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Column 543absolutely vital to what the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) called a peripheral nation, although he did not mention Scotland.
The Minister made a throw-away remark and I want to make sure that he did not mean what he said. He said that there is no place for a subsidy in transport policy. A subsidy operates in the distant islands of Scotland because there is no way that Orkney and Shetland and the Western Isles--the outer isles of Scotland--could transport goods from or to the mainland without the subsidy that has been paid by successive Governments for many years. I hope that the Minister was not giving a broad hint that the subsidy is to be terminated, because if that happened it would be disastrous for the distant islands of Scotland.
The hon. Member for Faversham put his finger on the central issue of the debate. I share the hon. Gentleman's opposition to proposals which come from an unelected Commission and not from Ministers. If the proposals are carried by a majority vote, what will be the Government's position? Will they say that because they voted against the proposals they will not use the provisions in them? That would certainly put Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom at a serious disadvantage.
We can clearly see from the document dealing with transport policy that since the provisions were introduced the French Government have made extensive use of the provision for transport policy, specially in relation to SNCF and two of its subsidiary companies. As a result of the provisions they have obtained substantial funds to develop not only import and container terminal systems, but what the document calls a piggy-back system linking ports and container terminal systems with other centres throughout France.
If I were in the French Government I would vote against the continuation of these policies because France has finished its programme. That puts France at a distinct advantage, particularly as we approach 1992. That is why the French Government have decided that the veto is no longer necessary. They have got everything that they want from the programmes and may well try to make sure that the rest of Europe does not get what it wants and needs.
The relationship between road haulage and the port industry in Scotland is worrying. About 10 years ago 75 per cent. of the goods that were manufactured in Scotland for export went out from Scottish ports. Now only 20 per cent. of those goods go out from Scottish ports and the reason for that is quite simple. The ship owners, the barons who own the vessels, are paying the road haulage costs. For example, the ship owner pays the road haulage costs for Dewar's whisky going by road from Perth to the non-scheme port at Felixstowe. That is because it is much cheaper for the ship owner to pay the road haulage costs than to pay the steaming costs of the vessel that would go to Grangemouth in my constituency where these goods could be loaded.
Mr. Ewing : This has absolutely nothing to do with the dock labour scheme. It is obvious that 11.10 pm is a bit late for the hon. Gentleman. If he comes back at 4 pm tomorrow, his thinking may be clearer and we can then have a discussion about the dock labour scheme.
Column 544This has everything to do with ship owners wanting to pay the road haulage because it is cheaper. It has nothing to do with exporting the goods from Grangemouth or Felixstowe. It is cheaper to pay the road haulage costs rather than to steam a vessel up to Grangemouth, Leith, Perth or any of the other ports that are at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the United Kingdom ports.
It is obvious that the ship owners will close most, if not all, of the Scottish ports. Once that has happened they will stop paying the road haulage costs and Scottish exports will, once more, be at a serious disadvantage.
If the proposals are carried by a majority in the EEC, the Minister is under an obligation to make the best possible use for them, especially in terms of an integrated Scottish transport system. I have already referred to the absence of SNP Members for this debate. This issue is crucial to the Scottish economy, and I hope that the Minister will deal with the points I have raised. 11.11 pm
Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow) : I applaud the fact that tonight our Government will resist the creation of another European fund. I sincerely hope that our Government will persuade the other European nations of the importance of getting the benefits from Europe by developing its markets and that those benefits cannot come from the creation of structural funds. The more important thing to do is to create the prosperity for individual nations to build their own roads, airports, ports or whatever.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) made a valuable contribution. He implied that the structural funds are a lottery. All hon. Members know that that is true. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that, as a result of the new fund, a bridge may be built over the straits of Messina.
How will the car manufacturer in Cowley feel when taxpayers' money paid into a European fund means that roads will be built from Catania to Calais to speed the passage of cabbages, when manufactured cars cannot get from Cowley to Southampton port?
