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Heads Of Government Meeting

Volume 892: debated on Wednesday 21 May 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what are the principal matters which will be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of Heads of Government of the EEC at Brussels in July.

It is too early so say. A number of possible subjects are under consideration, but the agenda has not yet been agreed.

Despite that answer, in view of some of the odd things which are being said by some of the Foreign Secretary's colleagues, will he confirm that there is no question of the Government's being obliged to accept any scheme of Community action or integration which has not previously been fully discussed and accepted by this country?

I am willing to repeat that assurance, although sometimes it falls on deaf ears. There is no doubt that the degree of integration is dependent on the votes of the Nine member countries acting unanimously. One vote can block any advance in that direction.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that the only way in which that will work properly is for the British people and the House to be aware of the draft proposals? Is he aware that even the head office of Her Majesty's Stationery Office does not have copies of the draft EEC instruments, and that even the EEC office in London does not have them available for the general public? In that case, how does he think that either the House or the public will be able to understand the draft documents which must be discussed by the Council?

I do not accept anything that my hon. Friend said. This House now has more opportunity of debating proposals made by the Commission than it has ever had. The process of consultation is complete. Indeed, many more statutory instruments issued by the Commission are discussed in this House than those issued by the Government. I do not object to that. It is right that Parliament should take a continuing interest in the matter. I hope that that will continue, and that the procedures will be improved. However, it should not be allowed to be believed that it is impossible to discover what the Commission or the Council of Ministers is doing, or that it is impossible to debate those matters before decisions are taken. I have taken the most stringent precautions to ensure that that is not so.

I welcome what the Foreign Secretary said on this and the preceding Question, but does he recognise that the House is in some difficulty when Ministers in the same Government give different advice on the EEC matter? Can he now say, in terms, for the benefit of hon. Members on both sides, whether Questions about the effect of the Common Market—for example, on unemployment—are now to be addressed to himself as the responsible Minister who negotiated this matter, to the Secretary of State for Industry, who said one thing, to the Prime Minister, who said something different, or to the Chief Whip, who said that the Secretary of State for Industry was not telling the complete truth? To whom should these Questions be directed? The House is in some difficulty when different Front Bench Members say different things about this important matter.

I did not think that the Opposition were in any difficulty. I thought that they were rather enjoying it.

The hon. Gentleman will probably recognise that Questions put down today will be answered after 5th June, when, as a result of the resounding "Yes" that I believe is likely to be given, we shall have a united, harmonious, active and determined Government, which will sweep all before them.