House Of Commons
Wednesday 25th July 1973
The House met at Eleven o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Greater London Council (General Powers) Bill
That in the case of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Bill Standing Order 208 (Notice of Consideration of Lords Amendments) be suspended and that the Lords Amendments be now considered.—[ Mr. Clegg.]
Lords Amendments accordingly considered, and agreed to.
Tyneside Metropolitan Railway Bill
That in the case of the Tyneside Metropolitan Railway Bill Standing Order 208 (Notice of Consideration of Lords Amendments) be suspended and that the Lords Amendments be now considered.—[ Mr. Clegg.]
Lords Amendments accordingly considered, and agreed to.
Value Added Tax
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I beg to present a petition on behalf of the National Consumer Protection Council, the National Assembly of Women, the Women's Labour Council, the National Union of Small Shopkeepers and the Women's International League which sheweth
That sanitary protection and toilet paper have had Value Added Tax imposed upon them.
Wherefore your Petitioners pray that Value Added Tax be removed and the items given a zero rating in order to bring the prices within the reach of all consumers.
"And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray."
The petition is signed by more than 11,000 petitioners.
To lie upon the Table.
Oral Answers To Questions
Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs
Northern Ireland (Executive And Assembly)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions have taken place between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Republic of Ireland relating to the setting up of a new Executive and Assembly in Northern Ireland, the future administration of the Province and any proposed joint action to improve the security position in the face of the threat to law and order caused by the continuing Provisional IRA terrorist campaign; and if he will make a statement.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland had a meeting with Dr. FitzGerald on 9th June at which he was able to discuss matters of general interest and also to clarify certain points in the Northern Ireland Constitution Bill. My right hon Friend the Prime Minister met Mr. Cosgrave on 2nd July, and I would refer my hon. Friend to the replies he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) on 3rd July and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) on 5th July.—[Vol. 859, c. 716–18 and c. 81.]
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply and remind him that the results of the two recent elections in Northern Ireland show that it is the overwhelming will of the people of Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, and that the South of Ireland has, by her own choice, adopted independent Republican status. Therefore, was any internal constitutional matter discussed during these talks or were they restricted to matters of security, trade and tourism—which can be well discussed with officials of the South of Ireland?
On many occasions, pledges have been given that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom unless the majority of the people of Northern Ireland decide otherwise. I cannot go into details of our talks, which must be confidential, but security was discussed. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was able to point out some improvement on the border in terms of our co-operation in this respect. On constitutional matters, it is our desire to see the Assembly and the Executive formed, first of all, and then we shall have an opportunity of working out how the Council of Ireland will work.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the recent statements by Mr. Cosgrave—especially when he spoke to the 1900 Club in London—and by Dr. FitzGerald have been helpful to the improvement of relationships and of working towards a settlement in Northern Ireland?
We have no control over speeches made by other people. It is quite often desirable to keep quiet.
The right hon. Gentleman misunderstood my supplementary question.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm or deny the statement which Mr. Cosgrave made immediately after seeing my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that one of the matters discussed was the lack of confidence by the minority in the Royal Ulster Constabulary? Has my right hon. Friend seen the report in yesterday's Irish Press stating that along the border the Eire Army does not take police with it and therefore cannot take any immediate action against those engaged in terrorist activities on its side of the border?
I cannot give details of the talks between the two Prime Ministers, but there has been an improvement of security on the ground and we hope that it will be carried further by co-operation between British forces and forces in the South.
Portuguese Prime Minister (Visit)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussion he had with Dr. Caetano during his recent official visit to the United Kingdom.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the recent official visit to this country of Dr. Caetano, the Portuguese Prime Minister.
Dr. Caetano had discussions with my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, as well as myself. These discussions covered a variety of matters of mutual concern.
In these discussions did the Foreign Secretary make plain to Dr. Caetano that the continuing open connivance of the Portuguese Government with the Smith régime on sanctions busting is behaviour hardly fitting in one of our oldest allies? Did he make clear also that this was in opposition to the British Government's policy and against the interests of the people of Rhodesia, and that so long as the Portuguese Government carry on this war of aggression in their overseas territory the British Government will makes moves towards ending the alliance and seek to have Portugal expelled from NATO?
The answer to the last part of the question is "No, Sir". We think that Portugal is of great value in the NATO Alliance. I told Dr. Caetano that Portuguese policies towards sanctions were contrary to our interests and I asked whether he could change them.
Was the Portuguese Prime Minister prepared to give any undertakings on the sanctions-busting operations that his evil régime has been engaged in? Was not it completely paradoxical that the Foreign Secretary should be engaged in these junketings with the Portuguese Prime Minister at a time when he was seeking to undermine our foreign policy? What effect has the Portuguese Prime Minister's visit had on our relations with black African States which are wholly opposed to his régime?
I do not think that it has had any effect on our relations with black African States, which perfectly well understand that our relationship with Portugal is concerned with security in NATO and trade between the two countries. I do not think, therefore, that there has been any adverse effect in this respect.
Having regard to Atlantic defence and the Cape route, does not the suggestion of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Robert Hughes) amount to the complete destruction of the Western Alliance and the defence of this country? Should not such hon. Members say which side they are on in these matters?
During our recent debate we attached considerable importance to Portuguese membership of the NATO Alliance, and Portugal has a very important seaboard.
Does the right hon. Gentleman nevertheless agree that there is a substantial view in this country and, indeed, in Europe, that the cohesion of NATO may ultimately depend upon the Portuguese Government's taking a wholly new attitude in their colonial policy and towards United Nations sanctions policy?
The cohesion of NATO is very important, but I do not notice a great interest in the country about this matter.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will issue a White Paper, at an early date, on Government policy towards the Commonwealth in relation to Great Britain's membership of the EEC, in the light of the obligations of EEC membership as they are now known.
Although it is only seven months since the United Kingdom became a member of the EEC, is it not abundantly clear that the Commonwealth takes a poor second place in the Government's thinking? Imports from and exports to the Commonwealth at 19 per cent. are the lowest for at least a decade. Do not recent developments in the EEC demonstrate that the fears expressed by the Opposition about the agricultural policy are now materialising and are bound to have an effect on our relationship with the Commonwealth? Would not a White Paper showing "warts and all" at least allay some of these fears?
The matters concerned with Commonwealth interests in relation to British membership of the Community were fully set out in the White Paper of July 1971. Since then, and since Britain has become a member of the Common Market, there has been continuing and extensive activity between Britain and the Commonwealth countries, between them and the EEC, and between Britain and the EEC on these matters. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. What has transpired in the last seven months confirms the confidence which the Commonwealth countries rightly put in the arrangements we made with the Community.
Does not the Minister agree that the proposals put forward by the Commission, for example, on sugar, could be very satisfactory to the Commonwealth?
Yes, indeed. The Commission's proposals on sugar are entirely in accordance with the Lancaster House undertakings, which the Commonwealth sugar producers accepted.
