HC Deb 13 January 1993 vol 216 cc904-5
6. Mr. Riddick

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on developments in the EC since the Edinburgh summit.

Mr. Hurd

There have been two substantial developments in the European Community since the summit in Edinburgh; notably the single market, which came into effect on 1 January, and the agreement of Foreign Ministers on 21 December that negotiations for full membership of the Community with Austria, Finland and Sweden should open at our meeting on 1 and 2 February.

Mr. Riddick

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on a United Kingdom presidency which was far more successful than the knockers and whingers on the Opposition Benches would have us believe?

Now that the single market is in place, will my right hon. Friend assure the House that we will have less red tape and fewer directives coming out of Brussels? Will he also confirm that, as a result, the EC in general and the Commission in particular will turn their attention to extending free trade throughout the world, which, of course, means in particular ensuring a successful outcome of the GATT negotiations?

Mr. Hurd

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The presidency had its roughish moments, but I am glad that it ended with a success and a smile. As my hon. Friend has said, one result of the single market is that the volume of legislation in the EC has already begun to drop markedly. We expect and hope that that trend will continue, partly as a result of subsidiarity as it comes into effect.

My hon. Friend is right about the importance of the GATT negotiations. It is the aim of the Commission and of most member states to achieve agreement as soon as possible. The basic deadlock between the EC and the United States on agriculture was removed during our presidency and now we have to wrap up other details, some of which are still intractable.

Mrs. Ewing

Given that one of the important issues discussed during the British presidency was the need for increased powers for the European Parliament, as crystallised at the Edinburgh summit by the agreement to increase the number of seats at that Parliament, is the right hon. Gentleman yet able to advise us how the extra six seats allocated to the United Kingdom will be distributed? Will he tell us whether, in the interests of fairness, proportional representation will come into play?

Mr. Hurd

No. I think that the hon. Lady can take it that we will need to change the boundaries of the European parliamentary seats, and decisions about how to proceed will be taken soon.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Is the Foreign Secretary aware of the widespread confusion that was created when the leaders of countries such as Spain and Eire went back to their homelands after the Edinburgh summit to report that they had gained billions of pounds while the leaders of countries such as Britain and Germany, which pay the money, said that the extra costs would be minimal? Would it not help to remove that confusion if the Foreign Secretary appealed to the Commission or the Council of Ministers to publish their estimate of who will gain what as a result of Edinburgh and who will pay for it? It will simply undermine confidence if the sums do not add up.

Mr. Hurd

It is not unusual for people who go to a negotiating session to return and say that they are reasonably satisfied with the result, but to no Member of this House is there any mystery about the actual facts and figures or about the way in which the original proposals by President Delors were first whittled down as a result of his own compromise and then further substantially reduced at Edinburgh. The result was modest compared with that of the last review, in 1988, and that will give my hon. Friend substantial satisfaction.

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