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European Union

4. Mr. David Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next plans to visit the European Parliament to discuss developments in the European Union. [6841]

Mr. David Davis: My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary hopes to visit the European Parliament in the first half of 1996.

Mr. Marshall: The Government have said that they wish the European Parliament to concentrate on tackling fraud and waste in the European budget. When the Secretary of State next visits the European Parliament, will he therefore explain why he is opposing the proposals to allow Members of the European Parliament to amend wasteful agricultural spending, which accounts for the majority of fraud in the European budget and adds an estimated £20 a week to the tax and food bill of an average family of four in this country? How does opposing such a measure accord with Britain's national interest?

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Mr. Davis: The hon. Gentleman makes an extraordinary presumption about which way the European Parliament would vote on such matters. It has not exactly been inclined to vote in favour of economy in the past. We have criticised the European Parliament in the past for not using the powers that it has. It has just commissioned its temporary commission of inquiry, and we commend it for that.

Mr. Cash: What will the Government's policy be with regard to the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, which has been placed in the Library of the House of Commons, regarding fraud in the European Community, and the recommendation of improvement in the scrutiny processes that that report contains? Will he also consider whether we shall have a White Paper in the near future?

Mr. Davis: My hon. Friend attempts to pre-empt another hon. Member's question later on the Order Paper, and I shall answer that in due course. My hon. Friend knows that we have been vigorous in opposition to the items that cause fraud and in promoting measures to tackle fraud, and we shall continue with that vigour in future.


5. Mr. Mullin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his EC colleagues regarding the situation in Cambodia; and if he will make a statement. [6842]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Jeremy Hanley): Cambodia has been discussed recently both in multilateral discussions with EU partners and bilaterally with individual countries. We are working for continued political and economic reform there.

Mr. Mullin: Has the Minister noticed that Cambodia is slipping back into some of its bad old habits? I think, for instance, of the former Foreign Minister who was arrested a couple of months ago; of democratically elected members of the National Assembly who dissent from the Government line being illegally expelled from that assembly; and of high-level corruption. Will he make it clear to the Cambodian Government that, while the international community is willing to do its best to fund the introduction of democracy to Cambodia, it is not willing to fund another tyranny?

Mr. Hanley: I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman. We are of course keeping a close eye on developments in Cambodia, and we hope that the Cambodian Government will take careful note of the resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly in December which highlights the importance of good governance, the rule of law, multi-party democracy, freedom of expression and the protection of human rights. I am also well aware of the arrest of Prince Sirivudh, who I believe is now in Paris.

Intergovernmental Conference

7. Mr. Hain: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Foreign Ministers of the other European Union countries about the preparations for the intergovernmental conference. [6844]

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Mr. David Davis: Preparations for the intergovernmental conference were discussed most recently at the Madrid Council on 15 and 16 December.

Mr. Hain: What proposals does the Minister plan to put to the IGC for tackling fraud in Europe? After the November Court of Auditors report on the scandalous amount of fraud in the European budget, is there not a strong case for increasing the anti-fraud powers of European institutions; or will the Minister and the Government be blocked from doing that by following Mrs. Thatcher's lurch to the right and backing their right-wing extremists, instead of defending the interests of British taxpayers?

Mr. Davis: Had the hon. Gentleman read the report carefully, he would have seen that there is much less fraud in this country than in most other European countries, and that we control it more effectively than any other country. He cannot therefore take that line.

As to the lurch to the right, I shall leave it to another party to deal with.

Mr. Anthony Coombs: When considering preparations for the IGC, does my hon. Friend agree that the doctrine of subsidiarity ought to be used not merely to stop additional powers going to Europe but to look at existing European powers, thereby reducing the so-called acquis communautaire? Does he agree that that would be to the advantage of parliamentary government in this country, and to the advantage of Great Britain?

Mr. Davis: My hon. Friend is exactly right: that is what has been happening. An Anglo-German and an Anglo-French list of such measures have been looked at. In the past year, 61 regulations have been removed; in July alone, 14 were removed from the energy sector. The attempt to reduce and to roll back the amount of regulation coming from Europe is very much in line with British Government policy.

Mr. Radice: Has the Minister noted a Gallup poll carried out for the European Movement showing that 56 per cent. of respondents want closer co-operation with our European partners, with Britain playing a leading role?

Mr. Davis: Unlike the Labour party, we do not devise our policies from Gallup polls. The analysis to which the hon. Gentleman refers showed a number of other things too. It showed that a majority supported the Government's line of keeping open their options on monetary union--a point that the hon. Gentleman seems not to have noticed.

Mr. Jenkin: Speaking of polls, may I draw my hon. Friend's attention to various Confederation of British Industry polls showing that, although people may want to keep open the option on the single currency, they are also against further and unnecessary integration with Europe? Can he explain how we can have a single currency without further integration in Europe? Do not these findings display the shortcomings of opinion polls?

Mr. Davis: I am entirely with my hon. Friend in the matter of the shortcomings of opinion polls. I shall not attempt today a lecture on the constitutional implications of a single currency--save to say that all these points reinforce the wisdom of the Prime Minister's securing an opt-out for Britain at Maastricht.

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Mr. MacShane: As the Minister seeks to navigate through the shoals and currents of the intergovernmental conference process, does he find helpful the statement from Japan by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence that pro-European Tory Members should leave the party?

Mr. Davis: The hon. Gentleman should quote more accurately--even remotely accurately might be helpful. The Japanese understand only too well that our commitment to a European single market, in conjunction with deregulation and the commitment to competitiveness, leads them to invest most of their investment in Europe in this country.

Political Union

9. Sir David Knox: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next expects to meet his counterparts in the European Union to discuss greater political union. [6846]

Mr. David Davis: My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has had regular discussions with his European Union counterparts on a wide range of issues of common interest.

Sir David Knox: Does my hon. Friend agree that Britain can exert much more influence in the world and so protect British interests much better if we act in conjunction with our European Union partners, rather than try to go it alone?

Mr. Davis: My hon. Friend will be unsurprised to hear that I agree with him. This summer and autumn, a large number of newspaper headlines, referring to my work on the reflection group, said that Britain was isolated on this, that or the other, but when those same journalists approached reflection group members and said, "Did you not find Britain obstructionist?" the response was, "No. Britain was extremely constructive in its approach." That is yielding dividends in a variety of areas, which I shall come to later.

Mr. McAvoy: The Minister has been disingenuous in his response to the point about the Secretary of State for Defence's statements. Bearing in mind the comments made by the main questioner, does not the Minister accept that such divisions within this country's governing party damage this country's interests when he represents it in Europe?

Mr. Davis: Our European allies understand only too well the British Government's position, but, if anyone is being disingenuous, it is the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps he should have been here just before Christmas to watch the interesting sight of the Labour Front-Bench team putting one policy and everyone else on the Labour Benches putting another. They cannot talk to us about division in our party.

Mr. Dykes: As the Minister has a new year's resolution to be enthusiastic about our European Union membership, will he say in detailed aspects how that enthusiasm will be expressed in the coming months?

Mr. Davis: I am tempted to say, "In the Division Lobby," but I shall not. One of the ways in which that enthusiasm is manifesting itself is in promoting our view of what is best for the European Union. That involves a

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Europe that is decentralised, has a high competitiveness level, is deregulated and respects nation states' rights. All those matters are good not just for Britain, but for Europe.

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