asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if implementation of the second and third stages of the European Economic Community economic and monetary union will require parliamentary legislative enactment:
(2) what rôle his Department is performing in respect of the European Economic Community proposals for economic and monetary union.
No specific proposals have yet been made about the second and third stages of movement towards economic and monetary integration in the European Communities. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in close consultation with the Treasury and, where appropriate, with other Government Departments, pays close attention to developments in this field.
Since the Government have accepted in principle economic and monetary union by 1980, does not the Minister think it is a fit subject for parliamentary legislative enactment before we give up national control of our monetary and fiscal policies, before we have to co-ordinate economic policy at Community level and before we have to submit our national Budgets to the Council of Ministers for recommendations to this Parliament before being submitted to this Parliament?
The hon. Gentleman must realise that the nature and the form of what is agreed will determine consequent action. Nothing has as yet been agreed beyond the first stage, the resolution of 21st March.
We are not a bit surprised to hear that this economic and monetary will-of-the-wisp has not got any further, but we are relieved to hear the hon. Gentleman's answer that it has not.
I think the right hon. Gentleman is not being completely fair. Progress towards economic and monetary harmonisation in Europe is complementary to all our hopes for a world-wide reform of the international monetary system to make it more responsive to the needs of the 'seventies. If Europe develops a common voice on these matters, it could give a powerful stimulus to reform.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is no agreement that a regional economic or monetary union of this sort will assist world monetary developments on the basis that they should develop and that the very reverse may be the truth? May I ask the hon. Gentleman, in conjunction with the Treasury, to consider seriously where the Government will get to, even though I recognise that the difficulties of doing this are, thank heavens, so formidable that nothing is likely to happen?
I recognise that the right hon. Gentleman does not agree with the Government's view of this, but it is our view that progress towards economic and monetary harmonisation in Europe will lead ultimately towards the hoped-for world-wide reform of the international monetary system.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and I meet Foreign Ministers of the Six and the acceding States fairly frequently at the meetings preparatory to the European Summit Conference and at those for political consultation. With the completion of the negotiations we have no present plans to meet the Council of Ministers as such.
In spite of that, before the next meeting, when they do meet should not the Government make their views publicly known about the question of direct elections to the European Parliament? Why are the Government being so coy about this aspect, particularly in view of the simply derisory vote yesterday in France in favour of an enlarged Community?
On the last point, I am not sure whether my hon. Friend is claiming this as a victory for a referendum here. On the first point that he raised, when we come to meet the Council as a Council we shall no doubt discuss with it the question of direct elections and their practicability. But this is a matter that needs discussion and on which we should not lay down the law.
As M. Pompidou's propaganda-motivated referendum has fallen flat, would the right hon. Gentleman be prepared to recommend to his right hon. Friend that he should be allowed to go to the Council of Ministers and say that the Prime Minister of Great Britain has at last agreed to honour his election pledge and have a General Election, and show the Europeans how to do it properly?
I thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite were not quite as keen on a General Election lately as they were some weeks ago. The hon. Gentleman asked about a referendum. The possibility of holding a referendum is written into the French constitution. It is nothing to do with me.
Are there not encouraging signs that opinion in the Six is moving towards accepting the need for a common regional industrial policy? Is not this likely to be very much to our advantage, and will British Ministers be following it up?
A number of the EFTA countries have been negotiating with and are in contact with the Commission; we also are in contact with the Commission and the Foreign Ministers of the other countries. The hon. Gentleman can rest assured that we shall do our best to protect their interests.