Previous Section Home Page

Mr. Duncan Smith : Of course it is difficult to procure iron castings in this country if none are produced here. For those who used to produce them here, that is of course a major problem. However, the point is that there must be free movement of capital and goods throughout the world

Column 1078

if third world nations are to have the chance to develop, and hence to make the money with which to buy the goods that we want to sell them. That is the logic of it.

If, however, we stand in the middle and block free movement--we are doing it to the eastern bloc countries now--it will be no good lecturing poorer countries about democracy and all the other wonderful things that we believe they should enjoy if we take away from them the one thing that will sustain them through the pain of all the economic changes to come. We must not take away their chance to make the money that they need. They have things to sell us, and it is not right that we should stop them exporting those things to us on the ground that we want to protect our industries. Our industries will benefit in the short and the long term from a commitment by us to trade.

I accept that there may be some limitations of the sort that the hon. Gentleman has in mind. They are what GATT dealt with, and they are why we need to move further along the lines of GATT.

Without going a stage further, what we are enacting today will prove an unmitigated failure. It is not enough to squeeze in only the countries that can afford the entry ticket and to ignore all the other countries which need us and which we in return need for our trade. Trading with them will do all our industries a power of good. I have tremendous reservations about what my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) referred to as "deepening". Parts of this treaty include large elements of that deepening process ; but I am prepared on balance to accept that the treaty will work to our benefit provided that we follow it up with the second stage : a wider Community. We must fight hard to stop the imposition of more social costs and to reform the CAP and the Union's institutions as we approach 1996. We must ensure that those institutions take account of a Europe of nation states of the kind in which the Government so rightly believe. It is what we must press for.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : I oppose Norway's accession to the European Union, and not because I am anti-Norwegian. I take the point made by the hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Duncan Smith) about our close links with Norway--links going back hundreds of years--although the Norwegians did come here originally as a form of early lager louts, stamping all over the good Celtic people up north. More felicitously, we have worked together and fought together in the recent past. It is, of course, not just a question of the Norwegians who died in the campaign to liberate Europe. A large number of British people died in the campaign to liberate Norway.

Nevertheless, I take the hon. Gentleman's point about our historic links with Norway, which is why I speak more in sorrow than in anger about Norway this evening. I have spoken out against it consistently because of its policy of slaughtering minke whales, in defiance of the International Whaling Commission and the great weight of public feeling in this country and the rest of the European Union. The Norwegians are behaving quite unacceptably, which is why I take this opportunity to vent my feelings and express my protest in the only way I can. The Norwegian Government have licensed 30 vessels to kill 301 minke whales this summer. Those of us who are concerned for the future of this great marine mammal are grateful for the activities of organisations such as Greenpeace. A great many brave people from this country,

Column 1079

Norway and around the world are at this very moment on the high seas trying to prevent Norwegian whalers from slaughtering the whales.

The Greenpeace ship Sirius has been attempting to prevent the Norwegian whaler Senet from slaughtering whales. For their pains, apart from being threatened by the Norwegian whalers, the crew have been arrested by the Norwegian coastguards in international waters. Their boat has been seized and they have been arrested.

I have a number of questions for the Minister. I should like to know what he is doing on behalf of the British Government to protest to the Norwegians about their behaviour in international waters and to find out how many Greenpeace campaigners are United Kingdom citizens who are entitled to the protection of the British Government, particularly when they are trying to prevent the Norwegians from breaking international law and agreements. That is why I am asking the Minister what investigations he has made.

9.30 pm

My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) asked what the Government were doing in terms of protesting to the Norwegians about their whaling campaign, as did the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), who is a great campaigner for animal welfare, particularly in terms of trying to prevent the slaughter of whales.

