Conference on International Economic Co-operation

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 Tom Arnold Mr Tom Arnold , Hazel Grove 12:00 am, 26th November 1975

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a further statement on EEC participation in the forthcoming Conference on International Economic Co-operation.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

No, Sir. I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend has told the House on previous occasions, most recently during the foreign affairs debate on 10th November.

Photo of Mr Tom Arnold Mr Tom Arnold , Hazel Grove

But is it not the case that the chances of success will be that much greater if the Community can speak with one voice? Will not the right hon. Gentleman accept that it is quite unnecessary that there should be any conflict of interest between Britain seeking to fight her own corner as a major energy producer within the EEC and the development of respect for that interest by our partners in the Community in the furtherance of a common energy policy?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

No, Sir. There is a whole variety of subjects on the agenda for this conference in which I hope that the Community will speak with one voice, and we are co-operating as best we can and as enthusiastically as we can in bringing about a common mandate which represents the common EEC position. However, it may be that in each of the areas—not simply energy, but the other three subjects to be discussed—there is a point of view by Britain which needs to be expressed and which will be the better for being expressed and which cannot be included in the Community mandate. If that is the case, I do not understand the argument against British representation.

Photo of Mr Evan Luard Mr Evan Luard , Oxford

Is there not room for compromise on this matter? Is it not a fact that only one committee of the four to be held at the conference will be concerned with energy? Should it not be possible to persuade our Community partners to allow us to represent the Community within that committee at least, even if one or other of them will then represent the Community in the other committees, and that, so far as possible, in addition there are relatively agreed policies or general frameworks of policy within each of the subjects to which we should be able to give our support before the conference begins?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I do not think that it is possible to make a judgment on my hon. Friend's suggestion until we see what the common mandate includes. The error of his question, if I may put it that way, is the assumption that only on energy might we have an individual point of view. On the three other subjects which the three other committees are to discuss—international money affairs, for example—it is possible that Britain will have an individual, exclusive view, and there must be some way in which we can express it.

Photo of Mr Douglas Crawford Mr Douglas Crawford , Perth and East Perthshire

May we take it from that that the Minister does not agree with the EEC Energy Commissioner who said recently that the oil in Scottish territorial waters belonged to the Common Market? The Scottish people took a very dim view of that statement.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I agree neither with the Commissioner nor with the hon. Gentleman: I believe that that oil belongs to the United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr Christopher Tugendhat Mr Christopher Tugendhat , City of London and Westminster South

What does the right hon. Gentleman believe are the chances of the conference actually taking place now that there seems to be greater dissension among the developing countries about their representation?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

It is certainly our hope that the conference should take place and on the date for which it was scheduled. However, the hon. Member is right in saying that the view of the developing countries that they should have extra representation may produce a minor difficulty between now and the middle of December. But we hope that that can be overcome and that, whatever happens, the conference will take place on schedule.

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Bristol North East

Will my right hon. Friend agree that, as a developing oil-producing country and perhaps a future member of OPEC, it is possible for us to take an independent point of view and still remain good Europeans?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I agree with my hon. Friend wholeheartedly. However, I deeply regret the constant requirement placed upon me not only to be a good European but to be a good European according to someone else's definition. There is a legitimate London definition of what a good European is and a legitimate Scottish definition of what a good European is. By both criteria the Government obey the rules of good Europeanism.

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Brighton, Pavilion

Will the right hon. Gentleman be a little clearer on this subject? There is an impression that perhaps our colleagues in Europe have not been prepared to give proper priority to our oil and financial interests. If this were the case, we could understand the Government's position. However, there is also an impression that the Government have not pressed our European colleagues very hard on this matter. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether there is obstruction within the Community to the proper presentation of British oil and financial interests?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I would not regard it as an obstruction. I fear that the answer to the question put by the right hon. Gentleman can only be given in terms of the theory which my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Atkinson) deplored. The simple fact of the matter is that the Community is not at present a single nation with a single point of view. The difference is between those who pretend that the Community can speak with one voice, when it remains basically nine countries, and those who accept that nine countries might have different points of view. That is the area of conflict.