How does the right hon. Gentleman regard Mr. Chirac's intemperate outburst on the question of sugar?
The Government cannot make themselves responsible for a ministerial statement by another Government. On the contrary, it is important to take note of what the Commission has had to say, and the Commission has said things that are entirely constructive.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the developing trade arrangements and agreements between the Commonwealth countries and the EEC are, in general, greatly to their advantage, and that in future there will be increased trade between Commonwealth countries and the Community?
That is the expectation of several Commonwealth countries with which I have recently been in contact.
Surely the right hon. Gentleman will reconsider that reply? It is one thing to say that particular Commonwealth countries may be catered for in the arrangements with the EEC, but there is widespread apprehension throughout the Commonwealth that the whole organisation is heading for a major breakup, not least because the arrangements which are now about to be discussed between African and Caribbean Commonwealth countries—however those arrangements develop—are bound to separate the African and Caribbean Commonwealth from the Asian Commonwealth.
I realise that the right hon. Gentleman apparently feels that some useful purpose is to be served in trying to create the very feelings which I do not find exist.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consultations he has had with Commonwealth Governments following the July meetings in Lagos concerning the future relationships between the Commonwealth and the EEC.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on future relationships between the Commonwealth countries and members of the EEC following recent discussions in Lagos.
The opening conference of the negotiations between the Community and the developing countries covered by Protocol 22 to the Treaty of Accession began in Brussels today. We have been, and shall remain, in regular contact with our Commonwealth partners on matters arising from these negotiations.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are grave doubts whether the Government are pursuing, with the vigour that they displayed before 1st January last, the interests of the developing countries in the Commonwealth? Does he agree, on reflection, that the distinction between the associables and nonassociables is an invidious one, which works against the interests of the developing countries both in and beyond the Commonwealth? Will he impress upon his colleagues in the Community the fact that associate status must be a temporary phase as the Community works out a genuinely global trade and aid policy for the developing world?
As I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, the Community has before it proposals and recommendations dealing with a global aid policy related to all developing countries. This is under careful scrutiny. It is recognised that there is a special relationship to be achieved between the Community and the associable or associated States of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. It is with regard to these special considerations that the present negotiations are taking place. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that they are taking place under not unfavourable conditions.
As a member of the committee concerned, at the European Parliament, may I say that the implications of the hon. Member's question are entirely wrong—[HON. MEMBERS: "Question".] Is the Minister aware that the Commission and the committee concerned have taken the greatest trouble to see that all concerned should be treated—
What power has the hon. Gentleman got?
—on the same basis, and that Her Majesty's Government be given all reasonable help to see that the facts are put to the countries concerned?
I agree with my hon. Friend that in discussions Asian members of the Commonwealth have professed themselves as being not dissatisfied with the way in which the negotiations with the Community are going.
Has not the hon. Member reinforced the point made earlier about the need seriously to examine future relationships between the Commonwealth and the Common Market? The case for a White Paper, at the least, has been made. Will the right hon. Gentleman turn his mind to the question of sugar, which is of great importance to the so-called associable countries? Will he tell us that he has made it plain to the EEC not only that we will fulfil the pledge to take 1.4 million tons of cane sugar but that, in addition, we are not prepared to accept the export quota, under the IAS, of 800,000 tons of exported beet sugar from Europe, because that would ditch the developing cane-producing countries just as much as a reduction in the import quota?
The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Community has before it the recommendations of the Commission about the relationship between the Community and any future International Sugar Agreement. The Community has professed itself to be anxious to be a member of the International Sugar Agreement in future. If it were to be a member it would have to be with the agreement of the countries that are parties to the agreement, and it would therefore have to be an a basis that accepted the rate of sugar import and export related to Community affairs. I would have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have taken with some satisfaction the recommendations made by the Commission, which are specifically to that end.
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will propose a meeting of ministerial representatives of the North Atlantic Treaty Powers.
I see no need to do so. I represented Her Majesty's Government at the ministerial session of the North Atlantic Council in Copenhagen on 14th and 15th June.
Is it not time to reflect how an organisation which purports to be based on the principle of democracy can include Spain how one based on individual liberty can include Greece and Portugal: and how one based on the rule of law can include France, which has defied the International Court of Justice? Who is defending what against whom?
I have already made clear that the NATO Alliance attaches importance to the membership of Portugal and Greece. The security of Europe should be in the hon. and learned Gentleman's mind as well as in mine.
Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the countries of Western Europe should be deeply aware of what goes on the other side of the Iron Curtain—the suppression of human rights in the Ukraine, the Baltic States and in other nations, incorporated against their will in the Soviet Union—and should take the appropriate measures to concert their defence against potential aggression?
Unhappily, there are infringements of human rights in many countries, but we must pay overriding attention to the security of the Continent of Europe.
With respect, the Foreign Secretary must not be so complacent—[Laughter.] I am serious about this. What he should realise and apparently does not
Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman must put his remarks in the form of a question.
Is it not time the Foreign Secretary realised that a considerable body of opinion in this country—not confined to one party or one view—is seriously considering the continuation of the membership of Portugal and Greece of the NATO Alliance? Does the Foreign Secretary think that he is being helpful in giving the bland answer he gave?
I hope that I am not being complacent about injustice, but I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman is being complacent about security. We make representations to Greece from time to time about infringements of justice, from the point of view of those who are in prison, but it is much better to do so in private than in public.
Organisation Of American States
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the current position on Great Britain's application for observer status at the Organisation of American States.
Our application for observer status failed to obtain enough votes to be considered at the General Assembly of the OAS in April this year.It remains on the table for consideration at next year's assembly.
In view of the enormous fund of good will among many Latin American States towards Great Britain and the fact that other European Powers have observer status in the OAS, does my right hon. Friend agree that there would be positive advantages for Britain in having access to the Organisation of American States? Will he again press the application very hard?
I agree with my hon. Friend. We should have observer status, and we propose to leave the application on the table for consideration next year.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made in the consultations with other Governments concerning the validity of family passports.
asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs if he will now issue individual passports to a family for the cost of a joint passport, provided such applications for the individual passports are made at the same time.
We have had consultations with some Governments and may be consulting others. Meanwhile, to remove any element of discrimination in the present system, we have decided that in future a wife may be issued with a family passport in her own name on the same basis as a husband.
The House will be gratified by that measure of progress, but will the right hon. Gentleman go a little further? In his consultations with other Governments, will he try to ascertain which of them would be prepared to accept all the adult members whose names are on a family passport and then suitably endorse our passports to that effect, so that adults whose names are on our passports will know that they can use the passports in the countries in question?
That is a suggestion for a joint passport. I am considering whether it is possible to issue joint passports. But there are difficulties. It would be a completely new departure, and international acceptance might be a problem. Problems of cost are also involved. All these matters will be looked into. Meanwhile, I hope that the House will be satisfied with the step that I have taken to remove all existing discrimination.