What sort of deal, if any, has been done ? Is it possible within the context of the accession treaty for any deal to be done ? The word used was "derogation". Have the Norwegians been able to get an opt-out ? Is there an opt-out in the rules regarding non-whaling within European Union waters ? Have the Norwegians been successful in getting an opt-out from that requirement ? Is that possible ? I should be most grateful if the Minister would give me those responses, as a number of us on both sides of the House are concerned. The motor vessel Sirius--the Greenpeace ship--caught a Norwegian whaler shooting a harpooned whale in the North sea. That makes nonsense of the idea that somehow a whale can be slaughtered with a harpoon. There is no humane way of killing a whale.

When the Norwegians argued that we, the British, kill cattle, I remember the former Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), making the famous point that we do not shoot a harpoon into a heifer and chase it through five fields trying to kill it. That is precisely the point. There is no humane way of killing a whale.

I watched some footage of the Norwegians trying to electrocute a harpooned whale and shoot it with a gun. It is absurd and obscene and should not be allowed by any civilised nation. We should make sure that our protest goes out as strongly and volubly as possible from the House to our allies and close friends the Norwegians. The Norwegians killed 226 whales in 1993 and at the International Whaling Commission meeting in Mexico recently the Norwegian estimate of the north-east Atlantic minke whale population was seriously challenged by the IWC's scientific committee. The north-east Atlantic minke whale was protected by the IWC in 1985 because of its seriously depleted numbers, the population having been

Column 1080

reduced to less than half its original size because of the activities of Norwegian whalers, with some help from the Russians and the Icelandics.

Now that we have been able to build up the population of minke whales, the people who caused them to be depleted say that the population is sufficient to resume some form of slaughter. The Norwegians started by calling it scientific whaling, which was one way of getting round the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling. Now they are going for limited commercial whaling.

The Norwegians do not need to sustain whaling for their economic prosperity. They have one of the highest per capita incomes on earth. Norway is a very rich country. If it were a small agricultural fishing community, I might have some sympathy with its predicament, but the Norwegians have no economic justification for doing what they are doing.

Much of that whale meat is exported to Japan. The Japanese are rather like the Norwegians in terms of their totally oblivious attitude to world opinion. They feel that they can kill anything because it belongs to them.

Whales do not belong to the Norwegians. No one harvests whales ; there are no whale fish farms. Indeed, as we know, the whale is not a fish--but try to convince the Japanese of that. When they are attacked for whaling, they say that the meat-eating north is imposing itself in a racist way on the fish-eating culture of Japan. I must point out to the Japanese that, for all their scientific whaling, they still have not worked out that the whale is not a fish but a mammal--a mammal that can feel the pain of a harpoon shooting through it, or electrodes pushing electricity through it. Whales can feel bullets. Moreover, they have a family system and a community that may be something like ours. They sense ; they feel ; they understand. The Norwegians still believe that they have the right to kill whales. They do not have that right. The whales belong to all of us. They are international. They do not live in Norway ; they migrate, and come to our waters as well. They belong to us as much as they belong to the Norwegians, and the Norwegians have no right to slaughter them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy)--who leads the Opposition's Council of Europe delegation--and a number of other hon. Members on both sides of the House will remember the occasion when Mrs. Brundtland addressed the Parliamentary Assembly, of which I am proud to be a member. She paraded her green credentials--Mrs. Brundtland, who goes to the United Nations and says, "What a wonderful green socialist I am." I can only say that I am ashamed that Mrs. Brundtland should even presume to describe herself as a socialist. I do not recognise her as a socialist ; I recognise her as a murderer, who is slaughtering a creature that is capable of comprehension which in many ways resembles that of human beings. I realise that I am becoming very emotional, Dame Janet. I am not tired and emotional ; I am just emotional, because this is an emotional subject about which I feel strongly. I believe that my feelings may be shared by the great majority of our citizens, and it is on their behalf that I make my protest about the activities of the Norwegians. This has been an all-party effort : there has been a good deal of cross-party support. We have supported the British Government in their stand at the IWC. We have supported Ministers who have gone there and spoken for the British

Column 1081

people, protesting about whaling. We shall continue to support the Government, as long as they support the whales and represent the feelings that the people of this country have expressed.

