I do not think that there is any need for us to raise the issue. The Council meeting on 15th January considered how best to approach the preparation of the report on European union. This is the report which the Community institutions have been asked to draw up before the end of 1975 as a submission to a summit conference. The presidency may arrange a further discussion of these procedures at the next Council meeting, which I think is to fall on 4th and 5th February.
I assure the hon. Gentleman that, as has already been made clear, Parliament will be able to express its views at every step on the procedure towards European union.
If the Government and the Common Market are aiming at political union, it goes without saying that Europe will eventually speak with one voice. If that is so, surely we can have one European embassy instead of nine in each country, and the logic of that is that we can cut the Foreign Office staff by at least 60 per cent.
Will not the Minister agree that the point about political union is that it must be preceded by a much better working relationship at Council of Ministers level than appears presently to exist? Could the Government give an assurance that they will concentrate on that as a first priority? There will be plenty of time later to talk about political union.
We are trying to work out close relationships and concerted policies in a number of areas—trade, monetary, political and others. It will take some time, and when we achieve—if we do—European union, as I hope we shall, there will still be a great deal of debate within the union as there is in this House of Commons.
No, Sir. It is absurd to talk about our partners reneging. They are making great efforts to arrive at a common point of view. It would be ridiculous to suggest that Britain was a divided country just because we have debates on a number of questions.
Does the Minister agree that if the concept of political union is not a dead duck, it is at least a lame duck? Would it not be better if, instead of spending time and energy pursuing this unattractive chimera, more effort were put into dealing with immediate and practical problems, such as re-establishing a free market in oil products in Western Europe and, in addition, renegotiating the ludicrous terms of entry which his right hon. Friend negotiated?