HL Deb 01 May 1973 vol 342 cc22-38

3.44 p.m.


My Lords, if I might have the permission of the House, it might be convenient if I were to read a copy of the Statement which is being made at the moment by my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture in another place. I should like to apologise to members of both Parties opposite for the fact that they have not been able to receive copies of the Statement earlier than has been the case. This is because my right honourable friend arrived back from Luxembourg only a short time ago—just before 3 o'clock. The Statement is as follows:

"At its meeting which ended in Luxembourg this morning, the Council of Agricultural Ministers agreed on the prices under the C.A.P. for 1973–74. This agreement, in my view, represents a reasonable compromise and safeguards British interests. The Commission's original proposals envisaged an increase of prices of 2.76 per cent. virtually across the board, with substantial additional increases for some products.

"As a result of lengthy negotiations, we secured, first, that under the provisions of Article 52 of the Treaty of Accession we could reduce by 10 per cent. for each commodity except beef the increase in price which would otherwise have resulted from our undertakings to the Community. On individual commodities the Council agreed that the increases in the prices of cereals and sugar should be limited to a modest 1 per cent., with a similar further increase when all member States have adhered to the joint float. This element of delay, adding an additional 1 per cent., is a useful gain.

"The Council's decisions on milk are complicated and have to be looked at as a whole. The target price of milk is to be increased by 5½ per cent., but only by 4 per cent. in Germany and Benelux. The intervention price of butter will be reduced by 5½4 per cent. and the price of skimmed milk powder raised to offset this and also, of course, to absorb the effect of the higher target price.

"We were able to secure agreement that member countries should be able to pay a subsidy on butter consumption amounting to about £47 per ton. This represents over 2p per lb. and half the cost will be met from Community funds. The cut in the common butter price, together with the buttter subsidy, are positive steps in dealing with the buttter surplus problem. As a result of these measures and of the 10 per cent. abatement under Article 52, which I have already mentioned, the average price of butter in the shops of this country should show no increase this year over present levels.

"For beef there is to be an increase of 10.5 per cent. in the guide price. There will be no 10 per cent. reduction under Article 52 in the price alignment in the United Kingdom. This is not necessary for beef because the increased guide price is still well below present market prices. These increases will not raise retail prices. Producers on the other hand, will have the assurance that their returns will not fall to unduly low levels, and this should help to maintain the expansion of home production. At the same time, consumers will still be able to benefit from any moderate falls in the world price of beef. They will also benefit from the continuing suspension of all import charges which was agreed to operate until September 15. This is a very important move which will help to encourage imports and keep down prices. In addition, the Community have agreed to introduce grants to encourage milk producers to switch to beef production. This is a valuable move, designed to help to reduce excess butter production.

"For pigmeat an increase of 4 per cent. was agreed, with provision for a further increase of 1 per cent. when all member States are in the joint float. This should not affect consumer prices.

"There will be a general increase in the basic and buying-in prices of fruit and vegetables covered by the C.A.P. of 7.5 per cent., except for pears (5 per cent.) and cauliflowers (9 per cent.) As these prices are well below current market price levels, the increases are unlikely to have an significant effect on the level of market prices.

"The Council also agreed on a resolution on farming in poorer areas. The Council will adopt by October 1 a directive which will provide for a special aid system, including compensatory payments designed to encourage farming and to improve farmers' incomes in the poorer areas of the Community. Such a directive should prove an important step in the development of the C.A.P.

"Finally, the Council agreed that there should be a thorough-going review of the general system of the Common Agricultural Policy in the autumn. This may well prove in the long run to be one of the Council's most important decisions."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.49 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that we are grateful to the noble Earl for repeating this Statement. I should also like to congratulate his right honourable friend upon his stamina and upon the efforts he has made to frustrate the effect of the C.A.P.—a Policy, of course, which Her Majesty's Government had previously accepted without any qualification at all. Would the noble Earl be good enough to confirm that the net effect of the efforts which his right honourable friend has made is that there will be no reduction at all in the quite intolerable level of food prices but in fact there will still be an increase, even though a small overall increase? May I also ask whether the noble Earl will say something about the reduction of the intervention price of butter? When he says that this will enable us to subsidise butter, does this mean that Her Majesty's Government have decided that they will subsidise the price of butter? If so, does this mean that half the cost of subsidising butter will fall upon the Treasury and will not come out of the Common Agricultural Policy kitty? Does it also mean that the corresponding increase of skimmed milk prices, to which I understand the noble Earl did not give a figure, will be reflected in the increased cost of manufactured foods? If so, is this increase in the cost of manufactured foods included in the estimate of the increase in the cost of living so far as food prices are concerned?