I hope that the Minister will respond to some of my questions, and will realise that there are strong feelings about this subject--not only on my part, but throughout the House.

Mr. Cash : I believe that the question at the heart of the debate is, "Will the Bill benefit the United Kingdom, and will it involve Germany ?" That is the ace question that has lain at the heart of the European Community since 1945. Will the Bill improve or retard our ability to achieve our objective ?

An article in The Spectator recently quoted something that Bismarck said in 1877. He described his diplomatic goals thus : "to create a situation in which all powers other than France need us, and are prevented as much as possible from building coalitions against us because of their relationships to one another." The question is, will the treaty that is now part and parcel of the Maastricht arrangements enable us both to widen the European Community and to ensure that we do not deepen it ? We are told that, through the treaty, we will widen it ; but I fear that it will be deepened as well. The two processes run together because of the legal framework created by the Maastricht treaty.

In fact, the accumulation of power that will accrue as a result of enlargement and the accession of the four new countries--given the trade balances that operate throughout the European Community in favour of Germany--will enhance its power. The voting structure will ensure that there is a greater opportunity for those alliances to build up in favour of the matters that the Germans want to push through. I shall not today go through the extended list of areas in which the Germans have managed to accumulate greater power. However, it started with the speech on the Oder- Neisse line and, more recently, there has been the beef ban. There is a range of matters including the interest rate question, the way in which they behaved over the EMS and the recognition of Croatia. All those issues will be made much more difficult if the consequences of the Bill in terms of the accretion of the voting power of countries dependent on Germany results in their voting with Germany.

The most recent figures on the subject in the "Direction of Trade Statistics Yearbook" of 1993, which describes trade with Germany throughout Europe, including trade with the four applicant countries, show that, for Austria, the share of the total of exports to Germany is 39.8 per cent. The figure in respect of imports from Germany is 42.9per cent. The effect of that is that the two countries are totally intertwined, and there is no reasonable prospect that the Austrian Government will at any time have the degree of independence that is claimed for them by those who say that the enlargement of the Community will enable Austria to go its own way as a separate nation state. I think that it will be bound up in an undesirable way. I hope that I am wrong, but I believe that that is the direction in which things will go.

The figures for Norway are different. The figure for exports is 13 per cent ; the figure for imports is 14 per cent. For Sweden, the figures are 15 per cent. and 18 per cent. respectively. There is an increasing indication, borne out within the Community as it stands under Maastricht, of an

Column 1082

unhealthy over-dependence of the other countries upon Germany. That will affect the voting structure and that is why qualified majority voting, which we discussed in the House some months ago, is so important.

It is precisely for that reason that it is essential that we reconsider the whole of the Maastricht negotiation and that the entire process back to the treaty of Rome and the Single European Act is re-evaluated at the intergovernmental conference in 1996. That re-evaluation must include the relationship that we have with the four applicant countries.

I welcome their involvement in the enlargement process. My fear is that because it is based on Maastricht as well--Maastricht is about government rather than trade--the implications of the voting structure will tend to enhance the intrinsic power of Germany at the expense of the rest of Europe. That is contrary to what I believe was intended by the other members, although not by Germany.

Mr. Marlow : I am grateful to my hon. and, on this occasion, learned Friend. I should like his legal advice before my hon. Friend the Minister begins his speech. My hon. Friend referred to qualified majority voting. If one of the applicant nations does not join the European Union, article 2(2) of the treaty comes into effect. That article says :

"The Council of the European Union, acting unanimously, shall decide immediately upon such adjustments as have become indispensable."

The threshold for qualified majority voting is 64. If the Government took the view that it was not indispensable to reduce that threshold, would they be able to make that point stick ?