Although hon. Members may argue about it, they know that it is a lottery and there is no guarantee that we will get the projects that we want. The majority of applications for grant-aid in relation to the Channel tunnel have come from regions other than the south-east. Most of the cash allocated by the European Commission--no less than £9 million out of the total of £13 million--has gone to the south-east. That is not what this country wanted. That has occurred as a result of the lottery in Brussels.
These funds are a roundabout. There is a grand illusion among many politicians and members of the public that some projects in this country could not, and would not, be undertaken were it not for European money. That is a grand illusion, because the money is being taken out of our pockets and remitted to our local tax offices, which send it to the Treasury, which in turn sends it to Brussels, where the big shuffle starts. We all become involved in supporting our local councils and industries in an attempt to regain that money.
Every time that I go home I am reminded of that fact because there, for all to see, is a sign that says, "This project would not have been possible without the European regional development fund." It is appropriate that a roundabout was funded in that project. I shall end my speech now and give all those hon. Members who have attempted to intervene an opportunity to speak. I applaud most enthusiastically the Government's efforts to resist the creation of another structural fund--more power to their elbow in convincing other nations to do the same.
Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe) : Two issues appear to be at stake tonight : first, the concept of integrated transport systems ; and, secondly, how these measures would be funded and would operate.
There are dangers in an open-ended commitment, but I note that negotiations are still taking place about finance and operation, and the proportion of funding. It is undesirable for the Commissioners rather than democratically elected and accountable representatives to decide those priorities. I find depressing the Government's mean-minded and narrow response to the proposal, and we should strongly oppose their response.
I am concerned that Europe, particularly western Europe, is well in advance of us in terms of infrastructure, investment and intergrated canal, rail and road links. We have such potential in this country. For example, in Yorkshire, the canal network goes right to the industrial heartland and the wharf and rail links, and the barge interchanges, could be developed further, to the advantage of the whole region.
If the proposal is carried in Europe, I wonder whether the Government will be able to capitalise on it and obtain grant-aid for infrastructure. I note that, where the road infrastructure is overused, highly polluted, or presents particular problems, there would be justification for grant support. Roads such as the A1 and the M1, which have reached their design capacity and at certain times of the week are choked and clogged, need to be tackled. There is scope for extending the M11 up the east coast and across the Humber bridge to Teesside to take the pressure off those two roads and to assist the industrial development of that region.
I should also like to see a genuine integrated transport policy under which freight is moved by rail as far as possible and there are rail interchanges and a proper public transport sytem to serve people's needs. The present system is breaking down and degenerating. To suggest that
Column 546the free market will solve those problems and invest in such infrastructure is nonsense. Deregulation has led to more route mileage for buses and a decline in the number of passengers carried by them. That is not a good example of the market meeting people's needs. Nor do I see the market making a massive investment in infrastructure.
There are specific problems, such as the Humber bridge. The bridge board is being blackmailed by the Government to urge it to increase its tolls, which are already deterring use of the bridge. That is holding back the economic development of the Humberside region, and that is the result of the free market philosophy. The Government do not understand that a little public investment will do much to encourage industry and development, and that is why I say that they are narrow minded and mean minded. They could have much more imagination. They could decide to have lorry routes with break-bulk depots to keep juggernauts out of small town centres. I saw recently in my town centre a juggernaut making a delivery to a working man's club. The enormous lorry was used to deliver two boxes of crisps. Why not claim some grant for an investment in depots outside all major urban areas? After all, it may be that lorries will eventually meet EEC standards. We could control them by keeping them to designated lorry routes and requiring them to go to break-bulk centres where their loads would be transferred to smaller, lighter vehicles for final delivery. That system would lead to environmental advantage. It would lead also to the creation of jobs and make Britain a nicer place in which to live.
The Government lack the imagination to improve a degenerating transport system. I say to those who sneer at other countries' systems that Greece, for example, has a better bus service than Lincolnshire. We must deploy a great deal of investment, imagination and foresight to improve our transport system, and that is not forthcoming from the Government.