Would the noble Earl tell me whether this statement that we are going to subsidise the price of butter means that previous Statements which have been made by Ministers on that side of the House over the past weeks and months, that it is quite impossible to subsidise food prices, are now inoperative and that we find that we can subsidise food prices? If so, would they undertake to look again at some of the suggestions we made about the possibility of subsidising other basic fresh food prices? Would the noble Earl also tell me whether this intention—if intention it is—to subsidise the price of butter in this way is separate from and in addition to the intention of the Irish Government, for example, to subsidise butter for those consumers who are in receipt of Social Security benefit? In this country, shall we still be able to apply a similar subsidy to such individuals here?

The Statement refers to a subsidy, or some form of grant, to producers who switch from milk to beef. Could the noble Earl tell me what form those grants will take? Lastly, so far as the last paragraph of the Statement is concerned—which the noble Earl rightly says is probably the most important one in the Statement—can we anticipate that in the very near future Her Majesty's Government will tell us what policy they propose to suggest to the Community as a replacement for the present general system of common agricultural food policy?

3.53 p.m.


My Lords, we on the Liberal Benches are naturally delighted that the Ministers should at long last have reached agreement on the basis, as I understand it, of a second compromise put up by the Commission. This gives nobody everything that he wants, or, at any rate, nobody what he originally said he wanted; but so far as we can understand it at the present moment—and everybody will have to look into this very complicated Paper before making up their minds—it seems to be reasonably satisfactory, as indeed the Minister said.

But would not the Government agree that the all-night so-called "marathon" sessions are a crazy way of doing busi- ness? Surely, if the European Economic Community is to endure the only sensible thing to do is to get away from the so-called "Luxembourg Compromise" of 1966 whereby any Member effectively has the right to veto anything if he simply says that the vital interests of his country are involved. Could not the Government, for instance, say that, at least in certain spheres, they will be prepared to accept what is called "qualified" majority voting, whereby a major Power can still successfully object to anything, provided it has the support of one other major Power, or, as I believe, two or three other minor Powers? Alternatively, could not they set up an inquiry as to what is meant by "vital interests"? That would be, at least, a step forward. Anyhow, regarding agriculture generally, no absolutely vital British interest is involved. It is important but not vital. And regarding regional policy, surely it might be in our actual interests to accept qualified majority voting.

Finally, if we are to arrive at some substantial revision of an unworkable Common Agricultural Policy—and I agree that if this came about it would be a major achievement—would it not be all the easier to arrive at such a revision if we all agreed to accept some kind of qualified majority voting? What I am asking the Government—and I hope I shall get a reply—is whether, so far as they are concerned, they will soon make a strong effort to modify the Luxembourg compromise which, if maintained in its full rigour, may, even now, result in some disruption of the Community.

3.56 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, and to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for what they have said, and for their welcome to this Statement. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, asked a number of detailed questions. If I am not able to satisfy him entirely with the replies to the details I hope he will understand. The decisions have only recently been arrived at and, as I said earlier, my right honourable friend has only very shortly returned from the discussions.

The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, asked whether I would confirm that there would, nevertheless, be no reduction in the price of food. Of course I could not confirm that at all. I am in no position to determine what the prices of food are likely to be in the future. I can assure the noble Lord that as a result of the discussions which my right honourable friend has had, and with which he has persevered, the increases in the prices which were due in the Common Market, and which would have been reflected eventually in this country, will be very considerably modified. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, asked whether the Government were changing their mind and were going to subsidise butter. The subsidy to which the Statement referred was the subsidy from FEOGA to which, as the noble Lord, Lord Peswick, will know, we contribute very substantially. This is a subsidy which this country will get back from FEOGA.

Of course, the price of skimmed milk powder and other products may go up slightly; but these are much less important than butter and cheese which have been the centre of considerable attention. They noble Lord also asked whether people receiving the social security payments will benefit in the same way as people in Ireland have benefited. This question is at the moment under consideration; I can go no further than that. He also asked for details regarding the way in which the emphasis will be placed on the switch from milk to beef. At this juncture I could not give him the details for which he asked.