9.45 pm

Mr. Cash : My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. It was the reason why I tabled an amendment, which was not selected--and I make no criticism of that decision. The amendment highlighted the fact that, if all the countries did not ratify the proposal through referendums, according to the constitutional requirements envisaged in article 2 of the treaty, the voting structure would be distorted. My hon. Friend makes a valid point and his contribution was a valuable one.

Although I have the greatest sympathy with many of the arguments on whaling and other matters that were advanced by some hon. Members, this issue is much more important than it seems. This is not just any old accession treaty : it enhances and increases the centralising process of the Maastricht treaty because it is based on it. My comments on the relationship between the acceding countries and Germany were not hostile towards Germany. That is not the point. The key question is whether the measure will create an imbalance in favour of Germany as compared with the other member states. We are talking about what is called the European Union or the European Community. If it is to be a fair and proper arrangement, it must be balanced and it must not automatically lead to one or two countries enjoying superdomination over the others. The original treaty of Rome and all that went with it in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s was designed to avoid such an occurrence.

In May 1953, Jean Monnet said that, if Germany were to obtain a degree of industrial domination in Europe, which he could not foresee but which has happened, the concept of the European Community that he had in mind would disintegrate. That is part of the problem. With great

Column 1083

respect to my friends in the United States of America, the situation was not enhanced by Mr. Clinton's recent speech. With deep regret, I say that he has failed to understand the nature not only of the susceptibilities of the people of Europe but of the intrinsic balance of power that prevails even today, although some people may pretend that it does not.

I should also like to quote a great statesman, Bismarck. Some of my hon. Friends and Opposition Members may be surprised by that, but those people who know the difference between the Bismarckians and the Nazis would understand that he knew what he was talking about when he said :

"I have always found the word Europe on the lips of those politicians who wanted something from other Powers which they dared not demand in their own names".

Instead of blood and iron, we now have pen and rules. The four applicant countries may yet discover that it is not as easy to join the European Community as they had originally hoped.

In the past few days, I have received a letter from a 13-year-old constituent of mine. It states :

"We, as a nation, have just remembered D-Day and all the lives that were lost because we didn't want anyone else saying what our country should do. Why did we bother if it was all going to be changed anyway ?"

The girl also sent me the list of signatories that she had collected. I read that letter with some concern because it is 50 years to the day since my father was killed in the war and won the Military Cross fighting in Normandy for the liberation of Europe. Many other people did the same. Many Germans do not want that to happen again and they have honest intentions ; others, however, have another agenda.

I fear that the effects of the treaty and the accumulation of evidence of the assertiveness of Germany is not in the German interest. The Norwegians know and understand that only too well ; the Austrians know and understand it ; and so do the Finns from their relationship with Russia. I do not have time now to go into the Russo-German treaty, but I am sure that the Finns will be watching it with grave concern. The same is true of the Swedes.

It would be easy for us to assume that this short Bill, which contains only a few lines, can be skated through today, dealt with in the odd point of order and regarded as having relatively little importance. I believe that it is more important than that and will prove to be much more important than many people have thought. Indeed, on the question of the relative currencies in Europe, The Daily Telegraph reported only a few days ago :

"The Germans are at last in a position to dictate terms. They have no intention of rescuing the dollar, just as they had no intention of helping the pound when it was in trouble two years ago. The strength of the mark suits them well."

In an intervention on Monday on my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, I pointed out that the Scandinavians have an obsession with the deutschmark --there is no question about that. That is part of the general problem and of the German question. The Germans themselves have to consider their relationship with those countries to ensure that we do not return to the problems of the 1930s. I do not need to detain the Committee for too long, but I must point out that those who believe that the treaty will be advantageous for the United Kingdom should bear in mind a number of issues. There are said to be four

Column 1084

advantages in the accession of the new member countries. The first is that they are relatively rich and would be net contributors to the European Community. Secondly, they are Protestant countries and would thus shift the balance of power against the subsidy farmers of the Mediterranean or olive belt. Thirdly, like Britain, they are attached to their national sovereignty and would resist further centralisation in Brussels.

