HC Deb 20 May 1981 vol 5 cc279-80
34. Mr. Hardy

asked the Lord Privy Seal what proportion of the time available at ministerial discussions in the Community has been devoted to each of the main subjects considered in the last two months.

Sir Ian Gilmour

No record is kept of the time spent discussing specific topics in the Council of Ministers.

Mr. Hardy

How will the Minister respond to the general assumption and suspicion that in recent months little attention has been given to matters which are of enormous importance to the United Kingdom? How will he respond to those who believe that far more consideration should be given to the arrangements made under article 58 to ensure that the steps taken to assist steel are as helpful to the United Kingdom special steel industry as they have been to West Germany?

Sir Ian Gilmour

I do not agree with either the hon. Gentleman's general assumption or his particular assumption. Coming from the constituency that he does, he must know that what the EEC has decided about steel has been welcomed by both sides of the United Kingdom steel industry.

Mr. Tapsell

Are there plans for EEC Ministers to try to hold discussions with the United States' Administration with a view to getting general agreement on a reduction in interest rates? If not, would it not be appropriate for this country to take an initiative?

Sir Ian Gilmour

As far as I know, there are no such plans. As my hon. Friend will appreciate, that is more a question for my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Spearing

As the Council does not keep a record of the time spent discussing certain subjects, does the Lord Privy Seal agree that the time spent by the House on receiving statements from Ministers returning from Council meetings has been reduced in recent weeks, and months? Does not he think that the previous practice should be restored?

Sir Ian Gilmour

I agree that the time given to statements has declined but I assumed that that was in accordance with the general wishes of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]

Mr. Marlow

By how long has the change of Presidency in France delayed decisions being taken within the EEC at the moment? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Sir Ian Gilmour

It is impossible to tell. Over the last week or two there has been no Government in France. Therefore, they have not been able to take decisions. Furthermore, as my hon. Friend knows, there are likely to be legislative elections shortly in France which may delay matters further. I cannot give the timing.

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