European Assembly (Official Visit)

Oral Answers to Questions — European Community – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th November 1975.

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Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

My right hon. Friend has at present no plans to do so, though he will keep the possibility in mind.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Central Fife

Does my right hon. Friend agree—I hope that he does—with the proposition that senior Ministers of all the nine member countries of the Community should take the opportunity of regularly attending the European Assembly and initiating debates on matters of general European importance so that the Assembly can get away from dealing with trivialities of the kind which, as he said earlier, we dispose of in their thousands in this House without debate?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I am doubtful whether it would help the Community and its Assembly, or the future of either of those bodies, if Ministers from national Governments appeared before the Assembly to argue, as they inevitably would, their national case in matters of dispute between members of the Nine. What we have to do in the short term is to accept that the main ministerial presence at the Assembly is on the part of those Ministers representing the presidency. I think that the robust debate that ought to go on there can with confidence be left to members of the national parliamentary delegations.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that, if he were to visit the European Parliament, he would not find that everyone present agreed with his statement that Community co-operation in political matters was going well? Certainly in the instance of Portugal it may have been, but there are other instances, such as Angola and Spain, where a great deal more c-operation is required, and they must include, among others, the Energy Conference shortly to be held.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I am not for a moment suggesting that the Community can at this time act as if it were a single State with a single foreign policy. I could give the hon. Gentleman other examples of where, after much discussion in an attempt to achieve a common attitude to an external matter, one or more Community country has said that it is in its national interest to take an independent line. In the present state of development that is the case, and I cannot see in the foreseeable future any way in which a member country might not regard it as its duty to its people to take up a policy position different from that of the Community as a whole.