HC Deb 04 April 1990 vol 170 cc1194-6
14. Mr. Ronnie Campbell

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the General Affairs Council of Ministers meeting of 2 and 3 April.

Mr. Maude

The Council considered preparations for the intergovernmental conference and Herr Genscher reported on recent developments in Germany. The Commission reported on talks on EC-Japan trade, on progress in EC-EFTA discussions and on the signature of a trade, commercial and economic agreement with Czechoslovakia. We proposed that all quantitative restrictions on imports from Czechoslovakia should be removed as from 1 July.

The Council discussed work on immigration problems and member states' policies on visas for eastern Europe. My right hon. Friend argued for further measures of Community support to the black population of South Africa, and a trade and co-operation agreement with Argentina was signed.

Ministers of the Twelve agreed, at my right hon. Friend's suggestion, to issue a further statement on Lithuania.

Mr. Campbell

Was there a chance at the Council of Ministers meeting to discuss the appalling pollution of the North sea? If not, when does the Minister intend to get a grip on that problem?

Mr. Maude

The hon. Gentleman may not have noticed, but there was a large conference on the North sea recently, at which it became apparent that although we have 40 per cent. of the North sea coastline, less than 20 per cent. of the pollution in the North sea comes from the United Kingdom.

Mr. Favell

Can my hon. Friend say whether our European partners accept that under this Government there is no chance of the United Kingdom being part of a federal Europe?

Mr. Maude

We have made our views on that very plain. We have a clear vision of the sort of European Community that we want to be part of, and it is not a federal one.

Mr. Ernie Ross

Will the Minister assure the House that the General Affairs Council will keep in the forefront of its mind the recommendation from the European Parliament that no further protocols on scientific and cultural agreements should be allowed between the European Community and Israel until Israeli forces on the West Bank and in Gaza treat Palestinians in a much more reasonable fashion?

Mr. Maude

We understand the anxieties that have been expressed by the European Parliament, but we cannot accept that sanctions of the sort suggested are the right way forward.

Mr. Lawrence

Since the conclusions of this very important Council might have ramifications—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Lawrence

Since the Council's conclusions might have substantial ramifications for the future of Britain, would not it be a good idea, in the interests of parliamentary responsibility, for us to be told in advance of such meetings, the order of agenda and the views likely to be expressed by British Ministers?—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are pleased to have the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) back with us, but perhaps he could remain silent while the Minister speaks.

Mr. Maude

The point raised by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) is one which surfaces from time to time. We make clear in answer to a parliamentary question each month the main subjects likely to come up at the Council of Ministers in the forthcoming month, so that much is public knowledge. As regards making the Government's position absolutely clear in advance, one cannot know beforehand exactly what propositions will be made and the way in which the discussion will go. It would be unreasonable to expect us to be able to do so.

Mr. Robertson

The Minister's list of subjects raised at the meeting did not seem to include the conduct of Iraq. Surely Her Majesty's Government must have raised that subject at the first meeting of the General Affairs Council since the murder of Farzad Bazoft, the illegal incarceration of Daphne Parish and the continued incarceration of Ian Richter. Not only that, we have seen Iraq trafficking in nuclear triggers and this week's threat to use chemical weapons against Israel.

If the subject was not raised, why on earth was it not? Why are the Government not initiating a major international isolation of the evil regime in Iraq? Are they paralysed by the fact that at the last Foreign Affairs Council meeting they themselves undermined Community sanctions against South Africa?

Mr. Maude

The hon. Member's last point is a fairly fatuous one. As regards his first point, we asked for support from our European Community partners for the appeal for clemency for Farzad Bazoft, and the Twelve responded very fully to our request. As for the other issues, there are other fora in Geneva in which we are raising those issues, but the hon. Member would do well to bear in mind the interests of others concerned who are imprisoned in Iraq. We must tread carefully.

Mr. Dunn

When the issue of German reunification was raised, was it agreed by Ministers that the process leading to reunification should be handled with great caution and that, before reunification can take place, the fears, anxieties and concerns of West Germany's allies and neighbours must be debated and resolved?

Mr. Maude

There is no dispute between the Federal Republic of Germany and any of the European Community partners about that. It is accepted that German unification has implications for a number of other countries, not just in the Community but more widely. The point that we made some months ago, now generally accepted, is that there must be fora in which these matters can be properly discussed. There are considerable implications for the European Community in the absorption of the German Democratic Republic into Germany; they must be sorted out and fully discussed.

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