HL Deb 20 January 1976 vol 367 cc415-20

5.52 p.m.

Lord WINTERBOTTOM rose to move, That the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (No. 4) Order 1975, laid before the House on 2nd December, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I seek the approval of the House for the European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (No. 4) Order 1975. In moving approval, may I briefly describe the purpose of this draft Order though this is now well-known to your Lordships, particularly since we have just dealt with the No. 3 Order. I shall then briefly describe the five treaties which we propose should be defined as Community treaties in the order.

The European Communities Act 1972 itself gives effect in the United Kingdom to all rights, powers, liabilities, obligations and restrictions embodied in Community treaties. But such Community rights and obligations do not apply and cannot be applied under the Act unless they arise under Community treaties, as defined in Section 1 of the Act. Agreements entered into by the United Kingdom after 22nd January 1972—which, of course, was the date of the Treaty of Accession—cannot be regarded as Community treaties unless they are designated as such by means of the special procedure provided under Section 1(3) of the Act.

The Schedule to this No. 4 Order is split into two parts. Part I contains a decision of the Member-States of the ECSC opening tariff preferences for European Coal and Steel Community products originating in Israel. This decision brings into effect—pending ratification of the main ECSC/Israel Agreement, the tariff provisions of that Agreement. This decision will have legal force as a Community treaty in Britain as soon as the Order is made.

Part II of the Schedule covers four treaties. Two of them—namely, the additional Protocol to the EEC/Greece Association Agreement, and the main ECSC/ Israel Agreement—will enter into force after ratification by all the parties concerned. This Part also contains a treaty in the form of an exchange of letters between the EEC and each of the Member-States, on the one hand, and the Government of the Lebanese Republic, on the other, giving the Lebanon most favoured nation treatment. This treaty is renewed annually, and will enter into force after procedures in each of the Member-States have been completed. Previous exchanges of letters for this purpose have been brought before this House in the same way as I am doing today. As with previous renewals, the treaty provides for provisional application from 1st July 1975.

The United Kingdom will accede to the Protocol on the Accession of Greece to the Convention of the provision of Mutual Assistance by Customs Authorities (Cmnd. 6331) as soon as possible after this Order has been made. The United Kingdom acceded to the main Convention, which is a pre-accession treaty within the meaning of Section 1(2) of the European Communities Act 1972, on 23rd January 1974. The Convention concerns provisions for mutual assistance for the prevention of fraud. The Protocol, which extends the provisions to the three new Members of the EEC, will enter into force for the United Kingdom on the date of an accession to it.

Of the treaties covered by the order, the one which will I expect be of most interest to Members of this House is the additional Protocol to the Association Agreement with Greece (Cmnd. 6289). Under this Protocol, new Member-States accede to the existing EEC/Greece Association Agreement which provides for a full Customs union between the Community and Greece over a period of 22 years from 1962. We have welcomed the application for full membership of Greece, but that is some way in the future. In the meantime, the Association Agreement is a helpful transitional prelude for both the Community and Greece. The purpose of the order before us is to designate the treaties which it lists as Community treaties. Without the approval of both Houses of Parliament, these treaties would create rights and obligations at the international level but could not, for instance, be involved before the courts of this country. My Lords, I therefore beg to move.

Moved, That the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (No. 4) Order 1975, laid before the House on 2nd December, be approved.—(Lord Winter bottom.)

5.57 p.m.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, we on these Benches should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, for outlining the contents of Order No. 4, and for giving us a few details about the agreements which are to be ratified. The agreements to which he referred are all part and parcel of the continuing efforts of the European Community to create a free trade area in the Mediterranean, and to bring the benefits of the large trading market to areas outside the Community itself, through the removal or partial relief of tariff barriers. There is some information for which we should be grateful to the noble Lord, and I say straight away that I did not give him notice of these questions. I shall not, therefore, expect an immediate answer, but I should be very grateful for a written reply at some convenient time.