Will my right hon. Friend go further and implement the proposal outlined in Question No. 8? Does he agree that if it were implemented it would remove entirely the suggestion of sex discrimination and would minimise the undoubted abuse of the joint passport for the purposes of illegal immigration? Is not my proposal feasible? From the charges which they make the Government make quite a profit on the issuing of passports.
I have studied my hon. Friend's proposal. Although no doubt it has certain advantages, he will recognise that it would mean issuing two passports for the price of one. That would be very difficult to justify.
May I, on behalf of a great many people, thank my right hon. Friend very much for the action that has been taken? It will be considered by many people in the country and in the House to be a very good step forward.
I appreciate my hon. Friend's remarks. I also appreciate the way in which the case has been advanced by hon. Members.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has received any recent representations about a settlement from groups or bodies in Rhodesia; and if he will make a statement.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement about relations between the British and Rhodesian Governments.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on the present state of negotiations with the Rhodesian Government on a settlement.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he intends to initiate any further negotiations for a settlement with Rhodesia.
I have nothing to add to the statement I made to the House on 19th July.—[Vol. 860, c. 712–3.]
Does my right hon. Friend have any reason to believe that meaningful discussions about the possibility of a settlement are taking place within Rhodesia? Does he think that meaningful discussions might be assisted by Britain's position being one of resolutely maintaining the existing policy, including that of sanctions?
I made that clear, and I hope that Mr. Smith is now seeing other groups of Africans and Europeans in Rhodesia with a view to bringing forward a policy which we may hope to follow.
Will my right hon. Friend consider putting further pressure on the Smith regime to release the interned African political leaders in Rhodesia? Does he agree that if they were released it might facilitate internal discussions in Rhodesia?
I have often made representations about detainees, both European and African, and when necessary I shall do so again.
If there are to be further discussions about the future of Rhodesia, will the Foreign Secretary make it plain that they will not be solely with representatives of the Smith regime but will include representatives of all opinions in Rhodesia, including those people who are detained?
That might come at a future stage. The important matter at the moment is for all Rhodesians to get together in Rhodesia and come forward with proposals.
While maintaining the status quo, would it be possible to offer the training facilities that were suggested two years ago as port of an overall settlement?
Such matters as the moneys we proposed to contribute for development and moves in the direction of helping over education could be carefully considered in relation to a settlement.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he is satisfied with the present effectiveness of sanctions against Rhodesia.
No, Sir. Some countries do not apply them as conscientiously as do we. We are always encouraging them to do so.
What about this country? Did not the Foreign Secretary see the news clipping from the Daily Telegraph advertising for local government personnel for Rhodesia? Is not this export of services by P-E Consulting Group Limited, as well as the Daily Telegraph, a deplorable instance of sanction-busting—or did the Daily Telegraph console itself that, while it is anti-British and derogatory to the right hon. Gentleman's policy, nevertheless it makes good business sense?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman—
I sent the clipping to the right hon. Gentleman.
I know. I was about to say, if the hon. Gentleman can control himself, that I was grateful to him for sending me this advertisement, I am having inquiries made. If necessary, action will be taken.
Does my right hon. Friend not agree that nothing has done as much to unify the electorate and the population of Rhodesia as the futile economic sanctions against that country? Is it not a fact that if they were to work, which is extremely unlikely, this country would have to give massive aid to Rhodesia at the expense of the British tax payer?
Sanctions are part of the policy adopted by this House, and as long as they are mandatory we must fulfil our obligations. Our whole purpose is to get an agreement in Rhodesia so as to be able to go to the United Nations and say that Rhodesia can be brought back into independent and proper legal relationship with the Crown, and then end sanctions. That is the right way.
Will the right hon. Gentleman go a little further and say that the fact that Mr. Smith and Bishop Muzorewa are at least talking to one another, even if only tentatively, is certainly in part due to the fact that sanctions have been continuing and have not been lifted, as some of the right hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends wish.
Certainly one cannot deny that sanctions must have had an influence on the Rhodesian situation. The hon. and learned Gentleman will recognise that they have been going for eight years. I believe that the bishop and Mr. Smith are more concerned to see independent status given to Rhodesia again, and to gain recognition by outside Countries, than with the sanctions situation.
Freedom Of The Seas
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will recognise the right of ships flying the French tricolor to exclude ships flying the White Ensign from any part of the high seas beyond the 12-mile territorial limit.
There are at present no British warships in the area. The question therefore does not arise.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the mere assertion by the French of national jurisdiction on the high seas is contrary to the Geneva Convention on this subject and therefore detrimental to British interests? Will he consider summoning the French Ambassador and reminding him that the preservation of the rule of law is just as important as the possession of nuclear weapons in keeping the world free of aggression and conflict?
As I told my hon. Friend in a Written Answer on 12th July,
"The question whether the exclusion of shipping from an area of the high seas is lawful or not is one of the issues before the International Court of Justice in the current proceedings brought by Australia and by New Zealand against France."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th July, 1973; Vol. 859, c. 410.]
Why has the voice of Britain been silent in support of Australia, Canada and New Zealand in protesting against the French tests?
The matter is not one about which we are called upon to express a view beyond a reiteration of the view, several times repeated, that we hope that France will sign the partial test ban treaty.
Republic Of Ireland (Extradition)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations Her Majesty's Government have made to the Eire Government about extradition of persons wanted in connected with criminal offences; and if he will make a statement.
The Government of the Irish Republic are fully aware of our concern that persons wanted in the United Kingdom should be returned from the Republic. We have expressed this concern to them on a number of occasions.May I be allowed to say, because I misinterpreted an earlier question, that, while we must be very careful about what we say on Irish matters, the speeches of Dr. FitzGerald and the Prime Minister have been uniformly helpful.
As one who was at the 1900 Club dinner, may I assure my right hon. Friend that it was a very high Tory occasion? On the question of extradition, would it not help the security of the British Isles, which is our common interest, if people accused of terrorism were not only extradited from the United Kingdom to the Republic, which is the case, but extradited in the other direction, which is seldom, if ever, the case?
That has seldom happened, but we notice that there are 10 cases before the Irish courts, which is new.
Has my right hon. Friend noticed that although many cases have been brought before the Southern Irish courts very few people have been extradited? Will he make representations to the Southern Irish Government to the effect that "political offence" should be very narrowly interpreted, so that people cannot escape justice in Northern Ireland for terrorist activities by simply pleading political privilege?
The important point is that when people are charged and an extradition claim is made it should be met when justified.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs why the United Kingdom has not yet joined the Council of Europe's Resettlement Fund.
Since the establishment of the fund in 1956, successive British Governments have preferred to provide assistance for refugees and migrant workers through other institutions. They have also given aid on an ad hoc basis in cases of special need. We continue to think that this is the right policy.
Is my hon. Friend aware that that is a rather disappointing and somewhat unconvincing answer? Is he further aware that this fund fulfils a very important social purpose in Europe, particularly, as he has said, concerning migrant workers? Is it not very important for Britain to be seen to be positively identified with the work being done?
