HC Deb 29 October 1980 vol 991 cc487-8
36. Mr. Cryer

asked the Lord Privy Seal when he expects to meet other European Economic Community Ministers to discuss future planning of the Community.

37. Mr. Knox

asked the Lord Privy Seal when he expects to meet his European Economic Community counterparts to discuss the future development of the Community.

38. Mr. Renton

asked the Lord Privy Seal when he plans to meet his European Economic Community counterparts to discuss the enlargement of the Community.

Sir Ian Gilmour

The next meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council will be on 24 and 25 November, which my right hon. and noble Friend will attend. I hope to meet Community colleagues on that occasion. I expect also to attend the meeting on 16 December. The agendas for these meetings have not yet been agreed.

Mr. Cryer

When the Minister goes to the meetings, can he cast off his blinkered attitude towards the Community and accept that there are some faults? Will he accept that many thousands of jobs are being lost in many manufacturing industries, at least in part because of cheap imports, paticularly in the textile industry? What sort of safeguards will the textile industry have against the accession of Portugal, which is currently the second largest low-cost importer into this country? Jobs are at stake. There are faults in the Community, but the right hon. Gentleman appears to go on completely oblivious of everything.

Sir I. Gilmour

That is quite untrue. Of course there are faults in the Community. No serious person has ever denied that. The hon. Gentleman will know, or should know, that in the agreement bringing Greece into the Community there is a general safeguards clause. As I have told the House before, we shall ensure that a similar safeguards clause applies to Portugal.

Mr. Knox

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it is the intention of the Government to press for a substantial increase in the regional and social funds at these meetings?

Sir I. Gilmour

That is in general our ambition. Obviously, in any restructuring we must take account of the fact that the proportion of the budget fund that goes to agriculture is too much, particularly on the disposal of agricultural surpluses. My hon. Friend will be aware that there is a particular problem this year because of the prospect of the Community running out of own resources. There is, therefore, a limit to how much we can press in the direction he wishes.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Is it not the case that Her Majesty's Goverment have suggested that the regional fund and the social fund should be lower and that they would agree with price rises in the common agricultural fund? Does that not make nonsense of all the things that the right hon. Gentleman has said?

Sir I. Gilmour

The hon. Lady is misinformed. My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury pressed for an increase in the social and regional funds but when that was not possible, he rightly did not wish to hold up the adoption by the Council of the budget.