The annex to the agreement with Israel contains a list of commodities affected, and it would be helpful to know whether there is any idea of the kind of financial and commercial consequences of this agreement. For instance, what would be the cost to the United Kingdom of allowing imports of such products, are similar products already made in this country and how would they affect the markets? These are all questions which Government Departments will undoubtedly have considered, but it would be of interest to know a few more facts on this matter and I should be very grateful to the noble Lord if at some time he would write about them.

The agreement relating to Greece is presumably an extension to the new Member-States of the European Community's responsibilities and arrangements relating to the association between the European Communities and Greece, which was already in existence before our accession. This is an Association Agreement of considerable significance in commercial, financial and political terms, both for Greece and for the Member-States of the Community. It has been made clear that the Greek Government are requesting closer links with the Community and, if it is the opinion of the Greek Government that such links would be of benefit to the Greek people, we hope that our Govern- ment will consider their request sympathetically and will not necessarily be confined to the date of 1984.

It should be questioned whether economic imbalance in industrial terms is necessarily a reason for delay of membership, though of course we realise that the position of the Greek economy, based to some extent on agricultural activity, is not in accordance with the development in other Western industrialised countries. But I think one is entitled to ask whether the industrialised development in Western countries has brought all the prosperity, happiness and wellbeing which is sometimes enjoyed by agricultural communities, and whether the political importance of Greece, if invited to enter the Communities, might be the overriding consideration. I should therefore be grateful to the noble Lord if he would give us a little more enlargement of the Government's view, and of the encouragement they are giving in the Council of Ministers about assistance to Greece, in order to join the Communities rather earlier than the date which I have already mentioned. Finally, the renewal of the agreement on trade and technical co-operation between the Europeon Community and the Lebanon again raises the point that economical development alone is not a panacea against the violence and destruction which so regret-ably we see taking place at the moment in that country. While, therefore, welcoming such trade and aid as are given by the Western Powers, is not this a case where the European Communities could give much more support and formulate sonic kind of foreign policy relating to Middle East countries which would at least assist, if not guarantee, the independence and security of those States? I believe that financial and commercial support are not sufficient and that the European Communities should direct their efforts towards making more helpful proposals in the political arena of that part of the world.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, for making life comparatively simple for me. As this is my first excursion into the jungle of European and European-related legislation, I am grateful for any help that I receive. I will make sure that the noble Baroness receives written details about the finan- cial and commercial implications of the agreement with Israel, together with as many hard facts as I can provide. I notice that the noble Baroness shares my view that the association of various Mediterranean countries with the Community can be and should be of positive value both to the Community and to the individual countries. I agree with her for more than one reason. It would be highly desirable if the passage by Greece to full membership of the EEC could be accelerated, particularly having regard to the present political situation in Greece. Although I am in no position to speak for Her Majesty's Government on this point, clearly this is part of the spirit and intent of the Community. The year 1984 is reputed to be a bad omen, so let us hope that agreement is reached earlier than that. What applies to Greece applies also to the Lebanon, which at the moment is a troubled but potentially a rich country, for the reason that annual reaffirmation by the exchange of letters between the Community and the Lebanese Government is desirable and should be supported by your Lordships' House.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord one question that arises out of his last point. As he knows, the Community is seeking to make trade, aid and co-operation agreements with all the countries that border the Mediterranean. The first of these agreements was with Israel, and since then there have been agreements with Morocco and Tunisia. As I understand it, the agreement with the Lebanon is merely a renewal of an existing agreement which has been renewed once in the past already. May I ask the noble Lord whether that is so or whether it is part of the trade, aid and co-operation pattern of the free trade area which the Community is seeking to create with all the countries bordering the Mediterranean?


My Lords, I speak with hesitation on this point because, as I said earlier, I am not an expert in this area. I think that the agreements with Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia were negotiated within the last couple of months, whereas the Israeli agreement was a much earlier one. Nevertheless, it seems to me that this is an implementation of the philosophy of the Community—the closer relationship of the whole Mediterranean area with the Community that lies to the North—and I should have thought that your Lordships' House would welcome it.

On Question, Motion agreed to.