United Kingdom (Membership Anniversary)

Oral Answers to Questions — European Community – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th May 1983.

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Photo of Mrs Renée Short Mrs Renée Short , Wolverhampton North East 12:00 am, 11th May 1983

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consultation with Her Majesty's Government took place before the publication by the London office of the European Commission of the document "Why have a party" on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the United Kingdom's membership of the European Community.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Oxon Mid

None. As the Lord President of the Council told my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) on 28 March 1983, the European Parliament and the Commission are responsible for their own information programmes and are not required to consult member states about them.

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

Assuming that the Minister saw such a shoddy piece of propaganda, does he not think that the paucity of information that it contains about the alleged benefits that Britain is supposed to have received during the past 10 years of membership illustrates the poverty of the benefit that we have received?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Oxon Mid

I have seen the publication. It contains many pretty pictures. I am not responsible for its editorial content. The Government have circulated their own material in recent months on this subject. If the hon. Lady studies that material, I am sure she will agree that it is balanced and constructive.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

Does it not worry my right hon. Friend that so much taxpayers' money—several million pounds—is being spent on putting forward debatable arguments on an important political issue? Might there not be a case for getting the European assembly, the Commission and Governments together to try to reach some sensible arrangement, such as we have in Britain, whereby taxpayers' money is used only to put forward the facts, not political opinions?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Oxon Mid

The Commission and the Parliament have their budgets, which are examined in advance. However, once they are approved it is for those institutions to decide how the money is used.

Photo of Mr David Ginsburg Mr David Ginsburg , Dewsbury

In connection with this publication, will the Minister reconfirm that Europe is now Britain's largest trading partner? Will he stress that withdrawal from the EC would constitute an economic disaster for this country?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Oxon Mid

Of course that is right, and with the help of many people in several parties we shall be able to ram that point home.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Keighley

Are not the Government backing such shoddy documents as "Why have a party" by failing to tell the truth about the Common Market, which is that it has cost us more than £6 billion—the majority of which has been paid during this Government's period of office? Is it not also the case that our membership has led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in this country, and that we shall regenerate the economy only by gaining control over our economy, which we cannot do while we are still in the Common Market?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Oxon Mid

We take every opportunity to point out the truth, without exaggeration, which is that we are now beginning to make a success of British membership of the Community and that employment and investment prospects, quite apart from our political influence in the world, would suffer irreparable damage if we were to put that process into reverse.