HC Deb 20 March 1985 vol 75 c864
74. Mr. Pike

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proposals for harmonisation between member states are currently under discussion within the European Economic Community.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The Commission's proposals for harmonisation cover a wide and varied field. A full list of all Commission proposals outstanding on 1 October last year appears in Council document number 19748/84, a copy of which is available in the Library of the House.

Mr. Pike

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the European Community would do a lot better if it stopped dreaming up ideas for a European stamp and for a European passport, and instead, made a determined attempt to remove the high unemployment level of more than 12 per cent., which is the scourge of the EC? Should that not be the EC's prime objective on harmonisation at present?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

It would help the hon. Gentleman's appraisal of the subject if he were reminded that there is no proposal for a European stamp or a European passport, but for the introduction of a common form passport, including the British passport, in 1987. It would help him further if he would understand that one of the most important ways of reducing unemployment in the Community would be the establishment of an internal market on the basis of standard measurements, standard units, and the reduction of national differences. If he is truly in earnest about unemployment, he would do better if he supported the programmes for harmonisation in the Community.

Mr. Harris

Will my right hon. and learned Friend continue to keep his feet firmly on the ground, in particular over harmonisation? Will he pursue measures that will mean something to the people of this country by breaking down trade barriers and resist some of the more grandiose schemes put forward by some of our partners with regard to institutions?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

My hon. Friend has raised two separate points, one related to institutional changes, which is a separate issue. He is right to remind the House that harmonisation of the wrong things or in the wrong way can involve heavy compliance costs which stand in the way of job creation and economic activity. Provided that one is addressing oneself to the right kind of harmonisation, in particular for new products and new markets, where we need the unity of the European market to compete with the rest of the world, harmonisation can do a great deal of good.