HC Deb 12 March 1980 vol 980 cc1330-2
31. Mr. Spearing

asked the Lord Privy Seal what will be the likely business agenda for the EEC Heads of Government meeting in Brussels on 31 March and 1 April.

Sir Ian Gilmour

European Councils have no fixed agenda. But Heads of Government normally discuss the economic and social situation in the Community and other topics of major interest. It is too early to say what these will be, but among them will certainly be the problem of our excessive net contribution to the Community budget.

Mr. Spearing

Will the Lord Privy Seal give the House an assurance that when that important topic is discussed the Prime Minister will not accept any offers of offsetting grants, even if they fully displace matters that are the proper responsibility of the United Kingdom budget? If grants are offered in respect of roads, tunnels or docks, does it not mean that our money is being sent to Brussels for it to decide what should be spent in this country?

Sir I. Gilmour

The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the whole point. If he reads the Community documents he will see that they put forward the sort of broad areas in which Community money might be spent but that this is subject to our agreement. That is what we have been discussing with the Community in Brussels.

Mr. David Price

Will my right hon. Friend discuss at the meeting the initiative of my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary in respect of Afghanistan, and ask the other eight Governments what they are doing to support that initiative? Could not it be pointed out to the French that it is a very good example of what they are always asking us to do, which is to produce a politique communautaire?

Sir I. Gilmour

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. It is a very good example of politique communautaire. I think that our Community partners particularly the Italian presidency, have been supporting the initiative. I have no doubt that the matter will come up next week.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Apart from dealing with the massive financial contributions that this country is making to the Community, is there not also a necessity now for the Government to tell the Community of this country's need to introduce a policy of import controls to protect our essential industries, or is the right hon. Gentleman prepared for many more of them to go to the wall, with a consequential catastrophic rise in unemployment?

Sir I. Gilmour

I in no way accept the hon. Gentleman's premises. The matter certainly does not arise on this question.

Mr. Marlow

As the nasty historic accident of the common agricultural policy does about as much for the longterm prospects of European unity as Carabosse, the Wicked Fairy did for the wakefulness of the Sleeping Beauty, and as in the current negotiations Britain holds all the cards—the markets for European agricultural produce and for its manufactured goods, the fish and the oil —will my right hon. Friend insist at the meeting that an immediate short-term plan is devised for slaughtering this monster, so that we can have financial equity?

Sir. I. Gilmour

I am very glad to learn that we hold all the cards. If the problem of our budget contribution is solved, that will be enough for one conference.

Mr. Leighton

I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman in his predicament. Can he envisage any scenario in which he will be able to give us any good news from the Common Market?

Sir I. Gilmour

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his sympathy. I hope that in a few weeks I shall no longer need it.

Mr. Kershaw

Does my right hon. Friend think that there is any chance of the Heads of Government conveying a joint opinion to the Israeli Government that the repeated settlement of Jewish settlers on lands in Jerusalem and the West Bank does not contribute to a solution of that problem?

Sir I. Gilmour

That is certainly the view of all the Nine, as my hon. Friend will know. Recent news of increased settlement in the West Bank is greatly to be regretted. But I very much doubt whether the matter will come up at the next European Council.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Marlow—Question No. 35.