Commissioners (United Kingdom Appointees)

Oral Answers to Questions — European Community – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th July 1984.

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Photo of David Marshall David Marshall , Glasgow Shettleston 12:00 am, 25th July 1984

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether Her Majesty's Government will press for the retention of the right to appoint two commissioners to the EEC.

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

In the interest of a greater effectiveness we believe that, on Portuguese and Spanish accession, the number of commissioners should be limited to 12, that is one per member state. If we cannot secure agreement for this proposal, we shall retain the right to nominate two commissioners.

Photo of David Marshall David Marshall , Glasgow Shettleston

The Minister's reply is just not good enough. Does he not agree that Britain really needs two commissioners? Will he confirm that if we have two commissioners he will adhere to the practice of appointing one from the Government and one from the Opposition? When will he announce the appointment or reappointment of our commissioners?

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

The right to nominate commissioners is the prerogative of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. That has been true under successive Governments. The Government believe that if Spain were to achieve two commissioners and Portugal one, a total of 17 commissioners would be substantially in excess of what the Community requires and would create difficulties in attracting people of a suitable calibre to the work. I have emphasised that our willingness to reduce the number of commissioners is dependent upon other member states making a similar response.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Budgen Mr Nicholas Budgen , Wolverhampton South West

Is that not another example of the proposition that an enlarged Community will be a weaker and less cohesive Community?

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

No, it is not. The number of commissioners is a relatively marginal matter compared with the major benefits that will accrue to the European Community as a whole when it represents the greater part of western Europe.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook , Livingston

In view of the satisfaction that the Minister took earlier from how well Britain is doing from the social fund, would it not be sensible for the Government to reappoint the commissioner for the social fund, who happens to be the Labour nominee?

Photo of Malcolm Rifkind Malcolm Rifkind Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

We always note with interest the Opposition's recommendations in such matters. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the precedent that the Prime Minister of the day, whether Conservative or Labour, reserves the right to make his or her own decision in the knowledge of the views of the other parties concerned.