HL Deb 29 April 1981 vol 419 cc1172-3

2.41 p.m.

Lord Bethell

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether it is their policy to seek to establish a single seat for the European Parliament and, if so, what efforts they have made to achieve this aim.

Lord Carrington

My Lords, the European Council recently agreed to confirm the status quo in regard to the provisional places of work of the European Parliament, and I see no present prospect of agreement on a change in these arrangements.

Lord Bethell

My Lords, in thanking my noble friend for that rather disappointing reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that it has been estimated that some £15 million a year of public money could be saved by fixing a single seat for the European Parliament? May I ask him whether he agrees with any such estimate, and whether he accepts the fact that the people of this country, and others, would be far more effectively represented by Members of the European Parliament who were able to establish a single seat?

Lord Carrington

My Lords, being very well aware of my noble friend's views on this subject, I think it was very nice of him to thank me for the Answer at all. I do not think I could quarrel with the estimate that he has given of the expense of having these various locations. But the subject of a single site, or the subject of the Parliament's activities, including the committee meetings and the location of the secretariat, was raised by the French last year and it became apparent—and I am afraid that it is a very divisive issue in the Community—that it would not be easy to reach a generally accepted agreement. The European Council therefore agreed to maintain the status quo.

Lord Blyton

My Lords, is the Minister aware that there would be great jubilation in this country—never mind the seats of the Euro-Parliament—if we came out of the Common Market entirely? What a colossal amount of money we would save, if we came out!

Lord Carrington

My Lords, having listened to the noble Lord opposite over what seems to be a very great number of years, his question does not surprise me.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, despite the decision that was apparently arrived at quite recently, the expense and the inefficiency which flows from this circus moving round the three points is the point which may well bring about the disintegration of the European Parliament? It is the one thing which will not allow the European Parliament to work in a way which will establish itself as a permanent feature. Is my noble friend also aware that the overwhelming view of the Members of the European Parliament is that it is vital that we should have some sort of stability, which is not there at the moment?

Lord Carrington

My Lords, I hope very much that the Parliament's views will be put to the members of the Council. Also, I hope very much that the consequences which my noble friend predicts will not occur.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, does not the noble Lord agree that it is better to have NATO with all its faults and weaknesses than another European war?

Lord Carrington

My Lords, in so far as that bears on the Question—and, indeed, in so far as it does not—I agree with the noble Lord.