The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said that these all-night marathons are crazy, and asked whether the Common Market should adopt some system of qualified majority voting. We will certainly consider what the noble Lord had to say; he will not expect me to comment upon that matter at this juncture. The last paragraph of this Statement indicates that the conclusions to which the Members of the Common Market came are very similar to the conclusions to which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, came, that this is a curious system of arriving at decisions, and it is one upon which it is to be hoped that some improvement may be made. Everyone who took part in the discussions realises their own personal substantial measure of inconvenience and over-exhaustion, and that this situation could possibly somehow be improved upon.


My Lords, may I make it clear that I did not welcome the Statement; I thanked the noble Earl for his courtesy in repeating it, which is slightly different. The noble Earl said that he could not confirm that there would not be a reduction in the price of food. Am I then misreading this Statement, one paragraph of which says that there will be an overall increase in the price of food? Would the noble Earl in fact say that despite all the efforts that his right honourable friend has made the overall price of food, already intolerably high, will go still higher? That is the first definite question.

The other definite question I put in this way: it has been said hitherto from the Government Front Bench that it was quite impossible to subsidise the price of food. There is now a mention of the possibility of subsidising the price of butter. I am asking the noble Earl whether that means that the previous statement made, to the effect that it was impossible to subsidise the price of butter—to use modern jargon—is now inoperative and that one can in fact subsidise food prices? If so, can the noble Earl say whether the Government are ready to look into the possibility of subsidising other fresh food prices?

Lastly, I asked about the final important paragraph, namely, about a change in the general system of the C.A.P. I asked when the Government will be making a Statement, or whether they will in fact be making a Statement, to the House about the policy that they intend to put forward in place of the present C.A.P.


My Lords, I am sorry if I misinterpreted the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, who said that he did rot welcome the Statement, but that he merely thanked me for it; because I thought the Statement went very largely along the road to meet the desires which the noble Lord has expressed on previous occasions. I thought he had welcomed the fact that my right honourable friend had secured very considerable advantages, and if he did not welcome the fact I am sorry that I misinterpreted him.

I do not intend—and the noble Lord would not expect it of me—to speculate on whether prices will go up or will go down.


My Lords, it is in the Statement.


No, my Lords. What is in the Statement is the fact that the price of food articles covered by this Statement will not be affected during the current months. The noble Lord also went on to ask whether the Government would be prepared to subsidise food prices. As has been explained on a number of occasions, Her Majesty's Government have not thought it expedient to subsidise the price of food in this country. That is a very different matter from accepting a subsidy from FEOGA, which is a body to which we contribute, and here we shall get a considerable return.

With regard to whether the Government will make a Statement on the policy which they will put forward at the forthcoming review of the C.A.P., all I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, is that this is bound to be a matter of discussion between the member countries, and it will be up to Her Majesty's Government to decide in advance whether it is prudent to make a Statement, or whether they should make a Statement, after the discussions have taken place.

4.3 p.m.


My Lords, I am in the difficulty of being unable either to welcome or to condemn the Government Statement, and I am not sure that the Government are in any better position. What I am quite certain about is that my fellow countrymen suffer from the same disability as myself. For what happens? We have a Minister on the radio at lunch time who has been robbed of his sleep and who has not seen his bed for days. He gets into an aeroplane and comes back to this country; he hurries from the airport, dashes to the House of Commons and we get a Statement here and one in another place and we do not know what the small print is. I would respectfully submit to Her Majesty's Government that one of the reforms they could introduce—and they could start on this occasion—would be to publish a White Paper setting out what it was that the Minister sought to achieve, and then setting down what all the other countries also sought to achieve. We should have nine statements showing what they all wanted, and then in another column there should be shown what they have got.

I noticed an important qualification in the Minister's statement on the radio, which was partially repeated in the Statement which we have just heard, when he referred to the price of butter for this year. The test of all this is not only what is going to happen in this year. It may well be that Mr. Godber has gone to Luxembourg and he may have done what Mr. Heath did when he talked to M. Pompidou—he may have sold this country down the river. I am not suggesting that Mr. Godber has done this, but he could have done a deal which is acceptable because nobody understands it as they have not seen the small print, but which in the long run will turn out to be wholly disastrous. This is not the way to run a railway, and it is not the way to tackle a democracy, because in the long run the British public are not bloody fools. They will find out the truth about it. Mr. Nixon in the United States is now suffering from the same complaint as Mr. Macmillan suffered from—nobody told him what happened. I want to know what has been said.

