EU Political Co-operation

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 1:45 pm on 12th March 1997.

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Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale , Colchester South and Maldon 1:45 pm, 12th March 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what are his main objectives in respect of political co—operation for the forthcoming European Council meeting in Amsterdam. [18314]

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

We will want to reach agreement in Amsterdam on a range of practical measures in the intergovernmental conference, which are designed to improve the effectiveness of political co-operation.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale , Colchester South and Maldon

Does my hon. Friend agree that the horrifying levels of unemployment afflicting Germany and France are proof of the total failure of the European social model? Will he continue to reject that model? Will he confirm that the Government are determined to retain full control of our economic and employment policies?

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

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The tragedies in the German employment market and recent events in Belgium and France are cause for great regret. That is a lesson for all of us, which is not lost on Toyota—which Labour Members like to quote—Nissan, or the German head of Jaguar. They all recognise the dangers of the social chapter, the problems that it would cause our economic and employment policies, and the consequences of relinquishing policy in an area where one has succeeded to people who have failed.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook , Livingston

Has the Minister seen the letter, which appeared in yesterday's Financial Times, from more than 20 leading industrialists expressing their dismay at an arm's-length policy towards Europe? Is he aware that today's Financial Times carries two letters: one from the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, saying that the industrialists were entirely right; another from the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash), saying that it was all empty rhetoric and bogus fears? With which of those Conservative views does he agree—or will he pretend that he agrees with both of them?

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

If the right hon. Gentleman had listened to the radio yesterday, he would have heard my view about the letter. It is very straightforward. No one challenges the fact that the single market—which, after all, this Government virtually invented and pushed through the European Union—is of value to Britain, and of more value to Britain than any other country because Conservative policies have produced our economic success and given us the ability to exploit that market.

However, a number of people, including, I am sure, the right hon. Gentleman, tried to represent that concern about leaving Europe as a challenge to deal with the political threat that Europe makes to the sovereignty of Britain. We can deal with that threat through our robust negotiating stance without jeopardising the major advantage that we get from Europe and the economic opportunities that come from it.

Photo of Mr Barry Legg Mr Barry Legg , Milton Keynes South West

Will my hon. Friend confirm that any delay to the timetable for monetary union that involved monetary union taking place later than 1 January 1999 would require a treaty amendment?

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

I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman is correct. Our view is that we must, first and foremost, ensure that any monetary union that goes forward works. If there is any fudging on it, we should not go forward.