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Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister on the European Council in Cannes. The Statement is as follows:
"The Council rightly gave priority to the need to promote growth and employment. It called for flexible job markets and on rigorous budgetary policies to keep inflation and deficits down. These are the policies we have been advocating for years.
"We need to create a Europe of enterprise. Seventy per cent. of the jobs in the European Union are in small companies, and I welcomed the Council's focus on the need to free these businesses from red tape.
"At the Summit, the Heads of Government discussed a single currency. As I have made clear to the House, I believe that a single currency carries significant economic, political and constitutional implications. That is why at Maastricht I fought for our right to keep the pound.
"At the Summit, other Heads of Government showed a growing awareness of the difficulties of the plan for Economic and Monetary Union. It was agreed that there can be no question of any member states moving to Stage 3 in 1997. I am equally clear that there is not the remotest prospect of all 15 states meeting the convergence criteria by 1999, although it is probable that a small number will do so.
"At this Council, for the first time it was acknowledged that a move to a single currency by some member states and not others would have serious practical and economic consequences for the future operations of the Union. Finance Ministers have now been asked to look at this problem and report further.
"Any decision to move to a single currency will be the most far-reaching structural change for the whole Union: vital, of course, for those who participate in it. But it will be equally vital for those who do not. At the very least, it will change the Union profoundlyperhaps in ways that are unexpected.
"Yet our ability to influence the debate on a single currency now, when it matters, would be destroyed if we exercised our opt-out now. We would forfeit our influence over the most crucial current issue affecting Europe's future. That would not be in our interests. We should seek to influence the debate before we finally decide our position.
"Agreement was reached on Europol and the Customs Information System, which will reinforce the fight against cross-border crime and drug trafficking. Agreement on Europol had been held up because some member states insisted that the European Court of Justice must have jurisdiction.
"I would not agree to give the European Court of Justice a role in such a sensitive area involving our police and criminal intelligence activities. After a long debate, the question of possible ECJ involvement in the dispute settlement procedure for Europol was set to one side, while in the meantime the convention was agreed.
"The European Council will examine the dispute settlement procedure again in June 1996, but I have made emphatically clear that I do not anticipate we would take a different position then. The ECJ will not be the arbiter in any case relating to Europol which involves the UK Government or arises in the courts of the United Kingdom.
"The UK has also led the fight to combat fraud in the Community. The last European Council at Essen agreed the plan of action which we proposed. The Cannes Council confirmed agreement on a regulation and convention providing tools for the task; and at Madrid in December we shall review the actions member states are taking to crack down on fraud.
"The European Council took stock of the early preparations for next year's Intergovernmental Conference. It agreed that the preparatory study group should consider how the European Union could better respond to its citizens' expectations. At the heart of this is the need for effective and rigorous application of subsidiarity.
"The prospect of further enlargement was highlighted by the meeting yesterday between the 15 members of the Council and the Heads of Government of 11 prospective member states. They will benefit from the programmes agreed for help to central and eastern Europe and the Mediterranean.
"Our contribution to the eighth European Development Fundworth 1.63 billion ecu, or about £1.35 billion, over five years from the year 2000will be very substantial. But we are taking a smaller share than under the seventh European Development Fund, and as a result placing less pressure on our bilateral programme.
"On the former Yugoslavia, the new European Union mediator, Mr. Carl Bildt, reported on his first visit to the region. We asked him to concentrate urgently on ways of reopening talks with all the parties on the basis of the Contact Group plan, and to continue efforts to secure recognition of Bosnia by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
"During the Council my right honourable friend and I met the Irish Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister for bilateral talks. We commissioned a joint report on how the paramilitaries could decommission weapons and explosives. The Taoiseach and I will discuss this report in due course.
