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European Communities (Definition Of Treaties) (No 4) Order 1977

Volume 387: debated on Thursday 24 November 1977

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5.24 p.m.

rose to move, That the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (No. 4) Order 1977, laid before the House on 3rd November, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, this order contains three similar Treaties signed in April 1976 between the Community and Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. These are known collectively as the Maghreb Co-operation Agreements. As the Treaties were negotiated in parallel and the provisions are almost identical, they are grouped together in this one order.

The Treaties were negotiated under the Community's "overall approach", as it is called, to those countries which border the Mediterranean. The aim of the overall approach is to establish wide ranging co-operation between the Community and its Mediterranean neighbours in a coherent manner, in order to contribute to the economic and social development of the Mediterranean countries. The Maghreb Agreements were the first to be negotiated under the overall approach.

The Agreement covers five areas: trade, economic co-operation, aid, technical cooperation, and co-operation in the field of labour. The trade provisions of the Agreements provide for free access to Community markets for industrial goods from Maghreb countries. There are some temporary derogations for sensitive products and general safeguard clauses. The intention of this part of the Agreement is to encourage industrial development in the Maghreb countries while simultaneously providing adequate protection for industry within the Community. Easy access is also granted to the Maghreb countries' major agricultural exports, particularly citrus fruits. The objective of the Agreements is the liberalisation of trade, although, with the present level of development in the Maghreb countries, provision is not at this stage made for the granting of reciprocal concessions to the Community.

Financial co-operation will be extended through the European Investment Bank by way of loans and there will be Community aid in the form of loans and grants. Algeria will be eligible for 114 million units of account (about £75 million), Morocco for 130 million units of account (£86 million) and Tunisia for 95 million units of account (£60 million); the United Kingdom's contribution to all this will be approximately £13 million. These sums will be disbursed between the date of ratification of the Agreements and the end of October 1981. They will be used for financing investment projects, technical co-operation and training schemes. Emphasis is laid on joint ventures in which the Maghreb countries themselves, EEC Member States—I take it, bilaterally—non-Member States or international organisations would cooperate together with the Community. It is hoped that projects of this kind might involve the oil-producing States also. We are dealing here with the poorer Arab countries, and one would hope that the richer Arab countries, together with Europe, would feel an interest in assisting those poorer Arab countries.

In the field of labour, the Agreements specify that Maghrebi workers should benefit from the same pay and working conditions as European workers and should enjoy specified social security rights. There are agreed reciprocal advantages for European workers in the Maghreb States. There are about 800,000 Maghrebi workers in Europe, the bulk of them in France and Germany.

The operation of the Agreements will be monitored by three Co-operation Councils which will meet each year at ministerial level. The Government believe that the provisions of the Agreements establish a comprehensive approach to development. While wishing to assist the Maghrebi States, the Community's interest in concluding these Agreements is not entirely unselfish. The Community will benefit—and Britain will benefit as part of the Community—in maintaining close trading links with those countries which represent markets for its products and which are also sources of important primary commodities. It is also hoped that the co-operation will result in the stable conditions under which European companies can operate in the Maghreb. The facts of co-operation and, certainly, of joint ventures will, in themselves, assist in creating the stable conditions which European companies, including British companies, need in order to operate in Northern Africa.

The overall aim of the Agreements is that long-term economic benefits will arise from providing assistance to the Maghreb countries to develop their own economies. There will be long term economic benefits to those countries and also to Europe. The Government therefore consider that the co-operation which the Community and the Maghreb States wish to set up will be of benefit to all of the signatories of the Treaties. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (No. 4) Order 1977, laid before the House on 3rd November, be approved.—( Lord Goronwy-Roberts.)

5.31 p.m.

My Lords, once more this afternoon we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, for giving us an explanation of the political and economic significance of the Treaties which are referred to in the draft Order before your Lordships' House. The three Treaties with Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria contained in the draft order are just one example of the expanding and continuing development and co-operation of the Community with Third World countries. The realisation in recent years of the need for Western industrialised nations to play an active and positive role in the improvement of economic and social conditions of less developed countries has been systematically implemented within the Common Commercial Policy of the European Community.

In the Fortieth Report of your Lordships' Select Committee on the European Communities, it was interesting to read that reference is made to the fact that the Community already has 74 Agreements with 92 different countries, which is just about two-thirds of the membership of the United Nations. It is no small achievement for the Nine Member States—and in this particular case I think that it refers to the different Governments that we have had in this country: Labour and Conservative have made their contributions—to be able to adopt a common position before the negotiations began with these three countries and to continue and persist for over three years until the completion of the Agreements which contain many politically sensitive issues. I think we should pay tribute to the work of the Commission and the Council of Ministers who have achieved this.

