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Council Of Ministers

Volume 32: debated on Wednesday 24 November 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he hopes to attend the next Council of Ministers meeting; and what subjects he expects to be discussed.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State expects to attend the next Foreign Affairs Council planned for 13 and 14 December. It is too soon after the November Council to forecast the December agenda. The usual monthly statement of forthcoming Community business will be made in due course.

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance to the House that, should the Fisheries Council fail to reach an agreement with Denmark over a common fisheries policy, the issue will be raised at the next meeting? Does my right hon. Friend agree that an early agreement is essential, not only from the point of view of the fishermen within the Community, but in the wider context of the European Community's development?

My hon. Friend is right. As he knows, nine members of the Community are agreed on a common fisheries policy and only the Danes are resisting. When the Danish Prime Minister was in Britain earlier this week, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it clear to him that we have no further concessions to offer. We hope that the Fisheries Council on 29 November will be able to clear the matter up. If it does not it will have to be discussed again at the European Council summit in December.

In view of the complete lack of progress towards a settlement in Cyprus, does my right hon. Friend agree that the time may well have come for the Council of Ministers, meeting in political cooperation, to discuss the matter urgently to decide whether there is some way in which the European Community can play a part in reaching a solution?

The time may come, but we do not think that it has come yet. This is in the hands of the United Nations Secretary General and his representative, Mr. Gobbi, who is active in the matter and with whom we are in close touch.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the agricultural arrangements made earlier this year mean that, no matter what postures or policies are adopted by the Community, the share of the budget devoted to agricultural structure and support will prevent the Community from taking any sensible steps? Therefore, can we see the British Government taking them instead?

The hon. Gentleman knows that there is agricultural price fixing every year. It will remain our objective at the forthcoming Council, and at all discussions on such matters, to bring about a reduction in the rate of growth of agricultural spending.