HC Deb 21 January 1981 vol 997 cc257-9
31. Mr. Dormand

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

32. Miss Richardson

asked the Lord Privy Seal what items Her Majesty's Government are seeking to have placed on the agenda of the next meeting of the European Economic Community Foreign Ministers.

34. Mr. Cryer

asked the Lord Privy Seal when he next expects to meet other European Economic Community Ministers to discuss harmonisation of European Economic Community affairs.

Sir Ian Gilmour

I next expect to meet my Community colleagues at the Foreign Affairs Council on 16 and 17 February. It is too early to say what topics will be discussed.

Mr. Dormand

When the right hon. Gentleman meets his counterparts, will he impress upon them the disenchantment of the British people with the political control imposed upon us by the Treaty of Rome? I make no mention of the disastrous economic consequences of our membership of the EEC, about which questions have been asked this afternoon. Will the right hon. Gentleman begin to move towards a fundamental change of the Treaty of Rome, so that we can have a much looser federation with Europe?

Sir Ian Gilmour

We do not have a federation, either tight or loose, with Europe, and we are not aiming to have one. I do not know where the hon. Gentleman gets the word from. The EEC is a collection of nation States. We have accepted no greater controls on us than either France or Germany have accepted. Does the hon. Gentleman really think that France and Germany behave as if they have lost national control over their destiny? Of course they do not, and nor do we.

Mr. Cryer

Is not harmonisation a none too subtle erosion of the powers of any United Kingdom Government? If, for example, a future Government wanted to take measures to reduce the level of unemloyment, would they be seriously inhibited or stopped by measures taken at Brussels under the Treaty of Rome? When one gets down to it, is not the only answer to follow Labour's policy and get out of the Market?

Sir Ian Gilmour

No, because, first, harmonisation is not an erosion of sovereignty. In some cases it is sensible, and in others it is not, but it has nothing to do with sovereignty. Secondly, Governments are not inhibited by the EEC in general in taking steps to reduce unemloyment. Thirdly, if we left the EEC it would have a catastrophic effect on jobs.

Mr. Moate

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the objectives of the Treaty of Rome is the free movement of labour? In view of the imminent or actual enlargement of the Community to include Greece, the very welcome possible inclusion of Spain and Portugal, and in view of the current agreement with Turkey, does he agree that this is an objective that should be re-examined, in the best interests of all the members of the Community, to avoid the possibility of damage being done to any member of the Community in years to come?

Sir Ian Gilmour

I do not think that that is right. As my hon. Friend will appreciate, there are transitional arrangements with Greece, so that there will be no full movement until, I think, 1988. No doubt similar arrangements or provisions will be made in the Treaty of Accession for Spain and Portugal.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Has the Lord Privy Seal kept his EEC counterparts advised of the part that the Government have been playing in trying to seek a settlement in Namibia? Will he confirm that, in the discussions before the Geneva conference, the South Africans accepted the principles for the agenda, and that the failure to sign an agreement is a massive breach of faith? Will he, therefore, discuss with his European counterparts ways in which United Nations mandatory sanctions can be applied to South Africa?

Sir Ian Gilmour

The answer to the hon. Gentleman's second question must be "No". It must be sensible to have a breathing space while the Reagan Administration consider their policies on Southern Africa.

We had a quite extended discussion about Namibia—the hon. Gentleman probably was not present—and I do not think that there is anything that I can usefully add.

Mr. Dykes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the right kind of harmonisation for us to emphasise in the coming years is that which enables all countries and all industries, including British industries, to do more trade in the other member States? I am thinking here of the financial industries of Britain. Will the Government press, for instance, for better terms for harmonisation in the insurance industry?

Sir Ian Gilmour

I agree with my hon. Friend. Insurance is a good case in point and, as he knows, we are particularly interested in it.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Does the Lord Privy Seal agree that a Common Market of 12 members, including Spain, Greece, and Portugal, will be very different in character from the original Common Market of six members set up in the 1950s? Is there not now a case to repeal the Treaty of Rome, which is ever irrelevant and inflexible, and replace it with a much looser economic arrangement that takes fully into account the differing problems and needs of the different countries of Western Europe?

Sir Ian Gilmour

No, I do not think so. I accept that a Community of 12 members is almost certain to be very different from a Community of six members. To suggest that we should repeal the Treaty of Rome is, if I may say so, frivolous. It would be an enormous undertaking and contrary to this country's national interests and those of the Community. We have no intention of doing so.

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