Frank Judd – 1978 Statement on the Council Of Ministers’ Meetings

Below is the text of the statement made by Frank Judd, the then Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in the House of Commons on 25 May 1978.

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement about business to be taken by Ministers of the European Community during June. The monthly written forecast was deposited on Tuesday 23rd May.

At present, six meetings of the Council of Ministers are proposed for June. The Foreign Affairs Council will meet on 6th June and again on 26th and 27th June. The Transport Council will meet on 12th June, the Finance Council on 19th June, the Agriculture Council on 19th and 20th June and the Social Affairs Council on 29th June. In addition, it is probable that Fisheries Ministers will meet on or around 19th June.

The Foreign Affairs Council is expected to review progress on the common strategy for growth and employment which is to be considered at the European Council at Bremen. Within this framework, Ministers will discuss questions of economic and trade policy and their consequences for Community industry. The Council will continue its discussion of the Commission’s survey of the implications of enlargement—known as the “fresco”—and will also consider a progress report on the Greek accession ​ negotiations and the Commission’s opinion on Portugal’s application for membership.

The Council will also discuss the Community’s relations with the Council of Mutual Economic Assistance—which is the economic grouping of the Soviet Union and its allies, sometimes known as COMECON—progress in trade negotiations with Yugoslavia, relations between the Community and Australia, a report by the Commission on their contacts with the Japanese Government, and a Commission communication on shipbuilding. The Council will examine the statement to be made by the Community at the opening of renegotiation of the Lomé Convention.

The Transport Council is expected to consider maritime pollution caused by oil tanker accidents, the United Nations code of conduct for liner conferences, maritime competition by State trading countries of Eastern Europe, priorities for work on civil aviation matters, commercial vehicle taxation systems, drivers’ hours, co-operation between railway undertakings and, possibly, the harmonisation of summer time.

The Agriculture Council will consider proposals for the organisation of the markets in mutton and lamb, and in potatoes. Fisheries Ministers may consider the future of reciprocal fishing arrangements with third countries, particularly Norway, Sweden and the Faroes, and may also resume discussion of the revision of the common fisheries policy.

The Finance Council is expected to consider the action needed in pursuit of the common strategy for economic recovery; and, possibly, the draft directive on life assurance.

The Social Affairs Council is expected to consider aids to promote the employment of young people, an action programme on safety and health at work, a proposal for protecting workers exposed to the gas vinyl chloride monomer used in the manufacture of PVC plastic material, and a Commission statement on the European Trade Union Institute. Members are also expected to consider the implications for the free movement of labour of the transfer of workers between member States during industrial disputes.

Mr. John Davies

Does the Minister of State agree that this month, for which he has just advertised the programme, contains a quite unusually high number of critical matters? Apart from the continuing issues, there are new developments of a major kind in terms of trade policy, enlargement, relations with COMECON, relations with Australia and New Zealand—in the latter case in respect of sheep meat—and the start of the renegotiation of Lomé. All of these are fundamental issues of prime importance.

I notice that in all these matters there is likely to be a major impact on overseas political relationships, and I wonder whether there is provision for a political co-operation meeting during the month as well. The hon. Gentleman made no announcement of it. Perhaps he would say whether that is so. If it were, presumably it would also be preparing, as the Foreign Affairs Council is, for the meeting of the European Council. If that is so, ought it not to prepare for the European Council taking a clear position on relationships with COMECON? It seems to be necessary that we should point out that for a community which is so dedicated, as the European Community is, to the principles of the freedom of the individual, to be taking on such negotiations shortly after the gross affront to human rights involved in the Orlov trial is extremely questionable.

May I put it to the hon. Gentleman that recent events in Africa must be taken into account and that the European Community must prepare itself for handling a problem which has wrongly been presented as one which is simply safeguarding European lives? Is it realised that the need for the presence of Europeans throughout Africa is essential to the continuation of prosperity in that continent and that, if Europeans are to be discouraged by such events without any hope of help other than a last-minute emergency operation, the possibility in the future of having essential expatriates in Africa will be in question, and that affects the prosperity of the continent as a whole?

Mr. Judd

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for those very searching questions. About the high level of significance of the work before the Council, I do not dispute what he says. But as he will understand from his experience, this is ​ always inclined to happen towards the end of a presidency. We are coming to the end of the Danish presidency, and inevitably matters accumulate on the agenda. I would, however, take this opportunity to pay a warm tribute to the effectiveness with which our Danish colleagues have conducted their presidency, especially under Mr. K. B. Andersen, their Foreign Secretary.

As for political co-operation, of course, the issues which are mentioned have great international political significance. But I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that the fact that we are to discuss substantial issues within the existing main machinery of the Community indicates that there may not necessarily be a need for a political commentary as distinct from this. Sometimes I think that the distinction drawn between economic and social matters and political matters is a little artificial. Inevitably, a great many economic and social discussions have political consequences. But the main discussions will be within the formal Councils themselves. If necessary, political co-operation can take place in the margins.