Mr. William Cash (Stafford) : It is with a sense of relief that I hear that the Government are resisting the proposals that are set out in the Community documents. But will we be out-voted if there is majority voting when the issue arises on 8 or 9 December? If we are out-voted, the money will be made available. I want to know whether it will be made available in the United Kingdom in those circumstances. Nothing could be more ridiculous than to find ourselves with Parliament and the Government in unison in opposing these proposals, only to find that the level playing field that we have been seeking to achieve is undermined because all the money is spent by other member states. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will answer that question.
We are dealing with a regulation, not a directive. It is so open-ended in its characteristics that I am reminded of the common agricultural policy. Questions that go to the heart of the financing of the European Community invariably become tied up with regulations. There is not a sufficient degree of control and they find themselves within the function of the Commission. When that happens, we are opening another Pandora's box.
Mr. Peter Bottomley : We are discussing a proposal that would take away from each of the 12 national Governments the power to decide what to do with money. That is why I suspect that 11 member states, if not 12, will
Column 547view it with almost as much disfavour as the House. If by any chance it were to be agreed, I am sure that the British Government would find that their application would be considered. There is no guarantee that we would secure a large proportion of the money that would be available or that much of it would go to the north or south-west of Britain. That is why many of us cannot understand the Opposition's promise to vote against taking note of the documents.
Mr. Cash : I am delighted to hear my hon. Friend make that point. I was also delighted by what was leaked in the papers today to the effect that the M40 will have three lanes. My constituents will be very interested in that.
I am delighted that the Minister and the Government have taken a robust position. They have the British Parliament behind them. If the Opposition decide to divide the House, they will demonstrate only that the British Parliament and the electorate agree, as usual, with the Government.
Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby) : Having listened to the hon. Members for Faversham (Mr. Moate) and for Ludlow (Mr. Gill), one has to ask which party guillotined the Single European Act through the House. Which party in government is represented on the Community's Council of Ministers? That representation does not come from Opposition Members. The Government agreed that there should be majority decision making by the Council of Ministers. Although this draft regulation may be initiated by the European Commission, it cannot be implemented until it receives the approval of the Council of Ministers, to which the Government subscribe. There can be no get out on the question of responsibility.
The Government are hell-bent on getting into the single European market to exploit their ideological fantasies, but they say no to every other degree of Europeanisation, to social Europe and to regional aid. It ill-becomes a party which has complied with the common agricultural policy for all these years, a policy which takes up 76 per cent. of the EEC's budget, to turn round now and say no to infrastructure expenditure which might help regions represented by so many Opposition Members and, dare I say it, even some represented by Tory Members.
The hon. Member for Ludlow said that we should feel aggrieved that British taxpayers' money might be spent in Calabria and Sicily. Does he realise how aggrieved the taxpayers on Merseyside and the north-east feel when they find that tax reliefs go mainly to the richer people in the south-east of England? Does he not understand that they are aggrieved when they discover that their money is spent on the Channel tunnel, while no real effort is made to improve the infrastructure in their areas to allow them to reap the full rewards of our participation in the European Community?
Mr. Meale : Mansfield, like many other areas, might apply for assisted area status, but it might not be granted because the Government refuse to change the map. Areas are then told to apply to Europe and to campaign for funds such as those under discussion tonight. Perhaps the Minister should offer guarantees to Nottinghamshire councils which want to open a rail link from Nottingham to Worksop. Will the Minister give them some guidance,
Column 548or are they wasting their time going to Europe if the Government, who have already refused help for the region once, refuse it again via the EEC?
There is one thing for which the Government can always be given credit. They never allow reality to get in the way of ideology. They are not willing to have a public expenditure programme. They say, "Leave it to private funding ; leave it to the market." They want the people to be the servants of the market, rather than the other way round.
