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Foreign Policy

Volume 894: debated on Wednesday 25 June 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent progress has been made in working out a common foreign policy for the member States of the EEC.

There is a growing wish among member States of the European Community to use the political co-operation machinery to work for common positions on foreign policy. Member States now regularly discuss international events as they occur. There has been continuing close co-operation on the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, on the Euro-Arab dialogue, on the problems of the Middle East and Cyprus, and on developments in Portugal, Latin America and Africa.

I thank the Foreign Secretary for that reply. Does he not feel that the foreign policy differences which exist between members of the Community are now differences of emphasis and not of fundamentals? Would it not be possible to go beyond the machinery for co-operation which the right hon. Gentleman has described and make a strenuous effort now to get a concerted policy across the board?

If we were to try to get a concerted policy across the board we should encounter a lot of difficulties. It is better that we should foresee what is likely to happen in these situations and work out common positions, rather than adopt an abstract group of principles from which, when the strain is applied, we should probably depart.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that further co-ordination of foreign policies of member States might have implications for the overseas aid policies of at least some of those nations? Will he confirm that the proposal to give the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of Overseas Development similar powers in respect of these functions has nothing to do with the proposals for the co-ordination of the foreign policies of member States.

I had never thought of that matter until my hon. Friend suggested it. He is quite right in saying that the discussion of the aid programmes and the fact that Britain is the largest member of the Commonwealth and carries with it about 30 other Commonwealth countries into these discussions, is transforming Community debates on aid to the developing countries. Those factors are giving these debates a greater sense of urgency and relevance, and I hope that they will produce more aid.

Will the right hon. Gentleman lay before the House or otherwise publish the evidently important speech that he made yesterday in the Council of Foreign Ministers, of which what appear to be extracts have appeared in the Press?

If that is the wish of the House I shall be delighted to do so. I shall certainly put a copy of the speech in the Library. I do not rate its importance as being above that.