Turning to the right hon. Gentleman’s question about COMECON, of course we are all deeply concerned. Everyone in this House is concerned about human rights in the Soviet Union, as they are about the human rights in other parts of the world. This will be very much in our minds as we deliberate.

The right hon. Gentleman then referred to Africa and made a very constructive comment. It is the fact, of course, that European and other co-operation in Africa is essential to economic and social progress. We have to look for ways in which this can be undertaken in safety and security. That is a problem that we all face and if, within the Community, we can tackle it, I am sure that that will be good progress.

Mr. Speaker

May I seek the co-operation of the House? If hon. Members would ask brief questions it would be a great help because many want to speak in the later debate, and there is an important point of order before that.

Mr. Jay

As we have been promised repeatedly a radical reform of the common agricultural policy, which is essential to this country, will my hon. Friend say whether British Ministers will put forward ​ positive proposals for such reform at these meetings?

Mr. Judd

I assure my right hon. Friend that we are practically committed to this. The Minister of Agriculture has demonstrated what we have been able to achieve in his recent activities in the Council of Ministers. We shall have this very much in mind in our approach to Mediterranean agriculture, enlargement of the Community and the reorganisation of mutton and lamb. Our objective is to avoid unnecessary surpluses, to look to the interests of consumers more effectively than in the past and to ensure fair access to the Community for the produce of third countries.

Mr. Warren

Will the Minister bear in mind that there was some doubt about whether there would be a meeting of Fisheries Ministers in June? Will he assure us that his European colleagues are not running away from the very fair and reasonable position that has been put forward by this country, and will he press them to agree to a sensible conservation policy for European fisheries?

Mr. Judd

There is a good point in that question because we do want an effective common fisheries policy. We do not want stocks to evaporate because there is no policy. That policy must be fair and must be seen to be fair, and the way in which there has been a certain amount of ganging up in order to isolate Britain in the past is not the way to achieve results.

Mr. Ioan Evans

What view will the Government take about the harmonisation of summer time in view of the fact that in the Scotland and Wales Bill there were disharmonising proposals put forward at that time?

On the more serious point about proposals from the United Nations disarmament conference, will this matter figure largely on the agenda of the Foreign Affairs Council?

Mr. Judd

On the point about summer time, it is early days yet. Theoretically, we see the case for harmonisation and we have no blind objections to the principle. However, we want to be very satisfied that there is a great deal of common ground between countries. At present the directive put forward is very tentative and we do not see immediate results.

On the wider point, disarmament is not a matter on the agenda of the Council of Ministers. However, we are, as individual countries within the Community, taking this matter up and, as I said yesterday in the House, I am very glad that the British Government are taking a leading role at that conference.

Mr. Dykes

Is the Minister aware that the European trademarks office and registry is to be kept up in the early 1980s? I know that that seems a long way away, but discussions are already beginning. Will he press immediately, by way of a preliminary agenda of the Council of Ministers, for that to be considered for location in Britain, preferably in London? On all the evidence we have, the British trademarks industry, if I may call it that, is superior to similar industries in the other member States, and most of the work is done in English anyway.

Mr. Judd

We take that point very seriously. Obviously, the more we can become directly involved in the life of the Community, with institutions established in this country, for example, the more demonstrable will be the fact that we are all working together.

Mr. Spearing

On the organisation of the mutton and lamb market, does my hon. Friend recall that the Minister of Agriculture said that he would seek complete safeguards? Has he heard the New Zealanders say that the only complete safeguard is no regime at all? If there is a regime, will he agree that it will include higher prices or intervention stocks or both, and therefore will he not say that the British Government intend to resist any regime of any sort in this commodity?

Mr. Judd

I do wish that my hon. Friend would join my campaign to get rid of this ugly jargon, and stop using the word “regime”. If we could just talk about a marketing system I would be a great deal more content. We must break free from the connotations associated with words such as “regime”. We see ourselves committed to working towards a marketing system for mutton and lamb but we believe that it must be the right marketing system. In that marketing system we are determined that ​ there shall be proper, fair and adequate access for New Zealand, to which we are deeply committed.

Mr. Jim Spicer

During the visit of the Prime Minister of Turkey two weeks ago, the Minister of State met him, and the Prime Minister made quite clear his concern about the way in which the association agreement between the EEC and Turkey had been eroded over the years. Does the Minister consider that the agreement is a matter of vital urgency, which should be discussed and renegotiated at the same time as we deal with the negotiations for the enlargement of the Community?

Mr. Judd

We are all well aware of the anxieties of Turkey about the association agreement and, of course, as enlargement takes place, Turkey will study the implications. We must look very seriously at the Community to make sure that the association agreement is meaningful, practical and helpful for Turkey.

Mr. Christopher Price

Will my hon. Friend assure us that there is no binding link between the renegotiation of the association agreement with Turkey—or indeed any association between Turkey and the Council of Foreign Ministers in political co-operation—and the accession of Greece? Will he agree that these issues must be treated separately?