If there is any meaning in my attendance at this House at all it is as a representative here of those among whom I live. I want to know the facts and we have not been given the facts to-day. There is not one question that has been put to the Minister that he has been able to answer. I can excuse him; he is not in a position to answer. A piece of paper has been thrust into his hand which he has hurriedly read. He apologises to the Opposition and he apologises to the Liberal Party—whatever that may mean—but what about the rest of us? We have as much right to know what has been going on, and every man and woman in these Islands has a right to know because they have to pay the bill. They need to know what has been given away. We do not know what is behind it. I shall continue to agitate for the fullest possible facts about the continued "sell out" that is wrapped up in the Common Market.


My Lords, I understand the concern expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, and that he should want to know what he described as the "small print". I apologised to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, and to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for the fact that they did not receive copies of the Statement earlier, but I did not apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, because he does not normally receive copies of Statements. I accept that he wishes to know all the facts, but it was up to my right honourable friend to decide, in view of the great concern about the negotiations which have been going on in the Common Market, whether he should make a Statement to both Houses as soon as possible or whether it would be preferable to delay and to give a fuller Statement later. My right honourable friend came to the conclusion that it would be for the convenience of both Houses and the public at large if a Statement on the conclusions were made as quickly as possible, and that is what he has done.


My Lords, it is a complete misunderstanding to suggest that I am complaining because I did not have a copy of the Statement. I am one of those who has been in politics so long that I never ask a question unless I know the answer. What I am complaining about is that the Minister himself has been given a paper that he does not completely understand, because he could not answer one single supplementary question on it; and furthermore he then gives a copy of the Statement so late to the Opposition Front Bench and to the Liberal Party that it is really useless. If that is how the Minister is treated, and if that is how they are treated, what about the rest of us? I do not want a copy of the Statement—I can manage quite well. It is a question of the niceness of the views of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on this subject.

I am asking the Minister whether he will go back to his right honourable friend and ask him to publish a White Paper in which is set out his own negotiating position. What is it that he asked for in the first instance? What is it that each of the other members of the Nine wanted? In that way we could see what each wanted and what they have got. The Minister has put before the House what purports to be a political and economic miracle, because all the countries that wanted more appear to be satisfied and all the countries that wanted less are also satisfied. This is not possible, and, therefore, I do not believe a word of it, and I am quite sure that on reflection the noble Earl will not believe it either.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, despite the puzzlement of the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, there are certain aspects of the Statement which my noble friend has repeated which I should like to welcome warmly? Is my noble friend aware that the Minister of Agriculture, my right honourable friend Mr. Godber, seems to have done a very good job in this very complicated matter? He has had some restraining influence on those Ministers in the Common Market who wish to see higher agricultural prices, he has secured some reductions, and he has made a useful contribution in this international context. Is my noble friend aware that, despite the questions, or statements, from Benches opposite (which, of course, are opposed to the Common Market) most of us here are in favour of our entry and see the Common Agricultural Policy as a highly complicated and to some extent embarrassing feature of it? But is he aware that we also see that the general policy of encouraging maximum agricultural production in Europe is something of which we may be very glad in the long run, in a world where we are becoming increasingly aware of food shortages? While I should still wish to see some modification of the prices in the Common Market, the general policy seems to me to be right.


My Lords, may I ask one or two questions? I apologise to your Lordships' House if I do not deliver a speech. What I should like to know is how the Minister can say that there is to be a 10 per cent. increase in the price of beef without its having a repercussion on retail prices in this country as far as the housewife is concerned. May I also ask the Minister—moving from beef to milk—how one promotes a changeover from milk production to beef production by increasing the price of milk to the milk producer by 5½ per cent.? If that has been agreed upon, how is it going to be reflected in the price of milk to the consumer in this country? Can the Minister tell us what, as a consequence of this change, will be the increase in the price of skimmed milk, which manufacturers fear is going to put up their prices very considerably? Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, I cannot welcome it and I cannot then say that I do not understand it. May I put my question and then I shall get the answer so that I shall be able to understand it? Is it not a fact that in a manufacturing industry—including the ice-cream industry, for a reduction in whose prices the Government took great credit during the last Budget—this will mean a very considerable increase in costs?

