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European Community

Volume 931: debated on Wednesday 4 May 1977

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Passports

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what outstanding issues remain to be resolved about the issue of a uniform EEC passport.

There are two main features of the design still to be agreed in Brussels. They concern the layout of the cover and the languages to be used inside the passport. In addition, there are other matters of detail to be discussed with our Community partners.

Will the Minister confirm that the Government remain committed in principle to the issue of a uniform EEC passport? How serious are the particular points that appear to have been made by the German Government?

We are committed in principle, although a lot of practical details have to be finalised. The objections by the German Government to what is proposed are not fundamental. It is a matter of reconciling different outlooks.

Does the commitment remain intact that there will be no change in this matter before there has been an affirmative decision of this House to approve it?

We are agreed that the House should have an opportunity to discuss the subject. While, of course, the timing of the debate must be a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, I can give a categorical assurance that my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, who will be responsible for the decision, accepts that it is proper that the House should be given an opportunity to debate the matter before the Government are finally committed on the issues under discussion in Brussels.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that this proposal is using the Crown's Prerogative? Does he think that it is a proper use of the Crown's Prero- gative in this respect and can he give an absolute assurance that if the House does not give permission, the proposal will not go forward?

Will the Minister clear up one point? He said that the House should debate it. What we really want, on both sides of the House, quite sensibly, is the opportunity to decide the matter and not just to debate it. Will the Minister give that assurance?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman recognises, as I have just said, that this is a matter for the Royal Prerogative—

but we are agreed that the House should have an opportunity to discuss the matter.

Will my hon. Friend make clear whether the EEC passport is to be compulsory or whether there will be an option for a British subject to choose either the EEC or the British passport?

The passport will remain a national one and it will be issued by the British Government. Therefore, every holder of a British passport will have the new passport in due course.

Is this passport to be an alternative to or a substitute for the British passport, which we all want to have?

I do not think, with great respect, that the right hon. Gentleman listened to my last answer. I said that we shall remain responsible for this passport—it will be a national passport—and, therefore, in due course it is anticipated that all people who hold a British passport will hold this passport.

Foreign Ministers

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet the other Foreign Ministers of the EEC

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet the other Foreign Ministers of the EEC.

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet the other EEC Foreign Ministers.

I met my Community colleagues yesterday at the Foreign Affairs Council. I shall meet them again informally at Leeds Castle on the 21st and 22nd of this month.

Yesterday's Council was—and future meetings are likely to be—largely taken up with the preparation of mandates for negotiations which are either taking place this month or due to open shortly. These include the Conference on International Economic Co-operation in Paris, textiles, third country fishery agreements, relations with COMECON, and new trading arrangements with Cyprus. Such mandates are, by their nature, confidential. I shall be meeting three EEC Foreign Ministers at the Downing Street Summit on Saturday and Sunday and seven of them at the NATO ministerial meeting early next week.

When the Foreign Secretary meets his EEC colleagues, will he draw their attention to yesterday's Scottish district council election results? Notwithstanding the unprecedented and ill-advised remarks heard in these precincts today, will the Foreign Secretary tell them that he will probably have the distinction of being the last Foreign Secretary for the United Kingdom as we know it, and that the Scottish people will soon have their own Foreign Secretary to defend their interests in the EEC and elsewhere?

When we met the Foreign Ministers in Brussels yesterday my hon. Friend upheld the interests of fishermen throughout the United Kingdom. Some of these were the interests of Scottish fishermen. My hon. Friend made it perfectly clear to his Community colleagues that feeling was very strong, for example, over the whole issue of the Faroese.

When the Foreign Secretary met his colleagues yesterday, was he able to tell them formally, or informally, on what date the Government will introduce their Bill for direct elections? For their information and that of the House, will the Foreign Secretary give an assur ance that it will be before the Whitsun Recess?

When the Bill will be introduced is a question for the Leader of the House. No formal discussion took place on this subject. There is not the same tremendous interest as appears to be exhibited on the Opposition Benches. A number of member States are not at this moment introducing such legislation. Each member State is taking its own decision on when to introduce a Bill. There is a common belief that Britain is way behind the rest. That is not so.

If my right hon. Friend bumps into Roy Jenkins in the corridor at the Summit Conference during this weekend, will he remind him that in his old constituency and that of his friend at Ashfield the electorate deserted en masse, partly because of Britain's involvement in the Common Market? The victor at Grimsby played the opposite card, to great effect.

Now that the great apostle has gone to Europe—the financial haven—is it not time that the Government understood the feelings of the British electorate and got Britain out of the Common Market altogether?

Unfortunately, I did not go either to Ashfield or to Stechford. I went to Grimsby, and I was glad with the result there.

As for the reference to the two individuals concerned, my hon. Friend knows that they are, and remain, personal friends of mine.

When he sees his European colleagues, will the Foreign Secretary take the lead with them in seeking to establish some sort of Community policy in foreign affairs, particularly in view of the threat to European and United Kingdom supplies of raw materials as constituted by the increased success of Soviet imperialism in Africa?

At the last meeting there was an extensive discussion about the political co-operation machinery on Africa and the issue of a joint statement. There is a great measure of agreement on the whole question of how we should conduct our responsibilities to Africa. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is important that, wherever possible, we should co-ordinate and concert foreign policy in major areas of the world.

Especially in view of his last answer, will my right hon. Friend assure us that, prior to the Helsinki review conference in Belgrade, the views of the Nine on the failure of the Soviet side to live up to many of its undertakings in Helsinki will be considered and that a joint policy of the Nine will be agreed?

