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European Community (Dooge Report)

Volume 77: debated on Wednesday 24 April 1985

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7.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether, in the light of the Dooge report, the European Economic Community intends to adopt a common position in international bodies.

The Dooge committee has recommended that the Ten should adopt common positions in the United Nations and other multilateral bodies. This proposal, with the others made by the committee, will be discussed at the Milan European Council in June. We hope that this discussion will lead to decisions which will enable the Ten to act and vote more unitedly in international organisations.

Will the Minister assure the House that the reservations he expressed on matters such as the weakening of the veto, the enlargement of European Assembly powers, and other steps towards political union will be firmly maintained?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that it was precisely for that reason that I entered those reservations in the report, as did representatives of certain other countries.

Is it not thoroughly undesirable that Britain should be left isolated along with a minority of members of the European Community while the majority wish to make progress in this way? If more nationalistic states such as France can go along with these developments, why can they get away with it and we cannot?

The United Kingdom was not isolated in the Dooge committee. The Greek representative entered a total of 15 reservations, the Danish representative entered a total of 10 reservations, Britain and Germany both entered three reservations, and a number of other countries entered one each. On the vast majority of issues, we were able to support either the unanimous or the majority view of the committee.

Why does the Department continue to pay lip-service to the idea of European political union when the Minister and his Department must know that that would be completely unacceptable to the British people?

I am not certain what the hon. Gentleman means by the phrase "European political union". It is not a phrase that has normally been used in the Community. We have said that we are prepared to see greater European unity on a range of issues, but I emphasise that what is sometimes described as the federal concept does not have the support of the vast majority of Community Governments, including the United Kingdom Government.

If the United Kingdom entered so many reservations, will my hon. Friend explain what the Government did support?

If my hon. Friend had been listening to me with his customary attention, he would have heard that I made quite the opposite point. I said that while certain of our colleagues entered 15 and 10 reservations respectively, the United Kingdom and Germany entered only three reservations, in a report which covered a wide range of issues. We were able to support the unanimous or majority views on a range of questions, such as the internal market, political co-operation, security matters, and the need for more effective forms of decision making in the Community, while reserving the right of the national veto.

Is it not a good thing that most of the nations of the EEC take decisions which are based upon their own national interests? Is it not clear that it would be absolutely disastrous if all the EEC countries took the same sycophantic attitude towards the United States of America and President Reagan as the Prime Minister does?

The hon. Gentleman has put to me a somewhat extraordinary jumble of ideas. He is correct in saying that individual countries have national interests which they are concerned to protect. Her Majesty's Government formulate foreign policy based on what we believe to be in the best interests of the United Kingdom.

The hon. Gentleman must know that he is deceiving the House by going on about the number of reservations that Her Majesty's Government have made. Surely the significant point is the nature of the reservations. Will the hon. Gentleman agree that the unwillingness of Her Majesty's Government, in conjunction with the Greeks and the Danes, to see an improvement in the decision making procedures of the Community is a bad thing?

I suspect that the hon. Gentleman has not read the report in question. If he had, he would have noticed that in that part which deals with decision making the United Kingdom did not enter a reservation. Two options were put forward in the main body of the report, one of which was supported by representatives of a number of Community countries. The other option was supported by other representatives. There was no footnote reservation or qualification of the kind that the hon. Gentleman suggests.

The Minister may have entered reservations on the question of majority voting, but he has conceded in his reservations the principle of more frequent use of majority voting on major EEC matters. Will the Minister be frank and tell us precisely to which areas the veto will not still apply? In which areas will the Government stand up for Britain?

As the hon. Gentleman will be well aware, the vast majority of areas permit voting under the treaty, but it has become increasingly customary for the Presidency not to ask for a vote on them in the Council. We have argued that that is undesirable. There are many areas of progress on which, if votes were taken, the United Kingdom would happily be with the majority, seeking certain changes—for example, on the completion of the internal market. That is an obvious example to which Britain has attached great importance. We have no objection to increased use of majority voting as long as there is reserved to each national Government the right, as an ultimate defence of its national interest, to apply a veto as provided for in the Luxembourg compromise.