HC Deb 01 March 1995 vol 255 cc1035-7
10. Mr. Dunnachie

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met the French Foreign Minister to discuss the future of the European Union.

11. Mr. Dykes

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet his French counterpart to discuss matters on the EU presidency agenda.

Mr. Hurd

I meet my French colleague regularly at the Foreign Affairs Council.

Mr. Dunnachie

Will the Foreign Secretary state whether the Government's policy is to veto proposals which would significantly change the British Commonwealth's relationship with the European Union? Is it their policy to veto proposals which would make any change in that relationship?

Mr. Hurd

I think that on the whole British Commonwealth countries have benefited from the links between this country and the rest of Europe. If the hon. Gentleman has specific points in mind, no doubt he will let me know.

Mr. Dykes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there would be much value in getting national Parliaments and the European Parliament working together, a subject about which I believe that the French presidency is enthusiastic? Will he raise that subject at forthcoming meetings if there is time?

Mr. Hurd

We must try to make some progress on this. The difficulty is that it is not for Governments to decide. It is essentially for national Parliaments to decide how and whether they wish to come together to ensure that they play a democratic part together in monitoring what happens in Europe. The House has no difficulty in chivvying and making life difficult for Ministers when it feels the urge. I think that it is generally felt that national Parliaments as a whole should exert a greater influence over what goes on.

Mr. Gapes

Will the Foreign Secretary impress on the French Government his strong commitment, unlike some of his colleagues, to continuing integration in Europe? Will he emphasise that this country will soon have a change of Government which will mean that integration will continue at a faster pace?

Mr. Hurd

I do not know—and I do not think that the hon. Gentleman knows—what is meant by "continuing integration". We believe, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will shortly expound authoritatively, in a Europe of nations working more effectively together than they have ever done in history. I doubt whether we shall get similar light from the Opposition Benches.

Mr. Elletson

Has my right hon. Friend had a chance to discuss with the French Foreign Minister the French Government's decision to expel five American citizens from France on the ground that they were spying for the Central Intelligence Agency? What lessons does that teach us about the prospects for a common European security policy'?

Mr. Hurd

No. I think I had better keep my nose out of that matter. I do not think that it has any implications for our work together on foreign policy.

Mr. Robin Cook

While the Foreign Secretary was considering the future of the European Union, did he have time to see the appeal from the hon. Member for Reigate (Sir G. Gardiner) to the Whipless Conservatives, urging them to acknowledge the gains they have made on Government policy towards the European Union and to rejoin the fold? In order that those rebels and the whole House may be clear what policy gains they have achieved from the Government, could the right hon. Gentleman tell us what he thinks they are?

Mr. Hurd

The hon. Gentleman is almost as had as his hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd), who collapsed so singularly when she asked a question earlier in our proceedings. The exchanges between my hon. Friends are fascinating, but not matters that I would dream of discussing with the French Foreign Minister.

Mr. Cash

Does my right hon. Friend accept that with the first round of the French presidential elections coming up on 23 April, there is a great deal to be said for our Government having a clear and decisive policy on the single currency, so that when the French realise that the British are not going to accept a single currency, the French electorate, as compared with the French elite, can respond accordingly? We would then have a real opportunity to renegotiate that hopeless failure, the Maastricht treaty.

Mr. Hurd

I know that my hon. Friend has close contacts with some aspects of French political life, but his comments are astray. I had a fascinating conversation with Mr. Pasqua this morning and he confirmed that he does not think that European issues will be dominant in the French presidential election.

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