Mr. Judd

My hon. Friend is right. We are completely committed to the accession of Greece to the Community and we want to see it happen as soon as possible. There are no conditions attached to this in terms of our future relationship with Turkey. That is a separate issue but we take very seriously our future relationships with Turkey, both bilaterally and within the Community, and we believe that there is a certain amount of work to be done in that respect.

Mr. Crouch

Although I am a devout supporter of the European idea, I am at a loss to know what I am meant to do as a result of this statement today about these almost religious feast days we face next month in Europe. What am I supposed to do about them?

Mr. Judd

I would suggest that the hon. Member should turn up for all the ​ debates in the House on these matters and make his voice heard.

Mr. Molloy

Will my hon. Friend examine an issue which is causing some concern in local government and among local authorities—the activities of the British Council? This council appears to make itself an adjunct of the Common Market organisation by offering public money to British authorities to enable town clerks and councillors to go to the EEC to make certain arrangements between British cities and cities in the EEC to the exclusion of those in other parts of Europe and the Commonwealth.

Mr. Judd

If my hon. Friend would approach me specifically on that matter I shall look into it and reassure him.

Mr. Blaker

Will the Minister of State think again about the doubts he expressed on the need for a meeting on political co-operation? Surely one of the lessons learned from recent events in various parts of the world, and particularly in Africa, is that there should be early discussions by the Foreign Ministers about the need for better concerting EEC foreign policy?

Mr. Judd

I assure the hon. Member that we have political co-operation very high on the list of our priorities. We are always in favour of political co-operation meetings when these make sense. They can be arranged at short notice in the margins of other meetings, although they are not part of the formal meetings of Councils as such.

Mr. Loyden

Is my hon. Friend aware that about one-third of dairy farmers in Australia have been driven out of business in recent years partly because of dumping of dairy goods in Australia? Is he also aware that about £1,000 million in this year’s EEC budget will be used to carry out more dumping of dairy produce in Australia? Does my hon. Friend think that the British taxpayers should be asked to bear the cost of driving Australian dairy farmers out of business?

Mr. Judd

We certainly do not want to drive Australian dairy farmers or any Australians out of work. There will be very important talks between the Community and the special Minister in the Australian Government charged with ​ trade relations abroad on 8th and 9th June. Having met this Minister bilaterally we, as a Government, are determined to see constructive progress in those talks.

Mr. Wiggin

Will the Minister look at the recent farm price review arrangements and not keep referring to them in such euphoric terms? Is it not a fact that France and Italy did considerably better out of the price review than we did. It was, in fact, one of the highest in real terms and not the lowest as he described it, and furthermore it gave the highest increases to the three products in the greatest surplus. What plans will the Government take to the next Council of Agriculture Ministers to deal with the structural surpluses on the Continent? We have not heard anything from the Government about this yet.

Mr. Judd

I believe that the hon. Gentleman does not represent the view held by most people in this country who as consumers are content that their Minister has managed to bring down to reasonable proportions some of the proposals that were being discussed in the Council of Ministers. That is no mean achievement. I believe that my right hon. Friend has not only achieved that for the people of this country, but that as a result of his efforts, consumers throughout the Community are beginning to see the relevance of British priorities for reform of the CAP.

Mr. Flannery

Does my hon. Friend agree that in the course of trading and political relations with COMECON countries and particularly the Soviet Union, we must be clearly seen not to have double standards on the question of political trials with which we disagree? Does my hon. Friend agree, therefore, that when the Conservatives refer only to trials in those countries it would help us in our relations with them if the Conservatives were seen, as a possible alternative Government about 30 years or so hence, to criticise—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I regret having to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I should point out to him that we are discussing the Common Market. His supplementary question sounded indirectly more like one for business of the House.

​Mr. Flannery

The question of political trials, including the Orlov trial, was raised by the right hon. Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies). I raised it precisely because the right hon. Gentleman raised it.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is quite right, I heard the right hon. Gentleman raise the subject.

Mr. Flannery

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Body

Is it true that on 19th and 20th June Agriculture Ministers will be discussing a potato regime? May we have an assurance that no final decision will be made until the Commission’s draft proposals are available in this country so that not only we in this House but the farmers organisations which will be affected will have a chance to examine them?

Mr. Judd

We have many reservations on proposals for a marketing system for potatoes, and in that context we shall certainly want to take fully into account the views held in the House.

Mr. Forman

Notwithstanding the technical point which the Minister understandably made about the Danish presidency, does he not feel that from the long list that he read out in his statement these Council of Ministers’ meetings are becoming overloaded? Are the Government looking at some way of diminishing the burden on the Council of Ministers, perhaps by strengthening the role of the permanent representatives? What do they intend to do about that?

Mr. Judd

One of the contributions made to the work of the Community during the British presidency was to shift a great deal of the work on to the permanent representatives as distinct from the Council of Ministers. We want to continue this trend so that Ministers may concentrate on real policy issues. I am sure that the hon. Member will agree that in doing that we must not lose sight of the overriding principle that it must be the Ministers, not the officials, who make the policies, and that the Ministers must be accountable to their domestic Parliaments.