I think that it is recognised that we are helping refugees and migrant workers in the best way, which is to direct our assistance through the international bodies which I have mentioned. Within the Community similar assistance is available through the European investment Bank and Social Fund.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will now invite a representative of the Government of the Soviet Union to visit the United Kingdom.
In Helsinki I expressed the hope that Mr. Gromyko might be able to visit London before long. If he can do so we shall be very glad.
The right hon. Gentleman has noticed the repressive policies pursued by the Soviet Union, both at home and abroad. Does he see any difference between those policies and the policies pursued by the Portuguese Government?
As I have said, there is injustice in too many countries, but that must not stop us having contacts with the leading statesmen in those countries and frankly explaining our point of view to them.
Before my right hon. Friend issues an invitation to any member State or its representatives, would it be wise and prudent to consult the Leader of the Opposition and the Parliamentary Labour Party to find out whether they wish to boycott the visit?
When he meets representatives of the Soviet Government will the Foreign Secretary make it clear that those who condemn tyranny in Portugal, Greece and Spain are no less concerned when it occurs in the Soviet Union? Will he express the hope that the talks in Helsinki will lead to a better deal for the little guy, wherever he is?
I will make it clear, as the hon. and learned Gentleman suggests. I hope that Mr. Gromyko will be able to come. I have had two good meetings with him lately—one in Paris, in the summer, and more recently in Helsinki—and I hope that he understands our position, particularly regarding Jews in the Soviet Union.
French Foreign Minister
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he will next be meeting the French Foreign Minister.
I saw M. Jobert only the day before yesterday at a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Nine at Copenhagen. I have no firm plans for an early bilateral meeting, although M. Jobert and I naturally remain in close touch on all matters of common interest.
When the Foreign Secretary meets the French Foreign Minister in Brussels, Copenhagen, or in an aeroplane, will he make clear to him that, whatever the French attitude may be towards the Commission's proposals on Commonwealth sugar, Britain will honour its undertaking, which was given as an honourable assurance, and that, whatever the Common Market Ministers decide, Britain will import 1–4 million tons of sugar? What instructions will be given to the Commission's negotiators when the International Sugar Agreement comes up again at the Geneva session on 10th September? The Council of Ministers will not meet again until the 24th or 25th September, and therefore the Commission will have no new ministerial instructions as to the attitude to be adopted in the ISA talks.
We will make clear to the French and anyone else that we will honour the engagement which we undertook to Commonwealth countries. As my right hon. Friend has just said, there is nothing inconsistent in the Commission's proposals and our undertaking.I should like notice of the question about the organisation of the Council's work.
In view of the French Government's recent rebuke to a French member of the Commission for not being nationalist enough, will the Foreign Secretary, when he next meets the Foreign Minister of France, draw his attention to the possible amending of Article 157, as suggested in my Question No. 37, to make it clear that the Commission is international?
In a recent speech on the GATT negotiations M. Jobert said that in the French view the common external tariff should not be allowed to fall below a certain minimum level because it had a political purpose. Is that the view of the British Government?
I have not seen reports of that speech. The common external tariff will remain. There has been no discussion in the Council of Ministers about the level of tariff.
If NATO can get on without France, cannot it get on without Portugal?
NATO does not get on without France. The right hon. Gentleman should polish up his knowledge of the alliance.
Egypt (Princess Margaret's Visit)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the advice given by Her Majesty's Government to Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret with regard to her forthcoming visit to Egypt.
Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret is visiting Egypt at the request of Her Majesty's Government in order to open a new British Council building in Cairo.
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that in 1971 the Prime Minister of Jordan was assassinated in Egypt, and that his assassins, after kneeling to drink his blood, were housed in luxury by the Egyptian Government before being returned in safety to their henchmen in the Lebanon? Recalling the events of the past week and taking account of the inability of the Egyptian Government to guarantee the safety of their guests, is it fair to ask Princess Margaret to involve herself in this kind of risk?
The security situation will be kept under review. We have every confidence that the Egyptian Government will ensure that Princess Margaret is given adequate protection throughout her visit.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that President Sadat has serious difficulties in Egypt, but is none the less striving to bring peace to that region? Will my right hon. Friend offer his good offices to bring some sort of reconciliation between Egypt and Israel?
My hon. Friend will know that a debate in the United Nations is now proceeding on the subject of the Middle East. In general we, the Egyptian Government, and, I hope, Opposition Members, place great importance on the establishment and re-establishment of the close cultural relations between this country and Egypt that we had in the past. We believe that the restoration of an independent British Council in Egypt after 16 years is of considerable importance, and I hope that the visit will be successful.
United Nations (Disaster Relief)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been made at the United Nations by the United Kingdom delegate to improve the United Nation's ability to assist with disaster relief.
Britain played a major part in the establishment last year of the office of a UN disaster relief co-ordinator.
Can we offer either finance or relief supplies to the United Nations relief co-ordinator, or to the United Nations development programme?
Our experience has been that it is better to proceed ad hoc on these matters. There is no great difficulty about assembling supplies. Difficulties usually arise in distribution and transport.
Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that the Inter-Parliamentary Union, on the initiative of the United Kingdom delegation, put forward a strong resolution, which was subsequently adopted by the United Nations, about 24-hour first-aid relief? What has happened about that? Has the scheme of computerisation for immediate relief been achieved?
All these matters are being studied at present by the coordinator, who has three functions: first, to act as a focal point for the co-ordination of relief; secondly, to act as a clearing house for information; thirdly, to stimulate pre-disaster planning in countries that are subject to earthquakes and other likelihoods of disaster.
French Nuclear Tests
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received from his observers on the Pitcairn Islands on French nuclear tests.
Our team in the Pitcairn Islands has reported no evidence of fallout.
Does that mean that the Foreign Office is quite sure that there is no identifiable trace of short-lived iodine 131?
The evidence we have received from the team shows no evidence of fall-out in any form. The team has a wide range of sensitive apparatus to monitor radioactivity levels, in the air, on the ground and in the water, and to check contamination of clothes. The specific constituents can be determined from radiological monitoring equipment.
Has my right hon. Friend any evidence of the recent Russian nuclear explosion, reported earlier this week to have been the biggest ever?
I should have to have notice of that question.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the most recent discussions that have been concluded with various institutions of the European Economic Community.
Recent statements to the House by my right hon. Friends, coupled with the statement which, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I shall be making later today, bring the record up to date.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that in the various discussions that have been taking place with M. Simonnet, on the second stage of economic and monetary union, it has been made clear by the Commission that that involves a harmonised value added tax in respect of coverage and rates? Will he confirm that he shares my opinion that a value added tax extended to cover foodstuffs would command the wholehearted discontent of the British people and would meet with the determined opposition of many on the Government as well as the Labour benches?
Yes, but my hon. Friend is postulating a set of circumstances that do not exist. There is no agreement to, harmonise the rate of VAT on food within the framework of our taxation system.
