HC Deb 22 July 1996 vol 282 cc8-9
7. Sir Teddy Taylor

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what is his Department's role in the co-ordination of Government Departments in respect of publicising the impact of EU membership. [36752]

The Deputy Prime Minister

My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the Government's policy towards the European Union, including the presentation of that policy.

Sir Teddy Taylor

On the day of the tragic resignation of a very sincere and truthful Minister, will the Government consider whether, in the national interest—and bearing in mind the deep divides on Europe in both parties—it might be best to resolve the issue by letting the people decide for themselves, through a referendum, which way they wish to proceed in Europe? Would not that be the best way of co-ordinating policy and accepting the simple fact that the country belongs to the people and not to the political parties?

The Deputy Prime Minister

If my hon. Friend is suggesting that there should be a referendum on whether the United Kingdom should leave the European Union, which is how I understood his question, the answer is that that would not be compatible with Government policy. It is clearly the Government's policy that, in the over-arching and overall interests of this country, it is fundamental that we be a leading member of the European Union.

Mr. Dalyell

What can the Government or the Community do to publicise the guidelines on airport safety and the safety of aircraft, which were formulated after Lockerbie—and which, incidentally, were eloquently outlined in The Sunday Telegraph—so that at least some of the basic principles are implemented, which has not been the case so far? That question is especially relevant in view of the dreadful events in Spain and on the TWA aircraft.

The Deputy Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman raises the latest tragic event in civil aviation. As yet, we do not know the precise causes of that tragedy. I shall certainly draw the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary to the hon. Gentleman's continuing concern in the context of the Lockerbie disaster.

Mr. Beith

How many Ministers are there left who share the view of the former Paymaster General about the Government's policy on a single currency? How many are there left who think that Britain's participation in the single currency is a genuine option? Are there enough of them to co-ordinate it?

The Deputy Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman has judged the Government's behaviour in the context of Liberal Democrat policy. The Government's White Paper has clearly set out our policy on the forthcoming intergovernmental conference. We have made wide-ranging statements on the fundamental issues relating to Europe. The Government's policy is perfectly clear. If a Minister cannot accept that policy, the honourable course is to resign.