Finally, and most important according to Government officials, enlargement is a necessary prelude to extending the European Community into eastern Europe. It is said that that expansion is in turn a moral obligation and the best guarantee against the follies of Euro-federalism as the united states of Europe would be too unwieldy once it included the eastern states. However, none of those arguments stands up to a moment's examination.

While the four new applicants would all be net contributors to the European Community budget

Mr. Duncan Smith : Only just.

Mr. Cash : Only just, as my hon. Friend rightly says. I refer him to the trade statistics that I mentioned earlier, which are well worth reading. They include details of the massive deficits in favour of Germany.

Those countries' contributions would not noticeably reduce the burden on Britain caused by the Euro-budget, which we shall be discussing in a few months' time. As most of the new entrants' money has already been marked for cohesion funds--a point that some of my colleagues might like to note-- to subsidise Portugal, Greece, Ireland and Spain, the idea that the new entrants will tilt the balance against agricultural interests is even more extraordinary. All four of the applicant countries subsidise their farmers even more than the European Community subsidises its farmers through the common agricultural policy.

Mr. Marlow : If we are being invited to vote for clause stand part on the basis that the four new countries will be net contributors to the Community budget, what should we do when we debate the European Community finance Bill, which will mean that we shall have to pay much more money into the Community budget than will be forthcoming from the contributions of the four applicants ?

Mr. Cash : As ever, my hon. Friend asks a difficult question. At prayers today we said, "Lead us not into temptation", but the logic of my hon. Friend's argument is difficult to resist.

As I said, all four of the applicant countries subsidise their farmers even more than the EC does. Between 1989 and 1991 the average farm subsidy was 48 per cent. in Austria, 57 per cent. in Sweden, 71 per cent. in Finland and 75 per cent. in Norway--compared with a mere 46 per cent. in the EC. How does that argument stack up ? The Minister of State is now having a nice little joke with our distinguished Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I should be delighted if the Parliamentary Secretary would come to the Dispatch Box and try to deal with my question, because it is a bit of a problem.

Indeed, the most contentious issue in the membership negotiations for each of those countries was Europe's insistence that they cut their farm subsidies and food

Column 1085

prices, which are even more absurdly distorted than those in the EC. How successful were we ? I should like an answer to that question.

As for the Scandinavians' fiscal probity, Sweden's Government deficit last year was 14.7 per cent. of gross domestic product, and Finland's was a mere 9.1 per cent. Those figures compare with deficits of 8.2 per cent. in Britain and 9.7 per cent. in that profligate country, Italy. We should bear those facts in mind. I like to be fair in such matters, so I must admit that Norway does not have any deficit problems-- [Hon. Members :-- "They do not want to join."] No doubt Norway's lack of problems is due to its massive oil revenues, and I would not mind betting that some of the Norwegians have sussed out that joining is not such a big deal, so Norway may not join anyway.

However, Norway shares a certain fiscal characteristic with all its neighbours in Scandinavia. Wait for it. The Government collect more than 50 per cent. of national income in taxes. My intervention in the Foreign Secretary's speech on Monday pointed out the contrast between our policies and theirs on the social chapter, environmental protection and all that goes with them.

It is said that the Scandinavians are proudly independent and that they would help us to curb Euro-centralisation and harmonisation. However, I cannot agree with that either. As I have said, in almost every sphere in which Britain has fought against Brussels--social policy, trade union rights, consumer protection, environmental regulation--in the negotiations as well as in their domestic policies the Scandinavians have been on the side of more centralisation and regulation, not less. [Hon. Members :-- "Hear, hear."] I regard the attitude of Opposition Members to what I am saying as eloquent testimony to my argument. It is precisely because I disagree with them so much that I have reservations.

Even on monetary policy the Scandinavians have signed up enthusiastically to a single currency for Europe. And, as I have already said, they have an obsession with the deutschmark--complete with 100 per cent. interest rates.