"We can take considerable satisfaction in this summit. On economic issues, in the fight against cross-border crime, on Community fraud, in the emphasis on enlargement, in the sensible balance reached in the allocation of external funds, and in the support given to Mr. Bildt's diplomatic efforts over Bosnia, the Council has followed courses which we advocated. On other areas of vital national interest we have influenced the debate while retaining our own rights of decision.
"I would not pretend these results were invariably easy to secure. But, as this Council again showed, the debate within Europe has evolved significantly in our direction over recent years. I am confident we can carry this evolution a great deal further by robust advocacy, by patient negotiations, and by standing by our belief in a common-sense Europe.
"My guiding principle is to do what I believe is in our national interest: to argue for Britain's interests in Europe and to build a Europe which carries the trust of the British people. That I will continue to do.
"I should like to add one further point. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has devoted 43 years to unbroken public serviceas a diplomat, a politician and a Minister. This was the 16th European Council he has attended as Foreign Secretary. His huge contribution to foreign policy co-ordination between European governments was recognised at the summit in a moving tribute by his colleagues. His contribution to our relations outside Europe has been equally important. At this summit, as throughout the past five-and-a-half years, his deep knowledge and calm authority have earned great credit for this country. My right honourable friend has justly earned respect on all sides of the House, and I believe that we owe him our thanks".
I should like to begin with the last point that he made. I too would like to pay some tribute to his right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. He has been a distinguished public servant for years. He has represented this country in many fora. He has had to advocate many policies. I have always felt that he was rather more of a diplomat than a politician, which having regard to this Government's record is perhaps a not inconsiderable compliment from this side of the House. He has done his duty extremely well. We have not agreed with him on every occasion, but we respect him for his abilities.
What are we to make of this summit? Yet again I have a complaint to make at the outset. I beg noble Lords who are interested in these matters to read the presidency conclusions and not merely to read the gloss put upon them by one of the participants. That is especially important when that participant is a candidate for the leadership of his party and his Statement is perhaps more of a personal manifesto than an accurate reflection of what went on at the summit over the weekend. I shall quote two paragraphs from the conclusions in a moment to see whether the House agrees with me.
The summit itself was a rather inconsequential, not to say boring one. It resulted in a somewhat impenetrable and lengthy communiqué, a great deal of which deals with the relations between the European Union and the Mediterranean. Perhaps the most significant practical result was the agreement reached in the margins with the Irish Government over the decommissioning of IRA arms. For that we are extremely grateful.
I am interested to see that the Prime Minister has so far managed to avoid the fate suffered by his predecessor when she attended a summit in France. She lasted two days after her return; he has at least until next Tuesday.
I want to put three specific questions to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House. First, will he confirm that after the reductions in our contribution to the EDF the contribution of Germany will be somewhere in the region of 3 billion ecu, that of France 3.12 billion ecu, of Italy 1.6 billion ecu and the United Kingdom 1.6 billion ecu? In other words, from being one of the major contributors, our contribution has fallen in comparison with that of Germany and France.
Secondly, in relation to the Rapid Reaction Force, for which the summit expressed support, I ask the Leader of the House what exactly its role will be. How is it envisaged that it will be used, against whom, for what purposes, in what circumstances and, most important, who will give it its orders? We have asked for answers to those questions before but we have not had them.
Thirdly, I wish to ask the noble Viscount the Leader of the House a specific question on the communiqué. I hope that he has a copy. Page 7 of the communiqué, subscribed to by the Prime Minister at the summit, reads thus:
Is it the policy of the Government, and is it the policy of Mr. Major as a candidate for the leadership of his party, that he has a firm resolve to prepare for transition to the single currency by 1st January 1999? We are entitled to ask that question. We are entitled to have a clear answer from the Government as to what their position is.
Finally, I say this to the other side of the House. For Heaven's sake, get your election over quickly. The present state of limbo and transition is doing the country absolutely no good whatever. I speak as one who is as patriotic as any other Member of this House, but I have to say that the spectacle that we saw at the summit over the weekend was frankly demeaning for a power like Great Britain.
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