Nevertheless, these Treaties extend far beyond the normal trade and commercial relations between States which were contained in former Agreements. They involve financial aid from the Community. The noble Lord, Lord Goronwy- Roberts, and the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, referred to this point when we were considering the earlier order. However, it should be emphasised that where such considerable financial aid is involved, surely there should be some debate both in the national and European Parliament to approve these sums before completion of negotiations. The European Parliament has to approve the aid figures contained in the Community Budget. The figures appear in the Community Budget but, at present, they have already been treated as being signed within these documents before the European Parliament has even been consulted. Therefore, I ask the Minister to accept that there is need to give more consultative powers—I am asking only for consultative powers—to the European Parliament, before such agreements are signed in the future.

Also, surely it would be more democratic to debate these issues in both Houses of our national Parliament before the documents are signed? We know that it is very difficult when there are delicate negotiations taking place. No one wants to intrude on the difficult processes of government. However, at some stage policy matters are involved and Members of both Houses should have the opportunity to debate those issues.

These Treaties, which are the outcome of the Mediterranean policy of the Common Commercial Policy, represent, as stated in the preamble of the Treaties, a new model for relations between developed and developing countries. The combination of financial aid in the form of long-term, low-interest-bearing loans and grants, generous tariff concessions—as the noble Lord pointed out, on a non-reciprocal basis—and provisions relating to non-discrimination of workers, are part of the Community's answer to the demands of developing countries in the North-South dialogue and UNCTAD for a more just and equitable economic order. It is worth pointing out, when we hear so much about the new international economic order, that the policy of the Community is one long continuing process in developing this economic order. Therefore, I think that it is worth making reference to this matter. In all honesty, it must be said, as the Minister has already indicated, that the prosperity in neighbouring countries and an assured supply of raw materials, are also to the advantage of Member States of the Community, including our own.

Although the overall objective is admirable, the practical results may have, in some cases, serious repercussions. I should like to refer to the Association Agreement with Turkey which was signed in 1964. Turkey is a possible eventual applicant for membership of the European Community. That agreement was less favourable to Turkey than the present agreement with the Maghreb countries, tariff concessions being on a reciprocal basis. I draw attention to the fact that the Council of Ministers, when making further agreements, should be careful not to upset the balance of relations with countries which are important to us both strategically and as long-standing friends of this country and of other Member States of the Community.

The agricultural products of the three Maghreb countries, particularly wine and olive oil, will, under this Agreement, be in competition with agricultural products of a similar nature in the southern part of the Community itself, and may well contribute to further surpluses and heavy expenditure within the CAP budget. Undoubtedly diversification of agricultural products and growth of crops suitable to the Maghreb climate, which the Community now has to import from other countries, should certainly be encouraged by the Governments concerned.

The inflow of workers, especially during a period of high levels of unemployment within the Community—nearly 6 million at present—will undoubtedly cause difficulties both in the labour market and in the provision of housing, schooling and so on, and a heavy burden on social security disbursements. The Minister has already confirmed that this does not imply free movement of labour in the case of the Portugal additional protocol, and I gather that the same explanation applies as regards the present Treaties. In fact, the migrants will be entering the Community for specific employment under work permits.

There is also the question of the relatives of these workers coming in from third countries. I have always believed that it is perfectly right that workers should be allowed to bring their immediate families with them when they come to take up work in another country. Nevertheless, it is fair to point out that the experience, especially in the Federal Republic of Germany, of extended families being allowed entry without control, caused considerable difficulties, especially in the case of family allowances. So many children were brought that it was inconceivable that some families could have had quite so many children. In the end, it was suggested that the family allowances would be paid to the country of origin in order to stop so many children coming in.

Therefore, my contention is that it is very much better to have effective and clear controls at the outset so that the families know the position, know who is allowed in, and there is no question of these misunderstandings which lead to very great political and economic difficulties for both the host country and the country of emigration.

Although the basis of the Treaties is co-operation—commercial, technological and social—financial aid and consequent foreign investment are a considerable feature of all three Agreements. I should like to ask the Minister—not, of course, for immediate reply, if that is not possible—whether the Community has any guarantees of protection of these interests under national legislation of the three countries against expropriation without compensation; and also, protection of the lives, property and employment of Community nationals in those countries. That is a very important point which is sometimes overlooked, but in the light of the political events particularly in the Southern area of these three countries, at some stage there may be great political difficulties. The Community now has an opportunity of making these points before the ratification of the treaties. I hope that these matters will be raised with the respective Governments.

