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Economic, Monetary And Political Union

Volume 176: debated on Wednesday 11 July 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the principal policy objectives which Her Majesty's Government would wish to see in the twin intergovernmental conference preparations for economic and monetary union and political union, as specific components in a list of policies for the discussions at the end of the Italian presidency of the Council of Ministers in December.

We shall be working in both intergovernmental conferences to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of the Community, creating strong Community institutions, but respecting the diversity of national traditions and the principle of subsidiarity.

I wish my hon. Friend and his colleagues at the Foreign Office the best of luck in developing those proposals. Does he agree that the Government and the parliamentary Conservative party can enthusiastically and totally unite behind this country's energetic and enthusiastic development of the various proposals for the twin conferences? Does he further agree that there are a number of important priorities, not least to ensure the accountability of member Governments to their national Parliaments, enhancing the role of the national Parliament, and to ensure the accountability of the Council of Ministers as a whole to the European Parliament and to increase the power of the European Parliament at the margins?

For the second intergovernmental conference, we have put forward a series of proposals for ways in which the Community can make itself more effective and better at doing those things that only the Community can do. As my hon. Friend has suggested, part of that process is to increase the accountability of Ministers to their national Parliaments. We believe that if the role of the European Parliament is to be increased, the European Commission should be held more to account. We also need to look at reinforcing the rule of law in the European Community. There are a whole range of areas in which improvements could be made and we shall be making constructive proposals.

Does the Government agree with the Italians, the Germans, the French, the Spaniards and the majority of the other members of the Community, in having as their aim the creation of a democratic federal European Community?

The hon. Gentleman is misinformed if he believes that all those countries believe in a democratic federal Europe in quite the simplistic way that he has suggested—they do not. There is no consensus or anything approaching a consensus in the Community in terms of such a development. There is, however, a growing belief that the Community should do better that which it has to do. That may involve decentralising decision making to the member states to a certain extent to enable them to do those things that do not have to be done by the Community.

Given the recent speech by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on economic and monetary union when he said that we shall not move towards a central bank, does my hon. Friend agree that the question of subsidiarity, with respect to both economic and monetary union, and political union, must be defined in such a manner as to rule out the political impetus that has been given to both the central bank and to the subservience of this House to the European Parliament and other Community institutions, which seems to be the fetish of some of the European leaders in the European Community?

There is a great deal of scope for increasing the economic and monetary integration of the Community. Our commitment to the single market is evidence of that. A good deal more can be done on monetary matters. We have wholeheartedly supported stage 1 of the Delors report and put forward some well-developed and sophisticated proposals on stage 2. Those are being seriously considered throughout the Community. A great deal can be done before developments such as those to which my hon. Friend referred take place.

Is the Minister aware that the recent Dublin summit represented a comprehensive defeat for the Prime Minister, on establishing both of the intergovernmental conferences and also on the social charter, aid to the Soviet Union, lifting sanctions on South Africa and even the reappointment of that French Socialist Jacques Delors as President of the European Commission? How on earth can any of our partners have any confidence that proposals from the United Kingdom Government can be taken seriously or seen as anything other than a cosmetic camouflage for the same old obstructionism?

To take the last example from the hon. Gentleman's list, he failed to observe that, far from being isolated on the reappointment of Monsieur Delors, the Prime Minister nominated him. That is a pretty odd way of being isolated. Virtually everything that the hon. Gentleman said was wrong. He has simply got stuck in a time warp. He is playing again records that were worn out a long time ago and should have been discarded. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that we are isolated, for example, on aid to the Soviet Union, he should consider what was decided at the Houston summit. He will find that the argument of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, which was widely accepted as entirely correct, has gained even greater endorsement since the summit.