United Kingdom Membership

Oral Answers to Questions — European Community – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd December 1980.

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Photo of Mr Gwilym Roberts Mr Gwilym Roberts , Cannock 12:00 am, 3rd December 1980

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will list in theOfficial Reportstatistics outlining the advantages and disadvantages for the United Kingdom of membership of the European Economic Community.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Chesham and Amersham

No, Sir. British membership of the Community is not just a matter of statistics.

Photo of Mr Gwilym Roberts Mr Gwilym Roberts , Cannock

I am sorry that the Minister feels unable to provide the statistics, but will he agree that any statistics on our relationship with the EEC are usually pretty disastrous? In view of this, and the fact that the next Labour Government will undoubtedly be committed to taking us out of the EEC, does he not feel that the British people should be given an opportunity to decide on our continued membership, as they may well feel at this stage that enough is enough, and that we should cut our losses and get out?

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. The question was too long.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Chesham and Amersham

I did not say that I was unable to provide statistics. There are a great many. I merely said that they were not appropriate in this case. The position is that 42 per cent. of our exports go to the EEC, compared with 30 per cent. before we joined the EEC. Germany is our largest customer and there are many others. As to the next Labour Government—if we ever have one—taking this country out of the EEC, the hon. Gentleman should have a word with the shadow Foreign Secretary, who said something rather different last Monday. As for having a referendum before anything happens, I remind the hon. Gentleman that his party's policy at Blackpool was to deny the British people a referendum.

Photo of Mr Robert Hicks Mr Robert Hicks , Bodmin

Will my right hon. Friend clarify to the House what will be the effects of cutbacks in the level of Government expenditure by this Government upon the receipts received, particularly from the regional fund, in respect of infrastructure projects and other similar concepts?

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Chesham and Amersham

There will be no effect on the 30 May agreement, which is entirely firm. What has happened is that, as a result of the very large refunds that we secured, some Government expenditure cuts which might have been necessary have not taken place.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Keighley

Is it not true that one of the disadvantages is the result of negotiations undertaken by the Prime Minister, under which the refund of our money from the EEC will be subject to decisions on specific projects by Brussels bureaucrats? Is not that one of the many disadvantages — including a massive and increasing balance of trade deficit with the EEC—that will produce a reversal of the policy at the next election?

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Chesham and Amersham

Everything that the hon. Gentleman said is wrong. There are not disadvantages in what the Prime Minister and the rest of us negotiated in getting the refunds. The procedures whereby our money will be gained are very clear, and they will not be subjected to Brussels bureaucrats.

As to our trade deteriorating, the position is that our manufacturing performance in recent years has been poor with the whole world, but we have done better with the EEC than we have done elsewhere. The hon. Gentleman should remember that.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he has considered one very worrying statistic that is difficult to explain away, namely, that our balance of trade with the Community countries has swung from a surplus of £200 million in 1970 to an ever-growing deficit of no less than £3,000 million last year? That is a worrying statistic to hon. Members on both sides of the House. Can he explain that?

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Chesham and Amersham

I can. It is implicit in what I have just said. That statistic is worrying, but it reflects Britain's Door manufacturing performance throughout the 1970s. Between 1972 and 1979, our export-import ratio in trade with the Community in manufactured goods fell by 19 per cent. With the rest of the world it deteriorated by 23 per cent.

Photo of Mr Peter Shore Mr Peter Shore , Tower Hamlets Stepney and Poplar

May I ask the Lord Privy Seal to take this question rather more seriously than he is inclined to do? The country is entitled to some information about what the relative balance of advantage and disadvantage has been. Will he confirm that so far, during the period of our membership, we have paid into the Community, in budget contributions alone, over £2,000 million more than we have received?

Will the Lord Privy Seal agree with his colleague the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that the cost to Britain, to the British housewives, of being a member of the CAP, as distinct from being able to buy at world prices, is running at £3,000 million a year? Does not the Lord Privy Seal think that information of this kind would be useful and helpful to the British people at arriving at a judgment?

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Chesham and Amersham

I take this question very seriously. The right hon. Gentleman objects to my answer because he does not agree with it and it happens to be inconvenient to him, but my figures are absolutely right. We have done better in manufacturing trade with the Community than we have with the rest of the world.

With regard to the payment of our budget contribution, the previous Labour Government, when they were in power, achieved absolutely nothing, and it is fairly poor for the right hon. Gentleman to put on his old gramophone record, because he knows well that we achieved a very considerable success on 30 May, whereas the Labour Government achieved nothing at all.

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman is correct in regard to the figure that he attributed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.