Skip to main content

European Community

Volume 986: debated on Wednesday 18 June 1980

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Foreign Policy


asked the Lord Privy Seal what further proposals he intends to place before his European Economic Community colleagues for the development of a Community foreign policy.

The United Kingdom has always made a positive and, I believe, effective contribution to political cooperation among the Nine. We shall continue to do so. The practice of seeking to act together in dealing with practical problems is of great value in strengthening European unity on foreign policy questions. I should, nevertheless, remind my hon. Friend that political co-operation consists of co-ordination among independent States, and stops short of being a common foreign policy.

Although considerable progress has been made in recent months in co-ordinating foreign policy in the Community, now that the budget problem has been resolved does my right hon. Friend think that the present is an appropriate moment for a major initiative in the development of foreign policy in the Community?

I agree that the present moment is propitious. My right hon. Friend and I have various technical ideas that we are discussing with our friends in the Nine.

Does the Lord Privy Seal agree that, if there is to be a unified approach by the EEC countries on foreign policy, they should extend their discussions to take in the European countries that are not in the Common Market? Should they not also consider that one of the most fundamental things at this stage is to try to reach agreement among them to remove nuclear weapons from Europe?

I am afraid that I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman on either count. We are talking about political co-operation within the EEC, not about political co-operation with countries that do not belong to the EEC. Nor, as he knows, is the matter of nuclear weapons one that comes within the competence of the EEC.

If it is part of EEC policy to recognise the PLO, how long will it be before it becomes part of EEC policy to insist that we recognise the IRA? If this is not so, what is the difference?

There are considerable differences. As my hon. Friend knows, it is not our policy to recognise the PLO. Therefore, the question does not arise.

There is not much cooperation over the New Hebrides, is there? What is the Government's reply to the French view that the Marines should not be deployed?

My hon. Friend the Minister has made a number of statements over the past few days. The hon. Gentleman knows the answer very well. We believed that after the French had sent in the gendarmerie it was entirely right that we should send the Marines to the New Hebrides. The matter has been exhaustively discussed over the past few days, and I do not have anything useful to add today.

United Kingdom Budget Contribution


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he has had any further consultations with his Community counterpart since the ministerial statement on 2 June concerning the European Economic Community budget payments by the United Kingdom.

Now that the outstandingly successful agreement on the United Kingdom budget payments has been reached, and the Commission is beginning its work on the longer-term view of the budget, does not my right hon. Friend feel confident that, with the necessary amount of energy and co-operation between member States, all members will be able to move forward on the construction of a new budget in two or three years' time, which will involve the agricultural proportion reducing to perhaps 50 per cent., and more money being spent on other projects, including industrial reconstruction and revival?

My hon. Friend is basically right. The agreement reached in Brussels does, for the first time, give us a good opportunity to restructure the budget so that the over-emphasis on agricultural expenditure can be mitigated, and other areas of expenditure substituted. That is the most hopeful development to come out of our agreement.

Surely the point about reaching an agreement is that, whether successful or unsuccessful, it is only an interim agreement. What response are the Government making to the welcome call by Chancellor Schmidt for a wholesale overhaul of the CAP in the next two years?

The hon. Gentleman said that the agreement is an interim measure. I tried to explain to the House recently that, because of what was said about restructuring, it holds promise for a permanent agreement. Chancellor Schmidt's remarks were very much in line with what we have been saying over the years. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, when making a statement recently, said that because other countries are having to share the burden of the CAP it tends to alter people's attitude.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that on 2 June the Government undertook to accept the fundemental principles of the CAP? If they did that, how is it consistent with a review of the EEC budget?

