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Foreign Policy Co-Ordination

Volume 984: debated on Wednesday 14 May 1980

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asked the Lord Privy Seal when he intends to raise the question of the inclusion of new areas and subjects in the region of political co-operation and modifications to the role played by the Committee of Permanent Representatives on foreign policy co-ordination.

The Government attach great importance to political cooperation with our European partners. We wish to strengthen and intensify it. We are always prepared to propose new subjects for political co-operation if they are in areas where Europe can make a useful contribution. We are similarly willing to put forward or support practical proposals which will improve the machinery of political co-operation. The important thing is to build on the valuable direct contact between Ministers and officials of the Nine which political cooperation involves.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that very positive and comprehensive answer. Will he also acknowledge that political co-operation is sufficiently informal and empirical for a number of additional subjects to be included within it? One of those could be, for instance, the establishment of a Community institution in London. Will my right hon. Friend press for this in coming years, to reinforce our involvement in the Community? Will he, for example, consider the European export bank if it is established, or the European trade mark office, which is due to be formed in three years' time?

I agree with my hon. Friend, and I shall seriously consider both matters that he has raised.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would be inappropriate at this time of disagreement about the budget to agree to any extension of political co-operation other than that which is an obligation under the Treaty?

I cannot agree at all. The Western world is seriously threatened, and the maximum amount of political co-operation that we can achieve among the Nine is clearly in the interests not only of this country but of the free world as a whole.

As terrorists who are wanted in one EEC country are still finding havens in others, does not my right hon. Friend think that one of the jobs that the committee might do is to improve co-operation in counter-terror operations? In particular, will my right hon. Friend invite it to devise a common code of practice for the pooling of criminal intelligence and advance warning and the whole matter of the protection of embassies?

My hon. Friend raises some wide and very important matters. I think that they go rather wider than the question, but we shall certainly consider them.

If there is to be better foreign policy co-ordination, it should surely be in a much wider context than the Nine. Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that co-ordination in the wider world is effective, and is not the Treaty of Rome an obstacle to that?

Of course it is not. There is no doubt that co-operation between the Nine is not an obstacle to cooperation in other forums as well or with other people, such as the United States. The maximum amount of co-operation within the Nine is clearly to the advantage of us all.