HC Deb 02 February 1994 vol 236 cc877-8
6. Mr. Miller

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further discussions he has had with his European counterparts about implementation of the proposals in the Delors White Paper on growth, competitiveness and employment.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

A progamme of action was agreed at the European Council on 11 December of last year. A discussion on progress is on the agenda for the Foreign Affairs Council on 7 and 8 February, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I will attend.

Mr. Miller

I am grateful for that reply, but will the Minister explain why, against the background of the Conservative party's views on the Delors proposals, a company within a country where those proposals are well advanced can raise enough money to bid for the Rover Group? Does his Department agree with the President of the Board of Trade, who said in 1987 that if the Government did not keep some control over those matters, the British motor industry would be up a cul-de-sac?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

The White Paper on growth, competitiveness and employment has nothing to say about the bid for Rover. That we are a magnet for overseas investment demonstrates the competitiveness of the United Kingdom economy. I look forward to BMW making an even greater success of the Rover Group.

Mr. John Marshall

Does my hon. Friend agree that Mr. Delors' package, far from creating more employment would create more unemployment, far from creating faster economic growth would restrain the rate of economic growth and far from improving the Community's competitiveness would make us less competitive? Does he further agree that one has only to look at Spain, where the policies espoused by Mr. Delors have been pursued, to see the disastrous consequences that they would have?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

The White Paper, which is being pursued and turned into an action plan, has been agreed by all member states of the European Council. It turns its attention to the European economy and excessive cost and regulation. One of the agreements coming out of the plan is that, where Community legislation inhibits employment through over-regulation or excessive cost, it will now be dealt with.

Mr. Salmond

Will not the Delors proposals on growth and employment be completely frustrated if European markets are not open? Has the Minister any information about today's action in Roscoff against fish products from Scotland, and is he aware of the threat of a total blockade against such products in the French market after this Friday? Given the vital importance of fish products to many small businesses around the coast, has he made any approaches to the French authorities to ensure that access to the French markets is allowed?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

We believe in a single market; we also agree that trade barriers inhibit general wealth creation. If the hon. Gentleman will give me details of the incidents that he has mentioned, I will ensure that they are taken up by the appropriate Department.

Mr. Bellingham

When the Minister next meets Mr. Jacques Delors, will he ask why Britain is securing the overwhelming bulk of inward investment in the European Community? Will he also ask why Black and Decker is closing its plant in Germany and relocating all its operations in Durham? Will he tell Mr. Delors that what Europe needs are the Government's policies, not those of Mr. Delors?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

I shall not ask Mr. Delors those questions, because I think that I know the answers —and I think that my hon. Friend does as well. Having lowered inflation and interest rates and controlled public expenditure, we are now a magnet for overseas investment; that is why we are one of the few European Union countries firmly on the road to economic recovery.

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