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Spinelli Report

Volume 79: debated on Wednesday 22 May 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consultations he proposes to have with other EEC Foreign Ministers concerning the Spinelli report; and if he will make a statement.

We are in regular consultation with our Community partners in preparation for the European Council in June at which the question of possible institutional reforms of the European Community will be discussed. We do not believe that the Spinelli report, which would radically change the balance between Community institutions, is the right way to make progress.

Will my hon. Friend give the House an assurance that Her Majesty's Government will not bring forward proposals to the House based on the Spinelli report and also that we will not countenance any transfer of any more sovereignty from the House to the EEC?

I can say to my hon. Friend that not only will Her Majesty's Government not commend proposals based on the Spinelli report to the House, but it is very unlikely that any other Government will wish to do so either, so far as we can tell. Most of the discussion taking place within the Community takes into account the report of Mr. Spinelli and his colleagues, but is essentially based on other proposals that have been discussed in the Dooge report and in other fora.

How can the European Assembly be given a greater role in Community affairs without, in effect, giving it greater power?

The question whether the European Parliament should have greater powers is an issue that will be discussed. Her Majesty's Government take the view that the existing powers of the European Parliament are already considerable and substantial, and we are not convinced that there is a satisfactory argument for increasing the powers of the European Parliament. We would, however, wish to see the European Parliament more intimately involved in the early consideration of proposals that will subsequently go to the Council of Ministers, so that the Parliament's views can be more fully taken into account by the Council of Ministers when it deliberates on these matters.

What advice will my hon. Friend be giving to the Prime Minister when the subject of the recommendations of the Dooge report come before the meeting in Milan? Will he, in particular, be warning the Prime Minister not to accept the terms of reference suggested in the Dooge report, which would pre-commit any conference to the concept of further European unity and the principles of Spinelli?

I fear that my hon. Friend has not properly read the Dooge report to which he refers — [Interruption.] — because there is no commitment in it, either by the majority or minority, to incorporate the proposals of the Spinelli report. There is one passing reference to that report, but no commitment or support for the fundamental recommendations of Mr. Spinelli and his colleagues. Her Majesty's Government believe that there is a good prospect of reaching agreement at the European Council on a package of proposals that will help decision-making in the Community and will help to make progress on the internal market, on political co-operation and on other matters which the vast majority of hon. Members believe are important and desirable in the interests of this country and the Community.

Is it true that the Prime Minister welcomed the use by the German Agriculture Minister of the veto and encouraged Chancellor Kohl in the continuation of that policy?

We were happy to support the proposals of the Commission on cereal prices. We attach importance also to the right of any member state to indicate when it believes that its important national interests are at stake, and therefore we abstained when the essential question was considered by the Council, to show that we believed that the Federal Republic was entitled to use that procedure if it thought it appropriate.

Will my hon. Friend reassure the House that Altiero Spinelli is neither more nor less than the Father Christmas of Italian politics and that his report is neither more nor less than the futuristic fancy of a man old enough to have been imprisoned by Mussolini but not, it seems, too old to daydream?

The report to which his name has been given covers a wide range of issues. The basic institutional reforms proposed by the report are not seen by Her Majesty's Government as providing an acceptable basis for the future of the Community.

During the discussions, will the Minister raise the crucial issue of the veto and highlight the cloud of hypocritical humbug that is now being raised on this issue? When we note the actions of the two Governments most in favour of abolishing the veto — first, France vetoes the idea of trade talks and then the Federal Republic of Germany vetoes the farm price review — we have amply illustrated the gap between rhetoric and reality on this issue.

While I do not believe that the example of the trade talks is relevant to this question, I agree that the French Foreign Minister has made it clear that France believes in the continued indispensability of the right of veto, and the recent action by the Federal German Republic demonstrated the position of that country in the matter. The vast majority of Governments in the Community accept that it is unthinkable that on any vitally important matter any country should be overruled. Therefore, the consideration of the Heads of Government will not concentrate on replacing or removing the right of veto, but rather on ways of ensuring that it should be used only when important national interests are at stake and not to hold up progress on other matters.

Is it not our task to enforce the existing treaty obligations of the Community rather than take a leap into the unknown with Mr. Spinelli and his report? In particular, will my hon. Friend insist on a freer market in financial services, where Britain is comparatively strong? Will this be top of the agenda at the Milan summit?

My hon. Friend is right to comment on the fact that the completion of the internal market is required under the original treaty and is not yet fully implemented. It has not only been a unanimous recommendation of the Dooge report but features in the list of priorities of the President of the Commission. The completion of the internal market should be the first priority of the Community. It will be the policy of Her Majesty's Government to emphasise the essential importance of the subject at the European Council.