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Volume 931: debated on Wednesday 4 May 1977

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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.