May I also ask the Minister, because he merely skimmed over it—perhaps that is not the right word to use—in dealing with hill-farming, which is extremely important to a considerable part of Wales and to a great part of Northern Scotland, what decisions were reached which will encourage hill-farming in those areas? Finally, may I ask the Minister about the question of the butter subsidy? As I understand it, agreement has been reached that butter can be subsidised to the tune of £47 million. What I am not clear about is whether that £47 million covers every country in the E.E.C., or whether it simply applies to Britain as a whole? Indeed, when the Minister says that the E.E.C. will meet half the cost of this subsidy he is in fact saying, I think, that they will be responsible for £23½ million and the Governments or a Government will be responsible for the other half. Is that what he means? Because if so, we shall then want to know whether this applies to European countries generally or to Britain in particular. Indeed, if the consumer is not going to pay for it in direct increases in prices, then it has to be met from the national exchequer. There can be no other alternative. We should like the Minister to be clear in his explanation of this matter. The final part of this question—it will be my last one—is: does it not mean that, whatever happens, the price of butter simply cannot be reduced? Indeed, the forecast of 4p per lb. is going to be restricted to 2p per lb. If the Minister is denying that, is he then saying to the country that, no matter what happens, the price of butter in Britain will not be increased over the next eight or nine months, until the end of this year?

4.13 p.m.


My Lords, first I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford for what he said about my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture. Indeed my right honourable friend has done a magnificent job in Luxembourg in putting forward, with considerable clarity and conviction, the British point of view, which was frequently at variance with that of other members of the Community. As a result, the Community have been able to secure very different arrangements from those which would have been secured had Britain not been a member of the Community and which would have been secured if my right honourable friend had not taken the stand that he has taken.

The noble Lord, Lord Hoy, asked how can one say that beef prices will not go up if the intervention price goes up. At the moment, beef prices in this country are above the intervention price; therefore the increase in the intervention price of beef will not have any material effect on the price of beef in the markets. The noble Lord referred also to the hill-farming scheme and asked how that would be affected. I cannot give him details of the scheme and how it is to be worked out, but I can tell the noble Lord that in fact the scheme to help hill farmers and farmers on the poorer land will be a scheme put out by FEOGA and it will be one from which, again, this country will benefit. It will be a direct Exchequer benefit from FEOGA.


My Lords, may I intervene for a moment? When the noble Earl talks about a direct benefit from FEOGA he is ignoring the fact that we contribute to FEOGA. Surely what the noble Earl is trying to convey to us is that as a result of contributing we may get something back, but it cannot be more than that.


My Lords, that is absolutely true, but there was considerable concern that our hill farmers would suffer and that we should not get back from FEOGA what we hoped to get back. Now I am able to tell the noble Lord that we shall be able to get this back from FEOGA. The noble Lord wanted a categorical assurance that the price of butter will not go up during the course of this year. I can only repeat to him what I said in the Statement, which was that as a result of these measures and of the 10 per cent. abatement under Article 52, the average price of butter in the shops in this country should show no increase this year over present levels.


My Lords, first, would the noble Earl make quite clear to his noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford that what concerned the Ministers at Brussels as much as anything was not a question at all of increasing the production of food, it was the question of dealing with the surpluses of food? That is the biggest headache and that is where the biggest nonsense of the C.A.P. comes in. Can the noble Earl clear up this question of the subsidy? He has told my noble friend that the money comes froth FEOGA. The statement says quite categorically that only half the cost of subsidy will come from Community funds. What I asked the noble Earl, and what my noble Friend subsequently asked, is where does the other half come from?


My Lords, before my noble friend answers that question may I ask him two more questions briefly: one with regard to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick? Is my noble friend aware that in any system of guaranteed prices for agriculture it is impossible to isolate one commodity from another and it may very well happen that one commodity is in surplus whereas another one is in shortage? It is quite impossible to treat them separately, one from another. I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, does not understand the point that a surplus of butter is to some extent related to the shortage of beef. May I put this point to my noble friend—it is not always that I agree with everything which the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, says but I agree with him that this subject is full of complexities—would my noble friend ask his right honourable Friend the Minister of Agriculture if he would consider putting out a White Paper setting out the whole of this matter?



My Lords, the noble Lord looks at me in surprise. It is the custom of this House that when a question is put to the Minister, the Minister is allowed to answer it.


