Extended Meaning of the Treaties" and the Community Treaties"

Part of Clause 1 – in the House of Commons at 10:40 pm on 10th December 1985.

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Photo of Mr George Robertson Mr George Robertson , Hamilton 10:40 pm, 10th December 1985

No, I should like to make some progress.

We believe that those long and difficult negotiations will strengthen democracy and its institutions in both Spain and Portugal and make the European Community more complete. That achievement lies principally at the door of the two individuals who led the Socialist parties in those two countries.

There is, however, no contradiction in Labour Members pointing out the problems and challenges that will come with the accession of Spain and Portugal when the Community faces major struggles to overcome the financing problems that it already has. Hon. Members on both sides have asked awkward questions about the present financial crisis and the greater crisis that is likely to befall the Community. The erudite Minister who is to answer the debate always speaks without notes and will doubtless provide the information and detail to be expected from that practice, so we shall be no wiser at the end of a speech of characteristic elegance than we were at the beginning of the debate, however long the debate may continue.

The European Community faces problems that will not go away and some of them will be exacerbated by the accession of two new nations, because the characteristics of those nations' economies and especially their agriculture will in many ways make the Community's financial crisis worse. As my hon. Friends the Members for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins) and for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) have pointed out so admirably, the financial crisis with which we live will not be easily resolved.

It could be resolved in two ways. First, it could be resolved by increasing European Community funds. That would be the simple solution for a number of right hon. and hon. Members and for a number of people in European Community countries. An increase in the value added tax level from 1·4 per cent. to 1·6 per cent. would result immediately in a tranche of money that might solve the problem. However, that solution would be unacceptable to this Parliament and to nearly every other Parliament in the European Community. We remember the difficulty that the Minister of State, the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind), experienced in pushing through, against vigorous opposition from his own supporters, the increase in the VAT contribution.