HC Deb 26 April 1978 vol 948 cc615-8W
Mr. Bean

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement about his recent talks with Chancellor Schmidt.

The Prime Minister

I met Chancellor Schmidt on 23rd and 24th April at Chequers and in 10 Downing Street in one of our series of six-monthly bilateral meetings. Chancellor Schmidt was accompanied by the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, Herr Genscher; the Federal Minister of Finance, Herr Matthoefer; the Federal Minister of the Economy, Count Lambsdorff; and the Federal Minister of Defence, Herr Apel. On the British side, my right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, the Secretary of State for Defence, the Secretary of State for Trade, the Secretary of State for Energy, and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster took part in our discussions. For our talks at Chequers on Sunday evening, we were joined by the Governors of the Bank of England and of the Bundesbank.

Much of our discussion centred around international economic developments and the economic prospects in our respective countries. Looking ahead to the next meeting of the European Council in Bremen, and, particularly, to the next seven-nation Economic Summit Meeting in Bonn next July, we exchanged our assessments of the world economic situation and of the situation in Europe in particular. Following our recent discussions in Bonn and in Copenhagen we discussed the prospects for greater growth in Europe including the position of the Federal Republic. We also discussed the benefits which might be derived from great currency stability in Europe and elsewhere, and the urgency of efforts to conserve energy and develop supplies. These are all elements of the five-point approach to tackling world recession which I believe we need and for which there is now wide support.

We had a full discussion of East-West relations and of disarmament matters, with special reference to ways of achieving progress in the MBFR talks in Vienna, and to the forthcoming United Nations Special Session on Disarmament.

The Chancellor and I, and the Defence Ministers, also discussed our shared security interests within the framework of the North Atlantic Alliance. We agree in regarding a firm and sustained defence effort as a vital complement to the search for wider arms control arrangements in the Alliance's drive for better security. We attach great importance to the NATO Long Term Defence Programme on which work was launched at last year's Summit in London, and we share the belief that the Summit in Washington next month must achieve positive and realistic results from this programme. We are keen to see more traffic along the "two-way street" between Europe and the United States in equipment procurement.

Among other matters which were discussed were Community affairs, including the Community fisheries regime and the reform of the common agricultural policy; energy policy including the use of coal in Europe; trade matters, and in particular the multilateral trade negotiations; and future developments in the field of civil aircraft.

The Chancellor and I agreed on the special value of these regular informal meetings between us and our ministerial colleagues, which enable us to share our thinking and our preoccupations and increase the close understanding between us. I expect the next meeting in this series to take place in the autumn.