HC Deb 02 March 1994 vol 238 cc938-9
15. Mr. Cryer

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet his counterpart Ministers in the EC to discuss greater political union.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

There are no plans for a meeting of Community Foreign Ministers to discuss greater political union.

Mr. Cryer

When the Minister does meet the appropriate Ministers, will he make it clear that, despite the cosy consensus between the Front Benches, millions of people outside the House see no benefit from the Common Market, do not want greater political union and, given the chance, would get out? Those people recognise that that would immediately knock £24 a week off the average family food bill, reduce our payments by some £2,500 million a year and perhaps help to reverse the £10 billion deficit of payments that we have with the Common Market, which has been nothing but a millstone around our necks ever since we joined.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

The vision of the European Union that the hon. Gentleman is scared of is written up in the socialist manifesto to which his party is fully committed, so I invite the hon. Gentleman not to vote Labour in the forthcoming European elections.

Mr. Oppenheim

Should we not do our best to ensure that any deepening of the European Community does not preclude its widening, too? Is my hon. Friend not just a little bit ashamed of the position in the European Community? Having preached the benefits of open markets to the countries of eastern Europe for so long, the European Community is now refusing open access to goods from those countries just when they most need our help—and all to appease a few inefficient, cosseted vested interests such as the European steel industry and European farmers. Will we in Europe not look back with shame in future years at this selfish short-sightedness?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

We are in the forefront of those European Union members calling for openness of markets with the former communist states of central and eastern Europe to help stabilise them, but I can bring my hon. Friend some good news: I have just come back from an Accession Council meeting in Brussels, which lasted for five days. I am glad to say that we now have political agreement with three new member states—Finland, Sweden and Austria. When they join the Union, they will reinforce our model of a Community which is decentralised, free trading, diverse and open to the world.

Mr. Radice

With respect to the successful enlargement negotiations, will the Minister tell the House what in his view now constitutes a blocking minority?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

A blocking minority is 23 votes.

Mr. Bill Walker

Does my hon. Friend agree that it will never be the Government's policy to embrace federalism in whatever form in the European Union and that we believe firmly in nation states, with more of the power returning to the nation states and fewer directives coming out of Europe?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

Yes, Conservative Members are against the establishment of a federal European state.

Mr. Dafis

As the Minister will know, the new Committee of the Regions established under the Maastricht treaty will meet for the first time next week. Does he agree that it will constitute a vital mechanism for the representation of the interests of the small nations and regions of Europe, which should really be the building blocks of a new federal Europe? Does he also agree that the Committee of the Regions could and should become the second chamber of the European Parliament?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

I am not sure about a second chamber of the European Parliament, but the creation of a Committee of the Regions is certainly in line with our view of the European Union—a body that is decentralised and makes decisions as near to the citizen as possible.

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