European Communities (Amendment) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 20th November 2001.

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Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour 7:15 pm, 20th November 2001

I am glad that a noble Lord said "Hear, hear". It confirms what I am saying. At each stage there has been a deepening, and with that deepening has come centralisation. That, I fear, is what will happen—and, indeed, is happening—through this treaty. There will be a greater accrual of powers to the centre and a greater bureaucratic control by the centre.

I do not believe that that is what the British people intended—although they were not consulted about it—when they joined the Common Market. They believed that they were joining a free market—not a single market; that did not come until 1985—where individual countries had free trade between them and co-operated on a wide range of issues. That has not turned out to be the case.

Whether we like it or not, it is becoming increasingly obvious from the messages coming from heads of state, from members of the Commission, from Members of the European Parliament and from Parliament itself, that that is not the intention. The intention is to build a state of union, and a good many of the necessary building blocks are there. I believe that that would be a disaster for Europe because, as we have found in the past, as various bits of the new state find themselves disadvantaged in relation to other bits of the state, they will rebel and the whole edifice will fall apart.

That will be so especially if we are not prepared—I am not sure that we are prepared at the moment, although we may be later on—to have a much bigger central budget. The United States has a central budget of 25 per cent of GDP. If you are going to redistribute and bring countries up to a standing which is acceptable throughout, you will need central taxation. Indeed, we have already seen signs of that. The Belgian presidency said that there would be a need for direct taxation levied by the European Parliament, and the European Parliament believes that there should be a central tax levy.

That is what is facing us. I do not know whether people in this country understand that. When the MacDougal Committee reported on expansion in, I think it was, the 1970s, it said that we would need at least 7.8 per cent of GDP to be raised as central taxation for redistribution in an expanded community. But 7.8 per cent of our GDP is about £78 billion. We have to grasp these kinds of issues if we are to go ahead with a successful expansion.

I do not believe that it is possible. I do not believe that people are prepared to accept what goes with real expansion, real enlargement. I believe that, because of that, the whole project will collapse—which would not bother me; I should be delighted—and endanger the existing community. The Committee should take that into account.