HC Deb 21 March 1984 vol 56 cc1042-3
50. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further proposals he intends to place before his European Community colleagues for the development of Community policies.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

We have already put forward a number of proposals. In the absence of agreement at yesterday's European Council, no decisions could be taken.

Mr. Knox

Would it not be better to concentrate more attention on developing the Community and less on discussing the petty cash account?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

My hon. Friend is entitled to his own view of the significance of the amounts involved, but the need to secure fair and lasting arrangements for the budgetary balance of the Community was one of the crucial features with which yesterday's talks were concerned. I do not think that the Community is likely to have the secure future that I know that my hon. Friend would wish for it unless we can resolve that question.

Mr. Bell

In setting aside the problems of the petty cash account, will the Foreign Secretary bear in mind that there are 14 million people unemployed in Europe today, and will he put forward constructive proposals to reduce that figure?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The number of unemployed in the European Community mirrors the situation prevailing in most parts of the world. The hon. Gentleman is right to emphasise that one of the most important objectives of policies for the Community must be to reduce the number of people out of work.

Mr. Fallon

Will my right hon. and learned Friend take this opportunity to re-affirm our commitment to the goal of a truly free European market?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am delighted to do that. Many measures need to be taken, some of which were discussed at the European Council meeting of the past two days, to ensure the removal of regulations and obstacles that interfere with the operation of a liberal market economy in the Community.

Mr. Robin Cook

Will the Foreign Secretary take this opportunity to congratulate the Conservative group in the European Parliament on its sensitive timing in choosing this week, of all weeks, to publish a video praising the EEC for enabling Europe to speak with one voice?

So that we may judge the petty cash situation, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman share with the House details of the proposals that he apparently accepted yesterday to increase own resources? Had he forgotten that it was the Government's position that until there was settlement of the budget deficit and the agricultural expenditure question there could be no consideration of an increase in own resources? How did he hope to obtain concessions on the budget if he was willing to surrender in advance a 40 per cent. increase in our payment of own resources?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I had no such hope, because there was no question of my doing any such thing. Considerations of all the questions before the European Council were directly related to each other and it was quite plain to all those taking part in the discussions that, unless we were able to secure agreement on the conditions to which we attached importance, there could be no agreement on the question about which the hon. Member is understandably concerned.