Mr. Duncan Smith : The deutschmark will be the single currency.

Mr. Cash : That is a thought, which I should like to share with my hon. Friends who are worried about the exchange rate mechanism. As Mr. Anatole Kaletsky has pointed out, compared with 100 per cent. interest rates, the Prime Minister's ERM policy could be described as something on the margin.

It is clear why Labour wants the Scandinavian countries as comrades-in- arms, but why on earth should their membership be a top priority for us ? At this point, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office throws its last argument into the arena. It says that enlargement is inherently desirable regardless of which countries are admitted because by widening Europe we shall prevent or at least delay any further deepening along federal lines. The Foreign Office advisers, who will urge the Prime Minister and others to back down on Europe, regard this as their intellectual trump card. But that argument is even more specious and certainly more unworthy

It being Ten o'clock, The Chairman-- left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report progress.

Column 1086

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business),

That, at this day's sitting, the European Union (Accessions) Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.-- [Mr. Patnick.]

Question agreed to.

Again considered in Committee.

Question again proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Cash : My hon. Friends may say that they have missed some of the argument. I assure you, Dame Janet, that I shall keep my argument as short as possible. I was on the point about the intellectual trump card of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I am no more hostile to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office than I am to the aspirations of the Chancellery in Bonn. I regard what the Foreign Office has done as a perfectly understandable if mistaken policy. I do not say that in respect of this Bill because, although I have been critical about aspects of it, if there were a vote, I should vote for it. That is only because I believe that we must reorganise, under the 1996 conference, the whole of the Maastricht negotiations. The whole thing must be renegotiated. If we succeed in that objective and if the Prime Minister, the Foreign Office and the House are determined to ensure that we manage to renegotiate the Maastricht treaty, the four applicant countries will benefit from the fact that we shall have unravelled the legal framework that currently shackles and chains us down.

The diplomats have misled themselves. Do they really think that they can gull the French, the Germans, the Belgians and the other federalists, or are they really trying to fool the Tory party into supporting the federalism that is secretly embedded in the continuation of Maastricht within the framework of this treaty ? That is the key to understanding the arrangement.

If the Community is to be widened, it must be a proper widening and not one that gives more power to Germany. After all, only the other day the Prime Minister turned down Mr. Jean-Luc Dehaene precisely for that reason. We are told that our right hon. Friend did not want Jean-Luc Dehaene to be imposed on us by the Germans. If that is the case, surely the corollary to that is that we ensure that we are not conned by the arrangements under the Maastricht treaty itself. This treaty of accession builds on that.

I shall simply conclude

Mr. John Biffen (Shropshire, North) : Oh no.

Mr. Cash : My right hon. Friend says no. I must say that I am looking forward to hearing what he has to say.

This treaty is more important than it looks. It is more important than its size, because its content is the future of Europe. It treads a path through history. It treads a path to the borders of Russia ; to anschluss in the 1930s. It treads a path throughout the entire European foreign policy of the past 200 years. I hope that those four countries, on an enlarged basis, will contribute to the European Union. That is why I shall not vote against the treaty, but only on the basis that this treaty, like the others, will be renegotiated in 1996.

Mr. Biffen rose

Mr. Spearing rose --

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory) : The debate has

Column 1087

had all the variety of a Second Reading with a great deal of the detail that we would expect in Committee. I shall endeavour to answer at least the main points that have been made. If I fail in that, I shall write to hon. Members who may have raised matters of particular detail.

The clause is the heart of the Bill. It takes the treaty into United Kingdom law by the familiar means of using the European Communities Act 1972. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) began the debate in characteristic style by suggesting that the four EFTA states were deluding themselves about the advantages of entering. In saying that, he underestimated their political acumen and their ability to assess where their own interests lay. All those countries have vigorous democratic systems. The whole process of applying and joining the European Economic Area and now, we hope, the European Union has been accompanied by an extremely wide-ranging and vigorous public debate in those countries. Indeed, the result of the Austrian referendum showed that, at least in that country, the people there weighed up the advantages and disadvantages and came to the very clear conclusion that the future of their country lay in the European Union.

