HC Deb 25 October 1995 vol 264 cc1014-5
15 Mr. Win Griffiths

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about progress in the reflections group in preparation for the European Union intergovernmental conference in 1996. [36867]

Mr. David Davis

There have been 10 meetings so far of the study group preparing for the intergovernmental conference. The chairman of the group, Mr. Westendorp, issued an interim report, on his own authority, on 1 September, which has been placed in the Library of the House. The group is due to present its final report to the Madrid European Council in December.

Mr. Griffiths

The Minister will have heard the Secretary of State, in reply to the second question this afternoon, reiterate the Government's commitment to openness in the European Union. In the light of that commitment, will he now reiterate the Government's support for the Swedish Government's decision to publish papers previously kept secret in Brussels? Will he welcome the decision of the European Court of Justice in the case of The Guardian and the publication of Council minutes, and will he give us a commitment that in future the Council of Ministers, being the only legislature in the democratic world that meets in secret, will meet in public?

Mr. Davis

The British have been in the lead in many areas of transparency within the Union. The fact that we publish our minute statements, our votes and the lines that we take in each of the Councils that we attend acts as an exemplar in this. Holding Councils in public would have the effect of driving negotiations into the corridor, and that would not be in the interests of transparency.

Mr. Duncan Smith

Did my hon. Friend notice the other day that Chancellor Kohl made it quite clear, in robust and forthright language, that unless, at the IGC, Europe moved in his direction with regard to having a single defence policy by 1999, there would be a threat of war and difficult dislocations across Europe? Did my hon. Friend further notice that, in the course of that, the Commission president did not chastise Chancellor Khol for the nature of his language? Will my hon. Friend now take the opportunity to join me in so chastising him?

Mr. Davis

We will take a robust line in ensuring that our particular view on defence in Europe will be adhered to.

Ms Eagle

Can the Minister explain the conundrum between the Government's position in support of enlargement, which requires as an absolute first step the basic reform of the common agricultural policy, and their position on the veto? Is it possible to reform the CAP without affecting the veto when it is clear that Germany and other nations will not allow such reforms to take place? Therefore, how can the hon. Gentleman possibly expect enlargement to be a reality?

Mr. Davis

Very large areas of the CAP are already decided by qualified majority voting.

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