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Foreign Ministers

Volume 931: debated on Wednesday 4 May 1977

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


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


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.