My hon. Friend mentioned fish in particular and that issue was also raised by other hon. Members, especially the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman), who is not in his place at present. My hon. Friend, the hon. Gentleman and others questioned me about the balance of advantage and, in particular, they wanted an assurance that our own fishing industry was not put at any disadvantage by the accession treaty. I re-emphasise the point made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on Second Reading that we have successfully reaffirmed the principle of relative stability as the foundation for the allocation of fishing opportunities between member states. That fact was conveyed to us with satisfaction by representatives of the fishing organisations.

Mr. Spearing : My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow is not present but I, too, noted the Foreign Secretary's phrase. Is that not typical Euro-mysticism ? How can one assess relative stability ? Who is to decide what is relative to something else ? Looked at cynically, does it not simply mean that it is a flexible opportunity for change ?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : I leave it to the chairman of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations to comment on that. He wrote to me and my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 31 March to explain that "we were extremely appreciative of the efforts of"

my hon. Friend and myself

"to safeguard successfully the . . . cod quota and the principle of relative stability. The satisfactory outcome to the succession negotiations . . . is very welcome indeed."

If the industry is happy with the outcome of the negotiations, that should be enough for the House of Commons.

On Monday, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said that there were new opportunities for British fishermen. During the long and arduous negotiations we gained additional flexibility to fish western mackerel in each of the management areas concerned, including for the first time access to Norwegian waters for that stock. I can

Column 1088

reassure the Committee that Spain has not gained any new access either to the North sea or to the waters of the west coast of Scotland and Ireland.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East talked about our gross contribution. That is more properly a matter for future legislation, when the House of Commons will have an opportunity to consider the EC finance Bill in the next Session. I reaffirm and re-emphasise that, for the purposes of the Bill before us, as a result of the accession of the four applicant states the United Kingdom's net contributions will be lower than they otherwise would have been.

Mr. Marlow : Perhaps my hon. Friend will tell the Committee what the savings will be from this Bill and what the costs would be from the EC finance Bill. Perhaps he could make a comparison in terms of the ratio of one to the other. I think that the Committee would be interested to know that at this stage.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : I can repeat the figures that were given on Second Reading. During the first six years of accession our net contribution will be lower by about £350 million than it otherwise would have been. Thereafter there will be a net saving of about--it is only an estimate--£75 million a year. As for the other information that my hon. Friend wants, I must tell him that the Bill that we shall be considering in due course will refer to how our contributions will be affected by the Edinburgh conclusions on own resources that we and other member states will be paying into the budget between now and 1999.

I have been asked what would happen if one or more member states failed to join. Provision is made for that in the treaty that is under consideration. There would, of course, have to be some consequential adjustments, especially to the qualified majority voting arrangements. That is foreseen in the treaty and it would not be necessary to have a renegotiation.

The arithmetical alterations to the qualified majority voting figures would be limited to those technically necessary by the non-accession of one or more member states. That would be done by unanimity at a Council meeting held immediately after the relevant referendum. I can assure the Committee that the arithmetic is relatively uncontroversial and straightforward. There is a precedent because in 1972 Norway said no in a referendum and precisely the adjustments that I have described had to be made. That was done almost immediately and without controversy, and in time for the other member states to come in on the date specified in the treaty.

Mr. Marlow : The treaty states that a qualified majority will require 64 votes. If Norway does not join, would it be the Government's view, and would the Government be unanimous with other Governments, that it would be indispensable to change that part of the treaty ? If the Government did not agree, there would be no unanimity. Therefore, there could be no change and we would stick on 64. If we stuck on 64, a blocking minority of 24 would exist instead of 27. I think that that would be something that the Government would favour.

Next Section

  Home Page