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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Francis Maude) : The latest estimate of the United Kingdom's net contributioto the EC budget in 1989, published in the statement on the 1989 Community budget last April, was £1,966 million. An outturn figure for 1989 and an estimate for 1990 will be published in the statement on the 1990 Community budget.
Mr. Marlow : I did not catch the second figure that my hon. Friend gave, but if I got it right, I believe the first figure for the full year was about £2,000 million. That is a heck of a lot of bread, if I can put it like that. As we are net receivers of excess European manufactures and net importers of excess European agricultural produce, and despite the fact that our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has done a magnificent job in getting some of our money back, is it reasonable that we should be spending £2,000 million a year of our taxpayers' money to subsidise those Europeans who seem to do nothing but insult us? Can we not take further action now to get more of our money back?
Mr. Maude : My hon. Friend may think that there are those in the Community who insult us, but my hon. Friend is well capable of holding up our end on this, and perhaps that is valuable. My hon. Friend drew attention to the advances made because of the deal negotiated by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. By the end of this year there will have been an abatement of about £7.5 billion since the Fontainebleau agreement in 1984. That is a considerable achievement, and it represents a substantial reduction in the net contribution. We are by no means the largest net contributor to the Community budget and, at this stage, there are two other contributors. We must maintain our vigilance, however, to ensure that the size of the Community budget does not rise unreasonably.
Mr. Leighton : Is it not the case that many EC countries pay nothing into the budget whereas Britain, one of the poorer nations, has to pay grotesquely large sums--something like £2 billion--to subsidise richer countries? Would the Minister care to imagine what we could do with that £2 billion in the National Health Service? Even after all the rebates, when will the Government take steps to stop us acting as Lady Bountiful with British taxpayers' money?
Mr. Maude : Such criticism comes ill from the hon. Gentleman, as it was negotiation by the previous Labour Government which led to the net contribution by the United Kingdom. Only the firm stance taken by this Government in the earlier part of last decade led to that appalling legacy of incompetence being substantially reduced.
Mrs. Currie : The European Community is set to change considerably if associate status is offered to the newly democratic countries of eastern Europe. Does my hon. Friend agree that many of these are poor countries and will need a great deal of help? Has any thought yet been
Column 937given to the effect on the United Kingdom's likely net contribution during the 1990s as Europe is widened to include the newly democratic countries?
Mr. Maude : No one is suggesting that in the early part of the 1990s there is any question of the European Community being enlarged to accommodate reforming countries from eastern Europe. Co-operation agreements are being negotiated with other countries. Earlier this afternoon the House heard about some of the financial contributions that are very properly being made by the European Community to eastern European countries. I assure my hon. Friend that this country's net contribution should not increase, and because the Community's budget has remained substantially within the ceilings negotiated at the Brussels Council in 1988, the net contribution should be reduced in subsequent years.
Mr. Anderson : As democratic centralism and purges end in central and eastern Europe, is there not a danger of the same democratic centralism and purges being reasserted in the Conservative party? Has the Minister noted the recent article by the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) suggesting that if Tory Members of the European Parliament do not toe the Prime Minister's little England line on the Community and the Community budget, they may have to leave the party? Does he approve of that view?
Mr. Maude : The hon. Gentleman tries hard, but to little effect. His words come a little oddly just after one of his hon. Friends expressed an ultimately little Englander view. He tries hard but he does not cut any ice. In the Conservative party we have a firm view about the sort of Europe that we want to develop--an open, liberal European Community based on co- operation between friendly states. That will remain the case.
Mr. Gow : Does my hon. Friend consider that an annual net contribution to the Community of £2 billion is too much, too little or about right? Is it not true that if the vaulting ambitions of the supra- nationalists had been restricted and the Community had devoted itself only to the free movement of people, goods and capital in the member states, this massive contribution would have been dramatically reduced?
Mr. Maude : Undoubtedly one of the principal causes of the large Community budget which has led to the United Kingdom's net contribution has been the common agricultural policy, and that is well understood. When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was carrying out the negotiations which led to such a substantial and dramatic reduction in our contribution, plenty of Opposition Members were prepared to decry her efforts. I am glad that she stuck firmly to her purpose and succeeded so well.
