HC Deb 06 April 1978 vol 947 cc207-8W
Mr. Spriggs

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the last meeting of the Council of Ministers.

Mr. Judd

A Joint Council of Foreign and Finance Ministers was held in Luxembourg on the afternoon of 3rd April. I represented the United Kingdom together with my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Treasury. The Council discussed the development of the Community budget and general priorities for expenditure. There was general agreement on the need to direct resources where they could be used most efficiently and constructively, particularly in the economic and social sectors. We pointed out that the Community budget was still dominated by agricultural expenditure and that this basic problem could only be tackled by curbing the costs of the CAP.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and I represented the United Kingdom at a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council and a ministerial meeting with Greece on 3rd and 4th April.

The Foreign Affairs Council reviewed preparations for items likely to be discussed at the meeting of the European Council on 7th and 8th April including in particular, the economic and social situation in the Community and the choice of dates for the first direct elections to the European Assembly. The Council gave approval for the conclusion of arrangements on steel imports from Japan and South Africa and, in principle, for arrangements with Spain and Czechoslovakia. It reviewed the results of Commissioner Haferkamp's visit to Tokyo and agreed that the dialogue with Japan should be continued with a view to the reduction of the Japanese trade and payments surpluses.

The Council discussed the industrial tariff offers tabled by the Community's main negotiating partners in the GATT multilateral trade negotiations and agreed that the Commission should press for improvements in these offers, and at the same time inform the Community's partners of the nature of likely withdrawals from the Community's own original offer.

Agreement in principle was reached on autonomous concessions for agricultural products which the Community will grant to Cyprus for the period 1st April-30th June pending entry into force of the new agricultural agreement between the Community and Cyprus. The autonomous concessions will be made retroactive to apply from 1st April.

In the negotiating session with Greece agreement was reached on questions relating to the Customs union, and on certain principles to apply to the adoption by Greece of the Community's obligations in the field of external trade relations.

There was further discussion of proposals for amendments to the Community staff regulations. France and the Danish Presidency raised the problem of oil pollution. COREPER will begin an urgent study of the problems of shipwrecks and their after-effects and the need for any further international action in this field.