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.
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?
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.
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.
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.