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Policy Changes

Volume 32: debated on Wednesday 24 November 1982

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53.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent changes have been made in Community policy of relevance to the United Kingdom.

The policies of the European Community are constantly evolving and most are relevant to the United Kingdom. Recent developments of particular relevance have included the settlement of our 1982 budget refunds, the steel agreement between the Community and the United States, and further progress towards a common fisheries policy.

Will the Minister confirm that the United States reacted to a 6ยท3 per cent. import penetration by European producers rather more vigorously than the Government have reacted to enormously larger penetration of our steel markets by our European partners, who are clearly cheating and dumping in an astonishing way? Will he accept that it is his duty to ensure that his colleagues in the Council of Ministers are aware that we will not tolerate these activities any longer?

The hon. Gentleman had an opportunity to question my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry earlier this week on this issue, when the matter was explored at some length. I have no information to gave in addition to what my right hon. Friend said.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the considerable sympathy and support in the Council of Ministers for Britain's problems, particularly as a postindustrial and urban area? Does he agree that so long as the budget is geared 75 per cent. towards agriculture Britain's urban areas will continue to have a raw deal?

My hon. Friend is correct. That is why we favour the expansion and increased effectiveness of the regional fund, the social fund, and the energy policy, to which reference has already been made. The growth of those funds must depend upon success in curbing the rate of agricultural spending.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should be grateful for your help and guidance with regard to the composition of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs questions. Out of a total of 46 questions tabled to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, only 11 were reached in 35 minutes, whereas only nine questions were tabled on EEC matters, to which 20 minutes were devoted, in which time eight were dealt with. As this has happened frequently, and as most of the more important matters happen to be directed to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, would it not be better if EEC questions were confined to 10 minutes and the remainder of Question Time on Wednesday devoted to, say, 50 minutes for the much more important matters of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs?

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. First, I must say that it is not a matter for me but for the usual channels to agree. Secondly, I must remind the House that every time I moved on this afternoon from one question to another some hon. Members were disappointed at not being called. That happened every time.