HC Deb 13 April 1981 vol 3 c3
2. Mr. Major

asked the Secretary of State for Trade on how many occasions he has exercised his veto against draft directives at meetings of the European Economic Community Council of Ministers.

The Secretary of State for Trade (Mr. John Biffen)

Decisions in the Council of Ministers are generally taken by consensus, so that the question of a veto by the United Kingdom or by any other member State does not arise in practice.

Mr. Major

In view of my right hon. Friend's reply, will he confirm that where draft directives ignore decisions taken by the European Parliament he will view them with an especially jaundiced eye?

Mr. Biffen


Mr. Woolmer

May I assume that the Council of Ministers will soon be considering the multi-fibre arrangement negotiations? Will the Minister confirm that a negotiating position statement has now been issued by the Commission, and will he assure the House that he will support a minimum growth rate of imports of clothing and textiles, and that he will be supporting the social clause?

Mr. Biffen

There are a number of considerations to be balanced in the negotiation of the multi-fibre arrangement. The Prime Minister has referred to the desirability of a tough agreement, and the Government stand by those words.

Mr. Dudley Smith

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the bureaucrats in Brussels have an obsessive interest in harmonisation? Will he do more to strengthen the hand of British industry in opposing those that are unnecessary?

Mr. Biffen

I very much agree with the first part of my hon. Friend's question. The action that we have taken in respect of proposals on Commmunity company law is an indication of our determination to stand against unnecessary harmonisation.

Mr. Clinton Davis

Will the Secretary of State agree that, notwithstanding efforts that his Department may have made in that respect, concepts which are unknown in our own law are being imposed upon us by means of directives, particularly in relation to insurance and company law?

Mr. Biffen

We have a very sound record of constructive blocking in these matters.