European Communities (Budget)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:32 am on 11th July 1986.

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Photo of Dr Oonagh McDonald Dr Oonagh McDonald , Thurrock 11:32 am, 11th July 1986

First, may I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing us extra time in which to study the statement which I received at 11.1 am. I received an amendment to the statement at 11.20 am.

Having examined the statement, I wish to thank the Minister for his clear statement that, during the negotiations this week, the Government caved in completely. They protested, and then agreed to the complete breaking of budgetary discipline. Why are the main figures not present in the statement? After all, the Minister was involved in the negotiations for hour after hour. He was allegedly the mediator who brought the whole matter to a conclusion. Does he not know what figures he agreed? Why can he not report all those figures properly to the House instead of this absurdity?

The statement says that the 1·4 per cent. limit will be completely used up by the budget, plus a surplus carried forward from 1985. What is that surplus? What will the Minister do, since the harvest has not yet occurred and we do not know what dollar fluctuations will take place during the rest of the year—[Interruption.] Of course, we cannot know that. What will he do if the budget overruns the 1·4 per cent. limit? Will he and the Government return to the House later this year and ask for yet more money?

Why have the Government agreed to this massive increase in agricultural spending, quadrupling the breach of the budget discipline? Is it not incorrect to say that all this is simply due to fluctuations in the dollar? Is it not also due to the fact that the Agricultural Ministers refused to reduce farm prices sufficiently?

The Minister said nothing about overseas aid, yet press reports suggest that this was cut by at least £40 million. Does he not think that he should come clean about the

The statement refers to an increase of almost 40 per cent. in payment appropriations. What exactly are these for? Are they payments from the regional and social funds? Is this an effort to deal with the burdens of the past which the President of the Court of Auditors said totalled £9 billion by the end of 1984? Who will benefit from that? Will Britain or other countries benefit from it? Perhaps the Minister will tell us a great deal more about that.

Will the Minister not tell us exactly what is meant by the negative reserve that is already being described by European parliamentarians as a black hole into which, presumably, more and more of our own money will vanish? Does not the Minister's whole performance show that, far from being a mediator, he is being taken for a ride by those in Europe who are much more sophisticated in dealing with EC jiggery-pokery than he is?

This budget is short-lived. It cannot possibly last out the rest of 1986. It will lead to another financial crisis in 1987. Was the Minister not aware of the bitter resentment of the member states towards our rebate and will he not confirm that that rebate is tied to the 1·4 per cent. limit? If the 1·4 per cent. limit is breached so long before 1988, our abatement will also have to be renegotiated. Is he not aware of the fact that hon. Members on both sides of the House bitterly resent the fact that more and more money is going into the EC budget, primarily to be spent on featherbedding the farmers and on creating yet more obscene and wasteful food mountains, instead of being spent here on important public spending on schools and hospitals, a matter about which the hon. Member for Southend. East (Mr. Taylor) complained in our debate yesterday evening?

Finally, is the Minister not aware that his behaviour at Brussels during the last week means that next year the incoming Labour Government will have to sort out the whole EC budgetary mess and make sure that we have a decent deal with Europe?