HC Deb 12 April 1989 vol 150 cc897-9
7. Mr. Thurnham

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures his Department is taking through its offices in other European Community states to help to prepare for the single market in 1992; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)

British embassies are fully involved in lobbying and reporting on single market measures. They also provide a range of services to help British exporters make the most of growing opportunities.

Mr. Thurnham

Will my right hon. Friend make it clear that there is a great deal that her Department can do to help British industry—not only manufacturing industry, but service and professional industries such as engineering contracting, consulting and distribution—to prepare for 1992?

Mrs. Chalker

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He will know that the agreement that we have reached on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications is an important opportunity for British professionals to ply their trade abroad. Service industries, just as much as manufacturing industries, can contribute greatly and we hope that they will all participate in the setting of European standards because without their help in achieving the right technical standards we shall not be as well prepared as we could be.

Mr. Skinner

Does the Minister recall that there was a hype a few years ago in the City about the big bang that was going to occur and that there was the same kind of co-ordinated propaganda about how well Britain was going to do? In fact the City got nothing out of it and the invisibles have fallen rather than risen. Does the Minister expect the big bang of the single European market to be more or less successful than that in the City?

Mrs. Chalker

We make steady, positive and continuing progress towards success in the City. When I see the hon. Gentleman and his big bang, I know that steady, solid progress is much to be preferred. I can say firmly to him that I believe that the United Kingdom's financial sector, which is by far the largest in Europe, is likely to be the most successful. Financial services will stand us in very good stead in Europe.

Mr. Wells

What work is my right hon. Friend doing in preparing this country to debate the issues that are likely to be in the Delors committee report on central banking and the single European unit of account? How can our country have an opportunity to discuss and understand those issues before there are decisions and discussions at the Europe Council?

Mrs. Chalker

I doubt whether any decisions are going to be arrived at the next European Council. It is far too early to say, when the report of the Delors committee will possibly come forward only later this month and will have its first examination in the ECOFIN Council in May. 'We will thoroughly discuss everything in that report and see what progress can be made. We should never underestimate this country's practical commitment, by the introduction of ecu-dominated Treasury bonds. to the development of better monetary co-operation throughout the Community.

Mr. Madden

Will the Minister confirm that, with the free movement of people, Common Market nationals will have the right to enter the United Kingdom without a visa, bring children up to the age of 21, their parents and their grandparents, be able to undertake employment without a work permit, and establish businesses without any evidence of financial resources? Will she reflect on those matters when she examines the family disunity and separation that is caused to many British citizens who originate from the Indian sub-continent? Because of the Government's unfair yet firm immigration policy, for years they have been separated by thousands of miles from their spouses and families.

Mrs. Chalker

The hon. Gentleman knows that European Community nationals have total reciprocity in those mattters. Our immigration policy is based on sensible, longstanding reasons. The one does not affect the other.

Mr. Rowe

Is it true that the momentum towards the Common Market in 1992 is now virtually unstoppable? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it does nobody any good to start casting doubts on it as being some kind of fiasco or disaster? It is a great opportunity, particularly for small firms in this country.

Mrs. Chalker

My hon. Friend is right. We are making good progress in dismantling barriers to trade. It is quite wrong for any commentator, whoever he may be, to say that 1992 measures are failing. More than 40 per cent. of the issues that were raised in the 1985 White Paper have been agreed. We have progressed almost daily. I was delighted to see the European Court of Justice's judgment on air fares, which was reported in the press this morning. That judgment represents a significant step towards our aim to liberalise international air transport and bring down the cost of air fares to the ordinary travelling public. The court said that, from now on, airlines should clear their price-fixing controls between Community countries directly with the Commission. That is another great step forward.

Mr. Robertson

Does the Minister agree that, although Britain has not done very well in Europe, Europe has done very well in Britain?

Mrs. Chalker

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman must look at his figures again.

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