European Political Union
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will raise the issue of EEC political union at the next meeting of the Council of Ministers.
Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear next time he meets his colleagues that this ludicrous commitment by the Government to Common Market political union has no support among the British people, and that neither he nor the Prime Minister has any authority to commit this country to such a concept without a decision having first been taken in Parliament?
I should not have thought that anyone would object to attempts by the European Community to come to political agreement over as wide an area as possible. There has been one useful example of this lately. The joint approach on matters concerning the Conference on European Security and Co-operation was very effective indeed. This kind of co-operation is desirable.
Will my right hon. Friend be careful to make the important distinction between political agreement and collaboration between independent countries, on the one hand, and political union on the other?
Yes. Our objective of political union has been declared. For the foreseeable future it must be the nine countries working independently but achieving as great a consensus as they can.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what protests he has received from the Portuguese Government about the activities of British subjects involved in guerrilla operations in Mozambique; and if he will make a statement.
Is it not unfortunate that British subjects have made unsubstantiated allegations about Portuguese con- duct in Mozambique, particularly when the success of the Portuguese Government's policy in Africa has been achieved by winning the hearts and minds of the people of that country and not, as is alleged, by supporting and encouraging atrocities?
As a Government we are not, happily, responsible for statements made by British subjects in other countries.
Is it not quite clear, contrary to what the hon. Member has said, that the Portuguese policy in Mozambique and Angola is possible only at the price of the physical destruction of thousands of Africans, and that the cruel policy of moving whole villages lock, stock and barrel has involved a great degree of cruelty, which British subjects and newspapers have revealed? Have not those facts been fully proved by additional evidence and will not the people responsible for publishing them be regarded as having done an honourable job when the history of that country is written?
The accusation was of a massacre on a considerable scale, and that has not been proved.
Is the Minister aware that the Portuguese Government have as much chance of winning the hearts and minds of the people of that country as I have of winning the heart and mind of the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall)?
I should not like to express an opinion on that matter.
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was the total amount of aid given by the United Kingdom to the Indonesian Government during the year 1972.
During 1972 we supplied about £6.8 million in development aid.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Indonesian regime is extremely repressive and barbarous and that 50,000 political prisoners are detained there without trial? What action are the Government taking to ensure that aid is not used to uphold the regime and enable it to pursue its repressive policies even more efficiently?
The hon. Member may not be aware that the Indonesian authorities have recently confirmed that there are 18,000 detainees. The total is very much lower than the 50,000 he mentioned. We do not think we are justified in any way in raising with the Indonesian Government the question of political detainees. It is a matter relating to the internal affairs of Indonesia. We should not wish in any way to link the giving of aid to that country with the question of its internal arrangements.
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is many years since the previous Indonesian Government seized British assets in Indonesia? Will he give the House a report on the discussions that have taken place about compensation, and does he agree that future aid policy should depend a great deal on our success in these matters?
I know of my hon. Friend's great interest in this subject. In March of this year the Indonesians put forward proposals for the settlement of claims to most of the British companies whose claims they considered eligible under the present compensation scheme. Some of the claimants are still considering the proposals. We have reminded the Indonesians that a number of claimants have had no response to their claims.
Hong Kong (Students)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether, owing to the lack of space for most teenage students to work at home in Hong Kong, he will consider granting some scholarships for Hong Kong students in direct grant and independent boarding schools in Great Britain.
I share my hon. Friend's concern for students in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Government are improving education and social conditions there, and Her Majesty's Government will give them all possible support and encouragement.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that in California 36 per cent. of foreign students come from Hong Kong? Would it not be better that in future at least a proportion of the potential leaders of Hong Kong were British rather than American-oriented?
I agree with the latter point made by my hon. Friend. We have allocated £35,000 to the Hong Kong Government for training purposes this year. This is on a recurrent basis, and, under the programme during the current financial year 39 students are expected to follow postgraduate vocational and professional courses in this country. I recognise that that is not what my hon. Friend is getting at, but, in addition, the Hong Kong Government are paying for an additional 107 students to take similar courses here.
Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that Hong Kong is a Crown Colony for which we bear a considerable responsibility, and from which we obtain considerable financial benefit? If educational matters are in the sort of state outlined in the Question and if 36 per cent. of Hong Kong students are taking courses in the United States, is it not time that the Government considerably increased the assistance given to Hong Kong, so that we may discharge our responsibilities there?
I recommend the hon. Member to read the speech that the Governor made to the Legislative Council last autumn. It was an outstanding speech, and outlined extensive plans to improve the quality of life of everybody in Hong Kong, including educational and social conditions. I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman said.
Does my hon. Friend believe that, unless circumstances show that they come from a developing country, overseas students who come to this country for postgraduate courses should pay the full cost?
That is another question.
Sahelian Africa (Drought)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had within the EEC about the co-ordination of aid for the drought-stricken Sahelian countries of Africa.
Britain is represented both in the EEC Food Aid Group, which co-ordinates this Community aid, and at higher-level meetings, where the subject is also discussed.
Why is it that the airlift by NATO countries called for by the EEC is proving so inadequate? Why are thousands of tons of food piling up at Dakar with only small quantities getting through to areas where starvation is very great? Why is it that invariably, in the case of disasters such as this, those responsible for co-ordinating international relief prove extremely reluctant to communicate effectively with their counterparts in other countries?
I share the hon. Member's anxieties about the relief problems which have been encountered. But we have responded to the requirements made on us and have diligently tried to undertake relief where we can, within the framework of Community activity.
Will my right hon. Friend see whether it is possible to do some pre-planning by the seven members of WEU which are members of the Community, so that we can anticipate the need that has been shown in the last three months instead of going in for the sort of ad hocery about which we have heard?
I shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend says.
In view of the fact that we were told that once we entered the EEC we would play our full part in international affairs, is it not disgraceful that in this respect the EEC's food aid programme has not been as effective as it might have been? Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to find out why this programme has failed, in terms of distribution, and will he report to the House on his investigations?
I am clear that the Food Aid Group in the Community exists to ensure that the Community's activities are improved and optimised in this respect. Our representative on that group will work to that end.
Greece (Diplomatic Representation)
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will reduce the level of British diplomatic representation in Athens.
I thought not. But could not my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary find some way to make it clear to the Greek people that diplomatic recognition of the Republic does not imply approval of the military dictatorship—and will he do so before the plebiscite next Sunday? I assure him that this message has not got through.
I note my hon. Friend's remarks. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State made clear to the House on 4th July the basis on which we have accorded recognition to the Greek Republic. I have nothing to add to his full explanation of our decision, in which there was no element of political or moral approval or disapproval.
In the meantime. would it not be indecent for Her Majesty's Government to continue negotiating with the Greek Government about the adherence of the United Kingdom to the treaty of association between the EEC and Greece in view of the fact that the Greek representative, Mr. Pesmazoglou, who negotiated the treaty of association, and the Greek Foreign Minister, Mr. Averoff, who signed it, are both in the custody of the Greek military security police and have been there for a very long time without trial?
