Intergovernmental Conference

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 1:46 pm on 15th January 1997.

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Photo of Mr David Knox Mr David Knox , Staffordshire Moorlands 1:46 pm, 15th January 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on progress in the intergovernmental conference. [9242]

Photo of Mike Gapes Mike Gapes , Ilford South

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement about the progress of the intergovernmental conference. [9247]

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

Negotiations in the intergovernmental conference will continue under the Dutch presidency on the basis of the draft revision of the treaties submitted by the Irish presidency. The Dublin European Council reaffirmed the target of completing the IGC at the Amsterdam European Council.

Photo of Mr David Knox Mr David Knox , Staffordshire Moorlands

Does my hon. Friend think that the antics of the so-called Euro-sceptics and their friends in the Murdoch and Black press strengthen or weaken his hand in the negotiations at the IGC?

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

Madam Speaker[Interruption.] That question was clearly drafted by my officials!

My attitude towards negotiations in the European Union starts and finishes with the interests of our country, and nothing else.

Photo of Mike Gapes Mike Gapes , Ilford South

Is the Minister aware that, last month, the Foreign Secretary wrote to the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee praising the European Commission's efforts to combat fraud in the European budget? Will the Minister take this opportunity to praise the European Commission's efforts to ensure that the single market works effectively in all countries?

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

This country has been at the forefront of the battle against fraud, and of the battle to make the single market work.

Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Davyhulme

When the Gadarene swine are in full cry, is it appropriate to adopt a wait-and-see policy? Is it not about time we jettisoned that policy and campaigned against a single European currency, which is against the interests of the United Kingdom and against the interests of the European Union as a whole? Is it not significant that the country that claims to be most in favour of a single currency—at least in political terms—is Germany, although popular opinion there is overwhelmingly opposed to Chancellor Kohl's view?

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

I will resist the temptation to tell my hon. Friend to wait and see. Irrespective of whether we are in the first round, the single European currency matters enormously to Britain. The way in which it is designed and set up matters enormously because our markets are, to a large extent, in the European Union. That is why the Government's policy is the policy that is best for this country.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook , Livingston

Can the Minister explain why, during the recess, the major statement on the intergovernmental conference was made by the Health Secretary? Did he hear the Foreign Secretary tell the "Today" programme that he rang up the Health Secretary because he wanted to be certain about what his views were? Does not he find it rather odd that the Foreign Secretary should be obliged to ring around the Cabinet to find out the latest views on Europe? Does he really think that Britain can provide a lead in Europe when every statement from Cabinet Ministers is not about serving the national interest but about serving their interests in the Tory leadership race that they expect to start very soon?

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

On the division of labour among Front-Bench spokesmen on European policy, I hardly think that the right hon. Gentleman has a monopoly of criticism. It was his leader, not the right hon. Gentleman, who leapt to re-present Labour's policy when we made it clear at Dublin that if there were a Labour victory at the next general election, on 1 May, there would be six surrenders in six weeks. That is what this country must defend itself against and our Health Secretary believes just as much as I do that it must be resisted.

Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham

As my hon. Friend clearly agrees with the Health Secretary's call for a renegotiation of our relationship with the European Union, is it not equally logical that, just as the original negotiations were put to the people in a referendum, the results of those renegotiations should be put to the people in a referendum?

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

Another helpful question. The IGC will, almost by definition, be a renegotiation. The British Government will present to the IGC a vision of a decentralised, deregulated and competitive Europe that is in the interests of this country and its people. The people of this country will recognise that at the next general election.