Column 938Organisation meeting in Brussels. Secretary Baker also called on me in London on 11 December, when we discussed a wide range of issues.
Mr. Winnick : Has the right hon. Gentleman had the opportunity to discuss the appalling and brutal murders of the six priests in El Salvador? They were undoubtedly carried out, as has now been confirmed, by members of the military force, some of whom were American-trained. Does President Bush intend to send in an invasion force to bring about the rule of law in El Salvador? How many detectives from Scotland Yard have gone out? What is their brief and precisely what will they report back to the British Government?
Mr. Hurd : I have not discussed that matter with the American Secretary of State. We have been glad to accede to the request for help in clearing up these atrocities. The team consists of three Metropolitan police officers who are helping the local authorities in the pursuit of justice.
Mr. Dykes : Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the striking and attractive features of the new, more articulate and better-educated American Government is their enthusiastic commitment to Britain's full participation in the processes of developing the European Community?
Mr. Hurd : Yes, I think that the renewed United States enthusiasm for development in Europe is correct, particularly as the Americans have made it clear that they are not seeking to intervene in the discussions in the Community about what sort of Community it should become, and are placing their emphasis, as we do, on completion of the single market and the achievement of a liberal and open trading system.
Mr. Mullin : Has the Foreign Secretary had the opportunity to put it to the American Secretary of State that it might be a good idea if the United States called off the Vietnam war and ended its trade and aid embargo of Vietnam, with a view perhaps to stopping the flow of refugees from that country?
Mr. Hurd : I have discussed the whole question of the boat people with Mr. Baker and I shall do so again when, as I hope, I visit Washington at about the end of the month. I very much hope that at the steering committee meeting on the boat people in Geneva, which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, will be held next week, we shall find the international community--perhaps with some help from the United States--moving on from the position that it took last June. That was not in itself sufficient to deal with what I regard as the major danger--a new onrush into Hong Kong of people from Vietnam during the spring and summer.
Sir Peter Blaker : On that point, has my right hon. Friend expressed to the American Secretary of State the surprise and indignation of many Conservative right hon. and hon. Members at the United States' high moral line on the compulsory return of the Vietnamese illegal immigrants from Hong Kong, at a time when the United States is returning illegal immigrants daily to many countries, including Mexico, and to Haiti, to which it has returned 20,000 boat people within the past year with much less careful screening to determine whether they are
Column 939genuine refugees than is carried out in Hong Kong? Can my right hon. Friend hold out any hope of an improvement in American logic?
Mr. Hurd : Points similar to those made by my right hon. Friend have been put repeatedly to the United States, and I believe that the reaction in the United States to the repatriation of the planeload of 51 to Vietnam was a good deal more moderate than some of us had expected. Certainly, there is increasing understanding within the United States Administration of what we are trying to achieve and why, and of why we and Hong Kong deserve more understanding and help from the international community than has so far been received.
Mr. Hurd : I have had a number of such discussions recently with Mr. Delors. The subject, as the hon. Member knows, was also discussed at the Strasbourg European Council and the ministerial meeting of the Group of 24 on 13 December.
Sir Russell Johnston : I thank the Secretary of State for his reply. I am sure that he will agree that none of the changes in the East would have been possible without Gorbachev. Will he tell Mr. Delors and his colleagues in the European Council of Ministers that we must all think about helping not only the newly democratised countries in central Europe but the Soviet Union? Gorbachev is in trouble and it is in our and everyone's interests to help him.
Mr. Hurd : The credit does not go solely to Mr. Gorbachev ; it must also go to the countries of the West, Europe and the United States, which stood firm at a time when the Communist dictatorships seemed impregnable. That needs to be recorded. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has often said, we certainly believe that it is in the interests of the West that Mr. Gorbachev should succeed with perestroika. But his problems cannot be solved to any major extent by financial aid from this country or from the West. His problems are essentially those of nationalities within the Soviet Union and of an economy that is drifting downhill because of its basic nature, which needs to be changed.