Yes. We have had discussion of preparation for Belgrade at, I believe, the last three political co-operation meetings—certainly the last two. I believe that there is a degree of unanimity on this issue which is unprecedented, although it was manifested prior to Helsinki itself.

We are determined that the Belgrade follow-up conference should concentrate on implementation of the Helsinki Final Act and that we should not be diverted to major new proposals—at least not at the expense of implementation. We want to find ways to increase and improve implementation, because the performance has been disappointing. I do not deny that.

Would the Foreign Secretary propose that the Council of Ministers should send a message of good wishes to Spain, not to any particular group but to the people of Spain as a whole, as they enter their first election for a free Parliament in 40 years? Would that not be an appropriate move by the EEC in view of the remarkable progress that Spain has made, in a short time, towards restoring parliamentary democracy?

The nine member States all represent democracy and believe in a strengthening of democracy wherever it occurs. At the last meeting on political co-operation, they welcomed the decision, which had then only recently been made by Spain, to hold fully democratic elections. We believe that it is a significant advance in Europe that there should be an additional democratic European country.

European Assembly Members

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the EEC Council of Ministers about the conditions of service in any directly-elected EEC Assembly.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(Mr. John Tomlinson)

These questions have not been discussed by the Council of Ministers but I understand that they are under consideration in the European Parliament itself.

As we have been told by the Prime Minister and by the French that the Assembly, if it is directly elected, will not have any increased powers, and as we know that the present delegates to the European Assembly manage without any salary at all, will the Foreign Secretary make it perfectly clear to the Council of Ministers, regardless of whether the European Assembly is discussing it, that the rumoured salary of £25,000 plus vast expenses is absolutely out of all line with the rate for the job? The House very much objects to it.

The Community's budget procedures are very complicated. The budget of the Parliament is regarded as non-obligatory expenditure on which, within overall limits, the Parliament has the last say. The hon. Gentleman's views will no doubt serve to emphasise to those concerned the need to avoid extravagance in framing the necessary provisions.

Can my hon. Friend say whether the salaries of British Members of this Assembly will be subject to British income tax?

As I am not in a position at the moment to say anything about the provisions—since they have not been subject to ministerial consideration—I am not able to say how those salaries will be taxed.

Direct Elections

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the progress of the nine members of the EEC towards direct elections.

I refer the hon. Member to the account given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State during the debate on direct elections on 25th April.

In spite of the fact that the Foreign Secretary has just told us that there is very little concern in the rest of Europe about the progress of this country towards direct elections, does not the Minister accept that it seems, from what we have learned today and at other times, that there is likely to be a slight controversy about the nature of any Bill that may come forward? Therefore, if the Government are to use their best endeavours to get it through, would it not be wise to bring it forward at an early date?

The question of bringing forward the Bill is not a matter for myself or for my right hon. Friend. But, as I have said repeatedly, the Government are committed, and have made quite clear their commitment, to use their best endeavours to hold the first elections in 1978. I do not believe that there is any reason why the United Kingdom should hold things up.

Can my hon. Friend confirm that whatever this House may decide about Britain's participation in direct elections there exists an increasing acceptance among our European partners that they will not take place in 1978? Does he agree that that is acceptable and necessary if the House is to subject to proper scrutiny the fundamental issues involved in direct elections?

I note carefully what my hon. Friend says. I, too, have been engaged in discussions with people in Strasbourg. But the situations in other countries are not a matter on which I can comment. If other countries have difficulties, I am not aware of them. I can see no insuperable reasons for our not meeting the target date of 1978 to which we have committed ourselves.

Did the hon. Gentleman agree with the Foreign Secretary's statement just now that we were not behind any of the other member States in their preparations? Will the hon. Gentleman now spell out clearly and categorically which of the other member States, with the exception of Belgium, are behind us in their preparations?

It is not for me to comment on each member State; it is for each of the member Governments to decide how to implement their expressed intention of enabling direct elections to take place in May or June of next year. The procedures are different in each country, but overall we are not lagging behind.

But in view of the answer given, will the Minister please now give an answer that the Home Secretary failed to give the other day, and tell us the latest date at which the preferred system of electoral arrangements by this House can be implemented? What is the latest date by which the Bill must be presented in order to carry through the preferred system of elections?

As the House has not yet decided on the preferred system, I am not in a position to give an answer.

Competition

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has had any correspondence with the Commissioner of the European Community concerning Article 101 of the Treaty of Rome.

My right hon. Friend has had no correspondence on this subject with the Commission arising from Article 101 of the EEC Treaty.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that Article 101 concerns the distortion of competition in the Community? In case Her Majesty's Government should wish to reintroduce the regional employment premium to solve some of our difficulties, will they now write to the Commission asking whether it comes within the terms of this article or whether they would be prohibited from taking such a step?

My hon. Friend will recognise that there is nothing to prevent such action being taken, but equally he will recognise that matters of competition are for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection and those concerning the regional employment premium are for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Cultural Workers

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has seen the submission to the EEC Commission by the International Federation of Actors, International Federation of Musicians and International Federation of Unions of Audio Visual Workers on behalf of cultural workers; and if he will make a statement.

I am aware of the existence of the submission. It was not addressed to member States and the Commission has not consulted them on it.

Will my hon. Friend take this matter on board and have a look at it himself, so that when it next comes up he will be able to give a more comprehensive answer?

If those who made the submission would care to consult me, I should be willing to give my views upon it.