Nothing is more in need of transport harmony than the port system within the Community. Many European countries regard the ports, not as individual transport undertakings, but as part of their national infrastructure. That is why so many EEC countries subsidise the ports, and even cover the costs of dredging, navigation lighting and many other processes. France subsidises the port of Le Havre through zero VAT rating, and covers 80 per cent. of the capital cost of dredging the port. The subsidies are reflected in the lower port charges that they allow. A recent report from Touche Ross illustrated how advantageous it would be for British ports if they received the same degree of subsidy. According to the report, British port charges would be reduced by some 20 to 25 per cent. Instead, many of our imports and exports are trans-shipped through European ports. Antwerp has become the third port of the United Kingdom, because 15 per cent. of our goods and 8 per cent. of our exports go through it. The Belgian Government are providing 60 per cent. of the funds--£35 million out of £53 million--for the building of a new container terminal at the port.
The Government are allowing our port authorities to go into the European Community naked in 1992. They are unwilling to compete. The Belgian Government plan expenditure of £1 billion on Zeebrugge over 20 years. Where is our Government's infrastructural policy for this country's ports?
My constituency has a major interest in the development of the port of Liverpool. According to a recent survey by a leading firm of stockbrokers, Rensburg, Liverpool is now one of the most stable and successful port operations in Europe, but it needs a tremendous amount of investment to enable it to become what it should be--a bridge for the future in the Community. It would be possible for the United Kingdom to be an Atlantic- Europe land bridge for trade from the Atlantic, provided that the investment was there.
Hon. Members are blaming the Commission, but, looking down the list of transport developments, we find them only in Greece, Spain, France and Italy. I blame the British Government. Europeans think that the British Government are cool towards Europe and that they want it all their way. After the Prime Minister made that speech in Bruges, could she have expected the Commission to believe that if it made proposals for the development of road links in the north of England--for example, the M57 to link up with Liverpool airport at Speke--the British Government would take them seriously? Her speech was silly and chauvinistic.
Column 549Our rail and road networks need to be developed. The Government ought to abandon the ideological cul de sac into which they have led the British people and accept that in a single European market there cannot be majority voting only for the policies in which the British Government believe. Sometimes they will be beaten. I hope that they will be beaten on this issue. That is why I am glad that the Opposition will go into the Division Lobby tonight to vote against the motion.
Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones (Ynys Mo n) : I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to catch your eye at this late stage in the debate. I shall be brief. I want to make only one simple point about the transport infrastructure document that relates to the integrated transport market in 1992.
It is important that there should be an integrated transport network in 1992 because of its effect on my constituency. I do not agree with the priorities that are set out in the document, but I understand the underlying concept. The only way in which Holyhead can take off is by the provision of an integrated transport network and an improved roads programme to link the Irish Republic and the United Kingdom with the continent of Europe.
Unemployment in Holyhead amounts to about 18 per cent., yet it is a pivotal gateway for the Irish Republic if it is to enter the European network. The concept is right. Therefore, I shall vote against the Government. If they are not prepared to give us the money to finance the infrastructure when the European Community is, I am bound to support its proposals.
Mr. Tony Lloyd : By leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, I place on record the Opposition's condemnation of the Government who have linked two separate documents and who, by doing so, have caused so much confusion in the mind of the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate).
The Opposition oppose the Commission's infrastructure proposals. They will do nothing for the nation. However, we are unable to support the Government's dog-in-the-manger stand on integrated transport development aid. They have crassly turned their back on it. If the Minister is prepared to say that the Government intend to revise their policies, the Opposition will be prepared to revise their stand.
The whole House is looking forward to watching the Labour party, with the exception of the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing), going into the Division Lobby because they support giving power to the European Commission, uncontrolled by the Council of Ministers, to use generalised criteria and to pick from a generalised list, most of which will do the United Kingdom no good.
Column 550Labour Members spoke about integrated transport, but combined transport is really piggy-back services. Until we have smaller wheels on our trains, we are not likely to benefit much from that. Indeed, the Germans have said that they will no longer use it.