Mr. Michael Marshall : Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity of drawing to Mr. Delors' attention the work on the development of representative institutions of eastern Europe, which has been facilitated by the British Government, the Great Britain-East European Centre and the Inter-Parliamentary Union? Does he agree that that work has been recognised by all sides as immensely valuable? Will he encourage such activity within the Community?
Mr. Hurd : I certainly will. I know of my hon. Friend's interest in and leadership of such ventures. The contribution that Britain can most aptly make to those countries as they move towards free institutions is to show them, through many relevant projects and in many different ways, how to erect free institutions, free media
Column 940and free elections, and how to move from a command economy to a market economy. That is why we have put such emphasis on the know-how funds that we have set up for Poland and Hungary.
Mr. Nellist : Before the Secretary of State has any further discussions with Jaques Delors, will he first talk to the Secretary of State for Defence, who yesterday, in a disgraceful outburst, donned his Captain America uniform and claimed that he alone was saving the world for peace and democracy? Will he ask him to show some regard for the millions who demonstrated in Leipzig, Bucharest, Budapest and Prague, and those who lost their lives in Romania? Will he tell the Minister of State, who is sitting next to him, that those whom he disparagingly regards as Trotskyites are those who, for the past five or six decades, have explained that there cannot be Socialism without democracy, just as one cannot be a human being without oxygen? It is as justifiable to call what happened under the dictatorship of Stalin "eastern Europe Socialism" as it would be to call what happened under the Spanish Inquisition "Christianity".
Mr. Hurd : I am having a little difficulty following the hon. Gentleman's logic, but it appears to be deeply defensive stuff. Political and economic freedom go hand-in-hand ; neither survives well without the other. That is the lesson that the peoples of eastern Europe are teaching their former rulers.
18. Mr. Knox : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next proposes to have discussions with his European Community partners concerning the development of common European foreign policies.
Mr. Maude : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend an informal meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Twelve in Dublin on 20 January. The Irish Presidency is convening this meeting to allow an early exchange of views on developments in eastern Europe.
Mr. Knox : Will my hon. Friend confirm that greater co-operation on foreign policy within the Community is still the major objective of the Government's foreign policy, as it was when the previous Foreign Secretary was in office?
Mr. Maude : We have said on many occasions that the European Community is central to our foreign policy. We regard the growth of a common foreign policy among the Twelve as one of the great successes of the European Community in recent years.
Mr. Robert Hughes : Although the Government expressed some reservations, I congratulate them on the unanimous adoption of a resolution during the United Nations special session on South Africa in December. What steps have the Government taken, in conjunction with their European counterparts, to end political trials and executions in South Africa? Will they call for the release of all political detainees, as was stated in the resolution that was unanimously accepted?
Column 941Mr. Maude : As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Twelve made their position perfectly clear. Frequent representations are made, and it is encouraging that some notice appears to have been taken of them.
Mr. Hayward : I welcome my right hon. Friend's reply. Does the United Nations have any further plans in relation to Namibia in terms of progress through and beyond independence and democratic government?
Mr. Waldegrave : It will be for the countries that regard themselves, as we do, as friends of independent Namibia to help in the future. I am happy to say that, next week, in response to requests from Namibia, we will be sending a Ministry of Defence technical advisory team to assess the
Column 942requirements for establishing and training an army for Namibia after independence. I believe that steps of that kind-- by the supporters' club, as it were, of friends of Namibia--now need to be taken.
Mr. Pike : Will the Minister ensure that Her Majesty's Government do everything possible to make sure that there are no efforts to destabilise the position as progress is made towards independence in Namibia? Will he also ensure that in negotiations on the outstanding debt incurred by the illegal regime, every support is given to reducing that debt?
As Britain created the problem of Walvis bay, which will be a problem for negotiation following independence, will Her Majesty's Government provide all possible support to ensure that that port ultimately goes to Namibia?
Mr. Waldegrave : The hon. Gentleman will agree that the pessimists who thought that progress to independence would not succeed have been proved wrong. It has been a process in which South Africa and all the parties have kept their commitments, and we should welcome that. Problems remain for the future, and Walvis bay is one of them. We thought it right not to introduce that into the process at this stage, but it must be settled in the future.
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