HC Deb 01 November 1988 vol 139 cc818-20
Q3. Mr. Teddy Taylor

To ask the Prime Minister if she will raise at the next meeting of the European Council the question of the use by the Commission of the powers given it in the Single European Act.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. The Single European Act did not confer additional powers on the Commission and the power of final decision remains with the Council of Ministers. The Commission has used its existing powers to bring forward proposals for the completion of the internal market, as required by the Single European Act. I do not see a need for any increase in its powers.

Mr. Taylor

Does not the message of my right hon. Friend's splendid speech at Bruges point out the real danger that the much publicised free trade in 1992 will be a major disappointment and let-down for Britain so long as the Commission, under Mr. Delors, uses the powers of the Single Act to promote pointless measures of harmonisation instead of putting forward the real free trade measures so very much required by British industries such as the insurance industry? Is there really nothing that the British Government can do to stop the Commission from using its anti-dumping powers as a measure of blunt protectionism?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend that this is a matter on which we must remain watchful. We want the single market and the Common Market to come into effect by 1992. We do not want to see highly complex regulations or new barriers set up around the Community. We want freer trade and the restraints on trade removed. We shall be watchful so that we do not have a complex plethora of new regulations. Where the regulations are particularly important, as in tax and the movement of peoples, all of us in the European Community have arranged to require unanimity to bring those directives into effect.

Mr. Spearing

Does the Prime Minister realise that Mr. Delors was wrong in the 80 per cent. forecast? Is she not aware that we have already, since 1958, reached that forecast of EEC legislation, let alone the amount in 10 years' time? Does that not suggest that the prime problem is not a future United States of Europe, but the legislative competence which is already enjoyed by the unitary but interlocking institutions of the EEC? What legislative competence for originating legislation is beyond that of the Commission today?

The Prime Minister

The Commission is committed to carrying forward all the programme of some 300 measures in its 1985 White Paper. The hon. Gentleman is very much aware of that. Where there is an extremely important directive, for example on tax matters, there must be unanimity, and therefore we would have to vote for it. Where there is any change in legislation in terms of the treaty, that matter, too, must come before the House. I know that the hon. Gentleman is keen that we should have maximum scrutiny of all these orders. It is very necessary that we do.

Sir Ian Lloyd

My right hon. Friend has opened up in her characteristically forthright and effective way a major debate on the future political structure of Europe. Does she ever envisage a time when a representative of the Council of Ministers stands before the Dispatch Box of the European Parliament as she does at the Dispatch Box here, answering for the policies and actions of that Council over which national Parliaments no longer have effective control and over which the European Parliament has not yet gained any influence?

The Prime Minister

I would not quite like to forecast that, but it has been impressed upon me that the Parliaments in other countries belonging to the European Community do not seem to have quite the cross-examination process to which Ministers are subjected in this country. Therefore, Parliament does not play such a central role in some of those countries as it does in ours.

Mr. Bernie Grant

Will the Prime Minister confirm that Commonwealth citizens who presently have the same status as British citizens—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the question is on the Single European Act.

Mr. Grant

My question is on the European Act. Will the Prime Minister confirm that those citizens will have the same status after 1992 as they do now—the rights to vote and to stand for Parliament, and so on?

The Prime Minister

As far as I am aware, the 1992 Act does not alter that. We are concerned that the immigration rules which we have now shall not be affected by the Single European Act. We are concerned to keep controls at borders to ensure that that is so.

Q4. Mr. Patnick

To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 1 November.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Patnick

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the growing action of local communities, highlighted by the Daily Express, in removing litter, graffiti and fly posting from our streets? Should that not be encouraged and more people involved so as to rid this blot from our streets, towns and cities?

The Prime Minister

I wholly agree with my hon. Friend. There could be a major improvement in the appearance of our towns and cities if people did not throw down litter, if any litter thrown down was promptly picked up and if people did not leave large black refuse bags outside restaurants and shops in London. I congratulate Tidy Britain Group on its efforts. I also congratulate the Daily Express on its effort and I am delighted that so many groups have been organised to keep Britain tidy.