[Interruption.] I should like to say how much we welcome the fact that the hon. Member for Stretford is still talking because we get a lot of interference from his hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott).
We also welcome the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor), who spoke on behalf of the Social and Liberal Democratic party.
It is worth reading the report of the Scrutiny Committee which recommended that the two proposals should be taken together. When we put forward the explanatory memorandum in July-- [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Stretford appears to be saying that he has read the Scrutiny Committee's report, but that fact did not emerge from his speech. In the four months since I signed the explanatory memorandum on behalf of the Government, and since it came to the House in July, I do not think that I have received a single representation against it from the Labour party. I certainly have not received any such representations from the Social and Liberal Democratic party. I advise the hon. Member for West Derby that, if he is to have any consistency, he must follow his line of argument and join the Government in the Division Lobby in voting against the proposal that the European Commission should have an unfettered power. If he votes with the Labour party, we shall not take his speeches seriously in future.
That is very different from the clear and straightforward speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate). As I said earlier, like him we welcome seeing what gaps and bottlenecks remain, but we do not need the European Community to take our money and spend it either on things that we do not regard as priorities or in areas that are not regarded as priorities by national Governments. Mr. Wareing rose --
We shall see a great deal of unanimity--I hope that there will be near unanimity--among other countries. When the Council of Ministers meets and has to decide whether it will combine and give up its powers to the Commission, I am sure that most of them will say, "Not on your life." We should say the same in other areas, for example, when people talk about social space, because the biggest social space is self-determination, where possible. Even the national Governments who voted for the Single European Act do not want to give up their determined powers to vagueness, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) rightly pointed out.
Conservative Members are keen on infrastructure spending, which is beginning to grow. The hon. Member for Stretford does not think that we are building enough roads but most of them are being built in the Manchester and Stretford areas. If we go back to the days of the last Labour Government--
Mr. Bottomley : The hon. Member cannot keep his mouth shut for long. In fact, many hon. Members may remember the hon. Gentleman's new year resolution several years ago when he said that he would try not to shout so much. He was not very good at keeping his resolution that year, and he is not very good at it now.
The hon. Member for Truro, speaking on behalf of the Social and Liberal Democratic party, got himself in a slight muddle, and it is probably best to leave it at that
Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil) indicated dissent.
Mr. Bottomley : It is no good the leader of the SDLP shaking his head because either he wrote the speech, in which case he knows what his hon. Friend said, or since he was not here and did not listen to it, he cannot know. Perhaps we could see his photogenic leadership take a form other than the hon. Gentleman nodding his head as if in support of what his hon. Friend said, because he did not say very much that was worthwhile.
The hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) spoke about subsidies. No one wants to get rid of all subsidies. The reason for identifying subsidies is to see what is being paid for what instead of having generalised subsidies, which is, in effect, what Labour Members are asking us to support when they say that they will vote against the motion. The Government will be able to point to the Labour party's actions for many months and years to come. Opposition Members will regret their decisions of today.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) talked about developing the markets of Europe. His was a good speech, and it was the right thing to say. That line should be followed by many more people. My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) raised a specific point which I hope that I was able to answer satisfactorily.
The hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) did not say much of relevance.
The hon. Member for Ynys Mo n (Mr. Jones) was right to talk of the need to get the ports working properly. One reason why we think that the Government and certainly the European Commission should move away from deciding which ports is that the ports must build their futures on their own competitive advantages, most of which come from within themselves.
The hon. Member for West Derby talked about subsidies. Although many of us are delighted that the port of Liverpool is doing better, we should remember that £165 million of taxpayers' money has gone into Liverpool in the past 10 years. I do not think that many of us would like the Commission to do that in other areas for very long, for any form of transport.
I ask the House, including the Labour party, to support the motion and to reject the idea of giving up all power to the Commission. Question put :
The House divided : Ayes 218, Noes 144.
Division No. 2] [11.44 pm
Alison, Rt Hon Michael
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)