European Assembly

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22 May 1974.

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Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Birmingham Handsworth 12:00, 22 May 1974

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will propose in the EEC Council of Ministers a new method of financing the European Assembly which would ensure greater control over its expenditure.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Wandsworth Battersea North

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will propose in the EEC Council of Ministers a new method of financing the European Assembly which would ensure greater control over its expenditure.

Photo of Mrs Renée Short Mrs Renée Short , Wolverhampton North East

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will propose in the EEC Council of Ministers a new method of financing the European Assembly which would ensure greater control over its expenditure.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Sowerby

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will propose in the EEC Council of Ministers changes in the methods of financing the European Assembly.

Photo of Mr Alexander Wilson Mr Alexander Wilson , Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will propose in the EEC Council of Ministers a new method of financing the European Assembly which would ensure greater control over its expenditure.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I see no need for this at present.

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Birmingham Handsworth

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?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

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.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Wandsworth Battersea North

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?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

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.

Photo of Sir Peter Kirk Sir Peter Kirk , Saffron Walden

Does the Minister not agree that whether or not these allegations are substantiated—none has been substantiated so far—the new measures which have been taken will make it almost impossible for such allegations to be made again?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

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.

Photo of Mrs Renée Short Mrs Renée Short , Wolverhampton North East

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?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

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.

Photo of Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker , Cheltenham

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?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

There is no shortage of information and Press reports about the work done by the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Kirk). He has not hidden his light under a bushel during the last year.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Sowerby

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?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

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.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

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?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

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——

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

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.

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Birmingham Handsworth

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of those non-answers and evasions, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.