Oral Answers to Questions — Court of Session and High Court of Justiciary

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th March 1979.

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Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan The Prime Minister, Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 12:00 am, 14th March 1979

The budget problem is one that has taken up much time. That is because we are trying to get the Community to recognise that the principle of capacity to pay on one's net resources is as good for external use as it is in our internal affairs. At present our contributions are made on the basis that we happen to be a large food importer. When the discussions took place in 1975 we received assurances that surpluses would not be allowed to build up. However, surpluses have been built up, and it is only now that the Community seems ready to face the fact that when it reaches the ceiling of its resources it will no longer be able to pursue this rake's progress. Apart from the arguments that we are advancing, the sheer facts, as the President of the Commission said yesterday, can cause the policy to collapse under its own weight. We have valuable allies in the Community.

As to whether the budgetary problem should have been solved in 1975, there was a mechanism that helped us. That was produced in Dublin, where I was present with my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson). That mechanism is of some assistance and, indeed, may be brought into use in 1979.

Since those days when the Conservative Party was in power, through a combination of circumstances, including North Sea oil and our increasing exports, we have passed from the balance of payments deficit that we inherited to the substantial balance of payments surplus that is now developing. One of the conditions of the Dublin mechanism was that the country concerned should be in balance of payments deficit. Therefore, for that reason, that has not operated.

The Agriculture Ministers are discussing fisheries policy. It is not thought appropriate by us that we should do so at this time, as the discussions are not at the stage where Heads of Government can resolve the issue. The House knows of the attitude taken by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture. Hon Members may rely upon him to be pretty sturdy about these matters.

The question of Turkey, and aid to Turkey, was discussed informally among Heads of Government after the formal sessions had been concluded. I hope that additional assistance may be given to Turkey, but I am not able to disclose what it is at the moment.

As to the right hon. Lady's general conclusion, I do not think that she should accept what the commentators say about this matter. I am sure that she must have more reliable sources of information than the commentators, who, unless there is a tremendous row, always say that every summit is disappointing. The summit was not disappointing to Britain, because, for the first time, the arguments that we advanced seemed to have gone home. We did not have to adopt an abrasive attitude. We merely had continually to put forward the logical virtue of this case, as we have done year after year. Perhaps it is a pity that that was not done when the Conservative Party took us into the Common Market.