HC Deb 16 October 1996 vol 282 cc811-4
7. Mr. Dykes

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to visit the office of the representative of the European Commission in Edinburgh in the near future to discuss EU policies affecting Scotland. [38710]

Mr. Michael Forsyth


Mr. Dykes

Despite that answer, does my right hon. Friend agree that what strikes visitors from England about Scotland is the strong enthusiasm for United Kingdom membership of the European Union and the strong feeling that European Union membership has been good for Scotland in respect of specific policies? Will he finally overcome the hesitations that he has just demonstrated by persuading some of his English colleagues in the Government of the necessity of showing more enthusiasm for Europe and perhaps even considering the daring possibility of accepting the invitation to become a patron of the European Movement?

Mr. Forsyth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. I have declined the invitation to be a patron of the European Movement because I would find it difficult to sign up to a series of proposals within its programme of objectives. As for his point about visiting the office concerned, my understanding is that the European Commission office in Edinburgh exists to promote the European Commission and is not concerned with matters of investment and manufacturing. I believe that Europe offers Scotland a tremendous opportunity as a Europe of nation states offering a market for our people, but I totally reject the view of a Europe of the regions that would reduce Scotland to regional status in Europe, which is the policy of the Scottish National party, the Liberal party and the Labour party.

Dr. Godman

When the Secretary of State next meets Mr. Kenneth Monro, the European Commission representative in Edinburgh, will he take the opportunity to discuss the repayment of the illegal payment of some £600,000 that was made to Tate and Lyle? Under European Union law, that money should not have been paid to that multinational which is quitting Greenock next year. May I remind the Secretary of State that on 26 June I wrote a letter on the issue to his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Kynoch), but that as yet I have not had the courtesy of a reply?

Mr. Forsyth

The hon. Gentleman says that he has not had a reply, and I apologise for that unreservedly. He shall have a reply this week. No, I will not be discussing the matters with the representative, because it is not really what he is there for and would not he relevant. Although I hesitate to fill up the diary of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Robertson), I am sure that he will be very happy to see the hon. Gentleman. I know how hard my hon. Friend worked to try to ensure that Tate and Lyle stayed in Greenock, where it had been for many years, and I know of the impact that that decision had on the community. I know that the hon. Gentleman worked very closely with my hon. Friend and the trade unions to do everything possible to try to maintain employment in the area. In that spirit, I am sure that, if the hon. Gentleman has not received a reply, it is certainly not through any deliberate intention.

Mr. Wallace

As one of the patrons of the European Movement in Scotland, I am disappointed that the Secretary of State has not joined us, but pleased that his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade continues to subscribe to many of the European Movement's objectives.

If the Secretary of State is not prepared to go to the office of the European Commission's representative in Edinburgh, will he at least take the opportunity to engage with some of the European institutions with regard to two important Scottish industries—the fishing and fish farming industries—and specifically state what steps he is proposing to take forward the case against quota hopping? Will he ensure that we have substantial indigenous fish farming in future? That will require considering the imposition of duty on imports of fish farm products from countries such as Norway, which is dumping them, and not having to wait for a considerable period of time for a report of the European Commission's case on anti-dumping.

Mr. Forsyth

I would be very happy to be in any organisation with the hon. Gentleman, but I shall resist the invitation. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has always had a reputation for being somewhat more broad-minded than me on a variety of matters.

On the hon. Gentleman's serious points, he is of course absolutely right to draw attention to the importance of quota hoppers. We shall raise the issue at the intergovernmental conference. I am not sure whether people realise just how important the farmed salmon industry is to Scotland—certainly to the hon. Gentleman's constituency and the west of Scotland. My hon. Friend the Minister responsible for fisheries has been to Norway, entertained the Fisheries Minister in Scotland and worked hard with colleagues. The industry is fighting hard. It has our support and I share the hon. Gentleman's determination to tackle the problems. It is experiencing unfair dumping as a result of overproduction in Norway, which is putting it at risk. We must do everything that we can to support the industry.

Mrs. Ewing

Is not the Secretary of State having great difficulty referring to antecedents in the context of the European Movement because his heroine, Baroness Thatcher, was also a patron of it? Perhaps he would like to dwell on that.

On the points raised by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), will we have to wait on the Irish Government to fight for the fish farming industry in Scotland? What exactly will the Scottish Office say at the IGC about the common fisheries policy and the implications for the thousands of jobs in Scotland that depend on that industry?

Mr. Forsyth

I know that the hon. Lady has a constituency interest. If she would like to discuss the issues with me, I shall be very happy to do so. I am surprised to learn that my right hon. and noble Friend Baroness Thatcher is a patron of the European Movement. Despite that, I have no plans to reconsider my decision.

Mr. Day

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in Scotland's dealings with the European Union, as with those of all parts of the United Kingdom, when Germany east and west is united, it is essential that the components of the United Kingdom remain together in union, speaking with a single voice, rather than being picked off individually as separate units? For Scotland and England, is it not vital to be together within Europe, as with our dealings with the rest of the world?

Mr. Forsyth

I agree. The proposals for a Scottish Parliament envisage somebody shuffling down from Edinburgh to sit alongside the United Kingdom representative, who would be guided by decisions in this House. The hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) has drawn attention to the importance of fishing and fish farming to Scotland's future. The idea that Scotland's representation should be reduced to someone who would not speak for Scotland's interest and would not have the power to carry the vote for Scotland's interests—

Mrs. Ewing

Douglas Hogg?

Mr. Forsyth

—would be deeply damaging to Scotland. The hon. Lady's position is better than that of the other Opposition parties in that respect, in that she wants an independent Scotland with its own representative—assuming that Scotland could then continue as a member of the Community. Unfortunately, as a small country dependent on the Community for support, our voice would be greatly diminished, as opposed to our being part of a United Kingdom with the power, the influence and the strong voice in Europe that has been our tradition, and is our future.

Mr. McFall

When the Secretary of State next decides to visit the office of the Commission in Edinburgh, will he do so in a spirit of contrition and humility in view of the anger and dismay expressed by the National Farmers Union of Scotland, Sandy Mole and others, about what they call the "bumbling shambles" of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy policy? In walking away from the Florence agreement, does the Secretary of State not realise that he is jeopardising 37,000 jobs in Scotland—as witnessed by the 300 jobs lost in Kilwinning last week? Is he not aware that the export of beef is crucial to the Scottish economy, so good relations with Europe are essential? Will he therefore stop relying on a policy designed to allay the fears of the Euro-sceptic wing of the Tory party at the expense of the fragile rural and farming areas of Scotland?

Mr. Forsyth

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman seeks to politicise an issue that is important for Scotland's economy. We are not abandoning the Florence agreement, and I do not believe that we would be able to stand up for the interests of Scotland's farmers, or of anyone else, by adopting the kind of policy suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, who has said that he would never be isolated in Europe. That means that he would never say no, and would never stand up for Britain's interests, for Scotland's farmers or fishermen, or for anyone else. The hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) is right to draw attention to the importance of the export business. That is why we shall continue to argue the case for Scottish beef, which is the best in the world and should have access to those markets. When I voted to join the European Community, I was told that I was voting for access to a single market for our producers. That is what we expect to have under the treaty, and that is what we intend to see delivered.

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