. Friend propose to take at the meeting?

Sir L Gilmour

I do not agree that our attitude has in any way been negative. Obviously, it has been affected by the question of our budget contribution. I do not wish to go into that now because there are specific questions about that later on the Order Paper.

Mr. Shore

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that he is announcing an awful lot of policy agreements of which I have not heard before? He ranged from the apparent agreement of the Nine on the statement about the PLO which President Giscard made in Amman—of which I certainly had not heard before and of which I believe that the House had not heard—to the announcement that there is a common EEC policy on trade and credit towards the Soviet Union, post-Afghanistan. If there are such policies may we have the exact details?

May we hear more about the sudden announcement about the Government's great enthusiasm for the EMS? That will come as a surprise to hon. Members on both sides of the House. Will the right hon. Gentleman make it absolutely plain that there will be no agreement on the EMS until the Government fulfil their undertaking to lay the matter before us and to organise a proper and full debate?

Sir I. Gilmour

The right hon. Gentleman is a little over-excited. I did not mention the PLO. I talked only about self-determination, which was implicit in the speech by the Irish presidency at the United Nations last October. Our position on the EMS has always been that we shall join when conditions permit. I am not sure whether that was the last Government's position. It was a long time ago. We cannot tell when conditions will permit us to join the exchange rate arrangements of the EMS. As the right hon. Gentleman should know, we participate in the rest of the EMS arrangements. I can give an assurance that nothing will be agreed without consensus.