From my hon. Friend's remarks, I have a feeling that he is not as intimately aware of the principles of the CAP as he perhaps once was. If it will not weary the House, I shall read out the principles. The principles of the CAP, as laid down in the Treaty of Rome are first :

"to increase agricultural productivity by promoting technical progress and by ensuring the rational development of agricultural production and the optimum utilisation of the factors of production, in particular labour."
I do not think that my hon. Friend would object to that. Secondly :
"thus to ensure a fair standard of living for the agricultural community, in particular by increasing the individual earnings of persons engaged in agriculture;"
I do not think that my hon. Friend would object to that. Thirdly :
" to stabilise markets."
" to assure the availability of supplies."

It is not waffle. Those are the principles. I know that the hon. Gentleman does not like hearing the truth for a change. If he spoke less from a sedentary position the proceedings of the House would go better. Fifthly,

" to ensure that supplies reach consumers at reasonable prices."
I think that my hon. Friend would agree that the principles of the CAP—I am not talking about how they were worked out—are entirely in accordance with what he would accept.

We are grateful to the Lord Privy Seal for reminding us of the principles, as well as the practices, of the CAP. Ignoring, as I hope he will, the rather orchestrated sycophancy of his Euro-fanatical friends, will he confirm that, under the remarkable arrangement, we are to pay some £400 million this year and £500 million next year? Will he also confirm that both the French and the Germans have made a claim that their arrangements and agreement to pay back money to Britain is contingent upon agreement on the agricultural price review next year and upon agreement on the common fisheries policy?

Neither of the conditions described by the right hon. Gentleman is true. He spoke of an orchestrated sycophancy on the Conservative Benches, and that is not an apt phrase. If he would, for once, throw off his own peevish insularity and take time off to read the European newspapers he would see that his view of our settlement is quite different from theirs.

Foreign Policy


asked the Lord Privy Seal what steps he will be taking to ensure greater European co-operation in foreign policy now that budget difficulties have been overcome.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave earlier to my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Knox).

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the rest of Europe the reaction is that Britain has secured an extremely good deal on the budgetary question, and that the kind of strong leadership that my hon. Friend shows bodes well for the future? Can we now build on that with some clear and practical propositions for a much closer European foreign policy to make the Community what it should be—much more than a mere trading arrangement?

I am sure that my hon. Friend's comments are generally very much in accordance with the wishes of the House. We are deeply interested in the progress of political co-operation. My hon. Friend referred to the satisfactory nature of our settlement. Since this seems still to be disputed by the Labour Party for what to me are obscure reasons perhaps I should give the figures. In 1980 we shall pay £370 million. In 1981 the figure will be £440 million——

Yes, net. Under the Labour Government in 1978 we paid £840 million, and in 1979 we paid £959 million.

Does the Lord Privy Seal accept that there is nothing to be ashamed of in trying to secure oil supplies? What attitude have he and his European colleagues taken towards the OPEC summit at Algiers, and in particular to the price relationship laid down there and the supply position for the forseeable future?

There has been no consultation. Obviously, it is in the interests of this country and of the whole Community that oil supplies should be kept down——

Does it not make sense for the Community countries to coordinate and concert their action against a regime that has imprisoned 50 Americans? Does it not make even greater sense to try to co-ordinate and to concert action against the bestial regime which is at the moment murdering thousands of Afghans every week?

There has been a great deal of consultation about Afghanistan. A declaration was issued last weekend at the Venice summit. It is extremely important that the Western response to Russian aggression in Afghanistan should be co-ordinated.

Does the Lord Privy Seal consider that existing political cooperation between Britain and France in the New Hebrides is an adequate example of the way in which we should be able to communicate within the Community in future?

The hon. Lady may not have been listening, but her hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) has already asked that question.

Effectiveness And Influence (Proposals)


asked the Lord Privy Seal what further initiatives he intends proposing to his European colleagues designed to strengthen the effectiveness and influence of the European Economic Community; and if he will make a statement.

We debated the report of the Committee of Three on European Community institutions on 10 June. On that occasion I outlined the Government's reaction to the proposals in that report designed to strengthen the effectiveness and influence of the Community.