The Consultative Committee on these particular Treaties—also set up to watch over the successful implementation of these Agreements—must take these elements into account. These countries which are to benefit from Community policies for the economic and social improvement of their people must, I believe, also show their political willingness to conform to international standards of nations, for instance, in their attitudes to terrorist activities and the hijacking of planes.

The full use of the consultative machinery and general monitoring of the Agreements will play a leading role in the efficacy and success of the agreements so that they may benefit the citizens of Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. I would ask my noble friends to approve the draft order before your Lordships' House.

5.42 p.m.

My Lords, I do not want to trespass on the time of the House for more than about three minutes. Let me say once again that it is a pleasure to endorse pretty well everything that the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, has said. I should like to re-emphasise that, so far as finance is concerned, there is a new tactic in relation to the British Parliament. Because of our peculiar Constitution, so far as this noble House is concerned, there is little that we can say about European finance and EEC finance. I believe that some formula must be found through which there is closer control of these sums of money.

Secondly, we are grateful to the powers that be who were good enough to produce the draft European Communities (Definition of Treaties) Explanatory Memoranda for the use of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. I hope that those who produced these will appreciate that some of us on both sides of the House are grateful for the information contained therein, because it makes much more clear to busy people what we are actually doing when we come to pass these Statutory Instruments.

I notice that I have one more minute and I shall yet finish within the three minutes. On a Thursday afternoon one does not want to upset a lugubrious noble House. I turn to a point in which I am always interested. We are told that:
"The main agricultural exports of the three Maghreb countries will be admitted to the Community at reduced rates of customs duties. The concessions are not made for products subject to the Common Agricultural Policy. For certain items where there is a significant Community production, the concessions are only granted 'out of season'".
That brings me to the last part of paragraph 9 of the Memorandum, which states:
"On the other hand the Community retains the right to take safeguard measures to protect any sector of its economy or"—
and this is the point that interests us in Britain—
"of individual Member States' economies, in the event of serious disturbances ensuing out of the trade provisions of the Co-operation Agreements".
In other words, we shall have powers to protect ourselves from floods of goods of various types.

I am well within my three minutes. My noble friend the Minister said that the estimate of the British contribution was about £13 million. I shall not quibble about that. The estimate given here in the Memorandum is £21 million. That again emphasises the point which was made crystal-clear by the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, about control of finance and knowing exactly how this money will float over frontiers. With that, I have pleasure in endorsing what has so far been said on these Statutory Instruments.

5.45 p.m.

My Lords, I very much appreciate the way in which both the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, and my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek, have spoken in support of this order, which is so similar to the first one which your Lordships' House has approved. I note with total agreement the point made by the noble Baroness that we must work at achieving a role of consultation for the Assembly and a right of control for the national Parliament. That is difficult to achieve but progress is being made. As I said when speaking on the previous order, we may not get perfection in this for quite some time, but I think everyone is bending his best efforts towards this in Strasbourg, Brussels, and certainly in London.

The noble Baroness referred to the new economic order. I agree with her that this is a continuous process. It cannot be achieved overnight. That links both of us with the point made by my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek about the need to include in these Agreements proper and reasonable provisions for the protection of the concessionary country, in this case the countries of the Community. We are of no use to the developing world if, in attempting to help them, we do serious damage to our own economies. This is not a world of automatic "demanders" who are to be satisfied overnight. This is a world in which there must be real co-operation between the developed and the developing, based on a clear understanding that the developed must be enabled not only to maintain their stronger economies but to improve them. It is on that that the pace of advance in many developing countries in fact depends.

In a more statistical mood my noble friend—I knew he would get on to the figures sooner or later—questioned the figure I gave of £13 million as the British contribution. I gave it as a sterling figure. What people can do with units of account I shall leave for another more spacious opportunity for expansion. For the moment I am quite prepared to confine myself to the familiar beatitudes of sterling.

I confirm in the case of the Maghreb countries that the same arrangements and, indeed, control as I described when I moved the first order, will apply to migrant workers from those countries. The question raised about Community legislation or legal agreement by treaty to protect properties and other interests of Community nationals in countries like those we have been discussing under these two orders, is a subject for a considered reply, as the noble Baroness suggested. Perhaps she would define the scope of the question for me and we might have a word about it. I should like to give a considered reply to this. I agree that it is of immense importance.

It is not only frustrating but dangerous to the whole process of economic and social co-operation if the West or, in this case, the Community extends substantial assistance at the cost of its taxpayers and then finds that there has been expropriation without compensation in some country which has benefited greatly from the gifts as well as the loans which a country like ours makes available to it. I take the point and I hope to give a reasonable answer to the noble Baroness on it.

On Question, Motion agreed to.