Since the payments out to this extraordinary organisation since the inception of our membership have been more than double our receipts from it, and since we shall be subject more and more to levies on our imports as a result of the legislation of this organisation, does not my hon. Friend's answer become unsatisfactory? Will he not think about this again?
I think that my hon. Friend is asking me to consider financing the Community rather than the Assembly. As he knows, financing the Community is one of the major items of our renegotiation.
As it is now admitted that continental members of the Assembly use it for the purposes of tax evasion and expenses frauds, would it not be better if no Member of this House attended that unhappy body until these disreputable practices have been cleaned up?
The view as to whether Members—and which Members —of this House should attend was established by the Leader of the House some weeks ago. As to the question of tax frauds and other things, I urge my right hon. Friend to be cautious about such allegations, many too many of which are being made at present.
In many areas steps are proposed for making the financial accountability of the Community and the Assembly better. I think that they are necessary and I hope that we can make progress on them.
Is my hon. Friend aware that there is considerable feeling in this country that we spend a lot financing these visits and, as a nation, get very little back for it? If we are concerned—as we rightly are, both within the House and outside—about charges of corruption, at local level and at higher level in this country, ought we not to be seen to be keen to make sure that this kind of evasion does not take place and that the proposals that have been mentioned are really effective and are carried out properly?
We should make it absolutely clear, beyond any doubt, that there has been no allegation that Members of this House attending the Assembly in Strasbourg have been guilty of any of the practices to which my hon. Friend refers. As for public opinion in this country, I agree with my hon. Friend that there is some feeling that the Community is perhaps imprudent in some of the ways in which it spends its money. However, I assure my hon. Friend that the Secretary of State and his colleagues are playing whatever part they can in improving the financial accountability of the Community, and that the Community is anxious for that process to continue.
Will the Minister send some literature to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) to inform her and others who are in doubt of the work done in the last 16 months by my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk) and other colleagues in pursuing some of what the Minister now calls renegotiation in the many spheres of activity in which the Parliament is concerned?
Does my hon. Friend not accept that there is widespread concern in this country about the practices which are pursued in the Assembly? Will he not give a clear statement as to the expenses and other remuneration received by British members of that Assembly?
If my hon. Friend wants a simple statement in HANSARD of what I would describe as the "going rate" of expenses, I am prepared to see that published. That is the sort of thing —like my hon. Friend's salary as a Member of Parliament, and mine—which is properly published and properly understood. But I should like to make it clear that in publishing this I repudiate any suggestion—not that I think my hon. Friend was making any—that these moneys are improperly received. They are received as part of the bargain of Europe.
Is it not high time that my hon. Friend retracted the statement that he made the last time he answered questions on this matter, when I referred to the scandal in the Assembly, whereby, as a result of an investigation of this widespread abuse—no Members of Parliament were named, from whatever source—an attendant now has to be on the door to see to it that those so-called members of the Assembly do not draw more money, in their own names or someone else's, than they are due? Will he now retract that statement and admit that it is high time that we got out of this disgusting and filthy dustbin of the Continent?
I do not want to anticipate anything which will be more properly said later today, but as I said to my hon. Friend three weeks ago—I certainly do not retract it——
I feel that in this House and elsewhere there is a tendency at this time to look for corruption where none exists. I have said, again, that, so far as Members of this House and another place are concerned, there is no evidence, and no suspicion, that their attendance at Strasbourg is in any way corrupt.