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Intergovernmental Conference

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 2:16 pm on 7th June 1995.

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Photo of Mr Roger Knapman Mr Roger Knapman , Stroud 2:16 pm, 7th June 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has drawn up a formal agenda for the forthcoming intergovernmental conference. [25442]

Photo of Tony Wright Tony Wright , Cannock and Burntwood

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the Government's preparation for the intergovernmental conference. [25444]

Photo of David Davis David Davis Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

The intergovernmental conference is still some way off—at least seven months, and perhaps more. Several issues are already identified for discussion—I have spelt them out on previous occasions—and other issues may be added. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister explained the basis of our approach to the 1GC in the House on 1 March and Cabinet Committees have already taken a preliminary look at some of the individual issues.

Photo of Mr Roger Knapman Mr Roger Knapman , Stroud

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. At a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to find those who wish to remember that they voted for the Maastricht treaty, I was wondering whether a White Paper would he a useful performance factor to enable the Foreign Office to prove that it is winning all the arguments? For instance, in the preamble we still have such phrases as "ever closer union" and "single institutional framework". Do they sit easily with our professed aim to safeguard Britain's national interests?

Photo of David Davis David Davis Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My hon. Friend will be unsurprised to hear that I not only remember voting for Maastricht but I have a list of those who did and those who did not. As for his comments about ever closer union and creeping competence, I have already answered my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin) on that matter. My hon. Friend can be very clear that I shall continue to oppose centralising tendencies in the European Union, including the matters that he raised. On the White Paper, I refer him to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 23 May at columns 703–4 of Hansard.

Photo of Tony Wright Tony Wright , Cannock and Burntwood

Will the Minister confirm that the thrust of British policy as we approach the IGC is to win friends and influence people? Will he tell us now, in concrete terms, which friends we are currently winning and over which issues we are now exercising some influence? Is not the truth that, as before, the British Government are marching us resolutely and remorselessly to irrelevant and impotent isolation?

Photo of David Davis David Davis Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

Government policy is principally aimed at defending the British national interest—that first, that second and that last. I was interested to hear the hon. Gentleman's variation of his leader's "I'll never stand alone" frame, in which Labour will stand up to nobody for anything. That is not the way to win arguments in Europe.

Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Prime Minister made a clear commitment to restoring the powers of this national Parliament over European matters, which must include European legislation? Will he confirm also that there will be no weakening of that resolve, and describe the mechanisms by which that objective will be achieved?

Photo of David Davis David Davis Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

My hon. Friend is right. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that he wants to see this national Parliament and all national Parliaments exercise rights in the control of legislation. That is very much part of the brief that I take to the reflections group, and which I expect we shall take to the intergovernmental conference.

Photo of Mr Clive Soley Mr Clive Soley Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

Was the Minister not present in the House on 3 May, when the Foreign Secretary said that he supported the Maastricht treaty aim of a common foreign and security policy and that he would continue to build that policy "brick by brick", to use his phrase? Does the Minister recall the Prime Minister saying on 23 May that he would block any attempt by the Community to extend its powers into foreign defence policy? Perhaps the Minister will say what is Cabinet policy.

Photo of David Davis David Davis Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office)

That is a remarkable exercise in ignorance by the hon. Gentleman, who does not distinguish between Community and Union. The British Government's stance is straightforward: to make a common foreign security policy work, and work well, on an intergovernmental basis.