Council of Ministers

Oral Answers to Questions — European Community – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st January 1976.

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Photo of Mr Gordon Wilson Mr Gordon Wilson , Dundee East 12:00 am, 21st January 1976

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next expects to be present at a meeting of the EEC Council of Ministers.

Photo of Mr George Reid Mr George Reid , Stirlingshire East and Clackmannan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next intends to be present at a meeting of the EEC Council of Ministers.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Bain Mrs Margaret Bain , Dunbartonshire East

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next expects to attend a meeting of the EEC Council of Ministers.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

Ministers of the Scottish Office attend Council meetings when matters of particular importance to Scotland are to be discussed. I would emphasise, however, that Ministers and officials attending EEC Council and Committee meetings do so as representatives of the United Kingdom as a whole.

Photo of Mr Gordon Wilson Mr Gordon Wilson , Dundee East

Given the fact that Scottish Office Ministers have attended meetings of the Council of Ministers on only five occasions and given the importance of the EEC in all ranges of matters affecting Scotland, does not the Secretary of State agree that it is shocking that Scotland has not engaged in deliberations at Council of Ministers level more often?

Secondly, will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that an arrangement will be worked out whereby a Scottish Office Minister will always keep a watching brief, if not an active brief, on matters of interest to Scotland at the Council of Ministers?

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

A watching brief is kept constantly. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that no Minister attends the Council of Ministers without knowing exactly the Scottish interest and without being able to represent it.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the number of times a Scottish Minister has attended the Council of Ministers. Last year a Minister went there four times. Under the previous Conservative Administration, too, Scottish Office Ministers were sent to Europe. The hon. Gentleman has underestimated the number of times that Scottish Ministers have attended Council meetings. I assure him that when matters of importance to Scotland are dealt with a Scottish Office Minister will be present and he will ensure that our interest is well and truly understood and represented.

Photo of Mr George Reid Mr George Reid , Stirlingshire East and Clackmannan

When the Secretary of State next attends the Council of Ministers, will he discuss those EEC directives and legislation that will impinge on subjects to be devolved to the Scottish Assembly? Will he give some indication of current Government thinking in this area? Does he absolutely rule out the possibility of the Assembly having its own sessional committee to deal with such secondary legislation?

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

It is too early at this stage to go into the Committee stage of a Devolution Bill. I assure the hon. Gentleman that attention will be paid to all those points. He suggested that I should raise certain matters when I attend the Council. He will appreciate that the agenda is laid down not always to suit any particular point of view but rather to deal with matters that have arisen. Important matters to Scotland will arise and I assure him that our opinion will be made known and represented.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Renfrewshire West

Does my right hon. Friend agree that to establish a permanent and separate Scottish representative on the Council of Ministers would require the establishment of a permanent and separate Scottish State? Does he not further agree that it is a gross deception and confidence trick upon the Scottish people to argue for such a separate representative while denying standing for separation? That remark applies both to Opposition Members and to some hon. Members who sit on the Government side of the House.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

The suggestion of independent representation implies the status of independence. There is no reason for Scottish National Party or other hon. Members to deny that.

Photo of Mr Iain Sproat Mr Iain Sproat , Aberdeen South

When the right hon. Gentleman next speaks to his European colleagues, will he clear up a mystery? Last Thursday, Mr. Lardinois said that no renegotiations on the common fisheries policy were taking place. Every time the Secretary of State and his right hon. Friend the Minister of State speak, they say that renegotiations are taking place. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us who is telling the truth?

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

We raised this matter with the Council of Ministers and it agreed to carry out a review of the policy. The Commission has been working on this issue. It has produced a working document, which is very helpful as far as it goes. We are pressing for proposals to be brought forward as soon as possible. Therefore, this reappraisal is taking place.

Photo of Mrs Margaret Bain Mrs Margaret Bain , Dunbartonshire East

I recognise the Secretary of State's great interest in education matters. However, will lie ensure that a Minister from the Scottish Office is present when education is next discussed at the Council of Ministers? Will he bear in mind the possibility of university research being co-ordinated on a European basis?

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

It is a bit much for the hon. Lady to expect me to promise that a Scottish Office Minister will go into every point that touches Scotland. That will depend on the importance of the point and on the ministerial relationship to it. It is important that whoever represents the United Kingdom should appreciate the importance to Scotland of particular aspects.