So far as Mr. Pesmazoglou and Mr. Averoff are concerned, I am always sorry when friends of Britain are imprisoned anywhere in the world. The Greek Government are aware of our concern about recent arrests, too. In regard to the EEC, the Heads of Government at the summit meeting last October said that full membership of the EEC must depend on democratic institutions. As for the supplementary protocol, I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman is aware that under the Treaty of Accession we are obliged to apply the provisions of the Community agreement with third countries, subject to any transitional arrangement or adaptation that may prove necessary. There can be no question of our seeking to renege on those obligations.
If some form of subsidiary legislation comes before the House. will the House be in a position to reject it?
Had my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) been present last night when I introduced an order on this subject, he would have heard me tell my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse) that the House is perfectly able to vote against the order.
On the question of free democratic institutions, what representations has the hon. Gentleman received from our ambassador in Athens about the proposed plebiscite? Is he aware that there is a widespread feeling that this will be a fraud and that the American ambassador, who is normally an apologist for the Greek colonels, has raised this matter directly with the Greek Government? What information do we possess about the plebiscite?
The Greek Government are aware of our hope that Greece will be restored to full democratic processes, but we have no locus standing in making representations to any foreign Government about the way in which they run their affairs.
Questions To Ministers
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise to the House for holding up its proceedings for a few moments. My point concerns a Question which I tabled and which appears on the Order Paper as No. 65. It was addressed to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and particularly to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. In any event, we face the difficulty of having to put down Questions about the European Economic Community to the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. Then I discovered that the Question had been transferred to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I wrote to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I have not yet received a reply.The point arises how we are to table parliamentary Questions dealing with EEC matters. My point does not relate just to the matter of my Question being transferred. There is also the problem of how we can put Questions directed primarily to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. This is a matter of great importance, and I hope that the House will consider it. It is very difficult for us to direct Questions to EEC problems which, incidentally, affect many of my constituents, who may be thrown out of work if the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement is not at least continued at 1–4 million tons. This is a matter of importance to us, and I ask what can be done about it.
This is not a matter of order. It is not a matter for me. But I have no doubt that those responsible have heard what the hon. Gentleman said and will consider it. But it is not a matter for the Chair.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Although I have a great deal of sympathy with the point raised by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller), is it not the practice that a parliamentary Question is put not to a specific Minister but to the Government? Provided that the answer comes from a Government spokesman, I should have thought that to insist upon questioning a specific Minister was outside the good usage of Parliament.
In any event, it is a matter which will not be debated now.
Further to that point of order—
Order. It is not a point of order, although it is a point which is usually allowed to be made. It is not a matter for the Chair. But when an hon. Member makes a complaint of this kind it is for the Minister concerned to consider it and to decide whether anything should be done about it in the future.
Cambodia (British Subjects)
(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the safety of British subjects in Cambodia.
My present information is that there is no immediate danger to British subjects in Cambodia, but the situation around the capital, Phnom Penh, is becoming more uncertain. It is possible that the airport may become insecure.The British Ambassador is therefore arranging the departure of Embassy wives and dependants and certain non-essential staff on the next commercial flight to Bangkok. He is also telling British subjects that they should similarly think carefully about their own position and should consider leaving now while civil flights are operating normally.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is as appalled as anyone at the misery being inflicted on people in Phnom Penh. Those of us who have been there in happier times will have sympathy with the Khmer people. What is the British position in relation to our obligations to Cambodia under the previous agreements? Furthermore, can we be certain that representations have been made to the United States Government asking why they are continuing the deluge of bombing when they know that it will be counterproductive because of what has happened in the United States Senate?
I share the 7 ton. Gentleman's anxieties about the situation there and about the situation of people who find themselves in Phom Penh, although I hope that they will get out safely. As regards our position, we are members still of the Control Corn-mission, and I am joint chairman with Mr. Gromyko. But the Russians have refused to operate this piece of machinery. All foreign troops were supposed to withdraw from Cambodia according to the Paris agreements. This has not been done. As for the American bombing, it looked as though Phnom Penh would be cut off without the Mekong River route, and it was directed to keeping that open.
May we take it that the area of uncertainty and possible danger in the immediate future is round the capital and that generally in the country there is no serious anxiety about the fate of British subjects? About how many British subjects are involved in this situation and how many are non-Embassy staff?
This is a comparatively small problem. There are 50 British subjects including dependants and the staff of our Embassy in Phnom Penh. There are very few outside Phnom Penh. It is a problem, in other words, which can be handled quite well. But we do not want the situation to deteriorate to a point where they may not be able to get out.
Eec Ministerial Meetings
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I will make a statement about the main matters considered in the Council of the European Communities since I last reported to the House on 2nd July.May I take this opportunity to apologise to the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) for the late delivery to him of a copy of this statement which according to the conventions should have been in his hands? I am sorry that that was the case. There have been three meetings of the Council—one of Foreign Ministers, one of Ministers responsible for questions of the environment and one of Agricultural Ministers. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food made a statement to the House on 18th July on the meeting of Agricultural Ministers, which took place on the preceding two days. The meeting of Environment Ministers on 19th July approved a Community environment programme, in two parts. The first part deals with the control of pollution and the second with the improvement of the environment. In addition there are proposals for concerted Community positions in the work of international organisations in the field of environment. The adoption of this programme fulfils the decision of the European Summit meeting of October 1972 that an action programme for a Community environment policy should be established by 31st July this year. The meeting of Foreign Ministers on 23rd and 24th July was concerned principally with a number of aspects of the Community's external relations. The Council reached agreement on the opening statement to be made on behalf of the Community at the Conference between the Community, the countries already associated with the Community under the Arusha and Yaounde Conventions and those developing Commonwealth countries which are eligible for association under Protocol No. 22 of the Treaty of Accession, which opens in Brussels today. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development is attending that Conference on behalf of the United Kingdom. The statement of the Community's views in no way prejudges the content of the new Association Convention, nor does it seek in any way to oblige the Commonwealth countries to make a choice prematurely between the different options that will be open to them. The Associated and developing Commonwealth countries are expected to make preliminary statements in reply, and the negotiations will then be resumed in September. All the developing countries will have every opportunity to make their own views and wishes known, both at this meeting and in subsequent meetings. The Council considered further the Community's approach to the forthcoming multilateral trade negotiations under the GATT, in the light of recent developments in the international monetary situation. They agreed on the line to be taken by the Community in further preparatory work for the meeting of the participating countries of the GATT which is to take place in Tokyo in September. The Council also discussed further an offer to be made to those countries which are claiming compensation from the Community following its enlargement, in accordance with Article XXIV: 6 of the GATT. Progress was made, and it was agreed that further consultations should take place with the aim of reaching a constructive and definitive negotiating position by early September. The Commission yesterday presented the Council with a supplementary budget for the current year amounting to 1008.66 million units of account, and the implications of this for United Kingdom public expenditure if the total supplementary budget is finally accepted would be an extra gross cost of £33·2 million offset by certain additional receipts. Of this figure of 1008·66 million units of account, 879·29 million units of account were for the agricultural budget: 120 million units of account for the Social Fund and 9·37 million units of account for administrative purposes. The agricultural section of the supplementary budget was accepted by the Council as consequential on decisions previously taken and will now be forwarded to the European Parliament for further consideration. The Social Fund increase was not agreed and will be the subject of further consideration. As a result of pressures to achieve savings approximately 15 million units of account have already been identified and we expect more. The Council agreed that the Community should announce its readiness to participate in the negotiation of a new textiles agreement under the GATT, in succession to the long-term agreement for cotton textiles. A number of procedural proposals for improving the efficiency of the meetings of the Council of Ministers were adopted.