My Lords, that is a new point of order to me. If the noble Lord will refer me to the point, either in the Companion or in the Rules of Order, then I will look at it, but it is quite common practice for more than one question to be put before the Minister replies. May I repeat my question? Would my noble friend be good enough to consider publishing a White Paper dealing with the many complexities which arise out of this subject?


My Lords, I will certainly see that my noble friend's point is drawn to the attention of my right honourable friend. I can tell my noble friend that the House will receive copies of the E.E.C. regulations which are necessary to implement the conclusions which have been arrived at.

The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, asked particularly about butter subsidies. Under the system of arrangements that exist in the Common Market, if there is to be a subsidy from FEOGA to this country, we contribute 50 per cent. and FEOGA contribute the other 50 per cent.


My Lords, can my noble friend confirm, with reference to the encouragement of agriculture in the poorer areas, that farmers in receipt of hill farming grants or suchlike grants at the moment will broadly be able to benefit from such a FEOGA subsidy?


My Lords, my understanding is that the encouragement given to farmers in hill lands and poorer areas will continue, but that the Exchequer will receive the advantage of the subsidy from FEOGA; therefore, it will be a direct advantage to the Exchequer.


My Lords. I am sorry to trouble the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, further. I put a question to him about the possibility of a White Paper setting out the negotiating positions of the Nine in terms of what they asked for and what they got. Lord Nugent was kind enough to say that on this occasion he followed the path of righteousness, that he agreed with me, and he then proceeded to put forward something for which I did not ask. I entirely agree with him, but a White Paper which set out all the complexities would probably resemble the Bible, in length if not in small print. I am asking for something quite simple, on behalf of the people for whom I think I am speaking, that they be given an opportunity of knowing what this is all about. The only way in which they can understand it is by seeing what the Nine asked for and what they got. Then the professional economists can come in and we can compare. Would the Minister be kind enough to say that he has at least listened to what I have said, because if he does not he will hear it on another occasion?


My Lords, I have listened to every word that the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, has said. The only reason why I did not give a categorical assurance to pass on his request to my right honourable friend was that I thought there was much less chance of his request being acceded to than that of my noble friend Lord Nugent. The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, admitted that it would be the size of the Bible, and I would think that that would be an underestimate. But I will certainly see that the noble Lord's request is passed on to my honourable friend.


My Lords, I am afraid the noble Earl completely misunderstands. What I said was that if he does what his noble friend Lord Nugent asks him to do, covering all the small print and all the detailed account of what has gone on, it will be a very lengthy document. I have asked for something comparatively simple—what were the negotiating positions of the Nine when they started their marathon and what was the position at the end? One could then make a subtraction or addition, as the case may be, between what they asked for and what they got. That is something quite simple.


My Lords, I take the noble Lord's point. My only feeling was that his suggestion would result in something 10 times as long as what the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, wanted. He requested only the conclusions. The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, requested the conclusions plus the nine different points of view which determined the conclusions. But I will certainly see that his request is passed on.


My Lords, on a point of information, I believe it is a fact that it is out of order for the representative of any one Government to give a detailed account of what happened in what are supposedly confidential negotiations. If that is so, it would be impossible to have a White Paper giving the bargaining position of every member during the negotiations. Personally I should like that to happen, but I believe the convention is that that does not happen. Perhaps the noble Earl could confirm that?


My Lords, it was for that reason that I did not wish to say that this would happen. I think it is highly unlikely, even if I pass on the request of the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, it would be agreed to. However, I have said to the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, that I will draw his request to the attention of my right honourable friend.


My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that the West German Parliament has a representative at the Council of Ministers and that that representative is able to pass on, and does pass on, all the information of what takes place at the Council of Ministers? In that case the West German Parliament is in a much more knowledgeable position as to what has been negotiated. Would the noble Earl not agree that this sort of system is something which this Parliament would very much welcome?


My Lords, I wonder if I might intervene. I think we have a debate down in the not too distant future on European institutions, and I think some of the suggestions which are being made might be more appropriate to that. I would rather like to suggest to your Lordships that we should now leave this fascinating subject of whether the Bible of the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, or that of my noble friend is the longest, and perhaps move on. I think we have had a fair crack at this. I see that my noble friend and noble Lord have been on this subject for 41 minutes. I would suggest to your Lordships that we might now move on to other business.