HC Deb 01 February 1995 vol 253 c1080
14. Sir David Knox

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

Mr. Hurd

I have regular discussions on those matters with my European Union counterparts at meetings of the General Affairs Council. The next meeting of the General Affairs Council is scheduled for 6 and 7 February.

Sir David Knox

Is my right hon. Friend aware of a speech made by Ray Seitz last year, shortly before he ceased to be the American ambassador to Britain, in which he stated that British influence in the United States depended on the degree to which we were effectively engaged in the European Union? Has the Foreign Office fully taken that advice into account, coming as it does from a very good friend of this country who has its best interests at heart?

Mr. Hurd

Yes, I remember the speech—it was a good one. We certainly believe, as the Prime Minister said at Leiden, that we need to strengthen the European Union, of which we are a part. Of particular interest to the United States are defence, on which I have already answered one question, and about which the Secretary of State for Defence has also just made a speech, and foreign policy. We believe that we are only at the beginning of effective co-operation between Europeans, under the framework of the treaty of Maastricht intergovernmental co-operation. We believe, as the Prime Minister also said at Leiden, that we should be more ambitious under this heading.

Mr. Hoon

Does the Foreign Secretary believe that the deep divisions in the Conservative party on European questions are a help or a hindrance to him in best representing Britain's interests in negotiations with our European partners?

Mr. Hurd

They are certainly a help, if they are quickly resolved on the basis of commonsense policies—as they will be.

Mr. Key

Has my right hon. Friend made representations to ensure the appointment of Sir Leon Brittan as vice-president of the Commission?

Mr. Hurd

No, I have made no representations. They would not have been right or necessary. He was elected a vice-president of the European Commission this morning—I gather with a hefty majority. I am sure that the whole House would like to congratulate him.

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