HC Deb 02 February 1994 vol 236 cc882-3
8. Mr. Cunliffe

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met his French counterpart to discuss the principle of subsidiarity.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

I last formally discussed subsidiarity with my opposite number at the Anglo-French summit on 26 July last year. Since then, the Government have co-operated closely with the French on implementation of the subsidiarity principle. This was instrumental in ensuring that the Commission's subsidiarity report to the Brussels European Council was a substantial document.

Mr. Cunliffe

When will the Minister and the Government be prepared to come clean about the secret hit list of European Community measures that have been agreed by the British and French Governments? The measures deal mainly with environmental and social policy and, if enforced, will adversely affect the vast majority of the British people. In view of the Government's clandestine methods and tactics, does not their consistent preaching of the gospel of open government to the House and the people smell of hypocrisy and cant?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

There is nothing secretive about the process. All member states have let the Commission know their priorities for making a success of the practical implementation of the subsidiarity principle. I well understand that such an exercise may not appeal to the centralising tendencies of Labour Members, who may be prepared to let more issues be decided in Brussels. We not only got it written into the treaty that there should be a subsidiarity test, but we wish to see it carried forward into practical effect. That is why we were pleased that the great majority of our proposals have now been accepted by the Community as a whole.

Mr. Garel-Jones

Does my hon. Friend accept that Conservative Members at any rate are delighted to hear that he makes no apology for the lists submitted by the British and French Governments? Will he give us an update on progress so far in amending or abolishing EC directives and assure us that he and the French Government will take forward the principle in respect of any future unnecessary and intrusive legislation?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

The treaty requirement is to apply the subsidiarity test only to future proposals, but, beyond that, it was agreed voluntarily that the Commission and Council should look back at the existing EC statute book. The Commission itself estimates that 25 per cent. of the existing volume of legislation will be amended or repealed in the light of the subsidiarity exercise.

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