Dooge Committee

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th June 1985.

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Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Walthamstow 12:00 am, 26th June 1985

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when the Dooge committee report will next be considered by the European Economic Community Council of Ministers.

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

The future development of the Community will be discussed at the Milan European Council on 28 and 29 June.

Photo of Mr Eric Deakins Mr Eric Deakins , Walthamstow

Will the Minister assure the House that the Prime Minister will this weekend stand firm on the three important reservations, to which the Minister himself subscribed, to the Dooge committee report? Will the Prime Minister maintain the Minister's position and report back to the House next week?

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

The reservations which I entered in the report by the Dooge committee represented, and continue to represent, the policies of Her Majesty's Government.

Photo of Mr Gerald Malone Mr Gerald Malone , Aberdeen South

Does my hon. Friend agree that, following the enlargement of the Community, the section of the Dooge committee report which deals with easier decision-making by the Council takes on a particular significance if progress is to be made? Will my hon. Friend confirm that his suggestion that if there is any difference of opinion within the Council it must be defined at an early date will go a long way towards reconciling differences between the preservation of national interest and making progress within the Community?

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

Yes. We believe that the enlargement of the Community to 12 will make the existing procedures more unlikely to be capable of reaching early agreement on matters of importance. Therefore, we believe that there should be more majority voting, as long as the right of a member state to invoke the national interest provisions remains in a form which, while not being capable of abuse, protects national interest.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber

Is the Minister aware that the formula is vague? Will he confirm my impression of Dooge that the Government would oppose an intergovernmental conference following Milan? Does he accept that many of us would regret such opposition, and can he explain it?

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

The best inter-governmental conference is that of Heads of State. We hope that at Milan the Heads of State—I should say Heads of Government—will be assembled and will be able to agree a package of proposals which, apart from anything else, will make any other conference worthless. We see no need for the procedural device of an inter-governmental conference. We hope that the agreements reached at Milan will be sufficient for the progress that we all wish to see in the Community.

Photo of Mr George Robertson Mr George Robertson , Hamilton

It appears from the well organised press coverage that the Milan summit will be dominated by the bright ideas coming from the Foreign Office, especially in the guise of the Foreign Secretary. Why have these allegedly bright ideas not been available to right hon. and hon. Members, certainly up until yesterday? The Foreign Secretary would not answer this question last night. When will we be told what the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister will propose at next week's summit at Milan?

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

First, I must thank the hon. Gentleman for his compliment to the Government and for his correct assessment of the Government's important and constructive role. He asked when he and his hon. Friends would be made aware of the Government's views on the Milan discussions. The Government's proposals were outlined at some length in the debate on the European Community which I opened last week and to which he replied.

Later

Photo of Mr George Robertson Mr George Robertson , Hamilton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will have heard the exchange at Question Time when I asked the Minister of State about documents which were tabled last week by the British Government at the Foreign Minister's Council at Stresa, and which are to form part of the agenda for the Heads of Government summit in Milan this Friday. The Minister of State told the House that he mentioned the ideas that will be proposed in a debate in the House last Thursday. However, there are two documents related to this issue, one of which is called "The Draft European Council Conclusions: Decision-Taking" and the other "The Draft Agreement on Political Co-operation", which has two annexes. Those documents form a vital basis for what is being proposed at the Heads of Government summit later this week. They have been extensively used in press briefings in the Sunday and Monday newspapers throughout the country, yet they have not been made available in any form to hon. Members. They have not been deposited in the Vote Office and, until a few minutes ago, they were not in the Library.

Surely hon. Members cannot possibly assess what the British Government's position is to be at this vital summit of Heads of Government unless we, the representatives of the British people, know what the Government will propose in our name. Surely it is to treat the House with grave disrespect, if not contempt, to deny us the final proposals of this country at this vital summit meeting. Can you do something to protect hon. Members from the cavalier way in which the Foreign Office has treated us?

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. No point of order arises from that because, as the hon. Gentleman knows, it is in order for Ministers to refer to documents. However, if they quote from documents, the documents must be laid on the Table. The hon. Gentleman has done what is necessary by making the position clear.