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Foreign Policy

Volume 986: debated on Wednesday 18 June 1980

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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.