From the five minutes or so that I have had to look at the statement, I can strongly confirm the right hon. Gentleman's words yesterday when he said that what he had to announce about the increased size of the Community budget would be received with a pretty sickening thud in this country. This is an appalling increase and an equally appalling statement.To many of us it is outrageous that the right hon. Gentleman should come to the House now and tell us of a decision made by the Council of Ministers only yesterday involving £30 million expenditure by this country and a supplementary increase in the whole budget of over £400 million in one year when he refused a fortnight ago to answer a PNQ which I raised on this very matter—and a number of his hon. Friends supported him in his refusal to reply to it. This is treating the House of Commons with absolute contempt and is making it impossible for us to exercise what residual powers are left to us under the terms of the Treaty and the European Communities Act relating to European matters. To many people it is almost incomprehensible that this year this £400 million should be asked for. If, as we have been told, world food prices generally have risen above Community prices during the past year, and therefore the Community has nothing to do with the increase in British domestic food prices, why is this vast extra expenditure needed when half the Community food budget is spent on subsidising dumped Community surplus export food on the world market? If the right hon. Gentleman can explain that I shall be very surprised. Is it due to the most incompetent negotiation by the Minister of Agriculture on food prices in the Community only two months ago, or is it due to the fact that the whole system of monetary compensation amounts, which he has been so keen to press earlier, has blown back and misfired? The right hon. Gentleman must be aware, and surely will agree, that we have reason to be greatly concerned about the preparations for the GATT talks this autumn. We have had a steady retreating, apparently under French pressure, from the original position to ever-increasing pre-conditions and restrictions which threaten the whole opening of these talks in Tokyo in September. Having heard all these statements covering so many different matters, I must ask why the right hon. Gentleman has failed to report to the House on, and to raise with the Council of Ministers this time in either Copenhagen or Brussels during the whole course of the day of the meeting of Foreign Ministers, the question of the French nuclear testing? Why, on the day after the bomb was exploded in the South Pacific, was this matter not put on the agenda? Is it because he asked and was refused or that he did not ask at all? Lastly, did the right hon. Gentleman take the sensible precaution of raising with the Council of Ministers the action that Britain might be forced to take to safeguard its balance of payments this year now that our balance of trade with the Nine is running at a deficit of £1,000 million?
When the right hon. Gentleman put his Private Notice Question recently, I told him that I did not have a proposal before me and it was therefore impossible to respond to his question in the terms that he wished. I am sorry that it should be so, but it was a fact.On the broad question of the effect of the common agricultural policy on the budget and on the contribution that Britain makes to it, the right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that there are many factors in that policy that we would certainly like to have amended. He knows very well, and it has been reported regularly to the House, that at present the Commission is engaged on a review of the policy, upon which we expect to receive a report by October, which we strongly hope will give us the opportunity of raising many matters which concern us. The right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that a considerable part of the additional budget arises from the changes in parities with the effect that they have on monetary compensatory amounts. It is a matter of fact that the common agricultural policy, as at present devised, throws up this heavy additional monetary compensation amount, and we pay our part. I think that he also knows that in this respect the Government hope that the Commission's report will enable us to see means by which these heavy charges can be reduced. As he will have heard from my statement, the next step in the operation is for the supplementary budget in question to be considered by the European Parliament— [Interruption.] It is a matter of fact. Is the right hon. Gentleman seeking to infer that this is not so? The right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends voluntarily decided not to be parties to that assembly where they could effectively bring their voices to bear if they wish to do so. I do not agree with the right lion. Gentleman about the GATT negotiations. The process of moving towards an effective discussion starting in Tokyo in September is proceeding satisfactorily. I realise that these are difficult preparatory tasks, but I do not feel disquieted by what is happening at present. Matters relating to nuclear tests are not germane to the proposals upon which I have been reporting today. The Council of Ministers has no locus in those matters.
Will my right hon Friend tell us something more about the textile agreement to which he referred? Will he press for some arrangement whereby our partners in the Community bear equally with us the load that we have to bear at present from ever-increasing imports from low-labour-cost countries?
Yes. As my hon. Friend knows, it has been a matter of concern to the Government that the extent of penetration of our market in cotton and textile terms is substantially greater than that of other member States. Certainly it is our hope that in the negotiation of a new long-term textile agreement it will be possible for that load to be shared more equitably.
Is it true, as reported, that the Agricultural Ministers agreed that if beef prices should fall, even by a small fraction, between now and the autumn, import duties and levies would be reimposed on beef, which would prevent a fall in prices from the present outrage-our levels? If so, why did a British Minister agree to such a proposition?
The position surely is that the level of prices for beef in the world market is unpredictable. That being so, the necessary provisions were made so that such levies could be reimposed.
If the Council of Ministers approved the supplementary budget, what can the European Parliament do about it? Alternatively, if the European Parliament can do something about it, why was it approved by the Council of Ministers? Do I deduce from my right hon. Friend's first reply to the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) that Her Majesty's Government themselves had less that a fortnight's previous knowledge of the proposed supplementary budget which was approved yesterday?
On the second part of the question, the extent of that budget was defined only yesterday. There has been protracted argument and discussion about the content of the budget for weeks because the matter was conducted within the framework of discussion in the Community. Until such time as there is a firm proposal there is no basis on which matters can be discussed in this House.On the subject of activities of the European Parliament, there is an obligation on the Council to put to the European Parliament such a supplementary budget for its consideration. It has within a certain period to make known its views on the supplementary budget—views which the Council can then take into account.
Has not the right hon. Gentleman made one of the most astonishing statements ever made in the House, certainly in my recollection? First, he said that he knew of no proposals whatsoever. Then he referred to protracted discussions in which he was not involved. Now, we find out that this country did not learn of the budget until yesterday. Is it not clear that the Government must begin to stand up to the Council in these matters and that this House must have a full debate on the issue at the earliest possible moment?
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) did not get my answer correct. I said that the defined budget was not available until yesterday. I added that there had been discussion and argument about the budget for weeks within the framework of the Community.
