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Volume 894: debated on Wednesday 25 June 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what arrangements he has made for the supply of information to the public on EEC matters following the referendum result.

The special arrangements made during the referendum campaign have been terminated, but the arrangements which existed previously will of course continue.

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that there is now likely to be a growing public demand for information on EEC matters—a demand which cannot be properly met by the Commission's own information offices? Does he accept that there is therefore a responsibility on the Government to provide more authoritative information on the Community's aims and objectives, particularly within the Council of Ministers? To that end, would it not be helpful if Ministers made more frequent statements to the House on what they are doing, have done or are proposing to do, within the Council?

There is a very comprehensive system of statements, debates. White Papers and other matters which has been agreed by the House as a result of a previous report and which the Leader of the House announced some months ago as part of our intention of making sure that the House is informed about Community matters. I shall be making such a statement later this afternoon. I think that the way the country has to be informed on progress in the EEC is through debates, questions and procedures in this House, and I am sure that we have given adequate opportunity for those debates and other procedures to be carried out.

Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to publish a White Paper to explain to the people of Scotland the full implications of EEC membership? Will he refer particularly to the future of the steel, fishing and agriculture industries and of the Scottish Assembly and the Scottish Development Agency? Will he confirm or deny the validity of guarantees given to the people of Scotland on these issues by the pro-European campaign during the referendum?

I think that the hon. Member is making her speech three weeks late. It would be unchivalrous of me to remind her of the votes in Scotland as a result of the previous speeches that she made. I do not commit the Government to producing a specific White Paper on the subjects she referred to, but the Government are obliged to produce periodic White Papers on progress within the EEC and I have no doubt that these subjects will be touched on there.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the EEC draft proposals should be readily available to the public, particularly through Her Majesty's Stationery Office? Is he aware that the Paymaster-General has already given an assurance to the House that steps are in hand to achieve this end? What progress has been made?

I cannot, offhand, give my hon. Friend new information about draft proposals being available to the public through the usual sources, but no doubt he will recall that they are made available as quickly as possible in the House. I can only reiterate my answer to the first question. The real obligations of parliamentary scrutiny are to make sure that this House is aware of what goes on and to give hon. Members the opportunity of publicising their views on these matters. That we have promised to do.