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West Germany (Foreign Minister)

Volume 886: debated on Wednesday 19 February 1975

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11.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next proposes to meet the Foreign Minister of the Federal German Republic.

I expect to see Herr Genscher next at the meeting of the Council of Ministers of the European Community on 3rd and 4th March.

Will the right hon. Gentleman take that opportunity to discuss with the Foreign Minister the recent speech in which he pointed to his fears and forebodings about the future—not only for this country, the EEC and the whole of Europe, but for the rest of the world—if we were to withdraw from the Community? Does he share in whole or in part the views expressed in that speech?

I often discuss this matter with Herr Genscher and I do not suppose that the talks on 3rd and 4th March will be any exception. It is true that Herr Schmidt and Herr Genscher have both expressed a desire that Britain should remain a member of the Community, because they believe that that would strengthen Europe's position in the world and that this is a necessary step. The British people themselves will express their decision on that in due course.

In view of the strength of the German economy and its favourable balance of trade, when the Foreign Secretary meets his German counterpart will he discuss with him the shortfall, over the years, in the offset agreement? Does he not agree that if that agreement were examined in terms of the past 20 years it would prove that the Germans had fallen behind by hundreds of millions of pounds? In view of their strength now and our relative weakness, would this not be a good opportunity for them to clear that moral debt?

I do not know that it would be accepted as a moral debt, because it is presumably to our advantage as well as theirs that we are there. I realise that my right hon. Friend has asked questions on this matter of the Secretary of State for Defence. When I was Chancellor I took some steps to get a better balance in this situation, and I am sure that the present Chancellor will continue to do the same.