Does not my right hon. Friend agree that, as the monetary compensatory amounts account for a large part of the supplementary budget, there is even more need to work as quickly as possible and with extra vigour towards a monetary union along the lines proposed by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer earlier this year? Secondly, does not the remaining part of this supplementary budget underline the firm stand taken by the Minister of Agriculture in refusing to accept, intially and indeed throughout the protracted negotiations for the farm price review, the stupidly high levels of price proposed by the Commission? Will my right hon. Friend not confirm that, if the European Parliament decides not to accept the supplementary budget there are two ways in which it can give effect to that refusal —first, by refusing to pay the civil servants working in the Commission and, second, by refusing to give advice to the Council?
It is undeniable that the problems caused by compensatory monetary amounts are recognised as being a major problem to the Community and that progress towards monetary union would help to overcome it. The determined efforts of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture have led towards a much more realistic attitude to farm pricing in the Community, and will continue to do so.
Will the Minister explain that exceptionally vague portion of his statement about pressure of savings resulting in identifying "15 million units of account"? What does that mean? If the detailed budget were put before the Community only yesterday, may we take it that the 15 million units of account were identified only yesterday?
No. The identification of those savings has also been under consideration and pressure for some time. As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, any budget is composed of a series of different sections in which it may be possible to find economies. This is what has been proceeding in the Community.
Several Hon. Members rose—
Order. I am in a certain difficulty.The remaining time today has been allocated to private Members. This is an important statement. I will not stop the supplementaries now, but I would ask hon. Members to be as brief as possible because these other debates have been arranged for certain times.
In view of the fact that the supplementary budget was defined only yesterday, may we assume that this great sum which we have to pay out had the approval of the British Cabinet? Presumably it will have to come before the House under a Supplementary Estimate. What will happen if the House rejects it?
As was said in a debate last night, the House is in a position to reject a Supplementary Estimate should it come before the House. There is no doubt that in that event the Government would have to take the consequences of that rejection.
Apart from the scandalous revelation that the budget was not defined until yesterday, was the Minister in a position to agree to the budget immediately on having it presented to him for the first time? Will he say more about that brief reference which he made to the fact that agreement was not reached on the proposals for expenditure on social policy? Is it correct, as reported in Paris, that a proposition to devote £50 million to certain policies which might, to some extent, benefit this country has not been agreed, in fact has been blocked, while £33 million in addition will fall on the shoulders of the people of Britain to finance the butter mountain and the sale of butter to the Soviet Union? How could the Minister agree to the additional £33 million expenditure in the absence of agreement on the £50 million on social policies?
As the hon. Member will have realised from my statement, the increase in the budget related to agricultural matters is consequential on decisions taken previously. Thus, the figures which arise from those decisions are a matter of fact and a matter of consequence. The position of the Social Fund is different. There is not a specific criterion which gives rise to an automatic extent in figures. Therefore, there is a decision to be taken about the extent of the Social Fund. The hon. Gentleman may take my word for it that I have struggled strongly to obtain an adequate increase for the social budget. No agreement was reached yesterday, but I am not unhopeful that an agreement will be reached in due course as a result of maintaining these pressures. The hon. Gentleman will realise that there is a distinction between the two forms of fund.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that these matters have been discussed in a committee of the European Parliament for some time in the absence of Opposition Members and that their absence has been regretted, especially the absence of so many individuals who are constructive and could help so much in these deliberations? I thank my right hon. Friend for coming so promptly to the House, which is about to adjourn for two-and-a-half months, to advise us about these matters. The same handful of hon. Members would have made a dickens of a fuss, to put it mildly, if my right hon. Friend had not made such a statement today.
My hon. Friend is right. Part of the undertaking that the Government have given is that I should come and report regularly to the House. I have endeavoured to do so continually and will continue to do so. Many of the questions that have been raised here could have been raised by Labour Members to good effect in the European Parliament.
Will the right hon. Gentle. man take notice of the fact that many of us regret that the agenda of the Common Market was defined only as late as yesterday? We should welcome some spirited action by the United Kingdom representatives at the EEC meetings, so that that our Ministers would reject out of hand any proposals that might lead to an increase in the cost of living. Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that if he agrees to the addition of an import levy on the already high cost of food such as beef it will put that food out of the reach of ordinary people in this country?
I take note of what the hon. Gentleman said. I must clarify one point. It was the supplementary budget, not the agenda, which was defined only yesterday. The Government have strongly pressed for the need for a proper interval between the submission of proposals to the Council and its consideration of them. Decisions to that end were taken yesterday and I am hopeful, therefore that we shall not be faced again with a short time in which to consider proposals.
Does not the rocketing increase in the size of the agricultural fund and the increases in the size of the Social Fund being sought by my right hon. Friend bring appreciably nearer the day when the Community budget will have to be financed out of a 1 per cent. rate of VAT? In these circumstances will he be a little more cautious before disavowing that the second stage of monetary union implies a harmonious VAT?
The second stage of monetary union has not been defined as yet. It is not therefore a matter which has so far arisen.
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain to me and to the British taxpayer why the Government have flatly refused to introduce subsidies for important foods in this country, yet in the same week that they made that refusal they agreed to proposals that the Government should subsidise people in the Community? What is the difference?
The hon. Member has failed to appreciate that the subsidies in question included a subsidy to the Community in respect, for instance, of butter consumption in this country, which will be to our benefit.
I hope that the Minister has taken on board the seriousness of this matter. Is it not disgraceful that a fortnight ago the right hon. Gentleman refused to answer a Private Notice Question that I put down on the pure technicality that he did not have a formal proposal, when a draft proposal for the Commission, asking substantially for what he has now announced he has granted, was with the Government and was available to me and other hon. Members? Now, a fortnight later, he has so arranged things that he has made his statement after having agreed to the proposals. It is disgraceful that what he has been asked for is a British subscription to help finance unwanted food surpluses in Europe and yet he has been unable to get some modest quid pro quo through the Social Fund. The right hon. Gentleman has behaved in a way which is quite contrary to the national interest. He has behaved cravenly. That is the only way to describe his actions. If he wishes to be taken seriously about changing the CAP, has it not occurred to him that if he wants to change the CAP this October the correct approach would have been to refuse the supplementary budget yesterday?
I did not have a draft proposal a fortnight ago, as the right hon. Gentleman infers, and nor did he.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will it be in order to move, That this House rejects the supplementary budget of the EEC, which was presented to us without notice? There will be no further opportunity to debate it for some weeks, Mr. Speaker.
No, it would not be in order and I do not think that I would accept such a motion if it were.
Motorway (Announcement Of Route)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday I had down a question on a matter of vital importance to my constituency concerning the siting of a motorway asking when we could expect a decision. I was told by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would be making an announcement very shortly. This morning on the front page of The Birmingham Post it says:
I need quote no more. I suggest—"The southern route—which The Birmingham Post learned yesterday would be adopted—"
I do not detect a point of order in what the hon. Member is saying.
I am asking, Mr. Speaker, for your guidance and protection for hon. Members that leaks of this sort should not happen and that hon. Members should not be put at a disadvantage.