In spite of the contents of the Venice declaration, is my hon. Friend aware that considerable disappointment at the outcome was expressed by the indigenous Palestinian people living on the occupied West Bank? Is my right hon. Friend further aware that it is most important to restore a sense of urgency to this matter and to prepare an updated version of resolution 242 by the European Governments to give effect to the aims and aspirations of the indigenous Palestinian people?

I am aware that there was disappointment on the West Bank about the Venince declaration, just as there was some disappointment in Jordan. The Prime Minister of that country welcomed the declaration as a step in the right direction, but wished that it had gone further. However, the Americans have expressed themselves very clearly about an amendemnt to resolution 242. It is very important that we should work in conjunction with them. There would be nothing to be gained by putting forward a resolution which was then vetoed by the Americans.

On the effectiveness of the EEC over its statement about Afghanistan, has Lord Carrington made any representations to his old bank, Morgan Grenfell, and to his son, who is a director of that bank, in order to ensure that the trading that is going on through Morgan Grenfell with Russia involving two chemical firms is stopped?

I do not think that that entirely characteristic question is worth answering.

In his efforts to increase the effectiveness of the EEC, will my right hon. Friend try to persuade his European colleagues who take an interest in foreign affairs to join the Government in their ban on the sale of arms to the military junta in E1 Salvador, particularly since reports are now reaching us that about 200 people are being murdered each week in that country, where there is no judicial process?

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that the last thing many hon. Members want is a military role for the EEC?

The hon. Gentleman ought to be aware that defence is excluded from the Treaty of Rome.

How can we best advance the effectiveness and influence of the EEC if the interests and outlook of two of the major partners—the United Kingdom and France—are so different and so divergent? France has shown that its interests clearly differ from ours. What can we do genuinely to advance the interests of Europe in this respect?

I disagree with my hon. Friend. I do not think that the interests of Britain and France are so far apart. They are far closer than is often realised, perhaps by both Britain and France. They may diverge in certain places about which a lot of people had not heard very much until recently, but we ought not to exaggerate those differences.

Enlargement (Timetable)


asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the likely timetable for enlargement of the European Economic Community.

Greece will join the Community on 1 January 1981. The Portuguese and Spanish Governments wish to join in 1983, and we fully support them in that aim.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is an overwhelming political case for the enlargement of the EEC by the admission of Spain and Portugal at the earliest opportunity? Does he agree that if major national problems are caused for new or existing members these should not be used as reasons for delay in granting membership or for preventing it, but should be overcome by national solutions? If that approach is adopted that will be a welcome trend in the development of the Community.

I entirely accept that. There are overwhelming political reasons for the accession of Spain and Portugal as soon as possible. Our aim is certainly that they should join in 1983. If there are any difficulties I agree that they should be sorted out as soon as possible.

Cannot the Government put an end to this EEC nonsense by declaring UDI for Britain?

With respect, I do not think that this is a sensible moment to ask such a question—when we have recently concluded a satisfactory agreement with the EEC.

Will not my right hon. Friend hasten slowly on this difficult matters? Does he not agree that the Community has taken some time to digest us, and vice versa? Will not the advent of three new, largely agricultural countries, be liable to cause further indigestion in the Community?

I am not sure that my hon. Friend has got his digestive processes right. Greece joins in January this year——

If Greece has not joined already, it follows that it will join next January. Spain and Portugal will join two years later. There is, therefore, a considerable interval. As my hon. Friend knows, this has been under consideration for some time, and I am confident that the accession of Greece, Spain and Portugal can be brought about without the troubles that he fears.

Has the Lord Privy Seal seen the recent statement of President Giscard, questioning the timetable for enlarging the Community? Has the Foreign Office made clear to the President of France that we reject his proposals that the advent of Spain and Portugal be delayed?

We have certainly made it clear that we believe that any problems over our budget solution should have nothing to do with the date of Spain and Portugal's accession to the Community. We have made it clear to Spain and Portugal that we strongly support their entry on the original date.