Eec Ministerial Meetings

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th December 1973.

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Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Stepney 12:00 am, 20th December 1973

The House will be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that statement, cheerless though it is.

Before turning to the major matters of energy and the regional development fund, which are rightly singled out as the most important matters under discussion, may I clear two preliminary points with the right hon. Gentleman?

In relation to the trade agreement with India, can he say whether he has managed to secure a no-change position in the British tariff on imported Indian tobacco and on Indian jute manufacturers—and, incidentally, I hope that the jute position will be the same for Bangladesh?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any agreement has been reached, in the talks on the International Sugar Agreement, on the major principles for changing the common agricultural policy in relation to sugar which both sides of this House agreed following our debate a month or so ago?

Turning to the heart of these discussions, may I first ask the right hon. Gentleman why it is that the German Government, at this very late stage in the talks on the Regional Development Fund, have apparently put forward figures which are so much lower than those which had previously been discussed and well below the level of the right hon. Gentleman's anticipation up till only a few days ago? Is it because this is a retaliation against the very unforthcoming British position on the medium-or short-term response to the oil crisis facing Western Europe? If it is, does he think that by refusing to agree to a draft regulation by the Commission to furnish statistical information on oil supply in Britain, by vetoing this proposal, he will persuade the Germans to open their purse and make the money available?

Why is it so important to this country that we should have a large Regional Development Fund? Is not the first reason the need felt to offset the crippling and disproportionate payment this country has to make to the CAP and the dispro- portionate size of the CAP in the totality of Community expenditure? Is it not the case that even if the whole original Commission proposal, which now seems far removed from the possibilities of acceptance, were to be agreed, the budget for the next three years of the regional fund would be no more than 3,000 million units of account as against the more than 12,000 million payment under the CAP?

Does not the right hon. Gentleman now consider that it would have been far better for this country to have taken on these serious matters long before the Treaty of Accession was signed and to have secured for this country proper terms so that he would not now have to try to persuade, from a position of appalling weakness, other countries to be generous to this country?